Funny thing, I was in Massachusetts recently for my niece's Bat Mitzvah, and I heard jazz on the radio, complete with a live announcer. Wouldn't it be nice if that returned to Louisville?
Caveat: Time and space limitations are such that I wish I could write more about each performance, but what follows will have to suffice.
In the early, pre-Dark Side of the Moon Days, Pink Floyd stretched out on pieces such as "Astronomy Domine" and "Set the Controls for The Heart of the Sun." Not jazz, but cool improv nonetheless. The Canadian-based Pink Floyd Experience, a tribute band, filled Whitney Hall at the Kentucky Center on Wednesday, February 25, for two hours of music that covered both the early psychedelic and the later anthemic music of this important group. Led by guitarist Tom Quinn, the band featured tight ensemble and soaring instrumental work from bassist Gus Beaudoin, keyboardist John Cox, vocalist Graham Heath, saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist Jesse Molloy, and drummer John Staten. Beaudoin, in particular, grabbed me with his virtuosity, and his playing seemed to have touches of Jaco Pastorius and Stanley Clarke. The first set seemed to have some problems with the sound mix, but they were cleared up by the second set. With the better clarity of sound, personal favorites were a new arrangement of "Astronomy Domine" and the tribute to founding member Syd Barrett, "Shine On You Crazy Diamond," plus the epic "Echoes." The crowd was enthusiastic, which seemed to rev up the band, and a followup appearance may be in the works.
Family commitments got in the way of my attending the opening nights of the University of Louisville's Jazz Fest, so I missed the Open World Ensemble, Davide Logiri (Italy, piano), on Wednesday, February 25; and Jazz Ensemble II the following night. Friday was great, though. NEA Jazz Master Lee Konitz played alto saxophone with a Faculty Jazz Combo Jazz consisting of guitarist Craig Wagner, bassist Chris Fitzgerald, and drummer Jason Tiemann. Konitz and the faculty performed fresh interpretations of some of the best known compositions in the jazz repertoire: "Alone Together," "Stella by Starlight," "What's New" and "Cherokee." Konitz showed no signs of slowing down with age (he's 81). He played with finesse and sometimes blinding speed, slowing only for the ballad, "What's New," which he concluded with an a cappella cadenza. After a brief intermission, Konitz returned with Jazz Ensemble I, directed by John La Barbera, for a set of new arrangements from some of the Miles Davis "Birth of the Cool" sessions he played on 60 years ago. The student ensemble performed with a high degree of professionalism, a tribute to its director. While the "Birth" recordings were played by a nonet, the arrangements here had been expanded for big band; as Konitz said, "the exact music, just enlarged." "Boplicity" was laidback and bluesy, Gerry Mulligan's "Rocker" rocked, and I found myself rediscovering music which I hadn't actually heard for quite some while. Comstock Hall was filled with an appreciative audience, which seemed to spur on Konitz, La Barbera and the students. Kudos to all.
The series closed on Saturday with a concert featuring U of L Alumnus Jimmy Walker on flute. As with the Konitz performance, the first set showcased the guest artist with a faculty ensemble, consisting of Jim Connerley on piano, Tyrone Wheeler on bass, and Jason Tiemann on drums. While the playing was excellent, the presentation was marred by distorted amplification of Walker's flutes. The short set included a delightful take on Jobim's "One Note Samba." Between sets, Mike Tracy presented the "Jazz All-Star" Award for 2009 to big band leader Don Krekel. Part Two of the concert turned the spotlight on Walker with the University Orchestra, directed by Kimchere Lloyd. Walker was the founder of the classical/jazz ensemble Free Flight, and the classical crossover was best exemplified by the opening number, which he introduced as a "Bach Trifecta." A John La Barbera arrangement of "Over the Rainbow" spotlighted not only Walker, but also harpist Lydia Falconnier. A piece inspired by Mozart closed this segment of the evening. After a short break, La Barbera and Jazz Ensemble I came on to play with Walker. Soloist and students played well together on the opening soul jazz classic "Filthy McNasty," a Bill Holman arrangement of "Stella By Starlight," and the closing Don Menza piece commissioned by Walker, "No Walker(?)." The flutist introduced this by saying that he had asked Menza to come up with music which would be "Buddy Rich with flute on top." It worked, with soloist and ensemble soaring together. Special thanks are due to Professor Mike Tracy, Director of the Jamey Aebersold Jazz Studies Program at U of L, and all of the other hard-working faculty, staff, students, sponsors and volunteers for pulling off another great series. As a reminder, the final night, "Latin Jazz Fest," featuring Dave Samuels, is yet to come; see below for details.
I was fortunate enough to be able to interview Joan Baez for the Kentucky Center's BackStage Pass magazine. She was warm and gracious, full of life, and conveyed enthusiasm for her music, her ideals, and her family. All these traits were fleshed out in a stunning performance at the Brown Theatre, on Tuesday, March 10. Over the course of two hours, she interspersed material from her Grammy-nominated, 2008 album, Day After Tomorrow, with songs dating back to her earliest days as a folk singer, such as "Silver Dagger" from her 1960 self-titled debut. She ranged through material including a personal favorite, "Farewell, Angelina" and on through her catalog. Most of the concert was performed with her touring band, consisting of John Doyle (guitar, vocals), and Dirk Powell (guitar, fiddle, banjo, mandolin, accordion) and Todd Phillips (bass). The ensemble sound was rich and full, virtuosic without being showy. A solo segment near the end included classics such as Dylan's "Forever Young" (preceded by a gently humorous recounting of her father's remarriage to her mother) and her own classic, "Diamonds and Rust." This was a very special evening by an artist who could phone it in, but who instead chooses to give her all and thus remain a vital force in the world of music.
In celebration of 70 years of recording some of the finest jazz, the Blue Note label put together an all-star ensemble, whose tour brought them to Louisville on Sunday, March 15. The lineup of musical director and pianist Bill Charlap, trumpeter Nicholas Payton, tenor saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, alto saxophonist Steve Wilson, guitarist Peter Bernstein, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Lewis Nash played to a nearly full house at the Bomhard Theater in the Kentucky Center. They opened with a hard swinging version of Horace Silver's "The Outlaw," one of the tracks from their Blue Note Mosaic CD. Lee Morgan's "Party Time," arranged by Bernstein, was a very soulful shuffle which elicited spontaneous, mid-solo applause for Charlap. "Hub-Tones" (Freddie Hubbard) and "Criss Cross" (Thelonious Monk) were up next. Charlap's solo introduction to "Criss Cross" seemed to evoke Cecil Taylor at least as much as the composer. Washington delivered one of several stunning solos during this piece, demonstrating a very strong rhythmic sense coupled with deep melodicism. "Idle Moments," originally composed for Grant Green by Duke Pearson, was a beautifully slow feature for Bernstein, with the horns used for accents. Joe Henderson's "Inner Urge" closed out the concert, with the musicians returning for an encore of the CD's title track, composed by Cedar Walton for Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. Nash, who arranged this piece, began with a Blakey-like introduction before the other musicians joined in. When he soloed later, however, he was his own man, constructing a drum solo that soared. Throughout the concert, it was intriguing to observe the differing styles of the two saxophonists. To my ear, Wilson was more in the mainstream modern player, while Coltrane showed that he had no need to sound like his father; his solo work was more angular. Payton, a New Orleans trumpeter, frequently played in the lower and middle registers of his horn, adding a burnished warmth to his playing. The evening was a rare opportunity to hear seven master musicians who are all leaders in their own right. Brought together by a common love of the classic Blue Note sound, they were unafraid to express their individuality, thus ensuring that the spirit as well as the sound will continue to thrive.
Simply put, Bobby Falk produced another great "Night of Jazz" at the Comedy Caravan on Monday, March 16. It featured Steve Crews' new project, the Black Cat Jazz Band, which specializes in traditional New Orleans jazz, and the Bobby Falk Group, doing originals and Falk's arrangements of jazz and rock tunes. Because I am quite simply out of time I will say that each group performed well, and I want to credit the musicians for their wonderful performances. The Black Cat Jazz Band is: Steve Crews (cornet), Rosyln Mattingly (clarinet), Paul Davis (trombone), Gary Falk (tenor/soprano saxophones), Joe Spain (tuba), Greg Walker (guitar) and Hugh Griffin (drums). Bobby Falk likes to keep his playing fresh, and does so in part by shuffling the personnel of his group. This time around, it was: Dave Clark (alto saxophone), Tommy Poole (alto/soprano/tenor sax), Kevin Sparks (trumpet and flugelhorn), David Dorkin (guitars), Nick Kuypers (electric bass), and, of course, the leader, Bobby Falk, guiding from the drum throne.
Dave Samuels is one of the foremost mallet artists on the jazz scene and will return to Louisville for a concert with U of L's Jazz Ensemble I, directed by John La Barbera. This concert will feature Samuels' arrangements from his 2008 CD Caribbean Jazz Project: Afro Bop Alliance (Heads Up HUCD 3137). The concert, dubbed the Latin Jazz Fest, will close out the U of L Jazz Fest which began earlier this year. A feature, including an interview with Samuels, is slated for the forthcoming Louisville Jazz Society Newsletter. The concert will take place at the Margaret Comstock Concert Hall at the School of Music at 8:00 p.m., Friday, April 3. More information is available at www.louisville.edu/music/jazz; or call 502-852-6907 for tickets. Samuels will also be performing with his old friend Dick Sisto at the Seelbach; see club listings below.
The 2009 edition of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is just around the corner. The first weekend, Friday through Sunday, April 24-26, will feature jazz artists such as Wynton Marsalis; Roy Haynes Fountain of Youth Band; Jazz at the Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis; Pete Fountain; Hugh Masekela and Terence Blanchard. The second, extended weekend, Thursday, April 30 through Sunday May 3, has such top jazz names as George Wein & the Newport All-stars (featuring Howard Alden; Anat Cohen; Randy Brecker; Lew Tabackin; Jimmy Cobb and Esperanza Spalding); Banu Gibson's Hot Jazz with special guest Bucky Pizzarelli; Delfeayo Marsalis presents "Sweet Thunder"; Tony Bennett; Preservation Hall Jazz Band; Kind of Blue @ 50 featuring Jimmy Cobb; Ellis Marsalis and more. A special treat on May 1 will be John Scofield & The Piety Street Band, featuring New Orleans musicians Jon Cleary-piano, keyboards and vocals; George Porter Jr.-bass; Ricky Fataar-drums; John Boutté -vocals. Pop acts over both weekends are too numerous to mention, but include headliners such as the Dave Matthews Band and Neil Young. Much of the fun is in seeing local legends such as the Neville Brothers and Allen Toussaint on home turf. The official website, with full schedules, ticket information, etc., is: www.nojazzfest.com. The clubs are always busy, and the best advance guide I have found is: www.jazzfestgrids.com. See ya at the flagpole!
Jack Wilkins and Howard Alden return to Bellarmine University for its 23rd annual Jazz Guitar Clinic and a concert. More next month; for now, save the dates: clinic on June 8-9, concert on the 8th. Further information is available at: http://home.insightbb.com/~rush/Bellarmine/
Keyboard artist Marco Benevento returns to Louisville with bassist Reed Mathis and drummer Simon Lott for a performance at the Hideaway Saloon, 1607 Bardstown Road, 502-485-0114. This is a CD Release performance to showcase the new album Me, Not Me on the leader's Royal Potato Family label. The disc combines multiple layers of keyboards, loops and effects, which Benevento will reproduce in concert with the use of technology. Benevento is a creative and energetic musician, perhaps best known for his duo work with drummer Joe Russo. Having seen Lott in New Orleans last spring, I can say he is an incredible young drummer, while Mathis' resume includes a stint with the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey. This is not, as the saying goes, your grandparents' pain trio.
The Comedy Caravan, 1250 Bardstown Road, Louisville, KY 40204, 502-459-0022 www.comedycaravan.com, has long been a venue for quality musical acts. Following the demise of the Jazz Factory, the Comedy Caravan entered into an agreement with Ken Shapero to use the Jazz Factory name and logo as it becomes home to the "Jazz Factory Orphan Series." The Don Krekel Orchestra performs the second Monday of each month, which falls on April 13, when the theme is "Don Krekel on Broadway," playing songs from Broadway musicals. The next Bobby Falk-produced "Night of Jazz" will take place on April 20, and features Kalor (Latin jazz) and the latest incarnation of the Bobby Falk Group, with an open jam session to follow. Other jazz bookings were not available as of deadline time, so please contact the club for any post-deadline dates.
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. He confirmed in an e-mail that his friend and colleague, fellow mallet artist Dave Samuels will perform with him the weekend of April 3-4.
The Galt House Conservatory, (140 N. 4th St., 502-589-5200, www.galthouse.com), features saxophonist Mike Tracy's Trio every Friday 5:30 - 7:30. This group often features visiting musicians and folks are welcome to sit-in.
The Nachbar (969 Charles Street, 502-637-4377, www.myspace.com/thenachbar),
features Vamp (saxophonist Jacob Duncan, drummer Jason Tiemann and a revolving crew of bassists) every Wednesday, and was featuring Squeeze-bot on Sundays; check the club for updates or changes.
Jockamo's Pizza Pub (corner of Goss Avenue and Krieger Street, 502-
637-5406) now has jazz every Thursday night with guitarist Craig Wagner, drummer Jason Tiemann, and others.
The Skybar @ Saints, (131 Breckenridge Lane, 502-648-4500) will feature the Speakeasy Big Band directed by Brad Tharp every other Wednesday in April, beginning April 1, and continuing on the 15th and 29th .
The West Market Street Stompers continue their weekly gig 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. You may want to consider a road trip for Friday, April 3, which is
The Jazz Kitchen's 15th anniversary weekend, with a Freddie Hubbard Tribute, followed by the
Steve Allee Big Band the next night. The Marco Benevento Trio with Reed Mathis and Simon Lott will play April 8, the night after its Louisville engagement (see above). On Friday, April 10 there will be two bands, the Uptown Quartet and the Chicago Afro-beat Project.
The April schedule for The Blue Wisp Jazz Club in Cincinnati, 318 East Eighth St. (513-241-WISP), includes: April 9, the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey; Roland Vazquez on the 25th, and many other great players. Wednesdays remain the province of the Blue Wisp Big Band. The website is: www.thebluewisp.com.
Also, Jacob Duncan has initiated a series of local jazz updates. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to his e-mail list.
I am always interested in your comments. Contact me at email@example.com.