WEMU’s first free Sesi Motors 5:01 Jazz Show for 2017 will be a salute to the legendary trumpet player and widely respected teacher, Louis Smith. Louis passed away in August, 2016. He had suffered a stroke, but recovered valiantly and lived for years afterwards with his loving and generous wife, Lulu. Louis was equally generous and was very wise as a teacher. Trumpeter Paul Finkbeiner will lead the Louis Smith salute on Friday, January 6th at 5:01PM sharp at Rush Street Nightclub, 314 South Main Street in Ann Arbor.
I first became aware of the music of Louis Smith during my junior year at Western Michigan University. I lived in a house with four other jazz musicians and we would often give each other blindfold tests ala Downbeat magazine. One evening my roomie tested me out with Here Comes Louis Smith. I correctly identified Cannonball Adderley and Tommy Flanagan, but couldn’t get the trumpeter…I’m sure I guessed Clifford Brown and several others…When I learned who he was I made a point to look for as many of his records I could find…There weren’t that many back then as most of the Steeplechase recordings hadn’t been recorded yet.
When I moved to Ann Arbor in 1990 I finally got to meet him and hear him live once in a while. What a truly great trumpeter and composer! He would come out to gigs I played and was always very supportive of my music. I used to ask him for a lesson and he would smile and say something along the lines of - Just keep doing what you’re doing. Most of his compositions are what we call contrafacts…new melodies written over familiar chord changes. For instance, his tune Ande uses the chord progression of Back Home In Indiana. His melodies are just chock full of bebop vocabulary. I’ve tried to write several contrafacts and I try to get my students to do it as well…it’s one of the best ways of learning that particular language of jazz.
As you’ll hear, Paul Finkbeiner has learned that language well. His fellow musicians, pianist Gary Schunk, bassist Ron Brooks and drummer George Davidson are well versed in the intricacies of bebop and the precise Louis Smith compositions. The night will be special as we honor a local trumpet legend and welcome another stellar trumpet player to lead the 5:01 bands – Paul Finkbeiner. Please join us and your friends for the celebration from 5 to 7PM on January 6th at Rush Street Nightclub.5:01 Jazz is presented with support from Sesi Motors and in memory of Dr. Jan Winkelman, WEMU’s first major donor and community champion.