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Martin Z. Kasdan Jr.

Jazzin'
By Martin Z. Kasdan Jr.

PRELUDE:

I. Best wishes for a healthy, musical and happy New Year.

II. R.I.P. James Moody

Last month I reviewed 4B by the great James Moody and noted that he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer since February. Sadly, Moody passed away on December 9. In his 85 years, he delighted many jazz lovers around the world. His warm sound and delightful wit will be missed.

III. R.I.P. Captain Beefheart

Not jazz enough for you? Late Saturday night, December 18, I learned of Captain Beefheart’s passing the previous day via Howard Mandel’s “Jazz Beyond Jazz” blog update. Born Don [Van] Vliet, Captain Beefheart mixed blues, rock, jazz and an absurdist’s sense of wordplay. He left music for the visual arts in 1982, and had been beset by health problems in recent years. “My smile is stuck/ I cannot go back t` yer Frownland/ My spirit`s made up of the ocean/ And the sky `n the sun `n the moon/ `n all my eye can see.” [“Frownland,” from the good Captain’s magnum opus, the 1969 double-LP Trout Mask Replica]

RECENT CONCERTS

Last month I misplaced my notebook with my concert notes. Having recently excavated it, I’d like to share my impressions of performances by trumpeters Snooky Young and Clay Jenkins, and violinist Zach Brock.

SNOOKY YOUNG AND CLAY JENKINS AT U OF L

Trumpeter Snooky Young, who came up in the bands of Jimmie Lunceford and Count Basie, among others, is still playing at age 91. He and 46-year-old young-blood Clay Jenkins performed at the University of Louisville’s School of Music on October 21, accompanied by Jim Connerley on piano, Luke McIntosh on bass, and Jason Tiemann on drums. I arrived a few minutes late, as they were playing “Blue Monk.” Following that was “Have You Called Her Today.” Jenkins commented that Ben Webster taught the song to Young, who taught it to Jenkins. It was laid back and bluesy, with solos by Young, Jenkins, and Jim Connerley, followed by the two trumpeters together, quoting “In a Mellow Tone” along the way. Sonny Rollins’ classic barnburner “Tenor Madness” was next, with the trumpeters goading each other on. After a brief pause, U of L’s Jazz Ensemble I took the stage, and swung righteously on “Air Mail Special.” Jenkins joined the student group for a Latin spin on Dizzy Gillespie’s “Woody n' You,” followed by “Moontrane,” by Woody Shaw (“one of my favorite trumpeters,” said Ensemble I Director John LaBarbera, who recorded it on his second album, Fantazm, with Jenkins).

ZACH BROCK AT THE RUDYARD KIPLING

Lexington native Zach Brock, now residing in New York, returned to Louisville on Wednesday, November 3, for a great evening of music at the Rudyard Kipling. He performed with his Magic Number Trio, consisting of himself, longtime bassist Matt Wigton, and drummer Fred Kennedy. Opening for Brock was the eclectic improvisational music troupe Bone Crusher. Brock and other musicians in the house joined in the avant-garde-leaning proceedings. After a brief break, Brock and company launched into the fast funk of “Golden Nuggets” from their just-released CD, The Magic Number (www.zachbrock.com). “Summer Dance,” also from the new disc, was next, with a “Gypsy jazz” interlude. Brock has been influenced by the short-lived Polish jazz violinist Zbigniew Seifert and performed Seifert’s “Man of the Light,” which was written for McCoy Tyner and is also on the new CD). A turn toward bop came later, as the trio wailed through Charlie Parker’s “Au Privave.” The trio closed with an original, whose title I didn’t catch, but which was introduced by Brock as something he performed every time he played here. After a lengthy solo introduction by the leader, the others joined in for a roller coaster ride of changing dynamics and solo space for Wigton and Kennedy.

Throughout their set, Brock, Wigton and Kennedy made music with a much fuller and richer sound than might be expected from this lineup. This was my experience with the CD as well. I asked Brock after the concert about his writing for trio format, and he mentioned “the most obvious challenge is harmony.” “We’re always struggling to suggest things to the listener. This trio has opened my eyes to the kind of freedom we have.” Acknowledging that he had not played Louisville as frequently as he had for a while, he plans to return to rebuild his audience. In addition to his work with his own trio, Brock has been performing with a host of other fine artists over the past few years, including Frank Vignola and Stanley Clarke.

ON THE HORIZON

MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM AT ACTORS THEATRE

Award-winning Playwright August Wilson’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” runs from January 18 to February 13 at Actors Theatre of Louisville, 316 W. Main Street. Ticket information is available by phone at (502) 584-1205. The website is www.actorstheatre.org. “Ma Rainey's Black Bottom” is based on the life of “The Mother of the Blues,” as Ma Rainey was known.

JAKE SHIMABUKURO AT THE KENTUCKY CENTER

Jake Shimabukuro is not a jazz artist per se, but I think you might enjoy his upcoming solo ukelele concert, on Friday, January 28, 2011 at the Bomhard Theater in the Kentucky Center. I interviewed him for the Kentucky Center’s BackStage Pass magazine and found his eclectic approach to music and life to be refreshing. His new CD, Peace Love Ukulele (Hitchhike Records, www.jakeshimabukuro.com, includes mostly original music, plus covers of songs by such varied artists as Leonard Cohen (“Hallelujah”) and Queen (“Bohemian Rhapsody”). Improvisation seems to be part of his approach, for a tie to jazz, and you may wish to check out his varying renditions of the Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” on youtube.com. (Ticket information is online at www.kentuckycenter.org, and via phone at (502) 584-7777 or 562-0730 (TTY); Toll Free: 1-800-775-7777.)

U OF L JAZZ WEEK 2011

Plan ahead for the University of Louisville’s 2011 Jazz Fest, taking place on campus from February 23 – 26. As of deadline time, the artists announced are as follows. On February 24, the musicians featured are: Jazz Ensemble II, Jerry Tolson – Director; Pharez Whitted, trumpet, David Kana, tenor sax, Todd Hildreth, piano and Phil Brown, bass. Friday, February 25 sees the return of saxophonist Antonio Hart, who has been killin’ in his appearances here over the past few years. Joining Hart will be with Jazz Ensemble I, John LaBarbera – Director, and the Faculty Jazz Combo. On Saturday, February 25, the Jeff Hamilton Trio, with the leader on drums, along with Tamir Hendelman, piano and Christoph Luty, bass; also performing will be Jazz Ensemble I.

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 10. The West Market Street Stompers will delight lovers of traditional jazz every 4th Monday, January 24 this time. 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, and was featuring Squeeze-bot on Sundays; 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. January shows were not available by deadline time. However, singer Kurt Elling is coming on Saturday, February 12.

The Blue Wisp Jazz Club in Cincinnati, 318 East Eighth St. (513-241-WISP), is featuring local and regional talent during January. 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. As of deadline time, the club brings in the great saxophonist Sonny Fortune on Thursday, January 27, 2011.

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).

EIGHTH NOTES: NEW JAZZ PLUS IMPROVISATION FROM THE ROCK WORLD

Nathan Eklund Group: Coin Flip (OA2 Records, www.oa2records.com,www.nathaneklund.com)

Leader Eklund plays trumpet and flugelhorn, with Craig Yaremko on saxes, Steve Myerson on Fender Rhodes, Kellen Harrison on bass, and Shawn Baltazor on drums. This is a swinging, thoroughly modern recording, which underscores the use of electric piano as an instrument of its own, not a substitute for acoustic piano. All nine songs are by the leader, whose horn playing ranges from soulful (on “Professor Dissendadt”) to warm and mellow (“One Year Ago Today”). Fans of mainstream hard bop who appreciate something slightly off the beaten path should enjoy this release.

Eddie Henderson: For All We Know (furthermore 005, www.furthermorerecordings.com)

Dr. Eddie Henderson, a physician who plays trumpet and flugelhorn, first came to the attention of many – myself included – with his work in the early 1970s with Herbie Hancock. This new release features the versatile guitarist John Scofield, along with bassist Doug Weiss and drummer Billy Drummond. The opening song is the Fats Waller classic, “Jitterbug Waltz,” which opens slowly before bumping up to mid-tempo for a series of exchanges between Henderson and Sco. The title track, the standard “For All We Know,” features graceful trumpet and guitar solos. The disc includes nods to the leader’s former employer (“Cantaloupe Island”) and a major influence on Henderson, Miles Davis, on drummer Al Foster’s composition “Missing Miles.” It’s great to hear Henderson again, as well as to hear the “jazzier” side of Scofield. Enjoy!

Greg Lewis: Organ Monk (/www.cdbaby.com/cd/GregLewis)

Now this is cool. Organist Greg Lewis’ self-released CD is not only a tribute to Thelonious Monk, but an excitingly original rethinking of Monk’s canon. Accompanied by drummer Cindy Blackman and guitarist Ron Jackson, Lewis plays in a style which sounds far more influenced by Larry Young than, say, Jimmy Smith or Jimmy McGriff. Indeed, I hear parallels to the early work of the Tony Williams Lifetime here (to whom Blackman paid tribute on her own 2010 release, Another Lifetime). Monk’s jagged rhythms and quirky compositions are the basis for original arrangements and inventive soloing here. I particularly like the opening version of “Trinkle Tinkle,” although it’s hard to pick a favorite with the new interpretations of such other classic pieces as “Light Blue” and “Coming on [here, “in”] the Hudson.”

Grateful Dead: Road Trips Vol. 4 No. 1: Big Rock Pow Wow 1969 (GRA2-6018, www.dead.net)

I “got on the bus” here in Louisville at Bellarmine on December 7, 1968. Perhaps as a result, I am partial to music from this era of the band’s 30-year journey. This new 3-CD set includes two full performances from May 23-24 at a rock fest held at the Seminole Reservation in Hollywood, Florida. In order to preserve some of the transitions and segues, some of the music (notably a moving “Morning Dew”) is presented out of the original order. That said, the music is celebratory improvisation, from Pigpen’s rave-ups on two long versions of “Turn on Your Lovelight’ to the “Live/Dead” sequence of “Dark Star>St. Stephen>The Eleven>Lovelight.” The drummers end a duet following (appropriately enough for the venue) “Alligator” with a konnakol (Indian [continent, not Native American] percussion chanting) segment, before the reprise of “St. Stephen” on the second day. Jazz purists look elsewhere, those who like the last decade of the Dead’s truncated jams can pass, bu lovers of the classic, exploratory Grateful Dead will enjoy this greatly.

Jimi Hendrix: West Coast Seattle Boy - The Jimi Hendrix Anthology (Sony Legacy)

The Jimi Hendrix Estate has been busy reissuing Jimi Hendrix’s classic albums, releasing previously unreleased material such as Valleys of Neptune and more. Now out is this 4-CD, 1 DVD box set (with less complete alternate packages available) of rarities, unreleased alternate versions, demos and more. The DVD is a documentary “autobiography” with funkateer Bootsy Collins reading Hendrix’s words from letters, notes and more. The music on the first CD is an overview of the master’s early work as a hired hand with such R&B greats as the Isley Brothers, Don Covay and more. The gem for jazz lovers is the previously unreleased 21-minute “Young/Hendrix,” which features the amazing organist Larry Young. Perhaps some day John McLaughlin will consent to the release of sessions from the same period with Hendrix and Young, but for now, this is a delight.

LOCAL JAZZ CONTACTS

With two twelve-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

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

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