Pianist and composer George Shearing died at age 91 of congestive heart failure. His best-known song, 1952's “Lullaby of Birdland,” appears on over 1200 recordings, according to www.allmusic.com. Born in London, he relocated to the USA in 1947, and pursued a long and successful career. He maintained a low profile for a while in the 1960s and 1970s, before returning to public attention with a series of excellent recordings for Concord and Telarc over the past three decades.
As noted in my January column, Jake Shimabukuro is not a jazz artist per se, but his solo and virtually sold-out ukelele concert on Friday, January 28 at the Bomhard Theater was nonetheless a delight. Much of the material came from his new CD, Peace Love Ukulele (Hitchhike Records, www.jakeshimabukuro.com), such as covers of Leonard Cohen (“Hallelujah”) and Queen (“Bohemian Rhapsody”). Those pieces, and others such as Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” made clear that Shimabukuro is stretching the concept of what constitutes ukelele music. He prefaced his songs with narratives that helped to place the artist and his music into a very personal light. Two of the loveliest pieces were “Sakura, Sakura,” and “Blue Roses Falling,” both of which are on his 2009 CD, simply entitled Live. He introduced his version of the Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” by remarking on how its popularity on youtube led to a new phase in his career. He closed with the ever-faster “Crazy G,” during which his strumming was so fast that his arm became a blur. Among the many fans, both new and established, were a number of ukelele players, who brought their instruments for Shimabukuro to autograph. My daughter Lauren was pleased to have him sign the BackStage Pass article I wrote on him, as he encouraged her to work hard on her guitar playing.
Guitarist Frank Vignola has too much fun onstage to be as serious about his music as he obviously is. This has been evident in his prior appearances at the Jazz Factory, and was again on display at his recent concert at Indiana University Southeast’s Ogle Center, in New Albany. Vignola’s longtime colleague Vinnie Raniolo shared guitar duties with the leader, and they were joined by accordionist Julien Labro and bassist Andrew Kratzat. All but Kratzat were on Vignola’s 100 Years of Django, reviewed here in March 2010, and naturally many of the pieces performed were from that album. However, it is unlikely that famed Gypsy guitarist Reinhardt would ever have performed a medley of “Tico Tico > Stairway To Heaven > Gypsy Mania.” Yes, that “Stairway.” Oh, and don’t forget the Motown-inspired dance steps which the musicians broke out from time to time. Despite the setting on a college campus and the title of “Celebrating 100 Years of Django Reinhardt,” this was no dry lecture with musical accompaniment. Rather, it was a concert in celebration of not just Reinhardt, but of musical inclusiveness. To be sure, the quartet displayed its awesome chops on Reinhardt classics such as “Nuages” and “Rhythm Futur,” but they expanded the musical palette by including Frank Zappa’s “Lemme Take You to the Beach” (a request, recorded on Vignola’s 2008 Kong Man CD), and the Roberta Flack hit “Killing Me Softly with His Song.” A tip of the hat to another jazz guitarist, Johnny Smith, came through Vignola’s spirited rendition of the Ventures’ big hit, “Walk, Don’t Run.” All in all, this was a delightful evening, courtesy of the IUS Global Village series. Here’s hoping for a sooner-than-later return of Vignola to Louisville, perhaps as a guest with the Bellarmine Jazz Guitar Clinic.
Will Fisher is a drummer/composer, originally from Nova Scotia, Canada, currently at the University of Louisville working on his Masters. He is performing at U of L on March 8 with his Coastal Quintet at 8:30 p.m. in Bird Hall. It will consist of mostly original compositions blending Jazz, ECM and World Music. The band, drawing from all over the US, Canada and Australia, will feature Kris Eans on Trumpet, John Arstingstall on Guitar, Noah Barker on Piano and Luke McIntosh on Bass, as well as special guest musicians on a few songs. For more info, please check out: www.myspace.com/willfisherdrums.
Noted percussionist and bandleader Cyro Baptista returns to the area with a performance at the Ogle Center on the campus of Indiana University Southeast (IUS), on Friday, April 8. He blew away the audience at the Kentucky Center in April of 2007, in a concert which I reviewed here in the June 2007 issue. To quote myself, the musicians took the stage “swirling fluorescent whirligigs before launching into a percussion assault, evoking images of Sun Ra jamming with the Rhythm Devils.” Baptista’s newest band is called Cyro Baptista and the Banquet of the Spirits. More information is available at http://ius.edu/oglecenter/serieslist.cfm?series=Global Village.
N’awlins’ own Trombone Shorty brings his high energy second-line funk to Headliners on Saturday, April 2. For additional information, check www.tromboneshorty.com and www.headlinerslouisville.com.
It’s time to plan for the 2011 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, taking place Friday-Sunday, April 29-May 1, and Thursday-Sunday, May 5-7. The Ron Carter Trio with Mulgrew Miller and Russell Malone, Ahmad Jamahl, and the seemingly immortal Sonny Rollins are musicians who need no further verbiage from me. Other jazz highlights include Anat Cohen, Ivan Lins, Nicholas Payton, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and so many more. In addition, there are many high profile pop acts such as Arcade Fire and Bon Jovi. Full information at: http://www.nojazzfest.com.
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 14. The West Market Street Stompers will delight lovers of traditional jazz every 4th Monday, March 28 this time. A new addition to the jazz lineup is Edmonds Jazz Quartet, on the 1st Monday, March 7. 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, and was featuring Squeeze-bot on Sundays; 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. March shows were not available by deadline time, except for Sunday the 11th, when bassist Christian McBride brings his band.
The Blue Wisp Jazz Club in Cincinnati, 318 East Eighth St. (513-241-WISP), is featuring local and regional talent during March, with the exception of Friday, March 11, when saxophonist Greg Abate joins the Phil DeGreg Trio. On Thursday, March 24, there is a tentative concert by Grammy nominated guitarist Julian Lage. That Friday and Saturday the 25th and 26th are trombonist Dennis Wilson and guitarist Wilbert Longmire, respectively. 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. As of deadline time, March special features were not available, although there is always lots of local and regional talent.
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).
Miles Davis: Bitches Brew Live(Sony Legacy) This new CD offers the previously unreleased “mini-set” (complete at only 24 minutes) from Miles Davis’ 1969 Newport Jazz Festival appearance, plus his concert the following year at the Isle of Wight Festival. At Newport, Miles’ band was Chick Corea, Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette (Wayne Shorter was stuck in traffic and didn’t make the gig). At the Wight concert, the personnel was Gary Bartz, Keith Jarrett and Chick Corea, Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette, and Airto Moreira. The Wight performance was released on DVD in 2004 as Miles Electric: A Different Kind of Blue, which I reviewed in the April 2005 Louisville Jazz Society Newsletter. In short, it is blistering, deep s&^%. At Newport, Miles played two songs from the still-to-be-recorded Bitches Brew: “Miles Runs the Voodoo Down” (10:27), which segues into a mellow interlude, Shorter’s “Sanctuary,” and concludes with an intense take of “It's About That Time,” closing with “The Theme.” With these two concert recordings, it is abundantly clear that Miles’ adoption of electric instruments and funk rhythms was no “sellout” - the music remains challenging to this day.
Grateful Dead: Road Trips Vol. 4 No. 2: April Fools' 88 (GRA2-6019, www.dead.net) The Dead were at their improvisational peak during the first half of their career, from 1965-80. The final fifteen years resulted in many new fans and increasingly larger venues, but in many cases found them treading water. Fortunately, this new archival release shows they could still find their collective way through the darkness in their final decade. This 3-CD set includes all of the April 1, 1988 concert, excerpts from the first set of the prior night’s first set, and all of the March 31 second set. By this time, the two-set format was predictably “songs” in the first set and “jams” in the second. Of particular interest here is the inclusion of the Dead’s rare cover of Dylan’s “Ballad of a Thin Man,” as well as his “When I Paint My Masterpiece,” and the concluding songs from the March 31 show, “All Along the Watchtower” and the encore, “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” The band shows its collective improvisational talents on the medley of “Scarlet Begonias>Fire on the Mountain,” (3/31) and “Estimated Prophet>Eyes of the World” (4/1). An unexpectedly (for me at least) enjoyable release.
John Scofield: New Morning: The Paris Concert (Inakustic DVD, www.in-akustik.com) Guitarist John Scofield’s new concert release shows the master playing his edgy take on straightahead jazz, accompanied by drummer Bill Stewart, bassist Ben Street and pianist/keyboardist Michael Eckroth. This 2&1/4 hour presentation includes Sco’s interpretations of such classics as Dizzy’s “Woody ’n’ You” and Bird’s “Relaxin’ at Camarillo,” as well as new takes on his own repertoire, with a burning version of “Groove Elation” finding the leader and Eckroth doubling lines. Sco’s fans won’t need anything more than the fact of this DVD’s release to pick up on this, while jazz fans in general will appreciate the versatility of this master guitarist.
With two twelve-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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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, email@example.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: firstname.lastname@example.org, guitarist Jeff Sherman;
RON JONES: www.ronjonesquartet.com, email@example.com, saxophonist Ron Jones;
STEVE CREWS: www.jazzcrews.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, pianist Steve Crews.
I am always interested in your comments. Contact me at email@example.com.