University of Louisville Jazz Week

By Martin Kasdan Jr

Illness and family concerns prevented me from making all the performances during the fourteenth Annual University of Louisville Jazz Week. I was MIA for the Open World Jazz Quintet, featuring musicians from throughout Russia, and pianist Chuck Marohnic's Trio, with Chris Fitzgerald and Jason Tiemann (Wednesday, February 22); U of L's Jazz Ensemble II with Bob Lark - trumpet, Thom Matta - trombone and Shelley Yoelin - saxophone the following night; and Bob McChesney, trombone, with Jazz Ensemble I and Faculty Jazz Combo on Friday, February 24. I was back in the saddle for the Saturday, February 25 performance of David "Fathead" Newman, with Jazz Ensemble I and Faculty Jazz Combo; and the Sunday, February 26 concert by the Paquito D'Rivera Quintet.

David Newman was here back in December of 2005 and it was good to see and hear him again, accompanied by some of U of L's finest musicians, both student and faculty. For his first set, he was joined by Jim Connerley, piano, Tyrone Wheeler, bass and Jason Tiemann, drums. Newman's flute artistry was showcased on "Goldfinger" and "What a Wonderful World," the latter from his new CD Life (HighNote) and featuring a rich solo by Wheeler. Newman looked regal in black slacks and shirt, with a blazer and an African skullcap. When not playing flute, his sax work was warm and inviting on pieces such as his former employer's "Georgia on my Mind," Hank Mobley's "This I Dig of You," and the closer, Dizzy Gillespie's "Night in Tunisia." He relaxed on a stool while checking out his bandmates' solos. Wheeler and Tiemann were superb, as always and pianist Connerley deserves wider exposure. In his second set, an enthusiastic student big band kicked off with John LaBarbera's "Pythodd Fellows," from his second CD Fantazm. Newman's own "Cousin Esau" was next, another flute feature with a "Wade in the Water" feel [and quote]. Newman's classic "Hard Times," from his first LP Ray Charles Presents Fathead took the audience to church and Duke Pearson's "Cristo Redentor" transported those present to the high climes of Brazil with gorgeous saxophone foundation and brass accents. The Newman closed with a "bossa funk" arrangement of a piece he first performed with Herbie Mann, an O'Donel Levy tune entitled "Keep the Spirits Singing."

Paquito D'Rivera's Quintet closed out the 2007 Jazz Week in fine, hot Latin style. D'Rivera's band members Oscar Stagnaro (electric bass), Mark Walker (drums), Israeli Alon Yavnai (piano) and Diego Urcola (trumpet), showed the universality of the language of jazz. D'Rivera included both standards, such as "All the Things You Are" (retitled "All the Things We Are" as an acknowledgment of unity) and the encore, "Manha de Carnaval" from the film Black Orpheus, as well as originals. D'Rivera's "To Brenda, With Love," was an opportunity for Urcola to play trombone and Stagnaro was showcased in a fleet and fluid solo. Urcola contributed "A Rose for Astor Piazzolla," a tricky tango in honor of the master of the "New Tango." Urcola's trumpet solo exhibited a clean flurry of notes, followed by Yavnai's piano solo, which built from a slow burn to a forest fire, following which D'Rivera engaged him in a duet before the group returned to finish the song. D'Rivera's "Dojo" [sp?] was dedicated to an 89-year-old trombonist with Japanese and Hispanic parents. The leader's sax solo built up to the point where he was dancing by the end of it. In introducing a song by Dizzy Gillespie, D'Rivera showed his own sense of humor by referring to the composer as one of "the great artists of the Twentieth Century [who] loved the music of illegal aliens." This provided D'Rivera the opportunity to shine on clarinet. Throughout the concert, Walker was a virtual one-man trapset and Latin percussion section, with the ability to play straightahead jazz and switch effortlessly to Cuban or Brazilian rhythms.