Mon, 31 January 2011
Once again, I call your attention to the great blog Breathe of Life, where every Monday three new "mixtapes" of classic, contemporary and cover tunes. These mixtapes are only available for one week, so be sure to check early and often.
There are two exceptional jazz mixtapes availabel right now - The Quintet (Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Charlie Mingus & Max Roach) classics, and Sun Ra doing covers of classic jazz tunes. Get 'em now!
Category:general -- posted at: 11:00am EST
Fri, 14 January 2011
I try to begin each new year with a look back at the most memorable releases I had the pleasure to listen to over the previous twelve months. These are not necessarily the "best" of 2010, just a few of my favorite things, like:
Danilo Perez – Providencia.
Jason Moran - Ten
Cassandra Wilson - Silver Pony
Charles Lloyd Quartet - Mirror
Vijay Ayer - Solo
New Things from Old Friends
Geri Allen - Flying Towards the Sound
Randy Weston - The Storyteller: Live at Dizzy's Coca-Cola
The Bad Plus - Never Stop
Houston Person - Moment to Moment
Azar Lawrence - Mystic Journey
New Artists and Those Hitting Their Stride
Gregory Porter - Water
Esperanza Spalding - Chamber Music Society
Trombone Shorty - Backatown
Catherine Russell - Inside This Heart of Mine
Tia Fuller - Decisive Steps
Memorable Reissues, Archival Albums and Compilations
Vince Guaraldi - The Definitive Vince Guaraldi
Sonny Rollins - Way Out West
Stan Getz & Keny Barron - People Time: The Complete Recordings
Miles Davis - Bitches Brew 40th Annviersary Collector's Edition
Various Artists - CTI Records - The Cool Revolution
Tribute Albums of Note
Conrad Herwig - The Latin Side of Herbie Hancock
Nellie McKay - As Normal as Blueberry Pie: A Tribute to Doris Day
Cheryl Bentyne - The Gershwin Songbook
Billy Cobham and the Colin Towns HR Big Band - Meeting of the Spirits:A Celebration of the Mahavishnu Orchestra
Mingus Big Band - Live at the Jazz Standard
Reunions and Collaborations of Note
Bill Charlap and Renee Rosnes - Double Portrait
Ran Blake and Sara Serpa - Camera Obscura
Keith Jarrett/Charlie Haden - Jasmine
Rudresh Mahanthappa and Bunky Green - Apex
Ralph Towner/Paolo Fresu - Chiaroscuro
Podcast 202 lets you hear some selections from these wonderful albums, including:
Charles Lloyd Quartet - "Lift Every Voice and Sing" from Mirrors. A dreamy selection of recordings, both originals and traditional African-American tunes like this one. The band is sublime - Lloyd on saxophone, Jason Moran on piano, Reuben Rogers on double bass and Eric Harland on drums. I'm looking forward to catching the band in Western Mass later this month.
Cassandra Wilson - "A Day in the Life of a Fool" from Silver Pony. Last year it was her return to standards. This year, it's a dizzying mix of old, new, jazzy, folky, studio and live. Here is unique version of a Brazilian standard, with
Geri Allen - "Red Velvet in Winter" from Flying Toward the Sound. Geri had a very good year - her line album with Timeline was also worthy of note, but it was this solo piano album that really floored me.
Trombone Shorty - "Hurricane Season" from Backatown. Pure New Orleans fun - is it jazz? Funk? R&B? Pass me another beer and we'll dance to it.
Randy Weston - "African Sunrise" from The Storyteller: Live at Dizzy's Coca Cola. I can't say Randy Weston every went away, and yet this live CD seemed to be something of a comeback for the venerable pianist. Chock full of insightful new arrangements of Weston classics, the sextet of Weston, Benny Powell on trombone, TK Blue on flute and sax, Alex Blake on bass, Lewis Nash on drums and Neil Clarke on percussion took no prisoners.
Danilo Perez - "Cobilla" from Providencia. Probably my favorite album all year, Danilo celebrates his children with small group, duo and solo pieces that put him at the top of the most imaginative players and writers of today.
Direct download: Podcast_203_-_A_Few_of_My_Favorite_Things_2010.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:00am EST
Wed, 12 January 2011
Blind since an accident in his first few days of life, Raul Midon is a musician who refuses to be categorized. His guitar playing and sensibilities speak of jazz; his voice a mix of old school R&B and improvisational scat; his songwriting showing influences of any number of genres from around the world.
His latest CD, Synthesis, is produced by bassist Larry Klein, who has worked with other "genre-benders" like Joni Mitchell and Herbie Hancock. Klein brings an even greater sense of jazz ethos to Midon;s work, adding experienced players like Vinnie Colaiuta (Jeff Beck, Frank Zappa) and Dean Parks (Steely Dan, Stevie Wonder) to the mix. The result is a highly enjoyable collection of songs that focus on Midon's subtle structures for his songs.
A recent conversation with Midon found him readying for an East Coast show before hitting the road to Europe in support of Dianne Reeves. He spoke honestly about the realities of the music business, his development of a home recording studio using cutting edge software, and his musical influences. Click here to listen to our talk, with musical selections from his three albums, including:
"Bonnie's Song" from Synthesis. Although he often plays solo onstage, his latest CD is a band project, which includes Klein on bass, Midon and Parks on guitars, Colaiuto on drums, Jamie Muhoberac on keyboards and Paulinho Da Costa on percussion. His vocal trait of "mouth trumpeting" gets a good workout here.
"Blackbird" from Synthesis. Claiming to be unfamiliar with the Paul McCartney original, Raul puts his own stamp on this classic. Anyone else hear traces of Kenny Rankin here?
"Sittin' in the Middle" from State of Mind. His first CD, released in 2006, allowed Midon the chance to sing with his hero, Stevie Wonder, and write this song as a tribute to the late Donny Hathaway, a vocal influence on Raul.
"Caminando" from A World Within a World. Born to an Argentinean father and African-American mother in New Mexico, there is a strong latin influence in Raul's playing and writing. His love of flamenco music shows in this track.
An Evening with Raul Midon @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (One SOPAC Way, South Orange, NJ, 07079) will take place on Sunday, Jan 16 at 7pmTickets: $35, $25. To purchase, visit http://www.SOPACnow.org or call 973.313.ARTS
Sat, 8 January 2011
At the age of 29, alto saxophonist Jackie McLean had already recorded six albums for Blue Note Records, and been a key sideman on sessions for other Blue Note stalwarts like Freddie Redd, Donald Byrd, Tina Brooks, Jimmy Smith and Walter Davis. He had been onstage for the Living Theater’s famous play “The Connection”. He was a member of the late Fifties edition of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, and taken part in the historic Blues and Roots sessions with Charles Mingus.
One reason for this extraordinary amount of recording at a young age was his failure to maintain a New York City cabaret license card due to his heroin abuses. Without the bandstand as a place to earn, he was in the studio constantly.
1961 would prove to be a typically busy year for McLean. Before it was over, he would complete two albums for Blue Note as a leader, and star on albums by Kenny Dorham and Redd. Fifty years ago today, he lead a quintet into Rudy Van Gelder’s studio in Englewood Cliff, New Jersey to record the album that would become Bluesnik, my favorite of his many releases.
McLean was joined by 22 year old trumpet player Freddie Hubbard for the first time. Hubbard had cut a wide swath through the jazz world since his appearance in 1958, being tapped for session work by John Coltrane, Randy Weston, Eric Dolphy and Ornette Coleman, among others. Open Sesame, his first album as a leader had been released to rave reviews the previous year. Joining the two that day were musicians with whom they both had studio experience. Pianist Kenny Drew, who wrote a number of the songs for Bluesnik, had been part of McLean’s sextet three months earlier. Doug Watkins on bass and Pete LaRoca on drums had worked with Hubbard as far back as 1959.
Click here to listen to the final recording made that auspicious day, the title track, “Bluesnik”. Written as a 12 bar blues, the improvisational work after the melody is firmly stated takes the tune to shifting signatures, primarily under Drew’s direction. McLean’s blowing shows his debt to Charlie Parker, but also shows him preparing to leave basic bebop behind for other places. A true classic.
Fri, 7 January 2011
When someone looks for a top-notch drummer for their sessions, you can be sure that Kendrick Scott is on the short list. Besides anchoring Terence Blanchard's band for years, Scott has recorded and toured with the likes of The Crusaders, Lizz Wright, Dianne Reeves, Pat Metheny, Herbie Hancock, Joe Lovano and Kenny Garrett. He was the backbone of the 50th Annivesary Monterey Jazz All-Stars band, which included Blanchard, James Moody, Benny Green, Dennis Hodge and Nnenna Freelon.
Scott is also a bandleader in his own right, leading a band he calls the Kendrick Scott Oracle. His records on his own label, World Culture Music, which has released CDs from other artists, including Mike Moreno and Julie Hardy. He'll take his band back into the studio later this year, to record a new album. In the meanwhile, his road schedule is intense, performing with Blanchard, the Oracle, and on a special bill of Houston-born players at the 92nd Street Y.
Kendrick found time to speak to me during all these engagements, and talked about his label, his band, and prjects he'd like to tacke in the coming years. Click here to listen to the conversation, including tunes featuring Kendrick's inimitable drumming, including:
Kendrick Scott Oracle - "A View From Above" from The Source. Kendrick's supporting musicians on this track are a who's who of young jazz lions of today - Seamus Blake, Walter Smith III and Myron Walden on sax, Mike Moren on guitar, Derrick Hodge on bass, Aaron Parks on piano and Scott on drums. The track runs that gamut from dreamy to frenetic, with Moreno's guitar supplying the former, and Blake and Walden trading off blistering solos for the latter. Scott is at the center of this musical hurricane, and he holds it together with both strength and subtlety.
Herbie Hancock - "Actual Proof" from an unreleased recording Live at Haus der Berliner Festspiele, Berlin, Germany on June 20, 2008. Jack DeJohnette is a main influence of Scott, so it's no wonder that Herbie Hancock tapped Kendrick to fill his chair on this unusual date from 2008. The band that night - Hancock on keyboards, Terence Blanchard on trumpet, James Genus on bass, Gregoire Maret on harmonica and Scott on drums.
Gretchen Parlato - Title Track from In A Dream. One of Kendrick's favorite vocalists to work with, Gretchen no only sings, but writes lyrics for previously instrumental jazz tracks. This one, written by pianist Robert Glasper, features a backing band of Lionel Loueke on guitar, Aaron Parks on keyboards, Derrick Hodge on bass and Scott on drums and percussion.
Terence Blanchard - "Mantra" from A Tale of God's Will (A Requiem for Katrina). Scott recieved a Grammy Award for appearing on this now classic recording, which included this spiritual track he wrote for the project. He has described the number as a "mantra for healing and renewal." The band is Blanchard on trumpet, Aaron Parks on piano, Brice Winston on sax, Derrick Hodge on bass, Scott on drums. and Zack Harmon on tabla. The strings are the Northwest Sinfonia, conducted by Blanchard.
Direct download: Podcast_203_-_A_Conversation_with_Kendrick_Scott.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:00am EST
Wed, 5 January 2011
This week’s Podcast takes a look back to the dawn of jazz, courtesy of a conversation with author David Fulmer. Fulmer is the author of a series of novels set in Storyville, the sin capital of New Orleans in the early decades of the 20th century. Fictional characters mingle with historical figures from the world of jazz, including Buddy Bolden, Jelly Roll Morton, and a barely out of short pants Louis Armstrong.
His first published novel, Chasing the Devil's Tail, won a Shamus Award in 2002 and an AudioFile Golden Earphones Award in 2008. It was nominated for a Los Angeles Times Book Prize, a Falcon Award and a Barry Award, and was selected for Borders "Best of 2003 List" among other plaudits.
Jass, the second Storyville mystery, was published in January of 2005. It was selected for the Best of 2005 lists by Library Journal and The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and won the Georgia Author of the Year Award for Fiction.
Fulmer and I discussed how he re-creates a by-gone era, and in wonderful detail describes what the sweaty clubs of Storyville must have felt and sounded like when “jass” was being born.
Appropriate music from this time period punctuates the interview, including:
Jelly Roll Morton - “Buddy Bolden’s Blues (I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say)” from Last Sessions: The Complete General Recordings. He claimed that he originated jazz in 1902, but that might just be boasting. Regardless, pianist Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe a.k.a. Jelly Roll Morton (1885-1941) turned folk music and ragtime into what we might today think of as jazz.
Original Dixieland Jass Band – “Tiger Rag” from The Complete Original Dixieland Jazz Band. The first commercial jazz recording was made on August 17, 1917 in New York City for Aeolian-Vocalian Records, but since it was made in a soon to be obsolete format, it was re-recorded on March 25, 1918 on Victor records. While the song had been played for at least a decade before this recording was made, but it was copyrighted then, with credit going to band members Nick La Rocca, Eddie Edwards, Henry Ragas, Tony Sbarbaro, and Larry Shields, along with Harry Da Costa. Please note that none of them were African-American.
Cookie’s Gingersnaps – “Here Comes the Hot Tamale Man” from The Complete Freddie Keppard Heritage. Cornet player Freddie Keppard supposedly sounded the most like Buddy Bolden of anyone who recorded pre-1930. The Gingersnaps are one of many names used by Doc Cooke (an actual Doctor of Music) and his Orchestra, which featured Keppard, Jimmy Noone, Johnny St. Cyr, Zutty Singleton and Luis Russell, many of whom worked extensively with Louis Armstrong.
King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band – “Dipper Mouth Blues” from Louis Armstrong – A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Perhaps the finest collection of musicians to come out of New Orleans (the recording was made in Chicago) was the members of the band led by Joe “King” Oliver. He began playing around 1908, and by 1923, he had put together an all-star band of he and Louis Armstrong on cornet, Honore Dutrey on trombone, Stump Evans on sax, Johnny St. Cyr on banjo, Johnny Dodds on clarinet, Baby Dodds on drums, Lil Hardin (later Armstrong) on piano, and Bill Johnson on bass.
New Orleans Rhythm Kings – “Wolverine Blues (2nd Take)” from 1922-1923- Birth Of Jazz. The New Orleans Rhythm Kings Gennett recordings were a big influence on many of the white bands and musicians of the 1920s. Unlike La Rocca, Paul Mares did not try to deny the African-American roots of Jazz. The New Orleans Rhythm Kings were heavily influenced by King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band and became the first group to put out a "racially mixed" Jazz record in 1923 with "Sobbin' Blues", featuring Jelly Roll Morton. Morton went on to record five more tunes with the band.
Louis Armstrong – “Two Deuces” from Louis Armstrong – A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. June 29, 1928, in Chicago, this Lil Hardin Armstrong composition featured Louis on trumpet and vocals, along with Fred Robinson (Trombone) , Jimmy Strong (Clarinet, Tenor Saxophone), Earl “Fatha” Hines (Piano), Mancy Carr (Banjo) and Zutty Singleton (Drums).\
Dr. John - “Buddy Bolden’s Blues (I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say)” from Back to New Orleans. Because Mac Rebennack, a.k.a. Dr. John the Night Tripper, the heir to all great New Orleans piano music and the newest inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (it should be noted that Jellyroll is a member as well), should have the final word.
Direct download: Podcast_209_-_A_Conversation_with_David_Fulmer.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 4:41pm EST
Mon, 3 January 2011
The term “master” gets bandied about too often today. However, it would not be exagerating to call Glen Velez a master percussionist. He is perhaps the greatest frame drummer in the world, and certainly one of the most in demand. His recording credits show him working in modern classical music with Steve Reich, jazz with Pat Metheny and the Paul Winter Consort, pop with Suzanne Vega, and world music with many more. He has four Grammy awards to his credit. There seems little Glen Velez cannot do. His latest group. Trio Globo (pictured above), reunites Velez (left) with long-time friend and collaborator Eugne Friesen (left) and Howard Levy (center) for Steering From the Stars, a new CD.
So what’s a “frame drum” you ask? A frame drum is a drum that has a drumhead width greater than its depth. Usually the single drumhead is made of rawhide or man-made materials. Shells are traditionally constructed of bent wood (rosewood, oak, ash etc.) scarf jointed together; plywood and man-made materials are also used. Some frame drums have mechanical tuning and on many the drumhead is stretched and tacked in place. It is the earliest skin drum known to have existed. Examples are found in many places and cultures. In fact, frame drums are one of the most ancient types of musical instrumentsand are often played mainly by men in spiritual rituals. Click here for the Youtube Video of Velez discussing the frame drum.
I spoke with Velez in anticipation of the release of his new Trio Globo CD, as he prepared to make a rare appearance with both the trio and the Glen Velez TA KA DI MI Project at Symphony Space in New York. Click here to listen to Podcast 201 which features that conversation, along with musical selections from his vast catalogue including:
Paul Winter Consort - “Music for a Sunday Night in Salamanca” from Spanish Angel. A live recording made in Spain during a 1992 tour, this track was co-written by Velez. This edition of the Consort was Velez (percussion), (cello), Paul Winter (soprano sax), (flute), (bass) and (keyboard).
Trio Globo – Title track from Steering from the Stars. Long-time collaborator Eugene Friesen joined Velez and pianist and master harmonica player Howard Levy for this latest release and tour. Glen Velez – “Lunar Tides“ from Breathing Rhythms. This 2000 recording challenged listeners to “allow for a physical and spiritual experience via the forces allowed by the controlled breathing, overtone singing, and rhythms of the music set “. The musicians were Damian on pan flute, Eugene Friesen on cello and vocals and Velez playing Riq, Pandero, Clapping, Voice, Kanjira, Pods, Tar, Low Cardboard Box, High Cardboard Box, Bodhran, Bells, Caxixi, Deer Rattles, Bendir, and Maraca.
Trio Globo – Title track from Steering from the Stars. Long-time collaborator Eugene Friesen joined Velez and pianist and master harmonica player Howard Levy for this latest release and tour.
Glen Velez – “Lunar Tides“ from Breathing Rhythms. This 2000 recording challenged listeners to “allow for a physical and spiritual experience via the forces allowed by the controlled breathing, overtone singing, and rhythms of the music set “. The musicians were Damian on pan flute, Eugene Friesen on cello and vocals and Velez playing Riq, Pandero, Clapping, Voice, Kanjira, Pods, Tar, Low Cardboard Box, High Cardboard Box, Bodhran, Bells, Caxixi, Deer Rattles, Bendir, and Maraca.
Pat Metheny Group – “The Heat of the Day” from Imaginary Day. Velez met Metheny thorugh their mutual collaborator, Steve Reich. Wanting something different for his re-united Group, Metheny invited Don Alias, David Samuels and Velez to join drummer Paul Wertico for a denser, more tribal sound. The rest of this edition of the PMG is Metheny on guitar and synthesizers, Lyle Mays on keyboards, Steve Rodby on bass, Mark Ledford on horns, and David Blamires on a myriad of string instruments, plus the mellophone, recorded and vocals.
Glen Velez and Lori Cotler – “Submerged (excerpt)” from Glen Velez Solo. The TA KA DI MI Project is comprised of Velez and rhythm voice master Lori Cotler in original compositions derived from music of the Mid-East, Central Asia and the Mediterranean region. A frequent collaborator, Ms. Cotler has a unique approach to combining Jazz scat and melismatic improvisations, including the rare vocal art form known as Konnakol, a highly sophisticated South Indian drum language.
Glen Velez TA KA DI MI Project and TRIO GLOBO will appear Friday, January 7, 2011, 8:00PM at the Leonard Nimoy Thalia at Symphony Space (2537 Broadway at 95th Street). Tickets are $30/$20 Students and Seniors. To purchase tickets, contact Symphony Space 212.864.5400 or visit http://www.symphonyspace.org.
Sat, 1 January 2011
New Year's Day - a day of hangovers, resolution writing, college football games, and general recovery. Nancy and I are off to her Cousin Jimmu's open house for an afternoon of family, cut-throat board games, and the University of Connecticut's first ever trip to the Fiesta Bowl football game.
A happy new year to one and all - let's toast 2010 with a verse or two of "Let's Start the New Year Right" by Irving Berlin, sung here by that great crooner (and underrated influence on all jazz singers), Bing Crosby:
One minute to midnight, one minute to go
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EST