Martin Z. Kasdan Jr.

Jazzin'
By Martin Z. Kasdan Jr.

PRELUDE:

Well, I just moved my office after almost a quarter century downtown, to a far more convenient location. It was incredibly more time-consuming and expensive than I anticipated. As a result, my sojourn to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival was cut short and I am still collecting my thoughts about the experience. Most importantly, there was a Jazzfest and in the wake of Katrina, that means more than anything, not just to me, but to a city which has given birth to not only jazz, but to many different styles of popular music. There is much work to be done, certainly, but the possibility of renewal of the bricks and mortar was presaged by the renewal of the creative spirit which is the culture of New Orleans.

ENCORES

In March I reviewed the performances of the John La Barbera Big Band at the Jazz Factory and of his brothers Pat and Joe, with their colleague Bill Cunliffe, at the Seelbach Jazz Bar the following night. Both John's prior release, Fantazm, (reviewed here this past January) and its predecessor, the Grammy-nominated On the Wild Side (reviewed here in September of 2004), are on Jazz Compass. This is a cooperatively owned label, which includes partners Pat La Barbera and Bill Cunliffe, among others. The late Phil Bailey did a superb article on this company and its first few releases back in the January 2002 edition of the Louisville Jazz Society Newsletter (archived online at www.louisvillejazz.org). For additional information, including other artists and their recordings and how to order them, go to www.jazzcompass.com.

The Joe La Barbera Quintet: Mark Time (Jazz Compass JC 1437) and The Pat La Barbera Quintet featuring Randy Brecker: Crossing the Line (Jazz Compass JC 1012) are the most recent releases by John's brothers. The earlier of the two releases is the 2003 session by Joe, featuring trumpeter Clay Jenkins, saxophonist Bob Sheppard, pianist Bill Cunliffe and bassist Tom Warrington on bass. All are featured on John's Big Band CDs, so it is especially interesting to hear them "on their own," without the support of the additional reeds and brass. Unlike some drummer-led dates, Joe is supportive of his bandmates rather than overpowering. He relies on brushwork on two lovely ballads, his own "For Gillian" and "Bella Luce" (for Conte Candoli). Kenny Wheeler's "S'Matta" begins, appropriately enough, with Jenkins' trumpet stating the theme, before being joined by Sheppard. Cunliffe contributes two pieces to the recording, "Chick It Out" and "Automaton." The former, which opens the album, is fast and swinging, while the latter stays more mid-tempo and deliberate. The remaining pieces on this CD are John Abercrombie's "Suite Sixteen," during which La Barbera switches between brushes and sticks as necessitated by the arrangement and Kenny Drew's "Contour," which sounds like classic bop through and through.

Pat's CD, Crossing the Line, was recorded in concert on April 15, 2004, as part of a celebration of Pat's 60th birthday and of his 30 years of being part of the Toronto jazz community. Accompanied by brother Joe on drums, together with pianist Brian Dickinson and bassist Neil Swainson, Pat and his special guest Randy Brecker stretch out on four of Pat's original compositions, as well as three "covers." The album opens with the title track, Pat's "Crossing the Line," which sounds like a long-lost Jazz Messengers piece. The second tune, Pat's "Yours or Mine or Blues," made its way onto John's current Big Band CD, Fantazm, which makes for an interesting listening exercise, comparing the quintet and Big Band versions. The closing number is a buoyant reading of "Bye Ya" (Thelonious Monk), which utilizes a second-line rhythm.

Throughout both recordings, there is an emphasis on quality production, from the visual presentations to the clean engineering and so forth. Unlike some recordings, where gloss can cover substandard music, the high production values here enhance the high quality mainstream modern jazz presented by the La Barbera brothers.

ON THE HORIZON

The June schedule for The Jazz Factory, (815 W. Market St. in The Glassworks, 502-992-3242) was unavailable at press-time, with the following exceptions: the return of the Monty Alexander Trio on Saturday, June 3; Murali Coryell, June 8; Joey DeFrancesco, June 14; Dave Liebman on June 24 [previously announced but not confirmed by deadline]; and superb vocalist Kevin Mahogany on June 29. Beginning June 30 and continuing on several dates between then and July 15, the Jazz factory will present sets by many of the artists who are in town teaching at the Aebersold Jazz Camp (see below). A complete schedule and more details may be found at the website: www.jazzfactory.us. Important note: The Jazz Factory schedule has changed - the Friday and Saturday set times are 7:30 and 9:30, rather than 9 and 11. An "after hours salon" is currently being set up for the weekends; more details at the Jazz Factory's website.

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 June was unavailable at press time, but Sisto, his trio and the guests always present superlative jazz.

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: Jon Faddis - June 2; Yellowjackets - June 1 2; and Kevin Mahogany with Red Holloway - July 1.

Details for Cincinnati's "Jazz at the Hyatt," series for June were not available at press time; check out www.jazzincincy.com for information.

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.louisvillemusicnews.net).

20TH ANNUAL BELLARMINE JAZZ GUITAR CLINIC AND CONCERT

This year will mark the 20th annual Bellarmine Jazz Guitar Clinic and Concert. Kudos to Professor Jeff Sherman and all those at Bellarmine who make this "Rite of Summer" possible. This year will be a tribute to Johnny Smith, featuring Jack Wilkins (the foremost expert on Johnny Smith) and Gene Bertoncini (who studied with Johnny at NBC where they were both on staff). At press time, the availability of Smith himself had not been confirmed. The Clinic itself, $100 including the concert, is on Monday and Tuesday, June 5 and 6, with the concert being that Monday night at 7:30 in the Amy Cralle Theater of Wyatt Hall at Bellarmine. Tickets are $10 at the door, $7 in advance at Music-Go-Round. For information, contact Jeff Sherman, Bellarmine University, 2001 Newburg Road, Louisville, KY 40205; jsherman@bellarmine.edu, 502-452-8182; or go to www.cas.bellarmine.edu/music/jazz. Mainstream jazz guitar just doesn't get better than these world-class musicians.

EIGHTH ANNUAL INDY JAZZ FEST

The American Pianists Association (APA) has announced the schedule and complete artist line-up for the 2006 Indy Jazz Fest presented by Kroger, held June 16-18 in Military Park, downtown Indianapolis. For ticket information and other details, go to www.indyjazzfest.net.

The lineup is: Friday, June 16 - Jennie DeVoe, Ilona Knopfler, Ipanema, Rob Dixon & Trilogy and the incredible Eddie Palmieri Afro-Caribbean Jazz All-Stars. Saturday, June 17 - Groove Society, the progressive European jazz trio E.S.T. and violinist Cathy Morris; also Governor Davis & the Blues Ambassadors, Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra with NEA Jazz Master Jimmy Heath, funky organ trio Soulive and the always soulful singer and guitarist Bonnie Raitt. Sunday, June 18 is "New Orleans Day." The artists are: Permagrin with Pat Harbison, the Adam Birnbaum Trio, the Wynton Marsalis Septet; also the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Dr. John and The Neville Brothers.

AEBERSOLD SUMMER JAZZ WORKSHOPS

The 2006 Aebersold Summer Jazz Workshops begin this year with a 2-Day "Anyone Can Improvise" Seminar with Jamey Aebersold on July 1st and 2nd, which will cover all aspects of jazz improvisation and no prior experience necessary. The weeklong Workshop Sessions run July 2-7 and 9-14. The curriculum includes daily Theory, Ear training, Combo and Master classes. There will also be concerts each evening with groups comprised from the 70+ faculty members, including Bobby Shew, Rufus Reid, David Hazeltine, Dave Stryker, John Riley, Jim Rotondi and many more. Longtime Louisville jazz aficionados have come to look forward to the special 7 p.m. Wednesday concerts held at Masterson's, which feature all-star lineups from the topnotch faculty. For more information contact: Aebersold Summer Jazz Workshops, 1-800-456-1388 ext. 5, ben@jazzbooks.com, or visit www.summerjazzworkshops.com. Also, the Louisville Jazz Society (LJS) is once again sponsoring scholarships. For information, visit the LJS website, www.louisvillejazz.org. Hurry, because the application deadline is looming.

GUEST REVIEW

From time to time I will be including guest reviews in an effort to both bring you more information about current releases and to do so with more focus. In this first installment, Louisville singer Jennifer Lauletta reviews a recent release by pianist Bill Charlap and vocalist Sandy Stewart. In future installments, I hope to bring you a Turtle Island String Quartet by a violinist, a review of Progressions: 100 years of Jazz Guitar by a guitarist and so forth.

Bill Charlap and Sandy Stewart: Love Is Here To Stay (Blue Note), reviewed by Jennifer Lauletta:

Blue Note has produced a CD featuring seasoned vocalist Sandy Stewart and her son, pianist Bill Charlap. As I listened in an effort to review this work, I found myself formulating several different opinions at one time. It took me a while to sort them out in a way that would best describe what I was hearing.

The selected numbers vary, from jazz standards to Broadway musical ballads to more obscure tunes with which I am not familiar. However, the presentation never varies: All the tunes are sung out of time. I'm a huge fan of rubato technique, actually, but only when it's placed specifically for effect. Eleven songs in a row in continual, uneven meter, tends to cause an actual yearning by the ear to detect time. I admit that I had difficulty staying on task, because I was distracted by the lack of at least some measured tempo.

This is not to say that the CD does not have its merits. Each song, taken alone, is quite enjoyable. Ms. Stewart's well-experienced voice has that mature, full-bodied sound that all jazz singers hope they will achieve one day. Add to that her excellent control and you've got a very pleasant listening experience.

Bill Charlap is a noted talent and it shows in his lush chord changes. I have no information regarding who provided the arrangements, which are sometimes very interesting in the progression of key changes from Ms. Stewart's part to the piano solo and back again. I just wish Mr. Charlap had pushed Ms. Stewart around a little more - instrumentally, that is. From time to time, I wanted him to stop following and start leading.

I finally decided there are two ways in which one might enjoy every song on this CD: either program the CD player to intermingle one song at a time with other, more up-tempo favorites from other artists, or use it as background music for a romantic candlelight dinner.

CODA

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