Jan 262014

Tiempo Libre
Tiempo Libre is a Miami-based band of Cuban-born musicians who received Grammy nominations for their 2005 and 2006 albums, Arroz con Mango and Lo Que Esperabas. They are known for their Timba style, which represents a synthesis of traditional; and contemporary styles of music, including jazz. They play on Thursday, January 30, 2014, 8:00 PM , at the Kentucky Center’s Bomhard Theater. Ticket information is available by phone, 502-584-7777 and online, www.kentuckycenter.org/BoxOffice.

Jan 132014


Dave Sharp’s Secret 7


(Vortex Jazz)

Detroit-based bassist Dave Sharp explores the intersection of jazz and world musics on this new release. His colleagues, including saxophonist/flutist Chris Kaercher, move from lilting Afro-pop on the opening “Sherehe” to raga-influenced pieces such as “Return” and “Kalinjar.” “Sunrise” features oud and other Middle Eastern instruments, evoking memories of Sandy Bull’s pan-ethnic explorations. Throughout, Sharp and the many musicians demonstrate a love for and mastery of a variety of styles, for an entertaining and uplifting album.

Jan 092014

I am pleased to offer you an obituary prepared by Louisville’s own Jeff Sherman, which he graciously prepared for use in my column.

Jazz guitarist Jim Hall died December 10th at the age of 83. Guitar Player magazine once described Jim as one of the most important guitarists of the last 25 years. Jim’s self-deprecating sense of humor was evident when critics would describe his style as sparse and Jim would explain that meant he didn’t have any chops. Jim once said that if anyone wants to play fast, he goes home. Yet, he always had enough technique to take jazz to the high art form that it is by responding immediately to the other players in the band. Jim told me that he and Bill Evans had only played briefly once before they recorded the important and intuitive album “Undercurrent”.
Jim, like many of his colleagues of the 1950’s, was a word guy. He loved language and enjoyed playing Scrabble with his wife Jane. Jim’s solos often sound like someone working his way through a Scrabble board, building on what is there and finishing the game with a new sonic structure.  Jim will be missed but aren’t we glad that he left us this timeless music and his positive life force described in a song that he liked to play, “The Answer Is Yes”.——- Jeff Sherman

Time and space do not allow for more than passing mention of the following artists who recently left us: Chico Hamilton, drummer (1921-2013); mullti-horn player Yusef Lateef,(1920-2013); trumpeter Al Porcino (1925-2013); bassist Dwayne Burno (1970-2013); pianist Jimmy Amadie (1937-2013); Ron (Rahn) Burton, a Louisville native perhaps best known for his many years playing piano with Rahsaan Roland Kirk; drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson: 1940-2013; and more. JazzTimes’ Jeff Tamarkin has a far more extensive list at http://jazztimes.com/articles/116056-remembering-those-who-left-us-in-2013.0/

Nov 202013

Vibraphonist Dick Sisto and pianist Steve Allee return to the Clifton Center for a series of four concerts, in the same setting as the first, with audience members joining the musicians on stage. On November 24, the musicians will feature the spiritual music of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. The concert will also celebrate the release of the quartet’s new CD. Ticket information at www.cliftoncenter.tix.com

Nov 072013

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.”

Nov 062013

Guitarist Jeff Sherman gets headliner status rather than dinner music backlighting when he brings his quartet to the Rudyard Kipling on Sunday, November 10, for a matinee at 3:00 PM. His comrades in arms are Hunt Butler on tenor and flute, Bruce Morrow on drums, and Mark McCulloch on bass. The Rud is at 422 W Oak Street in Old Louisville. This is another in the monthly concert series presented by the Louisville Jazz Society, on whose Board I serve, and discounts are available for members. http://louisvillejazz.org

Nov 052013

Dave Douglas Quintet By Mike Tracy
The Dave Douglas Quintet, featuring Jon Irabagon (saxophone), Matt Mitchell (piano), Linda Oh (bass) and Rudy Royston (drums), the same lineup featured on Douglas’ last two albums, Be Still and Time Travel, played its first Kentucky concert at the Clifton Center on Sunday, September 29. The group opened with a track from Time Travel, “Little Feet,” introduced by Douglas with the comment that it was based on a children’s song. Douglas took the first solo, starting slowly but steadily, then building in intensity, a pattern followed by Irabagon (who snuck in a quote from “I Got Rhythm”) and Mitchell. “This Is My father’s World,” a hymn from Be Still, was next, with a lovely a cappella trumpet coda. Indeed, most of the songs throughout both sets were from these two albums. One notable exception came near the end of the second set, a moving rendition of the spiritual “There Is a Balm in Gilead,” a thematic fit to the songs on Be Still. Douglas and company played this slowly and emotionally, with a touch of New Orleans. Douglas eschewed the customary mute, instead cupping his upraised bell with his hand, even dropping to one knee before the song’s conclusion. The band closed with “Garden State,” from Time Travel, which featured a tight drums-and-bass duet. As Douglas told me in my interview for LEO [http://leoweekly.com/music/dave-douglas-older-dog-newer-tricks], “. . . the band that I’m coming with is the most identifiably jazz group of the things that I’m doing right now.” Indeed, between the classic quintet formulation and the handing off of solos from one musician to the next, this was mainstream modern jazz at its finest.

Nov 052013


Louisville Jazz Artists Rock!

I am happy that we have so many talented local jazz artists, and happier still that so many of them are releasing new albums. At this writing, I have received new material from Graeme Gardiner and Lourenço Vasconcellos , entitled Kinetic Meditations, Brandon Coleman’s Decisions, Craig Tweddell’s Away with Words, and the Todd Hildreth Trio’s Hymns. Look for more information here and in LEO Weekly; see below for information on a joint CD release party Coleman and Tweddell are planning for mid-December.

RIP, Ronald Shannon Jackson

Drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson was an integral part of Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time, and put together a hard-hitting ensemble, The Decoding Society, which had been influenced by Coleman. He combined jazz and funk with African and other world rhythms. He passed away, from leukemia, in October at his home in Fort Worth, at the age of 73.

Oct 052013

simakDialog - The 6th Story
The 6th Story (www.moonjune.com)

MoonJune continues to release exciting albums, both archival and newly recorded. simakDialog hails from Indonesia, and incorporates acoustic and electric keyboards (Riza Arshad), electric guitar (Tohpati), electric bass (Adhitya Pratama), and Indonesian percussion (Endang Ramdan, Erlan Suwardana and Cucu Kurnia) into a heady mix. A quick point of reference might be Weather Report or the Zawinul Syndicate, but the music incorporates elements of gamelan as well as Western jazz. This is the band’s sixth album, and shows originality, adventurous playing, and enough stretching out to keep the music exciting without making songs go on too long.

Mack Avenue SuperBand
Live from the Detroit Jazz Festival – 2012 (www.mackavenue.com)

Mack_Ave - Superband
Mack Avenue is a Detroit-based label, and boasts an illustrious lineup of both established and new jazz musicians. Many gathered for the 2012 Detroit Jazz Festival, captured in this release. The rhythm section is Carl Allen, drums; Aaron Diehl, piano; and Rodney Whitaker, bass. Saxophonist Tia Fuller and trumpeter Sean Jones open with Jones’ blues “Liberty Avenue Stroll,” after which vibraphonist Gary Burton and guitarist join Allen and Whitaker for the classic “All Blues,” with Eubanks cutting loose and Burton playing at the top of his game. Next up is a solo piano deconstruction of “Guantanamera” by Alfredo Rodríguez, followed by guitarist Evan Perri and the trio with a lovely “Nuages.” Singer Cécile McLorin Salvant, whose name you will soon know if you don’t already, shows her blues side on a rendition of Bessie Smith’s “Oh Daddy Blues.” The Saxophonist Diego joins all the instrumentalists (except Alfredo Rodríguez) for a gutbucket blowout on Bill Doggett’s “Honky Tonk,” performed as a tribute to Detroit bluesman Johnnie Bassett, who had recently passed away.

Scott Hamilton - Remembering Billie
Scott Hamilton
Remembering Billie (Blue Duchess, www.blueduchessrecords.com)

Scott Hamilton burst on the scene as a traditional saxophonist in an era of modernity. Here he pays tribute to Billie Holiday, playing with his customary warmth and reverence for an earlier period of jazz. His accompaniment is tasteful with pianist Tim Ray, bassist Dave Zinno and drummer Jim Gwin. Labelmate and album producer Duke Robillard adds tasty guitar to “FoolingMyself” and “I’ll Never Be the Same.” Fans of classic jazz will find much to savor in this recording.

Oct 042013

Dave Holland Prism
Dave Holland
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.

Swallow Quintet
The Swallow Quintet
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.

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