I) Congratulations to Lauren and Leah, my daughters, who celebrated their B'nai Mitzvah on November 5! Lots of hard work, and I am so proud of them.
II) R.I.P., Paul Motian. The innovative and influential drummer passed away at the age of 80 on November 22. Making his early mark as part of the Bill Evans Trio, he went on to a long and creative career as both accompanist and leader. My review of his recent collaboration with Lee Konitz, Charlie Haden and Brad Mehldau, Live at Birdland (ECM) was published in LEO this past June.
The third in the Louisville Jazz Society's 2011-2012 Concert Series features the Harry Pickens Trio , with Chris Fitzgerald and Jason Tiemann. They will perform on Sunday, December 18, at 7 p.m., at the Kentucky Country Day School Theater. At deadline time, discussions were underway for a special after-concert meet'n'greet for LJS donors. Harry's many fans have long enjoyed his Christmas season performances, and this concert may sell out, so get your tickets early. Check us out, and please consider joining us and volunteering to help on our committees. Check our website, www.louisvillejazz.org, for ticket information and updates. Our series resumes on January 8, 2012, with a matinee (2:30 p.m.) concert at the Comedy Caravan by the Michael Tracy/Renato Vasconcellos Brazilian Group . We are also proud to work with Crescent Hill Radio, and our own Diego Palma is now hosting "The Sunday Sessions," 6-7 p.m., AM 1650 and www.crescenthillradio.com.
Dave Liebman , a multiple award winning saxophonist, bandleader, composer and educator, has played in a variety of styles over the years, from soul to electric fusion to avant-garde and more, with ensembles ranging from duos to big bands. For some two decades, he has returned repeatedly to the quartet format, with fellow travelers Vic Juris on acoustic and electric guitar, Tony Marino on acoustic and electric bass, and Marko Marcinko on drums. While Liebman has been here a few times over the last several years, it has been some five years since he last appeared with his working group. Thus, these musicians need not depend on standards and blues, but also perform originals, such as a lengthy exploration inspired by a trip to the Sahara some five years ago. Liebman introduced their version of "Night in Tunisia," by saying: "We like to take standards and destroy them. The Jazz Police are always looking over your shoulder." Apparently the Jazz Police were all on break, as the group performed without getting busted while overlaying exotic colors, blending acoustic and electric instruments, and generally proving once again the value of keeping a working ensemble together. Moving without a blink from the jazz standard to the world of modern classical music, the group played a movement from Olivier Messiaen's "Quartet for the End of Time." The entire evening was a testament to the importance of a longlasting music relationship.
After the concert, I bought a copy of Ornette Plus from the band. Available at concerts and by download (unfortunately in compressed mp3 only) , this CD (with the same lineup) tackles three early pieces by Ornette Coleman, plus a half-hour excursion on Juris' "Victim." It's a live recording from either 2010 (printed on the CD) or 2008-09 (www.daveliebman.com). The Coleman pieces are about ten minutes each, but the marvelous playing is such that they seem to end too quickly. "Turnaround" opens with the theme over funky drums, before moving into a hard charging blues shuffle with soulful solos by Liebman and Juris. "Lonely Woman" begins with spacey guitar washes, with cymbals and bass adding aural colors, before Liebman's wooden flute playing transforms the piece into a world music hybrid, seemingly evoking melancholy and serenity simultaneously. "Cross Breeding" features saxophone/guitar interplay that calls to mind the artistry of Coleman and his longtime associate, trumpet player Don Cherry, while using more modern electric sounds. "Victim" allows all the artists to stretch out, occasionally referencing themes that sound inspired by Coleman. This is a live followup to the award winning disc Turnaround: The Music of Ornette Coleman .
Blues harmonica wizard Rodney Hatfield, a/k/a the painter Art Snake, was clearly having a good time on Saturday, November 12, at the Bomhard Theater in the Kentucky Center. He was joined by kindred spirits, including guitarist/singer Mitch Ivanoff and keyboard player Lee Carroll, among others, with guests including jazz vocalist Gayle Winters and violinist Zach Brock. I had to leave to pick up my daughters some twenty minutes into the second set, which opened with a reading by Ed McClanahan, from his A Congress of Wonders , in the voice of character Philander Cosmo Rexroat, "B.S., M.S., Pee Aitch Dee," after which the Zach Brock Trio played. The first set began with the classic Bo Diddley stomper "Who Do You Love," and covered a wide range of material, from Wynters' sultry "You Don't Know What Love Is" to Zach Brock's work on Jimi Hendrix's "Third Stone from the Sun." But wait, there's more: Hatfield's evocative take on Tom Waits' "Chocolate Jesus," the band's delightfully goofy (as per Eric Burdon and War's original) "Spill the Wine," and a two-part "Turn on Your Love Light" which started as a s-l-o-w soulful blues before going into a Gospel fevered overdrive. I could imagine Pigpen admiring yet another version of this Bobby "Blue" Bland standard. To quote from cultural icon Jed Clampett, "Whee doggies!"
On Sunday, November 13, the spirit of the legendary guitarist Django Reinhardt was celebrated at Bellarmine University's Wyatt Hall, (there had been classes earlier in the day). I was running late and thus, regrettably, missed most of opening act Gypsy deVille, which featured concert and workshop promoter Ben Andrews on guitar. Franglais, from Brooklyn, followed, in a cabaret style performance which featured Eve Seltzer – vocals, her husband Ben Wood – rhythm guitar, Justin Lees – lead guitar, and Piruz Partow – bass. They swung mightily on their first song, a fast take on "For Once in My Life," and entertained the crowd with a varied repertoire which even included Lady Gaga's "Paparazzi." Near the end of the set, Lees "turned it up to 11" on a blues-drenched version of "Boulevard of Dreams." Parisian guitarist Adrien Moignard and Great Britain native violinist Ben Powell, closed the evening, with support from Wood and Partow. A few of the song endings seemed stretched a bit, with Powell musically teasing Moignard into "one more one," but their virtuosity was undeniable. Highlights were Reinhardt's "Coquette" and a jazz take on Fauré's "Pavane." I had to leave as all the musicians came on stage to perform the standard "All of Me." Here's hoping that Andrews' dedication to this music will lead to further Django Jamborees over the years.
Indiana University Southeast (IUS) in New Albany continues its Just Jazz Series with a holiday concert by up Jane Monheit , on Friday, December 2, 2011, 7:30 p.m.. For ticket information, as well as many other upcoming performances, both jazz and other styles, go to www.ius.edu/oglecenter/pdf/SeasonBrochure.pdf.
Louisville will host the Jazz Education Network Third Annual Conference, from January 4-7. The program includes workshops, concerts by local, regional and national artists. For more information, the website is: www.jazzednet.org/1/en/node/1183.
It's not too early to start planning for the University of Louisville's concert series in February. The lineup is: guitarist Lionel Loueke , February. 3, 2012 (Loueke performed here with Herbie Hancock in August of 2010). U of L Jazz Fest, February 23-25: February 23: Fabio Calazans Sextet , Brazilian Ensemble; February 24: legendary bassist Eddie Gomez with his trio and Jazz Ensemble I, directed by John La Barbera; and February 25: master saxophonist Lou Donaldson with his quartet and Jazz Ensemble I, directed by John La Barbera. More information is available at http://louisville.edu/music/degrees/undergraduate/jazz/jazz-studies-program.
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 will perform on Monday December 19. Please contact the club for any post-deadline information.
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; Squeeze-bot is on hiatus; check the club for updates or changes.
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 December schedule includes a black tie tribute on December 21 to David Baker, who celebrates his 80th birthday. David Baker: A Legacy in Music has just been issued, primarily written by pianist and former Baker student Monika Herzig has recently been published.
The Blue Wisp Jazz Club in Cincinnati, 318 East Eighth St. (513-241-WISP), in December, features lots of local and regional talent. Wednesdays remain the province of The Blue Wisp Big Band. For details and the full schedule, the website is: www.thebluewisp.com.
The Redmoor , Mt. Lookout Square, 3187 Linwood Avenue, in Cincinnati, 513-871-6789, www.jazzincincy.com. December listings were unavailable at deadline time.
Please sign up for updated local jazz listings : The Louisville Jazz Society provides weekly e-mail updates for local jazz happenings. Be sure to sign up for the e-mail "Louisville Jazz Society's Jazz Insider" at www.louisvillejazz.org. 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 print and online, www.louisvillemusicnews.net
'Tis the season and all that, so here are a few new jazz Christmas recordings for your consideration. If there are any new Hanukkah jazz or Klezmer releases, nobody told me. Ellis Marsalis: A New Orleans Christmas Carol (ELM 19790, www.ellismarsalis.com) finds the patriarchal pianist in settings ranging from solo to ensembles, with a few numbers featuring vocalists, as well. In addition to such traditional pieces as "God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen" and "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear," Marsalis also plays the wistful "Charlie Brown" classic "Christmas Time Is Here." Interestingly, Marsalis includes the Thad Jones classic, "A Child Is Born," as does fellow pianist Geri Allen on her new CD of the same name, A Child is Born (Motéma Music MTM-69, www.motema.com). Allen takes a different approach, utilizing only her own keyboards, plus occasional singing and narration by others. In addition to the title track, Allen covers traditional songs (two versions of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel"), her own arrangements of the Ethiopian "Imagining Gena at Sunrise and Sunset," and more. The cover art is especially beautiful. Last for this roundup is a Tony Bennett anthology featuring 18 seasonal songs from his prior releases, The Classic Christmas Album (Rp.m./Columbia/Legacy, www.legacyrecordings.com). The titles were all chosen by the iconic singer, with five going back to 1968 (such as "Winter Wonderland"), while the rest were recorded between 1998 and 2008, including "The First Noel," a duet with Placido Domingo. The backings range from lush orchestrations to jazz combo, and include selections from the non-holiday recording The Playground . Happy 85th Birthday, Tony!
Jake Hertzog: Evolution (Buckyball, www.buckyballmusic.com) Young guitarist Jake Hertzog continues to blaze a fusion trail with a program of nine originals plus a cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Streets of Philadelphia." He is joined by his stellar trio of Victor Jones on drums and Harvie S [Swartz] on bass. One might pose the rhetorical question, is this jazz-influenced rock, or rock-influenced jazz? It doesn't really matter, as Hertzog and company burn through "Don't Bother," with what I hear as nods to Jimi Hendrix and Larry Coryell; go for some Latin flavoring with Grateful Dead "space" in the middle on "Firefly," and a slamming "Timeline." The Springsteen song slows the pace, and is played beautifully. The only other ballad is "Sleep Close;" otherwise, this Guitar Player magazine columnist ("Hey Jazz Guy") keeps it upbeat.
Wynton Marsalis: Swinging Into the 21st ( Sony Legacy, www.legacyrecordings.com ) This 11 disc box includes some of my favorite Wynton, with the Septet, plus other varied projects from the 1990s, an incredibly prolific period in his life. It's hard to remember that when Wynton Marsalis came up through the ranks from Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, he was signed to Columbia's classical and jazz divisions. The music here includes recordings which reflect his multifaceted talent, with classical leaning works such as A Fiddler's Tale , At the Octoroon Balls & A Fiddler's Tale Suite , and the 2-CD All Rise , a collaboration with The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra [now the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, JALCO] and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The more straightforward jazz albums include two from his Standard Time series, Plays Monk and Mr. Jelly Lord . The jazz ballets contained on Sweet Release & Ghost Story feature the full orchestra on the first piece, and a smaller ensemble drawn from it on the second. I am particularly fond of two of the discs released in the original series of "Swinging Into the 21st" albums, Big Train and Reeltime . Both combine conceptual programming with, well, good old-fashioned swing. The only drawback to this, and the many recent and forthcoming Legacy box set reissues, is the lack of the original liner notes. The booklet here contains an essay by Wynton Marsalis, but in a tiny, eye-straining font. While these box sets are reasonably priced, they are not cheap, and it seems to me that the extra expense to include the original notes, in legible size, would greatly enhance the value of these sets in an era of downloading.
Grateful Dead: Road Trips Vol. 4 No. 5 : Boston 6-9-76 (GRA2-6022, www.dead.net) This 3-CD set marks the end of the Dead's "Road Trips" series, and dead.net has announced a forthcoming new archival series, "Dave's Picks" (for David Lemieux, the successor to Dick Latvala). This concert, part of a 4-night run at the Boston Music Hall, finds the band refreshed after their year-plus touring hiatus. Drummer Mickey Hart had returned to the fold, and Donna Godchaux apparently had better stage monitors, resulting in more reliable lead and harmony vocals. The first set, normally a songs-not-jams warmup, actually includes extrapolations on "Scarlet Begonias" and the then-new "Crazy Fingers." The second set starts with a revived "St. Stephen" and moves into the very jazzy Latin groove of "Eyes of the World," with focused jamming (not an oxymoron) for 17 minutes. The set concludes on the third disc, with their revised take on "Dancing in the Street." Even the liner notes, as well as many fan comments, mention the "disco" sound of this arrangement; apparently I am in a minority of thinking that this is more funk than disco, and stretches out nicely for 12 minutes with Garcia, Weir and Lesh playing off the rhythms of Hart and Kreutzmann. The third disc also includes filler from June 12, but in my opinion the choices could have been better – we have countless versions of "Sunshine Daydream," but the setlists posted for the other shows on this run indicate that more jamming vehicles could have been chosen. In any event, this is a fine way to conclude the series.
With two thirteen-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 email@example.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, firstname.lastname@example.org, 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: email@example.com, guitarist Jeff Sherman;
RON JONES: www.ronjonesquartet.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, saxophonist Ron Jones;
STEVE CREWS: www.jazzcrews.com, email@example.com, pianist Steve Crews.
1) I am always interested in your comments. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.