PRELUDE: HAPPY BIRTHDAY LOUISVILLE MUSIC NEWS!
Happy 20th Birthday to Louisville Music News! Long before I started writing here, I sought this monthly paper out and still have most of the old issues in my basement. I stand on the shoulders of my predecessors, Tim Roberts and Rick Forest, and remember jazz offerings here by Bob Bahr, as well.
If I could make a birthday wish, it would be for this paper to have the wider distribution which it deserves. In my experience, there are few similar publications around the country (New Orleans' OffBeat being one) which focus attention on the local music scene without preference to any specific genre. I get a kick out of seeing jazz in the midst of columns, articles and reviews which include bluegrass, country, metal and other styles. Hats off to all my colleagues, and a special thanks to Editor and Publisher Paul Moffett for his devotion to the music and his many kindnesses over the years.
Hank Crawford, another mainstay of the Ray Charles Band in the late 1950s and early 60s, is now jamming with his former boss and fellow bandmate David "Fathead" Newman up with the celestial choirs. He was a soulful saxophonist who also collaborated with many other artists, including a string of recordings with organist Jimmy McGriff.
Drummer Louis Bellson, also known as an innovator (the double bass drum kit) and composer (e.g., "The Hawk Talks," from his early days with Duke Ellington), recently passed away. He left behind a huge discography of recordings as a leader, not to mention many more as accompanist. In 2007, at the age of 83, he recorded a superb big band CD with trumpeter Clark Terry, Louie & Clark Expedition 2, which was released in 2008. The four-part "Chicago Suite" kicks off the disc, and evokes the city well. The compositions are all originals, and several tunes are also arranged by Bellson. The disc stands as a robust farewell from this master, and would be a worthy addition for both Bellson fans and fans of big band jazz.
Caveat: I caught no live jazz the past few weeks, but did get out to see some noteworthy musical performances nonetheless. Thanks for your indulgence.
While described as a "prodigy," 15-year-old Nansong Huang is an extremely hard-working young man who frequently practices six hours a day. He was the featured soloist with the Louisville Orchestra and conductor Jorge Mester, in a concert which also included the Louisville Youth Orchestra, as part of the Gheens Great Expectations Series. The concert, in Whitney Hall on Wednesday, February 4, was part of the Fund for the Arts 2009 Arts Festival Week. Nansong Huang performed Tchaikovsky's "Piano concerto No. 1 in B-Flat minor, Op. 23" with the Louisville Orchestra. I was impressed with his technical abilities, as well as with the emotion of his playing. Steve Crews, well-known for his jazz piano playing, was also impressed. "This concerto is renown for the technical fireworks demanded of the pianist, and is brutally challenging to the performer. The elegant poetic passages are too frequently played as filler. But that was not the case with Nansong Huang, who played these passages with richness. It reflected a mature artist performing, rather than one dazzled by the pyrotechnics." Thanks, Steve.
Although not jazz, Abigail Washburn and the Sparrow Quartet, featuring Bela Fleck, Casey Driessen & Ben Sollee, performed a concert on Sunday, February 15 at the University of Louisville. Although I missed that concert due to family obligations, I was delighted with their generous hour-long in-store performance the previous afternoon at Ear X-Tacy. Washburn sings and plays banjo, and Fleck's banjo reputation is well known and deserved. Driessen plays violin, and hometown cellist Ben Sollee is developing a national following in his own right. They opened with a two-part (slow, then fast) version of the Gospel classic, "His Eye Is on the Sparrow." Other highlights included the classic blues of Blind Willie Johnson's "Nobody's Fault But Mine" and two songs from the Sichuan Province of China. The quartet combined instrumental virtuosity, vocal chops, and an eclectic choice of material for a memorable performance.
BUDDY GUY AND B.B. KING AT THE LOUISVILLE PALACE
I trust this concert will be given more in-depth analysis by my colleague Keith Clements. However, I did want to put in my two cents' worth. It had been several years since I had seen either of these blues artists, and I was psyched to go with one of my very best friends. Guy's set was tighter than when he headlines, and I thought that helped as I think he too often wanders aimlessly (musically) when not on a short leash. He opened with a tribute to many of his musical forebears, "Who's Gonna Fill these Shoes," later did his trademark walk through the audience during a slow blues that morphed into B.B. King's "Rock Me," and impressed me with the deeply felt title song from his 2008 CD, "Skin Deep."
With no fanfare whatsoever, B.B. King's big band took the stage at 9:10 for two instrumentals before B.B. walked onstage. At 83 (as he frequently reminded us), he sat for the entire performance. After the first two songs, the master guitarist and singer took the audience for a lengthy stroll down memory lane as he reminisced about his boyhood for perhaps a half hour, with his band vamping and him singing an occasional verse of a song. When he played Lucille and sang, though, it was clear that he still "has it." After performing a heartfelt rendition of Blind Lemon Jefferson's "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean," from his Grammy-winning 2008 CD One Kind Favor, he showed that he could still peel the paint off the walls with a blistering version of his collaboration with U2, "When Love Comes to Town." He didn't stop until 11:15, with his breakthrough hit "The Thrill Is Gone." The packed house gave him a thoroughly deserved standing ovation, and I was thrilled to have had the opportunity to once again see this living legend.
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 PM, 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.
In celebration of 70 years of recording some of the finest jazz, the Blue Note label has put together an all-star ensemble which is touring the country. The lineup is 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. They come to town for one show only, on March 15 at the Bomhard Theater in the Kentucky Center. Further details are available at www.kentuckycenter.org; or phone (502) 584-7777 or toll free at (800) 775-7777, (502) 562-0730 TTY. (Disclaimer: I wrote articles on this and the event following for the Center's BackStage Pass magazine)
I have been a fan of tabla player Ustad Zakir Hussain since hearing him on Mickey Hart's first solo album, the 1972 LP Rolling Thunder, and my admiration grew with their performance on the 1976 Diga Rhythm Band, featuring a melodic percussion ensemble. Hussain, the son of Ravi Shankar's tabla player Ustad Alla Rakha, will perform with Pandit Shivkumar Sharma, a master of the 86-string hammered dulcimer known as the santoor. Hussain will be known to many jazzers for his collaborations with John McLaughlin in Shakti. In my interview with Hussain, which will appear in the forthcoming Kentucky Center magazine BackStage Pass, he made many comments as to the unique, improvisational nature of his performances with Sharma, which should resound with jazz fans across genres. They will be in concert on Wednesday, March 25 at the Bomhard Theater. Ticket information is available at www.kentuckycenter.org; or phone (502) 584-7777 or toll free at (800) 775-7777, (502) 562-0730 TTY
It's not to early to start planning for the 2009 edition of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. 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, 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. 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!
The Comedy Caravan, 1250 Bardstown Road, Louisville, KY 40204, 502-459-0022 www.comedycaravan.com, continues as the home to the "Jazz Factory Orphan Series." The Don Krekel Orchestra performs the second Monday of each month, which falls on March 9. This time he will be joined by his cousin, singer/songwriter/guitarist Tim Krekel. Another Bobby Falk-produced "Night of Jazz" will take place on Monday, March 16. 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 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 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. The March schedule was unavailable at deadline time.
The March schedule for The Blue Wisp Jazz Club in Cincinnati, 318 East Eighth St. (513-241 WISP), includes: saxophonist Greg Abate on March 7, singer Annie Sellick March 13 and 14, and appearances by Louisville area musicians Ron Jones on the 20th, Jamey Aebersold the following day, and the Tim Whalen/Craig Wagner Quartet on March 27. 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 email@example.com to be added to his e-mail list.
I am always interested in your comments. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.