Wed, 22 June 2016
The 39th Freihofer's Jazz Festival will kick off the summer festival season in style at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center this coming weekend. "The Hang" has something for everyone to enjoy, and this year is no exception.
Saturday June 25th brings something blue to the Main Stage with Eric Lindell and Shemekia Copeland, before bringing the new (Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah; Joey Alexander) and the old (Pieces of a Dream 40th anniversary tour and a Steps Ahead reunion). The ageless Chaka Khan was forced to cancel her appearance, but the always exciting Isley Brothers will bring their mix of R&B, Funk and Rock to end the evening.The Gazebo Stage will showcase some of today’s best jazz musicians, with sets from the criminally underrated Vincent Herring & the Kings of Swing (featuring Mike LeDonne, David Williams & Carl Allen); singer Karrin Allyson; and relative newcomers Jamison Ross and Elio Villafranca.
Sunday’s Main Stage offerings are full of treats for hardline jazz fans: Chick Corea’s award-winning Trilogy featuring Christian McBride & Brian Blade; Bria Skonberg Quintet; Pat Martino Organ Trio plus Horns; and singer Lizz Wright. Jon Cleary & The Absolute Monster Gentlemen will bring some New Orleans piano soul to Saratoga, and the man once called “the Greatest Living American Poet” by none other than Bob Dylan (supposedly) - Smokey Robinson - will end the festival in style.
I’m very high on the Sunday Gazebo lineup of up-and-coming stars – pianist Aaron Diehl; singer Alicia Olatuja; the Skonberg Quintet; and a performance of “LaFayette Suite” featuring Walter Smith III & Laurent Coq.
Impresario Danny Melnick and I talked about the festival bookings and what to look for over the weekend in Podcast 540. Musical selections include tunes from Pieces of a Dream ("Fo-Fi-Fo"), Vincent Herring ("Soul Leo"), Lizz Wright ("Coming Home") and Aaron Diehl ("Kat's Dance").
Direct download: Podcast_540_-_Previewing_the_Freihofers_Saratoga_Jazz_Festival_with_Danny_Melnick.wav
Category:podcast -- posted at: 2:00pm EDT
Sun, 12 June 2016
This will be short, and to the point - Chick Corea is having a special birthday, and this is my card to him.
Those who read this blog know that it was the music of Chick Corea, first with Return to Forever, and then moving backward in time, with Stan get, that was my first step intot he world of jazz. Check out this posting for more on this.
But with Chick turning 75, I wanted to give you all an hour plus of his music, which comes so varied, with so many different collaborators, that I barely scratched the surface of his work with this Podcast. But dig in, and I'm sure you will find music that moves you.
Selections for Podcast 538, "Chick Corea @ 75", include:
Sat, 21 May 2016
The working jazz musician has to wear many different musical hats, sometimes more than one at a time, If that were taken literally, Mac Gollehon would have difficulty walking through any doorway in New York without knocking a few fedoras off the top of his head.
His career has taken him from the Latin Jazz Big Bands and Orchestras of Ray Barretto, Héctor Lavoe, Hilton Ruiz, Larry Harlow, and Charlie Palmieri, to a nine year tenure with Lester Bowie’s Brass Fantasy band, to studio sessions with David Bowie (Let’s Dance), Duran Duran, Chic, and Mick Jagger. In all, Gollehon can be heard on over 100 gold and platinum and double platinum records. Bet you didn’t know that.
This extraordinary cross-section of experience allows him to release his 9th CD, Mac Gollehon & The Hispanic Mechanics, an intriguing hybrid of Latin Jazz, Caribbean sounds, Hot Jazz and Electronic Dance Music (EDM). While tunes like “No More Drama” and “Exito Obscuridad” sound like club-shaking anthems, his jazz sensibilities show through on “'Il Aceite” and “Elegancia.” There is something for everyone here.
Podcast 535 is my conversation with Mac, as we discuss the recording process of the new CD, and he recalls with great humor and pathos his past meetings and recordings with legends like Lavoe, Lester Bowie, Woody Shaw, Miles Davis and David Bowie. That’s Mac’s trumpet solo in the introduction to the title track. Musical selections from Mac Gollehon & The Hispanic Mechanics include “No More Drama” and “Amor Tragico”, as well as David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” and an unreleased recording of Lester Bowie’s Brass Fantasy performing “Good Morning Heartache” from the Deutschen Jazz Festival in Frankfurt, Germany; October 22, 1999. That entire recording �can be found at Big O's ROIO page on the web,
Direct download: Podcast_535_-_A_Conversation_with_Mac_Gollehon.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 1:03pm EDT
Wed, 11 May 2016
Carla Bley turns 80 years old today. Her various creative incarnations - composer, band leader, side person, singer – have all been at the highest level, and she shows no sign of stopping now.
So let us now praise Carla Bley.
She entered the jazz consciousness as a composer. Encouraged by her first husband, pianist Paul Bley, she wrote strong compositions that were quickly recorded by the likes of Jimmy Guiffre, Don Ellis, George Russell, and most memorably, the Paul Bley Quintet on Barrage. Buoyed by that success, she became an integral part of the Jazz Composers Guild, a musical “think tank” that for ten years was a catalyst for the avant-garde, beginning in the mid-60’s. With trumpeter Michael Mantler, Ms. Bley helped create the Jazz Composers Guild Orchestra, which featured innovative soloists like Pharaoh Sanders, Don Cherry, Larry Coryell, and Cecil Taylor. On her own, she wrote, played organ and piano and conducted Gary Burton’s seminal A Genuine Tong Funeral, an album that predated Bitches Brew as jazz-rock fusion.
It was with the Jazz Composers Guild Orchestra that Carla’s most ambitious work was realized – the “chronotransduction” known as Escalator over the Hill, a collaboration with Paul Haines and Mantler. Something of a jazz opera, it took three years to record, finally appearing in 1971 as a 3-record box set with extensive lyrics and liner notes. It is hard today to realize the impact this work had on the music scene, bringing together seemingly disparate genres like European art music and cabaret; free jazz; Indian raga; and improvisatory rock. Artists from Jack Bruce and Linda Ronstadt, to John McLaughlin, Charlie Haden, Gato Barbieri, Roswell Rudd, Paul Motian and of course Ms. Bley and Mantler, brought a difficult and sometimes thrilling score to life. One of the few jazz recordings to catch the eye of Rolling Stone magazine, Jonathan Cott wrote in those pages that the album was “an international musical encounter of the first order.” The next year, she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for music composition.
Whether she was working with Charlie Haden’s Liberation Orchestra; dabbling in rock (Jack Bruce, Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason, Golden Palominos) ; or collaborating with long-time companion Steve Swallow the music she makes could never be pigeon-holed in type or genre, more so than perhaps any artist since Duke Ellington. The albums that she released under her name were constantly shifting sounds – Big Bands, Trios, Sextets and Duets. She re-interprets and reimagines her old work with grace, and continues to write and perform new work of the highest order, often in a keyboard style that is uniquely her own. She continues her satisfying relationship with ECM with the release today of Andando el Tiempo, a trio record with Swallow and one of her favorite saxophonists, Andy Sheppard. It shows an artist still growing, still exploring, still a joy to discover.
Let’s celebrate the creative work of Carla Bley with Podcast 537, featuring music selected from the body of work that bears her name as bandleader, including:
Carla Bley and Her Remarkable Big Band - "Greasy Gravy"
Carla Bley Trio - "Andando el tiempo: Camino al Volv"
Carla Bley - "Sing Me Softly of the Blues"
Carla Bley and Steve Swallow - "Walking Batteriewoman"
Carla Bley and the Lost Chords Quartet - "Three Banana"
Carla Bley - "The Girl Who Cried Champagne Parts 1-3"
Carla Bley Big Band - "Who Will Rescue You?"
Carla Bley Sextet - "Healing Power"
Carla Bley - "Nothing"
Mon, 2 May 2016
Talking with Brian Bromberg can be like drinking from a fire hose. Ask him a question that he fins interesting, and he is off on a lengthy, usually fascinating answer. For that reason, I broke our conversation into two podcasts. Part 2 of Podcast 532 focuses on his lengthy discography, and the slew of projects he has planned for the near future.
Bromberg has never stayed with one genre for long. Among my favorites from his catalogue are the highly electric tributes to Jaco Pastorious (Portrait of Jaco) and Jimi Hendrix (Plays Jimi Hendrix) , both of which manage to convey the great sense of wonder and mystery these two ground-breaking artists brought to their music, without trying to mimic or copy their classic licks.
A polar opposite is the highly intimate Hands, a collection of double-bass solos on classic tunes from the past and present. Somewhere in between sit his Metal albums, where he plays electric bass (both piccolo and regular).
As a budding bass player, I also took the time to ask Brian’s advice for young bass players, and generously gave some very good advice. Check it out.
Musical selections for the Podcast includes a piccolo bass version of "Teen Town" from Portrait of Jaco; “King of Pain” (Hands);and an exciting take on “Voodoo Chile” (Plays Jimi Hendrix).
Direct download: Podcast_532_Pt_2_-_A_Conversation_with_Brian_Bromberg.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 10:00am EDT
Sat, 30 April 2016
April 30th is the day set aside as International Jazz Day around the world. Beginning in 2012, UNESCO set aside the day as a celebration of “the virtues of jazz as an educational tool, and a force for peace, unity, dialogue and enhanced cooperation among people.”
I was fortunate enough to attend the first International Jazz Day concert on the floor of the United Nations that year. It was a fabulous event, bringing talent form across the globe onstage for memorable performances. Click here for my review of the event.
The past few years have had celebratory concerts in Istanbul, Turkey; Osaka, Japan; and Paris, France. The 2016 blow-out will take place in Washington, D.C. Our nation’s capital will join with towns, cities and villages in over 190 countries on all 7 continents to observe International Jazz Day through thousands of performances and programs.
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will host the 5th anniversary International Jazz Day All-Star Global Concert at the White House on April 29th, broadcast the next day as a one-hour primetime ABC television special, “Jazz at the White House,” on Saturday evening, April 30th and streamed on the United Nations, UNESCO, U.S. State Department and White House websites.
Among those scheduled to appear in D.C. are pianists Joey Alexander, John Beasley (Music Director), Kris Bowers, Chick Corea, Robert Glasper, Herbie Hancock, Danilo Pérez and Chucho Valdés; trumpeters Terence Blanchard, Till Brönner, Hugh Masekela and James Morrison; vocalists Dee Dee Bridgewater, Jamie Cullum, Kurt Elling, Aretha Franklin, Al Jarreau, Diana Krall, Dianne Reeves and Sting; saxophonists Eli Degibri, David Sánchez, Wayne Shorter and Bobby Watson; bassists Christian McBride, Marcus Miller, Esperanza Spalding and Ben Williams; guitarists Buddy Guy, Lionel Loueke, Pat Metheny and Lee Ritenour; drummers Brian Blade, Terri Lyne Carrington and Kendrick Scott; percussionist Zakir Hussain; trombone player Trombone Shorty; and the Rebirth Brass Band.
Here at Straight No Chaser, it is our tradition to celebrate International Jazz Day by giving you an hour plus of uninterrupted jazz from artists who hail from the four corners of the earth. It’s a delight to see that performers like Anat Cohen, born in Israel, brilliantly play Brazilian music, while artists from Africa and South America are playing American jazz with their own unique twists and turns. Enjoy Podcast 53_, featuring music from artists including:
Avishai Cohen (Israel) - “Muhammad’s Market”
Anat Cohen (Israel) - “Beatriz”
Abdullah Ibrahim (South Africa) - “Soweto"
Vijay Iyer (India) and Wadada Leo Smith (USA) - “Passage”
Marcos Varela (Brazil) - “Colinas de Santa Maria”
Gato Barbieri (Argentina) - “Gato Gato”
Joachim Kuhn Trio (Germany) - “Blues for Pablo”
Tee Mac (Nigeria) - “Nam-Myoho-Renge-Key”
Hiromi (Japan) - “What Will Be, Will Be”
Darren Barrett (Canada) featuring Warren Wolf (USA) - “The Club Up the Street”
Ferenc Snetberger (Hungary) - “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”
Cyrille Aimee (France) - “T’es Beau To Sais”
Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gl (Brazil) - 'Tropicalia"
Esbjorn Swensson Trio (Sweden) - "Viaticum"
Direct download: Podcst_534_-_International_Jazz_Day_Celebration.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 4:06pm EDT
Tue, 26 April 2016
Brian Bromberg’s latest CD, Full Circle, truly lives up to his name. The long-time bass player has been virtually absent from the public for the past four years, as he recovers from a serious back injury the required extensive physical therapy. Now he returns to recorded music, not only playing his trademark piccolo bass (among the many he uses), but also playing drums, the instrument upon which he first cut his musical teeth.
Bromberg also takes the opportunity to finally play in a combo with his late father. His Dad – a talented drummer on the East Coast scene who left the big time behind after World War II – never played with Brian during his lifetime, but by overdubbing a bass line onto an old acetate recording, Bromberg finally makes a long-time dream of his come true on two tracks.
Bromberg is often grouped into the “smooth jazz sound”, despite lengthy time in the Stan Getz band in the past, The new CD is full of moments that move beyond any one genre, whether it is the Latin Jazz of “Havana Nights” (playfully subtitled “Havana Nagillah”), the straight-ahead sound of “Bernie’s Bop” or the funky cover of Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough.” And as always, there is that piccolo bass, making Bromberg sound as if he were playing electric guitar with the best of them.
Podcast 532 is the first of two podcasts with bassist Bromberg. The first part of our conversation centers on his gear and sound, plus the stories behind the new album. Musical selections include “Jazz Me Blues”, “Bernie’s Bop” and “Havana Nights (Havana Nagillah).” The second part of our talk will appear later in the week and will focus on his earlier work and musical progress,
Direct download: Podcast_532_Pt_1_-_A_Conversation_with_Brian_Bromberg.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT
Sat, 23 April 2016
As an English major at Clark University (Class of '77) I spent many a fond moment with one of my favorite professors, Dr. Virginia Vaughan discussing the Immortal Bard, William Shakespeare. Although Shakespeare's birthdate is unknown, it is traditionally celebrated on April 23, St. George's Day. He was born 452 years ago today.
And whither, you might ask, does this great writer intersect with Jazz? Look no further than the 1964 album by Cleo Laine, Shakespeare and All That Jazz, arranged and written for her by her husband, Sir John Dankworth. Dankworth adapted sonnets and portions of the plays to create an artistically satisfying work. Many of the tunes are written by Dankworth, but he also picks from the Ellington-Strayhorn canon for "My Love is as a Fever (Sonnet 147)" a portion of the suite they composed entitled Such Sweet Thunder. Of particular interest are the tracks which feature Kenny Wheeler on trumpet.
For those interested in an updated take on this album, check out Christina Drapkin's version.
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT
Fri, 22 April 2016
One of the astounding things that we realize when we contemplate the musical legacy of Prince (1958-2016) is that while he passed away at the age of 57, he had written and recorded music since he was 17. Those forty years of wildly exciting, innovative, profane, uplifting music will be with us always, and we are once again left wondering what might have come as he continued his evolving career.
In December 2013, my wife Nancy and I had the chance to get as up close and personal with Prince as I had ever hoped. We had purchased tickets to see his concert at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut (Esperanza Spalding, opening act) and had possibly the most distant seats you could have in that arena. However, minutes before the show started, a representative of His Royal Purpleness came through the nosebleed seats and upgraded us to the second row. A miracle!
We spent that evening dancing to the hottest band I’ve ever seen. More than a dozen or more musicians filled the stage, from a choreographed horn section to a hard rock trio, always with Prince in the lead. If he left out a tune that I wanted to hear, I can’t recall it. The years of keeping a low profile had done nothing to slow Prince down; he looked remarkably youthful for his age, and his moves and grooves were as in step as ever. It was truly, as the band sang, a beautiful night.
And now, just as he was returning to relevance, he is gone. His song “Baltimore” released almost a year ago, was one of the few major musical artists’ comments on the unrest in the city and the #BlackLivesMatter movement. He had released two CDs since September 2015, and had been touring to rave reviews again.
As is the custom here at Straight No Chaser, non-jazz artists are celebrated or memorialized with a “Jazzin’ On…” podcast, featuring jazz artists performing their versions of his or her tunes. Past Podcasts like this include honoring Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell, Radiohead, George Harrison, John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney and more.
Podcast 533 is my tribute to Prince, featuring the following jazz artists and their versions of songs he wrote:
Peter Bernstein – “1999”
Herbie Hancock – “Thieves in the Temple”
Jimmy Scott – “Nothing Compares 2 U”
Fareed Haque/Mike Cain – “When 2 R in Love”
Bob Belden featuring Tsidii Le Loka – “Little Red Corvette”
Miles Davis – “Movie Star”
Joshua Redman – “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore?”
Bob Belden featuring Tsidii Le Loka – “Purple Rain”
Fri, 22 April 2016
One of my favorite holidays is the celebration of the Jewish holiday of Passover 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: 10:00am EDT