As Courier-Journal readers and some others may know, there was an unpleasant incident at the WFPK-FM "Live Lunch" Derek Trucks Band concert of January 30. So that there is no chance of misunderstanding, I will go on record by letting you know that due to schools being closed, I had additional childcare responsibilities which I knew would make me late to arrive at the studio. Thus, I called the station to inquire if media space would be available, even if the show was full and was advised there was. Upon arriving I stood near the soundboard at the back of the performance space, when I happened to notice Dan Reed near the front of the room. As I have done for years, I smiled and waved at him. Shortly afterwards he came over, told me angrily and repeatedly that I was not welcome there and other such things. I did my best to ignore the outburst and he returned to his former place. He returned, however and said "Do you have anything to say to me? I'll wipe that [expletive] smirk off your face." (For the record, I wasn't "smirking," or doing anything other than listening to the music.) An audience member approached and asked him to "take it outside." He left and I tried to refocus on the music.
I waited until the following Monday to write a letter to Dan, (with copies to CEO Gerry Weston and Board Chair David Brill), in which I expressed both shock and sadness over this incident. I reminded him of the many times over the years when we had discussed music together, of my call-ins from the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival for his show and of the many other positive encounters we have shared. I returned from the mailbox to find a voice-mail from Dan apologizing and the next day I received an e-mail of apology from him. Toward the end of the week I received a similar letter from Gerry Weston, although to date I have heard nothing from David Brill. I have heard rumors to the effect that in some fashion I "provoked" Dan in some fashion, but if there was any "provocation," it was my mere presence that day.
Ever since I began writing this column one year ago, I have "called 'em as I seed 'em." I heaped praise upon the station on several occasions during the spring and summer for its jazz programming and always closed my columns with a plea to readers to support jazz on the radio, as well as in the clubs and concert halls. When jazz began its disappearance from the public airwaves, I had no alternative as a jazz writer but to address that issue. The future of jazz on the local radio scene is essentially in the hands of a committee of representatives from the jazz community and representatives from the Board and staff of the station. I encourage them to find common ground and to restore "America's Classical Music" to the airwaves on a daily basis at accessible hours.
A Tale Of Two Trumpeters: Wynton Marsalis And Dave Douglas
I consider myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to interview two of the finest trumpet players recently before seeing them perform. Wynton Marsalis and Dave Douglas, respectively, represent to me the best in traditional and cutting edge jazz being made today. Marsalis has become a household name not only by virtue of his playing but also his composing as well as his outspoken advocacy of jazz. Douglas, while not having the name recognition outside of jazz circles which Marsalis enjoys, similarly plays, composes and reaches out through the media for wider public awareness of the sense of adventure inherent in good jazz.
Marsalis spoke to me from New York, a few days before his appearance here at the Kentucky Center with the Lincoln Center jazz Orchestra (LCJO). I had noticed that the 2004 touring personnel was almost identical to the recording personnel found on the 1999 recordings Big Train and Sweet Release, so I asked how he was able to keep these musicians together over time. He responded that the LCJO was "not a project but a way of life." By way of example, he mentioned saxophonist Ted Nash as being the same age as he, both having fathers who were musicians and spoke of other family ties. The sense of family permeated much of our conversation that followed, as he also mentioned some of the other LCJO musicians such as saxophonists Wes "Warmdaddy" Anderson, Walter Blanding Jr. and others, who similarly came from musical families and whose family ties helped to promote a sense of unity of purpose. He returned to the theme of family when I mentioned that our local public radio had cut daily jazz from 33 hours a week in the afternoons and evenings plus Sundays to one hour (plus overnight canned jazz). He spontaneously launched into a discussion of the importance of culture, including the need for families to sacrifice, if necessary, to expose their children to the arts. In the course of these comments, he acknowledged the profound impact his mother had on him and his siblings, taking them to museums, symphonic performances and so on, in an effort to expose them to the larger cultural world. "Civilization is an effort," he said and without that effort, "what's left will be the cheapest form of entertainment which will flirt with pornography."
I asked about programming for the tour and Marsalis remarked that it changed from night to night. He said that the Louisville performance would focus on the international quality of jazz and would also feature material associated with Count Basie. I expressed curiosity about how much room for improvisation there might be in the big band format and Marsalis' response was that it depends on the arrangements of the individual pieces. For example, he noted that Fletcher Henderson's arrangement of Ravel's "Bolero" had to stay close to the written music, while other material, such as the blues, "was designed to be elongated." During the first set of the LCJO's performance here, which featured music with a connection to Europe, Marsalis marveled at how Henderson had been able to retain all the themes of the 17-minute "Bolero" in a piece lasting less than four minutes. Other highlights of this set included John Lewis' immortal ode to the Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt, simply entitled "Django." George Shearing's "Lullaby of Birdland," dedicated to the legendary New York club of that name, featured Anderson , who employed circular breathing to hold a note throughout a long solo which brought some of the loudest applause of the night. Another memorable song from this set was Kurt Weill's "Mack the Knife," which featured a rollicking piano solo by Eric Lewis. Closing my eyes, I could visualize him in candy stripe shirt with a sleeve garter, such was the enthusiasm of his playing. Marsalis paid homage to Louis Armstrong in his vivid playing during this piece. Throughout the concert, drummer Herlin Riley, a long-time associate of Marsalis and a New Orleans compatriot, drove the band with the power of a Butch Miles tempered by subtlety and restraint when needed.
As many of you know, Wynton's brother Delfeayo, an accomplished and well-traveled trombonist, is pursuing his formal education here at the University of Louisville. I asked Wynton if Delfeayo would make a guest appearance here and he indicated that he would. When I inquired about arrangements and rehearsals, Wynton indicated that with Delfeayo's ability and experience, he would fit in without such formalities. This proved to be the case, when Delfeayo (resplendent in orange suit and shoes) joined the LCJO for Frank Foster's "Blues in Hoss' Flat." Delfeayo also rejoined the band for the encore, a rollicking performance of Eddie Harris' "Freedom Jazz Dance," which featured Wynton's whistling as well as his trumpet playing on this sinuous modern jazz piece.
Further mention of Delfeayo was made in the context of my asking about the forthcoming Wynton Marsalis recording, The Magic Hour. He noted that Delfeayo produced it, as he had many of Wynton's prior recordings. The new album will be a quartet project, with guest appearances by Bobby McFerrin and Dianne Reeves. After more than two decades on the Columbia label, this project will be on Blue Note. Marsalis said there was "nothing ugly" involved, just that it was time for a change as he and Columbia seemed to be going in different directions and also that it marked the return to working with executive Bruce Lundvall.
Jazz from Bloomington presented the Dave Douglas Quintet on Friday, February 13, in concert. The venue, the Buskirk-Chumley Theatre, is a small theatre in downtown Bloomington, similar to the Lexington Opera House. Trumpeter Douglas has just released Strange Liberation (Bluebird/Arista/BMG) with his working group of Chris Potter on saxophones; Uri Caine on Fender Rhodes electric piano; James Genus on acoustic bass; and Clarence Penn on drums and non-touring guest Bill Frisell on guitar. The interaction of Douglas' musicians was intriguing, as was the mix of electric and acoustic sounds. The second piece played, in fact, was the title song from this album. The horn lines of Douglas and Potter reminded me of the interplay between Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry on the classic Atlantic sides. The electric piano gave an updated sound to the ensemble work. As my friend and Louisville Jazz Society colleague, Jim Coryell, observed, this instrument must be judged on its own, rather than by comparison with a concert grand. At times Caine's stylings were reminiscent of Mwandishi-era Herbie Hancock, while at other times he played so uniquely that his sound was clearly his own. Throughout the concert, Penn was a whirlwind of energy, providing visual interest as well as moving over, under, around and through the beat. Genus, too, was all over his instrument, adding a rich bottom to the explorations of the others while occasionally emphasizing his prowess with solo space. Potter's solos ranged from Wayne Shorter-like abstractions to the downhome blues. On the Thelonious Monk-inspired "Skeeter-isms," the band took off with a sense of mission to wed serious improvisation with a childlike sense of fun and being in the moment. All in all, this concert was well worth the four-hour round trip and I encourage you to see Douglas in concert if the opportunity presents itself.
In an interview the Sunday before the show, Douglas stated that the material his group plays changes from night to night, but would be drawn primarily from his newest album, Strange Liberation and the earlier recording with his current quintet, The Infinite, together with newly composed material. He stressed the importance of this being a working band adept at collective improvisation. In commenting on the lineup for the tour, he emphasized the percussive qualities of the Fender Rhodes electric piano played by Caine. In response to my comment that Freak-In reminded me of Miles Davis' On the Corner, he observed that others had mentioned that, too and he also noted that he had been studying the studio and editing work of Miles and producer Teo Macero during this period. We discussed the presence of guitarist Bill Frisell on the new album and I asked how the material would be adapted for the guitar-less touring group. He responded that the high caliber of the musicians and the collective sense of improvisation were keys to interpreting this music on the bandstand. When I asked him if there was anything else he wanted to add to our interview, he commented on the need for regime change here in our own country. While this topic was not overtly musical, it turned out to tie in to a piece he wrote for the brand new (at this writing) issue of Downbeat, wherein he ties the Theory of Relativity into a cogent essay on pigeonholing styles of jazz and the ramifications of culture and society. All in all, this was a fascinating conversation with an artist who is relentless in his quest for new ways of expressing himself.
In closing, one might ask which of the two concerts was better. However, this question is like asking whether a Louisville Orchestra performance of a Stravinsky or Cage piece is better than its performance of a Beethoven or Bach composition. Just as Western Classical music preserves its traditions while moving forward with original compositions in newer styles, so too does the jazz world thrive on the continuing performance of both traditional compositions in older styles and the spirit of adventure inherent in confronting contemporary culture. Marsalis and the LCJO represent the "classic" repertoire of jazz and do it in a way that is respectful of the music while not being moribund, while Douglas and his current group look toward the future with original compositions and somewhat unusual instrumentation. Which was better? They both were!
On The Horizon
The Louisville Jazz Society has announced a Spring Concert Series, to take place at the Jazz Factory. The shows are all on Wednesdays, beginning on March 17 with the Dave Klingman/Steve Crews Quartet featuring vocalist Gail Wynters; continuing on April 7 with trumpeter Ingrid Jensen's Quartet (www.ingridjensen.com); and concluding on May 12, with the return of pianist Ryan Cohan with his Quartet(www.ryancohan.com). For additional information on the series, including ticket prices (single or series), go to www.louisvillejazz.org, or call LJS President Patty Bailey at 502-741-7272
On Monday, March 8, at 8 p.m., the University of Louisville will host a free concert by saxophonist Jamey Aebersold, with Rick Simerley (trombone), Jim Connerly (piano), Tyrone Wheeler (bass) and Jonathan Higgins (drums), at Comstock Hall. The Kentucky Center Jazz Cabaret Concerts will feature the Steve Crews Trio on March 21 and will conclude on April 18 with Walker and Kays. The schedule for the Jazz Factory (815 W. Main Street in the Glassworks) was not available past March 15 by press time (except for the Louisville Jazz Society Series, above), so be sure to check www.jazzfactory.us or phone 992-3242, for updated listings. Featured performers for the first half of the month include saxophonist Bennett Higgins' Quartet on Thursday, March 4 and the Ron Jones Quartet on Thursday, March 11. Likewise, the March schedule for the Seelbach Jazz Bar, 500 South Fourth St., Louisville (585-3200) presented by Dick Sisto, was not available at press time, but Sisto swings hard with his own group and frequently features guest performers.
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: Friday, March 5: the Bill Barnes Trio, Thursday, March 11: the Mike Tracy Trio, Saturday, March 20, the Susannah Martin Trio, Thursday, March 25: guitar-bass duo Bill Barnes and Rob Collier and Friday, March 26: the Mike Tracy Trio. Clifton's Pizza, 2230 Frankfort Avenue, 893-3730, features "Dixieland" from Meron Serron and his "Red Hot Onion Band" on the first Sunday of each month, except for May and the vocal stylings of Walker & Kays on Wednesdays: March 3, 17 and 31, April 14 & 28. Also, the Bristol/Bardstown Road showcases the Bennett Higgins Trio on March 28, April 4 and 18 during Sunday Brunch. Rudyard Kipling's "Open Air Transmissions" weekly jam sessions continue on Wednesday evenings in Old Louisville; the City Cafe at the Mid-City Mall has started featuring jazz on weekends, with the Mike Tracy Trio on Friday and Saturday, March 5-6. The Good Times Pub, 12612 Shelbyville Road will have jazz on Sunday afternoons from 4 to 7 with pianist Jerry Carlon, guitarist Jeff Sherman and bassist Ben Ingram.
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: email@example.com.
Live Jazz In The Area
The Blue Wisp (318 East 8th St., Cincinnati, OH 45202; 513-241-WISP; www.bluewispjazzclub.com), usually has guest artists to augment its nightly offerings, but its March schedule was unavailable at press time. 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 on Friday, March 5th, guitarist Doug Wamble's Quartet in support of their first release on Marsalis Music, Country Libations. The following Friday, March 12th, brings Dave Samuels back to the region, this time with the Caribbean Jazz Project. Then Maynard Ferguson & His Big Bop Nouveau Band will blow into the Kitchen on Monday, March 29th. 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.
Please support jazz on the radio (if you can find any), in the clubs and concert halls. As this is written, WFPK's "Spring" fund drive is about to begin. I hope that you have joined the many other dissatisfied jazz fans by letting the station know that your funds will return to the station when the station returns jazz to the airwaves at accessible times throughout the week. In fact, as I type this, I am listening to John Coltrane's "Cousin Mary" during the Channel 41 television nightly news, as jazz is nowhere to be found on the public radio airwaves. Let me know what you think. You can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.