Chapter 17 Racine-Kenosha

Chapter 17


Dominic Spera’s self-produced Dominic Spera Big Band (1995) showcased a great big band from Indianapolis that included Spera’s successor Bob Baca (see Chapter 19) in the trumpet section, as well as a number of faculty from the Shell Lake jazz camp.  Most of the charts are Spera originals, including one written for the 20th anniversary of the UW-Eau Claire Jazz Festival (“Dance of the Jack Pine Savages”) and one for North High School in Eau Claire (“North Clear Water Stomp”).  There is a major work – the 20-minute “America:  Theme and Variations,” dedicated to Spera’s late father.  Spera’s powerful trumpet playing is featured on a number of the pieces, included the two standards on the album, “Rockin’ Chair” and “Body and Soul.”  Baca plays split lead and has one impressive solo.


Mike Hale can be heard on all of the Matrix albums:  Matrix IX (RCA, 1977), Wizard (Warner Brothers, 1978), Tale of the Whale (Warner Brothers, 1979), for which Hale composed the title track, and Harvest (Pablo, 1980), and the “reunion album,” Proud Flesh (Summit, 2002).  His extraordinary lead trumpet playing from the Matrix era can be heard to especially good effect on the recent download only Matrix performance from 1979, Live at Lawrence University.  See the Chapter 12 discography for further information.


Claude Cailliet was the moving force behind MadiSalsa, and his arranging and playing can be heard to good effect on their two albums, Del Caribe Al Corazón (1999, Stellar) and Se Permite Bailar (2003, MadiSalsa, RitmoJazz).  He also was an important contributor to Janet Planet’s (see Chapter 18) 1996 album They Can’t Take That Away From Me (Stellar).  Although buried in the texture, Cailliet does play on rock superstar Neil Young’s 2007 Reprise release Chrome Dreams II.


Besides playing for many, many movies and television shows, Dan Fornero has recorded extensively on the West Coast.  He has recorded with numerous artists as well, including three albums with Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band.  But he was pleased to produce an album on his own that reflected his diversity of musical interests, playing with his friends from the southern California scene – some of the finest players on that scene.  You can order not so old school from Fornero’s website.


When I spoke with Russ Johnson in 2013, he told me about some of the records that he had played on that he particularly cared for.  The second record by The Other Quartet, Sound Stains, and there’s an awful story that goes with that, with the Knitting Factory record label.  that, that record I feel, I feel that record will stand the test of time.  Now it’s probably twelve, fifteen years old, and it already sounds a little dated to me.  You know, because the music keeps moving forward . . . it already sounds a little dated.  But, I think it was a really good picture of what was happening in New York at that time.  And we were very fortunate to be a part of [the Knitting Factory].  [T]he Knitting Factory was not only a club, it was a record label, and being associated with that club and especially being on that label carried a lot of weight internationally.  There’s one that’s coming out that was recorded a couple years ago that I think is going to be really good, and that’s one of Steve Swallow’s.  It’s called L’Histoire du Soldat, like basically like Stravinsky’s Soldier’s Tale, only the The Bum’s Tale, or he calls it L’Histoire du Clochard, The Bum’s Tale.  I did a record a year and a half ago for Intakt, which is a great Swiss label, with this group of Swiss musicians, that I think is very good.  I mean they’re not household names here, but they’re, they’re well known there, and I think that’s a nice record, too.  That record is In Circles, credited to the Co Streiff-Russ Johnson Quartet.

Since our conversation, Johnson has released two important new recordings under his own name:  Still Out to Lunch! (Enja, 2014), a redo of Eric Dolphy’s classic 1964 album; Meeting Point (Relay, 2014), with a Chicago quartet.


Eric Jacobson has released three albums under his own name.  Inspiration, from 2001, features a basic band of pianist Steve Einerson, bassist Jeff Hamann and drummer Brian Ritter, with featured musicians Eric Morones, Jason Gillette, Mike Standal, Paul Silbergleit and Luis Diaz, with star guest artist Brian Lynch (see Chapter 9).  In 2011, his quintet of Milwaukee musicians – Barry Velleman, Charles Ledvina, David Bayles and Sam Fettig, released Two A.M.:  Live at the Jazz Estate.  Both albums are programs of jazz classics, standards and Jacobson originals.  In 2013 (on Holistic MusicWorks), Jacobson and Eric Schoor (see Chapter 11) produced Combinations:  Live at the Estate, with their co-led quintet (with Velleman, Hamann and Bayles), again with guest Brian Lynch.


Recently, Jamie Breiwick sent me the list of his own recordings.  The albums (self-released unless otherwise noted) are:  Jamie Breiwick, Song to a Rose, 2006 (with saxophonist Curt Hanrahan, pianist Steve Einerson, bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Sam Monroe); Jamie Breiwick, Serenity, 2011 (a set of duets with Milwaukee piano veteran Barry Velleman); Jamie Breiwick, Spirits, live at the Jazz Estate, BluJazz Records, 2013 (with saxophonist Tony Barba, bassist Tim Ipsen, and drummer Andrew Green); and the two records by the Lesser Lakes Trio, with bassist John Christensen and drummer Devin Drobka, Burst Sessions, 2015; and The Good Land, Shifting Paradigm Records, 2017.  For more information, visit Breiwick’s website:


Spike Robinson’s numerous albums from the ‘80s and ‘90s, by all accounts are consistently excellent.  He recorded with like-minded musicians on both sides of the Atlantic, largely with a repertoire of songs from the “Great American Songbook” – Gershwin, Cole Porter, Harold Arlen, Rodgers and Hart, Harry Warren, Irving Berlin, Jimmy Van Heusen and their peers.  Robinson is joined by some very distinguished musicians on some of his dates – besides Victor Feldman, among those who appear are Ray Brown, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Al Cohn, Mundell Lowe, and many top British musicians.  Robinson made two outstanding albums of Harry Warren songs as leader; the first marked his recording return in 1981, the second was from 1993 (the original was on Capri, both are now available on a single CD on Hep Spike Robinson plays Harry Warren).  The author (a trombonist) also strongly recommends the album of Harold Arlen songs with trombonist George Masso (with clarinetist Ken Peplowski), Spike Robinson/George Masso Play Arlen (Hep Jazz, 1992).  If you wish to hear Robinson in a more sumptuous setting, The Gershwin Collection (Hep, 1988) includes a number of tracks with strings.


During my 2013 interview with David Bixler, we talked about how musicians very often like their latest project the best.  David also felt like that, saying about what was then his latest effort with his quintet.  He said, “this last one I did, The Nearest Exit May Be Inside Your Head [Zoho, 2012], I think just compositionally, and . . . you know, playing-wise, it’s the best thing I’ve done.”  He also liked the first Auction Project CD (Zoho, 2010).  The Auction Project has since released another self-released album, Slink, with guest artist Mike Stern.