Spotlighting Naples-area jazz talent

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Two Naples FL bandleaders brought their groups to Port Charlotte on Monday, April 11 to close the Charlotte County Jazz Society's 25th Anniversary Season with a double concert.

Dave Morgan, a triple threat performer on vibes, vocals and drums, stuck to the first two skills in a strong performance by his quartet, which included Mac Chrupcala on piano, Mark Neuenschwander on bass and Bill E. Peterson on drums.

Morgan dug deep into the jazz repertoire to present several classic tunes that aren't heard much these days. They included Illinois Jacquet and Sir Charles Thompson's “Robbin's Nest," Eddie Harris' “Freedom Jazz Dance" (the latter a feature for Chrupcala), and Duke Ellington's “Azure," which featured Morgan on both vibes and vocals.

Vibes player Milt Jackson's composition “J.C." spotlighted Neuenschwander, who Morgan described as “one of the finest bass players to walk this earth." Few listeners would disagree. The band's take on “J.C." included intriguing conversational call-and- response segments between the bass and the vibes. Peterson well understands the art of musical conversation between all of the players on the bandstand, adding sly comments and strong punctuation with his sticks and brushes throughout the set.

The crowd was treated to another Naples drum great, James Martin, during the second half of the show, which featured trumpeter Bob Zottola's quartet, Jazz Simpatico. The band was rounded out by bassist Kevin Mauldin and pianist Stu Shelton (who also was aboard for CCJS' season-opening concert when he played in singer-drummer Patricia Dean's band).

Zottola, a New York big band veteran and 16-year member of Broadway's “Les Miserables" pit band before moving to Florida in 2004, offered a looser program with a wide range of material and perhaps too many vocals. He's a trumpet master- and more than a few in the audience weren't there to hear him sing.

The band's repertoire included Ivan Lins' sultry Brazilian bossa nova hit “Love Dance" (recorded by many singers including Barbra Streisand and George Benson) and strong takes on Clark Terry's arrangement of “Perdido" and Clifford Brown's bouncy “Joy Spring." Zottola tipped his hat to the classic Miles Davis sound with his Harmon-muted take on “Bye Bye Blackbird." His flugelhorn rendition of Sidney Bechet's “Si Tu Vois Ma Mere," an aching ballad that dominated the music in Woody Allen's film “Midnight in Paris," was superb.

Shelton, Mauldin and Martin provided exemplary support throughout the set. Martin is interesting because of the wide range of subtle touches and extensive accents he gets out of his minimalist drum kit. Because he drives an Austin Healy, he packs just a tiny bass drum, one snare, two cymbals and a hi-hat, but he gets a phenomenal amount of music from them. A lot of younger drummers should pay close attention to his approach. It's not how much gear you have, it's what you do with it.

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