Our city has an internationally renowned and sustained heritage of jazz - especially during the 1940s to the 1960s.
The Indiana Jazz Allstars will play a free concert Saturday.
One street, Indiana Avenue, was a major catalyst in the local jazz explosion that gave the jazz world some of its most brilliant practitioners during this golden era. The Madame Walker Theatre Center functioned as a cultural anchor during that period and is playing that role once again. Saturday, Sept. 21 at 7 p.m., the Madame Walker Theatre Center, in conjunction with MPTF, Local 3 American Federation of Musicians and the Arts Council of Indianapolis will present a premiere concert of the Indiana Avenue Jazz Allstars. This special concert, in the historic Madame Walker Theatre, is free and open to the public with limited seating available. Under the guidance of bassist Frank Smith (musical director), this special concert will include saxophonists Jimmy Coe and Alonzo "Pookie" Johnson, two of the original modern jazz players on Indiana Avenue. Handling the brass section will be Clifford Ratliff on trumpet and Reginald DuValle on trombone - both of whom played with various swing and jazz bands in the golden era of Indy jazz. Rounding out the rhythm section with Smith"s bass are the Rev. Marvin Chandler on piano and noted artist and drummer Chris Pyle. Four of this city"s best vocalists will be featured throughout the concert: James Bell, Vickie Daniel, Everett Greene and Mary Moss - all of whom performed in many of the clubs in the era of Indiana Avenue. Music director Smith pointed out that this concert will feature the compositions of Indiana Avenue jazz legends who became major stars. Names such as trombonist/arranger Slide Hampton of this city"s famous Hampton Family Band; Freddie Hubbard, a brilliant Grammy-winning trumpeter; J.J. Johnson, the quintessential jazz trombonist, Jazz Hall of Famer and perennial jazz poll winner, who was also noted for numerous music scores for movies and television shows. Wes Montgomery, a jazz poll winner whose guitar innovations revolutionized the way all guitarists play today, is another example, as is Buddy Montgomery, his younger brother, who is an exceptional vibist but is better known for his piano work and was part of the nationally acclaimed jazz group The Mastersounds, including brother Monk Montgomery on bass. Larry Ridley adds to Indy"s reputation for bass players. As a teen-ager he played the clubs on Indiana Avenue but worked with jazz icons such as Dizzy Gillespie and Duke Ellington. Ridley, who has been nominated for two Grammy Awards, is also a Jazz Hall of Famer and noted jazz educator, who has been artist-in-residence at 12 universities and colleges. Leroy Vinnegar, a self-taught bassist playing on Indiana Avenue, became nationally prominent with his booming, walking bass lines. He was a major influence in jazz on the West Coast after moving there in 1954, and was part of the award-winning trio of Shelly Manne and AndrÈ Previn. Frank Smith says, "We are very much concerned about keeping the legacy of jazz on Indiana Avenue alive because it"s an important part of the history of this city and also America." The doors will open at 6 p.m. for this free concert, and attire for the evening is business dressy. Jazz happenings The outdoor jazz season has officially ended, but that doesn"t mean that there aren"t plenty of great sounds for you to enjoy this week around Indy. The Chatterbox will cook with the hard-swinging jazz of saxophonist "Pookie" Johnson and the Indy Jazz All Stars Friday, Sept. 20. Jazz and pop vocalist Tim Brickley"s Quintet returns Saturday, Sept. 21. Music both nights is from 10:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. The Jazz Kitchen features the award-wining jazz alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett Quartet Wednesday, Sept. 18 for two shows at 8 and 10 p.m. Pianist/composer and bandleader Steve Allee Group will play Friday, Sept. 20 for two sets at 8 and 10 p.m., featuring straight-ahead tunes. The popular sound of the Charlie Smith Project takes over Saturday, Sept. 21 for two shows at 8 and 10 p.m., featuring the leader"s guitar on contemporary originals and jazz funk classics. Ruth"s Chris Steakhouse downtown presents the Kevin Kyser Trio for its Sunday of sizzling jazz and steaks from 7 to 10 p.m. The Indiana Historical Society has the exciting big band jazz of the Buselli-Wallerab Jazz Orchestra for its free "Concerts on the Canal" Thursday, Sept. 19 from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Just Judy"s Open Mic Cabaret is Saturday, Sept. 21 for musicians and vocalists to sit in for jazz, Broadway show tunes and standards from 7 to 10 p.m. Adam"s Mark Hotel Downtown has the tasty swinging jazz of the Frank Puzzullo Trio every Friday and Saturday from 7 to 10 p.m. Sangiovese Restaurant features vocal sounds from Brenda Williams, with David Meeks on keyboards and Frank Smith on bass Wednesdays; Shannon Forsell sings with Ray Larman on keyboards Thursdays; and Janiece Jaffe, backed up by Simon Rowe, performs Fridays. Music each night runs from 7 to 10:30 p.m. Chuck Workman is the producer/host of the Sunday Morning Jazz Show at 107.9 WTPI.