Recent Jazz Concerts And Events

By Martin Z. Kasdan

Organist Joey DeFrancesco's recent appearance at the Jazz Factory, sponsored by the Louisville Jazz Society, was unfortunately scheduled the same night as Ray Charles. Ah, a surfeit of choices for the music lover. DeFrancesco, in high spirits throughout the evening, acknowledged this toward the end of his second set by thanking those of us who came to see him and then by paying homage to the "Genius of Soul" with a romping version of "I Gotta Woman." After a climactic organ solo, DeFrancesco turned the proceedings over to guitarist Carl Lockett. His years of experience working behind everyone from Brook Benton and Esther Phillips to Pharoah Sanders paid off, as he brought the boiling stewpot down to a serious simmer. Longtime DeFrancesco drummer Byron "Wookie" Landham was excellent throughout. Two songs in the first set and one in the second featured guest vocals by Nashville-based Annie Sellick, with whom DeFrancesco recorded last year. With dreadlocks bouncing, she looked like she should have been hawking veggie burritos outside of a Dead show, but her vocal skills quickly established her as a jazz singer within the classic tradition, complete with Betty Carter mannerisms. Throughout the evening, DeFrancesco emphasized in both word and deed that while jazz may be serious music played by serious musicians, it should still be fun.

Earlier in June, the 2003 Bellarmine Jazz Guitar Clinic continued its tradition of bringing some of the best mainstream jazz guitarists to town. Besides a two-day clinic, there was a concert featuring this year's guest instructors, John Stowell and Ron Affif. Bellarmine Faculty member and clinic coordinator, Jeff Sherman opened the evening playing with his customary style and grace. His tone was always mellow. Stowell followed and his playing was a pleasant surprise for me. My familiarity with him essentially started and ended some twenty years ago, when he was recording with bassist David Friesen. His current approach to his music seems paradoxically to be almost intellectually detached yet full of warmth. Then, in a break from the format of previous years, Stowell invited Affif to join him. The interplay of these two guitarists, with very different styles, was fascinating. Stowell, seated and holding his electric guitar in a classical guitar fashion, playing elegant lines against Affif's exuberant, foot-tapping and almost rock-like licks, provided a visual as well as musical study in contrasts. The accompaniment throughout the evening was provided by two of Louisville's best jazz musicians, Tyrone Wheeler on bass and Paul Culligan on drums.