Fri, 21 August 2015
2015 marks the 80th anniversary of Benny Goodman's famous Palomar concert that started the “Swing Era,” and Israeli-American clarinetist Oran Etkin commemorates the event by bringing together a crack quartet, including Steve Nelson (vibes), Matt Wilson (drums), and Sullivan Fortner (piano) for a creative homage to the groundbreaking quartet of Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, Teddy Wilson and Gene Krupa of the 1930s. Praised as a great clarinetist and all-around improviser by the New York Times, Etkin felt a deep connection with Benny Goodman, whose groundbreaking work in redefining the role of the clarinet and challenging the status quo inspired a generation of musicians. The Motema label will release this band’s celebration of the daring and playful spirit of Benny Goodman, What's New: Reimagining Benny Goodman next month. The album is a tribute not by recreating his music note for note, but rather by getting, as Etkin told me, at the essence of who Goodman was and the spirit that he brought to the music,
On August 21, 1935, at the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles, California, Benny Goodman and his quartet performed for thousands of young fans in the live audience and millions more tuning in to a live radio broadcast. Historians today credit this moment as the opening of the Swing Era, In Podcast 493, Etkin talks about this famous gig, and his lifetime fascination with Goodman and his place in musical history.
Goodman had begun to perform “hot” arrangements by African-American bandleader Fletcher Henderson—arrangements that departed from the more romantic style of the day by employing loose, upbeat, syncopated rhythms that had been common in African-American jazz ensembles for years, but had been passed over by white orchestras for years. Goodman’s band would often appear well past midnight, EST, on a radio program called Let’s Dance. This may have limited their exposure on the East Coast, but since the show aired in “prime time” on the West Coast, Goodman would soon discover a huge new fan base there.
The story goes that Goodman stuck to relatively staid, stock arrangements during the first part of the Palomar show, and he began to lose the young crowd. Before their return from the first intermission, the band’s drummer, Gene Krupa, is said to have urged Goodman, “If we’re gonna die, Benny, let’s die playing our own thing.” It was at that point that Goodman famously pulled out Henderson’s arrangements along with all the stops on his talented orchestra, to the crowd’s immense delight. The rest, as they say, is history.
Podcast 493 is my conversation with Oran, as we talk about how the music of Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman influenced him, and how he and his three talented cohorts went about this project. Musical selections from the new CD include their takes on Goodman standards like "King Porter Stomp", "Dinah", and - of course - "SIng, Sing, Sing", the last in a radical revisionary take. From Oran's Gathering Light CD, you can hear "Gambang Suling", a track influenced by his travel in the Far East and Pacific Rim last year.
Direct download: Podcast_493_-_A_Conversation_with_Oran_Etkin_about_Benny_Goodman.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 2:00 PM
Thu, 20 August 2015
December will make the centennial celebration of the birth of Francis Albert Sinatra – Ol’ Blue Eyes, the Chairman of the Board. Perhaps the most iconic male singer – if not of all genders – of the jazz age, Sinatra made his mark on American culture by excelling as a recording artist, performer and movie actor. From his days as the teen idol who made the bobbysoxers swoon with the Harry James Big Band, through his years of growth as mature interpreter of the Great American Song Book, Sinatra was a one of a kind talent.
As part of Tanglewood’s “One Day University” program in Lenox, Massachusetts on Sunday August 23, Anna Harwell Celenza, the Thomas E. Caestecker Professor of Music at Georgetown University and the author of several scholarly books, including Music as Cultural Mission: Explorations of Jesuit Practices in Italy and North America, will lecture on the topic “A Sinatra Centennial: What Made Old Blue Eyes Great?”
Ms. Celenza’s work has also appeared in The Hopkins Review, Musical Quarterly, Nineteenth-Century Music, Notes, The Cambridge Companion to Liszt (2005), and Franz Liszt and His World (2006) and The Cambridge Companion to Duke Ellington (2014) . In addition to her scholarly work, she has authored a series of award-winning children's books with Charlesbridge Publishing: The Farewell Symphony (2000), Pictures at an Exhibition (2003), The Heroic Symphony (2004), Bach's Goldberg Variations (2005), Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue (2006), Duke Ellington's Nutcracker Suite (2011), Vivaldi's Four Seasons (2012), Saint-Saëns's Danse macabre (2013) and a 14-part syndicated series on Louis Armstrong for the NC Press Foundation. She is currently finishing work on a new scholarly book Jazz Italian Style about Jazz in Italy between the World Wars, as well as two new children's books, one on Louis Armstrong, the other on Mozart.
Podcast 491 is my conversation with Ms. Celenza, as we discuss the various aspects of Sinatra’s career to determine just why he has remained a major cultural figure 100 years after his death. Musical selections include “Come Fly with Me”; collaborations with arranger Nelson Riddle on “Sleep Warm” and “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning”; “Something”; and a live version of “Witchcraft” from a show recorded at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas in April 1987.
Sun, 16 August 2015
It's summer in New England, so why not some summer themed music for these lazy, hot days? Today is August 16th, the feast day of Saint Roch, the patron saint of Dogs, so why not celebrate the "Dog Days"?
The Romans referred to the dog days as diēs caniculārēs and associated the hot weather with the star Sirius. They considered Sirius to be the "Dog Star" because it is the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major (Large Dog), as well as the brightest star in the night sky. The term "Dog Days" was used earlier by the Greeks in Aristotle's Physics.
The Dog Days originally were the days when Sirius rose just before or at the same time as sunrise, which is no longer true, owing to procession of the equinoxes. The Romans sacrificed a brown dog (Sorry Angus and Hamish, my two miniature dachshunds!) at the beginning of the Dog Days to appease the rage of Sirius, believing that the star was the cause of the hot, sultry weather.
I've done three previous Dog Day postings, Podcast 292, Podcast 225and Podcast 442, if you'd like some more summer-themed music. There's a few repeats between these posts, but what the hey. It’s all grooving or relaxing music for soaking in those wonderful warming rays. Winter is just around the corner, and I am gonna grab all the warmth I can. Look for me on my deck with Angus and Hamish - and Nancy - and a cold beverage or two.
Podcast 492 features the following uninterrupted hour of music:
Chieli Minucci – “Endless Summer”
James Taylor Quartet – “Summer Song”
Jimmy Smith – “Summertime”
Christian McBride – “Summer Soft”
Eric Alexander Quartet - "Slow Hot Wind"
Jose James – “What A Little Moonlight Can Do”
Rufus Reid – “Summer's Shadow”
Klaus Paier and Asja Vailcic - “Stirring Summer Storm”
Hendrik Meurkens Sambajazz Quartet; - “Summer In San Francisco”
Marc Johnson – “Porch Swing”
Houston Person – “Medley: That Sunday That Summer (Funny)”
Bobby Previte - "Women On the Beach"
Sat, 1 August 2015
With all the hullabaloo over the "final" Grateful Dead shows last month in Santa Clara and Chicago, we might forget that today would have been Jerry Garcia’s 73rd birthday, and like so many other fans, I'll spend a few moments contemplating his music. Maybe a few "Scarlet Begonia/Fire on the Mountain" and "Dark Stars" are in the cards. Definitely a "Bird Song."
Named after composer Jerome Kern, Garcia was a student of American music, whether it was bluegrass, show tunes or the blues. Jerry had a love of jazz, and while the Dead themselves did not dip into the jazz canon all that often, Jerry’s side projects gave him a chance to show his jazz chops. Click here to listen to a recording of Milt Jackson’s “Bag’s Groove” from the 1998 release So What from Garcia and mandolin player David Grisman. Other members of the band were Joe Craven on percussion, Matt Eakle on flute and Jim Kerwin on bass
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00 PM
Wed, 29 July 2015
Last year the venerable Newport Jazz Festival shook off a few cobwebs and let the jazz world know that it was not going to rest on its laurels. The Festival added a third day to the mix and brought more up and coming, avant-garde and student groups to the stages than ever.
2015 promises to be more of the same. Friday has big names like Snarky Puppy and Christian McBride, but also ensembles that will bring ensembles that feature Ambrose Akinmusire, Ben Wendel, Bria Skonberg, Herlin Riley, Johnathan Blake, Mark Turner, Ben Street, Chris Potter and the Berklee Concert Jazz Orchestra w special guest soloist Sean Jones.
Saturday’s headliners Cassandra Wilson, Jon Batiste and Stay Human, and the Maria Schneider Orchestra are virtually eclipsed by a cavalcade of top artists - Irvin Mayfield, Cécile McLorin Salvant with the Aaron Diehl Trio, Pat Martino Organ Trio, José James, Conrad Herwig's Latin Side of Horace Silver featuring Michel Camilo and starring Craig Handy, Kenny Garrett, Wycliffe Gordon, Tom Harrell and especially, Jack DeJohnette's Made in Chicago, which celebrates the 50th Anniversary of Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) .
Sunday wraps things up in style, Jamie Cullum; Arturo Sandoval,; Dr. John and The Nite Trippers; Mike Stern/Bill Evans Band; Arturo O'Farrill's Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra with special guest Rudresh Mahanthappa; Bill Frisell Trio; Jon Faddis’ Triumph of Trumpets with Marquis Hill, Sean Jones, David Hazeltine, Kiyoshi Kitagawa & Dion Parsons; Billy Childs’ Jazz-Chamber Ensemble with Steve Wilson, Carol Robbins, Larry Koonse and Ari Hoenig; the Fred Hersch Trio; James Carter Sextet; Lou Donaldson Quartet and Jason Lindner’s Now vs. Now.
And I didn’t even mention all of the acts. Whew.
Podcast 490 lets Danny Melnick, the Festival’s promoter, take us on an inside tour of the Newport Jazz Festival. Musical selections include recordings by Festival artists including Kneebody (“Ready, Set, Go”), Tom Harrell ("After the Game is Over"), Jack DeJohnette's Made in Chicago (“Ten Minutes”), and Dr. John ("I've Got the World On a Dtring"). As there will be a four part discussion commemorating the recent release of a box set of Miles Davis' complete Newport performances, you can also hear "'Round Midnight."
Direct download: Podcast_490_-_Previewing_the_Newport_Jazz_Festival_with_Danny_Melnick.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 4:00 PM
Mon, 27 July 2015
Grammy-Award Winning Music Historian Ashley Kahn will curate four panel discussions during this coming weekend’s Newport Jazz Festival, commemorating the 60th anniversary of Miles Davis’ debut performance at the venerable jazz festival. The event will allow listeners to here selections from Miles Davis At Newport 1955-1975: The Bootleg Series Vol. 4, the most recent release in a series of archival recordings.
Among those joining Mr. Kahn on the "Storyville Stage" will be Newport Jazz Festival founder/creator George Wein; New York Times critic Nate Chinen; Rolling Stone journalist David Fricke; Author/critic Bill Milkowski; festival performer's Jon Faddis, Randy Sandke and Mike Stern; Grammy-Award winning producer Steve Berkowitz; and veteran music consultant/packager Nell Mulderry.
It looks like the highlight of the four discussions will come on Sunday, August 2, with Miles & The Electric Guitar. Fricke, Miles alum guitarist Mike Stern and Milkowski will join moderator Ashley Kahn to discuss and play examples of Miles' long romance and infatuation with the sound of the electric guitar. This first began in the mid-1960s when Miles asked George Benson to sit in a recording session and went into high gear when the rock revolution hit. One of many highlights on Miles Davis At Newport 1955-1975 comes from guitarists Reggie Lucas and Pete Cosey’s work in Davis’ mid-seventies electric band.
Category:general -- posted at: 2:13 PM
Sat, 18 July 2015
My wife Nancy celebrates her birthday today, so it's time for my annual posting of a version of the song "Nancy (With the Laughing Face)." This year we have an instrumental version courtesy of Delfeayo Marsalis' CD The Last Southern Gentleman.
Since my old blog site has disappeared as of late, let me re-post one version of the story of this song, as reported by Ida Zeitlin in Modern Screen magazine in 1946. I’m not sure how true this one is, but it’s a doozy!
She came running in, her face lighting up as always when she sees her father. Frank scooped her into his arms. “Here’s Nancy with the laughing face—”
Happy Birthday, Nancy! And thanks for marrying me.
Category:general -- posted at: 1:00 PM
Mon, 13 July 2015
Some significant jazz artists have had tragically short careers. Charlie Parker was gone at the age of 34; Billie Holiday at 44. Lee Morgan has been mentioned a number of times recently on this blog as someone who died far too young – 34 years old – but his fifteen years were so jam-packed with classic sides as a leader and sideman that it hardly seems so. Gary McFarland, a significant force in the jazz world in the 1960s, died in 1971 just after his 38th birthday, the victim of a poisoning. His career lasted just a little over ten years but the music for which he was responsible, as performer, arranger, producer, and label owner, is timeless. And yet for some reason he has slipped from our consciousness.
Considered an “adult prodigy” by former Downbeat magazine editor Gene Lees, Gary did not start any formal studies until he was in his late twenties. After winning a Downbeat scholarship to the Berklee School of Music in 1959, McFarland spent just one semester of study there before moving to New York City. Through his connection with trombonist/composer Bob Brookmeyer, McFarland wrote his first professional arrangements for Gerry Mulligan’s Concert Jazz Band.
McFarland would go on to be one of the most important jazz forces of the 1960’s with his compositions, arrangements, recordings, and film and stage scores. He was also a prolific producer and part owner of the SKYE record label along with Cal Tjader and Gabor Szabo. McFarland was also one of the first jazz musicians to include pop and rock material in his recordings and performances. One recording, America the Beautiful: An Account of Its Disappearance, combined elements of jazz, rock and orchestral writing that proved to be a seminal work from that changing pre-fusion period.
The Gary McFarland Legacy Ensemble is dedicated to the preservation of his music. Percussionist Michael Benedict has studied, performed and recorded McFarland’s music ever since meeting Gail McFarland, Gary’s widow, in 1979. Michael and Gail were married for twenty-five years until Gail’s death in 2007. Michael and his stepdaughter, Kerry McFarland, continue to promote Gary’s music to this day.
Circulation: The Music of Gary McFarlane, the first recording by the Legacy Ensemble, focuses on McFarland’s most recorded material as well as more obscure, unrecorded selections. Benedict leads the group on drums and is backed by a crackerjack group: Bruce Barth (who also did the arrangements) on piano, Joe Locke on vibes, Sharel Cassity on saxophones, and Mike Lawrence on bass.
Those who want to learn and hear more can catch the Legacy Ensemble at The Madison Theatre in Albany New York on July 14th, along with a screening of the documentary This is Gary McFarland, directed by Kristian St. Clair. The film features interviews with Clark Terry, Bob Brookmeyer, Steve Kuhn, Airto Moreira and many more, as well as rare music performances by Bill Evans, Stan Getz and the Gary McFarland Orchestra.
I recently spoke with Michael Benedict about the CD, the concert and film, and especially about the life and music of Gary McFarlane. Podcast 490 is our conversation, featuring music from McFarland himsef (“Last Rites for the Promised Land”). the Gary McFarland Legacy Ensemble (“Dragonhead”, “Summer Day” and “Why Are You Blue”); and Benedict’s band Bopitude ("Three and One") featuring baritone sax star Gary Smulyan.
Direct download: Podcast_489_-_A_Conversation_with_Michael_Benedict_about_Gary_McFarland.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 2:00 PM
Sat, 11 July 2015
Three months ago I featured a tribute to trumpeter Lee Morgan on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of a number of his finest releases as a bandleader and sideman.
A native of Philadelphia, Morgan loaned his trumpet talents to classic albums like John Coltrane’s Blue Train, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messenger’s Moanin’, and Johnny Griffin’s A Blowing Session. He backed artists like Wayne Shorter, Hank Mobley, Freddie Hubbard and Jackie McLean, while carving out a career as a star in his own right. With the 1963 release of “The Sidewinder,” Morgan even had a jukebox hit. Sadly, less than ten years later he was dead.
It only seems natual that Terell Stafford, the trumpet player most closely associated with the City of Philadelphia today would record a tribute album of sorts to Lee Morgan. BrotherLee Love(on Capri Records) again features the trumpeter’s regular quintet with saxophonist Tim Warfield, pianist Bruce Barth, bassist Peter Washington, and drummer Dana Hall. The result is a CD that is moving in many ways, not the least of which is its ability to move your feet. Stafford picks and chooses carefully through Morgan’s body of work, choosing the well-known (“Speedball”) along with the less heard (“Yes I Can, No You Can’t”). A highlight for me is the ballad “Candy”, with a memorable Stafford solo.
While Stafford may not be a Philadelphia native–he was born in Miami and raised in a suburb of Chicago–he’s become a vocal champion of the city’s storied jazz heritage. Stafford came of musical age on Philadelphia stages, mentored by local legends like Shirley Scott. For the past two decades he’s helped to pass that torch to the next generation through his work as Director of Jazz and Chair of Instrumental Studies at Temple University’s Boyer College of Music and Dance, and he recently established the Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia, an outstanding big band dedicated to spotlighting the city’s most gifted instrumentalists and composers, past and present.
Although he didn’t come to jazz until his early 20s, Stafford was a quick study and was enlisted during his college years to play with saxophonist Bobby Watson’s Horizon. From there he joined McCoy Tyner’s Latin All-Star Band alongside such greats as trombonist Steve Turre, flutist Dave Valentin, and percussionist Jerry Gonzalez. In addition to his work as a leader he’s continued to be an in-demand sideman, including considerable stints with the Clayton Brothers, Matt Wilson’s Arts & Crafts, and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra.
Podcast 488 is my conversation with Terell, as we discuss his admiration for Lee Morgan, the state of students at Temple University, and his memories of playing on some of my favorite albums of the past few years. Musical selections include “Yes I Can, No You Can’t”, “Candy” and Stafford’s composition “Favor” from BrotherLee Love; a cover of Weather Report's "Teen Town" from Matt Wilson’s Arts & Crafts CD An Attitude for Gratitude, and “Shirley's Song“ from Alvin Queen’s I Ain't Looking at You.
Direct download: Podcast_488_-_A_Conversation_with_Terell_Stafford.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 4:00 PM
Fri, 10 July 2015
The release of Some Places Are Forever Afternoon (11 Places for Richard Hugo) by composer-keyboardist-arranger Wayne Horvitz gives us another opportunity to appreciate the length and breadth with which jazz composition continues to grow and mature. Commissioned with funding from the Shifting Foundation, the CD is a suite of 11 pieces based on a different poem by Richard Hugo.
The instrumentation combines two of Horvitz's working ensembles, The Gravitas Quartet and Sweeter Than the Day to great effect (Wayne Horvitz-Piano, Ron Miles-Trumpet, Peggy Lee-Cello, Sara Schoenbeck-Bassoon, Timothy Young-Guitar, Keith Lowe-Bass and Eric Eagle-Drums.) The CD packaging is glorious, and includes a 26-page booklet with the poems, photos and an essay by the composer. As the suite travels in the Northwest, predominantly this fall, local readers will read each poem following the performance of the corresponding piece. Many of these readers knew Hugo, and all of them maintain deep connections to the places that inspired the poet, further grounding the composition with a sense of place.
Richard Hugo was born in White Center, and lived throughout the Northwest before settling in Missoula, Montana. He taught poetry at the University of Montana, and is the inspiration for a plethora of writers of the west, including James and Lois Welch, William Kittredge, Frances McCue and countless others. Hugo loved to visit the small towns and odd places all through this part of the world, from West Marginal Way to La Push to the Union Bar Grill in rural Montana. He was a great lover of music, and jazz in particular. It is Hugo's enduring love of music, rambling, and the places of the Northwest that inspired Horvitz's interpretation of his work, which honors and celebrates the poet's legacy. Hugo passed away in 1982.
Some Places Are Forever Afternoon compares favorably with recent work by the likes of Maria Schneider (The Thompson Fields) as both move effortlessly from the conventions of art music to swinging jazz. Both Horvitz and Ms. Schneider are topnotch arrangers, but they also know where to leave room for their favorite soloists to stretch out. In particular, check out Ron Miles' memorable trumpet solos.
Horvitz has grown from one of the young founding members of the New York Downtown Avant-Jazz Scene (his work with John Zorn, Naked City and other projects on Tzadik, Avanat and Nonesuch label help define an era) to a mature artist who helps the music scene in his adopted home of Seattle, Four years ago, with partners Steve Freeborn and Tia Mathies (of OK Hotel etc.), opened “The Royal Room” in Seattle’s Columbia City neighborhood. The Royal Room’s mission is to create a venue that serves the local community, honors and fosters the diversity and historical culture of Seattle’s south end, while supporting local musicians and encouraging artists to develop new projects. He continues to create pieces of symphony, installations and yes, even gets behind his beloved Hammond B-3 from time to time as well.
Podcast 486 is my conversation with Wayne, discussing the genesis of Some Places Are Forever Afternoon (11 Places for Richard Hugo), his writing techniques and his plans for future projects (hint- Bill Frisell is involved!). Music from Some Places Are Forever Afternoon (11 Places for Richard Hugo) is featured "All Weather Is Yours No Matter How Vulgar? (Fairfield)", "Those Who Remain Are the Worst (Three Stops to Ten Sleep)" and "The Beautiful Wives (Missoula Softball Tournament)", along with "Waltz from Woman of Tokyo", a Horvitz composition from The Westerlies, who were featured here last year when they released Wish The Children Would Come On Home: The Music of Wayne Horvitz.
Direct download: Podcast_487_-_A_Conversation_with_Wayne_Horvitz.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 4:00 PM