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Jazz in Florida, Part II

Nick Catalano By

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With arrangements by Don Sebesky and other notables the trio cascaded through the concert halls offering up a generous selection of Cole hits that titillated the large audiences...
One of the interesting tour challenges for small jazz groups involves creating increased musical dimensions for some of the large concert halls around the country. Often, headliners will invest in charts of their music that have been arranged for big bands and even symphony orchestras. Boca Raton’s Florida Atlantic University auditorium boasts a seating capacity of 2,500 and the Kravis Performing Arts Center in West Palm Beach is much larger. So what does a star performer like John Pizzarelli do if he is asked to perform in such venues with his trio? He reaches into his travel kit and brings out the aforementioned long ensemble charts. Last month Pizzarelli (the trio was expanded to include his legendary father Bucky Pizzarelli) teamed up with Bob Lappin and the Palm Beach Pops orchestra to perform concerts at both FAU’s auditorium and the Kravis Center. The shows were tributes to Nat King Cole (Pizzarelli’s trio of bass, guitar and piano replicates the exact instrumentation of Cole’s immortal group of the 1940’s) and the huge halls were filled to capacity.

With arrangements by Don Sebesky and other notables the trio cascaded through the concert halls offering up a generous selection of Cole hits that titillated the large audiences, many of whom were around when Cole first broke in as an outstanding jazz pianist.

Another treat for jazz fans were the arrangements of Mike Renzi, a notable Gotham writer/pianist. The Pops played a medley of Michel LeGrande compositions arranged by Renzi who can create just as well in Florida as he can in New York. Music students at FAU have the opportunity of actually recording their own CDs in a unique studio (the only one of its kind in an American university) where jazz has firmly established itself.

Jazz art is also on display this winter at The Art Marketplace in Delray Beach. Artist Robin Morris (her “musical” work has often appeared at Radio City Music Hall) debuted a new one-woman show that featured “Jazz Quartet” a new creation that had collectors buzzing. Morris’ “Max the Sax” and “Cool Blue” were also on display while the “Coca-Cola Jazz Band” headlined her poster collection.

Fabled chanteuse Ann Hampton Callaway has been wintering at the Royal Room of Palm Beach’s Colony Hotel where she can be heard for a much lower cover than is needed at Gotham’s Feinstein’s. This month trumpeter Tom Harrell brought his quartet into Fort Lauderdale’s Museum of Art for concerts presented by the South Florida Friends of Jazz. The tickets were only $20.00 and Harrell performed at the top of his game.

One of Florida’s oldest jazz rooms is the Musician’s Exchange presently quartered in Hollywood. It has moved about in the past few years but always provided a home for important jazzers who visit Florida. Ira Sullivan and Eddie Higgins are among those in residence this winter and the famed Night Hawks will perform on March 7. The website will provide additional information.

One of the most glamorous music boites in Florida is “Pete’s” a splendid Boca Raton watering hole on Glades Road. “Pete’s” features music (and dancing) seven nights a week but the serious listeners show up on Wednesday and Thursday to see Ebony (Diaz) and Gino (Lorentz) perform. Eschewing the tricks, bells and whistles of so many lounge groups, Ebony and Gino deliver unembellished soul for their devoted patrons. No cover, no minimum and great food – “Pete’s” in Boca.


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