Fri, 24 June 2011
Gerald Wilson is a legend - a premier composer, trumpeter, arranger, bandleader and educator. His work, during his rich and varied seven-decade career, has supported some of the greatest names in jazz including Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, Bobby Darin, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Benny Carter, Nancy Wilson, Sarah Vaughn and Ray Charles, as well as a scorer for motion pictures and television shows such as Otto Preminger's "Anatomy Of A Murder" and ABC's variety program "The Red Foxx Show."
Over the past five years,
Well into his Nineties,
As symphonic jazz goes, Legacy is a worthy and enjoyable addition to Gerald Wilson’s oeuvre, but fails to reach his earlier heights.
Thu, 23 June 2011
Sixteen months ago I did an interview and podcast with singer Sachal Vasandani, and called to your attention a developing young talent. With the release of his third CD, Hi-Fly, Vasandani shows he is ready to move into the big time. Music from the CD can be heard here.
A singer of great range and emotion, he tackles both standards and original compositions with obvious vest and desire. His two duets with mentor Jon Hendricks ( a romping "One Mint Julep,” and Randy Weston’s bouncing title track) show he’s ready to scat, growl and sing with soul, and his simple version of “All the Way” is unabashedly romantic. “The Very Thought of You” is given a refreshingly uptempo treatment that turns the old chestnut into an evergreen.
The originals which he penned on his last CD, We Move, had something of a dark streak, which is replaced on Hi-Fly with wistfulness and optimism. "Summer No School" looks back at playground romance with a sigh and a smile, while “Babe’s Blues” is a take-no-prisoners vocal treat, as he explores the range of his vocal abilities. “Flood” is the CD’s highlight, as Sachal reaches down deep to share the pain of, but offer hope to, those suffering from recent natural disasters across the world.
Pianist Jeb Patton and bassist David Wong are once again an outstanding collaborators for Sachal, and the addition of players like John Ellis on saxophone has given the band a fuller, richer sound. All in all, Hi-Fly is the large step forward I had hoped Sachal Vasandani would take on his way to the top.
Wed, 22 June 2011
Dee Dee Bridgewater can’t wait to sing at the Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival.
“I love it,” she said from the New York studio where she is mixing a CD for trumpet player Theo Croker, her first as a producer. “It’s a wonderful festival. I like the fact that people can lay out on the grass, or you can be in the venue or roam the grounds. People are picnicking and they can come for the day or the whole weekend. It’s great! I really love this Festival.”
Bridgewater, a three time Grammy-award and Tony-award winning singer, is on the evening bill Saturday, June 25, 2011 presenting her tribute to singer Billie Holiday, “To Billie, With Love”. Other artists performing on Saturday include Michael McDonald, George Wein & the Newport All-Stars, the Jack DeJohnette Group featuring Rudresh Mahanthappa, Eliane Elias, the Ben Allison Band and the Lionel Loueke Trio.
Ms. Bridgewater took on the challenge of singing the well known – and well loved - songs of “Lady Day” from a different perspective than many singers might. “I tried to take another look at her and make people understand that she was a full-fledged woman with a lot of emotion and talent, not just a melancholic person surrounded by all the drama and pathos that she has been stereotyped with.” The resulting CD, Eleanora Fagan (1915-1959): To Billie with Love From Dee Dee Bridgewater, won a 2011 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album.
She and her band – pianist Edsel Gomez, bassist Kenny Davis, drummer Jaz Sawyer and reed player Craig Handy – take a contemporary view of this classic music. “We’re all looking at different ways to go at the songs”, she explained. “Me, I’m always looking for a new way to phrase the words of the song or play a little with the time signatures. I always ask the guys to come at the music with a fresh outlook every night so we don’t get lazy or rest on some great passages from a previous show. We’re always searching for new things in the music.”
Ms. Bridgewater originated the role of Billie Holiday in the play “Lady Day” on stages in Paris and London in the late 1980’s. She was nominated for the Laurence Olivier Award "Outstanding Performance of the Year by an Actress in a Musical” for the part. She had previously won the Tony Award for “Best Featured Actress in a Musical” for originating the role of Glinda the Good Witch in “The Wiz” on Broadway. A recent attempt to bring “Lady Day” to Broadway was shelved when financial backing disappeared.
Playing Billie Holiday every night during the show’s run took an emotional toll on her. “By the time we reached London, that woman had possessed me”, she recalls. “I really went thought some wild experiences with that show. At one point, people were writing me fan mail addressed to ‘Billie Holiday’. I can’t to this day figure out of the life of me why that happened – I mean my name was on the marquee big as life after all. Maybe people felt they saw her on stage.”
Ms. Bridgewater's first compilation CD, Midnight Sun, a remastered compilation of love songs from throughout her career, will be released on the DDB Records/Emarcy label, Aug. 23. Produced by her daughter Tulani Bridgewater-Kowalski, the CD is billed as "the ultimate mixed tape, traversing landscapes of melodically mournful tales of love lost, heartrending ballads about forever-afters and sultry promises of bliss." Watch this site for a full podcast interview with Ms. Bridgewater as we get closer to the release date.
Freihofer's Saratoga Jazz Festival at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center runs from Saturday, June 25 to Sunday, June 26. Other artists scheduled to appear include Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Angelique Kidjo, Dianne Reeves and Lizz Wright, The Bad Plus, Marcus Strickland, and many more on two stages. For the complete lineup of artists and performances, please log onto www.spac.org Freihofer's Saratoga Jazz Festival is produced by SPAC and Absolutely Live Entertainment.
Mon, 20 June 2011
Once well known for his composition “Afro Blue" (especially John Coltrane's incendiary interpretation of the song), as well as his hugely popular rendition of Herbie Hancock's “Watermelon Man," the opulent legacy of Mongo Santamaria has been largely overlooked in the years since his death. Jose Rizo's Mongorama rightly brings the legendary conguero’s music back into the spotlight.
This is good time music played by musicians who are clearly having a blast. Rizo, a veteran disc jockey with a flair for music “On the Latin Side”, has assembled, in collaboration with musical director Danilo Lozano, a swinging group (Lozano’s dad was a flautist in one, of Mongo’s early bands). The core band is Justo Almario (tenor sax), Lozano (flute), Oscar Hernandez (piano), Ramon Banda (timbales), Rene Camacho (bass), Joey De Leon (congas), Adonis Puentes (lead vocals), Alfredo Ortiz (percussion, vocals), Dayren Santamaria (violin), and Alberto Salas (piano).
The band swings and sways on “Bubba Boogaloo” (are you listening Carlos Santana? This one cries out for your cover version!), and they sweat their way through the descarga Tin Marin. A flute solo from guest Hubert Laws, himself a Mongo almnus, lifts “Siempre En Ti”, assisted by Almero.
In liner notes, Rizo writes “My purpose was not to copy what Mongo did, but to honor his legacy with growth and musical evolution." Right on both counts.
Thu, 16 June 2011
Multiple awards for Sonny Rollins, Jimmy Heath, Joe Lovano and Ambrose Akinmusirewere the highlight of the 2011 Jazz Journalists Awards presented in New York on June 11, 2011.
Here is a complete list of winners:
Category:general -- posted at: 3:38pm EST
Thu, 16 June 2011
An unsung hero of the Hammond Organ passed away last month, and I regret that I missed calling it your attention. Fortunately, Larry at the very hip blog Funky 16 Corners has a wonderful tribute to Odell Brown.
Odell played the funky soul-jazz that I enjoy so much, both fronting Odell Brown and the Organ-izers in the late Sixties, and as a solo act. He was a sought after R&B session musician, and performed on, and co-wrote, Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing".
Larry says it better than I can, so go to his blog and read the post, and download a wonderful mixed mp3 of Odell classics.
Wed, 15 June 2011
Maybe you can't get Dad one of those spiffy 50+" HDTVs with 3D capability, but you can get him some really cool stuff to watch on it. Our friends at True Blue Music are running a sale on some of the finest jazz DVD sets ever created.
You can choose from one of the four "Jazz Icons" sets, each filled with at least 8 DVDs of timeless performances from artists like Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, Thelonious Monk, Wes Montgomery, Charles Mingus and Duke Ellington. Maybe you prefer the aptly titled "The Greatest Jazz Films Ever", a two DVD set that includes the famous TV special "The Sound of Jazz", the legendary short "Jammin' The Blues", and the 1952 telecast of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie among other gems.
If you’re looking for something more contemporary, you can’t miss with “Icons Among Us – Jazz in the Present Tense”. This exceptional documentary looks at the creative jazz artists of today, including Nicholas Payton, Terence Blanchard, Ravi Coltrane, Dave Douglas, Brian Blade, Roy Hargrove, Medeski. Martin and Wood, Bill Frisell and Matthew Shipp (among others), making an excellent case for this being as strong and creative a jazz scene as any previous era.
Mon, 13 June 2011
Pianist Aaron Goldberg continues to emerge from the New York jazz scene as a collaborator to be reckoned with. He’s been the sideman for major label artists like Joshua Redman, and recorded extremely interesting and moving music with artists as varied as Kurt Rosenwinkel, John Ellis, Wayne Escoffery and Jimmy Greene. As a leader, he has recorded three noted CDs with the Redman rhythm section of drummer Eric Harland and bassist Reuben Rogers.
As co-leader, his work also shines. With Omer Avital and Marc Miralta he has crated the O.A.M. Trio, playing intricate originals and inspired covers from “Con Alma” to “Puff, the Magic Dragon”. He’s even worked with Ellis and Andy Hurwitz on the Baby Loves Jazz series of CDs and books.
Bienestan represents his first recorded collaboration in fifteen years with Argentine pianist-composer Guillermo Klein. A true partnership, the CD veers between quiet duets and larger group numbers. On the latter tracks, they are backed by Matt Penman on bass, Harland on drums and guests Miguel Zenon on alto sax and Chris Cheek on tenor and soprano sax.
Klein’s originals show a minimalist flair, whether on the duet “Airport Fugue” or the ensemble “Human Feel”. The joyful repetition can recalls Pat Metheny’s collaboration with Steve Reich, but at the same time, these recordings stand on their own. “Implacable” similarly lays down a repeating line, while allowing the two keyboardists room to improvise.
The two takes on the Brazilian standard “Manha de Carnaval (Black Orpheus)” illustrate why this CD never fails to interest. The first time through, the tune is stripped of its groove, and is a reflective, almost somber recording. The revisited take two tracks later builds on repeated chords, a subtle rhythm pulsing from Harland, taking the tune through a swinging place until it settles down by the song’s end. We need more musicians willing to tackle the past with open eyes and ears, and Goldberg and Klein provide us with two artists with both.
Fri, 10 June 2011
Here’s an idea for those looking for swinging gifts for their jazzhead fathers next week:
We had to give you the heads up on FRIEND OR FOE's special Father's Day promotion for the Jazz Dad in your life. Click here for a special 20% off promotion running now (Promotional Code Word is JAZZDAD).
FRIEND OR FOE takes your favorite iconic imagery of Jazz, Blues & Soul, the American sounds born of strength and struggle, joy and pain, love and sex and creates t-shirts from the striking art of the albums that are the pillars of American culture and a mainstay inspiration to music in all its forms.
The music's authenticity, you can almost hear it in our clothing the crackle of the LP on the turntable, the soul-sighs and the heart-screams, the angry horns, the crying woods. The magic of the music is what inspires and informs FRIEND OR FOE music that we fear is being lost to time, being drowned out by the noise of today's culture, the very culture it helped build.
Their shirts have a slim vintage fit with a seasonal color palette.
Thu, 9 June 2011
Last year’s Warriors CD announced that The Cookers were not ready to apply for their old age pensions. A “super group” of jazz stars who cut their teeth on late Sixties hard bop, their name comes from a memorable 1965 Blue Note blowing session by the late, great trumpeter Freddie Hubbard (The Night of the Cookers: Live at Club La Marchal).
Their latest release, Cast the First Stone, follows along in the same groove. Whether it’s the riveting trumpet of David Weiss that ends the title track, Azar Lawrence’s stirring guest shot on George Cables’ “Looking for the Light”, or Billy Harper swinging through his “The Seventh Day”, the CD is uniformly strong. In fact, it’s a straight-ahead jazz fan’s dream.
Special note should be taken of the powerful rhythm section, composed of veterans Cecil McBee on bass, Billy Hart on drums and George Cables on piano. Cables, who I last caught playing in the John Coltrane tribute band “We Four” with Javon Jackson, Jimmy Cobb, and Nat Reeves, continues to show he has no lingering effects from a near fatal illness three years ago. He solos on nearly every track here, particularly well on a rousing “Croquet Ballet”, composed by Billy Harper. If these guys are cookin', I'm listening.