Those of you who read last month's column know that it was written just before I underwent knee surgery. I am healing well, but the time lost from work has put me behind in covering some of the concert performances and recordings that I had intended to cover this month. So, as the old saying goes, "Stay tuned, folks." For now, here's what I could put together for September.
The Anderson/Easley Project at the Jazz Factory
This is a performance I meant to review earlier, but .... This intriguing group consists of former Louisville Orchestra bassist Dave Anderson and pedal steel guitarist Dave Easley, with drumming by Steve Tidwell. While steel guitar is not usually associated with jazz, Easley demonstrated both proficiency and inventiveness in a program of mostly original material. Anderson's arco intro to the opening number of the second set (sorry, I didn't hear a title announced) led into a spacey pedal steel segment reminiscent at times of Jerry Garcia's experimental playing on the instrument on his first, self-titled solo album. Anderson also opened the second piece, "Blues for Frank" with an arco introduction, before switching to pizzicato during the ensemble playing; Jaco Pastorius' "Teen Town" was cleverly woven onto this song as well. Other highlights included "12-Tone Hip Bop," dedicated to Charlie Parker and Arnold Schoenberg. Overall, this was a delightful evening of provocative and highly enjoyable music; bring `em back, Ken!
Joe Locke with the Dick Sisto Trio at the Jazz Factory
New York vibes master came to town to play two nights at the Jazz Factory, Friday and Saturday, July 29 and 30. Dick Sisto, who normally holds forth at the Seelbach Jazz Bar, brought his colleagues Tyrone Wheeler on bass and Jason Tiemann on drums, to perform with Locke. Locke's vibrant energy seemed to push Sisto as the group performed songs primarily associated with other vibes masters, such as "Falling Grace" (a Steve Swallow composition associated with Gary Burton), "Isn't This My Soul Around Me (Bobby Hutcherson),"and "Old Devil Moon" (a Milt Jackson favorite).
In a brief conversation following the second set, Locke told me that he has several new CDS out, or coming out soon, including Four Walls of Freedom and Dear Life; unfortunately, neither was available for review. I associate Locke with a modern, progressive approach to music, so I asked about his seeming enjoyment of the standards repertoire performed on this engagement. He replied that "I come from a background of experience with the Great American Songbook and jazz standards." When I asked him how long he had known Dick Sisto, his surprising answer was "since yesterday, but I have known of him by reputation for much longer." Given their interplay, it just goes to show how two excellent musicians can communicate well with one another despite limited rehearsal time and no prior experience performing together. During the set, he had mentioned the rarity of performing in a two-vibes setting and remarked in our conversation that he has had the opportunity to perform in Europe with Gary Burton. For more information on Locke, his website is www.joelocke.com.
Locke is one of the artists quoted on the back of a new instructional book by Sisto, The Jazz Vibraphone Book: Etudes in the Style of the Masters (Meredith/Hal Leonard). Sisto analyzes the work of several masters, including Gary Burton, Bobby Hutcherson and Milt Jackson. The book comes with a CD, with piano trio play along tracks. Sisto's website is www.dicksisto.com, although I was unable to find any links there for further information about this book.
Rahsaan Barber's TrioSoul at the Jazz Factory
Rahsaan Barber brought his new project, TrioSoul, up from Nashville to the Jazz Factory for two nights, August 5 and 6; I caught the second night. This group features Moe Denham on organ and Robert Bond on drums and is dedicated to performing in the classic sax/organ trio style of folks such as Stanley Turrentine/Shirley Scott, Hank Crawford/Jimmy McGriff and so forth. Barber introduced Duke Ellington's "Just Squeeze Me" as being his mother's favorite tune from their new CD (Rahsaan Barber: TrioSoul, on Barber's own SoulSounds label; available through www.thebarberbrothers.com and www.cdbaby.com). The country song, "You Don't Know Me," which will forever be associated with Ray Charles, was next up and was Barber's own personal favorite from the album. Jimmy Smith's "Back at the Chicken Shack" gave Denham plenty of room to groove. The set closed with two pieces for Turrentine, the jazz standard "Sugar," and Barber's original "Song for Stanley T." The audience began to let its hair down during the second set, as Barber began with a Caribbean arrangement of "Happy Birthday" which was followed by a spirited rendition of Sonny Rollins' "Saint Thomas," both of which had the "birthday girl" and others dancing. Benny Golson's "Killer Joe" featured playful exchanges between the organ and sax, while "Georgia" ("my favorite tune of the night - and of the next CD") slowed the pace. Bond's brushwork added greatly to the arrangement of "There Is No Greater Love," while the last song, Joe Zawinul's famed "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy," featured an intense workout between Barber and Bond before Denham joined the fun.
Throughout the night, Barber demonstrated that he was at ease with both his instrument and his audience. He played with authority and warmth, giving respect to the musicians who influenced him while making his own personal statements about the music. In a conversation between sets, Barber commented on his desire to help younger artists (he himself is only 25!), in part by launching his own label. He discussed growing up with his twin brother, trombonist Roland Barber, in a house so suffused with music that the only decision he made in his youth was not whether to play, but rather what instrument to play. He also discussed his perceptions of the differences in younger jazz players in the North ("more academic") and South ("more soulful, down-home"). His education covered both aspects, including attending Jamey Aebersold's summer jazz camps and being educated by his father to the blues and soul music performed on Memphis' Beale Street. Barber is definitely an artist to watch. His CD provides a good snapshot of his live performance here. Brother Roland adds his trombone to two tracks, "the slow deep groove of Benny Golson's "Mississippi Windows" and "Interlude 773." One of the highlights which was not performed is the opening cut, Denham's fast-paced "Bug's Boogie."
BASS IS THE PLACE, SLIGHT RETURN
On the live music scene, Victor Wooten brought many of the players from his Soul Circus recording to town on July 2 at Headliners, in a show that put the fun back in funk. While perhaps better known for his jazz fusion work with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Wooten has a solid background in soul and funk playing. His band was essentially the same as the players on his new CD, Soul Circus (Vanguard), including his brother Regi Wooten on guitar (whose cover of the Jimi Hendrix classic "Fire" was a crowd-pleaser). A good-natured "Victa" began the show, with a nod to such classic soul performers as James Brown who put their names into the opening numbers. MC Divinity joined on both bass and rap and there was great interaction among all the musicians on stage. There was plenty of music to shake yo groove thang to, with enough intricacy to allow for listening enjoyment while sitting out some songs.
Charlie Haden and the Liberation Music Orchestra: Not In Our Name (Verve 80004949-02) finds master bassist Haden reunited with pianist/arranger Carla Bley for a powerful musical statement addressing the political fact that " . . . the devastation that this administration is wreaking is not in our name. It's not in the name of many people in this country." The material is mostly by American composers and includes a medley of "America the Beautiful" [both the original and a later composition of the same name by Gary McFarland] and "Lift Every Voice and Sing." The quintessentially American "Goin' Home," from Dvorak's "New World Symphony" follows "Amazing Grace" and precedes Bill Frisell's "Throughout." The opening song is the title piece of the album and is a waltz with no overtly political implications. It is followed by the Pat Metheny/Lyle Mays/David Bowie composition entitled "This Is Not America," performed in a reggae style. The juxtaposition of jazz arrangements of classical and traditional pieces with more contemporary compositions by members of the jazz community (such as Ornette Coleman's "Skies of America") brings home Haden's and Bley's political position in a way that mere rhetoric could not: that America is all of us, whether or not we are in favor of the current administration's policies.
Local musician Phillip Lomax Lackey has just released a CD entitled The Documentation, available at www.cdbaby.com. The music is all composed, performed and produced by Lackey, with the aid of overdubbing. Much of the music is what I call old school fusion, reminiscent of Stanley Clarke's work with the second edition of Chick Corea's Return to Forever (the guitar band, not the Brazilian band). Lackey does sing on three songs, which may take away from the jazz feel, but may add the hooks necessary to draw in fans of contemporary urban music. His musicianship is superb throughout, especially considering the many different instruments played (drums and various keyboards in addition to six string electric bass). This is a solid and very impressive debut.
HAPPY 75TH BIRTHDAY, SONNY ROLLINS!
Those of you who follow the national jazz publications have seen the venerable visage of Sonny Rollins gracing the covers of JazzTimes (June 2005) and DownBeat (September 2005), in anticipation of his 75th birthday on September 7. I am going to go out on a limb and offer my opinion that he is the greatest living jazz saxophonist. I have had the good fortune to see him on several occasions over the years, most recently a few years ago at the Indianapolis Jazz Fest when he transcended boundaries and made believers of some of my non-jazz friends who I treated to the show. That Rollins is a past master of the tenor saxophone is beyond argument. He is capable of combining technical virtuosity with an innate ability to communicate with his audience. This is amply demonstrated on the just-released Without a Song: The 9/11 Concert (Milestone MCD-9342-2), recorded in Boston on September 15, 2001, under emotional circumstances which were trying for both the musicians and the audience. Rollins' comments throughout the concert show his attempt to search for light in a time of darkness. His playing is nonpareil, beginning with the title track "Without a Song," and continuing through a program of standards including "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square," "Why Was I Born?" and an uptempo take on the ballad "Where or When." The only original is the relatively recent composition "Global Warming," which is reminiscent of such classic Rollins numbers as "Saint Thomas" and "Don't Stop the Carnival." Pianist Stephen Scott provides excellent and inventive support, occasionally strumming the piano strings or playing kalimba for variety. Long-time bassist Bob Cranshaw is, as always, in the pocket. They are complemented by the drumming of Perry Wilson (trap set) and Kimati Dinizulu (congas). A retrospective of Rollins' return to the jazz world following his sabbatical in 1962 is provided by The Essential Sonny Rollins: The RCA Years (BMG; number not available). This is a two-CD set and contains recordings including several with his quartet featuring guitarist Jim Hall, as well as a generous sampling of recordings with such diverse musicians as avant-gardists pianist Paul Bley and trumpeter Don Cherry, not to mention tracks from Rollins' famed record date with Coleman Hawkins. Songs include the calypso pieces "Saint Thomas" and "Don't Stop the Carnival," Billie Holiday's immortal "God Bless the Child," and many others. While offering nothing new to committed fans of Rollins, it provides an excellent overview of some of the artist's best-loved work for listeners just discovering this "saxophone colossus." So, in closing, Happy Birthday Sonny Rollins and many more!
OTHER NEW NATIONAL CD RELEASES
Soulive has switched from Blue Note to the presumably more conservative Concord label with surprising results. Break Out is less of a nod to Jimmy Smith than to Rufus. The CD is roughly half instrumentals with an early 1970s George Benson vibe and roughly half vocals, featuring guest singers Chaka Khan (YES!), Ivan Neville, Maktub's Reggie Watts and Living Colour's Corey Glover. Guest artist Robert Randolph lends his "sacred steel" guitar to a brief "Interlude" (the second of three on this disc) and an arrangement of Jimi Hendrix's "Crosstown Traffic." The trio is frequently augmented by a tasty horn section (uncredited on the advance release). Those of you who have enjoyed Soulive's prior releases, with their emphasis on updated and stretched-out funk/jazz, will need to decide if the soul/funk of early Tower of Power, the JB's and so forth is "yo' bag." For retro soul (and I mean that in a positive sense), this is a cool and very danceable CD; for extended jazzy soloing, you will need to look elsewhere.
Charlie Hunter, the amazing 8-string guitarist, recently played in Indianapolis at the Jazz Kitchen; regrettably he wasn't booked anywhere here. Nonetheless, there are two new "side projects" of his which are out now: Charlie Hunter/Bobby Previte [as Groundtruther] with DJ Logic: Longitude (Thirsty Ear THI 57160.2)(www.thirstyear.com) and Garage A Trois: Outre Mer (Telarc 83640). As noted in my November 2004 review of the first Groundtruther album, Latitude, Hunter has teamed up with percussionist and electronic musician Bobby Previte to form an alternate trio, called Groundtruther, with the unusual concept that the third spot in the trio will be rotated among various guest artists. DJ Logic is the DJ of choice for many in the jamband community and he brings his unusual turntable skills to bear in a way that makes Herbie Hancock's "Rockit" seem quaint. This is not the usual "scratcha-scratcha" which many outside the hiphop world associate with DJs; rather it is the sophisticated blend of effects and unusual musical side-trips which adds a strong third voice to Hunter's bass-and-lead guitar excursions and to Previte's inventive drumming and "electronics." Musically, the songs range from the twisted surf music of "March 1741, Cape Horn" to a Living Colour-like sonic assault on "Course Made Good." "Jupiter Mask" reminds me of portions of the still-unreleased Jimi Hendrix/John McLaughlin jams. There is an untitled and unlisted 13th track which is eerie and would make a good score for a scene of a spaceship hurtling through interstellar vastness. All in all, adventurous stuff, not the same old bop licks recycled for the eleventy-fourth time.
Garage A Trois is made up of Hunter, drummer Stanton Moore (Galactic), saxophonist Skerik (Critters Buggin', the Dead Kenny G's) and percussionist Mike Dillon (Critters Buggin' and other inventive ensembles). In concert, as I have noted in my New Orleans Jazzfest pieces (Louisville Music News, most recently April 2005), this is a group infused with manic energy, high musicianship and a list of influences ranging from Sun Ra to James Brown to Fela Kuti. Outre Mer is quite different from their concerts; it is a studio album which serves as a soundtrack for an as-yet unreleased French film. The CD itself is relatively restrained, although that is in comparison to the group's concerts; by most other standards it is wildly eclectic and innovative. The title track opens the disc with an Afro-pop vibe, while the next piece, "Bear No Hair," has a riff reminiscent of James Brown's "Get on the Good Foot," but with Dillon and Skerik taking the piece to places the JB's probably never considered. The African motifs reappear in several songs. The last song, curiously, has an African title "Amanjiwo," yet sounds more like something from a Bill Frisell album. All in all, this is intriguing music which eludes simple categorization and which is inventive without losing accessibility.
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). Thus, I will simply highlight a few performances which I find of particular interest.
The complete lineup for July for The Jazz Factory, (815 W. Market St. in The Glassworks, 502-992-3242) is available at the website: www.jazzfactory.us. Below are some utterly subjective highlights for September. Mulgrew Miller is scheduled for Thursday, September 8, with his working trio of Dereck Hodge on bass and Karriem Riggins on drums. Miller is one of the best mainstream modern jazz pianists working today and his resume includes a stint with Art Blakey's jazz messengers. On Friday, the 16th, singer Tierney Sutton will appear. Her latest CD, I'm With the Band (Telarc 83616), was recorded live at Birdland in New York in March of this year, with Christian Jacob on piano, Kevin Axt [and Trey Henry] on bass and Ray Brinker on drums, the same trio who is scheduled to perform here with her. I'm With the Band was my first opportunity to hear Sutton and I was impressed with her versatility and originality. Although the CD is all standards, such as the opening "Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise" and "Cheek to Cheek," the renditions are fresh. Her interaction with the musicians is intriguing, especially as she sometimes eschews the "vocalist with trio" format for one on one interactions with each of the players. Other shows include: The Todd Hildreth Trio: September 1; The Vintage Keys Project: September 2-3; Wilbert Longmire, Art Gore, Melvin Rhyne - Tribute to Wes Montgomery: September 17; Lorraine Feather; September 23-24; Louisville Metro Latin Jazz Festival: September 30-October 8.
The Seelbach Jazz Bar normally features the Dick Sisto trio (with Tyrone Walker and Jason Tiemann). Featured guests during September will be announced later.
The Jazz Kitchen (5377 N College Ave., Indianapolis, IN 46220; phone: 317-253-4900; www.thejazzkitchen.com) has an intriguing lineup, with concerts including vocalist Kurt Elling (September 17), Acoustic Alchemy (September 19), Chuchito Valdez (September 23), the Dave Weckl Band (October 10), Buster Williams (October 17), John Scofield performing the music of Ray Charles - (October 18-19), Lorraine Feather (October 22) and the Caribbean Jazz Project (November 4).
As noted in the Prelude, there were projects which I simply ran out of time to cover. Look for reviews of performances of Jennifer Lauletta and Zach Brock next month, as well as more coverage of new recordings. As always, I am interested in your comments. Contact me at email@example.com.