Western jazz and blues get a Japanese accent when the famed Yoko Noge Jazz Me Blues Band performs at the Indiana Roof Ballroom Thursday, June 19 at 7 p.m. for the Bridge of Friendship Awards Gala presented by the Japanese American Society of Indiana. -Yoko Noge & the Jazz Me Blues Band- Noge, who is originally from Osaka, Japan, came to Chicago in 1983 to study the music that captured her heart — blues — and she has remained there ever since. She has been a Monday night fixture with her band in the Windy City’s celebrated Hothouse club for almost a decade.
Noge’s band will feature some of Chicago’s best jazz and blues artists, with John Watson on trombone, Jimmy Ellis on alto sax, Tatsu Aoki on bass, Avreeayl Ra on drums and Clark Dean on soprano sax.
The JASAI is a not-for-profit cultural and educational organization founded in 1988. Its mission is to serve as a friendship bridge between the people of Indiana and Japan. Proceeds from the Bridge of Friendship Gala will benefit the JASI programs and outreach activities and services throughout the state.
Jazz in retrospect
There are many diverse approaches to jazz being performed in this city, but one area not prominently displayed has been the hip, sophisticated sound of a vocal jazz instrumental group. Those who regularly frequent Nicky Blaine’s on Tuesday nights know better, because that’s the regular stand for the Four Sexes, a brilliant group. The Four Sexes was started at IU’s School of Music.
I caught this vividly fresh-sounding group last Sunday at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse’s “Sizzling Steaks and Jazz” series and they were a gas. The Four Sexes include two eloquent female vocalists in Toni Bosten and Heather Neideffer, whose voices — individually or singing together — are a joy of polished professional aplomb. Add leader/keyboardist Sean Baker’s voice to the mix and they give you a rich, harmonic blend that is satisfying no matter what the tune. Rounding out the group are John Huber’s flawless bass lines and tempo coupled with the tasty swinging drums of Adam White.
The Four Sexes performed a wide range of pop classics, standards and jazz all done with distinctive arrangements, showcasing the individual talents of each singer and keyboardist Baker’s work. Bosten was especially compelling on “God Bless the Child” and swung and scatted away on “Lady Be Good,” with the trio cooking hard behind her. Neideffer’s moving vocal interpretation of Mancini’s “Dreamsville” coupled with Baker’s highly sympathetic keyboard support made this an exceptional rendition. Baker stood out with just the trio in a bow to Vince Guaraldi on the Charlie Brown theme “Linus and Lucy.” I wish he had stretched more solo-wise, but they were cooking good. It was a fun time on the Quincy Jones jazz classic “Soul Bossa Nova,” with Baker doing the vocal yelps and pulling out all the keyboard effects on this hip journey.
The Four Sexes are a multitalented vocal group that reaches out and communicates to anyone within the range of their sound. Now they are no longer a secret, for their first CD is out and it is a winner. Look for Secret Rendezvous on the Retropolis label.
The best way to beat the new summer heat is by chilling out with some air conditioned jazz sounds this week at venues around town.
The Chatterbox will offer some fresh performances this week when guitarist Peter Kienle’s “Kwyjibo” group gives out with some edgy new jazz sounds Friday, June 20. A special night of firsts is Saturday, June 21 when Indy’s premier jazz/blues diva Mary Moss makes her first appearance at the “Box” supported by the Carl Hines Quartet. This will be a swing fest party. Music both nights is from 10:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse “Sizzling Steaks and Jazz” Sunday, June 22 brings in the young, brilliant alto saxophonist Jason Curry Quartet playing 7 to 10 p.m.
Indiana Historical Society’s free “Concerts on the Canal” has the Latin jazz of Urbanos and Ipanema Thursday, June 19 from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Dance lessons will be given.
The Jazz Kitchen brings back the always popular “Lady With a Song,” Mary Moss & Friends, for some good-time party jazz and blues Friday, June 20 at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. The Latin Dance party will cook with the sounds of Urbanos’ 11-piece band and singers with bolero, mambo, Cuban son and cha cha at 8:30 and 10 p.m. Then DJs Marco Dominguez, Royce and Johnathon keep the party going from 11:30 p.m.
Midtown Grill solo jazz pianist Dave Hepler provides innovative flights on standards every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, 7 to 10 p.m.
The New Fountain Lounge has the legendary keyboard and B-3 artist Melvin Rhyne as guest with the Jason Curry Quartet Wednesday, June 18 from 8 to midnight. Mary Moss will return as guest on June 25.
The Bistro at 116th and Allisonville Road now has Lisa Baldwin’s vocals and keyboards with Steve Kenley on guitar performing every Thursday 8 to 11 p.m.
Chuck Workman is the producer/host of the Sunday Morning Jazz Show at 107.9 WTPI.