In the months to come, I will be writing about my experiences at the 2007 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. For now, I want to convey to you what I heard again and again, from musicians onstage and backstage, from merchants and strangers: "We're coming back, but we still need your help." In a sense, New Orleans 2007 bears some resemblance to Louisville 1974: in each city, one could drive through neighborhoods and not know anything unusual had happened, while but a few blocks away were (and for New Orleans today, are) areas of stark devastation. If we can "rebuild" Iraq, why can we not rebuild our own New Orleans?
Cyro Baptista's Beat the Donkey Ensemble opened its show at the Kentucky Center on Thursday, April 19, with the members entering [while] swirling fluorescent whirligigs before launching into a percussion assault, evoking images of Sun Ra jamming with the Rhythm Devils. A funk beat led to audience participation; Baptista did a tap solo; costumes included a jester, an Arab, a centurion . . . . It is actually difficult to write about this performance without falling into a stream of consciousness word salad. There was a beatbox trio, a gamelan piece, a psychedelic "Carnaval" number, a song seemingly pulled from the Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood universe, which led into a Grateful Dead-style "drumz'n'space" interlude, which morphed into a Sixties Twist, before becoming a heavy metal rap, which flowed into a cocktail lounge melodica solo . . .. Okay, to coin a cliche, ya hadda be there. The audience dance area in front of the stage, sparsely populated at first, later overflowed with participants both young and old. If you weren't, some of the musical segments (sans visual cues and performance art) can be found on the new CD, entitled Love the Donkey, on Tzadik.
You know you are in the right place at the right time for a jazz concert when you see some of Louisville's top jazz artists in the audience. Such was the case for a special Mother's Day performance, Sunday evening, May 13, by the Mulgrew Miller Trio, featuring Ivan Taylor (bass) and Rodney Green (drums). Among his admirers were pianist Steve Crews, saxophonist Ron Jones and drummers Terry O'Mahoney and Bobby Falk. As Crews observed, it was unusual for Miller, a composer as well as a superb pianist, to perform two sets of mostly jazz standards with only a few originals tossed into the mix. In the former category were such chestnuts as "If I Were a Bell," "My Foolish Heart," Charlie Parker's "Relaxin' at Camarillo," Duke Jordan's "Jordu," and Dizzy Gillespie's "Woody 'N' You." A highlight of the first set was a Miller original, "Carousel," whose suitably childlike introduction of "Did You Ever See a Lassie" set an appropriate mood for a ride on this jazz merry-go-round. The only other original was the second song of the second set, a Monk-ish blues, "When I Get There," which featured a slightly over-busy but technically proficient bass solo. Both sets provided Green an opportunity to show his relaxed confidence on sticks, brushes, hands and shakers. Miller throughout the evening went from an almost Basie-like sparseness to an Oscar Peterson/McCoy Tyner fullness, all depending on the needs of the song. It is no wonder that his catalog includes not only many solo recordings, but hundreds of dates accompanying other artists.
Well, the Jazz Rites of Summer are upon us. Bellarmine University will host the 21st Annual Jazz Guitar Clinic and Concert on Monday and Tuesday, June 4 and 5. Professor Jeff Sherman will be joined by returning guest artists John Stowell and Jack Wilkins. For more information, contact Sherman Bellarmine University, 2001 Newburg Road, Louisville, KY 40205‑0671. Each year Sherman and his guest faculty members perform a concert on Monday night, in Wyatt Hall on the Bellarmine campus at 7:30, which is open to the public for a nominal fee. Sherman and Wilkins are excellent representatives of mainstream jazz guitar, while Stowell exhibits more of a classical bent. Wilkins and Stowell have been participants in this clinic and the concert may times over the years. Last year, in fact, Wilkins was part of a special tribute to Johnny Smith (reviewed here last July) and Stowell was here in 2005 (reviewed here also). More information is available at (502)452‑8182 or at http://home.insightbb.com/~rush/Bellarmine.
Students of jazz, ranging from school age to elderly, have made a pilgrimage to Louisville for many years to attend Jamey Aebersold's Summer Jazz Workshops. This year the basic dates are: Jamey's 2‑Day "Anyone Can Improvise" Seminar: June 30 ‑ July 1; 2-Day Bass/Drum Primer with Aebersold Faculty: June 30 ‑ July 1 & July 7 ‑ 8; Summer Jazz Workshop Week #1 - July 1 ‑ 6; Summer Jazz Workshop Week #2 - July 8 ‑ 13. Complete information on this year's schedule may be found at: http://www.summerjazzworkshops.com/about.asp. The Louisville Jazz Society (LJS) has granted scholarships to two students; details are available at the LJS website, www.louisvillejazz.org.
Every year, in addition to the learning opportunities offered, Aebersold presents a series of public evening concerts, with All-Star Faculty presentations at 7 p.m. on the Wednesday of each week at Masterson's, 1830 S. 3rd Street, near the University of Louisville campus. At deadline time, the faculty list was not complete and may be subject to change; with that caveat, a few of the likely faculty include saxophonists Antonio Hart and Don Braden; trumpeters Jim Rotondi, Bobby Shew; pianists David Hazeltine, Todd Hildreth, Andy Laverne, Harry Pickens; guitarists Dave Stryker and Steve Erquiaga; bassists Chris Fitzgerald, David Friesen, John Goldsby, Bill Moring, Rufus Reid, Lynn Seaton; drummer Steve Davis and MANY MORE. By July's column, I should be able to give concert-goers a better handle on these presentations.
Following is a subjective set of highlights for June 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. Unless otherwise noted, all shows are 7:30 and 9:30 p.m.
On Friday‑Saturday 6/1‑6/2, The Bobby Broom Trio returns for a two-night CD Release Weekend celebrating Song and Dance (Origin Records 82475). Broom was here in November as part of the Deep Blue Organ Trio, (reviewed here in December) and brings his own working trio, consisting of bassist Dennis Carroll and drummer Kobie Watkins, who has performed here with Ryan Cohan. The new CD includes a mix of standards, such as "Smile," and "You and the Night and the Music," more recent songs such as the Beatles' "Can't Buy Me Love," and several Broom originals. Broom has performed with artists ranging from Dr. John to Sonny Rollins and is a masterful straight-ahead guitarist whose engagements here are always a delight. Also, Broom will present a free Jazz Guitar workshop at Steilberg String Instruments, 4029 Bardstown Rd. in the Buechel neighborhood on Saturday, June 2nd at 2pm. Additional information on the workshop is available at www.stringinstruments.com.
The following Friday 6/8, noted pianist Joanne Brackeen makes her first Jazz Factory appearance. In addition to work under her own name, she has appeared and recorded with the likes of Stan Getz. I believe she was in Louisville once, many years ago, but regardless, she is a superb player and composer and should not be missed. The following night is a CD release party for Cincinnati pianist Phil Degreg and his Trio. On Wednesday 6/13, Brian Auger's Oblivion Express returns; Bellarmine guitar wiz Jeff Sherman is on the 14th. Then Louisville will be treated to Chicago vocalist Kurt Elling on Friday 6/15. Elling has made his mark as an original in a field awash with would-be Sinatra clones. His recently released Concord debut (following releases on Blue Note) is the superb Nightmoves. Elling is not "just another singer" and if justice is served, this will be a sellout. Elling is followed on Saturday 6/16 by guitarist and singer Doug Wamble, who returns in support of his most recent Marsalis Music release Bluestate. Curiously, his gig the previous day will have been at Bonnaroo. Top local saxophonists Jamey Aebersold and Ron Jones will bring their groups in on the 22nd and 23rd respectively. Many Jazz Factory dates were still TBA at deadline time.
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: Garaj Mahal for two nights, June 1-2 [why aren't they doing any Louisville shows??!!]; the Redd Holt Trio on June 3; Rachel Z on June 22. These are in addition to The nightly offerings of local and regional jazz; check the website for the full schedule.
The June schedule was unavailable for The Blue Wisp Jazz Club in Cincinnati, 318 East Eighth St. (513-241‑WISP), but it has traditionally included Wednesday night performances by The Blue Wisp Big Band. For an updated schedule, go to www.bluewisp.net. Note: this is a new site, with a different url than I have posted in the past.
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).
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