Martin Z. Kasdan Jr.

Jazzin'
By Martin Z. Kasdan Jr.

PRELUDE:

RIP, Johnny Griffin (1928-2008)

Johnny Griffin was a saxophonist whose love of playing was evident in every note. A Chicago native, he was a mainstay of the European scene, having moved there in the 1960s. I recently bought some DVDs of various Pablo artists at Montreux in the 1970s, and Griffin was playing on several of them. On Count Basie Jam ’75, he blew chorus after wonderful chorus, bringing smiles to the faces of his colleagues on stage (Basie, Milt Jackson, Roy Eldridge, Niels Henning Ørsted Pedersen, and Louis Bellson) as well as to the audience. His sound was robust, and he will be missed.

RECENT CONCERTS

Medeski Martin And Wood At The Kentucky Center

Medeski Martin and Wood (MMW) made a rare Louisville appearance at the Kentucky Center’s Bomhard Theater on Friday, July 18. This was the last date for their second “Radiolarian: Viva La Evolution Tour.” For each of these tours, MMW wrote new music, intended for playing only for these audiences. Following the tours, they will record studio versions of the new music. Adding to the mystique, there were no stage announcements of song titles, so it isn’t possible to report that they played “this song” followed by “that song.” What follows, then, are some impressions of the music.

The stage was virtually dark when percussionist Billy Martin started a circular pattern with African influences. Keyboardist John Medeski added spacey, almost Sun Ra-like textures and bassist Chris Wood began to demonstrate his prowess at both holding down the bottom and adding melodic lines to the music. Later in the first set, he took an acoustic bass solo which incorporated percussive effects. As the first set progressed, there were more excursions into “Arkestra” territory. The second set began with what sounded like impressions of a freak show, followed by some straight-up funk, in turn followed by a gamelan-type percussion piece by Martin. A Medeski acoustic piano solo changed the mood, before the other members returned to the stage. The music continued to weave and morph until ending with a slow blues. An encore closed the night, with Martin commenting at its conclusion that this piece was “just for Louisville.” Unlike so many bands who seem to condescendingly shout out city references to garner applause, this seemed very genuine and quite in keeping with the whole Radiolarian concept.

My colleague on the Louisville Jazz Society Board, and editor of the LJS Newsletter, Michele Blum, has allowed me to quote from an e-mail to me about this concert: “I'll confess they lost me every now and then – takes great ears to follow those guys – but I found most of the music very accessible even as boundaries were pushed. No matter what I was hearing at the moment, I was always on the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen next. That's very rare in any genre. And there's certainly no questioning their level of virtuosity. I'm SO glad we went.” Thanks, Michele.

Jacob Duncan/Jason Tiemann Cd Release Party At Ear X-Tacy

Saxophonist Jacob Duncan – of Liberation Prophecy renown – has been holding forth at the Nachbar in Germantown for quite some time now. Jason Tiemann, who also plays drums in Liberation Prophecy (not to mention the Harry Pickens Trio and many other ensembles), is Duncan’s drummer, and apparently there is a rolling roster of top bassists, with sit-ins by other instrumentalists. Duncan, Tiemann, and bassist John Goldsby, a Louisville native now based in Cologne, Germany (and bassist for the WDR Big Band in Cologne) have just released a CD, Live at the Nachbar (Bass Lion BLM004). What grabbed me even before getting through the first song was the clean sound of the disc. After an in-store performance at Ear X-tacy on Saturday afternoon, July 26, I commented on this to Duncan, who attributed it to the quality of the German CD production company.

The disc opens with a Goldsby original, “Every Other,” which has an Ornette Coleman vibe. The album includes other originals from Goldsby and Duncan, as well as the trio’s version of Randy Newman’s “In Germany Before the War,” two beautiful songs by Billy Strayhorn (“A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing” and “Upper Manhattan Medical Group”), and a Thelonious Monk composition, “Mysterioso” (Monk spelled it “Misterioso”). The trio’s overall sound and concept bring to mind the great Sonny Rollins trio recordings, as well as the more avant-garde Ornette Coleman trio works. There is plenty of room for all to solo, and the band members seem very attuned to one another.

At the in-store, bassist Sonny Stephens (also of Liberation Prophecy) played his heart out, as did Duncan and Tiemann. I was a bit under the weather and didn’t take notes. However, the audience was enthralled, and I was amazed to see little children dancing to even some of the more abstract moments. If you can make it out on a weeknight, Wednesdays at the Nachbar feature Duncan, Tiemann, and, as mentioned on Duncan’s myspace page, “Bass player X.” (The url is so long, just go to myspace and type in Jacob Duncan.) The Nachbar is located at 969 Charles Street, phone 637-4377, website http://www.myspace.com/thenachbar, and as of this writing, it is also featuring Squeezebot on Sundays (see review below).

A Night Of Jazz At The Comedy Caravan

Squeezebot, the Bobby Falk Group and fattlabb played the Comedy Caravan on Tuesday, August 5. This was an exciting night of jazz played by Louisville artists, with each group performing in different styles which complemented each other. Todd Hildreth’s Squeezebot opened the concert. As the name implies, Squeezebot features its leader on accordion, with banjo by Mick Sullivan, tuba by Brandon Johnson, and drums by Megan Samples (replacing Jason Tiemann). My personal favorites from this set were Thelonious Monk’s “I Mean You,” played with humor that Monk himself would have probably appreciated, and “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” performed in traditional New Orleans style.

Next up was the straightahead swing of the Bobby Falk Group, with the always amazing Craig Wagner on guitar, Wade Honey on keyboards, Jenna Mattingly on acoustic bass, Jake Goran on alto and tenor saxophones, and the leader behind the drum kit. They began with the standard “Beautiful Love,” before swinging out on Falk’s composition “Ballad for Serenity” (“our theme,” per Falk, and found on his Turning the Tables CD). Steely Dan’s “Josie” and Ray Charles’ “Hard Times” (a David “Fathead” Newman showpiece) were covered in fine style, with Honey’s keyboard emulating a rich B-3 sound. Two more Falk originals closed the set, a new composition entitled “Jobim’s Dream” and the title track to the CD, “Turning the Tables.” Falk’s skills at songwriting, playing, and bandleading were all evident throughout his set.

Closing out the night was the deeply funky fattlabb, with brothers Pat and Tony McDaniel on electric bass and trumpet, respectively, Stephen Couch on guitar (mostly slide), Pat Whalen on saxophones, and Shawn Williams on drums. It was the first time I had seen this lineup, and I have to say I was blown away. They opened with the appropriately titled “Funky Licks,’ and followed it with a rendition of the Marcus Miller composition for Miles Davis, “Tutu.” It was fascinating to hear how a keyboards-drenched song from the mid-1980s was transformed by Couch’s bed of slide guitar. John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” was taken into funk territory, and the band returned to the post-retirement Miles Davis era with his “Jean-Pierre,” on which fattlabb was joined by Hildreth, who turned in a remarkably cool solo. They closed with two unlikely covers, from the Dramatics (“Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get”) and Aerosmith “Walk this Way”).

As I later found out, Bobby Falk handled the booking, and both he and Comedy Caravan owner Tom Sobel deserve thanks for a great triple-header. Also, I found it refreshing that two of the bands, Squeezebot and Bobby Falk, included women instrumentalists.

On The Horizon

Jazz Record Collectors Meeting

The 45th Annual Meeting of the International Association of Jazz Record Collectors is being held in Louisville September 5 & 6, 2008 at the Holiday Inn Hurstbourne (I 64 and Hurstbourne Parkway). In addition to vendors, there will be special live jazz performances on Saturday: Doug Finke Trio with John Bizianes and Doug Elmore in the hotel lobby at 5:30 PM (free admission), and The Faux Frenchmen, Hot Club inspired quartet from Cincinnati, at 8:00 PM ($15, advance reservations are required; contact Shelley Finke at musicmail97@bellsouth.net or 502 762 9252).

Big Rock Jazz Festival

It’s not too early to start planning for the 9th annual Big Rock Jazz Festival, which takes place on Sunday, October 5. The time and format have changed a bit from years past. It will begin later and run later, from 2:00 PM to 7:00 PM. Opening will be Indianapolis pianist Steve Allee and his Quintet, followed by the Juggernaut Jug Band, closing with Steve Ferguson and the Midwest Creole Ensemble. Allee has recently released Dragonfly (Owl 0017), a trio recording featuring bassist Bill Moring and drummer Tim Horner. Allee is also featured on a new release by Moring, Spaces in Time (Owl 00122), with an all-star lineup which also includes saxophonist Tim Armacost, trumpeter Jack Walrath, and drummer Steve Johns. Given the variety of the acts, the high quality of the musicianship, the gorgeous park setting, and the great price (free), this is a can’t-miss event.

Richie Havens In Lexington And Covington

Hey, I know Richie Havens isn’t jazz, but he is cool, and has been for decades. He is touring to support a new release, Nobody Left to Crown (Verve Forecast/Polydor B001163102). His voice and guitar playing remain strong on this, his first CD since 2004. Seven of the thirteen songs are originals, and covers include the Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and Jackson Browne’s “Lives in the Balance” (which features slide guitar by Derek Trucks). Thematically, this album is, paradoxically, a stinging yet gentle protest of much of the Iraq war madness and the other right wing problems which have afflicted our country (and world) in the past seven years. Havens performs Sunday, September 7, at the Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center, 1028 Scott Boulevard, Covington, KY, (website: www.thecarnegie.com). He swings back to Kentucky for the 500th edition of WoodSongs (the television version is broadcast in Louisville on KET, although the radio program is conspicuous in its absence here). This takes place on Monday, September 15 at the Kentucky Theatre, 214 East Main Street, Lexington, KY, website: www.woodsongs.com.

Selected Club Listings

The Comedy Caravan, 1250 Bardstown Road, Louisville, KY 40204, 502-459-0022 www.comedycaravan.com, has long been a venue for quality musical acts. Prior to the opening of the Jazz Factory, jazz performers such as James Williams and Karin Allyson performed there. The Don Krekel Orchestra performs the second Monday of each month, which falls on September 8. In the words of owner Tom Sobel, it seeks to become a “home for other Jazz Factory orphans.” In a recent e-mail, Sobel announced that “the Comedy Caravan has officially entered into an agreement with Ken Shapero to use the Jazz Factory name & logo.” Contact the club for any post-deadline updates.

On Monday September 15, Rachel Z brings her trio, the Department of Good and Evil, featuring bassist Maeve Royce and drummer Bobby Rae. Rachel Z performed at the Jazz Factory, most recently on March 14, 2007, in support of her latest release Department of Good and Evil (Savoy Jazz 17630). I reviewed her stunning performance in the May 2007 issue of LMN. For details, go tohttp://www.louisvillemusicnews.net/webmanager/index.php?WEB_CAT_ID=50&storyid=4133&headline=Jazzin. To the best of my memory, this is the first national recording artist to appear at the Comedy Caravan in several years.

Another special show, with lots of variety, will be Bobby Falk’s “Night of Jazz (2nd edition)” featuring : The Rascals of Ragtime, The Bobby Falk Group and The Todd Hildreth Trio, on Tuesday September 23. Looking ahead to October, Jerry Tolson brings his quintet with Dave Clark Monday October 6.

The Speakeasy, in New Albany, opened last summer, and prior bookings have included Jamey Aebersold, David Hazeltine, Chuck Marohnic, Craig Wagner, Tim Whalen, Dick Sisto, and more. Monthly listings were unavailable by deadline time, you can obtain more information: SPEAKEASY JAZZ, 225 State Street, New Albany, IN 47150; 812-981 0981, 1 866 498 JAZZ; or surf to its website: www.speakeasyjazz.us

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 West Market Street Stompers continue their weekly gig through the summer at Bearno’s By The Bridge, 131 W. Main St., on Fridays, from 5:30 – 7:00 PM. An added enticement, per their Newsletter, is a dance floor.

The Jazz Kitchen (5377 N College Ave., Indianapolis, IN 46220; phone: 317 253 4900; www.thejazzkitchen.com), presents nightly offerings of local and regional jazz; check the website for the full schedule and updates. September shows which you might think worthy of a road trip include: The 11th annual Labor Day Street Fair on Monday, September 1, from 12 noon to 6:00 PM, free (food for sale), and which includes live performances by the Steve Allee Trio, the Bill Lancton Coalition, and the Dixon /Rhyne Project, featuring saxophonist Rob Dixon and B3 legend Melvin Rhyne; Friday, September 5   Chicago Afrobeat Ensemble; September 5; Wednesday September 10   CAST! Coryell, Auger Sample Trio (the sons of Larry Coryell, Brian Auger and Joe Sample: Julian Coryell - guitar, Karma Auger - drums, and Nicklas Sample - bass); and Saturday, September 13   Rachel Z; coming up in October on Saturday the 11th is Steve Smith's Jazz Legacy.

The schedule for The Blue Wisp Jazz Club in Cincinnati, 318 East Eighth St. (513-241 WISP), includes: Friday-September 5-6: saxophonist Greg Abate ; Friday, September 12 Rachel Z; Saturday, October 4: David Ornette Cherry Quintet (trumpeter Don Cherry’s son); Sunday, October 12: Winard Harper Quintet. Wednesdays remain the province of the Blue Wisp Big Band. The website is: www.thebluewisp.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, it is both impossible for me to try to provide complete listings 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).

CODA

I am always interested in your comments. Contact me at mzkjr@yahoo.com.

?>