Recent Concerts And Events
In the "recent news" category, U of L's 10th Annual Jazz Week was another success. The focus in this wonderful series has always been two-fold: to bring the top jazz performers to town for public performances and to have these professionals interact with students. The consummate professionalism of the ever-young Dave Brubeck is addressed in a separate review. I would be remiss to overlook the wonderful performances of the Java Men, with laser light shows at the Rauch Planetarium. Their exploratory music was far superior to the visuals, which looked like computer screen savers, for the most part. Hal Miller's evening presentation of historic jazz video clips included "reruns" from past years, such as a delightful performance of Louisville's own Lionel Hampton hamming it up ( while playing superbly) on the old Steve Allen show. Highlights of the previously unseen clips were the John Coltrane quartet performing Coltrane's lovely ballad "Naima," and a mid-sixties performance by the Miles Davis Quintet, including a still-teenaged Tony Williams on drums, sparking young yet already established players Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock and Ron Carter. The following evening featured Kentucky-born singer Gail Wynters with backing by Harry Pickens and the University's Alumni Jazz Ensemble.
However, I committed heresy by attending the jazz-funk-soul of New Orleans' Galactic at the always-too-smoky Headliners. As usual, the band opened with an instrumental set, showcasing the saxophone of Ben Ellman and the mighty Stanton Moore on drums. Frankly, I had forgotten what a great down-home blues harpist Ellman can be, in addition to his prowess on sax. The band then featured vocalist Theryl "Houseman" de'Clouet, whose songs included his own "Action Speaks Louder Than Words" and an unlikely cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Saturday Night Special." The set concluded with two rap/singing songs featuring rapper Lyrics Born from the opening act.
Friday night, my apostasy being reined in, I returned to U of L for the performance by Bobby Watson on alto sax. His first set, all too short, was as featured soloist with the Harry Pickens Trio. The second set featured Watson with U of L's award-winning Jazz Ensemble I, directed by veteran composer/arranger/trumpeter John LaBarbera. The first set consisted of standards such as Charlie Parker's "Confirmation" and the classic ballad "The Shadow of Your Smile." The second set included the pleasant surprise of Charles Mingus' polemic "Fables of Faubus," alas, without the searing narrative commentary. The final night of U of L's Jazz Week brought trumpeter Marcus Printup back to Louisville for a set with the Pickens Trio, followed by one with the U of L Jazz Ensemble I. Printup's melodic phrasing and emotional depth were evident on both trumpet and flugelhorn.
Jazz Week actually became "Jazz Marathon." The University of Kentucky's Spotlight Jazz Series concluded the 2002-2003 season with violinist Regina Carter. Her performance at the Lexington Opera House the night after U of L Jazz week ended provided a study in contrasts. Where Watson and Printup had been featured soloists with local groups, Carter's working band demonstrated how improvisational music benefits from players interacting with each other on a regular basis. Carter drew heavily from her 2000 album Motor City Moments and from her soon-to be-released album Paganini: After a Dream. Her playing on numbers such as Lucky Thompson's "Prelude" evoked the lithe swing of the late master Stephane Grappelli, while the "classical" songs, such as Ravel's "Pavane Pour Une Infante Defunte" ("Dance for a Dead Princess") and Debussy's "Reverie" demonstrated her abilities not only as a player, but as an arranger. Her restylings of European classical pieces showed how the jazz improvisational approach and the ability to swing can peacefully coexist with the "play it like it's written" modus operandi of Western Classical music. Carter showcased her fine band, including Cuban-born percussionist Mayra Casales, on such pieces as "Mandingo Street" by Richard Bona and "Wise Little Cat" by her pianist Vana Gierig, with burning African and Hispanic rhythms and counter-rhythms.
The "Marathon" concluded the following night with a performance by Tunnels at the Rudyard Kipling here in Louisville. Tunnels is a fusion band, with connections to progressive rock. Five-string fretless bass player Percy Jones was a founding member of Brand X, whose latter-day incarnation included Tunnels' drummer Frank Katz. Rounding out the group was Marc Wagnon on MIDI-driven vibraphone. Sounding at times like Ernie Kovacs' "Nairobi Trio," at other times like Gary Burton on acoustic vibes and at other times like a rock guitarist, Wagnon showed a range of effects that were not just intriguing, but were, more importantly, musical. Standout numbers included "Frank's Beard" and "Bario." The Jazz Police, who stand ready to bust the musicians and fans who did not dismiss Miles Davis after plugging in with In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew, were conspicuous in their absence. However, a number of Louisville's own progressive musicians were in the enthralled audience.
On The Horizon
The BIG NEWS has already been broken by the Courier-Journal: Louisville is about to be blessed with a new jazz nightclub. Ken Shapero, formerly of UPS and his wife, author Dianne Aprile, are the key players behind the Jazz Factory, located at 815 W. Main Street in the Glassworks complex. The opening schedule is most impressive and is consistent with Shapero's desire to make this club the premiere destination for jazz by presenting the best of national, regional and local jazz talent. The full schedule will be posted on the club's website, www.jazzfactory.us (not ."com") and you can reach the club at 502-992-3242 for additional details. Opening night (April 12) will feature Louisville's own Bennett Higgins Quartet, with other featured acts rounding out the month, including the Todd Hildreth Trio, the Harry Pickens Trio, the incredible saxophonist Sonny Fortune (whose resume includes tenures with Miles Davis and McCoy Tyner), soulful organist Hank Marr and others. At least through opening month, Tuesdays will be free, with moderately priced cover charges on other nights (except for a special fundraiser on Derby Day). Shapero said in a brief interview that "we're excited" and, I would add, rightfully so. It is now up to the jazz community to show its support for this new venture.
Last but not least, WFPK-FM, 91.9, is beginning to emerge from a long cold winter which had local jazz enthusiasts worried about the continuing viability of jazz on what was once touted as "your jazz and information station." During Pledge Week, Louisville listeners were finally allowed to hear the long-delayed 2002 Chicago Jazz Festival. Due to decisions made at the Chicago end, 2002 was the first year in which the performances were not broadcast live by satellite. Rather, they were taped for subsequent distribution in hour-long segments. Unfortunately, each night's final performer seemed to have had closing numbers edited out for time considerations. Notwithstanding this, it was great for Louisville jazz fans to be treated to excellent performances, ranging from the elegance of Ahmad Jamahl (with guest George Coleman on saxophone) to the more exploratory and progressive work of guitarist Larry Coryell, also augmented by a guest saxophonist, Arthur Blythe.
The following Monday night, as noted in this column last month, WFPK played host to a performance by British guitarist Dave Cliff, joined by Cincinnati pianist Phil DeGreg and Louisville's first-call rhythm duo of bassist Tyrone Wheeler and drummer Jason Tiemann. (Due to inconsistencies in information from various sources, the names of Messrs. DeGreg and Tiemann were misspelled in last month's column, for which I apologize.) This group proved the exception to the rule that visiting soloists with local rhythm sections usually sound under-rehearsed. These musicians played together as if they had been on the road for quite some time. At this writing, WFPK plans to air that concert on Friday, April 11, from 9-11 p.m., followed by WFPK jazz host James Bickers playing an hour of Louisville jazz, from icons such as Helen Humes and Lionel Hampton to current leading lights Steve Crews and Ron Jones. This also marked the first collaboration between WFPK and the Louisville Jazz Society. Outgoing LJS President Lil Gascoyne and newly elected President Patty Bailey deserve hearty pats on the back for helping to bring this event together. Speaking of Ms. Bailey and WFPK, her new show "PB 'n Jazz" is scheduled to premiere on Sunday afternoon April 6, from 1 to either 2 or 3, plugging the current hole in the locally produced jazz shows. She plans to spice up the airwaves with a blend of Latin jazz and fusion, stirred in with other styles.
In The Area
While it is beyond the scope of this column to offer a full discussion of venues outside of Louisville (it's hard enough to cover local offerings!), I would like to direct your attention to Cincinnati's premiere jazz club, the Blue Wisp (318 East 8th St., Cincinnati, OH 45202; phone: 513-241-WISP; www.bluewispjazzclub.com) and The Jazz Kitchen (5377 N College Ave., Indianapolis, IN 46220; phone: 317-253-4900; www.thejazzkitchen.com). Both clubs feature full schedules. Highlights for April include Saxophonist Greg Abate (April 4-5) and young jazz violinist Zach Brock (April 18-19) at the Blue Wisp. The Jazz Kitchen schedule includes headliners the Brubeck Brothers on April 4, John Scofield (with his Uberjam Band, not Scolohofo) on April 7 and pianist Lynne Arriale on April 11. Also, "Remembering Benny Goodman," featuring clarinetist Ken Peplowski with Phil DeGreg, will take place on Sunday April 6, at Xavier University in Cincinnati. Students with IDs are free, other tickets range from $10-14 (Call (513) 745-3161 for tickets.)
I welcome and request your input and feedback. Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Until next month, please support jazz on the radio and in the clubs and concert halls. Otherwise, you'll miss it when it's no longer available.