When one e-mail list dedicated to Rahsaan Roland Kirk and a different one with a focus on New Orleans funk both share postings mourning the recent passing of Arthur Lee and artists as diverse as Chico Hamilton and Patti Smith sing his praises, "something is happening, but you don't know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones."
Arthur Lee was the primary songwriter and singer for the highly influential Los Angeles band Love, the first rock band to be signed by Elektra back in the mid-1960s. The first, self-titled album was a hard-edged take on folk-rock and included their almost-hit version of the Bacharach-David song "My Little Red Book." The second, Da Capo, had a very jazzy air, presaging groups such as Traffic, with songs such as "Orange Skies" and "She Comes in Colors," on side 1, (with the blitzkrieg single "Seven and Seven Is" in the middle), while devoting side 2 to a 19-minute bluesy jam. Then came the classic third album, Forever Changes, one of the few rock albums to utilize strings intelligently, to sometimes chilling effect augmenting Lee's strange lyrics. The last Elektra album, Four Sail, remains an under-rated album of electric rock; it was recorded more or less simultaneously with Love's debut on Blue Thumb, Out Here, a two-record set (now on one out-of-print CD). This was a band for whom the Doors opened on Sunset Strip; a band that has influenced countless bands. Arthur Lee, like many artists (Van Gogh, Mingus), had many personal problems; unfortunately, he never developed the larger audience he deserved. His last few years were spent in a comeback that received both critical and fan praise. He died in August in Memphis after a prolonged bout with leukemia. He was sixty-one. I join his many admirers in wishing him safe passage and peace.
Winard Harper is a talented drummer who has come up the ranks playing with such notable artists as Betty Carter and Dr. Billy Taylor and for several years co-led a hard driving group with his trumpet-plating brother Philip. He was in town on July 22 for his second date as a leader at the Jazz factory. Besides playing trap drums, Harper also occasionally performed on the balafon, an African instrument somewhat like a marimba. He was joined by Ameen Saleem (bass), Josh Evans (trumpet), Alioune Faye (sabar, jamba and djembe), Stacy Dillard (sax) and
Sean Higgins (piano). Much of the material was from Make It Happen (Piadrum 0602), an excellent recording. As I came in , the band was performing Charlie Parker's "Segment," the leadoff track to the album. It had a classic "Jazz Messengers" hard bop feel. A ballad from the CD, "I've Never Been in Love Before," was next, which allowed Harper to demonstrate his dexterity with both brushes and sticks. A sax-bass-drums rendition of Saleem's "Tamisha," also from the CD, was next, followed by Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely." Following good solos by Evans (who quoted "Mack the Knife") and Dillard, Higgins turned his solo from bop to stride, with percussion accompaniment by all. Higgins told me afterwards that the stride break was not planned, it just happened! The set closed with the Ellington blues, "Things Ain't What They used To Be." A highlight of the second set was a 90 MPH rendition of Nat Adderley's "Work Song," which featured drums and tuned percussion - shades of the Rhythm Devils. A Harper original, "Faith," featured a bass pattern reminiscent of some of Alice Coltrane's and McCoy Tyner's modal pieces. A medley of "After Hours" and "Centerpiece" could have been subtitled "music to take off your clothes to," with the sinuous bluesy rhythms and solos. In a brief post-concert conversation, Harper referred to Cannonball Adderley as a source of inspiration. I found parallels to Art Blakey; not so much in Harper's drumming style, but in his ebullience and love of the music, as well as his penchant for mixing bop and African rhythms and instruments. More information about his recording is available at www.piadrum.com; and Harper also has his own website, www.winardharper.com.
In addition to Harper's recent CD, I would like to mention The New Thought, a trio recording led by Harper's pianist, Sean Higgins. Eight of the ten pieces are originals and he covers McCoy Tyner's "Inception" powerfully and performs Dave Brubeck's "In Your Own Sweet Way" with grace and elegance. His own compositions, such as "The New Game Plan" and "Miscalculation" show a willingness to take risks while remaining melodic. More information on the disc can be found at www.seanhiggins.net and the CD is available through www.cdbaby.com.
Chicago-based singer Spider Saloff brought Lexington native and Louisville favorite Zach Brock on violin to the Jazz Factory on Thursday, August 10, together with Chicago guitarist Steve Ramsdell, for an evening of both original material as well as mostly lesser-known but wonderful songs by such stalwarts of the American Songbook as Yip Harburg, Harold Arlen and Cole Porter. She and her musicians transformed Henry Mancini's "Dreamsville" into a Brazilian sounding piece, complete with gentle percussion by Brock on the body of his violin. "Satan's L'il Lamb," by Harburg, Arlen and Johnny Mercer, received a warm reception due both to the clever lyrics and Saloff's delivery of them. In a post-show conversation, she mentioned that she had been an actress in New York before embarking on her singing career and she used her thespian background to good advantage without overdoing it. The title song of her CD, Like Glass, was stunning and her lyrics to Billy Strayhorn's "Smada" (retitled "The Turn Around") complemented the song well. (Kopaesthetics K-108, available at www.cdbaby.com if you can't find it locally)
I have to admit that I was little ambivalent about what to do on Friday night the 11th; the California Guitar Trio, a Robert Fripp-influenced ensemble that I like, was at the Clifton Center the same night as The Mattan Klein Quintet was appearing at the Jazz Factory. I opted for the unfamiliar and was highly pleased with my choice. Klein is a flutist, originally from Israel, who leads a multinational quintet that consists of Swiss pianist Manu Koch, Brazilian electric bassist Gustavo Amarante, Israeli drummer Dan Aran and Brazilian percussionist Joca Perpignani. The opening number "Yamba Samba" ("Lots of Samba") showed that this group played Brazilian jazz with authenticity. Guitarist Avi Rothbard was not present due to his having recently become a father; he was represented, however, by his song "Unstable," which appears on Klein's CD LoveAlive. "Laximum," dedicated to a friend's dog, was a fast, polyrhythmic workout, held together by Amarante's steady bass. "The Lost Kid" featured solos by Klein, Koch and Amarante over a funky backbeat. A slow pretty tune, "Pra Ela," also from the CD, was next. The last song of the evening was a fast-paced rendition of Egberto Gismonti's "Frevo," which has also been covered by jazz factory favorite Lynne Arriale. Perpignani's conga and percussion work on this song was outstanding. Klein's flutework throughout was clear and rhythmic. In a conversation after the performance, he told me that in the 1970s, there was a lot of Brazilian music played in Israel and that "this was my passion from the first." LoveAlive, his 2001 recording, was recently re-released and is available through Klein's website, www.mattanklein.com. It features most of the group that appeared here, as well as guitarist Rothbard. A new recording is in the works, Klein said.
The deservedly popular Frank & Joe Show (previously reviewed here) returned on Saturday, August 12 - in a way. Those familiar with these talented musicians from their prior appearances here, or their earlier albums on Hyena (33&1/3 and 66&2/3), would have expected a swinging acoustic ensemble with a foundation in the music of the Hot Club, lightened by a humorous approach. I dubbed the current edition of the group the "Bonnaroo version," as the quartet was plugged in and jammin'. Guitarist Frank Vignola and percussionist Joe Ascione, together with Rich Zukor (percussionist and occasional bassist) and "new kid" Vinny Raniolo (bass and occasional guitar) are touring in support of a new CD on a new label, Submarine Bus (Venture Music Incorporated VMI-099).
The second set had just started when I arrived; the band was playing "Barry's Trading Soybeans," with tongue in cheek lyrics and an intense drum and percussion duet, which led into a guitar and bass feature which was more "jamband" than "jazz" (as if those arbitrary distinctions matter, or even have meaning). "Fred and Jake" was heavy funk, with the romantic ballad "Misty" and the movie theme "More" (from Mondo Cane) tossed into the middle of the song for good measure. Their version of "She's a Woman" owed more to Jeff Beck than the Beatles, while "Trilogy I: The Gig Call/Sittin' on the Couch/Let's Bowl" gave vent to their Zappa-esque lyrics and Dick Dale-like surf guitar. The audience seemed to enjoy the new version of the Frank & Joe Show, although some who came expecting and wanting the "old" Frank & Joe expressed disappointment in the new version. The new CD, Submarine Bus opens with "Baby Wipes" and "I Trust in You," which do not stray too far from the music on the earlier CDS. However, "Hey You" begins the transition to a more rock stance. "In the Hills" would fit into the Gypsy jazz of the earlier recordings, but by the time "Fred and Jake" gets under way, Django has given way to Jimi. If your taste is eclectic, there is much to enjoy here. However, this is definitely not "99&3/3."
Following this show, at the Late Night Salon, was the son of Jazz Factory impresarios Ken Shapero and Diane Aprile, saxophonist Joshua Shapero. He performed with an intriguing group called Ghoshnamune, which is Farsi for "We are Hungry." On drums was Bart Galloway, vocals were by Hossein Alavi and on piano and dumbek (a drum somewhat like a smaller conga) was Shahab Farrokhi. As it was getting to be past my bedtime, I only stayed for the first three pieces, "Opening," "Ahei Naneh, I'm Hungry" and "A Ship Built of Salt." I was impressed by the marriage of free jazz saxophone and Middle Eastern rhythms and vocals. I was reminded of the Master Musicians of Joujouka's trance music, as presented years ago by Brian Jones and in their collaboration with Ornette Coleman on Dancing in Your Head.
Back in February, I wrote that I had been wanting to catch Liberation Prophecy for over a year and finally did so on December 29. In conjunction with the release of their new CD, Last Exit Angel (Basement Front/Red Eye), the band is performing a series of shows both here and at the prestigious Blue Note in New York City on August 28. The opening salvo took place on Friday and Saturday nights, August 18 and 19, at the Jazz Factory, during the Late Night Salon sessions. I felt fortunate to get in to the packed house on Saturday and was told that Friday had been even more densely populated. In the prior article, I had also written: "Imagine a meeting of Charles Mingus, Sun Ra and Carla Bley, here in Louisville; if you can stretch your mind this far, you will appreciate Liberation Prophecy." The recent Scene feature on the band hinted that such comparisons might be inappropriate; however, in reply to an e-mail, leader Jacob Duncan stated that "I think that such comparisons can help some people, at least, know what they are getting into, ha!!"
In any event, the performance began with a mallet and synthesizer duet, joined by guitar and eventually the other instruments, for "Happiest Man" from the CD. The second piece, "Passage," also from the CD, featured singer Amber Estes in a piece reminiscent of Brecht/Weill. Duncan introduced the next number, "Strange New Figurine," (from the CD) as "continuing in the same existential vein." A hymn, "Humble Thyself," featured an intense piano-bass-drums trio after Estes' heartfelt singing and guest bassist Michael Burke, from New York took a wonderful solo. He was featured again in another piece from the CD, "Dreams." After "Fortress," the band's "hit," "Slush Pump" ("it's huge in China!" quoth Duncan) gave plenty of room for solos. The band consists of Aaron Kinman, Tenor, Clarinet; Chris Fortner, trombone, trumpet; Josh Toppass, Bari Sax; Jacob Duncan, Alto, Flute, Clarinet, composer; Todd Hildreth, Piano, Accordion, synthesizer; Craig Wagner, Guitars; Sonny Stephens, Acoustic and Electric Bass (unavailable for this performance), Jason Tiemann, Drums, percussion; and Amber Estes, vocals. The CD is available though all the usual online suspects, in case they are sold out at ear X-Tacy.
Speaking of ear X-Tacy, Ut Gret's Recent Fossils, a 3-CD set, is the independent music store's 50th release on its own label. The official release party is Friday, September 1 at Uncle Pleasants on Preston Highway, with Liberation Prophecy also on the bill! Ut Gret will be 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 at 4 p.m. and that night at the Jazz Factory (Late Night Salon, at 11 p.m.). The CD is mostly improvised music by the core group of Joee Conroy (Bass, guitar and other instruments), Gregory Acker (flute, sax and other instruments), Gary Pahler (drums and percussion), Mark Englert (multiple instruments) and forgive me if I overlooked anyone. Guests include guitarist Henry Kaiser and Eugene Chadbourne on banjo. The third CD in the set is a 1991 performance of minimalist composer Terry Riley's "In C," recorded live at Tewligan's. The second CD (working backwards here, in the order to which I listened to these discs), is entitled "Time Laps," and features improvisations that range from gamelan-like to free jazz to modern classical. The first disc, entitled "The Dig" provides more eclectic improvisation. It is probably unfair to refer to Ut Gret as a jazz group, although its members clearly have the chops and pay homage to Mingus and Coltrane. Ut Gret is really more of a world improvisational ensemble, drawing from jazz but not limited to its idiom. This is highly recommended for the adventurous listener.
I have reviewed prior CD releases and concert performances by the Derek Trucks Band (DTB) here over the past few years. The band's first DVD, Songlines Live (Sony Legacy) , has recently been released and should go far in helping to explain the DTB's appeal to fans of blues, jazz and rock. It was shot in a Chicago nightclub in January of this year. Much as the band is focused on playing music rather than showing off, the camera work here emphasizes the musicians and how they truly perform as a unit. Trucks, a nephew of Allman Brothers Band drummer Butch Trucks, is a veteran road warrior who is still in his twenties. He has been a member of the Allman Brothers Band for several years, now and has recently toured as a member of Eric Clapton's band. In both his playing and demeanor, though, Trucks displays a maturity that some artists twice his age have yet to achieve. Whether burning through Big Bill Broonzy's "Key To The Highway" or soaring on a Coltrane-inspired rendition of "Greensleeves," Trucks plays with grace and emotion.
While he fronts the band, it is a band in a true sense of the word, not just a backing group. Trucks interacts with bandmates Todd Smallie (bass & vocals), Yonrico Scott (drums, percussion & vocals), Kofi Burbridge (keyboards, flute & vocals), Mike Mattison (lead vocals) and Count M'Butu (congas and percussion) in much the same way as a jazz musician does with his or her colleagues. Of special interest to jazz fans (this is a jazz column, after all), in addition to "Greensleeves," are Rahsaan Roland Kirk's "Volunteered Slavery" and the Eastern-influenced "Sahib Teri Bandi/Maki Madni" by the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Whether you missed Trucks in his prior Louisville appearances, or want to add video to your CD collection, this is a worthwhile addition to the DTB discography.
In a special family enterprise, 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.
Following is a listing for September 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. Wednesday 8/30 Al Sur: Night of Flamenco; Thursday 8/31 Todd Hildreth Trio with Amber Estes Friday; 9/1 The Don Krekel Orchestra; Saturday 9/2 The Jamey Aebersold Quartet; Sunday 9/3 FANFARA (Louisville Orchestra) Kickoff Brunch with Al Sur; 9/6 Bluegrass Meets Jazz; Thursday 9/7 pianist Jean-Michel Pilc; Friday-Saturday, 9/8-9 The Ron Jones Quartet; Tuesday 9/12 Monika Herzig's Acoustic Project; Friday 9/15 The Kenny Werner Trio with bassist Johannes Weidenmuller and Ari Hoenig on drums; Friday 9/22 David Sánchez, Grammy Award winning saxophonist kicks off the second annual ADELANTE LATIN JAZZ FESTIVAL with his New York-based quartet; 9/23 Chuchito Valdes, Cuban pianist with his Afro-Cuban ensemble; 9/24 Rooftop Latin Dance with Tropicoso; 9/26 Chilean-born songstress Luca Mundaca; 9/27 Alma Gitana (described as flamenco fusion with an Arabic twist); 9/28 Al Sur: Night of Flamenco; Friday 9/29 Kalor; 9/30 Cuban pianist Hilario Durán and Cuban percussionist Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez. This is an amazing lineup for a Louisville club; unfortunately, time and space limitations do not allow me to go into more detail.
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 August was unavailable at press time, but Sisto, his trio and their 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: Charlie Hunter - September 3; Labor Day Street Fair - September 4; Chuchito Valdez - September 22; David Sánchez - September 23; Jim Snidero and Steve Allee - September 29.
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).
I am always interested in your comments. Contact me at email@example.com.