Jazz at Five shows it's a great sell at Hilldale event

Capital Times
By Kevin Lynch for The Capital Times
December 20, 2007

Jazz at Five demonstrated in new ways why it's a concept to warm the heart of a business person, with its first-ever winter event, Jingle Bell Jazz, last Wednesday, smack dab in the middle of Madison's most stylish shopping center. People packed the seats in Hilldale for Jan Wheaton and her trio. One woman calmly knitted, perhaps relieved of loneliness.

But it's the free music at five o'clock that flips the trigger in many a consumer. Stimulated for free, needing an outlet after work, they seemed ready to spend. After a single set and intermission, singer Wheaton had sold 20 CDs at 15 bucks a crack. The cash bar hummed briskly.

I thought of Muzak, the sly psychological selling tool from the '50s, one of the things that writer Vance Packard called "The Hidden Persuaders." Now consider the effect of real music in a commercial setting. No need to hide. Buyers don't feel manipulated, they just feel like they're a little more alive.

The point is that business people would be foolish not to support concepts like this, because they stand to benefit from them.

Ken Johnson of Kegonsa Capital Partners understands this well, because he's matching all donations to Jazz at Five through the end of the year. It's an endowment challenge, up to five grand, to secure the series' future viability. What are you up to?

If I were a businessman, I'd do more than donate. I'd angle to get Jazz at Five in front of my store, or in my strip mall. Talk about greasing the buyer's wheel with some grits 'n' gravy soul music. That's what Wheaton delivered, in high style.

For information on donating, log onto www.jazzat5.org or call 310-4462.

Madison pianist Brad Pregeant has a new holiday CD, "Christmas Times in New Orleans." It's mostly solo piano, but his vocalist wife, Lynnea Godfriaux, and bassist Dan Shapera add their ornamentation on the title tune. It's a winner naturally and a way to reconnect with one of Madison's most lovable jazz couples.

To wit, Brad recently wrote a letter to Linda Marty Schmitz, president of the Madison Jazz Society, which she shared with us. Brad and Lynnea migrate to Colorado every year for the sake of her long-suffering health, which is a huge issue that the local jazz community is well aware of. Brad writes, in part:

    Dear Linda,

    We miss you Madison Jazz Society folks! Lynnea's health is continuing to improve here in the Rocky Mountains, her convulsions have stopped and she is walking with the walker a little each day. We are very "jazzed" about it, and grateful to all of you back home for your support and well-wishes. At 9,000 feet above sea level, Lynnea appears to have "altitude wellness."

    Thanks and Love,
    Brad and Lynnea

Brad's disc is available by mail for $15 (plus $3 for postage and handling) by e-mailing Dave McGregor (dmacgreg@mwt.net) with your address and the number of copies, followed by mailing him your check; or by writing him at 924 E. Juneau Ave, #322, Milwaukee, WI 53202-6842 with your address, the number of copies, and your check. But it's too late to receive it by Christmas. You can get it sooner at Louisianne's restaurant, 7464 Hubbard Ave. in Middleton (831-1929). All proceeds except postage will go directly to Brad and Lynnea.

Louisianne's is also the place to get two other new discs by local ivory ticklers. One is the thoroughly modern "Mixed Messages" of Dave Erickson, the other is deep in the Nawlins tradition, "Let Out the Blues" by Johnny Chimes.

Erickson's disc was recorded up close by an inexpensive online recording service. You can even hear Jim's breathing in a few spots. Internet business may win the world over, and maybe even me, if it keeps up work like this. The record's bass notes have a bounding power, as is powerfully evident in Erickson's lyrically propulsive take on McCoy Tyner's "Jazz Walk." The album also includes covers of two other Erickson influences: Ahmad Jamal's "Catalina" and Don Grolnick's "Hearts and Numbers." Grolnick, who died a few years ago, was a superb arranger, composer and studio pro with the heart of a poet.

Erickson's originals are plenty good too, by turns songful, exuberant and dramatic. "Ellipsoid" has a Tyner-esque tangle of massively bejeweled chords and garlands. "Ritual" is a muscular exercise in polyphonic drive that shows Erickson's post-modern tensions coiling up, only to unfurl majestically on the ensuing standard "A Cottage for Sale." Here Erickson shows a knack for the pulsing flow of romantic articulation, in a subtle weaving of internal phrasing between two hands, and hearts. Similarly, he undercuts the lurking schmaltz of Burt Bacharach's "What the World Needs Now Is Love" with an offhanded delivery that's as shy as it is bravely heartfelt.

Come to think of it, this is one of the best solo piano records I've heard in a while. Period. Right up there with a recent one by the young hotshot Jacky Terrasson. No mixed messages about that.

The Chimes session is a family affair of sorts. Chimes' wife, Dixie-Diamond Patrou, dropped in with their son Moses Patrou. Wifey added some sassy vocals as did sonny boy, who also thrashed and tickled the skins for a bit.

Al Falachi, ace saxman from Phat Phunktion, played, as did mandolin and slide guitarist Tim Haub, rhythm guitarist Jack LeTourneau and bassist "Bronco" Billy Pfender. Chimes' singing is as warm and languid as ever. "Louisiana" is his own ode to the fast-rising mythology of the all-too-real Hurricane Katrina: "The pres'dent said, it's sad little man. Ain't it a shame, what the waters done to this poor farmer's land."

Not to worry, the ensemble pulls it together for a slippery slosh through Tracy Nelson's '60s classic "Mother Earth." It goes on from there, in unsinkable fashion.

"Let Out the Blues" is also available on Johnny Chimes' MySpace page.

There's been remarkable response to my recent Cap Times article on the Oxford American Music Issue, which folks can't seem to find on the newsstands. I just talked to OA, and their hospitable receptionist told me the issue, with major pieces on Thelonious Monk and Bob Dylan, is not sold out "as of yet." So stop your tree trimming for a moment. Contact them for a mail copy on their Web site. Santa doesn't come from the South Pole.

Contact Kevin Lynch of The Capital Times at 252-6432 or klynch@madison.com.

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