Martin Z. Kasdan Jr.

Jazzin'
By Martin Z. Kasdan Jr.

PRELUDE: THE LOUISVILLE JAZZ SOCIETY SCHOLARSHIP

As noted here last month, I have been on the Board of the Louisville Jazz Society for several years now. The LJS is proud to announce that its scholarship for the 2009 Jamey Aebersold Summer Jazz Workshop was awarded to Price McGuffey, a student of Jason Tiemann's. Price plays drums, saxophone and piano, and will attend YPAS. Congratulations, Price, and keep up the good work.

The LJS site is www.louisvillejazz.org. I urge all jazz lovers to visit the website and to join this organization.

RECENT CONCERTS

BOBBY FALK, CRAIG WAGNER, AND THE SANDPAPER DOLLS AT THE COMEDY CARAVAN

Bobby Falk continues to produce his eclectic series dubbed "Night of Jazz" at the Comedy Caravan. On June 1, he presented guitarist Craig Wagner, joined by bassist Chris Fitzgerald and Jason Tiemann, the Sandpaper Dolls, an a cappella trio consisting of Amber Estes, Suki Anderson, and Rebecca Dennison; and, of course, the Bobby Falk Group. This night's edition of the Bobby Falk group included saxophonists Drew Miller and Tommy Poole, pianist Daniel McGeeney and bassist Jenna Mattingly.

Bobby Falk's group opened with McGeeney's "So Far," which had a Jazz Messengers feel and featured the composer on a very acoustic-sounding electric piano. Falk's theme song, the unserene "Ballad for Serenity," was next, followed by an uptempo version of the standard "Alone Together." Two more Falk compositions closed the set, "Jobim's Dream" and the title track to his CD, "Turning the Tables." Falk keeps a revolving lineup to keep his music fresh, and his set tonight was another example of how well the concept works.

Next up was Craig Wagner, whose playing just seems to get better all the time. He can play as fast as a 33 record played at 78 without being flashy or showy. His repertoire ranged from "Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise," to Hank Williams' "So Lonesome I Could Cry," and included the liquid lines of "Estate," a fast and quirky "Blue Monk" and an original, "The Only Peace (Piece?) I Know," a midtempo waltz. Fitzgerald and Tiemann have provided accompaniment to so many artists over the years, that they are as seamlessly integrated as one's left and right hands.

Closing the night was the Sandpaper Dolls, whose songs were unannounced and, I am guessing, mostly originals with a poetic feel and unusual arrangements. "Hope Is a Thing with Feathers [?]" was an example of this approach. One standard, "East of the Sun, West of the Moon," provided an example of the trio's jazzier side.

All told, the three ensembles provided a fun and stimulating "Night of Jazz."

GUITARISTS JACK WILKINS and HOWARD ALDEN AT BELLARMINE

Guitarists Jack Wilkins and Howard Alden returned to Bellarmine University for its 23rd annual Jazz Guitar Clinic and a concert. The concert, on Monday, June 8, featured these two artists together with Bellarmine Professor and guitarist Jeff Sherman, with accompaniment from bassist Tyrone Wheeler and drummer Terry O'Mahoney. They opened with "I'm Old Fashioned" and "Theme from ‘Arthur," before the guest artists turned the stage over to Sherman, Wheeler and O'Mahoney for a song dedicated to Sherman's wife, "You Look Good to Me." They followed with a delicate rendition of "Say It Over and Over Again." The next segment featured an unaccompanied Alden, who offered words of praise to one of his mentors, George Van Eps, another seven-string guitar player. Alden uses the seventh string for additional bass, and this was highlighted in Van Eps' "Lap Piano." He then performed Barney Kessel's "I Remember Django," accompanied by Wheeler and O'Mahoney. This trio closed the first set with the fast and furious "64 Bars on Wilshire," another Kessel composition.

Alden returned with Jack Wilkins after a brief intermission. They have been performing together as a duo for several years now, and seemed to alternately complement and challenge one another. They opened with a composition by Burton Lane, whose title I didn't catch. They played interlocking leads on this piece, rather than taking turns soloing and comping. Wilkins then improvised extensively before Alden joined him on one of the most unique versions of "My Funny Valentine" which I can remember hearing. A Brazilian song, whose title translates to "My Little Doe," offered more of the duo's engaging musical conversations. Alden then soloed on Henry Mancini's "Two for the Road," before being joined by Wheeler and O'Mahoney for the standards "If I Were a Bell" and "It Had to Be You," the latter of which featured a beautifully bowed solo by Wheeler. Sherman and Alden then stepped back on stage for the final numbers of the night, Jimmy Raney's "Prologue and Epilogue" and a Tal Farlow arrangement of the Gershwin standard "Fascinating Rhythm." The Raney piece had been composed for the Bellarmine Guitar Ensemble, and Sherman jokingly mentioned that "we actually rehearsed this." Through both of the final songs, the guitarists played well together, never getting in one another's way. O'Mahoney's brushwork had been in particularly fine form throughout the night, and he got a chance to solo on the last song.

Over the years, I have come to think of the Bellarmine Jazz Guitar Workshop and Concert as "the Rites of Summer," falling as it does in early June. Each year Sherman presents some of the finest examples of mainstream jazz guitar, and 2009 was no exception.

BILL FRISELL TRIO AT THE 930

The week which began with the mainstream guitar of the Bellarmine musicians ended with the left-of-center work of guitarist Bill Frisell. He had played the 930 Listening Room in April of 2007, in a solo performance. This time, he was accompanied by his long-time bassist and drummer, Tony Scher and Kenny Wolleson, respectively. Frisell rarely acknowledged the audience, other than to introduce his fellow musicians. His focus was clearly on his guitar, and on his interactions with Scher and Wolleson. Much of the hour and 40 minute concert seemed to be improvised suites, where the trio might go from free improvisation to Monk to swing, and on into a psychedelic blues. The Burt Bacharach composition "What the World Needs Now" provided the audience with a brief landing in familiar territory, before Frisell embarked on a journey to Africa, during which Scher switched from acoustic to electric bass. With subtle visual cues and Miles Davis-like codes, Frisell seamlessly nudged the music into different directions, with forays into country music, ambient atmospheres, fast jazz, and pop. A standing ovation from the almost full house brought the trio back for a pair of Hank Williams songs, "Your Cheatin' Heart" and "Lovesick Blues," performed with Frisell's unique melding of styles. As composer, guitarist and bandleader, Frisell continues to explore diverse musical directions, as was amply demonstrated during this amazing concert.

ON THE HORIZON

JAMEY AEBERSOLD SUMMER JAZZ WORKSHOPS AND CONCERTS

The 37th annual Jamey Aebersold Summer Jazz Workshops, will take place this year from June 28-July 3 and July 5-10 at the University of Louisville. Aebersold always recruits a topnotch faculty, and this year is no exception. Although faculty and performer listings are subject to change, this year includes, among others: Piano: Phil DeGreg, Steve Allee, Andy LaVerne, Todd Hildreth, Harry Pickens, David Hazeltine; Bass: Lynn Seaton, Rufus Reid, Tyrone Wheeler, David Friesen, Bill Moring, John Goldsby, Chris Fitzgerald; Drums: Steve Davis, Jonathan Higgins, Ed Soph, Colby Inzer, Jason Tiemann; Guitar: Steve Erquiaga, Fred Hamilton, Craig Wagner, J. Scott Henderson, Dave Stryker, Pat Lentz; Trumpet: Jim Rotondi, Pat Harbison; Saxophone: Jamey Aebersold, Mike Tracy, Jerry Tolson, Antonio Hart, Jerry Coker, Gary Campbell, Tim Armacost, Jim Snidero, Gene Walker, Don Braden; Flute: Hunt Butler; Trombone: Steve Davis, Rick Simerly; Strings: David Baker; Vibes: Dick Sisto; and many more.

For many years, there has been a tradition of major faculty concerts on Wednesday of each week, at 8:00 p.m. at Masterson's, 1830 South Third Street, (502) 636-2511. I have confirmed that this will continue this year. Additionally, there are free concerts by various faculty players at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings at U of L's Comstock Hall.

For more information on the Workshops and concerts: www.summerjazzworkshops.com.

SELECTED CLUB AND OTHER 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. After a year of presenting "Jazz Factory Orphan Series," the jazz will now be featured as "Jazz at the Caravan." According to club owner Tom Sobel, this name change will become part of a broader series of musical presentations, such as "Americana at the Caravan," Blues at the Caravan, and so forth. July's Jazz at the Caravan includes the next Bobby Falk-produced "Night of Jazz" on Monday, July 20, with Jacob Duncan, the Bobby Falk Group, and a jam session to follow. The Don Krekel Orchestra performs the second Monday of each month, which falls on July 13, performing "In A Latin Mood" with a multi-media presentation of historical movie and concert video clips, and rare recordings from the archives of producer Terry Armstrong. Other jazz bookings were not available as of deadline time, so please contact the club for any post-deadline dates.

The Bobby Falk Group will also be playing July 3 at Quill's Coffee, 930 Baxter Ave. and July 18 at Qdoba, Eastern Parkway and Bardstown Road.

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. In a last-minute conversation with Sisto before getting this column out, Sisto said that some of the Aebersold faculty, including Rufus Reid, would be joining him. Details were not available, however.

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 Jazz Orchestra directed by Brad Tharp every other Wednesday in July, on the 8th and 22nd.

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 p.m.. 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 the following special engagements: July 15, the great drummer Steve Smith and Vital Information with Tom Coster (keyboards), Baron Browne (bass), and Vinny Valentino (guitar).

The July schedule for The Blue Wisp Jazz Club in Cincinnati, 318 East Eighth St. (513-241-WISP), includes: July 3-4: One For All with Jim Rotondi; Eric Alexander, Steve Davis, Dave Hazeltine and Joe Farnsworth; July 11: Monterey Jazz Festival Next Generation Jazz Orchestra; July 16: Steve Smith and Vital Information with Tom Coster (keyboards), Baron Browne (bass), and Vinny Valentino (guitar); and July 31: Guitarist Dan Faehnle. Wednesdays remain the province of the Blue Wisp Big Band. For details and the full schedule, the website is: www.thebluewisp.com.

Important Note, Part 2, Slight Return: The Louisville Jazz Society has revamped its website (www.louisvillejazz.org), and 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." 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 jacobduncan@me.com to be added to his e-mail list.

EIGHTH NOTES

Bob Albanese Trio with Ira Sullivan: One Way/Detour (Zoho ZM 200905, www.zohomusic.com) Pianist Bob Albanese is a New York-based pianist who recorded this album during time off from a gig in Florida backing Ben Vereen. He is joined by bassist Tom Kennedy, drummer Willard Dyson, and special guest saxophonist and flutist Ira Sullivan. Albanese, in both his playing and composition, mixes mainstream modern piano with more adventurous styles, to splendid effect. All but three of the 10 songs are originals. Sullivan sounds more like a member of a working group than a guest, as he fits in perfectly. A standout is the piano/soprano sax duet on Lionel Hampton's "Midnight Sun." Fans of modern jazz, and long-time followers of Sullivan, should enjoy this outing.

Ralph Bowen: Dedicated (Posi-Tone PR8052, www.posi-tone.com) Saxophonist Ralph Bowen was one of the many fine artists who taught and performed last summer at the Jamey Aebersold Jazz Workshops and Concerts. On this new release, he is joined by an all-star lineup featuring Adam Rogers, guitar; John Pattitucci, bass; Antonio Sanchez, drums, and Sean Jones (trumpet, only on "Mr. Bebop"). As suggested by the album title, the concept here is that each song is dedicated to various mentors of the leader. The songs range from the uptempo modern swing of the opener, "Canary Drums," to "Pat" (for Pat LaBarbera, which opens slowly before building to an intense climax. "Qaiyam" is reminiscent of Coltrane's "Giant Steps," while "Mr. Bebop (for David Baker) sounds more hard bop than bebop. On his guest appearance here, Jones weaves lines in and out of Bowen's playing. "Prof." leans more in the free direction, while the closing "E.R." is a showcase for Bowen's a cappella tenor. All in all, this CD is diverse and has a lot of positive musical energy.

LOCAL JAZZ CONTACTS

With two ten-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 mzkjr@yahoo.com. 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.

MIKE TRACY: www.michaeltracy.com, michael.tracy@insightbb.com, saxophonist and teacher Mike Tracy

UNIVERSITY OF LOUISVILLE JAZZ PROGRAM: www.jazz.louisville.edu

BOBBY FALK: www.myspace.com/bobbyfalk, drummer and composer Bobby Falk;

WALKER and KAYS: www.walkerandkays.com, singer Jeanette Kays and guitarist Greg Walker;

JENNIFER LAULETTA: www.jenniferlauletta.com, singer Jennifer Lauletta;

JEFF SHERMAN: jeff.sherman@insightbb.com, guitarist Jeff Sherman;

RON JONES: www.ronjonesquartet.com, rjmusic@ronjonesquartet.com, saxophonist Ron Jones;

STEVE CREWS: www.jazzcrews.com, jazzcat@iglou.com, pianist Steve Crews.

CODA

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