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Issue: January 2012
Martin Z. Kasdan Jr.

Jazzin'
By Martin Z. Kasdan Jr.

PRELUDE:

Sincere best wishes to all for a healthy, happy, musical 2012.

HARRY PICKENS TRIO HOLIDAY CONCERT

For years, the Harry Pickens Trio's holiday performances at the Jazz Factory were SRO, with Pickens mixing his piano virtuosity with convivial storytelling. The Louisville Jazz Society presented the 2011 edition at the new theater on the Kentucky Country Day campus. Pickens was joined by his longtime bandmates, the first-call team of bassist Chris Fitzgerald and drummer Jason Tiemann. As Pickens told me for a preview, "We've worked together more than a decade, and we have a rapport." That was evident as they enthralled the crowd with two sets of jazz interpretations of seasonal standards, and good old fashioned jazz. They opened with "Winter Wonderland," after which a Pickens solo introduced "Greensleeves." "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" led to Pickens' first storytelling of the evening, in which Santa takes a break in Rio and is rebuffed at a nightclub by "The Girl from Ipanema." Tiemann used his hands, rather than sticks or brushes, to accompany a Fitzgerald solo in "Besame Mucho" (Santa's request to the aforementioned young lady). The set closed with a lovely rendition of "The Way You Look Tonight."

After a brief intermission, they returned with my personal favorite seasonal song, "Christmas Time Is Here," with Pickens perfectly capturing, and then expanding on the wistful melody of Vince Guaraldi's classic. Pickens decided to concentrate on music rather than extending the saga of Santa's Rio escapades, so his addresses to the audience during this set were more direct. Sometimes introductions were not necessary, as on "The Christmas Song" and "Little Drummer Boy." Pickens did a brief Spike Jones-style deconstruction of "Silver Bells," followed by a performance of Charlie Parker's "Confirmation" dedicated to Jamey Aebersold. Unhappy with his first take, Pickens stopped, apologized for "going too deep into the zone," and launched into a hard boppin' second take. The trio's rendition of Luiz Bonfá's "Gentle Rain" was breathtaking. The all-too-brief solo introduction by the leader evoked the feel of falling rain as time seemed to stand still. As you may know, Pickens is also a much sought-after motivational speaker, and he brought that aspect of himself to his final piece, "What a Wonderful World." The two hours of music seemed over before it began, and Louisville Jazz Society President Harry Kron got welcome applause for his suggestion that the LJS sponsor a 2012 encore. On a personal note, I was fortunate enough to be introduced to, and sit beside Pickens' mother, whose warmth and grace made clear that the artist came by his naturally.

ON THE HORIZON

JAZZ EDUCATION NETWORK THIRD ANNUAL CONFERENCE

Louisvillians should be proud that we are hosting the Jazz Education Network's Third Annual Conference, from January 4-7. Professor Jerry Tolson of the University of Louisville is the local coordinator. The program includes workshops, lectures, and concerts by local, regional and national artists. The range of artists is astounding, and includes the Louisville Leopards Percussion Ensemble , Monika Herzig , Jason Marsalis , Larry Ridley , Kahil El'Zabar's Ethnic Heritage Ensemble , Victor Wooten , and many more. At deadline time, volunteers were being sought, who will have access to the proceedings. The Volunteer Coordinator is Rick Condit, rcondit@mcneese.edu. Conference information, including registration information, a complete lineup of events, and more, is available at www.jazzednet.org/1/en/node/1183.

LOUISVILLE JAZZ SOCIETY PRESENTS THE MICHAEL TRACY/RENATO VASCONCELLOS BRAZILIAN GROUP

The fourth concert in the Louisville Jazz Society's 2011-2012 Concert Series features the Michael Tracy/Renato Vasconcellos Brazilian Group . Saxophonist Tracy is the Director of the Jamey Aebersold Jazz Studies Program at the University of Louisville School of Music, and has served as a jazz ambassador to many parts of the world, including Brazil. Pianist Vasconcellos is a 2001 alumnus of the program and a longtime musical partner of Tracy. This will be a matinee performance, at 2:30 PM on Sunday, January 8, 2012, at the Comedy Caravan.

Please check out the Louisville Jazz Society at www.louisvillejazz.org, for ticket information and updates, and please consider joining us and volunteering to help on our committees. We are also proud to work with Crescent Hill Radio, and our own Diego Palma is now hosting "The Sunday Sessions," 6-7 PM, AM 1650 and www.crescenthillradio.com.

SINGER JANE MONHEIT AT CLIFTON CENTER

Award-winning vocalist Jane Monheit returns to the area for a concert at the Clifton Center on Friday, January 27, 2012. Her forte is the American Songbook, and she has collaborated with many of the top names in jazz, including Terence Blanchard and Fred Hersch. Ticket information is available at http://cliftoncenter.tix.com/Event.asp?Event=395346. The Louisville Jazz Society is sponsoring a post-concert reception; for details, e-mail LJS President Harry Kron, harry@louisvillejazz.org. Additional information on the artist may be found on her website, http://janemonheitonline.com.

JAZZ FEST AND MORE AT UNIVERSITY OF LOUISVILLE

It's not too early to start planning for the University of Louisville's concert series in February. The lineup is: guitarist Lionel Loueke , February. 3, 2012 (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 http://louisville.edu/music/degrees/undergraduate/jazz/jazz-studies-program.

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 will perform on Monday January 16, 2012. 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; Squeeze-bot is on hiatus; 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. The January schedule was unavailable at deadline time.

The Blue Wisp Jazz Club in Cincinnati, long located at 318 East Eighth St., is moving to 700 Race St. (513-241-WISP). The Ellen Rowe/Ingrid Jensen Quintet open the new venue on January 6. 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: www.thebluewisp.com.

The Redmoor , Mt. Lookout Square, 3187 Linwood Avenue, in Cincinnati, 513-871-6789, www.jazzincincy.com. January listings were unavailable at deadline time.

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, TAKE ONE: WHEN THE GOING GETS WEIRD, THE WEIRD TURN PRO

One of the highlights of after-hours New Orleans Jazzfest has been the opportunity to catch Garage á Trois in its various incarnations. Started as a one-off project by Galactic drummer Stanton Moore with guitarist Charlie Hunter and saxophonist Skerik, the group has morphed, first adding vibraphonist and percussionist Mike Dillon, then changing the texture and approach when Hunter left by adding keyboard player Marco Benevento (with whom they had jammed). New Orleans' Howlin' Wolf club has been the home of "The Megalomaniacs Ball" for the past several years. The 2011 edition featured Garage á Trois, Illuminasti Trio featuring James Singleton, Steven Bernstein, Skerik, Mike Dillon and Guests, and the Stanton Moore Trio featuring Robert Walter and Scott Metzger. Garage á Trois and the Dead Kenny Gs share a label, Royal Potato Family, two members (Skerik and Dillon, with bassist and bass clarinetist Brad Houser rounding out the DKGs), and a decidedly in your face approach to making music. Earlier this year they released Garage á Trois: Always Be Happy But Stay Evil and The Dead Kenny Gs: Operation Long Leash (both at www.royalpotatofamily.com) In attitude and frequently in the songs themselves, I sense the spiritual presence of Frank Zappa. On Always Be Happy , Garage á Trois engulfs the listener with musical statements where the melodic vibes introduction of "Omar" give way to crunching rock. "Resentment Incubator" feels like updated noir, Peter Gunn on a bad trip. Throughout the album, the quartet reels through a variety of styles, held together by the eccentric approach to making uncompromising music. My only complaint with the new The Dead Kenny Gs album is that it clocks in at only 35:39. Within that span, however, the DKGs whirl through a melange of sounds and influences, with the opening ""Devil's Playground" conjuring a bit of Zappa with its King Kong vibe. "Black Truman (Harry the Hottentot)" features guest Hunter and JBs-like riffing going outside to Sun Ra territory. Further influences Afro-Cuban rhythms (the "Jingo"-like heavy drums of "Black Budget") and rap, in Dillon's "Black Death," using images of his prior heroin problems to evoke America's problems with oil spills and the use of petroleum. I recommend both these CDS to adventurous listeners, while suggesting that those seeking mainstream jazz look elsewhere.

EIGHTH NOTES, TAKE TWO: MORE NEW JAZZ

Andrew Atkinson Quartet: Keep Looking Forward - Live

(www.andrewatkinsonlive.com) Drummer Atkinson leads a quartet with Jim Gasior on piano, Kurt Hengstebeck on bass, and Tivon Pennicott on saxophone. The venue is not credited, but the music is well recorded. Half of the songs are band originals, and the choice of covers includes "Softly As In a Morning Sunrise," "Blue in Green," "Seven Steps to Heaven," and Jobim's "I Know I'll Love You." Atkinson seems to delight in updating and speeding up arrangements of familiar tunes, so seeing the titles doesn't really give the potential listener a sense of what to expect. For example, his take on "Softly" opens with spacey keyboard and saxophone, to which he adds a funk beat; the sax solos over these elements. "Blue in Green" continues the funky approach, with the keyboards and electric bass stretching out. After a while, Atkinson begins to play with the beat, while the piano and bass keep a hold on the song and the sax soars over. The originals, too, mix jazz, funk and fusion influences. Atkinson displays his abilities as a drummer and bandleader throughout this disc. If I had to nitpick, I would suggest adding a ballad or two, if for no other reason than to let Atkinson show he can also lead at a slower tempo.

The Tierney Sutton Band: American Road (www.bfmjazz.com)

The Tierney Sutton Band was first brought to my attention with an appearance at the Jazz Factory; thanks, Ken and Dianne! This new recording shows the increasing maturity of vocalist Sutton and her interplay with bassists Trey Henry and Kevin Axt, pianist Christian Jacob, and drummer Ray Brinker. This release has already received strong press, so I won't belabor the point. This celebrates American music, from the folk of the opening "Wayfaring Stranger" and medley of "Oh Shenandoah/The Water Is Wide" to Gershwin and Bernstein/Sondheim standards such as "Summertime" and "Somewhere," respectively. In an era of single-song downloads and short attention spans, this album bucks the trend, with musical and thematic cohesion.

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.


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