You know it's a slow night at Rockefeller's when those tall doors are opened to local jazz, but in this particular case, both the occasion and the talent are deserving of the spotlight thrown by A Tribute to Arnett Cobb, featuring the performing talents of the University of Houston-Downtown Civic Jazz Orchestra, the Young Sounds of Houston Wednesday Night Band, and sax masters Kirk Whalum and Tony Campise.
Robert Wilson, who directs both the Civic Jazz Orchestra and the teenage Young Sounds Wednesday Night Band (so named after its regular rehearsal night), traces his friendship with Texas tenor legend Cobb, who died in 1989, back 20 years. He's also a board member of the Texas Jazz Heritage foundation, which Cobb founded. Wilson has previously organized two concerts with Cobb at Austin Community College, the last of which featured Cobb playing alongside Whalum, and the present tribute is something Wilson has had in the back of his head ever since moving to Houston three years ago.
"The idea for the tribute," he says of Cobb, "came out of a desire to pay respect to him and his influence on the jazz scene in Houston and internationally. His influence here in town is very apparent in players like Kirk and Tony. You couldn't be around Arnett without being influenced by him."
Just to make that point clear, Wilson's assembled a program that kicks off with the Young Sounds of Houston at 8 p.m. Friday, moving into two Civic Jazz Orchestra sets, the first featuring Tony Campise, former Duke Ellington vocalist Anita Moore and guitarist Clayton Dyess, the second with Moore, Dyess and Kirk Whalum. To close the night out, Campise and Whalum hit the stage together to take their best shots at rendering one of the most famous solos in all of jazz, Cobb's signature flight on Lionel Hampton's "Flying Home."
If You're Looking For a Drummer... Early last week, Carolyn Wonderland and the Imperial Monkeys -- how can I put this delicately? -- unceremoniously dumped longtime drummer Erik Kolflat after several weeks of not-so-secretly auditioning replacements. They found one in (now former) Joint Chiefs pounder Lisa Harrington. According to sources close to the band (hmmm...), Kolflat got the news at a Monday meeting, and declined an option to play his last gig at the Last Concert Cafe on Tuesday. So Harrington jumped in feet first and will be on the road with the band by the time you read this. Harrington, in resigning as a Joint Chief, becomes the last founding member of the Chiefs to leave that band. At press time, Joint Chiefs are auditioning new drummers.
'Nother New Label... Sometimes a record label is something that takes you out to eat lobster in a limousine, and sometimes it's just a piece of sticky paper you slap on a home-dubbed cassette. Houston's new Discorporeality Recordings is a lot less than the first and a good bit more than the second, with a three-page info sheet available at Sound Exchange cataloguing no fewer than 20 "Autumn Releases," not including the five-tape back-catalog of local industrial/ambient/electronic/experimental artist (I probably still got it wrong) Ure Thrall.
Thrall pops up on more than a few of these projects, and the other names commonly found (how big an electronic/industrial/experimental/ambient scene does Houston have, anyhow?) include Bonnie McNairn and Jim Wilson (collectively known as Voice of Eye), Marlon Porter, Pamela Passmore, Paul Valsecchi and Chad Salvata. The 60-minute high-bias tapes are by aggregations called Terminus, Twin Blades, Nocturne, Asianova and Nightshade, with a debut recording by Shauerroman (Thrall, Salvata, Wilson Porter and Passmore contributing). They cost five bucks a pop, and Sound Exchange had a decent sampling last time I was in. Go buy one and write me a 25-word description of the music. Best entry gets my copy of Gary Puckett and the Union Gap's Greatest Hits LP, more or less unscratched.
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Local News and Stuff: Nobody bothered to tell me until just the other day, but Houston's premier weed-smokin' hard rock band (I say that even though, unlike millions of Germans, I never thought their records were terribly swell) has broken up. The Mike Gunn called it quits around Christmastime. The void causes a slight problem for label-gal Dorothy Dean, who runs the local Double Naught label that released The Gunn's Durban Poison and more recent Almaron. Dean says she's "looking for a good rock record. It could be punk rock, rockabilly, garage rock, if you're a really good psych band I'd like to hear that too, but I really need a rock record." If you've really got a rock record sitting around the apartment somewhere just waiting for an interested label, give me a call at the paper and I'll hook you up with Dorothy. She doesn't get out much anymore.
You thought local semi-invisible folk-drone outfit Charalambides was famous when Sonic Youth tastemaker Thurston Moore recommended the group's super-limited edition hand-painted cover release Union in Rolling Stone last year, but hang on, because the Philadelphia-based Siltbreeze label that released it has recently signed a two-year manufacturing deal with indie giant Matador Records (Pavement, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Liz Phair, etc.), which in turn is selectively distributed by the behemoth Atlantic Records. What all this might actually mean to The Band That Never Plays is uncertain (Union, at least, is slated for another pressing), but it does reinforce an indie-buzz dictum that was passed on to me by one who knows: "Get the record collector scum behind you and you're set."
Hometown garage-rock heroes Sugar Shack have a new CD in the wings, recorded again with the help of Tim Kerr, and this one will be released by Australia's largest indie, Au Go Go, presumably sometime before SXSW in March. What this means to the band's fans is crystal clear: the disc will be available in the states only as a hyper-priced import. And it'll probably be worth it.
-- By Brad Tyer