FURTHER REFLECTIONS ON THE LOCAL JAZZ SCENE
Pardon my soapbox, but I would like to add some additional thoughts to my opening piece from last month. Since writing on Louisville's revitalized jazz scene, some additional servings of food for thought have been added to my plate. First, as a subscriber to the e-mail list for the Blue Wisp Jazz Club in Cincinnati, I have learned that some of Cincinnati's longest running jazz programming has been scrapped in favor of radio drama programming. Apparently a torrent of e-mails to the program director of the station led to a response which, although lengthy, may be summarized as follows: "For twenty years we gave you jazz programming but you didn't support it financially, so don't come crying now."
Second, a recent business trip took me to our nation's capitol. While there in years past, I have been fortunate enough to hear jazz performers ranging from the Dixie Dregs to Mongo Santamaria to Kenny Garrett. This trip yielded a choice of jazz listings of performers apparently known only to local jazz aficionados. With limited time and resources, combined with staying in an area fairly far from the clubs, I ended up staying in my hotel room and searching in vain for jazz on the radio. I roamed from the bottom of the FM dial to the top and the closest I got was some Afrocuban jazz, immediately followed by a Cuban rap number on a show aimed at the Hispanic community rather than specifically to a jazz audience. That's right, the seat of our government, home of the White House and Pentagon, the Smithsonian and the Hirschorn, had no jazz that I could find on the radio at night. As many musicians and writers have proclaimed, jazz is arguably the quintessential American contribution to world culture. That there should be no nightly outlet for it in our nation's capitol is disturbing, at best.
Those of you old enough to remember the great 1974 R&B song by William DeVaughn, [coincidentally, a native of Washington, D.C.] "Be Thankful for What You Got," could well apply its message here. If Washington, DC and Cincinnati cannot maintain a regular jazz presence on the air, how can Louisville area jazz fans expect our local station to continue to air our music regularly if we do not support it with phone calls, e-mails, postal mail and, most significantly, our contributions of financial support. In the past year we have seen the loss of locally produced jazz at night, replaced by BORING canned jazz from out of state and the loss of the annual New Year's Eve Coast-to-Coast Live Jazz on NPR. Are we going to be reduced to "after-the-fact, please bring it back" missives when the powers that be at our local public radio station decide that jazz is not paying its fair share of the overall programming costs?
At this writing, WFPK is actually planning to designate July as "Louisville Jazz Society Month," so perhaps it is just my paranoia getting the better of me. Nonetheless, complacency is no substitute for support. That this sentiment should extend to supporting not just the radio, but the Jazz Society, the Seelbach Jazz Bar, the Jazz Factory, the other venues which also feature jazz and all of our wonderful local jazz musicians should go without saying. As the old saying [cleaned up for family reading] goes, money talks, bovine defecation walks.
ON THE HORIZON
Local jazz player, writer, teacher and all-around jazz person Jamey Aebersold will present the annual Jazz Summer Camp from June 29 to July 11 at the University of Louisville. The faculty, which includes musicians from around the country, will be featured at the Jazz In July concerts at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, July 2 and Wednesday, July 9 at Masterson's, 1830 South Third Street (636-2511). While final lineups have not been announced, some of the better-known players likely to grace the stage would include saxophonists Don Braden, Eric Alexander, Gene Walker, Gary Campbell and Jim Snidero; pianists Andy Laverne, David Hazeltine and Harry Pickens; organist Hank Marr; and many others. Tickets are $10 (general public), $8 (Louisville Jazz Society members) and $5 (students/camp attendees). Free workshop faculty concerts will also be presented on the Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings of both weeks at 7:30 in U of L's Comstock Recital Hall, with student concerts on Fridays from 1 - 5 p.m. in both the Comstock and Bird Halls.
For more information, call (812) 944-8141 or surf to www.jazzbooks.com/workshops.
The Louisville Jazz Society will host a fundraiser at Twice Told, now relocated to LaGrange. It will take place on Sunday, July 27, from 2 p.m. until around 6 or 7. The lineup features the Ray Byrd Band with Jim Coryell, Walker & Kays, the Steve Crews Trio and the Java Men. Twice-Told is located in LaGrange at 3507 West Highway 146. Check the website for directions: www.twicetold.net. Suggested contributions are $10, but all are welcome for whatever contribution may be affordable.
The Seelbach Jazz Bar, presented by Dick Sisto, continues to present excellent music with an unusually strong lineup of guest artists sitting in. Scheduled to join vibist Sisto, bassist Tyrone Wheeler and drummer Jason Tiemann, who are there on Fridays and Saturdays from 10 p.m. to 1 AM, are: on June 27, saxophonist Gene Walker; June 28, a Bill Evans tribute with New York pianist Andy Laverne; July 4-5, New Yorkers Jim Snidero (sax) and Andy Laverne (piano) with Fred Hamilton (listed as bass, but actually a guitarist); July 11-12, trumpeter/drummer Barry Ries; July 18-19, Chicago violinist Zach Brock; July 25-26, Cincinnati saxophonist Gordon Brisker and August 1-2, London pianist Geoff Eales.
Besides the array of nightly (except Mondays) local and regional artists, the Jazz Factory has announced that it will present "All-Star Madness" on July 4-5 with David Hazeltine, Jim Rotondi on trumpet and John Riley on bass (from the Aebersold Jazz Camp); British saxophonist Martin Speake, with Cincinnati pianist Phil DeGreg on July 9-10, ; "All Star Madness II" on July 11-12 with trombonist John Fedchock and organist Hank Marr on piano. The Jazz Factory, it is located at 815 W. Main Street in the Glassworks complex (web: www.jazzfactory.us [not ."com"]; phone: 992-3242.
While I try to keep my eyes and ears open for the special events in the area, as well as the ongoing gigs, it is impossible to be both complete and up-to-date. As a service to jazz fans, the Louisville Jazz Society (LJS) maintains an e-mail mailing list which sends out announcements of local jazz events and it is not limited to LJS members. If you wish to be added, send your e-mail address to: email@example.com.
As mentioned in last month's column, internal medicine specialist Ken Beilman, M.D., is also an accomplished pianist who recently released a new CD, entitled Nightfall, the proceeds of which will be donated to the Jefferson County Medical Society Medical Foundation. This CD was provided to me for review with the caveat that I might find it too "smooth" for my taste. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it comes across as "light" without being "lite," and avoids the clichés of so-called "smooth jazz." The good doctor plays all instruments by way of synthesizer, except for "acoustic drums" by Terry O'Mahoney, one of Louisville's top-flight jazz drummers. Throughout there is a sense of airiness that is enjoyable without being condescending. Occasionally the credits refer to a synthesized trumpet, which to me sounds like a "synthesizer" ought to sound, with little "trumpet-ness" (is that a word?). Similarly, the synthesized saxophone on a few cuts has more of a synthesizer sound than a sax sound. The synthesized flutes, steel drums and other instruments, however, are much truer to the "real things." While this is not intended for the jazz fan who doesn't venture outside of Monk, Mingus, Miles or `Trane, it is eminently listenable and would provide great cruising or picnic music. That it was produced in a home studio by a full-time physician adds an extra measure of pleasure.
Also in the news is the format switch of two local radio stations to "smooth jazz." In the interest of properly covering this change in the radio dial and with inquiries from friends, I have listened to WJZL-FM (93.1) and WJZO-FM (101.7). You will note the past tense. I listened in vain for anything sounding like jazz and gave up when I heard an oldie by Hall and Oates. I am no narrow jazz purist and I accept electric-era Miles Davis, Chick Corea's Return to Forever and Weather Report as valid expressions of jazz alongside the work of everyone from Louis Armstrong to Duke Ellington to Charles Mingus and John Coltrane. However, the vapid pop stylings of what these stations play sounds to me like background music for a cocktail lounge scene in a second-rate movie. It's not my place to tell you what you should or shouldn't listen to, nor to upbraid you for enjoying this music. I just cringe at the thought that new listeners may not understand that this has as much relevance to jazz as Bread or Lobo had to rock'n'roll. If you like this sort of music, you now know where to find it.
As mentioned briefly above, WFPK is going to promote the Louisville Jazz Society (LJS) by calling July "Louisville Jazz Society Month." At this writing, plans are still being fine-tuned. However, be sure to look for extra features, including interviews with LJS members on Friday July 11, 18 and 25 at approximately 1:30 p.m.; a Live Lunch Jazz presentation; and the possibility of live jazz mini-concerts during James Bickers' afternoon jazz program throughout the month. In addition, there are tentative plans for a "State of Affairs" interview and call-in program on Louisville Jazz on WFPK's sister station, WFPL. Also, July 1 is the scheduled date for replacing the current evening jazz host, who shall remain as nameless as he is personality-less, with San Francisco's well-respected Bob Parlocha. While this does not address the problematic loss of local jazz programming in the evening, it should still be a giant step ahead (ahem) [well, groan, really. - Ed.] for local listeners. You can obtain more information at www.jazzwithbobparlocha.com.
LIVE JAZZ IN THE AREA
The Blue Wisp (318 East 8th St., Cincinnati, OH 45202; 513-241-WISP; www.bluewispjazzclub.com), in addition to its nightly schedule, includes the following special engagements: July 4-5: Barry Ries trumpeter from New York (and frequent Jamey Aebersold Jazz Camp teacher and performer),; July 11-12: Martin Speake, saxophonist from London,; and July 18-19 Louisville's own Gail Wynters; all performing with The Phil DeGreg Trio.
The Jazz Kitchen (5377 N College Ave., Indianapolis, IN 46220; phone: 317-253-4900; www.thejazzkitchen.com) will present the amazing Charlie Hunter Trio, featuring saxophonist John Ellis and drummer extraordinaire Derrek Phillips on Monday, July 7. Having seen this edition of the Charlie Hunter Trio recently in New Orleans, I urge you to try to make it up to Indy for this event. Hunter uses an eight-string guitar strung with three bass strings and five standard ones to play bass and lead simultaneously. His repertoire is mostly original, but also includes covers ranging from the Jimi Hendrix blues of "Red House" to a stunning arrangement of the gospel standard "Wade in the Water." If you missed Freddie Cole's recent appearance here in Louisville at the Jazz Factory, you have a second chance to catch him at the Jazz Kitchen on July 12. Another Jamey Aebersold associate, saxophonist Gary Campbell, will be there on July 18.
As always, let me know what you think. You can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And remember, if you don't support jazz on the radio and in the clubs and concert halls, you'll be moanin' the blues when it's not around.