Tuesday, June 19, 2018
News Roundup

Valerie Gillespie's jazz trio makes beautiful music

The phone rings, and it sounds like a tinkling piano.

The stereo plays Ella Fitzgerald, Carmen McRae, Kenny Garrett, Diana Krall.

Two incredibly friendly dogs join me on the couch — an 11-year-old Lhasa apso named Pudgy, which keeps pawing at my hand to pet him. It's awfully hard to take notes, but that's okay. I like him.

The other dog, a 7-year-old Shih Tzu, is named Coltrane.

Of course.

In this house in the spectacular rolling hills north of Dade City, the evidence is everywhere: Valerie Gillespie lives for jazz.

My sense is a lot of you already know that. She has been teaching local kids how to play saxophone for years, both private lessons and as part of the music faculty at the University of South Florida. She has played with some of the world's greatest musicians when they visited the area, including Rosemary Clooney, Ray Charles, Ben Vereen, Chick Corea and Dionne Warwick. For two decades, the Florida Orchestra has called on her occasionally when in need of a sax player.

Tonight and Saturday, Gillespie plays Della's After Dark in Brandon.

But I must confess, I hadn't heard of her until my wife persuaded me to visit Dade City in late December for the annual Church Street Christmas. We had been over some years earlier and left a bit disappointed. Not this time. Hundreds of people strolled up and down the historic avenue, enjoying decorated homes, choirs, a live manger scene and one especially hot trio performing unique jazz versions of Christmas standards.

Gillespie, backed by longtime friend and pianist Rick Steuart and drummer Dave Rudolph, played sax and flute and sang with emotion as the crowd called for an encore. A few days later, I called to ask if I could visit.

In between petting dogs, I learned that Gillespie graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with a major in classical saxophone. She moved to New York City for three years and found regular work playing for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. She traveled extensively and then followed family to Tampa, where her big break came when a friend recommended her as a sax player for the Joel Grey show at Ruth Eckerd Hall. That led to several other similar gigs. Meanwhile, she earned a master's in jazz saxophone at USF.

She began teaching music. One day about 20 years ago, she got a call from a man named Dave who wanted to learn to play sax. He had gone to a music store, and they gave him the names of two instructors. He called one, who didn't call back. So he found Valerie.

You know where this is headed.

"Eventually, I started thinking, 'Man, this guy is really great,' '' she recalled.

Valerie and Dave Gillespie have been married for 18 years. He teaches companies how to get the most out of their computer software — and he's pastor at Peace Community Church near the USF campus in Tampa. The congregation is small, maybe 20 or 25 on any given Sunday. But they are treated to some of the best music around as Valerie combines with Steuart, her jazz ensemble pianist who is also the church organist. They have made six CDs together.

As for the Rev. Gillespie … well, let's just say he's better with computers than the saxophone.

"He plays too fast,'' his wife says. "He doesn't pay attention to rests.''

Whenever they can, Valerie and Dave hit the road on their BMW motorcycles. They have taken several long-distance rides together, including a 5,000-mile trip last summer that extended into Maine. Valerie has also satisfied an adventurous spirit by skydiving.

But ask her what she enjoys most and this is the answer: "Performing. I make music. And I feel so fortunate that people seem to like it.''

Count me as a new fan.

Comments
Rays journal: Blake Snell outlasts Justin Verlander in 2-1 win

Rays journal: Blake Snell outlasts Justin Verlander in 2-1 win

HOUSTON — The starting pitcher walked seven over seven otherwise solid innings Tuesday. That seemed weird enough for the Rays. But then the next pitcher they brought in was the one who started Monday's game. Even more bizarre.And then there was...
Updated: 20 minutes ago
Rays’ Kevin Kiermaier returns, with energy to spare

Rays’ Kevin Kiermaier returns, with energy to spare

HOUSTON — Energy.That's what Kevin Kiermaier said he felt he'd bring most in rejoining the Rays Tuesday against the Astros after missing two-plus months recovering from thumb surgery."I like to think I bring energy on both sides of the ball, wh...
Updated: 3 hours ago
As Tesla races to meet Model 3 deadline, factory pressures and suspicions grow

As Tesla races to meet Model 3 deadline, factory pressures and suspicions grow

Tesla chief Elon Musk said last week that the company’s layoffs of 9 percent of its workforce wouldn’t affect production as the all-electric automaker races to build thousands of new Model 3 sedans a week.But documents the company filed days later wi...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Norris Trophy could be good consolation for Lightning’s Victor Hedman

Norris Trophy could be good consolation for Lightning’s Victor Hedman

Victor Hedman is talking from a hotel room in Las Vegas and admits he's a little jet-lagged."Actually, very jet-lagged," Hedman says.That's what happens when you take a flight from Sweden to the party capital of the world.But he knows exactly what he...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Hillsborough school district will pursue two kinds of local taxes

TAMPA — Hillsborough County School District officials took an important step Tuesday toward asking the voters to pay higher taxes for schools that, they say, are not getting enough money from the state.The board voted 5-0 to submit a tax referendum r...
Updated: 4 hours ago
New Port Richey man faces sexual battery charge

New Port Richey man faces sexual battery charge

NEW PORT RICHEY — A 33-year-old man was arrested Monday on a charge of sexual battery, accused of assaulting a 10-year-old girl.Jonathan Wells was booked into the Pasco County jail, where he was being held Tuesday without bail.The assault took place ...
Updated: 5 hours ago

House bill would detain families — togetherThe Republican House compromise bill on immigration would end the family separation issue at the border — but Democrats won’t support it. The bill mandates that the Department of Homeland Security hold any a...
Updated: 5 hours ago

WashingtonSenate approves $716B for 2019 military budgetThe U.S. Senate on Monday voted to give the military $716 billion for 2019, approving one of the biggest defense budgets in modern American history despite concerns from some economists and lawm...
Updated: 6 hours ago
For starters: Rays at Astros, with Kiermaier back and an ace-high matchup

For starters: Rays at Astros, with Kiermaier back and an ace-high matchup

UPDATE, 6:45: Cash said Smith will continue to play a lot, getting time in LF and RF, meaning something of a rotation system for rookie Johnny Field and veteran Carlos Gomez.UPDATE, 4:49: Kiermaier is batting leadoff and playing center as expected, w...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

At this moment, she is Tampa Bay’s most influential export. A smart, accomplished and powerful attorney making life-altering decisions on an international stage.But what of tomorrow? And the day after?When the story of President Donald Trump’s border...
Updated: 6 hours ago