Martin Z. Kasdan Jr.

Jazzin'
By Martin Z. Kasdan Jr.

Radio Redux

Regular readers of this column, not to mention listeners to WFPK, 91.9 FM, know that Louisville's Public Radio Partnership has abandoned jazz during accessible weekday hours, relegating jazz to the 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. spot, with syndicated programming. Fridays at 11 p.m. remain the only bright spot, with "Late Set from the Jazz Factory's" live one-hour broadcast. Otherwise, Sundays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. provide the only jazz programming. Those who are interested in following the issue of how WFPK has abandoned its mission to serve the underserved audiences of our community should log on to www.rescuejazz.com. Even the so-called "Adult Album Alternative" (AAA) now championed by WFPK to the virtual exclusion of not only jazz, but Celtic, folk and other such programming, has been watered down with the loss of "Mountain Stage," "Beale Street Caravan," "Echoes" and other in-performance shows. If you have not already done so, I encourage you jazz fans who have pledged or paid for membership to request a refund and tell them you will resume contributing when the station returns jazz to the air at hours that people other than insomniacs and/or working musicians can listen and copy your requests to Public Radio Partnership's CEO, former nightly jazz host Gerry Weston, at gweston@prp.org and WFPK's program director Dan Reed at dreed@wfpk.org.

U of L's Jazz Week 2004

Alright, on a more positive note, the University of Louisville presents its 11th Annual Jazz Week, this year running from Monday, February 23 through Sunday, February 29, 2004, at 8 p.m. unless noted. The full schedule is listed below, together with ticket prices (public/student). Space and time limitations do not permit me to offer full details on each artist, but excellent descriptions are available at http://www.louisville.edu/music/jazz/jazzweek_bios.html.

Monday, February 23 - The Ahmad Jamal Trio $20/10. Jamal has been on the scene since first recording in 1951, with his first "hit" being "Poinciana." He was a strong influence on Miles Davis during the `50s and has gone on to stake a claim for his imaginative use of rhythms and his noted interplay with his trio members.

Tuesday, February 24 - Niedziela Polish/American Ensemble, featuring brothers Jacek Niedziela on bass and Wojcek Niedziela on piano. $7/5.

Wednesday, February 25 - Roland Vazquez Latin Ensemble $10/$5. This should be a special treat, as Louisville audiences rarely have the opportunity to see world-class Latin jazz. Vazquez was in town recently for the Percussive Arts Society's International Convention (PASIC), which was covered here last month. I had the chance to speak with him regarding his Jazz Week performance and excerpts from my interview appear below.

Thursday, February 26 - Jazz Ensemble II with guests Gordon Brisker (saxophone), Philip Brown (bass), Chris Buzzelli (guitar) and Paul McKee (trombone) $5/3.

Friday, February 27 - trumpeter Terell Stafford with Jazz Ensemble I and Combo $20/10. Stafford is a superb musician, who was for several years a member of saxophonist Bobby Watson's group, Horizon.

Saturday, February 28 - Vanguard All-Stars - John Riley (drums), Scott Wendholt (trumpet) and Rich Perry (saxophone) with Jazz Ensemble I and Combo $20/10

Sunday, February 29 - The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra at 3 p.m. tickets $25/12. The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra began in the mid-sixties in New York as the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra. In an era when big band was supposedly dying, this band helped to keep the torch lit.

University and visiting student groups will perform throughout the week. Group, single and package tickets are available in addition to more than 25 free events. Ticket packages (Monday - Sunday): $90/$40. For tickets and additional information call (502) 852-6907 or log on to www.louisville.edu/music/jazz, then click on Jazz Week 2004.

Roland Vazquez, Featured Artist

Roland Vazquez

As mentioned above, Vazquez had performed during PASIC and I had the chance to speak with him recently by phone. In conversation, Vazquez proved to be quite intriguing and thoughtful. I asked him about his suite entitled "Music for Percussion Quartet and 3 Jazz Players," which he performed in part during PASIC. He stated that it "evolved from pieces I started, trying to go deeper into tumbaos and montunos ... but which would also call for classically trained and strong Latin and jazz players." He referred to his goal of trying "to bring styles together, bridge them and tell different types of stories." He then offered thematic comments about each movement, beginning with "Tu Sabes (Do You Know)?" This originated when he saw the early `70s Latin funk band Caldera and Vazquez uses this piece to bring alive "the energy generated by combining Latin, jazz and funk." "No Rest for the Bones of the Dead" was inspired by his experience with the Mexican Day of the Dead and his studies of karma and how different cultures deal with the process of individuals and society meeting up with their own devils. He tries to "push both rhythmic and harmonic boundaries" in this segment as a musical metaphor for "pulling ourselves together and evolving."

Next in the suite is "Sevilla," which he described as being inspired by writers such as Joseph Campbell. Vazquez said that this composition expresses "the theme of coming together without dominating one another." The final segment of the suite is entitled " Las Mediosas," or "The In-Betweens," in which Vazquez addresses the coming together of people from multicultural backgrounds. He commented that his goal is to "soothe, stimulate and challenge." I commented that while this concept might sound inherently contradictory, I could relate it to the works of John Coltrane, a concept which Vazquez seemed to embrace while mentioning Trane's depth and sincerity.

Besides the suite, I asked if his performance would be originals or standards. He replied that he doesn't draw much from the standard repertoire and when he does take on a familiar song, he likes to reharmonize it and rearrange the melody and used his arrangement of Monk's "Round Midnight" which he performed at PASIC, as an example. While I enjoyed his performance at PASIC, my conversation with Vazquez led me to a deeper appreciation of his dedication to music and the spiritual depth he brings to his composing and playing. His performance at U of L may just be the sleeper which you will not want to hear about after the fact.

Vazquez has been under-recorded over the years. His most recent recording, Further Dance, features Mark Soskin on piano, Walter Weiskopf on sax and flute, Anthony Jackson on bass and Ricardo Candelario on congas and percussion. Although presently out of stock online at Amazon.com, it can be ordered directly form the artist at www.rolandvazquez.com and it should also be available at his performance at U of L. It includes all of the compositions which make up his suite, except for "No Rest ...." Vazquez was kind enough to provide me with a demo recording of the suite in its entirety, as performed with the instrumentation called for in its title, "Music for Percussion Quartet and 3 Jazz Players and this provides an intriguing "alternate take" perspective to the more overtly "Latin Jazz" performances on Further Dance. The use of multiple percussion instruments on the demo and in performance at U of L, including vibes and marimbas, gives a different feel to the pieces, at times reminiscent of Max Roach's M'Boom and Mickey Hart's Diga Rhythm Band.

Recent Concerts And Events

Zach Brock and the Coffee Achievers at the Jazz Factory, December 26-27, 2003

Zach Brock, the talented young violinist profiled here in the July 2003 issue, returned to Louisville for two nights at the Jazz Factory. Unlike his previous visit, when he sat in with Louisville musicians at the Jazz Factory and the Seelbach, this time he brought his group, the Coffee Achievers. Keyboardist Sam Bar-sheset had recently graced the Jazz Factory as part of the dynamic Avishai Cohen Quartet. Matt Wigton on bass and Nori Tanaka round out the Coffee Achievers. Their Saturday night performance opened with Brock performing an unaccompanied solo, which led into an ensemble performance of "Now I Know." Solos by Bar-Sheset on piano, followed by Brock and then Tanaka, demonstrated each player's excellent sense of dynamics. The second piece was a bluesy waltz, entitled "Turn," composed by Wigton. To me, it had the feel of the late Vince Guaraldi ("Peanuts" soundtracks, "Cast Your Fate to the Wind," etc.) . A Brock original, entitled "Common Ground," came next, with Bar-Sheset performing a keyboard solo reminiscent of some of Alice Coltrane's organ work, followed by a violin solo by the leader. Brock set aside his violin for electric mandolin, while Bar-Sheset took up the melodica for some good-natured musical joking in "The Coffee Achiever," while Wigton and Tanaka were the musical straight men, keeping a steady pulse under the tomfoolery. Another Wigton composition, "Solitary Candle," began with a solo introduction by Wigton, after which the group joined in this meditative piece. Tanaka switched between brushes and mallets to create an evocative undercurrent. After a Latin number entitled "Sign of the Times," Lexington native (now Chicagoan) Brock provided the receptive audience with a "public awareness announcement," denouncing the loss of jazz on WFPK. The last song of the first set was "Low Sco," introduced by a slow bass solo followed by a faster-paced piano solo.

The second set opened with a samba entitled "Samba-arshet," a play on the composer/melodica player's name. Wigton's composition "Illusions" offered a deliberate, slow bass pattern augmented by Tanaka's brushwork. Another slow piece, a Brock waltz entitled "Wallflower," was next. Brock's egalitarian approach to bandleading continued with another Bar-sheset original, "Surreality," featuring uptempo solos by Brock and the composer. Another plea to the audience to let WFPK know of its poor choice in dropping jazz followed, before Brock entranced the crowd with his own song, "Mr. Shaw." His slow solo introduction led into an uptempo group romp to close the set.

In brief conversations with the members, Brock noted that the band planned to return to the studio for a second recording soon. Wigton appreciated my observation that he played with great sensitivity and also noted that his other work included a fun stint in a 60s-70s rock cover band which allowed him to play electric bass. Tanaka said that he frequently works with musicians from Chicago's Association for the Advancement of Creative Music (AACM), a strong force for progressive jazz since the 1960s. Bar-sheset mentioned that he had enjoyed his touring with Cohen as well as his work as a member of Brock's ensemble. As mentioned here back in July, the first CD, the self-titled Zach Brock and the Coffee Achievers, is an impressive debut. If you can't find it locally, it is available through www.zachbrock.com.

On The Horizon

Besides U of L's Jazz Week, there are two special events coming up right here in Louisville this month. First is the Kentucky Center's presentation of Wynton Marsalis leading the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra on February 10. If there is anyone in the jazz world about whom it can be said that "he needs no introduction," Wynton Marsalis is surely the one. In addition to leading his own groups, he leads this repertory orchestra in performances featuring the best of classic and more modern big band music. Just four days later, organist Joey DeFrancesco brings his trio back to the Jazz Factory (see listing below) for an encore engagement. He brought down the house this past summer, as documented in the July edition of this column and if you missed him then, don't make the same mistake twice. Also at the Kentucky Center's Jazz Cabaret Series, Robin Shaw and Friends will perform on Sunday February 15.

The Louisville Jazz Society has announced a Spring Concert Series, to take place at the Jazz factory. More details will be announced here next month, but for now, mark your calendars for: Wednesday, March 17, the Dave Klingman/Steve Crews Quartet featuring vocalist Gail Wynters; Wednesday, April 7, trumpeter Ingrid Jensen's Quartet; and Wednesday, May 12, the return of pianist Ryan Cohan with his Quartet.

The schedule for the Jazz Factory (815 W. Main Street in the Glassworks) was not available past February 15 by press time, so be sure to check www.jazzfactory.us or phone 992-3242, for updated listings. As mentioned above, Joey DeFrancesco returns on the 14th. The February schedule for the Seelbach Jazz Bar, 500 South Fourth St., Louisville (585-3200) presented by Dick Sisto, is highlighted by the February 7 appearance of Dave Samuels on vibes and marimba. Samuels has been a leading player and recording artist for over 25 years, so we should be in for a treat. Other guests include guitarist Dan Faehnle (February 13-14), saxist Tim Whalen (February 20-21); and U of L Jazz Week performers Gordon Brisker (sax) and pianist Wojcek Niedziela (piano) (February 27-28). Wednesdays and Thursdays Sisto and bassist Tyrone Wheeler play for Happy Hour.

. Other local venues continue to support jazz, including the Comedy Caravan at the Mid-City Mall on Bardstown Road, home of the regular third Monday performances of the Roger Dane Jazz Orchestra and the Central Park Cafe, 316 West Ormsby Street with the Tyrone Cotton Trio on Fridays, with Reid Jahn on saxophone and clarinet and Danny Kiely on bass. Artemisia, 620 East Market Street has a regular lineup of small jazz groups, including the Charlie Niehoff Trio (February 6) and the Steve Crews Trio (March 21), as does the Third Avenue Cafe at Third & Oak, 585-2233 and Clifton's Pizza, 2230 Frankfort Avenue, 893-3730, including "Dixieland" from Meron Serron and his "Red Hot Onion Band" on the first Sunday of each month, except for May. Also, the Bristol/Bardstown Road showcases the Bennett Higgins Trio with Higgins on saxophone, Roger Dane-piano and Tyrone Wheeler-bass during Sunday brunch on February 15 and 22.

A complete compendium is beyond the scope of this column. 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

If the weather isn't miserable, I plan to drive up to Bloomington for the Dave Douglas Quintet on Friday, February 13, in concert at the Buskirk-Chumley Theatre (115 East Kirkwood in downtown Bloomington). Trumpeter Douglas has been winning awards right and left for his playing, composition and recordings. His brand new CD, scheduled for release on January 27, Strange Liberation (Bluebird/Arista/BMG) features Chris Potter on saxophones; Uri Caine on piano; James Genus on bass; and Clarence Penn on drums, along with non-touring guest Bill Frisell on guitar. After Douglas' Freak-In from last year which had a definite Miles Davis On the Corner vibe, Strange Liberation represents a mixing pot sounding as if it has been influenced by music such as such as Frisell's Blues Dream (Nonesuch) and Miles In The Sky/Filles de Kilimanjaro-era Miles Davis. Bloomington will be the first date on the quintet's US tour (following a week at the Village Vanguard). The quintet will present a free jazz workshop at the Theatre from 4 - 6 p.m. the day of the concert. For more information, see:www.jazzfrombloomington.org.

The Blue Wisp (318 East 8th St., Cincinnati, OH 45202; 513-241-WISP; www.bluewispjazzclub.com), has a busy lineup of guest artists to augment its nightly offerings: trumpeter Brad Goode (February 6-7); New York guitarist Roni Ben-Hur (February 13-14); Jacek and Wojcech Niedziela (February 20-21, before their appearance here at U of L's jazz Week on Tuesday, February 24); Rachel Z (February 26); and trombonist Jiggs Whigham (February 27-28), from Cologne, Germany. The Jazz Kitchen (5377 N College Ave., Indianapolis, IN 46220; phone: 317-253-4900; www.thejazzkitchen.com), in addition to its nightly schedule, will feature the Joey DeFrancesco Trio on Friday, February 13th, the night before their Jazz Factory appearance and will present the current edition of the Count Basie Orchestra under the direction of veteran trombonist Bill Hughes on Wednesday, February 18th. The Dame (156 West Main Street, Lexington, KY 40507; 859-226-9005 or 859-226-9204;

www.dameky.com) will bring a touch of New Orleans to the Bluegrass on Saturday, March 6 when the Dirty Dozen [Brass Band] cakewalks into town.

In Closing

In my haste to make my deadline last month, I inadvertently left out a sincere thank you to Rick Mattingly, who is not only an excellent writer with national credentials, but also served as host to the recent Percussive Arts Society's International Convention (PASIC). Without his assistance, I would not have been able to attend and I hope Rick is a believer in the "better late than never" school when it comes to accepting this acknowledgment of and appreciation for his help. Remember, support jazz on the radio (if you can find any), in the clubs and concert halls. Let me know what you think. You can e-mail me at mzkjr@louisvillejazz.org.