Martin Z. Kasdan Jr.

Jazzin'
By Martin Z. Kasdan Jr.

PRELUDE:

I) Congratulations to Lauren and Leah, my daughters, who will celebrate their B'nai Mitzvah this month! Lots of hard work, and I am so proud of them.

II) I have had the good fortune to interview many wonderful musicians over the years, with Bucky Pizzarelli being the most recent one (posted online briefly, www.downbeat.com). Almost invariably, I come away from such encounters with greater respect than I already had for the musician, as well a deeper appreciation of the artist's music. Thanks to LMN guru Paul Moffett for helping me to get my foot in the door.

LOUISVILLE JAZZ SOCIETY NEWS: CONCERT SERIES CONTINUES

The second in our 2011-2012 Concert Series features Jamey Aebersold in a matinee (2:30 PM) performance on Sunday, November 20 at the Comedy Caravan (see listings below for venue information). At deadline time, discussions were underway to allow minors to attend this performance. Our website is www.louisvillejazz.org. Our own Diego Palma is now hosting "The Sunday Sessions," 6-7 PM on Crescent Hill Radio, AM 1650 and www.crescenthillradio.com. Check us out, and please consider joining us and volunteering to help on our committees.

RECENT CONCERTS

JAZZ AT LINCOLN CENTER ORCHESTRA WITH WYNTON MARSALIS

Wynton Marsalis is celebrating his 50th birthday this year by, among other things, touring with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (JALCO). (Another birthday offering for fans is a new boxed 11-disc set of albums from 1999-2000, collectively titled Swinging Into The 21st .) Marsalis and JALCO brought their polished big band sounds to a well-filled Whitney Hall at the Kentucky Center on Sunday, September 25. During the first set, JALCO performed many pieces written for them based on interpretations of visual art, beginning with a trilogy by Doug Wamble based on the work of Stuart Davis. Another guitarist, Bill Frisell, wrote "Homer Waltz" and "Homer Blues," inspired by Winslow Homer. JALCO took a break from this theme with a Monk piece and "Mood Indigo," before ending with a Mondrian-inspired composition entitled "The Repose in all Things," by Tim Armacost. The second half of the concert presented works by leader Marsalis, including excerpts from "Blood on the Fields," "Congo Square," and a personal favorite, "Big Train," which evoked the feel of a locomotive with synchronized foot stomping. The band also tossed in a humorous version of "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" to lighten the feel. The encore was an untitled (or at least unannounced) blues, providing musical and emotional release for the band and audience. For a large ensemble, JALCO has seen very little in the way of personnel changes over the years. This results in a feel of both personal and musical camaraderie as they perform, as well as virtually guaranteeing that any performance will be played at the highrest level. Despite frequent interruptions from a too-proud-of-himself loudmouth in the audience, Marsalis and company maintained their integrity.

BUCKY PIZZARELLI AT U OF L

Guitar Legend Bucky Pizzarelli charmed and dazzled a full house at University of Louisville's Bird Recital Hall on Sunday, October 16. I had the honor and pleasure of interviewing the artist for a briefly posted online piece at www.downbeat.com (e-mail me [below] if you missed it and I will send you a copy). He brought out a stellar performance by Louisville's first call bassist and drummer Chris Fitzgerald and Jason Tiemann, who were visibly delighted to be performing with Pizzarelli. Pizzarelli's advice to students regarding "learning classical guitar, rhythm and electric solos," came through in his versatile approach to playing. Opening with the ballad "If I Had You," Pizzarelli then rocked "Tangerine," sticking essentially to chords, but playing melodically, not just as a "rhythm guitarist." It was during this song that Fitzgerald and Tiemann began to grin broadly, and maintained an even closer rapport with one another and their guest than usual. When the trio took on "Street of Dreams," tempo shifts came so naturally that one would have thought they had rehearsed at length.

After a take on "In a Mellow Tone," Pizzarelli gave the young guys a break by exquisitely soloing on two Richard Rodgers songs, "Easy to Remember" and "This Never Was Mine." Bass and drums returned for a medley of "Stars in Your Eyes" and "Nuages," the latter of which featured Pizzarelli taking a double time chord solo with Fitzgerald and Tiemann holding rock steady underneath. "Let's do your song." Pizzarelli said, pointing to Tiemann, as they launched into a Benny Goodman medley of "Sing, Sing, Sing" (with a drum solo) and "'Stompin' At The Savoy" (both featured on Pizzarelli's new disc with his son John, Family Fugue [Arbors Records]). Guitarist Pat Lentz, a former member of Steve Ferguson's Midwest Creole Ensemble and a fine jazz guitarist, joined the trio for "Moonlight in Vermont." "Satin Doll" and "Honeysuckle Rose" were lovingly reinterpreted by the trio, and an encore of "Body and Soul" (also on Family Fugue ) concluded with a remarkable display of dynamics, as Pizzarelli brought his solo to a hushed whisper before the musicians took their well-earned second ovation.

BIG ROCK JAZZ AND BLUES FESTIVAL

The Kentuckiana Blues Society and the Louisville Jazz Society were among the sponsors of the Highlands Neighborhood Association's Big Rock Jazz and Blues Festival, on a gorgeous Sunday, October 2. The blues portion of the equation was ably handled by the Stella Vees , who maintained a righteous groove while evoking the heyday of electric Chicago blues. An expanded edition of FattLabb was up next, with saxophonist Tim Whalen adding colors to the bass and drums of the McDaniel brothers, Pat on bass and Tony on trumpet, along with evocative slide guitarist Stephen Couch, and drummer Jesse Hall. The concert closed with a rare "Piano Summit," featuring two grand pianos, and led by Harry Pickens . The artists also included Phil DeGreg from Cincinnati, Luke Gillespie from Indiana University and Steve Allee from Indianapolis, plus bassist Frank Smith and drummer Kenny Phelps, also from Indy. The arrangement allowed each pianist ample solo time, as well as opportunities to play with their colleagues. For example, Allee and Gillespie complemented each other well on the standard "You and the Night and the Music," before Gillespie launched into his self-proclaimed "derangement" of "What Is This Thing Called Love." Pickens was the epitome of elegant improvisation on "The Shadow of Your Smile," while Allee and DeGreg entertained both the audience and each other as they swung through "Have You Met Miss Jones." All four pianists shared the two benches for a finale of "Caravan," for a rousing conclusion to a beautiful day in the park.

THE MILES DAVIS EXPERIENCE AT IUS

" The Miles Davis Experience ," was the first presentation in the Indiana University Southeast 2011-12 "Just Jazz" series at Ogle Hall on October 4. In may ways this multi-media concert lived up to its press release of presenting "the historical and cultural context of the most noted and accessible Miles Davis tracks from 1949 and continuing through his Blue Note years, culminating in his masterpiece and commercial breakout, Kind of Blue ." The tribute featured rising star trumpet player Ambrose Akinmusire , with his working group of Walter Smith III, tenor; Sam Harris, piano; Harish Raghavan, bass; Justin Brown, drums. The production was conceived and executed by Donald E. Lacy, Jr., who provided the narration. While period pieces such as "'Round Midnight" and "Blue in Green" were performed, they were thoroughly updated by Akinmusire and his ensemble. To me, this evoked the spirit of Miles' restless searching and reinvention, but seemed just a step removed from a tribute wherein the pieces are presented with more of a semblance to their original incarnations. Neither inherently good nor bad, I think that more song announcements and explanations of what was being played might have been more in keeping with a presentation seeking to not only please the cognoscenti, but to reach out to the jazz newbies. Understand, please, the musicianship was superb; the ensemble played with verve and imagination. Additionally, the poetry and onscreen images did help to capture the era. I simply raise the question as to whether this production really brought the curious into the fold.

ON THE HORIZON

SINGER SOMI AT IUS

Indiana University Southeast (IUS) in New Albany continues its Just Jazz Series (which presented the Miles Davis Experience, above), with a concert by up-and-coming singer Somi , on Friday, November 4. As I was not previously familiar with her, I learned from her website and good ol' Wikipedia that she is an American singer with African roots. She has worked with Hugh Masekela and incorporates influences from jazz, soul and Africa in her performance. For ticket information, as well as many other upcoming performances, both jazz and other styles, go to www.ius.edu/oglecenter/pdf/SeasonBrochure.pdf. Her website is www.somimusic.com.

DJANGO JAMBOREE: 2011 AT BELLARMINE

I just got word of this, so I will just pull some information from the press release: On Sunday, November 13, 2011, at Bellarmine University's Wyatt Hall, there will be classes from noon to five and a free concert at 7:30. Artists/teachers include Parisian guitarist Adrien Moignard, violinist Ben Powell, and Franglais of Brooklyn, NY. Please contact Ben Andrews at 502-552-5174 or ramcat@mac.com for further information and details.

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 normally performs the second Monday of each month, which falls on November 14; however, the club's website shows Krekel the following Monday, the 21st. So, as the old saying goes, call before you haul. 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 November schedule includes, on the 12th, Scott Pazera & Pure Imagination featuring Fareed Haque ; guitarist Corey Christiansen the 18th; and Bobby Broom's Deep Blue Organ Trio (whose Stevie Wonder tribute, Wonderful , was reviewed here in September) on the 26th.

The Blue Wisp Jazz Club in Cincinnati, 318 East Eighth St. (513-241-WISP), in October features lots of local and regional talent, plus national acts as follows: Bobby Broom's Deep Blue Organ Trio (whose Stevie Wonder tribute, Wonderful , was reviewed here in September) on November 4-5. 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. November 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

EIGHTH NOTES: NEW ALBUMS BY PIANISTS CRAIG TABORN, ALAN PASQUA AND KENNY WERNER

Craig Taborn: Avenging Angel (ECM 2207, www.ecmrecords.com) Pianist Craig Taborn has worked with artists ranging from James Carter to Roscoe Mitchell, while spearheading projects under his own name for some two decades. Avenging Angel , his first release for ECM, is an album of solo piano improvisations. While the title track evokes the blues, without being a straight blues, many of the pieces seem to capture the darkness of the album title. "The Broad Day King" opens the album with soft, delicate work which builds in intensity. "True Life Near" sounds more structured and classically influenced. "Forgetful," near the end of the CD, is slow and beautiful. Throughout the 13 songs, covering more than 72 minutes, I hear not so much the style but the sense of openness to the moment that fellow ECM artist Keith Jarrett brings to his solo flights.

Alan Pasqua: Twin Bill: Two Piano Music of Bill Evans (BFM Jazz, www.bfmjazz.com) Pianist Alan Pasqua's new release is, as the title implies, a tribute to Bill Evans in which Pasqua overdubs himself for the two-piano effect. Oddly, neither the artist's liner notes nor the press release refer to Evans' own groundbreaking albums of overdubbed piano works, 1963's Conversations with Myself and its 1967 followup, Further Conversations with Myself . Nonetheless, Pasqua attains his expressed goal of ". . . find[ing] a way to play without wearing the listener (me) out. Orchestrating the pianos not to conflict . . . but rather to peacefully coexist . . . was my priority." The 61-minute program is, of course, primarily given over to Pasqua's interpretations of Evans material, beginning with "Very Early" and includes such other timeless Evans compositions as the gorgeous "Time Remembered" and the probing "Turn Out the Stars." Pasqua throws in an unexpected version of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," offering his rendition of a song he hopes Evans would appreciate. Other non-Evans pieces include Miles Davis' "Nardis," "Gloria's Step" by Evans' bassist Scott LaFaro, and the closing Pasqua original, "Grace," whose delicacy lives up to its title and provides a fitting close to this homage.

Kenny Werner: Balloons: Live at the Blue Note (Half Note 4546, www.bluenote.net/newyork) Kenny Werner has been a welcome guest artist in Louisville for many years, seen here most recently in March 2010, in concert with Toots Thielemans. On Balloons , recorded just a month later at the famed New York nightspot, Werner enlists a topflight crew: trumpeter Randy Brecker, saxophonist David Sanchez, bassist John Patitucci, and drummer Antonio Sanchez. They stretch out on four compositions over the course of this 54-minute recording. "Sada" opens with a gentle yet insistent pulse, Werner's piano probing as the drums and cymbals dance under his subsequent solo. "Siena" follows, evoking some of the more composed mid-60's Blue Note label works such as Lee Morgan's "Search for the New Land." Brecker's trumpet and Sanchez's saxophone are worthy foils for one another. The title piece was written when Werner's late daughter was just four or five, and helium balloons were part of her birthday celebrations. Werner's unaccompanied introduction lasts some four delightful minutes before his bandmates join, capturing the feel of floating balloons. The trumpet soars, the sax builds into an intense climax, and the group finally, like a spent balloon, comes back to earth. "Class Dismissed" begins with a Werner countdown, leading into an exciting finale. As I write this, I have learned that this album is being considered for a Grammy for Best Jazz Instrumental Album. In a strong field, this is certainly a well deserved honor for Werner and company.

LOCAL JAZZ CONTACTS

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 mzkjr@yahoo.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, 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

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