Local jazz drummer Dave Cook has three bands, and he plays a variety of different venues around the Valley. But for most of his fans, this 39-year veteran of the local music scene has long been defined by the Monday-night jams he hosted for almost a decade at the Melody Lounge.
Those much-loved showcases unceremoniously ended three months ago, when Cook and the Melody's current ownership parted ways. At the time, both Cook and his followers worried that the local jazz scene would be left without a command center, a site where musicians could converge and compare notes. But, after discussions with various local clubs, Cook has now decided to take his Monday-night jazz showcases to the Cajun House, with opening night happening on August 24.
The move might seem a bit surprising at first blush, because Cajun House, while an undeniably ornate and popular watering hole, is so big and noisy it doesn't generally lend itself to the kind of intimacy found at the old Melody. For Cook, though, the primary concern was what direction Cajun House wanted to take with its ambitious jazz plans, and what his role would be in those plans.
"Cajun House wants to do some big things at least once a month, like featuring three sax players," Cook says. "Now, because they wanted to do all these things, I thought that it was getting away from what my focus was, which is essentially to try to promote what's happening locally, and try to bring to the awareness of the people in the greater Phoenix area that there's a high caliber of musicianship here. And it was demonstrated in the almost 10 years we spent at the Melody.
"So then my question was, 'Hey, if you're gonna do all these big things and stuff, what the hell do you need with me?' So I had to reassess why they wanted me to be there.
"But what they reassured me of is that they want me to be the MC and try to see that the program ran like I did at the Melody, except that they can do it more effectively and bigger, 'cause they have the financial resources to do it."
Cook is quick to credit his friend, Greg Warner (drummer for Dennis Rowland's band), with suggesting Cajun House, and with arranging a meeting with Cajun House entertainment director Glen Parrish.
Warner, Cook and Parrish agreed on a format in which Cook could share Monday nights with Connie Cole's band. Cook will open the night by introducing Cole's band, which will showcase sax players such as Ernest Rangell, Marion Meadows and Jeff Kashiwa. Afterward, Cook's band will take the stage and invite musicians up to jam.
Cook plans to shuffle his bands from week to week, depending on the guests. For instance, when Dennis Rowland shows up, Cook will bring his band Intensity, which features organ and guitar, a lineup particularly compatible with Rowland's sensibility.
For guests better suited to a straight bebop approach, Cook will bring in his New Vanguard band. Additionally, his big band, Atlantis--always a big favorite at the Melody--will make an appearance every three months or so, so that Cook can demonstrate for neophytes how a large ensemble operates.
Cook seems confident that Cajun House can approximate the vibe of the old Melody, and that musicians will want to get involved.
"I've been out doing my politicizing with all the musicians that I know," he says. "We're gonna try to have a whole bunch of musicians there. I hope that some of those musicians who already have their own groups, if they happen to be off on Monday, will also bring their groups up. It kinda ensures the quality of the music and shows organization."
He particularly likes the potential of Cajun House because, as he points out, Valley music venues tend to be compartmentalized, with Phoenix and Scottsdale residents often shying away from the East Valley, and vice versa. He says that Cajun House just might be able to transcend such separatism.
"I kind of feel pretty good about what's happening now, but who's to know what's gonna happen in the future?" Cook says. "But my focus is still to try to present the local guys. They [Cajun House] are the ones who gave me the opportunity; they are the ones who have the money. Whatever they're doing I think is for the good of the cause. However, I do want the focus to remain on promoting the local musicians and their expertise. So I think we have a meeting of the minds. That's been a good compromise."
Ol' Dirty Business: The cancellation of Ol' Dirty Bastard's July 30 show at Pompeii has resulted in recriminations and cross-accusations between the management of Pompeii and local concert promoter Corey Adams.
Adams says Pompeii reps were frightened by police threats concerning possible outstanding warrants against ODB, and pulled the plug on the show at the last minute, but Pompeii management says the show was actually canceled at least 10 days before its scheduled date.
Pompeii managing partner Mike McGarry says that ODB's reputation for misbehavior scared off the TEAM security company, which was expected to work the show. He adds that Pompeii management scheduled meetings to address the situation, and Adams failed to attend any of them. McGarry says that after Adams ran a New Times ad saying that even bullets couldn't stop this show, Pompeii fired off a fax to Adams--a week and a half before the show date--informing him that the show was off.
It might be a while before the smoke clears. Meanwhile, the walking fiasco that is ODB continues to grow.
Simply Red: Legendary bluesman Louisiana Red has called many places home during his 62 years, and in the early '80s, he actually settled in Phoenix for about a year. During that time, he recorded a beautifully stark album called Sittin Here Wonderin with Clarke Rigsby engineering and Rhythm Room impresario Bob Corritore producing. The album sat in the vaults for 13 years, but when Chicago's Earwig Records decided to release it in 1995, the response was rapturous.
Red has lived in Germany for the past 15 years, but his current American tour brings him through Phoenix for the first time since he moved away. He'll be at the Rhythm Room on August 7 and 8, and his shows qualify as must-sees for fans of old-school electric blues.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Who's in town: Trip-hop pioneer Tricky grew up amidst the brawling street gangs of Bristol, England, and his tough, competitive spirit infuses every mood-altering groove he puts on tape. His latest release, Angels With Dirty Faces, confirms, for anyone who still needed such confirmation, that he's a brutally uncompromising sonic visionary. Though his legendary premillennium tension flares up occasionally on Angels, the album also reveals surprising warmth with tracks like the soulful "Carriage for Two."
Tricky can be caught in the hypnotic act at Club Rio in Tempe on Monday, August 10.
Contact Gilbert Garcia at his online address: email@example.com