I had a dream the other night that Wayne Shorter came over for dinner.
First, let's note that it was in fact the Kenny Werner Trio which appeared at the Jazz Factory, and not pianist Werner and a pickup group. Werner, bassist Johannes Weidenmuller and drummer Ari Hoenig, have been playing together for several years now, and their rapport is immediately obvious. Throughout their two sets at the club, which included both Werner originals as well as choice selections by other composers, the trio demonstrated the importance of jazz musicians listening to one another and being able to react in a musically appropriate way when one moves the music into a different realm than the original conception. A personal favorite was the group's rendition of Horace Silver's beautiful composition "Peace," which happens to be the title track of the trio's most recent release, live from the Blue Note in New York City (HalfNote). The second set included mostly covers rather than originals, although arranged and performed in ways that kept the interest of both the band members and the audience. Dave Brubeck's "In Your Own Sweet Way" was an example of taking a familiar jazz piece and reworking it to keep it fresh. The trio's take on J. S. Bach's ""Sicilienne," (originally recorded by the Kenny Werner Trio on Form and Fantasy, Vol. 1, Double-Time DTRCD - 186) reminded me a little of the old Jacques Loussier records, only performed with greater intensity.
In a brief conversation after the performance, Werner commented that the trio doesn't set out to deconstruct [my word] songs, but rather they try to "take it and do something different - otherwise, why play it?" He went on to comment about this being the very nature of jazz: " . . . to explore and try to transcend the piece." Throughout the evening, Werner and company did just that. Werner has a new release, Democracy: Live at the Blue Note (HalfNote), which features an expanded lineup that includes including bassist Scott Colley, drummer Brian Blade, saxophonist David Sanchez and trumpeters Matt Shulman and veteran Kenny Wheeler. The CD seems to showcase Werner's writing at least as much as the improvisation, thus allowing another facet of his talent to shine. For additional information on this artist, go to www.kennywerner.com.
Last month, I wrote that Liberation Prophecy and Ut Gret had just released new CDs and were planning a series of concerts to celebrate. The release of Liberation Prophecy's CD, Last Exit Angel (Basement Front/Red Eye), led to a series of shows both here and at the prestigious Blue Note in New York City; the Saturday night August 19 performance was reviewed here last month. The CD is available though all the usual online suspects, in case they are sold out at ear X-tacy.
Ut Gret's Recent Fossils, a 3-CD set, is Ear X-tacy's 50th release on its own label. The first of three official release party was Friday, September 1 at Uncle Pleasants. As the box set was covered last month, here are some comments on the performances. Ut Gret was joined by belly dancer Ruric-Amari for this show, as well as for performances of different sets of music on Saturday, September 2 at Ear X-tacy and later that night at the Jazz Factory. The band has had a changing lineup over the years; it presently consists of Joee Conroy (bass, guitar, and other instruments), Gregory Acker (flute, sax, and other instruments), Gary Pahler (drums and percussion), Steve Good (clarinet and saxophones), and Steve Roberts (keyboards and trumpet). The set began with a processional with hand drums; upon reaching the stage, the band began a Conroy original, "Insect Probe." In fact, throughout the entire set, there was only one piece not composed by a band member: "The Penguin," by Raymond Scott. Throughout, only the smoky atmosphere of the club dimmed the virtuosity of the players. The dancing by Ruric-Amari was sophisticated, sensual and performed with complete self-confidence. The following shows, at Ear X-Tacy and the Jazz Factory, also began with a processional, and featured music ranging from more originals to covers of Pink Floyd ("Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun," which featured a scimitar dance), Frank Zappa ("Peaches en Regalia" and "King Kong"), and John Coltrane ("Ole!"). Raymond Scott's "Powerhouse" was a loopy Klezmer piece with Ruric-Amari playfully hoofing, while Ornette Coleman's "Turnaround" was another treat for the jazz fans. The band took almost perverse pride in not performing anything from the Recent Fossils set. In short, this is a band that can revel in its progressive influences and strong playing abilities while keeping its collective sense of humor. Due to a late start time, I didn't catch much of Liberation Prophecy's performance after Ut Gret.
In addition to a slew of recent CD releases, there has also been a virtual avalanche of jazz box sets. Here are some comments on a few of them that have come my way.
Sonny Stitt: Stitt's Bits: The Bebop Recordings, 1949-1952 (Prestige PRCD3-30043-2)
This is a 3-disc set which features some of the earlier recordings of Sonny Stitt. For many years he was considered to be something of a Charlie Parker wannabe. However, as the liner notes by Harvey Pekar, and more importantly, the music presented here, demonstrate, this is an unfair assessment. Much of the material on the first disc is actually more urban rhythm & blues than bebop, and feature Stitt on tenor more than the alto sax for which he was better known in later years. Much of the music on the second and third discs come from sessions Stitt made leading his own groups and playing with tenor saxophonist Gene "Jug" Ammons. A few of the many notable players on these recordings include pianists Bud Powell, Junior Mance and Duke Jordan; drummers Max Roach, Jo Jones and Art Blakey; and numerous other musicians. Some of the better-known songs include "Cherokee," "Blue and Sentimental," and "'S Wonderful," to name but a few. While this set might be overkill for the beginning fan, those who love both Stitt and the sound of the jazz of the era presented here will find this well-presented set to be an excellent addition to their libraries.
Fats Waller: If You Got To Ask, You Ain't Got It (Bluebird/Legacy 82876 81125 2)
This 3-disc box set takes a different approach from the Sonny Stitt set and many others - rather than strictly chronological, its three CDS are organized thematically, altogether covering the years 1926-1943. Disc One is "Fats Waller Sings and Plays Fats Waller" and features classic recordings of some of Waller's best-known tunes, including "Honeysuckle Rose," "Squeeze Me" and "Ain't Misbehavin'." Disc Two is "Strictly Instrumental," and features several of Waller's pioneering organ jazz outings, beginning with his 1926 pipe-organ rendition of "St. Louis Blues." A standout is "Numb Fumblin'" which, despite its title, is a showcase for Waller's piano talent. The third CD, "Fats Waller Sings and Plays Around with Tin Pan Alley," includes his humorous reworkings of tunes such as "Christopher Columbus" and "I Can't Give You Anything But Love," and his classic take on "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter." The book (at 100 pages, it really isn't just a booklet) includes producer's notes from Orrin Keepnews, and a lengthy dissertation by Dan Morgenstern, and many wonderful photographs of Waller, his colleagues, and family, both in performance and in a variety of other settings. A long-time Waller collector should carefully peruse the 66 titles on the set to determine if there is too much duplication; the neophyte will get a generous helping of the playing, singing, and frequent whimsy of Fats Waller with this collection. (A caveat: the CD holders in the box are almost too secure, so be careful prying the discs out.)
Weather Report: Forecast: Tomorrow (Columbia/Legacy 82876855702)
This set contains three CDs and one DVD, the latter of a complete Weather Report Concert from 1978, featuring Joe Zawinul, Wayne Shorter, Jaco Pastorius and Peter Erskine. While it is tempting to say that the DVD is worth the price of the box set, I can't go that far. However, it is an amazing document of this version of what was arguably the most influential fusion band to evolve from the Miles Davis ensembles of the late 1960s. Zawinul's reserved approach to his arsenal of keyboards, Shorter's engaging saxophone playing, Pastorius' hyper bass and almost Hendrix-like stage presence, and Erskine's powerful drumming are featured in a performance which touches on music from all stages of the band's career. This concert should be made available in its own right as a free-standing DVD, and also as a 2-CD set (such as was done with Bruce Springsteen's epic London 1975 concert after the DVD first appeared last year as part of the Born To Run box set).
The three audio discs offer a complete overview of the band, and even provide a brief historical context by offering "In a Silent Way," from Miles Davis' album; Wayne Shorter's "Super Nova" (the title track of his 1969 release of the same name), and an excerpt from Zawinul's "Experience in E," from Cannonball Adderley's Domination. Most of the tracks which follow offer a good selection of Weather Report pieces, with only three previously unreleased tracks: an unedited "Eurydice" from the first, self-titled album; a live "Nubian Sundance;" and a "remix" (i.e., a hiphop sampled track) of "125th Street Congress." Over twenty years since the band broke up, the phenomenal bass playing of Pastorius sometimes overshadows the work of founding member Miroslav Vitous, whose presence on the first three albums is represented here on the first disc. Fans of early Weather Report can only hope that the complete Live in Tokyo will finally be released domestically. It remains an intense listening experience over three decades after its Japan-only release, and is represented here by "Surucucu," one of three songs released in America as the second side (back in the vinyl day) of I Sing the Body Electric. In short, this box set, complete with superb essays by Hal Miller and Peter Erskine, is a vital introduction to Weather Report for new fans, yet will be frustrating for longtime fans who will already own much of the music on the three audio discs. For a band that was so vital and exciting in concert, full concert releases should be released in the future.
String Cheese Incident will return to Louisville for a show on October 4 at the Louisville Palace. In reviewing their October 2005 performance here, I noted that String Cheese Incident (SCI) is not a jazz band, but a rock band that uses improvisation as a foundation of its approach to music, and whose influences do include jazz. In concert last year, they opened the first set with their version of "Take Five," and their second set with Weather Report's "Birdland." The third set began with an almost 20-minute long piece entitled "Howard," which led to further improvisations before landing in Jean-Luc Ponty's "Mauna Bowa." It is a band which should appeal, as I have said before, to not only the jamband community, but should also entertain jazzers who haven't hung up their rock 'n' roll shoes. They will also be in Indianapolis at the Murat Theatre the night before their Louisville performance. For additional information, go to www.stringcheeseincident.com.
Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi at the Brown Theatre
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 here in January (with a concert review of the band) and August, respectively. Sparks should fly, and the music should get intense.
Blue Wisp Big Band Performs at the Highland-Douglass Big Rock Jazz Fest
The Louisville Jazz Society, in conjunction with numerous other sponsors, including the Public Radio Partnership, the Doo Wop Shop and Ear X-tacy, will present the Seventh Annual Highlands-Douglass Big Rock Jazz Fest on October 8. The festival will feature the Blue Wisp Big Band, from the Cincinnati club of the same name, with vocalist Mary Ellen Tanner. Also appearing will be the University of Louisville Jazz Ensemble and the Bellarmine University Jazz Ensemble. Admission is free, and free transportation from nearby Adath Jeshurun Synagogue to and from the park will be available. Rain location will be the St. Paul United Methodist Church Family Life Center. For more information, check outwww.neighborhoodlink.com/org/highlandsweek/clubextra/998141927.html
Following is a partial listing for October 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.
Tunnels: October 3 [see feature below]; The Dave Liebman Quartet: October 4; The Todd Hildreth Trio: October 5; Tessa Souter: October 6; The Zach Brock Group: October 11;
Benefit for Mountaintop Removal Awareness: October 12; The Harry Pickens Trio: October 13-14; the up-and-coming pianist Hiromi: October 19; Eric Person and Meta-four (see my live CD review, May, 2006, and performance review, December 2005): October 27; alto sax great Greg Osby [recently here with Phil Lesh and Friends]: November 16; and an evening of superb solo piano with the great Kenny Barron: November 30. Regrettably, a slow recovery from a round of strep throat did not allow me the time I would have liked to discuss several of these upcoming performances in detail.
I am thankful to Louisville Music News editor Paul Moffett for turning me on to Tunnels some three years ago. This trio, consisting of vibraphonist and synthesizer player Marc Wagnon, bassist Percy Jones (of Brand X fame), and a changing roster of drummers, play what I refer to in shorthand as old school fusion. The current drummer is John O'Reilly, Jr., who is touring with the band and appears on the latest CD Natural Selection (Buckyball BR018). Informed by such groups as Weather Report and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Tunnels performs original music from that tradition. Their current tour brings them to Louisville, for their premiere performance at the Jazz Factory on Tuesday, October 3. (Your humble scribe, after seeing them twice at the Rudyard Kipling, gave Tunnels the contact information for the Jazz Factory.) The band's most recent release Natural Selection, was released this past spring and features a solid hour of electric jazz. The leadoff piece, "Devil's Staircase," emphasizes the MIDI vibes of Wagnon with rumbling bass by Jones. Jones is the lead voice through much of "The Hidden Dimension." The Mahavishnu influence seems more pronounced on "Light Gathering," while "Enigma" evokes Weather Report. Wagnon's MIDI vibes sometimes sound like an electric guitar, while at other times providing layers of sound effects. The sound of real vibes does come through on several cuts, though, such as on "The 11th Hour." If you have not seen this band before, and are a fan of fusion, you should definitely see Tunnels when they come to town; those previously converted have already put the date on their calendars. If you miss them here, or want to catch them again, they will be at RadioRadio in Indianapolis the following night.
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 October was unavailable at press time, but Sisto, his trio, and their guests always present superlative jazz.
Benevento-Russo Duo w/ Chris Harford's Band of Changes, Wednesday, October 18 @ 9 pm (8pm doors) Headliners 18 and over / $12. I haven't heard much by this duo, but I was blown away when I saw them open for Garage a Trois at Tipitina's in New Orleans a few years back. They have a sound which might be likened to that of the Tony Williams Lifetime or Medeski, Martin & Wood.
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 16th at Headliners.
Bobby Previte's Coalition of the Willing featuring Charlie Hunter, Robert Walters and Skerik will play Thursday, November 9th at The Dame, 156 W. Main St., Lexington, KY 40507, 859.226.9204, www.dameky.com.
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: Stanton Moore, the drummer for Galactic and Garage a Trois - October 11; Eric Person & Meta-four - October 14; the amazing, award-winning bassist and composer Dave Holland and his Quintet- October 16; Skerik & Syncopated Taint Septet, whose release Husky was reviewed here in August - October 21; Michael Wolff - Nov 4; Joey DeFrancesco Trio - Nov 6; David "Fathead" Newman W/ Tony Monaco Trio - Nov 10; Jane Bunnett & the Spirits of Havana - Nov 11; and Rolando Matias Featuring Bobby Matos - Nov 18 (Latin Jazz)
Highlights from Cincinnati's "Jazz at the Hyatt," (details are available at www.jazzincincy.com) include: October 6: Larry Coryell Trio; October 13: Charles McPherson; and October 20: Carmen Lundy.
The schedule for the Blue Wisp Jazz Club in Cincinnati, 318 East Eighth St. (513-241-WISP; www.bluewispjazzclub.com) was unavailable at press time.
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.com).
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