Martin Z. Kasdan Jr.

Jazzin'
By Martin Z. Kasdan Jr.

PRELUDE: Basin Street Blues

Last month in this opening segment, I gave you the information then available for the 2006 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival with the promise that "a preview will appear next month, in tandem with a review of the 2005 Fest." These words were optimistically written shortly before a bout with strep throat knocked me out of commission for much of February and some of March. So, friends and neighbors, by the time I even scratched the surface of getting caught up with my day job, it was deadline time (and counting . . .) for this month's column. As Ann Landers was wont to say, flog me with a wet noodle. I'll post a 2005 review when I can, but for now I still want to add some late-breaking information on Jazzfest 2006. Bruce Springsteen and the Seeger Sessions Band is probably the biggest pop music addition to the lineup since the initial announcement; other newly-announced artists include: Etta James, Herbie Hancock, Dave Bartholomew, Warren Haynes, Bonerama, New Orleans Jazz Vipers, Wess "Warm Daddy" Anderson, Topsy Chapman, New Leviathan Oriental Foxtrot Orchestra, Walter Payton & Snapbeans, Bonerama, Bill Summers with members of Los Hombres Calientes, Kirk Joseph's Backyard Groove, Olympia Brass Band and others. For complete information, including who is playing on what day, ticket arrangements and so forth, go to www.nojazzfest.com.

Additionally, Superfly Productions has announced its 10th annual "Superfly during Jazzfest" concert series. At press time, the shows listed were: Friday, April 28: "Garage a Medeski" featuring Stanton Moore, Mike Dillon, Skerik and John Medeski; two shows on Saturday, April 29: The Radiators (cruise) and Umphrey's McGee (on land); Thursday, May 4: Frenchmen Street Festival Benefit for the Rebuilding of New Orleans, with a night show later with The Greyboy Allstars; Friday, May 5, Gov't Mule, Galactic and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band; Saturday, May 6: The Meters and Robert Randolph & the Family Band. The initial press release intimated that more shows would be announced soon. For details, go to www.superflypresents.com.

RECENT CONCERTS

Last month I promised reviews of The Tony Monaco Trio and Jimmy Scott at the Jazz Factory. Little did I know that my colleague Keith Clements would devote his entire March column to Jimmy Scott. Frankly, I feel that anything I could say would be in the form of a memo from the Department of Redundancy Department. If you missed Keith's March column, it is archived at www.louisvillemusicnews.net ("Prior issues; March 2006; `I've Got a Mind To Ramble."

That said, this does give me an opportunity to let you know that Scott's accompanists, known as the Jazz Expressions, also function independently of him. Not only were they given the spotlight several times during his performance here, but they also have a number of albums out, the most recent of which is On the Road (Wildflower Recordings WFR JZ0214CD). Led by bassist and musical director Hilliard Greene, the other musicians are pianist Aaron Graves, drummer Dwayne Broadnax and saxophonist/flutist T. K. Blue (a/k/a Talib Kibwe, who unfortunately was not part of the lineup in Louisville). The overall sound is modern mainstream, with a fresh approach. The compositions are all originals by the group members. Greene's opening composition, "The Great One," is a fast-paced hard bop romp, followed by Blue's gentle "A Single Tear of Remembrance," featuring his eloquent flute playing. The only other slow piece on this recording is Graves' "Harriet Tubman," a warm and unhurried piece giving the pianist plenty of room to shine. Throughout, the interplay of these musicians makes for an engaging listening experience. If you can't find this CD locally, more information is available at www.wildflowerpublishers.com.

The Tony Monaco Trio, from Columbus, Ohio, is a local favorite and rightly so. Monaco is in the tradition of the classic jazz organists such as Jimmy McGriff, Brother Jack McDuff and especially Jimmy Smith, Monaco's chief inspiration. Monaco returned to the Jazz Factory for a two-night stand, on Friday and Saturday, February 3-4. He brought with him his longtime guitarist and drummer, Robert Kraut and Louis Tsamous, respectively. The first set on Saturday night was already in progress when I arrived, with Monaco and company warming up themselves and the crowd with a slow blues. Monaco added vocals to his next piece, the evergreen "There Will Never Be Another You." An uptempo blues, "I'll Remember Jimmy," from his new CD East to West (see below) followed. A piece which ultimately morphed into "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" began fast and funky, with Kraut taking the first solo, followed by Monaco, who sloooowed the pace with a solo at times reminiscent of a Theremin. A ballad medley ended the first set, during which Monaco showed his prowess at playing not only the organ, but the audience as well. The second set began with a fast blues, followed by a piece that reminded me of Eddie Harris' "Freedom Jazz Dance." After a ballad that picked up energy, Monaco grabbed the listeners with "Mack the Knife." Throughout both sets, Kraut's solos, Tsamous' skills with sticks and brushes alike and the interaction of all three musicians proved again that while jam sessions are fun, a group which plays together regularly can scale musical heights and make it look deceptively easy.

Monaco also has a new recording, East to West, on his newly formed Chicken Coup label. For this CD, Monaco enlisted the talents of guitarist Bruce Forman and drummer Adam Nussbaum. To leave no doubt as to where his heart is, Monaco opens with his own composition "I'll Remember Jimmy," for the late Mr. Smith. As might be expected, this is an uptempo hard bop piece. Bossa nova is up next, with the lovely "O Barquinho" ("My Little Boat") by Roberto Menescal. Guest saxophonist Byron Rooker is first heard on another Monaco original, the fast and bluesy "Rudy and the Fox." Joe Henderson's classic "Recordame" is Latin bop, back to the trio format, followed by a respectful rendition of the Benny Goodman chestnut "Don't Be that Way." Charlie Parker's "Donna Lee," famously reinterpreted by Jaco Pastorius, is re-re-interpreted here in an intriguing arrangement. Monaco's "Roz da' Cat" is a midtempo waltz, followed by a genteel arrangement of "Softly As In a Morning Sunrise," owing more to Miles Davis than to Larry Young. Two more standards, "Like Someone in Love" and "Indiana" round out this highly enjoyable CD. Go to www.B3Monaco.com for ordering information if you can't find it locally.

The Larry Coryell Trio at the Jazz Factory

After doing separate previews last month for this concert, both here and in the Courier-Journal, I will forego any background notes and jump right in to discuss the February 25 performance by guitarist Larry Coryell and his superb trio, with Mark Egan on electric 5-string bass and Paul Wertico on drums. The trio roared out of the gate with a tune from their Tricycles CD, "Immer Geradeaus." Egan's title song for the CD, "Tricycles" (pronounced by Coryell as two words, "tri cycles") was next and featured gentle interaction between Coryell and Egan, with Wertico sensitively moving from sticks to brushes and back again to provide just the right accompaniment. Two jazz standards followed, Thelonious Monk's "Trinkle Tinkle" and Wes Montgomery's "Bumpin' On Sunset." If there were any old fusion-heads in the audience who hadn't kept up with Coryell's mainstream work, these two songs provided a mini-workshop in straightahead guitar playing. Coryell regaled the crowd with a tale of a long-ago encounter with Louisville's late guitar legend, Jimmy Raney, before beginning "Bumpin'." Without losing the "jazziness" of the piece, Wertico's drumming propelled the song forward. Coryell swayed back and forth as he elicited the first spontaneous mid-solo applause of the night, moving the energy level up, quoting "Eleanor Rigby," and then deftly modulating to a gentler pace. The Beatles quote foreshadowed the next piece, a beautiful Coryell solo performance of "She's Leaving Home." Coryell's significant other, Tracey Piergross, was the subject of the next song, "Tracey," during which Coryell remained on acoustic guitar after he was rejoined by Egan and Wertico; Egan soloed with special grace. Ms. Piergross was featured as guest vocalist on a medley of Tracy Chapman's "Gimme One Reason" and the B. B. King standard, "Rock Me Baby," with Piergross channeling Chapman and Coryell playing some ferocious blues lines after laughingly acknowledging the limits of his vocal prowess. The set ended with a signature Coryell original, "Dragon Gate," featuring powerful rolling tom-tom work by Wertico.

The second set was comprised of all jazz standards except for the concluding piece, Coryell's "Spaces Revisited." The opener, "Star Eyes," was played as a bluesy samba, after which Coryell returned to solo acoustic guitar for the Gershwin classic "Our Love Is Here to Stay," dedicated to Ms. Piergross. Egan and Wertico returned for a gorgeous reading of "Manha de Carnaval," after which guest saxophonist Dave Liebman, fresh from a performance for the University of Louisville's Jazz Week, joined the trio. Coryell introduced him by saying "Now we're gonna have a little fun at your expense," but it was difficult to tell from that point on whether it was the musicians or the audience having a better time. The energy level soared as Liebman took the first solo on Monk's "Straight, No Chaser," playing in a free yet highly rhythmic style. Coryell and Egan dropped out for a sax and drum duet, before Liebman laid out and Coryell, Egan and Wertico went for the jugular. Liebman interjected counterpoints during Coryell's solo, then traded licks with Coryell with both musicians clearly having too much fun before they brought the song back to earth. Liebman then played a rather abstract a cappella piece that evolved into an introduction to "In a Sentimental Mood," during which Wertico showed his gentler side with exquisite brushwork. Liebman took the first solo following the group theme statement, this time playing in a highly melodic rather than abstract vein. Coryell seemed to be caressing each note from his guitar during his solo, after which Egan's basswork was spotlighted. The song closed with Coryell and Liebman again trading licks, each clearly enjoying the musical challenges offered by the other. "Spaces Revisited" went from high energy to higher energy, with a Wertico solo that showed an incredible command of dynamics, from an overheated scream to a barely audible whisper. Coryell, Egan, Wertico and special guest Liebman transformed a night full of promise to one of unique excellence. Liebman is scheduled to return to Louisville with his own quartet on June 23-24; more on these performances in the next month or two.

Larry Coryell has recently released a CD which was available at the performance, but is otherwise only available at his website, www.larrycoryell.net. The album is Laid Back and Blues: Live at the Sky Church in Seattle. Despite being recorded in Hendrix territory, it is a straightahead outing, featuring musicians who are excellent yet largely unknown: Mark Seales on piano, Dean Hodges on drums and Chuck Deardorf on bass. Coryell's original "No More Booze Minor Blues" is a swinging, straightahead and bluesy opening to a strong recording, with guitar and piano solos that show the prowess of these musicians. "Tracey," is performed in two parts, first an unaccompanied guitar introduction, followed by an ensemble reading, with fine brushwork and an opportunity for the bassist to shine. Ms. Piergross joins Coryell and company for the "Gimme One Reason/Rock Me" medley, after which the quartet takes on the classic Monk composition "Straight, No Chaser." Coryell returns to solo performance with the lovely "Denver in April," before the energy level is again stirred up with "Dragon Gate" and the aptly titled blues, "Not Exactly Like BB." Apparently this is the first of a series of releases which may be Coryell's answer to the Grateful Dead's "Dick's Picks" series of concert recordings available primarily through the web. In any event, it is a worthy addition to your Larry Coryell collection.

Jon Hendricks at U of L's Jazz Week

Louisville jazz fans have been fortunate in the past several years to have had the opportunity to see and hear some of the Elder Statesmen of Jazz as part of the University of Louisville's annual Jazz Week and this year was no exception. Jon Hendricks is not merely a highly talented jazz singer, but an influential lyricist whose "vocalese" adaptation of instrumental solos to lyrics has become a genre of its own. Well-known and loved as part of the 1960s vocal trio Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, Jon Hendricks has continued to write, perform and record into the new century. He appeared at U of L on Sunday afternoon, February 26, accompanied by his trio of pianist Peter Mihilich, bassist Neal Miner and drummer Andy Watson. After an opening number by the trio, Hendricks made his entrance, dapper in a red double-breasted blazer with black slacks, shirt and hankie and black and gold shoes, with his trademark sailor cap. He quickly doffed his chapeau and bopped his way onto the old show tune "Get Me to the Church on Time" as if he were an impetuous groom in his twenties, belying his chronological age of 84. He followed this with a version of the Ellington classic "Mood Indigo," inspired by a Shorty Rogers trumpet solo on the song. A long tale of his encounters with Thelonious Monk led into a version of Monk's "Rhythm-a-ning," with lyrics by Hendricks. Throughout this and most of the other numbers, Hendricks did not merely sing lyrics and scat, but frequently emulated a variety of instruments in both his vocalizations as well as his movements. Lest some of you think that my insistence on keeping New Orleans in mind is some personal quirk, Hendricks introduced two songs, "This Love of Mine" and ""I Should Care," with references to N'awlins and its importance to the jazz community. Between these two songs was a powerful polemic, "Somebody Tell Me the Truth." With its references to war and taking money from the poor for the rich, it could have been written "yesterday," rather than years ago. It is painfully timeless. Other highlights included the blues "I Got a Mind to Ramble," a rollicking version of the Basie staple "Tickle Toe" and an encore of "September of My Years." Once again, U of L has risen to the challenge of presenting world-class music in its annual Jazz Week Series. Regrettably, the strep throat mentioned in my opening "Prelude" prevented me from getting to the other events this year.

Kermit Ruffins at the Kentucky Center

Eh las bas, laissez le bon temps rouler! Mardi Gras was officially Tuesday, February 28, but as everyone knows, Mardi Gras is a season, not an isolated day on the calendar. So when New Orleans trumpeter Kermit Ruffins and his Barbecue Swingers took the stage of the Kentucky Center's Bomhard Theater the following Friday, it was time to strut with some barbecue, as Satchmo's song suggested. Ruffins has an easygoing and friendly style and quickly encouraged the patrons to leave their seats and fill the dance floor. Opening with "Dance to the Mardi Gras," Ruffins moved quickly into the brass band classic "Little Liza Jane," followed by the Hawketts' [Art Neville's early band] "Mardi Gras Mambo." Other specifically Mardi Gras themed songs appeared throughout the evening, such as Professor Longhair's "Go to the Mardi Gras," and the "Mardi Gras Strut." Ruffins pulled off the nigh impossible with a heartfelt rendition of Louis Armstrong's "Wonderful World" without becoming maudlin. He received vocal help from the crowd on the 1930s ode to reefer madness, "The Viper," threw in a seriously funky version of Sly and the Family Stone's "If You Want Me to Stay," and ended the concert with the "Turn On Your Lovelight" derivative, "Do Whatcha Wanna." I must shamefully admit that I got so caught up in dancing to the encore that I failed to write down the name of the song. Oh well, guess ya had to be there. Special kudos to Dan Forte and his staff at the Kentucky Center for opening the evening with a lobby performance by the fabulous River City Drum Corps, who second-lined into the Bomhard as an introduction to Ruffins. Additionally, Mardi Gras beads were amply available, adding to the ambience. Now maybe next year they'll be giving samples of andouilles po'boys and gumbo in the lobby. Until that happens, we will just have to be satisfied with an evening of great, lively New Orleans music. Ruffins' compilation CD was reviewed here in February 2005 and is available (as are his other recordings) on Basin Street Records, www.basinstreetrecords.com.

ON THE HORIZON

The lineup for April for The Jazz Factory, (815 W. Market St. in The Glassworks, 502-992-3242) as available at press time, follows; more information may be found at the website: www.jazzfactory.us. Friday 3/31: don't miss drummer Winard Harper and his Sextet; Saturday 4/1: Al Sur: Night of Flamenco; 4/4: Louisville Metro Big Band; 4/5: The Mike Tracy Quartet; 4/6: Monkey Business/Louisville Improvisers; 4/7: U of L Jazz Ensembles 1 and II; 4/8: guitarist Ron Hayden's Group; 4/11: The Doug Elmore Quartet; 4/12: The West Louisville Boys Choir; 4/13: Great Black Music and Poetry Event; 4/14-15, Chicago's Ryan Cohan Quartet, of whom I have previously written, returns; 4/18: the intriguingly titled "Bluegrass Meets Jazz;" 4/19 the monthly Jazz and The Spoken Word; 4/20: The Outer Orchestra; 4/21: The Jim Lewis Quartet; 4/22: Thunder Over Louisville Event; 4/25: The Bennett Higgins Quartet; 4/26: Jazz Jam Session; 4/27: The Jason Tiemann Trio; and 4/28: another triumphant return this month of pianist Lynne Arriale's Trio, also covered here previously.

The Seelbach Jazz Bar, (500 S. Fourth Street, 502-585-3200), features Dick Sisto, who always provides excellent mainstream jazz, frequently with guest artists joining his trio (with bassist Tyrone Walker and drummer Jason Tiemann). The schedule for April: April 7- Sisto Trio; April 8 - Ray Johnson Quartet; April 14-15 - Sisto Trio with saxophonist Tim Whalen; April 21 - Sisto Trio; April 22 - Sisto Trio with trumpet-flugelhorn player Jim Lewis; April 28- 29 - Sisto Trio with guitarist Craig Wagner.

The Jazz Kitchen (5377 N College Ave., Indianapolis, IN 46220; phone: 317-253-4900; www.thejazzkitchen.com), in addition to good local and regional talent, has announced the following: Steve Smith & Vital Information - April 3; and the Fareed Haque Group - April 15.

Information on Cincinnati's "Jazz at the Hyatt," was not available at press-time; details are available at www.jazzincincy.com. Also in Cincinnati is the Blue Wisp Jazz Club, 318 East Eighth St. (513-241-WISP; www.bluewispjazzclub.com). April 4 features guitarists and good friends Gene Bertoncini from New York along with Cincinnati's own Kenny Poole; also, April 21-22: trumpeter Kim Pensyl; April 28-29 European saxophonist Tim Whitehead; and plan ahead for May 5-6: the legendary Ira Sullivan. The month of April is full of other performances; these are just my subjective highlights.

If you haven't signed up for "Jennifer's Jazz E-News," which is far more complete than I could hope to be, what are you waiting for? Just e-mail Jenjenjazz@louisvillejazz.org and request to be added to the list. 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).

CODA

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