Now in its 19th year, the Isthmus Jazz Festival takes place at the UW Memorial Union, 800 Langdon St., on June 7-10. It features free sets from some of Madison's top performers outdoors on the Terrace, as well as a ticketed concert by international star Madeleine Peyroux in the Wisconsin Union Theater. To complement Sunday's lineup, the Union will serve breakfast.
The rain location for the Tony Castañeda Latin Jazz Sextet, El Clan Destino, Madisalsa and the Madison Jazz Orchestra is the Rathskeller. The rain location for all other acts is the Wisconsin Union Theater.
For more information on the festival, see IsthmusJazzFestival.com. The complete schedule follows.
Thursday, June 7
Michael BB Quintet 5:30 p.m.
Pianist Michael BB is particularly excited about working with his quintet at this festival. The full-time musician and music educator has some strong horn players in trumpeter Dave Drexel and saxophonist Ken Hoffman, and he says he'll give them a workout on original material that ranges from up-tempo modal compositions to funk-flavored blues.
Much of the material will be drawn from a soon-to-be-released CD that was recorded live at the Token Creek Barn. But he'll also feature bassist John Schaffer on "Nardis," a tune often associated with Bill Evans and his lyrical foil Scott LaFaro.
Roscoe Mitchell 7 p.m.
A founding member of Chicago's visionary Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians and the Art Ensemble of Chicago, acclaimed saxophonist/composer Roscoe Mitchell has championed serious improvised music since the 1960s. With the Art Ensemble, he helped transform notions of what jazz is and can be, establishing a vital international career in the process. As a solo performer, a leader and a composer of contemporary classical music, he's remained at the forefront of modern music.
Mitchell's group includes bassist Harrison Bankhead and drummer Vincent Davis, who backed him last year as he used his masterful circular-breathing technique to construct mesmerizing lines that at times seemed to penetrate into infinite space.
Jan Wheaton 8:30 p.m.
Wheaton's singing career began as an avocation during her college years in Kansas City. After 40-plus years in Madison, she's become a beloved fixture of the local scene, winning recognition as both the "Isthmus Jazz Personality of the Year" and the Madison Area Music Awards' pick for "Best Female Vocalist."
Wheaton has spent the last several years working with the same quintet. It includes her regular accompanist, Matan Rubinstein, a gifted pianist at home in both avant-garde and straight-ahead contexts. Local saxophone stalwart Paul Daugherty is the group's other soloist. Wheaton dips into a variety of styles, touching on the work of Dinah Washington, Carmen McRae and Nancy Wilson.
Tony Castañeda Latin Jazz Sextet 10 p.m.
Conguero Tony Castañeda remains one of the city's leading torchbearers for Latin jazz. His sextet bites down hard on the work of A-list Latin legends like Mongo Santamaria, Eddie Palmieri and Tito Puente, and its Sunday residency at the Cardinal Bar is a particularly convivial local institution.
Castañeda's six-piece isn't just an archival project. Pianist/composer Dave Stoler augments the Latin classics with strong original repertoire that caters to the group's dynamic horn and rhythm sections, and he'll have at least one new piece ready for their festival set. With a new studio CD coming out this month, Castañeda's sextet is sure to be in an expansive mood.
Friday, June 8
High School Jazz All Stars 5:30 p.m.
Edgewood College educator/saxophonist Dan Wallach handpicked this all-star group of the area's finest high school players.
Tim Whalen Nonet 7 p.m.
Pianist Tim Whalen plays in a lot of contexts, but his artistic nine-piece explores expertly shaded original arrangements that refer to the '50s and '60s without being trapped by them. Its membership is a who's who of accomplished local players, including Dave Cooper, Joel Adams and Anders Svanoe.
The nonet has a distinctly urban sound, and it's plain that Whalen made a study of the clashing tonal colors of city life while studying and teaching in New York under the auspices of the Manhattan School of Music. But this isn't just Whalen's jazz workshop. Trombonist Adams, a Woody Herman alum, also contributes charts, and all the nonet's soloists have plenty of opportunity to improvise.
Like many of the groups playing the Isthmus Jazz Festival this year, the nonet has been in the studio, and Whalen promises that some of that material, as well as some brand-new original tunes, will be included in his set.
Gerri DiMaggio with Kelly DeHaven and Jeannie Woodall 8:30 p.m.
Gerri DiMaggio's warm, at times sultry vocals have charmed Madison audiences for many years. Whether she's putting her personal stamp on standards from the American songbook or sighing and whispering her way through Brazilian tunes, she always takes care to push and pull melodies into unfamiliar places.
For the festival, DiMaggio is featuring two other fine local singers, Kelly DeHaven and Jeannie Woodall. Together they'll salute the work of Anita O'Day and Dakota Staton, two stylish singers who died in 2006.
El Clan Destino 10:30 p.m.
El Clan Destino's regular opening chant to the orishas, the warrior spirits of the Yoruba religion, is just one indication that this furious foursome has a different approach to the intersection between jazz and Afro-Cuban music. Drummer Francisco Martinez and percussionist Jamie Ryan embrace an aggressive approach to rhythm that at times gives their originals a ritualistic feel. So does the group's frequent use of vocal choruses.
While El Clan Destino respect Afro-Cuban tradition, they also explore far beyond it. All four members have serious fusion chops, and keyboardist Vince Fuh is apt to funk up the Terrace more than once during their set.
For this appearance, El Clan Destino will be joined by guest rapper Laduma Nguyuza (formerly Mr. Parker). Martinez says the popular MC's presence is meant to stress "the connection between the seemingly disparate genres of jazz, Afro-Cuban and hip-hop."
Saturday, June 9
Hanah Jon Taylor Artet featuring Dee Alexander 4 p.m.
An expressive improviser with roots in Chicago's fecund free-jazz scene, reed player Hanah Jon Taylor will do what he always does: "Play as if it's the last time I'm ever going to play."
Taylor will get help from one of Chicago's most respected vocalists, Dee Alexander, a fellow member of Chicago's Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians and an old colleague from the '80s Afro-centric group Infinite Spirit Music. Two other sought-after Chicago players, percussionist Vincent Davis and bassist Harrison Bankhead, will also be in the fold.
Judging from Taylor's explosive work on a recently released recording of the Malachi Favors Maghostut Trio, he'll thrive in this setting.
Richard Davis and Willie Pickens 5:30 p.m.
Richard Davis is one of the masters of jazz bass and a highly regarded classical player. The longtime UW professor has played with many members of the jazz and pop pantheon including Eric Dolphy, Sarah Vaughan, Frank Sinatra and Miles Davis. He's also spent years supporting young bass players through his annual bass conference at UW-Madison.
For the festival, he pairs with Milwaukee-born, Illinois-based pianist Willie Pickens. Pickens has a similarly impressive list of accomplishments as both a player and an educator, including early work with Eddie Harris, sessions with Bunky Green and a stint in the '90s with the Elvin Jones Jazz Machine. In recent years, Pickens has recorded several poignant albums that feature jazz interpretations of European canonical hymns, American gospel music and African American spirituals.
Madison Jazz Orchestra 7 p.m.
Founded in 1986 by the late bassist Dennis Oliver, the 19-piece Madison Jazz Orchestra plays classic charts by some of the most creative leaders of the big-band era, including Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Stan Kenton. But the MJO isn't tied to any era and often showcases work by the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra as well as more contemporary composers and arrangers. Expect some joyful swinging from this persuasive unit.
Madeleine Peyroux 8:30 p.m.
See article on page 17.
Madisalsa 10 p.m.
Madisalsa trombonist and leader Claude Cailliet says the percolating 10-piece Latin ensemble will balance Latin jazz and more dance-oriented material. Cumbias, merengues, mambos, rhumbas - they play them all.
Cailliet put the band together for the 1992 Isthmus Jazz Festival, and both its repertoire and popularity have grown ever since. These days, the horn-powered group is concentrating on bringing new material into its book, including some hard-edged Puerto Rican arrangements and tunes that feature its engaging vocalists. That should please the dancers who follow Madisalsa from gig to gig as well as jazz fans in search of some potent Afro-Cuban blowing.
Sunday, June 10: Jazz Breakfast
High School Jazz All?Stars 11 a.m.
Edgewood College Jazz Band 12:30 p.m.
Another group led by Dan Wallach, the Edgewood College Jazz Band includes college players and other musicians from the Madison area. Wallach promises a swinging set that will cover a wide range of styles, from straight-ahead jazz to Latin arrangements.
Les Thimmig 2 p.m.
A respected composer with a long international career, UW music professor Les Thimmig moves easily between the jazz and classical worlds. He has a command of a broad range of woodwinds, but for the festival he plans to concentrate on soprano and tenor sax.
Thimmig's set will consist of all original material, which ranges from modern jazz to funk to Latin pieces. With a portion of El Clan Destino's rhythm section providing the backbone of his quartet, Thimmig will have no trouble putting an exclamation point on the 2007 edition of the Isthmus Jazz Festival.
For the first time, fans can support the Isthmus Jazz Festival by buying a patron ticket. The benefits include a reserved seating area; free reserved parking; free drinks and snacks in the patron area; a Memorial Union weekend guest pass; premium reserved seating at the Madeleine Peyroux Performance; a chance to meet festival artists, including Peyroux; advance announcement of the Wisconsin Union Theater season and the Isthmus Jazz Series, along with early-ticket-purchase opportunities; and advance information about future jazz programming.
Patron tickets are $100 and available through the Wisconsin Union Theater Box Office, 800 Langdon St., Madison, WI 53706, 262-2201, uniontheater.wisc.edu.