Sun, 27 September 2009
One sign of equality in jazz bands these days is the number of recordings led by drummers. With the exception of a hand full of true legends (Art Blakey, Roy Haynes, Elvin Jones), few drummers have had their names as bandleaders on more than one or two albums, even if they were crucial to the music. That seems to be going the way of the dodo now. Three new releases with drummers as session leaders show that the drummers are ready to take the lead in a big way.
On Towner Galaher’s second album, Courageous Hearts, he becomes the triple threat that Lenny White once predicted for him – a strong composer, a great drummer and a solid bandleader. Galaher wrote seven of the nine tunes, and the compositions give the musicians ample space to stretch out. Galaher kicks a number of tunes into overdrive from the beginning, particularly “Boogaloobop”. “Second Line Samba” is a good example of the power of Galaher’s musical vision. Brian Lynch’s trumpet, Fred Wesley’s funky trombone, and Craig Handy’s sax set the tune, but Galaher is a whirling dervish behind them, his drum fills making the listener take real notice. George Colligan (piano) and Charles Fambrough (bass) have their hands full keeping the bottom going, but they’re up to the task. Colligan has a particularly strong solo on “Winter Sunrise”. Covers of the classics “Afro Blue” and “Hot House” are welcome additions to a fine group recording.
Alvin Queen has produced another soul-jazz killer with Mighty Long Way. Many of the musicians that made last year’s I Ain’t Looking At You so much fun are back, making a celebratory sound. Terll Stafford (Trumpet) and Jesse Davis (Alto Sax) are out in front, with Peter Bernstein (Guitar) and a wailing Mike LeDonne (Hammond B3 organ) making themselves known on songs like Oscar Peterson’s “Sushi” and covers of classics like “Cape Verdean Blues” and “I Got a Woman”. The heavy rhythm section is Queen on drums, Neil Clarke on Conga Drums and Percussion, and Elias Bailey on bass, and they turn the closing track, “The Drum Thing”, into a percussion battle royale. If you’re a fan of Jimmy Smith or George Benson’s recordings with Jack MacDuff, this is for you.
Ben Perowsky has cut his chops in the
Category:general -- posted at: 3:59am EST
Sat, 26 September 2009
John Abercrombie’s latest quartet recording is fairly typical of the legendary “ECM Records Sound”. What is that? As one article suggests, that sound “creates a sense of space, contemplation and nuance”. It also rarely swings, making it an acquired taste.
That’s what’s good and bad about Wait Till You See Her. The lead performer in the quartet is violinist Mark Feldman, a partner with Abercrombie for over ten years. A one-man string section, Feldman alternately lilts and drives home melodic touches, moving the music into upper octaves as the improvisation of the four members of group takes off for point unknown.
Joey Baron, a veteran of avant-garde sessions with John Zorn, Dave Douglas and Arthur Blythe, is perfect for this sort of music, and he provides a valuable sense of direction to some of that more wandering tunes. However, he and bassist Thomas Morgan can never seem to bring the tunes into sharp focus.
Abercrombie, who wrote most of the songs on the album, has to take responsibility for this contemplative, but often unfocused music. A guitarist of his stature and experience should be able to reign in the improvisations to prevent a sense of aimlessness, bringing it closer to a sense of introspective. Occasionally like on "Out of Towner" (click here) his leadership shines through and the results are gentle and shimmering. When he misses, the quartet is headed for places I’d just as soon not visit.
Category:general -- posted at: 3:24am EST
Fri, 25 September 2009
One of the more interesting acts playing this weekend’s free portion of the Berklee BeanTown Jazz Festival in
Israel, Chicago born and now residing in Brockton, MA, is assistant chairman of percussion at Berklee College of Music in Boston. I got the chance to talk to him about his work with “Fathead”, his role as bandleader and educator, and about the many musicians with whom he has recorded. Click here to listen to Podcast 161, which features the interview and music Yoron
David “Fathead” Newman – “Here Comes Sonny Man" from Cityscape. This is the band that Yoron had in mind when he put together the tribute: Newman on sax and flute, Winston Byrd on trumpet, Howard Johnson on Baritone Sax, Benny Powel on Trombone, David Leonhardt on Piano, John Menegon on Bass and Yoron on Drums.
Kenny Burrell – “I’m Falling for You“ from Lotus Blossom. The first of many great guitar players with whom
Mark Elf – “Dot.com Blues“ from Trickynometry. Incredibly underrated, Elf has played with all the greats as a sideman ,Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton, Benny Golson and the Marsalis Brothers to name a few. This Elf tune was later covered by Jimmy Smith on one of his final studio CDs.
Kenny Burrell - "Soul Eyes" from Guiding Spirit. A different Burrell quartet featuring Yoron's "musical big brother" Jay Hoggard, the pride of Wesleyan University on vibes, Burrell on guitar, Marcus McLaurine on bass and Israel on drums.
David “Fathead” Newman – “I Can’t Get Started “ from Life. Newman was more than just Ray Charles’ main horn man – he was capable of playing in so many different idioms, and was as accomplished on flute as he was on saxophone. Here he tackles a Gershwin tune, with Peter Bernstein (guitar), Steve Nelson (vibraphone), John Menegon (double bass), and Israel (drums) backing him up.
Thu, 24 September 2009
Going from headliner to artistic director, Terri Lyne Carrington’s involvement with the Berklee BeanTown Jazz Festival has reached its apex. A native of
She is no stranger to multitasking. She has received Grammy nominations both as a performer (for her solo album, Real Life Story) and as a producer (for the Dianne Reeves album, That Day). Her extensive touring career of over 20 years includes stints with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Al Jarreau, and others. Among the acts she has recorded with are Diana Krall, John Scofield, George Duke, and James Moody. She appeared on Hancock’s Grammy winning CD Gershwin’s World, and Shorter’s High Life. Her most recent CD as a band leader is the celebrity-studded More to Say.
I spoke with Ms. Carrington last week, and so Podcast 160 is a shout out to the BeanTown Jazz Festival and Ms. Carrington, including musical selections from:
Friday Night Headliners:
David Sanborn – “Slam!” from Closeup. His blues roots go back to
Kevin Mahogany – “Route 66” from You Got What It Takes.. Possessed of one of the great bass voices in jazz, Mahoganey should make quite an impression singing the blues Friday night. Here he is on a classic uptempo number.
Amina Claudine Myers appearing with Charlie Haden’s Liberation Orchestra – “Spiritual” from Dream Keeper. A Haden composition dedicated to Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers and Malcolm X is given a large ensemble performance, under the baton of Carla Bley. Solos on this number are by Ray Anderson (trombone), Branford Marsalis (sax), Charlie Haden (bass) and Ms. Myers is on vocals. Other standouts on the cut are Tom Harrell on trumpet, Paul Motian on drums and Joe Lovano on sax.
Saturday Acts include:
Donald Harrison – “Dancehall” from Nouveau Swing. A graduate of Art Blaey’s Jazz Messengers, Harrison produces great post-bop with a touch of
Joe Louis Walker – “Uhhh!” from The Preacher and the President. A 1998 release on jazz label Verve, the
Terri Lyne Carrington – “No Not One (For Helen)” from More to Say. Her latest release is full of guest artists from Christian McBride to Everette Harp to Nancy Wilson. This track is a large group Afro-Cuban stomp of a number, featuring pianist Danilo Perez.
Thu, 24 September 2009
There are new arrivals in my home – the above pictured puppies are Hamish and Angus, a pair of mini-dachshunds Nancy and I brought home this weekend.
I had to share this picture with you, and post the only song that would do – Sonny Rollins’ composition “Doxy” as recorded by Miles Davis on his Bag’s Groove album. A jazz classic, Rollins wrote the song by adapting the chords from “Ja-Da (Ja Da, Ja Da, Jing, Jing, Jing!)”, a hit song written in 1918 by Bob Carleton.
In a recent interview, Rollins rememberd writing the tune:
Actually I think I was institutionalized when I wrote “Doxy.” The gory details…well it was back at a time when I was hooked on drugs, and while I was institutionalized my mind turned to music, and I had an opportunity to play with a band, a sort of Protestant Chapel Band – we played hymns and such. It’s not a pleasant memory. But it’s fruitful in that I was able to overcome those problems. I wrote “Doxy” during that time.
Apparently the song has no real bad memories for Sonny – when he eventually established his own record label, he named it Doxy Records.
Category:general -- posted at: 3:22am EST
Wed, 23 September 2009
I’ve blogger before about the intersection of hip-hop and jazz among some of the more adventurous African-American musicians on the scene today. Robert Glasper’s latest release, Double-Booked, attempts to blur the line between the two genres by producing a recording in two parts, one by a straight-ahead trio and the other by the electric “Robert Glasper Experiment”.
The first half of the record shows why Glasper is rapidly becoming one of the finest pianist on the scene. Along with bassist Vincente Archer and drummer Chris Dave, Glasper creates elegant trio music, making classic’s like Monk’s “Think of One” sound fresh, and originals like “Yes I’m Country (And That’s OK)” seem like songs you want to hear again and again.
Glasper is less successful in the mish-mash that is the second half of the album. The Experiment swerves between jazz-funk, hip-hop and soul ballads, with a lack of direction that makes it seem – well, experimental. I look forward to when Glasper collaborates with a hip-hop producer or DJ who can turn his ideas into something more concrete and exciting. Perhaps the great jazz hip-hop album we’ve been waiting for is just around the corner.
Category:general -- posted at: 2:08am EST
Tue, 22 September 2009
From September 22 to 26, superstars and local artists will come together in free and ticketed offerings that have drawn upwards of 70,000 people of all ages from every neighborhood in Boston and all over New England. Now in its 9th year, the Berklee BeanTown Jazz Festival - Boston's most popular and largest outdoor festival - has expanded to five days and seven stages at locations in Boston and Cambridge; and has named world-renowned drummer and Berklee professor Terri Lyne Carrington its new artistic director.
The festival's largest roster yet will feature performances by 20 bands and over 130 musicians at the Berklee Performance Center (BPC), Scullers Jazz Club, Berklee's Cafe 939 and David Friend Recital Hall, and outdoor stages along Columbus Avenue. The Berklee BeanTown Jazz Festival is sponsored by Target and Dunkin' Donuts. For a complete list of all events, venues, and performers, visit http://www.beantownjazz.org.
Local venues will host performances by Ahmad Jamal, Branford Marsalis and Kurt Elling, with a special blues tribute performance by David Sanborn and vocalists Amina Claudine Myers and Kevin Mahogany set for Friday evening.
On Saturday, September 26, the free Berklee BeanTown Jazz Festival will take place from noon to 6:00 p.m. on three stages over six blocks on Columbus Avenue, starting at Massachusetts Avenue, with major artists including Donald Harrison, Jane Bunnet, Yoron Israel, and Joe Louis Walker will perform on three stages. The full schedule can be seen at
Watch this blog for interviews with Terri Lynne Carrington and Yoron Israel, as well as musical selections from artists performing in the festival.
Tickets for all shows are on sale, Monday June 8, at 10 a.m., and will be available at the BPC box office, 136 Massachusetts Avenue, through Ticketmaster 617 931-2000, and at http://www.ticketmaster.com. Call 617 747-2261 or visit http://www.berkleebpc.com for more information.
Category:general -- posted at: 2:51pm EST
Mon, 21 September 2009
Chico Hamilton is 88 years young today, and I had the pleasure of chatting with the legendary drummer last week. Podcast 159 is that interview, along with some of the most memorable music he recorded during his career that has covered the length of what he likes to call "contemporary music" of the last 8 decades.
Gerry Mulligan Quartet- "Bernie's Tune". the first recording ever made for Pacific Records was cut in 1952 in Phil Turetsky's house in Los Angeles. The great "piano-less"quartet was Mulligan on baritone sax, Chet Baker on trumpet, Bobby Whitlock on bass and Chico on drums.
Gerry Mulligan and his Ten-tette - "Walkin' Shoes" from Gerry Mulligan and his Ten-tette. Mulligan loved to play with different group sizes, including this large group whihc included Baker and Chico from his Quartet, along with West Coast standouts like Bud Shank (Alto Sax) and Bob Enevoldsen (Trombone).
Chico Hamilton Quintet - "The Sage" from The Complete Pacific Recordings of Chico Hamilton Quintet. His first great quintet - Chico, Buddy Collette (saxophone), Jim Hall (guitar), Carson Smith (bass) and Fred Katz on cello.
Chico Hamilton Quintet - "I'm Beginning to See the Light" from The Complete Pacific Recordings of Chico Hamilton Quintet. A young Eric Dolphy (saxophone) got his big break when Chico's brother discovered him and turned Chico on to his flute and sax playing. The rest of the quintet is John Pisano (guitar) Nathan Gershman (cello) Hal Gaylor (bass) and Chico. Recorded in Los Angeles April, 1958.
Chico Hamilton - "Forest Flower" from Man From Two Worlds. From Dolphy to Charles Lloyd, Chico has always been able to spot the top players. Lloyd on sax and flute, Hungarian guitar whiz Gabor Szabo, bassist Albert Stinson and Chico make up the band.
Chico Hamilton - "Larry of Arabia" from The Dealer. Chico moved to Impulse! Records in the Sixties, and cut this classic with Larry Coryell making his recording debut on guitar. Chico on drums, altoist Arnie Lawrence, and bassist Richard Davis complete the band.
Wed, 9 September 2009
Piano trios are renowned for interpreting and reinterpreting popular songs. Whether you prefer the standards that Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett captured so wonderfully, or Brad Mehldau and Ethan Iverson deconstructing Radiohead, there is no doubt that the give and take of piano, bass and drums lends itself to exploring the harmonic and melodic possibilities of songs that we all know and love.
Add Kevin Hays’ trio to the list of piano trios that reinterpret both old and new material with panache. Hays has played with bassist Doug Weiss and Bill Stewart for almost ten years, and their interplay is almost telepathic at times. Their latest album, You’ve Got A Friend, reimagines pop hits like Paul Simon’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and the title track, concentrating not on their memorable melodies, but rather on the way they can present classic material in a new and different way.
The same holds true for the group’s presentation of classic jazz written by Thelonious Monk (“Think of One”) and Charlie Parker (“Cheryl”). These tunes could be hot, but clichéd if taken as others have. Here, these are revisionist versions that get more than we might expect from be-bop era material. The rhythm section shines brightest on “Sweet and Lovely”, with Stewart creating a dramatic setting for the Harry Tobias standard.
Since today is Beatles Hype Day, the day that the stereo remasters and “Rock Band” game are released to adoring consumers, you can click here and listen to a sly and subtle rethinking of Lennon and McCarney's "Fool on the Hill".
Category:general -- posted at: 4:26am EST