[Dixielandjazz] Twentieth Annual Elkhart Jazz Festival
hvickery at svs.com
Sun Jun 24 19:42:45 PDT 2007
I just got back home from the twentieth annual Elkhart Jazz Festival, and I
have to say that I enjoyed myself this year more than I have in recent
years, not because the others were so bad, but because this year was so
good. If I have one regret, its that I hitched a ride there with my son and
his girlfriend because they pooped out long before I did, so I was unable to
hear two hours of music the past two nights that I would have been able to
hear had I driven myself. Next year I drive!
Heres a brief report on who I did see:
A mix and match set with Allan Vache (more on his name later), Randy
Reinhart, Bob Havens, Bucky Pizzarelli, John Sheridan, Frank Tate, and Eddie
Shaughnessy. Some terrific playing on a set of mostly standards.
Next, a set by The Four Freshman in their current incarnation. Curtis
Calderon is their current second part singer/trumpeter. It was his first
time at Elkhart, and he noted all the great traditional jazz players who
were booked there. Nice to see a young guy (probably not too long out of
North Texas State or whatever the university is called now) with an
appreciation for OKOM! I have to say that the current group really does
justice to the legacy of the Freshmen.
One thing theyve added to the act, at least that I havent seen before, is
a segment, where all four of them gather around a single microphone and
harmonize. Among several songs sung that way, Its a Blue World probably
The last set we saw because of the tired youngsters was a set by Rob
Partons JazzTech Big Band. Parton is an alumnus of Northern Illinois
University, from whence I graduated 34 years ago, and was a terrific lead
trumpet with their Jazz Ensemble back in the mid/late 80s. The last I knew
he was the director of jazz studies at Roosevelt University in Chicago.
Hes been leading the big band for nearly 20 years now, and its as good as
Ive ever heard it. Besides their own arrangements, they played a couple of
nice tunes by Thad Jones and Tadd Dameron. I dont know if thats YKOM, but
it is definitely MKOM.
The first set was another mix and match with Chuck Hedges, Reinhart,
Havens, Pizzarelli, Eddie Higgins, Tate and Shaughnessy. My son commented
to me, Shaughnessy really drives a group. Yes, he does. Wasnt Hedges
ill a while back? If so, hes back at full throttle. Another very nice set
I was only able to catch the first 35 minutes of the next set because we
wanted to catch the next group Ill be reporting on. The partial set
consisted of Vache (introduced by the emcee as Allan Vosh), John Allred,
Jon-Erik Kellso, Mark Shane, John Bany, and Jake Hanna. In the portion of
the set I heard, the three horns seemed to be trying to outdo one another in
bringing down the house. Just absolutely terrific playing.
The reason the set was cut short, though, was because of a group Id been
hearing about (and seeing the members of sitting in the audience catching
numerous other sets): Yoshimi and Carolina Shout. The band consists of
Yoshimi Fukasawa (leader/piano), Tetsu Shimona (trumpet/vocals); Koji
Shiraishi (clarinet), Magome Sakuma (guitar) Shigematsu Tano (bass), and
Hiroshi Hadaka (drums). Id never heard the group before, so I cant say I
was surprised, but I was kind of awestruck at the chops they had. Yoshimi
is a terrific pianist, and the rest were at least equally as impressive.
Nice solos by all around, including some nice chorded solos by Sakuma on
guitar. Tom Fisher sat in with the group for a couple of tunes and did some
nice dueting with Shiraishi. A wonderful set!
It started late and ended early. The late start was due to supper. The
well, weve talked about that!
We wanted to see the lifetime award presentation, so we ended up catching
the last half of a set by Rob Parton at the Elco Theater where the
presentation was made. Again, a good big band set.
Next came the awards presentations. One went to Ken Paplowski and the other
to the guy who runs the festival, Glenn Holtz (perhaps much to Lowells
chagrin). Paplowski then played a set with the Shelly Berg Trio: Berg
(piano), Lou Fischer (bass), and Steve Houghton (drums). The set covered a
pretty good part of the jazz spectrum, starting with sax quartet type stuff
with Paplowski on tenor, and then some standards with Paplowski switching to
clarinet. Berg is a master at generating excitement with his piano playing
and he and Paplowski did a nice job of egging each other on. The high point
was a Brazilian piece that Paplowski called a charro <sp>. Kind of like
a samba, only
cheaper. Actually it was a tour de force of insturmental
technique by everyone in the band along with some great improvising.
(Believe me, Im not one to throw around superlatives
thats why I say that
this was the best festival at Elkhart in years.)
Things mellowed out in the next (and last for us) set of the day. It wasnt
billed as such, but you might call it a guitar summit with Pizzarelli,
Marty Grosz, and James Chirillo. The set consisted of everything from Bix
Beiderbeckes Flashes (Pizzarelli) to a tune by Carl Kress (Grosz) to My
Romance (Chirillo) with some Gershwin, Waller, Porter, and God knows who
else thrown in. I guess if I had to go to bed early, this was a pretty good
set to leave after.
Well, Bob Evans was more than packed, so we ended up having breakfast at a
nearly as crowded, but much smaller Main Street Café. The problem was that
even though we got there before 11:00 a.m., we didnt get out until
afternoon, so we missed the first 25 minutes of a set by the Ed Polcer
Swingtet. Polcer was joined by Tom Fischer (clarinet), Johnny Varro
(piano), Vince Giordano (bass), Butch Miles (drums), and Judy Kurtz
(vocals). The part of the set we heard was very nice, but the high point
for me was near the end where Polcer, Fischer, and Miles played a frantic
Swing That Music that had the rather small audience cheering for good
Next we caught a set by Hedges, Reinhart, Higgins, Jay Leonhart, and Miles
that began with a duet on Besame Mucho with Hedges and Reinhart to buy some
time because Leonhart had to walk a couple of blocks from a set that ended
at the same time this set started. (That should make you feel better,
Lloyd. The scheduling was true to form!) Leonhart made it about halfway
through the second tune, and they set up a mic on him on the fly so to
speak. A couple of high points: 1) a song by Leonhart about a gig he
played at a posh hotel in NYC with Louis Belson where a white haired
customer complained that the music wasnt Lester Lanin (with Miles playing
Belson). 2) Samba These Days, featuring Hedges and Miles.
We finished the festival with a set with Vache (introduced by this MC as
Allan Van-shay, although he did correct himself), Kellso, Chirillo, Shane,
and Hanna. BTW this was the first time I ever saw Hanna play with a couple
of tom toms
and he actually did use them a couple of times. This must have
been the day for Samba These Days because Chirillo played it as a solo
backed by Hanna. Shane played a very pretty piano solo, and of course the
name of the tune has flown from my memory. Not a spectacular set but very
I remarked to my son and his girlfriend as we were walking to the car after
the last set, You wait for months for it to come, and it seems like its
over before it starts.
The only disappointing thing for me was that I missed several people I had
originally targeted. I missed Bill Allreds Classic Jazz Band, Mighty
Aphrodite, BED, Duke Heitger, Charlie Braugham, and the Orquesta de Jazz y
Salsa Alto Maiz (my favorite salsa band from Iowa). But I cant say I was
disappointed. I saw too many good sets to feel that way, and I hope I can
make it again next year.
More information about the Dixielandjazz