Tue, 15 April 2014
The 67th anniversary of the day Jackie Robinson played his first game for the Brooklyn Dodgers will be celebrated as usual throughout baseball today with ceremonies from Yankee Stadium to Vero Beach, Fla.
The main event will be staged in the Bronx prior to an Interleague game tonight between the Cubs and the Yankees. Robinson's wife, Rachel, daughter Sharon, Commissioner Bud Selig and members of the Steinbrenner family are scheduled to be in attendance. Robinson's "legacy lives on," Rachel Robinson said about her husband, who passed away at just 53 in 1972.
Robinson jogged out to play first base at Ebbets Field against the Boston Braves that day in 1947, shattering Major League Baseball's decades-old color barrier, and the sport was irrevocably changed forever.
In 1997, under Selig's direction (one of the few things he has done as Commissioenr that is worth noting), Robinson's No. 42 was retired across all of Major League Baseball in an unprecedented tribute. With the retirement of Yankees epic closer Mariano Rivera at the end of last season, this is the first time the No. 42 is no longer active anywhere in baseball, and it never again will be. Rivera was among the active players wearing the number who were grandfathered in when Selig retired the famous numeral, and he wore it proudly his entire career. All uniformed personnel will again wear that number for the 15 Major League games scheduled throughout the nation tonight.
By far the best know song honoring Robinson is Buddy Johnson's classic, "Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball?" Johnson submitted this sheet music for copyright in June, 1949. In August of that year, his recording of the song (Decca 24675) hit its peak position on the charts at number 13. Today many baseball fans are familiar with Count Basie's recording on the Victor label (Victor 20-3514), featuring vocalist "Taps" Miller. This recording, made in the Victor studios in New York City on July 13, 1949, has become synonymous with the song itself.
Did you see Jackie Robinson hit that ball?
And when he swung his bat,
Satchel Paige is mellow,
Did you see Jackie Robinson hit that ball?
Did you see Jackie Robinson hit that ball?
Yes, yes, Jackie's real gone.
Category:general -- posted at: 2:16 PM
Mon, 14 April 2014
Christian Holy Week includes the Jewish holiday of Passover this year, so this week will feature jazz music of a spiritual nature. As the first Seder is tonight, celebrating the Exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt under the leadership of the prophet Moses, I've gone into the category of music that was called "Negro Spirituals" when I was in school, and picked "Go Down Moses"
Versions of the song seem to go back to 1862, when it was called "Oh! Let My People Go (The Song of the Contrabands)". The openign verse was published by the Jubilee Singers in 1872. It's easy to see the coded message in the lyrics - "Israel" in the lyrics stands in for African-Americans oppressed by slavery and recism, and "Egypt" as their oppressors. The seminal recording of the song is likely Paul Robeson's version from 1958, which became a rallying cry for those fighting for civil rights in the American South.
Click here to listen to Louis Armstrong's version of the spiritual, taken from his Louis and the Good Book album. Armstrong recorded the song in February 1959 with Sy Oliver's Orchestra. Armstrong had jsut finished his popular Porgy & Bess album with Ella Fitzgerald, and entered the studio to record a series of spirituals and religious-tinged music. Among those in the band were Trummy Young on trombone, Hank D'Amico and Nicky Tagg on clarinet, Billy Kyle on piano and Barrett Deems on drums.
In Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong biographer Terry Teachout quotes an outspoken Armstrong as being a great friend of the Jewish people, who he felt gave him a break in his youth when his fellow African-Americans would not. He wore a Star of David around his neck for most of his life.
Category:general -- posted at: 2:00 PM
Sun, 13 April 2014
The Spring is truly the season of spiritual awakengin and celebration. Holy week for those of the Christian faith begins today, and the first night of Passover, the Jewish festival of freedom, begins tomorrow evening as does the festival of Vaisaki, celebrated by Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs. Theravada, the New Year festival for Theravada Buddhists, is celebrated for three days begining April 15. April 21 begins the Baha'i festival of Ridvan, and Pagan/Wiccan followers this week commemorate the end of the Celtic Tree Month Alder and beginning of the Celtic Tree Month of Willow.
It’s a blessing when these festivals of many faiths coincide on the calendar, reminding us of the great similarities and wonderful differences that make up these faiths. In order to celebrate this season of spirituality, I offer my annual podcast of jazz with a spiritual strain running though the tunes in Podcast 422 (previous Podcasts can be found for 2013, 2011, and 2010), including:
Herbie Mann - "Shomyo (Monk's Chant)" from Gagku & Beyond..
Jay Hoggard & James Weidman - "God Will Guide" from Songs of Spiritual Love.
Randy Weston - "Recieving the Spirit" from Randy Weston African Rhythms Quintet & The Gnwa Master Musician of Morocco.
Richard Davis with John Hicks - "Life Every Voice and Sing the Lord's Prayer" from The Bassist - Homage to Diversity.
John Zorn - "Office Nr. 9 'The Passion'- V. Holy Spirit" from The Hermetic Organ: St. Paul's Chapel, NYC Vol. 2.
The Afro-Semitic Experience - "Avadim Hayinu" from Jazz Souls on Fire
Mark Turner - "Jesus Maria" from Ballad Season.
Sean Jones - "John 3:16" from Roots.
Thu, 10 April 2014
Fifty Years ago today, Joe Henderson cut one of his most celebrated albums for Blue Note, In 'n Out. The album was the third of five releases Henderson would have on that label as a leader, although he recorded dozens of classic sessions for the likes of Lee Morgan, Kenny Dorham, Bobby Hutcherson, Grant Green and Horace Silver in the mid-sixties,
As with most Blue Note session of the day, the recording took place at Rudy Van Gelder’s studios in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. The all-star band was Henderson on sax, Kenny Dorham on trumpet, McCoy Tyner on piano, Richard Davis on bass and Elvin Jones on drums. Having a Coltrane-centric rhythm section was a plus for Henderson that day, particularly on the title track, where the drums and piano set up Joe for a blistering solo.
The original release had five tracks, three by Henderson and two by Dorham. An alternate take of the title track appears on a CD reissue. Henderson would record another great record for Blue Note in 1964, returning to Jersey to record the quartet album Inner Urge. Tyner and Jones were there again, along with Sonny Rollins’ bass player Bob Cranshaw.
Category:general -- posted at: 2:00 PM
Mon, 7 April 2014
Had she not succumbed from the results of a life lived hard and fast, Billie Holiday would have been 89 years old today. Born Eleanora Faganon April 7, 1915 in Philadelphia, PA, she overcame a childhood marred by neglect and abuse to become one of the seminal singers in American musical history.
By the time she was signed to Brunswick Records in 1935 by the legendary John Hammond to record current pop tunes with pianist Teddy Wilson, it was clear that her talents were immense. It didn’t take long for two of the biggest bands in the land, led by Count Basie and Artie Show to compete for her talents. Within five years she was perhaps the most in-demand singer in America, with a string of hits that became standards, including "What A Little Moonlight Can Do." "Easy Living" and "I'm Gonna Lock My Heart."
She was recording hits for Columbia Records when a dispute with the label sent her to Commodore Records to release “Strange Fruit”, the song about lynching that went on to be her biggest selling and most played hit. The 1939 record was eventually named “The Song of the Century” by Time magazine. A year later, her song “God Bless the Child” would sell over a million copies and be the number 3 song of the year on the Billboard charts.
She was at her popular and creative zenith when a drugs arrest in 1947 began a very public slide, culminating with prison time and the revocation of her New York City Cabaret Card. Holiday’s income rapidly dried up, as she could not play the lucrative city venues, and her records were increasingly out of print. By the 1950s, Holiday's drug abuse, drinking, and relationships with abusive men caused her health to deteriorate, and her voice became raspy.
While she released a number of fine recordings in the Fifties (“Lady Sings the Blues”, Songs for Distingue Lovers, Lady in Satin) and made a memorable appearance on CBS’ television special The Sound of Jazz with old friend Lester Young, it was clear to those around her that her time was nearly up. Suffering from cirrhosis of the liver, in May of 1959 she was arrested for drug possession as she lay dying, and her hospital room was raided. Holiday stayed under police guard until she died from pulmonary edema and heart failure caused by cirrhosis of the liver on July 17, 1959. In her final years, she had been progressively swindled out of her earnings, and she died with less than a dollar in the bank. She was 44 years old.
As with so many legends who died young, the sordid part of her story often eclipses the awesome talent she displayed in recordings and live performances. Her delivery makes her immediately identifiable, and she influenced almost every singer and musician who heard her. In 1958, before her death, Frank Sinatra said, “With few exceptions, every major pop singer in the US during her generation has been touched in some way by her genius. It is Billie Holiday who was, and still remains, the greatest single musical influence on me. Lady Day is unquestionably the most important influence on American popular singing in the last twenty years.”
And her legend lives on. Audra McDonald (pictured) will open on Broadway next week as Billie Holiday in a revival of Lanie Robertson’s play Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill at the Circle in the Square Theatre. Ms. McDonald joins the likes of Dee Dee Bridgewater (who played off-Broadway in Lady Day last year) and Vanessa Rubin (who reprised her regional theater role in Yesterdays – An Evening with Billie Holiday at the National Black Theater in New York last month) as singer/actors who have portrayed the great singer, keeping her legacy alive.
Podcast 421 is a musical tribute to Lady Day, an hour plus collection of many of my (and hopefully your) favorite Billie Holiday songs, including:
"What a Little Moonlight Will Do"
"Mean to Me"
"Can't Help Loving Dat Man"
"God Bless the Child"
"Crazy He Calls Me"
"I Cover the Waterfront"
"Them There Eyes"
"Fine and Mellow"
"Just One of Those Things"
"One For My Baby (and One More for the Road)"
Sun, 6 April 2014
May 22 will be the 100th Anniversary of Sun Ra's birthday or as Ra would likely have called it, his "arrival day." Who was Sun Ra? Born Herman Blount, in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1914, he came in to Fletcher Henderson's big band as a pianist and arranger just after World War II and became known for his innovative arraignments. By the 1950s, he became known as Sun Ra, leading a big band of his own - the Arkestra - and was claiming to have come from Saturn, with connections to the Egyptian gods.
This reinvention of himself as person and artist, along with his fascinating music, stage presence and costumes made him a one-of- a- kind figure in the world of jazz. His persona represented the ultimate liberation from space and time, and gave Sun Ra the freedom to create an immersive experience that built on classic big band chops to go deep into collective improvisation and multimedia performance. All of this was rooted in a communal living situation where his band could focus on their sound, look, and ideas with a minimum of interference from mundane associations. Punk rock pioneers like the MC5 and diverse rock bands like NRBQ ran to play with him, and George Clinton, the founder of Parliament/Funkadelic credits his costumes and stage antics as brain food for Clinton’s own brand of crazy.
Two concerts in the Boston area will honor Sun Ra on his centennial. Ken Schaphorst, the chair of Jazz Studies at the New England Conservatory will lead the NEC Jazz Orchestra on April 17 at 8:00 pm in a free concert at NEC’s Jordan Hall. A month later Ken will lead a 10-piece ensemble performing Sun Ra's compositions and arrangements at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, accompanied by stories and projected imagery depicting his fascination with space and ancient civilizations led by Egypt expert Larry Berman. Tickets for the latter event, Sun Ra's Centenary: Space Is Still The Most Colorful Place are available at the MFA.
I spoke with ken at length about Sun Ra’s position in the history of jazz, and how he plans to interpret his music for the performance. Podcast 420 features that conversation along with the music of the late, great Sun Ra, some of which Ken says will be played at the concerts, including:
Fletcher Henderson Orchestra - "Sugar Foot Stomp" from Sun Ra - The Eternal Myth Revealed Volume 1.
Sun Ra - "Saturn" from Jazz in Silhouette.
Sun Ra - "Call for All Demons" from Jazz by Sun Ra
Sun Ra - Title Track from Space is the Place (edit).
Fri, 4 April 2014
"A freethinking, gifted pianist on the scene, (Kris) Davis lives in each note that she plays. Her range is impeccable; she tackles prepared piano, minimalism and jazz standards, all under one umbrella. I consider her an honorary descendant of Cecil Taylor and a welcome addition to the fold." – Jason Moran.
When we talk about today’s hardest working jazz musicians, the name of Kris Davis has to pop up near the top. 2013 was an especially fruitful year for Davis, finding her quintet record, Capricorn Climber, her solo recording, Massive Threads, her appearance on Eric Revis's trio record City of Asylum with Andrew Cyrille, and the CD from LARK, the quartet she plays in with Ingrid Laubrock, Tom Rainey, and Ralph Alessi; all on the top records of the year lists in the New York Times, Jazz Times, and The Village Voice among others. She received a Jazz Gallery commissioning residency, as well as a grant from the Shifting Foundation to compose and record a large-ensemble project. And all this happened while she was touring Europe and preparing to give birth to her first child.
This year promises her no rest. Not only will she have her son to deal with, but she has already been part of Rainey’s CD Obbligato with Laubrock, Alessi, Drew Gress, and Rainey; and her own trio recording Waiting for You to Grow.
The music for this project, composed during the Jazz Gallery commission, is a deeply personal recording for her, as it was composed and recorded when Davis was pregnant with her first child. Her band mates, seasoned drummer Tom Rainey and bassist John Hebert, were along side the seven month pregnant Davis as they toured Europe, developing and shaping the music before returning to New York to record. The result is a highly interactive and energetic effort from this long-standing trio.
I had the pleasure of talking with Ms. Davis in the midst of her residency at the Cornelia Street Café in New York City. It began with the Davis-Rainey-Hebert trio last month and continues on April 5th with a different trio, with guitarist Mary Halvorson and saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock. The three women perform together often in Ingrid Laubrock's Anti-House, and are each known for their unique approach to their instruments. This will be the first time they perform together as a trio.
The third concert on May 3rd will feature long time collaborator Tony Malaby and drummer Gerald Cleaver. Davis has performed with Malaby since 2001, in her quartet and then as pianist and arranger in Malaby's large ensemble Novela. This will be the first time Davis performs with Gerald Cleaver.
Podcast 419 is our conversation, including musical selections from her many works and collaborations including:
Kris Davis Trio - "Twice Escaped" and the Title Track from Waiting for You to Grow
Tom Rainey - "Prelude to a Kiss" from Obbligato
Ingrid Laubrock Anti-House - Untitled from an unreleased recording from the Jazz Em Agosto Jazz Festival in Lisbon, Portugal on August 6, 2011.
Eric Revis – "Question" from City of Asylum
Thu, 3 April 2014
The Second Annual Evening of Jazz for Newtown will take place at the Newark Academy Auditorium, 91 South Orange Avenue, Livingston, NJ 07039 on April 11, 2014. The performance will feature Andre Hayward, Tim Ries, Monica Lynk Anderson and the award winning Newark Academy Jazz Program.
Julius Tolentino, The Newark Academy Jazz Director published the following note:
The Evening of Jazz has been an annual concert at Newark Academy to showcase it’s numerous jazz ensembles. This year our three featured musicians will be tenor saxophonist, Tim Ries a member of the Rolling Stones touring band, trombonist, Andre Hayward formerly with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and the winner of the Thelonious Monk Competition in 2003 and the talented vocalist Monica Lynk Anderson.
All proceeds will go directly to the families of Sandy Hook and to the Ana Grace Fund. Ana Grace Marquez-Greene was one of the children killed in the Newtown shootings. Her parents, Jimmy and Nelba are dear friends of mine that go back to my college years. Our contributions as a school and a jazz community will continue to support the families of Newtown as they work to support each other and in their efforts to prevent the causes of gun violence. It is fitting to honor Ana's memory with music, as she was musically gifted. In our efforts to raise funds for this worthy cause, we hope you can join us on April 11th for this special evening of music.
Please email email@example.com to purchase tickets or to make a donation. You can also call the Newark Academy bookstore at 973-992-700 x428.
Category:general -- posted at: 3:20 PM
Tue, 1 April 2014
Today would have been the 65th birthday of Gil Scott-Heron, the 70's singer-songwriter-poet whose work was a major influence for the rap/hip-hop scene of the 80's and 90's. Gil passed in May 2011 after illness.
Jazz singer Giacomo Gates had a best-selling CD covering Gil Scott-Heron material a few years back, and our conversation was Podcast 264. We had a freewheeling conversation on how to choose songs, the nature of “vocalese” and the reasons he felt the Gil Scott-Heron record would be a success. He’s quick to note that The Revolution Will Be Jazz is not a “tribute record” as the project was begun several years ago, and finished months before Gil’s untimely death.
Click here to listen to our talk, including musical selections from Gates’ albums, including:
“Show Business” from The Revolution Will Be Jazz. Of all the tunes he chose, Gates may have felt a special kinship to this tune, with its sly message and deep humor.
“Lady Day and John Coltrane” from The Revolution Will Be Jazz. For my money, this is the highlight of the CD, with stunning interplay between the rhythm section of Lonnie Plaxico (bass), Vincent Ector (drums) and John Di Martino on piano.
“Hungry Man” from Luminosity. Giacomo sings a tune of great humor and warmth backed by a band of Di Martino on piano; Ray Drummond on bass; Greg Bandy on drums; Bob Kindred on sax and Tony Lombardozzi on guitar.
“Melodious Funk” from Luminosity. Listen to the interview to hear a great story of how this tune came to be recorded. Priceless.
“Route 66” from Centerpiece. A great rendition of classic song, covered by everyone from Nat “King” Cole to the Rolling Stones. A top band is on hand, with Drummond and Bandy joined by Harold Danko on piano, Vincent Herring on sax and Vic Juris on guitar.
Category:general -- posted at: 1:22 PM
Mon, 31 March 2014
When you hear the name Bernie Worrell, your feet should begin shuffling and your hind quarters should start to shake. That’s because Mr. Worrell is a certified keyboard legend; a founding member and essential collaborator / composer / music director and arranger in George Clinton's Parliament/Funkadelic, and a sideman to bands as wildly diverse as Talking Heads, Jack Bruce, the Rolling Stones, Fela Kuti, Pharoah Sanders, Buddy Guy, Sly & The Family Stone, and more. He is among the most influential and emulated electronic keyboardists in modern music. His synthesizer work became a key element of DJ culture when hip-hop began, as samples from his work defined 80's and 90's West Coast Hip Hop, and is still recognized in the pop hits of today.
So imagine my surprise when I heard Elevation (The Upper Air). The CD turns out to be a straight forward, seemingly simple and yet deceptively touching, solo acoustic piano creation. Featured are delicate impressions of classic jazz (Mingus, Coltrane, Zawinul), soulful sounds (Chi-Lites, Santana, Bob Marley) and three original ambient soundscapes - all delivered with his signature hand.
What’s really surprising is that I shouldn’t have been surprised. Worrell was a piano prodigy, learning to play the piano by age three, and writing a concerto at age eight. He went on to study at Juilliard and the New England Conservatory of Music. It just took him 60+ years to get around to recording music that comes from where he began. Mr. Worrell will turn 70 on April 19.
Worrell’s Elevation (The Upper Air) is produced by legendary iconoclast, Bill Laswell, for his M.O.D. Technologies. I spoke with Mr. Laswell last year about this label, and he and Mr. Worrell will be performing on April 26 as part of Bill’s upcoming residency (April 19, 22-27) at The Stone in New York City.
My conversation with Bernie Worrell covers topics that span his career, and Podcast 418 features our talk and musical selections:
Bernie Worrell – “Redemption Song” and “Realm of Sight” from Elevation (The Upper Air).
Material -"Black Light" from Hallucination Engine. By 1994 Bill Laswell's band was more into mystic-inspired world jams than dance-funk music. This track co-written by Laswel and Wayne Shorter, features, among others, Shorter on soprano sax, Laswell and Bootsy Collins on bass, Worrell on electric piano and Hammond B-3 organ, Jeff Bova on synthesizer and Trilok Gurtu and Zakir Hussain on tabla.
Parliament – “Unfunky UFO” from Mothership Connection. For my money, P-Funk’s finest hour came when Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker (the core of the J.B.’s) joined the band for this funk tourdeforce. The Library of Congress added the album to the National Recording Registry in 2011, declaring "[t]he album has had an enormous influence on jazz, rock and dance music."
Talking Heads – “Once in a Lifetime” from The Name of This Band is Talking Heads. Recorded at Sun Plaza Concert Hall, Tokyo, Japan, February 27, 1981, the group is David Byrne, Chris Frantz, Tina Weymouth and Jerry Harrison joined by the now famous ensemble of Adrian Belew (guitar), Bernie Worrell (keyboards, vocals and clavinet), Busta “Cherry” Jones (bass), Steve Scales and Jorge Rossy (percussion), and None Hendryx and Dolette McDonald (backing vocals).
Nona Hendryx - "I Sweat (Going Through the Motions" from The Art of Defense. A constant Worrell collaborator, Nna, who hit fame with Labelle in the 70's, was a key part of Material and Talking Heads. Bernie just completed work on her latest CD.
Direct download: Podcast_418_-_A_Conversation_with_Bernie_Worrell.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 3:00 PM