Tue, 30 June 2009
It's a real delight to welcome Christan McBride back into acoustic jazz. I've been a fan of the great bassist since his debut as a leader in 1994. Since then, he has been more than a little busy, lending his extensive talents to varying projects and combos, including the R&B tribute A Family Affair and the sprawling 3 CD set Live At Tonic, which found McBride adding violin, turntable and perhaps the kitchen sink to his basic group on long, meandering jams.
Kind of Brown (a tip of the cap to his mentor Ray Brown) finds McBride back on his acoustic bass, playing as part of a quintet called Inside Straight. It's a winning hand, primarily due to the high quality of his collaborators and seven strong McBride compositions.
Drummer Carl Allen teams seemlessly with bassist McBride, creating a rhythm section that can keep the time with the best, but doesn't hesitate to step out and take control as well. Listen to McBride's solo on "Rainbow Wheel" to see that he can play the upright bass with the best.
Saxophonist Steve Wilson lends a warm sound to tracks like "Starbeam" and really stretches out on Freddie Hubbard's "Theme for Kareem". I'm a huge vibes fan, so its great to see McBride incorporating Warren Wolf, Jr. into the band. He contributes a lightning solo to "Kareem", and a tasteful run on pianist Eric Scott Reed's composition "Pursuit of Peace". The lilting "Uncle James" shows that Wilson and Wolf and slow it down as well, contributing tasty sounds to the piece.
McBride was wise to tap Reed for his pianist bench. A veteran of Wynton Marsalis and Freddie Hubbard's bands, he is a great foil for McBride, weaving in and around the bass player here and there.
In short, Kind of Brown is the kind of CD that reminds us why we like acoustic jazz - its short on bombast, long on style and substance. With Inside Straight, Christian McBride has reclaimed his position as one of our finest upright bass players.
Mon, 29 June 2009
Sunday June 28, 2009 -
A particularly strong lineup for the Gazebo Stage brings me across the park for the start of Day Two. Trumpeter Ralph Alessi’s This Against That band performed a set of complex Downtown new York influenced jazz, with the small confines of the staging allowing for an intimate and challenging performance. Pianist Matt Mitchell was particularly strong, playing off a solid rhythm section and allowing the trumpet and sax solos of Alessi and Tony Malaby to take center stage.
Speaking of piano, SNC favorite Aaron Parks followed, leading his trio through a fluid, melodic set. Parks’ sound is well suited for the smaller stage, as he plays with great grace and passion. The band ended with a cover of Robert Wyatt’s “Sea Song”.
The still underrated George Coleman and his quartet provided a Main Stage set of straight-ahead jazz, with Coleman showing he can still play long, soulful melodies. His song list was spiced by a tribute to the late Freddie Hubbard (“Up Jumped Spring”) and a wonderful group workout on the R&B classic “Where is the Love”. The great Harold Mabern gave the band a real lift during his solos, and played off Coleman like the wily veteran he is.
Nothing could have prepared the crowd for Bonerama, a highly energetic, exciting band from New Orleans fronted by three trombone players. Their set, which mixed blues (“Big Fine Woman”), New Orleans R&B (Fats Domino’s “I’m Walking”) and improvised jazz, was a wonderful gumbo of power-packed horns, spiced with organ and a kicking rhythm section. The set’s highlight began with unearthly sounds being rung from a trombone and turned into a mind-blowing version of Led Zeppelin’s take on “When the Levee Breaks”, with the three horns channeling Zep’s mighty guitar power chords.
The energy didn’t dip when Bettye Lavette made her upstate New York debut with her band. She came out rocking, and quickly moved through a set that included the soulful “Choices”, a pounding take on Dolly Parton’s “Little Sparrow” and a thrilling medley of her early songs that ended with “Let Me Down Easy”, a song she called “her mantra”. A veteran of a 48 year career that only recently has caught fire, Miss Lavette raised the hair on the back of the neck when she performed “A Change is Gonna Come” as she did at the Inauguration Concert on the Mall this past January. She encored with a stirring acapella version of “I Do Not Want What I Have Not Got”.
Dave Brubeck earned a standing ovation merely by taking the stage for his set, which honored the 50th anniversary of his classic Time Out album. Regally dressed in white dinner jacket, the frail Brubeck’s age seems to slip away when he begins to play with his quartet, and this set was no exception. Beginning with a Duke Ellington medley that finished with Brubeck swinging along with the group, the set really caught fire with “Unsquare Dance” a tune written in 7/4 that allowed drummer (and son) Danny Brubeck and veteran bassist Michael Moore to push saxophonist Bobby Militello on to greater heights. Militello brought a little extra panache to “Take Five”, pushing the solo into different terrain than did Paul Desmond in the iconic original. I couldn’t help but feel that if this is the final time the great Brubeck hits this stage, he left his fans still wanting more.
George Benson ended the festival with a split set. The first portion, backed by a 28 piece orchestra, a chorus and his band, was a tribute to Nat “King” Cole. Benson, who successfully brings out Cole’s vocal trademarks, stuck primarily to the “pop years”, allowing Nelson Riddle’s arrangements to buoy songs like “Too Young”, “Unforgettable” and “Mona Lisa”. There is not a little irony that Benson chose this part of Cole’s repertoire to perform – just as Cole left his days as the leader of a swinging piano trio for mainstream success as a singer, so has Benson abandoned his years of being “most wanted” for greasy guitar-organ combos for thirty years of hits with smooth jazz and crossover R&B sounds. Pianist and Orchestra conductor Randy Waldman (who has performed similar duties for Barbra Streisand) led the group through the classic sounds, and added his own arrangement to a moving “Smile”.
The “Benson party” he called for ended the set, as he and his backing performed his funky take on Cole’s “Nature Boy”, segueing into hits like “This Masquerade”, “Give Me the Night” and the encore, “On Broadway”. The crowd danced their way out, ready to make plans for 2010.
(Note - the two live tracks posted here are NOT recorded at SPAC this weekend, but are from other venues intended to give you an idea as to what went down.)
Fri, 26 June 2009
The passing of Michael Jackson yesterday at the age of 50 leaves decidely mixed emotion. First, given that my 50th birthday looms ahead this Fall, an increased sense of mortality hits me. Next, a sense of relief that a tortured soul may finally have been given some measure of rest.
It's not easy to separate the public persona and acts performed by an artist from his work, but in considering Michael Jackson, I think its imperative. Poets like T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound (and I am NOT comparing their work to Jacko's in any way) were a blatant anti-semite and fascist supporter, respectively, and yet their art will live forever and holds a special place in my heart. So I would prefer to remember his prepubescent enthusiasm and his days as a moonwalking megastar to the horrors of the last fifteen years, when he became a world-wide punchline and then, pariah.
The writer Greil Marcus used a quote from a William Carlos William poem in reference to Elvis Presley that I think serves Jackson well - "The pure products of America go crazy." An appropriate epitaph.
A Jazz Salute to Michael Jackson includes the following songs associated with the Jackson Five or Jackson's solo career:
Charles Earland - "Never Can Say Goodbye" from Funk Fantastique.
Lou Donaldson - "I'll Be There" from Cosmos.
Ramsey Lewis - "She's Out of My Life" from Three Piece Suite.
Miles Davis - "Human Nature" from The Complete Miles Davis at Montreaux.
Stanley Jordan - "Lady In My Life" from Stolen Moments.
Susan Wong - "Billie Jean" from 511.
Wed, 24 June 2009
For me, the official start of summer comes the last weekend in June, when the cozy confines of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) open up for the annual Freihofer's Jazz Festival. I'll be headed there this weekend, and as always, have put together a preview of the many acts that will grace the two stages on the grounds. This way, even if you can't attend, you can get a decent feel for how varied and exciting the music can be.
Podcast 149 has just some of the performers I'll get to see, both up and coming acts and certified legends like:
Kendra Shank Quartet - "Life's Mosaic" from Mosaic. I've had her CD for several months now, and for no good reason haven't given you a taste of it. Kendra tackles standards with finesse and confidence, finding new and exciting ways to make the listener take notice of old chestnuts. She subtly links tunes for medleys, with her "Reflections in Blue" perfectly connecting to Irving Berlin's "Blue Skies". This track is a Cedar Walton tune, and Kendra is backed by Frank Kimbrough on piano, Dean Johnson on bass, and Tony Moreno on drums. Guest appearances are made by Bill Drewes on saxophone and clarinet, and Ben Monder on guitar.
Gary Burton Quartet Revisited with Pat Metheny - "Walter L" from Quartet Live. You've heard a lot about this one here already, so let's jsut say that this is a Gary Burton original written for the first guitar player he ever worked with, Walter L. "Hank" Garland. The band? Burton on vibes, Pat Metheny on guitar, Steve Swallow on bass and Antonio Sanchez on drums.
SMV - Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller, Victor Wooten - "Tutu" from Thunder. If the Jeopardy! answer is "Thunder", then the question must be, "What do you get if you put three three bass giants on stage together?" This should be a real crowd pleaser. The song was written by Miller for Miles Davis, and features him on bass clarinet, saxophone and synthesizers along with bass.
Aaron Parks - "Karma" from Invisible Cinema. A track from a welcome new piano player's debut album. He's been a key playerin Terence Blanchard's quintet, now setting out with his own band - Matt Penman on bass, Mike Moreno on guitar, and Eric Harland on drums.
Bonerama - "Hard Times" (single). A New Orleans export that takes calls itself "brass funk rock"; I call it a good time. No fewer than four trombone players make up the band, including Mark Mullins,
Bettye LaVette - "You Don't Know Me At All" from The Scene of the Crime. One of the best stories of the past few years was the resurrection of the career of blues/soul singer Bettye LaVette. A veteran of 1960's "Northern Soul" movement, she came back with a vengeance in 2005. This track comes from her most recent album, which finds her backed up by southern rockers the Drive-By Truckers.
George Benson - "Nature Boy" from In Flight. Benson will perform a tribute to Nat "King" Cole to end the festival Sunday night. Therefore, it seemed appropriate to go back 30 years ago for this Cole classic. The band includes Benson on guitar and vocals, Stanley Banks on bass, Jorge Dalton on keyboards, and Harvey Mason and Ralph MacDonald on drums and percussion.
Mon, 22 June 2009
On Monday, June 22 at 8pm, NEA Jazz Masters: Paquito D'Rivera, Barry Harris, Jon Hendricks, Cedar Walton, Kenny Barron and Jimmy Cobb along with jazz luminaries: John Scofield, Joe Lovano, Ray Drummond, Leroy Williams, Lou Donaldson, Louis Hayes, George Coleman, George Mraz, Al Foster, Donald Harrison, Rufus Reid, Claudio Roditi, as well surprise guests will be celebrating the legacy of the Jazz Forum in a spectacular, one-night-only event, JAZZ FORUM@30
JAZZ FORUM@30 celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Jazz Forum lofts, where some of the greatest jazz artists performed between 1979 and 1983. More than twenty stellar musicians will reconvene for one special evening beginning at 8pm on Monday, June 22, 2009 at Rose Theater, Frederick P. Rose Hall, home of Jazz at Lincoln Center, Broadway at 60th Street, New York, NY or Purchase Tickets online
Mark Morganelli began presenting concerts in his first Jazz Forum loft at 50 Cooper Square in June 1979. By the time the second Jazz Forum loft closed its doors in April 1983, recordings, videos, films and radio broadcasts had documented performances by Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey, Wynton Marsalis, Woody Shaw, Red Rodney, Carmen McRae, Barry Harris, Max Roach and others.
Mark Morganelli established the Jazz Forum at 50 Cooper Square in New York City's East Village in June of 1979 to provide opportunities for emerging and established artists and their groups to perform in a relaxed loft-setting. He emphasized jazz education by renting his loft to Detroit piano icon Barry Harris, whose legendary classes grew from 25 to 150 students every Monday night for three years, before Dr. Harris relocated to his own Jazz Cultural Theatre. Weekly large ensemble presentations of Chuck Israel's National Jazz Ensemble, Jaki Byard's Apollo Stompers, and Charli Persip's Superband also happened at the Jazz Forum. There were also weekly jam sessions led by drummer Jo Jones, Jr. During the period when the second Jazz Forum operated at 648 Broadway at Bleecker Street, from 1981 to 1983, the loft played host to many benefits for ailing musicians, several National Public Radio broadcasts, a few celebrated recordings, and the award-winning film "Music In Monk Time," featuring Dizzy Gillespie, Carmen McRae, Milt Jackson, and Jon Hendricks
Category:general -- posted at: 9:30am EST
Sun, 21 June 2009
Happy Father's Day to my Dad and all other jazz loving fathers in the world. Here's a Podcast of tunes on the topic of fatherhood, including:
Deane Kincaide's Band - "Take a Tip From Father" from Classic Capital Jazz Sessions. This 12 disc compilation includes selections from Big Bands well-known (Benny Carter, Cottie Williams, Bobby Hackett) and less known, like this track. Kincaide was primarily known not as a leader, but as a member of the Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey and Woody Herman Big Band. Recorded in 1950, and unissued until the compilation came out on Mosaic Records, it's chock full of good advice.
Abbey Lincoln - "Story of My Father" from Devil's Got My Tongue. Abbey both wrote and sings this tale from her highly personal 1992 Verve album. Lincoln said that she composed the song because there were a few things she still needed to write down and to say. "It is like a letter to my mother and my father to say to them, 'Listen I really got it, I really appreciate all you did to help me to live,'" she says. "In a way, it's a monument to myself." Among those given credits are J.J. Johnson on trombone, Max Roach on drums, and Babatunde Olatunji on percussion.
Stanley Clarke - "Father and Son" from At the Movies. This 1995 collection of material from the bass ace's movie soundtracks includes this short but sweet piece from John Singleton's film Boyz n' the Hood.
Lydia Allen - "Song For My Father" and Horace Silver - Title Track from Song For My Father. A vocal version followed by the classic 1964 Blue Note version by the "Hard Bop Grandpop". Personnel for the instrumental are Horace Silver on piano, Blue Mitchell on trumpet, Joe Henderson on sax, Teddy Smith on bass and Roger Humphries on drums.
Dave Valentin - "Danzon for My Father" from Tropic Heat. Flutist Valentin suplemented his quartet of pianist Bill O'Connell, bassist Lincoln Goines, and drummer Robbie Ameen with extra percussionist and a horn section, with the result being this dynamic tribute to his Dad.Vijay Iyer - "Father Spirit" from Panoptic Modes. Probably more ethereal than parental in "spirit", this song from the talented pianist makes a fine ending for the Podcast. The quartet is Iyer, Rudresh Mahanthappa on alto sax, Stephan Crump on bass and Derek Phillips on drums.
Sun, 21 June 2009
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 tribute album to John Coltrane in 2007, Legacy and Music of John Coltrane. Lawrence and his quartet will concentrate on that material when he performs on the closing evening of the Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz July 19, 2009.
Category:general -- posted at: 1:45am EST
Sat, 20 June 2009
It may have been thirty-plus years since Gary Burton's Quartet included guitar hero Pat Metheney, but you couldn't tell it from their performance at Northampton Friday night. Opening the third leg of their reunion tour at the venerable Calvin Theatre, the Burton Quartet was received with the adulation often reserved for rock stars, and they rewarded the audience with a memorable two hour show.
Playing mostly material included on their live reunion CD recorded last year, Burton, Metheney, bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Antionio Sanchez never failed to dazzle, deftly integrating Burton's vibes and Metheney's familiar upper register guitar for a sound that could swing, bounce, rock or float, depednign upon the mood and song.
Burton was in fine form, wielding his four mallets in his inimitable style. As Metheney commented, Burton's great virtues are not limited to his viruosity on the vibes, but include an unerring sense of what tuens to include in the set. The Quartet inclued material written by Carla Bley("Olhos del Gato"), Chick Corea ("Sea Journey"), and Keith Jarrett (a moving "Coral"), along with their own compositons. Particularly memorable were Metheney's rousing "Question and Answer", which showed off the guitarist's fiery side, and Swallow's playful "Hullo, Bolinas".
The show reached an unexpected highlight when Swallow and Sanchez laid out for three songs. Metheney and Burton dueted on two acoustic numbers, including "Summertime", before returning to an electric sound. Metheney even trotted out a 42-string multiplenecked guitar that created a sound recalling Burton's collaborations with guitarist Ralph Towner.
Sanchez is too young to remember the first recordings made by the Quartet in the early 1970's, but he held his own with the three veterans, filling in spaces with rhythm, and letting loose with two drum solos that elicited a loud response from the crowd and beaming smiles from his bandmates.
The crowd demanded encores, and the Quartet obliged with two uptempo numbers that ended the evening on a high note. The Quartet is off on the Festival circuit for the summer, so don't miss this rare opportunity to see a reunion that is far more than mere nostalgia.
Category:general -- posted at: 9:35am EST
Sat, 20 June 2009
Consider Wynton Marsalis. Talented trumpeter, equally adept at playing classical music and jazz music. Grammy award winner in both categories. Household name.Now consider Joey Pero. Talented trumpeter, equally adept at playing classical music and jazz music. Relatively unknown. For now.
Why? Because Joey mixes and melds the two styles together to create a constantly fascinating album entited Resonance. He plays Bach's "Goldberg Variations" and moves effortlessly to a funky "Palladio". He'll turn Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" into a tour de force for guest Daryl Sherman. He'll whip up the hip-hop influenced "Defying Gravity", that turns into a ballad before returning to a percussive, upper register throw down. At times, there seems to be little he CAN'T do.
Pero has studied with Wynton Marsalis at Juilliard, and he plays a Monette trumpet that was a gift from his teacher. He's cut his teeth at the Rochester Philharmonic, and playing with the Maynard Ferguson Big Band.
This is his debut CD, and its an impressive one. Click here to listen to his version of "Blue Rondo", a tune familiar to Dave Brubeck fans. Pero is on trumpet, with Adam Nussbaum on drums, Andy Snitzer on tenor sax, Artie Reynolds on bass, Paul Livant on guitar and Peter Firsh on piano.
Category:general -- posted at: 2:16am EST
Fri, 19 June 2009
Legendary drummer and founding member of the Allman Brothers Band, Jaimoe and his Jasssz Band play what can truly be called "American music". They combine elements of Jazz, Blues, Rock-n-Roll, and R&B into a unique blend that captures the spirit and stirs the soul. Their repertoire ranges from new interpretations of classic tunes, as well as original songs that are classics in the making. They might go from Coltrane to the ABB's "Dreams", the hot funk of New Orleans' The Meters to the cool of Miles Davis.
Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band features as its core Jaimoe on drums, Junior Mack on guitar and vocals, Dave Stoltz on bass, and Mathais Schuber on keyboards. A rotating series of some of the finest horn players of our time, including Jay Collins, Frank Kozyra, Paul Lieberman, Kris Jensen and Richard Boulger, have joined the band from gig to gig.
The Jasssz band plays the Majestic Theater at nearby West Springfield on Saturday night, June 20, 2009. To get you in the mood for what will surely be a memorable night, click here to listen to the jazz classic "Softly As in a Morning Sunrise". The track opened up a concert dedicated to the memory of the legendary jazz drummer Ed Blackwell in 2007. The CD is available here.
Category:general -- posted at: 2:32am EST