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.

 

Happy JazzApril — Celebrate Jazz Appreciation Month

herbie hancock

Jazz is alive and, well, in surprisingly good shape for its age, particularly given the ravages of time, the advent of more widely embraced musical forms, popular misconceptions about jazz, and some weird biases against the music (see: last year’s jazz-mocking “satire” pieces).

Not to mention the simultaneous rise of “free” music online and the loss of profits — or disappearance altogether — of many formerly robust label homes for jazz artists.

Jazz Appreciation Month, or JazzApril as it’s called by the Jazz Journalists Association (I’m a member), is a great reminder of the legacy, influence and continuing vitality of jazz, in all its diverse forms, at home in the United States and abroad.

Jazz Appreciation Month was created in 2012 by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History to “herald and celebrate the extraordinary heritage and history of jazz. (And) …to stimulate the current jazz scene and encourage people of all ages to participate in jazz – to study the music, attend concerts, listen to jazz on radio and recordings, read books about jazz, and support institutional jazz programs.”

This year, JAM culminates April 30 with International Jazz Day, to be officially celebrated in Paris with a concert featuring a long list of world-class jazzers, including pianist Herbie Hancock, singers Dee Dee Bridgewater, Dianne Reeves, and Al Jarreau; saxophonist Wayne Shorter; bassists James Genus, Marcus Miller, and Ben Williams; guitarist Lee Ritenour; drummer Terri Lyne Carrington; percussionist Mino Cinelu; and harmonica player Gregoire Maret.

The concert will be streamed live at JazzDay.com.

(The JJA in 2012 created JazzApril as a vehicle for promoting both JAM and IJD).

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How best to celebrate jazz in April, or year round? The JJA has some recommendations here.

I have some similar suggestions:

1)BUY jazz recordings, directly from the artist, if possible, or through many of the online forums for ordering downloads or physical copies (CDs, vinyl) of jazz artists’ work. Many, many independent jazz artists also sell their work through CD Baby.

2)Maybe just as important, or more essential … Attend performances by jazz artists, whether nationally known folks traveling through your town, or locally based performers. Support shows by jazz artists at every venue they play, including traditional theaters and nightclubs, restaurants, art galleries, college campuses and everywhere else. Let venue owners know that you like jazz and will gladly return to their venues to see jazz shows. While you’re at the jazz-supporting venues, spend money on food and drinks. Make venue owners WANT to book jazz artists.

3)Support your local jazz festival with your attendance, your donations, your spending while at the festival, and your patronage of the fest’s sponsors. Unhappy about the quotient of actual jazz to other music at any given “jazz” festival? Share your concerns, or start your own fest.

4)Support your local jazz radio station with your listening, your calls, your emails, and your donations. In the Tampa Bay area, WUSF, 89.7 FM is the place to visit for great jazz).

5)Encourage your city, county, and state to devote some of its funding of arts events to jazz performances and events.

6)Support jazz education in the public schools and in colleges. Attend student performances, and make donations to those programs.

7)Subscribe to jazz magazines — like JazzTimes, DownBeat, and Jazziz — and other publications that regularly cover jazz.

8)Visit those publications’ web sites, and other sites and blogs that focus on jazz, like All About Jazz, E Jazz News, NPR’s a blog supreme, Doug Ramsey’s Rifftides, Marc Myers’ JazzWax, and Howard Mandel’s Jazz Beyond Jazz.

9)Buy jazz-related books. Among recent critics’ favorites: Terry Teachout‘s “Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington,” Stanley Crouch’s “Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker,” Gary Burton & Neil Tesser’s “Learning to Listen: The Jazz Journey of Gary Burton.”

10)Appreciate a jazz critic. Why not?

Support Your Local Jazz Station — Give to WUSF, 89.7 FM

Is jazz radio suffering the same fate as jazz recordings — i.e., a gradual drop-off of interest, a future that’s so dark you don’t need shades?

Hard to say, as I haven’t closely followed the jazz radio industry. Lots of jazz radio stations continue to report their playlists to the trade mag JazzWeek, though. And I’m thankful for that level of jazz-radio activity.

Bob SeymourLocally, though, the Tampa Bay area audience for jazz radio seems to be holding steady, and maybe expanding: In recent years, WUSF, 89.7 FM has increased its jazz programming to 60 hours a week, starting at 9 p.m. Monday through Friday nights, and 8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday nights.

My old friend Bob Seymour and his team of knowledgeable DJs — including several who are also well-known jazz musicians — do a great job presented a diverse mix of jazz in the evenings and all night long. Terrestrial radio in Tampa would be a dead zone without WUSF jazz. (And, yes, during the day I often tune in to the Real Jazz channel on Sirius/XM).

Guess I’m a little biased in my strong support of WUSF, as I’m friendly with several of the DJs, and because I was a DJ there for several years, starting in about 1997. That was during the period when I was working as a full-time freelance writer (following my ’88 to ’96 stint as the Tampa Tribune’s pop music critic). That was when all the DJs were doing their thing live — I frequently was on the air from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m., and sometimes I filled in for Bob’s regular shift, from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m.

But, speaking of WUSF jazz, how else are we going to hear the new jazz releases, introduced by folks who know and love the music, and how would we hear such nationally broadcast shows as bassist Christian McBride’s new “Jazz Night in America”? How would we hear about all the upcoming jazz concerts and club gigs?

All of this is leading up to … my request that you help keep great jazz radio alive in Tampa. The official spring pledge drive just finished up. But you can donate anytime by going here

Do it now, and tell ’em that I sent ‘ya!

(And let’s give props to the jazz DJs at WUSF — in addition to Bob, you’ll hear Mike Cornette, Whitney James, Mark Feinman, and Richard Jimenez)

Tampa Jazz Notes — Kenny Drew Jr. Memorial; O Som Do Jazz at HCC Ybor; Diana Krall at the Capitol

Aside from a piece in Jazz Times and some blog posts (including mine, below, and those in Jazz Truth, JazzWax, and via WUSF News), the late great pianist Kenny Drew‘s passing hasn’t attracted much attention in the music press or in mainstream newspapers. I didn’t see any notice of Kenny’s death in his hometown paper, the Tampa Bay Times, or in the New York Times, which often notes the deaths of major musicians. (Correct me if I’m wrong).

Kenny, who died on Aug. 3 at age 56, will be honored by friends, family, colleagues and fans during a memorial service Saturday Aug. 23 at McCabe United Methodist Church in St. Petersburg. The memorial will be held at 11 a.m. at the church, 2800 26th Ave. South.

“His genius will be missed,” as noted in an announcement sent by the Tampa Jazz Club, home to many concerts featuring Kenny, including a terrific trio performance in May.

That trio, with bassist Joe Porter and drummer John Jenkins, recently released a CD, titled “The Music of Tom Becker.” As of now, it’s available via download through CD Baby and Amazon.

A memorial fund for Kenny has been established through his church, Unity of Midtown, 511 Prescott St., South, St. Petersburg, FL 33712. Donations can be made by checks payable to “Unity of Midtown” or via PayPal. More info is here.

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O Som Do Jazz, the Brazilian/jazz band led by trombonist/composer David Manson, plays the Tampa Jazz Club’s first show of the fall season — Sunday, Sept. 28 at 3 pm at HCC Ybor’s Performing Arts Building. More details.

SPC prof Manson, singer Andrea Moraeas Manson, saxophonist Austin Vickrey, pianist David Cubillos, bassist Alejandro Arenas and drummer Mark Feinman will play music from the band’s two recordings. Two tunes from the group’s “A Kiss From Rio” recording were heard on the HBO series “Looking.”

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The good news: The jazz-rooted singer and underrated pianist Diana Krall is returning to the Tampa Bay area, with a show Dec. 14 at 7:30 pm at the the Capitol Theatre in downtown Clearwater (concert affiliated with Ruth Eckerd Hall). She’ll be joined by a first-rate band — guitarist Anthony Wilson, bassist Dennis Crouch, fiddler Stuart Duncan, drummer Karriem Riggins and keyboardist Patrick Warren.

The not-great news: It’ll cost you an arm and a leg to attend this show, as tickets START at $102.25. Seriously? Sure, it’s an “intimate” setting, but that’s about four times what you’d pay to see a show in the world’s greatest jazz club, The Village Vanguard in NYC. ‘Sup with that?

Details.

 

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.”