Martin Z. Kasdan Jr.

Jazzin'
By Martin Z. Kasdan Jr.

Recent Concerts And Events

The Louisville Jazz Society (LJS), in conjunction with the Twice Told Performance Cafe in LaGrange and with the assistance of WFPK, sponsored a fundraising concert on July 27, which featured several of our best local jazz artists. Due to family commitments, I missed the opening act, Frankfort's Ray Byrd Band, featuring Jim Coryell on guitar. Friends in the audience compared his work favorably to that of his well-known brother, Larry Coryell, which is high praise indeed.

Steve Crews brought his excellent trio in for a set of standards as well as originals. Butch Neeld and Hubert Griffin Jr., on electric bass and drums, respectively, were always right on the money, as would be expected given their long history of working together with Crews. Two highlights of this set were Jamey Aebersold's "Mr. Higgins" and the classic "Someday My Prince Will Come." The latter song was dedicated to LJS's past president, Lil Gascoyne, who almost single-handedly kept the LJS going for the past several years before Board turnover resulted in the current group of active participants. Current president Patty Bailey presented her predecessor with a much-deserved plaque and a gift certificate to Jack Fry's in appreciation of her hard work.

Next up was Walker and Kays, probably Louisville's best known jazz vocal group. Jeanette Kays' singing on a wide range of material, including the opening number, "Centerpiece" and Thelonious Monk's classic "Ask Me Now," was impressive (as always). Her longtime partner, guitarist Greg Walker, swung effortlessly throughout the set, occasionally adding harmony vocals. Bruce Morrow and Sonny Stephens provided excellent support on drums and bass, respectively.

The Java Men closed out the day with a set which peaked with guitarist Craig Wagner's composition "Gaddzooks." Another highlight was Todd Hildreth's "It's All Yours If You Want It." Hildreth introduced this by saying the band would take us back to New Orleans, which was effectively accomplished in large part through drummer Paul Culligan's second line rhythms. Culligan has apparently become the regular drummer for the Java Men, since Ray Rizzo has his hands in so many different projects these days. Pianist/accordionist Hildreth told me that Rizzo would still play with the group from time to time. Hildreth also mentioned that he is looking for different textures by emphasizing piano rather than organ these days. Chris Fitzgerald's bass playing has opened up the possibility of this different approach, since Hildreth does not have to be responsible for supplying bass lines as well as chords and solos.

Overall, the event was a success both musically and financially. Additionally, it brought a diverse group of jazz fans to the new Twice Told, a group its owner hopes will return for other concerts. For updates on this venue, call 502-222-4506 (a local call from Louisville), or check the website: www.twicetoldinfo.com. With little advance notice, the Kentucky Center sponsored a jazz festival on the Belvedere on Saturday and Sunday, August 23 and 24. Deadlines being what they are, I was unable to give you a heads up last month and a review will have to await the October issue. At this writing, Regina Carter will be the headliner of the Sunday festivities and of the two-day festival as well. Given the fact that Day Two is a Sunday, after school has started, it is unfortunate that the timing was 5:30 to 10 p.m., rather than a more family-friendly 3:30 to 8 p.m..

Recent Local Recordings

This month I would like to focus on two recent vocal albums of particular interest to the Louisville jazz community. Besides featuring Louisville-based artists, both were recorded here. Barb & Eddie, who are featured regularly at John E's Restaurant, have released When I'm With You. Barb is Barbara Polk, the singer and Eddie is Eddie Humphries, who plays tenor saxophone and flute. They are accompanied by John Bizianes on keyboards and Bruce Morrow on drums. The album is a mix of older standards and 1970s pop tunes, befitting their description in the Courier-Journal's "In the Clubs" weekly listing as "light jazz, pop, standards." Thus, it should provide their fans with a way to enjoy their music at home. Perhaps most interesting are covers of two Steely Dan songs, "Deacon Blues," and "FM." Also on tap is the 1976 hit "Moonlight Feels Right" by Starbuck (remember when that was the name of a light pop group, rather than a ubiquitous java chain?) Of the more traditional fare, familiar numbers include "When You Wish Upon a Star," and "Stardust." Throughout the CD, Polk and Humphries interact well with one another in a polished program that leans more toward a jazzy take on popular music than straight ahead jazz. Bizianes' piano provides effective comping for Humphries' laid back bluesy saxophone solo on "Stormy Weather," while his synthesizer frequently adds "strings" to several songs. Unfortunately, neither the CD cover, nor the CD itself, give any information as to how to order this recording, which is not attributed to any label. It is available at John E's, Hawley-Cooke Booksellers, ear X-tacy, Better Days Records or, at the last resort, who can email Barb at barbpolk@mindspring.com.

The other CD, which was scheduled for release in mid-August on the Peace Cafe Records label, is Pas de Deux. This is an elegant duet recording by distinguished University of Louisville faculty member and pianist extraordinaire Harry Pickens and Pittsburgh singer and poet Elise Letourneau. In keeping with some of Pickens' earlier recordings, there is an emphasis on ballads, including "My Foolish Heart" and Oscar Levant's "Blame It on My Youth." However, there are also some poetry readings accompanied by piano, such as "Harry the Cat" (referring to a feline cat rather than jazz cat Mr. Pickens) and some uptempo numbers, including George Shearing's "Lullaby of Birdland" and the disc's opener, a swinging rendition of Horace Silver's "Sister Sadie." The ambiance is relaxed, even in the faster pieces and Letourneau and Pickens complement each other well. Unlike many of Pickens' duet performances with instrumentalists, the pianist mostly stays in the background during the vocal segments here, presumably to emphasize the lyrics. His excellent soloing is mostly heard while Letourneau is not singing. I particularly enjoyed his rendition of the classic "Willow Weep for Me," which emphasizes the song's blues roots. The album closes with an uncharacteristically uptempo version of the standard "My Foolish Heart," with Pickens taking a solo which invokes stride rather than bop playing. Overall, the disc is a pleasant departure from the "singer plus backing group" mass of recordings which vie for attention. For ordering information, check www.eliseletourneau.com.

Jazz On WFPK

Last month I reported that James Bickers, WFPK's afternoon jazz host and jazz director, had arranged for WFPK to broadcast a two-hour special of excerpts from the 2002 Ford-Detroit Jazz Festival and three nights of music from the 2003 Playboy Jazz Festival. The Detroit program, originally scheduled for August 1, will be rescheduled to air later in September - stay tuned to WFPK-91.9 FM and check its website, www.wfpk.org, for further details. Branford Marsalis, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Frank Morgan, Pete Fountain, Geri Allen, Regina Carter, Joey DeFrancesco and others will be featured. The Playboy broadcasts were run as scheduled, with only one minor glitch which led to the omission of an hour which featured Poncho Sanchez. Otherwise, performers such as Roy Haynes, Dave Holland, The Dave Brubeck Quartet (with guest vocalist Al Jarreau on a rousing "Take Five"), Boz Scaggs and others in their natural element, live performance. In September Bickers will commemorate the passing of Miles Davis with a "Miles On Monday" feature at 1:30, by playing a classic Miles album side. Thanks again to Bickers and Program Director Dan Reed for promoting jazz on the airwaves.

On The Horizon

The Jazz Factory's impresario, Ken Shapero, has announced an exciting lineup of national acts to supplement our fine local artists in the months ahead. On Saturday, September 6 the Afro-Rican Ensemble from Columbus, Ohio will return. Then, on Thursday - Saturday, September 11- 13, the Harry Pickens Trio will be showcased. The Louisville Jazz Society will present the great Polish pianist Adam Makowicz, together with our own Gail Wynters, in a special Monday evening concert, on September 15. Looking ahead, on Thursday, October 2, pianist and composer-arranger Rachel Z will appear. She is well known for both her work with Prince and Wayne Shorter. Tentatively scheduled for Saturday, October 4, is renowned trumpeter Terence Blanchard, followed on Thursday, October 9 by fellow New Orleanians Astral Project. 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. Other special attractions currently booked include, on Friday and Saturday, October 31 and November 1, the Avishai Cohen Quartet; on Friday-Saturday, November 28-29, homeboy-made-good saxophonist Don Braden; and on Friday-Saturday, December 26-27, the return of violinist Zach Brock with his working group, the Coffee Achievers. 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, presented by Dick Sisto, continues to present excellent music Thursdays and Fridays 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. with Dick Sisto and Tyrone Wheeler and

Fridays and Saturdays, 10 p.m. to 1 AM special guests with the Dick Sisto Trio:

September 5-6, tenor saxophonist Gordon Brisker returns; September 12-13, saxophonist Gene Walker (who was excellent at this summer's Aebersold jazz Camp performances); September 19-20, trombonist and U of L grad student Delfeayo Marsalis; and September 26-27, guitarist Dan Faehnle.

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 has also announced its 2003-2004 series. Of special interest to jazz fans will be the Jazz Cabaret Series, (always on Sunday) featuring Sonya Hensley with the Jerry Tolson Quartet on September 14; the Eric Gould Group on October 12; the Harry Pickens Trio on November 16; Bobby J & The Flying Martinis on December 14; the Ron Jones Quartet on January 18; Robin Shaw & Friends on February 15; the Steve Crews Trio on March 21; and Walker & Kays on April 18. Also, the Midnite Ramble includes the Crusaders with Angela Bofill on December 6; the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis on February 10; and the Dance Theatre of Harlem, with tree performances on Friday through Sunday, February 20-22. 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

To update last month's report on the University of Kentucky's 2003-2004 Spotlight Jazz Series, Karrin Allyson's concert of November 7, has been rescheduled to November 15. As previously reported, the first concert, on Friday, September 26, with the McCoy Tyner Trio, has unfortunately been scheduled for Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the Jewish faith's High Holy Days. The Count Basie Orchestra concert, scheduled for Tuesday, February 18, has been changed to Tuesday February 17, 2004, to avoid a conflict with a basketball game. Unfortunately, the Tyner concert conflict with the beginning of the Jewish High Holy Days was not similarly resolved. The fourth show, at this writing, is still being booked, but look for a major name on the jamband circuit to help bring in some of the younger fans and to expose more traditional fans to some of the new improvisational music being played around the country in clubs, concerts and festivals.

The Blue Wisp (318 East 8th St., Cincinnati, OH 45202; 513-241-WISP; www.bluewispjazzclub.com), in addition to its nightly schedule, will feature Ira Sullivan on September 5-6, Ernie Krivda September 12-13, Harry Allen on September 19-20 and Gordon Brisker on September 26-27. Also on Thursday, September 25, the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey is booked. While I have not yet had the opportunity to hear them, they have a growing audience on the jamband circuit and their recordings have received good reviews with references to "left-of-center jazz" and such. Ira Sullivan will also be appearing in Cincinnati at the First Unitarian Church, Linton and Reading Rd, on Sunday September 7, accompanied by the Phil DeGreg Trio.

The Jazz Kitchen (5377 N College Ave., Indianapolis, IN 46220; phone: 317-253-4900; www.thejazzkitchen.com) will present Acoustic Alchemy on September 6 and renowned

pianist Monty Alexander on September 13, who will also perform here in town on the 24th. Also in Indianapolis, the Jazz Festival which was formerly held in late June or early July has been moved to Saturday September 27, the first full day of Rosh Hashanah. Given the Jewish community's historic presence in and support of jazz (e.g., Benny Goodman, Terry Gibbs, Andy Statman, Bob Moses and so many more), this scheduling, along with McCoy Tyner's opening Spotlight Jazz Concert in Lexington (as noted above), is remarkably insensitive.

See Ya Later Alligator

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. Or, as the old saying goes, money talks while youknowwhat walks. This is especially germane in light of the Fall Fund Drive coming up later this month on WFPK and its sister public radio stations. Contribute and let the folks there know what you like and what you don't like. If the jazz community doesn't support our only local jazz radio station, it has no reason to support us.