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    Jazz is one of the most under appreciated genres in the American musical lexicon – and like rock n’ roll, blues, and country music – it hails from the south in New Orleans, then St. Louis and Chicago, respectively.  At its best jazz elevates, it’s a transcendent medium that banks on complex chord changes, intricate time signatures, and sometimes some improvisation.  Unlike most American musical genres, jazz is known as much for being purely instrumental musical medium, as it is for being a vocal showcase for singers and songwriters.  Ultimately when it comes to jazz, nothing is off limits, nothing is off the table, and nothing completely off the page.

    I cannot play jazz.  Hell, I can’t play instrument or sing a note to save my life.  But I love it all the same.  I feel it in my bones.  Names like Mingus, Miles, Adderly, Coltrane, Ra, and Armstrong are tattooed somewhere in the long canal that connects my ears to my heart.  I found jazz in high school, like most people, I wetted my feet with the masterpiece Miles Davis “Kind of Blue.”  It was an album that opened doors to my juvenile ears to a world so interconnected and beautiful that I knew I would never again be the same.  Albums like Charles Mingus’ “Black Saint and the Sinner Lady,”  John Zorn’s “Naked City,” Bill Frisell’s “Gone, Just Like a Train,” Billy Holiday “Lady Sings the Blues,” or John Coltrane “A Love Supreme.”  These are albums that mean as much to me now as Nirvana’s “Nevermind,” The Beatles “Abbey Road,” or Led Zeppelin’s “Physical Grafitti” ever did.

    Jazz being the most overlooked of all American music, I wanted to take a few minutes to look at Louisville’s contribution to the modern scene.  Here is a listing of some of the city’s finest players, a little bit about them, and their favorite shows our city has to offer.

    Carly Johnson:  Vocalist
    Bio:  Carly received her Bachelor’s Degree in Music from University of the Arts in Philadelphia.  She regularly works in a jazz duo with guitarist Craig Wagner, and has performed with Liberation Prophecy, Ben Sollee, Will Oldham, and Norah Jones.  She also contributed vocals to My Morning Jacket’s “Holding On To Black Metal.”  Johnson is also regularly a featured artist on WFPK, and in 2014 Johnson and Wagner released the album “It’s Pretty Standard” and won the Louisville Music Award for Jazz Artist of the Year.

    Favorite Jazz albums:
    Sarah Vaughan with Clifford Brown – “Sarah Vaughan” (1954)
    Julie London – “Julie Is Her Name” (1955)
    Stan Getz – “The Steamer” (1956)
    Nina Simone: “Little Girl Blue” (1957)

    Favorite Local Jazz Shows:
    Decca:  “I love going out on Monday nights to hear The Buzzard play in the cellar of Decca at 8pm. Excellent players & friends of mine, delicious martinis and chill atmosphere.”
    Nachbar:  “I also love Wednesdays at the Nach Bar with Jacob Duncan's trio. Solid performances by extremely talented musicians... and if you're lucky you'll get to hear Chris Fitzgerald (bass) and Mike Hyman (drums) play with Jacob (sax).”
    Meta:  “One of my favorite places to play is at Meta every Thursday night from 9-11pm. I sing in a vocal/guitar duo with Craig Wagner--who is so talented we're all sure he's probably an alien. The vibe at Meta is incredible, and the craft cocktails and wine selection can't be beat.”

    You can see her with Craig Wagner:
    Thursdays at Meta, 9-11pm.
    Fridays at Volare, 7-10pm.
    Saturdays at Brendon's Catch 23, 8-11pm.
    Sundays at Wiltshire On Market, 630-930pm.

    Chris Fitzgerald:  Bassist
    Bio:  Chris Fitzgerald earned a Master of Music degree in Theory and Composition from the University of Louisville in 1992. Since then, he has been dedicated to music education, teaching at various colleges and universities throughout the region.  Fitzgerald has also performed and/or toured with Darius Brubeck,  Sonny Fortune, Java Men, Norah Jones, Dave Liebman, Jean-Michel Pilc,  and several others. He is currently a professor at the University of Louisville, where he teaches jazz theory, traditional theory, improvisation, jazz bass, jazz piano, and jazz ensembles. He currently plays in a number of local performing and recording groups, as well as bassist in the original music ensemble Liberation Prophecy.

    Favorite Jazz Albums:
    Ray Brown Trio – “Live From New York to Tokyo”
    Chick Corea – “Now He Sings, Now He Sobs”
    Cannonball Adderly – “Something Else”
    Fred Hersch Trio – “Dancing in the Dark”

    Favorite Local Jazz Shows:
    Nachbar:  “I love the Nachbar and play there every other week, but also play at UofL on faculty concerts during the year and during the Aebersold camps as camp faculty in the summer.”

    Tim Whalen:  Tenor and Soprano Saxes
    Bio:  Started playing professionally with father, Pat Whalen’s, big band at age 15. Co-led the group Street Talk with trumpeter Ken Slone which performed at many venues in the Louisville area. In 1980 relocated to New York and worked in the groups of “Brother” Jack McDuff and the big bands of Larry Elgart, performing with Sammy Davis Jr., Rosemary Clooney, Johnny Hartman and others. In the late 80’s began playing with various Latin groups that toured Japan, the Caribbean, Europe and South America. In 1994 relocated to San Francisco and co-led the group XNY with fellow ex New Yorker, pianist Rob Schneiderman (Eddie Harris, James Moody, Rufus Reid). Returned to Louisville in 2004 and appeared at the Seelbach (w/ Dick Sisto), the now defunct Jazz Factory, and many restaurants, including Varanese, Jack Fry’s, Jeff Ruby’s.

    Favorite Jazz Albums: 
    Charlie Parker – “Bird At St. Nick’s Elvin Jones”
    Elvin Jones - “Live At The Lighthouse”
    Any of Miles Davis’ live recordings.

    Favorite Local Jazz Shows:
    Nachbar:  “(Their) long running Wednesday night and other jazz related acts they have.”
    Jack Fry’s:  “Tuesday through Thursday the great pianist Ray Johnson performs there.”
    Varanese:  “Jeff Sherman plays a long running seven night a week jazz gig that features a lot of local talent.”

    Where you can see Tim Whale perform:
    Every Monday from 8-11 at Decca restaurant. He also performs regularly with local R&B group V-Groove.

    David Clark:  Saxophone
    Bio:  Dave began playing violin in sixth grade and saxophone in seventh grade. Having played both throughout public school, he studied saxophone performance at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkansas, received a BM in music education and a Masters of Music in jazz performance from the University of Louisville. He has had the good fortune to study with Harry Pickens, Don Braden, Wessell Anderson, Sim Flora, and Branford Marsalis. Dave has performed with such diverse artists as Benny Golson, Clark Terry, Randy Brecker, Stanley Turrentine, James Moody, Kevin Mahogany, Nancy Wilson, Miles Griffith, Delfeayo Marsalis, The Dells, and Louisville Orchestra. Dave has performed at the Umbria Jazz Festival in Perugia, Italy, as well as the Montreaux Jazz Festival in Montreaux, Switzerland. He has also performed as part of a good will tour and educational exchange program in Barbados. Dave makes his home in Louisville, KY, where he is the former Director of Jazz Studies at Bellarmine University. Dave is now the Director of Bands and Instrumental Activities at Simmons College of KY. Dave's duties at Simmons include building the instrumental music program from scratch, directing the band, and developing new degree programs in music education, performance and music production. Dave also serves on the faculty of Jamey Aebersold's Summer Jazz Camps.  The Courier-Journal wrote of Clark’s music, "(His) playing mixed technical brilliance and beautifully personal expressions…."

    Favorite Jazz Albums?
    John Coltrane – “Crescent”
    Complete Charlie Parker on Verve
    Frank Morgan – “Mood Indigo”
    Shirley Horn – “Here's to Life”
    Anything by Duke Ellington or David Murray

    Favorite Local Jazz Shows:
    Nachbar: “Freedom of expression”
    Catch 22: “Nice upscale bar in the new Embassy Hotel downtown.”
    The Bard's Town: “Nice room with good sound.”

    Where you can see David Clark perform:
    Jazz Brunch every Sunday at the Blu Italian Grill in the downtown Marriott from 10:30am-2:00pm.

    Jake Reber:  Bass (primarily), guitar & cello
    Bio: Local Musician-Comedian-Multihyphenate, attended U of L jazz program under the tutelage of Chris Fitzgerald. Currently more reknown in Louisville for stand-up comedy, including the Louisville Roasts series and for hosting the longest running open mic in town, The Comedy Attack! at KAIJU (every other Sunday), but still plays jazz frequently and incorporates his upright bass into his comedy routine.

    -What is your favorite Jazz album(s)?
    - Mingus Ah Um (1959) by Charles Mingus

    -What are 3 of your favorite Jazz local shows/venues to play in or go watch? Why for each of them?
    1) Nachbar:  “Been going steadily for 8 years to watch Jacob Duncan’s trio; world class musicianship every Wednesday.  I’ve actually built my adult life and work schedule to have Wednesday be my Friday, for this gig alone.”
    2) Decca:  “Real Speakeasy feel to it, going down to a barely-lit basement to hear guys jam.”
    3) Louis's The Ton:  “Only been once, to see Kendall Carter with Rob Nickerson and Tyrone Wheeler. Seemed like an awesome place, really looking forward to seeing more and playing there soon!”

    Where you can see Jake Reber perform:
    Nothing pertinent as to the writing of this article, but working on a piano trio that may have something soon.

    Drew Miller:  Saxophones
    Bio:  Miller is a Louisville native and has been playing in bands and writing music around town for a while now.

    Favorite Jazz Albums:
    Michael Brecker – “Tales From the Hudson”
    Herbie Hancock – “Head Hunters”
    Sonny Rollins – “Freedom Jazz Suite”

    Favorite Local Shows or Venues:
    Nachbar:  “Because it is a good hang and the owners are great people and the music is good.”
    Dreamland:   “It is an intimate venue and the focus is all in the music. Tim books a lot of great music and national acts which would otherwise be skipping louisville on their tours.”
    Decca:  “I haven’t been for a bit, but the music is always legit.”

    Where You can See Drew Miller Perform:
    Every final Friday of the month with Curio Key Club (formerly D'arkestra) at the Nachbar.  “We have horns and improvisation but we're not really jazz!”  Miller says.

    Paul Culligan: Drummer
    Bio:  Culligan regularly plays in local clubs, but his true passion is working in the studio.  He has said, “You get a chance to be creative, and it is a challenge to take something not great and make it into something that’s really great.”  Recently Paul has been in the studio with artists such as Travis Triss, Kid Rock, Greg Forsmen, and is a regular performer at Louisville’s own Bazanus Studio, consistently working on various Jazz and Rock recording sessions.  He also performs with legendary local band Days of the New.

    Favorite Albums:
    Gentle Giants



    Artwork courtesy of:

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    About Brent Owen

    Born and raised in Louisville, I have lived here most of my life (except during a short furlough, when I, lovelorn and naive, followed a girl to Baton Rouge). My roots are here, my family, my friends, and my life are all here. I work primarily as a free-lance writer for a few local and regional publications. I have also written two books (one a memoir, the other a novel) that barring some divine intervention, will probably never see the light of day. I find myself deeply ingrained in the local bar scene, or perhaps better said, I often indulge in the local drinking culture. I love music, movies, comedy, and really just about any other live performance art.

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