Martin Z. Kasdan Jr.

Jazzin'
By Martin Z. Kasdan Jr.

PRELUDE:

With the passing of Bud Shank (see below), I am reflecting on not only the longevity of many of our jazz artists, but their dedication to their work even into their seventies and beyond. Many of these masters have come to Louisville under the auspices of the University of Louisville's Jazz Fest (formerly Jazz Week), for which I hope you will join me in thanking the faculty and staff at the University, as well as the patrons who make it possible.

RIP, Bud Shank

Saxophonist Bud Shank passed away recently. In memoriam, I am copying part of my review of his performance during the University of Louisville's 2005 Jazz Week (published in the April 2005 issue of Louisville Music News):

Friday's spotlight was on saxophonist Bud Shank, whose alto playing was lyrical throughout. Looking like a bebop Santa Claus perched on a stool, the 78-year-old Shank gave a somewhat uptempo and aggressive reading of the standard "My Funny Valentine." Bassist Tyrone Wheeler and Shank provided a lengthy and sensitive introduction to the following piece before being joined by pianist Jim Connerley and drummer Jason Tiemann. In the second set, John LaBarbera led Jazz Ensemble I (JEI), and Shank joined his young colleagues for "Mayreh" a Horace Silver composition from LaBarbera's Grammy-nominated CD, On the Wild Side, on which Shank also took a hot solo. Three arrangements by Bill Holman followed: "You Go To My Head," Ticker," and "The Gift." This last song was originally a surprise 70th birthday present to Shank from his wife, who commissioned the piece from Holman. In a tribute to both LaBarbera and JEI, Shank commented after the concert that the piece had rarely been performed, and that this evening's performance with the students really captured the essence of "The Gift."

RECENT CONCERTS

UNIVERSITY OF LOUISVILLE LATIN FEST WITH DAVE SAMUELS

Vibraphonist and marimba player Dave Samuels closed out the 2008-09 University of Louisville Jazz Fest in grand style. He played a short set with a Faculty Ensemble consisting of Craig Wagner on guitar, Tyrone Wheeler on bass, and Terry O'Mahoney on drums. This was followed by a longer set with U of L's Jazz Ensemble I, directed by John La Barbera. The first set consisted of a swinging arrangement of "Like Someone in Love," with solo space for all, followed by "Where Are You," performed as an unaccompanied fantasia on the theme. "Recorda Me" by Joe Henderson was the only Latin-themed piece of this too-short set. Samuels' marimba work was lightning fast and liquid.

An expanded version of Jazz Ensemble I, with trap drums as well as two Latin percussionists, took the stage minutes later. All songs but the encore were from Samuels' Grammy-nominated 2008 CD Caribbean Jazz Project: Afro Bop Alliance (Heads Up HUCD 3137). Samuels, La Barbera and the students really brought the arrangements from the CD to life, beginning with the Dizzy Gillespie classic "Soul Sauce," followed by an uptempo arrangement of Oliver Nelson's "Stolen Moments." Samuels arranged John Coltrane's ballad "Naima" as a cha-cha, which worked surprisingly well. The next two pieces were Samuels originals, "Picture Frame" and "Birds of a Feather." The highlight for me was the closing number, Samuels' arrangement of Thelonious Monk's "Bemsha Swing." He played a long, gorgeous marimba solo introduction, dancing his way across and back the length of his instrument. Called back for an encore, Samuels announced Bill Holman's "Limerick Waltz," originally written for Terry Gibs, who was an early inspiration for Samuels.

Throughout both sets, Samuels engaged the audience with not only his playing, but his commentary. He took us on a brief tour of his instruments, and placed the compositions into a historical context without being pedantic. Regrettably, due to a family medical problem, I had to cut the evening short after the concert, missing Samuels' performances at the Seelbach with his old friend Dick Sisto.

ZAKIR HUSSAIN AND SHIVKUMAR SHARMA AT THE KENTUCKY CENTER

Over the course of forty-plus years of serious concert-going, I have rarely been as moved as I was when I saw tabla player Ustad Zakir Hussain and Pandit Shivkumar Sharma, a master of the santoor (an 86-string hammered dulcimer). Billed as "Maestros in Concert," their concert at the Kentucky Center's Bomhard Theater on Wednesday, March 25 demonstrated that this was not a marketing angle; it was simply the truth. They performed two ragas, "Jena Samohini(?)" and "Raga Bihari." The first piece followed Indian classical tradition, opening with Sharma's unaccompanied meditative and invocational improvisation. Sharma created shimmering tapestries of sound. At times he would use his delicate mallets as musical hammers, while at other times he would strum his instrument with them. Hussain joined him for the second segment of the raga, playing rhythmic cycles of seven and twelve beats. His combination of rhythmic intensity and melodic playing was phenomenal. At the conclusion of this 70-minute raga, the awed crowd rose for a standing ovation.

After a brief intermission, they returned for the second raga, a lighter classical piece which included influences of folk and other styles of music. The musicians began together, with rhythmic cycles of eight and sixteen beats. Sharma had begun his musical training as a tabla player, and it was fascinating to watch his joyous interplay and obvious musical kinship with Hussain. During one segment of "Raga Bihari," in fact, Sharma employed tabla drumming techniques while playing his santoor. This raga was about 45 minutes long, and was followed with another well-deserved ovation. A concert recording entitled simply Shivkumar Sharma: Santoor, recorded in Calcutta in 1992 by Sharma and Hussain, is available on Moment Records (MRCD 1010), and is a superb example of the magic these master musicians can make together. (Disclaimer: I interviewed Hussain for an article in the Kentucky Center's BackStage Pass. Regardless, I have followed his work since the early 1970s, and this was the first opportunity I had to see him play Indian classical music.)

ON THE HORIZON

NEW ORLEANS JAZZ AND HERITAGE FESTIVAL

The 2009 edition of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is in progress. 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!

BELLARMINE 23RD ANNUAL JAZZ GUITAR CLINIC AND CONCERT

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/

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. 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 May 11, when Krekel will perform a tribute to Cole Porter, enhanced by a multimedia experience. The next Bobby Falk-produced "Night of Jazz" will take place on June 1, and features guitarist Craig Wagner, Sandpaper Dolls (described by Falk as a cappella/experimental, with some jazz influences), and, of course, the Bobby Falk Group, with an open jam session to follow. Another "Night of Jazz" will happen June 22, with OK Kino (Drew Miller, vocals/sax, Wade Honey, keys/synth, Nick Kuypers, bass, and Mike Hyman, drums, plus 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.

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 May, on the 13th and 27th.

The Ron Jones Duo will be performing on Sunday May 3 at Brendan's Restaurant for the Jazz Brunch from 12-3. Brendan's is at 3921 Shelbyville Road, 502-895-1212; www.brendanslouisville.com.

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 May 8-9 with the Tony Monaco Trio, and May 16 for Fareed Haque (see CD review, below). Later dates were not available by deadline time.

The May schedule for The Blue Wisp Jazz Club in Cincinnati, 318 East Eighth St. (513-241-WISP), includes: May 8, the Caswell Sisters; May 9, trombonist John Fedchock; May 15- 16, guitarist Roni Ben-Hur; May 24, African music with Nigerian Composer/Drummer Baoku Moses; May 29, Jamey Aebersold; and May 30, bassist Rufus Reid. Wednesdays remain the province of the Blue Wisp Big Band. The website is: www.thebluewisp.com.

EIGHTH NOTES

This is an occasional feature to survey new releases with more than just "So and so has a new release," but with less detail than a track-by-track detailed analysis. Without further ado, here is the latest installment.

Fareed Haque + the Flat Earth Ensemble: Flat Planet (Owl 00133) Guitarist Fareed Haque is a busy man, teaching at Northern Illinois University, playing in Garaj Mahal (whose latest CD Woot was reviewed here in December), and leading an Asian-Jazz fusion band, the Flat Earth Ensemble. As noted above, this is the band he will bring to the Jazz Kitchen in Indianapolis on May 16. Flat Planet opens with a bit of Indian drum talk ("konnakol") on "Big Bhangra," after which the band comes in playing Indo-funk; Haque's solo ranges from funky to bluesy. "The Chant" has multiple percussionists and a violin, in a shimmering piece evoking the Diga Rhythm Band. The melding of styles continues throughout the album, with "Blue Hindoo" featuring lots of tabla/flute interplay; "The Hangar" is aptly described by Haque as "Hindi boogaloo." The CD closes with three pieces from "The Four Corner Suite." "South" is closest to old school fusion, while "West" has the intensity of mid-1970s King Crimson. Despite its almost 76 minutes, the CD left off tracks which may be downloaded. In short, this is an ambitious and fulfilling disc of Indian music deftly blended with jazz. Haque's website is www.fareed.com, and the Indianapolis-based label (which has also released discs by Steve Allee and Bill Moring, among others) is www.owlstudios.com.

CODA

Errata: Last month I mistakenly identified the Pink Floyd Experience as a Canadian band; in fact, they are based in San Diego. Also, last month I mentioned that Marco Benevento's trio is "not, as the saying goes, your grandparents' pain trio." Perhaps it would be painful to your grandparents, but obviously this should have been piano trio. In any event, I missed the concert when I learned of the starting time of 11:15 PM, after an opening act. Maybe next time . . .

Jennifer Lauletta announces that her latest CD, The Mind of Love: Jennifer Lauletta sings the songs of k.d. Lang, is now available in hard copy from Amazon, while the CD and separate tracks are still available for download at iTunes, Rhapsody and Napster. A review of her CD release party was published here in December.

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