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Your weekend arts forecast: Singin’, swingin’, a book talk and dinosaurs

Bill DeYoung



Jazz vocalists Whitney James, left, and Synia Carrol. Photo: Al Downing Tampa Bay Jazz Association.

Jazz vocalists Whitney James and Synia Carroll perform together Saturday (Jan. 4) at American Stage. This marks the third consecutive year the two have collaborated on Singin’ & Swingin,’ each time with a group of supremely talented bay area jazz musicians.

Bassist Alejandro Arenas and drummer Mike Feinman, two-thirds of La Lucha, make up the band this time around, alongside pianist Pablo Arencieba and guitarist LaRue Nickelson.

According to James, she and Carroll met at the Sarasota Jazz Festival, hit it off, and decided it might be fun to try a few tunes together. “I love singing with other singers,” James says, “and I love celebrating the differences and similarities, of course, in our voices and our tone.

“We obviously each have our own individual style, but our voices really blend well together. That was a nice surprise.”

The concert, from 7 to 9 p.m. on the Raymond James stage, is the official 2020 kickoff for the Al Downing Tampa Bay Jazz Association. Tickets are available here.

James, who moved to St. Petersburg in 2007, is temporarily residing in Texas, where’s she’s working towards a Masters’ in Vocal Performance. “My husband and I still have our house in St. Pete, but I’ve been working out there,” she explains. “I’ve just finished my first semester, and I’m really excited to be back, and singing.”

A Sterling conversation

Tombolo Books has its first author event Sunday. From 4 to 6 p.m., Sterling Watson will be in conversation with Tampa Bay Times book editor Colette Bancroft. Watson is about to publish The Committee, a work of historical fiction set in the turbulent era of McCarthyism (1950s America, specifically in Gainesville, Florida). Technically, the book isn’t available until next week, but Tombolo will have them for sale and signing.

The Committee is the eighth novel from the Peter Meinke Emeritus Professor of Creative Writing and Literature at Eckerd College – he taught Creative Writing there for 35 years. Watson also co-created (with Dennis Lehane) Eckerd’s annual Writers in Paradise conference, which returns for its 2020 run Jan. 18 (details on that event here).

In a Catalyst interview just about a year ago, Watson – whose students included, among others, Carl Hiaasen – discussed his educational approach:

“Talent can’t be taught. But what can be taught is craft – everything from the very simplest notions of grammar and syntax, all the way up to some fairly complicated conceptual stuff. People ask me, ‘how can you teach creative writing?’ I say ‘You get sympathy for a character in direct proportion to the extent to which you bring a character to life.’ And they go ‘oh, I see.’ So, there’s something you can teach somebody.

“If you say ‘The baby died,’ some people are going to cry, but not many. But if you describe the baby, and get that curly yellow hair in there, and a few of the baby’s most cherished little habits, people are going to cry.’ So bring the character to life.

“The aggregate of all that stuff that you can learn about writing is all craft. I never lost interest in that. I’m still interested in it.”

Dino days at Amalie

Three years ago, Manatee County-based Feld Entertainment made good in its promise to eliminate live elephants from its Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus. Then it shut down the whole circus altogether, after 146 years crisscrossing America.

Animals right activists applauded Feld’s actions. The company, which makes a ton of dough with its Disney-authorized stage and ice spectacles, didn’t sweat the loss.

Feld is still in the Land of the Leviathans, as it unveiled Jurassic World: Live Tour in September.

Produced in cahoots with franchise owners NBCUniversal and Stephen Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment, the stage show – at Tampa’s Amalie Arena Jan. 3-5 – involves 21 life-sized dinosaurs, many of them puppets with humans inside, the larger ones animatronic and operated by remote control.

These particular reptiles were created, by experts in the field, to look and move as lifelike as possible.

“I’ve never talked more about eyeballs,” the show’s associate producer Chris Nobels told Sarasota Magazine. “The eyes help bring the dinosaurs to life and make them believable and show their heart and personality, so they needed to be accurate and lifelike, whether you’re in the floor seats two feet away or 300 feet away.”

It’s a stage show, with life-sized human actors, strobes, fog and other state-of-the-art effects. Tickets and info here.


L’Ange du Foyer (The Fireside Angel, or The Angel of the Home), 1937 by Max Ernst.

One more thing

The Dali Museum screens the 1991 documentary film Max Ernst Thursday (Jan. 2) at 6 p.m. Ernst (1891-1976) was a German-born painter and sculptor known as one of the pioneers of Dadaism and surrealism. The film, in German with English subtitles, was assembled from interviews with Ernst, stills of his work, and the memoirs of his wife (Dorothea Tanning) and son. Admission to the roughly 80-minute screening is free.


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