Mon, 24 November 2014
Forty years ago today, two old friends reunited on stage in New York’s Carnegie Hall for a memorable evening of music. Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker had been instrumental in changing the world of jazz together in 1952 with a new approach that helped create the West Coast Cool Jazz Sound:
While arranging for (Stan)Kenton, Mulligan began performing on off-nights at The Haig, a small jazz club on Wilshire Boulevard at Kenmore Street. During the Monday night jam sessions, a young trumpeter named Chet Baker began sitting in with Mulligan. Mulligan and Baker began recording together, although they were unsatisfied with the results. Around that time, vibraphonist Red Norvo's trio began headlining at The Haig, thus leaving no need to keep the grand piano that had been brought in for Erroll Garner's stay at the club.
Faced with a dilemma of what to do for a rhythm section, Mulligan decided to build on earlier experiments and perform as a pianoless quartet with Baker on trumpet, Bob Whitlock on bass and Chico Hamilton on drums (later Mulligan himself would occasionally double on piano). Baker's melodic style fit well with Mulligan's, leading them to create improvised contrapuntal textures free from the rigid confines of a piano-enforced chordal structure. While novel at the time in sound and style, this ethos of contrapuntal group improvisation hearkened back to the formative days of jazz. Despite their very different backgrounds, Mulligan a classically-trained New Yorker and Baker from Oklahoma and a much more instinctive player, they had an almost psychic rapport and Mulligan later remarked that, "I had never experienced anything like that before and not really since." Their dates at the Haig became sell-outs and the recordings they made in the fall of 1952 became major sellers that led to significant acclaim for Mulligan and Baker.
Mulligan’s drug arrest in 1953 broke up the band, and Baker became the “Great White Hope” of jazz. They only played together for one major performance after the breakup, at the 1955 Newport Jazz Festival, and recorded sporadically together over the years.
On November 24, 1974, CTI Records president Creed Taylor brought the pair together at Carnegie Hall in New York City. By accounts, the reunion was contentious. Mulligan had refused to reunite the pianoless quartet, so Taylor supplied a larger CTI backing group (Ron Carter (bass); John Scofield (guitar); Harvey Mason (drums); Ed Byrne (trombone); Bob James (keyboards) and Dave Samuels (vibes and percussion)). Mulligan ‘s tunes dominated the set list (and hence the future royalties), but Baker drew the biggest applause of his night for his solo on “My Funny Valentine.”
Baker’s his best days were far behind him that night, and he argued both onstage and off with his side men. The music is top notch however, perhaps because young Turks like Scofield and James pushed the pair to try new approaches to old tunes. Mulligan and Baker never played together again.
Baker was gone to Europe shortly thereafter, and never returned, dying in a drug-fueled accidental fall in 1988. He was 58 years old. Mulligan spent much of the next two decades writing and arranging orchestral and large-group jazz pieces. In 1991 he released Re-Birth of the Cool, revisiting his seminal 1949 recordings with the original charts. He died in 1996 from complications after knee surgery at the age of 68.
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00 PM
Sun, 23 November 2014
The first ever collaboration of forward-thinking architect / composer Christopher Janney and legendary bassist / producer Bill Laswell promises a wild ride on the highest artistic level. The duo, with its cast of world-class musicians, utilizes composition, dance, sound, and visuals to create a multi-media experience unlike almost anything happening these days.
A new project, entitled “Exploring the Hidden Music”, will be unveiled at New York’s Gramercy Theatre Tuesday, November 25, 2014; at 8PM. Janney has created numerous permanent interactive sound / light installations, attempting to make architecture more "spontaneous" and, in reverse, to make music more physical. The latter will be experienced in his new version of "HeartBeat," a dance / music / cardiology mash-up, made famous in the 1990's with Mikhail Baryshnikov. Janney's "Visual Music Project," introduces visual music in "real time “with Janney performing on his custom "visual synthesizer." Janney and Laswell intend to "explore the hidden music" - found in spaces, the human body and in the meeting of artistic minds.
Laswell is the natural choice to be the musical director for the evening, and his cast of musicians covers a wide variety of styles, from jazz to rock to worldbeat to soul (much like Laswell himself!). Onstage will be Trilok Gurtu (John McLaughlin, Joe Zawinul), Dave Revels (The Persuasions), Sheila E. (Prince, Ringo Starr) and Lynn Mabry (Talking Heads, Sly Stone, Stevie Nicks, Bette Midler) and turntablist D.J. Logic. In Sara Rudner, Janney acquired a prominent choreographer and long-time collaborator who currently holds the position of Director of Dance at Sarah Lawrence College. The interactive sound / light installations at the door and a new interactive light work "Touch my Light" over DJ Adam Gibbons (Uhuru Afrika) set with live drumming makes sure to round out the program.
Podcast 456 previews this event, and my conversation with Christopher Janney digs into the philosophy behind the project, as with the planning and execution of an event of such large scale. Musical selections include representative performances from musicians, who will be performing, like Trilok Gurtu, including an excerpt from a performance of “HeartBeat” with The Persuasions for the American Heart Association, from February, 2013.
Direct download: Podcast_456_-_A_Conversation_with_Christopher_Janney.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 9:53 PM
Mon, 17 November 2014
The 2014 JazzTimes Readers Poll is underway, and I've decided to make an appeal to my readers, listeners, friends and relatives to go to the on-line ballot - just click here - and fill out a ballot. When you reach the page that has the ballot for "Best Podcast", if you think that I am worthy, please cast a "write-in" ballot for "Straight No Chaser - A Jazz Show".
It may seem a bit presumptuous of me to ask, but as my grandmother would have said, "You don't ask, you don;t get!".
Thanks, and I'll remember you in my acceptance speech.
Category:general -- posted at: 9:03 PM
Thu, 13 November 2014
November is here and I can no longer pretend that the days are going to be warm. Leaves carpet the lawns and streets here in New England. Autumn is truly in the air.
Last week my wife Nancy and I were in Manhattan for a few days, and found ourselves sitting on park bench in Central Park, resting our feet for a while. In a fit of inspiration, I grabbed my iPhone and serenaded her with Tal Farlow’s version of “Autumn in New York”, as we watched leaves slowly fall from the trees and people bustle about their business. It was a moment of technological serendipity, allowing just the right song to be plucked seemingly out of nowhere.
So Podcast 455 is a slew of Autumn-themed tunes, some extremely familiar to you, others not so much. Of particular interest is the tune that kicks off the podcast, a solo bass version of “Autumn Leaves” by Scott Devine. Scott is a British musician who has a burgeoning online site called Scott’s Bass Lessons, a spot I’ve learned a thing or two from over the past year. Check it out here if you have not done so previously. And enjoy.
Scott Devine – “Autumn Leaves” from his website.
Art Farmer – “Autumn Nocturne” from Early Art.
Patricia Barber – “Early Autumn” from Split.
Hank Jones & Frank Wess – “Autumn Serende” from Hank and Frank.
Jerker Kluge’s Deep Jazz – “Autumn Sun” from The Meeting.
Larry Coryell – “The First Day of Autumn” from The Lift.
Phil Woods – “Autumn Thieves” from Chasin’ the Bird.
Paul Bley – “Autumn Breeze” from Early Trios (1953-1954).
Aga Zaryan – “Autumn Quince” from The Book of Luminous Things.
Sonny Stitt - Title Track from Autumn in New York.
Dee Dee Bridgewater – “Les Feuilles Mortes (Autumn Leaves)” from Keeping Tradition.
Sun, 9 November 2014
Shall we tick off the names of the great jazz guitarists who plied their art before the advent of the rock era? The names always begin with Charlie Christian, Django Reinhardt and Freddie Green. Then we move to Kenny Burrell, Herb Ellis, Barney Kessel, Jimmy Raney - and don't forget about Tal Farlow.
Farlow helped pioneer a be-bop approach to the guitar, playing small clusters of notes, often in rapid succession. His improvisations were highly angular, rather than merely playing the changes of shifting chords. He debuted in1943, and then cut his teeth in bands led by Marjorie Hyams, and especially vibes player Red Norvo.. His huge hands, which earned him the nickname "Octopus", and his keen sense of time made him one of the top guitarists of the era. After six months with Artie Shaw's Gramercy Five in 1953, Farlow put together his own group, which for a time included pianist Eddie Costa, and for five years they were at the top of their craft. Check out The Swinging Guitar of Tal Farlow on Verve Records to listen and learn. Truly, it never got better than this.
In 1958, Farlow retired from full-time performing and worked with the Gibson guitar company (producing the “Tal Farlow model” in 1962), local groups and other pursuits. It wasn’t until the late Seventies that Tal would return to full-time jazz performance and recording, mostly with Concord Records. He died in 1998 at the age of 77 of esophageal cancer.
Since his death, Tal’s legacy has been kept alive by guitar players across the world. The latest tribute to the great man will come with the publication of Tal Farlow – A Life in Jazz Guitar, by Jean-Luc Katchoura and Muchele Hyk-Farlow (Tal’s widow). Full of previously unpublished photos from the guitarist’s private collection, the illustrated biography should do much to reestablish Farlow as a true six-string legend.
To celebrate the release, a number of top guitarists will come together on November 13th to honor Tal Farlow at New York’s Zinc Bar (82 West 3rd Street). Playing that night will be five of today’s finest stylists – Gene Bertoncini, Vic Juris, Ron Affif, Paul Bollenback and Jack Wilkins.
Wilkins, who celebrated his 70th birthday this past summer, knew Farlow, and speaks warmly about his old friend in Podcast 454. A veteran of bands and session work with the likes of Bob Brookmeyer, Stanley Turrentine, Jimmy Heath, Ray Charles, and Tony Bennett, Wilkins’ versatile playing is still in fine shape. Our conversation includes his take on what made Tal great, how the various electronic devices guitarists can use have changed - or not changed - their approach, and what he tells his students about being a musician. Musical selections from Tal Farlow include “Fascinating Rhythm”, “Skylark (with the Red Norvo) and “Autumn in New York”, and Jack Wilkins tunes include “Awakened Sound” and “No Smokin’” from his trio album Bluesin’, backed by Steve Wood on organ and Tony Dawson on drums.
Direct download: Podcast_454_-_A_Conversation_with_Jack_Wilkins_about_Tal_Farlow.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 1:00 PM
Tue, 4 November 2014
Miguel Zenón has become one of jazz's most original thinkers. At the age of 37, he's one of the best-known alto saxophonists in jazz, a winner of a Guggenheim fellowship, and one of only a handful of jazz musicians to be chosen for the coveted MacArthur “genius” fellowships (in 2008), In many ways, he is at the forefront of a new movement that in recent years has brought the composer to a new prominence in jazz.
Beyond his facility at writing and playing music, there is a great intellectual subject at the center of Miguel Zenón's artistic world: the complexity of Puerto Rican culture. He has touched on the musical history of his native land on past albums, most recently Oye!!! Live In Puerto Rico. His latest release, Identities Are Changeable, moves beyond presentations of the folkloric or historical musical genres with a sweeping song cycle for large ensemble, held together with the spoken word. Miguel interviewed friends, relatives and even members of his band on the nature of Puerto Rican-American identity, particularly New York Puerto Rican-American identity. These recordings form the soul of the new CD, as a large ensemble plays new music written for the project, led by his longtime quartet (Luis Perdomo, piano; Hans Glawischnig, bass; Henry Cole, drums).
Commissioned as a multi-media work by Montclair State University's Peak Performances series, it has a multi-media element with audio and video footage from the interviews, complemented by a video installation created by artist David Dempewolf. It's been performed at such prestigious venues as the New England Conservatory's Jordan Hall in Boston, The SFJAZZ Center in San Francisco, and Zankel Hall in the Carnegie Hall complex in New York City.
Direct download: Podcast_453_-_A_Conversation_with_Miguel_Zenon.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 12:55 AM
Fri, 31 October 2014
The Thelonious Monk Quartet with Charlie Rouse lasted eleven years when they hit the hippest club in Los Angles, “The It Club” for two dates on October 31 and November 1, 1964. Rouse had formally filled the revolving sax chair that had been held alternately by Johnny Griffin, John Coltrane and even Clark Terry, in Monk’s varying sized groups six years earlier, and was near the height of his powers as a Monk foil.
The Rhythm section, however, was new - drummer Ben Riley had joined at the beginning of the year and bassist Larry Gales had only logged in a month at the time of these dates, replacing Butch Warren (who had replaced John Ore). However, the recordings made fifty years ago today show a band mature beyond their time together. Apparently there were no formal plans to record the show for release on Columbia Records, and the name of the label engineer who recorded the evening on three-track tapes is now lost to history. What we have on Live at the It Club are highlights from the 3 sets he played on each night (the Mosaic Records reissue features the entire two night stand), a typical Monk mix of standards (“I’m Getting Sentimental over You” and “All the Things You Are” bookend the evening) and originals, including “Brilliant Mississippi” which had been released the previous year on Monk’s Dream. Fans interested in this particularly fertile period of Monk’s career should check out the album Solo Monk he recorded on the afternoons preceding and following these shows in an L.A. studio. Two days later, on November 3, the Quartet was upstate in San Francisco, where Live at the Jazz Workshop was recorded.
Category:general -- posted at: 2:00 PM
Tue, 28 October 2014
In past years I’ve done a Halloween podcast featuring songs with scary titles – check out these beauties from 2012, 2011 and 2009 – and last year I changing course a bit, and all the songs mentioned the Prince of Darkness, Ol’ Scratch, Lucifer – yes, the Devil - in the title of the song or album. For 2014, it's the return of the Spooky Song. Maybe it's the title or the track, maybe it's the sound or mood - but in any event, here is Podcast 452, the 2014 Spooky Song collection:
Rene Marie - "I'd Rather Burn as a Witch"
Medeski, Martin & Wood - "Dracula"
LaVerne Baker - "Voodoo, Voodoo"
Herbie Hancock Quartet - "The Sorcerer"
Frank Sinatra - "Witchcraft"
Glenn Miller Orchestra - "Ding Dong, The Witch is Dead"
Chet Baker Quartet - "Old Devil Moon"
Thelonious Monk - "Misterioso"
Dinah Washington - "Mean and Evil Blues"
Arthur Barron, Dave Liebman & Abel Pabon - "Slow Dance On the Killing Ground"
Incognito - "Wind Sorceress"
Mary Halvorsen - "Torturer's Reverse Delight"
Mark Guiliana - "My Blood"
Sean Jones - "Dr. Jekyll"
Stanton Moore - "Waltz for All Souls"
Sun, 26 October 2014
My wife Nancy and I will be in attendance at the Beacon Theatre in New York City Monday night when the Allman Brothers Band plays their next-to-last live performance together. After 45 years of existence, the venerable band has decided they will no longer perform as a group, and will go on to other projects.
Few rock bands are as integrally involved with jazz as the Allman Brothers Band. From their very beginning, guitarist Duane Allman was inspired and awe-struck by the music that Miles Davis and John Coltrane were playing. Read Robert Palmer's liner notes for the re-issue of Kind of Blue, and you'll learn about the effect it had on Duane. In part, he writes:
Duane was a rare melodist and a dedicated student of music who was never evasive about the sources of his inspiration. "You know," he told me one night after soaring for hours on wings of lyrical song, "that kind of playing comes from Miles and Coltrane, and particularly Kind Of Blue. I've listened to that album so many times that for the past couple of years, I haven't hardly listened to anything else.”
For a worthy essay on these topics, check out "The Serendipity of Two Musical Heroes: Duane Allman and John Coltrane" by David Gardiner, and an excerpt from Guitar Player magazine that quotes Duane on Trane and Miles. To hear the man himself at his Coltrane inspired best, listen to "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" and while you do, read this insightful Wikipedia entry on the song, where Duane's solos are compared with Coltrane's "sheets of sound" and Miles' modal recordings on Kind of Blue.
The jazz connections did not die when Duane passed away in 1971. The onstage lineup of two guitars, organ/piano, bass and two drummers (and later a percussionist) presented more like a jazz band than a rock group. And their sound – deeply improvisational, often modal in approach – is pure jazz.
The last few years of the band have seen jazz musicians like saxophonist Bill Evans join the group onstage on a regular basis, and it’s not uncommon to find a cover of Miles’ “Spanish Key” finding its way into their set lists, as you will hear in the Podcast.
I’ve seen close to a dozen ABB shows, and I’ve never been disappointed. I’m sure there will be some memorable moments Monday night as Gregg, Warren, Derek, Oteil, Jaimoe, Butch and Marc leave us yelling for more. But after Tuesday, there will only be the recorded music and the memories. They won’t be “hittin’ the note” onstage again.
Podcast 451 celebrates jazz takes on the ABB songbook, plus the band, collectively and individually (including their bands, like the Jaimoe/Chuck Leavell/Lamar Williams combo Sea Level or Warren Haynes’ Gov’t Mule), tackling jazz flavored tunes and covers, including:
Joel Harrison 7 – “Whipping Post” from Search
Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band – “Melissa” from Renaissance Man
John Pizzarelli – “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” from Double Exposure
Buddy Miles – “Dreams” from Them Changes.
Derek Trucks Band – “Naima” from The Derek Trucks Band
Gov’t Mule – “Trane” from an unreleased recording February 22, 2014 at Charleston, WV
Sea Level – “Rain in Spain” from Sea Level.
Allman Brothers Band (with Bill Evans on sax and John Ginty on piano)– “Spanish Key” from an unreleased recording at the Beacon Theatre in New York, March 14, 2011
Ken Navarro – “Little Martha” from The Test of Time.
While they won’t be there Tuesday night, other musicians who I’ve seen on the bandstand holding down a guitar spot as members deserve a shout out as well – Dickey Betts, Jimmy Herring, and Jack Pearson. And as always, fans will remember Duane, Berry Oakley, Lamar Williams, Allen Woody and others who are no longer there in body, but always in spirit.
Direct download: Podcast_451_-_A_Goodbye_to_the_Allman_Brothers_Band.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 1:00 PM
Thu, 23 October 2014
Mark Elf is one of the most unsung guitar heroes in jazz today. His performance and composition abilities are outstanding, and he plays with a fire and soulfulness that many hotshot players lack. Check out any of his recordings on his own Jen Bay Records imprint, to hear someone at the height of his powers. For my money, his 1998 release, Trickynometry, is one of the finest jazz guitar albums of the past twenty years.
After making his professional debut in 1971, Elf followed in the footsteps of guitarists like George Benson and made a name for himself being a sideman for great Hammond B-3 players. He recorded his first album as a sideman with Jimmy McGriff & Groove Holmes in 1973, Giants of the Organ Come Together. In the late 1970’s Mark worked with Junior Cook and Bill Hardman in New York City and also recorded with them on the Muse Label. Since then, he has he toured Europe with Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry and other jazz luminaries, and recorded with Jon Hendricks and the Heath Brothers. All of his solo records on Jen Bay have reached the top ten on National Jazz Radio, with nine of them going to the top of the charts consecutively since 1997.
After an eight year hiatus, Elf is back with the appropriately titled Mark Elf Returns. The CD features seven originals and three covers, all played by Elf and a superior backing group, which includes David Hazeltine on piano, Peter Washington on bass and Lewis Nash on drums. The tunes have the same spritely bopping sound, as Elf toys with tempos and speeds to bring out the many facets of his playing. He brings out his baritone guitar for a pair of tunes, an instrument that is often neglected in recent jazz (save for a pair of Pat Metheny CDs).
Podcast 450 is my conversation with Mark, as he talks about the new CD, how he chooses cover tunes, the state of jazz education, and his affinity for the drumming of Lewis Nash. Songs from Mark Elf Returns include “Jacky’s Jaunt” and “Low Blow”, along with a tune from previous releases, including “Dot Com Blues” from Trickynometry,