Recent Concerts And Events
Well, the Jazz Factory is now open. Work and family commitments prevented me from stopping by to check it out before this month's deadline. However, the preliminary reports are promising. Jim Coryell, a fellow Board member of the Louisville Jazz Society (LJS), provided the following impressions: "Starkly elegant and modern decor. Stylish and intimate. Excellent sound, clear acoustics. Piano needs better microphones. Horns and bass sound fantastic. A great room for music. Good food with attentive, friendly service." Another jazz fan who went right after work commented that while "the place is sweet - hip, slick," conversation from the dining crowd tended to drown out the performers. Perhaps the later shows will be more conducive to serious listening, if this "snapshot" is accurate regarding the earlier evening performances. One other jazz fan commented that the lengthy wait between the first and second sets of the evening was too much for he and his wife to handle. All in all, even the "caveats" seem to indicate more of a need for ironing out some relatively minor bugs and should not deter listeners from stopping in and forming their own impressions.
Local Musician Releases Two New Discs
Ray Johnson 2002 CDs: The Dynamic Duo, Vol. 1 And Ray Johnson And Friends Play Jazz, Vol.1
As proudly announced on the cover of Play Jazz, these two CDS are, in fact by "Louisville's own" Ray Johnson. The venerable pianist, featured on the cover of the February 2003 Louisville Music News, has released these two albums on his own Space Cadet Records label. The Dynamic Duo consists of Johnson and "the late, great jazz clarinetist Scotty MacLaury" (again, quoting from the CD cover).
Intriguingly, the duo sessions are more aggressive than the quartet performances. Johnson's quartet consisted of David Wilson on tenor sax, Ben Ingram on bass and Darryel Cotten on drums. Over the course of 65 minutes, they do, indeed, "Play Jazz." They begin with the old pop tune "Make Someone Happy," before switching gears and eras to tackle John Coltrane's classic modal piece, "Impressions." This "Impressions" is notable for its transformation of Trane's urgency into a mellower workout for all the players. Conversely, Johnson's arrangement of "Lover Man" is taken at a higher than usual tempo. The Quartet turns the old movie title song, "Around the World in Eighty Days" into a swinging exercise in improvisation, featuring a clearly articulated bass solo by Ingram.
The Johnson/MacLaury Duo start things off with the Gershwin chestnut "'S'wonderful" taken at a faster pace than many other jazz versions. The next tune, "Sweet and Lovely" could be renamed "Sweet and Happy" based on the performance here. The ballad "The Night has A thousand Eyes" is played in a swinging upbeat version. Although MacLaury is credited with clarinet only, the Earl "Fatha" Hines standard sure sounds like a saxophone-piano duet to me and a most enjoyable one at that. All in all, although this is a little short by CD standards (41 minutes), it is a delightful 41 minutes indeed and well worth seeking out. Other songs on this recording include a very gentle "Sophisticated Lady," "Laura" and others.
On The Horizon
The Hank Marr Quartet featuring Gene Walker on tenor sax will perform at the Jazz Factory Wednesday April 30 through Friday May 2. Marr first came to prominence in the 1960s as a soul jazz organist on the legendary King label out of Cincinnati. While those recordings are apparently out of print, he does have three CDS recorded in the 1990s on Jamey Aebersold's Double-Time label. His appearances over the years in Louisville have included a concert sponsored by the LJS several years ago and several performances as part of the Jamey Aebersold Jazz Camp All-Stars in more recent times. $12.50 (W-T), /$15 (F) His Quartet will also appear with The Mike Tracy Quartet and the Ron Hayden Group on Derby Day for a special Glassworks Derby Gala Benefit to raise funds for the Wayside Christian Mission. Tickets for the Benefit are $150 and are available only from the Glassworks office 992-3056. You can reach the club at 502-992-3242, or online at www.jazzfactory.us (not ."com").
The Fred Hersch Trio
The Louisville Jazz Society will present the return of the Fred Hersch Trio on Monday, May 12 at the Jazz Factory, in support of its current Palmetto Records release titled Live At The Village Vanguard. Hersch is one of the top jazz pianists of our time, with an extensive and highly varied catalogue of recordings as both leader and sideman. His bassist, Drew Gress, has been a musical colleague for many years. Drummer Nasheet Waits is a superb young percussionist and the son of the late jazz drummer Freddie Waits. This is the same personnel heard on the Vanguard recording, which has garnered high praise from reviewers.
While it is always enjoyable to hear a good jazz player sitting in with a local rhythm section, it is a rare treat to be able to come see such a superb musician as Hersch with his own working group. This past fall, Louisville jazz fans were able to get "up close and personal" with such veterans as saxophonist Dave Liebman and his Quintet and drummer Peter Erskine's Trio, as well as up-and-coming pianist Aaron Parks' Trio. The interplay evident in each of these performances adds to the anticipation for seeing the Fred Hersch Trio.
An earlier version of the Fred Hersch Trio played for the LJS several years ago. Hersch himself has also performed in Louisville in collaboration with our own vibraphonist and multi-instrumentalist Dick Sisto, with whom he has recorded two CDs. His current discography as a leader or co-leader includes more than 30 recordings, with an additional 60 (and counting) recordings as a sideman. He is on the web at www.fredhersch.com. His extensive discography, with many reviews, may be found at allmusicnews.net (type Fred Hersch without quotation marks). Hersch, besides being an excellent player and composer, is also a committed AIDS activist.
WFPK-FM, 91.9, has apparently scheduled an encore of Dick Sisto's interview and performance with Hersch on Sunday, May 11, at 12 noon. This will provide a good introduction for this talented musician to those have not previously heard him and will offer a pleasant return engagement for Hersch's fans.
As a segue from the WFPK item in the Hersch article, WFPK has other jazz news. As noted in this column last month, WFPK hosted 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, which was aired on Friday, April 11, followed by WFPK jazz host James Bickers playing an hour of Louisville jazz. Also, LJS President Patty Bailey's new WFPK show "PB 'n Jazz" in fact did premiere on Sunday April 6 and the time is now confirmed as being weekly from 1 to 2.
Last but (ahem) not least, at press time, WFPK plans to have brief updates from your intrepid columnist's sojourn to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. At press time, the station intends to air live mini-interviews on Thursday and Friday, April 24 and 25 and May 1 and 2, at approximately 1:30 p.m.. Wait a minute, that's Derby Week! Yep, but the Derby Festivities will not include such notable jazz performers as Ornette Coleman, Chico Hamilton, Cassandra Wilson, Ellis Marsalis, Dave Holland (who was killin' in Lexington back on a chilly February night), Regina Carter (who likewise received an ovation the following month in Lexington), the Herbie Mann Reunion Band (with Larry Coryell and David "Fathead" Newman) and (to coin a cliche), others too numerous to mention.
In The Area
The May calendar for the Blue Wisp (318 East 8th St., Cincinnati, OH 45202 was not received in time for this column, but if you plan to be in Cincinnati, you can call the club at 513-241-WISP or check its website, www.bluewispjazzclub.com) The Jazz Kitchen (5377 N College Ave., Indianapolis, IN 46220; phone: 317-253-4900; www.thejazzkitchen.com) presents Steve Smith and Vital Information with guest saxophonist Bill Evans on Monday, May 5, beginning with a Steve Smith Drum Clinic at 5 p.m. and followed by two non-smoking shows at 7 and 9 p.m..
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.