Featuring a wide range of performers The Indy Jazz Fest is back, both literally and figuratively. After a one-day event featuring mainly local artists in 2003, the festival will return this week, June 18-20, to its original three-day format at Military Park and the IUPUI Library Lawn with big-name national artists in addition to top local performers. And the festival is now under new management. The American Pianists Association took over the event last year from its founding organizers and began work to bring it back to its former success. “We’re prepared and excited,” said Helen Small, president and CEO of the APA. “I think everybody in this community wants this thing to succeed.”
After an estimated 55,000 people attended the inaugural Jazz Fest in 1999, heavy rain cancelled one day of the 2000 event and held down attendance on the other two days, causing financial hardship for the founders. With performers booked through entertainment giant Clear Channel, dozens of food vendors and a small army of volunteers, the Indy Jazz Fest hopes to surpass its previous successes. Occurring the same weekend as the Formula One race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, thousands of visitors from out of town are expected to attend the Jazz Fest.
The cornerstone of any musical event is, of course, the music, and Small is enthusiastic about the wide range of performers booked for this year’s event. It was essential, she said, to book a festival that had jazz at its core but also included other affiliated styles of music. “If you view jazz as a river,” she said, “there are tributaries that feed that river, such as gospel, blues and roots music. It has its own streams, if you will, such as Latin jazz and zydeco. There are all kinds of genres that are outgrowths of jazz and we’ve tried to represent as many of them as we could.”
So that means that R&B performers such as Isaac Hayes will appear at the Jazz Fest as well as jazz vocalists such as Nancy Wilson. It means local alt-country performers like Otis Gibbs and Sindacato are welcome on the Jazz Fest stage, but so are jazz legends like Ramsey Lewis. On Sunday, jazz and gospel performers will perform, headlined by the legendary Blind Boys of Alabama. As in previous years, the Indy Jazz Fest will run three stages simultaneously: the Blues and Roots Stage, the Jazz Heritage Stage and the Jazz Central Stage, which will primarily feature jazz musicians from Central Indiana.
The availability of parking has been a concern at previous Jazz Fests, but Small insists there will be “a ton” of parking available for this year’s event. Parking will not only be available on the IUPUI campus and near Military Park, the state government parking garages adjacent to the event will also be available for use by festival attendees.
Tickets for the Indy Jazz Fest are available at all Central Indiana Kroger stores, the Jazz Kitchen and at TicketCentral in the Artsgarden, located above the intersection of Washington and Illinois in downtown Indianapolis. Tickets are available at the gates and group discounts are also available. They are $15 in advance for Friday and Saturday and $25 at the gates. Sunday tickets are $15 in advance and $15 at the gates. A three-day pass is available for $35. Children 14 and under are free.
For a complete performance schedule or for more information, visit www.indyjazzfest.net or call 800-344-4639. And, as for rain, Small said the event will be held rain or shine. There are too many variables at play to reschedule it for another weekend. She added that the Jazz Fest has “rain insurance” but hopes that it’s not used.
Isaac Hayes: Hot buttered soulBlack Moses. Hot Buttered Soul. Academy Award winner. The Duke. Chef. All of these names and titles are associated with one man: Isaac Hayes. Hayes, who turns 62 this August, has made several careers in one lifetime. First as session player/producer who later went solo. Next a career in the movies. Now a staple in animation. Originally, he wanted to just be a musician.
“I just wanted to be somebody and be successful and make money. I had no idea it would have this lasting an effect. As I travel and attend various events, I’m reminded of what a great honor it’s been to have a career like this. I also see things I’ve done and gone, ‘Goddamn, I did all that?’ You’re always moving and you don’t have time to think of all the things you’ve done. I was fortunate to see the birth of rock and roll in Memphis. Music has always been an influence on my life.”
Hayes started working for the Stax label in 1963 as a player/songwriter. Check out his playing with Booker T & The MGs and the songs he wrote for Sam & Dave (including “Hold On, I’m Comin’,” “Soul Man,” “I Thank You” and “Wrap It Up”). His solo debut (Presenting Isaac Hayes) was released in 1967. This led to a string of monumental soul albums, including the masterpiece Hot Buttered Soul (“Walk On By,” “By The Time I Get To Phoenix”), the soundtrack to Shaft (“Theme From Shaft” won the Best Song Academy Award in 1972), Joy, Black Moses and ... To Be Continued. These albums featured epic tracks that were more atmosphere than the solo fests of the jam bands of the day.
Hayes was also able to take a pop song (“Walk On By,” “Never Can Say Goodbye,” “For The Good Times”), scrape the syrup out of it and turn it into a smoldering musical seduction. “I was ahead of my time. I wasn’t afraid to try things and that’s how I kept my interest. I did a lot of trailblazing,” he said.
Hayes was also carving out a film career for himself. He starred in the 1974 action film Truck Turner. He also made chandeliers as car decorations fashionable as The Duke in Escape From New York. He even helped make fun of his own film work in the 1988 Blaxploitation spoof I’m Gonna Git You Sucka (with Jim Brown and Bernie Casey). Queen Latifah recently bought the rights to Truck Turner for a remake. Hayes has also become a mainstay on television as the voice of Chef on South Park, now in its eighth season. “Again, I had no idea it would last this long. When they [creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone] first asked me to do this, I thought they were nuts. I was kicking my agent: ‘What kind of mess did you put me into?’ Then it came out, the ratings went through the roof. Then there was South Park parties all over the place.”
Hayes is working on a new album, now with Virgin, which will be released by the end of 2004. With numerous projects going on, Hayes shows no signs of slowing down. “I thought I’d be retired in the Caribbean on an island somewhere by now, but it’s hard to let it go. Now I know why B.B. King works so much. It becomes your life. It’s addicting.”
It had to be asked. With the seductive power of songs like “One Woman,” “I Love You That’s All,” “The Look Of Love,” “Love Gravy” and “Chocolate Salty Balls,” Hayes not only redefined soul music, but he also assisted in the global population growth. “Oh, God. [Laughs] I know, I know. I remember one day recently. I was in Atlanta at a PBS station and the host, a white guy, said to me, ‘See those three kids? They’re your fault.’ [Laughs] Apparently a lot of people made babies to my music.”
Nancy Wilson and Ramsey Lewis Nancy Wilson: simple pleasuresNancy Wilson has reigned as a top song stylist in jazz and pop throughout her storied career. She has won a Grammy and an Emmy for her television show on NBC and can be heard weekly, hosting Jazz Profiles, an NPR show. With over 60 albums to her credit and years of touring, Wilson has become selective about her public appearances, relishing her home life with her family.
When asked if there were any career challenges left for her to pursue, she was very candid. “When I started at 16, I accomplished all the things I set out to do. I was fortunate to have some marvelous musicians who have been with me for years. I have had one manager — John Levy — who treated me like a daughter and respected my wishes and recognized it was more important for me to be a person than a star.”
There was one star that never made her crown of accomplishments and that was the movies. “When I came along there were wonderful actresses; that was their job, it was what they did. Although I could act, I also had another career, even though I did a lot of television, a lot of drama, a lot of comedy. By the same token, movies were never a part of the scenario,” she said.
Wilson admits that she misses being in the studio, musically interacting with live musicians. It was a ball, she said, teaming up with Ramsey Lewis for their hit Simple Pleasures album. Look for Nancy Wilson’s new CD coming out later this summer.
Ramsey Lewis: keeper of the flameRamsey Lewis has been successful in all aspects of his career as a jazz pianist/composer and beyond. Musically, he plays on both sides of jazz, commercially and artistically, which has earned him three Grammys and seven Gold albums.
Lewis’ role in jazz has shifted even more as media spokesperson, hosting BET’s Jazz Central, Legends of Jazz, a nationally syndicated radio show, and his Ramsey Lewis Morning Show in Chicago. He is reluctant about the role of being the keeper of the flame for jazz. “I don’t see myself as keeper of the flame, but I guess by actions and words I am.” Lewis is a deeply dedicated purveyor of classic jazz and has concerns about the prognosis for jazz in this country. “People in our country that value art in general … are put on the bottom of the totem pole. That’s reflected in our schools and in our society. It’s about value. Until our country really changes its viewpoint and, for jazz in particular, it’s going to be touch and go for a while.”
For all that he has done, Lewis is still musically passionate. “What keeps us going, any musician who’s true to himself, is the search for that lost chord. You hear something in your head and you get ever so close to it and you don’t seem to quite nail it. To me that’s what keeps me going.” Lewis is still going strong; he’s celebrating a 40-year anniversary of his Grammy hit “The In Crowd” by re-recording it in a new version for his upcoming CD Time Flies. —Chuck Workman
Patti LaBelle: superstarWhen you have accumulated Grammy, American Music, NAACP and Soul Train awards, plus Platinum and Gold albums for your vocal efforts over a five-decade career of jazz, soul and R&B, your name is Patti LaBelle. The word diva fits this superstar, whose talents go in many directions, such as authoring four books, hosting her own weekly television show and composing 10 of the 13 songs on her hot new CD, Def Soul Classics.
LaBelle is a prolific and passionate composer, but she is sensitive to the shift in songs being written today. “I don’t try to write songs to reach kids today,” she said in a recent interview with NUVO. “I’m a co-writer and I sing age-appropriate music [though] some of my music has hit the kids, like remakes of my songs by OutKast and the Girls of Moulin Rouge. It’s nice that they do see me as a person who is 60 years old who can impress them with some of my music. I am not writing to impress the kids, I hope the message that they hear they might take heed.”
Ironically, in her stage appearances, LaBelle will perform some tunes in a jazz vein, but she has never recorded in that style and admits to being a fan of the late Nina Simone. “I would love to do that kind of music I still do on stage, like Nina Simone; and I love Cole Porter’s tunes.” With all that she has done on record, LaBelle revealed she has a secret desire to record with Bono and wishes that Bob Marley were still alive.
Look for LaBelle soon on the big screen in a sequel to Get Shorty. She said that she will play herself as a DJ and is also working on two other new films with Lee Daniels.
Arturo O'Farrill: passionate driveNew York has long been acclaimed as the hub of this nation’s Latin jazz movement. Jazz at Lincoln Center committed itself in 2002 to launching an 18-piece Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra directed by pianist Arturo O’Farrill. O’Farrill is the son of one of the original bandleaders and composers of the Latin jazz genre, Chico O’Farrill.
Educating the public to the artform of big band Latin jazz is a challenge that O’Farrill energetically welcomes. “In my life, personally, I have a tremendous amount of love and energy devoted to education. Jazz is a hundred years old. Jazz as education has been in the high schools and colleges for 15 or 20 years. We are still in the infancy, but even within that framework, I find that the kids go nuts over the Latin jazz sound. Students in college and high school absolutely love this music; they can’t get enough of it. They are hungry to learn about clave and patterns that you play on the different percussion instruments.”
As a young orchestra and educational tool for Latin jazz, the ALJO has yet to record a CD, but O’Farrill is upbeat. “We have every intention in the world of sitting down in a studio. We are in the process of negotiating for our first recording. One of the things that is exciting … we have commissioned some new music by trumpeter Tom Harrell and trombonist Papo Vazquez. In any recording endeavor you have to do a little bit from the archives and to the future.” The future of jazz at Lincoln Center’s Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra holds promise, especially fueled by the passionate drive of its director, Arturo O’Farrill, who is also composing original tunes and has written an Afro Cuban Jazz Ballet for the ALJO.
John scofield: jazz puristThere’s an abundance of guitarists who play jazz, but there is only a handful that rise to the top. John Scofield — or “Sco” as he is known to friends and fans — has been a fixture on the jazz scene since the ’70s as a leader and sideman. He’s known for his many unique sounds and styles of playing. He appeals to rock-oriented listeners with his electric jam band and albums like A Go Go and Uberjam and to the classic jazz fans of Quiet, where he pays tribute to his three years in the Miles Davis band.
Musically, Scofield is very eclectic in his likes and what he plays and the use of technology. “It’s just technology in the world and you can avoid it if you want. It’s part of the electric guitar and it’s always been very natural for me to check out sonic devices for the guitar. I have been doing that since the ’60s.” Even though Scofield supports technology, he takes a different view of its use in patch recording. “I am kind of against that, I am a jazz purist in the sense that when I hear jazz and hear groups I want to hear them improvise and put it together on the spot. I admit I have overdubbed and perfected solos on the funky jam sides but even there I pretty much leave it alone compared to other people.”
The consistently evolving world of jazz raises questions in Scofield’s mind as to its future direction. “I don’t think you can compare any jazz time to another and I think things do get lost. Hopefully, other things are gained and new things come in. Was there a golden era of jazz? Maybe there was and we can be fans of it, but there is nothing we can do about bringing it back. Jazz lives in your heart and mine and as long as we do what we are doing we are going to bring something and pass it on.” Scofield’s new CD release, The Real Jazz Trio, reflects his philosophy with golden era players bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Bill Stewart.
Poncho Sanchez: Rhythmically contagiousThe absorption of the heated rhythms of Latin music into modern jazz in the ’50s developed into a new form of music called Latin jazz. Poncho Sanchez, a leading conga player, has been at the forefront of this highly rhythmic, danceable style of jazz for two decades. His passion for this artform, after two dozen albums, earned him a Grammy Award along with numerous other honors.
Even with all of what he has accomplished, Sanchez sees that traditional Latin jazz in its purest form is changing. “There are different styles coming in, approaching the drum. What has happened, young players have adapted a lot of drum rudiments to playing the hand drums. It’s a great thing, it makes the young players learn to play very fast.
“There’s also a lot of cats, even the young guys that still like the traditional style, the mambo, cha cha, and play it authentically. So I don’t think it’s actually disappearing, and, of course, as long as I am involved in this music world, I am going to uphold that music end of it.”
Even as the most popular artist in Latin jazz, there is still a lot that Sanchez wants to accomplish in his career. “There is something I have been thinking about for years. I would like to do a big band album; I love the big bands of Machito and Tito Puente. I love all that stuff and I know all about it and the tunes I would like to do. So one day I will do a big band album and to take it a step further I would also like to record a Bolero album of ballads using a string orchestra.” The beat of Poncho Sanchez’s conga drum is consistent and rhythmically contagious as he shares the deep roots of his music.
Solomon Burke: spritual advisorSolomon Burke is celebrating his 50th anniversary in the music business. While fans of soul and blues know all about him, some mainstream audiences have noticed his powerful pipes in the last couple years. He’ll open those pipes up at this year’s Indy Jazz Fest.
Burke recorded the best album of 2002, called Don’t Give Up On Me (Fat Possum). This high-profile project had Burke adding his sweet soul vocals to tunes written specifically for him by, among others, Dan Penn, Van Morrison, Tom Waits, Brian Wilson, Elvis Costello, Bob Dylan and Nick Lowe.
Burke was born and raised in Philadelphia, where he started preaching at age 7. He started recording in 1954 and is best known for soul hits like “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love” (which was used in the film The Blues Brothers), “Just Out Of Reach” and “Cry To Me.”
NUVO: How have things been since Don’t Give Up On Me?
SOLOMON BURKE: I’m blessed. I thank God for every single day I’m on the ground. It’s a blessing to be alive. I have to keep on moving. Every chance I get to meet someone else or to talk again with someone like yourself. We have to remember how lucky we are, through the trials and tribulations that make life a different stroke every day. We’re very fortunate. I hope we never forget In God We Trust and I don’t just mean on the dollar bill.
NUVO: What was working on that album like?
SB: Having these great musicians write these songs specifically for me, this was incredible. I still haven’t gotten over it. This is the highlight of my 50-year career.
NUVO: What does a 7-year-old preach?
SB: God is real and God is love. Everything you learned as a 1-year-old, a 1-day-old. It helps that I went to church five, six days a week.
NUVO: So you went from a Philadelphia church to touring the Chitlin’ Circuit as a singer?
SB: I played the Chitlin’ Circuit, Meatloaf Circuit, Hot Sausage Circuit, Fried Chicken Circuit and now we’re on the Lamb Chop Circuit. The better the pay, the better the circuit we’re on. [Laughs]
NUVO: Are there some Solomon Burke songs that you tire of singing?
SB: I never get tired of singing anything. When people come to pay a ticket, they want to hear what they remember. It’s mainly a request show. I have a Web site where fans can put down their requests. If I go see Ray Charles, and I love Ray Charles, I’d pay $1,000 to see Ray Charles. I want to hear “What I Say” and “Georgia” and “You Are My Sunshine.” If someone’s going to see Solomon Burke and they want to hear “Cry To Me” and “Down In The Valley,” they’ll hear it.
NUVO: What kind of Solomon Burke show will Indy Jazz Fest see?
SB: We’re going to have a 10-piece band, minimum, depending on the area. I like to sometimes use local musicians.
NUVO: You’re going to invite Indianapolis musicians to play?
SB: Get your horns and your tuxedos and let’s see if you know the keys. I invite people on the stage just to enjoy themselves. Just like I sing, “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love.” We have to love somebody.
Friday, June 18th
Blues & Roots Stage 5:00 - 5:45 Sindacato 6:15 - 7:15 Nathan & the Zydeco Cha Cha's 7:45 - 9:00 Buddy Guy 9:30 - 11:00 Isaac Hayes Jazz Heritage Stage 5:30 - 6:30 Buselli Wallarab Jazz Orchestra 7:00 - 8:15 Jazz at Lincoln Center's Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra 8:45 - 10:15 Poncho Sanchez Band Jazz Central Stage 6:00 - 6:45 Benito DiBartoli & The Black Voodoo Band 7:00 - 7:45 Rodney Step & BSB 8:00 - 8:45 Monika Herzig & Friends: A Tribute to Women in Jazz 9:00 - 10:00 Larry Calland's Conga Jazz
Saturday June 19th
Blues & Roots Stage 12:30 - 1:15 Middletown 1:45 - 2:15 Otis Gibbs 3:00 - 3:45 Gordon Bonham 4:15 - 5:30 Shaggy 6:00 - 7:00 The Black Keys 7:30 - 8:45 Solomon Burke 9:30 - 11:00 Patti LaBelle Jazz Heritage Stage 12:00 - 12:30 Notemen Jazz Combo 1:00 - 1:45 Cynthia Layne 2:15 - 3:15 APA Presents 2004 Cole Porter Fellow in Jazz Adam Birnbaum 3:45 - 4:45 Brad Mehldau Trio 5:15 - 6:30 John Scofield "Real Jazz" Trio featuring Steve Swallows and Bill Stewart 7:00 - 8:00 7 Pleasures 8:30 - 10:00 Nancy Wilson and Ramsey Lewis "Simple Pleasures" Jazz Central Stage 1:00 - 1:45 Cathy Morris 2:00 - 2:45 On Cue 3:00 - 3:45 Jeff DeHerdt Group 4:00 - 4:45 Jay Majors & Hook Up 5:00 - 5:45 Mina Keohane Latin Night Begins! 6:00 - 6:45 Ipanema 7:00 - 7:45 Clave Caribe 7:45 - 8:15 Vallenato 8:15 - 9:00 Diego del Real 9:00 - 9:15 DJ Elkin Zuluaga 9:15 - 9:45 Vallenato 9:45 - 10:30 Diego del Real 10:30 - 11:00 DJ Elkin Zuluaga Sunday June 20th Jazz Heritage Stage 12:00 - 12:45 Minister Stanley Daniels & Company 12:45 - 1:30 Y-Zone Gospel Choir 1:45 - 3:00 Jimmy Coe Tribute 3:30 - 4:30 Lamar Campbell & Spirit of Praise 4:45 - 6:00 Kenny Garrett Quartet 6:30 - 8:00 Blind Boys of Alabama Jazz Central Stage 1:00 - 1:45 No Regrets 2:00 - 2:45 Hot Club of Naptown 3:00 - 3:45 Betheny Dunlap and Neapolitan 4:00 - 4:45 Gregg Bacon 5:00 - 6:00 EN2