Tampa Jazz Notes: Christian McBride Rules at the Mahaffey; Ybor Jazz Fest Continues; Rickie Lee Jones Cancelled

 
Christian McBride
, easily the most recorded and most honored jazz bassist of his generation, brought his trio to the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg  Saturday night for two impressive sets’ worth of standards and original compositions.

Much of the music was taken from McBride’s new CD, due early next year on the Mack Avenue label.  It wouldn’t be overstating things to say that the group, with McBride (Mahaffey photo by Bridge Burke) joined by monster young pianist Christian Sands and similarly talented drummer Ulysses Owens Jr. (photo by Bridge Burke), played the hell out of the material.

Unlike some of his recent ventures, McBride’s current trio is focused on the acoustic bebop, hard bop and swing side of jazz, with a nod to funk and R&B only coming only at the end of the show, courtesy of a version of Johnny Taylor’s “Who’s Making Love” that also referenced Michael Jackson’s “Gonna Be Starting Something” and Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.”

Sands, 23, throughout displayed astonishing chops that were sometimes reminiscent of the likes of Oscar Peterson, and he also showed a lighter, more genteel touch, in the vein of the late Billy Taylor, one of the New Haven, Conn. native’s early teachers. Owens demonstrated precise, intuitive playing, throwing unexpected accents and bomb drops into the mix, and sometimes switching to brushes.

McBride, of course, was the show’s star, turning in jaw-dropping runs, chords, slides and harmonic plucks, and offering beefy tone and walking grooves that were heavily influenced by Ray Brown and Ron Carter, while still distinctly his own.

The trio offered standards and familiar pieces — “Monk’s “I Mean You,” “My Favorite Things,” Billy Taylor’s “Easy Walker,” Benny Golson’s “Killer Joe” — as well as McBride’s smartly turned originals.

Nice seeing McBride back in the Tampa Bay area so quickly, after bringing his “Kind of Brown” quintet to last year’s Clearwater Jazz Holiday; before that, he was last here with Pat Metheny‘s Trio, with drummer Antonio Sanchez, at the Tampa Theatre. McBride more than once told the audience how much he felt at home. So maybe he’ll make it an annual tradition?

(I’m writing a more detailed review of the fest for a jazz mag; I’ll link to it in this space when it’s published)

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If the Mahaffey audience felt like a hometown crowd to McBride, maybe that owed in part to the number of locally based jazz musicians and jazz aficionados in attendance for what felt like a must-see on this year’s jazz calendar. We ran into pianists Kenny Drew, Jr. and Stan Hunter, drummers Ian Goodman, Mark Feinman and Steve Bucholtz (my old rhythm-section mate from the University of Florida jazz band), and bassist Alejandro Arenas, as well as Bob Seymour, the longtime jazz director for WUSF, 89.7 FM. Several musicians, and students, had a chance to attend a Q&A with McBride during sound check on Saturday afternoon.

That “just like home” feeling probably stemmed, too, from the fact that some McBride family members were in the audience, including a cousin, Faith Walston. McBride took a few minutes to give a shout-out to Walston’s recent book, “All Paws In: Lessons Learned From Loving My Rescue Dogs.”

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Many of the above-mentioned locally based musicians are on the bill for the third annual Ybor Jazz Festival, which continues through Sunday at the HCC Performing Arts Building in Ybor City. Drew plays tonight, with Latin supergroup Guisando Caliente. Sunday, the trio Jazztek will be followed by Rayzilla’s Dreamboats. Admission is $15 daily. For more information, click here.

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As mentioned on my Facebook page, I was REALLY looking forward to hearing Rickie Lee Jones, next Sunday (Nov. 11) at the Palladium Theater in St. Petersburg. Jones’ voice, jazz-pop songs and arrangements and great bands first impressed me back in the summer of ’79, when Chuck E.’s in Love” was part of the soundtrack of my teenage life (and background for an early romance). She had me at hello.

Unfortunately, the show was suddenly cancelled this week. I’ve not made any official inquiries as to why it’s no longer happening. On a whim, I contacted Rickie Lee through her Twitter account, and this is what she wrote in response: “Cancelled by promoter and manager. Come to the other date n florida.”

She’s also playing Nov 7 in Little Torch Key, Nov. 9 in Ponte Vedra, and Nov. 10 in Orlando. For more info, visit her site.

Tampa Jazz Notes: The March of Jazz

Dick Hyman and other pianists, alone and with trios, rising-star jazz singer Sophie Milman, a duo featuring guitarist LaRue Nickelson and saxophonist Jeremy Powell, saxophonist Jack Wilkins’ new project, and a show saluting women in jazz are all on the jam-packed jazz calendar in March.

A quick look:

Tonight, March 12 – Pianist Kym Purling (left) is joined by two players whose names have been popping up a lot lately, bassist Alejandro Arenas and drummer Stephen Bucholtz, for a program titled “Music From the Movies,” saluting the Oscars. Side Door Jazz at the Palladium in St. Petersburg, 8 p.m.

Sunday, March 14 – Saxophonist Jeremy Powell and guitarist LaRue Nickelson play a duo show in support of their impressive new CD, Amizade (right, below), a collection of striking original compositions, including some influenced by Brazilian music. Musicology, Clearwater, 4 p.m.

Thursday, March 18 – Sophie Milman, a fast-rising Toronto singer who was born in Russia and largely raised in Israel, brings her touring band to town for standards and pop covers — from Cole Porter to Springsteen — heard on her third CD, last year’s engaging Take Love Easy. That CD debuted at No. 6 on Billboard‘s jazz chart. Palladium, 8 p.m. (See the St. Petersburg Times Weekend section on Thursday for my interview with Milman)


Friday, March 19 – The Valerie Gillespie Ensemble, led by the saxophonist (left) and USF jazz studies adjunct professor, presents a program titled “It’s About the Melody”! at the Bayview Room at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg, at 7 p.m.

Friday, March 19 and Saturday, March 20 – Trio Vibe, my group with vibraphonist Sam Koppelman, returns to Della’s. For this show, we’ll be joined by drummer Jose Munoz. We play from 7 to 10 p.m. each night.

Saturday, March 20 – Nationally known artists “Sweet” Sue Terry, alto sax, and Peggy Stern, piano, headline Women of Jazz III, with Rose Bilal and Theo Valentine, vocals; Patty Sanphy, guitar; Sandi Grecco, drums; Anne Van Atta, bass; and Arbra Tawwab, mistress of ceremonies. The show, presented by the Al Downing Tampa Bay Jazz Association and the Jazztorian organization, is a scholarship benefit. Palladium, 7:30 p.m.

(The show’s musicians and other female jazzers will be saluted by Tampa singer Denise Moore on this Saturday’s edition of the Charles Vann Memorial Jazz Party, from 6 to 9 p.m. on WMNF, 88.5 FM)

Sunday, March 21 – Renowned pianist and composer Dick Hyman, a Venice (Florida) resident probably most widely known for his contributions to Woody Allen soundtracks, goes solo for “A Century of Jazz Piano,” a Tampa Jazz Club show. HCC Performing Arts Theater, Ybor City (Tampa), 3 p.m.

Sunday, March 21 – Larry Camp (right, below), by now the dean of the area’s front-rank jazz guitarists, is joined by a first-rate rhythm section — bassist Mark Neuenschwander and drummer Walt Hubbard. Marriott Hotel, Roosevelt and 28th St. N., St. Petersburg, 3 p.m.

Sunday, March 21 – Drummer Ron Gregg‘s trio with saxophonist Jim Holibaugh and keyboardist Kevin Wilder is joined by guitarist Vince Sims. Royal Theater, St. Petersburg, 4 p.m.

Sunday, March 21 – A group led by pianist Stan Hunter (left) is joined by singer Sasha Tuck. La Grande Hall @ Yamaha Piano, Clearwater, 3 p.m.

Monday, March 29 – Saxophonist Jack Wilkins, director of jazz studies at USF, premieres the music from his forthcoming Blue Ridge Mountains-themed CD. For the Monday Night Jazz Series concert on the USF campus in Tampa, he’ll be joined by guitarist (and former USF jazz studies grad student) Corey Christiansen, now a nationally known artist and Utah State University music prof; drummer and UNF prof Danny Gottlieb, formerly a USF artist in residence and part of the old Pat Metheny Group; renowned vibraphonist Jon Metzger; and the USF Jazz Faculty Ensemble. 8 p.m. at Theatre 2. (Wilkins and Christiansen appear together, doing “Tenor Madness,” in the below video).

For more information about the above mentioned concert venues, including addresses, phone numbers, and links to their web sites, please visit my Tampa Bay Area Music Calendar.