Martin Z. Kasdan Jr.

Jazzin'
By Martin Z. Kasdan Jr.

PRELUDE

If I can just make it through to Jazzfest . . .

ON THE HORIZON

"JUMPIN' JIVE" BIG BAND DANCE BENEFIT FOR U OF L SCHOOL OF MUSIC

Here's what the e-mail announcement says: Sunday, April 11, 2010 , 5-10 PM, Grand Ballroom, Henry Clay Building, 605 S. Third St. Tickets: $100.00 per person for Cabaret, Dinner & Dancing; $10.00 per person for dance only, beginning 8:00 PM. For information call 644-5581 or e-mail friendsjumpjive@aol.com

JAYME STONE'S AFRICA TO APPALACHIA PROJECT AT THE KENTUCKY CENTER

As a disclaimer, I previewed this for the Kentucky Center for the Arts' BackStage Pass magazine. Jayme Stone is a Canadian banjo player who became fascinated with the African roots of his instrument. His album Africa to Appalachia, won the Juno Award (like a Canadian Grammy) for Best World Music Album of the Year. Hee will appear in concert with griot Yacouba Sissoko, Thursday, April 15 at the Kentucky Center's Bomhard Theater. For more information: www.kentuckycenter.org.

2010 NEW ORLEANS JAZZ & HERITAGE FESTIVAL AND 2009 MEMORIES

For the past two months I spotlighted my personal picks for the forthcoming Jazzfest. Here is a reprise of the jazz artists who stand out for me: Weekend One (Friday, April 23 - Sunday, April 25), includes jazz artists Joe Lovano's Us Five, Donald Harrison, Terence Blanchard, The Wonderful World of Louis Armstrong featuring Wycliffe Gordon, James Andrews, and Victor Goines, to name but a handful. Weekend Two (Thursday, April 29 - Sunday, May 2) has for jazz fans the Stanley Clarke Band with Hiromi, the Wayne Shorter Quartet, Delfeayo Marsalis & the Uptown Jazz Orchestra, Jeff Beck (arguably rock), Marcus Miller, Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Septet, Nicholas Payton, Astral Project and more. The complete lineup, ticket information and more is at www.nojazzfest.com

In addition to the official website, there is much information to be had at http://swag.livejournal.com, and www.jazzfestgrids.com. The former includes constantly updated information about bargain hotels and air tickets, as well as music updates. The latter breaks down the daily nightclub and other concerts taking place throughout the city.

RECENT CONCERTS

U OF L JAZZ FEST

Jazz Week 2010 was superb. For the first time in many years, I was able to attend International Night (Wednesday, February 24), which featured pianist Renato Vasconcellos, saxophonist Anderson Pessoa, bassist Saulo de Almmeida, drummer Aaron Latos, vocalist Angela Fajardo, and guest guitarist Alejandro ‘Ale" Demogli. I found it a bit difficult to catch all the song titles, so apologies in advance if there are any errors. This ensemble started with the lilting "April Child" by Moacir Santos, followed by "The Frog." Jobim's "Surfboard" was introduced as being the composer's attempt to capture the feel of the board in waves, with 2 beats against 3. It worked. The Open World Jazz Ensemble from Russia proved that there is no language barrier when it comes to hard swinging bop. They concluded their set with "Reverend Marsalis" which featured a freeform introduction to what turned into an uptempo straightahead number.

Friday night featured Russian immigrant Valery Ponomarev, who made his name playing trumpet with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers in the late 1970s. His first set featured Chris Fitzgerald on bass, Jason Tiemann on drums, and Steve Crews on piano. Ponomarev opened with "Joy Spring" and followed this with a Latin arrangement of "Love for Sale," with impressive mallet work by Tiemann. Ponomarev turned gentle on "Someone to Watch Over Me,'[ and blew the roof off the hall with his closing "Byrd-Like." After an almost nonexistent intermission, Ponomarev returned with U of L's student Jazz Ensemble I, directed by John La Barbera. Year in and year out, I come away impressed with the professionalism La Barbera coaxes from his students. They opened with a composition by John's drummer brother Joe, "Message from Art," dedicated to the great Art Blakey. Ponomarev actually was more of a co-director than a soloist for much of this segment of the program, which featured his arrangements of songs associated with Blakey, including the brisk "Blues March." Throughout the evening, Ponomarev revealed himself to be not only an excellent player and arranger, but quite the raconteur as well.

The following night featured the warm saxophone of Houston Person, accompanied in the first set by pianist Jim Connerley, bassist Tyrone Wheeler, and drummer Jonathan Higgins. "Isn't It Romantic" was followed by a breathtakingly slow version of "Skylark." Person and company then opened the throttle to 90 MPH for "Don't Get Around Much Anymore." A highlight was the deep blues of "Since I Fell for You." After a slow take on "What a Wonderful World," the group closed with an uptempo blues shuffle. U of L's Jazz Program Director, Mike Tracy, then bestowed the "Jazz All-Star Award" to Jamey Aebersold, who seemed taken aback, notwithstanding the fact that he certainly was deserving of this accolade. John La Barbera and Jazz Ensemble I took the stage for the opener, La Barbera's "Pythodd Fellows," which featured the startlingly realistic organ sound of a synthesizer. Person joined in, and soloed marvelously on this and the remaining numbers: "In a Mellow Tone," "Stolen Sweets" (from his new CD), "Too Late Now" (a beautiful ballad with excellent use of dynamics), "Social Call," and the closing barnburner, "Lester Leaps In." Person seemed pleased with performance of the band, and rightly so.

The final concert was the duet of Toot Thielemans and Kenny Werner. Thielemans, approaching his 88th birthday, played with all his heart and soul, and was touched by the ovation he received when he first came onstage. I previously reviewed this performance for LEO; it's at http://leoweekly.com/music/live-toots-thielemans-kenny-werner.

Once again, the U of L Jazz Program demonstrated its importance to the community in this series of concerts (and workshops, which I was unable to attend). Kudos to Tracy and all the staff for keeping the standards so high.

RODRIGO Y GABRIELA AND ALEX SKOLNICK AT THE BROWN THEATRE

As a disclaimer, I previewed this for the Kentucky Center for the Arts' BackStage Pass magazine. Our venerable Louisville Music News editor Paul Moffett posted a glowing review at: http://www.louisvillemusic.org/weblog/page/3. I will simply add that the opening act, the Alex Skolnick Trio, was excellent. Skolnick impressed many as guitarist for the metal band Testament. He has subsequently embarked on a jazz career, and showed influences of John McLaughlin, and other early fusion guitarists, while bringing his own musical vision to the forefront. I especially enjoyed the opening "Bollywood Jam." Skolnick later sat in with the headliners, to the enjoyment of both the audience and the musicians.

NORAH JONES AT THE KENTUCKY CENTER

Norah Jones is touring in support of her new album, The Fall, on Blue Note. Eschewing the laidback sounds of her momentous debut, Come Away with Me, she was more a rocker in concert. The Whitney was sold out weeks in advance for this show. The crowd reaction seemed almost too polite under the circumstances. She switched back and forth between guitar and piano, with a great band which consisted of Smokey Hormel, Sasha Dobson (who was also Jones' opening act), John Kirby, Gus Seyffert, and Joey Waronker. The new CD is more beat-oriented, and this was reflected in the frequently hard hitting ensemble sound. She revisited her first two hits, "Don't Know Why" and "Come Away with Me," with new arrangements, the latter sounding like a late 1950s rock'n'roll ballad. In short, Norah Jones seems to be maturing into an artist who is not content to rest on her laurels, and challenges herself to new creative heights.

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 April 12. Bobby Falk's "Night of Jazz,"will return on Monday, April 19, featuring the Bobby Falk Group and Steve Crews' Black Cat Jazz Band. $8.00 at the door, $6.00 online. 7:30 PM No other jazz bookings were planned as of deadline time, so please contact the club for any post-deadline shows.

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, 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.

Jazzyblu is located in the basement of the Glassworks, 815 West Market St., the homepage is www.jazzyblu.com. Attempts to sign up for e-mail updates for their listings have thus far been unsuccessful, so you might try the site or you can call at 502-992-3243 for information.

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. One trip-worthy show is Monday, April 17: Dr. Lonnie Smith Trio. To celebrate Jazz Appreciation Month "JAM"), the Jazz Kitchen is offering a special April Jam Pass - 16 shows for $25. There will be a number of performances by Owl Studio/label artists, including Steve Allee Big Band (April 3), Frank Glover (April 5), Derrick Gardner (April 5), Cynthia Layne (April 10), (April 10). Also, April 17 brings the Steve Rudolph Quartet with Flutist Ali Tyerson.

The April schedule for The Blue Wisp Jazz Club in Cincinnati, 318 East Eighth St. (513-241-WISP), includes: Tuesday, April 13: Joey DeFrancesco Organ Trio with Guitarist Paul Bollenbeck and Drummer Byron Landrum; Friday, April 16 Saxophonist Eric Alexander Quartet. Wednesdays remain the province of the Blue Wisp Big Band. For details and the full schedule, the website is: www.thebluewisp.com.

Please sign up for updated local jazz listings: 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   monthly music listings, in both the print and online editions (www.louisvillemusicnews.net).

EIGHTH NOTES

Preservation Hall Jazz Band: Preservation (PHJB01, www.preservationhall.com) The PHJB's new release features the current lineup with a roster of guest artists, who range from Tom Waits to the Blind Boys of Alabama to Louisville's own "Yim Yames," and many more. The material is mostly traditional, including chestnuts such as the romping opener "Shake It and Break It" (with Andrew Bird). Pete Seeger joins in on Irving Berlin's "Blue Skies." Not only is the music a delight, but the proceeds from this recording go to the Preservation Hall Music Outreach Program, dedicated to passing on the art form to younger generations. If you take any joy at all from traditional New Orleans music, you can't go wrong by adding this to your collection.

Holly Hofmann/Bill Cunliffe: Three's Company (Capri 74099-2, www.caprirecords.com) Flutist Hofmann and pianist Cunliffe perform four duets, and add a single, different guest artist for the other four tracks of this disc. Cunliffe should be familiar to Louisvillians, as he performed on John La Barbera's Grammy-nominated On the Wild Side and its follow-up, Fantazm, as well as performing here with La Barbera in 2006. The atmosphere overall is jazz chamber music, and some of the pieces (such as Cunliffe's "Reunion" and Faure's "Pavane") remind me of the feel of the Bolling/Rampal suites. Regina Carter adds soulful violin to the duo's arrangement of Strayhorn's "Star-Crossed Lovers." Another Cunliffe original, "Sweet Andy," is kicked up a notch by Alvester Garnett's drums. Hofmann's title track, "Three's Company," exudes joy, burnished by Terrell Stafford's trumpet. This enjoyable recording successfully integrates the guest performers without losing the intimacy of the basic duo format.

Ted Sirota's Rebel Souls: Seize the Time (naimcd115, www.naimlabel.com) reminds me of Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra. It is an aggressively political, yet highly musical recording which somehow manages to mix compositions ranging from Charles Mingus' "Free Cell Block F, 'Tis Nazi U.S.A." to Stephen Foster's "Hard Times (Come Again No More)" to the Clash's "Clampdown" into an integrated whole. Chicago-based drummer/leader Sirota is ably joined by Geof Bradfield on saxophones and bass clarinet (who used to play the Jazz Factory here with Ryan Cohan's group), Greg Ward on alto sax, guitarist Dave Miller and bassist Jake Vinsel. Sirota's improvised drum solo, "Viva Max!" would be instantly recognizable as a tribute to Max Roach even without the title. Highly recommended to fans of adventurous jazz.

LOCAL JAZZ CONTACTS

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.