When Jimmy Smith, the godfather of modern jazz for the B-3 organ, died, Smith had already chosen who would keep the flame burning: Joey DeFrancesco, a childhood prodigy on the organ. The Jazz Kitchen is bringing back the popular jazz organist this Friday for two shows.
DeFrancesco is very much in demand now as the leading player of the B-3 jazz organ. His role in jazz has expanded even more as I found out in this interview.
NUVO: There is a resurgence among older jazz fans for the B–3 organ sound. What do you think it takes to give it a mass appeal?
DeFrancesco: We are working on a lot of different ideas to do that and get a lot of younger people interested. They are starting to have organ classes in schools, colleges. I have been doing some things like that. The main thing is to get to younger people. That’s how you do it. Jimmy and I were in the process of opening a school in Arizona and it would be an accredited university. We would probably have called it the Jimmy Smith School of Music.
NUVO: You have an extensive career of touring for two decades. Is there any basis to reports that audiences today have lost touch with the jazz tradition?
DeFrancesco: You still have a lot of the older, traditional fans who come out. You play the organ, which is always a favorite of the blue-collar type. It makes them feel good. We still have that good following. But there’s a lot of younger people that are interested, too. The organ, I think, is getting a lot more attention than a lot of the other jazz. A lot of people think that it is something new but it isn’t.
DeFrancesco has a big role in the fall release of the movie Moonlight Serenade as a jazz-organ-playing club owner. He also plans to carry on the summer tour originally scheduled as the Jimmy and Joey tour. Supporting DeFrancesco at the Jazz Kitchen Friday will be his permanent drummer, Byron Landham, and new guitarist, Jake Riley.
Celebrating Jazz Appreciation Month There is a lot of activity around Jazz Appreciation Month locally, and you can participate in the fun and enjoyment. The International Association of Jazz Educators published guidelines in their current issue of Jazz Education Journal. JAM was supported by Congress, which passed legislation that was signed by the president in 2003.
Ideas to celebrate JAM.
1. Donate a musical instrument to a local middle school or high school jazz band or organization that teaches jazz to children.
2. Join your local jazz society.
3. Listen to jazz recordings with children. Help them identify the instruments they are hearing and ask them what they liked about the music.
4. Read books about jazz or purchase a jazz CD or DVD.
5. Attend a jazz concert or club where jazz is played, or support an institutional jazz program.
The Artsgarden has a month-long program of free concerts supporting JAM: April 14, Sounds of Essence, 2:15 p.m.; April 16, Michael Houston Group, 1 p.m.; April 19, Briggs Houchin Jazz Duo, 12:15 p.m.; April 21, Gregg Bacon & Company, 12:15 p.m.; April 22, Mary Moss & Friends, 12:15 p.m.; April 24, Monika Herzig Acoustic Project, 2 p.m.; April 29, Indiana Avenue Jazz All Stars, 12:15 p.m. The IUPUI Jazz Band directed by Jack Gilfoy will play a JAM concert April 28 at 7:30 p.m. in the Recital Hall, IT Building.
Wynton Marsalis returns The director of the prestigious Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and nine-time Grammy Award winner Wynton Marsalis returns to Clowes Memorial Hall Friday for an 8 p.m. concert. Supporting Marsalis’ glistening trumpet sound are Aaron Goldberg, piano, Walter Blanding Jr., saxophone, Carlos Henriquez, bass, Ali Jackson, drums, and Jennifer Sanon, vocals. Jack Gilfoy, IUPUI director of jazz studies, IU School of Music, will give a pre-performance talk beginning at 7:15 p.m. that is free to all concert ticket holders. Jazz data The Indianapolis Jazz Orchestra and singers will salute the musical theater with their “Big Band On Broadway Tribute” Friday, April 15 in the Indiana State Museum’s Grand Hall at 8 p.m. The IJO will also perform the score of West Side Story originally written for the Buddy Rich Orchestra. Tickets are $15 advance and $20 at the door.
The BWJO Sextet will play Friday Night Swing Dance at the Fountain Square Theater from 8:30 to 11:30 p.m.
The Fred Sights Group with vocalist Barbara Epps is performing at Saks Fifth Avenue, Keystone at the Crossing, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m.
Everett Greene brings his mellow vocal sound Thursday, April 14 to the Hancock County Public Library in Greenfield at 700 N. Broadway in a free concert. Reservations are strongly recommended, call 317-462-5141, ext. 12.
The highly acclaimed Frank and Joe Show featuring New York jazz recording artist Frank Vignola on guitar, Joe Ascione on drums and their swinging band of New York jazz musicians will play Radio Radio Wednesday, April 20 at 8 p.m.