January brought much sadness to the world of jazz and music in general. The Godfather of Soul, the Hardest Working Man in Show Business, the Amazing Mr. Please Please Himself, the man YOU chose to be Soul Brother Number One, the Minister of New New Super Heavy Funk, say it together and call him out, now, JAMES BROWN, JAMES BROWN, JAMES BROWN is now doing splits, sweating through his robes and directing the Heavenly Incarnation of the James Brown Band on the good foot Upstairs. Alice Coltrane, whose most recent release Translinear Light (Verve) was reviewed here in December of 2004, has gone to meet her guru. Often referred to as "John Coltrane's widow," she was a transformative spiritual and musical artist in her own right.
Michael Brecker, the influential and multifaceted saxophonist who played the University of Louisville's Jazz Week several years ago, finally succumbed to leukemia after fighting a long and brave battle against MDS, myelodysplastic syndrome, a bone marrow disorder. During the past few years, Brecker and his family did much to raise awareness of the importance of bone marrow transplants. Although he was very sick, Brecker completed a final album just a few weeks ago, which will be released in the spring. It includes pianists Herbie Hancock and Brad Mehldau, guitarist Pat Metheny, drummer Jack DeJohnette and bassist John Patitucci.
Although not a musician himself, Ahmet Ertegun, founding father of Atlantic Records, championed musicians from John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman and Charles Mingus to Big Joe Turner and Ray Charles and so many more. I highly recommend the following tribute to Mr. Ertegun: www.rhino.com/rzine/StoryKeeper.lasso?StoryID=1009.These wonderful people will be sorely missed and all leave stunning legacies of musical achievements spanning many decades.
As I write this, the January 17, 2007 LEO [that's Louisville Eccentric Observer, our weekly alternative newspaper, for you out-of-towners] is on newsstands throughout our fair city. It happens to contain your humble scribe's first submission, a review of a pair of wonderful concerts, the Javon Jackson Super Band and Kenny Barron at the Jazz Factory. LEO's new Music Editor, Mat Herron, has expressed a desire for more jazz pieces. I see this as not merely a personal opportunity, but an opportunity for the Louisville jazz community, as well. The Courier-Journal [our daily newspaper, for you out-of-towners] has an open mind but a tight budget, which sometimes leads to little or no coverage of significant jazz performances here in town. As our public radio continues to relegate jazz to the weeknight 1 a.m. - 6 a.m. ghetto and the Sunday 6 p.m. -6 p.m. "Jazz Marathon," it is good to know that there will be additional opportunities for Louisville fans to keep up with the local and regional jazz scene. If you missed this review and want an e-copy, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Javon Jackson Super Band and Kenny Barron at the Jazz Factory
As mentioned above, I have already reviewed the Javon Jackson Super Band and Kenny Barron in LEO. Therefore, to avoid duplication, I will comment in passing that each night provided a rare opportunity for jazz lovers. Jackson's band consisted of himself on saxophone, legendary drummer Jimmy Cobb, pianist George Cables and bassist Rodney Whitaker. Over the course of two sets on Wednesday, November 29, they handled a program of jazz and pop standards including "My Shining Hour," Dave Brubeck's "In Your Own Sweet Way," and Stevie Wonder's "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing," to name but a few.
Kenny Barron was in town last year with the Turtle Island String Quartet and I have been fortunate enough to see him on other occasions over the years, including a splendid performance at the Jazz Showcase in Chicago with Sphere. Nevertheless, his two sets of solo improvisations at the Jazz Factory were especially rewarding, as he performed "without a net" and never once lost his balance. His first set seemed more oriented to older material, while his second set felt more contemporary in nature. There were times when it seemed as though Barron was no longer playing the piano, but actually became the piano. After the performance, he was kind enough to speak with me. He mentioned that he still had another recording for Verve before his contract was up and that he was still trying to consider the best format and material for this outing. His warmth and graciousness came through in both his playing and his subsequent conversation.
R. Keenan Lawler at the Jazz Factory
To my knowledge, there are few musicians today who concentrate on playing the steel resonator guitar and if one eliminates the blues players, there may be only Richard Leo Johnson and Louisville's own R. Keenan Lawler. His Jazz Factory debut came on Saturday, January 12, as part of the club's Late Night Salon series. Apparently he had left part of his amplifier equipment at home and so played into the house system. He told me afterwards that his sound is customarily fuller and richer when played through his own equipment; however there was a spare desolation in the sound, which seemed to fit the music. He opened with an improvised piece in which he held his instrument upright in his lap and bowed it. This seemed like an introduction to the next song, "1930," [from his new CD, Music for the Bluegrass States, Xeric-CD-108, distributed by Table of the Elements]. "1930" found Lawler playing the guitar in conventional position with a bottleneck, with a sound reminiscent of Ry Cooder's collaboration with Indian musician V.M. Bhatt on the 1993 album A Meeting by the River. Also from his new CD was the next song, "Universal Rose," which made me think of the music of John Fahey. A short piece, "Life Expectancy of a Rose, was next, during which Lawler played lap-style; this song can be found on the collaborative CD Strands Formerly Braided (Music Fellowship MF-015). Another bowed piece was next, which reminded me of Indian raga music. Next up was "I Used to Strive for a Tree, But Now I Drive on a Mountain," composed by Lawler for an upcoming celebration of John Fahey's life. The only non-original was "Our Prayer," written by Albert Ayler's brother Donald Ayler and also found on Bluegrass States. The last two pieces, Lawler told me afterwards, were spontaneous improvisations and which also called to my mind the intricacies and sonorities of raga music. As I thought of his bow technique on the steel guitar, the Jorge Luis Borges tale "Pierre Menard, author of the Quixote," about a twentieth century Frenchman who set out to write Don Quixote, came to mind as I considered the struggle to create art in a manner at odds with much of what might be considered contemporary and in so doing, to elevate the creative process.
In addition to the CDS already mentioned, Lawler has also released Ghost of a plane of air (nafh011/mf25), also utilizing the resonator guitar. I only had time to listen once before writing this and I would characterize this as edgy gamelan music. The new CD, Bluegrass States, ranges from the dissonance of the opening "That Train Has Already Left the Station" to the more contemplative and introspective "1930." "The Air on Mars Is Hard to Breathe, We'll Just Have to Stay In" is an almost 26-minute magnum opus, which begins with Lawler bowing, rather than strumming or picking his instrument. Lawler is a true Louisville original and is probing the boundaries of music with a spirit akin to that of fellow "Keep Louisville Weird" bands Ut Gret and Liberation Prophecy.
University of Louisville Jazz Week
Once again our community is blessed with the presentation of a fine and varied series of workshops and concerts for the fourteenth Annual University of Louisville Jazz Week. This year these concerts run from Wednesday, February 22 through Sunday, February 26, with all performances at 8 p.m. except for the Sunday concert, at 7:30 p.m.. Wednesday opens the series with a double feature, with the Open World Jazz Quintet, featuring musicians from throughout Russia, and pianist Chuck Marohnic's Trio, featuring the "Dynamic Duo" of Chris Fitzgerald and Jason Tiemann; drums; Thursday, February 23: the Jazz Ensemble II with Bob Lark - trumpet, Thom Matta - trombone and Shelley Yoelin - saxophone; Friday, February 24: Bob McChesney, trombone, with Jazz Ensemble I and Faculty Jazz Combo; Saturday, February 25: David 'Fathead' Newman, with Jazz Ensemble I and Faculty Jazz Combo; Sunday, February 26: NEA Jazz Master Paquito D'Rivera and his Quintet. Ticket packages are available; for tickets and additional information visit www.jazz.louisville.edu or call  852-6907.
Jazz from Bloomington presents "The Godfathers of Groove" (Reuben Wilson, Bernard "Pretty" Purdie and Grant Green, Jr.) and the Terence Blanchard Quartet
Jazz from Bloomington presents two great concerts this month. First up is the Godfathers of Groove: Reuben Wilson, Bernard "Pretty" Purdie and Grant Green, Jr. (with opening act, IU Soul Revue), on Friday, February 2, 2007, at 7:30 p.m., at the Grand Hall of Neil Marshall Black Cultural Center, 275 N. Jordon, Bloomington, IN 47405. More information may be found at www.bloomingtonArts.info. There will also be a free workshop open to the public that afternoon at 2:30 in the Grand Hall. A new release was unavailable at deadline time.
Closing out February, on Sunday, February 25, 2007, will be a performance by the Terence Blanchard Quartet at the Buskirk Chumley Theater, 114 E. Kirkwood, Bloomington, IN, 47401, at 7 p.m.. Blanchard came up through the Art Blakey Jazz Messengers, collaborated with saxophonist Donald Harrison for several years and has made his mark as a leader for quite some time now. Personnel for his touring group is longtime Blanchard collaborator Brice Winston on sax and Yamaha WX5, Aaron Parks on piano, Derrick Hodge on bass and Kendrick Scott on drums, the same as on Blanchard's latest album is Flow (Blue Note 78273). Produced by Herbie Hancock, who occasionally joins the ensemble, Flow is a creative blend of mainstream and fusion, which also features innovative guitar work by Lionel Loueke. The title song is split into three segments, at the beginning, middle and next-to-last positions on the CD. Loueke's "Wadagbe" is also segmented into an "intro" and main piece, stretching together for almost 15 minutes of exploratory Africa-in-Space music which seems to range in influence from tribal chants to Sun Ra to Hugh Masekela. Seeing this music performed live should be a thrill.
Following is the listing for February 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; 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. The February listings arrived so close to deadline time that I am mostly able to just reprint the dates and artists for you here: 1 - Literary LEO Awards; 2 and 3 - The Winard Harper Sextet; 2 - The Late Night Salon with Dubious Duo; 3 - Drum Clinic with Winard Harper and The Late Night Salon with Liberation Prophecy; 6 - The Louisville Metro Big Band; 7 - violinist Christian Howes; 8 - Jazz to the Max (with U of L and visiting educators in a big band setting); 9 - keyboard player Sam Barsh, a member of Zach Brock's Coffee Achievers and bassist Avishai Cohen's bands, brings his own group to town; 10 - The Chuck Marohnic Quartet; 13 - Todd Hildreth's avant-accordion band Squeeze‑bot; 14 - Valentine's Night Lover's Special: With Al Sur Flamenco Ensemble; 15 - trumpeter Matt Lawson's Quartet; 16-17 - Mardi Gras Celebration with The West Market Street Stompers; 20 - The Steve Crews Trio; 21- excellent guitarist Dave Stryker with organist Bobby Floyd; 22 - Double Bill: The Jean‑Michel Pilc/Ari Hoenig Trios; 24 - singer Janis Carter; 27 - Jennifer Lauletta; 28 - Jazz Jam Session; 3/1 - The Harry Pickens Trio; 3/9 - the return of the Lynne Arriale Trio featuring drummer Steve Davis.
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 Horace Silver Tribute on the 10th; the Bob Mintzer Big Band on the 20th; the Chris Potter Quartet on the 26th; the Fareed Haque [Garaj Mahal's superb guitarist] Group on March 2; and Lynne Arriale on March 10. 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; and performances by groups led by Art Gore and Phil DeGreg on January 12-13 and other great jazz nightly Wednesday through Saturday each week; guests include soulful saxophonist Gene Walker on the 9th and 10th and guitarist Dan Faehnle the last weekend of the month. 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.louisvillemusicnews.net).
MEA CULPA or THE DOG ATE MY HOMEWORK
Last month I told you that I would post some reviews online, including the Miles Davis collections featuring his early quintet with John Coltrane on The Legendary Prestige Quintet Sessions and his blistering 1970 electric band on The Cellar Door Sessions 1970; as well as early John Coltrane on the Fearless Leader box which contains his entire output as a leader on the Prestige label and a previously unreleased live set from 1965, One Down, One Up: Live at the Half Note. Well, I ran out of time, lost my thumb drive and blah blah blah. I hope to finish these and get them uploaded soon, but no promises this time.
I am always interested in your comments. Contact me at email@example.com.