Clearwater Jazz Holiday 2011
October 13 - 16, 2011
Trombone Shorty, Brian Culbertson, Maceo Parker and Dianne Reeves Headliners
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Thursday, May 23, 2013
Festival review By: Lexi Lewis
The Clearwater Jazz Holiday took place October 13-16, 2011 with a crowd of greater than 75,000 people in attendance over the four-day span. You couldn’t have asked for more beautiful weather for the duration of the Jazz Holiday in Florida. The event takes place each year at Clearwater’s Coachman Park. The best part about the Jazz Holiday is that it is a FREE event that always brings in top-notch performers.
I want to give a huge “thank you” to Hampton Allen, Clearwater Jazz Holiday’s Photography/Media Coordinator, for his remarkable business acumen throughout the duration of the festival. His professionalism was welcomed and appreciated by all media personnel like myself. Hampton Allen is an 11-year veteran of the Clearwater Jazz Holiday - no wonder his skills are fine-tuned! Thanks again, for making it an enjoyable experience.
The first night, Thursday, Oct. 13th, featured Global Affect, Kevin Eubanks and headliner Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue Band. Kevin Eubanks performed passionately with his band keeping all eyes on him as he skillfully strummed his guitar. Kevin Eubanks, as a lot of you know, was featured on The Tonight Show for 18 years. Playing in a touring band is what he used to do before he landed his gig at The Tonight Show. Now that his stint with The Tonight Show is over, he has returned to “what used to be” as the newest chapter in his life.
Kevin gave an outstanding performance as he shared powerful moments and smiles with the audience. You could feel the extreme intensity as you witnessed the grimaces on his face during his enjoyable set. One moment was so intense, that he broke his guitar string while playing! He waited patiently, never moving from his stool, while the stage crew restrung his guitar. During that time, the rest of the band took over and kept the crowd pleased. Once the guitar was fixed, Kevin waited until the band finished and creatively began to play again. Kevin Eubanks’ latest CD is titled Zen Food and was released November 2010.
After Kevin Eubanks performed, the highly anticipated headliner Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue took the stage. Energetic! Powerful! Captivating! From the first breath of air into his horn, Trombone Shorty had the audience’s undivided attention while some fans immediately rose to their feet to dance. You couldn’t help but feel the band’s energy from the start as they performed. Each band member made the show memorable in their own way. Individually and collectively, they put on an unforgettable show. I overheard comments in the audience like “man, he put on a great show,” “I’m really impressed,” and “he is really good!”
As I strolled through the huge crowd of people, lawn chairs were empty because the band brought people to their feet! I witnessed hands waving in the air, people dancing and having a really good time. As most artist do after their show, Trombone Shorty and the band signed autographs at the artist signing booth. The guys were very friendly to all the fans and accommodated every person who wanted to “chat” and take pictures. What a great group of talented young men! I’m sure they will be “blowing” into a city near you! The latest CD from Trombone Shorty is titled “For True” and was released in September 2011.
Luckily, I had an impromptu interview with Trombone Shorty’s bass player Michael Ballard; also known as “Mike Bass” in the trailer after the show:
Michael Ballard AKA “Mike Bass”
SJM: How did you get this gig with Trombone Shorty?
Mike: I was 10 years old, I met him at Louis Sachmo Armstrong Jazz Camp – we’ve been friends ever since. I looked at him as a friend not a star so from then on we started working and doing music together and playing gigs. I started playing gigs with him when I was 15 when I switched to bass and played this tune called “Count Down” perfectly. Killed it! And uh, he was like “I got some gigs for you” and ever since I’ve been playing gigs with him; 11 whole years.
SJM: Wow! Amazing.
Mike: Yeah, yeah.
SJM: Prior to him, did you play with anyone else?
Mike: I was playing Gospel music when I started playing the bass, then with a couple of jazz bands here and there but other than that, I wasn’t doing anything serious til I got with Shorty.
SJM: For True. What’s your favorite song off the new CD?
Mike: Well, my favorite would be Dumain St. It’s one of the most energetic tunes that we do live. It’s kinda like a shocker to most people that we can have a fortified album to bring that to a live scene and just take it on up cause it’s difficult to do that because we’re a live band first so we’re transferring our live stuff on CD.
SJM: How long was For True in the making?
Mike: Five or six months. And, we were on the road so we had very little time on our breaks to do the CD. -- The beautiful Smooth Jazz is interviewing me, I’m in heaven! (Laughing).
SJM: You’re so crazy! (Laughing) Is there anything that you would want people to know about you that you haven’t told anyone that has interviewed you?
Mike: Well, I produce on the side but that’s it.
SJM: So, you’re a producer too…have you discovered anyone?
Mike: Three artists, two of them are cousins they sing very well. I also have a rapper that was in the industry but he was 13 years old when he started so he didn’t know anything at the time but he wants to get back into the business now. He has an opportunity but I don’t want to put anything out that’s not in stone just yet.
SJM: You were vibin’ tonight! What did it feel like to you on stage in front of all those people out there?
Mike: Fire every time! Nothing less. I mean, you bring what the people think and go past that expectation.
And that’s exactly what Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue did! When you have band members with a mentality such as that, you’re guaranteed to get your money’s worth and then some if you paid for tickets! Now, can you imagine the value of seeing this band perform for FREE at the Clearwater Jazz Holiday!? Priceless.
The second night, Friday, Oct. 14th, had openers such as Valerie Gillespie Ensemble, Gerald Clayton Trio, Miss Tess & The Bon Ton Parade and then headliner Brian Culbertson. Explosive! Brian and band took the stage and silently commanded that the audience feel the music immediately. His intense energy made you wonder how long he could keep up the pace. He didn’t disappoint, from start to finish you rode on Brian’s keyboard to his magical musical wonderland whether he stood in front or behind the keyboard and played.
Saxophonist B.K. Jackson with SJM Lexi Lewis
Gerey Johnson Nathaniel Kearney Jr. Marqueal Jordan
Throughout that journey, the band had fierce passion as well. You heard smooth melodic sounds from saxophonist Marqueal Jordan, Gerey Johnson strummed the guitar with great precision, Nathaniel Kearney Jr. held down the bass line and one of the hottest musicians around, Chris Miskel, kept the rhythm of the night on drums. Brian Culbertson was backed by what I would affectionately call the “A-Team.” The night was entertaining and without a doubt, Brian Culbertson brought his A-Game for the fans along with the A-Team! Saxophonist B.K. Jackson was a nice surprise guest of Brian’s. B.K. held his own and then some as he and Brian played off one another on stage. Their presentation was fascinating!
Obba Babatunde Quinton Aaron
As I walked around the VIP area, I ran into actors Emmy nominated Obba Babatunde and Quinton Aaron (from the 2009 film, The Blind Side) enjoying the sounds of Brian Culbertson at the Jazz Holiday.
The third night, Saturday, Oct. 15th, Maceo Parker headlined the night but was preceded by openers Jazz Juvenocracy, Whitney James, LaRue Nickelson Group and Sammy Figueroa & The Latin Explosion. Maceo Parker put on a stellar performance. His funky sounds really pleased the crowd and he even danced like James Brown on stage! Watch out - hey! During the show, he spoke to the crowd and said “we don’t do jazz; that goes like this…” He then proceeded to play a slow jazz-like tune with only the keyboardist. Once finished, he pointed out that what he played was jazz but he plays the funky stuff! I was happy to learn that one of his musicians was from Parliament Funkadelic. Once he said that, an immediate medley of Parliament Funkadelic’s music entered my mind….I guess I was anticipating Maceo jumping into “Knee Deep” or something – not. Overall, the show was great! Maceo Parker’s latest CD is titled “Roots and Grooves.”
The fourth and final night of the Jazz Holiday, Sunday, Oct 16th, featured the one and only jazz vocalist, Dianne Reeves. She mesmerized the crowd with her vocals and was an absolute delight to watch. She didn’t just sing she “sang!” If you weren’t in love already, you were falling in love with someone while she sang that night! Dianne Reeves signed autographs and took pictures until every fan was done. Not only that, she stayed an additional forty-five minutes speaking with people in the VIP area. It was a delightful experience to see the very down-to-earth Dianne Reeves perform.
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