Archive for June, 2010

Legendary Fingerstyle Guitarist Tommy Emmanuel Wows 'Em At the Palladium

After a stellar opening outing by 19 year old guitar protege Chase Foster, Tommy Emmanuel took the stage and wowed every last one of the 700+ audience members in a rousing performance to the nearly packed house. Those who weren’t die-hard fans before they took their seats, surely left them as such. A consumate entertainer whose incredible talent-cum-mirth was evident from the first note, wrought so many standing ovations throughout the show, that I stopped counting after the sixth. “Fingerstyle” guitar only begins to describe how Tommy plays his instrument, which is more acurately, an extension of his person. Moreover, Tommy seems to treat his guitars as mere suggestions as a type of instrument.  In numerous songs, he used it for myriad  percussive sounds, at other times, a harp, a didgeridoo, even the songs of nightbirds.  He must be a magician as well as a musician — I only saw ten fingers, but I’m pretty certain twenty more were being used.  Highlights of the evening, and it’s hard to single them out, were Tommy’s rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and an instrumental homage to the Aboriginees of his Austrialian homeland.  In the former, Tommy incorporated per-note harmonics as well as chorded harmonics that sounded like tiny stars falling from the heavens. Tribal melodies, indiginous instruments and the bellowing sounds found in Austrialian nature, were unmistakable in the latter piece in which Tommy used a guitar and only some pedal effects.  Mezmerizing! Note to Tommy — Next time, don’t wait so long to get here. The Palladium and Tampa Bay love you!

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The venerable Hammond B3 is a musical instrument claimed equally by blues, rock and jazz musicians. The wonder of the B3 is that it has its own distinct sound when used in each genre. 

Up in Pinellas Park we’re blessed to have perhaps the world’s top Hammond B3 provider, Keyboard Specialties. When Eric Clapton wanted a B3, he called Paul Homb, the longtime owner of Keyboard Specialties. Their instruments – perfectly maintained and serviced – are in demand for concerts and music festivals around the country. 

This year we’re partnering with Keyboard Specialties, along with the Suncoast Blues Society and the Al Downing Tampa Bay Jazz Association, to present four great shows featuring the Hammond B3. All shows are at 8 p.m. and prices vary, so check our website. 

Here’s a listing of the shows: 

Fri, July 9    –   Kickin’ the Blues with Sandy Atkinson & The True Loves at the Side Door Cabaret. The show features Dean Germain on the B3, plus an all-star band. Sandy is recording a live album that night. 

Sat, July 10    The Battle of The B3s – Blues vs. Jazz. The show features the Organic Trio, a great Sarasota-based jazz band with strong r&b influences and The Voodoo Trio, featuring Lee Pons on the B3.

 Fri, July 23 – B3 Jazz Master Stan Hunter and his Trio. Stan has toured the U.S. and Europe with some of the great names in jazz and has highlighted our Battle of the B3s shows the past two years.  

 Sat, Aug 21  – Hammond B3 Showdown, N’awlins Style. Direct from New Orleans the Palladium presents the Joe Krown Trio, featuring keyboard master Joe Krown on piano and B3, plus Walter “Wolfman” Washington, on guitar, and Russell Batiste, on drums. Joining them on a second B3 are “Papa” John Gros, of Papa Grows Funk and Dave McCracken of Donna The Buffalo.  Showtime, 8 p.m.

For tickets and more information, visit www.mypalladium.org.

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Damon Fowler and his band made a triumphant return to the Palladium on May 28, packing our Side Door Cabaret. Despite spending all week in the studio on a new record, and celebrating with beer and ribs the night before, Damon and the boys put on another memorable,  multi-set show. 

Not only was it a great musical night, we set a new record for beer and wine sales as well. That makes a theater director just as happy as seeing the packed dance floor that night.

A fan captured Damon doing the  blues number ” As Years Go Passing By” and posted the clip on You Tube. Follow this link to see what was certainly my favorite number of the night:  


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The thing that impressed me most about my late friend Rosa Rio wasn’t her incredible musical talents. Of course, she could play anything in any key. She was a clever and inventive silent film organist, always finding the right melody for the right moment. 

When she played a Gershwin medley on our Steinway, she made it her own.  I was lucky enough to sing with her over the course of five or six shows at Tampa Theatre, Hillsborough Community College and the Palladium. 

Even though her hearing was going at age 106, she still was my favorite accompanist – setting an easy rhythm, filling in around the vocals and tossing off a nice instrumental improvisation before I came back with the bridge. I think it was all those decades of listening that kicked in even though she couldn’t hear very well herself anymore. 

But what always amazed me about Rosa was her memory. She didn’t just remember incidents. She remembered all the details. What Eleanor Roosevelt was wearing when Rosa popped in to the green room at NBC  to meet her.  Or the time Jimmy Durante, who was not bad on the keyboards himself, told Rosa he’d give “a million bucks” if her could play like her. 

Or the night she and a young hopeful named Mary Martin auditioned for Cole Porter at his Waldorf Astoria apartment at midnight. Porter sat in shadow. He was crippled from a riding accident and his piano had no pedals. When Rosa struggled a bit with it, he apologized. 

“Miss Rio, I’ve heard you play and I know what you can do,” he said. 

Mary Martin aced the audition and was soon singing “My Heart Belongs To Daddy,” on Broadway. It launched her career. She and Rosa remained friends for life.

Rosa remembered it all. particularly the bawdy and fun parts.

During her shows and rehearsals here, her laugh would echo through our dressing rooms and the theater. 

When she played her first show for us in 2008 she was 105. She arrived at 5 p.m. for her 7:30 show. A tiny, slender woman, Rosa arrived in a glittering top and brought her soft slip-ons for working the pedals. 

When  Damon Dougherty, our production manager,  explained that he’d be helping her onto the organ that night, Rosa didn’t miss a beat: “And whose organ will I be getting on?” 

While Damon’s face turned bright red, Rosa’s throaty laugh filled the room.

That night she played for a Buster Keaton silent film. She took a dozen questions from the audience. We sang Gershwin and Porter and she played a bit of Rhapsody In Blue, merging into I Got Rhythm and The Man I Love. The show lasted almost two hours.

After the show, she greeted everyone who stood in a long line to say hello. 

By the time it was over, it was almost 11 p.m. I asked if she was ready to be driven home. 

“Home?”  Rosa asked, incredulously.  “Let’s go get a drink.” 

We went for dinner and drinks at Park Shore Grill. She drank Scotch and had a pork chop. It was almost 1 when we put her in the car. 

I stood on the curb. Rosa was in the back seat. She smiled like a happy child.  I remember her waving madly at me as the car pulled away  – good night! Good night! 

 Good night, Rosa. We miss you already.

To see a video recording of the show she presented that night in 2008 go to You Tube and search for Rosa Rio and the Palladium. Thanks to Jeremy Peplow, of St. Petersburg College, and his crew for capturing that magical night at the Palladium.

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