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Music updates around town: Gerry Williams, Dr. Phillips Center, WPRK 

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Dig on Gerry Williams already if you’re smart, because he has been a massive presence in Orlando’s music scene for more than a decade, whether you remember grooving along to his early Phat-N-Jazzy days that led to the formation of his former band, SoFluid, or caught various iterations of his new band, the Gerry Williams Band, at local showcases like Soul Fried Sunday or countless soul-sanctifying tribute nights. (Williams seared a particular summer night into my brain when I saw him perform with his band Square Biz at last July’s ’80s Soul Nite with DJ BMF at Will’s Pub.) We asked Williams, currently working on an album with the Gerry Williams Band, to perform for this month’s Off the Avenue live music video session at North Avenue Studios. Watch his cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Bird of Beauty” and enjoy a live version of his new song, “Distant Lover” (below), then read a more in-depth profile of this essential local talent.

I was lucky to attend Emmylou Harris’ grace-defining performance at the Dr. Phillips Center’s inaugural concert in the Alexis and Jim Pugh Theater (Nov. 14), the smallest room in the decadent performing arts space. In addition to Emmylou’s flawless vocal, her slick band and her anecdotes that scaled from campy to heartbreaking about everything from George Jones (she says she “stole everything I could from him”) and Gram Parsons (“I can still remember every song we played”) to her work fostering dogs, the night served to thank the major contributors in attendance who funded the gorgeous theater (which is why, I’m guessing here, the ticket was prohibitively expensive for a general audience). The Center reiterated that this particular theater was meant specifically for “the community,” so don’t fret about the three-figure price tag. As the substantially cheaper Mark Kozelek show in January suggests ($28.75), that Emmylou ticket won’t set the tone for the venue’s entire box office.

A new documentary out this month through Light in the Attic details the short-lived, largely unacknowledged genius of impressionistic jazz composer and vibraphonist Gary McFarland (active 1961-1971). It’s called This Is Gary McFarland: The Jazz Legend Who Should Have Been a Pop Star and it was directed by Kristian St. Clair; among its producers is a former WPRK DJ and current contributor to NPR’s The Checkout, Kyle Eagle. Mostly fast-paced, it’s peppered with exciting bursts of improvised jazz, appearances by major icons like saxophonist Stan Getz and testimonies on McFarland’s wildly innovative yet natural gift for arrangement by Wendy and Bonnie – whose sole full-length (and a necessary cold-weather listen), Genesis (1969), was produced and encouraged by McFarland. In the doc, McFarland’s said to have an “overdose of style,” and even if it’s your first experience with his music or actively listening to samba, the awe of those who testify to his greatness transfers to the viewer in time for the jolt of the film’s end. For jazz fans and eclectic music enthusiasts, the time capsule of a hyper-cool era in New York jazz is worth a watch, and the snow-flurry sequence featuring McFarland’s Fresca jingle is pretty hilarious.

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