Martin Z. Kasdan Jr.

By Martin Z. Kasdan Jr.


I. R.I.P. Jazz at the Seelbach

Sadly, Dick Sisto's long-running gig at the Seelbach is ending. He offered free jazz for decades at the Seelbach Hotel, and usually featured Tyrone Wheeler on bass and Jason Tiemann on drums, along with many guest musicians. According to an e-mail from Tiemann, later quoted in LEO, "... after numerous years of LEO reader's poll 'best place to hear live jazz' and almost 30 years of live music in downtown Louisville, the Seelbach will silence music in their bar. I believe that it is a heartbreaking tragedy to the arts scene in Louisville as there are very few places to hear real live jazz in the entire region." Some of my favorite memories include Sisto hosting saxophonist Dave Liebman, fellow vibraphonist Dave Samuels, and many of the artists who taught and performed at Jamey Aebersold's Summer Jazz Workshops. Additionally, I felt fortunate to be there on April 1, 1996 for a rare concert by John Abercrombie and Andy LaVerne, subsequently released as Where We Were, on Jamey Aebersold's Doubletime Records. As the print edition of this issue will likely hit the street before the final weekend of January, I urge you to come out to support Sisto and company one last time in this historic setting.

II. R.I.P. Johnny Otis and Etta James

Entrepreneur, musician, and talent scout Johnny Otis ("Willie and the Hand Jive") and the great singer Etta James ("At Last," "Tell Mama") passed away only days apart in January. Otis discovered James and helped her reach fame with the answer to Hank Ballard's "Work with Me, Annie," "Roll with Me, Henry." Otis himself had an early hit with "Harlem Nocturne" and made stars of other artists, including "Little" Esther Phillips. Back in 1980 I first saw Etta James at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, my first Fest after leaving Tulane in 1971. I still have fond memories of dancing in ankle-deep mud to her rendition of Randy Newman's "You Can Leave Your Hat On." Whew!



After previewing the Jazz Education Network's Third Annual Conference here and in LEO, DownBeat posted my followup coverage at


The Michael Tracy/Renato Vasconcellos Brazilian Group proved that the concepts of fun and education can not only peacefully coexist, but complement one another. The ensemble did a workshop at the Jazz Education Network (JEN) Conference, and played the fourth concert in the Louisville Jazz Society's 2011-2012 Concert Series on Sunday, January 8, at the Comedy Caravan. So many people came to the Comedy Caravan performance that extra chairs and tables had to be set up. At JEN, both leaders discussed the interplay of American jazz and the styles of Brazilian music, interspersing their remarks with lots of musical examples. Tracy commented on how, when in Brazil, he was told that he could understand the feel better by thinking rhythmically in "twos" rather than "fours," thus helping him to solo better in the Brazilian styles.

The band, with Tracy on saxes, Vasconcellos on piano, Pat Lentz on guitar, Pablo Souza on bass, Bruno "Gafanhoto" Souza and Lournenço Vasconcellos (Renato's son) on drums and percussion played two sets at the Caravan. Several pieces were by the noted Brazilian musician and composer Hermeto Pascoal, including the opening samba "Vivo o Rio de Janeiro." Another Pascoal composition, "Santo António," was preceded by the players marching through the audience, seemingly a cousin to the New Orleans second line parades. In the second set, Tracy introduced the American Songbook classic "Speak Low," by saying the group had "Brazilianized it," and indeed they had. For contrast, the following song was the Jobim composition "Fotografia," arranged as swing rather than bossa nova. The encore was the fast-paced "Lôro," by Egberto Gismonti. Throughout the two sets, it was clear that the energy of Brazilian music and the improvisation of American jazz made for an exciting blend. Vasconcellos' electric piano sounded just right, not like a "wannabe" acoustic piano. Lentz's guitar work ranged from subtle comping to on-the-money solos. Tracy's explorations on both tenor and soprano saxes showed he had, indeed, internalized the lessons learned from his travels in Brazil. The younger musicians, exchange students from Brazil, demonstrated the chops that brought them to the University of Louisville to further their studies.



If it's February, then it's time for the University of Louisville's concert series, dubbed Jazz Fest. The lineup is: guitarist Lionel Loueke , on Friday, February 3. (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


The Comedy Caravan , 1250 Bardstown Road, Louisville, KY 40204, 502-459-0022, has long been a venue for quality musical acts. The Don Krekel Orchestra will perform on Monday February 20, 2012. Please contact the club for any post-deadline information.

The Nachbar (969 Charles Street, 502-637-4377,, features Vamp (saxophonist Jacob Duncan, drummer Jason Tiemann and a revolving crew of bassists) every Wednesday; check the club for updates or changes. The club also has a Facebook page with occasional updates.

The Jazz Kitchen (5377 N College Ave., Indianapolis, IN 46220; phone: 317-253-4900;, presents nightly offerings of local and regional jazz; check the website for the full schedule and updates. Some road trips might be advised for Duke Robillard on February 20; and the Wolff & Clark Expedition , with pianist Michael Wolff, drummer Mike Clark, and saxophonist Steve Wilson, on February 25.

The Blue Wisp Jazz Club in Cincinnati, long located at 318 East Eighth St., is movi­+ng to 700 Race St. (513-241-WISP). The all-star lineup of Benny Golson, Mike LaDonne, Buster Williams and Carl Allen will close out the month on February 26, and the following Friday March 2 features the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey . The rest of the month features local and regional talent. Wednesdays remain the province of The Blue Wisp Big Band. For details and the full schedule, the website is:

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 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,


Ethnic Heritage Ensemble

Mama's House Live (

The Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, with Kahil El'Zabar on percussion and vocals, Corey Wilkes on trumpet, and Ernest Khabeer Dawkins, gave Louisville a rare taste of jazz from the Chicago-based Association for the Advancement of Creative Music (AACM), when it closed out JEN recently. The AACM, founded in the 1960's, spawned the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Henry Threadgill, and other practitioners of its motto, "Great Black Music: Ancient to the Future." This CD, subtitled 35th Anniversary Project, was recorded in 2008, and is the EHE's most recent release. With no bass or chordal instruments, the EHE relies on the multiple layers of El'Zabar's congas and other drums to set grooves, with Wilkes' trumpet sometimes blending with Dawkins' sax, while at other times soaring high and free. Dawkins can play mellow or outside, depending on the needs of the music. All the music is original, with the exception of the lengthy, subtle extrapolations on Miles Davis' "All Blues." The opening "Oof" has El'Zabar setting the beat with ankle bells, with gentle yet insistent mbira throughout. The closing "Ornette" features a chant of the title as well as gruff scatting near the end, along the same lines as the group's "Pharoah Sanders" piece at JEN. The music, well-recorded at Takoma Park's Sangha, is adventurous and redemptive.

Pat Martino Quartet

Undeniable (HighNote HCD 7231)

Guitarist Pat Martino leads an all-star lineup with saxophonist Eric Alexander, organist Tony Monaco (introduced to many here in Louisville by the Jazz Factory), and drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts in a live outing from 2009 at Washington DC's Blues Alley. Longtime jazz fans will need no more urging than to note the players. The feel is in-the-pocket as they groove through an hour's worth of originals, slowing down only for a heartfelt rendition of the only cover, "'Round Midnight." Martino's guitar is blues-drenched and well complemented by Monaco's B-3 and Watts' indefatigable drumming.

Chuck Loeb

Plain'n'Simple (Tweety TWR002,

Chuck Loeb's guitar work over the years has most often been on the pop or so-called "smooth jazz" side of the road. On this new release, he digs into his roots, backed by organist Pat Bianchi and drummer Harvey Mason. Augmented by guests on various tracks, Loeb shows he can do more than just play pretty for the people. Opening with the blues shuffle of "D.I.G. (Deep Inner Groove)," Loeb navigates through a program of mostly original material with verve and spirit. He changes the pace with Caetano Veloso's "É Com Esse Que Vou Eu," with his wife Carmen Cuesta singing, and covers the classic "Skylark" with another vocal, by their daughter Lizzy Loeb. Hopefully, Plain'n'Simple will be the first of many Loeb discs to feature his jazz side.


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 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:,, saxophonist and teacher Mike Tracy


BOBBY FALK:, drummer and composer Bobby Falk;

WALKER & KAYS:, singer Jeanette Kays and guitarist Greg Walker;

JENNIFER LAULETTA:, singer Jennifer Lauletta;

JEFF SHERMAN:, guitarist Jeff Sherman;

RON JONES:,, saxophonist Ron Jones;

STEVE CREWS:,, pianist Steve Crews.


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