Thu, 22 September 2016
If you listened to Podcast 471 last March, you heard singer/composer Thana Alexa sing the praises of guitarist Gene Ess. Ms. Alexa collaborated with Gene on his two releases, Fractal Attraction and Eternal Monomyth, two of a series of fine albums he has made since leaving the Rashied Ali Quartet over a decade ago.
Growing up on a US Army base in Okinawa, Japan, Gene was exposed at an early age to a wide variety of music (his mother is a classical pianist), which goes a long way to explain his sound on electric guitar. A graduate of Berklee School of Music, he arrived in New York after a chance meeting with Rashied Ali. The drummer, who was a member of John Coltrane’s last band and a veteran of sessions with Gary Bartz, Alice Coltrane and David Murray, helped shape Ess’ approach to jazz and to life itself, bringing him closer to Coltrane and his legacy than any text could ever. Ess traveled the world with Ali, and played with Coltrane alum Reggie Workman; Coltrane’s son Ravi; Carlos Santana and Lonnie Plaxico.
He has released six albums under his own name, the most recent of which have added vocals to his already eclectic sound. Ess’ latest CD is Absurdist Theater. He has again brought Ms. Alexa on board to lend her vocals (she also contributes lyrics to two tunes) and assembled a truly diverse band – Cuban pianist Manuel Valera; Japanese bassist Yasushi Nakamura and American Clarence Penn on drums. Thematically the CD attempts to take the listener on a journey to explore the philosophical idea of absurdism, contrasting our search of meaning in this life with the sheer joy of musical aesthetics. If this all sounds pretty weighty be assured that the music is hardly ponderous and overwrought.
Musical selections include “Torii (The Gate)” and Gene’s tribute to Ornette Coleman, “Forkball”.
A CD release party for Absurdist Theater will take place at the Blue Note in New York on September 25th, 2016.
Tue, 30 August 2016
What seems a lifetime ago, I had the opportunity to serve on a panel to award grant money from the Connecticut Commission on the Arts to musical applicants. My group reviewed instrumental music, and one of the members of the panel was none other than Anthony Braxton. For those who are unfamiliar with the name, Mr. Braxton is one of the foremost composers and performers of avant-garde jazz, opera and instrumental music of the past sixty years.
Mr. Braxton was at that time serving a as professor at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, so his inclusion in the Commission’s deliberations was fortuitous. I could not have asked for a more polite, warm and open person with whom to spend an afternoon, and despite the huge gap in knowledge between himself and the rest of the panel, he generously acknowledged our opinions and was patient in explaining his views.
Now just past 70 years old, Mr. Braxton has recorded hundreds of albums during his career. From his time at the AACM in Chicago, to his quartet collaborations with the likes of Chick Corea, Kenny Wheeler, Sam Rivers and Dave Holland (Circle; Conference of the Birds), to Creative Orchestra Music, “Ghost Trance Music,” Trillian Opera and other large and small group improvisations; Mr. Braxton has eschewed any sort of genre or characterization for his daring and challenging music.
As a way of exploring his music, most notably his post-1980 compositions and recordings, trumpeter-composer Nate Wooley has devoted the latest issue of his on-line publication, Sound American to Anthony Braxton. Essays written by the foremost scholars and performers of these compositions have made contributions to the site, which you can read now at no cost (although donations are most welcome, and should be made immediately). Complete with streaming samples of Braxton’s music to illustrate the points made by the writers, this is an indispensable guide to those who know and love Anthony Braxton’s work, and a key to entering the world of his sound if you do not.
Nate Wooley has become one of jazz’s latest versions of a Renaissance Man, writing about and composing music; performing with his trumpet as part of the downtown free jazz, experimental, rock, and noise scenes; crating his own Pleasure of the Text music label; and generally standing out as one of today’s great improvisational innovators. He has just released two new CDs, the hypnotizing Argonautica, his tribute to and collaboration with mentor Ron Miles (Firehouse 12 Records), and the ecstatic Seven Storey Mountain Von his own label. A the 2016 FCA Grants to Artists Awards recipient from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts , he was awarded $40,000 to use for future work alongside percussionist William Winant, composer Ashley Fure, and legendary vocalist Joan LaBarbara.
Podcast 548 is my conversation with Nate about Anthony Braxton, Sound American, and his latest (and coming) musical projects. Musical selections include a Braxton quartet recording including Kenny Wheeler, and Dave Holland(“Opus 60“); "Fifth Meeting" from a trio recording with William Parker and Milford Graves called Beyond Quantum; an excerpt from one of his "Echo Echo House" Recordings from Three Compositions, and a brief excerpt from Wooley’s Argonautica.
Direct download: Podcast_548_-_A_Conversation_with_Nate_Wooley_about_Anthony_Braxton.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 11:16am EDT
Wed, 17 August 2016
Bobby Hutcherson, a vibraphonist whose adventurous, harmonically challenging playing in the 1960s made him one of the most influential jazz musicians on his instrument, died Aug. 15 at his home in Montara, California at the age of 75. The cause was emphysema.
Bobby Hutcherson – Title Track from Medina
Grant Green – “Django” from Idle Moments
Bobby Hutcherson – “Blues Mind Matter” from Stick-Up!
Jackie McLean – “Blue Rondo” from One Step Beyond
Eric Dolphy – “Something Sweet, Something Tender” from Out to Lunch!
Harold Land – “Timetable” from The Peace-Maker
Andrew Hill – “Alfred” from Judgment!
Bobby Hutcherson – “’For Heaven's Sake" from Enjoy the View
Tue, 16 August 2016
It's summer in New England, so why not some summer themed music for these lazy, hot days? Today is August 16th, the feast day of Saint Roch, the patron saint of Dogs, so why not celebrate the "Dog Days"?
The Romans referred to the dog days as diēs caniculārēs and associated the hot weather with the star Sirius. They considered Sirius to be the "Dog Star" because it is the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major (Large Dog), as well as the brightest star in the night sky. The term "Dog Days" was used earlier by the Greeks in Aristotle's Physics.
The Dog Days originally were the days when Sirius rose just before or at the same time as sunrise, which is no longer true, owing to procession of the equinoxes. The Romans sacrificed a brown dog (Sorry Angus and Hamish, my two miniature dachshunds!) at the beginning of the Dog Days to appease the rage of Sirius, believing that the star was the cause of the hot, sultry weather.
I've done four previous Dog Day postings, Podcast 292, Podcast 225, Podcast 442, and Podcast 492 if you'd like some more summer-themed music. There's a few repeats between these posts, but what the hey. It’s all grooving or relaxing music for soaking in those wonderful warming rays. Winter is just around the corner, and I am gonna grab all the warmth I can. Look for me on my deck with Angus and Hamish - and Nancy - and a cold beverage or two. I’ve been learning a bit of mixology, so I think Frozen Whiskey Smash is the drink of the day.
Podcast 546 features the following uninterrupted hour of music, featuring a few new tunes I've recently received from upcoming or imminent releases:
Rebecca Angel – “Jet Samba”
Paul Desmond – “Wave”
The 3 Cohens – “Beaches”
Holly Cole – “Too Darn Hot”
Lou Donaldson – “Hot Dog”
Kenny Garrett – “Backyard Groove”
Stanley Clarke – “Hot Fun”
The Rippingtons – “Flamingo Beach”
Pieces of a Dream – “Warm Weather”
Kenny Burrell – “Hot Bossa”
Jeff Golub – “On the Beach”
Project Grand Slam – “The Rescue”
Mon, 15 August 2016
Originally from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sergio Pereira starting playing acoustic guitar (violao) at the age of 8 years old, influenced by his older brother who helped him play his first chords and the bossa-nova giants at the time - Joao Gilberto, Tom Jobim, and, Marcus Valle. Growing up in Rio in the 60’s and 70’s contributed tremendously to the energy, groove and rhythms reflected in his music today.
Moving to New York in the 80’s, exposed Pereira to an entirely different “scene.” It motivated the guitarist to not only continuing playing the guitar, but to further enhance his knowledge of the music and the instrument itself, which led him to studying with jazz greats including Chuck Wayne, Sal Salvador and Alex Adrian. Beginning in the early 90’s he has been travelling the world extensively, playing with different groups and at countless venues in many different countries in Europe, Africa and beyond. For over 20 years Pereira has been a member of the United Nations Jazz band for which has afforded him the opportunity to perform in various high profile venues.
Recently, he returned to his Brazilian roots, working to further broadened his understanding of harmony, improvisation and technique.This has led to the release of his first CD as a leader, Swingando. Recorded in New York City and Brazil, the album includes some of the top musicians in Brazilian jazz today, a veritable who’s who of heavyweights, such as Helio Alves, Teixeira, Nilson Matta, Mauricio Zottarelli, Duduka da Fonseca and Itaiguara Brandao.
Podcast 545 is my conversation with Sergio, who spoke with me while setting up his new home in Valencia, Spain, Musical selections include “My Girls” and Chega Ai", both of which features the killer rhythm section of Alves, Matta and da Fonseca; and the the more intimate “Ela.”
Direct download: Podcast_545_-_A_Conversation_with_Sergio_Pereira.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 8:35pm EDT
Wed, 10 August 2016
With the whole world’s eyes trained on Rio for the Summer Olympics, it should come as no surprise to readers of that I’m thinking about Brazilian music. Here in America we think primarily of Bossa Nova and Samba, but I also enjoy more esoteric genres like Choro, Forro, and Tropicalissmo. The release last month of two new CDs from Brazilian artists that were not previously on my radar was cause for celebration here at SNC, and the next two podcasts will feature my conversations with saxophonist Livio Almeida and guitarist Sergio Pereira.
Livio Almeida is Brazilian saxophone/woodwinds player and composer/arranger. He received his Bachelor in Classical Saxophone in Brasilia, Brazil, and received his second degree at The City College of New York with a BFA in Jazz Performance. You may have heard him in his role in the O’Farrill Brothers Band, or for his solos on recent releases by Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra. He also directs a 10 piece band, the only one of its kind in the USA, a “dectet" dedicated to perform large ensemble Brazilian music, with regular residencies at the traditional Zinc Bar and Iridium Jazz Club in New York.
Action & Reaction is his second CD as a bandleader, and features his working quartet of Vitor Gonçalves on piano, Eduardo Belo on bass, and Zack O’Farrill on drums. Adam O’Farrill drops in to lend a hand on trumpet as well.
Podcast 544 is my conversation with Livio, as we discuss the differences in “Latin Jazz” and “Brazilian Jazz”, what went into his latest CD, and where he plans to take his music next. Musical selections include “Mercado en Domingo" from Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra’s Grammy winning The Offense of the Drum, as well as “Living in the Dark”, “Those (Not So Infant) Eyes”, and the title track “Action & Reaction.”
Direct download: Podcast_544_-_A_Conversation_with_Livio_Almeida.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 12:55pm EDT
Wed, 3 August 2016
At the turn of the millennium, saxophonist Chico Freeman left the US for Europe, and embarked on a multi-year journey of exploration, both of music and his soul. He traveled across the continent and to Africa, playing music with different types of musicians, and in different genres.
Quite frankly, he was missed. He hasn't been to the US in quite a while to play,and a player, performer and composer of his stature is not someone we can lose lightly. The son of the great Von Freeman, he was mentored by his Dad and the likes of George Lewis and the members of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. From there he has tackled almost any musical style he wanted - playing the blues; funking it up as a member of Earth, Wind & Fire's horn section; and leading his own groups through dozens of memorable sessions.
Now he's back. In May he released a fine new CD, Spoken Into Existence, with a 4-tet of mostly European musicians. It finds Chico in a gentle, lyrical mood, as he performs five compositions in honor of each of his daughters, among other originals.
He wowed them with his Plus-Tet at Dizzy's Coca-Cola earlier this Spring, and now he's on a rare West Coast swing. If you are a left coast jazz fan, don't miss him.
Podcast 543 is our conversation, and it's a memorable one. He talks about the new CD, his approach to writing, and tells a few great stories about growing up in a household always full of music. Musical selections from Spoken Into Existence include "Nia's Quest", Stanley Turrentine's blues "Soft Pedal Blues" and "India Blue".
Direct download: Podcast_543_-_A_Conversation_with_Chico_Freeman.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 7:11pm EDT
Mon, 1 August 2016
Dead & Company have been playing stadium shows this summer, but clearly, something is missing from their presentation of the music of the Grateful Dead. Let's pause for a moment and remember that today would have been Jerry Garcia’s 74th birthday, and like so many other fans, I'll spend a few moments contemplating his music. Maybe a few "Scarlet Begonia/Fire on the Mountain" and "Dark Star" tracks are in the cards. How about a "Ripple" as well?
Named after composer Jerome Kern, Garcia was a student of American music, whether it was bluegrass, show tunes or the blues. Jerry had a love of jazz, and while the Dead themselves did not dip into the jazz canon all that often, Jerry’s side projects gave him a chance to show his jazz chops. Click here to listen to a recording of Milt Jackson’s “Bag’s Groove” from the 1998 release So What from Garcia and mandolin player David Grisman. Other members of the band were Joe Craven on percussion, Matt Eakle on flute and Jim Kerwin on bass.
The latest edition of the GarciaLive project was released last month, and featured Jerry Garcia & Merl Saunders live at the Lion's Share on July 5, 1973. Filled with the typical wide variety of tunes (Motown, Country-Rock, Fifties R&B) it also features a fascinating version of "My Funny Valentine", showing that Garcia could reach into the Great AMerican Songbook as well. Check it out here,
Category:general -- posted at: 6:25am EDT
Wed, 27 July 2016
The Newport Jazz Festival continues to reinvent itself from year to year, and attendees at the Festival at Fort Adams State Park Friday, July 29 to Sunday July31 will get a chance to see and hear music from a veritable plethora of musical genres. It’s truly rare, in these days when “Jazz Festivals” are often “jazz” in name only, to be able to celebrate the latest groundbreaking acts and the most venerable classic groups in the same 72 hours.
Last year saw promoters George Wein and Danny Melnick expanded the Festival to include a Friday slate of up and coming or avant-garde leaning musicians, ensuring the Festival will remain relevant. In addition, the intimate Storyville allowed solo piano and other instruments for those seeking refuge from larger stages across the compound. As you’ll hear in my conversation with Danny Melnick, acts that allow even the hardest core jazzbo to find something new and exciting are all over the three-day schedule.
Friday features New Orleans funk stars Galactic; today’s “It” musician, Kamasi Washington; and acts often missing from festival bills, like Kneebody, Eric Revis, Sullivan Fortner, Steve Coleman and the Five Elements, and Kris Davis. One of my favorites, Tierney Sutton, brings her After Blue Joni Mitchell Project to Newport as well.
Saturday has some of the biggest names of the Festival - Gregory Porter; Chick Corea’s Trilogy with Christian McBride and Brian Blade; Anglique Kidjo; and a highly anticipated performance of Ornette Coleman’s Science Fiction by the Bad Plus. Crowd pleasers like the John Scofield/Joe Lovano Quartet; Monty Alexander Harlem-Kingston Express; and the Butler, Bernstein & The Hot 9 project are set for the stages, as are the latest projects from veterans Stefon Harris and Dave Liebman. And don’t miss the Festival debut of The Hot Sardines!
Sunday wraps things up in style, with headliners like the Charles Lloyd New Quartet with Jason Moran, Reuben Rogers and Eric Harland; last year’s sensation Jose James, crossover star Robert Glasper and his Experiment; Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah’s Stretch Music and a return set from Kamasi Washington. Several of our finest musicians are here with their latest groups: Potter, Holland, Loueke and Harland; Anat Cohen's Clarinet Re-Imagined; the Kenny Barron Trio and bassist Ben Williams & Sound Effect with Gilad Hekselman and Christian Sands. For those who follow this blog, the appearance by west coast brass musicians The Westerlies will be a must-hear.
Danny Melnick takes you through the festival with hints on who to see and why he booked them in Podcast 542. Musical selections from acts you’ll catch at the Festival include:
“Qb4r“ – Eric Revis
“Final Thought“ – Kamasi Washington
“Hey Laura” – Gregory Porter (a live version from a BB2 recording earlier this month)
“Ghetto Walk” – Robert Glasper featuring Bilal
“Dreams“ – Kenny Barron
Direct download: Podcast_542_-_Previewing_the_Newport_Jazz_Festival_with_Danny_Melnick.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 6:26pm EDT
Mon, 25 July 2016
It would be easy to dismiss The Hot Sardines as a nostalgia novelty act, coming across like Jazz Age Hipsters. But that would be a mistake. A BIG mistake.
Like other acts that have come to prominence in the past few years – think Lake Street Dive for example – they have incorporated older sounds and sensibilities into something very contemporary, and at times, downright exciting. Remember when Jazz WAS Pop music? They will help you recall, singing Cole Porter and Robert Palmer side by side.
Evan “Bibs” Palazzo and Elizabeth Bougerol lead the group, which has just released their latest CD, French Fries & Champagne, a truly fun romp through a variety of musical styles and sounds. From a straight ahead take on “Running Wild” (immortalized by Marilyn Monroe in Some Like it Hot) to a duet with Alan Cummings (Broadway’s Cabaret and TV’s The Good Wife), to a reimagining of Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love”, French Fries & Champagne never fails to bring a tap to your toes and a smile to your face.
Palazzo and Ms. Bougerol have strong support from band members Jason Prover (trumpet), Alex Raderman (drums), Nick Myers (saxophone and clarinet), and Mike Sailors (trombone and cornet), and a building reputation as a live act to watch. It’s no wonder they’ve gone from New York Clubs to the stage at the Newport Jazz Festival this coming weekend. More on the Festival later this week.
I spoke with Mr. Palazzo and Ms. Bougerol just as French Fries & Champagne was being released. Our conversational topics range from the new CD to the nature of song selection to how the band constructs (and deconstructs) its material. Song selections from the CD include “Running Wild”, “When I Get Low (I Get High”); and the Title Track.
Direct download: Podcast_541_-_A_Conversation_with_The_Hot_Sardines.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:36pm EDT