SARASOTA, FL: Jazz, the uniquely American musical art form, was born in New Orleans in the early 20th century and nurtured on a lively diet of music from around the world–the blues of the American South, rhythms from Africa and the Caribbean, classical music from Europe and France, and more. It’s entirely fitting, then, that the Jazz Club of Sarasota–one of the most active jazz societies in the nation–will present “A World of Jazz” for its 38th Annual Sarasota Jazz Festival. The four-day event, from March 7-10, 2018, will feature 14 musicians from seven nations in four concerts, over a dozen locally based musicians for a Pub Crawl by Trolley, and the French art film Django. In addition, at one of the concerts the Club will present its highest honor, the Satchmo Award, to a musician for “unique and enduring contribution to the living history of jazz.” Festival activities will be presented in various Sarasota venues including Marriott’s new Art Ovation Hotel, downtown Sarasota night clubs and Burns Court Cinema.
“We’re pleased to recognize the global impact of jazz, and we’re especially honored that the celebrated Ken Peplowski, one of our audience favorites, is the festival’s music director,” said Peg Pluto, Jazz Club president. “We’re also delighted that our vice president, Ed Linehan, is managing director for the festival. Ken and Ed have both worked with our festivals before so we know we’re in good hands.
“In keeping with our theme, Ken will present the world of jazz as interpreted by internationally respected musicians and fast-rising young stars from around the world,” Pluto said. “Many of them have never played together before, and they may never share the same stage again. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event.”
Acclaimed reedman Peplowski, based in New York, will both direct the international cadre and frequently join them on stage. “These accomplished performers will play the universal language of jazz, an American language that everyone now speaks,” he said. “They’ll draw on musical influences from their homeland countries—Brazil, Denmark, Israel, Italy, Japan, Sweden and the United States—to present the exciting sound of what jazz has become today.”
Ken has designed a playbook of two sets for every concert, each with a different mix of performers. “We’ll present unique combinations of musicians for every set with a fresh sound for each segment,” he said. He’ll also add another treat: “After each concert, we’ll bring back all of the evening’s musicians for an All-Star jam session number or two—an improvised finale that takes us right into the very essence of jazz.”
Peplowski has been highly praised and frequently honored. “Ken Peplowski is arguably the greatest living jazz clarinetist,” said Russell Davies of BBC2. Will Friedwald (The Wall Street Journal) wrote, “Mr. Peplowski sounds the way (Benny) Goodman might if he had kept evolving … polishing his craft . . . into the 21st century.”
Among other credits, Ken has been a featured performer at practically every significant jazz festival, was music director of the Oregon Festival of American Music for eight years, has backed dozens of major performers, and has recorded some 50 CDs as a soloist and nearly 500 more as a sideman. He has also been a frequent performer for the Jazz Club of Sarasota, often with Dick Hyman, and in 2014 received the Club’s highest honor, its Satchmo Award, for his “unique and enduring contribution to the living history of jazz.” (Other Jazz Club Satchmo winners since 1990 have included Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton, Gerry Mulligan, Ella Fitzgerald, Dick Hyman, Branford Marsalis and Family, Four Freshmen, Bucky and John Pizzarelli, and Wycliffe Gordon.)
In addition to Peplowski, several other musicians will make encore appearances with the Jazz Club of Sarasota. These include Houston Person, saxophone; Diego Figueiredo, guitar; and Jeff Hamilton, drums.
The festival’s house band is the Scandinavian Jazztrio:
- Writer/musician/composer Kristian Leth (Denmark), drums; a Danish Academy Award-nominated film composer and Grammy-winning recording artist who has written, performed and produced scores for TV series, films and commercials.
- Hans Backenroth (Sweden), bass; acclaimed as “one of the best bass players Sweden has developed—ever!” (Arne Domnérus, Swedish jazz legend).
- Ole Kock Hansen (Denmark), piano; “one of the most significant artists in modern Danish Jazz” (Wikipedia).
“Some of our festival musicians currently reside in the United States as well as abroad. We’ve hand-picked performers who beautifully understand and represent the musical influences they bring from their countries of origin,” Peplowski said. In addition to the Scandinavian Jazztrio, festival musicians (in alphabetical order) are:
- Ehud Asherie, piano, Israel; “a master of swing and stride” (New Yorker); a jazz pianist who integrates the New York piano tradition with his inventive style.
- Graham Dechter, guitar, U. S.; honored in the DownBeat Critics Poll as “Rising Star Guitar” (2013, 2014, 2015, 2017).
- Sinne Eeg, vocalist, Denmark; considered the preeminent jazz vocalist in Scandinavia.
- Diego Figueiredo, guitar, Brazil; a fast-rising star among the world’s greatest jazz guitarists; plays with an infectious, joyful feeling.
- Jimmy Greene, saxophone, U.S.; GRAMMY® Award-nominated saxophonist, composer, and arranger.
- Jeff Hamilton, drums, U.S; known for his versatility as a drummer, composer, arranger, and educator; leads his own trio and performs with other respected groups including the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra.
- Chiara Izzi, vocals, Italy; described by JazzTimes as “a talent to be heard, admired and anticipated.”
- Jeremy Pelt, trumpet, U.S.; featured by Nat Hentoff in The Wall Street Journal; voted “Rising Star – Trumpet” for five years by DownBeat and the Jazz Journalists Association.
- Houston Person, saxophone, U.S.; a “rock-solid, full-toned” musician, recording artist and winner of the Eubie Blake Award.
- Akiko Tsuruga, organ, Japan; called “Queen of the Organ”; winner of the 2017 Hothouse Magazine Jazz Award for Best Organist.
Wednesday, March 7, evening: 20TH ANNUAL JAZZ TROLLEY & PUB CRAWL, downtown.
Jazz lovers and club-hoppers board trolleys for the 20th consecutive Jazz Pub Crawl by Trolley, riding to downtown nightclubs where over a dozen local musicians swing the night away. Trolleys run continuous loops of the venues throughout the evening. A wristband, available from the Jazz Club office* or at the trolley, is required for admission to the trolley and all clubs.
Thursday, March 8, 7:30 p.m., CONCERT, Art Ovation Hotel, 1255 N Palm Avenue
Host: Mike Cornette, director of jazz & on-air host, WUSF 89.7 FM, Tampa
- 1st Set: Scandinavian Jazztrio with special guest vocalist Sinne Eeg.
- 2nd Set: Scandinavian Jazztrio joined by Jimmy Greene on saxophone and Jeremy Pelt on trumpet. Featured performances by Sinne Eeg, vocals, and Ken Peplowski, reeds.
- Finale: All-Star Jazz Jam with all of the evening’s musicians
Friday, March 9, 11 a.m.: DJANGO, A FRENCH FILM ABOUT LEGENDARY JAZZ GUITARIST DJANGO REINHARDT, Burns Court Cinema, 506 Burns Court
Etienne Comar’s film Django had its world premiere at the 2017 Berlin Film Festival, where one reviewer called it “a plucky historical drama that leverages a famous musician into a story about fighting fascism.” The “dazzling biopic” depicts the struggles of the famous French jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt in German-occupied Paris. Contact the Jazz Club office* for reservations.
Friday, March 9, 7:30 p.m., CONCERT, Art Ovation Hotel, 1255 N Palm Avenue
Host: Whitney James, jazz vocalist; on-air jazz host, WUSF 89.7 FM, Tampa
- 1st Set: Diego Figueiredo, guitar; Chiara Izzi, vocals; Jimmy Greene, saxophone.
- 2nd Set: Scandinavian Jazztrio; Houston Person, saxophone; Graham Dechter, guitar.
- Finale: All-Star Jazz Jam with all of the evening’s musicians.
Saturday, March 10, 2 p.m., CONCERT, Art Ovation Hotel, 1255 N Palm Avenue
Host: Marc Taylor, Weekday Morning Jazz Host, WUCF 89.9 FM, Orlando
- Two sets of mix-and-match with Scandinavian Jazztrio; Graham Dechter, guitar; Akiko Tsuruga, organ; Jeff Hamilton, drums; Houston Person, saxophone; Diego Figueiredo, guitar; Chiara Izzi, vocals; Ehud Asherie, piano; and Ken Peplowski, reeds.
- Finale: All-Star Jazz Jam with the afternoon’s musicians.
Saturday, March 10, 7:30 p.m., CONCERT, Art Ovation Hotel, 1255 N Palm Avenue
Host: Bob Seymour, Retired director of jazz and on-air host, WUSF 89.7 FM, Tampa; honorary member, Jazz Club of Sarasota Board of Directors
- 1st Set: Kristian Leth, drums; Hans Backenroth, bass; Ehud Asherie, piano; and Ken Peplowski, reeds
- 2nd Set: Jeff Hamilton, drums; Akiko Tsuruga, organ; Graham Dechter, guitar; and Houston Person, saxophone.
- Festival Finale: All-Star Jazz Jam with all of the evening’s musicians
Sarasota Jazz Festival ticket prices peak at $49, with discounts available for Jazz Club members and through several combination packages. Prices for the movie Django and the Jazz Pub Crawl are lower. Contact the Jazz Club* for Jazz Pub Crawl wristbands ($20/advance; $25/at event), information about the movie, VIP Combo Ticket Packages, and other options. To purchase general admission tickets for single concerts ($39/member; $49/nonmember), contact brownpapertickets.com or 800.838.3006.
The Jazz Club of Sarasota, founded in 1980, is dedicated to preserving, promoting and presenting jazz, America’s original musical art form. The Club has provided over 50 jazz-related events annually for more than 37 years. Chief among them is the highly respected Sarasota Jazz Festival, including the 38th Annual Festival set for March 7-10, 2018. In addition to producing numerous jazz events, over the years the Club has granted more than $200,000 to aspiring young jazz musicians. To learn more, visit www.jazzclubsarasota.org.
*Jazz Club of Sarasota: For more information visit http://jazzclubsarasota.org/, e-mail [email protected], or phone 941.366.1552 (Wednesday through Friday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Monday-Friday during Festival Week).