East. West. In the eternal debate of which one’s best, there’s no disputing which one people prefer most. The sun coast.
One of the magical delights of any slice of paradise is enjoying the vibe, the very essence of life.
A flourish of notes. A congratulatory toast. Tales of days gone by, nourishment to imbibe. The eternal makings of a good time.
Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall
A perennial purveyor investing in the cultural enrichment of Sarasota, the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall prides itself as a leading beacon presenting an annual slate of world-class song and dance. Owned and operated by the City of Sarasota, Van Wezel (pronounced Van Wayzull) is a state-of-the-art facility that is continually recognized as one of the finest.
Over the last 50 years, they’re welcomed many of the top names in entertainment, including Chicago, Brian Wilson, Yes, Melissa Etheridge, Clint Black, Bryan Adams, Tony Bennett, The Black Crowes, and The Indigo Girls. Upcoming shows Jim Brickman, Moscow Ballet, Kenny G, Maks & Val Chmerkovskiy with special guests, including celebrated dancers Jenna Johnson and Peta Murgatroyd, and soprano superstar Sarah Brightman making her Sarasota debut.
With its distinctive purple and lavender color palette (which was suggested by Olgivanna Lloyd Wright, Frank Lloyd Wright’s widow), the venue is equipped with a revolutionary Hearing Loop System (in concert with a Sennheiser Infrared Listening System) for those who suffer from hearing loss. It’s a remarkable enhancement.
In addition to the main Hall which accommodates up to 1741 people, the venue recently began offering an intimate series entitled ‘Cabaret by the Bay,’ which continues to utilize state-of-the-art sound and lighting though with one very important exclusive caveat, radiant views of Sarasota Bay (glorious sunset not included but available most evenings). Held in the Grand Foyer, the room exquisitely offers 20 socially-distanced tables, offering seats for up to 68 patrons with a wide assortment of cocktails and appetizers available.
After a stirring sold-out September event with The Shantel Norman Quartet, October welcomes ARIELLA to its lavish stage. With a fervor for blues, jazz, flamenco and vintage soul, the enigmatic twosome passionately transcend boundaries, transporting listeners to the heart of what makes music timeless. It’s a fluid daydream, seeping.
With elegant vocals by the charismatic Ariella McManus, a singer with emotional depth and a songwriter rich with breadth, she eloquently combines stunning melodies with infectious grooves to create a catchy, immersive sound. Teamed with guitar maestro, Nicolaas Kraster, a talented wunderkind from Fredonia, NY, that’s been compared to Ottmar Liebert, Paco de Lucía and Pat Metheny, the pair effortlessly craft an engaging path to the spiritual promised land.
Flush with poetic imagery and musical intimacy, ARIELLA’s recent releases, (“Joy” & “Terrified”), are a great example of their sonic vision, one with increasing definition of the human condition. As she matter-of-factly emotes on “Joy,” “I don’t need you to make me complete. If I don’t make life better, it’s time for me to leave,” Ariella captures pain and hope with each passing note. With apt comparisons to the transcendent fragility of Etta James, Patsy Cline and Amy Winehouse, tenured jazz critic, Jonathan Widran, dubbed their repertoire, “Raw and soulful…beautifully combining a sense of defiant assertiveness and wounded vulnerability” while Skope Magazine lauds McManus, “By going for her own unique style, she is without peer. References to her performance recall the best of Adele and Alicia Keys. Everything about her delivery reflects a sense of true care and compassion.”
With growing acclaim making waves, the group caught the ear of Internationally renown bassist/educator Victor Wooten (Béla Fleck and the Flecktones), who recognized their intangible chemistry, “ARIELLA is one of my all-time favorite bands. I love their music and their live performances. There’s no way to not enjoy them.”
It’s a palpable reciprocity. On their exhilarating 2019 EP, Live at the Hideaway Café, recorded during a St. Pete heatwave, the blistering set finds the pair excavating the essence of the classics, while delivering a cascading storm of substance and sustenance, bringing to mind a late night soiree with Antônio Carlos Jobim and Astrud Gilberto trading stories with the Buena Vista Social Club.
As the couple continue to refine their sound, they enlisted award-winning engineer, Fabrice Dupont (“Fabulous Fab”), known for his work with Queen Latifah, Jennifer Lopez, Andre 3000, Shakira, Les Nubians, Bebel Gilberto, and Ladysmith Black Mambazo, to add his deft touch to the new material. Meeting at the annual NAMM confab in Anaheim, Dupont effused, “ARIELLA has the very rare ability to deliver pure emotion every time she sings. She’s a classic voice for our modern times.”
Retro meets modern. A return to Saturn. Performing two nights, Friday October 23, and Saturday the 24th, Van Wezel is located at 777 N Tamiami Trail (Sarasota). Doors open at 7:00 PM with the 90-minute show prompting setting sail at 7:30 (no intermission).
Pricing is $30 for a table of two guests and $60 for a table of four. Tickets are on sale online and expected to sell out.
Don’t delay. Grab a table today. ARIELLA by the bay awaits to whisk you away.
Photos by Salvatore Brancifort