Martin Z. Kasdan Jr.

Jazzin'
By Martin Z. Kasdan Jr.

PRELUDE

As I write, the snow is about a foot high, and I am over it. I hope that by the time this issue is out, it is gone.

ON THE HORIZON

LAST MINUTE REMINDER: U OF L JAZZ FEST

I previewed this last month, and the print edition of this issue will likely be on the street before the last concerts, so here is a brief recap: International Night: Wednesday, February 24; Adjudicator's Night: Thursday, February 25; trumpeter Valery Ponomarev: Friday, February 26; saxophonist Houston Person: Saturday, February 27; and what should be an amazing closer to the series, a Sunday matinée by the duo of Belgian harmonica master Toots Thielemans and Brooklyn native pianist Kenny Werner.More information is available at www.louisville.edu/music/jazz; or call 502-852-6907 for tickets.

LOUISVILLE JAZZ SOCIETY RENT PARTY

I have served on the Board of Directors of the Louisville Jazz Society (LJS) for many years, now. We need your support to enable us to continue to support programs including U of L's Jazz Week and other jazz concerts at U of L, Bellarmine Guitar Clinic, Highland Jazz Fest and Jamey Aebersold's Jazz Camp. The details, from an LJS flyer and e-mail are as follows: Sunday, March 7, 6.30 p.m. 9.30 p.m. at the River City Winery, 321 Pearl St., New Albany, IN. Directions: I-64 west, cross Sherman Minton bridge in the right lane, exit to New Albany, turn right on Pearl St. (3rd traffic light), the venue will be on your right in the second block. Dick Sisto and his rhythm section will be the anchor group and Jamey Aebersold and Mike Tracy have agreed to stop by with their horns. Tracy will also bring the U of L Jazz combo. All Jazz musicians, LJS members, and the public are invited. The River City Winery opened last year after extensive renovations. http://rivercitywinery.com. Suggested donation: Whatever you can afford. Sponsors: River City Winery, Simply Grand & Vintage Piano Works, Camelot Piano Movers, The Doo-Wop Shop.

2010 NEW ORLEANS JAZZ & HERITAGE FESTIVAL AND 2009 MEMORIES

Last month 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

But what makes Jazzfest so special that I and many Louisvillians trek to New Orleans during Derby Week here? First, it is a festival that is not just about the music, but about the cultural traditions of New Orleans. Creole, Cajun and other local and regional foods are available, and there are cooking lessons as well. There are major displays of folk art, contemporary art, Native American heritage, and more. Many of the musicians not only perform, but are interviewed inside the by some of the top writers and critics in the Grandstand before or after their concerts.

Perhaps a brief recap of just 2009's opening day alone will capture some of the amazing experience that is Jazzfest. After watching a parade by Casa Samba hearing an interview with drummer Johnny Vidacovich, seeing Donald Harrison Jr. with Dr. Lonnie Smith on organ, watching a special performance by Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with special guests Yacub Addy and Odadaa! from Ghana. Regrettably, in order to catch Roy Haynes and his Fountain of Youth Band, I couldn't stay for the conclusion of JALCO. Such choices add to the spice of the experience - sensory overload and New Orleans seem synonymous.

RECENT CONCERTS

"ELLA" AT ACTORS THEATRE OF LOUISVILLE

Actors Theatre of Louisville's production of "Ella," about the iconic singer Ella Fitzgerald, was a delight. Tina Fabrique's acting and singing were superb. The first act was set at a rehearsal for an evening concert in Nice, France, in 1966. Manager Norman Granz (played by Harold Dixon) urges Ella to practice talking to the audience more between songs. This becomes the opening for Ella to reminisce about her harsh upbringing, and how music saved her, as she intersperses her memories with songs. The musicians are Ron Haynes, trumpet; George Caldwell, piano; Clifton Kellem, bass; and Rodney Harper, drums. They have speaking roles, as well, playing Ella's stepfather, first husband, and many other roles. The second act is a concert presentation, with minimal dialogue presented as stage patter. Fabrique is convincing as both Ella the person and Ella the singer. Over the course of the evening, the audience was treated to 23 songs from the canon, including the signature tune "A-Tisket, A-Tasket," Irving Berlin's "Blue Skies" (dedicated in the performance to Ella's just-deceased half-sister), and more. Just as Ella Fitzgerald transcended jazz to become a hugely popular performer, so too does this presentation transcend the perhaps artificial boundaries between drama and concert.

WEST MARKET STREET STOMPERS' BOOTLEGGERS BALL

On Saturday, January 30, the West Market Street Stompers presented their third annual Bootleggers Ball at the Wildwood Country Club. Celebrating the end of Prohibition, the festivities included not only music, but era costumes, dancing by the Louisville Swing Dance Society and more. Decked out in tuxedos, the Stompers swung forth mightily. The personnel is: Dave Klingman - clarinet; Steve Crews - piano; Charlie Niehoff - trumpet; Doug Finke - leader, arranger, trombone (and vocals); Greg Walker - guitar; Bruce Morrow - drums; and

Sonny Stephens - bass. They were joined by Walker's longtime musical partner, Jeanette Kays on vocals. Among the musical highlights were "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans" [I do, acutely], "'Deed I Do," and a gorgeous "Walker & Kays" rendition of "Mood Indigo."

NATALIE MACMASTER & DONNELL LEAHY AT THE BROWN THEATRE

Cape Breton native and world-renowned Celtic fiddler Natalie MacMaster and her husband, fiddler Donnell Leahy of Leahy (formerly the Leahy Family Band), seldom have the opportunity to tour together. Their sense of joy was palpable as they performed at the Brown Theatre, Wednesday, February 3. (Disclaimer: I interviewed MacMaster for the Kentucky Center's BackStage Pass magazine). They were accompanied by two pianists, Mac Morin from MacMaster's band, and Erin Leahy of Leahy. My daughters were spellbound by both the artistry and the energy; as it was a school night, we could not stay for the second set. The mood was set as the audience joined in a clap-along during the opening medley. Most of the set was up-tempo, but there was a beautiful version of "The Anniversary Waltz." Erin Leahy was given a solo, and displayed ragtime influences in addition to her Celtic playing. During the set, all the musicians also showed their dancing skills. Particularly noteworthy was the medley of "Fiddler's Despair" and "The Banks." I extend a special note of thanks to Donnell Leahy and Natalie MacMaster for allowing my daughters to meet them backstage during intermission.

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 March 8. Bobby Falk's "Night of Jazz," scheduled for February 15, was postponed due to bad weather. At (early) deadline time, a late March date was under consideration. 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 p.m.. An added enticement, per their Newsletter, is a dance floor.

NEW LISTING: Jazz on the Green, at Wildwood Country Club, 5000 Bardstown Rd., 499-1261. You need not be a member of the club to come and enjoy. The music goes from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. on Sundays, and dancing is encouraged. The March lineup is: March 7: West Market Street Stompers; March 14: Black Cat Band (led by Steve Crews); ; March 21: The Don Krekel Jazz Orchestra; March 28: Doug Finke & Friends.

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 the great guitarist Pat Martino, performing with organist Tony Monaco and drummer Jason Brown, on Sunday, March 21.

The March schedule for The Blue Wisp Jazz Club in Cincinnati, 318 East Eighth St. (513-241-WISP), includes: Friday, March 5: pianist Amina Figarova; Saturday, March 6: guitarist Wilbert Longmire; Saturday, March 13: Greg Abate; Friday, March 19: Fareed Haque and the Flat Earth Ensemble; Saturday-Sunday, March 27-28: singer Annie Sellick.

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 Louisville Music News' monthly music listings, in both the print and online editions (www.louisvillemusicnews.net).

EIGHTH NOTES

Peter Erskine/Chuck Berghofer/Terry Trotter: The Trio: "Live" at Charlie O's (Fuzzy Music PEPCD 016,www.fuzzymusic.com) Drummer Erskine, bassist Berghofer and pianist Trotter have produced a solid, subtle and swinging hour's worth of music. With the exception of "Charlie's Blues," the songs are all jazz standards. Erskine, who came to national attention in the 1970s with the Stan Kenton Orchestra, Maynard Ferguson and Weather Report, adroitly complements his trio mates, switching from brushes to sticks as called for by the music. The concert begins with "Put Your Little Right Foot Out," concludes with "Lament," and features a lovely version of Billy Strayhorn's "Blood Count." A different version of this trio, led by Erskine, delighted an audience at U of L back in 2003, and this new recording is a delight as well.

Frank Vignola: 100 Years of Django (Azica AJD-72244, www.azica.com. www.frankvignola.com) Guitarist Frank Vignola was a guest at the Jazz Factory with both the Frank and Joe Show and his own ensemble. While many of his recordings, and his Louisville appearances, show influences ranging from Wes Montgomery to Frank Zappa, this new release clearly highlights his traditional swing style. All 10 compositions are by the Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt, arranged by Vignola for his trio of guitarist Vinny Raniola, bassist Gary Mazzaroppi, and guest accordionist Julien Labro. Beginning with "Rhythm Futur," and concluding with two of Reinhardt's most famous compositions, "Nuages" and "Swing 49," this album is a gentle delight. Full of subtlety, it shows how understatement can be a strong statement in and of itself.

Mark Weinstein: Timbasa (Jazzheads JH1174, www.jazzheads.com) I discovered flutist Mark Weinstein a few years ago, and have greatly enjoyed his work. He has just released Timbasa, an Afro-Cuban outing featuring Axel Tosca Laugart: Piano; Panagiotis Andreou: electric bass and vocals; Mauricio Herrera: drums and timbales; Ogduardo Diaz: bongos and bata; and Pedrito Martinez: congas, timbales, bata, and other percussion. The nine songs include compositions by the leader and band members, as well as their versions of classics such as the opening "Milestones," "Watermelon Man." Liner notes by Bobby Sanabria provide further insight into the music. Weinstein himself comments that "Timbasa is my attempt to reinvigorate a 69-year-old body with the youthful energy of Cuba." Based on the evidence here, he may have discovered the Fountain of Youth. This is a joyful, enthralling album. Weinstein is generous in the amount of space he offers his band, and the musicians percolate with the interwoven rhythms of their native land.

CODA

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