War on Live Music story - Jan. issue of Palm Beach Arts Paper
There have been times, some relatively recently, when Palm Beach County actually seemed to flirt with having a creative live music scene that featured full bands playing original material.
Now is not such a time.
Between the influx of noise ordinances, worded to imply that music is equitable to "noise," and implemented to counteract the growing number of outdoor live music venues; ever-popular solo artists and duos singing and playing acoustic guitars, cover bands and even their modern, acid-for-the-masses counterparts -- tribute acts to actual artists who are [i]still[i] recording and touring -- and deejays, the number of full area bands playing original compositions seems purposely stifled.
One need only to look back 10 years or so to see when things were different, and where things started to turn, in a couple of disparate Palm Beach County towns: small Lake Worth in the center of the county and sprawling Jupiter in its north end.
In Lake Worth, open town forums debating a proposed noise ordinance in 2010 routinely featured 90 percent of speakers who were in opposition. Many who spoke in favor were, predictably, the retired owners of the small, antiquated homes surrounding the downtown east-west thoroughfares of Lake and Lucerne avenues. More predictably, perhaps, the seemingly pre-ordained ordinance passed, helping to result in the more recent dissolution of popular open-air live music sites like South Shores Tavern (on Lucerne Avenue) and Havana Hideout (on Lake).
Even the popular "Evening on the Avenues" events, which once featured live bands on the first and third Fridays of every month on the outdoor Cultural Plaza stage in-between Lake and Lucerne, are no more.
"With an outdoor venue, it's only logical to assume its intended purpose is for the sound to extend out," says Lake Worth-based singing solo flamenco guitarist Adrian Montijo. "It's an obvious collaborative public event. But you know you live in a democracy when someone in the neighborhood is not happy."
Solo performers, particularly Caucasian males singing and playing acoustic guitars, enjoy a romanticized, exalted status here. Especially since Mississippi-born singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffett somehow fooled his Parrot Heads into thinking he embodied the native South Florida sound over the past several decades. Soloists routinely get paid more per person than members of a full band, yet still cost less overall, and are less of a volume complaint risk for venues, especially open-air ones. The noise ordinance solution at most of those is to tell bands to turn down or get fired rather than invest any money in volume control equipment.
"The formula goes like this," says Broward County-based singing multi-instrumentalist Richie Schmidt, who often performs at the indoor venue the Funky Biscuit in Boca Raton with the duo Twocan Blue (with his wife, singing keyboardist Tess Schmidt) and quintet the Funky Biscuit Allstars. "City sells permit to outdoor venue to have live music; city imposes impossible decibel level restriction, and city then fines venue for exceeding level restriction."
Indoor venues feature no such issues. The Bamboo Room, one of South Florida's best rooms for original touring and local acts in its initial 1999-2008 incarnation in Lake Worth, reopened in 2011. Yet the upstairs club subsequently closed; opened again in 2015, closed again, reopened in 2018 and then closed again, all before its current incarnation -- as a private party rental venue that features almost exclusively deejays for its themed nights, most centering on R&B or Latin music.
Deejays have become increasingly popular with venue owners and managers, and have practically taken over wedding receptions from live bands. They have nearly every recorded song at their fingertips; often cost less than a full band, and can control their volume. Not that they're always asked to. Multiple South Florida clubs feature both deejays and live bands, the latter of which are consistently asked to turn down. Then a deejay takes over, pumps up the volume to stadium level with no volume complaints, and the dance floor fills with people who wouldn't dance to live original music specifically because they find it unpredictable.
The definition of a non-music scene is one in which people only want to hear what they've heard before rather than what they've never heard. In an era where a lowest-common-denominator TV show like the FOX network series [i]Flirty Dancing[i] debuts, that isn't surprising. Dancing certainly has its place as a fun, cardiovascular pastime, but it's also the opposite of thought-provoking. As is dance music. Dancers' only thoughts are about what might happen later with their dance partners, or whether anyone is watching them on the floor. Coincidentally or not, the genre became more popular after musical education was eliminated in public schools.
Area School of Rock locations in Lake Worth (since 2012) and Palm Beach Gardens (since 2008) have helped to replace some of that once-valuable public school curriculum, yet they focus on teaching the 7-to-18-year-old students cover material rather than on writing original compositions. What's more, local clubs book the schools' underage ensembles for unpaid onstage rehearsals, knowing that their parents will both attend and spend. Then routinely leave before an original act takes the stage after they watched their kids perform.
As a partial result, venues and series from Boynton Beach (The Venu) to Lake Park (Kelsey Theater) and Palm Beach Gardens (Downtown at the Gardens Summer Concert Series) routinely feature predominantly to exclusively tribute acts -- to still-active artists from Aerosmith and Buffett to Bruce Springsteen and U2.
Lake Worth officially became Lake Worth Beach in 2019, yet its original music scene is now at low tide. CWS on Lucerne Avenue remains the only downtown open-air venue; Propaganda on J Street is its sole indoor club featuring primarily original acts. Other indoor rooms include Rudy's (once the Bamboo Room's downstairs office area), the Rhum Shak, Igot's, and Brogue's, and the vast majority of material played throughout them involves covers. The Rhum Shak is even controlled by a booking agent whose prerequisite for any band they consider hiring is to know a high volume of cover songs.
"I don't believe there's a war on originality," says West Palm Beach-based keyboardist Jeff Crofford, who plays with the area Foreigner tribute act 4NR2. "Real money is tribute bands with a good agent. That's what it's become."
Perhaps, at least with the outdoor venues, it's a war on drums, the acoustic full band instrument without a volume knob. Yet two area drummers offer possible explanations that expand further than outdoor decibel levels.
"People don't respect musicians as tradesmen or professionals," says West Palm Beach-based freelance jazz and pop drummer Tim Moss. "Bars think we are there to bring people in, when we are there to entertain the people who come there. We're making the same money as they did in the 1950s. Who would earn $100 for six to eight hours of work, and no raises in 40 years? We play for the love."
"Music is no longer a common cultural touchstone," says Palm Beach Gardens-based freelance rock drummer Ed Schaeferle. "I remember when an older kid got a new Beatles LP and I begged to get a listen. That kid saved in advance to get that album. I read that there's almost an exact percent of teens' money that was spent on records that now goes toward video games."
Many venue owners and managers will gladly pay musicians playing for the love with more "exposure" than cash, and music becoming more of an Internet than physical product has certainly played a role. As have more strict DUI laws, and bars gaining stereotypically less-than-reputable meeting place status over the years. As clubs saw attendance wane, the bands they hired often became saddled with the extra expectation of bringing a following with them. Resulting in an influx of mediocre hobbyist musicians who earn impressive day job incomes, thus are often willing to play at a venue for a lesser price -- and bring their friends with equally-disposable incomes out to drink.
Club owners, less concerned with helping to craft a thriving music scene than in nightly receipts, thus become co-conspirators with the undercutting, marginal talent in that waning scene's downfall.
"As a club owner, you still have to promote your live bands," says Boynton Beach-based singing guitarist Mike Hill, who plays covers with the Rosario Craig Band. "Otherwise, it's a master-slave approach. Yes, the bands need to promote, but so do you. It's a business partnership. If you book live entertainment, you should not be spending that money so the band can be your marketing agents."
In Jupiter, the waterfront Harbourside Place opened in the early 2010s as a popular open-air dining and shopping destination, complete with a stage for live music, at the intersection of U.S. Highway 1 and Indiantown Road. Almost immediately, the volume complaints started coming in from affluent owners of adjacent properties and homes across the Intracoastal Waterway. Harbourside compensated by booking acoustic acts and installing massive plastic sound baffles across the back of the stage for full electric band nights, but those property owners eventually, and predictably, ensured that the complex is now almost exclusively for dining and shopping.
The residents around Harbourside are often boat-owning baby boomers, or older, who may yearn for the music of the swing era -- or now lean away from their youthful tastes of Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin toward the post-Woodstock era's easy listening stars like Barry Manilow and Neil Diamond. They're simply registering noise complaints because they're not hearing the music they like, and their property values usually give them an inflated say in the matter.
"A unique feature of South Florida life that I've always loved is live music, outdoors, year-round," says Schmidt. "In many cases, city commissions put their priority on development, placing no value on sustaining this unique part of our coastal culture. Time and again, in city after city, council meetings are convened to address this 'terrible plague' of live music outdoors. In one court case in Broward County, a judge asked a condo owner, 'Would you have complained if the band was playing a Frank Sinatra song?' The senior resident answered no, and the judge ruled in favor of the outdoor venue owner."
North of Harbourside along North State Road A1A, the waterfront outdoor venue Square Grouper requires its bands to have no amplifiers onstage, which lowers the volume -- but in the process practically requires them to invest in costly in-ear monitors (a tactic Harbourside also tried) to hear their instruments.
Across the street, the open-air Guanabanas spent money to address the problem rather than putting the onus on bands. Talent buyer and sound engineer Matt Cahur, at the venue since 2008, helped come up with barely-noticeable sound baffles along the club's east walkway around the stage, and to install Apex Hera and Argos sound controllers and limiters to reduce decibel levels. What's more, Cahur (also a guitarist with longtime area alt-rockers Boxelder) actually encourages bands at Guanabanas to play original music.
A short drive to the south on U.S.1, Jupiter-based singer, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Vince Flora decided to open an indoor live music venue featuring originals and covers with his wife, Kelly Flora, in 2014. Double Roads Tavern, named for the popular oceanside make-out spot for teens along the beach nearby in the 1970s, was born. And with no such outdoor sound restrictions, it's thriving, recently advertising its "10 shows a week, 520 shows a year for 5 1/2 years."
"The club owner has a very large investment to protect, and the bands really do not," Flora says, citing a valid distinction in such business relationships. "It's the same, in many respects, as it's always been in that you treat your band like any other business and watch it grow. Go out and get contacts and promote yourself. Clubs can't afford to pay bands that do nothing but show up and bring no added revenue."
Perhaps Palm Beach County, with its hobbyist musicians and year-round warm weather attracting tourists and creating an array of distractions from live music, could never host a scene like Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago, Austin, Nashville, or New York City. And perhaps that's why, even with myriad universities with respected music programs, especially in the Miami-Dade area, the students those colleges produce can't find work in a shrinking South Florida market of venues. Especially outdoor ones.
"It's a total, blatant disregard for for creativity and sonic exploration," says Miami-based percussionist Steve Kornicks.
And perhaps it's a problem that extends not only beyond the boundaries of county, but also state and even country.
"I made more money 40 years ago in music," says Ontario, Canada-based vocalist and bassist Steve Van Stiphout. "When I explain to club owners that my trade is as worthy as any other profession, they don't care, saying, 'If you don't do it, somebody else will.' I'm retired now, and just play for my own enjoyment and peace of mind."
* Disclaimer: I currently sing and play drums and percussion with a handful of area groups. One started out as a Bob Dylan tribute act in the early 2000s, but has since morphed into roughly 40% Dylan, 35% other covers, and 25% originals on a given night. The other acts play anywhere from 60% to 90% originals. One motto I've carried is that musicians have to either place a greater emphasis on music, by performing originals, or on money, as in cover and tribute acts. Another is that generally the more money you're making at a gig, the less fun you'll have. And the more money your customers have, the more curious their musical tastes. On well-paying gigs for affluent customers, locally to the Bahamas, I've been asked, with a straight face, to play "Macarena" by Los Del Rio and "Gangnam Style" by PSY.
Jazz Season Previews - Oct. issue of Palm Beach Arts Paper
Jazz may be at a generational crossroads within the 2019-2020 season in South Florida. More and more presentations are becoming tributes to icons, echoing centuries of classical music and, more recently, pop and classic rock. A couple such nods to deceased legends are included here. Yet original jazz material is increasingly requiring deeper research.
Shows that could at least partially fall outside the chestnut realm include refreshing jazz/fusion bookings at the Funky Biscuit in Boca Raton (including bands led by Israeli guitarist Oz Noy and British drummer Simon Phillips), plus female artists that include bassist/vocalists Kate Davis and Nicki Parrott and banjoist Abigail Washburn (appearing with husband and acclaimed fellow banjoist Bela Fleck).
Only 28 years old, singing upright bassist and Oregon native Kate Davis played both bass and violin in the Portland Youth Philharmonic before relocating to the Manhattan School of Music to study jazz 10 years ago. In 2014, her YouTube performance with pianist Scott Bradlee's Postmodern Jukebox band of Meghan Trainor's pop hit "All About That Bass" -- re-titled "All About That (Upright) Bass" -- received more than eight million hits. Davis earned further exposure by subbing for Grammy winner Kurt Elling, who was suffering from laryngitis, in a 2015 appearance with opera star Renee Fleming on the PBS special [i]American Voices[i]. The singing bassist's holiday CD [i]A Kate Davis Holiday[i] (2009) and live recording [i]Live at Jimmy Mak's[i] (2010) are bookended by her 2008 debut [i]Introducing Kate Davis[i] and this year's [i]Trophy[i]. See Kate Davis at 8:30 p.m. Nov. 2 at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, 10950 S.W. 211th St., Cutler Bay (786-573-5300, $35-$40).
Formed in 1981, British act Acoustic Alchemy has variously been tagged as either smooth jazz or New Age, although neither is an exact fit. Initially founded by acoustic guitarists Simon James (on a nylon-string instrument) and Nick Webb (steel string), the group's non-electric status gives it as much in common with folk, chamber jazz and roots music. Despite not being overly commercial, and many personnel changes, the band has persevered for nearly 40 years. James left soon after its formation, replaced by guitarist Greg Carmichael, still a member. He and Webb brought Acoustic Alchemy acclaim as an in-flight performing duo on Virgin Atlantic Airways flights. Webb died of pancreatic cancer in 1998, and was replaced by guitarist Miles Gilderdale, also still a member. The two now form a nucleus that's rounded out by musicians like guitarist Gary Grainger and keyboardist Anthony White. See Acoustic Alchemy at 7 p.m. Nov. 2 at the Lyric Theatre, 59 S.W. Flagler Ave., Stuart (772-286-7827, $335).
Israel-born, New York City-based guitarist Oz Noy's 10-CD recording career is bookended by highlights, from his 2006 debut [i]Oz Live[i] and 2007 studio followup [i]Fuzzy[i] to this year's sublime [i]Booga Looga Loo[i]. Featuring an all-star cast including bassists Will Lee, John Patitucci and James Genus, and drummers Dave Weckl, Vinnie Colaiuta and Steve Ferrone, the latest disc -- like most of Noy's catalog -- epitomizes his motto of, "It's jazz, it just doesn't sound like it." A guitarist capable of channeling influential players from John Scofield to Stevie Ray Vaughan to Frank Zappa, Noy's touring trio features Weckl, the technical jazz/fusion maestro named "One of the 25 best drummers of all-time" by [i]Modern Drummer[i] magazine, and French bassist Hadrien Feraud (who's worked with John McLaughlin, Billy Cobham, and Mike Stern). See Oz Noy at 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. Nov. 5 at the Funky Biscuit, 303 S.E. Mizner Blvd., Boca Raton (561-395-2929, $20-$40).
The last time many South Floridians saw ageless 93-year-old vocalist Tony Bennett live was in February of last year, when he ran -- yes, ran -- across the stage to wave goodbye to an adoring capacity crowd at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach. Looking, acting and singing 20 years younger than his age, Bennett has been a nostalgia act for decades, but his nostalgia is transcendent. With more than 100 album releases, 80 singles (including his star-launching "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" in 1962), and 19 Grammy Awards, including for "Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album" for his 2018 release [i]Tony Bennett Celebrates 90[i], the artist formerly known as Anthony Dominick Benedetto still bears a voice that's a national treasure. Fans will know what to expect, and as always, Bennett will deliver, with a string of hits that blend jazz, pop, and easy listening styles. See Tony Bennett at 7 p.m. Dec. 8 at Hard Rock Live, 5747 Seminole Way, Hollywood (866-502-7529, $120-$863).
With her sensual voice and magazine-cover looks, vocalist Jane Monheit appeared to be the next big thing in jazz when she rocketed out of the gate at age 22 with her 2000 debut CD, [i]Never Never Land[i]. But reality tends to set in rather quickly in music in general, and jazz in particular. Now 41, the native New Yorker has enjoyed a solid if unspectacular career that includes two Grammy nominations and collaborations with John Pizzarelli, Michael Buble, and Terence Blanchard. On her latest release, [i]The Songbook Sessions: Ella Fitzgerald[i] (2016), Monheit wisely enlisted producer, arranger and trumpeter Nicholas Payton, who helped her conquer the challenge of honoring the greatest voice in jazz history. Her touring band includes pianist Michael Kanan, bassist Neal Miner, and drummer Rick Montalbano. See Jane Monheit at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 14-15 in Persson Hall at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, 701 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach (833-215-5121, $39 + up).
Jamaica is far better-known for producing reggae stars than jazz icons, but Kingston-born pianist Monty Alexander has defied the odds during his 60-year career. Now 75 years old, the veteran pianist started his career as a teenager in his native country in 1958 before moving to Miami with his family in 1961. Alexander recorded his debut album, [i]Alexander the Great[i], at age 20 in Los Angeles in 1964. His instrumental mix of bebop, blues and native Caribbean influences created a unique playing style that became more evident after the young musician relocated to New York City, and recording sessions with vibraphonist Milt Jackson, bassist Ray Brown, and guitarist Ernest Ranglin. Alexander's expansive solo list of recordings includes trios with both legendary reggae (drummer Sly Dunbar, bassist Robbie Shakespeare) and jazz (drummer Jeff Hamilton, bassist John Clayton) rhythm sections. See the Monty Alexander Trio at 8 p.m. Jan. 18 at Bailey Hall at Broward College, (954-201-6884, $41-$51).
Forty-seven-year-old trumpeter John Daversa may be best-known as Chair of Studio Music and Jazz at the University of Miami's Frost School of Music, and as director of the Frost Concert Jazz Band. But the versatile bandleader and musician leads both big bands and small groups under his name, and has recording credits that include Burt Bacharach, Fiona Apple, Joe Cocker, Bob Mintzer, Regina Spektor, and the Yellowjackets. Daversa earned 2019 Grammy Awards for "Best Improvised Solo," "Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album" and "Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella" for his 2018 release [i]American Dreamers: Voices of Hope Music and Freedom[i]. His self-titled small band also features alto saxophonist/flutist/vocalist Katisse Buckingham, tenor saxophonist Robby Marshall, keyboardist Tommy King, bassist Jerry Watts Jr. and drummer Gene Coye. See the John Daversa Small Band at 8:30 p.m. Jan. 18 at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center ($30-$35).
Unlike younger brother and trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, a purist who only performs traditional jazz and classical music, 59-year-old saxophonist Branford Marsalis has exhibited an open mind during a 40-year career. Capable of all varieties of sax (soprano, alto, tenor and baritone), Marsalis emerged from the New Orleans area as part of the uber-talented offspring of Ellis and Dolores Marsalis. While still a student at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, he was recruited by drummer Art Blakey to join his vaunted Jazz Messengers group. Shortly after, he drew Wynton's ire by joining Sting's heady pop band, ire furthered by his forming the hip-hop-influenced act Buckshot LeFonque in the mid-1990s. But Marsalis' long-standing quartet, with pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis and drummer Justin Faulkner, has displayed traditional chops through this year's release, [i]The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul[i]. See Branford Marsalis at 7 p.m. Jan. 22-23 at the Lyric Theatre ($102-$338).
Ever since Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt and French violinist Stephane Grappelli formed their famed Hot Club of France band from 1934-1948, other acts have paid homage to its time-honored musicality and virtuosity. The Hot Club of San Francisco features guitarist Paul "Pazzo" Mehling, vocalist/guitarist Isabelle Fontaine, violinist Evan Price, guitarist Jordan Samuels and bassist Sam Rocha, and has been doing so from a Bay Area base for more than 30 years. Also influenced by the music of The Beatles, Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks, mandolinist Dave Grisman, and violinist Stuff Smith, the quintet features acoustic instrumentation and alter-egos like Le Jazz Hot (when it plays locally in San Francisco) and the Ivory Club Boys (in recent electrified homages to Smith). Mehling is a nylon-string master; Fontaine was born and raised in France, and Price is a fiddle champion. See the Hot Club of San Francisco at 7 and 9 p.m. on Feb. 8 at South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center ($35-$40).
Underrated 63-year-old vocalist/guitarist Allan Harris has been called the "heir apparent to Nat King Cole" by the [i]New York Times[i] and "my favorite singer" by Tony Bennett. The Brooklyn native's soulful, versatile baritone voice is often imbued by his bluesy guitar playing, resulting in unique fusions of different styles like on his classically-tinged release [i]Here Comes Allan Harris and the Metropole Orchestra[i] (1996) and his Americana tale of 19th century westward expansion, [i]Cross That River[i] (2006). But Harris may be best-known for his creative salutes to jazz giants like the 1999 release [i]The Music of Duke Ellington[i], 2001 Billy Strayhorn salute [i]Love Came: The Songs of Strayhorn[i], [i]Nat King Cole: Long Live the King[i] (2010), and last year's [i]The Genius of Eddie Jefferson[i]. This Black Box Theater performance is titled "Long Live Nat King Cole." See Allan Harris at 8:30 p.m. on Feb. 29 at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center ($30-$35).
Playing in South Florida is always a homecoming for trumpeter and Miami native Terell Stafford. The well-versed 52-year-old, who's also Director of Jazz Studies at the Boyer College of Music and Dance at Temple University in Philadelphia, also grew up in Chicago before earning a degree in music education from the University of Maryland and one in classical trumpet performance from Rutgers University in New Jersey (after fellow trumpet giant Wynton Marsalis suggested he study there with Dr. William Fielder). Having classical technique within jazz has increasingly become a recipe for success, and has resulted in Stafford's 25-year-plus catalog of session credits and recordings as a leader, and his being called "One of the great players of our time" by legendary former John Coltrane pianist McCoy Tyner. See Terell Stafford at 7:45 p.m. March 11 at the Amaturo Theater at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 S.W. Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale (954-462-0222, $120-$279).
Sixty-two-year-old drummer Simon Phillips has been playing professionally since age 12, and rose to prominence through his explosive recording work on, and live touring performances in support of, guitarist Jeff Beck's 1980 album [i]There and Back[i]. Phillips' subsequent session catalog includes Mick Jagger, Pete Townshend, Joe Satriani and Peter Gabriel, and he had a 21-year run with the pop band Toto from 1992-2013. More recent exploits include Japanese pianist Hiromi's trio, with bassist Anthony Jackson, from 2010-2017. Phillips is an explosive drummer akin to a British Billy Cobham, and his Protocol 4 project includes noted jazz/fusion guitarist Greg Howe, keyboardist Otmaro Ruiz (who's worked with John McLaughlin, Tito Puente, and Arturo Sandoval), and bassist Ernest Tibbs (Allan Holdsworth, Scott Henderson, and Andy Summers). See the Simon Phillips Protocol 4 at 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. on March 26 at the Funky Biscuit ($35-$55).
There may be no more arduous a task in modern music than leading a jazz big band, yet pianist, arranger and musical director Oscar Hernandez has commandeered recordings by the Spanish Harlem Orchestra since its 2002 debut, [i]Un Gran Dia En El Barrio[i]. Founded with producer Aaron Levinson in 2000, the 13-piece band has since earned three Grammy Awards, and also features vocalists Jeremy Bosch, Carlos Cascante and Marco Bermudez, saxophonist/flutist Mitch Frohman, trumpeters Hector Colon and Manuel "Manesco" Ruiz, trombonists Reynaldo Jorge and Doug Beavers, bassist Gerardo Madera, and percussionists Jorge Gonzalez, George Delgado and Luisito Quintero. The orchestra will perform selections from its latest Grammy winner (for "Best Tropical Latin Album" in 2019), [i]Anniversary[i]. See the Spanish Harlem Orchestra at 8 p.m. March 28 at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center ($36.50-$44).
Has anyone ever had more impact on their instrument than banjoist Bela Fleck? At the very least, the 61-year-old is in the rare air of transformative musicians like bassist Jaco Pastorius, alto saxophonist Charlie Parker, and drummer Buddy Rich. Fleck's 30-year-old group Bela Fleck & the Flecktones invented banjo fusion through his interaction with other incredible musicians like brothers Victor Wooten (bass) and Roy "Futureman" Wooten, who plays an electric "synthaxe drumitar" shaped like a guitar. Fleck also traced his instrument's roots to Africa through an outstanding 2008 documentary, [i]Throw Down Your Heart[i], and toured and recorded for more than a decade in a duo with pianist Chick Corea. Fleck's latest duo is with wife and fellow banjoist and singer Abigail Washburn, the 41-year-old who had a successful career even before recording three CDs with her 15-time Grammy-winning husband. See Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn at 7 p.m. May 5 at the Lyric Theatre ($354).
Bassist/vocalist Nicki Parrott has a surprisingly-deep catalog of recordings for an artist who only started her professional career in 2000. The native of Australia studied at the New South Wales Conservatory of Music in Sydney before relocating to New York City in 1994, and studied upright bass there with Rufus Reid, Ray Brown and John Clayton. Earning the slot as bassist for guitarist Les Paul's trio during his weekly performances in the Big Apple, beginning in 2000, brought her significant visibility. Parrott's list of releases since includes side-woman credits with Paul, clarinetist/saxophonist Ken Peplowski, and keyboardist Rachel Z. Highlights under Parrott's own name include [i]Moon River[i] (2007), [i]Like a Lover[i] (2011), [i]Sentimental Journey[i] (2015), [i]From Joplin to Jobim[i] (2016), [i]Stompin' at the Savoy: A Tribute to Ella & Louis[i] (2018) and [i]New York To Paris[i] (2019). See the Nicki Parrott Trio at 7:45 p.m. May 13 at the Amaturo Theater ($82-$97).
Pop Season Previews - Oct. issue of Palm Beach Arts Paper
Unlike most previous years, the expected familiar faces aren't dotting the 2019-2020 South Florida pop concert season landscape. One's impressions of the results depend on whether they see that situation as glass half-full or half-empty.
Elvis Costello and Sting make rare appearances only days apart; soul icons the Isley Brothers stop in 65 years after the group's formation, and more modern names include the Black Keys, Incubus, Jonas Brothers, Chainsmokers, and Ariana Grande.
Then there's ZZ Top, Ozzy Osbourne, and other veteran names more familiar with previously popular lineups like John Oates (from Hall & Oates) and Martin Barre (Jethro Tull).
Bridging the wide gap between classic and modern country music, the Zac Brown Band has amassed a huge following since forming in Atlanta in 2002. Namesake vocalist/guitarist Brown has infused his eight-piece band with instruments more associated with bluegrass (violin, mandolin, banjo), Latin (percussion) and Hawaiian music (ukulele) while collaborating with rock stars from Chris Cornell to Dave Grohl to Kid Rock. The three-time Grammy-winning group also features Jimmy Martini (violin, vocals), John Driskell Hopkins (guitar, bass, ukulele, banjo, vocals), Coy Bowles (guitar, keyboards), Clay Cook (guitar, keyboards, mandolin, steel guitar, vocals), Matt Mangano (bass), Chris Fryar (drums), and Daniel de los Reyes (percussion). Currently on "The Owl Tour," the octet will perform a healthy portion of its 2019 CD, [i]The Owl[i]. See the Zac Brown Band at 7 p.m. Oct. 18-19 at Coral Sky Ampitheatre, 601-7 Sansburys Way, West Palm Beach (833-215-5121, $39-$521).
The "sacred steel" sound of pedal steel guitar in churches, primarily southern African-American Pentecostal institutions, has ironically found its leading voice in New Jersey-born Robert Randolph. The 42-year-old virtuoso did, however, gain notoriety while touring playing sacred music in Florida before teaming with Medeski, Martin & Wood keyboardist John Medeski in the group The Word in 2001. Further exposure came during a tour as the opening act for jam-blues favorites the North Mississippi Allstars, which led to opening slots along Eric Clapton's 2004 tour and an appearance in his [i]Crossroads Guitar Festival[i]. Randolph's rise merited inclusion in [i]Rolling Stone[i]'s "100 Greatest Guitarists of All-Time." His Family Band includes vocalist/guitarist Marcus Randolph, vocalist Lenesha Randolph, and keyboardist Brett Haas. See Robert Randolph & the Family Band at 8 p.m. Oct. 19 at the Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Hwy., Ste. 70, Fort Lauderdale (954-564-1074, $32.50-$65).
Texas trio ZZ Top became American roots-rock icons during the 1970s after forming in Houston in 1969. Jimi Hendrix was a fan of guitarist/vocalist Billy Gibbons, and bassist/vocalist Dusty Hill and drummer Frank Beard remained rock-solid on gems from [i]ZZ Top's First Album[i] (1971) through [i]Tres Hombres[i] (1973), [i]Fandango![i] (1975) and [i]Deguello[i] (1979). Then came the 1980s and music video, the speed bump that tripped up many a formidable 1970s rock act. By the 2000s, the trio had basically become a touring caricature of itself. Openers Cheap Trick, fellow Rock and Roll Hall of Fame members, conversely transitioned from the 1970s into the 1980s by sticking to their Illinois-based audio roots rather than to try to become small-screen stars. Vocalist and guitarist Robin Zander still has one of rock's best voices; bassist Tom Petersson and lead guitarist Rick Nielsen are aces, and son Daxx Nielsen mans the drums. See ZZ Top and Cheap Trick at 7 p.m. Oct. 20 at Coral Sky Ampitheatre ($37-$338).
You can thank Moby, or blame him, for deejays starting to release albums rather than just play them in the 1990s. A current result is the Chainsmokers, the popular, New York City-launched turntable duo of Alexander Pall and Andrew Taggart. Since launching five years ago with the single "Selfie" and debut EP [i]Boquet[i], the young electronic dance music darlings (Taggart is now 29; Pall 34) have earned a Grammy Award and headlined 2019 editions of the Ultra Music Festival (in both Australia and Miami) and Lollapalooza in Chicago. The duo's latest release is this year's [i]World War Joy[i]. Opening act 5 Seconds of Summer is an actual four-piece pop band (vocalist/guitarists Luke Hemmings and Michael Clifford, bassist/keyboardist/vocalist Calum Hood, drummer/vocalist Ashton Irwin) from Australia that has previous collaborations with the duo. See the Chainsmokers and 5 Seconds of Summer at 7 p.m. Oct. 24 at American Airlines Arena, 601 Biscayne Blvd., Miami (786-777-1000, $20-$325).
When Jack and Meg White formed the White Stripes in Detroit in 1997, they set a template for duos recording and effectively functioning as full bands. Akron, OH-based childhood friends Dan Auerbach (vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards) and Patrick Carney (drums) took notice, forming the Black Keys in 2001 after dropping out of college. Near-immediate indie-rock sensations, the duo's mix of blues and rock influences resulted in it signing with blues-based recording labels while becoming popular on the international jam band touring circuit. Stardom was fully achieved by the early 2010s, with a fistful of Grammy Awards. Auerbach and Carney now tour with guitarists Andy Gabbard and Delicate Steve and bassist Zach Gabbard. Openers Modest Mouse also became indie-rock sensations after forming in Washington state in 1992. See the Black Keys and Modest Mouse at 7 p.m. Nov. 5 at the BB&T Center, 1 Panther Parkway, Sunrise (954-835-7000, $22-$1,261).
As chameleonic a pop star as any in recent memory, 65-year-old British vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Elvis Costello first emerged as part of the mid-to-late-1970s New Wave movement with notable albums like [i]My Aim is True[i], [i]This Year's Model[i] and [i]Armed Forces[i]. But starting with his 1981 release of vintage country music covers, [i]Almost Blue[i], Costello has refused to be typecast. Starting in 1987, he released a decade-long string of collaborative pop tunes with the iconic Paul McCartney, and Costello's love of jazz includes collaborations with pianist Allen Toussaint, guitarist Bill Frisell, and his marriage to star vocalist/pianist Diane Krall His latest release is last year's [i]Look Now[i] with the Imposters, including keyboardist Steve Nieve, bassist/vocalist Davey Faragher, and drummer/percussionist Pete Thomas. See Elvis Costello & the Imposters at 8 p.m. Nov. 7 at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 S.W. Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale (954-462-0222, $88-$613).
Contrary to what many think, perhaps even including himself, Sting was not the entirety of the Police, the most original pop act since The Beatles between 1977 and 1984. Hyper-kinetic, world music-influenced drummer Stewart Copeland and creative, minimalist, effects-wizardly guitarist Andy Summers were vital ingredients in helping the artist formerly known as Gordon Sumner fly. For evidence, check out the group's 1993 collection [i]Message in a Box: The Complete Recordings[i]. Yet Sting's unparalleled, upper-register voice, songwriting prowess and underrated bass playing have also fueled a long and successful solo career since. The 68-year-old Brit is likely to play Police material, plus cuts from gems like his 1985 solo debut [i]The Dream of the Blue Turtles[i] and 1993's [i]Ten Summoner's Tales[i] through his most recent effort, this year's [i]My Songs[i]. See Sting at 8 p.m. Nov. 9 at Hard Rock Live, 5747 Seminole Way, Hollywood (866-502-7529, $84-$2,438).
The very definition of a modern boy band, the Jonas Brothers became the omnipresent male equivalent of the Kardashians after forming in New Jersey in 2005. Consisting of Joe Jonas (vocals), Nick Jonas (vocals, guitar) and Kevin Jonas (guitar, vocals), the trio first achieved a sizable following of younger fans through appearances on the Disney Channel. Multimedia TV and film stars since, the brothers roared out of the gate with annual releases [i]It's About Time[i] (2006), [i]Jonas Brothers[i] (2007), [i]A Little Bit Longer[i] (2008) and [i]Lines, Vines and Trying Times[i] (2009) before hiatuses, sibling rivalries, creative differences and breakups hastened a 10-year run for each to focus on solo projects. But just when you thought it was safe to assume that you would only [i]see[i] the Jonases on screens and teen magazine covers, the sibling trio reunited for its 2019 release [i]Happiness Begins[i]. See the Jonas Brothers at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 15 at the BB&T Center ($40-$1,777).
By nature of being the non-lead singing second name within Hall & Oates, the best-selling duo in music history, guitarist/vocalist John Oates has remained on the back burner since forming the duo with 73-year-old vocalist/keyboardist/guitarist Daryl Hall in Philadelphia in 1970. Yet while the 71-year-old Oates wasn't the lead singer on Top 40 hits like "Sara Smile," "She's Gone," or "Rich Girl," he co-wrote most of the duo's 34 [i]Billboard[i] Hot 100 hits, and has dozens of lead vocal credits on album cuts within its extensive catalog. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014, Hall & Oates has primarily become a touring nostalgia act since the turn of the century. Hall's guest star-studded [i]Live From Daryl's House[i] webcast has been his primary vehicle since, while Oates has both a recent memoir ([i]Change of Seasons[i], 2017) and CD ([i]Arkansas[i], 2018). See John Oates at 7 p.m. Nov. 23 at the Lyric Theatre, 59 S.W. Flagler Ave., Stuart (772-286-7827, $180-$203).
A true 21st Century pop star, 26-year-old, Boca Raton-born Ariana Grande is alternately praised as a four-octave soprano singer and lambasted as a marginal talent who producers only make sound like one. The Florida native first gained fame by appearing on the Nickelodeon TV series [i]Victorious[i] from 2010-2013. YouTube videos of her singing cover songs attracted Republic Records executives, allowing Grande to record on the 2012 [i]Victorious[i] soundtrack. She's since had all five of her full-length CDs (including this year's [i]Thank U, Next[i]) certified platinum; gained more than 25 million streams on sites like YouTube, Spotify and Apple Music, and won a Grammy Award for "Best Pop Vocal Album" for her 2018 release [i]Sweetener[i]. Along the way, Grande also showed her age by getting caught licking unpurchased donuts in public, and insulting Americans, in a restaurant video. See Ariana Grande at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 27 at American Airlines Arena ($63-$645).
Sixty-eight-year-old Newark, NJ native Max Weinberg is essentially the American version of iconic Beatles drummer Ringo Starr. Like the Brit in the Fab Four, Weinberg is revered by enthusiasts for his decades of work within Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, yet viewed by some as a limited, overrated drummer who was in the right place at the right time -- namely the Asbury Park area of the Garden State in 1973, where and when Springsteen launched his recording career. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of the E Street Band in 2014, Weinberg's Jukebox band will live up (or down) to its name in this general admission, standing room-only show at the Arts Garage by taking requests from the audience from more than 200 cover songs listed on video monitors (by the likes of The Beatles, Rolling Stones and, of course, Springsteen). See Max Weinberg's Jukebox at 8 p.m. Nov. 29-30 at the Arts Garage, 94 N.E. 2nd Ave., Delray Beach (561-450-6357, $50-$200).
South Florida's pop music season always includes expected bookings, but California rock/funk quintet Incubus at the Kravis Center was not one of this year's. Formed in 1991 while its members were in high school, the lineup still includes original vocalist Brandon Boyd, guitarist Mike Einziger, and drummer Jose Pasillas, and is rounded out by newer members Ben Kenney (bass) and Chris Kilmore (turntables). Early major-label recordings like [i]Enjoy Incubus[i] (1997) and [i]S.C.I.E.N.C.E.[i] (1998) featured a combination of rock, funk and rap a la predecessors the Red Hot Chili Peppers, 311, and Korn before Incubus started a trend of more mainstream singles like the ballad "Drive" from its third CD, [i]Make Yourself[i] (1999). The trend has continued over the past 20 years, and the hard-touring outfit released its eighth full-length CD, [i]8[i], in 2017. See Incubus at 8 p.m. Dec. 1 at Dreyfoos Hall in the Kravis Center, 701 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach (833-215-5121, $153-$925).
Who else but Madonna could book a five-night run in Miami where ticket prices top out at the amount of a used car? Born Madonna Louise Ciccone in Bay City, MI, the 61-year-old pop icon has proven savvy at promotion and mixed media since the 1980s, She initially moved to New York City in 1978 to become a dancer, but instead signed with Sire Records in 1982; became a star with her 1984 sophomore album [i]Like a Virgin[i], and started a Hollywood acting career opposite Rosanna Arquette in the 1985 film [i]Desparately Seeking Susan[i]. Madonna has since become the highest-grossing solo touring artist and best-selling female artist of of all-time, and a seven-time Grammy Award winner. And she's no stranger to Miami, where she was photographed hitchhiking naked in her 1992 coffee table book [i]Sex[i]. See Madonna at 8:30 p.m. Dec. 14, 15, 17, 18 & 19 at the Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami (305-673-7300, $225-$5,620).
Most bands don't even last six years, but 60 or more? Cincinnati-launched funk act the Isley Brothers first formed as the vocal doo-wop trio of O'Kelly, Rudolph and Ronald Isley in 1954, but moved to New York City and hit the charts with "Shout" in 1959. The song's inclusion in the 1978 comedy film [i]National Lampoon's Animal House[i] brought new notoriety, and it was ranked #118 on [i]Rolling Stone[i]'s list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All-Time" and inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999. Jimi Hendrix recorded with the band in the mid-1960s before the singers' Hendrix-influenced younger brother Ernie joined on guitar, bass, and drums. The hits "It's Your Thing" and "That Lady" followed, leading to the protest anthem "Fight the Power," a 1975 tune that sounds relevant today. The disco and music video eras rendered the Isley Brothers a nostalgia act, but Ronald and Ernie remain the core of this seminal family soul band. See the Isley Brothers at 8 p.m. Dec. 20 at Dreyfoos Hall ($125-$310).
British band New Order has been an on-again, off-again act since 1980, when it formed out of the ashes of the group Joy Division, which collapsed after the suicide of tortured lead singer Ian Curtis at age 23. Remaining band members Bernard Sumner (vocals, guitar), Peter Hook (bass) Stephen Morris (drums) carried on, eventually incorporating electronica and dance styles into the previous group's post-punk and New Wave nucleus. By 1983, New Order had largely shed the shadow of Joy Division via the popular 12-inch vinyl single "Blue Monday" and heralded album [i]Power, Corruption & Lies[i]. Hook departed in 2007 during one of the band's intermittent breaks, and the current lineup consists of Sumner, Morris, longtime keyboardist/guitarists Gillian Gilbert and Phil Cunningham, and bassist/keyboardist Tom Chapman. Its latest release is [i]Music Complete[i] (2015). See New Order at 8 p.m. Jan. 14,15, 17 & 18 at the Fillmore Miami Beach ($101-$183).
Possessing one of the greatest natural singing voices in popular music history, 75-year-old vocalist and Atlanta native Gladys Knight earned the first two of her seven career Grammy Awards with her family group, Gladys Knight & the Pips. Also featuring her brother, Merald "Bubba" Knight, and cousins Edward Patten and William Guest, the quartet's 1973 Grammys were for the singles "Midnight Train To Georgia" and "Neither One of Us (Wants To Be the First To Say Goodbye)." The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. Other Knight Grammy wins occurred between 1986 and 2005, most for collaborations with fellow stars like Dionne Warwick, Elton John, Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles. Knight also has an extensive film and television acting career between 1976 and 2019, and a solo recording career from 1978 through her latest release, [i]Where My Heart Belongs[i] (2014). See Gladys Knight at 8 p.m. Feb. 29 at Hard Rock Live ($88-$863).
Bluegrass sextet the Steep Canyon Rangers formed in 2000 when its members were students at the University of North Carolina, and rose to greater acclaim by starting a collaboration with famed comedian and ace banjoist Steve Martin in 2009. But while its 2011 debut recording with Martin, [i]Rare Bird Alert[i], was nominated for a Grammy Award for ""Best Bluegrass Album," it was the subsequent release, [i]Nobody Knows You[i], that won in the same category without him. The core lineup of vocalist/guitarist Woody Platt, banjoist/vocalist Graham Sharp, mandolinist/vocalist Mike Guggino, violinist/vocalist Nicky Sanders, bassist Barrett Smith, and percussionist/vocalist Mike Ashworth has since released CDs with and without its acclaimed accompanist, the latest being last year's [i]Out in the Open[i] without. Preceding efforts include a live 2014 release with both Martin and vocalist Edie Brickell. See the Steep Canyon Rangers at 7 p.m. Feb. 29 at the Lyric Theatre ($165-$354).
Guitarist Martin Barre shifted the scope of the band Jethro Tull as much as any musician has ever has with a notable rock act. By replacing original guitarist Mick Abrahams in 1968, the 72-year-old Barre's signature, stinging solos and prowess within complex time signatures turned vocalist/leader Ian Anderson's bluesy outfit (then in the vein of Cream and Led Zeppelin) into one of the great all-time progressive rock bands. Through the 1970s, Barre's inimitable playing highlighted classics like "Aqualung," "Cross-Eyed Mary," "Locomotive Breath," "Thick As a Brick," and "Minstrel in the Gallery," all included on the standout 1978 double-live document [i]Bursting Out[i]. Barre's band includes vocalist/guitarist Dan Crisp, bassist Alan Thomson and drummer Darby Todd, and will also play selections from its latest CD, [i]Roads Less Travelled[i]. See Martin Barre at 9 p.m. April 10 and 8 p.m. April 11 at the Funky Biscuit, 303 S.E. Mizner Blvd., Boca Raton (561-395-2929, $55-$75).
Seventy-year-old vocalist Ozzy Osbourne rose to fame with Black Sabbath, voted "greatest metal band" of all-time by MTV, primarily because of the original lineup of Osbourne, guitarist Tommy Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler and drummer Bill Ward from 1968-1978. The British singer then embarked on a successful solo career with the top-selling releases [i]Blizzard of Ozz[i] (1980) and [i]Diary of a Madman[i] (1981), furthering his celebrity by starting the popular festival Ozzfest in the mid-1990s and starring in the MTV reality series [i]The Osbournes[i] in the early 2000s. As a result, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee with Black Sabbath became a true 21st Century cult of personality figure; one more renowned for his bumbling, mumbling, cartoon-ish nature than his vocal prowess. So much for his "No More Tours" road show of 1992 (borrowed from his 1991 CD [i]No More Tears[i]) and its 2018 sequel. See Ozzy Osbourne at 7:30 p.m. May 29 at the BB&T Center ($75-$1,238).