Martin Z. Kasdan Jr.

Jazzin'
By Martin Z. Kasdan Jr.

PRELUDE:

I: One Good Thing about Music, When it Hits You Feel No Pain

----- "Trenchtown Rock," Bob Marley

Well, I was feelin' no pain this past month, with a remarkable run of live music, including the concerts covered below. I feel fortunate that good music can enhance the positive moments in my life and help me through the negative ones.

II: R.I.P. Levon Helm

The Band's drummer, singer and more, Levon Helm passed away from cancer following a resurgence of his career. Not a jazz guy, he was nonetheless a model of good taste and emotion in his playing and singing. From all accounts, he was a warm and gracious human being.

III: R.I.P. Dick Clark

What can I say about a man whose "American Bandstand" brought so many wonderful (albeit lip synching) musical acts to my parents' black and white TV in the 1950s and '60s? Thanks, Dick, and keep rockin' up there.

RECENT CONCERTS

BILL FRISELL AT THE CLIFTON CENTER

The eclectic jazz guitarist Bill Frisell kicked off his trio tour here at the Clifton Center on Thursday, March 29. Joining him were longtime collaborators Kenny Wolleson on drums and Tony Scherr on bass (trumpeter Ron Miles was ill and unable to make this tour, as originally planned). The last time Frisell and company were here, in 2009, the music seemed to flow through transitions into a suite-like performance. This time, the focus was more on songs than flow. Many of the pieces were drawn from Frisell's recent tribute to John Lennon, All We Are Saying (Savoy), and from the Hank Williams songbook. They opened with almost purely country playing, then moved into Thelonious Monk territory. Lennon's "Mother" was a first set highlight, with Scherr leaning into his instrument as the song peaked. The opening song of the next set sounded like the traditional English folk song "John Riley," with Frisell dipping into his bag of subtle electronic tricks and conjuring up echoes of Charles Mingus' elegiac "Goodbye, Porkpie Hat," as Scherr's bass dropped to a whisper. This led to a more straightforward reading of Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry." The trio seemed to be feeling more in the moment as the players transitioned from country to jazz, and then in to a lovely rendition of one of my favorite Beatles songs, "In My Life," to close the set. For an encore, Frisell returned to Williams for "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," featuring Wolleson's subtle hand drumming on his kit and the band's instinctive interactions. They sent the appreciative crowd home with a second encore, a delicate rendition of "Ol' Man River."

LAURENCE HOBGOOD TRIO WITH ERNIE WATTS AT KCD

The following Thursday, April 7, the Louisville Jazz Society presented pianist Laurence Hobgood and his trio, with special guest saxophonist Ernie Watts, at Kentucky Country Day School. For more insight and background into Hobgood, please check my interview in last month's column. While Hobgood is best known as the longtime pianist and arranger for Kurt Elling, he demonstrated over the course of a fast-moving two hours that he is an estimable artist in his own right. Hobgood and Watts were joined by bassist Matthew Rybicki and drummer Jared Schonig. Hobgood's sensitive solo introduction led to a midtempo workout on his original "Shirakumo No Michi (White Cloud Way)," with Watts swaying and dancing as he poured out his solo. As Hobgood noted in the interview, "we've learned how to program a show so that time just sort of flies by." Indeed, this was the case. He introduced a new composition, "Song of the Forgotten Land," dedicated to his brother who is working through recovery from a stroke. The passion in Hobgood's playing was dramatic. Watts dug deep on Hobgood's "Prayer for Mr. [Miles] Davis," originally recorded as a vocal with words by Elling. Watts broke up the crowd by invoking the Easter Bunny while urging the audience to buy his new CD after the concert, as well as discs by Hobgood and Rybicki. Watts' original "Oasis," the title track of his new disc. His Coltrane-like invocation led to an intense solo segment by Hobgood, in turn leading into a trio workout which gave way to a rich, woody bass solo. Hobgood's waltz, "Prayer For The Enemy" was next, and the quartet closed with "Tumbleweed," from Michael Brecker's final recording Pilgrimage , introduced by Hobgood as "a really great romp." The performance lived up to the intro, as Watts seemed to channel Brecker before becoming more explicitly "Watts-ian." There was no encore, but after the intense playing without intermission, it was not really necessary.

MICKEY HART AT HEADLINERS

Best known as part of the double drum team of the Grateful Dead, Mickey Hart opened his new band's "Above the Clouds Tour" at Headliners on Tuesday, April 10, in support of his new CD, Mysterium Tremendum, released that day. Throughout the night, the band played a combination of new music and some gems from the Grateful Dead songbook. Hart played standing at a percussion array, sometimes triggering a Theremin, or bringing forth sounds from his computer, dubbed RAMU (Random Access Musical Universe). Full band personnel, as well as ordering information for the recording, is available at Hart's site, www.mickeyhart.net. Suffice it to say that the band sounds like a band, not just some musicians thrown together. Multiple vocalists sometimes harmonized, other times taking lead vocals, as the music swelled and ebbed. In my interview with Hart, published in part in the April 4, 2012 LEO , he noted that none of the band members were Deadheads, and that he did not want a Jerry [Garcia] clone. Thus, after the opening "Cut The Deck," the band's take on the Dead's "Bertha" gave it new life. The rest of the set consisted of "Starlight," "Djinn Djinn," "Let There Be Light," and the classic Dead jam vehicle and medley of "Scarlet Begonias" > "Fire On The Mountain." After a break, Hart and company ventured into what sounded like early Pink Floyd territory with "Heartbeat," which resolved into the newly released "Slow Joe Rain," featuring far more exploration than the CD version. The set continued with two more new pieces, "Supersonic" and "Endless Skies," followed by the folk (and Dead) classic "Goin' Down The Road Feeling Bad" and into the hymn "And We Bid You Goodnight." For an encore, the band pulled out the Temptations' "Papa Was A Rolling Stone." Throughout the night, the crowd, with a mix of ages, seemed to respond well to both the new material and the older songs, a tribute to the creative spark of Hart, who has always embraced creativity and challenges.

RED BARAAT AT THE KENTUCKY CENTER

Red Baraat , self-described as the "first and only dhol 'n' brass band in North America," did not take long to get much of the audience out of their seats and onto the dance floor at the Kentucky Center's Bomhard Theater, on Thursday, April 12. Leader Sunny Jain plays dhol, a double-sided, barrel-shaped North Indian drum slung over one shoulder, and led his group through pieces imbued with the sounds of joy and Indian funk. The instrumentation and, often, the vibe, was like the second-line brass bands of New Orleans. Several of the pieces came from their live recording, Bootleg Bhangra , available inexpensively through the band's website, www.redbaraat.com. They opened with "Today Is the Day of My Best Friend's Wedding," with Jain explaining that the "baraat" is a wedding celebration. "Chaal Baby," the title to their first CD, was up next, followed by "Baraat to Nowhere," with a dance rap incorporated into the song. The fiery playing continued, but as I was on the dance floor, I can't really tell you what came after, although the band did slow the pace after about an hour for one song, before ramping up again. While "diverse" is a word in danger of over-usage, it aptly describes both the band and the audience. Red Baraat brought together a crowd of small children, teens and all ages of adults, who showed their appreciation enthusiastically throughout, dancing on the floor and enjoying the band from their seats.

ON THE HORIZON

LOUISVILLE JAZZ SOCIETY CONCERT SERIES: STEVE CREWS

The Louisville Jazz Society's monthly series continues with the Steve Crews Quartet on May 20. Both concerts are at the Rudyard Kipling, 422 W. Oak Street, 502-636-1311, and begin at 6:30, with doors open at 5:30, and a cover of only $5.00. More information at www.louisvillejazz.org.

BELLARMINE JAZZ GUITAR CLINIC AND CONCERT

The 26th Annual Bellarmine Jazz Guitar Clinic is going to take place June 4-5, and features Howard Alden and John Stowell, in addition to Bellarmine's own Jeff Sherman. The concert will be held June 4th at 7:30 in Wyatt Hall. For more information or concert tickets call (502) 452-8182 or email Jeff Sherman at jeff.sherman@insightbb.com.

NEW ORLEANS JAZZ AND HERITAGE FESTIVAL

Why is it that some Louisvillians are MIA during Derby Week? There's a contingent that loves the music, food and ambiance of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. The dates are April 25-27, and May 3-6. I was at the very first as a Tulane student, when there were more performers than audience members (!), and have gone every year from 1980-2011 (except for 1999-2002, as my daughters were born in Oct '98). While there are lots of big name pop artists (Bruce Springsteen, Eagles, Beach Boys, Tom Petty, Foo Fighters . . . ), I always concentrate on the jazz, which this year includes Herbie Hancock , David Sanborn and Joey DeFrancesco , Cubano Be, Cubano Bop: Poncho Sanchez & His Latin Band featuring Terence Blanchard , Regina Carter's "Reverse Thread" and many local heroes, such as Astral Project, Ellis Marsalis, and on and on. Ticket information and detailed schedules are available at www.nojazzfest.com.

There is also music galore at night and during the "Daze Between." The best one-shot place to see what the venues are offering is www.jazzfestgrids.com, which is regularly updated as more clubs fill in their dates between now and Jazzfest. At this writing, some series have been announced, including "Boogalooin' at Jazzfest," sponsored by San Francisco's Boom Boom Room, all taking place at the Blue Nile on Frenchmen Street. An amazing array of artists will be featured from April 26-May 1, including the Stanton Moore Trio with Will Bernard; "Worship My Organ" featuring Marco Benevento, Robert Walter, Adam Deitch, Skerik; Dr. Lonnie Smith with Donald Harrison, Will Bernard, Herlin Riley, Wil Blades; and more: full schedule and tix at www.boomboomtickets.com/evlist.php?vstate=LA&events=search. A more rock and funk oriented series, mostly at the Republic, is the First Annual Nolafunk Jazzfest Series , with 7 Walkers, Anders Osborne, EOTO, Leftover Salmon, Los Lobos, Rebirth Brass Band and more; added since last month's column: Allen Stone, Karl Denson, Luther Dickinson, Hairy Apes BMX, info at http://www.nolafunk.com/nolafunk/nola.

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 has been performing the third Monday of each month, but at deadline time, this was not listed at the club's site, so please check it out as it gets updated; if the tradition continues, it will be May 21. Please contact the club for any post-deadline information.

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; check the club for updates or changes. The club also has a Facebook page with occasional updates.

Please see the online version of this column for coverage of

The Jazz Kitchen (Indianapolis) and The Blue Wisp Jazz Club (Cincinnati)

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

Please see the online version of this column for coverage of CDs by Laurence Hobgood, Ernie Watts, Matthew Rybicki, Chick Corea/Eddie Gomez/Paul Motian, and Billy Hart.

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.