Martin Z. Kasdan Jr
Jazzin'
By Martin Z. Kasdan Jr

RECENT CONCERTS

Dave Samuels at the Seelbach Jazz Bar

Mallet artist Dave Samuels returned to Louisville for another appearance with Louisville's resident vibraphonist and jazz entrepreneur, Dick Sisto, on Friday and Saturday, October 8 and 9, at the Seelbach Jazz Bar. As in his earlier performances this year, back in February, Samuels inspired Sisto and his always excellent bandmates, Tyrone Wheeler, bass and Jason Tiemann, drums, to perform at the peak of their powers. They opened with a fast, Latin-influenced version of the standard "Softly As In A Morning Sunrise." For the first solo, Sisto accented Samuels' runs, after which they reversed roles. Wheeler's articulate solo followed, before the ensemble came back to close out the song. Another American Songbook classic, "Darn That Dream," followed, before the group turned to the jazz repertoire with a spirited take on Herbie Hancock's "Cantaloupe Island." Wheeler switched to electric bass for this number, which emphasized a funk approach. Samuels was dancing while playing, while he and Sisto engaged in a high-energy duet over Wheeler and Tiemann. Wheeler's solo showed the influence of Jaco Pastorius without being merely imitative. A ballad, "Thinking of You," was next, during which Tiemann showed admirable taste in his brushwork before switching to sticks during Sisto's solo, after which Wheeler again soloed.

Wayne Shorter's "Footprints" found Wheeler returning to electric bass, for a fast-paced waltz interpretation of this modern classic. Tiemann was pushing the others without going overboard and was rewarded with the opportunity to strut his stuff with his own solo. The closer of the first set was Dizzy Gillespie's immortal "Night In Tunisia," with Wheeler again working out on electric bass. Sisto took the first solo, followed by Samuels, both of whom seemed to revel in each other's musical company. An unnamed blues closed out the first set, letting all the musicians ease into comfortable musical territory. The group was scheduled to record the next day. Sisto told me in a conversation after the first set that there was no commitment from a label yet, but he felt confident that when the CD was ready, it would find a comfortable home. As to the playing, when I commented on how he and Samuels seemed to really work well together, not merely comping for one another, he replied that "the goal is mutual interplay - soloing together." When the CD does get released, be sure to discover for yourself the truth of Sisto's statement.

String Cheese Incident at the Palace

As I noted in my preview of this show, String Cheese Incident (SCI) is not a jazz band, but a rock band which uses improvisation as a foundation of its approach to music and whose influences do include jazz. In concert at the Louisville Palace on October 25, they served as their own opening act, performing an "unplugged" set. Unfortunately, I arrived too late to hear their version of "Take Five." As I hung out in the lobby during intermission, I was entertained by the sounds of Weather Report's classic Birdland, and I thought it was a nice touch to use such good music between sets. Fortunately, I made my way back to my seat in time to find that it was SCI live, not a recording by Weather Report. An auspicious beginning, I thought and the second set flew through a series of mostly instrumental pieces which segued together into a continuous performance. According to the setlist on the band's website, some of the permutations are entitled "Flying Lost Jam," into "Lost," into "Flying North Jam," and so forth. The band bookended the second set with a reprise of "Birdland" before taking a well-deserved break. The third set began with an almost 20-minute long piece entitled "Howard," which led to further improvisations before landing in Jean-Luc Ponty's "Mauna Bowa," which allowed multi-instrumentalist Michael Kang to shine on violin. Throughout the night, he was impressive on guitar and mandolin, as well. Drummer Michael Travis was joined by guest percussionist Jason Hann and they seemed to enjoy their interplay. Bassist Keith Moseley was superb, frequently adding color as well as bottom to the mix, while nominal frontman Bill Nershi handled many of the vocal chores along with playing guitar. Keyboard player Kyle Hollingsworth, whose interview appeared here last month, showed his versatility on piano, organ and synthesizers.

Speaking of Hollingsworth, his new album, Never Odd or Even, on the band's own Sci Fidelity label, should be in stores as you read this. He is joined by old friends Ross Martin on guitar, Matt Spencer on bass and Dave Watts on drums, for 65 minutes of adventurous music which fits well within the current crop of nouveau funk releases. Joshua Redman lends his saxophone prowess to two long pieces, "The Crusade" and "Bam!" Fans of Weather Report and Medeski, Martin and Wood will no doubt enjoy these pieces. "Seventh Step" sounds like it could fit with the material on John Scofield's A Go Go project with MMW. Pedal steel guitarist Robert Randolph, who joins the jamband community from his roots in the Sacred Steel tradition, adds his deft touch to "The Bridge," which rolls into a deep gospel number featuring samples from a broadcast sermon, "I'll Spew You Out." While the last SCI album, Untying the Not, was an update on what could be called "classic rock," Never Odd or Even clearly allows Hollingsworth the opportunity to bring his jazz background and his love of the genre to his first solo recording.

The marvelous performance by tapdancer Savion Glover and vocalist Bobby McFerrin, part of the Kentucky Center's Midnite Ramble Series, captivated a virtually full Whitney Hall on Sunday, November 7. The evening began with an unaccompanied and apparently improvised 10-minute duet in which each riffed off the other in fine jazz style. Glover then took over, with a superb jazz quartet (whose names I regret I could not make out), featuring several John Coltrane numbers including his arrangement of "The Inch Worm." Glover could be appreciated both as a marvelously visual dancer and also as a skilled percussionist whose feet, rather than his hands, added accents and depth to the other musicians. Even his final number, a very fast take on "The Stars and Stripes Forever," (which Glover dubbed "The Stars and Stripes Forever, For Now"), showed both the musical and spiritual influence of Trane. After a brief intermission, McFerrin returned for a solo performance. He has worked for many years to perfect his craft as an a cappella vocalist, utilizing his whole body and the microphone to provide percussive effects to his singing. After a wordless opener, he performed Dale Hawkins' rock classic "Suzy Q," which he followed with the Beatles' "Blackbird," long a part of his repertoire. After several more songs, McFerrin also pulled out his "Wizard of Oz" medley to close his segment of the show. Glover and his band returned for an encore, consisting of a funky piece followed by Nat Adderley's timeless "Work Song." For an encore, they performed Thelonious Monk's "Straight, No Chaser." Throughout the course of the evening, these two artists provided Louisville with a demonstration of how two disparate artists can follow their respective muses and also come together for powerful interplay.

Next month I'll discuss the very recent (as I write this) concerts by Mike Marshall and Edgar Meyer at the Lonesome Pine series and the highly talented young Chicago quartet BMR4 at the Jazz Factory.

LOCAL MUSIC RELEASES

University of Louisville Jazz Professor Mike Tracy has just released a new album, entitled Gusting, on Sea Breeze Jazz.. Featuring Cincinnati's Phil DeGreg on piano, expatriate Louisvillian John Goldsby on bass and Louisvillians Craig Wagner on guitar and Jason Tiemann on drums, this is a worthy follow-up to last year's Tracings, also on Sea Breeze. Where Tracings was primarily Brazilian in its outlook, Gusting returns to mainstream postbop. All the songs except for the closing "Sweet and Lovely" are by Tracy or his bandmates. Having received this shortly before my deadline, I cannot give as detailed a review as I would like. Briefly, those of you already aware of Tracy's abilities will find him stretching out in fine fashion here. He shares ample solo space with his collaborators, who interact almost intuitively with one another. More next month, but for now, think "holiday present."

Speaking of Phil DeGreg, he has just released Brasilia (Strugglebaby 2405). Like Tracy's Tracings, this CD features music from Brazil, with added authenticity courtesy of his Brazilian bandmates. While DeGreg sticks mostly to acoustic piano, he does add color on various other keyboards from time to time. DeGreg's Brasilia follows closely on the heels of a warm and intimate album of duets with British guitarist Dave Cliff, entitled TranZatlantic Interplay (Strugglebaby 2402). Before WFPK-FM jettisoned jazz during accessible weekday hours, DeGreg and Cliff performed at the station's performance studio with bass and drums backing them. This CD of standards, ranging from Wes Montgomery's "Four on Six" to the Gershwin classic "How Long Has This Been Going On," was recorded in the living room of a friend of DeGreg's. If you can't find these locally, they are available at www.cdbaby.com and worth seeking out.

Other recent local releases, which I have unfortunately not had an opportunity to hear, include Walker and Kays' first-time CD reissue of their debut vinyl album, Chasing A Rainbow, available locally and at www.cdbaby.com; and trumpeter Matt Lawson's Midnight in Merizo on Jazz Factory Records, the first release on the Jazz Factory's own label, available locally.

NATIONAL MUSIC RELEASES

Time constraints do not permit me to cover all the recent releases which I would like, with the depth they deserve. A few deserving of mention follow.

John Coltrane's widow, Alice Coltrane, has released her first major label jazz CD in almost 30 years, namely Translinear Light, on Verve. With the accompaniment of long-time colleague Charlie Haden on bass for four of the CD's 11 songs, she shines on Wurlitzer organ, piano and synthesizer. She revisits works form her early 1970s Impulse recordings, "covers" her late husband's "Crescent" and "Leo," and throughout impresses with her devotional attitude. This is essential listening for anyone who treasures her earlier works such as Ptah, the El Daoud or Journey In Satchidananda.

Sadly, Elvin Jones left us this year and a recent posthumous release, The Truth - Heard Live at the Blue Note (Half Note Records) offers a reminder of what we have lost. Recorded in 1999 as a 72nd birthday celebration, this CD offers his excellent working group with guest saxophonist Michael Brecker. Jones' combination of high energy polyrhythmic drumming and his excellent sense of taste and dynamics make this a fitting and even joyous memorial. A companion album on Half Note Records by Jeff "Tain" Watts, entitled Detained at the Blue Note, was recorded earlier this year. Watts stretches out on four originals and a cover of Bjork's "107 Steps" with companions Dave Kikoski (keys), Eric Revis (bass), Marcus Strickland (tenor), David Gilmore (guitar; that's Gilmore, from M-Base, not Gilmour, from Pink Floyd) and guest alto player Kenny Garrett. Like Jones, Watts is capable of both thunder and delicacy.

Fans of funk will appreciate saxman Sam Kininger's self-titled debut, Kininger was a member of Soulive, which has carried on as an organ-guitar-drums funk trio. On Sam Kininger, (available through his website www.samkininger.com/music), he enlists support from former bandmates Eric Krasno on guitar and Neal Evans on organ, with the always reliable Fred Wesley on trombone for several cuts, as well as many others. This straddles the line between the instrumental funk of the JBs and soulful side of the late 60s Blue Note albums by Dr. Lonnie Smith and others. Adam Deitch, of John Scofield's Uberjam Band, adds his super-tight drumming to two pieces as well.

On the more esoteric side of the funk track you will meet Medeski, Martin and Wood, whose latest Blue Note release is entitled End Of The World Party (just in case). The band enlisted producer John King to edit long studio jams into more compact pieces. Marc Ribot adds his distinctive guitar to several pieces, including ""New Planet," which reminds me of some of the vintage P-Funk workouts. MMW "goes acoustic" for an odd bit of funk entitled "Mami Gato," while maintaining the organ and synthesizer grooves for most of the rest of the album. Long-time fans have probably added this to their collection already. If you are curious as to what these guys are all about, this is a great place to start.

Vintage psychedelia may not be your cup of tea, but there are times when I just need to hear musicians stretch out without doing changes over bop structures. Just in time for Chrismukkah, there is a 2-DVD set of The Grateful Dead Movie, consisting of a digitally revamped copy of the movie on one disc, with lots of extras, including 95 minutes of previously unreleased concert footage, on the second disc. Next month I'll discuss why non-Deadheads might well enjoy this wonderful time-trip. Another DVD, Fly Jefferson Airplane, is a new collection of performances by San Francisco's first major band to have a recording deal. It follows them through their first few years, with footage ranging from the Monterey Pop Festival to various television appearances, as well as rare footage from concerts. Jack Casady's basswork was awe-inspiring and in my humble opinion helped pave the way for Jaco Pastorius' redefinition of the electric bass several years later. Finally (for now), there is a 3-CD set of a short-lived version of the Jerry Garcia Band (JGB), entitled After Midnight: Kean College, 2/28/80. The highlight is a fluid 23-minute exploration of J. J. Cale's "After Midnight," which flows into "Eleanor Rigby," before returning almost magically to "After Midnight." Of the several live JGB releases which have come out in the past few years, this is my favorite, as it documents a lean band which is focussed on improvisation and exploration without ever losing the groove.

ON THE HORIZON

The Jazz Factory, 815 W. Market St. in The Glassworks and the Kentucky Center Concerts take a break until 2005, when Monty Alexander and Freddie Cole will perform on February 18 and 19 and Frank Morgan and Cyrus Chestnut close out the season with concerts on April 8 and 9. For details, go to www.kentuckycenter.org or www.jazzfactory.us. December brings a wide assortment of the best local, regional and national artists. Just a few of the highlights include Matt Lawson (12/2), Ron Jones (12/3-4), Harry Pickens (12/10-11), FattLabb (12/16), trumpeter Rod McGaha (12/17, from Nashville, if memory serves), Jamey Aebersold Quartet (12/18) and a gala New Year's Eve Party featuring the return of organist Tony Monaco and a special dinner.

The 2nd Annual "Big Gig" concert by the Louisville Leopard Percussionists and guest artist Ruben Alvarez (from Chicago) will take place at the Brown Theater on December 5, 2004, at 4 p.m. Music from many different genres such as jazz, Latin jazz, ragtime, popular tunes, classical, blues and original tunes written by the young musicians will be included in the evening's repertoire. An e-mail to me described this as a "family-friendly" jazz event. Tickets are available through TicketMaster or at the Kentucky Center for the Arts box office.

The Seelbach Jazz Bar features the Dick Sisto trio (with Tyrone Walker and Jason Tiemann) with the following guests: 12/3-4, Trumpeter Matt Lawson; 12/10-11, Tenor Saxophonist Mike Arthurs; 12/17-18, Tenor Saxophonist Tim Whalen; no jazz Christmas Weekend; 12/31-1/1, The End of Time Double Quartet featuring Blue Note Recording artist Barry Ries on Trumpet and Drums, Dick Sisto on Vibes and Drums, Steve Schmidt on piano and Tyrone Wheeler on bass.

ENCORES

Tony Monaco is a Hammond B3 organist of the old school, meaning that soulfulness and the blues are the heart and soul of his music. He brought his trio, consisting of Robert Kraut on guitar and Louis Tsamous on drums to the Jazz Factory for two nights of audience-pleasing performances, September 24-25. His new release, Fiery Blues, on Summit Records (www.summitrecords.com) is a tribute both the blues and the Columbus scene. He enlists several guests to augment his working trio, with results that add additional texture and variety to this project. Tenor saxophonist Gene Walker, who has appeared here with the Jamey Aebersold Jazz Camp All-Stars for the past several years, adds his authoritative voice to most of the pieces here, including a very "churchy" version of Horace Silver's "The Preacher," and a deep, bluesy take on the T-Bone Walker classic, "Stormy Monday Blues." All in all, blues lovers as well as jazz organ fans should find much to savor in this tasty offering from Monaco (who will ring in the New Year at the Jazz Factory; see below).

Last year San Francisco-based organist Jon Hammond joined his buddy, Louisville guitarist John Bishop, for a night at the Jazz Factory. Hammond has just released Late Rent, on Ham-Berger-Friz Records, available at www.cdbaby.com if you can't find it locally. In an e-mail to me, Hammond described this as "a record that took me 25 years to put together. The disc opens with "Late Rent," a loping swinger and is followed by "Pocket Funk," with a slightly Latin feel. "Late Rent" is reprised in a live take at the end of the CD. Lee Morgan's funky "The Sidewinder" is the only cover tune on the album, although, as Hammond acknowledges in his liner notes, "White Onions" is "a bluesy Hammond/Finnerty composition reminiscent of `Green Onions.'"

In closing, happy holidaze to one and all. You can send greetings to me at mzkjr@yahoo.com.