Jazz Appreciation Month heats up in late April with Eddie Gomez Trio

The great bassist Eddie Gomez, of Bill Evans Trio fame, will be a highlight of Jazz Appreciation Month in Milwaukee, when his trio plays at the Jazz Estate on Thursday, April 26. Courtesy WMKY

  • Thursday, April 26, The Jazz Estate – The great virtuoso bassist Eddie Gomez, renowned as the linchpin of the longest-running Bill Evans Trio, brings a piano trio to Milwaukee, with Stefan Karlsson on piano and Rodrigo Villanueva on drums. The  two-time Grammy winning Gomez has worked with Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Chick Corea,  Gerry Mulligan and numerous others jazz and pop music artists, as well as venturing boldly into classical music realms, a musical range beyond most musicians.

It was an “aha” moment when I pulled the big, dark LP box out of a library clearance sale bin. It was the final “modern jazz” segment of The Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz. I’d read about it, but had recently been downsized out of a nearly 20-year staff arts reporter job at The Capital Times, and my financial future was uncertain. So this was a small blessing, as the box set cost me a mere three dollars. 

I knew the whole set was as close as any single collection of recorded jazz history could be, partly because the great critic and author Martin Williams headed the jazz and “American Culture Program” at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.. There, in 1973, he compiled and wrote liner notes for The Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz. 1 His album notes for a subsequent collection, The Smithsonian Collection of Big-Band Jazz, earned Williams a Grammy Award. But many jazz buffs knew him from his books of criticism Where’s the Melody? and especially The Jazz Tradition.

The Smithsonian’s boxed jazz history set (see footnote) may be the most readily available byproduct of the organization’s contribution to the art form, which includes a vast treasures of historical holdings in Washington D.C. at The National Museum of American History, such as the invaluable Duke Ellington collection. This includes Ellington’s sound recordings, original music manuscripts and published sheet music, hand-written notes, correspondence, business records, photographs, scrapbooks, news clippings, concert programs, posters, books and other items.

Since 2001, the Smithsonian Institution has sponsored Jazz Appreciation Month in April. That leads to my real purpose – pointing out how much top-notch live jazz is happening in Milwaukee in the second half of Jazz Appreciation Month. A a sign of the significant progress in gender equality and opportunity in jazz is that two of these bands are led by women. Here’s your thumbnail JAM guide:

  • CANCELLED Tonight, Saturday, April 14, 8 p.m. The Jazz Estate – Jazz singer Steve Marche-Torme (the son of Mel Torme) is a superb vocal stylist in his own right and will make his debut at an intimate Milwaukee club. MARCHE-TORME HAD TO CANCEL THIS GIG, DUE TO ICY ROADS IN NORTHERN WISCONSIN, the Estate reports. The event has been rescheduled for June 9, at at 8 p.m. Tonight the bassist Jim Paolo’s Quartet will fill in, with saxophonist Eric Schoor, pianist Mark Davis, and drummer Dave Bayles. For those who purchased tickets, the tickets will be automatically moved to the June 9th event.  Anyone who purchased tickets can get in tonight’s show for 1/2 price, they’ll have a list at the door.
  • Sunday April 15, 8:30 p.m., The Jazz Estate – Post-bop flutist-composer Jamie Baum leads her New York quintet, a rare chance to hear a flutist leading a band. Baum, a 2014 Guggenheim Fellow, gives her instrument the full range of modern jazz possibility. She’s been nominated by the Jazz Journalists Association for “Flutist of Year“ eight times and placed in DownBeat polls annually since 1998.
  • Thursday April 19, 8 p.m., The Jazz Gallery Center for the Arts – Try some left-of-center improv collaboration between Minnesota pianist Matt Blair and jazz/improv-leaning Milwaukee string quartet (which includes a bassist) The Tontine Ensemble.
  • Friday, April 20, 8 p.m. The Jazz Estate – Promoting her brilliant new album Heart Tonic is up-and-coming progressive jazz alto saxophonist and composer Caroline Davis from Chicago. This is heady but accessible music built with Davis’ highly distinctive composing style, and the album’s single cover, of Wayne Shorter’s “Penelope,” suggests the rare strata of her compositional acumen.
 Alto saxophonist and composer Caroline Davis will play at The Jazz Estate on April 20. Courtesy carolinedavis.org.
  • Sunday, April 22, Turner Hall – Big-name jazz artists John Scofield and Joe Lovano will lead their quartet Past/Present.  Scofield is among the most celebrated and versatile guitarists in jazz, and Lovano probably jostles with Sonny Rollins and Wayne Shorter as the music’s preeminent tenor saxophonist. Tenor Saxophonist Joe Lovano and Guitarist John Scofield bring their Past/Present Quartet to Turner Hall on Sunday April 22. Courtesy pabsttheater.org
1. The Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz has been updated and re-released as Jazz: The Smithsonian Collection, a 6-CD,111-track set, pictured here:

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