Mon, 28 June 2010
My readers know by now that I rarely have very good things to say about the slew of smooth jazz recordings that come across my desk. Too often, smooth jazz becomes a dilution of the things that make jazz such a vibrant idiom - loss of memorable melody, loss of emotion and wit, loss of memorable improvisation.
It's a plwasure to say that First Impressions, the debut CD from Hulon, a Florida born saxophonist, is an exception to this rule. Strongly influenced by the type of funky jazz that Grover Washington Jr played before he mellowed out in the mid-Eighties. Produced by Jeff Kasiwa, one of the better smooth jazz stars recording these days, First Impressions moves beyond background music to continually interst, if unchallenging, music.
The original mateial, either by Hulon or Kashiwa has better than average hooks, and exceptional playing. Hulon is not afraid to stretch beyond the cliched sax solo, and his rhythm section of Melvin Davis and Dave Hooper rarely lets him rest. Click here to listen to the first single from the CD, "Sax on the Beach" for a taste of pure Florida sunshine.
Hulon and his wife Dinah are dedicated philanthropists, who have dedicated time and money to giving back to their community through their Crayton Foundation. The organization provides minorities with a feasible way to attain the funding needed to attend college. He donates a portion of his CD sales and concert appearance to the charity, making the enjoyment of his music exceedingly worthwhile.
Click here for an enjoyable interview with Hulon conducted by 92.5 Wrap-Fm Clear Channel Radio.
Sun, 27 June 2010
Jazz fans in
The fourteen musicians who played that night show that the fifty year plus old Mingus oeuvre is still relevant, if not cutting edge. Well-known tunes such as “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” and “Moanin’” have fresh sounding arrangements, with the former including trombonist Ku-Umba Frank Lacy’s vocals on the Joni Mitchell-penned lyrics.
Some of the finest soloists around appear with the Big Band, checking their egos at the door to make outstanding ensemble music. Of course, that doesn't mean that there aren't some shining moments. Veteran trumpeter Randy Brecker has a memorable solo on the rarely performed “New Now Know How”, and Jeff “Tain”
Thu, 24 June 2010
There was a time when I was afraid we would lose Fred Hersch, one of the most expressive pianists on the scene (check this recent New York Times article). Stricken with HIV, the incredibly prolific perfomer and writer has none the less not missed a beat. If his latest release on Palmetto Records, Whirl, is any indication, he's going stronger than ever.
Hirsch has written brilliant works for dance, chorus, symphony and solo voices, as well as writing and performing for piano duos and trios. His tribute to Brazilian music, Fred Hersch plays Jobim, brought new life to over-played numbers and showed that Hersch is a brilliant interpreter as well as composer and arranger. A direct influence on pianists such as Brad Mehldau and the Bad Plus' Ethan Iverson (both former students), Hersch stands as a model of the technically gifted pianist who manages to wring emotion and feeling from a number, whether his composition or a cover.
Click here to listen to "Skipping" a track from Whirl featuring Hersch on piano, John Hebert on bass, and Eric McPherson on drums. It's a good example of the kind of spirit that shines through his compositions and performances, and his strong ability to work with his collaborators. He'll be performing this new material in public over the summer months, so check your jazz listings to catch him at a createive peak.
Thu, 24 June 2010
While the first day of summer may have come on Monday, for me summer doesn’t begin until the Freihofer’s Jazz Festival at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) in
For two days, an extraordinary kaleidoscope of talent from a number of different musical genres will play two stages in the serene grounds of SPAC. I’ll be there for the whole shebang, starting at on Saturday and ending around on Sunday. I hope to have some bulletins for you from the festival as the weekend goes on.
Saturday’s Main Stage is a potpourri of experience and youth. Traditional performers like singer Al Jarreau & the George Duke Trio, bluesman Taj Mahal, and the venerable pianist Ahmad Jamal share the stage with Gerald Albright & Kirk Whalum’s tribute to Stax Records, Al DiMeola’s World Sinfonia and
Sunday begins with Rachel Z (keyboard player for
Podcast 185 is my annual preview of the festival, giving you some artist you may know, and others you’ll want to know soon. Click here to listen to:
Al Jarreau – “Teach Me Tonight” from Love Songs. Jarreau will appear with the George Duke Trio, a rare chance to hear the keyboard player in an acoustic setting. A great way to close Saturday night.
Alyssa Graham – “Pictures of You” from Echo. The Cure’s pop hit takes a different turn when covered by this up and coming young singer. Here she is backed by pianist Jon Cowherd (who also produced the CD), guitarist Romeo Lubamba, bassist Doug Weiss and drummer Obed Calvaire.
Al DiMeola’s World Sinfonia – “Cinema Paradiso” from Live in Milan. A mellow moment from the fusion master.
Rachel Z – “Heart Shaped Box” from First Time Ever I Saw Your Face. She’ll be part of the Trio of Oz opening Sunday’s main show, performing much in this fashion, as the soon to be released Trio of Oz CD is heavy on alt-rock reimaginings.
Ramsey Lewis – “The Way She Smiles” from Songs From The Heart: Ramsey Plays Ramsey. It’s been more than twenty years since Ramsey and his triowere in
Gladys Knight – “Stormy Weather” from Before Me. The “Empress of Soul” is the last act of the festival, and should please fans with renditions of her Motown and Seventies Soul classics, as well as tunes from this album of standards. A salute to the late Lena Horne would be most appropriate.
Sat, 12 June 2010
Montreal-based composer and pianist François Bourassa proudly announces a rare tour in the U.S., with concerts scheduled at The Zinc Bar in NYC (June 14), The Rochester International Jazz Festival (June 15) and The Lily Pad in Cambridge, MA (June 16). Bourassa leads one of Canada's most acclaimed and revered jazz ensembles, which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. The quartet is composed of François with Guy Boisvert on bass, the celebrated saxophonist André Leroux and the young prodigy on drums, Philippe Melanson. West African percussionist Aboulaye Koné joined the group on the last album, bringing a "world" flavour to François' compositions: this great line up performs on the album Rasstones, (plus drummer Greg Ritchie): it was released in September 2007 on Effendi Records. François' career has gained some major momentum from numerous events, most notably: a 6-month residency in New York City (2005) which brought out a desire to play as much as he possibly could; and winning the Montreal International Jazz Festival's Oscar Peterson Prize in 2007. Bourassa previously won the Festival's new talent competition in 1985, which led to the start of his recording career.
Since then, the band has recorded six albums and has toured festivals, clubs and cultural centres around the world, including venues in the USA, France, the UK, Belgium, Spain, Poland, the Netherlands, India, Korea, China, Japan, Mexico and Russia, as well as numerous trips across Canada. Festivals played include the prestigious North Sea, Utsav, The Paris Jazz Festival, The Cork Jazz Festival, Yokohama and of course, Montreal Jazz Fests. The François Bourassa Quartet have opened for luminaries such as Dizzy Gillespie, Wayne Shorter, Dave Holland, Stan Getz, Abbey Lincoln, Wynton Marsalis, Dave Brubeck and Ravi Coltrane. "Keep on doing that shit that you're doing," said Wayne Shorter to the band after they opened for him on a Western Canadian tour.
Category:general -- posted at: 6:24am EDT
Sun, 6 June 2010
The passing of John Wooden at the age of 99 has left a huge void in the world of sports. Beyond being a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player (class of 1961) and as a coach (class of 1973), “the Wizard of Westwood” won ten NCAA national championships in a 12-year period while at UCLA . This remains unmatched – any likely never will be matched - by any other college basketball coach.
But all who knew him knew him as a teacher, a motivator and a sage. John Wooden's “Seven Point Creed”, given to him by his father Joshua upon his graduation from grammar school, which he kept in his wallet at all times were:
Wooden also has authored a lecture and a book about the “Pyramid of Success”. The Pyramid of Success consists of philosophical building blocks for winning at basketball and at life.
While it has nothing to do with the late Coach or basketball, the aptly titled “The Wizard” by Bill Frisell from his Disfarmer CD seems an appropraite song for the day. The recording features Frisell on electric and acoustic guitars, loops, music boxes; Greg Liesz:on steel guitars and mandolin; Jenny Scheinman on violin; and Viktor Krauss filling the bottom on bass.
Category:general -- posted at: 4:53am EDT
Sat, 5 June 2010
West Springfield, Massachusetts may not be a hotbed of jazz action, but on Sunday June 6th, all that changes. As part of the annual "Taste of West Springfield", saxophonist Seamus Blake will take the stage at 4:00. This is a real treat for those outside of the New York area, as Seamusi is in such demand in his hometown that he rarely plays in the hinterlands.
Blake is one of the finest contemporary jazz tenor sax players and composers. A player in demand since he was tapped by Victor Lewis to leave Berklee and hit the road as part of his band, he regularly performs with no fewer than four combos - the Mingus Big Band; his quartet; his quintet; and BANN (led by Adam Nussbaurm).He has also experminted with the Electronic Wind Instrument, pushing the boundaries of his sound.
It's the quartet that will take the stage on Sunday, as Blake is joined by Dave Kikowsku on piano, Matt Clohesy on bass and Bill Stewart on drums. For a taste of what he brings, here's "Dance Me Home", the cut that opens his most recent CD, Bellwether, featuring the quartet joined by Lage Lund.
Category:general -- posted at: 3:19am EDT
Fri, 4 June 2010
May 16th was the 100th anniversary of the birth of Django Reinhardt, the unique jazz guitarist who helped turn Europe onto jazz sounds. His story is a compelling one. Born to gypsy parents in Belgium, he lived primarily in France, where he and his brother learned guitar. Horribly burned in a fire that destroyed his family's caravan, Reinhardt found himself at eighteen years old unable to use the third and fourth fingers of his right hand. This disability become the major force in his music, as he played his solos with only two fingers, and the injured fingers for chording. The sound was - and still is - unique. He is probably best known for his collaborations with violinist Stephane Grappelli, with whom he created the Quintette du Hot Club de France, one of the swingingest combos of the 1930's. Reinhardt could neither read nor write music, and was barely literate, but made some classic recordings, including "Minor Swing", "Belleville", "Swing '42" and "Nuages" (French for "Clouds"). His best known tune, "Djangology" was recorded in the late 1940's, after he had toured the US for the first time, playing with Duke Ellington's orchestra at Carnegie Hall. Regrettably, he died just three years later at the age of 43 from a sudden brain hemmorage.
May 16th was the 100th anniversary of the birth of Django Reinhardt, the unique jazz guitarist who helped turn Europe onto jazz sounds.
His story is a compelling one. Born to gypsy parents in Belgium, he lived primarily in France, where he and his brother learned guitar. Horribly burned in a fire that destroyed his family's caravan, Reinhardt found himself at eighteen years old unable to use the third and fourth fingers of his right hand. This disability become the major force in his music, as he played his solos with only two fingers, and the injured fingers for chording. The sound was - and still is - unique.
He is probably best known for his collaborations with violinist Stephane Grappelli, with whom he created the Quintette du Hot Club de France, one of the swingingest combos of the 1930's. Reinhardt could neither read nor write music, and was barely literate, but made some classic recordings, including "Minor Swing", "Belleville", "Swing '42" and "Nuages" (French for "Clouds").
His best known tune, "Djangology" was recorded in the late 1940's, after he had toured the US for the first time, playing with Duke Ellington's orchestra at Carnegie Hall. Regrettably, he died just three years later at the age of 43 from a sudden brain hemmorage.
Some recent recordings show that Django's imprint is still strong, and that a new generation is creating a new wave of Gypsy Jazz. Podcast 184 celebrates these new releases, including music from:
Mark O'Connor - "Minor Swing" from Jam Session. World-renowned acoustic musicians Mark O’Connor (violin), Chris Thile (mandolin), Frank Vignola (guitar), Bryan Sutton (guitar), Jon Burr (bass) and Byron House (bass) have combined bluegrass and gypsy jazz on their latest album, which features this tune, well known to Django fans.
The Hot Club of Detriot - "Sacre Bleu" from It's About That Time. "Django Reinhardt is the showerhead from which we all come down" says bandleader Evan Perri of his compatriots, who fuse modern improvisation with the gypsy jazz soul. The band is Evan Perri and Paul Brady on guitar (I guess it takes two of them to approximate one Django!), Andrew Kratzat on bass, Carl Carfagna on saxophones, and Julien Labro bringing that Continental sound on accordian. Mark O'Connor's Hot Swing Trio - "Fascinating Rhythm" from Live in New York City. O'Connor is truly the heir apparent to Stephane Grappelli, and this trio album which covers a number of Django/Grappelli classics never ceases to put a smile on your face. The Trio keeps the no drums sound alive, and is O'Connor on violin, Frank Vignola on guitar and Jon Burr on bass.
The Hot Club of Detriot - "Sacre Bleu" from It's About That Time. "Django Reinhardt is the showerhead from which we all come down" says bandleader Evan Perri of his compatriots, who fuse modern improvisation with the gypsy jazz soul. The band is Evan Perri and Paul Brady on guitar (I guess it takes two of them to approximate one Django!), Andrew Kratzat on bass, Carl Carfagna on saxophones, and Julien Labro bringing that Continental sound on accordian.
Mark O'Connor's Hot Swing Trio - "Fascinating Rhythm" from Live in New York City. O'Connor is truly the heir apparent to Stephane Grappelli, and this trio album which covers a number of Django/Grappelli classics never ceases to put a smile on your face. The Trio keeps the no drums sound alive, and is O'Connor on violin, Frank Vignola on guitar and Jon Burr on bass.
John Jorgenson Quintet - "Hungaria" from One Stolen Night. The JJQ is the only American act to ever headline the Django Reinhardt Memorial Festival in France. Here they step out even further by adding trimbones and the greek instrument bandoneon to their core sound. John Jorgenson plays guitar, saxophones, bouzouki and sings, Kevin Nolan plays rhythm guitar, Jason Anick is on violin, Simon Planting on bass, and Rick Reed on percussion. The tune was written by Django.
In my own backyard, Django in June, New England's premier occasion to celebrate, study and just plain enjoy the musical tradition launched by the great French Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt, will be held on the campus of Smith College in beautiful Northampton, Massachusetts. Musicians have the option of going the full-immersion route by attending Django Camp Tuesday through Sunday or of dropping in for a weekend of clinics and jamming. On Friday and Saturday nights the general public is warmly invited to join us at Smith College's lovely Helen Hills Hills Chapel for concerts by world-class Gypsy jazz artists.
Thu, 3 June 2010
Theresa Andersson is pleased to announce the release of her first live concert DVD, “Theresa Andersson: Live at Le Petit.” Recorded on February 28, 2010 at The Le Petit Theatre in New Orleans and directed by Bridget Palardy (Be Your Own Pet, The Plastiscines, Nylon TV), the DVD features the legendary New Orleans musician Allen Toussaint, and extra bonus interview footage of Theresa. The DVD will be available exclusively at her shows, and at TheresaAndersson.com. Theresa just finished a series of live appearances at New Orleans JazzFest in April.
It’s hard not to marvel at how far Theresa has come in such a short period of time. A little under two years ago, Theresa was setting up a webcam in her kitchen to capture her new “one-woman band” for a few close friends and relatives. The kitchen video of “Na Na Na” quickly spread across YouTube, garnering nearly a million views within a week of it’s debut. Now, almost two years later, Theresa Andersson again set up cameras to film her impressive performance — this time in one of the most historic theaters in America.
Directed by Bridget Palardy, the DVD features music from Hummingbird, Go!, along with her own renditions of songs like the spiritual “Oh Mary”(check out a video clip here), Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young’s “Find the Cost of Freedom,” and a special duet with Allen Toussaint on “On Your Way Down.” The DVD also features an interview with Theresa as she explores her adopted home of New Orleans, where she explains how she ended up moving to New Orleans two decades ago, the origin of her “one-woman band,” and a tributes to her musical influences.
Category:general -- posted at: 5:34am EDT