Tim Roberts

Jazzin'
By Tim Roberts

Happy New Year and welcome to the End of the Century. Yes, I'm one of those purists who insists the millennium won't begin until next year. My only question is, where are the robot houses, flying cars and undersea cities we were promised in our youths? How come we don't wear those little thin hoops around our wrists like George and Jane Jetson? And when are they ever going to find that big black rectangle on the moon that made all the monkeys smart millions of years ago? No one's set foot up there for more than thirty years. C'mon, people, we're way behind schedule.

We've been waiting for two years. It's been promised to us since last Derby. Then it was promised to us last fall. Then it was promised to be in our hands in time to stuff a few holiday stockings. Now it probably won't show up in the store racks until February or March. But there's a reason: the new CD from Splatch, Instrumental Peoples Music, may be headed for a label with national and international distribution. Our intrepid Unconfirmed Source reports that the band may be close to signing a record deal. Part of the deal may include a marketing plan, touring support, a road crew and even a cartoon series similar to "Josie and the Pussycats," except the band won't wear formfitting bodysuits and little pointy ears when they perform.

Frontman Tony McDaniel assured me the recording is in the can. No more mixing or remixing or re-remixing or re-recording needs to be done. However, the band is writing and rehearsing new material. They aren't performing in town or in the region too much, either. That may change if and when the alleged record deal is official. When it is, Splatch will be the first jazz group from Louisville in recent memory (with the exception of several solo artists, such as saxophonist Don Braden, the late guitarist Jimmy Raney and others) to be on a major record label.

I'm into my third year of writing this column and I think by now I've come to grips with the limitations of jazz in Louisville. That is not a reflection of the quality of many of the performers in the city. To put it succinctly, the jazz community in Louisville is small. It's a community that includes its performers and the relatively small number of consistently supportive fans. So when someone approaches me with an idea relating to jazz in Louisville, I'm attentive but, depending on the place and time, will always question the idea and confront the person with a few facts based on what I've seen over the past three years, and from what I've learned from the performers I know.

That happened to me the Liquid Soul show at the Bomhard Theater last November.

A largish gentleman seated himself next to me and, while smoking a slender cigar (which I thought was forbidden anywhere in the Kentucky Center for the Arts), noticed I was scribbling a few words into my notepad. He asked what I was doing. I introduced myself and told him I wrote about jazz for this fine publication.

Once I tell folks I write about music, I sometimes get on the receiving end of an elongated spiel about how this city needs (choose any of the following): 1) more live music, 2) more clubs that play live music, 3) more people to come out and hear live music, 4) more bands, and 5) a radio station that plays nothing but [fill in the blank].

The man introduced himself as "Bernard" (not his real name, obviously; I actually forgot it soon after his introduction). He said he was from Chicago, Liquid Soul's hometown, hoping to open an advertising and publicity shop here in Louisville. He also said he wanted to start an all-jazz station here. His logic? This city doesn't have one like Chicago, New York, Detroit or Los Angeles does. He indicated there were enough people at the Liquid Soul show enjoying themselves. Therefore, Louisville should have a jazz station.

I only nodded and acted busy with my notes. A few minutes later he excused himself and walked toward the dance floor. I didn't have it in me to tell him his logic was fouled, that there already is a station that plays jazz in town (regularly but only as one part of its total programming), that there just aren't the demographics in this city to make such a venture profitable. The one station that played smooth jazz (all narcolepsy, all the time) switched its format. Any attempts at keeping open a jazz-only club were appreciated but failed.

Louisville is not a jazz town, unlike the cities "Bernard" mentioned. No all-jazz station would last. The numbers aren't here. Nor would they increase if someone loaded with cash popped an all-jazz station onto the airwaves. This if-you-build-it-they-will-come magic only happens in movies about ballfields and lost fathers.

"Bernard" isn't the first one to float that particular idea around me. There will be more. All I can do is smile and say no.

See you in thirty.

"Jazzin'" columnist Tim Roberts is really getting into writing "00" as the last two digits of the year on all his checks. Send your jazz-related dispatches to tim@troberts.win.net, or to his attention to the editorial offices of Louisville Music News.