Wed, 24 November 2010
We all have much to be thankful for today, and so let us begin the day by sharing the sentiment of this song, written by Irving Berlin and sung by Erin Bode, the Official Straight No Chaser Song of Thanksgiving Day:
When I'm worried and I can't sleep
Category:general -- posted at: 10:00pm EST
Tue, 23 November 2010
Twenty-four hours to go before the big Thanksgiving feast! What would go better with some turkey than some "Giblet Gravy", courtesy of guitarist George Benson.
Those who only know Benson from his smooth jazz or Top 40 recordings don't realize that he was one of the funkiest and fastest guitar slingers in his early days. Here he plays with a team of top notch musicians in 1968 sessions, including Herbie Hancock (piano), Ron Certer (bass), Pepper Adams (sax) and Billy Cobham (drums). It's worth noting that three of the four - and Benson as well - are all Miles Davis Alumni.
Click here for a tune well suited to those last minute preparations around the kitchen. Cue it up and let the gravy fly!
Category:general -- posted at: 10:00pm EST
Fri, 19 November 2010
Duane "Skydog" Allman, for my money the greatest guitar player ever to have picked up a six string, would have been 64 years old today. His death in 1971 as a result of a motorcycle accident cut short what surely would have been a long and prestigous career.
Instead, we are left with great memories, a few Allman Brothers Band recordings, and his session work, some of which was put together in the Duane Allman Anthology collections. Of the rock guitar gods who came of age between 1967 and 1971, he was the closest to a jazz musician. As noted in interviews he gave before his death, Allman;s greatest influences once he began to play were Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Read Robert Palmer's liner notes for the re-issue of Kind of Blue, and you'll learn about the effect it had on Duane. In part, he writes:
Duane was a rare melodist and a dedicated student of music who was never evasive about the sources of his inspiration. "You know," he told me one night after soaring for hours on wings of lyrical song, "that kind of playing comes from Miles and Coltrane, and particularly Kind Of Blue. I've listened to that album so many times that for the past couple of years, I haven't hardly listened to anything else.
Duane could play with the jazz men, too. A few months before his death, he joined Herbie Mann, in Atlantic Records' New York City studios and recorded the great Push Push. Click here to listen to the title track, and enjoy the way Duane integrates himself into a crack jazz band composed of Gene Bianco on harmonica, Richard Tee on keyboards, Cornell Dupree on guitar, Chuck Rainey on bass, Bernard "Pretty" Purdie on drums and Ralph McDonald on percussion.
Skydog, we hardly knew ye.
Fri, 19 November 2010
On Sunday, November 21, WKCR will present the annual Coleman Hawkins Birthday Broadcast. Nicknamed "Hawk" or "Bean," Hawkins was the first true saxophone star, and he would have been 106 years old tomorrow.
His first recordings were among the most quintessential of the swing era, and his 1939 recording of “Body and Soul” was revolutionary: he only hints at the melody, instead focusing on two perfect choruses of improvisation. In the 1940s, Hawkins found himself on the forefront of the emerging bebop movement, leading bands with young musicians like Thelonious Monk, Oscar Pettiford, and Max Roach. Hawk’s forceful style on the saxophone remained unique throughout his career, and his influence still stretches across the jazz world today. He died at the age of 65 on May 19. 1969.
Tune in on Sunday, November 21st to hear the continuing legacy of this great musician.And click here to listen to the man play "Samba Para Bean", a 1962 recording from his Impulse album Desafinado: Bossa Nova And Jazz Samba. It's the Hawk on sax, with guitarists Barry Galbraith (lead) and Howard Collins (rhythm), Willie Rodriguez on bass and percussion, Tommy Flanagan on piano and Joe Locke on drums.
Thu, 18 November 2010
Jazz recordings are sometimes graced with the phenomenon of the “one take”. Imagine getting a band together and running through a number, and having that first time through be so wonderful that no further attempts are made to modify or alter it. It doesn’t happen that often, and when it does its magic. Think of some of the famous one take recordings – much of John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman and Kind of Blue, or Art Tatum’s solo recordings for Norman Granz in the mid-Fifties. All first take masterpieces. Alma Records has come up with a great way to create this kind of magic, with their “One Take” Series. Since 2008, the Canadian company has placed jazz musicians in a studio with minimal rehearsal, asked them to pick some tunes, and rolled the tape to record the music. They also bring in cameras to make a DVD. The end result is whatever it is - no overdubs, no do-overs. The real stuff, served straight, no chaser. Volume Four of the series has just been released, starring one of my favorite Hammond B-3 players, Joey DeFrancesco. He is joined by Robi Botos on keyboards, Vito Rezza on drums and Phil Dwyer on sax. DeFrancesco and Rezza appeared previously on Volume One; Botos and Dwyer on Volume Two. The six recordings made during the session are, as you might expect from musicians brought together without much preparation, heavy on standards, which are played with straight forward gusto. The players find ways to bring out the rhythmic patterns and melody that make songs like “There is No Greater Love” worth repeating over and over, with the expected solos coming at just the right places. The highlight of the album is an incendiary take on a DeFrancesco number, “Not That”, which lets the “Philadelphia Flash” cut loose for some extended organ madness, and Dwyer add a soulful sax solo. If no new ground is broken on the CD, that’s just as well. “One Take” brings us music that is fresh, lively and spontaneous. In the age of auto-tune and digital recording, that’s increasingly difficult to find.
Jazz recordings are sometimes graced with the phenomenon of the “one take”. Imagine getting a band together and running through a number, and having that first time through be so wonderful that no further attempts are made to modify or alter it. It doesn’t happen that often, and when it does its magic. Think of some of the famous one take recordings – much of John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman and Kind of Blue, or Art Tatum’s solo recordings for Norman Granz in the mid-Fifties. All first take masterpieces.
Alma Records has come up with a great way to create this kind of magic, with their “One Take” Series. Since 2008, the Canadian company has placed jazz musicians in a studio with minimal rehearsal, asked them to pick some tunes, and rolled the tape to record the music. They also bring in cameras to make a DVD. The end result is whatever it is - no overdubs, no do-overs. The real stuff, served straight, no chaser.
Volume Four of the series has just been released, starring one of my favorite Hammond B-3 players, Joey DeFrancesco. He is joined by Robi Botos on keyboards, Vito Rezza on drums and Phil Dwyer on sax. DeFrancesco and Rezza appeared previously on Volume One; Botos and Dwyer on Volume Two.
The six recordings made during the session are, as you might expect from musicians brought together without much preparation, heavy on standards, which are played with straight forward gusto. The players find ways to bring out the rhythmic patterns and melody that make songs like “There is No Greater Love” worth repeating over and over, with the expected solos coming at just the right places.
The highlight of the album is an incendiary take on a DeFrancesco number, “Not That”, which lets the “Philadelphia Flash” cut loose for some extended organ madness, and Dwyer add a soulful sax solo.
If no new ground is broken on the CD, that’s just as well. “One Take” brings us music that is fresh, lively and spontaneous. In the age of auto-tune and digital recording, that’s increasingly difficult to find.
Tue, 16 November 2010
Autumn lingers on here in New England, with a hint of winter in early morning frost. The foliage in Western Massachusetts is well past its peak, meaning that most people are no longer oohing and ahhing, but rather cursing as the rake the leaves that have fallen.
Hence it’s time for a posting of “Autumn Leaves”.
Originally it was a 1945 French song "Les feuilles mortes" (literally "The Dead Leaves") with music by Joseph Kosma and lyrics by poet Jacques Prévert. Yves Montand (with Irène Joachim) introduced "Les feuilles mortes" in 1946 in the film Les Portes de la Nuit. American songwriter Johnny Mercer wrote English lyrics in 1947 and Jo Stafford was among the first to perform his version (not surprisingly, since she recorded for Mercer’s label, Capital Records).
“Autumn Leaves” has become a jazz standard in both languages, as an instrumental and with a singer.
For most jazz purists, the definitive version comes on Cannonball Adderly’s 1958 album Somethin’ Else. Arranged primarily by pianist Ahmad Jamal, the recording featured one of Miles Davis’ rare gigs as a sideman on trumpet, Adderly on alto sax, Hank Jones on piano, Sam Jones on bass and Art Blakey on drums. Interestingly, it was released in two parts as the A and B side of a single that year (Blue Note 45-1737).
Podcast 194 celebrates this great standard with a mixtape of sorts including my favorite versions of “Autumn Leaves”, We’ll begin with the Cannonball version, and end with the version recorded by Eric Clapton on his latest CD. All in all you get ten very different versions of the classic Composition, including:
Cannonball Adderly from Somethin’ Else.
Ahmad Jamal from The Legendary Okeh and Epic Recordings.
Patricia Barber from Night Club.
Joe Pass from Virtuoso 4.
Bill Evans from Portraits in Jazz.
Nat King Cole from
Ron Carter from The Golden Striker
Tom Harrell from Time’s Mirror.
Keith Jarrett from At the Blue Note: The Complete Recordings.
Eric Clapton from Clapton.
Thanks for the idea to Breathe of Life and their July 2010 mixtape.
Sun, 14 November 2010
….Featuring, a new release from Norah Jones on Blue Note due on Tuesday, allows us to take a look at Ms. Jones in her role as collaborator. Since before she emerged on the music scene with Come Away With Me in 2002, she has been in demand by musicians who seek vocalists to augment their band, or simply a good foil with whom to interpret or color some material.
The recordings go as far back as Norah’s 2001 sessions with guitarist Charlie Hunter (a thrilling cover of Roxy Music’s “More Than This”) to her duet with Ray Charles (“Here We Go Again”) in 2004 to more recent collaborations with Willie Nelson and Belle & Sebastian. The tracks range from country to light jazz to hip-hop (collaborations with Outkast and Q-Tip).
The end result confirms my opinion that Jones is best when she has strong material and strong arrangements to sing. I find her country and hip-hop experiments interesting but ultimately unsatisfying. Her duet with Sasha Dobson on “Bull Rider”, a song once recorded by Johnny Cash, is downright listless.
When she moves onto material like “Ruler of My Heart”, backed by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, or her collaboration with Herbie Hancock on “Court & Spark”, her voice – that elegant, smoky instrument – and phrasing are far superior. The Joni Mitchell cover allows her voice to compare favorably with an extended solo on soprano sax by Wayne Shorter. Her reading of the standard “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is similarly elegant, even if the thought of her being seduced by septuagenarian Nelson has a high “ick” factor.
One quick complaint – 18 tracks are a goodly amount, but where is Norah’s guest appearance with saxophonist Tim Reis on “Wild Horses”, which is among her finest performances? Her collaboration with Hunter on Nick Drake’s “Day is Done” is also absent, but two tracks from one Hunter CD may be asking too much. Watch for her version of the Drake song on an upcoming podcast.
Fri, 12 November 2010
When Randy Weston takes the bandstand, people look up to him. This is not just because he stands six foot eight inches tall, and often dresses flamboyantly in the bright colors of the African continent. It’s also because at 84 years old, Weston has assumed the position of an elder statesman, an NEA Jazz Master, and a father of pan-African classical music.
2010 has been a busy year for Weston. He is currently touring the United States with his African Rhythms Group, is releasing a new CD (The Storyteller on Motéma Music) and an autobiography (African Rhythms: The Autobiography of Randy Weston, a collaboration with noted jazz writer Willard Jenkins and published by Duke University Press). He performs at the University of Massachusetts on November 18th, as part of the "Art & Power in Movement -Rethinking the Black Power and Black Arts Movements", produced by the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies.
This year also marks the 50th anniversary of Weston’s first great recording, Uhuru Afrika, a spectacular four-part suite composed by Weston, arranged by long-time collaborator Melba Liston, with lyrics by the great Harlem Renaissance poet, Langston Hughes. That album appeared when there were no such things as “world music”, and few jazz musicians were including elements of traditional African music into their recordings. A large scale concert presentation of the work will be held in New York tonight, featuring several musicians who appeared on the original recording, including percussionist Candido Camero and drummer Charlie Persip.
I spoke with Mr. Weston this week, and Podcast 193 is that conversation, along with a few choice muscial selections from his vast catalogue, including:
Randy Weston - "African Lady" from Uhuru Afrika. Before there was World Music, there was this groundbreaking album, still remarkably vibrant after 50 years. Maybe this "who's who" list of musicians had something to do with it: Clark Terry, trumpet, fluegelhorn; Benny Bailey, Richard Williams, Freddie Hubbard, trumpets; Slide Hampton, Jimmy Cleveland, Quentin Jackson, trombones; Julius Watkins, French horn; Gigi Gryce, alto saxophone, flute; Sahib Shihab, alto & baritone saxophone; Jerome Richardson, saxophones, piccolo, Budd Johnson, tenor saxophone, clarinet; Yusef Lateef, tenor saxophone, flute, oboe; Cecil Payne, baritone saxophone; Les Spann, flute, guitar; Kenny Burrell, guitar; Randy Weston; piano; George Duvivier, Ron Carter, basses; Max Roach, Charlie Persip, G.T. Hogan, drums; Babatunde Olatunji, African percussion; Candido Camero, congas; Armando Peraza, bongos,congasand vocalists Martha Flowers and Brock Peters. All arranged by the great Melba Liston. Whew!
Randy Weston - "Niger Mambo" from Highlife. Three years later, Weston and Ms. Liston collaborated again on a large ensemble work influenced by his visits to the African continent. Musicians include Ray Copeland, trumpet, fluegelhorn; Jimmy Cleveland, Quentin Jackson; trombone; Julius Watkins, French horn; Aaron Bell, tuba; Booker Ervin; tenor saxophone; Budd Johnson, soprano & tenor saxophones; Randy Weston, piano; Peck Morrison, bass; Charlie Persip, drums; Frankie Dunlop, drums, percussion; Archie Lee, congas, percussion; George Young, percussion.
Randy Weston African Rhythm Trio - "Portrait Of Frank Edward Weston" from Zep Tepi. Weston wrote this piece to honor his father, a man of whom Weston says "“My Dad gave me everything. He made me take piano lessons, and he gave me access to all that great music. And he was a great cook! I was really spoiled." The trio is Weston on piano, bassist Alex Blake and African-style percussionist Neil Clarke.
Randy Weston and his African Rhythms Sextet - "Hi Fly" from The Storyteller: Live at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola. Weston's latest CD is a mix of new tunes and old favorites, like this jazz standard Weston originally recorded in the mid-50's. The band is Weston on piano, the late Benny Powell (in his last work with Mr. Weston, a favorite collaborator) on trombone, T.K. Blue on sax, Alex Blake on bass, Lewis Nash on drums, and Neil Clarke on percussion.
(Randy Weston's Uhuru Afrika 50th Anniversary Concert Celebration takes place on Saturday, November 13 at 8PM at the BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center 199 Chambers Street New York, NY 10007 Ticket prices: $25, $35 & $45 (students and seniors save $10)
Direct download: Podcast_193_-_A_Conversation_with_Randy_Weston.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 10:00pm EST
Mon, 1 November 2010
Antibalas (Spanish for “bullet proof”) seems poised to leave the Brooklyn underground scene for greener pastures, riding a wave of critical acclaim from their musical involvement in the Broadway musical “Fela!”. It seems appropriate that Ropeadope Records re-release the band’s 2004 funk album Who Is this America? to reach out to their new audience.
One of the few studio efforts that captures the dynamism of Antibalas’ stage show, Who Is this America? is a chanting, pounding slice of Afrobeat by way of Brooklyn. Fourteen pieces strong, the band features a mighty horn section that alternately skanks (“Pay Back Africa”) and struts (“Elephant”), and turns the nearly twenty minute long “Sister” into a jam that would not be out of place on an Ornette Coleman album. “Money Talks’ is a previously unreleased bonus track added to the CD, an instrumental that smacks of New Orleans voodoo. This is one of those releases I missed the first time around, and am glad to see back.
Sun, 31 October 2010
Female jazz singers seem to be divided into two worlds these days. There are those who follow the tradition of Ella, Sassy and Anita O’Day, and record standards or popular tunes with a classic jazz background. This would include Diana Krall, Jane Monheit, and Dianne Reeves. Thankfully we have legends like Dee Dee Bridgewater and Nancy Wilson recording them as well.
Then there are those who try to broaden the genre with covers of Baby Boomer favorites and present their music with less traditional jazz arrangements. These would include Cassandra Wilson, Lizz Wright, and Rene Marie. Karrin Allyson has a foot firmly in each camp.
Leslie Lewis, as can be gathered from the title of her new CD, Keeper of the Flame, stands firmly in the classics. Her latest release, recorded with the Gerard Hagen Trio, is heavy with selections from the Great American Songbook and the Great Brazilian Songbook (if there is such a thing) and shows her ready to follow in the classic singers’ footsteps.
Thanks to a guest appearance by flutist Gary Foster, the Brazilian numbers are the standouts on the CD. “Fotographia”, an Antonio Carlos Jobim classic, is given a lilting, swaying reading, Ms. Lewis’ voice soft as a breeze. Ivan Lins’ “The Island” features Hagen’s piano to great effect, with Ms. Lewis singing the yearning lyrics with feeling.
The CD wraps up with two classics – “Speak Low” and “Caravan” – which can stand with some of the fine interpretations of the past. The former song, one of my favorites, is taken at a slower tempo than expected, and Ms. Lewis’ vocals are an instrument to be reckoned with, curling seductively around the familiar lyrics. Foster’s saxophone solo brings it home, dancing over Jerry Kalaf’s subtle percussion.