Fri, 18 July 2014
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 the track comes from Kurt Elling's album, Dedicated to You, a tribute to the collaboration of Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane.
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: 12:00 PM
Tue, 15 July 2014
For me, the piano trio is the most consistently artistic expression of jazz music being made. Perhaps I feel this way having being musically raised with the chamber music overtones of Bill Evans and the considered swing of Ahmad Jamal and Oscar Peterson. The idea of musical counterpoint and instrumental support – particularly in the traditional piano-double bass-drums lineup are most appealing to me. I also remain fascinated with the amount of listening each instrumentalist must do in this format, and how the slightest change in their playing affects the resulting tune.
A few top trios have released new CDs recently, and some are on the road right now. Fred Hersch begins a six night stand at the Village Vanguard this week in support of his first trio studio album in four years. Floating is an appropriate name for the collection, as the trio of players – Hersch on piano, John Hebert on bass and Eric McPherson on drums – often seem to playing above the music, allowing it to flow freely between the acoustic instruments. These are musicians who know each other well, and so their interplay is thoroughly satisfying to me. Hersch is one of the great melodists in piano today, and he never fails to deliver lyrical playing throughout the album.
Denny Zeitlin has released a number of interesting solo piano CDs lately, so it’s nice to hear that he was able to dip into his archives for a trio session recorded live at the Jazz Bakery in November 2001. He is ably supported by Buster Williams on bass and the ever-versatile Matt Wilson on drums. The CD mixes Great American Songbook tunes like “There Will Never Be Another You” and the title track Stairway to the Stars with jazz standards from Wayne Shorter and Sonny Rollins. The closing track, “Out for a Stroll” is a bouncy Zeitlin original that wraps up an engaging set. A special tip of the hat to Wilson, whose brush work and subtle fills make him a model drummer for the piano trio setting.
The Brooklyn Jazz Underground Records label has continued to release some of the most engaging jazz on record, and a highlight of their recent crop of CDs is from pianist/composer John Chin. Chin, whose piano trio album Undercover, features Orlando le Fleming (bass) and Dan Rieser (drums), elected to record live in one room in Brooklyn, with no preconceived arrangements and no edits. The result is an impressionistic evening of improvised standards – an especially riveting “Countdown” – and originals. Chin takes control of the bandstand with “polyphonic improvisation,” broadening his technique in order to improvise several lines at the same time. If the CD is not a melodic treat like Hersch’s Floating or a bouncy classic trio set like Zeitlin’s, it is a consistently interesting and sometimes challenging take on the piano trio that shows that the future of the format is in good hands.
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00 PM
Mon, 14 July 2014
Charlie Haden, one of the most influential and recorded bass players of the last seventy years, has died of a long illness related to post-polio degeneration. He was 76 years old.
Haden is unique among the stars of the rhythm section in that he could handle the most difficult avant-garde music, could swing with the best of the straight ahead players, and always brought to anything he played an American sensibility anchored in his youth in Iowa. A member of the Haden Family band who starred on Midwestern radio in the thirties and forties, he seemed destined to be a country music performer forever, until a chance encounter with the music of Charlie Parker in 1951. People ask me how I could go from country to jazz,” Mr. Haden said. “It’s been a natural convergence for me.”
Haden was at the core of Ornette Coleman’s quartet (with trumpeter Don Cherry and drummers Billy Higgins, and then Ed Blackwell) in the late Fifties, creating the pulse that drove albums that sounded like none before them. It’s safe to say that Free Jazz and The Shape of Things To Come were among the most important recordings of their time, and Haden – a white man playing in an otherwise black band – stood out in more ways than one.
He helped create at least two other seminal avant-garde groups in the next twenty years – Keith Jarrett’s “American Quartet” with Dewey Redman on saxophone and Paul Motian on drums; and his own Liberation Music Orchestra, which released four politically charged albums featuring compositions and arrangements by the pianist Carla Bley, mingling wildness with the tradition of Latin American folk songs.
Haden was always in demand as a sideman, and recorded a number of duets and trio albums with the likes of Hank Jones, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Jarrett, Pat Metheney (with whom he won his first Grammy), and Kenny Barron. Perhaps my favorite of all Haden’s work came with , Quartet West, a longtime band with the tenor saxophonist Ernie Watts, pianist Alan Broadbent and the drummer Larence Marable. Highly melodic, these albums reach back to the golden age of Hollywood for themes and style, creating an accessible and romantic sound.
Haden released a duet album with Keith Jarrett in June, and at least one posthumous album has already been scheduled: a concert recording made in 1990 with the guitarist Jim Hall, who ironically died just last year.
A founder of the CalArts Jazz program in 1982 Haden taught generations of musicians. He was recognized as a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master in 2012 and received a lifetime achievement honor at last year’s Grammy Awards, though his health prevented him from attending the ceremony.
Podcast 437 is a tribute to the wonderful music that Mr. Haden produced in his lifetime, including musical selections from the following albums:
Charlie Haden’s Quartet West - “First Song (for Ruth)” from In Angel City.
Charlie Haden, Jan Gabarek and Egberto Gismonti - “Ballerina” from Magico.
Charlie Haden with Old & News Dreams - “Happy House” from A Tribute to Blackwell.
Charlie Haden’s Liberation Army Orchestra - “Rabo de Nube” from Dream Keeper.
Charlie Haden and Gonzao Rubalcaba - “Noche de Ronda (Night of the Wandering)” from Nocturne.
Charlie Haden - “Turnaround” from The Golden Number
Charlie Haden and Kenny Barron “Waltz for Ruth” from Night and the City.
Keith Jarrett and Charlie Haden - “Goodbye” from Jasmine.
Wed, 9 July 2014
Bassist/Composer Mario Pavone will kick off his celebration of 50 years in music with a three night Mini Festival at The Cornelia Street Cafe, July 10-12. Mr. Pavone will be featured on all nights (bass & compositions) with the following top-notch players:
Thursday, July 10, 8:30 & 10 PM: Quartet Arc, featuring Gerald Cleaver (drums), Ellery Eskelin (tenor saxophone) and Dave Ballou (trumpet);
Friday, July 11, 9 & 10:30 PM: CD celebration for the release of Pavone's new CD, Street Songs (on Playscape), feat. Pavone's Nonet - Adam Matlock (accordion), Julian Shore (piano), Carl Testa (bass), Steve Johns (drums), and a Brass Quartet featuring Dave Ballou (cornet, flugelhorn), Leise Ballou (french horn), Peter McEachern (trombone) and Gary Buttery (tuba); and
Saturday, July 12, 9 & 10:30 PM: Pavone's Pulse Quartet with Gerald Cleaver (drums), Ellery Eskelin (tenor saxophone) & Michael Pavone (guitar).
It’s always a pleasure to see Pavone work in a variety of different formats. The bassist has collaborated with both legendary innovators and today's most respected young musicians to consistently define the cutting edge of jazz for the past 40 years. He has anchored the trios of Paul Bley (1968-72), Bill Dixon (1980's), and the late Thomas Chapin (1990-97), and co-led a variety of notable ensembles with Anthony Braxton, Wadada Leo Smith, Marty Ehrlich, and Michael Musillami.
I first discovered Pavone around 1980, when he began an 18-year musical relationship with Chapin, which would lead to a number of collaborations, most notably Chapin's seminal trio with drummer Michael Sarin. Mario has been working with filmmaker Stephanie Castillo on a film she is making about Chapin’s too-brief life and career, most recently playing a fundraiser at the City Wintery in Manhattan with John Zorn, Dave Douglas, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Matt Wilson, Steve Bernstein, Marcus Rojas, Pablo Aslan, and more
Podcast 436 is my conversation with Mario, as he prepares for the residency, and features tunes from a number of his CDs, including "Miro" from Trio Arc; "Elkna" and "Alban Berg" from the new Street Songs; and "Don't Mind If I Do" from his tribute album to Thomas Chapin, Remembering Thomas - Nu Trio.
Direct download: Podcast_436_-_A_Conversation_with_Mario_Pavone.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 2:00 PM
Fri, 4 July 2014
American Independence Day 2014. We celebrate with cookouts, fireworks and concerts, but often fail to recall the brave words that were written by our forefathers in Philadelphia in 1776:
When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.
He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.
He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature.
He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states:
For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing taxes on us without our consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:
For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses:
For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule in these colonies:
For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments:
For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high seas to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.
We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.
The official Straight No Chaser song of Independence Day is Ray Charles version of "America the Beautiful". It seems strangely appropriate that we in the 21st century are able to listen to a recording made in the 20th century, featuring a blind African-American man singing a song with lyrics by a white woman (Katherine Lee Bates), with melody based on a 19th century hymn written by a white man (Samuel Ward). Enjoy!
Category:general -- posted at: 1:00 PM
Fri, 27 June 2014
Thirty years has now passed since a group of young jazz musicians were tagged with the title “The Young Lions”, and released a series of albums and performances that helped change the direction and flow of jazz. Mark Whitfield would have to be near the top of the Second Wave of Young Lions, along with Christian McBride, Carl Allen, Tim Warfield, Benny Green, Marlon Jordan and Roy Hargrove, all of whom appeared with him as The Jazz Futures in a live Newport Jazz Festival recording in 1993.
Whitfield had graduated from Boston's prestigious Berklee College in the Spring of 1987, having studied composition and arranging as well as all styles of guitar performance. Upon graduation, he returned to his native New York to embark on a career as a jazz guitarist that afforded him the opportunity to collaborate with the legendary artists that first inspired him, including Hammond B-3 masters Brother Jack McDuff and Jimmy Smith; Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey, Clark Terry, Herbie Hancock, Stanley Turrentine and his greatest teacher and mentor, George Benson.
Along the way, the New York Times dubbed Whitfield "The Best Young Guitarist in the Business" and in September of 1990 Warner Bros. released his solo debut, The Marksman. The success of this release has led to a recording career that has produced 14 solo projects to date and a myriad of collaborative efforts with a kaleidoscope of different artists in recent years; Sting, D'Angelo, Mary J. Blige, Chaka Khan, John Mayer, Jill Scott, Roy Hargrove, Diana Krall, Lauryn Hill, and Chris Botti.
In September of 2005, Mark Whitfield accepted the invitation to join the faculty at his alma mater. His recordings have been sporadic since then, having not released a CD since his CD tribute album Songs of Wonder. However, recent appearances onstage with the Dave Matthews Band have shown that he has not missed a lick in that time.
So it wasn’t a surprise when Whitfield was tabbed for the guitar chair in the Newport Now60 Band, touring through the Festival circuit this summer. Led by clarinetist and saxophonist Anat Cohen, the ensemble features vocalist Karrin Allyson; five-time Grammy- winning trumpet wizard, Randy Brecker; guitarist Whitfield; and pianist Peter Martin; with Clarence Penn on drums and Larry Grenadier on bass. The Rochester, Montreal, Ottawa and Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival all have them on their lineups for late June gigs, and (of course) the Newport Jazz Festival has them on tap for August.
Podcast 435 is my conversation with Mark, as he talks about the Now60 Band, his upcoming projects, and his great joy to be working with his son, Mark Whitfield, Jr., an up-and-coming jazz drummer. Musical selections from the Whitfield catalog are featured, including "Little Digi's Strut" from The Marksman, and two tracks from Patrice - the solo "We'll Be Together Again" and a funky tribute to his former boss, "Brother Jack".
Direct download: Podcast_435_-_A_Conversation_with_Mark_Whitfield.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 2:40 PM
Thu, 26 June 2014
Legendary drummer, Ginger Baker, renowned for his work with Cream and Blind Faith was once voted at "The musician least likely to survive the '60s." But now, four decades and a few years later, he has proved them all wrong and he is heading to the United States for a June 2014 jazz fusion tour and a new CD titled Why? due June 24 on Motema Music.
Teaming up with funk and jazz giant tenor saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis--the architect of James Brown's era-defining soul of the late '60s and Van Morrison’s musical director for years; bassist Alec Dankworth; and African percussionist Abass Dodoo, the band is known as Ginger Baker’s Jazz Confusion. Together they play hip, progressive jazz originals in-a-Thelonious-Monk-style but with exciting African rhythms. After a brief series of stops in the US, including B.B. King’s in New York City June 24-25 and the Wilbur Theater in Boston June 29, they will appear at the Montreal Jazz Festival on June 30.
Baker has shunned the title of “Rock Drummer” for years, pointing out that the improvisational nature of his work with bands like Cream and Blind Faith owed far more to jazz than rock. When the latter group broke up after only one album, several members went on to form a jazz rock fusion band known as ‘Ginger Baker’s Airforce,’ adding sax, flute, organ and extra percussion to the band.
After leaving Brown, he worked as an arranger and musical director for CTI Records' Kudu label, collaborating with artists like George Benson, Hank Crawford and Esther Phillips. In the late 1970s he moved to San Francisco and formed a band with former Miles Davis sideman David Liebman. He also led the JB Horns with Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker. This man oozes funk from every pore.
I spoke with Pee Wee from London, and our conversation – which is difficult to hear sometimes, but please bear with us – is Podcast 434. Musical selections “Aiko Byae”, “St. Thomas” and “Footsteps” from Why? are included, as well as a Jaco version of “The Chicken”.
Ginger Baker’s Jazz Confusion will perform at Boston's Wilbur Theatre, 246 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02116 on Sunday, June 29, 2014 at 7 PM. Tickets at $55, $45 and $25 are on sale now at www.ticketmaster.com. For more information go to www.thewilbur.com.
Direct download: Podcast_434_-_A_Conversation_with_Pee_Wee_Ellis.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 1:00 PM
Wed, 25 June 2014
The 37th annual Freihofer's Saratoga Jazz Festival, one of the most celebrated and longest running jazz events in the world will be held on Saturday, June 28 and Sunday, June 29 at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. This year's festival headliners include Earth, Wind & Fire, Trombone Shorty, Terence Blanchard, Dave Holland Prism, Patti Austin, Jon Batiste & Stay Human, Eddie Palmieri Salsa Orchestra, Dr. Lonnie Smith, and Newport Jazz Festival®: Now 60, among others. Tickets for the festival will be available online beginning February 25 for Saratoga Performing Arts Center's highest level members and March 18 for the general public. Tickets and information are available at www.spac.org.
Located in Saratoga Springs, New York at the bucolic Saratoga Performing Arts Center, the festival was founded in 1978 by jazz impresario George Wein and has hosted a who's who of jazz greats over the years including Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, B.B. King, Wayne Shorter and Ray Charles. With an inside seating capacity of 5,200, lawn seating of 20,000, world class jazz talent performing on two stages, and an idyllic state park setting located just three hours driving time from either Boston or New York City, the festival draws thousands of fans from across the Northeast and throughout North America.
One of the great joys – and ultimately dilemmas – of the Festival is the high quality of acts on two stages; the inside shed Main Stage and outdoor Gazebo Stage. While the household names play on the Main Stage, the up-and-coming or lesser known acts are on the latter, and they include some of my favorites, including the Marc Cary Focus Trio, Jaimeo Brown, Mary Halvorson Trio, Sean Jones Quartet, Warren Wolf & Wolfpack, and Tim Berne's Snakeoil, all of whom are making their festival debuts. The stage will also feature returning saxophonist Lew Tabackin with his trio.
While two-days and two-stages of live, world class jazz is the centerpiece of the weekend, fans can also enjoy a host of amenities including a fine arts and crafts fair, CD signings by artists, a full-service bar in the Hall of Springs, southern style barbeque and other food vendors, all presented by Stella Artois. Guests are welcome to bring in their own food and beverages, as well as blankets, tents and lawn umbrellas. Parking for the event is free.
As he has for the past few years, Danny Melnick, President of Absolutely Live Entertainment, which co-produces the festival with SPAC, joins us for a podcast preview of the weekend. Podcast 433 features our conversation about the festival, including musical selections from some of the performers, including:
Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters - "My Buddy Buddy Friends" from Now My Soul.
Terence Blanchard - "Comet" from Magnetic.
Earth, Wind & Fire - "Got to Get You Into My Life" from The Essential Earth, Wind & Fire.
Marc Carey Focus Trio - "Indigenous" from Four Directions.
Trombone Shorty - "Vieux Carre" from Say That to Say This.
Direct download: Podcast_433_-_Previewing_Freihofers_Saratoga_Jazz_Festival_with_Danny_Melnick.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 2:00 PM
Sat, 21 June 2014
By the time you've read this posting, the Summer Solstice will have occurred. For those scientifically inclined, that's the moment when the sun's apparent position on the celestial sphere reaches its greatest distance above or below the celestial equator, about 23 1/2° of arc. At the time of summer solstice, the sun is directly overhead at noon at the Tropic of Cancer. Or, you can simply say it's the first day of summer.
So let's celebrate this day with the appropriately titled song "Summer Solstice", the title track from saxophonist Azar Lawrence. Lawrence has been unjustly ignored in recent years, given his strong background. Beginning at the age of 19, he has been supporting acts as diverse as Woody Shaw (he played on "The Moontrane"), War, Earth,Wind & Fire and Ike & Tina Turner. He played sax for Elvin Jones for two years, and was part of McCoy Tyner's band for another five years.
His most notable recording as a sideman came when he was chosen by Miles Davis to perform with his band at Carnegie Hall, concerts that would eventually be released on album as Dark Magus.As a leader, Lawrence has released six albums, most notably his 2010 release Mystic Journey. Lawrence and his quartet will concentrate on that material when he performs on the closing evening of the Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz July 20, 2009.
Category:general -- posted at: 11:00 AM
Thu, 19 June 2014
The passing of Horace Silver yesterday at the age of 85 takes me back to the beginning of my real jazz education in the early 1970’s.
My Dad, Bert Siegel, was a jazz fan and persistent record collector. Some of my earliest memories involve hearing the music he played on the Hi-Fi. He played double bass and accordion as a teenager and college student, and was a huge fan of West Coast Cool Jazz, and “The Chairman of the Board”, Frank Sinatra. Although his bass stood in the living room as a decorative touch rather than a musical instrument, he stayed a jazz fan. .I may have heard “Take Five” before I heard “Old MacDonald Had a Farm.”
To me, Jazz was serious stuff, which is probably why I didn’t really pay that much attention to jazz when I started listening to rock music as a teenager. Where my Dad and my tastes started to come together, and where I had my first “a-ha” moment regarding jazz came when I played my new copy of Pretzel Logic by a band with which I wasn’t really familiar called Steely Dan. My friend Paul swore by them, and he had been right about Todd Rundgren’s Something/Anything so I picked it up.
The first track began with some kind of burbling percussion, and then slid into what I would later learn was a pretty direct cop of the bass line from Horace Silver’s “Song for My Father.” That 1965 tune was a classic of hard bop, with a bossa nova beat and trumpet-sax harmonies, a hallmark of the Blue Note label.
I’m not sure if it was that bossa nova sound – Stan Getz was Dad’s main man – or the familiarity of the bass riff, but my Dad was definitely intrigued by Steely Dan. From that day forward, I could always play their albums in the car. “He’s pretty good, that Steely Dan. He swings,” Dad was known to say. I never had the heart to tell him that it was a “they”, not a “he”. If he caught the X-rated Williams S. Burroughs reference in the band’s name, he never let on.
Checking out the liner notes and lyrics on the sleeve of “Pretzel Logic” I quickly figured out that these guys were into something more serious than your average rock and roll. Not only were there the stolen Silver beats on “Rikki, Don’t Lose that Number”, but they name-checked Charlie “Bird” Parker tunes on “Parker’s Band”:
You'll be riding by, bareback on your armadillo
You'll be grooving high or relaxing at Camarillo
There was also a wah-wah filled cover of Duke Ellington’s “East St. Louis Toodle-Oo” that closed the first side of the record. Pretty heady stuff for a 14 year old to digest. I checked out Horace Silver, Parker and Ellington right away, and have never left that road.
The point of this story is that Horace Silver’s music was so deceptively easy to love, so seductive, slinky, rhythmic and melodic, that his music could win over the heart of a 14 year old rock & roll fan. As a result, his music remains near and dear to my heart. I will miss “the Hard-Bop Grand Pop” was much, but will be able to turn to his music forever.
Category:general -- posted at: 12:18 PM