Jazz Is Dead Close May Tour in St. Petersburg with Magical Night
The latest incarnation of Jazz Is Dead, the band founded in 1998, just completed their May run of shows in Fort Lauderdale May 19 and then the tour closer in St. Petersburg at Jannus Live May 20. The group had toured in January, and they have more shows scheduled for August.
The show at Jannus was almost 24 years after their only appearance here at what was billed as Jannus Landing at the time on July 20, 1999 (photographer Jeffrey Moellering and I were there). A lot has changed since then, from the venue’s stage improvements to the band’s personnel: Alphonso Johnson has been the only constant in the history of Jazz Is Dead.
The quartet began the show shortly after 8 p.m. with a very quiet “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo”; this was billed as the 25th anniversary of the band and the 50th anniversary of Wake of the Flood. It was quiet. In fact — and this will probably be the ONLY time you’ll ever hear me say it — it was too quiet at Jannus Live. The first set in particular was low-key to begin with, and it seemed that many in the crowd, despite the name and the history of the band, might have been expecting an ass-kicking. There was entirely too much talking, even on the rail!
Next up was a quiet “Here Comes Sunshine.” The band’s variable setlist noted that this could have been “Sunshine” or “Let Me Sing Your Blues Away.” Guitarist Steve Kimock had a fine solo. The Steve Kimock Band had appeared on this stage in 2002 with Johnson on bass opening for Gov’t Mule. A very lovely, slow “Crazy Fingers” emerged next. For the first set, Bobby Lee Rodgers was on electric banjo, played through his Leslie cabinet for a fascinating effect. Most people hearing a recording with no visual would probably think he was playing guitar.
The crowd perked up during “Scarlet Begonias,” with Kimock switching to hollow-body guitar and a great call-and-response vocal by the crowd on cue with the band. Johnson perched on a stool while Kimock played lap steel on a stand for “Attics of My Mind,” and the band then romped through the entire “Terrapin Station” suite — 25 gorgeous minutes, including another great crowd addition of TERRAPIN at the appropriate occasions. Kimock was back on electric, and Rodgers had a superb solo. Time for set break.
This was a show of halves, with the second set quickly eclipsing the first in every aspect (and the volume was turned up). It kicked out with “Help On the Way,” Kimock on electric and Rodgers on hollow-body guitar, again run through the Leslie. Kimock had a huge solo, followed by on from Rodgers before the two paired up, Kimock using a slide. Somewhere in all that “Slipknot!” emerged, with Rodgers switching back to banjo and Johnson on a fine solo, a magnificent long sequence that headed back to “Slipknot!” and a very brief “Franklin’s Tower” tease.
The music never stopped as Johnson grabbed his Chapman stick for a righteous “Estimated Prophet,” which eventually segued into “Eyes of the World” to the crowd’s delight. Rodgers and Kimock both lit this one up.
Somehow, in all of this, I have not mentioned the glue that held the set together so brilliantly: drummer Pete Lavezolli. He was by turns understated, right on the one, and powerfully driving the train. He was the one member of the band I did not know, and he was BRILLIANT.
Dan Farkas assures me there was at least a brief tease of “King Solomon’s Marbles” as the band teetered on the edge of what became a fitting end to the show with “Morning Dew.” Kimock stated the theme first, with Rodgers coming in next, all under the guidance of Johnson and Lavezolli.
What a wonderful, magical night! And we are especially grateful to have photographs courtesy of Jeffrey Moellering of Tampa Bay Music News!
[ONE: Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo, Here Comes Sunshine, Crazy Fingers, Scarlet Begonias, Attics of My Mind, Terrapin Station; TWO: Help On the Way > Slipknot! > bass solo > Slipknot! > (brief Franklin’s Tower tease) > Estimated Prophet (Chapman stick) > Eyes of the World (73 jam) > King Solomon’s Marbles tease > Morning Dew]
JAZZ IS DEAD August
08/01 859 O’Farrell St. | San Francisco CA
08/02 859 O’Farrell St. | San Francisco CA
08/04 Hamilton Live | Washington DC
08/05 Hamilton Live | Washington DC
08/06 The Big Top | St. Louis MO
08/08 The WOW Hall | Eugene OR
08/09 The WOW Hall | Eugene OR
08/11 Alberta Rose Theatre | Portland OR
08/13 Crocodile | Seattle WA
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