Current appearances and short essays by jazz bassist Don Mopsick

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Dan Miller Quartet Returns to The Roadhouse Cafe Florida on Tuesday Nights

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Dan Miller, Don Mopsick and Joe Delaney at the Roadhouse Cafe in 2016

Dan Miller, bassist Don Mopsick and pianist Joe Delaney at the Roadhouse Cafe in 2016

Third Season at Popular Ft. Myers Night Spot Kicks Off November 7

The Roadhouse Cafe in Ft. Myers FL presents the Dan Miller Quartet Tuesday nights at 7:00 beginning November 7, 2017. The Roadhouse, owned and operated by Marc and Sherri Neeley, features fine dining and entertainment 6 nights a week. The very popular Cafe features fine cuisine, a well-stocked bar and wine list, dance floor and piano bar. The Roadhouse was named in the December 2015 issue of Gulf Coast Life magazine as having the “Best Live Music in Southwest Florida.”

The Dan Miller Quartet plays in a modern jazz style known as bebop or “hard bop,” featuring Great American Songbook and jazz standards in the styles of Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Art Blakey, Thelonius Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Golson, Horace Silver, etc. The members of the Quartet are all seasoned jazz professionals and have held down prestigious jobs in the US and abroad in previous years.

Dan Miller

Dan Miller

Jazz trumpeter Dan Miller is one of Southwest Florida’s most accomplished musicians. A native of Chicago, Miller began his illustrious career in the early 1990s, touring and recording with bands led by Woody Herman, Maynard Ferguson, Wynton Marsalis (Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra) and Harry Connick Jr., the latter association comprising of over a decade of touring and recording. Dan also had a long association with singer Tom Jones.

In 2004, Dan began to split his time between New York and Florida. He started performing at Ellington’s Jazz Bar and Restaurant on Sanibel Island, FL where he led his own groups as well others as a sideman featuring Jimmy McGriff, David “Fathead” Newman, Jimmy Norman, Lew DelGatto, Jon Weber, Davell Crawford and Danny Sinoff. From 2005-2009, Dan was a member of the Danny Sinoff Quartet, recording three CDs for E.S.P. (the third featured tenor saxophonist David “Fathead” Newman).

Since 2010, Dan has been a member of the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra.

Dan continues to perform regularly in New York, appearing frequently at Smalls and Fat Cat as a leader or in bands led by Ned Goold or saxophonist Tim McCall. He often finds himself playing in NYC with musicians like his brother trombonist David Miller, bassist Ben Wolfe, Neal Caine, Anthony Pinciotti, Spike Wilner,  Stephen Riley and Carlos DeRosa.

Through a life of playing, studying and listening, Miller’s knowledge of jazz is wide-ranging and comprehensive. He lists many musical influences including Fats Navarro, Dizzy Gillespie, Freddie Hubbard, Kenny Dorham, Lee Morgan, Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, Thelonious Monk and Curtis Fuller. In Florida and nationwide, Miller is very much in demand as a jazz educator and clinitian–in private instruction in brass technique, jazz improvisation as well as coaching school jazz bands at all levels.


Joe Delaney

Pianist Joe Delaney was born in Brockton, MA and grew up in Whitman, just south of Boston. Joe’s father Ed Delaney was also a pianist. Joe started playing at age 3, learning by ear from records, family parties and his father’s band rehearsals. Joe says, “I picked it up and still play about 90% by ear.”

Joe started formal instruction and began performing in pubic at the age of 5. Joe says, “Once we started little kid tunes, I’d hear the teacher play it and put about 15 minutes into my lesson and just mimic it back.” He was soon spending hours a day learning popular tunes and George Shearing hits he heard during the band rehearsals. Later, Joe studied briefly with Kurt Wenzel, Charlie Banocos, Kenny Barron and Berklee piano professor Paul Schmeling. During his formative years Joe absorbed the musical influences of George Shearing, Erroll Garner, Ahmad Jamal, Ramsey Lewis, Sergio Mendes, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Bill Evans, Dave McKenna, Oscar Peterson and Herbie Hancock.

Delaney worked in the Boston and Cape Cod areas until 1981, when he moved to the US Virgin Islands, where he worked for most of the ’80s. From 1989-2009 Joe returned to New England, based in Cape Cod, mostly in Hyannis. He had a long association with reedman Dick Johnson, who led the Artie Shaw Orchestra during this period. Joe traveled with the Shaw Orchestra for six years, sometimes playing alongside trumpet great Lou Colombo. While not touring with the Shaw band or his own groups (on 5 continents), Delaney played extended residencies in virtually every live music venue on Cape Cod. He spent 7 years leading the house trio at the Black Cat Tavern at Hyannis Harbor, now owned and operated by David Colombo.

Joe has recorded many jazz albums and CDs both as leader and sideman, as well as commercial jingles (for Pepsi, Beck’s Beer, among others), and movie soundtracks (Mrs. Worthington’s Party).

Don Mopsick © Ken Franckling

Don Mopsick © Ken Franckling

Bassist Don Mopsick hails from Linden, New Jersey. He attended the Manhattan School of Music, and upon graduation in 1977 relocated to Ft. Myers FL. After a move to Orlando in 1983 he found himself in demand statewide, playing jazz concerts in Orlando, Tallahassee, Gainesville, Jacksonville, Sarasota, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Daytona and elsewhere. In 1991 he joined the Jim Cullum Jazz Band in San Antonio, TX and appeared weekly on the Riverwalk Jazz series on the Public Radio International network. While with Cullum, Mopsick recorded radio shows with Dick Hyman, John and Bucky Pizzarelli, Clark Terry, Kenny Davern, Linda Hopkins, Benny Carter, Bob Wilber, Milt Hinton, Ralph Sutton, Harry Allen, Ken Peplowski, Joe Williams, “Sweets” Edison, Shelly Berg, Stephanie Nakasian, Rebecca Kilgore and many other greats of jazz.

Since his 2010 return to the Sunshine State, Mopsick played local Southwest Florida concert dates with Dick Hyman, Peter Appleyard, Aaron Weinstein, Tedd Firth, Bucky Pizzarelli, Johnny Varro, Cynthia Sayer, Dave Bennett, Tad Weed, Ira Sullivan, Billy Marcus, Giacomo Gates, Russell Malone, Lainie Cook, Ralph Peterson, Jr., Peter Zak, Stephanie Nakasian and her husband pianist Hod O’Brien and daughter Veronica Swift, and others. He has appeared independently in nationwide concerts and festivals with Hyman, Peter Appleyard, Ralph Sutton, John Bunch, Ira Sullivan, Red Rodney, Buddy DeFranco, Randy Sandke, Warren Vaché Jr., Scott Hamilton, Bill Allred and many others.

Other than the Roadhouse, Mopsick currently appears weekly at Florida jazz venues in Venice, Sarasota and Ft. Myers.

Tony Vigilante

Tony Vigilante

Drummer Tony Vigilante is a native of Philadelphia. Since his move to Naples, FL he’s been in demand throughout the Southwest Florida region for his wonderfully buoyant, driving swing feel and impeccable time.

During a long career, Tony has backed up many singers and entertainers such as Della Reese, Billy Eckstine, Maureen McGovern and Perry Como. He’s recorded with Buddy De Franco, the Al Raymond Orchestra and the Brian Pastor Big Band. Vigilante was a member of Ben Vereen’s touring band performing in Las Vegas, Reno and Tahoe casinos, as well as numerous theater performances on the East Coast. In television, Tony worked in live studio bands for shows such as Good Morning America, The Mike Douglas Show, The Phil Donahue Show and an HBO special, Ben Vereen Live from The Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas.


Written by Don Mopsick

November 7, 2017 at 8:30 AM

Real Jazz Comes to Cape Coral

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capecoralwelcomeThe town where I live–Cape Coral, FL on the southwest coast near Ft. Myers–is not known as a hotbed of Real Jazz. At least not since I moved back here in 2010. I’ve got nothing against other kinds of music one can easily find here, especially downtown where the live music venues are–classic rock/top-40 covers, folksy singer-songwriters, country rock, amped-up urban blues, heavy metal, etc. Nor do I find fault with my neighbors who seek out these flavors. A person likes what he likes; you pays yer money and you gets yer choice. Or something.

In a nutshell, to me “Real Jazz” is the canon of the older, mostly acoustic jazz that swings. You can either dance to it with your feet or in your head. Oliver, Armstrong, Jelly, Bechet, Bix, Waller, Venuti & Lang, Teagarden, Basie, Django, Ellington, Goodman, Bob Cats, Nat Cole, Bird, Diz, Thelonius, Blakey, Trane, Newk, Miles, Thad and Mel, Cannonball, Zoot and Al, Getz, Bill Evans, Phil Woods, Wes, and many others. Since I make my living playing the double bass, the Gods of Jazz Bass Fiddle orbit the heavens: Pops Foster, Milt Hinton, Walter Page, Jimmy Blanton, Oscar Pettiford, Israel Crosby, Mingus, Ray Brown, NHOP, George Morrow, George Duvivier, Richard Davis, Buster Williams, Paul Chambers, Ron Carter, Scott LaFaro, Chip Jackson, Steve Gilmore, John Clayton, Ben Wolfe, Paul Keller, Christian McBride, and so on–in short, anyone who gets a sound and lays down The Pocket. I’ve also always been into all things Latino: mambo, bolero, calypso, bossa nova, samba, Afro-Cuban polyrhythm, etc. Any questions? They’re all on YouTube.

I’ve always loved singers for whom swinging is always Job One. I seek out their versions of the Great American Songbook, Blues, Bebop, jazz standards, etc. Bessie, Billie, Sarah, Carmen, Ella, Anita, Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, Joe Williams, Frank, Sammy, Mel, Tony, Nat, etc. And, for me, performing the GAS is always a worthy artistic endeavor in itself–I am content to work in bands whose playlist on a given night leans heavily on Berlin, Kern, Gershwin, Porter, Arlen, Warren, and the vast number of “unsung” songwriters who had just a few hits. Newer members of this Pantheon–again as interpreted through the jazz lens–are Mancini, Johnny Mandel, Jobim, Bacharach, Legrand, etc. It’s a very rewarding pursuit to discover well-written songs that are new to me, or to become more adept at improvising on those I should know better.

Taken all together, the above is a wide spectrum within the world of jazz. To varying degrees, almost all my colleagues concentrate on smaller subsets of these elements. Since I was a small child, it’s all felt good to me–so occasionally I get into trouble with some who feel strongly for or against a given approach or groove.


“Real Jazz with Bob Parlocha” was heard on WGCU-FM in Ft. Myers most weekday nights for years and is still in syndication in some markets.

If you want to call me “old school,” I take it as a compliment–and an indication of your refined taste. I’ve heard Real Jazz referred to as “music for consenting adults,” but I’m seeing plenty of twenty-somethings (“Millennials”), especially in and around college towns, who “get it.” Further, “Real Jazz” is now being used to designate a specific radio genre (on Sirius/XM, for example).  A recently deceased late-night radio host–whose reruns are still nationally syndicated on public radio networks–called his show “Real Jazz With Bob Parlocha.”

This is welcome news to those of us who choose to spend our time on this earth learning and playing this music. Which brings me back to Cape Coral, mostly up till now apparently a jazz-free zone, with one exception: I played one season with the brilliant pianist Joe Delaney at a restaurant called Brew Babies on Lafayette St. (which no longer features jazz). Since then the great majority of my jazz music-making has been in Ft. Myers at the Roadhouse Cafe, or in Sarasota County at Allegro Bistro in Venice and the Starlite Room and the Blue Rooster in Sarasota. Once in a while I get a call to go as far as Orlando, Tampa, Clearwater, Gainesville, or the east coast towns north of Ft. Lauderdale. For a couple of glorious seasons I was privileged to play in a Real Jazz band at Chef Charles Mereday’s Alto Live Jazz Kitchen in Naples (now closed) co-led by trumpeter Dan Miller and saxophonist Lew Del Gatto.

So since 2011 or so my travels in search of The Groove have taken me to everywhere in Florida but the town in which I live. I don’t mind driving a long distance–say an hour or two depending on the gig–as long as there’s something groovy at my destination. Several of my Florida colleagues feel the same way. So far I’ve put on about 33K miles a year on two Priuses.

slates_largeSeptember is the month in which presenters and musicians line up their seasonal gigs, and this year in Lee County there are more restaurateurs willing to take a chance on Real Jazz. A new Real Jazz Thursday started up recently at a club in downtown Ft. Myers called the Barrel Room, featuring a quartet with Dan Miller, Lew Del Gatto, veteran Philly drummer Tony Vigilante and young bassist Brandon Robinson. There is a growing movement in the Cape Coral City Council to extend bar hours in the South Cape to 4 AM, aiming at attracting a younger late-night clientele. If finally passed, the measure would help establish more late-night venues for music in the South Cape area. A new venture, the Big Blue Brewing on SE 10th Pl. is set to open soon with craft beers, a creative menu and live jazz.

Chefs Allan and Nancy Cotter operated the renowned and award-winning Blue Moon Restaurant and Jazz Club on St Croix, USVI for 16 years. After relocating to Cape Coral in 2010 they opened Slate’s, located at 4820 Candia St. At Slate’s Allan presented Traditional Jazz with Pat O’Brien for his Sunday Brunch for about 3 seasons, and this year he acquired the space next door, opened a doorway, and created an intimate, cozy room with a tiny bandstand, bar, comfortable couches and art on the walls. He named the new space the “Side Door Jazz Club.” He intends for it to be a “home for jazz in Cape Coral” where people come to listen to the music. Accordingly, the hours are later than usual–7:30-10:30, Wednesday through Sunday.

Bob Leary, guitar; Herb Bruce, trombone; Jim Snyder, clarinet; Don Mopsick, bass

At the Side Door I will be playing in a quartet on Saturday nights called “Swing to Bop.” The personnel are myself, guitarist/vocalist Bob Leary of Naples, trombonist Herb Bruce of North Port and clarinetist/saxophonist Jim Snyder of Winter Garden. Everyone in this group at one time or another paid dues working as staff musicians at Walt Disney World in Orlando, which is how we all met. In recent years we played a few jobs and concerts together as a band–which were too much fun! Each of us brought a lifetime of experience, chops and sick humor to a wide spectrum of jazz genres. It dawned on us that we should try to get ourselves a regular gig somewhere. Our debut at the Side Door Jazz Club was Saturday, September 10.

Now here’s the thing about this band: each member is an in-demand top player with prior commitments, so we have a unique opportunity to showcase other top players from the region and state to come to downtown Cape Coral to play a night of Real Jazz with us–however they like it. The idea is that you in the audience will catch some of the fun we’ll be having up on the bandstand.

Pete Bordonali

Pete Bordonali

For example, guitarist Bob Leary was out of town on the opening night, so we got the great guitarist Pete Bordonali to sub for him. Pete is another Disney alumnus we all worked with. He’s had an amazing career as a jazz guitarist backing up Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Bobby Short, Tony Bennett, Johnny Mathis, Ray Charles, Steve and Edie, Louie Prima, and others. He’s lived in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas (where he worked for years at the Sands hotel and is on many of the classic recordings made there). Pete also has an ongoing career as a recording producer in Nashville. He has worked there as musician and producer with Ronnie Milsap, Barbara Mandrell, Amy Grant, Joe Tex, Debbie Boone, Dolly Parton, Mickey Gilley, Tanya Tucker, George Jones, Trisha Yearwood, George Strait, Shania Twain, Merle Haggard and Lyle Lovett. Pete currently lives in Naples, FL and will be appearing with us again on 9/24.

Other “special guest star” appearances with the Swing to Bop Quartet in September and October at the Side Door Jazz Club:

Trumpeter Mark Pettey 9/24

Drummer/Vocalist Patricia Dean 10/1

Pianist Joe Delaney 10/1

Trumpeter Dan Miller 10/1

I’ll be telling you more about them and other guests in future posts. In the meantime, do try to come out on 9/10 if you can!

Written by Don Mopsick

September 2, 2016 at 11:47 PM

Deborah Opie Quartet at Valenti’s Allegro Bistro in Venice Thursday Nights

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Billy Marcus, Don Mopsick, Stephen Bucholtz, Deborah Opie in 2015

Thursday nights in Venice, FL come alive with swinging jazz at Valenti’s Allegro Bistro located at 1740 E Venice Ave.

Singer Deborah Opie has been entertaining the crowds at the popular Venice restaurant/night spot for over 3 years. She’s backed up by a swinging modern jazz trio featuring Billy Marcus, piano; Don Mopsick, bass; and Stephen Bucholtz on drums.The band plays from 6-9 PM. Click here for more information and reservations.


Billy Marcus

Billy Marcus

Pianist Billy Marcus, who now lives in St. Petersburg, FL is the son of the great “stride” pianist, Marie Marcus. Billy began his professional career in 1968 in the Boston/Cape Cod area where he worked with the iconic cornetist Bobby Hackett. In 1974, Marcus moved to Miami where he formed his own quartets and quintets. He did regularly-scheduled live radio broadcasts on television and performed at all of Miami and South Florida’s major festivals. In 1982, Marcus was named Miami’s Best Musician by Miami/South Florida Magazine. Recently, Marcus was inducted into the South Florida Music Hall of Fame.

Marcus has played “residency” engagements in New York, Boston, France, Switzerland, and recently at the Ritz-Carlton in Shanghai, China and 18 months at the Grand Hyatt in Dubai U.A.E. He’s appeared at dozens of jazz festivals including: North Sea Jazz Festival Netherlands, Bern Jazz Festival Switzerland, Toronto Jazz Festival Canada, Monterey Jazz Festival California, New Orleans Jazz Festival Louisiana, Miami Jazz Festival Florida, Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival Washington.

Leading his own house band, he backed up Scott Hamilton, Al Grey, James Moody, Jack Sheldon, Pepper Adams, Mark Murphy, Eddie “Clean-head” Vinson, Kai Winding, Terry Gibbs, Richie Cole, Buddy DeFranco and many more.

Don Mopsick

Don Mopsick

Bassist Don Mopsick began his musical career as a teenager in his hometown of Linden, NJ, performing on trumpet and bass guitar for local ethnic dances. After High School, he attended Rutgers University and Berklee College of Music. His first professional gigs were with Rosemary Clooney around Boston.

Mopsick’s musical interests have always been eclectic and far-ranging. He was graduated from The Manhattan School of Music in 1977 with a degree in Tuba Performance. While in New York, he performed on tuba and bass with The Smith Street Society, Lee Castle (with the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra), Jim Chapin, John Carisi, Benny Ventura, the Paul Jefferey Octet and others.

After a move to Ft. Myers FL in 1977, Mopsick began private study on double bass with Lucas Drew at the University of Miami. He moved to Orlando in 1983 and began work at Walt Disney World, Circus World, Rosie O’Grady’s, and as a free- lance bassist state-wide. From 1983-86 he performed nightly at the Empress Lilly at Lake Buena Vista with the Riverboat Rascals.

He played concert dates for, among others, The Jazz Club of Sarasota, The Treasure Coast Jazz Society (Vero Beach), The Gainesville Friends of Jazz, the Central Florida Jazz Society, and taught clinics at Valdosta (Georgia) State University.

Mopsick played Florida concert dates with Howard Alden, Mousey Alexander, Mose Allison, Bill Allred, Dan Barrett, John Bunch, Pete Christleib, Al Cohn, Richie Cole, Ike and Fred Cole, Kenny Davern, Buddy DeFranco, Allen Eager, Terry Gibbs, Scott Hamilton, Buddy Morrow (with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra), Ken Peplowski, Flip Phillips, Red Rodney, Bob Rosengarden, Ira Sullivan, Clark Terry, Warren Vaché Jr., Joe Wilder and many others.

Don joined the 7-piece Jim Cullum Jazz Band in San Antonio TX in 1991, where he played nightly at The Landing jazz club and toured with the band (including a 17-day tour of Russia and Siberia in 2007), and recorded hundreds of hours for the Riverwalk Jazz public radio series with guests such as Benny Carter, Clark Terry, Bob Wilber, Dick Hyman, Topsy Chapman, Kenny Davern, Milt Hinton, Nicholas Payton, Ralph Sutton, “Sweets” Edison, Harry Allen, Dan Barrett, Joe Williams, Rebecca Kilgore, Stephanie Nakasian, Linda Hopkins, Bob Barnard, Bucky and John Pizzarelli and many others. He left the band in March 2009.

From 1993 to 2005 he was on the faculty of the Stanford Summer Jazz Camp, teaching classes and giving private lessons to students between the ages of 12-17.

These days Mopsick plays modern bop-oriented jazz in several weekly west Florida gigs with pianists Billy Marcus and Joe Delaney, drummers Stephen Bucholtz, Patricia Dean and Tony Vigilante, trumpeter Dan Miller and tenor saxophonist Lew DelGatto.

Since his 2010 move back to SW Florida he has shared concert stages with Dick Hyman, Peter Appleyard, Bucky Pizzarelli, Aaron Weinstein, Giacomo Gates, Stephanie Nakasian and Hod O’Brien, Russell Malone, Ira Sullivan, Lanie Cook, Ralph Peterson Jr., Tedd Firth, Peter Zak, Dave Bennett, Wycliff Gordon and many others.

Stephen Bucholtz

Stephen Bucholtz

Experienced in both classical and jazz, drummer Stephen Bucholtz has performed on drum set for a variety of groups, ranging from trios to big bands. These groups have performed in clubs, festivals, theaters, and private functions throughout the country. Stephen has performed with artists such as Chuck Redd, Ken Peplowski, Harry Allen, Jon-Erik Kellso, Roni Ben-Hur, Buster Cooper, and John Lamb. He can currently be heard performing around the Tampa Bay area with a variety of artists.

Stephen holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music from the University of South Florida. After receiving his degree, he continued his studies at the New England Conservatory of Music as a graduate student. While living in Boston, Stephen served as Principle Percussionist with the Newton Symphony Orchestra. Prior to joining the Newton Symphony, Stephen served as Principle Percussionist for the Brevard Symphony Orchestra in Melbourne, Florida. He has also performed with the Concord Orchestra, the Metropolitan Wind Symphony, the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Florida Orchestra.

Written by Don Mopsick

May 10, 2016 at 11:07 PM

New Stanford Double Stream of Riverwalk Jazz Public Radio Series

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I’m sitting here playing “drop the needle” and listening to the new Riverwalk Jazz double stream.

Here’s the deal: somewhere north of 300 shows were created so far in the Riverwalk Jazz public radio series. The series is still on the air on about 200 nationwide public radio stations and Sirius/XM on Sundays. The Stanford Library of Recorded Sound acquired the collection and made it into two continuous streams of hour-long shows: one starting at show #1 and the other starting at show #150 or so. Each stream takes about 18 days to cycle through all the shows.

Stanford has committed to running this double loop for at least 25 years. We can’t exactly tell you which show is coming up next, but you can hear shows that haven’t been on the air in over a decade. It’s kind of a “drop the needle,” “box-‘o-chocolates” experience.

After a few initial hiccups, the website and stream seem to be functioning OK now. Right now on stream 1 I’m listening to the Gospel show with Evan Christopher doing his chart on “Over in the Gloryland.” On stream 2 I caught Rebecca Kilgore and Ron Hockett and the the rhythm section swinging Artie Shaw’s “Moon Ray.”

A few things occur to me. One is that the show covers a lot of ground in its variety of pre-war jazz topics. For example, I’m listening now to Dick Hyman and John Sheridan stomp their way through a 2-piano version a 1926 stride piano novelty rag by Rube Bloom, “Spring Fever.” Later in the same show I heard Becky Kilgore croon her way through “Suddenly It’s Spring” as only she can.

Another is the generally high level of musicianship for a “live” show. We typically had one run-through before recording with the audience, and very rarely resorted to the back-up, so most of what you hear was the live show, warts and all.

I wanted you to be aware of this new format and invite you to drop in sometime to check it out. It could be like having your own personal Riverwalk Jazz satellite channel for your home soundtrack (or maybe its more like Pandora). I know of no other series doing it like this, it’s the bleeding edge of this kind of media presentation.

Written by Don Mopsick

January 4, 2013 at 2:24 AM

My Gig Calendar

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If you have any questions about these events, please email me at See you at the gig!

Written by Don Mopsick

October 29, 2011 at 8:41 PM

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Where I’m At These Days

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Levee Band

I first came to Florida in 1977 as a recent graduate of the Manhattan School of Music with a degree in tuba performance. My interest in early jazz brought me to a restaurant/nightclub in Ft. Myers called the Levee, just across from the yacht basin on the Caloosahatchee. The job was with a ragtime/sing-along quartet led by tenor banjo player Bob Adams. There was also a regular Dixieland jazz Monday night with more horn players and  a good drummer: Chris Deladurantay. Out of the 4 guys in that band, 3 of us met women in the club whom we later married. I’m the only one still married to mine.

By the early ’80s I had morphed into a double bassist and resumed my study of more modern forms of jazz. My teachers were the Naples pianists Joel Benefiel and Cookie Norwood, and the great New Orleans guitarist/reedman Paul Guma, who had retired to Marco Island. The bassist Don Mast introduced me to the cult of the wood bass. All of these fine fellows are gone now.

Don Mopsick, Al Cohn

Don Mopsick, Al Cohn at Villa Nova, Winter Park, FL c. 1985. Not shown: Mousey Alexander, John Orsini.

Fast forward to the end of 1990. We were living in Kissimmee, near Orlando.  I was making a decent living free-lancing around Central Florida, working the theme parks and convention gigs. I was also putting lots of miles on cars, seeking out jazz wherever I could find it:  Daytona, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, Jacksonville, St. Petersburg. Thanks to the drummer Mousey Alexander and others, I had already established myself with various Florida jazz presenters, most notably the Jazz Club of Sarasota, for whom I drove down from Kissimmee to play with New York veterans like Kenny Davern, Spanky Davis, John Bunch, Don Goldie, Dick Meldonian, Ken Peplowski, Bobby Rosengarden, Jerry Jerome, Warren Vaché and Scott Hamilton.

I also got to know trombonist Dan Barrett, guitarist Howard Alden and saxophone icon Flip Phillips at the Gold Coast Jazz Society in Vero Beach.

In November I got a call from Jim Cullum of San Antonio, TX. He invited me to fly out to audition for his band. They were playing 6 nights a week at The Landing at the Hyatt Regency on the San Antonio River Walk. The national  Riverwalk, Live From The Landing public radio series (now known as Riverwalk Jazz) had started the previous year.

After Rosie and I talked about it, we decided to take the plunge and join up with this outfit. We arrived in San Antonio in early January 1991 with our dog, 2 cars and possessions in a U-Haul.  The band was at that time still doing quite a bit of touring outside of the club. Cullum warned me, “after we get into our touring season you’ll be gasping for air.” He was right.

Here’s what sticks with me from those years:

Milt Hinton, Don Mopsick

Milt Hinton, Don Mopsick at the rehearsal for a Riverwalk Jazz radio show in 1991 at Jim Cullum’s Landing in San Antonio, TX

I learned a hell of a lot about pre-WWII “hot” jazz from all the band members and had fun collaborating with Jim and Executive Producer Margaret Moos Pick on creating the radio shows.

Don Mopsick

Don Mopsick somewhere in Sonoma County California, c.2001.  Photo by William Carter.

On the Landing bandstand I stood in a corner at the back, so I never needed an amplifier for the bass. I became a convert to the “unplugged” school of bass playing. To this day I am not a big fan of the bass amplifier.

The band swung a lot, and a lot of it got recorded. The show is still on the air and XM/Sirius, and you can hear me on most of the tracks.

For most of the years the band made an extended trip to Northern California to teach and concertize, thanks to the generosity of Chuck Huggins—a great friend of jazz. This area does not suck. Met a lot of other great people there, too.

By 2009 we decided it was time to migrate back to the Sunshine State where my wife’s and some of my family are. Because of the recession it took us a long time to sell our house,  but we finally made it to a nice little place in Cape Coral in June of 2010.

Southwest Floridians remember that summer: the recession and BP gulf oil spill (it was a tourist perception only; no actual oil reached our pristine shell beaches) were choking off what was left of the music work.

I soon discovered more bad news: after being spoiled for 19 years working for one bandleader passionately committed to acoustic jazz played authentically on real instruments, I found that the tech-enabled easy-profit motive in SW Florida and elsewhere had created a widespread practice of electronic “keyboard” players cutting out bass jobs by playing the bass parts with their left hand, pedals, or (worse yet) digital tracks.

Things looked grim for my playing prospects. I spent a lot of time making the rounds, paying dues, sitting in, playing for next to nothing or free. I shook my head when I discovered that audiences (and even some musicians) had forgotten what a bass even looked, much less sounded like. I supplemented my music income trickle with production work for Riverwalk Jazz. We muddled through.

July and August passed this way, Then in September I began to work here and there for pay. I also managed to make many new acquaintances and musical contacts and renew old ones in Punta Gorda, Venice, Sarasota, St. Petersburg and Orlando. By November I had a few steady nights in Ft. Myers and Naples.

New Year’s Eve of 2010 was a gas: Orlando bandleader and trombone virtuoso Bill Allred hired me to play with his big band for a huge Swing Dance in St. Petersburg at the Coliseum. Every player in the band that night was a top guy in any state, including old pals Ed Metz Jr., Randy Morris, Herb Bruce, Dave McKenzie. We played charts by Basie, Buddy Rich, Tonight Show, etc. I had so much fun I forgot it was a New Years gig.

After May 1, 2011, I discovered that most music jobs in this part of Florida have an “expiration date,” that being when the snowbirds go back up north. Except for the Roadhouse Cafe—they kept me working through the summer.

Then, a lucky break:  around June I was hired by the California photographer and author William Carter, whom I had known as a jazz clarinetist. Bill is a great artist and friend, and it’s been fun for me to help him discover the digital world and connect with his audience that way.

In early August I flew out to Davenport, IA to play at the 30th annual Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Festival with Dick Hyman and Peter Appleyard (we were sponsored by Mat Domber of Arbors Jazz—another great supporter of classic jazz). The next week, Jim Cullum flew me out to Dallas to record his Playing With Fire, a 3-movement piece co-composed by Frank Ticheli for jazz band and concert orchestra, in this instance the Dallas Wind Symphony.

The 2012-13 season is gearing up. Here’s my gig calendar. Some highlights:

Rick Howard Trio

Starting Sunday November 11 at the Bay House in Naples with guitarist/singer Rick Howard and drummer Bill E. Peterson. I met Ricky in Naples in 2010.

Rick, Bill and I began working at the Bay House for the 2010-11 season. The Bay House sits on a wild piece of land on the Cocohatchee River close to the Gulf of Mexico, upon which there are no other structures. Diners have a spectacular view of this wild setting while enjoying fine cuisine and wines.  We play in the lounge in the back in a wooden stage enclosure that is very friendly to wooden instruments.

Rick is a fiercely talented guitarist/vocalist from Brooklyn, NY who has mastered large swathes of American music. We discovered that, for this trio at least (Rick also leads a popular Tuesday “blues jam” at Freddy Rebel’s in Naples where he rocks out on solid-body), we share an “old school” approach to jazz and blues, which to me means that swinging is always Job #1. Bill’s drumming adds a lot to the groove. We get to do some of the ’30s Nat Cole Trio tunes, some old guitar blues, and burn some of the good old lounge standards. This is a fun gig and patrons (and the owners) seemed to dig it a lot.

This group has a CD out called “Hit That Jive, Jack!” Click here to hear selected tracks.

Notes on some interesting miscellaneous gigs:

Last year I began working with the St. Petersburg pianist Billy Marcus, who has put in many years in Florida, particularly Miami. He was this year inducted into the Florida Music Hall of Fame. Billy has an advanced technique and harmonic vocabulary. His mom was the great New York and Cape Code stride player Marie Marcus, and every once in a while you can hear some Fats Waller right-hand figures in Billy’s playing. I did a few dates in Venice with Billy and the strong Tampa-based jazz and blues singer Denise Moore. The 3 of us played New Year’s Eve 2011 at the Sarasota Ritz-Carleton along with drummer Steve Buckholtz. I will be playing  with Billy and the excellent drummer/vocalist Patricia Dean on Friday, December 21st, at JD’s Bistro in Port Charlotte.

November 2011 I played a concert here in Ft. Myers at Shell Point Retirement Community with pianist Dick Hyman and Canadian vibist Peter Appleyard. Both are legendary octogenarian veterans of Benny Goodman. I played on many hours of the Riverwalk Jazz series with Dick over the years as well as many concert dates with the Jim Cullum Jazz Band.

January 20, 2012 I was  at the Jazz Club of Sarasota for a concert at Holley Hall with the 26-year-old New-York-based swing violinist Aaron Weinstein and the pianist Tedd Firth, also a New Yorker. Both of these young men are dedicated swingers and very accomplished on their instruments. Aaron is also a gifted arranger as well as a humorist.  I was delighted by the experience, as was everyone in the packed 300-seat concert hall.

I have been doing a few dates for the Jazz Club of Sarasota in their “Fridays at 2” series at the Unitarian Universalist Church on Fruitville Road. My latest there last month was with Sarasota trombonist/bandleader Greg Nielson and included saxophonist Tom Ellison, pianist Tom Goodman (no relation to Benny but worked for him and the Louis Armstrong All-Stars) and the amazing David Pruyn on drums, flugelhorn and vocals.

Beginning in February 2012 I began subbing almost every week for bassist Charlie Silva at the Grand Floridian Hotel at Walt Disney World. In this band are trombonist H Johnson (see top photo on this page) and trumpet man Davey Jones, both of whom I have known for over 30 years. This is a pleasant gig with high professional musical values. The 6-piece band plays on a balcony in a giant 5-story atrium. This amounts to a huge reverberation chamber and a big ego trip for the players. No amp necessary on the bass. The tasteful and swinging charts were written mostly by the piano player, John Katalenic. This band plays very well in tune and swings. A plus is that there are often other subs on the job, top Orlando and Tampa players, some of whom I have known for a long time like Don Mikiten, Bobby Pickwood, Charlie Bertini, Herb Bruce, and Bob Glendon, others who are newly met. I don’t mind the 3-hour drive each way: jobs like this are rare in any state.

April 2012, a trip to Texas, again to perform Playing With Fire with the Jim Cullum Jazz Band and the Baylor Wind Ensemble. The night before I played with the JCJB at a restaurant in the King William district called the Liberty Bar, for the San Antonio Swing Dance Society. On the bandstand was my good friend, saxophonist Rich Oppenheim. I also got acquainted with  drummer Benji Bohannon, a fine American and strong traditional/swing drummer now living in New Orleans.

On July 10 I was invited to sub for bassist Dominic Mancini at the South County Jazz Club’s regular Tuesday night jam session at Valenti’s Allegro Bistro in Venice. The club President, Morrie Trumble, is doing a great job organizing and promoting this weekly “hang” which has become quite popular with local jazz fans, even through the SWFL lean summer months. At this gig I met Rochester NY saxophonist Tom Ellison. Tom and I have been working together in a new group called Hip Pocket, mainly at the Allegro Bistro in Venice. Other members are drummer Chuck Parr and pianist/composer Matt Bokulick.

With the Jim Cullum Jazz Band: May 13-15 in San Antonio for a fundraiser for the Riverwalk Jazz public radio program at the Tobin Estate; July 25-29 for a trip to an undisclosed location in Sonoma County, CA; and the following weekend August 2-5 at the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival in Davenport IA.

Next: December, 2012:

Next: January, 2013:

  • 12th, 19th: Concerts with banjoist/pianist/vocalist Cynthia Sayer of New York City. In 3 concerts in Bradenton, Sarasota, Englewood.  Also featured at different times will be clarinetist Jim Snyder and trombonists Bill Allred and Herb Bruce.

Next: February, 2013:

  • 9th: Concert with multi-instrumentalist Ira Sullivan and drummer/vocalist Patricia Dean at the Glen Ridge Performing Arts Center, Sarasota. Presented by the South County Jazz Club and Morrie Trumble.
  • 12th: I will be leading a star-filled jazz band to play for a private Mardi Gras Party at the Isles Yacht Club in Punta Gorda. The all-Florida band consists of Lew Green, Bill Allred, Allan Vaché, Johnny Varro, Bob Leary and Greg Parnell.
  • 18th: Concert for the Charlotte County Jazz Society in Punta Gorda. Leading the band will be Naples-based banjoist/guitarist/vocalist Bob Leary.

Stay tuned.



Written by Don Mopsick

October 29, 2011 at 12:24 PM

Posted in Gigs

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