Last month's column started with a review of the recent concert by the Kenny Werner Trio at the Jazz Factory. Sadly, only days after the column went online, word came that Kenny's sixteen-year-old daughter Katheryn perished in an automobile accident. Words seem particularly inadequate in such a situation and I am sure that the Louisville jazz community joins me in sending good wishes and sympathy to the Werner family.
Long-time fans of the Rolling Stones will likely recall saxophonist Bobby Keys, a mainstay of the Stones auxiliary. He is still with the band, but Tim Ries has been added to the horn section. The night before the Stones played here at Churchill Downs, Ries brought bandmates Michael Davis on trombone and Bernard Fowler on vocals to the Jazz Factory for a special late night show. The ensemble was rounded out by three of Derby City's finest players, namely Craig Wagner on guitar, Danny Kiley on bass and Paul Culligan on drums. There was excitement in the air, as wait staff danced behind the bar and the packed house responded to Ries and company with enthusiasm. Wagner was especially noteworthy on "Paint It Black." The Al Sur Flamenco Ensemble, which had performed earlier in the evening as part of the Adelante Latin Jazz festival, joined Ries for a spirited rendition of "Miss You." Ries seemed genuinely impressed with his local musicians and said that he had sent them copies of the CD and the music, but they had not been able to rehearse together. Nobody would have known, however, had he not mentioned this.
Ries' most recent CD, The Rolling Stones Project (Concord CCD-2260), came out last year and provides a fresh outlook on such staples as "Satisfaction" and "Honky Tonk Women" (in both an organ trio setting with Larry Goldings and Charlie Watts and in "Keith's version"). On the CD, Ries stretches out, along with guitarist Ben Monder, drummer Brian Blade, bassist John Patitucci and pianist Bill Charlap, for an exploratory version of "Paint It Black." Guitarist Bill Frisell adds his particular stylings to four numbers, including a tender duet with Ries on "Ruby Tuesday."
The following night, chilly and damp, was nonetheless warmed by the sounds of the seemingly ageless rock legends, as the Rolling Stones came roaring out with a ferocious "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and did not let up for almost two hours. For a band with more than 40 years of recordings under its collective belt and many CDS worth of greatest hits, they could have played it safe and just performed a nostalgia show. However, they almost made the "cheap" tix ($99 + $20 disservice charge) worth it by including recent songs such as "Rough Justice" and "Oh No Not You." Unfortunately, "Sweet Neo Con" was conspicuous in its absence from the night's setlist. A musical highlight was the snarling "Midnight Rambler," complete with a Muddy Waters "Mannish Boy (I'm a Man)" interlude. The huge screens could have been better utilized, however, with split screen shots showing the band with a separate close-up on a member. Unfortunately, for most of the performance, the camera work went from one member to another (usually Mick or "Keef"), so that the interplay among the members was rarely shown.
String Cheese Incident returned to the Louisville Palace on October 4, unfortunately the same night as Dave Liebman played the Jazz Factory. To quote Firesign Theater, "how can you be in two places at once when you're not anywhere at all?" Well, with the hope that Lieb will visit again soon, I went to the Palace and enjoyed SCI's performance greatly. Unlike last year, when the band covered three different pieces from the jazz repertoire, namely "Take Five," "Birdland" and Jean-Luc Ponty's "Mauna Bowa," this time the band inserted only one jazz standard into its setlist: John Coltrane's "Impressions." However, the piece stretched out with graceful abandon, at one point veering into a reggae riddim and then back to "Impressions" before the band came back to earth, closing its first set with the classic blues/bluegrass/jugband/Grateful Dead tune, "Sittin' On Top Of The World."
The second set opened with a tongue-in-cheek version of the Steve Miller Band's hit "The Joker," complete with an enthusiastic audience singalong. Fan favorite "Jellyfish" combined humor and jamming for over twenty minutes during the second set. Throughout the night, the band's virtuosity and sense of humor were both featured; Michael Kang's expressive electric mandolin and violin work meshed well with Billy Nershi's mostly acoustic guitar playing. Keith Moseley held the bottom on bass, Kyle Hollingsworth moved effortlessly from one keyboard to another in his arsenal, while trap drummer Michael Travis and percussionist Jason Hann both kept the beat moving and added texture as well as rhythm to the band's sound. Fans can order this or other concerts through SCI's website, www.stringcheeseincident.com.
Also, String Cheese Incident has its own label, SCI Fidelity, which includes other artists such as Umphrey's McGee. A recent two-disc set of live performances by The Disco Biscuits, The Wind at Four to Fly, (SCI/DRR 1031), will entertain fans of SCI. Only three songs are shorter than nine minutes; "The Story of the World" at 17:52 sounds like what would have happened if early Pink Floyd records had used a backbeat, while the magnum opus "Basis for a Day," just shy of a half hour, is like a trip in time to the halcyon days of pre-pop Tangerine Dream. "Little Shimmy in a Conga Line" is 17 minutes of music with more of a jazz feel. This is a lot of fun for lovers of improvisational rock. The label's website is www.scifidelity.com.
The Blue Wisp Big Bandwas the featured performer at the Seventh Annual Highland‑Douglass Big Rock Jazz Fest, held on an utterly gorgeous fall day, Sunday, October 8. Despite my intent to keep careful notes, I let the beauty of the day lead my daughters and me on an exploratory hike up to the top of Big Rock, reliving many wonderful childhood memories of my own youthful expeditions there. I can tell you that the Blue Wisp players lived up to their reputation as a hard-charging, seriously swinging ensemble. Vocalist Mary Ellen Tanner's repertoire included "Mack the Knife," and the band did a take of Billy Strayhorn's "Take the 'A' Train" that I feel certain would have been enjoyed by Duke Ellington. Unfortunately, we got there too late to hear the University of Louisville Jazz Ensemble and the Bellarmine University Jazz Ensemble, but by all accounts they showed verve and maturity in their performances.
Tunnels played its first gig at the Jazz Factory on Tuesday, October 3. Although the house was only about half-full, all of the musicians from Ut Gret, as well as other connoisseurs, witnessed a superb performance of electric jazz (a.k.a fusion) from vibraphonist and synthesizer player Marc Wagnon, bassist Percy Jones (of Brand X fame) and a young and very impressive drummer, Walker Adams. Most of the material came from their latest CD, Natural Selection (Buckyball BR018) (go to www.buckyballmusic.com for more information on this and the other recordings by this group and their adventurous labelmates.) The leadoff piece - on both the CD and in performance - was "Devil's Staircase," which featured Wagnon's lush synthesizer work on his MIDI vibes. Next up in concert and on Natural Selection was the fast and funky "Run by Time." "The Hidden Dimension" was dedicated to the space program and featured "almost real" vibes sounds alternating with synthesizer sounds and sampled voices. Jones' sustained bass notes and a voice-triggered synth were also part of this intriguing piece.
Other songs performed from the album were "The 11th Hour," "Light Gathering," and in the second set "Soliton," "Enigma," "Io's Dream," and "Green Eyes," which was introduced by Wagnon as "our only real jazz tune." "Real" or not, it allowed Adams to show his skills with the brushes. "Io's Dream" had featured a "Rhythm Devils" segment, so it was enjoyable to see and hear another side to the band and its new drummer. "The Syzygy Incident" and "Inseminator," both found on Tunnels' live Art of Living Dangerously [reviewed here in September, 2004]. "The Syzygy Incident" went from fast to faster and "Inseminator," allowed the "new kid" some richly deserved solo space. In a brief conversation after the performance, Adams said that he had always been into the fusion style, although he had played in various commercial cover bands out of necessity. "Its a breath of fresh air to play with these guys [Wagon and Jones]," he said and offered thanks to his former teacher Kenwood Dennard (who had played with Jones in Brand X). Tunnels itself is a breath of fresh air and their dedication to bringing new energy and ideas to fusion should only help win further converts in the future.
Hilario Durán and Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez closed out the second annual Adelante Latin Jazz Festival with two sets of Cuban jazz, or was that jazzy Cuban music? Seriously, Durán's piano playing, Hernandez's drumming and the excellent bass work of Roberto Ochipinti made for an exciting night of music. The first set began with a fast workout on Tadd Dameron's "Hot House," which included a drum section that was the Latin equivalent of trading fours. "The Peanut Vendor," described as a Cuban classic by Durán, was next and was followed by a tribute to the Santería goddess of the sea, "Song for Yemayá." Clare Fischer's pretty "Gaviota" ["Feather"] provided a change of pace. Throughout the rest of the first set and on onto the second, the trio performed seamlessly, with Afro-Cuban drum breaks mixed deftly into straightahead jazz stylings. A standout from the second set was the lovely waltz, "Perla Marina" ["Sea Pearl"], which showcased the deft brushwork of Hernandez. The trio closed its second set with a song that Durán said was famous in Cuba, "Caballo Viejo" ["Old Horse"], during which Durán stood up and dampened the strings with his hands and Hernandez used the rims of his drums to simulate the sound of galloping hoofbeats.
Unfortunately, I was unable to make any of the other performances in this excellent series. However, it is important to note the importance of the Adelante Jazz festival as a cultural and educational project, not just a celebration of music. "Our goal is to guide our Hispanic students and support their desire, hope and ambition to be productive citizens in our community," stated Board chair Steve Imhoff in a brochure promoting the venture. A portion of the proceeds from the Festival go to benefit Adelante Hispanic Achievers, Inc. a non-profit, educational organization that provides mentoring and enrichment programs for high-achieving and deserving youth. (Adelante is the Spanish word for Moving Forward.) Kudos to all those involved and especially to Ken Shapero and Dianne Aprile, proprietors of the Jazz factory, for having the courage and vision to stretch the boundaries and present such a wonderful and worthwhile event each year.
As a well-loved line from the Grateful Dead's "Scarlet Begonias" goes, "once in a while you get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at it right." That was sort of my impression when I went to the Bluegrass Brewing Company on Sunday, October 15, for a benefit to aid in the recovery of Terrapin Hill Farm after a storm washed out its annual Harvest Festival. I went primarily to hear David Gans, a singer, songwriter and guitarist who also produces the Grateful Dead Hour, heard here on WFPK, 91.9-FM. Accompanied by his acoustic guitar some loops, Gans played a mixture of originals such as "Down to Eugene [. . . to see the Grateful Dead] and the caustically optimistic "It's Gonna Get Better" with cover songs such as the Dead's "Terrapin Station." The ambience was warm and mellow on the extension of the BBC, as befitting the performance.
After Gans' set, I wandered to the indoor stage area and listened to a band new to me, Paradigm. I was quite impressed with what I heard, as the band seemed to mix the no-wave funk of James Chance and the Contortions (a.k.a James White and the Blacks) with the freer flowing improvisations of modern jazz. According to the band's website, www.paradigmgroove.com, the set consisted of "Don't Remind Me," "Pomegranate Eater," "Mourning Dancers," "Freak Nasty>Particles," the Beatles' "Come Together" and back into "Freak Nasty." Paradigm is: Brian Healey, Keyboards; Jonathan Epley, Guitar; Myron Koch, Saxophones; Will Roberts, Bass; and Evan Pouchak, Drums. These guys would be a great addition to the Jazz Factory's Late Night Salon Series.
In a special family enterprise, Derek Trucks and his wife, Susan Tedeschi, will be touring as a special co-bill with their respective bands; one hopes and assumes they will share some stage time together. They will be here in Louisville on November 1, at the Brown Theatre. The Derek Trucks Band's recent Songlines CD and DVD were positively reviewed herein January (with a concert review of the band) and August, respectively. Sparks should fly and the music should get intense.
Following is a partial listing for November 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 and 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. As I write this, I am already past my deadline, so I am going to focus on out-of-town artists, with an apology to our many excellent local ones for not mentioning their gigs this time.
The Deep Blue Organ Trio with guitarist Bobby Broom plays November 10-11; Chicagoan Broom has played with Sonny Rollins and Dr. John, among other notables and has performed here before; catch him! The following weekend, November 17-18, fellow Chicagoan Ryan Cohan returns with his quartet. I covered his most recent performance in the May 2006 issue. He is not only a talented player, but also a skilled writer. Closing out the month will be two don't-miss nights in a row, with the Javon Jackson Super Band on Wednesday November 29 and Kenny Barron in solo performance on the 30th. Lest you think that "Super Band" is hype, check out Jackson's bandmates: Jimmy Cobb on drums, George Cables on piano and Rodney Whitaker on bass. Jackson himself has played with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, Freddie Hubbard and Elvin Jones, to name but a few of his former employers. Barron should need no introduction to jazz fans; to those new and curious, he has been among the top jazz pianists for some 40 years and his credits include work with Dizzy Gillespie, Freddie Hubbard, Yusef Lateef, Ron Carter and Stan Getz. He also was a founding member of the cooperative group Sphere and has recorded numerous albums as a leader, including Wanton Spirit with Roy Haynes and Charlie Haden and Spirit Song with Regina Carter (both on Verve). Alto sax great Greg Osby [here in July with Phil Lesh and Friends] had been announced for November 16, but that date is currently "TBA" on the club's website, so just keep checking for up-to-date information.
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 schedule for November was unavailable at press time, but Sisto, his trio and their guests always present superlative jazz.
Umphrey's McGee, whose short set at the Brown Theatre as part of the eclectic lineup for the first of two WFPK Listener Appreciation Concerts this past May was well-received and was reviewed here in July, will return Thursday, November 16 at Headliners.They can stretch out on jazzy rock tunes and also seem to have some Frank Zappa influence in their writing and performing.
Bobby Previte's Coalition of the Willing featuring Charlie Hunter, Robert Walters and Skerik will play Thursday, November 9 at The Dame, 156 W. Main St., Lexington, KY 40507, 859.226.9204, www.dameky.com. This is a rare opportunity to hear a group whose members all press the boundaries of jazz and together should prove both provocative and exciting. Previte is best known as a drummer active in New York's "downtown" jazz scene, but has collaborated with Hunter in the "Groundtruther" project, whose prior releases have been reviewed here. On the CD The Coalition of the Willing (Ropeadope 20712), released this past spring, Previte, Hunter, keyboard player Jamie Saft and various guests (including saxophonist Skerik) blur the line between jazz and rock. On the opening "The Ministry of Truth," moves from an opening reminiscent of Laura Nyro's "Eli's Coming" into a fast-pace funk exercise. "Versificator" and "The Ministry of Love" move into the rarefied territory of John McLaughlin's explosive Devotion album, while "Oceania' sounds like the Byrds playing reggae. In short, this album is fusion for the new century and it's a shame that Louisvillians interested in catching the live lineup will have to consider a weeknight road trip to Lexington.
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: Michael Wolff - November 4; Joey DeFrancesco Trio - November 6; David "Fathead" Newman W/ Tony Monaco Trio - November 10; Jane Bunnett & the Spirits of Havana - November 11; and Rolando Matias Featuring Bobby Matos - November 18 (Latin Jazz).
November 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, www.bluewispjazzclub.com) includes Wednesday night performances by the Blue Wisp Big Band, trombonist John Fedchock (on the weekend of November 17-18 and the Javon Jackson Super Band [see above for details] on Friday, December 2.
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).
Since guitarist Charlie Hunter will be in Lexington soon, I wanted to let you know about what presumably will be the last studio recording of his trio, consisting of saxophonist/keyboard player John Ellis (whose By a Thread was previously reviewed here) and drummer Derrek Phillips. On Copperopolis (Ropeadope 060), Hunter lets out his inner Jimi Hendrix on the opening "Cueball Bobbin'," does a twisted blues on the title track and, as if to remind us of his jazz roots (and his T. J. Kirk project), closes with Thelonious Monk's "Think of One." This was recorded in New Orleans during Jazzfest 2005 and Hunter, a fixture on the late night club scene during Jazzfest for many years, was conspicuous in his absence his past spring.
Bassist Reuben Rogers has graced recordings by such luminaries as Charles Lloyd and Joshua Redman; he now shines on his debut recording as a leader, The Things I Am (Renwick RE-01, available through www.cdbaby.com). The Latin flavored "Wala Wala" opens the CD and is followed by the understated ballad "Anorev," both originals. Hoagy Carmichael's "Nearness of You" provides a showcase for Rogers, as pianist Aaron Goldberg and drummer Gregory Hutchinson weave gentle lines in the background. Guest artists include Redman on two songs, including Goldberg's fast-paced "Shed," and guitarists David Gilmore and Mark Whitfield. This is a highly enjoyable recording and shows Rogers' versatility as a player, as well as his attributes as a composer.
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