Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Music feature: Delray's new Arts Garage offers regular home for jazz

The Arts Garage performance space.
(Photo by Bill Meredith)

By Bill Meredith

If you've parked your car in the Old School Square parking garage recently to go to one of Delray Beach's multiple clubs,‭ ‬theaters,‭ ‬galleries or restaurants,‭ ‬you were in close proximity of a major new downtown arts venue whether you knew‭ ‬it or not.

The Arts Garage‭ (‬www.delraybeacharts.org‭) ‬was opened in the spring by the Delray Beach Community Redevelopment Agency and the Creative City Collaborative‭ (‬CCC‭)‬,‭ ‬an organization formed by the Delray Beach City Commission five years ago to foster the arts.

Located at the intersection of Northeast‭ ‬1st Street and Northeast‭ ‬2nd Avenue,‭ ‬on the first floor of the parking garage in the Pineapple Grove arts district,‭ ‬the Arts Garage is a‭ ‬130-seat facility for concerts,‭ ‬films,‭ ‬theater,‭ ‬art openings,‭ ‬meetings,‭ ‬educational,‭ ‬recovery and non-profit functions,‭ ‬and even press conferences.

Tennis great John McEnroe used the room for a press junket before a February exhibition match presented by the Delray Beach Tennis Center.‭ ‬The Arts Garage‭’‬s subsequent Jazz‭ ‬Jubilee featured trumpeter Melton Mustafa,‭ ‬and its ongoing Jazz Project series has offered other international-to-local talents like violinist Federico Britos,‭ ‬saxophonist Jesse Jones Jr.‭ ‬and vocalist Chloe Dolandis.‭ ‬Paintings,‭ ‬photos,‭ ‬drawings and sculptures by area visual artists are also on display‭ (‬and for sale‭) ‬throughout the rectangular main room and its three smaller tributaries.

Not bad for a site that still hasn't had its official grand opening.

“We've had events to introduce our concepts so far,‭ ‬including both jazz and our Summer Arts Collaborative,‭”‬ says Calisha Anderson,‭ ‬marketing and development manager for the CCC.‭ “‬That's a workshop series for adults and children that includes funky classes from urban drumming to stage combat.‭ ‬We‭’‬ll get to‭ ‬our grand opening later in the year.‭”

The multi-disciplinary facility is certainly finding jazz to be a popular draw thus far,‭ ‬as the Jazz Project series is now booked through the second and fourth Saturdays in August.‭ ‬Featured artists range from traditional to Brazilian,‭ ‬and includes performers who‭’‬ve recorded and shared the stage with Charlie Parker,‭ ‬Buddy Rich,‭ ‬Jaco Pastorius,‭ ‬Dizzy Gillespie,‭ ‬Art Blakey,‭ ‬Chick Corea and Frank Sinatra.

June‭ ‬11‭ ‬features‭ ‬80-year-old Miami resident Ira Sullivan,‭ ‬who moved to South Florida from Chicago‭ ‬50‭ ‬years ago after working with Parker,‭ ‬Blakey,‭ ‬and trumpeter Red Rodney.‭ ‬A masterful player on trumpet,‭ ‬flugelhorn,‭ ‬flute,‭ ‬peckhorn,‭ ‬and tenor,‭ ‬alto and soprano saxophones,‭ ‬Sullivan is not only South Florida's resident multi-instrumental jazz giant,‭ ‬but an equally impressive educator.‭ ‬He's nurtured talents from Pastorius and guitarist Pat Metheny up through the current crop of jazz students,‭ ‬and will instruct at the forthcoming Young Musicians Summer Music Camp‭ ‬2011‭ ‬presented‭ ‬by the University of Miami‭’‬s Frost School of Music.

Sullivan decided to set his stakes here in the early‭ ‬1960s to raise his children with‭ ‬wife Charlene.‭ ‬Clearly,‭ ‬Chicago‭’‬s loss has been South Florida's gain.

‭ “‬I never intended to come here,‭”‬ Sullivan‭ ‬says.‭ “‬I only came down to visit my parents.‭ ‬All I‭ ‬knew about Florida was the ad I‭’‬d seen in‭ ‬‘Popular Mechanics‭’‬ with a gray-haired couple in a canoe saying‭ ‬‘Retire in Florida on‭ ‬$15‭ ‬a month.‭’”

The jazz duo of Davis & Dow.

On June‭ ‬25,‭ ‬Davie-based Davis‭ & ‬Dow invoke the legendary voice-and-guitar duo artistry of Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Pass.‭ ‬Vocalist Julie Davis is adept at scatting,‭ ‬torching,‭ ‬belting and crooning material from traditional to pop,‭ ‬and seven-stringed guitarist Kelly Dow blends the dexterity of Pass with the gypsy swing‭ ‬nuances of Django Reinhardt.‭ ‬Davis‭ & ‬Dow have won over audiences from throughout the United States to England and Japan,‭ ‬and their latest CD,‭ ‬the‭ ‬2009‭ ‬release‭ ‬Loverly,‭ ‬is a mix of standards and originals that's among the best efforts ever by a South Florida-based artist.

In July,‭ ‬the Arts Garage brings in versatile Davie-based vocalist Dana Paul‭ (‬a veteran South Florida singer and stage actor who‭’‬s performed with Corea,‭ ‬Sullivan,‭ ‬Tom Scott and Toots Thielemans‭) ‬and Miami saxophonist Ed Calle‭ (‬a studio titan who‭’‬s appeared on Grammy-winning albums by Sinatra and trumpeter Arturo Sandoval,‭ ‬numerous TV and film soundtracks,‭ ‬and toured the world with Gloria Estefan,‭ ‬Bob James and Julio Iglesias‭)‬.

The following month,‭ ‬it‭’‬s personable saxophonist Turk Mauro‭ (‬a South Florida-based New York City native whose personality has come through in work with Gillespie and Rich,‭ ‬plus several solo recordings‭) ‬and vocalist Rose Max‭ (‬a Rio de Janeiro-born,‭ ‬Miami-based Brazilian jazz specialist who‭’‬s become a South Florida festival favorite‭)‬.

All will perform within an interior stage frame that‭’‬s made up of the Arts Garage‭’‬s three movable,‭ ‬acoustically-enhanced walls.

‭“‬We can set it up any way we want,‭”‬ says Anderson,‭ “‬so that every time you‭’‬re there,‭ ‬it's likely to look a bit different.‭ ‬And one of our board members is Jon Robertson,‭ ‬dean of the Lynn University Conservatory of Music in Boca Raton.‭ ‬He had one of his professionals assess the sound,‭ ‬and they said it was spectacular.‭”

The smaller room on the west end will eventually be turned into a dance‭ ‬studio,‭ ‬continuing the facility‭’‬s all-encompassing philosophy.‭ ‬The CCC is also putting together an even larger arts facility in a warehouse on Northeast‭ ‬3rd Street in the future.

“That's our long-term project,‭”‬ Anderson says,‭ “‬and it's about two years from being fully developed.‭ ‬It‭’‬s a‭ ‬15,000-square-foot space,‭ ‬so we're using the Arts Garage as an incubator for that much bigger stage.‭ ‬But this one is going very well.‭ ‬Jesse Jones Jr.‭ ‬loved the room,‭ ‬and said it was one of his best performances.‭ ‬The crowd was just so into it.‭”

Jazz clubs have come and gone over the past few decades in South Florida and beyond.‭ ‬The genre stopped being America‭’‬s dance music when bebop thwarted big bands,‭ ‬and the more cerebral bop era‭ ‬sagged with the advent of rock‭ ‬‘n‭’‬ roll.‭ ‬A final,‭ ‬popular nail in the coffin may have been disco,‭ ‬the audio acid for the masses that‭’‬s still influencing everything from techno to TV.

So perhaps the Arts Garage is going about it the right way by making jazz a means to an end,‭ ‬rather than an end in itself,‭ ‬as opposed to all-encompassing former jazz clubs like The Hideaway in Lake Worth.‭ ‬It lasted all of six weeks between late February and early April.

Maybe a part-time jazz venue like the Arts Garage‭ ‬can help to re-define the term‭ “‬garage band‭”‬ --‭ ‬or perhaps inspire a rare network TV show with substance called‭ ‬So You Think You Can Play‭?

Upcoming guests in the Arts Garage jazz series are Ira Sullivan on June‭ ‬11,‭ ‬Davis‭ & ‬Dow on June‭ ‬25,‭ ‬Dana Paul on July‭ ‬9,‭ ‬Ed Calle on July‭ ‬23,‭ ‬Turk Mauro on August‭ ‬13,‭ ‬and Rose Max on August‭ ‬27,‭ ‬all from‭ ‬8-10‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬at the Arts Garage,‭ ‬180‭ ‬N.E.‭ ‬1st St.,‭ ‬Delray Beach‭ (‬561-243-7129‭)‬.‭ ‬All concerts are a BYOW‭ (‬bring your own whatever‭) ‬format,‭ ‬and all VIP premium table seating is‭ ‬$25‭ ‬in advance,‭ ‬with regularly-priced tickets‭ ‬$20‭ ‬in advance‭; ‬$25‭ ‬at the door.‭ ‬Tickets are available online at‭ ‬www.artsgarage.eventbrite.com.

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