By George Halas
The holiday season is upon us. The Inquisition wishes to extend glad tidings to all and peace on Earth to men of good will. This holiday sentiment is shared by almost all, but Bill O’Reilly’s message is: “Call it Christmas, or, well, let’s just say Santa knows where your children live.”
The season has many traditions. While often overlooked in the commercialism of the holidays, this time of year is excellent for taking a few moments, reflecting and giving thanks the many good things in our lives.
In particular, The Inquisition is grateful that northeast Wisconsin offers so many great music venues and the chance to see and hear some truly extraordinary musicians. All genres of music are presented and occasionally combined; it is not too early to remind that the Vic Ferrari Symphony on the Rocks, featuring the Fox Valley Symphony, will make it annual return to Waverly Beach at the end of January.
The lion’s share of The Inquisition’s gratitude will be focused on the jazz players and the venues that present them. Between Oshkosh and Green Bay are many places that you can hear some of the best jazz musicians in the country and pay no cover.
As loyal Inquisitors know, The Inquisition is nothing if not trendy.
One of the popular trends is to focus holiday purchases on local businesses, the thinking being it is better to support people that you know and fuel the local economy instead of sending billions of simoleons to China.
(It is said that genius is the ability to see the obvious. The Inquisition is starting to get the nagging suspicion that this is the kind of genius that gets one in trouble with the principal––it’s so obvious.)
Instead of getting into that Black Friday dogfight with rabid savages juiced on crates of energy drinks and whipped into a frenzy by days of camping in parking lots, only to be told that the targeted big box is out of both Justin Bieber and Lady GaGa, treat yourself to a relaxing evening of great music and recreational intoxicants and, whilst you are there, buy a CD from the band. Your money never leaves the zip code and music is a great gift.
(No waiting in long lines or fighting with less desirables, instead, relaxing with a favorite beverage, enjoying some fine cuisine and listening to some outstanding jazz––something is very wrong with this idea––lack of suffering and/or aggravation?)
By the way, if you are one of those exasperating individuals who does all of his/her shopping online, almost all local bands have websites where you can purchase/download songs and/or entire albums as well as order a good, old-fashioned CD for shipment. It’s BYO.
Since there are a myriad of truly outstanding musical offerings available, as a public service, The Inquisition will mention some of the better albums awaiting your economic stimulus.
As noted in the September Inquisition, Band Box is the debut album of KWT4 Featuring Tom Washatka. It is a phenomenal recording––this is what a lot of instrumental jazz aspires to be–– that is both innovative and eminently listenable. The opening cut, Washatka’s “Attaboy,” grabs a listener’s attention and sets the tone for the rest of the album. In addition to KWT4 gigs, Band Box is available at The Exclusive Company in Oshkosh.
While Band Box is simply to be enjoyed, Janet Planet Sings The Bob Dylan Songbook, Volume 1 is both a musical tour de force and an important work that may one day be a collector’s item. Dylan songs have been covered by female folk singers (Joan Baez, et. al.) but this is different. Planet is a major jazz artist and the Dylan Songbook constitutes a significant (and risky) pushing of the envelope that has paid off more than handsomely. The 13 tunes are not merely covers. Planet, along with arrangers Washatka and Tom Theabo, has transformed some of Dylan’s greatest hits into jazz compositions that provide new perspectives and shadings without losing any of the original lyrical punching power. At a Planet show, an Inquisitor can not only purchase the Dylan album but also Janet’s highly-regarded Of Thee I Sing and a number of her other CD’s. She just might be packing a copy of Theabo’s A Fine Sample or Washtaka’s Easy To Love as well.
The “earthy soul with a funky stroll” sound of Sly Joe and The Smooth Operators is captured magnificently on The Straight Goods. The disc contains 13 Joe Slyzelia originals, a live cover of Harry Connick, Jr.’s “Come By Me” and features a veritable Who’s Who of guest local luminaries including Erin Krebs, Greg Waters, Steve Cooper, Danny Jerabek, Michelle Jerabek, Pita, Kurt Stipe, Mark Martin and Andy Mertens.
The Jazz Orgy has won the WAMI Award for Best Jazz Group and The Jazz Orgy Featuring The Compositions of Bob Levy showcases some of the best playing around by keyboardist Martin, bassist Mertens, Cooper on saxophone, Levy on trumpet and flugelhorn and the incredible drumming of Mike Underwood.
Drummer/percussionist Dane Maxim Richeson has rounded some of the area’s best players including Bill Carrothers, Woody Mankowski, Jose Encarnacion, Mark Urness and Matt Turner to contribute to Maxim Confit. As mentioned in the September Inquisition, the CD is both very creative and very listenable.
Drop by Frank’s Pizza palace on College Ave on a Tuesday night, listen to some outstanding big band jazz courtesy of The Big Band Reunion and grab a copy of One For Jeannie. It contains a number of outstanding big band classics, a couple of originals and contributions by some of the best musicians in the area including Planet.
If Lee Tomboulian is in town, grab a copy of Imaginarium.
Another upside of making your purchase at a gig is that the CD can be signed and personalized.
In conclusion, stimulating the local economy while enjoying yourself, supporting local live music and venues and giving the best presents is genius. This is why The Inquisition gets the big bucks.
Happy Holidays to all and to you too, Mr. O’Reilly!