Tue, 28 July 2009
I've had some fun in the past with "theme shows", like the one I did a few years back on songs with the word "Jungle" in the title. This week, its a visit to the crisper bin in the refridgerator with songs titled after vegetables.
Click here to get your daily dose of necessary vitamins and roughage from:
Wes Montgomery - "Green Peppers" from California Dreaming. By the time Wes recorded this number in 1966, his days of burning it up seemed past him, as he concentrated on pop tunes. You could have fooled me with this funky one, powered by percussion by Ray Barretto and Grady Tate, and piano by Herbie Hancock.
Cal Tjader - "Sally's Tomato" from Sona Libre. The latin music playing vibraphonist teams with Clare Fischer on organ, Fred Schneider on bass, Johnny Rae on drums, and Bill Fitch on conga for a 1963 Verve session. And yes, I know the tomato is a fruit, not a vegetable. My blog, my rules of inclusion.
Hank Marr - "The Squash" from Greasy Spoon. Blues great Albert King gives Hammond B-3 player Marr a boost in a 1960 recording. Rusty Bryant adds the distinctive saxophone.
Freddie Roach - Title Track from Mo' Greens Please. One of Blue Note Record's best B-3 players, Freddie's band for this funky number includes Eddie Wright on guitar, Clarence Johnston on drums, and Connie Lester on sax.
Art Pepper - "Red Pepper Blues" from Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section. An absolutely classic album matches the troubled bop saxophone player with an all-star supporting cast - the Miles Davis rhythm section of pianist Red Garland, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Philly Joe Jones. The song is credited to Garland.
Weather Report - "Cucumber Slumber" from Mysterious Traveler. The 1974 version of the seminal fusion group was Wayne Shorter on saxophone, Joe Zawinal on keyboards, Alphonso Johnson on bass and Ishmael Wilburn on drums. A funky electric ending to a fun podcast!
Special thanks to Funky16Corners for some of the vegetables used in this podcast.
Tue, 21 July 2009
At the age of 91, pianist Marian McPartland shows no signs of slowing down. I spoke to her by telephone last week, and found that she was still composing, still practicing and still working on her radio show Piano Jazz, now in its 30th year on NPR. Podcast 155 is a portrait of the great piano player and her music.
From her days as a child prodigy in England, to her Trio's influencial long-term residency at the Embers (1950) and the Hickory House (1952-1960) to her current recording and radio schedule, Ms. McPartland has consistently been a dynamic pianist and personality. She still works primarily with a piano trio, a format she finds is a "comfortable way of playing. First you have the bass as one source of support, then the drummer as another...From there you can play different kind of things, whether straight ahead or playing something as a bossa nova or somethign else entirely."
Ms. Partland has a full schedule of guests for the summer on "Piano Jazz", a show that continues to grow in popularity. Crossover guests like Elvis Costello and Steely Dan's Donald Fagen and Walter Becker jump at the chance to spend an hour with her. She claims there are a few guests she still has never had; she would like to have Sonny Rollins ("He said he would; I just have to get him pinned down on a date.") and Stevie Wonder as guests before she's done with the show.
She credits her development of a feel for jazz to listening to teh great players of her childhood. "When I was in England there were the swing bands, and Benny Goodman had a great piano player in Teddy Wilson, so ther was always someone to listen to. Fats Waller, Art Tatum - these are all people who are forever engraved in my mind. I try to lsiten to new people of course, to try to keep up with what is new and different".
She urges serious jazz students to listen to as much jazz as they can, "play a lot, experiment with harmony, just try to play." She claims to have dozens of half finished compostiions on her piano, songs that she looks at from time to time to consdier compelting. "One or two of them are not so bad at all", she said with a laugh. An understatement if there ever was one.
Podcast 155 includes the following:
Marian McPartland - Title Track from Twilight World. Her latest album on Concord Records revisits her older compositions and some songs she never got around to recording by Ornette Coleman, John Lewis and Miles Davis.The songs "chose her", she claims, rather than the other way around. "Twilight World" was performed after its initial composition for Johnny Mercer, who asked Marian's permission to write a lyric for it. She was bowled over and delighted to collaborate. When Tony Bennett decided to record the song, she couldn't believe her good fortune.
The trio on this version is Ms. McPartland on piano, Gary Mazzaroppi on bass and Glenn Davis on drums. She dedicated the album to her late husband, Jimmy McPartland.
Marian McPartland - "Ambiance" from With Strings - Silent Pool. Marian took one of the compositions of which she is the proudest and had Alan Broadbent write string arrangements for this 1996 album. She said she wrote the song while spending the summer in Norman, Oklahoma, working with other jazz musicians on an education program. At the time she was listening to a lot of Herbie Hancock, and inspired by his harmonic palette, decided to write something that the students would enjoy performing in his style. After that, it all fell together and was very easy to complete.
Eden Atwood - "In the Days of Our Love" from There Again. Marian and I share a fondness for the singer Eden Atwood, who recorded this McPartland original with Marian sitting in. She credits singers with helping her approach material, whether classics or her originals. She finds that she concentrates on the lyrics or thinks of a singer's approach to lyrics when interpeting a song, and with that in mind, finds she can improvise in a manner that allows a deeper emotional connection with the listener. "A beautiful ballad certainly gives extra poignancy", she said, "Certainly if you know the lyric you can give the song more feeling."
Marian McPartland - "Lush Life" from Plays the Music of Billy Strayhorn. Among the composers she has paid tribute to with album long recordings are Leonard Bernstein, Duke Ellington, Alec Wilder and Strayhorn. I asked her if she was intimidated by this classic tune, which so many jazz musicians, especially singers, have begged off from recording. She shrugged off the thought that it was anything other than a very simple tune with a very deep lyric.
"Portrait of Stephane Grappelli" from Piano Jazz with Stephane Grappelli. Many of her "Piano Jazz" shows are available on CD, so you can listen over and over again to her ability to make great musicians relax and perform with her in a most intimate setting. This recording of the show with the hot jazz violin master included one of her "musical portraits", an improvised song that captures the essence of her guest. "It sounds corny", she said, "But that's jazz. If you can improvise on a particular theme, and have a person to work on, the results just happen." Among the shows she is most proud of are those with Bill Evans and Dave Brubeck.
Dave Brubeck Quartet - "Marian McPartland" from So What's New. Speaking of Brubeck, the great pianist turned the tables and recorded a portrait of Marian on this 1998 CD. Brubeck owes her though - he stole drummer Joe Morello from her trio in 1957, and his Quartet took off to fame from there. This version of the Quartet is Brubeck on piano, Bobby Militello on saxophone, Jack Six on bass and Randy Jones on drums.
Sun, 19 July 2009
Readers of this blog know that I am a huge fan of organ jazz, and include on my list of its greatest practitioners Hammond B-3 aces such as Jimmy Smith, Jack MacDuff and Jimmy McGriff. These soulful players are all gone now, but their spirit lives on with a slew of contemporary masters.
So Podcast 154 is a tribute to the Hammond Heroes of Today. I’ve intentionally left out well-known players like Sam Yahel and Joey DeFrancesco, choosing to focus on acts you might not yet have discovered. So click here, and listen to tracks in an organ way including:
Deep Blue Organ Trio - "Raspberry Beret" from Deep Blue Bruise. From Chicago comes Chris Foreman (organ), Greg Rockingham (drums) and Bobby Broom (guitar), better known as the Deep Blue Organ Trio. They skillfully mix covers of pop tunes, like this Prince song, with originals that remind me of the best of Jack MacDuff’s recordings with George Benson. If you’re near the Windy City, they appear at the noted jazz club The Green Mill every Tuesday if they are in town.
Organissimo - "Jimmy Smith Goes to Washington" from Waiting for the Boogaloo Sisters. The title alone justified inclusion in the podcast. Jim Alfredson is organ player behind this trio from Michigan . Add to him guitarist Joe Gloss and drummer Randy Marsh, and you’ve got the foundation for a group that has traces of everyone from Bernard Purdie to Frank Zappa in their sound.
Barbara Dennerlein - "I Miss You" from In A Silent Mood. Shirley Scott was the torch bearer for female Hammond B-3 players in the 1950’s and 60’s, and now Ms. Dennerlein seems poised to carry it in the new century. While Ms. Scott had here roots firmly in soul music, ms. Dennerlein seems to be more of an experimental performer, her B-3 outfitted with foot pedals that engage her MIDI synthesizer settings, allowing for a wholly different sound.
Akiko Tsuruga - "These Are Soulful Days" from Harlem Dreams. From Osaka, Japan, Ms. Tsuruga was the “go-to” organist for visiting American jazz musicians before hitting the New York scene in 2001. This was her debut album as a leader, and included important sidemen like Grady Tate and Frank Wess. For those interested in a compare and contrast, Joey DeFrancesco recorded the same number on this Ballads & Blues CD.
Nick Peck Organ Trio - "The Chicken" from Fire Trucks I Have Known. The Nick Peck Organ Trio from San Francisco sounds like the more traditional organ groups of the 1960’s. Peck plays Hammond organ and electric piano, Bill Wolter is on guitar, and Peter Thomas on Drums and percussion When they need a horn player, Erik Hoagland guests on tenor and alto sax.
Sat, 18 July 2009
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 latest album, Dedicated to You.
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.
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: 4:30am EDT
Thu, 16 July 2009
One New England's largest free jazz festival takes place this weekend in Hartford, Connecticut as the Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz brings over twenty-five hours of music performed by internationally acclaimed artists. Wonderful world-class musicians will grace the mainstage of the Thomas Harris IV Pavillon in Bushnell Park during the 2009 Festival. Local and regional artists will dazzle with their talents on the Arch Stage located in the market place adjacent to Trinity Street.
The festival's main stage entertainmentis thematically divided between Latin Jazz on Friday night, Smooth Jazz on Saturday, and Straight Ahead Jazz on Sunday. This year's headliners, and some of their representative music, is featured in Podcast 153, and includes:
Charlie Sepulveda - "Mastery of All Situations" from Algo Nuestro (Our Thing). A hot time is guaranteed in the park Friday night! One of the best and most sought after Latin Jazz sideman in the business, Sepulveda can crank it up as a bandleader as well. Here her teams with tenor saxophonist David Sanchez, in a sextet that includes pianist Edward Simon, bassist Andy Gonzalez, drummer Adam Cruz, and Richie Flores on congas and bongos.
Bob Baldwin - "Seems Like One of Those Daze" from New Urban Jazz.com. Quietly Baldwin has emeregd as one of my favorite smooth jazz artists. This 2008 release shows the many facets of his talents, ranging from funk to gospel to R&B. Organ player Ike Stubblefield is a key member of the band, with vocals by Tyrone Iris.
The Rippingtons - "Take Me With You" from Curves Ahead. The 1991 edition of the smooth jazz pioneers was led by Russ Freeman, their founder, writing all this song and playing guitar and synthesizer. He had two powerhouse companions at that time, Steve Reid on percussion and Jeff Kashiwa on saxophone. Both have gone on to successful solo careers, but the group that will take the stage Saturday night should not disappoint, including Bill Heller on keyboards and synthesizers, Dave Karasony on drums, newcomer Rico Belled on bass, Kashiwa and Freeman.
Azar Lawrence - "My Favorite Things" from Legacy and Music of John Coltrane. A powerful and underrated saxophone player who has worked with Miles Davis and Earth Wind & Fire, and led his own group through a variety of sounds and phases. His band will be performing a tribute to John Coltrane, so this track seems a perfect appetizer for his main course on Sunday.
Bobby Lyle - "Groove (Ain't No Doubt About It)" from New Warrior. The festival ends on a funky, if somewhat commercial, note with Bobby Lyle taking the stage. Artists as varied as Sly & the Family Stone, Gerald Albright, George Benson, and Bette Midler have called for his services, so expect a solid set.
Tue, 14 July 2009
Today is Bastille Day, the French national holiday, commemorating the storming of the Bastille, which took place on July 14, 1789 and marked the beginning of the French Revolution. Although the Bastille only held seven prisoners at the time of its capture, the storming of the prison was a symbol of liberty and the fight against oppression for all French citizens.
So I've dug through my music collection for French jazz musicians, and therefore, today we have....pianist Michel Petrucciani.
His is certainly one of the strangest and most inspirational stories of jazz musicians. Born with the disease osteogenensis imperfecta, a bone disease that greatly stunted his growth, he started by playing in the family trio with his father on guitar, brother on bass, and him on the piano. At the age of 15 he had the opportunity to play with expatriates Kenny "Kloop" Clarke and Clark Terry, and at 17 he made his first recording.
His best group recordings came with his involvement with Charles Lloyd (he may have brought Lloyd out of retirement single handedly) and a stunning live recording appropriately entitled The Power of Three in 1986 with guiatrist Jim Hall and saxophonist Wayne Shorter at Montreux. Click here to listen to Shorter's compostion "Limbo", that kicks off the album.
A little man with a big sound, he passed away of a pulmonary infection on January 6, 1999.
Category:general -- posted at: 5:02am EDT
Mon, 13 July 2009
The loss of Freddie Hubbard last year was deeply felt in the jazz world, even more so since the noted trumpeter had just begun a return to playing music after the forced silence of lip-damage. While that album was acceptable, the newly found recordings from 1969 dates in England and Germany released by Blue Note as Without A Song - Live in Europe 1969, remind us of why Freddie was so important.
Although forty years old, the recordings show improvisational jazz played at the highest level. The band is nothing short of sensational - the often underrated Sir Roland Hanna on piano, Ron Carter on bass and Louis Hayes on drums. Hanna lends a certain darkness to much of the moods, playing complex chords before opening up for scintillating solos, often reminiscent of Thelonius Monk. Hayes' cymbal work is particularly notable, and Carter is - well, Ron Carter at his best.
Hubbard, who at one time was seen as one of the logical successors to Miles Davis as a straght-ahead jazz trumpeter, is uniformly great. "Body and Soul" comes across as a great balad, but there is room for more than afew Hubbard solos taken at lightning speed. The opening "Without A Song" is similarly fine. Hubbard could take a familar tune and spin in into something exciting, and this is a great example of that skill.
Click here to listen to the closing "Hub-Tones", one of Freddie's signature tunes. Hayes kicks it off with a short drum solo, before Hubbard comes blazing in. From there its a group triumph, with Carter and Hanna seemily competing for space, as Hubbard plays with speed, feeling and excitement. By the time Hayes stretches out for another solo, there's a sense that everyone needed to come up for air. And then its off to the races again, as Hubbard takes the tune home.
Freddie, we'll miss you. And with this CD of music seeing the light of day, we'll always be able to remember why.
Category:general -- posted at: 9:10am EDT
Sat, 11 July 2009
Frank Zappa, gone for almost sixteen years now (is it possible?) is getting a full summer review of his work - rock, jazz, orchestral, what have you - on the blog Bird With Broken Wings. Of particular interest to me is the analysis of his jazz material, which comes with a must have collection entitled "Jazz Noise and Randomonium" available for download.
Be sure to click here to visit the jazz posting, and download songs that pushed the boundries between jazz, rock and anarchy like "Twenty Small Cigars", "The Grand Wazoo (Parts 1-4)" and especially "Waka Jawaka". Missing from the collection - perhaps because its just so popular - is the seminal instrumental from Hot Rats, "Peaches En Regalia". Check it out here.
There's a previous posting on the blgo giving Carla Bley similar treatment. That's well worth grabbing, too.
Category:general -- posted at: 11:20am EDT
Fri, 10 July 2009
Podcast 152 gives listeners a chance to hear from a man behind the scenes - Nick Phillips, one of the key archivists, producers and project coordinators working today. He works the extensive Prestige and Fantasy Records vaults now owned by Concord, and has produced a number of important reissues. Click here to listen to a conversation with Nick, as well as musical contributions from:
Kenny Burell & John Coltrane - "Why Was I Born" from Kenny Burell & John Coltrane. A track selected for The Very Best of Prestige 2-CD set, this came from Coltrane's final sessions as a sideman for the label. What a session it was - Coltrane on sax, Burrell on guitar, Miles Davis stalwarts Paul Chambers on bass and Jimmy Cobb on drums, and Tommy Flanagan on piano.
Karrin Allyson - "A Long Way to Go (Equinox)" from Footprints. Nick Phillips produced, and played a little trumpet, on this album from the talented singer. This is a vocal treatment of the John Coltrane tune, with lyrics added by Chris Caswell, who works often with Ms. Allyson. She plays piano as well as sings, with support from Frank Wess on flute, Peter Washinton on bass and Todd Strait on drums.
Red Garland - "Crazy Rhythm" from Dig It!. Red Garland on Piano, John Coltrane on Tenor Saxophone, Donald Byrd on Trumpet, George Joyner on Drums, and Paul Chambers on Bass. This album will get the Rudy -Van Gelder Remasters treatment in September.
George Benson - "Shadow Dancers" from The New Boss Guitar of George Benson. One of the albums Nick says he regretted leaving a track off from was this debut as a leader of the 21 year old guitar whiz George Benson. He's matched with his mentor Jack MacDuff on organ, and Ronnie Boykins (bass), Red Holloway (tenor sax), Joe Dukes (drums) and Montego Joe (percussion) round out the band.
Charles Earland - "More Today Than Yesterday" from Black Talk. "The Mighty Burner" actually had a hit record with this recording, a soul-jazz winner from 1969. Earland is on hammond B-3 Organ, backed by Virgil Jones on trumpet, Melvin Sparks on guitar, Houston Person on sax, Idris Muhammad on drums, and Buddy Caldwell on conga.
Gene Ammons - "The Real McCoy" from The Big Sound. A Mal Waldren tune recorded at the Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ
Miles Davis - "Airegin" from Bag's Groove. Miles Davis (trumpet) Sonny Rollins (tenor sax) Horace Silver (piano) Percy Heath (bass) and Kenny Clarke (drums) were the all-stars recording at the Rudy Van Gelder Studio, in Hackensack, NJ, on June 29, 1954. A seminal recording of a Rollins' clasic, this is on The Very Best of Prestige, and will be included in one of Phillips' next reissues, Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins: The Classic Prestige Sessions, 1951-1956.
Direct download: Podcast_152_-_A_Conversation_with_Nick_Phillips.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 2:35am EDT
Mon, 6 July 2009
History Lesson from Wikipedia:
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, hip-hop DJs (starting with Kool DJ Herc) began using several breaks (the part of a funk or jazz song in which the music "breaks" to let the rhythm section play unaccompanied) in a row to use as the rhythmic basis for hip-hop songs. Kool DJ Herc's breakbeat style was to play the same record on two turntables and play the break repeatedly by alternating between the two records (letting one play while spinning the second record back to the beginning of the break). This style was copied and improved upon by early hip hop DJs Afrika Bambaataa and Grand Wizard Theodore. This style was extremely popular in clubs and dance halls because the extended breakbeat was the perfect backdrop for breakdancers to show their skills.
There are dozens of collections of breakbeats for disc jockeys to collect, including a wonderful set called Blue Note Breakbeats, specializing in sounds from that prestigious label. I stumbled across a set called Breakzilla Beats on Zona-Musical featuring more than few top jazz artists. And so, Podcast 151 is a shout out to their work, including the following songs, including the rappers who have sampled them.
Jeff Lorber Fusion - "Rain Dance" from Water Sign. Sampled by Erykah Badu - "On and On", Lil' Kim - "Crush on You", MC Eiht ft Techniec - "Me & My Bitch" and SWV ft Lil' Caesar - "Love Like This".
Monk Higgins - "Little Green Apples" from Extra Soul Perception. Sampled by GangStarr - "Code of the Streets"
Ahmad Jamal - "Ghetto Child" from Jamalca. Sampled by GangStarr - "The Illest Brother" and Hieroglyphics - "The Who".
Idris Muhammed - "Crab Apple" from Turn this Mutha Out. Sampled by DJ Honda ft Syndicate - "Every Now and Then", Ghostface Killah - "Daytona 500", Grand Puba ft Mary J. Blige - "Check it Out", Jeru - "Mind Spray", K-Solo - "Renee, Renee", Kwest - "Blase Blase", Run-DMC - "Beats to the Rhyme", Schoolly D - "Black Jesus", Shyheim - "Napsack", Syndicate - "Every Now and Then", and Tupac Shakur - "Crooked Ass Niggas".