Sun, 25 July 2010
Bruce Barth and Steve Wilson’s new live duo CD, Home, has some of the finest improvisation and close coordination between musicians I’ve heard in a long time, Barth, a veteran of Terence Blanchard’s band, has been broadening his horizons over the past few years, so it was a pleasure to check in with the piano player last week.
Click here for Podcast 187, which features a conversation with Barth, where he talks about his close relationship with saxophonist Wilson, who has been a member of Bath’s jam sessions and gigs since he arrived in New York a decade ago. Barth continues to work in different musical configurations, working on an expansion of his “East and West” song cycle for septet, and preparing to record a live trio album in the fall. Among the musical selections featured are:
Bruce Barth and Steve Wilson – “Blues Interruptus” from Home. Just as the title suggests, it’s a blues progression interrupted by other blues statements in different tempos, allowing Barth and Wilson to improvise on the theme.
Bruce Barth and Steve Wilson – “The Ways of the West” from Home. Bart continues to tinker wit the songs from his East and West CD. Originally recorded with a quintet, here he re-imagines a piece for duo with great success. Look for a recording of his septet version in the near future.
Rene Marie – “Red Shoes” from Serene Renegade. Barth has worked extensively with this talented singer, producing and doing audio production on this 2004 release. Backing Miss Marie on her composition that opens the CD are Takana Miyamota on piano, Herman Burney on bass, Jeremy Pelt on trumpet, and Quentin Baxter on drums.
Terence Blanchard – “I Cover the Waterfront” from The Billie Holiday Songbook. Barth was behind the piano for Blanchard’s bands in the Nineties. Here the group covers a standard associated with Lady Day, Blanchard on trumpet, Barth on piano, Chris Thomas on bass and Troy Davis on drums.
Sat, 24 July 2010
Wayne Escoffery is one of the most versatile tenor saxophone players we have today. Ever since he left the Hartford/New Haven, Connecticut scene under the legendary Jackie McLean’s tutelage, he has been playing in small bands, large bands, as a side man and accompanist for some of the finest in the business.
Now 35 years old, he will get his first chance to headline the stage in Hartford’s Bushnell Park on Monday, July 26, 2010 with his wife, the singer Carolyn Leonhardt. Ms. Leonhardt is a fine soloist, and has spent much of her time working as a background singer for Steely Dan. This will be a good chance for them to step out and strut their stuff.
I spoke with Wayne in anticipation of the gig, so click here to listen to Podcast 186, which features music from the wide variety of acts with which the couple have recorded, including:
Wayne Escoffery – “Tell Me Why” from Veneration. Recorded live at Smoke in Manhattan, this track shows why Escoffery is among our finest tenor players, backed here by a band of Joe Locke on vibes, Hans Glawisching on bass and Lewis Nash on drums.
Lyn Leon – “66th Street” from Glass Lounge. A most unusual trio recording allows us to listen to Carolyn Leonhardt spin her magic. This 2006 session is a trio of Ms. Leonhardt, and Mats Eser and Stephan Deithem performing on a number of unusual instruments, including the “BB-phone”, a xylophone-like instrument made of 20 bowls that are played with mallets or rubbed with wet fingertips. The bowls are tuned by filling them with water to vary their pitch, for an ethereal but jazzy result.
Wayne Escoffery & Carole Leonhardt – The Harbor (“Poppy’s Song”) from Tides of Yesterday. The latest album from the happy couple is a Joe Martin tune to which Carolyn and her brother Michael added lyrics. The result is done in a challenging tempo, and played by band members including Hans Glawisching on bass, Toru Dodo on piano and Donald Edwards on drums.
Tom Harrell – “Prana” from Prana Dance. One of last year’s finest releases was Harrell’s quintet date, featuring keyboardist , saxophonist , bassist , and drummer . In our interview, Escoffery points out that Harrell is one of our finest composers as well as a trumpet master, and that working with Harrell has inspired him to work on his own composition skills.
Mingus Big Band – “Goodbye Porkpie Hat” from Live at the Jazz Standard. Escoffery is a regular at the Jazz Standard’s Monday night collectives, where he plays Mingus tunes with a revolving bunch of jazz stars. This recording of Mingus’ signature tune, from New Year’s Even 2009, featuring Escoffery on tenor sax,
Jeremy Pelt – “When the Saints Go Marching In” from Live at the Jazz Standard. This is not your typical arrangement, so enjoy the trumpeter Pelt and saxophonist Escoffery go beyond the bounds of typical expectations for a swinging version. Visit Jeremy’s website for more.
Direct download: Podcast_187_-_A_Conversation_with_Wayne_Escoffery.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:09pm EST
Fri, 16 July 2010
Who doesn't like free music? Or a free music festival? Or especially a free JAZZ music festival?
An annual rite of summer tradition continues in 2010 in Bushnell Park, Hartford, Connecticut, America’s oldest public park, when the Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz will presented its 19th annual event of three nights and two days of hot and cool jazz on the Performance Pavilion and the Friends of the Festival Arch Stage, featuring great artists from around the world and the USA, as well as young and up-and-coming performers from the local region. Connecticut's State Capitol Building and Hartford's skyline provide a beautiful, dramatic backdrop as the sun sets and the stars rise in the night sky and on stage.
Over 100 volunteers donate their time to work at the Festival, a true testimony to the popularity to which the Festival has risen since its 1992 debut. The Festival has a history of presenting national and international mainstream, cutting-edge, traditional and contemporary jazz performers, aspiring local and regional artists and some truly wonderful young musicians from area schools and noteworthy jazz programs.
I'm pleased to be able to say I have been involved in putting on this event in the past, and I'm looking forward to hearing this year's lineup. Friday night is traditionally Latin Jazz, and this year is no exception, featuring Layla Angulo, known for mixing Brazilia, Peruvian rhythms and good old fasioned Latin heat in a hit package. Saturday leans toward smooth jazz, starring guitarist Ace Livingston, saxophonist Elan Trotman and the headlining band called "TIZER" composed of all-stars like keyboard whiz Lao Tizer, ex-Special EFX lead guitarist Chieli Minucci and violinist Karen Briggs.
Sunday should be the highlight of the weekend, with straight-ahead jazz courtesy of guitarist Nobuki Takamen, the Iris Ornig Group featuring ace trumpeter Jim Rotondi, and a brilliantly planned tribute to Stan Getz's classic album Focus, with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra Jazz and Strings Ensemble backing local boy made good Joel Frahm (pictured above). Want to know what that will sound like? Click here to listen to a track from the Focus album, "I'm Late, I'm Late".
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 12:00am EST
Wed, 14 July 2010
The always informative Funky16Corners, one of my favorite spots for finding hard-to find old soul, funk and jazz recordings, has a jazz bonanza today, as they feature not one, not two, but FOUR different versions of Cannonball Adderley’s classic “Sack O’Woe”. Visit him ASAP for a listen, since the tracks are not available for too long.
Adderley wrote the tune and recorded it for his At the Lighthouse album in 1960. His band at that time was one of his finest – Cannonball on alto sax, brother Nat Adderley on cornet, Victor Feldman on piano, Sam Jones on bass and Louis Hayes on drums. He recorded another great version on the famous Mercy, Mercy, Mercy! Live at the It Club album six years later. Since it first appeared, the tune has become a standard of the soul-jazz and hard bop repertoire.
Let me add one more “sack” to the pile. Click here to listen to George Benson’s version from his funky Giblet Gravy album released in 1968. Joining Benson (guitar) are a stunning core group of Herbie Hancock on piano, Ron Carter on bass, and Billy Cobham on drums.
Mon, 12 July 2010
Wherever school is in session, you’ll find Geri Allen. Even during summer vacation.
The acclaimed jazz piano player not only writes, records and performers with her trio and as a solo act, but has firmly established herself as one of the foremost jazz educators of the day. Having earned a B.A. in Jazz Studies and Piano from Howard University, and an M.A. in Ethnomusicology) from the University of Pittsburgh, Ms. Allen has dedicated much of her time and energy to teaching. Her latest position is part of the very distinguished faculty at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance as an Associate Professor of Jazz and Contemporary Improvisation. She’s visiting the University of Massachusetts this week as part of the faculty of the 29th edition of the Jazz in July Summer Music Program.
She called this year’s program “bittersweet”, since it’s the first year without Dr. Billy Taylor. Dr. Taylor, who will celebrate his 89th birthday later this month, retired as Artistic Director of the program he founded with the legendary Max Roach and others last year. “Being around him (Dr. Taylor), his generosity and eloquence and what he has contributed as a player was crucial for any musician who wants to continue to grow. We’re all so grateful to have had access to that”, she said.
This is the fourth time Ms. Allen has joined the faculty at Jazz in July. She had been invited by Dr. Taylor, current Artistic Director and co-founder Dr. Fred Tillis, and Dr. Willie Harris and felt she could not turn down the opportunity. “What a great program and great staff we have”, she said. “As always, it’s very rigorous, but also so much fun. We have such a mix of students – some very professional, other just entering college and some even younger. What they have in common is the love of music and the desire for growth.”
Ms. Allen follows in the footsteps of jazz education pioneers like Dr. Taylor, Richard Davis and Nathan Davis, all of whom saw the importance of teaching jazz in an academic setting. A product of the noted Detroit jazz scene, she credits her tutelage at the famous Cass Technical High School and the Jazz Development Workshop for her early success. Her mentors were trumpeter Marcus Belgrave and the late saxophonist Donald Walden, both known for their generosity of spirit and civic pride. Besides Geri, current jazz musicians such as Kenny Garrett, Robert Hurst, James Carter and Regina Carter are products of the Motor City scene.
“Being a jazz musician, you need to learn from the musicians in the community as well as your teachers in the classroom,” she noted. “It’s that combination of mentorship, study and practice that gives you the right foundation.” She laments the current state of the Detroit schools, which face losing their art and music programs to lean budgets. Only 55 percent of Detroit’s public high schools have a music teacher today, and Ms. Allen is trying to mobilize support to save the arts in her former classrooms.
During her thirty year career as a leader and band member, she has performed and recorded with a veritable who’s who of modern jazz musicians including Charles Lloyd, Ornette Coleman, Tony Williams, Jack DeJohnette and three of the all-time great bassists - Ron Carter, Dave Holland and Charlie Haden. She has twice been cited by Downbeat magazine as the top Talent Deserving Wider Recognition, and was the first recipient of Soul Train’s Lady of Soul Award for jazz album of the year (Twenty-One).
Ms. Allen is riding a wave of critical acclaim for her two recent CD releases on Motema Music. The first features her trio Timeline (Kenny Davis on bass, Kassa Overall on drums, and Ms. Allen on piano) joined by tap dancer Maurice Chestnut for a live recording of a unique collaboration. Interestingly, this was not the first time she has treated tap shoes as a jazz instrument.
“In the mid-80’s I did a recording (Open On All Sides In The Middle) where Lloyd Storey tap danced.. Since then I’ve wanted to go deeper with the idea. How do I get across the idea of tap dancing as percussion, or more than percussion? Or as part of a musical heritage? A lot of people just didn’t get it. So whenI was in Europe with the band we decided to record it ourselves – like so many jazz musicians have to do today – and my label loved it and decided to put it out.” The result is Chestnut serving as a foil for the members of the band, dueling with drummer Overall on “Philly Joe”, or trading melodic verses with Ms. Allen on Charlie Parker’s “Ah-Leu-Cha”.
The second CD, Flying Toward the Sound, is as pensive and thoughtful as Geri Allen and Timeline Live is explosive. She wrote and recorded the CD after receiving a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2008. “What a great experience – to not have to worry about anything other than writing, reading, playing and thinking for a year!”
Subtited “A Solo Piano Excursion Inspired by Cecil Taylor, Mc Coy Tyner and Herbie Hancock”, the highlight is a sweeping eight part solo piano suite she terms a series of musical “refractions”. “I consider it a circular kind of idea – the events of my own life are refracted through of the work and great ideas I have internalized from my musical collaborators and influences”, she said, naming the three piano titans the focus for this particular musical inspiration.
Equally important to the recording were her thoughts on motherhood. “What also comes out in the work are refractions of things that have inspired me as a parent. I thought a lot about my own mother, plus the experience of being a mother in writing the music.” The final track on the CD, “Your Pure Self (Mother to Son)” is dedicated to her son Wallace.
Ms. Allen will perform excerpts from her solo piano suite, along with a selected program of other solo piano works on Tuesday July 13 at Bezanson Recital Hall on the UMass campus. She will also join her fellow teachers in two All-Star concerts on July 15 (at Buckley Hall, Amherst College) and July 22 (at the UMass Campus Center Auditorium). The first will feature master saxophonist Vincent Herring and the second is a round-robin style concert featuring collaborations between different musicians and band arrangements.
How will she spend the rest of her summer vacation? First comes a week’s run at New York City jazz club Birdland, playing the music of one of her heroes, Mary Lou Williams. For those performances, she’ll be backed by Trio 3, composed of Oliver Lake (reeds), Reggie Workman (bass) and Andrew Cyrille (drums). “And then I’ll probably head to Michigan and go away with my family and my Dad and maybe sit by the beach until it’s time for classes again,” she said with a laugh.
Thu, 8 July 2010
The Hoop City Jazz & Art Festival moves to downtown Springfield, Massachusetts this year, as the 4th annual festival event right to the heart of the City. The three-day event will take at the City Hall Esplanade and Court Square on July 9th, 10th and 11th, and will feature a variety of well-known talent, including smooth jazz guitarist Ken Navarro, funk veterans the Average White Band, and Springfield native Greg Caputo’s Big Band.
The festival’s real coup, however, is bringing Terence Blanchard to Springfield. Blanchard, one of the great trumpet players, composers and bandleaders, will bring his quintet to the stage to close the Festival on Sunday evening. The strong group will feature Kendrick Scott on drums, Joshua Crumbly on bass, Fabian Almazan on piano and Brice Winston on sax. Many of the musicians also appeared on Blanchard latest CD, Choices, from which their set will draw a number of tunes.
Blanchard is steeped in the tradition of New Orleans trumpeters from Louis Armstrong to Wynton Marsalis, but plays with a unique sound some of called “African Fusion”. Since replacing Marsalis in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in 1982, he has emerged as a memorable soloist and improviser, winning the Grammy Award for best Jazz Instrumental Solo for the past two years. His magnum opus, A Tale of God’s Will (A Requiem for Katrina), won the Grammy for Best Large Jazz Ensemble in 2007.
Blanchard has been Spike Lee’s collaborator on more than a dozen films, writing evocative scores for “Malcolm X”, “Do the Right Thing” and “Inside Man”. He “ghosted” the trumpet parts played by Denzel Washington in “Mo’ Better Blues”, and appeared in Lee’s HBO documentary “When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts” to talk about his family’s tragedy after the flooding. Despite a busy touring and recording schedule, he has been the artistic director for the prestigious Thelonius Monk Institute of Jazz at the University of Southern California since 2000.
The powerful drummer Scott is a bandleader in his own right, having played the Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival last month with the Kendrick Scott Oracle, a forward thinking quintet featuring Taylor Eigsti on piano, Mike Moreno on guitar and John Ellis on tenor sax.
Wed, 7 July 2010
Stanley Clarke continues his partnership with Japanese pianist Hiromi on “The Stanley Clarke Band” (Heads Up Records), a CD that nicely shows the various facets of the ace bassist’s music. Hiromi may be the finest acoustic musician Clarke has played with in decades, and he brings out the expressive side of Clarke’s playing. Their remake of “No Mystery” is subtle and shimmering, with a searing guest guitar solo from Charles Altura. “Labyrinth” begins with a driving piano solo and features some great interplay between Clarke, Hiromi and drummer Ronald Bruner, Jr.
When he wants the band to go electric, Clarke turns to Ruslan, a synthesizer and electric pianist. He enlivens the Caribbean-spiced “Sonny Rollins” with his runs, and “Fulani” is an effort worthy of Clarke’s former band Return to Forever. It’s nice to see Clarke concentrate on group dynamics rather than sheer pyrotechnics, making this CD a welcome addition to Clarke’s catalogue.
Sat, 3 July 2010
Independence Day 2010. We celebrate with cookouts, fireworks and concerts, but often fail to recall the brave words that were written by our forefathers in Philadelphia in 1776:
When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.
He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.
He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature.
He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states:
For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing taxes on us without our consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:
For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses:
For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule in these colonies:
For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments:
For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high seas to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.
We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.
The official Straight No Chaser song of Independence Day is Ray Charles version of "America the Beautiful". It seems strangely appropriate that we in the 21st century are able to listen to a recording made in the 20th century, featuring a blind African-American man singing a song with lyrics by a white woman (Katherine Lee Bates), with melody based on a 19th century hymn written by a white man (Samuel Ward). Enjoy!
Thu, 1 July 2010
WKCR-FM 89.9 (and on the internet too!) will feature the music of Louis Armstrong on both July 4 and August 4, preempting all regular programming from Saturday, July 3 at 6:00 pm to Monday, July 5 at 9:30 am and from August 4 at 12:00 am to 12:00 pm., a total of 63.5 hours of broadcasting to the timeless music of Louis Armstrong.
In his autobiography, Swing That Music, Louis Armstrong titled the first chapter “Jazz and I Get Born Together.” Dating his birthday July 4, 1900, Armstrong created a mythology that linked his own birth to the birth of jazz and the birth of America. While he may have fibbed about the exact date (many historians date it August 4th), he was not wrong to connect his life with the beginnings of this American art form. \
He grew up surrounded by music in New Orleans and, in 1922, he joined Joe “King” Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band in Chicago, the burgeoning epicenter of jazz at the time. In 1924, as the jazz scene grew in New York, he brought swing to Fletcher Henderson’s orchestra. His approach to swing became the definitive sound of his era. Recording with the Hot Fives and the Hot Sevens, he took New Orleans polyphony to its pinnacle. He went on to make many classic recordings in collaborations with jazz greats including Ella Fitzgerald, Dave Brubeck, and Duke Ellington, and with his larger ensembles. His expression on the cornet and trumpet was complimented and contrasted by his singular vocal style. He was lauded in his own time, and his recordings have been cherished by generations.
Celebrate Independence Day with Pops! WKCR is a non-commercial, student-run station affiliated with Columbia University, broadcasting to the New York City Region at 89.9 FM and over the internet at wkcr.org and on iTunes radio.