I profiled guitarist Brandon Coleman, in LEO (http://leoweekly.com/music/b-sides-135), and reviewed his album Decisions there (http://leoweekly.com/music/reviews/decisions). He and his friend and fellow University of Louisville School of music alumnus, trumpeter Craig Tweddell, profiled at http://leoweekly.com/music/b-sides-140, brought their bands to the Willis Music Performing Arts Auditorium, at 1850 S. Hurstbourne Pkwy #128, for a CD release show; a review of Tweddell’s Away With Words is scheduled to be published in LEO as well. Tweddell opened, with bandmates Jacob Duncan on alto, Todd Hildreth on electric piano, Jose Areta on bass, and Zack Kennedy on drums. “Grin. And Barret” was old school Blue Note style, with propulsive solos and a hint of “Fly Me to the Moon.” “Slumber” was aptly titled, beginning with a gentle piano solo before the band came in. Tweddell employed his mute for the upbeat “Walkin’ wit Shell” (for his dog), featuring a walking bass line. A highlight was the ballad “Thank You Jonathan Larson,” for the late creator of the musical Rent. It was a slow waltz, with Tweddell again employing his mute to good effect. “Killing Two Birds With One’s Tone” featured incisive soloing by Duncan, who then riffed behind Kennedy’s drum solo. The group closed with “Blueisville,” dedicated to keeping Louisville weird, based on a Monk-ish head, and bringing up Coleman as guest soloist.
Coleman’s quartet, with Diego Lyra on keyboards, Areta returning for bass duties, and Jeff Mellott on drums, opened with “Rewind,” which had a Brazilian feel. “New Blues” was up next, more of a ballad than a straight blues, with the soloists each building in intensity before handing off the lead to the next. “Vast” was more of a mood-creating piece, emphasizing textures over soloing. Three more from the album, “Deimos and Phobos,” a moody piece representing shapes of the moon, “Geometry,” with exploratory guitar over a funky beat, and the title track, “Decisions,” followed. Special props to Areta, who was filling in for a bassist who was ill, and was learning a great deal on the fly. This music is thoughtfully composed, not simple blues licks, and Areta delivered. They closed with a Coleman arrangement of Vince Guaraldi’s “Christmas Time Is Here.” The following night, the bands showcased their work at Cincinnati’s Comet, and they have each released their Comet performances for purchase.
Bill Frisell returned to Louisville’s Clifton Center with his Big Sur ensemble, on Wednesday, December 4. (My interview of Frisell for this performance was in LEO, at http://leoweekly.com/music/good-chemistry-bill-frisell). This time, he performed with his Big Sur Quintet, consisting of featuring Eyvind Kang, viola; Hank Roberts, cello; Rudy Royston, drums; and Jenny Scheinman, violin, for two hours of music that ranged from dreamy to rock’n’roll surf. Most of the material was from his latest release, Big Sur, a suite commissioned by the Monterey Jazz Festival. The musicians used scores, but stretched and shaped the music far beyond what was on the written pages. Song titles were not announced, but themes from the album were heard throughout. The second piece was a long waltz, featuring a pizzicato viola solo with only subtle loops from Frisell underneath, which somehow meandered into a funky piece. The next piece may have been the album opener, “The Music of Glen Deven Ranch;” it had a hint of reggae and at one point sounded like an echo of the “eternity blue”refrain from the Grateful Dead’s “Blues for Allah.” which led to some heavy whammy bar playing. After a short intermission, the musicians returned with a slow blues, with emotional viola and guitar solos. Next up was a fast, riff-driven piece, followed by a pretty ballad with touches of folk and Celtic music. And then, this “string quarter + drummer” launched into outright, Ventures territory surf music; the double encore of the Beach Boys’ In My Room” and the Astronauts’ “Baja” neatly tied up the California coastline concepts. Frisell never ceases to explore music, with new projects and ensembles. Here’s hoping he comes back through with his next one.
Jeff Sherman brought his friends Hunt Butler on tenor and flute, Bruce Morrow on drums, and Mark McCulloch on bass to the Rudyard Kipling on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, November 10, for the latest in the monthly concert series presented by the Louisville Jazz Society, on whose Board I serve [disclaimer]. “C & H Sugar,” by Carol Kaye and Hampton Hawes, was mellow Latin funk, followed by a Pat Metheny piece whose name I didn’t catch, but which was fun and tricky. Sal Salvador’s “Loose Walk,” a/k/a “Blues Walk,” was classic uptempo bop, followed by the well-known Adagio from “Concierto de Aranjuez.” Sam Jones’ fast-paced blues “Bittersweet” closed out the first set. The second set was bookended by Charlie Parker’s “Scrapple from the Apple” and Ray Charles’ “Hit the Road, Jack,” with a highlight being “You Can’t Go Home Again” a Don Sebesky composition based on Rachmaninoff’s second piano concerto. Sherman is a past master of modern mainstream guitar, playing with verve and taste throughout, and his colleagues added to the delightful performance.
Pianist Laurence Hobgood and his friend, saxophonist Ernie Watts , returned to Kentucky Country Day on October 8 for an evening of sophisticated modern jazz, with Louisville’s own Liberation Prophecy opening. The ensemble also includes Marquis Hill – trumpet, Jared Schonig – drums, and Clark Sommers – bass. Liberation Prophecy combines jazz talents with sophisticated songwriting to create a sound which cannot be pigeonholed. Most of their set was comprised of songs from their current album, Invisible House. A highlight was the ballad “The Lazy Mist.” After a brief intermission, Hobgood, Watts and company took the stage. A rumbling piano introduction led to a hard bop flavored “The Gilded Cage,” one of several new pieces by Hobgood. Another was next, “Rip Van Winkle,” which had more of a straight four than swing feel. Hobgood began “O Wakare” (“Farewell”) with a fittingly Japanese-sounding solo, before the rest of the musicians joined in and the tempo increased, with Watts adding emotion by holding long, high notes. Hobgood offered a spoken tribute to several recently departed pianists, then offering his composition “Cedaresque” in homage to the late Cedar Walton. Watts’ sole original offering of the evening was another homage, “For Michael,” a waltz dedicated to Michael Brecker. A heartfelt saxophone solo led to a Hobgood solo which, in turn, gave way to the sole bass solo of the evening, but worth the wait. Watts returned to spar with Hill, with each horn cline complementing the other. The final selection of the night was “Septitude,” (“attitude in 7,” quipped Hobgood). A musically trained friend and I exchanged notes after the concert, and while neither of us could count the 7, we both enjoyed the swirling piece. Although the quintet only played six pieces, the group played a full hour and a half. Hobgood continues to forge a strong identity of his own as both writer and player, stepping away from the tag of “Kurt Elling’s pianist.”
Prism (Dare2 Records, www.daveholland.com)
Dave Holland has gathered a monster group for his latest project, with Kevin Eubanks on guitar, Craig Taborn on piano and Fender Rhodes (specifically), and Eric Harland on drums. In many ways, this outing is reminiscent of Holland’s days with Miles Davis, featuring blistering guitar work and a classic fusion sound. All the musicians contribute tunes, which creates variety within the overall group sound. For example, Eubanks’ opening “The Watcher” is edgy, with soloing over a fast and funky drum line. Taborn’s “Spirals” leans more toward the abstract. The leader’s “The Empty Chair (for Clare)” builds on a slow blues line, with a bass solo leading into a guitar solo which moves the piece to a climax before returning to the groove. Taborn’s acoustic piano work comes to the fore in Holland’s “A New Day,” notwithstanding the rock feel and Eubanks very electric playing. Prism presents original music with topnotch players sounding like they are having too much fun.
Into the Woodwork (XtraWATT/13, ECM, www.ecmrecords.com)
Electric bassist and composer Steve Swallow, together with his music and life partner Carla Bley (here heard on organ) have created a recording which takes the listener on a journey through subtle textures and evocative writing without abandoning the trademark humor found in much of their work. They are joined by Steve Cardenas on guitar, Chris Cheek on tenor sax, and Jorge Rossy on drums. Many of the pieces flow into one another like movements of a suite. The album opens with the quiet, subtle “Sad Old Candle,” which morphs into the title track, a lovely midtempo waltz, which, in turn, leads into “From Whom It May Concern (for Paul Haines [librettist for Bley’s Escalator Over the Hill], a ballad featuring warm saxophone work, and which rounds the corner into “Back in Action,” an uptempo, fun piece. “Grisly Business” is aptly titled, calling to mind some of Cab Calloway’s playful spookiness. Throughout, the players blend well, with subtlety and grace. This album bears repeated listening, revealing more each time around.
WorldFest 2013, held Labor Day Weekend on Louisville’s waterfront Belvedere, featured music, food, crafts and more from around the world. I was able to catch some of the jazz and jazz-related presentations, beginning with Red Baraat on Friday, August 30. The Indian-infused dance rhythms coupled with the New Orleans brass got much of the audience up and moving. Next for me was Ut Gret on Saturday, August 31. The sun was high and the audience a bit sparse for their set; nonetheless, the band played well, with its trademark blend of jazz, prog, and world music, with a particularly engaging take on Frank Zappa’s “Peaches en Regalia.” The Afrophysicists , with some personnel from Ut Gret, played a hot set with an emphasis on songs from the great Fela Kuti, including his “Zombie.” On Sunday, Squeeze Bot did a rollicking set, with repertoire ranging from the Rolling Stones’ “Mother’s Little Helper” to Chick Corea’s “Armando’s Rhumba.” The world’s best accordion-tuba-banjo-tiny drums band did it again, with leader Todd Hildreth demonstrating more rock star moves than any other squeezebox player around. Vibraphonist (and talking drummer) Dick Sisto brought bassist Jeremy Allen and drummer Kenny Phelps down from Bloomington and Indianapolis, respectively, for a set of originals and classics. Boobby Hutcherson’s “Little B’s Poem” was dedicated to Sisto’s grandchildren, and he later performed Ornette Coleman’s blues “Turnaround” as well as a Latin-style “Giant Steps,” the Coltrane classic. Liberation Prophecy was up next, with a blistering set of originals from their recently released album, Invisible House. All these artists deserve more coverage than I can provide, and I urge you to support them.