Acme Jazz Garage — Ascending?

I seldom write about my own projects here, but thought I’d throw out a quick note about the CD recently released by my band, Acme Jazz Garage, on my Solar Grooves label.

relix review

Acme Jazz Garage is gaining momentum via national jazz-radio airplay, and good reviews in magazines and newspapers.

A few updates:

RADIO :

  • Our CD is in its fifth week of airplay on jazz stations across the US (check its progress on the JazzWeek chart).
  • It has aired on Tampa’s WUSF and WMNF; WFCF in St. Augustine, FL; KEWU in Cheney/Spokane, WA; WCLK in Atlanta, Ga.; WAER in Syracuse, NY; KSDS in San Diego, CA; Jazz From Gallery 41 in Berkeley, CA; WTJU in Charlottesville, Va.; WSHA in Raleigh, NC; WWSP in Stephens Point, WI; KRTU in San Antonio, TX; KCCK in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and KRFC in Fort Collins, CO, among other stations.

PRESS:

  •   Relix magazine critic Wayan Zoey calls the CD “a solid collection of revivalist funk and swing … influences are rooted in ’70s fusion, and the various contemporary pop styles that surrounded it … a much more enjoyable experience than your average ‘trad jazz’ album … a capable excursion through one of the most playful eras of America’s cultural history.”
  • Creative Loafing/Tampa just gave us a four-star review: “The 10-track set is not only fun but a rather excellent demonstration of what four vet musicians can accomplish with some quality time in the studio and a little help from their friends.”
  • Howard Mandel, president of the Jazz Journalists Association and a contributor to NPR, says the CD “mixes the best bits of the Meters, Santana, Robben Ford, Grover Washington, Anita O’Day, Joe Sample, Roy Ayers and Marcus Miller into a refreshingly breezy sound.”
  • “Some funky R&B, and straight-ahead jazz, and it coule be one of the outstanding local releases of 2016,” says Randy Wind, program director at WMNF in Tampa.
  • ” ‘Resonance’ immediately made me think of Steely Dan,” says Louis Maistros, New Orleans singer/songwriter and acclaimed novelist. “And (I hear) hints of the Crusaders. The rest felt like its own thing. This is really a hot little combo. Mission accomplished. It’s a damn fine record. Bravo!”

Acme Jazz Garage, the band’s debut full-length set of original compositions, features an eclectic mix of original jazz compositions played by the core quartet (Matt Swenson, guitar; Bryan Lewis, keys; Tim Diehl, drums; me on bass) plus special guests.

We were joined by conga master Gumbi Ortiz; who tours with Al Di Meola; singer Whitney James; saxophonists Jeremy Powell (Arturo O’Farrell Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra), Rick Runion and Austin Vickrey; vibraphonist Sam Koppelman; and trumpeter Ron Wilder. The music was recorded and engineered by John Stephan at his Springs Theatre studio in Tampa, and mixed in L.A. by Ruairi O’Flaherty.

The tracks:

^  “Mongo Strut” (Booth) — Latin-edged funk spiked with congas

^ “Resonance” (Lewis) — multipart contemporary fusion (some folks hear Steely Dan)

^ “Sandprints” (Booth) — a 5/4 piece inspired by Wayne Shorter, featuring Powell on soprano sax

^  “Last Call” (Booth) — a retro vocal tune (Manhattan-romance theme) with vocals, trumpet and vibes

^  “Acmefied” (Booth) — straight-up jazz funk

^  “Zag” (Booth) — straightahead, swinging jazz with two tenor saxes (Vickrey and Runion) and vibraphone

^  “Mr. G.P.” (Booth) — New Orleans-style R&B named for Meters bassist George Porter, Jr., with a tpt-tenor-bari horn section

^  “Rubberman” (Booth) — jammy-leaning jazz with flute (Vickrey) and tenor (Runion)

^ A bluesy version of “America the Beautiful” (arr. by Lewis) — think Ray Charles; perfect for airplay on the July 4 weekend.

To get your very own copy of the CD, as a physical disc or download, click here

For more information on the band, visit us on Facebook; go to our web site; or stop by Solar Grooves. Twitter: @acmejazzgarage

 

 

All Hail the Jazz DJs, and Saluting WUSF and WMNF

It’s National Disc Jockey Day

So let’s give props to all the great, hard-working, well-informed radio DJs out there, and the significant role they play in getting good music to the public.

In particular, I want to say thanks to Bob Seymour, longtime jazz guru at WUSF, 89.7 FM in Tampa.

Bob Seymour

I remember first listening to Bob during my high-school days in nearby Lakeland. Bob and Vic Hall and the others provided a great on-air jazz education. Then, and now, Bob and Co. served as a sort of jazz clearinghouse of the airwaves, alerting everyone in the Tampa Bay area to all of the local worthwhile concerts.

Bob, too, always has made a point of supporting the scene with his presence at concerts by national artists as well as gigs featuring local musicians (including my own bands).

I felt privileged to take a turn at the WUSF mic in the late ’90s, when I did some jazz announcing for a few years. And I’ve had the chance to get to know Bob and his wife Marian via hanging out together at local jazz shows, festivals at home (Clearwater Jazz Holiday) and abroad (Montreal Jazz Fest), and at jazz conferences (the old IAJE gatherings).

So …

KUDOS to Bob and all the other current WUSF jazz DJs, including Mike Cornette, Whitney James, Mark Feinman, and Richard Jimenez.

KUDOS to Randy Wind and all the great on-air talent at WMNF, 88.5 FM, in Tampa, including Scott Hopkins, Thomas Dickens, Ray Villadonga, Cheryl Mogul, Cameron Dilley, Ronny Elliott, Rev Billy C. Wirtz, Jeff Stewart, Speedy Gonzalez, Lee Courtney, Cricket Larson, Ed Greene, and Peter Tush.

Greatly appreciate all the support the folks at WMNF and WUSF give to local music, too, as they’ve played recordings I’ve done with Acme Jazz Garage, Trio Vibe, Ghetto Love Sugar, The Irritable Tribe of Poets, Greenwich Blue, the “Monk in the Sun” CD, and other projects.

(And extra thanks to WMNF for asking my bands, including Acme Jazz Garage, Ghetto Love Sugar, and Trio Vibe, to perform at special station-sponsored events, including the Tropical Heatwave and concerts at Skipper’s Smokehouse and the New World Brewery).

I’ll also give a shout-out to some of the nationally syndicated shows that provide hours of listening pleasure, including Christian McBride‘s new “Jazz Night in America” on NPR and the shows hosted by Mark Ruffin, Eulis Cathey, Dermot Hussey, and Les Davis on Sirius XM’s “Real Jazz” channel.

As the National Day Calendar explains, “National Disc Jockey Day is celebrated in remembrance of the death of Albert James Freed.  Freed, also known as Moondog, was an influential disc jockey in the 1950s.  He is credited with introducing the term ‘ rock ‘n’ roll’ to the world. Within our research we were unable to find the creator of National Disc Jockey Day.” More information

Stay tuned … to your local jazz DJ. Let them know you care.

 

Denise Moore: “A Jazz History,” tonight at the Palladium

Tampa singer Denise Moore brings her new jazz-history show to the Palladium tonight. I’ve known Denise since her days with Paul Wilborn & the Pop Tarts, and I’ve had the opportunity to sub in her bands on a few occasions. I’ve also connected with Denise and her husband Alex Spassoff in and around Jazz Fest in New Orleans.

I recently spoke with Denise for a feature published today in the St. Petersburg Times. Click here to see the story online in the Times. Or read the expanded version, below.

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Tampa singer Denise Moore grew up listening to jazz – Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Brazil’s Flora Purim and such jazz-influenced vocalists as Joni Mitchell.

But the Georgia native, who grew up in Melbourne, Florida, took her time stepping up to the mic in front of a jazz group. She sang with a band in the swing-folk-country mold of Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks while she was a student at the University of Georgia in Athens. Later, she sang R&B, pop and blues with Tampa Bay area bands Paul Wilborn and the Pop Tarts, and the Women’s Blues Revue.

“I really didn’t get this going until I was 40,” Moore said. “A friend said, ‘You need to have your own group.’ I said, ‘I can’t do that.’ But I did. And I went to what I love — jazz. I love this music. It feels good to me.”

Fifteen years later, she’s made up for lost time. Her band, Denise Moore & Then Some, has become a regular on the Tampa Bay area jazz scene, and she released a debut CD, Nothing Standard.

Fans of the singer can play a part in her new project: Moore’s next CD will feature music recorded live tonight at the Palladium Theater. The concert is part of the St. Petersburg venue’s Side Door Jazz series.

Moore, joined by pianist and arranger Billy Marcus, saxophonist David Pate, bassist Alejandro Arenas and drummer Stephen Bucholtz, will play an ambitious program, “A Jazz History,” covering everything from early New Orleans jazz to smooth jazz.

The group will play about 20 tunes, including Fats Waller‘s “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” Wes Montgomery‘s “West Coast Blues,” Antonio Carlos Jobim‘s “No More Blues” and Anita O’ Day‘s version of “Let’s Face the Music and Dance.”

“We’ll start off with some ragtime and go all the way up to smooth jazz, and also do bebop, free jazz, swing, standards, and Brazilian music,” Moore said. “We’re doing the music in chronological order.”

Moore’s jazz history project, funded with a grant from the Arts Council of Hillsborough County, includes more than the concert and the recording, which are being engineered by WMNF, 88.5 FM station manager Jim Bennett. The singer is creating an educational web page, on her own web site, which will offer information on various jazz songs and styles, accompanied by audio clips taken from the concert. In addition, the concert will be aired on Bennett’s “In the Moment” show on jazz station KCSM-FM in San Mateo, California. She also plans to perform the program for audiences at public schools in Hillsborough County.

“We just want to give an overview of jazz for people that don’t know about all of it,” Moore said. “We’re saying, ‘Here’s a whole menu – you can select what you like, and you can decide if you want to taste that or maybe explore it more.”

When not working on her music, Moore stays busy as co-owner, with her husband Alex Spassoff, of the Suncoast Massage Therapy Center, a business that opened 20 years ago. She also teaches yoga, for the city of Tampa and privately.

“I did a workshop at the Homemade Music Symposium two years ago, on breath work for singers and horn players,” she said. “The idea is to help sustain the breath and calm the musician down. It’s a tool for stress relief and also expanding lung capacity. I feel like I’m a healing artist – with music, massage, and yoga.

Moore’s understanding of yoga and concepts related to relaxation and breath control directly feed into her approach to jazz singing, she said.

“You want to leave everything else behind and just become present. It is really one of the only times when you are present — you re totally in that moment and everything else is gone.”

Updated 4/3: Keep Jazz on the Air; on Tampa’s WUSF and WMNF, and in Your Town

I recently received notice of a new Facebook Group called “Keep Jazz on the Air, Encourage Jazz Education.”

Yes, these are obvious goals, but I like the description of the group’s mission:

“As the interest in Jazz diminishes, so too does the funding for Jazz radio stations, Jazz clubs and other organizations. Showing interest and making donations to the cause will help to keep Jazz alive and strong for the people who enjoy it.”

Which brings me to my point(s):

Jazz radio is vital to the survival of jazz — it’s the one place where jazz fans, and potential fans of the music, can go to hear the music and gain insight on the musicians without facing any obstacles, financial or otherwise. Listeners aren’t required to pay for a concert ticket or a recording. Jazz radio represents the free and open promulgation of a great art form.

Particularly during an economic downturn as severe as the one the U.S. is now experiencing, it’s essential that those who can afford to do so continue to put their money where their mouth is — donate to the radio stations that are keeping jazz alive.

So those who are supportive of  jazz should attend jazz concerts, buy jazz recordings and … give, when they can, to jazz radio.

In the Tampa Bay area, that means getting in touch with WUSF, 89.7 FM, which airs jazz all night every night, starting at 10 p.m. on most evenings; or WMNF, 88.5 FM, which offers several popular jazz shows, including the long-running Charles Vann Memorial Jazz Party, Saturdays from 6 to 9 p.m.

wusfWUSF’s goal for its spring membership campaign is $400,000, and pledges thus far have totaled (UPDATE 4/3): From WUSF site – “We met our goal …”

To donate, call (800) 741-9090 or click here. Longtime jazz programming director Bob Seymour does an extraordinary job playing the best of current and classic jazz. Consider giving Bob, and the station, your support.

wmnfOn WMNF, the big push for jazz-programming pledges takes place this Saturday, March 28, from 6 to 9 p.m.

Update (4/3) from WMNF:

Want to help?

Here’s how, courtesy of a note from another knowledgable jazz guy, Jimmy Lyons, host of the Charles Vann show:

“On Saturday March 28th from 6 to 9 PM we will be asking for your financial support for Jazz during our WMNF Spring Marathon. I know it is a tough time financially for our country & for many of our jazz supporters. If you can afford any amount from $10 to $1,000 we would really appreciate it. WMNF measures call volume and total dollars pledged when determining support for a show. I am confident we can show our new station manager, Jim Bennett, that jazz fans can stick together even in tough times. Please call DURING the show at 813-238-8001 or 813-239-9663. Please forward this email to anyone you know that wants to keep jazz & the jazz parking lot parties alive on the radio. If you will not be able to hear the show that evening call me anytime before the 28th at 813-728-7084 and I will make sure your pledge gets counted for jazz. We really need a good showing to keep real jazz radio on the air each Saturday evening.”

Tampa Jazz Notes 2.11.09

Valentine’s Day goes with jazz like Christmas goes with brass choirs, and I’m not just saying that because “My Funny Valentine” was the song I asked the band to play for the first dance at my wedding.

That was way back in 1993, and my friend and sometime bandmate Joe Teston, on tenor sax, sat in with the trio that I hired for the occasion — guitarist Ted Shumate, bassist Michael Ross and percussionist extraordinaire Gumbi Ortiz.

The wedding must have “worked,” as I’m still married. The guys in the wedding party, or in attendance, were among my bandmates of that period or shortly later — I played with Joe in Greenwich Blue, with Joe and guitarist Domenick Ginex in Bop City, and with Dom and guitarist Bryan Zink in Liz Back on Booze.

But I digress. Several special shows, jazz and jazzy, are slated for Saturday night, Valentine’s Day, in the Tampa Bay area.

Among those are:

  • The Blind Boys of Alabama, the great long-running gospel group, whose Down in New Orleans CD was one of last year’s finest. Skipper’s Smokehouse, Tampa, 8 p.m. The Gary Brown Band opens this show, presented by WMNF, 88.5 FM, and tickets are $25.

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“God’s Trombones,” a celebration of the work of major African American writer James Weldon Johnson, a Florida native, is slated for Monday, Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. at The Studio@620 in St. Petersburg.

Admission is free, but donations of canned goods, to support area food banks, are accepted.

Ex-Ellington trombonist Buster Cooper will participate in the program, which honors Black History Month and is a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the NAACP (Johnson was exec secretary from 1920 to 1930).

Here’s what’s on tap for the event, according to the venue’s web site:

  • Individual readings of the volume’s poems by local actors, poets, and ministers: Bob Devin Jones, Studio@620; Leroy Mitchell, actor, Johnson performer; Louis Murphy, minister; John Conlon, actor; Aleshea Harris, actor, poet; Sharon Scott, actor; Vikki Gaskin-Butler, professor, minister.
  • Trombone/musical interludes by Buster Cooper.
  • Visual renderings along the walls of the Aaron Douglas images that accompany the first (1927) edition of Johnson’s text .
  • Discussion period/question-and-answer session following the performance with Humanities scholar Dr. Julie Buckner Armstrong, USFSP.

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Also just ahead on the Tampa Bay area jazz calendar:

  • Guitarist Nate Najar’s Trio (with ex-Ellington bassist John Lamb) will be   joined by singer and banjo player Cynthia Sayer (of Woody Allen’s band), at the Palladium Theater, Thursday, Feb. 19, in the venue’s Side Door Jazz series. Show is at 7:30 p.m., and admission is $20. 
  • Kenny Walker, the busy area bassist (Helios Jazz Orchestra, Gumbi Ortiz) and monthly jazz host on WMNF, 88.5 FM, on Saturday, Feb. 21 will give a lecture on jazz history at the St. Petersburg Museum of History. His talk will be part of the museum’s fourth annual African American Author lecture series, from 2 to 4 p.m.



Jazz in January: Ira Sullivan, Kenny Drew, Jr., Richard Drexler

Top-shelf jazz shows are often in short supply in the Tampa Bay area.

So it’s reassuring to report that the new year is kicking off with three impressive jazz shows.

Kenny Drew, Jr., still viewed by many as one of the greatest jazz pianists of his generation, plays tonight at 8 at the Springs Theatre in Sulphur Springs (Tampa).

Kenny, who makes his home in St. Petersburg, frequently tours the world, playing jazz and classical concerts. In recent years, he’s worked with the Mingus Big Band and other high-profile groups. For this concert, he’ll be joined by bassist Joe Porter and drummer John Jenkins.

The show is sponsored by WMNF, 88.5 FM. Tickets are $10 advance, $15 at the door. For all the details, click here.

ira-sullivan1Next Sunday, Jan. 11, legendary saxophonist/trumpeter Ira Sullivan (above) returns to the Tampa Bay area for a 3 p.m. Tampa Jazz Club concert at the Springs Theatre.

Sullivan, a longtime South Florida musician, made his breakthrough on the Chicago scene in the ’50s, and he’s played with everyone from bebop trumpeter Red Rodney to drummer/bandleader Art Blakey to electric- bass great Jaco Pastorius (who played in Sullivan’s quartet).

For this performance, Sullivan will be joined by pianist Michael Royal, bassist Richard Drexler, and drummer Danny Gottlieb (formerly of the Pat Metheny Group). Admission is $23, $18 for jazz club members, and $5 for students.

The Springs Theatre, a former movie theater converted into a recording studio and performance space (my band, Trio Vibe, recently recorded our CD at the venue) is one block south of the Bird Street exit of northbound I-275. Parking is available at the adjacent Harbor Club. For more information on the theater, call (813) 915-0075 or visit the theatre’s web site.

Drew and Drexler, this time on piano, will play a “keyboard explosion,” with bassist John Lamb and drummer Don Capone, on Friday, Jan. 16 at the Mahaffey Theater’s Bayview Room in St. Petersburg.

The concert starts at 7:30 p.m.; Tickets are $20, and $15 for students. For more information, go to www.rickgeesjazzjamm.com