Tim Roberts

Jazzin'
By Tim Roberts

December: time to haul out the end o' year cliches along with the holiday decorations and the unopened fruitcake from last year. Don't worry. A few minutes in the bamboo steamer will make it taste like you've just bought it this afternoon from the kid raising money for his school band.

"Wow, where has this year gone?" "Time flies, eh?" "What are your resolutions for the New Year?" "Seems like yesterday we were rewiring these lights for the tree. Are they supposed to be this hot when they're plugged in?" Blah-blah-blah-blah. Now let's talk about jazz.

Besides the regular events, not much has happened in Louisville Jazz this year beyond the three jazz acts that were part of City Stage during the summer. The Louisville Jazz Society got a new president, Kathy Hopper. She has asked me to mention that Bill Johns, longtime LJS treasurer, is resigning his post. He and his wife, Lee (who creates the newsletters concert flyers for the society), have been spending quite a bit of time in Florida. Kathy says the Johns' have been central to the LJS for a number of years. So here's a public "Thank you" from Kathy to Bill and Lee Johns.

There were no new releases this year from our local acts, but that will change in 1999. Tony McDaniel reports that Splatch has returned to the studio to record their second CD, scheduled for release in early in the year. This follow-up to their debut recording from 1997 features percussionist Hugh Petersen is on a few tracks. They're playing every other Friday night at Ermin's on Bardstown Road (next to ear X-tacy) starting at 11:00 PM. To find out when, call Ermin's at 485-9755.

Dick Sisto reports there will be lots of jazz at the Seelbach for New Year's Eve. He, Ty Wheeler, Hugh Petersen, Pat Harbison, and Craig Davis will be in the Old Seelbach Bar, Steve Crews and his trio will be in the Rathskeller, Don Krekel's Big Band will be in the Grand Ballroom and a surprise group will play in the Medallion Ballroom. It's all part of a package party deal at the Seelbach. Call 585-3200 for ticket information.

I want to thank the handful of you who have provided some feedback to the column I ran back in October, where I stated that Louisville Jazz isn't keeping up with the rest of the musical excitement in the city. And please note that when I say "Louisville Jazz", I don't mean the Louisville Jazz Society. Since folks in the Louisville Music Industry Alliance now refer to the local scene in as "Louisville Music," instead of "local music," I've co-opted the term.

There are few places to hear Louisville Jazz, and the core audience tends to be small and older. I declared that the audience is larger than believed, based on the near-capacity shows I've seen. But, as one respondent pointed out, the shows I mentioned in the column consist of an audience who are crossover fans of the particular performer, or (in the case of the Lonesome Pine and Jazz Cabaret series) are season ticket holders for a set of shows.

Still, the folks in the music community know about the stellar capabilities of Louisville Jazz, as demonstrated in the appearance of the Ron Hayden Group, the Java Men, and Splatch at City Stage. I maintain that Louisville Jazz needs to make itself more aware of the overall scene in the city. I maintain that the musicians need to check out what other bands around town are doing in terms of sound, performance and style. I maintain that the performers in Louisville Jazz are good enough to jam with other groups that may or may not jell with their styles of playing. Ray Rizzo spreads his talent among three different bands, each with remarkably different sounds. Dick Sisto's vibe work probably won't match up with, say, The Velcro Pygmies, but it doesn't have to go that far.

I further maintain that Louisville Jazz must continue its outreach to young people through in-school performances, career-day appearances and work with high-school bands. One more child exposed to authentic musicianship is one less adult who will be enticed by the lilting blandness of "smooth jazz."

And for the life of me, can ANYONE tell me what is so un-smooth about anything other than "smooth jazz?" The John Coltrane-Johnny Hartman version of "You Are Too Beautiful" isn't smooth? Pat Metheny's "Are You Going With Me" isn't smooth? For every single four-and-a-half-minute-alto-sax-and-slap-bass-keyboard-and-drum-machine collection of major chords that goes down like skim milk, there are hundreds of mellow (and not so mellow), passionate beauties from the history of recorded jazz. "Smooth jazz" is a manufactured radio airplay category. Like Baby Bear's porridge, it's "juuuust right." Goldilocks's taste buds need to take a few more risks.

My, we do have a job ahead of us.

Finally, let me take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy Holiday. See you in 1999.