Martin Z. Kasdan Jr.

Jazzin'
By Martin Z. Kasdan Jr.

PRELUDES

I: RIP, George Russell and Mary Travers

Jazz composer George Russell, a MacArthur fellow whose theories, including his Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization at age 86 of complications from Alzheimer's. His Electronic Sonata for Souls Loved by Nature was my first George Russell album, and introduced me to soon-to-be ECM artists Jan Garbarek, Manfred Schoof, Terje Rypdal, and Jon Christensen.

Mary Travers, a native Louisvillian who was part of the famed Peter, Paul and Mary folk trio, lost her battle with leukemia recently. She will be missed by music lovers regardless of genre.

II: RAMBLIN'

Looking at the listings for area nightclubs, I am again saddened by the loss of the Jazz Factory, which might well have booked many of the big name artists coming to Indianapolis and Cincinnati.

III: RAMBLIN' AGAIN

For the first time in many a moon, I didn't see any live jazz since my last column, although I greatly enjoyed the Ark Reggae Band and Cosa Seria at WorldFest. My buddy and I were running behind schedule, and caught only the last five minutes of Ut Gret with Ruric-Amari.

So, I thought this would be a good month to catch up on some fine recordings which have come my way over the past few months. Herewith (as we barristers are wont to say) is an expanded edition of "Eighth Notes." The recordings are listed in alphabetical order.

EIGHTH NOTES

Rez Abbasi: Things To Come (Sunnyside SSC 1236) Guitarist Rez Abbasi has assembled an impressive ensemble for his latest recording: saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, pianist Vijay Iyer, bassist Johannes Weidenmueller and drummer Dan Weiss, with guest appearances by Indian vocalist Kiran Ahluwalia and cellist Mike Block. Abbasi and Mahanthappa have collaborated for quite some time, with Abbasi having appeared on recent recordings by Mahanthappa (reviewed here this past February). All the compositions are by Abbasi, and they range from fusion to seemingly free improvisation. The opening "Dream State" starts with a shimmery Indian raga-like segment before morphing into hard charging electric jazz. "Insulin" closes the almost hour-long disc with funky rhythms over which the guitar, sax and piano play with abandon, with an all-too-brief section of bass over what sound like hand drums. Unlike the recent discs by Mahanthappa, which tended to fuse Indian music and jazz, this album sounds less ethnically derived and more like music from the loft scene. The shared history of Abbasi and Mahanthappa pays off with major dividends as their musical voices weave in and out of the mix. This is not a disc for mainstream or swing lovers, but will entrance fans who seek out fresh and challenging jazz.

John Abercrombie: Wait Till You See Her (ECM 2102) The guitarist's Third Quartet was reviewed here in February 2008; this disc continues Abercrombie's work with violinist Mark Feldman and drummer Joey Baron, and finds Thomas Morgan replacing bassist Marc Johnson. The gentle "Sad Song" opens the recording, and lives up to its title. "Line-Up" is next, and is quirky, with a modern classical feel. The title song is the only non-original, composed by Rogers and Hart, and is a quiet, meditative piece. Up next is "Trio," a more overtly jazz-oriented number featuring only guitar, bass and drums. "I've Overlooked Before" has an eerie opening segment, before turning to a more contemplative mode. "Out of Towner" (a tribute to his friend and fellow guitarist Ralph Towner?) swings with a mellow violin solo followed by an excellent guitar solo. Throughout these and the other two songs, the musicians show the positive results of shared experience in a working band. Abercrombie's guitar work continues in his own original voice, which seems to meld the controlled distortion of Jimi Hendrix with the influences of mainstream jazz guitarists.

Joe Lovano Us Five: Folk Art (Blue Note 3915282) Joe Lovano has released a steady stream of albums for many years now, in a variety of formats (trio, big band, you name it). This new release is one of his most exciting. He is heard on alto and tenor saxes, clarinet and taragato, with a superb ensemble featuring two drummers, Francisco Mela and Otis Brown III, bassist Esperanza Spalding, and pianist James Weidman. While jazz ensembles have utilized drumset and percussion combinations for decades, the use of two trap drummers is rare; John Coltrane's Meditations, Ornette Coleman's Free Jazz and some of his Prime Time recordings, and Larry Young's Of Love and Peace are all that come to me off the top of my head. Lovano's drummers interact with each other in a way frequently reminiscent of the late 1960s playing of Billy Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart in the Grateful Dead. They subtly play counterpoint to each other, rather than merely adding volume. They weave a rhythmic bed over which Lovano is free to soar. "Powerhouse" opens the disc on a hard bop note. Next, the title track is bluesy and allows room for the ensemble to improvise within a familiar framework. "Wild Beauty" is a ballad, with the playing emphasizing the beauty over the wild. Following is "Us Five," one of three pieces which call to mind Coltrane and the AACM artists, the others being "Dibango" and the closing "Ettenro." In short, this CD is a must have.

James Moody: 4A (IPO Recordings IPOC1016, www.iporecordings.com) Moody's performances at last year's Jamey Aebersold Summer Jazz Workshops were outstanding. This album was recorded in New York just a few weeks later, and features the then-84 year old Moody with pianist Kenny Barron ( who will be here on October 25; see below), bassist Todd Coolman, and drummer Lewis Nash. Although Moody is a superb flutist, he sticks with tenor sax here. He has aged like fine wine, and his saxophone ideas flow freely, with the energy and verve of one half his age. With the exception of Barron's "Voyager," all the tunes here are American Songbook and jazz standards. From the opening "Secret Love," with its "Blues March" introduction, through the closing "Bye Bye Blackbird," Moody has produced an excellent straightahead album. As well known as Moody is, to write more would be redundant.

Dafnis Prieto Si o Si Quartet: Live at Jazz Standard NYC (Dafnison Music-002, www.dafnisprieto.com) Cuban immigrant Dafnis Prieto is a drummer, composer, bandleader and educator. His new release showcases his work on the bandstand with Manuel Valera on piano, keyboards and melodica, Charles Flores on bass, and Peter Apfelbaum on saxophones, bass melodica and percussion. This is a CD which demands attention from the listener. The disc opens with "Si o Si" (Yes or Yes), which has a stop-time introduction before launching into some intense Afro-Cuban jazz. "Claveteo" is a fast-paced song which straddles the lines of funk and freeform. On "Seven by Seven," the mood is dark, with lots of bass and melodica work. Without going into a track by track description, this is an album which clearly shows that Prieto is a talent to watched. While he grew out if the Afro-Cuban musical world, this performance shows that he has successfully used this background as a jumping-off point, and he has not remained within the mainstream of this rich tradition. Already he has played with some of New York's greatest musicians as well as leading his own groups. His compositions and his playing reflect an open and inquisitive sensibility.

James Moody: 4A (IPO Recordings IPOC1016, www.iporecordings.com) Moody's performances at last year's Jamey Aebersold Summer Jazz Workshops were outstanding. This album was recorded in New York just a few weeks later, and features the then-84 year old Moody with pianist Kenny Barron ( who will be here on October 25; see below), bassist Todd Coolman, and drummer Lewis Nash. Although Moody is a superb flutist, he sticks with tenor sax here. He has aged like fine wine, and his saxophone ideas flow freely, with the energy and verve of one half his age. With the exception of Barron's "Voyager," all the tunes here are American Songbook and jazz standards. From the opening "Secret Love," with its "Blues March" introduction, through the closing "Bye Bye Blackbird," Moody has produced an excellent straightahead album. As well known as Moody is, to write more would be redundant.

John Surman: Brewster's Rooster (ECM 2046) I still remember sneaking away from a London youth hostel in 1969 to see King Crimson (who I had just seen at the Hyde Park Rolling Stones concert the day before) at the Marquee Club. Opening was the John Surman Octet, and I have followed his career ever since. After a decade of records on several labels, the vast majority of Surman's work since 1979 has been on ECM. This new release finds Surman on baritone and soprano saxophones, with an amazing lineup: John Abercrombie - guitar, Drew Gress - bass, and Jack DeJohnette - drums. Seven of the nine tunes are by the leader, including the opening "Slanted Sky," a pastoral piece accented by DeJohnette's crisp cymbal work. A standout is the Billy Strayhorn composition "Chelsea Bridge," a beautiful rendition featuring baritone sax and guitar. The title track has a rock riff introduction, and features excellent soloing by Surman and Abercrombie over DeJohnette's elegantly funky drumming. "Haaywain" sounds like an homage to Ornette Coleman, while the concluding "Going for a Burton" is uptempo and upbeat, and builds to an intense conclusion. This is CD, in a sense, marks a return to the jazz fold for Surman after many recordings in other genres over the past few years, and it is an excellent introduction to Surman for those new to his work.

ON THE HORIZON

BIG ROCK JAZZ FEST, SUNDAY, OCTOBER 4

This year's Big Rock Jazz Festival will take place at, of course, Big Rock Park in Cherokee Park. This year will focus on Louisville artists Robbie Bartlett, the West Market Street Stompers, and Eddie Clark and the Louisville Jazz Collective. The time has been changed, and it will be from 2 PM to 7 PM on Sunday, October 4. The Louisville Jazz Society is among the many sponsors. More information will be available at the website: www.louisvillejazz.org.

BELA FLECK ZAKIR HUSSAIN & EDGAR MEYER AT THE BROWN, OCTOBER 9

Béla Fleck, Ustad Zakir Hussain and Edgar Meyer have collaborated on a new recording, The Melody of Rhythm, which blends Indian Classical music, Western Classical music, and American roots music into a sound of their own. Fleck is certainly no stranger to Louisville, having performed here for decades with New Grass Revival, the Flecktones, and more recently with Chick Corea, as well as with the Sparrow Quartet. Hussain is a master of the Indian tabla drums, and his performance here this past spring with Pandit Shivkumar Sharma was an example of improvisational music at its finest. Bassist Meyer has been a favorite on the Louisville concert scene for many years, having appeared here with many "new grass" and other ensembles. They are coming to the Brown Theatre to perform selections from this CD on Friday, October 9, 2009. More information is available at www.kentuckycenter.org.

KENNY BARRON AT U OF L, OCTOBER 25

Famed pianist Kenny Barron will present a solo recital at the University of Louisville School of Music Comstock Concert Hall on Sunday, October 25, at 7:30 PM. Barron is an NEA Jazz Master who has performed as both leader and sideman for decades. He has earned several Grammy nominations for his recordings. I have been fortunate enough to see him several times. I recall with special fondness his performance many years ago at Chicago's Jazz Showcase as a member of Sphere. If memory serves, he performed at the Kentucky Center for the Arts. He is a consummate musician, and the opportunity to see him in this solo concert is one that should excite all jazz fans. For tickets call 502-852-6907; further information is available at http://louisville.edu/music/degrees/undergraduate/jazz/jazz-studies-program.html; follow the link to Jazz Fest - 2009/2010. Barron's website is www.kennybarron.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. The Don Krekel Orchestra performs the second Monday of each month, which falls on October 12. No other jazz bookings were planned as of deadline time, so please contact the club for any post-deadline shows.

The Bobby Falk Group will be playing Friday, October 2 Frazier Museum, 5-9 (gallery hop); Friday, October 9 Nachbar 9:30-midnight; Friday, October 23 Hideaway Saloon, 11:00 PM-3:00 AM; Saturday, October 24 (Bardstown Road Tony Boombozz), 6-9 PM; further October dates may be found on Bobby's website (see LOCAL JAZZ CONTACTS, below).

The Seelbach Jazz Bar, (500 S. Fourth Street, 502-585-3200), features vibraphonist and occasional pianist Dick Sisto, who always provides excellent mainstream jazz, sometimes with guest artists joining him.

The Nachbar (969 Charles Street, 502-637-4377, (ww.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) has featured the Speakeasy Jazz Orchestra, playing for listeners and dancers every other Wednesday, for several months. Regrettably, their publicist, Terry Armstrong, passed away unexpectedly in September. You will need to check with the club to see if this is going to be continuing.

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.

Jazzyblu has opened in the basement of the Glassworks, 815 West Market St., 502-992-3243; the homepage is www.jazzyblu.com. As of deadline time, the October lineup was posted as: Walker and Kays on Thursdays, Jerry Tolson on Fridays, Maestro J and The Jazzyblu Triad on Saturdays, and Doug Finke on Sundays. According to Bobby Falk, his next "Night of Jazz" will feature an Affrilachian theme, and will be presented here on October 19, although this was not on Jazzyblu's calendar by deadline time.

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. There is a packed schedule of guest artists in October: Steve Allee Big Band on Saturday, October 3; Eric Person & Meta-Four on Saturday, October 10; Jim Snidero on Friday, October 16; 14th Anniversary Latin Dance Party the following night; trumpeter Alex Sipiagin on Friday, October 23; Tuck & Patti on Saturday, October 24; Fareed Haque on Saturday, October 31.

The October schedule for The Blue Wisp Jazz Club in Cincinnati, 318 East Eighth St. (513-241-WISP), includes: Saturday, October 3 - Bobby Broom Trio; Thursday, October 8 - Violinist Christian Howes; Friday -Saturday, October 23-24 - Jim Snidero; Friday-Saturday, October 30-31 - John Fedchock; Friday-Saturday, November 6-7 Guitarist Roni Ben-Hur. Wednesdays remain the province of the Blue Wisp Big Band. For details and the full schedule, the website is: www.thebluewisp.com.


New Listing: The Redmoor, 3187 Linwood Avenue, Cincinnati (513-871-6789), website: www.jazzincincy.com. A possible October road trip-worthy show is the Winard Harper Sextet on Thursday, October 8.

Please sign up for updated local jazz listings: The Louisville Jazz Society has revamped its website (www.louisvillejazz.org), and offers a weekly e-mail "Louisville Jazz Society's Jazz Insider." It is quite comprehensive, more so than I can be here. 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.

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 & 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.