Mon, 14 November 2016
Matt Slocum’s Black Elk’s Dream was one of the best jazz CDs of 2014. Backed by musicians like Dayna Stephens, Gerald Clayton and Water Smith III, drummer Slocum presented a concept album inspired by the visionary Native American leader Black Elk and the book Black Elk Speaks. The music, whether original or deftly chosen covers, was orchestral in its feel, and packed a punch, either through mixed meters, interesting harmonies or the dynamic solos of the saxophones.
With Trio Pacific, Volume 1, Slocum now moves to a stripped down sound, and manages to stand the historical concept of the jazz trio on its head by performing as a drummer, sax (Stephens again) and guitar (Steve Cardenas) threesome. The result is shimmering, subtle and often beautiful music, and proof the Slocum is well on his way to being one of our finest leaders.
Born in St. Paul, Minnesota and raised in western Wisconsin, Slocum began musical studies on piano before switching to percussion at age 11. While in high school he was introduced to jazz through recordings featuring Max Roach and Philly Joe Jones. He received a full scholarship to attend the University of Southern California where he studied with the great Peter Erskine. Moving to New York a few years later, Slocum has performed and recorded as a leader on four CDs, while serving s sideman for the likes of Seamus Blake, Alan Broadbent, Wynton Marsalis, Linda Oh, Anthony Wilson, Sam Yahel and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.
Podcast 552 is my conversation with Matt, as we talk about the way Trio Pacific came together, how the lack of preparation led to exciting discoveries in the studio, and what he learned from his time with Peter Erskine. Musical selections from Trio Pacific, Volume 1 include “Passaic”, “I Can’t Believe You’re in Love With Me” and “For Alin”, a song dedicated to his wife.
Sun, 13 November 2016
Scott Morgan has been around the New York jazz scene for more than a decade, but Songs of Life is his debut CD as a leader. After a few listens, the obvious question is:
Man, what took you so long?
Morgan has a warm, engaging tenor, and his phrasing rivets the listener to the lyrics he is singing, creating a wonderful intimacy. His band – pianist Fred Hersch, bassist Matt Aronoff, tenor saxman Joel Frahm, and drummer Ross Pederson – plays in a sensitive, yet solid, manner, allowing his to ring every drop of emotion he wants from the album’s13 well-chosen tunes.
Morgan treats songs from the Pop/Rock era with the same respect as those from Broadway, finding new ways to interpret songs by James Taylor and the Beatles that let them stand up with the Great American Songbook. His lyrics to Hersch’s “Mandevilla” allow the Brazilian flavor of the song to seep through with sensitivity and soul. His duet with Janis Siegel, “I’ll Follow” is an emotional highlight.
Podcast 551 is my conversation with Scott, as we discuss the CD, how he selects his material, and what songs he thought might work on Songs of Life, but ended up dropping. His story of how “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly” came to be melded with the late Dave Catney's "Little Prayer" in a memorable performance is both heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. Musical selections from Songs of Life include that medley, Kurt Weill’s “Lost in the Stars”, “I’ll Follow”, and Lennon and McCartney’s “I Will.”
Scott Morgan will play two matinee sets at the Blue Note in New York on November 20th, 2016 at 11:30 am and 1:30 pm.
Direct download: Podcast_551_-_A_Conversation_with_Scott_Morgan.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 5:37pm EST
Mon, 10 October 2016
Columbus Day has become a deeply divisive event in the US. What once was the naive celebration of the "discovery of America" - take that Amerigo Vespucci and the Native Americans - is now marled with protests, given the start of the genocide his arrival in the New World began.
But let's go back to a simpler time, like May 1936, when Fats Waller and his Rhythm appeared on a popular radio show, The Magic Key Show, which originated from New York. That day, he performed two tunes - the well-known "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter", and the lesser known "Christopher Columbus". The lyrics?
Mr.Christopher Columbus/Sailed the sea without a compass/Well, when his men began a rumpus/Up spoke Christopher Columbus
He said: "There is land somewhere/So until we get there we will not go wrong/If we sing a swing song/Since the world is round, we'll be safe and sound/'Till our goal is found we'll just keep the rhythm bound
Soon the crew was makin' merry/Then came a yell, let's drink to Isabella/Bring on the rum/A music in that all the rumpus/That wise old Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus/Christopher Columbus
Maybe not a Shakespearean sonnet, but you get the idea. And as always, Fats knew how to swing.
Category:general -- posted at: 10:00am EST
Tue, 4 October 2016
One of the great delights in modern jazz comes when a talented composer or arranger takes on material which we have come to expect to sound a certain way, or be presented in a certain manner, and turns it upside down, or at least off-kilter. Whether it’s a singer reimagining the way a tune from the Great American Songbook is interpreted (Cassandra Wilson, Kurt Elling); a soloist wringing emotion from a tired chestnut (almost anything Fred Hersch, Brad Mehldau or Keith Jarrett cover) or bringing in sounds from other genres or cultures to make us rethink the very sound of jazz itself (Kamasi Washington, Donnie McCaslin, Robert Glasper), we are listening to new music at a very exciting time.
Mehmet Ali Sanlikol fits firmly into this category. As a composer, he brings contemporary classical, straight ahead jazz and the music of his Turkish heritage into a wondrous sonic collision. With his band Whatsnext?, he is allowing us to think twice before putting music into one category or another.
Resolution is his new CD, and from the very start, you can tell there is something exciting happening here. “Turkish Second Line” takes the sound of classic New Orleans street music (driven forward by guest soloist Anat Cohen) and merges it with the kind of Turkish dance music that Sanlikol has heard at parties since he was a child in Istanbul. Whether he is pairing scat singing with traditional Turkish singing or adding micro-tonality to big-band charts, Mehmet is making this music uniquely his own. Aided by additional guest soloists David Liebman, Antonio Sanchez and Tiger Okoshi, Whatsnext? rises to the occasion time and time again playing this strong material.
Podcast 550 is my conversation with Mehmet Ali Sanlikol, as we discuss his musical background, and how he seeks to merge the music of his Turkish roots with Jazz. Musical selections from Resolution include the title track, “Turkish Second Line” and “Whirlaround.”
\Sanlikol and Whatsnext? will present the new CD at concerts at Joe’s Pub in New York on October 6th, and Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport, MA on October 9th.
Direct download: Podcast_550_-_A_Conversation_with_Mehmet_Ali_Sanikol.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 6:07pm EST
Thu, 22 September 2016
If you listened to Podcast 471 last March, you heard singer/composer Thana Alexa sing the praises of guitarist Gene Ess. Ms. Alexa collaborated with Gene on his two releases, Fractal Attraction and Eternal Monomyth, two of a series of fine albums he has made since leaving the Rashied Ali Quartet over a decade ago.
Growing up on a US Army base in Okinawa, Japan, Gene was exposed at an early age to a wide variety of music (his mother is a classical pianist), which goes a long way to explain his sound on electric guitar. A graduate of Berklee School of Music, he arrived in New York after a chance meeting with Rashied Ali. The drummer, who was a member of John Coltrane’s last band and a veteran of sessions with Gary Bartz, Alice Coltrane and David Murray, helped shape Ess’ approach to jazz and to life itself, bringing him closer to Coltrane and his legacy than any text could ever. Ess traveled the world with Ali, and played with Coltrane alum Reggie Workman; Coltrane’s son Ravi; Carlos Santana and Lonnie Plaxico.
He has released six albums under his own name, the most recent of which have added vocals to his already eclectic sound. Ess’ latest CD is Absurdist Theater. He has again brought Ms. Alexa on board to lend her vocals (she also contributes lyrics to two tunes) and assembled a truly diverse band – Cuban pianist Manuel Valera; Japanese bassist Yasushi Nakamura and American Clarence Penn on drums. Thematically the CD attempts to take the listener on a journey to explore the philosophical idea of absurdism, contrasting our search of meaning in this life with the sheer joy of musical aesthetics. If this all sounds pretty weighty be assured that the music is hardly ponderous and overwrought.
Musical selections include “Torii (The Gate)” and Gene’s tribute to Ornette Coleman, “Forkball”.
A CD release party for Absurdist Theater will take place at the Blue Note in New York on September 25th, 2016.
Tue, 30 August 2016
What seems a lifetime ago, I had the opportunity to serve on a panel to award grant money from the Connecticut Commission on the Arts to musical applicants. My group reviewed instrumental music, and one of the members of the panel was none other than Anthony Braxton. For those who are unfamiliar with the name, Mr. Braxton is one of the foremost composers and performers of avant-garde jazz, opera and instrumental music of the past sixty years.
Mr. Braxton was at that time serving a as professor at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, so his inclusion in the Commission’s deliberations was fortuitous. I could not have asked for a more polite, warm and open person with whom to spend an afternoon, and despite the huge gap in knowledge between himself and the rest of the panel, he generously acknowledged our opinions and was patient in explaining his views.
Now just past 70 years old, Mr. Braxton has recorded hundreds of albums during his career. From his time at the AACM in Chicago, to his quartet collaborations with the likes of Chick Corea, Kenny Wheeler, Sam Rivers and Dave Holland (Circle; Conference of the Birds), to Creative Orchestra Music, “Ghost Trance Music,” Trillian Opera and other large and small group improvisations; Mr. Braxton has eschewed any sort of genre or characterization for his daring and challenging music.
As a way of exploring his music, most notably his post-1980 compositions and recordings, trumpeter-composer Nate Wooley has devoted the latest issue of his on-line publication, Sound American to Anthony Braxton. Essays written by the foremost scholars and performers of these compositions have made contributions to the site, which you can read now at no cost (although donations are most welcome, and should be made immediately). Complete with streaming samples of Braxton’s music to illustrate the points made by the writers, this is an indispensable guide to those who know and love Anthony Braxton’s work, and a key to entering the world of his sound if you do not.
Nate Wooley has become one of jazz’s latest versions of a Renaissance Man, writing about and composing music; performing with his trumpet as part of the downtown free jazz, experimental, rock, and noise scenes; crating his own Pleasure of the Text music label; and generally standing out as one of today’s great improvisational innovators. He has just released two new CDs, the hypnotizing Argonautica, his tribute to and collaboration with mentor Ron Miles (Firehouse 12 Records), and the ecstatic Seven Storey Mountain Von his own label. A the 2016 FCA Grants to Artists Awards recipient from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts , he was awarded $40,000 to use for future work alongside percussionist William Winant, composer Ashley Fure, and legendary vocalist Joan LaBarbara.
Podcast 548 is my conversation with Nate about Anthony Braxton, Sound American, and his latest (and coming) musical projects. Musical selections include a Braxton quartet recording including Kenny Wheeler, and Dave Holland(“Opus 60“); "Fifth Meeting" from a trio recording with William Parker and Milford Graves called Beyond Quantum; an excerpt from one of his "Echo Echo House" Recordings from Three Compositions, and a brief excerpt from Wooley’s Argonautica.
Direct download: Podcast_548_-_A_Conversation_with_Nate_Wooley_about_Anthony_Braxton.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 11:16am EST
Wed, 17 August 2016
Bobby Hutcherson, a vibraphonist whose adventurous, harmonically challenging playing in the 1960s made him one of the most influential jazz musicians on his instrument, died Aug. 15 at his home in Montara, California at the age of 75. The cause was emphysema.
Bobby Hutcherson – Title Track from Medina
Grant Green – “Django” from Idle Moments
Bobby Hutcherson – “Blues Mind Matter” from Stick-Up!
Jackie McLean – “Blue Rondo” from One Step Beyond
Eric Dolphy – “Something Sweet, Something Tender” from Out to Lunch!
Harold Land – “Timetable” from The Peace-Maker
Andrew Hill – “Alfred” from Judgment!
Bobby Hutcherson – “’For Heaven's Sake" from Enjoy the View
Tue, 16 August 2016
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 four previous Dog Day postings, Podcast 292, Podcast 225, Podcast 442, and Podcast 492 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. I’ve been learning a bit of mixology, so I think Frozen Whiskey Smash is the drink of the day.
Podcast 546 features the following uninterrupted hour of music, featuring a few new tunes I've recently received from upcoming or imminent releases:
Rebecca Angel – “Jet Samba”
Paul Desmond – “Wave”
The 3 Cohens – “Beaches”
Holly Cole – “Too Darn Hot”
Lou Donaldson – “Hot Dog”
Kenny Garrett – “Backyard Groove”
Stanley Clarke – “Hot Fun”
The Rippingtons – “Flamingo Beach”
Pieces of a Dream – “Warm Weather”
Kenny Burrell – “Hot Bossa”
Jeff Golub – “On the Beach”
Project Grand Slam – “The Rescue”
Mon, 15 August 2016
Originally from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sergio Pereira starting playing acoustic guitar (violao) at the age of 8 years old, influenced by his older brother who helped him play his first chords and the bossa-nova giants at the time - Joao Gilberto, Tom Jobim, and, Marcus Valle. Growing up in Rio in the 60’s and 70’s contributed tremendously to the energy, groove and rhythms reflected in his music today.
Moving to New York in the 80’s, exposed Pereira to an entirely different “scene.” It motivated the guitarist to not only continuing playing the guitar, but to further enhance his knowledge of the music and the instrument itself, which led him to studying with jazz greats including Chuck Wayne, Sal Salvador and Alex Adrian. Beginning in the early 90’s he has been travelling the world extensively, playing with different groups and at countless venues in many different countries in Europe, Africa and beyond. For over 20 years Pereira has been a member of the United Nations Jazz band for which has afforded him the opportunity to perform in various high profile venues.
Recently, he returned to his Brazilian roots, working to further broadened his understanding of harmony, improvisation and technique.This has led to the release of his first CD as a leader, Swingando. Recorded in New York City and Brazil, the album includes some of the top musicians in Brazilian jazz today, a veritable who’s who of heavyweights, such as Helio Alves, Teixeira, Nilson Matta, Mauricio Zottarelli, Duduka da Fonseca and Itaiguara Brandao.
Podcast 545 is my conversation with Sergio, who spoke with me while setting up his new home in Valencia, Spain, Musical selections include “My Girls” and Chega Ai", both of which features the killer rhythm section of Alves, Matta and da Fonseca; and the the more intimate “Ela.”
Direct download: Podcast_545_-_A_Conversation_with_Sergio_Pereira.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 8:35pm EST
Wed, 10 August 2016
With the whole world’s eyes trained on Rio for the Summer Olympics, it should come as no surprise to readers of that I’m thinking about Brazilian music. Here in America we think primarily of Bossa Nova and Samba, but I also enjoy more esoteric genres like Choro, Forro, and Tropicalissmo. The release last month of two new CDs from Brazilian artists that were not previously on my radar was cause for celebration here at SNC, and the next two podcasts will feature my conversations with saxophonist Livio Almeida and guitarist Sergio Pereira.
Livio Almeida is Brazilian saxophone/woodwinds player and composer/arranger. He received his Bachelor in Classical Saxophone in Brasilia, Brazil, and received his second degree at The City College of New York with a BFA in Jazz Performance. You may have heard him in his role in the O’Farrill Brothers Band, or for his solos on recent releases by Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra. He also directs a 10 piece band, the only one of its kind in the USA, a “dectet" dedicated to perform large ensemble Brazilian music, with regular residencies at the traditional Zinc Bar and Iridium Jazz Club in New York.
Action & Reaction is his second CD as a bandleader, and features his working quartet of Vitor Gonçalves on piano, Eduardo Belo on bass, and Zack O’Farrill on drums. Adam O’Farrill drops in to lend a hand on trumpet as well.
Podcast 544 is my conversation with Livio, as we discuss the differences in “Latin Jazz” and “Brazilian Jazz”, what went into his latest CD, and where he plans to take his music next. Musical selections include “Mercado en Domingo" from Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra’s Grammy winning The Offense of the Drum, as well as “Living in the Dark”, “Those (Not So Infant) Eyes”, and the title track “Action & Reaction.”
Direct download: Podcast_544_-_A_Conversation_with_Livio_Almeida.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 12:55pm EST