Peace, health and good fortune to you and yours in 2009.
There are holiday music shows and then there is the unique experience of the Béla Fleck and the Flecktones' holiday concert. As many times as you may have heard, say, "Jingle Bells" or "Away in a Manger," it is unlikely that you heard versions such as were played Saturday, December 6, at the Brown Theatre. Banjo artist Béla Fleck, bassist Victor Wooten, drummer Roy "Futureman" Wooten, and saxophonist/flutist Jeff Coffin took what could have been a clichéd premise and turned it into a stunning display of warm-hearted virtuosity. Opening on a bluegrass note, the band moved quickly into its seasonal repertoire with a medley of "Jingle Bells" and "Sleigh Ride," followed by a reggae version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." Victor had the next segment to himself, with a stunning performance that began with "Away in a Manger" and managed to incorporate more songs than I could track before the band returned to the stage. They performed a unique version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas," with each day in a different time signature and key. The Alash Ensemble, who are Tuvan Throat Singers, joined for the last verse. Tuva is located in Siberia near Mongolia, and throat singing is technique for singing multiple pitches at the same time. (For details, pictures of their unique traditional instruments and more, go to www.alashensemble.com). The Flecktones reprised "Jingle Bells" with the members of Alash singing in their native tongue.
After a brief intermission, Futureman opened the second set with a solo which included both his the Synth-Axe Drumitar percussion synthesizer and a real drum kit. The band returned with another seasonal medley, followed by a medley of Vince Guaraldi's "Christmas Time Is Here" and "Linus and Lucy." A generous mini-set by the Alash Ensemble followed, which seemed like a window into a different and timeless world. The Flecktones came back for more music, both seasonal (including "Greensleeves" transposed to 4/4 from its customary waltz time) and not (such as "Shehnai," from the Indian instrument), showcasing Coffin's flute artistry. Next up was a solo medley by Fleck, incorporating classical and popular themes. The musicians left the stage but quickly came back for a generous encore of two Flecktones pieces from 1998's Left of Cool, "Throwdown at the Hoedown", and "Shanti." The concert was part of a tour in support of the band's first holiday recording, Jingle All the Way (Rounder Records CDROUN0616), which features guests including the Alash Ensemble, bassist Edgar Meyer, and mandolin and clarinet player Andy Statman.
Pianist/accordionist Todd Hildreth will be playing some special events in January. On Friday and Saturday, January 9-10, he will perform as part of Improvapalooza # 9 at the Mex Theater in the Kentucky Center with the Louisville Improvisors. This is improvisational comedy, and he will work with the local group of comedians, who will be joined by an out of town troupe. More information may be found at www.kentuckycenter.org, with tickets also available by phone at 502-584-7777. His band Squeeze-bot will play the following Saturday, January 17, at the Forecastle Festival's "Halfway to Forecastle Fest;" more information may be found at www.forecastlefest.com/halfway.php
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 January 12.
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.
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. January shows were not available by deadline time.
The schedule for The Blue Wisp Jazz Club in Cincinnati, 318 East Eighth St. (513-241-WISP), includes: Friday, January 16: the Ernie Krivda Quartet ; 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).
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.
Throughout the year, I have been fortunate enough to receive a number of recordings for review. Many have been covered here; others I have written about in the Louisville Jazz Society Newsletter, the Courier-Journal and LEO. A few of the really fine releases that came out this year which I have not previously covered are noted here.
Charles Lloyd Quartet: Rabo De Nube (ECM 2053) Master saxophonist Charles Lloyd, who turned 70 this spring, is still fresh and full of surprises, as shown on this April 2007 concert from Basel, Switzerland. Pianist Jason Moran, bassist Reuben Rogers, and drummer Eric Harland are more than simply a backup group, they are all excellent players and bring their youthful energy to the stage. Lloyd opens with the uptempo "Prometheus," a reworking of his 1968 "Hej Da!" "Migration of Spirit" sounds invocational, and lives up to its title. One of Lloyd's early compositions, "Sweet Georgia Bright," is rendered here in an over-the-speed-limit show of virtuosity. The title track, by Silvio Rodriguez, is the only piece not written by Lloyd. a beautiful ballad, it closes the CD. a must-have for Lloyd fans, and an excellent addition to any modern jazz collection.
Stanton Moore: Emphasis! (On Parenthesis) (Telarc 83681) Galactic's drummer serves up the funk, in many variations, with guitarist Will Bernard and organist Robert Walter. The first song, "(Late Night at the) Maple Leaf" serves up a hearty helping of Meters-influenced music in homage to the New Orleans neighborhood music club. "Wissions (Of Vu)" turns spacey, "Over (Compensatin')" also tips a hat to the Meters, and throughout Moore and friends demonstrate that funky jazz can be a many-hued experience.
The Miles Davis All-stars Featuring John Coltrane: Broadcast Sessions 1958-59 (Acrobat AMACD004) Acrobat Music has been a presence on the British music scene for some time now, and it is entering the American market with a series of live jazz recordings not previously available. Many are taken from radio broadcasts from the 1940s through the '60s, and include artists ranging from Frank Sinatra to some pre-"Take Five" Dave Brubeck (with Paul Desmond) sessions. Information on these discs may be found at www.acrobatmusic.com; note the menu on the left and click on U.S. releases. The Miles Davis CD is my personal favorite. It includes such classics as "Walkin'" and "Bye Bye Blackbird," with the all-star lineup which included Trane, either Bill Evans, Red Garland or Wynton Kelly on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, Philly Joe Jones or Jimmy Cobb on drums, and Cannonball Adderley on alto on most tracks. a particularly revealing and unusual cut is "What Is This Thing Called Love," a 12-minute jam session, a rarity for Miles, with non-group musicians such as Gerry Mulligan.
Donny McCaslin: Recommended Tools (Greenleaf Music GRE-1008; www.greenleafmusic.com) McCaslin is the saxophonist in Dave Douglas' working group, and this trio release is on Douglas' own label. Joined by bassist Hans Glawischnig and drummer Jonathan Blake, McCaslin shows his worth as not only a musician, but also as a composer. With the exception of a lovely, respectful version of Billy Strayhorn's "Isfahan," all the pieces are by the leader. On the title track which opens the album, ideas seem to pour forth from his saxophone. On other songs, he ranges from uptempo to ballad, with an apparent nod to Ornette Coleman on the fast-paced "Excursion." This is adventurous music, well worth hearing.
LOCAL JAZZ CONTACTS
BOBBY FALK: www.myspace.com/bobbyfalk, 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.