On December 17, 2022, I traveled to Sarasota, FL to perform a concert for the Jazz Club of Sarasota that Monday, December 19th. This performance came about as the result of two long-time friends’ desire to perform together, even though they lived 3,000 miles apart. I’m referring to the 39-year friendship between vocalist Synia Carroll and myself. As one of my closest friends, Synia and I talk almost on a daily basis, certainly on a weekly basis. We were introduced to each other when we both lived in NYC by the great Geri Allen back in 1982 and have remained tight ever since. We share a common musical vision and constantly encourage each other and compare notes.
A little more than a year ago, in December of 2021, we vowed and made a pact “to the Universe,” that we would somehow share the stage together in the coming new year of 2022. Unknowingly to Synia, and without any urging on her part, in the late summer of 2022, her husband, Ed Linehan, president of the Jazz Club of Sarasota reached out to me with an offer to come to Sarasota to perform on one of their Monday Night Jazz Cabaret Series. And thus, the dream became a reality!
On December 19th, I arrived at the Court Cabaret Theater in Sarasota, FL, and met Paul Gavin, our drummer, Mauricio Rodriguez, our bassist, and John O’Leary, our pianist. After a quick one-hour run-through of the heads to the tunes we would be playing, the doors opened and a sold-out audience began to file in for the evening. Noting that the medium age of the audience was retirement age, (those beautiful blue and grey hairdos) I remember thinking “Yep, these are my people!” And after kicking off the first tune of the evening, the standard, “Days of Wine and Roses”, it was evident that this audience was ready to hear some honest, straight-ahead jazz as their preference. I was floored that we sold out the venue. Even more when Ed Linehan at the end of the night says to me, “thanks for making me look good!”
But for me, the highlight of the evening happened when my dear friend Synia Carroll took the stage to end the first of two sets. Here we were, finally on stage with each other. Starting with my 20th Anniversary CD, “Resilience”, I had a vision to integrate vocals with what my quartet had been doing. I was looking for a vocalist willing to not just sing the melody of the musical composition but also improvise like the rest of us on it, using their voice as their instrument. Even though they tried, my original vocalist preferred to only sing the lyrics and melody of the tune’s “head.” They preferred not to improvise or ‘scat’, so I did things like write out duets and such that they could sing along with me as a wordless vocal. Not quite what I had in mind, but it worked somewhat. However this evening, when Synia’s tune began, before the melody even started, Synia immediately started improvising, and turned looking at me to do a call and response with her! I remember thinking “I had found my vocalist!” Here’s the tune in question where it happened. Synia’s arrangement of Mongo Santamaria’s “Afro Blue!”
Synia Carroll with Dale Fielder performing her arrangement of “Afro Blue” by Mongo Santamaria at the Jazz Club of Sarasota.
Being and executing in the moment for me is what great jazz is all about. And we have that in droves here. I love how fearless Synia is on stage as she launches into her various vocal pursuits. Talk about being and executing in the moment, our bassist Mauricio Rodriguez only learned the bass line prior to the doors opening. He is an exceptional bassist and is highly touted in his native homeland of Cuba. During Mauricio’s solo, check what Synia is doing. She felt like improvising, but Mauricio does too, so before a trainwreck can happen, Synia motions to him “let’s do it together”, and the rest is a magical climax before Synia brings us back to the melody! That’s what I’m talking about! Magic can be done with vocal improvisation. Synia and I afterward, excitedly started making future plans to keep this going!
For me, my performance at the Jazz Club of Sarasota was the highlight of my musical endeavors for 2022. Being flown across the country, paid extremely well, being given a world-class rhythm section to play with, and the opportunity to perform with one of my closest friends, how could it be any other way?
Here is the complete video playlist list from that evening. We only missed recording one tune, “Theme From Naked City”: