Don Krekel Orchestra at The Comedy Caravan

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Jul 092013

This was the first time in ages that I have seen the Don Krekel Orchestra, a 17-piece big band. The Comedy Caravan was packed, for a send-off concert featuring trumpet and flugelhorn player Charlie Niehoff, who is relocating to Nevada with his wife. Krekel says of Niehoff: “Charlie has left a giant music footprint in the Louisville area. He was/has for many years been a regular member or first call sub for many musical groups in this area including The Ovation Orchestra, The Crusade For Children Orchestra, The Roger Dane Big Band, The West Market Street Stompers, The Rascals Of Ragtyme, The Don Krekel Orchestra, The Wednesday Night Band and The Masterpiece Brass Quintet.” The band opened with “Time After Time,” followed by a short, fun arrangement of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” Barbara Polk sang a medley of “Some of these Days” and “After You’ve Gone,” with lyric alterations in honor of Niehoff. “My Foolish Heart” featured Niehoff’s burnished flügelhorn. Guest June Kelly-Roy joined Polk for an entertaining version of the warhorse “Why Don’t You Do Right.” The final song of the first set, “Outback Blues,” gave almost all the musicians the opportunity to shine with solo spots.

After a brief intermission, the classic sound of Count Basie was featured on “And That’s That,” followed by “Stardust.” Saxophonist Miles Davis took over singing duties for “The Tender Trap” and “Embraceable You.” Regrettably, after just a few more songs, the power went off, and the second set was cut short. One of the things which impressed me about the performance was how the big band did not overwhelm the relatively small space. Krekel told me that, in part, this was due to the acoustics of the room, and also due too the dynamics he employs in leading the band. Bon voyage, Mr. And Mrs. Niehoff, and thanks to the Don Krekel Orchestra for a most entertaining evening.

Bumper Jacksons At Haymarket

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Jul 092013

The Bumper Jacksons‘ first Louisville appearance, on a lazy Sunday (June 2) at the Haymarket Whiskey Bar, was a delight. The Washington, DC duo of Jess Eliot Myhre (clarinet, washboard, vocals, ukulele, kazoo) and Chris Ousley (guitar, banjo, ukulele, vocals, mouth horn) took the audience on a musical journey to another era. Much of the repertoire was from their new release, their album Big Horn Mama, including Robert Johnson’s “Hot Tamales,” and “He May Be Your Dog, But He’s Wearing My Collar,” a 1923 song by Rosa Henderson. “Exactly Like You” featured Myre’s warm clarinet alternating with her kazoo. Ousley played and sang a touching tribute to his grandmother, Doc Watson’s “Long Journey Home.” Most of the concert was more upbeat, though, with a long stretch back in time for “Darktown Strutters Ball,” originally recorded back in 1917 by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. Local old time band Trapper Keepers opened, with early string band and mountain music.

Review: Dave Douglas Quintet – Time Travel

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Jun 042013
Dave Douglas Quintet - Time Travel

Following trumpeter Douglas’ moving album for his late mother, Be Still, which featured an almost folk music feel and vocals, Douglas returns with a quintet recording that is a cousin, stylistically, to the Miles Davis “Second Great Quintet of the mid-1960s.” Jon Irabagon (saxophone), Matt Mitchell (piano), Linda Oh (bass) and Rudy Royston (drums) are tight, matching musical wits with Douglas on a series of seven new compositions. The title track, indeed, “time travels” with rhythms that seem to break up and reconstitute themselves, with solos ranging from post-bop to virtually free. “Law of Historical Memory” is slow and deliberate, while the following “Beware of Doug” has a hard-swinging, upbeat Art Blakey feel. The fast-paced “Garden State” builds to a climax which, in turn, leads to an inventive solo by Oh. In short, Time Travel is yet another triumph for the sometimes chameleonic Douglas, who breathes fresh life into the concept of the classic quintet lineup. Douglas, in celebration of his 50th birthday, has announced plans to tour all 50 states; at deadline time, there was no word of a Kentucky date, but let’s hope that will work out.

Review:Mark Kleinhaut & Neil Lamb

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Mar 122013
Kleinhaut & Lamb Jones Street

Mark Kleinhaut & Neil Lamb – Jones Street (

By Martin Z. Kasdan Jr.

I have only been to Savannah, Georgia, once and spent all too little time there. This album of guitar duets was recorded there during 2010 and 2011, during vacations by Kleinhaut and Lamb. All the tunes are originals; indeed, according to Bill Milkowski’s liner notes, they were distilled from many hours of casual recordings. They evoke the warmth and genteel nature of Savannah, beginning with the upbeat opener, “City Market.” “Trickster” lives up to its name, with tricky syncopations. “Guitar Bar” is laidback and bluesy, while “Twilight Garden,” has a somewhat eerie feel, apparently inspired by Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. This is a recording that is like a conversation, in music rather than words, between two old friends, and will be savored by fans of guitar jazz.

CD Review: Charles Lloyd/Jason Moran – Hagar s Song (ECM 2266)

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Mar 082013
Hagar's Song - Charles Lloyd/Jason Moran

By Martin Z. Kasdan, Jr.

Charles Lloyd continues to experiment with different lineups, here choosing to record an album of duets with his current pianist, Jason Moran. The first six songs and the final three are, with one exception, interpretations of jazz and pop standards, including a delicate performance of Billy Strayhorn’s “Pretty Girl,” also known as “Star Crossed Lovers.” The duo remain in Ellington territory with “Mood Indigo,” featuring saxophone embellishments over a straightforward read of the classic. After three more pieces, the five-part “Hagar Suite” begins. As there are no liner notes, I will quote from the ECM website: “The centerpiece of the set is the title suite composed by Lloyd and dedicated to his great-great-grandmother, who was taken from her home in south Mississippi at age 10 and sold to a slave-owner in Tennessee. ‘When I learned the story of her life it moved me very deeply,’ says Lloyd. ‘The suite mirrors the stages of her life; loss of family, loneliness and the unknown, dreams, sorrow, and songs to her newborn children.'” Indeed, the first four movements, even without the backstory, clearly represent a winding journey, tinged with sadness and yearning. The third and fourth movements, ominous in tone, flow into one another, with tambourine accents. There seems to be resolution in the closing “Hagar’s Lullaby.” The album concludes with Earl Hines’ “Rosetta,” a happy contrast to the suite, and two ballads, “I Shall Be Released” (dedicated by Lloyd to Levon Helm) and The Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows.” It’s clear as Lloyd approaches 75 (on March 15) that he continues to explore his art and passion, not resting on his laurels. A box set of his first five albums for ECM, collectively entitled Quartets, is scheduled for release in April, and documents Lloyd’s artistry from 1989 through 1996.

Review: Charles Lloyd Quartet – Athens Concert

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Oct 032011

Charles Lloyd - Athens Concert

Charles Lloyd - Athens Concert

Charles Lloyd Quartet

Athens Concert (ECM 2205,

Saxophonist Charles Lloyd continues to push boundaries and play inspirational music. Back in the 1960s, he shared the stage at the Fillmore in San Francisco with artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Love and the Grateful Dead, while maintaining an acoustic lineup featuring then-youngbloods Keith Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette. Almost a half century later, Lloyd continues to challenge himself, his band, and his audience. After exploring a blend of Indian music and jazz on the 2006 release Sangam , Master Lloyd has now turned his attention to the music of Greece. One word review: exquisite.

Athens Concert was recorded last June (2010) and features Lloyd’s current, all-star quartet: Jason Moran on piano, Reuben Rogers on bass, and Eric Harland on drums. They are augmented here by Takis Farazis on additional piano and arrangements, Socratis Sinopoulos on lyra (a bowed instrument), and the remarkable vocalist Maria Farantouri. Over the course of the two discs here, Lloyd revisits his early classic “Dream Weaver” and his more recent composition, “Prayer,” written for his late friend drummer Billy Higgins. Two other Lloyd compositions are “Blow Wind,” with evocative lyrics, and “Requiem,” with lyrics by Agathi Dimitrouka. All lyrics, whether originally English or translated from Greek, are included in the booklet. The concert opens with the ethereal “Kratissa Ti Zoi Mou [I Kept Hold of My Life],” one of two compositions by Mikis Theodorakis. Lloyd’s saxophone playing is like a warm ray of sun, with subtle accompaniment by his quartet and heavenly singing. Much of the concert is given over to the three-part “Greek Suite,” incorporating traditional (even ancient) Greek music with modern Greek compositions and Lloyd’s synthesis of styles. While songs such as “Dream Weaver” may clearly be jazz, this is not a “jazz album” in any standard sense of the word. Rather, it is a voyage through time and space. Followers of Charles Lloyd will appreciate this, as will lovers of world music and exploratory jazz.

Stan Getz: The Complete Columbia Collections

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Aug 082011

Stan Getz: The Complete Columbia Collections

Stan Getz

The Complete Columbia Albums Collection

(Sony Legacy,

By Martin Z. Kasdan, Jr.

Sax great Stan Getz needs no introduction, his works having crossed over into popular culture with his early tenure as one of the famed “Four Brothers” in Woody Herman’s Second Herd, and continuing through his Grammy-winning rendition of “Girl from Ipanema” in 1965. His jazz credentials remained solid throughout the decades. His work for Columbia, spanning 1972-79, has now been issued as an 8-disc box set, which spans the stylistic range from the searing fusion of Captain Marvel to the lush orchestrations of the little-known Forest Eyes soundtrack. Mainstream is well represented by The Master and his classic recording with Jimmie Rowles, alternately known as Stan Getz Presents Jimmie Rowles and The Peacocks . His collaboration with Joao Gilberto, The Best of Two Worlds, is a delightful continuation of the 1960s run of Bossa Nova albums. A bonus disc includes live recordings with Getz as a featured soloist with Woody Herman’s New Thundering Herd (Carnegie Hall, 1976), a 1977 piece from Montreux, and the two songs previously released as part of Havana Jam 2 . Rounding out the collection are two late ’70s albums, Another World and Children of the World . Taken as a whole, the collection encompasses virtually every style of jazz other than traditional and avant-garde. Getz’s warm playing, of course, is the constant. Captain Marvel , in particular, should be more widely known, as Getz joins forces with Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, Airto Moreira and Tony Williams for a program of songs which presage the Return to Forever Light as a Feather album. On Another World , Getz incorporates electronic effects into many of the pieces, with the title track finding the saxophonist weaving a solo, echo-laden tapestry redolent of Terry Riley and some of John Surman’s ECM works. However, this 2-LP-on-1-CD set also includes many straightahead pieces as well. Children of the World is a bit glossy and more pop oriented than the other albums. The only drawback to this box set is that the booklet, which includes complete personnel listings and recording dates, does not include the liner notes from the original albums, which are reproduced in tiny CD scale on the individual covers within the box.