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Lost in Orlando: There’s no place like home for jazz

Because I’m in Orlando, Fla., this week attending a conference, my original intent was to limit this week’s post to picks. But I can’t resist sharing a discovery I find both curious and depressing.

In a city that draws upward of 50 million tourists each year to attractions including Disney World, Sea World and Universal Studios, there doesn’t appear to be a single jazz club. Not one.

Visitors can go to the House of Blues for blues, to Bob Marley: A Tribute to Freedom for reggae, Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville for parrot-head music, and Disney’s Pleasure Island for deejays and oldies. But jazz is nowhere to be found. At least, I couldn’t find it, and I did some serious Googling.

There was once a venue at Universal CityWalk called CityJazz. The most recent information I found was at a website called The Other Orlando, which describes it as a “jazz club without jazz. … The management has taken to booking hyper-amplified, blow-your-brains out blues and rockabilly groups. … The only way to hear jazz in this club is to book it for a private event. Then they’ll dig up a jazz combo for you.”

CityJazz is not even mentioned on the current Universal CityWalk web page. I’m guessing it’s gone.

If any MinnPost readers have been to an Orlando jazz club and know for certain it’s still open, please let me know. Meanwhile, I’ll click my heels together and repeat “There’s no place like home.”

Upcoming picks back home

Eric Alexander and Dave Hazeltine
Courtesy of Eric Alexander/Photo by John Abbott
Eric Alexander and Dave Hazeltine

Eric Alexander and Dave Hazeltine. To Twin Cities jazz fans, Memorial Day weekend means a date with New York-based tenor saxophonist Alexander. He has made a tradition of spending the holiday at the Artists’ Quarter, and this year is no exception. He’ll bring along the fine pianist David Hazeltine and the two will be joined on the AQ’s homey stage by bassist Tom Lewis and Kenny Horst, resident drummer, club owner and recent winner of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Mid-America Music Hall of Fame. Expect warm, muscular hard bop, very listenable and swinging. The Artists’ Quarter, 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, May 22 and 23; 8 p.m. Sunday, May 24 ($20).

Dave Brubeck. Two words: living legend. But take five: Living legend, still going strong. Clint Eastwood calls him “an American original” and is producing a documentary about him. The famed pianist and composer brings his quartet to town for one night only. Orchestra Hall, Sunday, May 25, 7 p.m. ($25-$65). Read a biography of Brubeck here.

Gordon Johnson CD Release. Read a preview here. Sunday, May 25, 7 p.m. ($5). P.S. If you’re going to Brubeck, remember that the Dakota is only a block away. You can probably catch Johnson’s second set if you get a move on.
Find jazz calendars online at Jazz Police. Click on Twin Cities, MN in the black menu bar at the top.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Joseph Hayes on 07/28/2008 - 03:31 pm.

    The sad truth is, while Orlando has an enormous talent bass of excellent (and in some cases – like free-jazz great Sam Rivers – legendary) players, jazz has no home in the area. CityJazz was the best sounding room in town, but hadn’t actually served jazz for many years, and now it has become a way over-equipped karoake bar called Citywalk’s Rising Star. I am debuting a showcase for original jazz called Jazz On Edge in August, but I’m a long way from having a year-long venue. Local players have talked about starting one for ten years, at least, but I still don’t see it happening.

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