Martin Z. Kasdan Jr.

Jazzin'
By Martin Z. Kasdan Jr.

PRELUDE

I am literally finishing up this column on the eve of arthroscopic knee surgery, trying to tie up as many loose ends as possible. There are any number of CD and performance reviews that are half-finished and will just have to wait until next month. Between day job and family commitments, it is sometimes difficult to cover as much as I would like, especially the local artists, many of whom, if they lived a few hundred miles away, would be granted star status when they appear at the Jazz Factory, the Seelbach, or any of the other venues which support live jazz.

RECENT CONCERTS

The Jamey Aebersold Summer Jazz Workshop Concert, June 29, 2005

On Wednesday, June 29, the first of two concerts featuring the world-class faculty of the Jamey Aebersold Summer Jazz Workshop took place at Masterson's, whose air conditioning malfunctions gave new meaning to the phrase "hot jazz." First up was the two-tenor team of Louisville native Don Braden and Gene Walker, with Bobby Floyd on organ, Conrad Herwig on trombone, Dave Stryker on guitar, Jason Tiemann on drums and Bobby Floyd on organ. The opener was a bluesy take on "Have You Met Miss Jones," with Herwig's solo drawing the first spontaneous applause of the evening [as opposed to the routine polite applause after each solo]. The jazz standard "Centerpiece" followed, with Stryker's solo taking a more subtle approach than usual and which included a quote of "Teach Me Tonight." Braden's solo, built from a groundwork of fragmented phrases, drew the second round of spontaneous applause. Walker was featured next in an unaccompanied solo introduction to the ballad "Angel Eyes," eventually joined by just guitar organ and drums. "Ensemble I" closed with a concise take on the JATP barnburner, "Lester Leaps In," with a spotlight on a Braden/Tiemann duet.

The next group consisted of trumpet/flugelhorn player Jim Rotondi, alto saxophonist Jim Snidero, tenor player Rich Perry, bassist Lynn Seaton, pianist David Hazeltine and drummer John Riley. After an opening piece featuring the arco artistry of Seaton, the group ventured a Latin take on "Body and Soul." Jimmy Heath's classic "Gingerbread Boy" featured an opening solo by Perry, more akin to the modern take of contemporary work of Wayne Shorter, than Heath's more conservative playing. Riley's solo brought fellow percussionist Steve Davis to the side of the stage, grinning with approval.

Davis was the drummer for the final lineup of the evening, which included bassist Rufus Reid, our own Harry Pickens, tenor players Eric Alexander and Gary Campbell and trumpeter Scott Wendholt. Beginning with John Coltrane's immortal "Impressions," each saxophonist soloed in styles which did not attempt to emulate Trane, but rather brought their own aesthetics and styles to bear. When Pickens took the piece in a different direction during his solo, Reid and Davis were right with him. It was fun to hear Pickens in a higher-energy context than in his usual elegant trio setting. A midtempo blues followed, highlighted by an a solo by Reid with Davis' brushwork providing exquisite accompaniment. A ballad medley followed, beginning with Campbell opening "In a Sentimental Mood," followed by Alexander seemingly channeling Ben Webster, with Pickens performing "Mona Lisa," and a Reid feature on "Sophisticated Lady." The group ended the set and the evening with a fast boppish take on "It's You or No One."

Over the years I have always enjoyed both week's concerts; family and day job commitments left me unable to attend and review the following week's performances. Nonetheless, the first concert provided a lengthy and most enjoyable night of topnotch jazz, which we Louisvillians may take too much for granted. Any one of the lineups above could headline clubs in New York, Chicago or other cities, with cover charges, drink minimums and so forth grossly exceeding the most reasonable ticket prices here. Thanks, Jamey, for all your hard work and for all that you do for jazz, here, across the country and around the world.

RECENT CD RELEASES

LOUISVILLE RELEASES

Todd Hildreth, founding father of the Java Men and one of the area's busiest pianists, has just released two new CDs: From the Hip, which features the Todd Hildreth piano trio with Chris Fitzgerald, bass and Paul Culligan, drums; and the self-titled Todd Hildreth Accordion Trio (with fellow Java Man Craig Wagner on guitar . Both arrived on my doorstep just before deadline time, so I can only tell you that from listening to the first three tracks of each that Hildreth has two excellent releases to complement his earlier recordings. The Accordion Trio makes me think of Snoopy in his World War I gear "saying" "Garcon; another root beer." There is, in other words, a feel of French sidewalk cafes, with a "Hot Club" feel. The piano trio stretches out on material ranging from John Scofield's "Wabash II" to a piece by the Gorillaz entitled "Clint Eastwood." I hope to elaborate more next month, but for now, check out www.groovytodd.com for more info.

Fellow Louisville Jazz Society Board member Jennifer Lauletta, has just sent a soon-to-be-released CD to the factory, Things We Said Today. This features Steve Crews-piano, Ron "Butch" Neeld-bass and Joe Lauletta-drums. Ever since receiving an advance copy, I have had a hard time getting her take on the classic yet lesser-known Joni Mitchell composition "I Don't Know Where I Stand" out of my head. Again, if the gods of music and health smile on me, more next month.

NATIONAL RELEASES

Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker

Fans of classic bebop will be delighted with Dizzy Gillespie-Charlie Parker: Town Hall Concert, New York City, June 22, 1945 (Uptown records UPCD 27.51). Symphony Sid introduces the co-leaders with Al Haig on piano, Curley Russell on bass, Max Roach on drums (except for "Hot House" and 52nd Street Theme," on which he is replaced by Sid Catlett) and guest tenor player Don Byas on the first song, Dizzy's "Bebop." "The boys," as Sid says, play their hearts out on the other now-classic pieces, as well: "A Night in Tunisia," "Groovin' High," and "Salt Peanuts," for 40 minutes of surprisingly well-recorded live jazz from the dawn of the bebop era. This is a previously unreleased set of music complete with a 32-page booklet containing detailed notes and many cool photographs.

John Scofield

John Scofield, guitarist extraordinaire, has two new recordings out: That's What I Say: A Tribute to Ray Charles (Verve) and Live 3 Ways (Blue Note). The former is a CD recorded last fall; the latter a DVD taped in May of 1990 with three different ensembles. Frankly, I was prepared to damn That's What I Say with faint praise - you know, the whole "artist gets overwhelmed by concept and then is buried under a slew of guest stars" shtick. But then a funny thing happened - I listened to it. And by golly, another set of preconceived notions goes by the wayside.

On That's What I Say, a core group of drummer/producer Steve Jordan, bassist Willie Weeks and keyboardist Larry Goldings help keep the project grounded. From the first notes of the opening "Busted," it's clear that Sco and company didn't just go through the motions, as the guitarist weaves through the funk with sinewy lines. With Dr. John on board, at first I thought that the horn sections on several of the pieces had been arranged by the good doctor. Wrong again - the horn charts with their New Orleans flavor are also the product of none other than Mr. Scofield. A jazz purist might quibble with the inclusion of John Mayer on vocals, but nobody could find fault with Aaron Neville's artistry on "You Don't Know Me," or with the inclusion of Ray Charles alumnus David "Fathead" Newman on several tracks. In short, this latest entry into the John Scofield discography shows that an artist can transcend what might appear on the surface to be a quick run for the money and make a statement which is respectful of its source while remaining true to the vision of the artist and still be fun.

The 1990 sessions documented on Live 3 Ways showcase Sco first in an organ trio setting, with Marvin "Smitty" Smith on drums and the late Don Pullen on B-3. While Pullen is perhaps better known for his progressive piano playing with Charles Mingus and his co-led quartet with George Adams, he gets down and dirty on the opening blues by Thelonious Monk, "Bolivar Blues," then stretches stylistically on the uptempo song by Steve Swallow, "Charlie Chan." The second "set" consists of two duets with Dr. John playing piano, on two classic blues numbers, Percy Mayfield's "Please Send Me Someone to Love," and Little Walter's "My Babe." While Dr. John's performance on the new CD includes his unmistakable vocal work, here he stays focused on piano work, playing "fonky" yet with restraint.

The final segment is an early collaboration with Joe Lovano, with bassist Anthony Cox and drummer John Reilly [sic; it is John Riley, a regular participant in the Aebersold Jazz Camps here in Louisville] . Scofield and Lovano would shortly afterwards record and tour with Marc Johnson on bass and Bill Stewart on drums, so this is a fascinating look at a short-lived quartet with Sco showing his more progressive side. They do, however, bring back the funk with a cover of the classic Meters dance groove, "Cissy Strut." Throughout, the cameras alternate between showing the interaction of the musicians in these diverse groups and moving in for closeups of the soloists. If one were to be picky, one could complain about the relatively short (under an hour) running time. Apparently, however, this was all shot on the same day, so its release actually should be seen as a rare opportunity to see a master guitarist play in three distinct settings, enjoying himself in a variety of musical settings.

ON THE HORIZON

As I have before, I urge you to subscribe to sign up for "Jennifer's Jazz E-News," by e-mailing Jenjenjazz@louisvillejazz.org. As I have noted before, there are so many opportunities to hear live jazz that it is both impossible for me to try to provide a complete listing here and it would be duplicative in any event. Also, Louisville Music News' monthly music listings are carrying more jazz events than ever, in both the print and online editions (www.louisvillemusicnews.net).

The Kentucky Center provides a mixed bag of "good news, bad news." The bad news is that there will be no outdoor festival this summer. Let's hope for a return in 2006! The good news far outweighs the bad, as the Kentucky Center has put together one of its programs in many years (and this time I need to offer no disclaimers, as the Center's magazine will apparently go back to in-house writers). For far more information than I can offer here, go to www.kentuckycenter.org. A few highlights for the 2005-2006 season include the Mark O'Connor Swing Trio (October 1), the Turtle Island String Quartet with Kenny Barron (November 11), a Windham Hill Winter Solstice show with Tuck & Patti and the Mike Marshall/Darol Anger Duo (December 16) and Kermit Ruffins and the Barbeque Swingers (March 3, 2006).

The complete lineup for August for The Jazz Factory, (815 W. Market St. in The Glassworks, 502-992-3242) will be available at the website: www.jazzfactory.us. Zach Brock and The Coffee Achievers (with Sam Barsh) is scheduled on August 12 and 13, Ryan Cohan on the 26 and 27, a tentative date for Mulgrew Miller on September 8 and Lorraine Feather and the Big Band on September 23-24. A Latin Jazz Fest is also in the works for September 30 through October 8; more, presumably next month.

The Seelbach Jazz Bar, as always, features the Dick Sisto trio (with Tyrone Walker and Jason Tiemann). Featured guests during August were unavailable at deadline time.

CODA

As always, I am interested in your comments. Contact me at mzkjr@yahoo.com.