RIP Ed Bradley, who not only was an outstanding newsman, but also was a lover and supporter of jazz. I have warm memories of running into him as we perused rare Jazz Festival posters in the back room of the Bergen Gallery on Royal Street and seeing him onstage playing a mean tambourine with the Neville Brothers.
Benevento/Russo Duo at Headliners
The Benevento/Russo Duo, a.k.a. The Duo, made its Louisville debut [to the best of my memory] on a chilly Wednesday night, October 18 at Headliners. Chris Harford & the Band of Changes opened; however, I missed all but the last two songs, which included a cover of a Talking Heads song. Benevento/Russo, consisting of keyboard player Marco Benevento and drummer Joe Russo, played one ninety-minute set, which was full of energy and contained elements of both progressive rock and fusion, with perhaps a nod to the prog side. Throughout the night, the energy level was reminiscent of early Tony Williams Lifetime, but obviously sans distorto-guitar. Joee Conroy, of Ut Gret, joined me and commented early on that some of the music, which began with "Soba," "Play Pause Stop" and "Walking, Running, Viking," sounded like "Canterbury [birthplace of Pink Floyd, Soft Machine and other such bands in the '60s] meets grunge." Later I decided that a piece sounded like Emerson Lake & Palmer jamming on a Thelonious Monk theme.
The Duo joins a contingent of post-Grateful Dead "jambands" in allowing audience taping of their performances. Thanks to UK student Ryan Sims, who taped the show, I have a copy, complete with setlist. My preview indicated more of a leaning toward the jazz side, based on seeing them open for Garage a Trois at Tipitina's in 2004. Perhaps this quote from Benevento on the band's website (www.beneventorussoduo.com) will put it all into perspective: "'I went to Berklee College of Music and I was way into jazz, so I wanted to get my chops together,' he says of the band's jazz odyssey beginnings. 'But my roots are in rock and it's really challenging to write a rock song in a duo setting. That's what we're into right now.'"
Eric Person and Meta‑Four at the Jazz Factory
The last time saxophonist Eric Person and Meta‑Four were at the Jazz Factory, they wowed a weeknight audience with Person's artistry on both alto and soprano and the excellent communication of the musicians with one another. This time, a year after their Louisville debut, they had secured a Friday gig and again the band's artistry enthralled the listeners. New pianist Jarod Kashkin joined "old-timers" Peter O'Brien on drums and Adam Armstrong on bass, both of whom were with Person in Louisville last year. A communications breakdown regarding childcare resulted in my missing the first set.
The second set opened with "Fallout," from Person's 1999 release Extra Pressure. An invocational prelude led into a sort of fast Latin vamp. During this composition, as well as during many of those to follow, O'Brien utilized patterns that moved the music forward while allowing him to make his own statement as well. "Reach!" was up next, a funk ballad that can be found on the 2003 release Live at Big Sur (favorably reviewed here this past May). "Majestic Taurean Majesty," dedicated to bassist/composer Charles Mingus, allowed Armstrong the opportunity to stretch out in the middle of this bluesy composition. The energy level remained high for a newer composition dedicated to New Orleans and the Katrina victims, "It's Time Again." After the quartet began the number, Kashkin and Armstrong dropped out to allow an intense alto/drums duet; the power peaked with the return of the other players, before Person, Armstrong and O'Brien laid out while Kashkin performed a solo, which at times was reminiscent of the great Randy Weston. "Knee Deep in the Gene Pool" was fast-paced, with Person's fluid soprano featured, before first Kashkin and then O'Brien soloed (although like most great jazz drummers, O'Brien was essentially soloing throughout the set). Person's musical language seems to embrace both mainstream and progressive jazz. By keeping a band together with only the occasional change of personnel, Person is able to maximize his growth as both a composer and performer. More information can be found on his website, www.ericperson.com, which also contains links to purchase his recordings.
Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi at the Brown Theatre
In a special family enterprise, Derek Trucks and his wife, Susan Tedeschi, recently toured as a special co‑bill with their respective bands and hit Louisville's Brown Theatre on November 1. Trucks took the stage first, opening with an acoustic reading of the classic Son House "Preachin' Blues," with Mike Mattison providing the soulful vocal. Trucks switched to electric guitar for Rahsaan Roland Kirk's "Volunteered Slavery," and from that point on, the band flew with powerful wings. Another blues standard, Sleepy John Estes' "Leavin' Trunk," was next and this mix of jazz and blues was characteristic of the eclectic 85-minute set, which was spiced with healthy doses of Eastern music ("Sahib Teri Bandi>Maki Madni") and churchified testifying ("[Make a] Joyful Noise," with Tedeschi adding her powerful voice to the mix).
In addition to "Volunteered Slavery," jazz fans were also treated to a Coltrane-inspired "Greensleeves." Keyboard player and flutist Kofi Burbridge, bassist Todd Smallie, drummer Yonrico Scott and percussionist Count M'Butu demonstrated their chops as well as their ears throughout the set, soloing with grace and intensity and paying close attention to one another as the dynamics of the songs shifted.
Susan Tedeschi takes a different approach to her music, one that embraces more of a mix of singer/songwriter, classic soul and blues. She seemed a bit tentative at first, apparently due to problems with her amplifier. Once she decided to ignore that distraction, she forged ahead and found her groove. Mike Mattison joined her for a sassy "Evidence," and Trucks embellished the sound of Tedeschi and her band on songs including a slow and simmering blues ("Grateful [?]") which escalated into a high-speed romp into sanctified music which would have been right at home in the Gospel Tent at Jazzfest. Saxophonist Ron Holloway, keyboard player William Green, bassist Ted Pecchio and drummer Aaron Turner could all be enlisted in a tribute to the Hi Records sound, as they provided in-the-pocket accompaniment to Tedeschi's singing and guitar playing. When Tedeschi first arrived on the scene a few years ago, I and many others thought of her as a younger generating Bonnie Raitt; however, with the exception of the encore of John Prine's "Angel from Montgomery," long a staple of Raitt's repertoire, Tedeschi seems to have formed her own identity and is stronger for it.
Each artist has a website, www.derektrucks.com and www.susantedeschi.com, through which information and their recordings may be accessed. Trucks' latest releases are Songlines (a studio CD and a live DVD), which were positively reviewed hereearlier this year. Tedeschi's latest studio recording is Hope And Desire and her catalog also includes Live From Austin TX.
Mark O'Connor's Fiddle Celebration at the Ogle Center
On Saturday, November 4, violinist/fiddler Mark O'Connor brought his "Fiddle Celebration" to the Ogle Center at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany (across the river from Louisville, for those readers out of the area). Fortunately, I was able to take my just-turned-eight daughters to the first of two performances, a 4 p.m. matinee, so that we could enjoy live music together without bedtime issues. O'Connor has developed a week-long Fiddle Camp in Tennessee, but the name is a bit misleading. Just as O'Connor himself is a past master of styles ranging from bluegrass to Western classical to jazz and beyond, so too do his camps attract students who embrace all genres of music. The "Fiddle Celebration" featured players who have all been students and both individually and collectively they made a fine advertisement for the camp. The violinists were: Janet Sung, Sara Caswell, Tashina Clarridge, Jeremy Kittel, with Nat Smith (cello), Hans Holzen (guitar) and Kyle Kegerreis (bass).
The performance began with everyone performing round robin on a piece aptly introduced as "mountain music meets classical." The format switched to allow each musician to showcase his/her talents, beginning with Kittel playing "Taking It On" and "The Curious Beetle." Jazz was featured next, with 12-year-old cellist Smith improvising superbly on Charlie Parker's "Scrapple from the Apple." Janet Sung performed a classical piece next, providing an elegant and disciplined change of pace from the preceding numbers. Jazz was spotlighted again as Caswell gave a fresh interpretation of the standard "Bye Bye Blackbird." O'Connor came back onstage for "Lime House" and a piece he wrote for the recently deceased jazz violinist Claude "Fiddler" Williams, "Fiddler Going Home." The finale brought all the players back onstage for "Olympic Rel Medley," during which O'Connor's solo took a decidedly bluesy turn. O'Connor has long been a Louisville favorite, going back to his eclectic early "Lonesome Pine Special" performances to his recent "Hot Swing Trio" concert last October (reviewed here in November, 2005). His website is www.markoconnor.com
The Windy City Blows into Derby City: The Deep Blue Organ Trio and The Ryan Cohan Quartet at the Jazz Factory
While guitarist Bobby Broom is probably the best known of the musicians who comprise The Deep Blue Organ Trio, he and drummer Greg Rockingham made it clear in separate conversations with me that The Deep Blue Organ Trio, with organist Chris Foreman is a collective organization, not a leader and backup musicians. More important than their words was the music, which made the same point more eloquently. Here for a two-night stand on Friday and Saturday, November 10 and 11, they were far more than "just another organ trio." I caught the Saturday night sets, joining the first set in progress shortly before a performance of "I've grown Accustomed to her Face," dedicated to a couple celebrating a 54th anniversary. Foreman's subtle organ intro led into mellow soloing by Broom, with Rockingham maintaining the very slow tempo on brushes for most of the song. The performance could be used as an aural definition of subtle sophistication."
A Broom original, "Deep Blue Bruise," the title track to the trio's debut Delmark recording, was next, with the blues being interpreted in more of a Wes Montgomery than a B. B. King manner. Rockingham encouraged audience participation during the organ solo, after which a fast break tune took the group out. For their second set, Deep Blue took "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" to places that the Shirelles and Carole King probably never imagined, all the while swinging hard and locked in tight.
Two more standards, "It Was a Very Good Year" and "These Foolish Things," followed, and on each song the musicians continued to imprint their own collective stamp on tunes which could have fallen into triteness. The closer, "James and Wes," was introduced with Rockingham's statement that "We're going to pass around the hat for the building fund, before Foreman's gospel organ led the crowd into a series of "Amens." Again, the trio combined cohesiveness and a sense of adventure.
Before commenting on their releases, I must tell about a very heart-warming incident. Between sets I introduced myself to Rockingham and said that I remembered his name from a mid-60's instrumental that was played on the radio here. He broke into a wide grin and said that it was his father Dave's organ trio, not he, who had made that and other recordings. He immediately asked if I would mind talking to his father, saying that it would make his day. Of course I was honored to do so and Greg whipped out his cell phone, called his dad and I was able to tell him that I still remembered his music. Some degree of paralysis has inhibited the elder Rockingham from continuing to play, but the organ Foreman used during the performance was actually owned by Dave Rockingham.
The Deep Blue Organ Trio has two CDS on Chicago's venerable Delmark label, Deep Blue Bruise (Delmark 556) and Goin' To Town: Live at the Green Mill (Delmark 569), as well as a live DVD, also entitled Goin' To Town: Live at the Green Mill (Delmark DVD 1569). As a fan of live performances, I have to give the nod to Goin' To Town if you can purchase one of these two fine releases. The content of the CD and DVD are the same, with the exception that the DVD substitutes Rockingham's "Lou" for "12th of Never" on the CD. Again, if you have to choose, my recommendation would be the DVD, so that the interaction of the artists can be followed visually as well as aurally. That said, these releases present an accurate picture of this talented trio and the difference between 2004's Deep Blue Bruise and 2006's Goin' To Town: Live at the Green Mill may be attributed not only to the live environment, but also the telepathy which can come from the weekly gigs at this former speakeasy. More information on both the group and the label (whose releases cover everything from classic blues by Junior Wells and Buddy Guy to avant-garde jazz by the Art Ensemble Of Chicago and other stalwarts of the AACM) may be found at www.delmark.com.
Fellow Chicagoan Ryan Cohan brought his quartet to the Jazz factory for a return engagement on Friday and Saturday, November 17 and 18. Although Cohan doesn't have a weekly gig like the Deep Blue Organ Trio, his simpatico with his group is evidence of their having worked together for several years. Kobie Watkins is a powerful drummer and if he didn't play with such good taste, he could overwhelm fellow musicians Lorin Cohen on bass and Geof Bradfield on saxophones. The quartet's two Saturday night sets included both originals, such as Cohan's ballad "Gentle Souls," as well as standards, such as the opening "I Thought About You." One of the more interesting performance elements of this group is the way that the musicians do not fall into a pattern of "head-solos with accompaniment-head." Instead, members sometimes solo a cappella and at other times join for duets, so that both the texture and the dynamics constantly shift. A good example was the second set closing number, "Think Again," from Cohan's first CD Here and Now (Sirocco Jazz). Bradfield took the first solo on soprano and was followed by a duet featuring Cohan and Cohen, before the drums came in to add a Latin accent.
Between sets, Cohan discussed a forthcoming release, which should soon be available. It will feature the same musicians heard here, augmented by bassist James Cammack on some cuts, as well as saxophonist Bob Sheppard and others. Given Cohan's consistently inventive compositions, coupled with his multifaceted playing and musical camaraderie, this should be worth waiting for.
The Dreaded Deadline Curse means that reviews of Greg Osby's November 16th performance atthe Jazz Factory and Umphrey's McGee's November 16th performance at Headliners will have to wait until next month.
I just found out that The Preservation Hall Jazz Band will be performing December 5th at the Madison Auditorium in Richmond, Kentucky and on December 7th at the Forum in Hazard. More information is available at www.preservationhall.com, which also has news regarding the National Endowment of the Arts 2006 Medal of Arts awarded to Ben Jaffe and his mother Sandra Jaffe, director and co‑founder of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
The Louisville Leopard Percussionists, an ensemble of over 50 children, perform jazz, classical, ragtime, Latin jazz, popular tunes and original compositions with a full range of percussion instruments such as marimbas, vibraphones, xylophones, drum set, congas, bongos and timbales. The group will perform its annual "Big Gig" at the Brown Theatre, 315 W. Broadway on Sunday, December 3, at 4 p.m. Tickets are available through the Kentucky Center Box Office at (800) 775‑7777, its website: www.kentuckycenter.org and at the door.
Selected Club Listings
Following is a partial and highly subjective listing for December at The Jazz Factory, (815 W. Market St. in The Glassworks, 502-992‑3242). A complete schedule, with updates and more details may be found at the website: www.jazzfactory.us. Todd Hildreth plays piano jazz 5-7 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, for free; the West Market Street Stompers perform Fridays, 5-6:30 p.m., also for free. The Late Night Salon takes place Fridays and Saturdays at 11 p.m.
Dick Sisto plays on December 5 and again on the 20th; on Saturday, December 9, The Bennett Higgins Quartet plays; pianists Steve Crews and Todd Hildreth perform on the 12th and 14th, respectively, followed by saxophonist Don Braden (with organist Bobby Floyd and guitarist Dan Faehnle) on the 15th and 16th. Jason Tiemann leads his own group on the 19th; Harry Pickens Holiday Jazz Extravaganza will take place the 21st through the 23rd; the Zach Brock Reunion Group (I don't know the personnel) will be playing the 29th and 30th; a New Year's Eve celebration comes next, followed by Dave Leonhardt on January 5-6.
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 him.
The Jazz Kitchen (5377 N College Ave., Indianapolis, IN 46220; phone: 317‑253‑4900; www.thejazzkitchen.com) will focus on local and regional talent during December, with some interesting national shows coming in January and beyond. December shows from Cincinnati's "Jazz at the Hyatt," were not available by deadline time, so check www.jazzincincy.com for information.
The schedule for the Blue Wisp Jazz Club in Cincinnati, 318 East Eighth St. (513-241‑WISP; includes Wednesday night performances by the Blue Wisp Big Band, saxophonist Gene Walker [always a favorite during the Aebersold Summer Camp All-Star sessions] with the Blue Wisp Trio on Friday-Saturday, December 1-2; guitarist Gene Bertoncini [a Bellarmine Jazz Guitar regular and superb musician] on Friday, December 8; for the complete schedule and, go to www.bluewispjazzclub.com.
KD3: The Karl Denson Trio, with Denson's sax and flute augmented by Anthony Smith's keys and Brett Sanders' drums - 9 p.m. - will play Friday, December 8 at The Dame, 156 W. Main St., Lexington, Kentucky 40507, 859.226.9204, www.dameky.com, as part of a tour which includes a Saturday, December 2 gig at the Bluebird Nightclub in Bloomington, IN. Then, on Wednesday, December 13th, the Dame will bring in the Jeff Coffin Mutet, with Coffin [a member of the Flecktones] on saxes, Futureman on electronic percussion [also a Flecktone], Kofi Burbridge [moonlighting from the Derek Trucks band] and Felix Pastorius.
As always, I urge you to subscribe to sign up for "Jennifer's Jazz E‑News," by e-mailing Jenjenjazz@louisvillejazz.org. 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.louisvillemusic.net).
John Scofield's New Collaborations
John Scofield is an artist for all seasons, whose guitar work can propel the funk of his Uberjam Band and yet simmer down for more delicate performances in duet with Jim Hall, to name but two of his many projects. Recent releases continue to demonstrate his stylistic versatility even with projects that, on the surface, share some similarities. As a member of Trio Beyond, together with drummer Jack DeJohnette and keyboardist Larry Goldings, he tackles music associated with the pioneering drummer, Tony Williams. On the 2-CD set Saudades (ECM 1972/73), he shows that he can take works from the songbook of the Tony Williams Lifetime, such as Williams' "Emergency" and John McLaughlin's "Spectrum," and bring his own vision to works associated with the ripping guitar work performed by McLaughlin on the seminal Emergency and Turn It Over albums. His fretwork on John Coltrane' "Big Nick," from Turn It Over, is immediately identifiable as "Scofield guitar," not "McLaughlin wannabe." Joe Henderson's "If," performed by Lifetime organist Larry Young on his classic Unity album, shows Sco and colleagues in a more post-bop mode. An original ballad by Goldings, "As One," leads into an all-too-brief blistering take on Young's "Allah Be Praised," which in turn resolves into a Trio Beyond original, the weirdly funky title song, "Saudades." The first CD closes with lengthy takes on Williams' "Pee Wee," originally recorded by the Miles Davis Quintet and the aforementioned "Spectrum," which gives DeJohnette the opportunity to give a lesson in how to build a drum solo. The second CD begins with two more pieces associated with Miles, namely "Seven Steps to Heaven," and "I Fall in Love Too Easily." Another group original, "Love in Blues," precedes "Big Nick." The closing "Emergency" is everything devotees of the original, poorly recorded album, could have hoped for as a cleaned-up alternate take.
Also out is Out Louder (Indirecto IR-01), co-credited to Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood ("MSMW"), on MMW's new label. These musicians first recorded together in 1998 on Scofield's A Go Go (Verve) and subsequently toured with James Brown's funky drummer Clyde Stubblefield briefly subbing for Billy Martin. Scofield's "Little Walter Rides Again" kicks off the CD with a Meters/Booker T groove; the group shifts to overdrive on the following group composition "Miles Behind," with more than a hint of the amazing "Cellar Door" sessions. "In Case the World Changes Its Mind," another MSMW collaboration, is more laid-back. "Tequila and Chocolate," by Wood, has a Flamenco-ish intro, followed by strange sounding keys and guitar, anchored by a rock-steady beat. The traditional "Tootie Ma Is a Big Fine Thing sounds like psychedelic second-line. Another Wood original, "Cachaca," features his rich, woody bass setting up a pattern over which a jazzy guitar workout accompanied by spacey background organ and very syncopated funk. A very refreshing break from the otherworldly funk and sonic exploration on this album is a spare and lovely rendition of the Beatles' "Julia." Without going track by track through the rest of this 62-minute adventure in sound, suffice it to say that this album is a treat for fans of Scofield and Medeski, Martin and Wood alike.
MSMW is on tour and will come to the Vogue Theatre in Indianapolis on Sunday, December 10, with ticket information through the artists' websites, www.johnscofield.com and www.mmw.net. Anybody up for a road trip?
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