February hit hard with sickness (mine and my girls, not simultaneously), a broken wrist (my wife's) and I bid a less-than-fond farewell to the month with this quote from Louis Armstrong "I'll Be Glad When You're Dead, You Rascal You."
Winard Harper Sextet and Sam Barsh Quartet at the Jazz Factory
Drummer Winard Harper returned to the Jazz Factory for a two night stand on Friday and Saturday, February 2nd and 3rd. He brought with him pianist Jeb Patton, who has previously been here for the University of Louisville's Jazz Week with the Heath Brothers; bassist Corcoran Holt; trumpeter Josh Evans; alto saxophonist Lummie Spann; and Senegalese percussionist Alioune Faye. Evans and Faye were here with Harper last summer; the other musicians were new to the ensemble. Harper is a dynamic player and leads his group with confidence through a wide variety of pieces, both originals and standards. Before the Saturday performance, there was a clinic; actually, it seemed like a cross between a rehearsal and a clinic. In any event, Harper spoke of that ." . . something else that takes place onstage . . ." when he and Faye interact. Harper answered a question about Faye's use of the talking drum by saying "We're trying to bring the dance back." He spoke to a 12-year-old drummer and encouraged him to learn the standard drum rudiments, stating that they are ." . . like learning scales and arpeggios for piano and horn players - they give you the vocabulary for speaking through your instrument."
Interestingly, during the concert, there was a certain amount of role reversal (or stereotype bashing), in that Harper was decked out in African-inspired garb, while Faye was in a Western-style business suit. Harper opened with Ray Bryant's "Reflections" and continued with "God Is the Greatest." This piece, featuring shekere and djembe, led to a vamp with piano and bass before seguing into "Float Like a Butterfly," written for our own Muhammad Ali. As might be intuited, this was a fast piece, with Spann building his solo to a dramatic tension and release. George Cables, here recently with Javon Jackson, previously played with Harper and contributed "Helen's Song" to the repertoire. A slow gospel/blues piece followed and the band closed the first set with an incendiary take on Bobby Timmons' classic "Moanin'." Coincidentally, I had been watching the Art Blakey Jazz Icon DVD earlier in the day, which featured this then-new piece. Patton broke into a stride break at one time, which led first the band and then the audience into a spirited clap-a-thon. "Things Ain't What They Used To Be," the venerable Ellington piece, was used as a break tune. The second set opened with another cables composition, "Baggy Pants," which had a stop-time feel that reminded me of Benny Golson's "Killer Joe"; Onaje Allan Gumbs' "Morning Glow" was relaxed only in comparison to the first song. Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely," which Harper performed here last year, was a request from yours truly, which Harper was kind enough to play. The whole band was smiling throughout; Evans' solo was performed with just bass and Harper's handclapping as accompaniment, after which there was a talking drum solo followed by a New Orleans-sounding horn segment. A ballad medley, consisting of "Polka Dots and Moonbeams" and "Old Folks" allowed first Patton and then Evans to show off their softer sides. A balafon/djembe duet revved the club back up and was followed by Thelonious Monk's "Green Chimneys." Harper sees himself as a Keeper of the Flame and this evening showed that he is right on target.
Pianist and keyboard player Sam Barsh has graced the Jazz Factory on several different occasions, as a member of bassist Avishai Cohen's groups and as a member of Zach Brock and the Coffee Achievers. He returned to the Jazz Factory on Friday, February 9, this time leading his own band, consisting of Tim Collins on vibes, Ari Folman‑Cohen on electric bass and Jaimeo ["Ja-MAY-oh"] Brown on drums. The concept for this band is based more on fusion and trance music than on jazz standards and tunes from the American Song Book. I arrived as the band was playing "T.I.T.S.," an acronym for, among other things, "This Is the S#@%." Notwithstanding the crude title, it found Barsh in space mode with a hypnotic groove, which modulated from funk to rock and back again. An as-yet-unnamed piece was next and was more in a comparatively conservative modern jazz mode. "Wake Up and Smile," which Barsh said was his mantra, was fast and hyperfunky. For some reason, visually Barsh reminds me of some odd character from a 1930s cartoon; he ended up pogoing while playing synth as Collins comped furiously. The second set opened with "Rainy Day Jam," a slow to mid-tempo funk piece to which one couple danced; in New Orleans everyone would have been shaking everything they had. "Car Lewis, Son" was next and this fast piece elicited not merely spontaneous applause but yelling (favorably) from the audience. "Melodica 5/4" allowed Brown to show his abilities with brushes in addition to sticks. "Plans Change" was introduced by Barsh saying "Now we're gonna bring the soul vibe back a little bit." More than just a vamp, this had the feel of a real song such as might have been done back in the day by War or Earth, Wind and Fire. A reprise of "Wake Up and Smile" ended the second set. Barsh will return with Zach Brock and the Coffee Achievers (see below) for a live recording session. He has been recording a studio album that is planned for release on bassist Avishai Cohen's Razzdazz label. The current edition of the Sam Barsh Group also has a live CD out, which effectively captures the groove presented this night at the Jazz Factory. It will probably be available soon through www.cdbaby.com or Barsh's website, www.barshmusic.com. For now, your best bet is to contact his manager at firstname.lastname@example.org for ordering information.
As I write this, the LEO [that's Louisville Eccentric Observer, our weekly alternative newspaper, for you out-of-towners] scheduled for February 28 should contain my review of a pair of homecoming concerts at the Jazz Factory, performed by Lexington native Zach Brock, now of New York and former Louisvillian David Leonhardt, now of Easton, Pennsylvania. If you missed this review and want an e-copy, e-mail me at email@example.com.
Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis at The Kentucky Center
The Brown-Forman Midnite Ramble Series and The Kentucky Center welcome Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (JLCO) with Wynton Marsalis as they return to Louisville March 18 at 7 p.m. in Whitney Hall. At deadline time, I am waiting for arrangements to be finalized for an interview with saxophonist Victor Goines, a New Orleans native and long-time member of the JLCO. Look for a feature in the Courier-Journal, most likely the weekend before this performance. 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
As I write this, the 2007 Mardi Gras season has just ended and by media accounts, both locals and tourists were ready to "laissez le bon temps rouler" [let the good times roll]. Thus it should also be 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). While this is Derby Week here, there are those of us who are drawn by the amazing breadth and depth of musical acts, complemented by the food and ambience of this festival, not to mention the opportunity to help support the city we love. As Rahsaan Roland Kirk played it, "Dem Red Beans and Rice." With over 400 different acts spread out over the two weekends, it is impossible to list them all here. Below are my picks, together with some of the other well-known acts for each weekend, with the jazz acts listed first. For a complete schedule, together with ticket information, updates and so forth, go to www.nojazzfest.com.
Weekend One, April 27 - April 29: JAZZ: Pharoah Sanders, Arturo Sandoval, Soulive, Rebirth Brass Band, Mose Allison, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Pete Fountain, James Carter, Terence Blanchard, Kermit Ruffins & the Barbecue Swingers, Irvin Mayfield & the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra and Terence Blanchard.POP/FUNK/OTHER: Jerry Lee Lewis, Dr. John, Rod Stewart, Van Morrison, Norah Jones, Irma Thomas, Bonnie Raitt, Lucinda Williams, Calexico, Richie Havens, Johnny Rivers, George Thorogood & the Destroyers, Gillian Welch, T-Bone Burnett, The New Orleans Social Club, Percy Sledge, Marcia Ball, Sonny Landreth, JJ Grey & MOFRO, Tab Benoit, George Porter, Jr. & Runnin' Pardners, Zachary Richard avec Francis Cabrel and Jon Cleary & the Absolute Monster Gentlemen.
Weekend Two, May 4 - May 6: JAZZ: Roy Hargrove, Nicholas Payton, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Branford Marsalis, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Ellis Marsalis, Donald Harrison, World Saxophone Group, Danilo Perez and Bob Wilber & the Soprano Summit tribute to Kenny Davern.POP/FUNK/OTHER: Steely Dan [who frequently include jazz players in the personnel], Allman Brothers Band, Counting Crows, Irma Thomas' Tribute to Mahalia Jackson, Clarence "Frogman" Henry, George Benson [maybe he'll do a jazz set?], Harry Connick Jr.[maybe he'll do a jazz set too?], Galactic, ZZ Top, John Legend, Allen Toussaint, Stephen Marley featuring Jr. Gong, Taj Mahal, New Edition, Joss Stone, Tony Joe White, The Holmes Brothers, The Radiators, Chuck Leavell, The Dixie Cups' Anders Osborne, John Mooney & Bluesiana, Snooks Eaglin, Papa Grows Funk, BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet, Eric Lindell, Walter "Wolfman" Washington, Ivan Neville, Joseph "Zigaboo" Modeliste [the original Meters drummer] and more.
Following is the listing for March, as available by deadline, 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.
Thursday-Saturday, March 1-3: The Harry Pickens Trio; Tuesday March 6: The Don Krekel Orchestra playing the classic big band arrangements; Thursday, March 8: Jeff Greene and Human Motion is a Chicago‑based jazz quintet; Saturday, March 10: The Louisville Jazz Quartet with vibraphonist Dick Sisto, with saxophonist Tim Whalen, Tyrone Wheeler on bass and Mike Hyman on drums; Tuesday, March 13: singer Susannah Martin; Friday-Saturday, March 16-17: Zach Brock and The Coffee Achievers "Live at The Jazz Factory" recording sessions. Electric violinist, Zach Brock, about whom I have written several times over the past few years, brings his all‑star quartet for two nights, featuring Sam Barsh on piano, electric keyboards and Melodica, Matt Wigton on bass and Jon Deitemeier on drums. This is exciting for both Brock and the Jazz Factory, as the performances will be recorded for a national release. Friday-Saturday, March 30-31: The Steve Allee Trio featuring pianist Allee, Bill Mooring on bass and Tim Horner on drums, will be playing selections from their brand new CD. Good fusion concerts locally are few and far between, so mark Wednesday 4/4 on your calendar for Steve Smith and Vital Information, which currently features Tom Coster on keys, Baron Browne on bass and Vinny Valentino on guitar. More details to come next month.
The Lynne Arriale Trio, Rachel Z and Monika Herzig Acoustic Project: Woman Power at the Jazz Factory
By utter coincidence, on the last-chance-due-date for this month's column, I received new releases by these artists. Each has appeared at the Jazz Factory before, each is a strong player with clear individual musical vision, each has been influenced by rock and pop music as well as jazz and each is a woman pianist leading her own group.
The Lynne Arriale Trio featuring Steve Davis on drums and Thomson Kneeland on bass, returns 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. The DVD includes one extra track not on the CD, the standard "Alone Together," as well as a 5.1 surround mix and two bonus features, an interview and a documentary. Time constraints did not allow me to preview the DVD, but the CD is well-recorded and features remarkable interplay among Arriale, Davis and bassist Jay Anderson on songs including a rearranged version of the New Orleans classic "Iko Iko," the Beatles' "Come Together," and Thelonious Monk's "Bemsha Swing," as well as Arriale originals such as "Arise." See below for an additional show in Indianapolis.
Wednesday, March 14 marks Rachel Z's return to The Jazz Factory for an exclusive one‑night concert. She's touring in support of her latest release Department of Good and Evil (Savoy Jazz 17630). She sings occasionally, including on her Sting-like "Walking on Water," and plays Sting's "King of Pain" for good measure. Accompanied by bassists Maeve Royce (acoustic) and Tony Levin (electric and Chapman Stick), drummer/producer Bobby Rae and with occasional trumpet by Erik Naslund, Ms. Z plays straightahead on a variety of pieces including "Soul Meets Body" by Deathcab for Cutie. She has toured and recorded with artists ranging from Wayne Shorter to Peter Gabriel and should liven up the middle of this week.
Bloomington, Indiana jazz pianist Monika Herzig returns to The Jazz Factory on Saturday, March 24, to celebrate the release of her new CD, What Have You Gone and Done? (Acme 005MA-84922). The CD is billed as the Monika Herzig Acoustic Project and features Kenny Phelps on drums, Frank Smith on bass and husband Peter Kienle on guitar, with guest appearances by violinist Carolyn Dutton, bassist Jeremy Allen and drummer Pete Wilhoit. Ironically, the opening original blues, "One Size Fits All," features searing electric guitar and brings back memories of Herzig and Kienle's fusion project, Beeblebrox. Next up is a piano trio version of Bob Dylan's "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue," which takes this lament to new places. Other covers include the Beatles' "Hey Jude," with great guitar work and Paul Simon's "Bridge Over Troubled Water." Originals include "The Call," which is a pretty ballad featuring Dutton's violin and "The Hill Country," which has a "Moon River" feel to it.
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 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; with other performers including Steve Schmidt and Erwin Stuckey, to name but two. 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).
In reviewing Sonny Rollins' Without a Song: The 9/11 Concert (Milestone MCD-9342-2) in my September 2005 column, I said: "I will go out on a limb and offer my opinion that he is the greatest living jazz saxophonist." Two recent releases, one an archival live recording from 1965 and one a new studio release, offer further proof of Rollins' mastery. Sonny, Please is the first release on Rollins' own Doxy label and reunites him with guitarist Bobby Broom, bassist Bob Cranshaw and his nephew, trombonist Clifton Anderson. The other players are drummer Steve Jordan and percussionist Kimati Dinizulu. Four of the seven selections here are Rollins originals, beginning with the hard-swinging title track that opens the CD. By this time in his career, Rollins has virtually become one with his saxophone; he can be muscular and aggressive, or gentle and warm and in all instances never fails to be intensely rhythmic. The final track, Rollins' "Park Palace Parade," is a jaunty second-line romp, marred by excessive use of a whistle as counterpoint to the saxophone. Other writers have commented that Rollins has surrounded himself with musicians not of his caliber; this is superfluous, in my opinion, as he has consistently surrounded himself with musicians who are true to his vision and enable him to improvise with grace and ease. As his first studio album in many years, Sonny, Please immediately jumps to the top of the list, as it is far more consistent than most of his other studio efforts in decades. It has been available for about a year overseas and at Rollins' live performances and should now be available at your favorite local music shop.
On Sonny Rollins: Live in London, Volume 3 (Harkit HRKCD 8204; see www.harkitrecords.com and www.dustygroove.com and www.msimusic.com for ordering information), the master is caught at the famous Ronnie Scott's Club on January 17, 1965, with a house band consisting of Stan Tracey on piano, future Mahavishnu Orchestra bassist Rick Laird and Ronnie Stephenson on drums. This is a 2-CD set and true to form for this era of live Sonny Rollins, the songs s-t-r-e-t-c-h out. On Disc One, Dizzy Gillespie's "Blue 'n' Boogie" burns for 31 minutes, followed by the ballad "Where Are You?," clocking in at a mere 16+ minutes, before a 95-second reprise of "Blue 'n' Boogie" closes out the set and CD. On Disc Two, the classic "Four" goes for 22 & 1/2 minutes; followed by 27 minutes of Rollins' own "Sonnymoon for Two," and closes out with "I'll Be Seeing You" (6 minutes). The liner notes indicate that Stephenson was best known as a big band drummer and his playing here does tend more toward a stiff and conservative approach than some of Rollins' American drummers of this period, such as Mickey Roker and Art Blakey. But the key to these recordings is that they contain some of the only officially released live Sonny Rollins from this era and as such serve as a valuable complement to his studio recordings. Hearing Rollins twist and turn the phrases of "Blue 'n' Boogie," or turn the ballad "I'll Be Seeing You" into an uptempo romp, are almost guilty pleasures. The recording quality is decent for this era, although not measuring up to that of, say, John Coltrane's The Complete 1961 Village Vanguard Recordings. In short, both Sonny, Please and Live in London, Volume 3 are valuable additions to your jazz library.
I am always interested in your comments. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.