The world of jazz lost a unique voice when violinist Billy Bang passed away recently. Sometimes marginalized because of his intensity and vision, he showed that, in Albert Ayler's words, "Music is the healing force of the universe." This was especially true as it relates to two of his final and perhaps most personal works, Vietnam: The Aftermath (2001) and Vietnam: Reflections (2005).
Louisville has had lots of good live jazz over the past few months. I didn't get to the U of L performances in last month's column. so here goes, along with some more recent performances here.
The University of Louisville's 2011 Jazz Fest took place on campus from February 23 – 26. Family commitments precluded me from seeing the first few nights. I made up for lost time, though, on Friday, February 25 with alto saxophonist Antonio Hart , and Saturday, February 26, with the Jeff Hamilton Trio . Hart played first with a faculty ensemble, consisting of pianist Jim Connerley, bassist Chris Fitzgerald, and drummer Jonathan Higgins. Hart dedicated his opening song to its composer and his mentor, the recently deceased James Moody. The trio began Moody's "Last Train from Overbrook" with an appropriately railway feel, which led to Hart's solo. Billy Strayhorn's warm ballad "Isfahan" was played as a sensitive duet with Hart and Fitzgerald virtually wrapping their notes around one another. "John Coltrane's "Like Sonny" featured lots of long lines and intense soloing. The group closed with a lithe, bossa nova influenced take on "Speak Low." After a mini-intermission, John LaBarbera led the U of L student Jazz Ensemble I (JEI) through a set including original Hart compositions, such as the Basie-sounding "Like My Own" (dedicated to Hart's godson), and "Down and Up," which Hart based on songs by "two of my biggest heroes," Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Hart and JEI closed with a ferocious arrangement of Charlie Parker's "Yardbird Suite," introduced by a remarkable Hart a cappella performance.
The following night found the JEI doing the opening honors, beginning with Sonny Rollins' "Airegin." Drummer Jeff Hamilton then joined JEI for a shuffle blues, "Reverence," written by Hamilton's longtime musical partner John Clayton and dedicated to "Reverend" Milt Jackson. Hamilton's trio mates, Tamir Hendelman on piano and Christoph Luty on bass, then replaced their student counterparts for the rest of the set. Together, the trio and JEI played a very soulful arrangement of Horace Silver's classic "Jody Grind." Hamilton demonstrated hs dexterity by switching from brushes to sticks and back to brushes on another blues, "Fifteen Minutes Late." Speed limits were broken by the musicians as they ripped their way through Sonny Stitt's "Eternal Triangle." The closing song, "Max," dedicated to a friend and arranged by Clayton, was seriously syncopated swing, with Hendelman adding a touch of stride to his solo. The trio, sans JEI, opened with a sensitive "Poinciana," followed by Hendelman's arrangement of "Fascinating Rhythm*," during which Hamilton took a melodic brush solo. During this more intimate set, Luty was able to show his versatility with beautiful arco playing and soloing on Claus Ogerman's " Symbiosis*" and a moving pizzicato solo on his arrangement of "I've Never Been in Love Before." Hamilton's "Samba de Martelo*," inspired by his work in Brazil with Diane Krall, was an uptempo stroll on the beach with the leader deftly switching back and forth from brushes to sticks, and even playing with his hand during a "trading fours" section with Luty. Two more standards, "Polka Dots and Moonbeams*" and "You Make Me Feel So Young*" led into a trio arrangement of the romping "Blues for Stephanie," which Hamilton said was the theme song for the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, which he has co-led for a quarter century. During the course of the night, Hamilton both discussed and demonstrated how he approaches drumming for big band and trio differently, in each set showing how to blend with, and when necessary, push, the music.
Hamilton's latest release isthe trio's 2009 Capri release, Symbiosis (* songs from this disc. ) He is also featured on the 2011 Capri CD, . . . Until the Sun Comes Up by organist Atsuko Hashimoto, which he also produced. Here he shows yet another facet of his versatility, in a classic organ trio setting (with guitarist Graham Dechter), as the group digs deep into a set of mostly standards ("All or Nothing at All," the grooving "Soul Station" and "Cherry"). The label's site is www.caprirecords.com. Also, Hendelman released his own trio outing, Destinations (www.resonancerecords.org), this past August. He is joined by bassist Marco Panascia and veteran drummer Lewis Nash, on a varied program of standards ("Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams"), pieces by more contemporary composers such as Makote Ozone ("BQE") and Fred Hersch ("Valentine"), and two originals spotlighting his roots ("Israeli Waltz" and "Baboushka").
Saxophonist Drew Miller presented an intriguing night of music on Thursday, March 31 at the Zanzabar. Quoting from an e-mail from Miller: "Along with my experimental fusion group OK Kino, a new tentet called D'arkestra will be premiering some music written and arranged for this night." The group featured the leader, together with Kris Eans - trumpet, Wade Honey - keys, Zack Kennedy - drums/percussion, Graeme Gardiner - alto sax, Charles Rivera – guitar, Nick Beach - drums, Nick Kuypers - bass, and Dan Moore - trombone. The tentet turned out to be a 9-piece, but the sound was full and energetic. Miller's writing and arrangements seemed to find common ground of forebears such as Frank Zappa, James Brown ("Sometimes It's Hard to Lose") and the Soft Machine ("Jazz First," the set closer.) "Cavalier Poet" allowed Moore to stretch out on trombone. After a break, OK Kino (Miller, Honey, Kuypers, Rivera, Beach) performed a set that mixed prog rock and fusion jazz influences. It's good to hear jazz-based musicians such as these guys pushing the boundaries with original material. It was a work night and getting late, so I couldn't hold out for all the second set. Although the instruments came through the sound system clearly, the vocal mike was hard to pick up, even during song and other announcements. OK Kino has a six-song demo EP which you can pick up (while supplies last) at their performances.
METTA QUINTET played to a small but appreciative audience at the Kentucky Country Day School Theater on April 8, in a concert co-sponsored by the U of L School of Music, the Louisville Jazz Society and KCD. The group is the resident ensemble of Brooklyn based JazzReach, and is the inaugural jazz act for KCD. Perhaps its best known member is saxophonist Marcus Strickland, who performed here in Louisville at U of L's 2005 Jazz Week as part of Roy Haynes' ensemble. The other members are Sharel Cassity – saxophone, David Bryant – Piano, Joshua Ginsburg – Bass, and Hans Schuman – Drums. Many of the pieces came from an educational program entitled "Big Drum/Small World." Interestingly, each piece during the concert began with a solo from a different musician. All the pieces were composed by current or former METTA members or their colleagues, with the exception of the beautifully played "Autumn in New York," a feature for Strickland. Schuman's intro to the opening piecde moved from funk to swing. Cassity's solo in "Cica" [sp?] led into a Latin feel for the ensemble. After several other pieces, METTA closed with the uptempo "10,000 Leagues," a piece by Ginsburg based on the changes of "How Deep Is the Ocean." All but Schuman soloed before the song, and the concert, came to a satisfying end. More information is available at www.jazzreach.org/metta-quintet.
The second long weekend of the 2011 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Thursday-Sunday, May 5-7 offers many jazz delights, including the seemingly immortal Sonny Rollins, Stefon Harris, Christian Scott, Delfeayo Marsalis, the Mingus Big Band, and many more. In addition, there are many high profile pop acts such as Gregg Allman and a farewell performance by the Radiators. Full information at: http://www.nojazzfest.com.
Temple Shalom will present Klezmerfest 2011 on Sunday, May 15, at the Iroquois Amphitheater. New York'sMargot Leverett and the Klezmer Mountain Boys are said to mix Klezmer and Bluegrass, which should be intriguing. Des Moines'Java Jews, the CincinnatiKlezmer Project, and Louisville'sLost Tribe andRiver City Klezmer Band round out the bill. More information is available at www.klezmerfest.org.
Monday June 6, Bellarmine opens its doors to the community for a concert featuring return visits by Gene Bertoncini and Jack Wilkins, to honor the beloved, late Louisville guitarist Jimmy Raney. More information here next month; you can get additional details now at bit.ly/jazzclinic.
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 May 9. The West Market Street Stompers will delight lovers of traditional jazz every 4th Monday, May 23 this time. The Derbytown Bones will perform a tribute to the work of Kai Winding and J. J. Johnsonon Monday, May 2. 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. Unfortunately, May listings were not available by deadline time.
The Blue Wisp Jazz Club in Cincinnati, 318 East Eighth St. (513-241-WISP), in addition to lots of local and regional talent, will feature, on Thursday, May 5, the NKU Latin Jazz Ensemble, followed by acclaimed percussionist Michael Spiro and the Latin Jazz Collective to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Saturday, May 7 brings the legendary multi-instrumentalist Ira Sullivan. 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. Unfortunately, May listings were not available by deadline time.
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).
Jane Ira Bloom: Wingwalker (www.janeirabloom.com) Saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom has long been one of the few jazz musicians to successfully incorporate subtle electronics into her work. On this new release, she is joined by pianist Dawn Clement (acoustic and electric), bassist Mark Helias, and drummer Bobby Previte. All the pieces are originals, except for Bloom's gentle a capella reading of "I Could Have Danced All Night." On the way to the dance, so to speak, she and her bandmates play confidently in several styles, ranging from mainstream to chamber jazz to funk explorations. I strongly recommend this to seekers of original modern jazz that does not venture into dissonance.
Lisa Hilton: Underground (www.lisahiltonmusic.com) Pianist Lisa Hilton has been recording and performing for years, but was unfortunately under my radar until recently. For this new album, she assembled a topnotch crew of like-minded musicians: bassist Larry Grenadier, drummer Nasheet Waits, and saxophonist J.D. Allen. Hilton's strong left hand reminds me of Randy Weston. Her compositions incorporate a wide range of influences, from New Orleans second-line ("Jack & Jill") to Gershwin and Monk ("Just a Little Past Midnight") to Satie ("B Minor Waltz"). "Boston + Blues" presents a lengthy musical conversation between Allen and Hilton, with subtle brushwork by Waits, and a deeply felt solo by Grenadier. This CD probes and explores, and bears repeated listening. She has produced a video for the title piece, which may be found on her website, and on youtube, if you want to hear a sample of her work.
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 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.
I am always interested in your comments. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.