Louisville saxophonist Bennett Higgins, known to many for his work with the band Crisis in the 1980s, passed away at the age of 70 on August 20. He was much loved as a musician and instructor and will be missed by many.
Marian McPartland passed away at 95. She was a superb pianist and a strong advocate for jazz, whose NPR show, Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz, was (according to Wikipedia) "the longest-running cultural program on NPR as well as one of the longest-running jazz programs ever produced on public radio." She was named a member of the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters in 2000. Albert Murray passed away at 97. He was an author, perhaps best known for his book Stomping the Blues (1976), and was one of the founders of Jazz at Lincoln Center. Cedar Walton was a relatively young 79, a pianist and composer who, in 2010, was inducted as a member of the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters. Their contributions will continue to inspire jazz fans and musicians.
Umphrey's McGee and STS9 (Sound Tribe Sector 9) kicked off their co-headlining tour at the lovely Louisville Palace on August 15. On this night, UM opened and concentrated on instrumental music, mixing influences from hard rock riffs to more soaring post-Grateful Dead airy jams, moving from lilting to crunching to danceable funk with aplomb. UM pulled out a lesser known Police song, "Miss Gradenko," from Synchronicity, and later paid tribute to Allen Lanier of Blue Oyster Cult, who passed away earlier that day, with a fun cover of "Don't Fear the Reaper." Keyboardist Joel Cummins, who I interviewed for a LEO preview, is fond of adding early UM songs to the sets, adding the reggae-tinged "FF" from the band's ironically titled first album, Greatest Hits, Vol. 3. After intermission, STS9 came out, with their Pyramid backdrop for lighting effects. Most of the audience was up and dancing, but I found the unrelenting heavy, steady beat a bit much, notwithstanding the interesting electronic effects and playing, and left before the end of the set.
The Louisville Jazz Society's August concert featured pianist Jerry Tolson and his quintet doing a tribute to Cannonball Adderley on Sunday, August 18 at 6:30, at the Rudyard Kipling Tolson has recently released a new album, Fresh Squeezed (see my Tolson profile in LEO, at http://leoweekly.com/music/b-sides-121), and many of the tunes were from this album. Tolson's longstanding group consisted of David Clark (alto), Tyrone Wheeler (bass), Ansyn Banks (trumpet and flugelhorn), and Dwight Dozier (drums). They opened with Nat Adderley's classic "Work Song," with Tolson suggesting that "if you don't like swinging hard and patting your feet, you might not want to stay." Believe me, nobody left. Duke Pearson's "Jeannine," which the Adderleys recorded back in 1960. Following the original ballad, "Bittersweet Dawn," featuring gentle sax work and Tolson playing space as well as notes, the band launched into the title track from the new disc, with the laidback swing of "Fresh Squeezed." Another from the Adderley canon, Sam Jones' "Unit 7," with jaunty sax, strong trumpet, and a sax/trumpet series of trades. Another from the album, "Fat Tuesday" closed the first set, capturing the New Orleans feel, with Dozier nailing the second line beat. Horace Silver's "Split Kick," the only non-original on the album, opened the second set with the timeless feel of classic hard bop, with Wheeler taking an arco solo. "Chestnut Glen Drive," from Tolson's first record, Nu View, was an uptempo post-bop number with more intense sax/trumpet interplay. Tolson returned to Fresh Squeezed with the ballad "Beautiful Love," on which Banks traded his trumpet for flugelhorn, with warm soloing. I had to leave after this piece, but my LJS colleagues who stayed assured me that the rest of the set was great, as well.
The final concert of the 2013 Cherokee Triangle Summer Concert Series will take place on Labor Day, September 2, (not on Sunday, as most of the concerts have been) from 7 to 9 PM. The Ovation Orchestra will bring its big band sound to Willow Park. This is a free event, but concertgoers are asked to bring canned goods and/or hygiene products to help support the Highlands Community Ministries Dare to Care programs. No Alcohol – No Pets – No Soliciting.
The Louisville Jazz Society will have a table at the "Sundays in September" jazz concert series in Tyler Park, free to the public. All concerts are from 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. Family-friendly, bring chairs and or a picnic and blanket. Alcohol and pet-free. The lineup is: September 8: Ladies of Liberty; September 15: Appalatin; September 22: West Market Street Stompers, and September 29: The University of Louisville Jazz Ensemble. Sponsored by: Metro Council 8th District (Tom Owen), BC Plumbing, Comfy Cow, Cornerstone Group Realtors, The Back Door, Jamey Aebersold, Fairleigh Pet Center and Jack Fry's. The festival is presented by the Tyler Park Neighborhood Association, www.tylerparkna.org.
The Indy Jazz Fest takes place in several venues, beginning Thursday, September 12 with a concert by legendary New Orleans composer, pianist, bandleader Allen Toussaint, at Butler University. The following night is Ramsey Lewis, at the Madame Walker Theatre. Other artists appearing over the course of the festival include Diane Schuur, Eddie Palmieri (who was great in New Orleans this past April), Ravi Coltrane, Jeff Coffin, and many more. The full schedule is at http://indyjazzfest.net/?page_id=261
One of the most significant and eclectic jazz trumpeters around today, Dave Douglas will bring his quintet to the Clifton Center on Sunday, September 29 at 7:30 PM. This is the same lineup featured on Douglas' last two albums, Be Still and Time Travel (reviewed here in June): Jon Irabagon (saxophone), Matt Mitchell (piano), Linda Oh (bass) and Rudy Royston (drums). Look for an interview in the LEO Weekly on Wednesday, September 25. Ticket information at www.cliftoncenter.tix.com.
Olmsted Parks Conservancy presents the thirteenth annual Big Rock Jazz and Blues Festival on Sunday, October 6, 2013 from 2-7 PM in the Big Rock area of Cherokee Park.
The headliner for 2013 will be Unit West: Tim Whalen – tenor sax, Kris Eans – trumpet, Steve Snyder – Hammond B-3 organ, and Jason Tiemann – drums. Also on the bill is Everett Greene, a fine singer from Indianapolis will sing, accompanied by Todd Hildreth, Tyrone Wheeler and Jonathan Higgins. I believe there will be another act, but couldn't find the information by deadline tome. Stay tuned.
Bill Frisell returns to Louisville with his Big Sur Quintet, on Wednesday, December 04; save the date, more details to come. Ticket information at www.cliftoncenter.tix.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 has been performing the third Monday of each month, and is scheduled for September 16. Please contact the club for any post-deadline information.
The Nachbar (969 Charles Street, 502-637-4377, www.myspace.com/thenachbar) features "Nachbar Jazz" on Wednesdays, with Jacob Duncan and, for the summer, Mike Hyman or Jonathan Higgins on drums, and Sonny Stephens or Chris Fitzgerald on bass. Also during the summer, Squeeze-bot plays Sundays from 8 to 11 PM. I couldn't find out by deadline time if this continues through September, so . . . 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; www.thejazzkitchen.com), presents nightly offerings of local and regional jazz; check the website for the full schedule and updates. A road trip might be advised for September 6: Ira Sullivan, with the Steve Allee Trio; September 18: Ravi Coltrane; and in October: Billy Cobham and his all-star Spectrum 40 Band, featuring Dean Brown (guitar), Gary Husband (piano) and Ric Fierabracci (bass).
The Blue Wisp Jazz Club in Cincinnati, is now at 700 Race St. (513-241-WISP). Wednesdays remain the province of The Blue Wisp Big Band. Septemnber is packed with mostly local and regional talent. For details and the full schedule, the website is: www.thebluewisp.com.
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.
Kendrick Scott Oracle
Kendrick Scott was killing it at the 2013 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, playing with both Joshua Redman's and Terence Blanchard's bands. On his new release as a leader, he convenes a topnotch group of players: Taylor Eigsti, acoustic and electric piano; Mike Moreno, guitar; John Ellis, tenor sax & bass clarinet; and Joe Sanders, acoustic bass. Together they create a riveting album of fresh, modern jazz. British band Broadcast's "Pendulum" opens with a spoken prayer over guitar and drums, and the song plays out with subtle interplay from the band. Another cover, Sufjan Stevens' "Too Much," is next, followed by Scott's version of Herbie Hancock's "I Have A Dream," which mixes modern jazz and fusion. "We Shall By Any Means" is a somber, brief bass solo. "Liberty Or Death" builds in intensity, then backs down with eerie guitar lines. Scott introduces "Cycling Through Reality' with a drum solo, and the band enters to build the song before it transitions into the title track, "Conviction," which again blends fusion and more mainstream influences. The next two pieces, "Apollo," "Serenity" are thoughtful and reflective, and the drummer allows Eigsti to finish the album with a calm solo, on "Be Water." This album shows why such well-known artists as Redman and Blanchard call on Scott, as he plays with great dynamic range and vision/
The River (Motéma MTM-123, www.motema.com)
Once again, I thank Ken Shapero and Dianne Aprile, of the Jazz Factory,, for exposing me and many other Louisvillians to the Chicago-based pianist and composer, Ryan Cohan. His new releases is a heartfelt suite based on his group's 2008 tour of Eastern Africa, and features saxophonists Geof Bradfield and John Wojciechowski, trumpeter Tito Carrillo, bassist Lorin Cohen, drummer Kobie Watkins, and percussionist Samuel Torres. Several "River" vignettes provide connective tissue, with solos from different players leading from one song to the next. I hear some Randy Weston influences, especially in Cohan's strong left hand, as well as some of the more overtly Afro-centric pieces, such as "Last Night at the Mannenberg," which Cohan explains was inspired by hearing the joyous sounds of a mbira (thumb piano) choir earlier that day. Other standout tracks include the blues-infused "Brother Fifi" and the yearning "Forsaken." This album, at times reflective, at times spirited, is another milestone in Cohan's musical journey.
The Vigil (www.concordmusicgroup.com, www.chickcorea.com)
To say that Chick Corea is prolific is an understatement. In the 2012 alone, he released albums in a variety of formats, from straightahead piano trio (Further Explorations) to forward-looking reunions with his duo partner, Gary Burton (Hot House) and his groundbreaking fusion ensemble, Return to Forever (The Mothership Returns). For Vigil, Corea has enlisted drummer Marcus Strickland, bassist Hadrien Feraud, Tim Garland on reeds and winds, and guitarist Charles Altura, for a recording that reminds me of some of my favorite Corea groups, including the original RTF (with Joe Farrell), "Friends" and Touchstone. Corea has deftly blended acoustic, electric and electronic sounds here for a session that is fun without pandering to the lowest common musical denominator. "Galaxy 32 Star 4" has a breezy, electric sound, "Planet Chia" has a "Spanish funk" feel with acoustic instrumentation, "Portals to Forever" recalls early RTF, while a dedication to Roy Haynes, "Royalty," emulates the master drummer's strong sense of dynamics. "Outside of Space" is a tango, featuring vocals by Gayle Moran Corea. "Pledge for Peace (with Ravi Coltrane and Stanley Clarke in for Garland and Feraud), a post-bop piece, is dedicated to John Coltrane, with invocational opening and Ravi's individual style coming through without being overtly imitative of his father. "Legacy" closes the disc with good use of synthesizer as an independent voice over driving drums. The press release quotes Corea as saying "On this … first recording, we captured first impressions of the compositions – and first impressions of the band's rapport ..." If these are first impressions, then as the lineup tours, the possibilities are limitless.
New Gary Burton Quartet
Guided Tour (Mack Avenue, www.mackavenue.com)
Gary Burton broke new ground for jazz in the 1960s,especially in his innovative quartet featuring Larry Coryell, Steve Swallow and Bob Moses. This new recording is the second by Burton's "New Quartet," with young guitarist Julian Lage capturing much of Coryell's fire, but translated to a more acoustic sound. Bassist Scott Colley and drummer Antonio Sanchez are as solid a team as one could want, with playing ranging from the riff-oriented opening track, the drummer's "Caminos" to the lovely ballad playing on Michel Legrand's "Once Upon a Summertime." The latter includes some delicate bowing work, leading to gentle acoustic guitar soloing. The leader's "Remembering Tano," a rare Burton composition, is dedicated to tango master Astor Piazzolla, and makes one wish that he were still alive to add his bandoneon to this number. A special favorite of mine is the twisty Fred Hersch composition, "Jackalope," with intertwined vibes and guitar lines. In short, Burton continues to lead the way in reimagining the possibilities for the once-radical notion of a vibes and guitar oriented quartet.
Fred Hersch and Julian Lage
Free Flying (Palmetto PM2168, www.palmetto-records.com)
Julian Lage, a key member of the current Gary Burton lineup (see above), joins piano master Fred Hersch for a live set of what might be referred to in shorthand as "chamber jazz." Recorded earlier this year at the NYC club Kitano, the duo opens with a classical feel on "Song Without Words #4: Duet" before moving toward more straightahead territory with "Down Home," Hersch's piece for Bill Frisell. "Heartland," for Art Lande, is quiet and reflective, while the upbeat "Free Flying," for Egberto Gismonti, seems to have a Corea-like Spanish tinge. Besides other Hersch compositions, the duo covers Sam Rivers' classic "Beatrice," with a cheerful feel, and ultimately close with "Monk's Dream." There is no generation gap between Hersch, 57, and Lage, 25; each artists plays with respect for the other, sometimes in interlaced lines, sometimes backing one another's solos.
With two fourteen-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.
1) I am always interested in your comments. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.