Bill Meredith

Jazz season previews - Oct. issue of the Palm Beach Arts Paper

The 2018-2019 South Florida jazz concert season rings familiar, but also feels like a season in miniature form.
There are frequent faces like trumpeter Herb Alpert and his wife, vocalist Lani Hall; keyboardist Sergio Mendes, vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant, and trumpeter Chris Botti. Keyboardist Chick Corea and banjo master Bela Fleck reunite for another area duo show, and guitarist John Scofield makes a rare appearance, as do pianist Robert Glasper, rapper Common and drummer Karriem Riggins under the group name August Greene.
Yet venues with usually-strong calendars are more lacking than usual, perhaps ringing of budget cuts throughout South Florida's tri-county area.

Fifty-two-year-old guitarist Frank Vignola is one of the leading disciples of Django Reinhardt (1910-1953), the legendary guitarist who created the Gypsy jazz sub-genre by teaming with French violinist Stephane Grappelli (1908-1997) in the famed, World War II-era Quintet du Hot Club de France. A Long Island native, Vignola's 25-year solo recording career is also peppered with sessions with other artists influenced by Reinhardt, including 92-year-old guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli and incendiary violinist Mark O'Connor's Hot Swing bands, which featured the guitarist throughout the 2000s. Echoing the Hot Club de France, one of the earliest all-string bands, Vignola's Hot Jazz Guitar Trio also includes Gary Mazzaroppi and longtime duo collaborator Vinny Raniolo. See Frank Vignola's Hot Jazz Guitar Trio at 8 p.m. on Nov. 10 at the Arts Garage, 94 N.E. 2nd Ave., Delray Beach (561-450-6357, $35-$45).

Pianist and Miami native Martin Bejerano is a rising star who branched out but never abandoned his roots. A high school graduate of his hometown's heralded New World School of the Arts who received his Master's degree from the University of Miami, Bejerano took a fruitful detour to New York City in 2000 before returning to UM, where he now heads the jazz piano department at its Frost School of Music. In less than a year in the Big Apple, he was asked to join the quartet of drumming legend Roy Haynes, in which he still remains. Now 93 years old, Haynes' releases since featuring Bejerano include the Grammy-nominated [i]Fountain of Youth[i] (2002), [i]A Life in Time[i] (2007), and [i]Roy-alty[i] (2011). The pianist's solo recording catalog includes [i]Evolution/​Revolution[i] (2006), [i]Potential Energy[i] (2013), and [i]Trio Miami[i] (2016). See the Martin Bejerano Trio at 7 p.m. on Nov. 11 at the Arts Garage ($35-$45).

Pianist Robert Glasper, a three-time Grammy winner, is one of the most open-minded and forward-thinking younger musicians and producers in jazz at age 43. Which makes it less surprising that he signed on to be a part of rapper/​actor Common's new group August Greene, with drummer/​producer Karriem Riggins. The trio, which released its self-titled debut CD this year, first formed to record the song "Letter To the Free," from Ava DuVernay's Netflix documentary [i]13th[i]. The film explores mass incarceration in the United States, and is named for the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which prohibited slavery except as punishment for a crime. The song shared a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics. See August Greene (Robert Glasper, Common & Karriem Riggins) at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 18 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami (877-949-6722, $45-$125).

At age 83, Herb Alpert's legacy in jazz is both set and multi-faceted as a renowned trumpeter, singer/​songwriter, arranger, producer, and co-founder of A&M Records with Jerry Moss in 1962. With his most famous group, the Tijuana Brass, Alpert released his most famous album (with a memorable cover featuring model Dolores Erickson), [i]Whipped Cream and Other Delights[i], in 1965. More recently, Alpert has toured and recorded with his wife of 45 years, singer Lani Hall. She was the original lead vocalist for Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66; and sang the title song for the 1983 James Bond film [i]Never Say Never Again[i]. The couple earned 2014 Grammy Awards for their latest joint CD, the Hall-produced [i]Steppin' Out[i] (2013), for "Best Pop Instrumental Album." See Herb Alpert and Lani Hall at 8 p.m. on Dec. 6 at the Parker Playhouse, 707 N.E. 8th St., Fort Lauderdale (954-462-0222, $38-$63).

Putting together an all-star band of seven of the most talented women in modern jazz qualifies as another major accomplishment for the Arsht Center, this time within its "Jazz Roots" series. And that group consisting of women from the United States, Canada, France, Israel, Japan and Chile only sweetens the pot of possibility. Cecile McLorin Salvant is one of the most exciting vocalists to emerge in jazz in decades, and she'll be joined by pianist and musical director Renee Rosnes, clarinetist Anat Cohen, tenor saxophonist Melissa Aldana, trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, bassist Noriko Ueda, and drummer Allison Miller. The unique three-piece horn section should provide contrast, and the three-piece rhythm section power, for the inimitable vocal star. See Artemis: Great Women in Jazz (Cecile McLorin Salvant, Renee Rosnes, Anat Cohen, Melissa Aldana, Ingrid Jensen, Noriko Ueda, and Allison Miller) at 8 p.m. on Dec. 7 at the Arsht Center ($45-$125).

Like his father, Dewey Redman (1931-2006), 49-year-old Joshua Redman is known for playing multiple saxophones (tenor, alto and soprano) and leading careers as both a bandleader and sideman. His touring and recording credits include Chick Corea, Elvin Jones, Joe Lovano, the Bad Plus, Brad Mehldau, and Christian McBride, and his 15-year solo recording career started with his self-titled 1993 debut and is bookended by this year's [i]Still Dreaming[i]. Born in Berkeley, CA, Redman's musically open mind stems from both his father and mother, dancer Renee Shedroff, who exposed the young musician to styles from jazz to classical, rock to soul, and African to Middle Eastern. The saxophonist assembles different stellar lineups for his various touring shows, and this one features pianist Aaron Goldberg, bassist Ben Williams and drummer Obed Calvaire. See the Joshua Redman Quartet at 8 p.m. on Jan. 18 at the Arsht Center ($45-$125).

An elite traditional jazz trumpeter, Randy Brecker rose to prominence playing more streamlined, contemporary jazz/​fusion with the Brecker Bros., a group influenced by his previous band, the soulful Blood, Sweat & Tears. The Brecker Bros. we co-led by his younger brother, celebrated saxophonist Michael Brecker, and the group released occasional studio and live albums in-between their myriad individual sideman recording sessions for 40 years until Michael died in 2007 from a rare blood disorder at age 57. His older brother, now 72, has two-dozens releases under his own name, plus sideman credits from A (Aerosmith) to Z (Frank Zappa), with names like George Benson, Carla Bley, Dire Straits, Bob James, Jaco Pastorius, Lou Reed, Todd Rundgren, Horace Silver, Spyro Gyra, and Stanley Turrentine in-between. See Randy Brecker at 8 p.m. on Jan. 18 at Bailey Hall, 3501 Davie Rd., Davie (954-201-6884, $11-$51).

When the world lost one of its greatest all-around vocalists in Aretha Franklin this year, largely forgotten in the aftermath was the fact that the Queen of Soul became a better singer through playing an instrument -- the piano. It's a lesson not lost, though, on Canadian vocalist and trumpeter Bria Skonberg. With a handful of album releases since 2009, Skonberg's 2016 Sony Masterworks debut [i]Bria[i] (her fourth overall release) earned her a 2017 JUNO Award, the Canadian equivalent of a Grammy, for "Best Jazz Vocal Album." Named one of the 25 rising jazz stars of 2018 by [i]Down Beat[i] magazine, Skonberg is likely to showcase her silky voice and soaring trumpet playing on material from her latest release, [i]With a Twist[i] (2017). See the Bria Skonberg Quartet at 8 p.m. on Jan. 18 at the Arts Garage ($35-$45), and at 8 p.m. on Jan. 20 at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, 10950 S.W. 211th St., Cutler Bay (786-573-5300, $30-$50).

With his matinee idol looks, ample talents as a musician, and star associations (he once dated famed news anchor Katie Couric), trumpeter Chris Botti might very well rival Harry Connick Jr. as an all-around jazz celebrity if he was also a singer. The 56-year-old Oregon native was studying music at Indiana University when stars (singer Frank Sinatra, drummer Buddy Rich), in fact, came looking for him for their touring bands. Botti ended up displaying his jazz chops in pop settings during the 1990s, working with Paul Simon, Sting, Joni Mitchell, and Aretha Franklin. The trumpeter started his solo recording career in 1995 with [i]First Wish[i]. His latest release is the 2012 CD [i]Impressions[i] (the 2013 Grammy Award winner for "Best Pop Instrumental Album"). See Chris Botti at 8 p.m. on March 12 in Dreyfoos Hall at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, 701 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach (561-832-7469, $25 + up).

The elder statesmen of modern jazz/​fusion involve mostly 1960s-1980s alumni of the bands of late trumpeter and fusion godfather Miles Davis -- like keyboardists Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett; saxophonist Wayne Shorter, bassist Ron Carter, and guitarists Mike Stern and John Scofield. The 66-year-old Scofield replaced Stern in Davis' band in 1982, five years after starting his solo recording career, and spent three-and-a-half years with the trumpeter that helped form his inimitable, mostly clean-toned minimalist style. Capable of additional excursions from bebop to traditional jazz, funk, soul, country, and blues, the Ohio native has even joined jam band icons Medeski, Martin & Wood for recordings and touring over the past 20 years. Scofield's Combo 66 band includes pianist Gerald Clayton, bassist Vicente Archer, and drummer Bill Stewart. See John Scofield's Combo 66 at 8 p.m. on March 16 at Bailey Hall ($11-$51).

Two entirely appropriate jazz veterans team up for the upcoming presentation of "Straighten Up and Fly Right: A Tribute to Nat King Cole." Occurring on the exact date of what would have been the 100th birthday for Cole (1919-1965), the concert features the ageless 83-year-old pianist Ramsey Lewis, who'll demonstrate the late icon's undervalued instrumental capabilities, plus 58-year-old singer/​guitarist John Pizzarelli, who's recorded the tribute CDs [i]Dear Mr. Cole[i] and [i]P.S. Mr. Cole[i]. A Chicago native, Lewis rose to stardom as a trailblazing crossover artist in the 1960s, making both the jazz and pop charts with instrumental hits like "The In Crowd," "Hang On Sloopy" and "Wade in the Water." New Jersey native Pizzarelli has recorded with stars in both pop (Paul McCartney, James Taylor) and jazz (Rosemary Clooney and his father, 92-year-old guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli). See Ramsey Lewis and John Pizzarelli at 8 p.m. on March 17 at Dreyfoos Hall ($25 + up).

What a career Brazilian pianist, vocalist, composer and arranger Sergio Mendes has had, and his "From Brazil With Love" show at the Arsht Center will span material from Mendes' 50-plus releases between 1960 and present day. The venerable band leader rose to fame with his iconic mid-1960s group, Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66, whose self-titled album featured a hit cover of Jorge Ben's composition "Mas Que Nada." More recently, Mendes earned a 1993 "Best World Music" Grammy Award for [i]Brasileiro[i]; was nominated for a 2006 "Record of the Year" Latin Grammy for a re-arranged version of "Mas Que Nada" recorded with hip-hop act the Black Eyed Peas, won a 2010 "Best Brazilian Contemporary Pop Album" Latin Grammy for [i]Bom Tempo[i], and was nominated for a 2012 Academy Award for "Best Original Song" for "Real in Rio" from the animated film [i]Rio[i]. See Sergio Mendes at 8 p.m. on April 12 at the Arsht Center ($45-$125).


The lineage of famed jazz musicians on the vibraphone, the piano-like percussion instrument played with mallets to produce actual notes, runs from Lionel Hampton (1908-2002) to Milt Jackson (1923-1999) to 75-year-old Gary Burton, whose successor may very well be 45-year-old Stefon Harris. The Albany, NY native started building his profile as a sideman in the mid-1990s before embarking on his 20-year solo recording career, which has resulted in top vibraphonist nods from critics polls in both [i]Down Beat[i] (2013, 2017) and [i]JazzTimes[i] (2014, 2016) magazines. Also an inspiring educator and public speaker, Harris delivered a 2012 TED Talk entitled "There Are No Mistakes on the Bandstand" that's gained more than half a million views. Harris and his band Blackout will perform tracks from their 2018 release, [i]Sonic Creed[i]. See Stefon Harris & Blackout at 8 p.m. on April 20 at Bailey Hall ($11-$51).

One is a leading figure through jazz history, both as a keyboardist and composer; the other is the most decorated banjo player ever. Seventy-seven-year-old Chick Corea emerged from trumpeter Miles Davis' early jazz/​fusion bands of the late 1960s to form the supergroup Return To Forever with bassist Stanley Clarke and various others through the 1970s. One of his more than 20 Grammy Awards since was in 2007, a "Best Instrumental Album" nod for his duet release [i]The Enchantment[i] with Bela Fleck. The duo has toured off-and-on ever since. The 60-year-old banjoist rose to prominence in the late 1980s with his unique bluegrass-meets-jazz band Bela Fleck & the Flecktones, and has earned nearly as many Grammy Awards as Corea, with nominations in categories as diverse as jazz, bluegrass, pop, classical, country, folk, spoken word, composition, and arranging. See Chick Corea and Bela Fleck at 8 p.m. on May 17 at Dreyfoos Hall ($25 + up).

When singer Jon Hendricks died in 2017 at the age of 96, he may very well have passed the vocalese baton to 50-year-old vocalist Kurt Elling. The art of composing and singing lyrics over improvised jazz solos, vocalese is a discipline that was also practiced by Mark Murphy (1932-2015), another major Elling influence. The Chicago native's four-octave baritone voice was additionally nurtured through unusual channels for jazz, including learning to sing counterpoint from listening to classical Bach motets and performing in a 70-voice a cappella choir while in college. Since starting his solo recording career in 1995 with [i]Close Your Eyes[i], Elling has practically been nominated for a Grammy Award for every album, winning in 2009 for [i]Dedicated To You[i] ("Best Jazz Vocal Album"). His quintet includes pianist Stu Mindeman, bassist Clark Sommers, guitarist John McLean and drummer Kendrick Scott. See the Kurt Elling Quintet at 8 p.m. on May 18 at Bailey Hall ($11-$51).

Selected Works

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