Mon, 2 March 2015
While jazz instrumentalists see to often come together to create ‘supergroups” or play “supersessions”, jazz vocalists seem a bit reticent to do so. The reasons may range from ego issues to concerns of vocal compatibility to just plain lack of opportunity
Thankfully none of those problems exist for featuring notable New York singers Amy Cervini, Hilary Gardner and Melissa Stylianou. I’ve enjoyed their individual releases on the Anzic label for years, and my enjoyment was tripled when I learned they were collaborating on a “supergroup” recording.
That debut album – and the name of their collaborative group –is Duchess, and successfully channels the 1930s inspiration of the virtuosic Boswell Sisters into a wonderfully entertaining and contemporary package. Produced by Oded Lev-Ari, who helmed previous acclaimed Anzic releases by Cervini and Stylianou, Duchess wisely matches the vocal trio with an ace New York band: pianist Michael Cabe, bassist Paul Sikivie and drummer Matt Wilson, plus saxophonist Jeff Lederer and guitarist Jesse Lewis.
The songs of Duchess range from the well-known Peggy Lee number "I Love Being Here With You" and Johnny Mercer's "P.S. I Love You" to new twists on "Que Sera, Sera" and the indelible standard "I'll Be Seeing You." There's a playful Gershwin rarity with "Blah, Blah, Blah" and a direct Boswell Sisters homage with their arrangement of "Heebie Jeebies." And fans of the ladies’ individual work are not deprived of their talents - there are solo spots for each with "My Brooklyn Love Song" (Hilary), "A Doodlin' Song" (Amy) and "Humming to Myself" (Melissa).
It was a pleasure to speak with the three ladies of Duchess recently, and Podcast 467 is my conversation with them, supplemented with musical tracks from the Duchess CD, as well as individual tracks like Melissa Stylianou’s take on “Nice Work If You Can Get It” from her CD No Regrets, and Amy Cervini’s take on Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”from Jazz Country, which feature Marty Ehrlich on saxophone. I’ve also thrown in a Boswell sisters classic for good measure - their 1934 song "Rock and Roll" as featured in the film Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round , an early use of the phrase “rock and roll”, even though here it refers to "the rolling rocking rhythm of the sea".
Thu, 19 February 2015
One of the last authentic practitioners of bebop saxophone, Charles McPhersonremains at the top of his game. On his new album The Journey, McPhersondemonstrates all the vigor, inventiveness, technical dexterity and expressive warmth that drew attention to this brilliant alto stylist during his formative associations with Charles Mingus, Barry Harris, Pat Martino and Art Farmer. The vitality, wit and sheer power of his playing on The Journey belie the fact that McPherson has been in the public eye since the early 1960s. His lyrical and virile improvising throughout the recording asserts that the career upswing that began for McPherson when he added passionate alto statements to the soundtrack of Clint Eastwood’s 1998 Charlie Parker bio-pic, Bird, followed by the excellent all-star albums that came in the film’s wake, remains in motion. Working with a Denver-based contingent of estimable musicians including saxophonist Keith Oxman, pianist Chip Stephens, bassist Ken Walker and drummer Todd Reid, McPherson demonstrates his laudable command of the bebop idiom, transforming original tunes, songbook standards and bop classics into fresh, invigorating fare.
The origins ofThe Journey can be traced to a fortuitous meeting that occurred at a musical clinic, featuring McPherson among others, at the Denver, Colorado jazz club Dazzle. There he met the saxophonist and high school instructor, Keith Oxman. Musical encounters with Oxman and local musicians Stephens, Walker and Reid, were so successful that the veteran saxophonist encouraged a recording to document the obvious connection that the five musicians had so quickly established. The April and May 2014 sessions produced a strikingly comfortable blend of standards (“Spring Is Here,” “I Should Care”), McPherson originals (“Manhattan Nocturne,” “The Journey,” “Bud Like”), work from both Oxman and Stephens, and a shout out to McPherson’s deepest influence, Charlie Parker (“Au Privave”).
McPherson is not stopping with the new CD and supporting live shows, which will take him to Europe. He recently wrote a bebop/Afro-Latin score for the San Diego Ballet entitled “Sweet Synergy Suite”, which will premiere this month. And in what has to be one of the ultimate compliments, Donnie Norton, a doctoral candidate to the Universithy of Northern Colorado is writing his dissertation on McPherson’s career and musical style.
Charles spoke to me from his home in San Diego, and we talked not only about The Journey, but his memories of working with legends like Mingus, Farmer, and the late Mulgrew Miller. Podcast 466 is out conversation, supplemented with musical selections from the new CD (“Manhattan Nocturne,” “The Journey”) as well as his work as a sideman with Mingus (“Reincarnation Of A Lovebird No 2”).
Direct download: Podcast_466_-_A_Conversation_with_Charles_McPherson.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:10 PM
Wed, 18 February 2015
Dubbed “an unsung hero in modern jazz” by the All Music Guide, the baritone saxophonist Glenn Wilson has been cherished by discerning listeners who recognize a visionary improviser and inspired bandleader when they hear one. On his new live album Timely, on Cadence Jazz Records, Wilson is joined by a treasured compatriot, the trumpeter John D’Earth. Along with the pianist John Toomey, the bassist Jimmy Masters and the drummer Tony Martucci, the quintet recorded over two nights at the Havana Nights Jazz Club in Virginia Beach, resulting in an inspired mixture of new, improvised tunes (“Inner Life” and the title track) and both reworked and new tunes from the likes of Pepper Adams (“Dylan’s Delight”), Wayne Shorter (“Sightseeing”) and Bob Belden (“Fat Beat”).
In a career that spans five decades, Glenn Wilson has been featured with such iconic jazz and Latin music leaders as Buddy Rich, Lionel Hampton, Machito, Tito Puente and the Bob Belden Ensemble; he has also appeared with rock hit-maker, Bruce Hornsby. Wilson has seven solo albums and has appeared on dozens of jazz recordings as a sideman. Currently based in central Illinois, Wilson performs with his two groups, The Jazzmaniacs and TromBari, featuring trombonist Jim Pugh. He currently is a member of Doc Severinson’s touring band, and is on the jazz faculty at the University of Illinois – Champaign/Urbana, where he teaches Jazz Pedagogy and Music Business, as well as saxophone studio and combos/ensembles.
Podcast 465 is my conversation with Glenn, as he shares stories about his time with Pepper Adams and Bob Belden; he the Timely record finally came to be released; and how he came to record with Bruce Hornsby. Music accompaniments include three tracks from the new CD - “Dylan’s Delight,” “Inner Life,” and “Fat Beat”; the title track from Belden’s tribute to the music of Sting, “Straight to My Heart”, and Hornsby’s jazz-infused “Rainbow’s Cadillac” from Harbor Lights, which featured Wilson on bari, D'earth on trumpet and Branford Marsalis on sax.
Direct download: Podcast_465_-_A_Conversation_with_Glenn_Wilson.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00 PM
Thu, 12 February 2015
This year Nancy and I will literally be at sea on Valentine’s Day, returning to the Port of New Orleans from a week long cruise of the Western Caribbean. For those of you not so fortunate, here’s a set of tunes to serenade your Valentine at home, a Sweet Sixteen for the Sweet Fourteenth of February. Podcast 464 includes both jazz vocals and instrumentals, mostly standards new and old including:
Sarah Vaughn – “’S Wonderful”
Delfeayo Marsalis – “My Romance”
Karen Souza – “Wicked Game”
Lennie Tristano – “I Can't Believe That You're in Love with Me Variations”
Alicia Olatuja – “Human Nature”
Donald Byrd – That’s All There is To Love”
Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga – “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love”
Seamus Blake & Chris Cheek – “I Surrender Dear”
Jason Moran – “Two Sleepy People”
Frank Kimbrough Quartet – “It Never Entered My Mind”
Ryan Keberle & Catharsis – “Easy to Love”
Adam Birnbaum – “Ooh What You Do To Me”
Helen Merrill & Clifford Brown – “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To”
Helen Sung – “Never Let Me Go”
Jimmy Scott – “Someone to Watch Over Me”
Jim Hall featuring Bill Evans – “My Funny Valentine”
Mon, 2 February 2015
It was almost three years ago when I spoke with Joel Harrison about the Alternative Guitar Festival he was organizing. In the time that has passed, the event has grown to multiple days of performances and master classes, attracting six-string devotees from around the country.
The 2015 event will take place in various locations around New York City. Shapeshifter Lab (February 4), and Rockwood Music Hall (February 6-8) will host performances, and master classes will take place at Spectrum. This festival of daring, inventive guitarists, who emphasize new and unusual approaches to the instrument, will once again celebrate the guitar’s enormous range, beyond style or genre. The 2015 AGS will feature as performers and instructors the likes of Harrison, Lee Ranaldo (of Sonic Youth fame), Liberty Ellman, David Gilmore, Miles Okazaki, Kenny Wessel, Doug Wamble, Adam Levy, Sheryl Bailey, Michael Gregory Jackson, Anders Nilsson, Marco Cappelli, Gyan Riley, David Fiuczynski, Prasanna, Ava Mendoza, Adam Rudolph, and others.\
Harrison made a point of making each day a thematic event; for example, February 6th has guitarists blending jazz improvisation and composition with techniques and sounds from India and the Middle East. February 7th features Adam Rudolph's Go: Organic Guitar Orchestra, and February 8th will focus on improvisers debuting singer/songwriter projects. Ticket information is available at the various venues websites, as well as Harrison’s website.
If you have any interest in the guitar as a developing art form, this is for you, and our conversation will whet your appetite for the sights and sounds of the Festival. Musical selections that accompany our talk include Ava Mendoza (“Mandible Moonwalk”), David Fiuczynski’s Planet MicroJam (“Madoka Blue”),
Direct download: Podcast_463_-_A_Conversation_with_Joel_Harrison_about_the_Alternative_Guitar_Summit.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 5:00 PM
Fri, 30 January 2015
One of the great Melting Pot bands working in jazz today, The Afro-Semitic Experience manages to resist definition as it finds new adjectives to describe the music they play. Co-founded by African-American jazz pianist Warren Byrd, and Jewish-American jazz bassist David Chevan in 1998, the seven-piece band combines an eclectic array of styles, sophisticated musicianship, good songwriting, deep grooves, and years of friendship with a simple message: Unity in the Community. By taking the music of their respective heritages – the African Diaspora and Jewish liturgy – and treating it as if it were a jazz, gospel, or even funk tune, Byrd and Chevan create something truly unique.
Warren Byrd is a Hartford, Connecticut native with roots in the church choir with his older By the timehe’d been awarded a full scholarship for Classical Vocal Studies at Hartt College of Music, he’d decided he wanted to be a Jazz artist. His piano playing has graced the stage with and recordings of Archie Shepp, Eddie Henderson, Steve Davis, and many more.
David Chevan was born in Philadelphia and grew up in Amherst, Massachusetts. His passion for music has led him to explore a wide range of musical realms from singing in synagogue, to playing in Gospel groups, Polka bands, Klezmer bands, and Italian wedding bands, and finally to Jazz and contemporary composition and improvisation. He has composed music for a wide range of artists and ensembles, including several collaborations with dance and film. His most recent compositions have focused on melding jazz improvisational practice with Jewish liturgy. In addition to performing regularly in a duo with pianist Byrd and leading their group, Chevan is an active participant in the Radical Jewish Culture movement. He has recorded and performed with Frank London and plays, composes and writes arrangements for the Ayn Sof Arkestra.
The Band’s current lineup expands on these two fine collaborators, and includes Will Bartlett (sax), Alvin Carter Jr (drums), Alvin Carter Sr. (congas), Stacy Phillips (violin/slide guitar) and Saskia Laroo (trumpet).
Our conversation covers their musical philosophy, how Jewish and African Diaspora music have merged into something unique and wonderful, and where to find the group on Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday week. Musical selections include their version of John Coltrane’s “Wise One” form their latest CD, Jazz Souls on Fire; “Tivieynu” from their collaboration with Cantor Jack Mendelson on Further Definitions of the Days of Awe; the title track from Let Us Break Bread Together; and "Heaven's Gate."
Direct download: Podcast_462_-_A_Conversation_wtih_the_Afro-Semitic_Experience.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 5:00 PM
Mon, 19 January 2015
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 last year’s 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, click here.
Mon, 12 January 2015
“These are real experiences that I’ve had, and I want somebody else to know that they’re not alone. That’s what the blues is all about. It’s about togetherness. It’s not just, ‘I’ve got the blues.’ It’s not just, ‘I’m not OK.’ It’s ‘Let’s bear this all together.’” – Allegra Levy
A few listens to Lonely City, and you’re thinking “This is a really good album.” When you realize the songs – which sound strikingly like tunes you’ve heard before – are all originals written by the singer, you’re thinking “This is a really big talent.” And then, when you realize that the singer-songwriter is 24 and this is her first album, you’re thinking “I’ve got to tell someone about her.”
And so I am.
Not only has Allegra Levy emerged from her tenure at New England Conservatory and the clubs of New York with a voice coming into its own, but she also writes songs a veteran would be proud to call their own. She has wisely put together a veteran band to back her, fleshing out her tunes by adding color and soul. She fronts a tight quintet led by Adam Kolker (sax) and John Bailey (trumpet), with the rising young star pianist Carmen Staaf (recently chosen as the pianist in the prestigious Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance at UCLA's Herb Alpert School of Music) the band’s secret weapon. Drummer Richie Barshay, a veteran of the Herbie Hancock Quartet, ties it all together beautifully. Kudos go to John McNeil for his many arrangements and production of the session, allowing the band to play and not merely back Ms. Levy up, making this a real jazz album.
Guest spots by the great guitarist Steve Cardenas (“Anxiety”) and violinist Mark Feldman (“Everything Green”) add to the accompaniment that showcases Ms. Levy’s talents. She sings of lost (misplaced?) love with the eye of a sadder but wiser girl, particularly on “I’m Not Okay”, her voice emerging from a mildly dissonant opening from Kolker and Bailey, recalling Peggy Lee in her approach. “Everything Green” lets her open with wordless singing, setting the mood before delivering the dramatic, torchy tune in her upper register. Listen to “A New Face”, and tell me you’re not dealing with someone with real talent.
Levy is currently completing a seven-month residency at the Four Seasons Hotel in Hong Kong, getting the chance to hone her craft in an increasingly rare residency. Book me a table when she comes back stateside in the Spring.
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00 PM
Sun, 11 January 2015
2015 has just begun, and I’ve already got a new CD on heavy rotation. That rapid-fire thumping you hear from my office – that’s Ali Bey.
A product of the fertile Detroit Jazz scene, Ali has been playing electric bass since the age of eleven. Ali’s musical development was strongly influenced by both parents - his father’s love of Jazz, Blues, and R&B and his mother’s encouragement for him to study gospel music. Time with mentors like Harold McKinney, a Grammy nominated composer and arranger; trumpeter Marcus Belgrave; and Jazz Master and acclaimed Saxophonist Donald Walden paved the way for Bey to become an in-demand funk, fusion and straight-ahead jazz bassist. Both as a sideman and with the Ali Bey Quartet (Timothy Stroud (drums), Larry Andrews (lead guitarist), Raphael Statin (saxophonist) and Bey (bass guitarist)), he has become a fixture in the Motor City.
My Finest Hour, his CD that has caught my attention, is a wonderful mix of old-school fusion bass and straight ahead playing. Right from the get-go, “’Dam’ I Got a Toothache” sets the tone – lightning fills over shifting a time signature and a driving beat that wouldn’t be out of place on mid-70’s Return to Forever. Bey uses Stroud and Andews as his core collaborators, but wisely fills out the sound with not only Statin but Ladarrel Johnson on sax (especially on his rave-up “Ace in the Hole”) , and Raymond Davis Jr.’s keyboard on “Sanktum Sanktorium.”
This is not just an album for fusion fanatics, though. Check out the soulfulness of “Ace in the Hole” or the chill of “Joe Cool” and you’ll know that Ali Bey has more than a few good tricks in those four strings.
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00 PM
Sun, 11 January 2015
On Tuesday, January 20, 2015, Paul Simon, James Taylor, Bobby McFerrin, Dianne Reeves and others will honor the memory of their friend and colleague, 15-time Grammy-winning saxophonist Michael Brecker, at The Nearness of You benefit concert in New York City.
Hugh Jackman and Deborra-lee Furness are the benefit chairs, and Meredith Viera will serve as master of ceremonies. Proceeds from the concert will support cancer research at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC), particularly the Myelodisplastic Syndromes (MDS) Center at CUMC.
This extraordinary event will also feature: Randy Brecker, Mike Mainieri, Joey Calderazzo, Jack DeJohnette, Ravi Coltrane, Bill Evans, Gil Goldstein, Adam Rogers, John Pattitucci, Antonio Sanchez, Danny Sadownik, Steve Wilson, Charles Pillow, Alex Sipiagin, Robin Eubanks, Chris Komer, Roger Rosenberg, Joyce Hammann, Mark Feldman, Lois Martin and David Eggar.
The New York Times hailed Michael Brecker as, "Among the most influential musicians in jazz since the 1960s." As a result of his harmonic and rhythmic innovations, Brecker is one of the most studied musicians in music schools throughout the world today. He has also recorded and performed with a Who's Who of jazz and pop giants from, Charles Mingus and Herbie Hancock, to Parliament/ Funkadelic and Aretha Franklin, to Bruce Springsteen and Eric Clapton - as well as James Taylor and Paul Simon. In 2005, Brecker was diagnosed with MDS. In need of a bone marrow transplant, the International Bone Marrow Registry was searched for a match. Failing to find a matching donor, Brecker died at age 57. As a result of the tens of thousands of people worldwide who registered in an effort to save Brecker's life, 54 lives were saved when new registrants turned out to be perfect matches for others in need.
TICKET INFORMATION: The concert will be held in The Appel Room at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Frederick P. Rose Hall at 7:30pm. General admission tickets start at $200 and are available by calling Center Charge at 212-721-6500, or online at http://www.jazz.org/events/t-3947 or at The Jazz at Lincoln Center box office, located on the ground floor of the Time Warner Center. Benefactor sales, which provides access to the pre- and post-concert receptions, can be obtained by contacting Hindy Komin at firstname.lastname@example.org or (212) 342-5597.
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00 PM