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Ted Ludwig Trio at Little Rock's South on Main

C. Michael Bailey By

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Ted Ludwig Trio
South on Main
The Oxford American "Sessions" Series
South on Main
March 22, 2017

Guitarist and composer Ted Ludwig is a sweet-natured bear of a man. Ludwig and his family floated to Little Rock from New Orleans on the wake of Hurricane Katrina, as did many others, and Little Rock has only benefitted from their collective presence. Part of the Katrina Diaspora, Ludwig brought the gumbo that is Southern Louisiana with him, adding further spice and grace to the state.

Ludwig has an easy smile and speaks with a well-seasoned New Orleans patois. He is a painter and teacher married to an equally beautiful and talented concert violinist, Lenore McIntyre. Why all this personal detail? Because Ludwig and his trio, featuring bassist Joe Vick and drummer Brian Brown (both Little Rock mainstays) are part of the fabric of Arkansas' capital city. They have been an essential part of the River Market area in Downtown since taking up residence at the Little Rock's famous Capital Hotel Bar & Grill nine years ago.

For the present evening, the Ted Ludwig Trio came down the street to the Oxford American's music venue, South on Main where Oxford American [A Magazine of the South] goes 'from the page to the stage,' featuring such prominent acts like: The Fairfield Four, The Indigo Girls, The Victor Goines Quartet. Ludwig has no problem fitting in with this company. He is top drawer.

In their 90-minute set, the trio performed a recital expertly programmed by Ludwig that included original compositions, jazz standards, and jazz-soon-to-be standards. Ludwig opened with a impressionistic treatment of Miles Davis's 1954 composition, "Solar." The guitarist followed this with a contemporary mainstream reading of Pat Metheny's "Bright Size Life" from the composer's 1976 ECM recording of the same name. These two pieces established the excellent venue sonics we had, with more than adequate separation of the instruments, both spatially and within the song arrangements.

Ludwig's first original composition of the evening was the title cut from his 2015 recording Stand Up (Self Produced). It is a lengthy and complex piece, that, in spite of its intellectual gravity, swings hard. Ludwig uses this piece to "blow the carbon out," showing off his considerable virtuosity. The piece provides the same for bassist Vick, who plays with a certain grace recalling Percy Heath and drummer Brown who plays with a quiet fire like Philly Joe Jones. All work out on "Stand Up," making it a set barn-burner.

The group performed "Minor Adjustment" and "Tractology," both from Stand Up as well as the original "Wig's Waltz." The remaining tunes played are a testament to Ludwig's soulful generosity. The band performed Hank Mackie's "The Birds and the Bees" and closed with Steve Masakowski's "Sidewalk Strut." Both men were teachers of Ludwig, facts that the guitarist often repeats when performing their songs.

The Ted Ludwig Trio performs a brand of solid, mainstream jazz that can be easily identified as such. With technology atomizing everything from the written word to the musical note, this is no small feat. Thoroughly contemporary, yet steeped in the vernacular, this is music that can only make us better by hearing it. From Ted Ludwig's fingers to God's ears.

Set List: Solar (Miles Davis); Bright Size Life (Pat Metheny); Stand Up (Ted Ludwig); The Birds and the Bees (Hank Mackie); Wig's Waltz (Ted Ludwig); Tractology (Ted Ludwig); Nuages (Django Reinhardt); Minor Adjustment (Ted Ludwig); Sidewalk Strut (Steve Masakowski).

Ted Ludwig Trio: Ted Ludwig: guitar; Joe Vick: bass; Brian Brown: drums.

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