Martin Z. Kasdan Jr.

Jazzin'
By Martin Z. Kasdan Jr.

Recent Concerts And Events

With little advance notice, the Kentucky Center for the Arts (KCA) sponsored a jazz festival on the Belvedere on Saturday and Sunday, August 23 and 24. Nevertheless, the turnout was good on both days. Featured performers included the Spirit of Life Ensemble, our own Ron Jones, the Bobby Broom Trio with guest Dick Sisto (misleadingly billed as "The Chicago Connection"), Louisville percussionist Hugh Petersen, vocalist Rene Marie and the headliner, Regina Carter. Unfortunately, I missed the opening performances each day by Peterson and Jones, as well as the set by Marie. However, my colleagues in the Louisville Jazz Society assured me that their sets were also excellent.

A special treat for me was the unexpected roster of musicians in the Spirit of Life Ensemble. An Internet search did not provide me with advance information on the current personnel, so I was pleased to see saxophonist Joe Ford (a member of some of McCoy Tyner's 1970s ensembles), percussionist Guilherme Franco (also a Tyner alumnus), as well as pianist Michael Cochrane, among others. Their repertoire included both originals and standards. A highlight was the brilliant singing of Joe Lee Wilson, a singer who to me is one of the very few (besides the late Leon Thomas) who can successfully combine a solid blues base with a Coltrane-like spiritual presence. He was especially enthralling in a piece which he said came to him in a dream and which drew upon his Native American as well his African American heritage.

After the first day's festivities, I went over to hear Bobby Broom's Trio with Dick Sisto at the Seelbach. It was fun, in one sense, to hear Sisto as guest in another musician's trio, rather than the usual format of a guest artist with the Dick Sisto Trio. Bobby Broom's guitar artistry was enhanced by Sisto's work on vibes and, occasionally, piano. Together with Broom's bassist Dennis Carroll and his drummer, George Fludas, they created a superb bop-oriented set of originals and standards. I was especially impressed with the ensemble's treatment of several original Sisto and Broom compositions.

During the intermission, Broom and I had a chance to talk. I told him I had been a fan of his since hearing him with Sonny Rollins and Dr. John. He said that he had enjoyed playing with Dr. John, despite the fact that he did not consider himself to be a rock or blues guitarist, but rather a jazz guitarist. From that perspective, he said that he was pleased that before he left Dr. John's group to focus on a solo career, he was happy to have had the opportunity to record the Duke Ellington tribute Duke Elegant. He said that during the years he was with Dr. John, he felt that his jazz chops were not sufficiently together, so that he does not consider his solo recordings from that period to be representative of his current abilities. He is currently working regularly in Chicago, both with this trio and an organ ensemble, so his past dissatisfaction with his jazz performance should remain in the past.

In an e-mail follow-up to our conversation, he commented on his years with Sonny Rollins, in an eloquent manner which I will quote in full: "Early on in my career, Sonny Rollins was definitely a mentor to me. His influence transmitted through example rather than advice. I first performed with him when I was real young - 16 years old - and then again on a regular basis at age 21 for four or five more years. In addition to his unparalleled way of speaking through his horn, Sonny's stature as Jazz Statesman and the thoughtful gentleman that he was, were perfect examples for me to aspire to. We are still in touch and I have the most fond memories of my time with him."

The following afternoon, Broom and Sisto played for a much larger audience at the Festival, reprising some of the songs from the previous night, but adding others to the mix. Following their performance, violinist Regina Carter closed the Festival in grand style, performing with the same quintet which had backed her when I saw her in February in Lexington and in May in New Orleans, with the exception of a new pianist. He fit right in, however and his work enhanced her performance on numbers ranging from the uptempo blues of "Prelude," written by Lucky Thompson, from Motor City Magic, to the jazz arrangement of Ravel's "Dance for a Dead Princess." The Ravel piece, as well as several others she performed, are featured on her current CD, Paganini: After a Dream. Her drummer, Alvester Garnett and her Cuban-born percussionist, Mayra Casales, were a formidable team and her bassist, Chris Lightcap, showed great sensitivity in his accompaniment, as well as dexterity and feeling in his solos. Another highlight was "Mandingo Street" by "our friend" Richard Bona, a talented bassist and singer. The Kentucky Center is to be commended for returning high quality real jazz to a free outdoor setting, following the demise of the Central Park Festival.

The Louisville Jazz Society presented the great Polish pianist Adam Makowicz, together with our own Gail Wynters, in a special concert at the Jazz Factory on September 15. With the co-sponsorship of the University of Louisville, Makowicz had given a matinee performance at U of L the previous day, which won rave reviews from friends who were able to attend. At the Jazz Factory, he performed two sets, with vocalist Wynters joining him for part of each. They had previously toured together in Europe, presenting a program of Gershwin material and reprised portions of that for the enthusiastic Jazz Factory audience. During his solo segments, Makowicz demonstrated his ability to improvise on pieces as varied as Chopin compositions as well as jazz standards. A particular highlight was his second set performance of Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue." When joined by Wynters, he became a backup musician more than an equal partner, except during his solo space. Wynters emphasized the lyrics of the Gershwin material with a somewhat theatrical approach, which reminded me more of a cabaret performer than a jazz artist. She proved a versatile scat singer as well.

Following my listening to and review of the recent Rahsaan Roland Kirk release, Compliments of the Mysterious Phantom, I decided to reacquaint myself with his classic live set Bright Moments. During the course of this concert recording, he gives his audience several history lessons, both in his spoken introductions and his musical performances. A highlight of the proselytizing Kirk was his introduction to his rendition of Fats Waller's, beautiful "Jitterbug Waltz." This helped to heighten my expectations for seeing Actors Theatre's presentation of the Fats Waller musical Ain't Misbehavin,' a delightful romp through the repertoire of this seminal jazz figure. I assumed that after both the Courier-Journal and LEO had mentioned the technical problems with the acoustics, that these would have been resolved by the time I finally made it to the final performance. During the first act, I was seated on audience left, about ten rows from the stage and actually had to cover my ears several times due to the over-amplification of the actors' voices. They were close-miked so poorly that the audience heard the sound system more than the actual voices of the singers, making much of the performance look lip synched. The problem was not as acute when I moved to the rear of the floor and toward the center for the second act. Nonetheless, it was most distracting. The pit band was excellent, featuring bassist Tyrone Wheeler, drummer Darryel Cotton and saxophonist Gary Falk, among others. The performers danced energetically, with all performers having both solo and ensemble opportunities to strut their stuff. The only aesthetic slipup, in my opinion, was a turbocharged version of "Jitterbug Waltz," which lost the delightful lilt of this lovely piece in a heavy-handed arrangement. Other Waller showstoppers, such as "Your Feets Too Big," "Ain't Misbehavin'" and so forth could stand up to this sort of powerhouse arrangement. The set was, as usual for ATL, excellent, bringing the audience into the ambiance of a Harlem nightclub from the days of the Harlem renaissance, with walls that looked as if they had been inspired by WPA engravings.

Jazz On WFPK

At press time, the Jazz Factory and WFPK were scheduled to premiere a new weekly live jazz performance broadcast on Friday, September 26: "Late Set at The Jazz Factory" with singer/bassist Kristin Korb's second set. "Late Set at The Jazz Factory" will air every Friday night at 11 p.m. on WFPK, 91.9 FM. Keep up the good work and thanks!

On The Horizon

As I write this, I anticipate a late evening in the coming week: Jamaican jazz pianist Monty Alexander and his quartet are scheduled to perform at a Louisville jazz Society-sponsored concert at the jazz Factory on Wednesday, September 24. That same night, at the revived Uncle Pleasant's, Garaj Mahal will perform. Who? Garaj Mahal, as in guitarist Fareed Haque, whose recordings include a Blue Note album of jazz impressions of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's classic Deja Vu and bassist Kai Eckhardt, perhaps best known for his work with John McLaughlin in the 1980s. Together with a keyboardist and drummer, they have created quite a stir in the jamband community, as well as among old school fusion fans.

As previously noted here, The Jazz Factory will present, on Thursday, October 2, pianist and composer-arranger Rachel Z, who is well known for both her work with Peter Gabriel and Wayne Shorter. She has also recorded a jazz tribute to Joni Mitchell. The following Monday night, October 6, legendary guitarist Larry Coryell will appear with his trio, following a performance at Big Rock Park the previous afternoon. For more on this special appearance, please see the Larry Coryell feature elsewhere. On Thursday, October 9, New Orleans' Astral Project will appear. Astral Project, a personal favorite of mine, played the Rudyard Kipling a few years ago with special guest Howard Levy on piano. Now a quartet and playing tighter than ever, the jazz-meets-second line rhythms of drummer Johnny Vidacovich propel bassist Jim Singleton, guitarist Steve Masakowski and saxophonist Tony Dagradi into explorations appealing to both hard bop and progressive jazz fans. After a quarter of a century together, these guys just keep getting better and better. One other special attraction currently booked through the end of the month is the Avishai Cohen Quartet on Friday and Saturday, October 31 and November 1. The Jazz Factory is located at 815 W. Main Street in the Glassworks complex (web: www.jazzfactory.us [not ."com"]; phone: 992-3242.

The Seelbach Jazz Bar, booked by Dick Sisto, continues to present excellent music on Thursdays and Fridays, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. with Dick Sisto and Tyrone Wheeler, with the following guests scheduled for the month of October on Fridays and Saturdays:

October 3-4: Chicago tenor saxophonist Mark Colby; 10-11: The Wagner, Hildreth, Duncan Band; 17: Craig Wagner, Jacob Duncan Quartet; 18: Trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis; 24-25: New York pianist Michael Jeffrey Stevens; October 31- November 1: Flugelhornist James Lewis.

The Rudyard Kipling will feature the return of jazz fusion group Tunnels, featuring former Brand X bassist Percy Jones, on Thursday, October 23, this time as a double bill with accomplished singer Sarah Pillow. Pillow has recently released a 2-CD set entitled Remixes, consisting of one disk of traditional arrangements of European classical songs from centuries past and one disk of the same songs re-imagined in a fusion context and which includes members of Tunnels. This should prove to be a most intriguing evening.

Other local venues also continue to support jazz. These include the Comedy Caravan at the Mid-City Mall on Bardstown Road, home of the regular third Monday performances of the Roger Dane Jazz Orchestra. The Rudyard Kipling sponsors Ray Rizzo's "Open Air Transmissions" weekly jam session on Wednesdays, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.. Artemisia, 620 East Market Street also has a regular lineup of small jazz groups, as do Steam Fire & Ice, 2427 Bardstown Road; and Clifton's Pizza, 2230 Frankfort Avenue.

The Kentucky Center for the Arts' Jazz Cabaret Series, will feature the Eric Gould Group on October 12, with other concerts scheduled through April, as noted here last month. For details, call 584-7777 or surf to www.kentuckycenter.org.

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: loujazz@bellsouth.net.

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, will feature saxophonist Greg Abate on October 3-4 and trumpeter Warren Vache on Halloween. The Jazz Kitchen (5377 N College Ave., Indianapolis, IN 46220; phone: 317-253-4900; www.thejazzkitchen.com) will present Kenny Garrett on Monday October 6, so if you are stuck inside of Indy with the Louisville blues again that night, you should definitely check out this superb saxophonist.

Happy Trails To You

I am humbled by the positive feedback I have received from various musicians and I very much appreciate their kind words. Whether your words are kind or otherwise, let me know what you think. You can e-mail me at mzkjr@louisvillejazz.org. And remember, support jazz on the radio and in the clubs and concert halls. Period.