The New South Florida Jazz Orchestra With Kevin Mahogany at the Arturo Sandoval Jazz Club

Edward Blanco BY

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...vocalist Kevin Mahogany took center stage... his deep baritone voice lends a graceful elegance to the music and served to engage the band.
South Florida Jazz Orchestra
Arturo Sandoval Jazz Club
Deauville Beach Resort, Miami Beach
October 4th, 2006
In June of this year renowned bassist and composer, Chuck Bergeron gathered a select group of top-notch Miami-based musicians and formed the first professional jazz rehearsal big band in the Greater Miami/South Florida area. On the evening of October 4th this sixteen-piece big band took the stage at the Arturo Sandoval Jazz Club, making their first professional debut as the new South Florida Jazz Orchestra. In a town known more for its salsa music than jazz, this performance marked a bold attempt to fill a long existing void in the local jazz scene. The establishment of a professional orchestra playing traditional big band music in this community, is in many ways an historic musical event.

Bergeron, a member of the faculty at the University of Miami, who has performed and recorded with legendary artists such as Joe Williams, Stan Getz, Randy Brecker and Dave Grusin, is no stranger to the big band genre. He has maintained a working relationship with New York trombonist and leader of his own big band, John Fedchock and has played with the big bands of Buddy Rich and Woody Herman, so it seems only natural that Bergeron should lead his own big band. Chuck also happens to be the musical director for the incomparable jazz vocalist sensation, Kevin Mahogany who also performed with the group as a special guest on this occasion.

The music was simply superb with a repertoire consisting of standard charts from the likes of Thad Jones & Mel Lewis, Maria Schneider, Pat Metheny, Ellington, Bob Mintzer and the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. The first set opened up with a Thad & Mel standard "Groove Merchant' featuring the band's five-piece front-line reed section diced with a solid tenor solo by Tom McCormick and a trumpet shout by Rodrigo Gallardo. Following the opener was a Gary Lindsay arrangement of Metheny's "Better Days Ahead a light and mellow number highlighted with several smooth passages by pianist Landon Knoblock, and some nice bass line work by the leader making for one enchanting piece of music.

Shifting direction on T-Monks's "Evidence, the band grooved to a rather complicated and intricate arrangement marked by a three-player trumpet chase between Alex Norris, Augie Haus and Rodrigo Gallardo. At this point vocalist Kevin Mahogany took center stage to perform a selection of three tunes previously recorded on his Kevin Mahogany Big Band CD. His deep baritone voice lends a graceful elegance to the music and served to engage the band. Mahogany began with one of his own compositions in "Three Little Words, an absolutely beautiful soft and sweet little number showcasing Bergeron and the rhythm section accompanied by a Ken Mattis solo on tenor. Mahogany does a wonderful job on "There'll Never Be Another You and reaches with his booming baritone style on the Sinatra staple "One For My Baby.

Wrapping up the first set, Bergeron chose the beautiful Maria Schneider composition "Green Piece to showcase the band as the music weaved in and out with delightful mood changes winding down to a whimper. In stark contrast, the finale featured the drumming prowess of Andrew Atkinson with a forceful Buddy Rich-like intro to the John Fedchock arrangement of Duke Ellington's classic "Caravan. The tune had a little tease on the bass by the leader and a burst from the bones completing an impressive and rousing session. After a brief intermission the band played another selection of standards on their second set.

A truly entertaining and exciting evening of classical traditional big band music performed by some of the most talented players around. This first outing of the SFJO holds much promise for enthusiast of the big band genre who came that night. For the next several months, the band will be playing a regular gig on the first Wednesday of every month at the premier jazz club in town, the Arturo Sandoval Jazz Club. With a little help from our friends, the SFJO has a future as the only large ensemble house band in the Greater Miami/South Florida area. With the possibility of developing their own unique sound and maybe a recording in the future, Bergeron and his group has given people like me reason to hope that live big band music can become and remain a special part of the jazz culture in this diverse and growing community.

Personnel: Chuck Bergeron (leader and bassist), Landon Knoblock (piano), Jason Carder (trumpet), Alex Norris (trumpet), Augie Haus (trumpet), Rodrigo Gallardo (trumpet), Dante Luciano (trombone and director of the University of Miami Jazz Orchestra), John Kricker (trombone), Steve Sigmund (trombone), Joel Keene (trombone), Gary Lindsay (alto), Ken Mattis (tenor), Gary Keller (tenor), Tom Mc Cormick (tenor), Jason Kush (baritone), Andrew Atkinson (drums). Altoist Billy Ross and baritone great Mike Brignola are other regular members not present that evening.

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