One of the most impressive sets of virtuoso drumming I’ve seen in recent years was by New Orleans beat-keeper James Varnado, his band's instrumental fusion of swampy NOLA jazz, funk and sheer technicality a highlight of last year's St. Petersburg Jazz Festival. The James Varnado Jazz/Funk Band returns to St. Pete on Wednesday, kicking off a particularly exciting five-day lineup of music for the fest's eighth annual 2016 edition, which is presented by EMIT in collaboration with St. Pete College.
Thursday pays homage to the combined saxophone-and-trumpet power of two jazz greats who were legendary collaborators: Bird and Diz... A tribute to Charlie Parker & Dizzy Gillespie. A pair of the Bay area’s own fantastic players – alto sax stroker Austin Vickrey and trumpeting sensation James Suggs – pilot the concert of bebop-styled songs by the duo with Tony Castellano on piano, Billy Pillucere on bass, and Joe Renda on drums.
On Friday afternoon, jazz vocalist Fred Johnson — who has more than three decades of experience sharing the stage with or opened for the likes of Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and Chick Corea, and has used it to fuel seminars on the power of creative expression as a tool for personal well-being and healing — presents a free 'Music & Healing
On Saturday, the 18-piece big-band Helios Jazz Orchestra is joined by Mr. Johnson in for an evening of swinging jazz at the SPC Music Center. Everything comes to a rousing conclusion during a Post-Festival Jazz Jam presented at the historic Manhattan Casino by the Al Downing Tampa Bay Jazz Association on Sunday, with a TBA collection of local jazz players laying it all on the stage; there'll be a cash bar, food and dancing opportunities, too.
St. Petersburg Jazz Festival Details:
James Varnado Jazz/Funk Band Wed., Feb. 25, Side Door at Palladium Theater, $15.
Bird and Diz, Thurs., Feb. 25, 7:30 p.m., Side Door at Palladium Theater, $15
Music & Healing Workshop with Fred Johnson, Fri., Feb. 26, 1 p.m., HS 117 in the Music Department at St. Pete College, free admission.
Silvano Monasterios Trio, Fri., Feb. 26, 7:30 p.m., Side Door at Palladium Theater, $15
Helios Jazz Orcestra feat. Fred Johnson, Sat., Feb. 27, 7:30 p.m., the Music Center at SPC, $15
Post-Fest Jazz Jam, Sun., Feb. 28, 6 p.m., Manhattan Casino, $5.
All venues are located in St. Petersburg. Additional info at stpetejazzfest.com.
James Varnado Jazz/Funk Band
Silvano Monasterios Trio
Helios Jazz Orchestra