Mon, 28 February 2011
Elliott Sharp, one of the great avant-garde guitarists and composers of the past few decades, will turn 60 years young this weekend, and will celebrate with two great big wonderful birthday parties in New York.
The first will be held at the Issue Project Room in Brooklyn on Friday night, March 4, 2011. Entitled E#@60: A Benefit Concert Honoring Elliott Sharp’s 60th Birthday, it is billed as “A One-Night Celebration Featuring Internationally Renowned Artists and World Premiere Performances”. The event will be hosted by Jo Andres and actor Steve Buscemi, with performances by Sharp, the JACK Quartet, theSirius Quartet, Jack Womack, and Tracie Morris.
After he catches his breath, the party continues with a collection of his long-time friends and collaborators performing his music at ISSUE’s current space at the Old American Can Factory on Saturday March 5, 2011. Among Sharp’s works to be performed are Flexagons (Orchestra Carbon), Octal (Sharp performing solo), Oligosono (Jenny Lin, piano), Bootstrappers (JG Thirwell, Anthony Coleman, Melvin Gibbs, Don McKenzie, & Sharp), Amygdala (Marco Cappelli, guitar), and an all-guitar version of Sharp’s SyndaKit. The celebration begins at 5:00 with an open Flexagons rehearsal and continues until late.
Sharp has long been a central figure in the avant-garde music scene in New York City of over thirty years and a long-time supporter of ISSUE Project Room. Composer, multi-instrumentalist, and producer, he leads the projects Carbon, Orchestra Carbon, Tectonics and Terraplane, and has pioneered ways of applying fractal geometry, chaos theory, and genetic metaphors to musical composition and interaction. His collaborators have included Ensemble Modern; Qawwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan; Radio-Symphony of Frankfurt; Debbie Harry, Perry Hoberman; blues legends Hubert Sumlin and Pops Staples; jazz greats Jack DeJohnette, Sonny Sharrock, Oliver Lake, and Billy Hart; turntable innovator Christian Marclay; and Bachir Attar of the Master Musicians Of Jahjouka, Morocco.
I caught up with Elliott as he was rehearsing for these performances, and discussed his collaborations, his love for mentor Roswell Rudd and the music of Thelonious Monk, and how he's like people to think of him today. Featured in Podcast 208 are songs including:
Elliott Sharp - “Return of the Pharm Boys” from Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Yahoos. One of his most accessible works - and with Sharp that is a relative term - was co-written and performed with Eugene Chadborne (piano and dobro). Vernon Reid, Elliott Sharp and David Torn - “Valse Oblique” from Guitar Oblique. A “super session” of sorts, featuring three guitarists - Reid (the key player in Living Colour), Sharp and David Torn (Bill Bruford, Lou Reed, Jan Gabarek). Elliott Sharp - “Homage James Tenney” from String Quartets 2002-2007. Sharp says that perhaps listening to his more recent string quartets a listener can get a good idea as to what his musical philosophy and style is about. ‘Nuff said.
Elliott Sharp - “Return of the Pharm Boys” from Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Yahoos. One of his most accessible works - and with Sharp that is a relative term - was co-written and performed with Eugene Chadborne (piano and dobro).
Vernon Reid, Elliott Sharp and David Torn - “Valse Oblique” from Guitar Oblique. A “super session” of sorts, featuring three guitarists - Reid (the key player in Living Colour), Sharp and David Torn (Bill Bruford, Lou Reed, Jan Gabarek).
Elliott Sharp - “Homage James Tenney” from String Quartets 2002-2007. Sharp says that perhaps listening to his more recent string quartets a listener can get a good idea as to what his musical philosophy and style is about. ‘Nuff said.
Steve Lacy and Roswell Rudd - Title Track from Monk's Dream. Rudd was Sharp’s mentor at Bard College, and turned him on to the music of Thelonious Monk and other jazz innovators..Here he performs with perhaps the greatest interpreter of Monk's work, Steve Lacy on a 1999 Verve release.
Joey Baron + Elliott Sharp + Robert Zorzi - “The Erotic Dwarf” from Beyond. Sharp loves playing with strong drummers, and none more than Joey Baron. This trio date from 2000 seemingly has a normal set-up of two guitars and a set of drums, but tape loops, overdubs and other instruments such as sax and dobro that make it a treasure trove of sounds.
Direct download: Podcast_208_-_A_Conversation_with_Elliott_Sharp.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 2:44pm EDT
Sat, 26 February 2011
The soprano sax gets a bad rap these days, and I confess to being one person who finds it being overused. The result is music that comes across as whiny, rather than plaintive, at times. Sometimes it's just cliched.
However, in the hands of Jane Ira Bloom, the soprano sax is a vital, often illuminating instrument. Her latest CD, Wingwalker, can swing, bop, be contemplative and be romantic, sometimes all within one tune.
Listen to “Life on Cloud 8”. Pianist Dawn Clement sets the tone, and drummer Bobby Previte and bassist Mark Helias are ready and able to subtly lay down a groove for Ms. Bloom. Her solos are long and graceful, and she works in and around the beat. Sometimes she’s Monk-like, other times spiraling like Coltrane. It’s wonderful jazz, and Ms. Clements’ tasty piano solo only adds to it.
I enjoy this collection of tunes far more than her World Music-tinged releases, and her electronic work. Maybe it’s the time she got to spend on the material while enjoying her recent Guggenheim Fellowship, or maybe it’s re-uniting with Ms. Clement and Mr. Previte. In any event, by the time she closes the CD with a solo version of Lerner & Loewe’s “I Could Have Danced All Night”, the listener knows they’ve been in the hands of a master.
Thu, 24 February 2011
Korean born Youn Sun Nah’s latest CD, Same Girl, opens with as radical a re-interpreting of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “My Favorite Things” as I’ve heard since John Coltrane stood the jazz word on its collective ear four decades ago. Accompanying herself on kalimba, her vocal is ethereal and hypnotizing. She slows the tune down to a sleepy ballad, stretching out some phrases, clipping others. It’s thrilling music.
I can’t say that the rest of the CD lives up to this exciting reimagination, but I can say that Youn Sun Nah is a talent to be reckoned with. The arrangements are often stark, but her singing can be firm and commanding on “My Name is Carnival”, a tribute to the late folk singer Jackson C. Frank. Her version of Randy Newman’s “Same Girl” comes across as a lullaby, and Sergio Mendes’ “Song of No Regret” as a Broadway torch song a la Sondheim. I look forward to more from this unique artist.
Thu, 17 February 2011
The 2011 Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air Portland Jazz Festival Presented by U.S. Bank boasts over 125 shows and covering a 20 day period, is set to commence Friday, February 18 through Sunday, February 27. This year's 8th annual festival has partnered with 21 multi-cultural venues all across the city in support of this year's theme: Bridges and Boundaries: Jewish & African Americans Playing Jazz.
This is especially true in having historically united Jewish and African American jazz musicians. Miles Davis, Charlie Parker and other African American artists reached out to white musicians to travel uptown to Minton’s Playhouse and other Harlem sites to play jazz together. The first integrated jazz band evolved when Benny Goodman, a Jew, hired guitarist Charlie Christian. Later, when Charlie Parker formed his classic jazz quintet, he invited Jewish trumpeter Red Rodney to join his band. Legend has it that when touring through the Deep South, Parker would introduce his trumpet player as a black man named “Albino Red” so that they could travel, eat and sleep together.
Movements in contemporary jazz are leading the way in again creating bridges between American Jews and African Americans. Integration of the two cultures has been a keystone in the development of the new Downtown jazz scene in New York. Simultaneously, jazz has become a popular art form in Israel, and numerous young Israelis have moved to the United States to form a new jazz sub-culture. Trumpeter Avishai Cohen, who has joined forces with his brother and sister, Yuval and Anat Cohen, to become leaders in merging Israeli music with African American Jazz, is also an integral member in the new all-star SFJAZZ Collective, premiering the work of African American pop icon Stevie Wonder.
Israeli pianist Anat Fort has become a leader within the jazz avant-garde, and is part of the youngest wave of Jewish artists to move to the United States. Famed African American violinist Regina Carter’s newest project Reverse Thread, traces the musical history of African cultures including tribes of Ugandan Jews. NEA Jazz Master Randy Weston has dedicated his entire career to exploring African music with American jazz, and will open the festival with a rare solo piano concert. Portland’s own jazz master Dave Frishberg will present an evening of his favorite songs. African American musician Don Byron pays tribute to the humor of Jewish American klezmer pioneer and comedian Mickey Katz. Joshua Redman, son of African American saxophonist Dewey Redman and Jewish American dancer Renee Shedroff, will lead his new quartet. The most recent collaboration is a group of musicians, 3 Jewish Americans and 3 African Americans who have formed the Afro-Semitic Experience described as a Klezmer Hip Hop with a song titled “A Torah Afloat in a Leaky Boat Lands in Congo Square”.
The Afro-Semitic Experience, includign bass player David Chevan (pictured) and pianist Warren Byrd, has been touted on this site for a number of years now, and their appearance in a major festival is long overdue. They are more New York Downtown than Compton Downtown in sound, and well worth a listen for their melding of traditional Jewish music, modern jazz and AFrican-Americna musical sensibilities. Click here to listen to a track from their recent live album, recorded in Greenfield, MA, entitled "Tivieynu" .
Tue, 15 February 2011
Congratulations to Grammy Award winners who might in some way or another be categorized as “jazz” artists. The winners were:
New Artist: Esperanza Spalding (pictured above - and what a great win for her and the jazz universe!)
Contemporary Jazz Album: The Stanley Clarke Band, The Stanley Clarke Band
Jazz Vocal Album: Eleanora Fagan (1915-1959): To Billie With Love From Dee Dee, Dee Dee Bridgewater
Jazz Instrumental Album: Moody 4B, James Moody
Improvised Jazz Solo: "A Change is Gonna Come," Herbie Hancock
Large Ensemble Jazz Album: Mingus Big Band Live at Jazz Standard, Mingus Big Band
Latin Jazz Album: Chucho's Steps, Chucho Valdes and The Afro-Cuban Messengers.
Pop Collaboration With Vocals: "Imagine," Herbie Hancock and Larry Klein, arrangers (Herbie Hancock, Pink, Seal, Jeff Beck, India.Arie, Konono No 1 & Oumou Sangare)
Pop Instrumental Album: Take Your Pick, Larry Carlton and Tak Matsumoto
Pop Instrumental Performance: "Nessun Dorma," Jeff Beck
Rock Instrumental Performance: "Hammerhead," Jeff Beck
Traditional Pop Vocal Album: Crazy Love, Michael Buble
Category:general -- posted at: 12:09pm EDT
Mon, 14 February 2011
Romance is in the air. It's Valentine's Day, and hopefully you've made some soon to be memorable plans with that special someone. Rememebr, it's the thought that counts.
What is romance without music? I shudder to think. And therefore, here's Podcast 207 to the rescue, with a one hour plus uninterrupted mixtape of romantic music to set the mood. I've gone for both the classic jazz (Miles Davis' "My Funny Valentine", Chet Baker's "Alone Together" and John Coltane's "Lush Life") and for some newer recordings from Joe Lovano's Us Five, Corinne Bailey Rae and Halie Loren. Light some scented candles and listen to:
Corinne Bailey Rae - "My Love" from The Love E.P.
Miles Davis Quintet - "My Funny Valentine" from Cookin' With the Miles Davis Quintet.
Dave Brubeck - "Let's Get Away From It All" from Angel Eyes.
Halie Loren - "It's You" from After Dark.
Eric Marienthal - Title Song from Voices of the Heart.
Curtis Fuller - "When Lights Are Low" from The Complete Blue Note Recordings.
John Coltrane - Title Song from Lush Life.
Chet Baker - "Alone Together" from Chet.
Bill Evans - "Lover Man" from The Complete Bill Evans on Verve.
Etta James - "Do Right Man, Do Right Woman" from The Essential Etta James.
Joe Lovano's Us Five - "Donna Lee" from Bird Songs.
Sun, 6 February 2011
Had he not been taken from us too soon by cancer, Bob Marley would have been 65 years old today. In a world where we bandy about the words "iconic" and "seminal" all too often, Bob Marley and his music were both.
The son of a racially mixed marriage, he became not only the embodiment of reggae music for much of the world, but also a symbol for religious and political freedom. And his songs? They have become rallying cries for the impoverished ("Them Belly Full"), the persecuted ("Get Up, Stand Up"), and lovers of life ("One Love", which I feel is the closest thing to a world-wide anthem. joined only by John Lennon's "Imagine").
Let's celebrate the birthday with a track from saxophonist Donald Harrison's 1997 release on Impulse! Nouveau Swing, appropriately enough entitled "Bob Marley". There's a feel of Marley's "Exodus" in the beat, courtesy of bass player Reuben Roger's Carribean feel. Enjoy!
Fri, 4 February 2011
Given Walt Disney's fondness for jazz music dating back to the late 1920s and early '30s, it's no surprise that many artists in subsequent decades recorded interpretations of popular songs associated with his film's soundtracks. Disney music fans over the years included, Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck (Dave Digs Disney), Miles Davis Some Day My Prince Will Come"), John Coltrane (“Chim-Chim-Cheree”) and even Sun Ra (“Hi Ho, Hi Ho”). The embrace of Disney's musical legacy continues with a compilation of newly recorded songs, Disney Jazz Volume 1: Everybody Wants to Be a Cat, which will be released by the Walt Disney Records imprint, Disney Pearl Series on February 15th.
I spoke with Jason about the new CD, which he hopes will result is a series of releases and perhaps live performances. Podcast 206 is that conversation, with musical interludes including three sneak previews from the project:
Esperanza Spalding – “Chim-Chim-Cheree” from Disney Jazz Volume 1: Everybody Wants to Be a Cat.
Nikki Yanofsky – “It’s a Small World” from Disney Jazz Volume 1: Everybody Wants to Be a Cat.
Billie Holiday – “Strange Fruit (Tricky Remix) from Verve Remixed. A tad controversial, Olaine supervised the first of the Verve remix projects, with Trip-Hop ace Tricky taking the classic Billie Holiday song and turning it into something altogether new and different.
Dave Brubeck – “When You Wish Upon a Star” from Dave Digs Disney. A little outro music from the greatest of Disney interpreters, circa 1956, with Brubeck on piano, Paul Desmond on alto sax, Eugene Wright on bass and Joe Morello on drums.
Direct download: Podcast_208_-_A_Conversation_with_Jason_Olaine.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:30pm EDT
Wed, 2 February 2011
Feb 2nd is the accurate middle point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. Technically, the coldest period of winter is now legitimately over. Technically that is. You could fool me as I look at the mounds of snow around the neighborhood. And how do we judge when winter will loosen its grip for good here in the USA? We look to a rodent.
If Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog resident of Punxsatawney, Pennsylvania sees his shadow today, then we'll have six more weeks of winter.
The film "Groundhog Day", starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell, is a classic, at least in my household. Talking about this film this morning, my wife Nancy remembered that one song kept playing in the background of a number of scenes throughout the movie. What was it, we wondered?
The song is "You Don't Know Me" as recorded by Ray Charles. Written by country artists Cindy Walker and Eddy Arnold in 1955, Charles had a number two hit with the record in 1962. He redid the song as a duet with Diana Krall on his Genius Loves Company album, the last work he recorded before his death in 2004. Click here to enjoy it.
Tue, 1 February 2011
When I spoke with bassist Reuben Rogers, he was staring out the window of his Virgin Islands home at the ocean. New England had been blessed with a foot of snow the previous day, and he was more than happy to be far away from the road that would being him to the northern US the next week,
Rogers has been the bassist of choice of for some of the top jazz musicians of the past twenty-five years, including Wynton Marsalis, Roy Hargrove, Joshua Redman, Marcus Roberts, Nicolas Payton, Mulgrew Miller, and Dianne Reeves. He is currently touring as a member of the Charles Lloyd New Quartet, which includes Jason Moran on piano and long-time collaborator Eric Harland on drums. Once that band takes a hiatus, he’ll be with two trios, one led by Aaron Goldberg and the other by Redman’s for most of February.
Rogers has begun a solo career as well, releasing the star-studded The Thing I Am in 2006. We talked about playing with the legendary Lloyd, how his Caribbean roots influence his playing, and where he plans to go from here in Podcast 205, which features music from:
Charles Lloyd Quartet - "Booker's Garden" from Rabo de Nube. A live recording of a Lloyd original, dedicated to his friend Booker Ervin, with the kind of lilt and sway Rogers brings to his ensemble playing. Lloyd is on saxophone and flute, Jason Moran on piano, and Eric Harland on drums.
Charles Lloyd Quartet - "Lift Every Voice and Sing" from Mirror. A spiritual sometimes referred to as the "African-American National Anthem", the tune gets a freer, improvised treatment in the hands of the quartet.
Joshua Redman - Title Track from Back East. When Redman decided to make his first trio recordings, he worked with a number of rhythm sections, but none more effectively than Rogers and Harland. This one is as close as Redman has ever gotten to sounding like his idol, Sonny Rollins.
Nicholas Payton - "Blues in the Night" from Dear Louis. Rogers is a key player in the New Orleans trumpeter's tribute to one of the founding fathers of jazz, Louis Armstrong. Dr. John, one of the newest members of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, lends a vocal.
Donald Harrison - "Little Flowers" from Nouveau Swing. A mid-tempo tune written by and featuring Harrison on sax. Albert Wonsely, who sets the mood with a lengthy intro is on piano, Rogers on bass and Dion Parson is on drums. completing the band.
Direct download: Podcast_205_-_A_Conversation_with_Reuben_Rogers.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 10:30pm EDT