The past month has been largely variations on the theme of the Duke Ellington classic, "Don't Get Around Much Anymore." Family activities (yeah u rite!) and a lengthy and continuing bout with a virus (human, not computer - boo hiss!) curtailed my attendance at some of the worthy jazz events around town. I had hoped to write more in-depth reviews than what you will find below, but with an earlier-than-usual deadline and on my second round of antibiotics, here we jolly well are.
Jamaican‑born pianist Monty Alexanderreturned to Louisville for two shows at the Jazz Factory on Wednesday, January 16. His bassist, Hassan Shakur, formerly known as J. J. Wiggins, is the son of noted pianist Gerald Wiggins (who was Helen Humes' accompanist during much of her comeback). Shakur has played for many years with Alexander and their musical empathy was apparent from the beginning. George Fludas (who has performed here before with fellow Chicagoans Bobby Broom and Ryan Cohan), provided sensitive and dynamic drumming throughout the evening. Alexander seemed to delight in throwing musical curveballs to his musicians. Shakur seemed especially relaxed as he responded to the leader's challenges, while Fludas demonstrated his agility and responsiveness superbly.
Alexander opened many of the numbers a cappella and a seemingly inexhaustible supply of musical quotes flowed from his fingers. He interspersed jazz classics, such as a swinging "Love You Madly," with originals, such as "Look Up," a funky piece that included "Take the 'A' Train." His solo introduction to "Close Enough for Love" was starkly beautiful, while his take on the Bob Marley classic "Jammin'" was more jazz than reggae. Other pieces included John Lewis' "Django," Alexander's "Grub," another reggae classic, Burning Spear's "Marcus Garvey," and a closing medley of "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing" and Marley's "No Woman, No Cry." Alexander's technical mastery of his instrument never interfered with the emotional content of his playing. At this writing, his most recent release is Concrete Jungle: The Music of Bob Marley(Telarc CD-83635), recorded in Jamaica at Marley's Tuff Gong Studios and featuring Shakur, jazz drummer Herlin Riley, Delfeayo Marsalis on trombone and too many Jamaican musicians to list. Unlike his jazz versions of reggae in performance, the interpretations on the CD find Alexander soloing over bass-heavy "riddims" that are more clearly reggae than jazz and frequently include vocals. It is an enjoyable complement to the live playing in concert.
Jazz pianist and composer Darius Brubeck, one of the talented sons of Dave Brubeck, played to a crowded house on Saturday, January 19th with his friend and colleague, saxophonist Mike Rossi and Louisvillians Chris Fitzgerald and Jason Tiemann. As many of you may already know, this Brubeck spent many years in South Africa, where he was Director of the Center for Jazz and Popular Music Studies and Professor of Jazz Studies at the University of Natal in Durban. Rossi hails from there and during the course of the night, they played several pieces inspired by the jazz from that country, as well as pieces from South Africa's own jazz composers. Opening with his father's classic "In Your Own Sweet Way," he moved into modal Miles Davis territory with his own "Shadows." Entertaining comments about "Cowboy Dave [Brubeck]" led to a rendition of "I'm an Old Cowhand." After a slow piano introduction, Brubeck's son-in-law Jonathon Elmer, an English professor at Indiana University, joined in on trombone for "I Remember You," and added to the sound palette frequently through much of the rest of the night.
Two pieces of South African jazz, "Amabuto (The Warriors)" and "Baby I Don't Know," closed the first set in fine fashion. Brubeck's sense of humor was on display in the second set, as evidenced by his back story to his "Monkey's Wedding," referring a South African saying for when the weather is sunny and raining at the same time. A boogie-woogie introduction to another original, "The Lion at the Bar," led to a bluesy sparring match, which featured some tailgating trombone by Elmer. "Take Five" was the encore, to the delight of the audience. Rossi switched between soprano and tenor through the evening, showing his prowess on both horns. Brubeck was very complimentary towards his local rhythm section, saying he would like to take them on the road with him. The praise was well deserved, as Fitzgerald and Tiemann played as though they had had far more rehearsal time with Brubeck and Rossi than was actually the case. While it can be difficult to assume the mantle of "So-and-so's son or daughter," Brubeck was very much at ease with the legacy of his father and showed through his compositions and playing that he was very much his own man. He mentioned recordings on a South African label, Sheer Sound. He also wrote the liner notes for the Jazz Icons DVD of his father's 1964 and 1966 European performances.
SaxophonistAntonio Hart was one of the standout artists during the 2007 Jamey Aebersold Summer Jazz Workshops. He returned as both clinician and performer for the University of Louisville Saxophone Weekendat the end of January. In concert on Saturday, January 26 in Bird Recital Hall on campus, Hart was joined by U of L faculty members Jim Connerley (piano), Tyrone Wheeler (bass) and Jason Tiemann (drums). Hart gave an exciting and spirited performance of mostly original pieces, beginning with the Grammy-nominated "The Community," which he wrote for the community of New York City Jazz players. The tempo moved from slow to fast as Hart stretched out. He dedicated the second piece, Jimmy Heath's "Harmonic Future," to Heath, who he referred to as his mentor. This was followed by a Coltrane-like piece with an intense spiritual vibe. This evolved almost magically into a ballad, with a liquid solo by Connerley. The two final pieces featured guest saxophonist Rahsaan Barber, first on a down-home slow blues and then on the fast bebop classic by Sonny Stitt, "The Eternal Triangle." Hart has been out of the limelight for too long and he deserves far greater exposure.
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 for March (my listing is subjective and omission of an act is due to space and time limitations, not quality judgments, especially time this month; see "Prelude" above) include:
Thursday March 6 - The Frank Vignola, guitarist and his quintet, The Rhythm Machine. Vignola has appeared here before, as part of the "Frank and Joe Show," first in a mostly acoustic version and subsequently with a more electrified band. The advance word is that he will be performing on acoustic this time. In addition to the Frank and Joe Show, Vignola was a longtime member of violinist Mark O'Connor's Hot Swing Trio, among other high profile sideman gigs.
Friday March 7 - The Zach Brock Quintet with Grazyna Auguscik; I have been a fan and supporter of violinist Zach Brock since I first heard him almost five years ago. He was here in September, in a performance I reviewed in my November column. He brings with him this time New York keyboard player Sam Barsh, who has been a member of Zach Brock and the Coffee Achievers as well as bassist Avishai Cohen's band; guitarist John McLean, bassist Matt Ulery and drummer Jon Deitemeier, who were all with Brock in September; and Chicago jazz singer Grazyna Auguscik. According to the press release, Brock will be playing music for the soundtrack he composed for a new documentary film by Erin Harper on the late Polish modern jazz violinist Zbigniew Seifert.
Saturday, March 8 - Brian Auger's Oblivion Express, which features Brian on keyboards, his son Karma D. Auger on drums and percussion, Brian's daughter, Savannah Auger, on vocals and Derek Frank on bass. Auger was an early jazz-rock player, known for this work in the late 1960s and 70s with his band the Trinity. He has played the Jazz Factory before to enthusiastic audiences.
Thursday, March 13 - Natalie Boeyink: Concert for the Center for Women & Families. Although details were not available at deadline time, this should be a worthwhile event, from both a musical and social consciousness standpoint.
Tuesday, March 25 - Larry Coryell Trio, with electric bassist Jonathan Wood and drummer Paul Wertico. Coryell virtually founded jazz-rock/fusion in his early work with Gary Burton. He has moved more toward the mainstream in the past decade or so. I have had the pleasure of interviewing Coryell twice before and have written extensively about his performances here over the past five years. Wertico has been with Coryell for years, now and was previously a member of the Pat Metheny Group, as well as leading his own bands in the Chicago area. Wood was here with Coryell last time and is an excellent player. If you haven't seen Coryell live before, don't miss this opportunity. If you have, then you probably already have advance tickets.
Thursday‑Saturday March 27 - March 29 - Harry PickensTrio. Pickens is an internationally known and respected pianist who has made Louisville his home for several years now. His trio is very tight-knit, having consisted of himself, bassist Chris Fitzgerald and drummer Jason Tiemann or quite some time now.
In addition to these featured performers, the Jazz Factory presents fine jazz every night, Tuesday through Saturday, with early specials, a revamped menu. Important Note: The Late Night Salon, which has enlivened Friday and Saturday nights after the second jazz set, has been placed on hiatus until sometime in Spring, while Jazz Factory proprietor Ken Shapero works to bring a fresh approach to this after-hours venture.
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), presentsnightly offerings of local and regional jazz; check the website for the full schedule and updates. March shows which you might think worthy of a road trip include:Friday, February 29, Vocalist Jackie Allen; Saturday, March 1: Chuchito Valdés; Saturday, March 8: New York Voices, the Grammy Award winning vocal ensemble; Saturday, March 15: Monty Alexander Trio.
The March schedule for The Blue WispJazz Clubin Cincinnati, 318 East Eighth St. (513-241‑WISP), includes Saturday, March 1: the Sonny Fortune Quartet; Saturday, March 8, Louisville's own Craig Wagner; Saturday, March 15: Jamey Aebersold; Sunday, March 23: New York pianist David Berkman; Monday March 24: the great Larry Coryell Trioand Saturday March 29: guitarists Howard Aldenand Howard Paul. Wednesdays remain the province of the Blue Wisp Big Band. There is a fairly new website which you may visit for further information: www.thebluewispjazzclub.com.
Important Note, Part 2, Slight Return: "The Jazz E‑News" service has been discontinued. The Louisville Jazz Society has revamped its website (www.louisvillejazz.org) and now offers a new means to disseminate news of live performances locally: be sure to sign up for the e-mail "Louisville Jazz Society's Jazz Insider." 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-Journaland LEOand the Louisville Music News'monthly music listings, in both the print and online editions (www.louisvillemusicnews.net).
LOCAL JAZZ CONTACTS
With two nine‑year‑olds, it's hard to get out as much as I would like to hear music. As a result, picking and choosing which performances to catch sometimes require that I postpone seeing some of the local musicians and singers in order to not miss the one-night-stands from out-of-town artists. Invariably, I feel guilty, so in an effort to assuage my guilt and, more positively, to provide more exposure to our community of great local jazz performers, I am initiating this feature containing website and e-mail contact information. I am only including those artists who have given their permission to me; some have indicated a preference for website listing only; others have only e-mail addresses. If you wish to be included, drop a line to me with your permission and preferences, at firstname.lastname@example.org. I reserve the right to edit and to exclude those whose connection to jazz is, in my opinion, tenuous; and this feature may end up online if it begins to take up too much space in print.
BOBBY FALK: www.myspace/bobbyfalk.com, drummer and composer Bobby Falk;
WALKER & KAYS: www.walkerandkays.com, singer Jeanette Kays and guitarist Greg Walker;
JENNIFER LAULETTA: www.jenniferlauletta.com, singer Jennifer Lauletta;
JEFF SHERMAN: email@example.com, guitarist Jeff Sherman;
RON JONES: www.ronjonesquartet.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, saxophonist Ron Jones;
STEVE CREWS: www.jazzcrews.com, email@example.com, pianist Steve Crews.
I am always interested in your comments. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.