Tue, 9 February 2016
Today at 12:08 PM
It happens a little earlier on the calendar this year, but the goings on in New Orleans are unmistakable.
For those interested in the religious significant, “Mardi Gras” is the term for Fat Tuesday, or more appropriately, Shrove Tuesday (“Shrove” coming from the word “shrive”, or “confess”). Mardi Gras is French for "Fat Tuesday", reflecting the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season begins.
In New Orleans, the Mardi Gras celebrations begin on Twelfth Night, the last of the Twelve Days of Christmas, and carry on through Ash Wednesday. Parades and general madness that precede the actual Mardi Gras Day, mostly on the riverfront area and French Quarter fall under the category of “Lundi Gras.”
Nancy and I were in New Orleans a week before Mardi Gras last year, and got swept up in the excitement and general bacchanalia that happens there. We even got to take part in a parade by the Krewe of the Cork, a wine, food and fun themed society that strut their stuff in the French Quarter. Click here for a picture from the 2016 Krewe of the Cork parade last month.
The three traditional Mardi Gras colors were selected in 1872 to honor the visiting Russian Grand Duke Romanoff whose house colors were purple, green, and gold. Purple represents justice, green represents faith, and gold represents power.
So it’s time to let the good times roll wherever you are, and enjoy Podcast 52_, an hour plus of uninterrupted Mew Orleans themed and styled music, featuring:
Pete Fountain – "Walking Through New Orleans"
Stanton Moore - "Paul Barbarin's Second Line"
The Hot 8 Brass Band - "We Shall Walk Through the Streets of the City"
Donald Byrd - "House of the Rising Sun"
Wild Bill Davidson - "Big Butter and Egg Man"
Dr. John - "Dis, Dat Or D'Udda"
Cyrille Neville - "Swamp Funk"
Wycliffe Gordon - "Le Marieur"
Davell Crawford - "Ooh Wee Sugar"
The Dirty Dozen Brass Band - "I Shall Not Be Moved"
Kid Ory & His Creole Jazz Band - "Sugar Foot Stomp"
Trombone Shorty - 'In the 6th'
Wynton Marsalis - "Uptown Ruler"
Aaron Neville - "Meetin' at the Building"
Jimmy Smith – “When the Saints Go Marching”
Mon, 8 February 2016
Those who think that jazz-rock fusion is gone should think again. If you listen to Naked Truth’s latest CD, Avian Thug, you would think it never left.
Naked Truth is a quartet composed of Lorenzo Feliciati (bass), Graham Haynes (trumpet), Roy Powell (keyboard, organ and synthesizers) and Pat Mastelotto (drums and percussion). All four augment their instruments with electronics and effects, and Feliciati is joined by Bill Laswell in post-production to add subtle but successfully arranged effects.
The spirit of Electric-era Miles hangs over the recording, especially the rhythmic complexities and textures of Bitches Brew. But this is no homage, nor does it borrow directly from that legendary recording. Rather, these four top improvisers have created music that captures the heart of that sound, but have made I most definitely their own. Haynes electric trumpet would be the easiest to call “Miles-esque”, but he goes beyond Davis’ legendary high-end stabs with
Feliciati, a veteran of six other RareNoise Record releases, takes his bass to a less restrictive and less stereotypical place. Not content to groove along, he moves
Podcast 520 is my conversation with Lorenzo as we discuss the varying incarnations of Naked Truth, how the band records (hint – not too many takes!) and the making of his well-received KOI CD. Musical selections include "Dancing with the Demons of Reality" from their CD Ouroboros; and "Lazy Elephant", “Rapid Fire” and the title track from Avian Thug.
In addition to my conversation with Lorenzo, I got to spend a few minutes with Pat Mastelotto as he prepared to leave his home in Austin for Europe. Naked Truth is another part of his musical evolution – from being a member of the top pop band Mr. Mister; to studio work with the likes of the Sugarcubes, Hall & Oates and XTC; to holding down a drum seat with some of the most important Progressive Rock bands of the past decades, King Crimson, the Flower Kings and KTU, and the Stick Men. He has played with fusion veterans like Eddie Jobson and Allen Holdsworth, and now anchors the rhythm section of Naked Truth.
Direct download: Podcast_520_-_The_Naked_Truth_with_Lorenzo_Feliciati_and_Pat_Mastelotto.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:18pm EST
Fri, 5 February 2016
Another major musical figure of the 1970’s has left us. Maurice White, the major creative force behind Earth, Wind & Fire, passed away yesterday from complications due to Parkinson’s disease. His band was one of the few groups of the rock era to successfully mix R&B, funk, jazz and rock into a sound that appealed to listeners of all races.
White was born in Memphis in 1941, but moved in Chicago in his teens. There he became the house drummer for Chess Records where he backed artists like Etta James, Muddy Waters, and for the jazz-oriented sublabel Argo, Sonny Stitt. It is his sound that propelled classics like “Rescue Me” by Fontella Bass and “Summertime” by Billy Stewart up the charts.
In 1966 he joined the highly successful (and former Chess artist) Ramsey Lewis to create the second great Lewis Trio that included Cleveland Eaton on bass. White played on the Grammy Award winning “Hold It Right There”, as well as classics like “Wade in the Water.” He departed the Lewis Trio amicably, and would collaborate with his former boss successfully in the future, contributing his talents to “Sun Goddess” and the Urban Knights albums.
In 1969 White moved to Los Angeles with his brother, bass player Verdine White, and two friends and began the process of creating a band that would allow him to mix jazz, R&B and rock. Naming the group after his interest in astrology, Earth, Wind & Fire was moderately successful in their initial carnation, most notably recording the soundtrack to the Black Power film Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song. Rearranging band members and signing with Columbia Records, the band recorded one of its signature tunes, “Power” in 1972, a White composition that stands up well against jazz fusion recordings of the day.
The band began chart success in 1973, and by 1975 they had become the first Black group to top the Billboard pop singles and album charts with “Shining Star” and That’s the Way of the World. 90 million records later, the band is among the most successful and honored groups of all time. White left the group after his diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease in 1995, but continued to be an integral part of the band’s management and production until his death. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000, and White joined his bandmates onstage.
Earth, Wind & Fire was not without its critics. Funk pioneer George Clinton once dismissed them as “Earth, Too Much Wind, Not Enough Fire.” But artists like Miles Davis described Earth, Wind & Fire as his "all-time favorite band" saying, "they have everything (horns, electric guitar, singers and more) in one band". Quincy Jones has proclaimed himself to be the "biggest fan of Earth, Wind & Fire since day one." And Barak Obama hired the band to play the first social event he held upon entering the White House.
Category:general -- posted at: 2:01pm EST
Thu, 4 February 2016
I’ve been planning this podcast since the Fall, when I spoke with trumpeter Randy Brecker about his latest CD, RandyPop! That CD was a reimagining by Randy of just a few of the many rock, soul and funk tunes that he had been called upon to play on over the course of his career. That got me thinking of how many jazz musicians had been called upon by popular musicians for their recordings, going back to the mid-60’s.
The passing of Phil Woods made me realize the Podcast was a necessity. So many non-jazz fans learned of the great alto player from his extremely memorable guest work on at least two classic tracks – Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are” and Steely Dan’s "Dr. Wu”. Perhaps I could turn more non-jazz fans to the music if they only knew that jazz musicians had been a key component of classic rock tunes over the years. When David Bowie hired the Donny McCaslin Group for his BlackStar album, the deal was done.
So Podcast 519 is my first attempt at a retrospective of pop and rock acts that added jazz musicians for key solos or to fill out a particular sound they had in mind. I enjoyed doing this, and I promise that I will do a few more before the year is out.
Musical selections for this Podcast, including the artist and the jazz contributor(s) include:
The Mamas and the Papas - “California Dreamin’” – Bud Shank, alto flute.
The Doors – “Touch Me” – Curtis Amy, sax
Ian Hunter – “All-American Alien Boy” – David Sanborn, sax and Jaco Pastorius, bass
Lou Reed – “The Bells” – Don Cherry, trumpet
Steely Dan – “Aja” – Wayne Shorter, sax; Joe Sample, electric piano; and Larry Carlton, guitar
Sting – “Moon Over Bourbon Street” – Branford Marsalis, sax; Kenny Kirkland, piano; and Omar Hakim, drums
The Rolling Stones – “Waiting On a Friend” – Sonny Rollins, sax
Thu, 21 January 2016
Since winning the “Triple Crown” of Jazz Vocal Competitions – Montreux Jazz Festival, Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocal Competition and Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition – Cyrille Aimee has been working hard at carving out a special place for her talents in the music world. While she plays and has recorded with her traditional jazz backing group, the Surreal Band, her recordings for Detroit’s Mack Avenue label have eschewed the piano/horn sound of most singers.
Instead, she has drawn on her life experiences, growing up the daughter of a Dominican mother and French father in the town of Samois-sux-Seine in France, the home of the annual Django Reinhardt Festival. The result is a multi-guitar approach to jazz sound with a wink at gypsy jazz, an approach that suits her sometimes chirpy vocal style to a T.
Let’s Get Lost is her second album for Mack Avenue (after 2014’s It’s a Good Day), and again it mixes originals with her versions of lesser known standards and international sounds. Her band – Adrien Maignard and Michael Valeanu on guitars, Sam Anning on bass and Rajiv Jayaweera on drums – is a tight, well-executed ensemble, and they lift the songs in every way.
Her version of the title song, best known as a slightly-up-tempo ballad from Chet Baker, is a good insight into the Aimee approach. Rather than give us yet another cover version of a great song, we get a version that brings to mind flappers and bootleg gin, the tune taken a Charleston-like speed.
Podcast 518 is my conversation with Cyrille, where we discuss her musical origins, how she chooses material, and the nature of her sound. Musical selections include a top-notch cover of Stephen Sondheim’s “Live Alone and Like It”, the title track, "Each Day" and her creative collaboration with Valeanu on “Nine More Minutes”.
Direct download: Podcast_518_-_A_Conversation_with_Cyrille_Aimee.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 12:00pm EST
Wed, 20 January 2016
Multi-instrumentalists are not unusual on the bandstand or in the studio these days. Reed players switch off from clarinet to saxophone, string players move between multi-stringed instruments from around the world. What IS unusual is Mark Weinstein’s multi-instrumental tale. By the age of 14, when he started to play trombone in Erasmus Hall High School, he also tried clarinet and drums. Playing his first professional gig on trombone at 15, he added string bass, a common double in NYC at that time.
A few years later, along with Barry Rogers, Weinstein formed Eddie Palmieri’s first trombone section, changing the sound of salsa forever. With his heart in jazz, Weinstein was a major contributor to the development of the salsa trombone playing and arranging. He extended jazz attitudes and techniques in his playing with salsa bands. His arrangements broadened the harmonic base of salsa while introducing folkloric elements for authenticity and depth. Mark continued to record with Eddie Palmieri, with Cal Tjader and with Tito Puente. He toured with Herbie Mann for years, played with Maynard Ferguson, and the big bands of Joe Henderson, Clark Terry, Jones and Lewis, Lionel Hampton, Duke Pearson and Kenny Dorham. In 1967 he wrote and recorded the Afro-Cuban jazz album, Cuban Roots for the legendary salsa producer Al Santiago. Called by many the “Holy Grail of Latin Jazz” due to its rarity today, the album revolutionized Latin jazz; combining authentic folkloric drum ensembles with harmonically complex extended jazz solos and arrangements. Chick Corea was on piano and the rhythm section included the finest and most knowledgeable Latin drummers: Julito Collazo, Tommy Lopez Sr. and Papaito (timbalero with La Sonora Matancera) .
And then, a change of heart, a change of lifestyle and a change of career found Mark Weinstein putting away the trombone forever.
It took almost ten years before he returned to the music scene. He earned a Ph.D in Philosophy with a specialization in mathematical logic. He became a college professor (and remains so until this day). When he returned to the music scene in 1978 playing the flute, he wrote produced and recorded the Orisha Suites. Slowly her returned to the jazz world, and now has released more than 25 albums of jazz flute, touching on Brazlia, Latin Jazz, Straight Ahead and now, Jewish Themes on his new CD In Jerusalem.
Taking classic Hasidic melodies that occurred in liturgy known as “nigun” – wordless melody to sing in preparation of or participation in prayer – he has assembled a group to bring a jazz treatment to ancient music. Joining Mark on the CD are guitarist Steve Peskoff, bassist Gilad Abro, drummer Haim Peskoff (Steve’s son) and percussionist Gilad Dobrecky.
Podcast 516 is my conversation with Mark Weinstein about his career, his transition from Trombone to Flute and the new CD. Musical selections from In Jerusalem include: “Reporzaras”, “Mizmor L’David”, “Meir’s Nigun” and a waltz dedicated to his parents “Yaakov U’ Malka.”
Direct download: Podcast_516_-_A_Conversation_with_Mark_Weinstein.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 12:00pm EST
Mon, 18 January 2016
To honor the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King on the anniversary of his birth, here is the Official Straight No Chaser song of the holiday - “Martin was a Man, a Real Man” as recorded by Oliver Nelson in 1969. The band for the recording included Nelson, Pearl Kaufmann and Roger Kellaway (piano); Chuck Domanico (bass); John Guerin and Roy Haynes (drums); Frank Stroizer and John Gross (sax) and Bob Bryant (trumpet).
For a previous podcast tribute to Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, click here. For a 2008 podcast of tunes from Charlie Haden's Liberation Orchestra, Grant Green, Cecil Payne, Horace Silver, and the Blind Boys of Alabama that are appropriate for the day, click here.
Category:general -- posted at: 10:00am EST
Sat, 16 January 2016
For those of you who are fans of seminal fusion groups like Weather Report and Steps Ahead, the drumming of Peter Erskine is well ingrained in your musical memory. Erskine moved away from that louder, more frenetic music years ago, becoming a more accomplished jazz drummer, and then beginning a career in film scores, education and musical application development as his interests in music in general grew.
For those who needed a prescription for his old music, let me declare firmly - the doctor will see you now.
Dr.Um (read it slowly and you'll get the wordplay) is his latest CD, a plugged-in delight that is sitting on top of the Amazon.com Jazz CD charts as I write this posting. Why did Peter return to his fusion background after all this time? Maybe it was all the time he spent immersed in Weather Report lore and music in 2015, having worked on the Jaco Pastorius documentary and the Weather Report box set The Legendary Live Tapes 1978-1981. Regardless of the reason, the CD is a joy, satisfying both the nostalgia of older fans with the sense of exploration and discovery a new generation of music fans should feel with each listen.
Erskine's discography is approaching 700 albums at this point, so he has nothing to prove. Yet there is a spirit of joy that permeates Dr. Um, of an artist shining a light on music he wants to share, not afraid to not take himself too seriously, and work with old and new musical friends on a project.
Podcast 517 is my conversation with Peter Erskine, as he discusses the new CD, spins tales of Weather Report, and talks about the rise of music apps. Musical selections include three tracks from Dr. Um, Joe Zawinul's "Bourges Buenos Aires", Erskine's "Hawaiian Bathing Suit" and a radically re-arranged version of Vince Mendoza's "Sprite"; plus Weather Report's "Fast City" from The Legendary Live Tapes 1978-1981.
Direct download: Podcast_517_-_A_Conversation_with_Peter_Erskine.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 1:00pm EST
Fri, 8 January 2016
Four years ago I posted a review of The Wee Trio’s Ashes to Ashes – A David Bowie Intraspective, and had these comments:
Rock Star/actor David Bowie turned 65 earlier this week. One of the great musical chameleons of our time – perhaps only Miles Davis tried more musical styles and guises during his career – he’s unfortunately something of a recluse these days, producing little new work. He’s left a body of recorded projects that dominate my iPod – I go nowhere without Ziggy Stardust, Station to Station, Low and ‘Heroes’.
How things can change! Bowie turns 69 years old today, and rather than resuming to the musical hiatus that ended in 2014, he has released one of his most interesting and talked-about albums since Jimmy Carter was in the White House.
Blackstar is also Bowie’s attempt to bring jazz into his music in a bigger way. A saxophone player from way back, Bowie has had jazz flourishes in many tunes, and has hired the likes of Lester Bowie to play trumpet and David Sanborn to play sax for him. However, his 2014 collaboration with the Maria Schneider Orchestra, “Sue (or a Season in Crime)” marked an outright jazz approach to the textures and structures of his longer musical pieces.
A key soloist for Ms. Schneider is SNC favorite Donny McCaslin, and working with Bowie on that track (click here for my interview with Donny and his comments on the session) clearly made an impression, since Blackstar features the Donny McCaslin Group as Bowie’s backup band. McCaslin on saxophones, Jason Lindner on keyboards, Tim Lefebvre on electric bass and Mark Guiliana on drums make for formidable foils on the new material. In fact, much of the sound is similar to the past two McCaslin Group albums, Casting for Gravity and Fast Future, which successfully stretched the boundaries of jazz and electronica, putting texture, beats and effects ahead of chord changes as the center of the listener's experience. Click here for a thorough New York Times article about the collaboration.
That said, Blackstar is not a jazz album.
Not that that’s a bad thing. In these days a handful of our best, and most adventurous artists are looking to stretch their music beyond genre or type. I think of Robert Glasper, or Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah in jazz; Kendrick Lamar in hip-hop, and any number of electronica artists, an area that drummer Guiliana approached successfully in his Mehliana and Beat Music releases.
So Blackstar can be enjoyed for Bowie’s grafting of 21st century jazz sound onto his rock sensibilities. He wisely lets Jason Linder take a big part in the overall sound and Lefebvre’s throbbing bass clearly has been honed to crossover perfection during his tenure with the Tedeschi Trucks Band. McCaslin lets loose with a number of great solos (check out “’Tis a Pity She’s a Whore”, with Bowie audibly registering his wonder), and guest Ben Monder has a winner of a guitar solo on “I Can’t Give Everything Away.” I look forward to repeated listening revealing more musical excitement.
Podcast 515 discusses and shares some of the music from Blackstar, as well as features a number of jazz artists performing Bowie’s music. Happy 69th, David, and keep it up. Musical selections in the podcast include:
David Bowie (with the Maria Schneider Orchestra) – “Sue (Or in the Season of Crime)” from Nothing Has Changed.
David Bowie – “Tis a Pity She was a Whore” from Blackstar
Bad Plus – “Life on Mars?” from Prog
Robert Glasper Experiment (featuring Bilal) – “Letter to Hermione” from Black Radio
The Wee Trio - “Ashes to Ashes” from Ashes to Ashes: A David Bowie Intraspective
Dylan Howe – “Warzsawa” from Subterranean: New Designs on Bowie’s Berlin
Wed, 6 January 2016
Yesterday I posted a brief obituary of pianist Paul Bley, who passed away on January 3, 2016. For a musician, a written memorial seems empty. Therefore, here is Podcast 514, nearly an hour of the music of Bley, in varying combos, including a number of solo performances.
A first listen to these selections, which admittedly are chosen and programmed somewhat at random, might lead a listener to think Bley a bit cold or analytic. But listen again, particularly in his great trio recordings with Gary Peacock (bass) and Paul Motian (drums) to hear the varying ideas, approaches and heart that permeates his playing.
Musical selections include:
Paul Bley with Charles Mingus and Art Blakey – “Spontaneous Combustion” from Introducing…
Paul Bley – “Once Around the Park” from Fragments
Paul Bley – “Seven” from Homage to Carla
Paul Bley & Gary Peacock – “Sunrise Sunlight” from Mindset
Paul Bley, Gary Peacock, Tony Oxley & John Surman – “Spe-cu-lay-ting” from In the Evening Out There
Paul Bley – “Compassion” from Notes On Ornette
Paul Bley – “Late Night Blue” from Blues for Red
Paul Bley, Gary Peacock & Paul Motian – “Don’t You Know” from Not Two, Not One
Paul Bley – “Mondsee Variations X” from Solo in Mondsee
Paul Bley Trio – “Goodbye” from My Standard