Tim Roberts

Jazzin'
By Tim Roberts

100 Block East Main Street, North Side - The wrought-iron gate at the entrance to Roxy's Gentlemen's Club was chained and padlocked. A plastic banner stretched tight against the front window welcomed visitor's to last month's Farm Machinery Show. It's rectangular sign was dark, as was most of this block of Main Street. Only three clubs, a pizza restaurant, and two other businesses remain in this area bordered by the First and Second Streets. It wasn't even 9 o'clock and this edge of the city was empty. But March Madness always siphons early-evening business away from the clubs.

I stood outside the Mercury Paw, waiting for it to open. I had been invited to hear a unique jazz outfit that literally challenged the definition of the word duo. Once inside I met three young men from New England who made up Jetpack, the opening band that night , who was on their final gig of a four-date tour. We talked for awhile about Louisville's club scene. There were only ten people in the club as we talked. Three of us were neither Paw employees nor in a band scheduled to play. I mentioned that a lot of folks were probably at home watching March Madness.

"Oh, yeah?" a Jetpacker asked. "What's that?"

"March Madness," I repeated to blank responses. "The NCAA College Basketball Tournament."

There was still no response but a brief shrug. We can believe it or not: some people just don't care about college basketball and only want to play their music.

I was there for the second band on the bill. Promoting their latest release 12 Degrees of Freedom, the five members of The Chicago Underground Duo were in town for a show at the Paw. Yes, there are five members in this duo. They play in various combinations and produce different sounds each time. Founding member Rob Mazurek was on coronet and piano, Jeff Parker and Douglas McCombs played guitars, Noel Kupersmith played acoustic bass, and John Herdan was on drums, replacing other founding member Chad Taylor, who, as the band vaguely stated, was "called away."

A larger, receptive crowd had gathered at the Paw by the time the Duo played. I sat through a set where they performed as a quartet and duo. McCombs and Kupersmith, as the duo, played two ambient pieces that were like electric lullabies, one of which even sampled jungle-bird calls. The quartet, adding Mazurek and Herdan, played a straight-ahead fusion number loaded with sensuous subtlety.

The Mercury Paw is known for having a true variety of acts on one bill. That night, they showed it can work. Plus they've widened the stage. For months acts there have performed on the runway stage left behind from the Paw's previous incarnation as a "gentlemen's club." The Java Men have already performed there, and now the appearance of the Chicago Underground Duo has shown jazz can work within the blend of other bands that perform on a given night. Perhaps the city has gained another non-traditional jazz venue.

Speaking of the Java Men, Todd Hildreth informed me that the trio's "Farewell, For Now" performances will be on Monday, April 19 at Clifton's Pizza on Frankfort Avenue. Shows will be at 7 and 10 PM for one night only. Tickets for each show will be $6.00, or you can see both for $10.00. You can get your tickets at ear X-tacy or Clifton's.

This will be your last chance to see the Java Men perform before drummer Ray Rizzo and guitarist Craig Wagner join the re-formed Days of the New. Todd has mentioned that the trio will perform together whenever breaks in Craig's and Ray's touring schedule bring them back into town.

This show is a memory in the making. Get your tickets early.

Catch Splatch at Mason's on April 2 and 3 at 11:00 each night. They take to the road a couple times this month. On April 10, they'll be at Sebastian's in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, then they'll play at The Office in Evansville on April 17. They'll be back at Mason's on April 30 and Derby Day. Look for the band's second release from to hit stores sometime after the depravity of Derby washes away.

Similar Nature, an electric violin quartet, makes an appearance at Mason's on April 17.