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May this New Year find you, your family and friends blessed with good health and lots of wonderful music.
RONI BEN-HUR AND JEFF SHERMAN AT BELLARMINE
Guitarists Roni Ben-Hur and Jeff Sherman played a very relaxed and enjoyable concert on the Bellarmine campus on Monday, November 9. Ben-Hur, born in Israel, has made his home in New York for many years. After the first song – marred by a buzzing amplifier – Ben-Hur lightheartedly commented on the lack of rehearsal time, but it didn't faze him or Sherman. When he introduced his song "Canal Street," which I would have assumed referred to New Orleans, he said it was in the Chinatown district of New York. Geographical matters aside, it rushed right along, capturing a bit of the high energy of the Big Apple. A bluesy and swinging Kenny Burrell tune, "Isabella," was next. Jobim's "Mojave" was a mid-tempo waltz. During these first songs, the musicians mostly took turns comping for each other's solos. That changed on their take on the chestnut "I Remember You," during which they played interlocking guitar lines. My personal favorite was their rendition of a Don Sebesky arrangement of Joaquín Rodrigo's "Concierto de Aranjuez," which most of you probably know from the Miles Davis classic Sketches of Spain. Ben-Hur and Sherman played beautifully together on this extended piece. They closed with two more Ben-Hur originals, "Earl's Key" and "Recado Bossa Nova." The former, an uptempo swing number, was dedicated to Ben-Hur's friend Earl May, the bassist, with whom he played for many years and who passed away at the age of 80. The final piece included some very fast soloing by Ben-Hur. Sherman is to be commended for his commitment to bringing some of the finest jazz guitarists to Louisville. It's a shame there wasn't a larger audience for this splendid evening, however.
BOBBY FALK GROUP AND SQUEEZE-BOT AT THE COMEDY CARAVAN
Drummer, bandleader and entrepreneur Bobby Falk presented the latest of his "Night of Jazz" offerings to a smaller than usual crowd at the Comedy Caravan on Monday, November 23. Falk has a rotating group of musicians with whom he likes to work; this version of his group consisted of saxophonist Drew Miller, guitarist Craig Wagner, keyboardist Wade Honey and bassist Nick Kuypers. Cole Porter's "Night and Day" was in progress as I arrived, and was followed by Falk's theme song, "Ballad for Serenity." Despite the title, this was an up-tempo romp which featured a burning solo by Miller, followed by a faster-than-your-eyes-could-follow guitar solo by Wagner. A new Falk composition, "Any Day Now," was dedicated to his two-month-old son, and to me had something of a rock feel. Another new original was next, "Hidden Scene," played fast 'n' funky. It was a delight to hear the band stretch out on Ornette Coleman's classic "Turnaround," during which Honey's comping and soloing successfully reached for the outside.
Squeeze-bot is everybody's favorite accordion/banjo/tuba/drums band, those instruments being played respectively by leader, Todd Hildreth, Mick Sullivan, Brandon Johnson and Meg Samples. Unlike some of their shows, which mixed songs from rock and jazz, this evening's repertoire was drawn exclusively from the jazz canon. They opened with Horace Silver's soulful "Nutville," after which I was blown away by their tackling Charles Mingus' "Fables of Faubus." I had to restrain myself from shouting "2-4-6-8, they brainwash and teach you hate" [from the Mingus repartee with drummer Dannie Richmond] during the song. Very righteous. Carla Bley's "Syndrome" was next, evoking the Gary Burton/Pat Metheny version. The gorgeous Mingus elegy for Lester Young, "Goodbye Porkpie Hat," was played with grace and beauty. "Armando's Boogie," from Chick Corea's My Spanish Heart, offers the band the opportunity to demonstrate what Jellyroll Morton referred to as the "Spanish Tinge." Hildreth and company closed with Thelonious Monk's "Monk's Dream" and a third Mingus composition, the steamroller "Boogie Stop Shuffle." When the emphasis is on the musicianship rather than the quirkiness of the instrumental lineup, Squeeze-bot is quite simply a great jazz band.
ON THE HORIZON
Independence Hall Jazz Band at Bearno's and the West Market Street Stompers' Bootleggers Ball
Trombonist and bandleader Doug Finke has two special events coming up in January. He is bringing his Independence Hall Jazz Band to town for a recording session, and they will warm up by playing at Bearno's By The Bridge, 131 W. Main St., on Friday, January 8. The group was formed by Finke in Philadelphia in 1997 and includes musicians from several different cities. On Saturday, January 30, the West Market Street Stompers will present their third annual Bootleggers Ball at the Wildwood Country Club, 5000 Bardstown Road. The festivities include not only music, but a Costume Parade & Contest and more. Reservations may be made at 499-1261 ext. 24; further information is available by e-mailing info@SterlingEntertainment.com.
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 performs the second Monday of each month, which falls on January 11. Bobby Falk presents his monthly "Night of Jazz" on the following Monday, January 18, featuring Drew Miller's OK KINO, the Sandpaper Dolls, and the Bobby Falk Group. No other jazz bookings were planned as of deadline time, so please contact the club for any post-deadline shows.
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.
Jockamo's Pizza Pub (corner of Goss Avenue and Krieger Street, 502-637-5406) now has jazz every Thursday night with guitarist Craig Wagner, drummer Jason Tiemann, and others.
The West Market Street Stompers continue their weekly gig at Bearno's By The Bridge, 131 W. Main St., on Fridays, from 5:30 – 7:00 PM. An added enticement, per their Newsletter, is a dance floor.
Jazzyblu is located in the basement of the Glassworks, 815 West Market St., the homepage is www.jazzyblu.com. Attempts to sign up for e-mail updates for their listings have thus far been unsuccessful, so you might try the site or you can call at 502-992-3243 for information.
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. As of press time, guest artist bookings were unavailable
The January schedule for The Blue Wisp Jazz Club in Cincinnati, 318 East Eighth St. (513-241-WISP), includes: guitarist Dan Faehnle on the 22nd. There will be an all-star lineup consisting of drummer Dana Hall with Tim Warfield, (sax), Terrell Stafford (trumpet), Bruce Barth (piano), and Rodney Whitaker (bass), celebrating the release of Hall's excellent new CD Into the Light, (Origin 82547), on Friday-Saturday, January 29-30. Wednesdays remain the province of the Blue Wisp Big Band. For details and the full schedule, the website is: www.thebluewisp.com.
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).
Dana Hall: Into the Light, (Origin 82547) Drummer Dana Hall brings his group, consisting of Tim Warfield, (sax), Terrell Stafford (trumpet), Bruce Barth (piano), and Rodney Whitaker (bass), to the Blue Wisp at the end of this month (see above). With a lineup this strong, drummer/composer Hall has made a very impressive debut. This ensemble has been together for some three years, and the empathetic give-and-take provides another example of how musical strength can be nurtured through playing together regularly. All but three of the nine songs are by Hall. The disc's opening number, "I Have a Dream," however, is by Herbie Hancock, and the band conjures up a Mwandishi brew. As the CD progresses, the stylistic palette broadens, with an emphasis on post-bop. Hall is a name to watch.
The Heath Brothers: Endurance (Jazz Legacy Productions JLP 0901004 www.jazzlegacyproductions.com) Saxophonist and composer Jimmy Heath and drummer Albert "Tootie" Heath have produced their first recording as the Heath Brothers since the passing of their brother Percy Heath, the longtime Modern Jazz Quartet bassist. They are joined by pianist Jeb Patton, who has performed with them for some ten years, and bassist David Wong. Over the years, I have had the good fortune to see the Heath Brothers on several occasions, and have always been impressed by how they seemed to transcend mere musicality; there was warmth, heart, and brotherly togetherness. That feeling is conveyed here, with seven new pieces by Jimmy, one by Patton (the bouncy, uptempo "Dusk in the City"), and the Vernon Duke classic, "Autumn in New York," taken midtempo with lots of fine soloing by Patton. The opening original, "Changes," has a laidback Latin groove, and is followed by the bluesy "Wall to Wall." "Two Tees" turns the spotlight on Albert's drumming. Jimmy's moving elegy for Percy, "From a Lonely Bass," is a personal favorite. Throughout this recording, the surviving Heath Brothers demonstrate an ongoing commitment to moving their music forward. The recording is one of several for the new Jazz Legacy Productions label. Other noteworthy Jazz Legacy Productions releases are trombonist Steve Davis' Eloquence, which features the venerable pianist Hank Jones; and saxophonist Sharel Cassity's Relentless, together with the quietly moving solo piano recital by Cyrus Chestnut, Spirit, reviewed here last month. All are produced and packaged with style, adding value to the physical product in a download age.
LOCAL JAZZ CONTACTS
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.