Following the passing of Max Roach, noted here last month, the jazz community now mourns the loss of pianist, multi-keyboard player, composer and bandleader Joe Zawinul. As stated in an announcement by his sons, Zawinul "was born in Eternity time on September 11, 2007 at age 75. His transition [was] celebrated on September 25" in his birthplace, Vienna. Zawinul was one of the most influential people in jazz over the past 40 years. His composition for Cannonball Adderley, "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy," became a Top 40 hit for the Buckinghams, an early demonstration of Zawinul's ability to break down barriers. His next high profile gig was with Miles Davis, in the transitional time during which electric jazz, or fusion, was born. Zawinul and Davis' saxophonist Wayne Shorter then formed the remarkable Weather Report, which enjoyed both critical and commercial success. Following the breakup of Weather Report, Zawinul continued to fuse world rhythms with jazz improvisation for music which was almost instantly recognizable as his own.
Zawinul's last release before his demise was Brown Street (Heads Up International HUCD 3121), a 2-CD set recorded live in October 2005 at his own Birdland Club in Vienna. This was unique in his discography, in that it combined an electric jazz combo with the 15‑piece WDR Big Band, for a program revisiting and reinterpreting such Zawinul classics as "In A Silent Way," and "Black Market," to name but two. It stands as an excellent coda to a life spent making music which was always reaching for new syntheses of styles.
Trumpeter Wallace Roney seems both blessed and cursed by the fact that he is the only trumpeter the legendary Miles Davis mentored. While his playing sometimes evokes Davis, his connection today seems to be more of a shorthand way of identifying him than a fair assessment of his current work. If anything, his exploration of styles and colors and his adventurous approach to playing music for the here and now is more akin to Davis' lifelong musical forward-searching. Roney brought his great ensemble to the Jazz Factory on Friday, August 17, for two sets of blistering jazz, with some pieces taken from his new HighNote release, simply entitled Jazz. Wallace's brother Antoine Roney, a longtime collaborator, played saxes; another mainstay was the very energetic drummer Eric Allen. Rounding out this hard-hitting ensemble were Rashaan Carter, bass; Aruan Ortiz, piano; and Steve Brown, turntables. The band had just arrived at showtime, but when the players hit the stage, they did so with a vengeance and a devotion to playing that was nothing short of incredible. Wallace, in military jacket and shades, cut an imposing figure visually as well as musically. The first piece, which I believe was "Vater Time" which leads off Jazz, was a 20-minute workout with a funk/rock beat which later moved to fast swing. The first set evoked Mwandishi, "Filles de Kilimanjaro," and the tight-knit 1965-68 Miles Davis Quintet without ever falling into mere imitation and closed with a beautiful a capella trumpet performance by the leader. The second set seemed to utilize the turntablist more, with repeated snippets of oratory regarding "millions of Negro slaves . . . weathering injustice . . ." adding to the emotional depth of a piece which was musically reminiscent of Thad Jones' "A Child Is Born." The evening closed with an upbeat version of the classic anthem by Sly and the Family Stone, "Stand," which is also on Jazz. Wallace Roney is clearly a musical force in his own right and here's hoping he can return to Louisville.
Louisville alto saxophonist Ron Jones, usually accompanied by a piano-bass-drums rhythm section, brought his Organ Trio to the Jazz Factory on Saturday August 25. Featuring Rob Allgeyer on organ and Darryel Cotten on drums, the always dapper Jones seemed relaxed and happy as he swung through an engaging pair of sets. Charlie Parker's "Confirmation" gained a different dimension with organ rather than piano-bass accompaniment. "The Nearness of You" featured Cotten's classy brushwork on this timeless ballad. The band, solid throughout the first set, soared in the second, as it opened with an early Herbie Hancock composition, "Driftin'." The Ellington standard "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," accelerated to liftoff velocity, followed by the Latin-flavored Joe Henderson composition, "Mamacita." Jones dedicated "Misty" to the ladies in the audience, before tackling Thelonious Monk's "Evidence" ("requested by our organist"). Nat Adderley's composition made famous by his brother Cannonball, "Work Song," fulfilled an audience request and the evening closed with a midtempo Latin number and a break tune which evolved into Monk's "Straight, No Chaser." Jones' warm personality and excellent playing were enhanced by the work of his teammates and I, for one, hope he will continue to work with the organ trio setting in addition to his piano-based groups.
Kenny Garrett's performance at the Jazz Factory on Thursday, August 30, was another major jazz event featuring a musician with ties to Miles Davis. Garret's group consisted of pianist Benito Gonzales, drummer Jamire Williams and longtime associate Nat Reeves on bass. Being present for both sets was almost like attending two different concerts. The first consisted of a 45-minute Coltrane-inspired workout on the title track from his current Nonesuch release, Beyond The Wall. Garrett played his heart out, visually reminiscent of a davening Jew in prayer as he bowed forward and back while wearing a skullcap. He remained in total communication with Williams as he pushed the music harder and harder, with an energy level which began where most leave off. "Calling," also from the new CD, was a mere 17-minute journey which also maintained a Coltrane vibe. The second set began with "Chief Blackwater," followed by "Qing Wen" and then a beautiful "Asian Medley" duet with Gonzales, during which Garrett eloquently played silence as well as notes. The performance closed with the title track from an earlier Garrett album, Happy People, a fun and funky piece during which Garrett encouraged audience participation. Garrett's high level of musicianship, combined with his spiritual aura and in conjunction with a totally sympathetic group of musicians, provided a memorable evening of superlative jazz.
The progressive Ut Gret hosted a night of music on Sunday, September 9 at Uncle Pleasant's, that will not soon be forgotten by those in attendance. Ut Gret performed a lengthy set which frequently featured the dancing of Ruric-Amari. In addition to repertoire ranging from Frank Zappa's "Blessed Relief" to the spacey "Vegetable[s] Matter[s]," the band featured special guest vocalist Dane Waters, who performed songs from "Rock Bottom" by original Soft Machine member Robert Wyatt. Following Ut Gret was a very special performance by innovative guitarist Eugene Chadbourne and original Mothers of Invention drummer Jimmy Carl Black. The repertoire ranged from twisted takes on blues classics to tongue-in-cheek country parodies, to reinterpretations of pieces from the Captain Beefheart canon. The highlight of the evening was an all-too-brief collaboration between Ut Gret and Chadbourne and Black, which included the jazz compositions "King Kong" and "Peaches en Regalia," by Black's former employer Frank Zappa.
Up-and-coming drummer/bandleader Pete Zimmer brought his A-team to the Jazz Factory Saturday, September 8. His quartet featured trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, guitarist Avi Rothbard and bassist David Wong. The first set included the leader's "Summer Samba" as well as standards "Lover Man" (demonstrating Zimmer's abilities on brushes) and "From this Moment On," (a showcase for Pelt's muted trumpet). The second set began with the Coltrane tune "Straight Street," followed by a Zimmer original, "Common Man," a midtempo swinger. "Lover" was taken at a very fast tempo, with Pelt and Rothbard trading fours. Another Zimmer song, "Time that Once Was," followed and was in turn followed by Sony Rollins' "Doxy." "Una Mas" and a Kenny Burrell blues closed the evening. Besides Pelt's always on-the-money soloing, Rothbard provided musicality which seemed to borrow from both mainstream and progressive styles, adding a sense of tension and surprise to many of the pieces. Wong's accompaniment was sympathetic and he showed impressive chops during his solo turns.
Zimmer has founded his own label, Tippin' Records (www.tippinrecords.com) and the most recent release is Judgment, featuring the saxophones of George Garzone and Joel Frahm, together with pianist Toru Dodo, trumpeter Michael Rodriguez and bassist John Sullivan (who played here with Roy Haynes in 2005 at U of L. The opening track, Garzone's "The Mingus I Knew," starts off a strong 59-minute CD consisting of all originals by Zimmer and his mates, with the sole standard being "Bye Bye Blackbird."
Rothbard, an Israeli-born musician now living in New York, has two CDS as a leader, Going Somewhere (MR2002-1060) and Twin Song (on his own Rothbard label, available at www.cdbaby.com). Twin Song features Rothbard, organist Jared Gold, drummer Joe Strasser and the great young saxophonist Wayne Escoffery, in a series of original compositions which deftly unite soulful grooves with a progressive musical approach.
The Louisville Jazz Society is among the sponsors of the Highlands‑Douglass Big Rock Jazz Fest, which takes place on Sunday, October 7 from 1 to 5 p.m., at the Big Rock area of Cherokee Park. Roland Vazquez and his Quintet will headline, following performances by the University of Louisville and Bellarmine University Jazz Ensembles. Vazquez previously performed here in November 2003 at PASIC (Percussive Arts Society International Convention) in November, 2003 and a few months later at the Jazz Factory. For an interview I did with Vazquez, which will provide more information on his approach to composing and playing, see my February 2004 column: www.louisvillemusicnews.net/lmn/issues/2004/2004February/jazzinfeb04.html.
As mentioned here last month, Pat Metheny returns to Louisville for the first time in at least a decade, on November 5, heading a trio featuring bassist Christian McBride and drummer Antonio Sanchez. The performance will be at the Brown Theatre, with tickets available through the Kentucky Center Box Office. Louisvillians are fortunate to have a chance to Metheny in a trio setting and if there is any justice, this should be a sellout. In a recent interview, Metheny commented on how this trio has now played many performances around the world and has developed its own repertoire which borrows from the Pat Metheny Group canon but also adds many numbers written especially for this lineup. Fans of not just Metheny, but of jazz guitar, should not miss this special show.
If anyone deserves the title "living legend" in the jazz world, it is surely Dave Brubeck. Now approaching his 87th birthday, he returns to Louisville for one performance only, on Saturday, November 10 at 8 p.m. at Memorial Auditorium. The Dave Brubeck Quartet played two amazing concerts here in 2003; for my review of those performances, surf to www.louisvillemusicnews.net/lmn/issues/2003/2003April/davebrubeckgivesfourhoursw97.php. Brubeck's group featured then and will again feature on this tour, saxophonist Bobby Militello, drummer Randy Jones and bassist Michael Moore. For more information on this concert, go to: www.jazz.louisville.edu or call the University of Louisville at 502-852‑6907. This is a concert not to be missed!
Indian Summer (Telarc CD‑83670) is Dave Brubeck's new solo CD. On it, Brubeck performs a touching repertoire of originals and standards, including "Sweet Lorraine" and "Memories of You." In addition, he is among the luminaries in the second series of Jazz Icons DVDs just released, with two concerts from 1964 and 1966 featuring the classic Quartet with saxophonist Paul Desmond, bassist Eugene "Senator" Wright and drummer Joe Morello. According to a press release from his label, Brubeck was officially designated a Living Legend of Jazz at a ceremony at the Kennedy Center in March; on July 12, he was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the BBC Jazz Awards; and he and his wife, Iola, celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary on September 21.
The Jazz Factory (815 W. Market St. in The Glassworks, 502-992‑3242) always has a complete and updated schedule, with more details, at the website: www.jazzfactory.us. Highlights (my listing is subjective and omission of an act is due to space and time limitations, not quality judgments) include Friday, October 5: Eric Person and Meta‑Four; Saturday October 20: New Orleans' great modern jazz quartet Astral Project; and Saturday November 3: the timeless master of jazz and blues, Mose Allison (two shows).
The October 5 performance by Eric Person and Meta‑Four marks the ensemble's third appearance here. My positive review of their most recent engagement may be found in the December 2006 Louisville Music News. At that time pianist Jerod Kashkin had recently joined "old-timers" Peter O'Brien on drums and Adam Armstrong on bass. All are present on Person's brand-new release Rhythm Edge (Distinction Records DR4004), along with occasional guest appearances by Cary DeNigris on guitar (a mainstay of Chico Hamilton's band), Robin Eubanks on trombone, Ingrid Jensen on trumpet and Danny Sadownick on percussion. This new CD ranges from hard-swinging pieces such as the title cut and "It's Time Again" (featuring Jensen), to the lovely ballad "Sunset," with an occasional foray into pop instrumentals such as "Reach" and "Beauty" and updated funk workouts such as "I'll Be Just Fine" and "Pretty Strange Love."
Astral Project has performed in Louisville before, at the Rudyard Kipling, the Jazz Factory and the 2005 Big Rock Jazz Festival. Saxophonist Tony Dagradi, drummer Johnny Vidacovich, guitarist Steve Masakowski and bassist James Singleton combine an edgy modern jazz sensibility with second-line New Orleans rhythms and masterful musicianship. Together for over a quarter of a century, these musical mind readers are among my favorite working jazz bands.
In addition to these featured performers, the Jazz Factory presents fine jazz every night, Tuesday through Saturday, with early specials, a revamped menu and an eclectic mix of acts Friday and Saturday nights after the second jazz set, for the Late Night Salon series.
The Seelbach Jazz Bar, (500 S. Fourth Street, 502-585‑3200), features vibraphonist and occasional pianist 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: Eric Person and Meta‑Four on October 6; guitarist Stanley Jordan on October 21; Indy Guitar Summit on October 26; Sean Jones Sextet on October 28; and the adventurous keyboard artist Michael Wolff on November 16. These are in addition to the nightly offerings of local and regional jazz; check the website for the full schedule.
The September 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, piano trios on Thursday nights and weekend visitors. A few October highlights include guitarist Dan Faehnle with the Phil DeGreg Trio on October 5-6; saxophonist Greg Abate on the 12th; Jamey Aebersold with the Phil DeGreg Trio on the 20th. For additional information, go to www.bluewisp.net.
Important Note:For almost as long as I have written this column, I have recommended that you sign up for "The Jazz E‑News." However, at this writing, this service has been discontinued. The Louisville Jazz Society is in the process of revamping its website (www.louisvillejazz.org) and plans to offer a new means to disseminate news of live performances locally. In any event, 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 of the weekly listings in the Courier-Journal and LEO and the Louisville Music News' monthly music listings, in both the print and online editions (www.louisvillemusicnews.net).
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