Denver Comes to Clearwater: Tommy Shugart, Eddie Roberts & Lamar Williams Jr. at Clearwater Jazz Holiday Concert

Many people are unaware that Clearwater Jazz Holiday, the annual October festival, also sponsors numerous small events throughout the year. Again this season approaching the holidays, CJH has scheduled four great shows at Station Square Park in downtown Clearwater, a delightful open-air venue.

Tommy Shugart Organ Trio – CJH. 📷: Sheree Johnson / Clearwater Jazz Foundation

The first of these shows was held Saturday, November 26, presented by Clearwater Jazz Foundation, Jessica Majeski, and Northwestern Mutual. It featured a world of talent, including some newcomers! Tommy Shugart, long a mainstay on the Florida jam and jazz landscape, recently moved to Denver. He returned for this show with new neighbor Eddie Roberts, the brilliant guitar player with The New Mastersounds and with Matador! Soul Sounds. Roberts is also the creator of Color Red Studios and records in Denver. Also in tow was Lamar Williams Jr., wonderful vocalist for The New Mastersounds and also for Trouble No More, the superb Allman Brothers tribute band (and his father played bass with ABB back in the day).

Lamar Williams Jr. & Eddie Roberts – Eddie Roberts & Friends – CJH. 📷: Sheree Johnson / Clearwater Jazz Foundation

Shugart tapped master drummer Taylor Galbraith from Clearwater to anchor the show on kit. The first set was for organ trio with Shugart, Roberts, and Galbraith. The second set would also feature Williams Jr. and bass player extraordinaire Matt Lapham from Orlando.

Matt Lapham – Eddie Roberts & Friends – CJH. 📷: Sheree Johnson / Clearwater Jazz Foundation

What we didn’t know prior to the show was that two young jazz students would be invited to join the proceedings. They were Solomon Keim, alto saxophone, now majoring in jazz studies at Indiana University, and Khalid Razick, trombone, attending Berklee College of Music in Boston. Both attended high school in the Bay area, where they benefitted greatly from the many instructional and performance opportunities offered by Clearwater Jazz Foundation’s Young Lions and Give Them a Stage programs. (Thanks to CJF CEO Steve Weinberger for his help here)

Event presenter Jessica Majeski, Solomon Keim, Khalid Razick & CJH CEO Steve Weinberger – Tommy Shugart Organ Trio – CJH. 📷: Sheree Johnson / Clearwater Jazz Foundation

There were two other special items on stage: a Hammond B3 organ and Leslie cabinet. They were gifted by Harv Majeski to Dunedin Brewery, where they will be available for any bands or musicians who wish to use them. This story is incredibly special: read more about it here.

In The Moon Tower – Hammond B3 and Leslie speaker donated to Dunedin Brewery by Harvey Majeski. 📷: Michael Lyn Bryant

Enthusiastic MC Gary Hallas walked on stage promptly at 6 to get the crowd charged up for the Tommy Shugart Organ Trio. A look at their setlist demonstrates a depth of knowledge about the history of the Hammond B3 and bands that have kept it at the center of their focus: Howard Roberts, Reuben Wilson, Grant Green, Charles Earland, Booker T., Big John Patton, and Weldon Irvine.

Tommy Shugart Organ Trio – CJH. 📷: snapzalot.com

The trio opened with a short jazz blast on “Dirty Old Bossa” before launching into the soul funk of “Ronnie’s Bonnie.” As they would do on many of the tunes, each player soloed. Shugart really gave the “new” B3 a workout, and Roberts was totally in his element in this genre featuring, as he describes it, “boogaloo guitar.” It was Galbraith who really made everyone pay attention with her concise work underneath the tunes and inventive solos.

Matt Lapham & Taylor Galbraith – Eddie Roberts & Friends – CJH. 📷: Sheree Johnson / Clearwater Jazz Foundation

Shugart recognize the guitarist: “Eddie Roberts on guitar!” To which Roberts responded, “A very happy Eddie Roberts!” His smile and evident joy really enlivened the already energetic crowd. Roberts is a true aficionado of the late guitarist Grant Green (his Green is Beautiful shows are a true delight), and they offered more soul funk with Green’s “Matador.” “Letha,” a tune from the Mighty Burner Charles Earland, featured a marvelous long Galbraith solo.

Tommy Shugart & Eddie Roberts – Tommy Shugart Organ Trio – CJH. 📷: Sheree Johnson / Clearwater Jazz Foundation

Shugart next explained that they would play “Hang ’Em High,” the theme from the movie that became a hit in 1968 by Booker T. & The MGs. At first, it seemed like it would be Shugart playing the tune straight up with the guitar comping; then Roberts took a tremendous solo. And all the while Galbraith crushed the beat perfectly.

Roberts next introduced to the two Young Lions, who joined in on the classic “Jan Jan.” They started hesitantly, but every song they would play on later would get better and better. The trio closed out their 50-minute set with, for me, the best song of the night, Shugart’s composition “Scram.” Completely badass!

[ORGAN TRIO: Dirty Old Bossa (Howard Roberts), Ronnie’s Bonnie (Reuben Wilson), Matador (Grant Green), Letha (Charles Earland), Hang ’Em High (Dominic Frontiere), The Yodel (Grant Green/Big John Patton), Jan Jan (Mose Davis), Scram (Tommy Shugart)]

Tommy Shugart Organ Trio – CJH. 📷: Sheree Johnson / Clearwater Jazz Foundation

 

After set break, the quintet plus horns, now with Williams Jr. and Lapham, took the stage. Roberts is one of the most dapper dressers on the jam scene, and Williams Jr. was right there with him, looking so sharp! They opened with the first three tracks from The New Mastersounds’ 2019 album Shake It, beginning with the title track. Williams Jr.’s voice is classic and magnificent; he can do anything. Shugart and Keim on alto soloed, and the band turned this into a true rave-up.

Eddie Roberts & Friends – CJH. 📷: snapzalot.com

Things got very bluesy with “Let’s Go Back,” with Roberts handling backing vocals! The two-horn vamp was effective here. “Love They Deserve” had a great message, and the tempo was way up. Williams Jr. stepped off briefly to allow Roberts to tear into Weldon Irvine’s “Sister Sanctified. Keim had a good alto solo, followed by Shugart on electric piano and then Lapham on killer bass.

Eddie Roberts & Tommy Shugart – Eddie Roberts & Friends – CJH. 📷: snapzalot.com

Roberts took a moment to explain the evolution of the next song, “Less is More,” which does not appear on Shake It nor on brand new album The Deplar Effect. The song was created during the Covid mess when two members of the band were in England, one elsewhere, Roberts in Denver, and Williams Jr. in Atlanta. As many bands did during that period, everybody recorded his part for Roberts to compile, including contributions from two horn players on the West Coast. This was, he explained, the very first time the song was performed live. 

This song smokes. Shugart began on electric piano, then switched back to B3. Williams Jr. was so deep into the groove here. (Also during Covid time, the band released three great remixes of the song. You can hear all four versions here.)

The horns stepped off for the next one, The Allman Brothers Band classic “Dreams.” Roberts pointed out that Williams Sr. was a member of that band, so “we gotta do at least one! Here I am, a boogaloo guitar player, playing Southern Rock. We’ll see how it works out.” Answer: perfectly!

Lamar Williams Jr. – Eddie Roberts & Friends – CJH. 📷: Sheree Johnson / Clearwater Jazz Foundation

Roberts led off during the soul funk tune “Voices” before Razick blew out a tremendous trombone solo with Lapham’s space bass underneath. Then Lapham and Shugart went head to head. Roberts explained that the next song, “Let Me In from the Cold,” was recorded during their album session for The Deplar Effect in Iceland! Roberts and Williams Jr. agreed the title didn’t work as well in the balmy 75-degree weather in Clearwater. “Well, metaphorically,” added Roberts. Great banter, great song.

Khalid Razick – Tommy Shugart Organ Trio – CJH. 📷: snapzalot.com

Roberts then introduced the next song as one by the late Charles Bradley, “Ain’t It a Sin.” For context:

When I start boiling over my feelings catch a flame
You might be a man, stay a man, but you wont be the same
If you ain’t gonna do me right
I might just do you in
Ain’t it a sin
Ain’t it a sin

Keim was up early and had his best alto solo of the night. Lapham crushed his feature before Roberts abused his wah-wah pedal terribly (!!). Shugart took a spin, too, but it was Williams Jr. who drove this one home. Razick had another excellent trombone solo on “Trouble,” and they closed the set with an instrumental reading of “Cold Sweat” with Keim in the Maceo roll.

Eddie Roberts & Friends – CJH. 📷: snapzalot.com

No vocals on the last tune? Boy, there better be an encore! Hallas returned to the stage to make sure we were loud enough to convince the band to return for an encore. Of the several CJH shows I have attended at this venue, this was by far the most appreciative audience. The band offered up one more song from The Deplar Effect, “Gonna Get In My Way” with Williams Jr. one more time, the perfect way to end a perfect evening.

Taylor Galbraith – Eddie Roberts & Friends – CJH. 📷: snapzalot.com

[FULL BAND: Shake It (NMS), Let’s Go Back (NMS), Love They Deserve (NMS), Sister Sanctified (Weldon Irvine), Less is More (NMS), Dreams (ABB), Voices Inside (Everything is Everything) (Donny Hathaway), Let Me In from the Cold (NMS), Ain’t It a Sin (Charles Bradley), Trouble (Lamar Williams Jr.), Cold Sweat (James Brown); E: Gonna Get In My Way (NMS)]

Kudos to everyone involved with helping to allow this magic to happen! Enjoy these photo galleries!

 

Sheree Johnson (Clearwater Jazz Foundation)

Jeffrey Moellering (snapzalot.com)

 

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