Prez Sez
December 2004
August 2004
May 2004
January 2004
Prez Sez 2003

Prez Sez 2002

December 2004
Prez Sez


Dear Readers…Happy Holidays to you all!


I hate to start my letter, especially during the holiday season, with negativeDoug Campbell and Butch Berman [Photo by Rich Hoover] news, but the truth is the truth. I just received a call from the new head of the Jazz in June committee, Ted Eschliman, with the news that the Berman Music Foundation won’t be needed next year in booking the talent for the annual festival.


In the several years I’ve been involved in creating some positive momentum to take this affair to loftier places, I’ve always seemed to butt heads with someone. It wasn’t until last year that, under the helm of Doug Campbell, I felt they finally had someone on board who understood the music, the musicians and the bigger picture. We went from a mostly local and regional concert series to a very cultural festival, featuring top name artists from coast to coast. You could feel the trend of the audience change from just a free event to attract mom and pop and the kids to a huge throng of folks who were beginning to embrace and listen to jazz with different ears.


Even under Doug’s astute leadership, frustrations prevailed, and he chose to split rather than put up with all the non-jazz nonsense. Nevertheless, I understood that for next year former Nebraskan and top-notch New York City session drummer Victor Lewis and vocalist/pianist Valerie Capers and her band were in contention, as they and trumpeter Ingrid Jensen had been approved for 2004. Ingrid got the nod, and I was told it was OK to contact the others for 2005. Also, it was agreed that the Nebraska Jazz Orchestra (NJO) wouldn’t be back on the roster again for a couple of years as they play so often in the area.


Ted Eschliman [Photo by Rich Hoover]Since then, local lawyer and chairman of the Nebraska Art Association Bob Nefsky was chosen to select a new head honcho to replace Campbell, and Eschliman was it. Last year, Ted and I worked together very well, as he became a much-needed liaison between me and the rest of the committee.


By this year things changed, when I discovered they held a meeting that discussed my involvement without me present. It seems that even though last year was the best-attended festival ever, they still were in the red to the tune of about $1,000. They couldn’t attract all the corporate sponsorship they required, even though last year was a major success. So I got the call from Ted that our services wouldn’t be needed, with no opportunity to be there and discuss options.


They plan to have the NJO back again next year, and decided to scale down the festival and utilize more entertainers closer to home, turning Jazz in June into a less-than-stellar attraction, with the exception of Alaadeen and Group 21 who were hired through a grant from the Mid-America Arts Alliance.


Saddened, angry and disappointed after years of donating time, money and hours of free promotion from our foundation and Jazz newsletter. I had to concede, knowing that if anything, their insensitivity in dealing with all the ramifications was one of the major issues, and that the momentum we started can’t be recreated at will. It seems that their interest in logos, T-shirts and hats meant more than the music. Maybe they should rename it T-shirts in June. When egos get involved, no one suffers more than the community that has no say in the matter.


I know there’s more to this than meets the eye, and that politics probably play a big hand in it. Either way, it’s a shame that our special gifts to the community can’t be received in the same manner that they are given and that individual factions involved in the arts can’t come together to benefit a greater cause, the healing power of music.


Speaking of music, since I last reported to you Grace and I have been fortunate to hear some great sounds: Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson at the Lincoln Saltdogs baseball park were a gas, especially if you were in the mob of fans packed in front of the stage. Willie was predictably entertaining, but Bob was stunning as he and his raging band rocked their asses off. Due to hand problems, Dylan played only the electric piano, but it didn’t matter. Forever young, forever fabulous!


Kathleen Holeman [Photo by Butch Berman]We covered country by catching the two great Williamses performing today.  Old timer Don Williams touched everyone’s heart at Blackjack’s Underground in the basement of Pershing Municipal Auditorium in downtown Lincoln. He proved to all present that he’s one of the best singer-songwriter-storytellers in country music today. The other Williams, as in Lucinda, is the cutting-edge top female performer out there today, as she mesmerized the overfill crowd at KC’s Beaumont Club in Westport.


Paul Smith [Photo by Butch Berman]While in KCMO, we got to hear a preview of the lone female jazz songstress I booked for the 2005 Topeka Jazz Festival, Memorial Day weekend in Kansas.  I’m referring to Kathleen Holeman, who turned in a sweet set at the always grand The Club at Plaza 3 in theDerald Kirklin, manager of Plaza III [Photo by Butch Berman] Country Club Plaza.


She was backed on piano by one of my faves, Paul Smith, and the rest of her admirable band. She is lovely to look at, has decent pipes, and the always wonderful food and service provided by Derald  Kirklin and his staff made an evening with Holeman and the Plaza 3 a must anytime. Thanks to all for making a nice evening out for Grace, her sister, Lois Sankey, who was visiting from Nigeria, and me.


Butch Berman and Ginney ColemanMore fun to be had in KC was provided by my old pal, Ginney Coleman. Along with her long-time partner, Ruth Rhoden, they host “Just Jazz,” a fine weekly jazz program broadcast 2-4 p.m. Sundays on KCUR-FM 89.3. Ginney’s always nice enough to let me plug what I’m up to, this time the ongoing Berman Jazz Series, and the upcoming Topeka Jazz Festival. (See Tom Ineck’s coverage of the Berman Jazz Series shows featuring the Dan Thomas Quintet, the Doug Talley Quartet and the Russ Long Trio elsewhere on this website.) Special guest, saxophonist Dan Thomas, prepared us for his appearance as our debut artist at the Berman series, held in the lower level of the beautiful Topeka Performing Arts Center (TPAC) at 214 SE Eighth St. in downtown Topeka.


We also got to do a “greet and meet” at famed KC drummer Tommy Ruskin’s Saturday jazz jam at Jardine’s, at 4536 Main St.  A wide variety of talented folks got to perform, including the excellent vocalist Gary Gardner, as well as Tommy helping me promote the BMF and Topeka’s important jazz stuff. Thanks again, Tommy.


Other fab moments on our end-of-summer-and-fall entertainment scheduleButch Berman and Marian McPartland meet backstage. were two swell nights at the stately Lied Center for Performing Arts, featuring the brilliant comic Jerry Seinfeld followed by the remarkable grand dame of jazz and radio fame…Marian McPartland. Thanks to her bassist, Jim Cox of Chicago, whom I got to know when he came to Jazz in June two summers ago behind my old buddy jazz mandolinist Don Stiernberg, I got to go backstage and meet her. (See Tom Ineck's review of the McPartland concert elsewhere on this website.)


The ultimate thrill of them all, however, was a marvelous 2½-hour concert at the new Quest Center in Omaha with the one and only Divine Miss M. Bette Midler, an icon babe if I’ve ever seen one, just tore the place apart, giving one of the most enjoyable concerts I have ever witnessed. Using modern technology, old- and new-school song and dance routines, and some of the most hilarious, bawdy and topical comedy you could imagine, Bette put on a four-alarm, five-star performance of a lifetime. BRAVO!!!


Now, back to jazz. Rob Scheps and Zach Brock brought their swinging, ever-emoting and exciting show back to P.O. Pears in October. Pears didn’t have their act together this trip, as their PA system was down. Rob, the great saxist he is, prevailed as always to rule the roost. Everybody cooked and, for my money, his drummer, Morgan Childs of Vancouver, B.C., is the next Billy Kilson. Monster power, yet sensitive and clever. Keep an eye on this guy. The turnout was small, probably due the baseball playoffs, but the standing “O” at the end of the night was well deserved.


Our next show at P.O. Pears will be in early February, as we are ever-so-lucky to be able to bring in the legendary guitarist of guitarists, Jerry Hahn. (Tom conveys the rest of the story about Hahn elsewhere on this website.) My good friend and hard-working BMF consultant KC bassist Gerald Spaits called me to say Jerry Hahn was back in Wichita, Kan., and wanted to gig more in the area. WOW!  So we put together the Pears gig with Gerald and drummer Tommy Ruskin to create the trio. Jerry also will do two guitar clinics for our local music store, Dietze Music House. Call (402) 476-6644 and ask Ted for complete details. Oughtta be a gasser.


TPAC and BMF meet. Front row (from left) John Esau, development director; Mike Woodruff, operations assistant; Melanie Kitchner, marketing manager; Rob Seitz, executive director; Mark Radziejeski, assistant director. Back row (from left) Sarah Kratzer, finance manager; April Evans, box office manager; Pamela Hatfield, executive assistant; Christy Bien, receptionist; Grace Sankey Berman; Butch Berman; Tony Rager [Photo by Rich Hoover]Following every Berman Jazz Series show in Topeka, Kan., we meet the next morning to continue preparation for our Topeka Jazz Festival, held every Memorial Day weekend at the fantastic TPAC.  Check out the ads in our Jazz newsletters, the KC JAM magazine, or our websites to get tickets for this annual not-to-be-missed event. In my first year as artistic director, I feel I’ve put together a balanced, blockbuster array of diversified jazz talent to please all tastes. For more info, call me at (402) 476-3112 or Mark in Topeka at (785) 234-2787.


In closing, I want to publicly thank Tony Moreno, Kendra Shank’s incredible drummer, who charmed us all at last year’s Jazz in June. I told him how much I loved his craft and asked whom else he had worked with. Turns out…tons of great stuff, as he’s so in demand. He sent me a wonderful sample of three CDs he played on in 2003. Because they were released awhile back, I didn’t feel they should be reviewed in my Discorama column, but deserved my highest recommendation for you all to seek out, buy and enjoy. They are “Global Motion,” by Marc Mommaas on SSc 1119 (www.mommaas.com),

“Prayer,” by Dave Phillips & Freedance on Sound Street Records CD 001 (www.davephillips.info) and “Resistance,” by the Friedrich Hebert Moreno Trio Vol. 3 on Schoener Horen music (www.juergenfriedrich.net).


Well, there you go. Enuff said, huh? Only this remains…Happy Thanksgiving(a little late) Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!


Pray for peace,


Butch Berman


August 2004
Prez Sez


Dear Readers,


Well…”It’s summertime, and the living is easy”…NOT! I’ve mentioned beforeButch Berman with flyers for Berman Jazz Series and 2005 Topeka Jazz Festival [Photo by Tony Rager] that even though my mother and I had a difficult relationship, she was right about a lot of stuff. One of those messages was that as you get older, time just flies by. Well, this summer proved to be no exception to the rule. Fall is quickly approaching, and we’ve been working our tails off since April getting ready for the Topeka Jazz Festival, doing it, and then Lincoln’s own beloved Jazz In June. No rest for the wicked, they say. If that’s the case, I must be one mean SOB. (Hey, no way…I can read your minds on that one). Anyway, looking back, it was all a ball, and that ain’t all.


Becoming the new artistic director of the Topeka Jazz Festival starting in 2005 was my first order of business, and it was a tall one, but still a labor of love. I had to book the entire 2005 festival, plus a separate series of five Sunday afternoon concerts named the Berman Jazz Series to be scattered throughout the fall and winter months to be held at the beautiful Topeka Performing Arts Center (TPAC). This had to be in play so they could announce the directorial changeover from Jim Monroe to moi and advertise and promote the upcoming festivities at this year’s festival.


All appeared to go fairly smoothly as Jim and I carried on our rolls in parallel fashion. Grace and I arrived early to catch the student jazz master classes that we help sponsor (see the related story in this issue) and then enjoy the next three days of music, music, and music. To avoid repetition, read Tom Ineck’s in-depth report of the entire festival. In all, it was the usual four-day jazz party that carried more highs then lows with few surprises.


Singer Giacomo Gates, Grace and Butch relax in room before returning to the festival. [Photo by Tom Ineck]The Friday afternoon outdoors Taste of Topeka food fest combined with the jazz entertainment nicely. A large crowd assembled early to catch Danny Jackson’s big band followed by an array of talent to showcase the weekend’s lineup. The huge stage looked great, and the sound was very good. My new pal Giacomo Gates wowed the throng with his strong show and swell vocal delivery. Karrin Allyson and her excellent Kansas City band previewed tunes from her new CD and went over quite well. I know Jim’s departure had something to do with the fact that she could only do the Friday picnic and not the rest of the weekend…but hey, that’s show biz.


Grace and I could only stay through early Sunday, but had a ball meeting andTrombonist Wycliffe Gordon and friend at TJF [Photo by Butch Berman] greeting everyone. We tried to pass out enough info on the Berman Music Foundation and my changes for next year festival to quell any doubts on our passion and dedication to the genre at hand. The questionnaires that people filled out on our “take-over” proved that we have some big shoes to fill as Jim worked hard to bring the TJF to the level it maintained. I know that some fans are worried about how we plan to evolve this organization and some accept us with open arms…yet I stand true to my dreams. The proof will be in the pudding, as they say. With the inclusion of a wider variety of jazz including some Latin music, a little more bebop, and a Django-infused string band like The Hot Club of San Francisco, to name a few, may attract a younger audience and bring in more enthusiasts from the KC area, as well as Manhattan and Lawrence. I know some of the fans will miss a few of the regulars not scheduled, or may not recognize all of the newcomers, but I promise you won’t go away disappointed. The “Monroe Doctrine” has come and gone, and there’s a NEW “sheriff” in town.


Tom will tell the rest of the story, but let me just say that, as always, Eldar was a gas; Paul Smith with the trio of Jim DeJulio and Joe LaBarbera just knocked me out; Jennifer Leitham was a treat; Wycliffe Gordon is one of the best in the business; Giacomo Gates continued to blow everyone away; Brent Jensen made us all feel wistful thinking about Paul Desmond; and Ken Peplowski and Jay Leonhart, as always, remained the true pros they are.


The current TPAC staff and I have been meeting monthly both in Topeka and here in Lincoln to plan for next year’s blockbuster happening. We sincerely hope to garner your interest and support to keep this fine festival going for years to come. Get ready for 2005!


Emil Djangirov (from left), Gerald Spaits, Eldar, Tommy Ruskin, Butch Berman and Tom Ineck at Misty's [Photo by Rich Hoover]This year’s Jazz in June proved to be a major success. Read Tom’s wonderful review of each act in this issue but let me rap on a bit. Eldar Djangirov’s return to the Sheldon Sculpture Garden stage to kick off this year’s concerts was well received. Backed this year by bassist and BMF consultant Gerald Spaits and KC drum legend Tommy Ruskin, filling in for Todd Strait, he simply tore the place up.  Eldar, now 17, keeps getting better. His new CD being released later this year by Sony is incredible. Several years ago, he was the first Jazz in June performer to ever receive a standing ovation and an encore, and this year was no exception. He earns and deserves all the acclaims he gets. He even beat me—the old master—at Ping-Pong at my post-concert party following a great meal for the performers at Lincoln’s downtown Misty’s. I was lucky to whip his father, Emil, who’s no slouch himself. Rematches are in order.


Dean Johnson (from left), Kendra Shank, Butch, Tony Moreno and Frank Kimbrough at Misty's [Photo by Rich Hoover]My dear friend New York songstress Kendra Shank, along with a band that fits her like a glove, charmed an audience of 3,000-plus at the second concert of the series. Frank Kimbrough on piano, bassist Dean Johnson and the amazing Tony Moreno at the drum helm hushed the crowd and kept them in a trance-like state for both of her beautiful sets. Steve Watts made the outdoors sound like an evening at New York’s Village Vanguard with his perfect sound system and astute staff.


Both of these shows were affiliated with the BMF, and the support gained from Jazz in June head honchos Doug Campbell and Ted Eschliman made working on their committee a pleasure. I just wish the rest of the members could see the “big picture” as they do and allow us to maintain the momentum we’ve established. You can’t buy this kind of appeal, and I sincerely hope we can keep the ball rolling as years go by.


The last three shows of the series, featuring John Carlini and Don Stiernberg; Ingrid Jensen; and Lincoln’s Nebraska Jazz Orchestra (NJO) continued to draw large audiences.


Jensen, a superb trumpeter with a marvelous group, seemed to be the only performer to chase away some folks. The music was perfect, but her rather cold, distant delivery didn’t carry the music as well as Kendra, whose repertoire was equally cerebral, yet her personality was much, much warmer.


Upcoming events and projects are as follows:


On Oct. 21, at P.O. Pears in Lincoln, the BMF is excited and proud to present the return of the Rob Scheps/Zach Brock Band. The combined energies of five very talented musicians from the Portland/Vancouver area and the windy city of Chicago make for one not-to-be-missed engagement. Mark this date. They shook the walls of Pears the last time they hit town…so expect anything.


Part of our mission statement is to provide help by ways of grants and donations, when possible, to further the careers of budding musicians, mostly in the jazz field. On our last trip to New York, while visiting my old friend, sound engineer Lou Holtzman, and checking out his new Eastside Sound recording studio in the Lower East Side I heard and met a young vocalist named Teraesa Vinson. While listening to the playback of Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” I knew she was a potentially major player in the jazz market, so I decided to help her put out her first recording, entitled

 “Opportunity Please Knock.” I just received the test pressing, and it sounds lovely. Watch our updates for the review of this fine new CD when it comes out in the very near future.


Other news includes our purchase of the original masters of the first two jazz CDs I helped produce. With New York’s Arabesque Records going down the tubes, I am happy to own the rights to Andrienne Wilson’s “She’s Dangerous” and Norman Hedman and Tropique’s “One Step Closer.” Future plans to reissue these fab CDs are being formulated even as I write this and will be reported on our website.


Better close here soon. Grace and I are in the middle of remodeling projectsThe Cronin Brothers Band (from left) are Craig Kingery, Butch Berman, Don Holmquist and Bill Lohrberg [Photo by Rich Hoover] at both of our homes. One top of that, her lovely sister Lois Sankey and her son are coming from Nigeria to visit. Also, my new rockin’ rhythm ‘n’ blues group, The Cronin Brothers Band, will be debuting at Bob’s Gridiron Grille. You can catch us again Sept. 4-5, prior to Big Red’s first game. As I’ve said before…be there or be square.


Grace and I also plan to do a jazz trip to Colorado sometime soon. Just saw saxophonist and old friend Andrew Vogt, who stopped by with recording mate and bassman Jason Hollar, who was moving eastward to Pittsburgh.  With Andrew living and gigging in the Fort Collins area, and my good buddy Dan Demuth doing his thing in Colorado Springs, this trip has possibilities. Wax Trax is one of my fave Colorado record stores in Denver, along with the new club, Dazzle, and old haunt, the “Pec,” so there ya go. After that, we’d like to visit San Francisco, which Grace has never seen. The SF Jazz Festival is in October, the Giants may still be playing and in the pennant chase, and of course we get to hang with my best man Wade Wright and revisit his great Jack’s Record Cellar.


Gotta go now. Hope to see many of you at our first Berman Jazz Series concert, Sunday Sept. 19 at the Topeka Performing Arts Center in Topeka, Kan. KC sax man Dan Thomas and his band, featuring pianist Roger Wilder, will be blowing it out starting at 3 p.m. Later.


Lots of love to all,


Butch Berman


May 2004
Prez Sez


Dear Jazz lovers everywhere,


Hey dere…thanks for clicking in. Lots and lots of news this issue, so get ready. Had a great 55th birthday BMF bash and grand conclave. Wade Wright from Jack’s Record Cellar in San Francisco flew in, as well as New York percussionist and recording artist Norman Hedman. The Demuths from Colorado, and Steve Irwin and Jo Boehr from Kansas City couldn’t make it, but Gerald and Leslie Spaits, my bass playing KC consultant and his wife, drove up from Missouri. Add my darling wife Grace, Jazz newsletter editor Tom Ineck, photographer Rich Hoover, legal representative Tony Rager and secretary Kay Davis from Cline Williams law firm and newcomers to the mix, Mark and Melissa Epp, and you’ve got yourself a party. Loyal, trusted and dear friends, all of them.

Wade Wright, Leslie Spaits, Tom Ineck, Kay Davis, Tony Rager, Norman Hedman, Gerald Spaits (back row), Butch and Grace Berman, Melissa and Mark Epp (front row) [Photo by Rich Hoover]We had a swell luncheon meeting at the Green Gateau discussing all of our stuff. The Epps were there as my renewed friendship with Mark has turned into two couples who enjoy each other’s company and stimulate each other very creatively. Mark and I were in rival bands during the mid- to late ‘60s. The Modds and Music certainly had their moments. Now Mark and Melissa are running an operation called Here We Go Kids (HWGK Productions) which puts out informative musical illustrated books and tapes for education. They are now embarking on “Sticks n’ Stones,” a movie they created with a screenplay by Joseph Kwong, about coming of age in Nebraska during the ‘50s. We hope to collaborate on helping to put together the soundtrack, utilizing some of the rare 45s in my collection from that era. The one and only Herbie Hancock will be handling the major musical production, so this could be a gas. We’ll keep you posted as details are finalized.

Later that evening we were joined by my other girl Friday (besides Grace andButch Berman at birthday bash [Photo by Rich Hoover] Kay) Ruthann Nahorny and a slew of about 50-plus other old cronies from my cherished past.  We wined and dined at the ever-so-cool Marz Bar in downtown Lincoln. Had a ball and that ain’t all…but now, back to the news at hand.

Got to hang out a little with my new musician buddies, pianist Roger Wilder from KC and the ever-so-saxy Rob Scheps from Portland, Ore., who were in Lincoln gigging with the Boulevard Big Band from KC at Kimball Recital Hall on our University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus. (Check out my related review elsewhere in this issue.)

Doug Campbell, Katherine Starace, Tom Range, Rob Simon, Sean Morrison, Orville Jones, Rachel Principato, Jessica Kennedy, Marcia Laging Cummings, Lori Seibel and Linda Crump (back row), Ted Eschliman, Alexia Morrison, Rand Wiese (front row) [Photo by Butch Berman]   After many productive meetings with this year’s Jazz in June committee, led to perfection by Doug Campbell, the lineup for 2004 should be another blockbuster. We kick off the proceedings with the BMF-sponsored return of Russian-born piano phenom Eldar Djangirov on June 1. We also helped procure the incredible singing talents of New Yorker Kendra Shank and her band for June 8. Next are East Coast trumpeter Ingrid Jensen and her group performing June 15. Chicagoan acoustic bluegrass/jazz guitarist John Carlini and his combo, featuring a returnee from last year, mandolinist Don Stiernberg, appear June 22, and Lincoln’s own swinging big band the Nebraska Jazz Orchestra (NJO) round out another fine season June 29. (Check out Tom Ineck’s coverage on Lincoln’s best annual festival elsewhere in this issue.)

Eldar, backed by Tommy Ruskin and Gerald Spaits will play Jazz in June right after their performances at the Topeka Jazz Festival. (See Tom’s report on this great venue elsewhere in this issue.)

I mention this because it leads into the most important news I have to offer you this time around. To preface a bit, I think I met Jim Monroe when he spoke at the Mid-America Jazz Conference in KC around 1998. That same year, the BMF started sponsoring the Topeka Jazz Festival, held yearly on Memorial Day weekend and now starting with a kick-off Friday evening picnic after a day of master classes for the kidos. Later, we helped to fund a Jazz Mentor program. Jim has been the artistic director since the start.

To my surprise and pleasure, I received a letter from Rob Seitz, the executiveTony Rager, Rob Seitz, Grace and Butch, Mark Radziejeski and Tom Ineck [Photo by Rich Hoover] director and Mark Radziejeski, the assistant director of the Topeka Performing Arts Center (TPAC) inquiring if I would like to take over for Jim, who was retiring, and head the TJF for the next four or five years, starting with 2005. After ironing out all the legal stuff, I gladly accepted and proceeded to book the festival, to be announced at the close of this year’s event. (Ya gotta be there in Topeka to find out first).

I was also asked to book a five performance jazz series to be held on Sunday evenings the months of September, October, November, February and March. This kinda work is a labor of love for me…and I was further thrilled when TPAC offer to name it the Berman Jazz Series. Wow! Dig the ad for these upcoming concerts in this issue…and be there.  It's like goin’ to KC without all the traffic for only 2¾ hours of driving with a nice hotel right across the street from the beautiful TPAC building.

More on all of this in our upcoming newsletters and on our website, as I don’t want to steal any thunder from this year’s fine show. (You’ll enjoy Tom’s preview and review of this year’s haps in this and following issues of Jazz.)

We also want to thank Jim Monroe for all of his grand efforts over the years and wish him the best of luck in whatever he pursues in the future. It's a genuine honor to be able to perpetuate this great legacy for our grand, national treasure, jazz, which Jim brought to fruition over the course of seven years. There'll be some changes made, but the tradition of the "jazz party" will live on in Topeka at this wonderful festival.

While I’m thanking people, I must mention my gratitude to the Cline-Williams computer whiz Matt Campbell, who’s been giving me weekly lessons on my Dell, which make this job a lot more fun.

Butch and Claudio Roditi [Photo by Rich Hoover]Speaking of fun…what a great night to be hearing my old friend, the Brazilian be-bop trumpet master Claudio Roditi struttin’ his magical sounds and vibes all over the Cornhusker Hotel ballroom March 16, sittin’ in as special guest with the NJO. (Bill Wimmer wrote a nice piece on it in this issue.) Claudio looked and sounded wonderful.  He also charmed the audience with some lovely singing, which I’d never heard before. You’ll be hearing and seeing more of him in the near future, I promise you.

Elsewhere in this issue you can read my travelogue of Grace and my super fab trip to NYC the first of April. I’m flying again and hope to visit San Francisco in September after catching Prince’s supposed last concert tour in KC on May 4 just prior to the Topeka Jazz Festival and Jazz in June. Good times ahead. We here at the BMF wish you all a very safe, healthy, happy and, of course…jazzy summer.

P.S. Just a thought here… I got turned onto a new personal doctor, Kevin Coughlin, who’s hip, listens and looks towards alternative routes, as opposed to overprescribing, that I’m very impressed with. If you’re competing with the Bebopman regarding age, and haven’t had a decent checkup in a while, check Kevin out and tell him you-know-who sent ya. He’s at Heart & Health Solutions at www.kjcmd.com. 


With grace in mind,  


Butch Berman


January 2004
Prez Sez

Happy New Year, my friends.


Well, let’s see… Saddam was sunk, Britney oopsed again, the good oleButch Berman Cornhuskers found another coach (sorry, Bo) and, for me, the best of it was celebrating two years with my fabulous wife and soulmate Grace. Glory Hallelujah! You’d think with all this that all was groovy—but I must get one beef (mad-cow, perhaps) off my hairy chest.


Our local newspaper coverage of the “best of 2003” hardly mentioned our beloved jazz. By now I’m used to the BMF not always being recognized as a major mover and shaker of the arts around these parts, but to omit most of the great artists who graced our stages last year was a real travesty. I guess when one reviewer includes only the “red-hat” acts that the national media proclaims as hip, the other scribe forever revels in his second childhood, and their editor simply bides her time waiting for retirement—we the public never get the true scope of what is presented here at various venues. No wonder so many of these marvelous shows go unattended.


At least we can be thankful that our University of Nebraska-Lincoln rag, The Daily Nebraskan, did an admirable job of covering our incredible Jazz in June series of concerts. Still, unforgettable players like Norman Hedman, Greg Abate, Billy Hart, Harvie S, Bobby Watson, Karrin Allyson and Kansas City’s wonderful array of talented cats—the members of The Westport Art Ensemble and Interstring to name a few—were almost totally ignored.

Ah yes…I feel better now. So, let’s move forward with the real stories. Speaking of Jazz in June, under the excellent leadership of the most astute Doug Campbell and other able colleagues, such as Tom Range, a true jazz fan; Dietze Music House’s Ted Eschliman; and musician Darryl White, to single out a few along with moi, met several times the fall to organize another superb lineup for 2004’s upcoming major festival. Dig this…

Leading off this year, now a young man of 16—the Russian phenom Eldar Djangirov returns to Lincoln to wow the many fans he blew away three years. BMF consultant bassist Gerald Spaits and another one of KC’s most resilient mainstays, drummer Tommy Ruskin, will back him again. Eldar’s new CD, “handprints,” is a killer (see review in the next edition of Jazz). And he promises to bring enuff CDs to sell and autograph this year. His show will be sponsored entirely by the BMF.

Jazz’s distaff side will be represented tour de force with another returnee andKendra Shank (File Photo) a newcomer, to boot. The BMF brought vocalist Kendra Shank to the Zoo Bar for one of our first presentations back in ’95. Now more than just a rising star, Ms. Shank is recognized around the world as a stylist to contend with. Her many kudos during the past decade are richly deserved. We’re very fortunate to be able to see and hear this most amazing chanteuse and her East Coast-based band (featuring one of my favorite pianists and composers, Frank Kimbrough) the second Tuesday in June.

Batting third—and I’m very excited to hear her live for the first time—is trumpeter Ingrid Jensen. I’ve only listened to her Miles-inspired work on CDs, but if you trust my taste, this show is a must. A Hammond B-3 organist also is expected to be in her entourage.

The aforementioned Mr. Eschliman scored huge with a bullet last season, bringing in the most talented Don Stiernberg, a vastly underrated jazz mandolinist, and his Chicago based band. Well this year he’s back, this time as a member of a band featuring John Carlini, an amazing bluegrass and jazz guitarist. Don’t miss this act for our fourth week.

We have five Tuesdays next June, and rounding out this incredible season will be Lincoln’s own jazzy big band, the Nebraska Jazz Orchestra (NJO), under the leadership of Ed Love and Dean Haist.

Now onward to some new jazzy happenings to entice you interested readers.
The last show we did at P.O. Pears was a bit bittersweet. Kansas City’s incredible Interstring put on their usual dynamite show, but sadly to an almost empty house as we had the World Series to compete with.

This time around, on Jan. 22, the BMF along with Dean Haist’s Arts Incorporated debuted a new act based in Portland, Ore., the swinging sounds of my new pal, saxophonist Rob Scheps and his quintet, featuring violinist Zach Brock (see the review elsewhere in this issue). Rob was doing a residency at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center in Nebraska City, organized by Kathy Puzey and Julie Fisher, when he rang me up for a dinner meeting, and we had a ball. Hence, our P.O. Pears concert.

After the T.S. Monk show at the Rococo was pulled due to lack of advance ticket sales, let’s hope this isn’t becoming a trend. The Rococo people never did much pre-advertising, nor did they contact us to help promote, so maybe that snafu was just a fluke. By the time you read this, hopefully the tide will have turned in favor of more jazz in Lincoln.

Butch Berman at the DelRay Ballroom (Photo by Rich Hoover)Guitarist and vocalist Richard Sullivan and myself, AKA The Lounge Hounds, are still doing most Thursday nights at the DelRay Lounge at 817 R St. Turnout for their weekly shows has also been slim, which is a shame, as the venue is a beautiful, smokeless and acoustically perfect set-up sans much of an audience. Come on folks, your chances and choices to hear cool jazz sounds in these parts are dwindling. Check us out, and tell your friends if you like what you hear so the DelRay won’t just be another memory of what could have been.

Another great night of music (this time we’re talkin’ bout rock ‘n’roll) also fellRichard Sullivan at the DelRay Ballroom (Photo by Rich Hoover) victim to poor attendance at the Zoo Bar. Veteran “punk rocker” Jim Jacobi had his CD release party to celebrate his brand new endeavor, “Get Out.” All the top-notch players on the disc showed up to cameo their recording performances. Besides Jim’s usual rhythm section, consisting of drummer Dave Robel and bassist Craig Kingery, I played piano, along with Dr. Dave Fowler, fiddle; Steve “Fuzzy” Blazek, lap steel; and Charlie Burton and Carole Zacek, vocals. Also in attendance were Rick Petty, congas; Phil Shoemaker, guitar; and Brad Krieger, trumpet.

All turned out to back up Jacobi and put on a great night of manic music delivered in Jim’s inimitable style. Not a mention of the show appeared in the entertainment section of Lincoln’s daily paper, even after I called ahead to report such. You can still catch a glimpse of what went on by viewing BMF photog Rich Hoover’s swell pictorial in this issue of Jazz.

In closing, we were proud to lend a hand in our contribution to jazz education by lending some of our past works and selections from my vast record and CD collections to two separate projects. A Mr. Paul Smith requested our past files from the artist John Falter to help complete his research, as well as lending and recording some of my stuff on a paper about modal jazz for Lincoln guitarist and educator Peter Bouffard. I feel that as a reference source for music, the BMF is in a class by itself, and we are glad to assist.

Also, my dear friend New York percussionist Norman Hedman’s new recording, “Because I Can” is nearing completion. Norman’s a terrific composer, and the previews I’ve received lately are simply sensational. He’s employing several new vocalists to enhance his already infectious musical creations. Stay tuned, and get ready for the return of master trumpeter Claudio Roditi, who will appear with the NJO in late March. That’s all, folks, until next time. I leave you all with high hopes for a safe, healthy and happy jazzy New Year.


Butch Berman


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