Thu, 28 October 2010
On Saturday, October 30th, WKCR will present the Clifford Brown Birthday Broadcast, celebrating the life and career of the legendary trumpeter by broadcasting twenty-four hours of his music.
Born in 1930 in Wilmington, Delaware, Brown picked up the trumpet at age fifteen, and quickly became one of the most influential jazz voices of his generation. Combining astonishing technical virtuosity with a warm, welcoming tone, Brown's improvisations were brimming with life and vigor. After his first recordings in 1952 with Chris Powell and Tadd Dameron, Brown joined the Art Blakey Quintet in 1954, helping to pioneer a style that became known as “hard bop.” Later that year, he teamed up with Max Roach to form the Clifford Brown-Max Roach Quintet, which became one of the premier jazz groups of the mid-1950s. Despite Brown’s untimely death in a car accident on June 26, 1956, his style has influenced generations of trumpeters after him. Tune in on October 30th to experience the continuing legacy of this great musician.
Here's a little taste of Brownie in advance - click here to listen to the classic "Jordu", as recorded in 1955 with Brown on trumpet, Roach on drums, Harold Land on sax, George Morrow on bass, and Richie Powell on piano.
Wed, 27 October 2010
Nu Shooz were a footnote in Eighties dance-pop music, hitting the charts with “I Can’t Wait” and “Point of No Return”, and garnering a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist in 1987 (they lost to Bruce Hornsby & the Range). More than twenty years later, the husband and wife team of John Smith and Valerie Day have remade themselves as a small scale jazz orchestra, crossing genres of light classical, jazz and pop. And it works. In the tradition of the best “Lounge” or “Chill” acts like Pink Martini and De-Phazz, the Nu Shooz Orchestra plays music that can serve as more than pleasant background music for cocktails or a late night rendezvous. The ten-piece band creates soothing sonic tapestries highlighed by the vibes of Mike Horsfall and the multiple keyboard instruments plaid by Smith. But there of flashes of something more. Occassionally, as in the floating “Welcome to My Daydream” or the title track, they move beyond their sound to genuinely interesting vocal jazz, primarily due to Ms. Day’s soft, seductive soprano voice that recalls Astrid Gilberto in its otherworldly effects. Her soaring cover of "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most" is truly memorable. The orchestra shows they can swing, too, on tunes like “Skeets Beni”. Remade and remodeled versions of their Eighties hits are included, and eclipse the orginals by eliminating the dated electropop sound. “I Can’t Wait” becomes a torchy love song, hihglighted by Ms. Days’ give and take with horn player Paul Mazzio. “The Return of Point of No Return” is sparked by a Horsfall vibes solo and a Manhattan Transfer-beautiful vocal part.
Nu Shooz were a footnote in Eighties dance-pop music, hitting the charts with “I Can’t Wait” and “Point of No Return”, and garnering a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist in 1987 (they lost to Bruce Hornsby & the Range). More than twenty years later, the husband and wife team of John Smith and Valerie Day have remade themselves as a small scale jazz orchestra, crossing genres of light classical, jazz and pop. And it works.
In the tradition of the best “Lounge” or “Chill” acts like Pink Martini and De-Phazz, the Nu Shooz Orchestra plays music that can serve as more than pleasant background music for cocktails or a late night rendezvous. The ten-piece band creates soothing sonic tapestries highlighed by the vibes of Mike Horsfall and the multiple keyboard instruments plaid by Smith.
But there of flashes of something more. Occassionally, as in the floating “Welcome to My Daydream” or the title track, they move beyond their sound to genuinely interesting vocal jazz, primarily due to Ms. Day’s soft, seductive soprano voice that recalls Astrid Gilberto in its otherworldly effects. Her soaring cover of "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most" is truly memorable. The orchestra shows they can swing, too, on tunes like “Skeets Beni”.
Remade and remodeled versions of their Eighties hits are included, and eclipse the orginals by eliminating the dated electropop sound. “I Can’t Wait” becomes a torchy love song, hihglighted by Ms. Days’ give and take with horn player Paul Mazzio. “The Return of Point of No Return” is sparked by a Horsfall vibes solo and a Manhattan Transfer-beautiful vocal part.
Mon, 25 October 2010
Highly underrated as a musical constructionist, Alec Wilder was a drinking buddy of singers like Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee and Tony Bennett, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they adored his songs. A fan of crossword puzzles, he allowed that passion to spill over as he wrote his material, always looking for a link or connection for the melody and bridge. He's too often overlooked when we talk about great American popular songwriters, so today we'll take a closer look at his work.
He wrote at least two popular songs that deserve standard status – “I’ll Be Around” and “While We’re Young”. In addition, he wrote film and television music, and composed a number of classical pieces, including full-blown operas. Near the end of his life he published American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900–1950, a tome still regarded as an essential text.
Click here to listen to the podcast, featuring Wilder tunes as perforemd by:
Tony Bennett & Bill Evans – “A Child is Born” from Together Again. Perhaps the most dynamic collaboration between a classic singer and a classic pianist ever recorded, the Bennett-Evans sessions (since re-released in a complete and highly annotated two-disc set) allow two masters to explore a Wilder classic.
Roger Cairns and Gary Fukushima – “Blackberry Winter” from The Dream of Olwen. Another duo presentation, from the Scots-born singer and his partner Gary, an in-demand pianist in the LA jazz scene. The song is written by Wilder and Loonis McGlothen, and first recorded by Keith Jarrett on his Bop-Be album in 1977.
Keith Jarrett – “While We’re Young” from At the Blue Note: The Complete Live Recordings. And speaking of Keith Jarrett, here’s the man himself on a Wilder-Palitz-Engvick composition that crooners from Peggy Lee to Johnny Hartman to Jackie Paris have recorded. The trio for this 1994 concert is Jarrett on piano, Jack DeJohnette on drums and Gary Peacock on bass.
Frank Sinatra – “I’ll Be Around” from In the Wee Small Hours. Sinatra had a great personal relationship with Wilder, and asked the composer to write him some “saloon songs”. This one had been written for the Mills Brothers a decade before, but Ol’ Blue Eyes makes it uniquely his own.
Annie Kozuch – “Who Can I Turn To” from Here With You. Raised in Mexico City, Ms. Kozuch mixes the Great American Songbook with her Jazz and Latin background with great success (check out the Spanish version of “Somos Novios”, which was later translated into English as the popular “It’s Impossible”). Her band is led by pianist Frank Ponzio.
band band is led by band is led by pianist Frank Ponzio.
Mon, 25 October 2010
2010 is looking like the year of Dr. Eddie Henderson. The great trumpet player, who turns 70 years old today, has already made a striking guest appearance as a sideman on Azar Lawrence’s Mystic Journey, and been an integral part of The Cookers, a “super group” of players including Billy Harper, George Cables, David Weiss, Cecil McBee and Billy Hart, which released the exceptional Warriors CD.
Now comes For All We Know, his first CD as a bandleader in three years. Henderson, who carries on Miles Davis’ sense of timing and sound, has wisely put together a quartet including Davis alum (and jam jazz star) John Scofield on guitar, with great results. On Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz”, the pair lock together at times, with a melodic, flowing result. “Be Cool” (written by Henderson’s wife Natsuko) allows Scofield to show his lyrical side, while still swinging along. The rhythm section of Doug Weiss (bass) and Billy Drummond (drums) isn’t called on to carry any great weight in these recordings, but they contribute a subtle and dynamic bottom to the music. While the cover of Herbie Hancock’s “Cantaloupe Island” seems unnecessary, the plaintive “Missing Miles” is an elegant elegy for the Prince of Darkness.
Henderson is in complete control here, not only delivering memorable solos on trumpet and flugelhorn, but also writing two songs, producing and mixing the album. Here’s hoping that this septuagenarian keeps his creative juices flowing well into his next decade.
Mon, 25 October 2010
Am I wrong to think that Taylor Eigsti’s latest CD is a tad formulaic? I don’t want to denigrate the talented pianist’s chops, nor his growing ability as a composer, as witnessed by multiple Grammy nominations. But in many ways, Daylight at Midnight seems like it was put together by some A&R person. Do we have some covers of modern rock like Bill Frisell does ? Coldplay’s “Daylight”is here; check. Nick Drake covers like Brad Mehldau? “Pink Moon”; check. Vocalist added on a bunch of tracks like the Bad Plus? Becca Stevens on hand; check.
In comments he made about the CD, Eigsti explained that he wanted to move away from standards and tackle “the singer-songwriter world”, which may explain why the selections seem to follow in other artists’ footsteps. In some ways that’s too bad, because Eigsti has emerged as a formidable player, both as a leader and as a sideman with Julian Lage and Eric Harland. He really has no need to shoehorn himself into the same role as so many other musicians at this point in his career.
Having made that criticism, I must say that I enjoyed Daylight at Midnight very much. Eigsti’s trio, which includes bassist Harish Raghavan and drummer Harland, has a wonderful sense of unity, particularly when playing with delicacy on some of the quieter numbers like Rufus Wainwright’s “The Art Teacher”. He switches off piano to use the Fender Rhodes and other electric instruments that warm and fill out tunes like “Little Bird”. Ms. Stevens is a unique sounding singer, whose voice is highly instrumental sounding, making her seem more like part of the band than a guest.
Having visited these songs, perhaps Eigsti’s next CD will focus more on his originals and less on covering the ground others have already trod quite well.
Fri, 22 October 2010
You can put it on the list right now - Danilo Perez’s’ Providencia is one of the ten best jazz CD’s of 2010. The Panamanian pianist has made his reputation with a tremendous ability to turn the staid and expected into something special, whether as a bandleader or the sideman of choice for Wayne Shorter, Roy Haynes and the late Steve Lacey. I was fortunate to see Perez and Lacey in a small club in Boston a few years back, working their magic on the Thelonious Monk catalog, interpreting and reinterpreting material that had long ago been put on a pedestal. Providencia is a major statement from Perez, as he asserts his abilities as composer, performer and leader, mixing Latin-influenced tunes with small and larger group numbers to great effect.
Perez works with the outstanding young alto sax player Rudresh Mahanthappa here, and together they wrote one of the album’s highlights, the two part workout “The Maze”. Together they call to mind the Coltrane-Tyner team of the mid-Sixties, as Mahanthappa takes an extended solo while Perez keeps him on course with his probing fingers. The second part is as gentle as the first is manic, and ends the album on a sweet, lingering note.
Perez’s songwriting is top notch on this collection. The epic “Daniela’s Chronicles” starts the album, with Perez attempting to create a musical portrait of his daughter’s childhood. He fully succeeds in creating a cinematic feel. His elegy for his former teacher, “The Oracle (Dedicated to Charlie Banacos), gives Perez and Mahanthappa a lovely melody line to work with, as the pianist showcases his right hand with a series of caressing runs.
The CD shifts sounds on a dime, and always with great effect. The rhythmic “Galactic Panama” showcases Adam Cruz on drums, just as “Bridge of Life, Part I” allows the unusual instrumentation of flute, oboe, French horn and bassoon to bring the music to life. Wordless vocals from Sara Serpa on the title track recall Flora Purim at her finest.
Never far from his roots, Perez includes two covers of his Latin favorites on the CD. Carlos Eleta Almaran’s“Un Historia de un Amor” is presented in a style reminiscent of Keith Jarrett’s most recent trios, but still uniquely his own, as Perez plays with subtlety, and yet with great emotion.
Thu, 21 October 2010
Totally Fuzzy is the ultimate blog aggregator, allowing you to see what is posted and by whom at any moment of the day. In addition to all that, the gang at Team Fuzzy has come up with a source for video as well, called The Fuzzy Tube.
A quick trip over to the site finds it easy to navigate, and videos from the likes of Miles Davis, Harry Connick, Jr., Wynton Marsalis and Grover Washington, Jr. pop up. If you're looking for a musically directed alternative to YouTube, this could be the place.
Category:general -- posted at: 1:43pm EDT
Fri, 15 October 2010
Gary Burton is back in New York next week, bringing his New Quartet into the Blue Note for a week long run. I spoke to the noted Vibes player while he was preparing material for the North American debut of the band, which includes his latest guitar wunderkind Julian Lage, bassist Scott Calley, and drummer Antonio Sanchez, with whom Burton toured the world in his recent Quartet Revisited foray. The New Quartet shows every sign of being one of the strongest Burton has led, playing mostly new material with the energy and excitement that new enterprises so often bring.
After fifty years of playing and recording, Burton is still, as he says “a happy camper”. In addition to the new group, which will tour Europe after the New York stand and then record, he plans reunions with old partner Chick Corea in the Spring of 2011, and another tour with Pat Metheny in 2012.
Click here to listen to the interview, including musical selections from Burton and his band members including:
Gary Burton – “First Impression” from Generations. Lage’s first CD as a bandleader earned him a Grammy Nomination in 2009, Here he is debuting with Burton, and contributing this composition. The band is Burton on vibes, Lage on guitar, Makoto Ozone on piano, James Genus on bass and Clarence Penn on drums.
Gary Burton – “Get Up and Go” from Next Generation, Lage recorded with Burton’s quintet in 2004 and 2005, and this CD was their finest effort. Recorded with pianist Vedem Neselovsky, bassist Luques Curtis and drummer James Williams, the music is inspired and always interesting, as Burton introduces young talent in his inimitable manner.
Gary Burton and Chick Corea – “Bud Powell” from The New Crystal Silence. Burton’s almost symbiotic relationship with Chick Corea has lasted nearly forty years. It’s rare that two individuals, giants on their individual instruments, will put aside egos and scheduling issues in order to make stirring music. And yet, their most recent recording, is as vibrant and stimulating as any from their past.
Gary Burton – “Syndrome” from Quartet Live. Burton’s reunion with Pat Metheny and bassist Steve Swallow was a major festival draw over the past two years. With Antonio Sanchez as drummer, the band explored a number of songs that Burton was given over the years by writers like Carla Bley, Corea, and Keith Jarrett. This Bley composition shows the band at their peak.
Fri, 15 October 2010
I'm in the financial services industry for my day gig, and the Wall Street Journal is a vital part of what I do. The financial information is crucial, but the Weekend Journal is balm for the soul. It features intelligent writing about art, music, books, film and television. One of the contributors is Terry Teachout, a writer I've lauded on these pages before for his jazz biography, "Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong".
This week he muses on the subject of artists who excel in multiple areas, particularly as they age. He writes eloquently, as only a well-informed fan can, about the piano playing of Nat "King" Cole. Most listeners think of Cole as a consummate crooner, who helped define modern balladry. Teachout points out why Cole is his favorite jazz piano player, and he commentary is worth reading. Grab the paper today, or read it online here.
Category:general -- posted at: 1:25pm EDT