It's August. Summer has flown by, school will start up again in a few weeks, Labor Day is around the corner and fall will be here before you know it. There's just enough time for one last flurry of a festival to keep the end-of-summer blues at bay. You've been waiting for it, preparing for it. You've emptied the cooler of the liquid remains of last year's icy six-pack. You've oiled the creaky old lawn chair for one more weekend of sun, fun and Jazz. All that remains is to know who's coming.
Who do you look for to fill the air with music after the Bard's boys and girls have vacated the amphitheatre in Central Park? Well, frankly, nobody. Yes, Boobie, the sounds of bebop, salsa and fusion will no longer waft through Old Louisville on a hot August night (sorry, Mr. Diamond). You can no longer boogie under the trees, shop for exotic African trinkets and t-shirts or kibitz with the nearby tennis players to the strains of those heavenly tones we call Jazz. In an attempt to attract a more varied and geographically diverse audience (tourists), the Kentucky Center for the Arts has chosen to discontinue Jazz in Central Park in favor of an expanded "Kentucky Center for the Arts Jazz and Heritage Festival." The plan was to move the festival to the waterfront (I guess Central Park was too small to fit the banner naming the event), expand from two to three days and present a more varied musical menu, sort of like the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (catchy name).
The problem was that there wasn't enough corporate sponsorship to fund such an adventurous project; at least not this year. Granted, Jazz in Central Park wasn't perfect. Not the least of its problems were parking, and the hiring for the past several years of a sound company that was clearly in over its head. But the music, when you could hear it, was good, and we were entertained by local, regional and national acts in a lovely neighborhood where you could stroll around, sit in the shade of a tree or toss a Frisbee around without risk of it ending up in the mighty Ohio. Okay, I've let my cynicism get the best of me: I'm sure the folks at KCA have the best of intentions. But Jazz in Central Park was "our" Jazz festival, and now we'll have to deal with the "(insert corporate name here) Kentucky Center for the Arts Jazz and Heritage Festival," lose the charm of the location and be herded like lemmings to the waterfront along with all the other festivals in town. I wish them luck. Really I do.
Lest the folks at KCA write me off the "A" list, I do want to tell you about some of the great work they're doing for Jazz inside the building. The fall season for Jazz Cabaret and Midnight Ramble series promises to be spectacular. In September, the Jazz Cabaret Series begins with an unlikely duo, sisters Rachel and Sara Caswell. Rachel sings while Sara fiddles. Perhaps that's a bit simplistic, but they both appear to have the chops to pull it off. Sara has several Downbeat awards to her credit, and Rachel has been involved in the Thelonious Monk Institute. They will appear on Sunday, September 23 and as always, Jazz Cabaret concerts begin at 6 p.m. in Clark-Todd Hall.
The season continues on October 21 with local favorite, vibist Dick Sisto. By that time, his new duet album with Fred Hersch should be out. On November 4, another local luminary, Ron Jones, shines forth with his quartet. Ron's been making the scene in the region for several years now (so, what about a new album, huh?). Then on December 16, pianist Harry Pickens and his trio will appear. For a look at how Harry performs in concert, check out two Double Time Records releases of the past couple of years, recorded at IU Southeast and U of L.
The Midnight Ramble series opens on October 27 with Dianne Reeves at the Brown Theatre as she presents her homage to Sarah Vaughn. On November 3, Jazz/R&B vibist Roy Ayres takes the stage at the Bomhard Theatre. Roy's been performing overseas for the past several years and now turns his sights stateside. It's funky Friday on December 7 as The Meters, with original members Art Neville and George Porter Jr., appear in the Bomhard Theatre. It's a night that won't live in infamy.
Well, I'm about out of paper and my Crayola is getting dull, so get out and hear some live Jazz fer cryin' out loud! If the KCA police haven't hunted me down and strung me up, I'll chat with you next month.