Upcoming SW Florida Jazz Concerts
Esperanza Spalding, Mindi Abair, Giacomo Gates and others due
The snowbirds begin their return to Florida this month, growing in numbers and intensity well into the winter months and most of next spring. That influx, the return of part-time residents who split their year between Florida and either the northern United States or Canada, means the jazz concert season is poised for its run October through the end of April 2013.
In arts-rich Southwest Florida, there is no shortage of quality musical choices stretching about 100 miles from Sarasota to Naples. There will be a lot going on in concert venues, as well as two rival series of weekly jam sessions.
The following rundown is not all-inclusive, merely a guide to some of the concerts catching my eye. There are quite a few visiting artists from the northeastern U.S., as well as from other regions of Florida.
• The Philharmonic Center for the Arts in Naples, known locally as The Phil, has a robust jazz schedule within its overall season. Its third annual All That Jazz series will bring in guitarists Russell Malone and Romero Lubambo, trombonist Steve Turré, trumpeter Randy Brecker, singer Carmen Bradford and pianist Dick Hyman to perform as monthly guests with the Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra, a Naples-based sextet. Other Phil concerts feature Nnenna Freelon’s Lena Horne project and Tierney Sutton for two nights apiece in March. Bassist-singer Esparanza Spalding’s Radio Music Society and the Monterey Jazz Festival all-star touring band will hit town on separate nights in mid-April.
• The Charlotte County Jazz Society, based an hour north in Port Charlotte, will open its Artists Series of seven monthly concerts October 8 with pianist Johnny Varro’s Swing 7 at the 500-seat Charlotte Cultural Center. Other concerts will present California-based vibes player Christian Tamburr’s quintet featuring Domenick Farinacci; bebop saxophonist Greg Abate; tenor saxophonist Arnie Krakowsky with singer Amanda Carr; Naples-based Bob Stone’s big band; and guitarist/banjoist Bob Leary’s Dixieland Band.
• The eighth annual Punta Gorda Wine & Jazz Festival is set for February 15-17 at Laishley Park overlooking picturesque Charlotte Harbor. The festival, which began as an exclusive “smooth jazz” event, has doubled its concert calendar in three years, adding a mainstream Sunday brunch in February and this time around will also bring Brazilian jazz and two sets of mainstream jazz to the main stage over the course of the weekend. The lineup includes Sergio Mendes, saxophonists Richard Elliott and Mindi Abair (in her fifth consecutive appearance), and trumpeter Rick Braun. Area singer-pianist Danny Sinoff, bassist Sherrell McCants and drummer-singer Patricia Dean will perform at an opening night show for holders of VIP tickets.
• The South County Jazz Club, serving Venice, Englewood and North Port, has held a series of afternoon concerts at the Venice Art Center for two years. It has grown rapidly, adding two more series to its calendar this time around. There will be five Saturday night concerts at the Glenridge Performing Arts Center in Sarasota with the Dan Miller-Lew Del Gatto quintet, followed by multi-instrumentalist Ira Sullivan, banjo player Cynthia Sayer, Johnny Varro’s Swing 7 and singer Marlene VerPlanck. The club also added a separate afternoon series of monthly concerts at the Englewood Art Center. Venice and Englewood highlights include saxophonist Valerie Gillespie and Jim Wellen; pianists Mac Chrupcala and Mike Renzi performing together; pianists Kenny Drew Jr., Billy Marcus and Jake Pinto; and a “drum battle” between Tony Bruno and Johnny Moore. The club also sponsors a year-round series of Tuesday night jam sessions at Allegro Bistro in Venice that draw a full house, even during the alleged summer doldrums.
• The Jazz Club of Sarasota will hold its 33rd annual Sarasota Jazz Festival March 3-9. Major concerts will feature singer Giacomo Gates, saxophonist Terry Myers 17-piece big band, and the Four Freshmen. Its evening concert series at Holley Hall will include clarinetist Ken Peplowski on December 14 and the Eddie Metz-Nicki Parrott-Rossano Sportiello trio on January 18. Pianist Dick Reynolds’ trio on November 2 and saxophonist Rodney Rojas’ quartet on November 9 are among the many local talent offerings at the club’s weekly Jazz at Two concerts on Friday afternoons at Unitarian Universalist Church. Last month, the Jazz Club of Sarasota added weekly Sunday afternoon jams at Hotel Indigo in Sarasota, no doubt prompted by the South County Jazz Club jam session success.
• For those who don’t mind traveling an hour north, the 33rd Clearwater Jazz Holiday is set for October 18-21 at Coachman Park. Mainstream jazz dominates the schedule only on Saturday the 20th, when alto saxophonist Tia Fuller and singers Kurt Elling and Esparanza Spalding are on the schedule. The weekend headliners include Bonnie Raitt and the Avett Brothers.
• The fifth annual Arbors Records Invitational Jazz Party is scheduled January 11-13 at the Sheraton Sand Key Resort on Clearwater Beach. With a lineup of nearly 50 mainstream swing and traditional jazz players, the weekend will feature a special performance by vibes player Terry Gibbs, as well as seven jazz piano players: Dick Hyman, Bernd Lhotzky, Louis Mazetier, Rossano Sportiello, Johnny Varro, Ehud Asherie and Keith Ingham.