Local jazz artist Liquori honored with national award

Jazz guitarist Marty Liquori will be honored tonight as a Gainesville Jazz Hero at Leonardo’s 706, and will perform Friday with the group Hot Club de Ville at the Bo Diddley Community Plaza. (Brad McClenny/Staff photographer/file)

Published: Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at 1:43 p.m.

About 15 years ago, Marty Liquori took his guitar to Leonardo’s 706 to play a song for his friend’s 25th wedding anniversary.


JJA Jazz Hero Party for Marty Liquori

What: The Jazz Journalists Association honors Marty Liquori as its 2013 Gainesville Jazz Hero
When: 7:30 p.m. today
Where: Leonardo’s 706, 706 W. University Ave.
Admission: Free, reservations suggested by calling 378-2001

‘Free Fridays’ Concert Series
What: Gypsy-jazz group Hot Club de Ville performs
When: 8-10 p.m. Friday
Where: Bo Diddley Community Plaza, 111 E. University Ave.
Cost: Free

It was “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Babe,” a jazz classic originally written by Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields, and it was the only song he knew at the time.

“I remember the owners heard me play and asked me if I wanted to come back again sometime,” said Liquori, an Olympic-medalist runner and former broadcaster who moved to Gainesville in 1972 to help start the sports-shoe store Athletic Attic, “so I went and practiced for a year then came back.”

Now, Liquori, 63, performs at Leonardo’s 706 every Thursday night with his Jazztet. And he also fronts the gypsy-jazz group, Hot Club de Ville, which plays there on Mondays — and makes a special appearance Friday at the Bo Diddley Community Plaza in this week’s “Free Fridays” concert.

In the local jazz community, he is well known for his efforts to highlight jazz-related events, and tirelessly promotes his interest for the music.

Tonight, his love for the genre will be nationally recognized by the Jazz Journalists Association, who will name him a JJA Jazz Hero — an honor given to only 25 distinguished artists across the country.

“Mr. Liquori knows the jazz tradition so well,” said Dustin Garlitz, a jazz writer and JJA member who will present the honor to Liquori during a break after the Jazztet’s first set (which ends about 8:20 p.m.).

“I am amazed at his knowledge of jazz standards and musicians from the music’s golden age,” Garlitz said about Liquori. “He and his Jazztet play the music of these jazz icons that influenced me as a jazz player, and that have influenced a great deal of jazz musicians today.”

Garlitz said he was attracted to “the freedom that the music allowed for during its performance,” and discovered jazz while playing saxophone in middle school band at P.K. Yonge.

But Liquori took a different route to the music.

Liquori said he never cared for the well-known Miles Davis, but when he heard “Take Five,” a 1966 tune from jazz pianist Dave Brubeck at 16, he was inspired.

“I couldn’t understand how his unusual time signatures or how he fit five beats into four measures,” he said.

He bought a guitar, but soon gave up on learning it. Although he always had ambitions of being a musician, he would spend the next 35 years on a running, broadcasting and business career.

Then, in the early ’90s, he was diagnosed with a form of Leukemia.

“I got that diagnosis and decided, ‘What do I want to do?’” Liquori recalled. “I had no idea what would happen. I had an opportunity to be a musician and wanted to pursue it.”

Once the disease went into remission, it was finally at 50 that Liquori tapped into his musical roots again, immersed himself in jazz and made a name for himself with the music.

“Most people start off playing an instrument when they’re young. I was kind of different,” Liquori said, “But I’m so thankful. What (this award) kind of reinforces for me is, what a great scene for jazz we have here.

“We’re very fortunate.”

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