Archive for February, 2013

This will be a short post since I’m still recovering from all the shows this past weekend. It started Thursday night when the St. Pete Jazz Festival took up residence in the Side Door and packed the place for O Som Do Jazz. Friday night’s Blues at the Crossroads show set a new sales record for our concession stands and Saturday’s Boogie Woogie Blues Piano Stomp was sold-out – the first sold-out Stomp in the four-year history of our two-piano show.

Some Friday highlights – and there were a lot of them – included Kim Wilson’s harmonica mastery. He oversaw the show, with his current incarnation of The Fabulous Thunderbirds. My buddy, who had seen Kim and the Birds numerous times, said this was one of his all-time favorite shows and lineups.

At the end of the first set, Kim walked into the audience and played unamplified harp, which carried throughout the theater and up into the balcony and closed the set with a standing ovation.

Harmonica legend James Cotton ruled the second set and the whole ensemble, including Bob Margolin, Jody Williams and Tinsly Ellis joined in for the finale – “Got My Mojo Workin’.”

Saturday night we sold every seat for the Fourth Annual Boogie Woogie Blues Piano Stomp and I can’t even count all the highlights. Bob Seeley doing Cow Cow Boogie, the big man – Daryl Davis – pounding out the blues then hoisting Bob Seeley up like a babe in arms. The fast fingers of Carl “Sonny” Leyland, who charmed the crowd with his songs and stories, and finally, my partner in planning this show – St. Pete’s Liz Pennock – opened with her original “Six Finger Boogie.”

The Stomp will be back next year and hopefully Kim and the Thunderbirds will be back this way again soon too.

Now, it’s time for a nap!


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boogiewoogie2So much happening both here at the Palladium and at other hot spots, I needed to do a little collection of short subjects. Let’s start with:

BOOGIE WOOGIE BLUES PIANO STOMP: Saturday night’s show has sold almost 700 tickets. The Palladium only holds 850 people, so if you don’t have your tickets – get ’em now. This fourth incarnation of the Stomp could be the best yet.

Bob Seeley, the king of boogie woogie piano returns, along with California great Carl “Sonny” Leyland and Maryland’s own Daryl Davis. Liz Pennock, who came to me with the original idea for the Stomp and continues to help us pick the artists, will open the show with her partner in boogie – Dr. Blues.

We’ll have a camera crew on hand and a big screen showing you those piano hands pounding it out “8 To The Bar.” Show is Saturday, Feb. 23, 8 p.m.

PALLADIUM CHAMBER PLAYERS ARE A HIT: Wednesday night’s inaugural concert by the Palladium Chamber Players drew 480 folks for a thrilling night of music led by Jeff Multer. We will return with a full series of shows next season and subscription packages for the concerts. We’ll be looking for donors to support the series next season. If you’re interested call Cory Adler-Leidersdorff at 727 341-7918.

BILLY COLLINS, AMERICA’S POET, IS COMING TO THE PALLADIUM: Collins, the former U.S. Poet Laureate, who appears regularly on public radio’s Prairie Home Companion, will present a talk and a reading at the Palladium on Tuesday, March 12. It’s part of a new poetry series presented by SPC. the show is free to SPC students, staff and faculty and just $10 for the general public. Tickets should be on sale at our box office today (Thursday).

A GREAT NIGHT OF ACOUSTIC MUSIC: I was lucky enough to catch two great concerts in one night last week. I started at the Straz Center for the Carolina Chocolate Drops, an invigorating group that celebrates the history of African American string band music. Great singing, banjos, bones and guitars. We hope to get them here for a future show. Later, I raced across the bridge to the Hydeaway Cafe, where Noel Paul Stookey, of Peter, Paul and Mary, and John McEuen, of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, were doing a benefit. I caught McEuen’s late set and it featured his great stories and banjo virtuoisity. Loved his version of the hit – Mr. Bojangles. And Stookey, who has done two intimate show at the Palladium, was in great form and happy to be out of Maine in February.

The show closed with Stookey and McEuen, plus members of the acoustic group Firefall, on stage doing “Will The Circle Be Unbroken.”

CAROLINE GOULDING RETURNS WITH THE FLORIDA ORCHESTRA: It was great to see that Caroline Goulding, who we featured as a Young Concert Artist last season, is returning to the area, this time as a soloist with The Florida Orchestra. Remember, you saw her first at the Palladium!

SOME PALLADIUM WEB AND PHONE ISSUES: If you’ve had any trouble reaching us or using our website this past week, I apologize. We are making some changes and some intitial efforts ended up knocking us off the web temporarily. We’ve also had an overwhelming amount of calls to our box office and not all calls are being answered immediately. If you get a answer machine during normal box office hours please know that we will call you back ASAP and that all messages are returned before our box office closes for the day.

More to come soon.

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Jeff Multer

Jeff Multer

Tampa Bay Times Performing Arts Writer John Fleming featured Jeff Multer and our new Palladium Chamber Players in Sunday’s Latitudes section. The article advances the concert this Wednesday night at the Palladium.

To read the entire article visit: http://www.tampabay.com/things-to-do/stage/florida-orchestra-concertmaster-returns-to-his-chamber-music-roots/1274856

Here’s an excerpt:
Florida Orchestra concertmaster Jeffrey Multer returns to chamber music roots
John Fleming,
Times Performing Arts Critic

Jeff Multer has been concertmaster of the Florida Orchestra since the 2005-06 season, but in some ways, he is more known as a chamber musician.

“If you go by the resume, I’d have to say it’s mostly string quartets and other chamber music that I’ve played,” Multer, 47, says. “Just since I joined the Florida Orchestra have I been a full-time orchestra player.”

On Wednesday Multer returns to his chamber music roots as the violinist of the Palladium Chamber Players at the St. Petersburg theater from which the group takes its name. He’ll be playing with three New York-based musicians: Danielle Farina, viola; Edward Arron, cello; and Jeewon Park, piano.

Three of the musicians — Multer, Farina and Arron — played together in the Elements String Quartet, which was Multer’s main group before he joined the orchestra.

Their program includes a trio of classic works: Beethoven’s Op. 16 quartet for piano and strings, Dohnanyi’s Serenade for string trio and the Brahms Quartet in A Major. The group — as the Elements Piano Quartet — will play the same program Feb. 24 at the Casals Festival in Puerto Rico.

Multer seeks to succeed the Encore chamber music series, which had a good run of more than a decade at the Palladium, much of it under the direction of composer and conductor Mark Sforzini. For Multer, who played in Encore programs, the standard was set by the 2006 concert by members of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in an all-Mozart program.

“Everybody came to that concert,” Multer says. “It was a really big house. It makes me think that the area is open to the idea of super high-level chamber music.”

Multer hopes this week’s concert is enough of a success to pave the way for a four-concert series at the Palladium next season. His plan is to use himself, Farina, Arron and Park as the core players, supplemented by other top-level musicians that they know. Cellist Arron in particular is well connected as artistic director of the chamber music program at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York as well as series in Connecticut and South Carolina. Arron and pianist Park are married.

Combining orchestra work with chamber music has been good for Multer.

“Being in the concertmaster chair and doing the kinds of things I have to learn about and do there have been really good for me in terms of broadening, because the chamber music life is very specialized,” he said. “Doing a string quartet full time, you can get burned out. Orchestra playing for me was a breath of fresh air. Now going back to work with these people on occasion — my favorite people to play with — I kind of have the best of both worlds.”

In early February, Multer had expected to be in Havana, playing the Sibelius Violin Concerto with the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba, as part of the Florida Orchestra’s cultural exchange with musical institutions on the island. But that trip was postponed because of a snag with the U.S. Treasury Department, which regulates spending in Cuba by American travelers under the embargo. The orchestra hopes to reschedule Multer’s exchange this spring.

The Palladium Chamber Players concert is at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the theater, 253 Fifth Ave. N, St. Petersburg. $10-$36. (727) 822-3590; mypalladium.org.

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Bob Margolin

Bob Margolin

We’ve got a great weekend of blues coming up. Saturday, Feb. 23, is our fourth annual boogie woogie blues piano stomp. More on that in a future blogpost, but today I want to talk about Friday, Feb. 22, when we feature Blues At The Crossroads, a tribute to Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, which stars Kim Wilson and the Fabulous Thunderbirds, along with James Cotton, Tinsley Ellis, Jody Williams and Bob Margolin. What follows is a question and answer session I did with Bob. We’ll start with a description of himself from his website:

I am a Blues guitar player and singer, carrying on the “old school” Chicago Blues style and creating original music today. From 1973-1980, I played guitar in the band of Chicago Blues legend Muddy Waters, touring worldwide and recording, and learning to play Muddy’s powerful music directly from him. In 1980, I started my own band and I’m still on the road and recording.

Your career has been tied to the great Muddy Waters – both while you played with him and after Muddy’s death. Can you talk briefly about what he’s meant to you as a musician?

I’ve been out of Muddy’s band 33 years, please don’t dismiss the music I’ve made since then by leaving it out. During my time in his band I tried to give him what he wanted on the bandstand and use what I learned as a musical foundation. It was a unique opportunity to learn as an apprentice to a master. I’m proud to honor him on this tour.

Can you tell me a little about this tour? You can’t go wrong with a show built around artists like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, but how did this tour come together?

Blues At The Crossroads 1 in 2011 was a celebrated the 100th birthday of Robert Johnson. This one celebrates two of the greatest Chicago Bluesmen, Muddy and Wolf. Most of us were associated with at least one of them in some way, and the younger members of the Fabulous Thunderbirds play the music with deep understanding and fire. I think the tour is a good concept for the theaters we’re playing and the seats are filled with enthusiastic fans. It’s also tremendous fun for the musicians to give ourselves to the spirits of Muddy and Wolf. I hope they are smiling down on us.

What are some of the songs and highlights of the show – what can the audience expect to see and hear?

For my part, I try to do different songs each night, but one will showcase Muddy’s signature slide guitar style. The second might be a song he did or one that I wrote that’s associated with Muddy. Kim Wilson from the Fabulous Thunderbirds sings Muddy and Wolf songs and presents his own advanced harmonica playing and powerful singing. Jody Williams played guitar in Howlin’ Wolf’s band in the 1950s and contributed to some of his classic recordings. Jody also played on some of the biggest hits of Billy Boy Arnold and Bo Diddley and had hits under his own name and performs one, “Lucky Lou.” James Cotton has been a very visible bandleader since leaving Muddy’s band in 1966, and knows as much about playing Muddy’s music as anyone in the world. Cotton is truly legendary. Tinsley Ellis replaced J.J. Grey just as the tour started. Neither had a direct connection to Muddy or Wolf but are well-known, strong younger musicians who show that Muddy and Wolf had a broad lasting influence.

I know you are playing, producing and working with other great artists in recent years. Can you tell me more about VizzTone Records and how you approach the recording business these days?

VizzTone is not a record company, it’s a label group. The artists produce and manufacture and own their own recordings. We provide distribution and publicity and the benefit of association with the fine artists we work with is welcomed and respected by DJ’s, writers, and music fans. We have released about 50 CDs since 2007, and the ones we have coming up will, I believe, introduce the music world to some very special audiences. We’re proud of all our artists, but I can’t wait to see how the world reacts to 17-year-old Austin Young from Colorado Springs. His CD “Blues As I Can Be” will be released in April.

Anything else you want to share?

The shows have been going very well, a special time for the musicians, audiences and the audiences we meet in the lobby on intermission and after the show. Everyone is featured in a few different combinations that bring out our best. This music has been around more than 60 years. It’s gratifying and exciting that it is still moving music lovers in 2013. The passion and spirit are in the house.

Tickets for this show are available through the Mahaffey Theater and at the Palladium box office the day of the show. For a link to the Mahaffey and to our box office, visit http://www.mypalladium.org or call the box office at 727 822-3590.

You can read more about Bob Margolin at his website: http://www.bobmargolin.com/index.html

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Chris MacDonald

Chris MacDonald

Chris MacDonald’s introduction to the King of Rock and Roll, came from watching old Elvis movies on TV with his Mom, who was a fan.

“Elvis was cool in those movies – he beat up the bad guys and had cute girls in bikinis chasing him – it looked like a good gig,” says Chris, who has been touring the country with his Elvis tribute act for 10 years.

Celebrating Elvis’ career has turned into a good gig for MacDonald too. He’s the only tribute artist hired by Elvis Presley Enterprises to perform at Graceland’s Heartbreak Hotel for seven consecutive years and he also starred in the Legends In Concert tours that took him to Las Vegas and Branson, along with tons of other stops.

Based in Miami these days, MacDonald is returning to the Palladium for the second year in a row. He played to a capacity crowd last year and he’s back with his full production band with horn section, rhythm section and female dancers.
In a world too full of cheesy Elvis impersonators, MacDonald’s show is more a tribute than an attempt at direct impersonation.

“I try to do it as naturally as possible,” he told me. “The image is close, but still in a natural way – and the singing is close but also very natural, not forced. I tell a story through the music of the eras of Elvis’ career.”

His audiences are all ages – including kids who were born after Elvis’ death. The iconic Elvis image continues to resonate in the new century, he said.

“Elvis was the first American idol – actor, TV star and recording star,” Chris said. “He had the look and the raw charisma and that’s the same thing they are looking for on American Idol today.”

Chris’ show will run the gamut from Elvis’ rockabilly ‘50s hip-shaking style through the glittering, high-production 1970s shows.

This romantic show is a perfect Valentine’s gift. See it Saturday, Feb 16, 8:00 p.m. at the historic Palladium Theater. Tickets are going fast. For tickets and information visit http://www.mypalladium.org or call the box office at 727 822-3590.

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Piano LessonRunning the Palladium means I don’t get out to that many other venues but last Sunday I carved out some time to see The Piano Lesson at American Stage. It’s the latest installment of the August Wilson Cycle – a collection of plays reflecting aspects of African-American life during each decade of the 20th Century.

I’ve loved all of plays in the cycle, but I think this may be the best of the series.

Here’s how American Stage describes the show: It is 1936 and Boy Willie arrives in Pittsburgh from the South in a battered truck loaded with watermelons to sell. He has an opportunity to buy some land down home, but he has to come up with the money right quick. He wants to sell an old piano that has been in his family for generations, but he shares ownership with his sister and it sits in her living room. She has already rejected several offers because the antique piano is covered with incredible carvings detailing the family’s rise from slavery. The issue of whether or not to sell it cuts deeply and raises questions about honoring the past or moving into the future.

The show has humor, some great singing (though this isn’t a musical), and an oddly happy and hopeful ending. The set, the mostly Equity cast, and the direction by Mark Clayton Southers are all first-rate. You don’t to have seen the other plays in the cycle to enjoy this one.

The show runs at American Stage in downtown St. Petersburgh through March 3. Do yourself a favor. Go enjoy The Piano Lesson.

For info vist http://www.americanstage.org

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You can read John Fleming’s review of St. Petersburg Opera’s Tosca by following this link or checking out the excerpt below. Tosca has one more performance tonight at 7:30. For tickets visit www.mypalladium.org or call 727 822-3590.

Here’s the link to the full review: http://www.tampabay.com/features/performingarts/review-local-voices-soar-in-tosca/1273707

Review: Local voices soar in ‘Tosca’

By John Fleming, Times Performing Arts Critic

Published Monday, February 4, 2013


ST. PETERSBURG: They say you can’t go home again, but don’t tell Stella Zambalis. A soprano who has sung on exalted stages around the world, from La Scala to the Metropolitan Opera, Zambalis grew up in Clearwater, but her only appearances within hailing distance of the bay area in recent years were at Sarasota Opera.

Now Zambalis is back on her home turf, and she was magnificent as the doomed diva in Tosca, bringing down the house in a sold-out Super Bowl Sunday matinee by St. Petersburg Opera at the Palladium Theater. She was joined by another hometown talent, bass-baritone Todd William Donovan from St. Petersburg, who gave a deliciously evil interpretation of the debauched police chief of Rome, Scarpia.

Yes, it’s nice that a pair of singers with local ties are shining in Puccini’s crowd-pleasing melodrama, but these performances would be impressive anywhere.

Zamabalis, who is of Greek descent and has a dark, earthy quality to her voice (which she describes as “Mediterranean”), seems born to play the passionate prima donna. With a rare combination of nuanced expressiveness and plenty of punch, she is able to go from recitative to stirring coloratura in a measure or two, making the freakish transition sound utterly natural, almost conversational. On Sunday, Vissi d’arte, Tosca’s signature aria, was a rich, red-bloooded anthem of despair against her fate in Scarpia’s lair, echoing with the cries of her lover, the artist Cavaradossi, being tortured. This was a stunning contrast with the playful, high-strung coquette she was in better times while jealously teasing Cavaradossi about his portrait of a Madonna that suspiciously resembles a potential rival to her.

Donovan has grown into the role of Scarpia, which sits low in the voice and needs as much bass as baritone. He brought real weight to the powerhouse chords of Te Deum, intoning the chief’s lascivious intentions toward Tosca against the sacred music, a wonderfully lurid moment.

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