Pianist and composer Laura Caviani grew up in Minnesota and usually plays in the Twin Cities, where she lives.
By JOE KLOPUS
The Kansas City Star
But shes proud of her strong Kansas City connections, and theyll be on display when she comes back to town soon for some gigs.
I feel so fortunate to have spent some time there, especially in the mid-90s when Karrin (Allyson) lived there, she says. Youve got Paul Smith, a phenomenal pianist and one of my first true mentors. I learned so much from him about how to accompany singers. And there were Todd Strait, Bob Bowman, Rod Fleeman, Danny Embrey, Stan Kessler, so many important people.
Its Bowman whos bringing her back for some gigs, on March 7 at the Blue Room and March 8 at the Green Lady Lounge. He has known her since she was a relative newcomer to jazz, and he has kept the connection strong ever since, even recording an album with her (and Strait).
Caviani grew up in St. Cloud, Minn., playing classical piano and singing. Her bachelors degree is in composition, her masters degree in improvisation. (It was a collaboration between the art department, the dance department and the ethnomusicology department. We were focused on accompanying dancers.) But there wasnt much jazz in her background until later.
After college, she joined the Air Force and became a singer in an Air Force band.
I quickly realized that being a singer in an Air Force jazz band meant singing one song a week, if that. So I switched things around to play piano. I learned how to play jazz piano in the Air Force.
She recalls trying to learn a McCoy Tyner song, having never heard it, in the classical way, from the sheet music. One of her fellow musicians quickly spirited her away to hear the recording instead. It was like the difference between seeing a photograph of someone and knowing the real person.
That was the beginning of her real embrace of jazz, and there has been no letting go.
Soon she was a civilian again, trying to play jazz in the Twin Cities.
I really think of Karrin as my educator in the standard repertoire, Caviani says. She lived in the Twin Cities before she went to Kansas City, and back in 89, she hired me. Her book was huge, and we have the same background in terms of Joni Mitchell stuff, and Carly Simon. She taught me a lot about bebop and swing. And I learned the language by digging in and learning the tunes on the gig and listening and falling on my face.
Obviously there wasnt too much falling. These days, Caviani is finding work as a pianist and sometimes as a singer, though she de-emphasized the singing years ago (maintaining both vocal and instrumental skills is a formidable challenge). Shes teaching at two colleges and judging jazz clinics all over. And shes busy as a composer and arranger.
My favorite thing in the world is to be commissioned to write something, she confesses. She has done a string quartet piece, and she has made big-band charts for Allyson.
But the jazz heart will be display when shes performing here. Shes ready to jam.
Im hoping some people will come down to sit in. Bobs been raving about the talent in Kansas City. Hopefully we can get around and scope out some of the talent.
Laura Caviani will perform with Bob Bowman March 7 at the Blue Room, 1600 E. 18th St. Tickets available at the door. For more information, go to Club.AmericanJazzMuseum.org/. Caviani and Bowman perform March 8 at the Green Lady Lounge, 1809 Grand Blvd.
• The Vine Street Rumble big band, specializing in making the Kansas City sound of the 1930s live again, headlines the Big Band Boogie Bash at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Community Christian Church, 4601 Main St. Pianist Tim Whitmer is also on the bill. Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door; contact the church at 816-561-6531 or at Community-Christian.org.
• The 12th Street Jump radio show tries a new performance venue next week. The crew will record a tribute to Quincy Jones with reed man Horace Washington at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Broadway Jazz Club, 3601 Broadway.
• Highlights at the Broadway also include Brazilian music from Arara Azul at 8 p.m. Thursday; pianist Dan Dorans bluesy band at 9 p.m. Friday; singer Eddie Charles at 6 p.m. Saturday, followed by singer Kelley Gant at 9:30 p.m.; and trumpeter Alex Abramovitzs Swingn Kansas City Jazz Band at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
• The Blue Room, 1600 E. 18th St., has Latin music from Aztlan at 7 p.m. Thursday. The vocal group Book of Gaia, with singers Angela Hagenbach, Pamela Baskin-Watson and Nedra Dixon, performs at 8:30 p.m. Friday. Singer, songwriter and pianist Laila Biali performs with vibraphonist Greg Carroll at 8:30 p.m. Saturday. The Jazz Disciples plus trombonist Karita Carter are in charge of the Monday jam at 7 p.m.
• Take Five Coffee + Bar, 5336 W. 151st St. in Leawood, has bassist Dominique Sanders trio at 8 p.m. Friday and trumpeter Clint Ashlocks Forward band at 8 p.m. Saturday.
• Highlights at the Green Lady Lounge, 1809 Grand Blvd., include singer Molly Hammer plus organist Ken Loverns trio at 9:30 p.m. Friday; trumpeter Stan Kesslers quartet at 10 p.m. Sunday; a jam led by Bob Bowman and pianist Roger Wilder at 10 p.m. Monday; stride pianist Bram Wijnands at 9 p.m. Tuesday; and Loverns trio at 9 p.m. Wednesday.
• Saxophonist Bill Crains group plays the next show on the jazz series at Johnson County Community College, at noon Tuesday in the Recital Hall in Carlsen Center.
• Singer Lori Tucker is featured on the next installment of the Spirituality and All That Jazz concert series, at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Unity Temple on the Plaza, 707 W. 47th St.
• The Killer Blues Headstone Project is working to place a stone on the unmarked grave of blues singer and guitarist Casey Bill Weldon, who died in 1972 and is buried in Lincoln Cemetery not far from Charlie Parker. Weldon was something of a mystery man who traveled far and wide, but hes apparently the real composer of the classic Im Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town, researchers say, and he was one of the first to record with an amplified guitar. A collection is being taken at KillerBlues.net.