Clearwater Jazz Holiday Wanderlust Presents Steeln’ Peaches, CJH Young Lions Electric Jazz

[Many thanks to Sheree Johnson, Media Chair of Clearwater Jazz Holiday, for these great photographs!]

Clearwater Jazz Holiday, a festival in October, has had outstanding success with Wanderlust, a series of small concerts at a variety of venues in Clearwater, Florida, and now in Largo, presenting jazz, funk, rock, and much more. On Saturday, March 12, CJH offered a superb show with Steeln’ Peaches, a Florida collective presenting the music of The Allman Brothers, and CJH Young Lions Electric Jazz, just one of a number of subsets of the Young Lions featuring musicians primarily in high school and college.

This was an outdoor event at the Central Park Cultural Center in Largo, a lovely venue. Mother Nature cooperated, then didn’t. The rain ended early in the day, but we saw the onslaught of a 24-hour winter, as the temperature was dropping through the 50s with a wind chill at least ten degrees colder. We survived, and the musicians helped warm us up!

Steeln’ Peaches. 📷: Sheree Johnson / Clearwater Jazz Holiday

These shows usually have benefactors, and for this evening that was Northwestern Mutual Greater Tampa Bay, very proud supporters of all things Clearwater Jazz Holiday. Special thanks to Jessica Majeski and Casey Minton! And we encourage you to donate to the CJH Foundation promoting education and outreach for young musicians.

This particular edition of CJH Young Lions Electric Jazz featured three young lions and one of the very best veterans of the scene: guitarist LaRue Nickelson. The group was led by Alex Malkovich, a true double threat on tenor saxophone and guitar. Cooper Madden played both double bass and electric bass, and Ayrias Pedigo was on drums.

They opened with the Julian Lage tune “Look Book,” Malkovich on tenor and Madden on upright. The rhythm section offered fine support for the two gentlemen in front. Next was a Pat Metheny composition called “The Red One.” The quartet shoved it into higher gear with a fine reading of “Free Jazz Dance” (Eddie Harris). Nickelson blistered his solo, and Malkovich shot right back with one of his own.

CJH Young Lions Electric Jazz. 📷: Sheree Johnson / Clearwater Jazz Holiday

Malkovich moved to guitar and Madden to electric as they rocked a Nickelson song titled “Dark Water.” Next Nickelson and Malkovich dug in deep on the famous Billy Cobham tune “Stratus”; they crushed it. Period.

Back to tenor and upright for another Metheny song, one he recorded with Michael Brecker called “Timeline.”

CJH Young Lions Electric Jazz. 📷: Sheree Johnson / Clearwater Jazz Holiday

Guitar again for Malkovich as they played a very bouncy “Sissy Strut” (The Meters) before closing with a very angular Bill Frisell-like version of Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again,” loaded with guitar weirdness and fun. Bravo, Young Lions and King LaRue!

CJH Young Lions Electric Jazz. 📷: Sheree Johnson / Clearwater Jazz Holiday

[CJH Young Lions: Look Book, The Red One, Freedom Jazz Dance, Dark Water, Stratus, Timeline, Sissy Strut, On the Road Again]


Steeln’ Peaches. 📷: Sheree Johnson / Clearwater Jazz Holiday

The only way to keep warm was to groove with the members of Steeln’ Peaches in their tribute to The Allman Brothers Band. Steeln’ Peaches are: Chuck Magid, guitar, vocals; Daniel Heitz, guitar, vocals; Aaron “Bucky” Buckingham, drums, vocals; Glenn Kastrinos, bass, vocals; Colin Fei, keyboards, vocals; Jamal “Music City” Wright, drums; and David Vanegas, percussion, vocals. Because of other commitments, sometimes one drummer, sometimes the other, and others times both drummers are on the gig. Buckingham held down the drums with plenty of cooperation from Vanegas.

Steeln’ Peaches. 📷: Sheree Johnson / Clearwater Jazz Holiday

The popular set got the crowd engaged immediately with “Ramblin’ Man,” Magid and Heitz handling the vocals. Fei sang the songs that Gregg Allman crooned, taking the lead on “No One to Run With.” All three singers combined for a lovely “Blue Sky” before the band hit its first peak with a totally kickass version of “Jessica.” Fei soloed on electric piano, followed by a wicked jam. It was that the secret sauce emerged: Kastrinos on bass! He crushed this one and the entire night. DAMN!

Glenn Kastrinos – Steeln’ Peaches. 📷: Sheree Johnson / Clearwater Jazz Holiday

Heitz had a fine guitar solo on “Back Where It All Begins,” and here Vanegas truly stood out on congas, timbales, and all manner of percussion. Heitz ripped slide guitar on the ever-popular “One Way Out,” Fei on vocals. Throughout the night there were as many as four people singing some fine harmonies and backing vocals.

Daniel Heitz – Steeln’ Peaches. 📷: Sheree Johnson / Clearwater Jazz Holiday

“Jessica” was really good, but it was no match for a mind-blowing take on “Kind of Bird,” a Dicky Betts-Warren Haynes composition. And I was Saturday 8:15 old when I learned — via Magid’s introduction — that this tune was written in honor of Charlie “Yardbird” Parker. This is one of the lesser known titanic gems from ABB. Kastrinos owned this one, Fei played organ, and Buckingham and Vanegas were in perfect sync.

Colin Fei & Aaron “Bucky” Buckingham – Steeln’ Peaches. 📷: Sheree Johnson / Clearwater Jazz Holiday

Was it getting colder? We watched Fei rubbing his hands so that he could continue to feel the keys on his organ and electric piano!

[WARNING: SACRILEGE ALERT] I am not a big fan of “Soulshine,” but this was a lovely, heartfelt rendition, Fei again on lead vocal and Heitz on slide. Then the band proceeded to tear up “Southbound,” with Heitz singing. Magid rocked the first solo, followed by Heitz; later, they also did the twin guitar thing.

Chuck Magid – Steeln’ Peaches. 📷: Sheree Johnson / Clearwater Jazz Holiday

Also, my 2.57 cents, adjusted for inflation: bass solos are OK (Kastrinos’ was), but they are simply no match for the power of the driving, grooving bass that propels the jams.

They offered “From the Madness of the West” next, Fei on electric piano and more twin guitars before they turned Buckingham and Vanegas loose for a percussion romp. Same inflation-adjusted comment: it was fine, but what they do on every song is more powerful. Hey, who asked me, anyway?

David Vanegas – Steeln’ Peaches. 📷: Sheree Johnson / Clearwater Jazz Holiday

Out of the drums came that telltale opening to “Whipping Post,” concisely delivered (in the interest of time), Fei once again doing the Gregg Allman thing. Magid saved his best solo for last, followed by Fei on organ and then Heitz on a quick spin. Last? Enthusiastic response was rewarded with a really solid “Revival” to finish of a very windy, very chilly, and very wonderful musical night. Cheers to all!

Aaron “Bucky” Buckingham – Steeln’ Peaches. 📷: Sheree Johnson / Clearwater Jazz Holiday

[Steeln’ Peaches: Ramblin’ Man, No One to Run With, Blue Sky, Jessica, Back Where It All Begins, One Way Out, Kind of Bird, Soulshine, Southbound, From the Madness of the West, Whipping Post; E: Revival]



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