John Pizzarelli can be seen as carrying on the tradition of the Italian-American jazz-pop singer as defined by Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett. But Pizzarelli also has a slightly zany sense of humor reminiscent of Louis Prima. Like Prima, he's a player as well as a singer - a swinging mainstream-modern guitarist. What's more, Pizzarelli also has been influenced, both vocally and instrumentally, by two of the most successful jazz-pop singer-instrumentalists ever: Nat "King" Cole and George Benson. His trio (lately a quartet, with the addition of drummer Tony Tedesco) is modeled after the King Cole Trio, while his penchant for scatting vocals along with his guitar lines is borrowed from Benson.
During a recording career that spans over two decades, Pizzarelli has been presented with his longtime trio - pianist Ray Kennedy plus bassist (and brother) Martin Pizzarelli - with small and big bands and orchestras, with a Brazilian bossa nova group, and in duo with his father, master jazz rhythm guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli. His latest album, Knowing You (Telarc), is a relatively intimate affair, the trio/quartet anchoring most of the proceedings, sometimes joined by tenor saxophonist Harry Allen, clarinetist Ken Peplowski or father Bucky.
The CD opens hyperkinetically with "Coffee, Black," a paean to the energizing effects of highly caffeinated java, Pizzarelli putting a raw, Prima-like edge on his voice, and tossing off a fast scat-with-guitar solo. He's more in crooning mode on "New Sun in the Sky," a song from the musical "Band Wagon." It's one of several lesser known standards Pizzarelli revives successfully on the album. Others include "Pick Yourself Up" (from the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers film "Swing Time"); "Say It (Over and Over Again)," an early hit for Sinatra with Tommy Dorsey; "That Face," another song introduced by Astaire, and "If It's the Last Thing I Do" from the Sinatra songbook.
Pianist Cesare Camargo Mariano adds his Brazilian touch to "The Shadow of Your Smile" and a bossa feel to "That Face." Larry Goldings' organ energizes the album's title song, a wryly romantic tune written by Pizzarelli and his wife, the Broadway/cabaret singer Jessica Molasky, with such lines as "I'll tell the punch line in advance" and "I'll never purchase leather pants." Goldings' piano and Allen's tenor sax support Pizzarelli's vocal on the ethereal Beach Boys song, "God Only Knows." Molasky joins her husband on "Quality Time," a duet version of Dave Frishberg's sardonic salute to the 24/7 lifestyle.
Goldings' organ and Allen's tenor sax join Tedesco and Pizzarelli on "Ain't That a Kick in the Head?," a song by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen introduced by Dean Martin in the original film version of "Ocean's 11." Pizzarelli echoes Martin's hipster tone, and the song is cleverly introduced with an instrumental tag from "I Get a Kick out of You." The album's most intimate track finds Pizzarelli caressing "How Long Has This Been Going On?" with backing only from Tony Monte's piano. It's a a setting that recalls the collaborations of Tony Bennett and pianist Bill Evans.
John Pizzarelli will appear January 23 at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre.
GARY BURTON & MAKOTO OZONE
FORT LAUDERDALE MUSEUM OF ART/ SOUTH FLORIDA JAZZ SOCIETY/
Vibraphonist Burton shines when dueting with top pianists (e.g. his recordings with Chick Corea). A quarter-century ago, he and Japanese-born Ozone met for the first time at Boston's Berklee College of Music. In their duo playing since then, treading lightly in the footsteps of Milt Jackson and John Lewis of the Modern Jazz Quartet, they've managed to merge the sensibilities of classical music with daring and dynamic jazz improvisation. Their most recent recording together - the Grammy-nominated Virtuosi (Concord) - is a tip of the chapeau to such impressionist composers as Ravel and Debussy. LM-C
BAMBOO ROOM/JANUARY 25
The Blasters more than live up to their name, playing sweaty, hard-driving rockabilly, blues and old-school R&B. Fronted by vein-popping vocalist and harmonica blower Phil Alvin, and including the fiery guitar and songwriting talents of his brother Dave Alvin, the Blasters built a rapid following in California, then burst onto the big screen with an unforgettable cameo in 1984's "Streets of Fire." Dave left for a solo career but the Blasters have continued on with and without him. Now they're returning to South Florida for the first time in decades. Expect finger-poppers like "Marie Marie," "Border Radio," "I'm Shakin'" and "One Bad Stud." BW
COLONY HOTEL/JANUARY 18-23
With his signature smoky vocals, warm stage persona and consummate good taste, Freddy Cole been charming jazz lovers across the globe for more than half a century. Lionel Frederick Cole is part of a Chicago-based musical dynasty which has included his older brothers Eddie, Ike and Nat. A true prodigy, he began playing piano at six, then attended both Julliard and the New England Conservatory. Freddy Cole's string of hit records actually dates from 1952. His jazz albums are known for their tasteful repertoire and exquisite musicianship. Freddy Cole's current band includes guitarist Jerry Byrd, bassist Zachary Pride and drummer Curtis Boyd. LM-C
WOODY HERMAN ORCHESTRA
BROWARD CENTER/JANUARY 11
In 1969, after working with luminaries like Goodman and Gillespie, Frank Tibiri joined Woody Herman's band. Primarily a tenor player, Frank remained by Woody Herman's side as straw boss for eighteen years and, following the clarinetist's passing in 1987, assumed leadership of the "Herd". Since then, he's kept Woody Herman's positive spirit vital and alive - and kept this thrilling aggregation touring internationally. The Herman Orchestra began recording again in the late 90s under Frank and currently features quite a few exciting Tibiri arrangements in its book. Woody, of course, would be thrilled. This January presentation is part of The Gold Coast Jazz Society's ongoing concert series. LM-C
BROWARD CENTER for the arts/ JANUARY 7
One of today's foremost interpreters of country blues, John Hammond has been perfecting his craft for decades. Like a man possessed, he flails away at the strings of his acoustic six-string or vintage National Steel, blows like a runaway freight train into the harmonica mounted on a rack around his neck and sings like there were hellhounds at his heels. Whether he's delving into Delta blues, sweating through a West Side Chicago slow-burner or tearing up the joint with an obscure jukebox gem, Hammond always tests the strength of his guitar strings, vocal cords and the floorboards beneath his stomping feet. His latest CD? It's In Your Arms Again. BW
GRAHAM DROUT & ALBERT CASTIGLIA
SUSHI BLUES CAFE/JANUARY 27
A pioneer of the local blues scene, Drout has long led the roots and blues band Iko-Iko with his gruff vocals, superb bass playing and evocative songwriting. Guitarist Castiglia came up listening to Iko-Iko, so his singing and writing bear more than a little of Drout's influence. Another influence on Castiglia was Junior Wells, who recruited him for his band in 1997. After Wells' passing, Castiglia cut a CD recording Burn in collaboration with Drout. They've just released a new live acoustic album, The Bittersweet Sessions, named for the much-missed Pompano Beach club at which it was recorded. Also look for Iko-Iko at Sushi Blues on January 21. BW
SOLID GUITAR FROM BOB DEVOS by Paul Blair
You say you enjoy jazz guitar playing? OK, precisely what musical approach do you favor? Do you prefer lots of electronic effects? Do high volumes turn you on? Are more velocity and flash better than less, as far as you're concerned? If you've answered one or more of these questions in the affirmative, be forewarned that Bob DeVos might not be your kind of guy.
On the other hand, if you're keen on strong blues feeling, on a fat guitar-ish tone, and on lines that are fluid, linear and logical, Bob's work will please you. Though he's a modern player in every way, his roots are indeed traditional. Need a comparison? Perhaps his soloing and his rhythmic accompaniment will remind you of Grant Green's. He's been called "the thinking man's guitar hero" and "a brilliant, knowing bebop player." Here's more good news: he's doing lots of playing in our area this month.
Bob DeVos heard plenty of rock n' roll as a teenager - but it didn't really intrigue him. "I needed more chord changes than rock offered," he'll tell you today. True, he began performing with a rock band at age thirteen, not much more than a year after he began learning the instrument on his own. But during that same period, he was also memorizing guitar solos he'd heard on his older brother's LP collection - and hanging out at soul jazz clubs in northern New Jersey. As a result, he chose jazz over rock, inspired by players like Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell, Jim Hall and Pat Martino. Once he began more formal study, his early teachers included guitarists Harry Leahy and Dennis Sandole.
Among his first employers was famed Philadelphia organist Trudy Pitts - and he went on to record as well with such noted Hammond B3 practitioners as Groove Holmes (in a band that included Sonny Stitt) and Jimmy McGriff (in a group in which alto saxophonist Hank Crawford was also involved). Among the other organists with whom he's recorded are Bill Doggett, Jack McDuff, Dr. Lonnie Smith Joey DeFrancesco and Larry Goldings and more recently, to great critical acclaim, with the late Hammondmeister Charles Earland in the company of New York greats like Eric Alexander and Jim Rotundi. If you recognize those last two names, you're doubtless familiar with the brand of earthy acoustic jazz featured most nights at Smoke, on New York's Upper West Side.
DeVos' debut recording as a leader was Breaking the Ice, issued in 1999 on the Savant label. Groove Guitar, released in 2003 by Blue Leaf, garnered more enthusiastic reviews. There's a new CD in the works at present. But he's also playing with the New York Jazz Repertory Orchestra led by trumpeter Bill Warfield; teaching at both Lehigh University and an arts high school in New Jersey; accepting commissions as composer/arranger; and leading his own trio.
So what does he have lined up in Florida? After three sets per night with his group at the Van Dyke on December 29-31, he'll return to the same club on subsequent Tuesday evenings (January 3, 10, 17, 24 and 31). In addition, he'd hold forth on the Van Dyke bandstand for two sets on January 5.
hot flashes by PAUL BLAIR, MARK SACHNOFF AND Bob weinberg
REMEMBERING TWO FLORIDA JAZZ NOTABLES
The South Florida jazz world was shocked in late November by the passing of Miami guitarist Simon Salz. A few months earlier, Simon began having pains in his back, neck and legs; yet checkups revealed nothing. Eventually, he was diagnosed with stage four melanoma, a rare form of skin cancer without outward manifestations. Salz was admitted to the hospital on the Friday after Thanksgiving and died just a few days later at age fifty. The bearded, bespectacled guitarist was a familiar sight to area jazz fans, who saw him performing for decades with the cream of the local jazz crop. In 1994, he co-founded the Gold Coast Jazz Society Band and served as its musical director. The group played jazz repertory and tribute shows at Gold Coast Jazz Society functions and concerts. Growing up in Buffalo, Simon became interested in jazz while in his teens, then attended the Eastman School in Rochester, studying under Gene Bertoncini. In 1976, he transferred to the University of Miami and studied with Cuban classical guitar master Juan Mercadal. It was an exciting time for jazz, at UM and in South Florida, and Simon was an integral part of it, gigging with members of the jazz elite like Ira Sullivan, Eric Allison and Eddie Higgins. Education was also a passion for Simon, who taught at Florida International University, Miami-Dade College, the New World School of the Arts and Florida Atlantic University. With his pianist wife, Sarah, he co-directed the Young Musician's Camp at UM and also helped to develop the Suzuki Guitar Method. "Having known Simon since his move here in the 70s," wrote bassist Bob Grabowski in a recent e-mail, "I am incredibly saddened by his sudden passing and incredibly glad for all the great jazz he laid down for us before he went." The Salz family requests that those wishing to honor Simon's legacy make a donation to the Young Musician's Camp. Checks may be sent to Sarah Salz, 12241 S.W. 103rd Ave., Miami, FL 33176.
Singer Betty Dickson - an institution in South Florida's show business community for over fifty years - passed away on December 7 after a long bout with ARDS. Starting in the 1950s, Betty performed with jazz greats like Tiny Kahn, Chubby Jackson, Lionel Hampton, James Moody, Harry "Sweets" Edison, John Williams and Louie Bellson. She's perhaps best known for her work with pianist Eddie Higgins, with whom she was first paired at a 1992 concert at the Sunshine Cathedral. Eddie suggested that Betty record an album. Three months later, Betty and Higgins cut Can't Get Out Of This Mood, which was soon being heard on radio stations around the world. He states that “Betty vocal style can best be defined by what it is not: you will not hear any pop/rock/gospel influence, your ears will not be assaulted by any bellowing, screaming or shouting (sometimes termed as belting a song) and you will most certainly not hear anything from the top 40 list charts over the last fifty years. What you will hear are great songs including some long neglected standards with great lyrics, interpreted with intelligence, taste and musicianship by the rare bird in today's music jungle: a singer who believes that she is the servant of the song rather then the other way around”. She was one of only two female vocalists invited to perform at the Charlie Parker Memorial Foundation's First Annual Lifetime Achievement Award Ceremony aboard the SS Norway in 1993. In recent years, she'd been a regular performer at the Ft. Lauderdale Riverwalk Jazz Festival, as well as at jazz nights at Donald Trump's Mara-Lago resort in Palm Beach. From May through August Betty played venues on the East Coast and Midwest before returning south again for festivals, concerts, club dates and jazz cruises. A tribute concert celebrating her memory will be held at 1:00 PM on January 14 at the Sunshine Cathedral, 1480 SW 9th. Ave. in Ft. Lauderdale. For more information, contact Betty's manager, Delores Davis, at 561-279-7847.
LEGENDARY RHYTHM & BLUES CRUISE
It might seem as if this vessel couldn't even leave the harbor with all of the blues heavies booked aboard it. Nonetheless, the MS Westerdam is poised to set sail from Fort Lauderdale on January 8, carrying a cargo of blues legends and fans through the Caribbean. Dedicated to the late Little Milton Campbell, the cruise has fittingly booked soul-blues great Bobby Blue Bland. With hits such as "Farther Up the Road" and "Members Only," the Memphis blues crooner has been thrilling audiences for more than fifty years with his signature, tear-stained vocals and throaty growls. And speaking of growling, hardly anyone sings with the gravel-voiced authority of cruise headliner Taj Mahal. Taj came to prominence in the late 1960s and won fans with tunes such as "She Caught the Katy and Left Me a Mule to Ride" and "Fishin' Blues." He continues to make excellent records, whether he's accompanied by members of his Phantom Blues Band, Hawaiian musicians or an African kora player. Also performing is a rotating revue led by blues guitar expert Bob Margolin. The Chicago Legends features Muddy Waters band alumni. Senior band member Pinetop Perkins still barrelhouses with juke-joint intensity on piano. Having played with Muddy for only a short time, guitarist Hubert Sumlin is best known for his incendiary leads behind Howlin' Wolf. Muddy associate James Cotton remains one of the best harmonica players alive; and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith rounds out the roster on drums. Other blues cruise highlights: raunchy singer Millie Jackson; Texas great Phillip Walker; the always-exciting Rod Piazza and the Mighty Flyers; the acoustic duo of Kenny Neal and Billy Branch; the world-music-influenced Corey Harris and the 5 x 5; and country-blues master John Hammond.
Just how warm or chilly do you want to be in coming weeks? You might find the climate in Panama City, Panama somewhat to your liking. The Third Annual Panama Jazz Festival on January 19-26 will welcome groups led by Danilo Pérez, Randy Weston, David Sanchez, Kurt Rosenwinkel. (www.panamajazzfestival.com) ... Maybe you'd prefer the Californian weather instead. The Sixth Annual Newport Beach Jazz Party, taking place in a prime SoCal resort area on February 16-19, is billing the Four Freshmen, Winard Harper's sextet, Heavy Juice (with Scott Hamilton and Harry Allen duking it out), Renee Rosnes, Stacy Rowles, Bill Cunliffe's Imaginacion group, a Horace Silver salute featuring L.A. tenor star Ricky Woodward, Luther Hodges' Cannonball-Coltrane Project, the John and Gerald Clayton duo, flautist Holly Hofmann, Benny Green, Chicago guitarist Henry Johnson, a big band or two, a Saturday night dance and plenty more. Among the New Yorkers’ favorites on hand in various roles will be Lewis Nash, Houston Person and Wycliffe Gordon. (www.newportbeachjazzparty.com) ... Meanwhile, the Third Annual Portland Jazz Festival (taking place on February 17-26) has secured the talents of McCoy Tyner, Eddie Palmieri, Ravi Coltrane, Nicholas Payton, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Stefon Harris, Miguel Zenon and Bill Frisell, among others. The schedule also boasts dozens of educational events and freebies around the city. (www.pdxjazz.com) ... Closer to home, organizers of the Key West International Jazz Festival offer an evening of music by Claudia Acuna at the San Carlos Institute on January 21. (www.keywestjazzfestival.com)
Jazz anecdote by Bill Crow
Jazz bassist Bill Crow has written two entertaining books, available in paperback from Oxford University Press: Jazz Anecdotes, a collection of stories about jazz and jazz musicians, and From Birdland to Broadway, a personal memoir of life in the jazz world. You can order them from your favorite bookseller.
Wally Dunbar was browsing in an art gallery when he overheard a conversation between two business types: "I used to have a jazz club," said one, "but things got pretty expensive. You have to pay the musicians, you know." The other nodded sagely and opined, "That's what kills it."
Lee Konitz played on a Dutch television program and did an interview between tunes. The emcee told Lee that he had seen and heard him in the Netherlands, performing with the Stan Kenton orchestra, in '53. Konitz said, "Ah, that must have been 1853."
Bob James started a conversation with a young woman who was sitting next to him on a plane. When she found out that he was a jazz musician, she exclaimed, "Oh I just love jazz. Except when it sounds like they're making it up."