Homefront January Show

By Paul Moffett

Duck Baker had the flu and John Roy, drummer for the Jeff Sherman Quartet, had to use his shaved-tip drumsticks, but other than that, the January edition of Louisville Homefront Performances' monthly radio show went very smoothly.

Staging a "live-on-tape" radio show once a month is fraught with hazards, from booking foul-ups to equipment miscues at inopportune moments. The December show required a last-minute search for a substitute when a featured act was stranded on the East Coast by severe weather. On this show, the glitches were far less severe, the worst being a Jimi Hendrix-style electric guitar tag that blared unbidden from the sound system at the very end of a Duck Baker tune called "Tao Swing."

Finger-picking wizard Baker opened the evening's program with the musical standard "Sweet Georgia Brown," then did a tune commissioned for Texas swing fiddler Bob Wills' fortieth birthday, and followed that with an Irish air called "Sgt. Early's Dream." To show that he was not just a flashy technical whiz, he sang "You Must Have Been A Colicky Baby," dedicated to his "first ex-mother-in-law," finally closing his portion of the pre-radio show with a Jimmy Reed blues tune.

The Jeff Sherman Quartet took the stage to lead into the radio portion of the evening. The jazz ensemble got into the groove by bopping through Duke Ellington's "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," followed by a pair of Lee Ritenour tunes, "Bullet Train" and "Wicked Wine." Guitarist Sherman fronted the group nicely, allowing tenor saxophonist Ed Humphries, bassist Dan Kiely and drummer Roy to take solos on each tune.

Sherman, who teaches jazz guitar at Bellarmine College and frequently promotes jazz clinics at the college, might well have been demonstrating advanced dynamic techniques to an attentive class of eager students, so flawlessly nonchalant was his playing. Local Musicians' Union President Roy's playing served to remind the audience that rhythm machines are, at best, very poor substitutes for live drummers, especially live drummers who have good taste.

Humphries' sax work was dynamically interesting, alternately authoritative and breathy on solos, at times matching Sherman's lines note for note, but never overpowering the guitar. Bassist Kiely hovered in the background, staying firmly in beat with Roy, then stepping out confidently when called upon by Sherman.

Baker returned to the stage for three more tunes, beginning with "Back Home In Indiana," and followed it with "Maybelline," a song written by his "favorite folksong writer, Chuck Berry." He began the tune with a freestyle introduction that came from anywhere but Berry's catalogue of licks, then was as fickle with the tune's rhythm as the heroine of the song was with the singer.

He put a tag on the first half-hour of the radio show with yet another Irish air, "A Pretty Girl Milking A Cow," before briefly yielding the stage to host John Gage, who weighed in with "Afternoon Shadows," an original tune. Baker returned to perform a pair of original songs, "Keep It Under Your Heart," from his most recent album, and "Blood Of The Lamb," a "sermon without words."

The Jeff Sherman Quartet wrapped up the radio program with Barney Kessel's "Brazilian Beat" and an infectious Howard Roberts piece, "Apache Nightmare."

Following the intermission, Baker again ascended the stage to play the previously mentioned "Tao Swing," with the unplanned rock guitar tag. Baker handled it very well, claiming that he "wasn't really that good." He then allowed that he should work it into the piece, since it went over so well with the near-capacity crowd at the Stuart Robinson Auditorium.

He performed what he termed a "nasty" tune about what a Southern boy doesn't like about the South, before closing with a French Christmas carol, "The Virgin Gives Birth."

Sherman's group wrapped up the evening's entertainment with another Ellington standard, "Take the A Train," and the 1955 hit, "Moonlight In Vermont."

Homefront's February show will be co-sponsored by the KYANA Blues Society. It will feature Rounder recording artist Byther Smith and band, Cincinnati's H-Bomb Ferguson, who was a hit at the Garvin Gate Festival, and Louisville's own Da Mudcats.

The show will be moved for the occasion to Wyatt Hall at Bellarmine College. Two radio programs will be taped that evening. Tickets are $7/$3 for nonmembers and $5/$2.50 for members of either Homefront or the Blues Society. Advance tickets can be purchased from Ear X-tacy records.