Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Jazz about Town

While I'm cozily tucked into my warm house--with lots of food, cats, and library books--to wait out the aftermath of the humongous winter storm, I thought to post a bit about recent jazz gigs I've been to in the past few weeks.

Just before the really bad weather started, we'd gone to the Iron Post for a session with Kevin Hart's "Vibe Tribe." Kevin is a fantastic musician and plays some amazing jazz on the vibraphone. He used to live in Champaign-Urbana and we have enjoyed his performances for many years. Now he lives in Bloomington but still comes over to teach a class at Parkland College.

 Tonight he was playing with two of his former students from a class he taught at Knox College in Galesburg: Adam Wilhelm on keyboards and Andy Crawford on bass. Also joining him were Tony Marcos on drums (ISU jazz studies director) and local trumpet player Jeff Helgesen.

They played a nice mix of standards and original compositions. For two numbers, Donnie Heitler, jazz pianist of local and longtime fame, joined them. He and Kevin go way back.

The prior weekend we heard the group called "The Music of Django Reinhardt," led by Jordan Kaye on guitar. The group plays at the Post every month, sometimes with slightly different musicians. In the past we've enjoyed Ben Smith on violin and Chris Reyman on accordion. This time there were two horn players: Mikael Templeton on saxophone and clarinet and Nick Schroeder on trumpet (with three different very cool mutes). Josh Houchin, Jordan's "right-hand man" was there on bass as well. And we were fortunate enough for Paul Asaro, incredible stride-style jazz piano player, to be in town between national touring gigs. It was a good show as always. They did "experiment" some, as Jordan put it, with tunes I didn't know. I guess I do prefer the standards and the Django compositions best, but we had a good time and there was a good turnout.

Later in the weekend, we went to hear Mikael Templeton's excellent quintet. This weekend there are some good gigs scheduled, including Bate Calado, Bossa Nuevo, and Sandunga, but it remains to be seen whether the weather will relent enough for us oldies to dare to venture out after dark.

We are really lucky to have such as wealth of great live music in this community. In addition to jazz gigs, there are rock bands on campus, country music and blues in several local clubs, ethnic world music performances in various venues, and classical music at the university performing arts center. The university school of music is a big attraction for many talented young musicians and a lot of the jazz bands we enjoy include grad students. It's just another reason why Champaign-Urbana is a great place to live and rather atypical in east central Illinois (but we do still wish there were mountains and lakes).

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