The 2008 Jazz Personality of the Year is Gary Alderman, the longtime DJ for WORT-FM. Alderman has an encyclopedic knowledge of jazz and communicates his enthusiasm to listeners. He also helps promote jazz in Madison through his work with Jazz a
As always, there will be a ticketed event with a big star: the explosive drummer Roy Haynes, whose combo performs at the Wisconsin Union Theater on June 7. And there will be the usual wall-to-wall free performances by local lights on the Union Terrace, ranging from big band to Gypsy swing to Latin jazz to avant-garde experimentation.
But this year, the Terrace will also feature free performances by national-caliber musicians from outside the Madison area. They include the agile bebop saxophonist Richie Cole, the rhythmically savvy Chicago Afro-Latin Jazz Ensemble, the sophisticated vocal-guitar duo Typhanie Monique & Neal Alger, the hard-driving Milwaukee combo Clamnation and the swinging violinist Randy Sabien.
It's a talent-rich festival, so stake out your table by the lake. Other than Roy Haynes, all the following performers will play on the Union Terrace, 800 Langdon St. In case of rain, they'll move indoors to the Memorial Union.
For more information, see IsthmusJazzFestival.com.
THURSDAY, JUNE 5
High School Jazz All-Stars
Edgewood College's Dan Wallach handpicked this group of promising young players.
Gerri DiMaggio & Friends
DiMaggio has built a reputation as one of the area's strongest jazz vocalists. A former student of bass great Richard Davis, she simmers on Latin fare, adds fresh colors to familiar standards, and also writes deft original material.
DiMaggio celebrates the festival's opening with a group of regional all-stars. In what's sure to be one of the highlights of her set, fellow singers Jeannie Woodall and Lynette Margulies will join her for some jumping Lambert, Hendricks & Ross-inspired vocal harmonies.
DiMaggio was named Madison's "Jazz Personality of the Year" at the 2007 Isthmus Jazz Festival.
Madison Jazz Orchestra
The 19-piece big band plays the music of jazz legends like Stan Kenton, Duke Ellington and Charles Mingus, as well as very contemporary charts. A Madison institution, it's warmed rooms like the old Dotty Dumpling's Dowry, the Harmony Bar and Rusty's over the past 22 years, drawing an appreciative following in the process.
A true repertory orchestra, the MJO traces and preserves jazz history. Those charts you're hearing are the same arrangements the original artists used in concert.
FRIDAY, JUNE 6
Tim Whalen: A Tribute to Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers
When pianist Tim Whalen decided to salute the music of Art Blakey and his Jazz Messengers, he planned to concentrate on one edition of the late drummer's legendary jazz band: the version that included Cedar Walton, Freddie Hubbard and Wayne Shorter. Then he realized that every one of Blakey's groups was a veritable font of ecstatic material.
Since debuting the 10-piece tribute band at Restaurant Magnus to a thunderous response, Whalen has kept mining Blakey's aggressive songbook and feeding off the enthusiasm of the group's fans. His only requirement is that the tribute band work out original arrangements that put its own stamp on the tunes. Still, in the end, it's that Blakey energy that drives the unit.
"You can really move people by trying to swing as hard as you can," Whalen explains over the phone during a break in his teaching duties at the University of Toledo. "I'll never forget that first gig we did at Magnus. There were 150 people there, and everybody was hootin' and hollerin'. Joel Adams, our trombonist, said it was the most raucous crowd he'd seen for jazz in Madison."
Typhanie Monique & Neal Alger
Rising Chicago vocalist Typhanie Monique notes that "the goal of jazz is not to fill up all the spaces in the music." The pop-friendly singer follows that less-is-more approach in her popular duo with guitarist Neal Alger. Their spare style is shown to good effect on a version of "Caravan" peppered with creative scatting. Monique also transforms Annie Lennox's "Wonderful" into airy soul that shows off her startling, Minnie Riperton-style flights into the upper register.
A few jazz purists might raise an eyebrow at some of Monique and Alger's song choices. Sting, the Doors, and Gnarls Barkley have all made it into their sets. But Monique won't apologize for the attempt to meet listeners on common ground.
"It really allows us to expand our audience," she explains, noting that their pop choices have gone over well at both big jazz festivals and convivial wine bars. "People recognize those songs. You have to have some emotional connection with them - it can't be just any tune. But you can take a pop song with simple chords and re-harmonize it, change the groove, make it work in a jazz context."
A bebop fan from youth, alto saxophonist Richie Cole grew up admiring Sonny Stitt, Cannonball Adderley, Sonny Rollins, Phil Woods and Charlie Parker. The cascades of notes they coaxed from their horns left an enormous impression on him.
"I always tried to do that kind of thing," Cole says over the phone from his home in Rockford, Ill. "I didn't copy them. I couldn't copy them. I always tried to do my own thing. But those are my roots: straight-ahead, pure jazz."
The New Jersey native's first major professional job came in 1969, when Buddy Rich plucked him out of the Berklee School of Music. It was an education, and Cole recalls his years with Rich fondly. Still, the drummer's jazz-rock fusion didn't stick with him. Instead of following the hot trend of the day, Cole moved on to a straight-ahead gig with Lionel Hampton and began cementing his reputation as a dynamic young improviser.
Cole did some incandescent bop-flavored work with the late vocalist Eddie Jefferson in the late '70s. But it was just one of many pairings with a who's who of jazz and pop luminaries, including Stitt, Freddie Hubbard, Art Pepper, Nancy Wilson, the Manhattan Transfer, Boots Randolph and longtime friend Ben Sidran.
During his 40-year career, Cole has released over 50 albums and toured throughout the world as a leader. Since the late '90s, Siberia has been a regular stop.
"I don't know why, but they like me over there," he says with a self-deprecating chuckle. "I'd been to Moscow many times, but I'd always wanted to go to Siberia. They have great musicians there, real jazz musicians. I always have a great time."
The prolific player, writer and arranger isn't one to rest on his laurels. Jazz education is one of his great loves, and he spends a lot of time doing workshops and residencies. Often he involves his group the Alto Madness Orchestra, which produces the sound of a big band with just seven pieces. And much to Cole's delight, interest in straight-ahead jazz remains strong at the schools and colleges he visits. He's also impressed by the level of talent he finds.
"Kids today have all this media to use," he says. "Back in my day, if you wanted to play jazz, you had to go out to a club and jam with people - take a chance and maybe get your head chopped off. Now the kids can put on a CD, play along with that and then go out and play. The kids are just more together now, and at a young age. And they have a lot of interest in pure jazz."
At the festival, Cole will lead a quartet that also features Madison pianist Dave Stoler.
Chicago Afro-Latin Jazz Ensemble
The Chicago Afro-Latin Jazz Ensemble was formed in 2006 by Mexican-born trumpeter Victor Garcia and Nicaragua-born pianist Darwin Noguera to serve as a vibrant crucible of old and new Latin-jazz traditions. The two were inspired by explosive cross-cultural units like Dizzy Gillespie's United Nations Orchestra and Paquito d'Rivera's Pan-American Orchestra, and it hasn't taken them long to transform the Ensemble into one of their adopted hometown's powerhouse groups.
The soloists are ferocious, the rhythm section is intense, and the original grooves are irresistible. And no wonder. CALJE includes some of Chicago's most talented musicians. The members' collective résumé includes stints with Al Di Meola, Tito Puente, Arturo Sandoval, Ahmad Jamal, Ramsey Lewis, Gloria Estefan and many more top jazz, Latin and pop artists.
SATURDAY, JUNE 7
UW professor emerita Joan Wildman has pushed the limits of jazz for decades. In her hands, electric keyboards and synthesizers become tools for creating music that feints and jabs in unexpected directions.
For the festival, Wildman will lead a group that features bassoonists Willy Walter and Dick Lottridge, along with bass and drums. It's not the first time she's worked with bassoons; along with Lottridge, she played in the session that produced Roscoe Mitchell's Nonaah back in the late '70s. However, as a leader, she says she has even more opportunity to explore how the instrument's "fascinating sound" can be employed in music that brings together both the jazz and classical approaches to improvisation.
The horn-driven Milwaukee combo grew out of a blues-punk band nearly 20 years ago. Today, soul, funk, Latin sounds and more make their way into the band's ebullient sets.
Get Down Mr. Cat
Guitarist Doug Brown and vocalist Michelle DuVall revel in the music of the 1930s and '40s with their lively eight-piece swing band. Recently, Get Down Mr. Cat played Jumptown's Swing Dance Invasion, an event that features national champion Lindy Hoppers and other dancers from throughout the Midwest. Dancing isn't required during their set, but it sure isn't discouraged.
Violinist Randy Sabien has had a remarkable 30-year career. When he turned 21, the classically trained fiddler founded the jazz string program at the Berklee College of Music. By his mid-20s, he was working with folksinger Jim Post and releasing the first in a string of well-received jazz-blues recordings. A swinging player with broad musical tastes, he's feted Stephane Grappelli on disc, jammed with Bela Fleck, worked as a regular sideman for Iowa folk great Greg Brown, appeared repeatedly on Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion and helmed a variety of groups under his own name. These days, Sabien is working with an eclectic new band that features three violinists as well as his frequent collaborator, the Funky Drummer himself, Clyde Stubblefield.
For the festival, Sabien plans to spend part of his time dipping into material from his new album, Rhythm and Bows, which finds him overdubbing multiple violin parts on tunes drawn from rock, blues, funk and jazz traditions (the Grateful Dead's "New Speedway Boogie" even gets a reading). He describes the inventive genre-jumping as "the Bob Wills tradition meeting Art Blakey and the Allman Brothers."
Sonic adventurer that he is, Sabien won't stick solely to the new release at the festival. "I want these guys to show their talents," he says. "They can do a lot more than read the notes that I've written down."
Isthmus Jazz Festival Headliner
8 p.m., Wisconsin Union Theater
Haynes is one of the greatest drummers in jazz history, moving beyond mere time-keeping to create a personal approach to rhythm. He's worked with a who's who of jazz innovators, making him a living link to such legends as Charlie Parker, Sarah Vaughan, John Coltrane, Lester Young, Miles Davis, Eric Dolphy, Thelonious Monk and Dizzy Gillespie.
Tickets are available at the Wisconsin Union Theater box office, 800 Langdon St.; by calling 262-2201; or through uniontheater.wisc.edu. $32/$26/$18; $10 UW students.
One of the premier Latin-jazz acts in the Midwest, Madisalsa is a 10-piece dance machine with an irresistible, rhythmically intense repertoire that draws inspiration from Cuba, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico and other musical hotbeds around the Caribbean basin. Its international membership is chock-full of potent improvisers.
Prepare to be moved - right up out of your seat.
SUNDAY, JUNE 8: Jazz Breakfast
High School Jazz All-Stars
Edgewood College Jazz Band
Edgewood College's Dan Wallach has put together another ensemble brimming with youthful enthusiasm.
The string band have played their Gypsy swing and bebop throughout the United States and Europe. All the instrumentalists do the effervescent tradition of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli proud. But their secret weapon is singer Maggie Delaney-Potthoff, a multifaceted chanteuse who can be sultry one minute and positively breezy the next.