The real, elemental art of jazz is basically in two things: flourish and improvisation. It is a form that requires a profound technical background that, ultimately, is not apparent to the listener. Part of such expertise is in making music that sounds easy. A painless analogy is the NBA: those guys drop 25-footers like layups, barely jumping and with little visible effort or care. That’s the line over which a good jazz player can step to become a great one.
Louisville’s marriage with jazz has been long and deeply rewarding. The Seelbach is a historical staple, and the Jazz Factory is becoming one. Perhaps the most visible manifestation is in U of L’s jazz program, from which the band Paradigm sprouts. A five-piece that rambles along unconventional jazz highways in a truck full of rock, funk, blues and soul, the band flaunts its extreme talent and training with high energy and religious-grade musical zealotry on its self-titled album, for which there’s a release party this weekend. The level of ability at which each member plays here borders the obscene.
Nine songs offer nine basic flavors, starting with opener “My Hands Wave …,” a modern piece with Evan Pouchak’s tight drumming parceled into an immutable groove. “Rhythm Police” is a funky ass-shaker where sax man John Harden shows he’s got a voice with a thousand years behind it. Mid-album the band opens the proceedings to guitarist Jonathan Epley’s fingering tap-dances, while bassist Will Roberts and keys maestro Brian Healey provide jazz-cool palettes of Groove. I wouldn’t say jamband, but extended dancing and hairy armpits won’t be denied.
LEO: If you were Mayor, what would you do to help promote people like you in this city?
Jonathan Epley: I would put together a huge music festival on the waterfront with great regional acts opening for national acts.
Brian Healey: A few years back, the governor of Maine organized a program where every middle school student was given a laptop computer. I might try to do something similar, except with musical instruments instead of computers.
Will Roberts: Lower the drinking age.
LEO: Which Louisville musician needs to get more attention?
John Harden: Dave Clark.
JE: I may be a little biased, but there are tons of great jazz players that live in this city, lots of them on the faculty at U of L and Bellarmine, such as Craig Wagner and Todd Hildreth.
WR: Liberation Prophecy.
Evan Pouchack: In terms of a group, the Liberation Prophecy needs to be heard by more people. It’s definitely one of the more forward-thinking bands in town, and every member can play. In terms of a single person, Boogie Morton is probably the city’s best-kept secret. He swings like a wrecking ball.
BH: You mean besides us? I’ll say Liberation Prophecy, too.
LEO: If music were food, what kind would yours be?
JH: My music would be greens and fried chicken because it is soulful.
JE: Probably pizza, because I like a little bit of everything on it.
BH: I’d say sushi, because it’s raw, because different ingredients and styles provide endless possibilities of taste, and mostly because it’s delicious.
EP: It would definitely be spicy. Maybe a spicy piece of chicken. Maybe a loud, spicy piece of chicken. With a guitar solo. Actually, could you rephrase the question?
WR: A dietary supplement.
LEO: Tell me about one of your favorite works of art aside from your medium.
JE: I’m an avid reader. My favorite books run from “The Bible” to “Slaughterhouse Five.”
BH: I really dig on screenwriter/director David Lynch. I recently watched “Twin Peaks” on DVD, and I gotta say it’s the most intriguing and creative television show ever made.
JH: The movie “The Four Brothers” is a work of art that I loved watching.
EP: Right now, I really like Bob Hicok’s “Animal Soul.” It’s a fun read, and he is one of my favorite contemporary poets.
LEO: What do you want to say that you know you shouldn’t?
EP: I, being one among many people who think the same but are afraid to admit it in public, think that Coldplay is a great band. If this makes me a wimp, then I’m a wimp.
JH: Damn!!! She’s got a big ass!!
BH: Impeach Bush! That probably won’t win me many friends in a red state like Kentucky.
JE: It is unfortunate that many musicians spend more time trying to get well known and popular than they do writing good songs and practicing their instruments.