Happy April Fools Day! That day of practical jesting, which also happens to be my brother's birthday, came a couple of weeks early for me. Specifically, my notebook with setlists and other such data, took it upon itself to play hide and seek from me and so far the notebook is winning. So, this month will be a tad abbreviated, with regrets especially to the artists.
Not April foolin': April has a truly amazing lineup of live shows at the Jazz Factory and elsewhere; see "On the Horizon" below.
I had previously announced that this pair of reviews would be in LEO, scheduled for February 28; space and time concerns led to the Zach Brock review coming out in the March 14 issue in conjunction with a preview of his then-impending shows with the Coffee Achievers the weekend of the 16th-17th. Below is the introductory paragraph as originally written, a one-sentence excerpt regarding Brock and the full review of Leonhardt.
The winter holidays always seem to be a special time, with family reunions and festive activities. So it was for the Louisville jazz community when native sons Zach Brock and David Leonhardt bookended the New Year's festivities with performances at the Jazz Factory. Brock, originally from Lexington, is now living in New York after spending several years honing his skills in Chicago, but has many ties to Louisville. Leonhardt, now of Pennsylvania,is a pianist and composer who has worked with many of the greats, including legendary singer Jon Hendricks, saxophonist David "Fathead" Newman, to name but two.
Zach Brock joined friends Craig Wagner on guitar, Chris Fitzgerald on bass, Jason Tiemann on drums for two nights, Friday and Saturday, December 29 and 30, with pianist/accordionist Todd Hildreth rounding out the group for its second night, which I caught.
Chris Fitzgerald and Jason Tiemann returned to the Jazz Factory the following weekend to perform with Louisville native David Leonhardt, now living in Easton Pennsylvania, north of Philadelphia. Fortunately, Leonhardt's piano playing far exceeded his comedic shtick. So you don't believe me? OK, after the opening number on Saturday, he noted that "We played fast, not half-fast. We have two wonderful musicians up here . . . and a drummer." Bada-boom. Alright, on with the show. Both sets were heavy on the standards, which included Duke Ellington's "Sophisticated Lady," "Someday My Prince Will Come," and more, interspersed with Leonhardt originals such as "Winnipeg Blues" and "Slippin' Down."
Leonhardt began "Sophisticated Lady" a cappella, performing its elegant melody before beginning to improvise with the addition of bass and drums. Tiemann deftly switched from brushes to sticks to mallets to accentuate Leonhardt's probing explorations. The following "Winnipeg Blues," composed while on the road in Canada, utilized some tricky stop-time sections to move this blues out of the ordinary. "Someday My Prince Will Come" frequently played as a ballad, was played more uptempo, with Leonhardt all but attacking the piano near the end of the piece.
"When You Wish Upon a Star," from Leonhardt's Jazz For Kids CD (BBR9572), was performed entirely as a solo, with the pianist building from a simple statement of the tune to more complex improvisation. The Louis Armstrong hit from the late 1960s, "What a Wonderful World," found Fitzgerald returning to the stage and playing not just notes but emotions during his solo. The first set closed with Leonhardt's "Slippin' Down" played fast, bluesy and swinging.
The second set opened with "A Day in the Life of a Fool," followed by a rendition of "Stella by Starlight" that found the musicians all smiling together at their collective accomplishment by the end. More standards followed, with the trio playing "Autumn Leaves," "Blues in the Night," Billy Strayhorn's "Take the 'A' Train," "Misty," and Ellington's "Prelude to a Kiss," the last piece played as a lush solo by Leonhardt. He closed with "How Long Has This Been Going On" from his Plays Gershwin recording (BBR9569), adding interest to this well-known number by interpolating a Latin interlude into it, allowing Tiemann to act as timbalero.
Leonhardt's website is www.davidleonhardt.com, where his recordings are available and with additional biographical and other information as well. Louisville can be proud to claim Leonhardt as a native son and after this performance at the Jazz factory, we can only hope for a return visit sooner rather than later.
Last month was Women's History Month; whether it was coincidence or planned, I cannot say, but the Jazz Factory featured three strong women pianists last month. The first was the Lynne Arriale Trio featuring Steve Davis on drums and Thomson Kneeland on bass, which made a triumphant return to The Jazz Factory on Friday, March 9 in support of their latest release: Live (Motema Music MTM‑00007). This is a combination CD and DVD, recorded at Burghausen Jazz Week in Germany on April 14, 2005.. Davis is no stranger to Louisville, having been a regular member of the Jamey Aebersold Summer Jazz faculty for many years and has worked with Arriale for the past decade. Kneeland is the "new guy," having played with Arriale for about one-and-a-half years. It has been said that these musicians have a virtually telepathic connection with one another and they proved it yet again with their stunning performance.
On recordings and in past performances here, Arriale's setlist has included a mix of jazz standards, post-American Songbook pop and originals. On this performance, the only recent non-jazz, non-original song (dating to about 1967) was Joni Mitchell's "Chelsea Morning," coming late in the second set. Arriale and Davis deconstructed the composition in the opening segment, with Kneeland's steady pulse implying the melody. As the trio progressed, the song was transformed into an intense workout, including a spare funk segment before returning to the theme.
Arriale and company actually opened with Chick Corea's early "Tones for Joan's Bones," and then turned on the wayback machine for a highly original reading of Juan Tizol's classic for Duke Ellington, "Caravan." Davis supplied slippery, almost second line accompaniment, as the trio turned this into a caravan headed not for a well-known oasis, but for a journey into the unknown.
The first Arriale original of the night, "Home" (on the current release), was a ballad that allowed Kneeland the opportunity to show off his high-register chops. Thelonious Monk's "Think of One" began in a virtually freeform style before the familiar Monk tune emerged in a playful yet disciplined version. An Arriale favorite from her 2003 CD Arise (Motema Music), Egbert Gismonti's "Frevo," was a fast piece in which Davis provided a highly syncopated counterpoint to Arriale's playing, with unanticipated yet always right-on accents. Jimmy Rowles' classic "The Peacocks" opened with shimmering cymbal work courtesy of Davis' mallets; throughout this piece he demonstrated his sensitivity by switching from mallets to brushes to sticks and even his hands, as called for by Arriale's gentle soloing and Kneeland's eloquent basswork. A variation on the blues, Wayne Shorter's "Fee Fi Fo Fum," was next, with Arriale back-announcing that they hadn't performed the song in some ten years and that it might be another ten before they did it again. A Steve Davis arrangement of the classic Miles Davis/Victor Feldman "Seven Steps to Heaven" allowed him the opportunity to solo. As the trio ended its first set, the audience rose for a standing ovation, a rarity in all the concerts I have attended at the Jazz Factory.
The second set opened with "What Is this Thing Called Love?" and continued with a new Arriale ballad, the exquisite "Dreams." She returned to the Monk canon for "I Mean You," before the trio performed the traditional Scottish ballad "Red Is the Rose." Even given the Jazz Factory's well-deserved local and national reputation as a listening room, the hushed crowd was a well-deserved compliment to the artistry of these musicians.
Rachel Z returned to The Jazz Factory on Wednesday, March 14, in support of her latest release Department of Good and Evil (Savoy Jazz 17630). The Monika Herzig Acoustic Project had the misfortune of playing on Saturday, March 25, the same night as the truly legendary B.B. King was in town for what may have been his last Louisville date. Rachel Z and Monika Herzig will be reviewed next month, with apologies to them, their groups and to you for my misplaced notes on Ms. Z and a too-close-to-deadline show from Ms. Herzig, with the consequent delay.
The Brown-Forman Midnite Ramble Series and The Kentucky Center filled Whitney Hall on a Sunday night, March 18, with a return appearance of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (JALCO) with Wynton Marsalis. That morning our daily paper, theCourier-Journal, featured a preview by yours truly, with quotes from an interview with saxophonist Victor Goines, a New Orleans native and long-time member of the JALCO. Jeffrey Lee Puckett, the pop music guru for the C-J, did an excellent job reviewing the concert on Tuesday, March 20. I will only add that my going-on-83-year-old mother loved the performance, which included a Billy Strayhorn arrangement of George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," along with many standards from the Big Band Era. A multi-horn arrangement of John Coltrane's famous arrangement of "My Favorite Things" was as close as the JALCO came to any modern pieces. However, as Goines said in his interview and as Marsalis noted from the stage that night, their conception is that all of jazz is "modern."
Bill Frisell at The 930 Listening Room
This is a solo appearance by one of the most innovative guitarists playing today. Most of his current tour has him with a trio; an e-mail to his PR folks did not yield any reply as to whether he plays acoustic, electric, or both and with or without lops, when doing a solo show such as this. The concert takes place Friday, April 6 at 8 p.m.. Tickets are available at The 930 Center, 930 Mary St during gallery hours (Fridays, 12‑4pm, Saturdays, 10am‑2pm, Sundays, 9am‑12pm and 4‑7pm); Ear X‑tacy Records, 1534 Bardstown Rd. and Steilberg String Instruments, 4029 Bardstown Road. This is an artist whose work has ranged from the almost rock orientation of the Power Tools project, to compositions for dance ensembles, to a quirky American-meets-jazz sensibility. This is a show not to be missed.
Cyro Baptista and Beat the Donkey at The Kentucky Center
Cyro Baptistabrings his multicultural Beat the Donkey Ensemble to the Kentucky Center on Thursday, April 19. The touring company includes multiple percussionists, keyboards, dancers, a guitarist and many members sharing vocals. Baptista has sat in with Medeski, Martin and Wood at Bonnaroo and has a lengthy resume including work with jazzers such as Herbie Hancock and rockers such as Phish and trans-category artists such as Paul Simon, in addition to leading Beat the Donkey. Their live shows are reputed to be amazing. The new CD, entitled Love the Donkey, on Tzadik, is a mix of styles and includes styles ranging from he Santana-salsa of "Olivia - Step on the Roach," to a twisted take on Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song," to a montage of baby voices, accordions and percussion on "Bottles." For tickets and additional information, contact the Kentucky Center Box Office at (502) 584-7777 or toll free at (800) 775-7777, (502) 562-0730 TTY, or surf to www.kentuckycenter.org.
2007 New Orleans Jazz And Heritage Festival Update
Last month I gave you the announcement of the dates and many of the major acts for the upcoming New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, taking place Friday through Sunday, April 27 - April 29 (Weekend One) and May 4 - May 6 (Weekend Two). Since my last column, the Fest organizers have broken the weekend schedules into day-by-day artist schedules, although the "cubes" which give the details of which act is playing what stage at what specific time are not yet posted. For a complete schedule, together with ticket information, updates and so forth, go to www.nojazzfest.com. Also since last month, many of the club dates are starting to fill in and a great resource for the latest in planning your nights (and wee hours of the mornings) is www.jazzfestgrids.com
Following is a subjective set of highlights for April at The Jazz Factory, (815 W. Market St. in The Glassworks, 502-992‑3242). A complete and updated schedule, with 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.
Last month I mentioned that good fusion concerts locally are few and far between and suggested that you mark Wednesday April 4 on your calendar for Steve Smith and Vital Information. The band currently features Tom Coster on keys, Baron Browne on bass and Vinny Valentino on guitar. Since then I have had a chance to hear an advance copy of the forthcoming VitalizationCD, scheduled for release in June on the Hudson Music label. With the exception of two pieces of "Indian drum talk," the CD is more mainstream and funk-oriented than I expected. A conversation with Smith revealed that, indeed, this is the direction in which the band is now headed. There will be a clinic at 5 p.m. before the two separate shows that night. Jump on it before it's too late.
The Jazz Factory lineup also a month loaded with great shows. Special features include CD release parties on Saturday April 28 and a Jazz Brunch The following day for Dick Sisto's Soul Searching, on The ear x-tacy label. This is taken from The soundtrack of a documentary on Thomas Merton and features Barry Ries on trumpet and Bobby Broom on guitar. In performance, Sisto will be joined by guitarist Alejandro Urzagaste, who was recommended by Boom who was unavailable for The gigs, Ries, Cincinnati bassist Jim Anderson and Louisville's own Mike Hyman on drums.
The two nights before Sisto's performances will feature two of The best bassists anywhere, namely Buster Williams and his Something More Quartet for two shows featuring vibraphonist Stefon Harris on Thursday April 26 and The Avishai Cohen Trio for two sets, one cover on Friday April 27 . To save time and space, I will refer you to The Jazz factory's website for The complete April lineup.
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), presents a Steve Allee CD Release Concert on April 1 and Steve Smith and Vital Information on April 2. These are in addition to The nightly offerings of local and regional jazz; check The website for The full schedule.
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; with other performers including saxophonist Greg Abate (April 13-14) and trumpeter Barry Ries on The 27th. For The complete schedule, go to www.bluewispjazzclub.com.
As always, I urge you to subscribe to sign up for "The Jazz E‑News," by e-mailing Jenjenjazz@insightbb.com. 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).
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