Wed, 28 September 2011
With 85 year old Tony Bennett improbably on the pop charts again with his Duets II CD, it seems appropriate to remember a different kind of duet he recorded 35 years ago today. Bennett had gone into the studios of Fantasy Records in Berkley, CA to record with pianist Bill Evans in June 1975, and the resulting album, appropriately enough entiteld The Tony Bennett-Bill Evans Album, showcased Bennett's understated approach to singing with Evans' impressionistic style of piano. Rarely did Evans "accompany" Bennett - these were true duets by two top musicians.
It seems only natural that the pair would reunite for a followup album. From September 27-30, 1976, Together Again may not have had the high points of their first collaboration, but it was none the less a sterling recording with strong playing by Evans. Click here to listen to Bennett's soulful take on a tune Evans co-wrote with Carol Hall, "The Two Lonely People".
The two never got to record again, as Evans, a long-time drug abuser, died four years later, on September 15, 1980. n New York City of a bleeding ulcer, cirrhosis of the liver, and bronchial pneumonia. Their two albums, along with unreleased and alternate takes, were reissued in 2009 by a reconstituted Fantasy Records as The Complete Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Recordings.
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EST
Tue, 27 September 2011
The first Northampton Jazz Festival will take place in
Attendees will not only be able to hear great music from the various participating groups and ensembles, but will also be given the opportunity to sample food, beer, and wine from some of the Pioneer Valley’s finest restaurants as well. Also there will be a "12 Mile Meal Celebrity Chef Throwdown" where area chefs battle each other using local ingredients to produce gourmet selections guaranteed to astonish festival attendees.
I spoke with John Michaels, the President of the Jazz Festival, and you can hear our conversation by clicking here. Among the acts who will be on two stages at the Festival featured in the Podcast are:
Marcus Strickland – “Cuspy’s Delight” from Triumph of the Heavy. His quartet’s white-hot show at Firehouse 12 in
Jonathan Kreisberg – “Nice Work If You Can Get It” from Shadowless. The guitarist led a quintet into recording studios in
Gene Bertoncini and Roni Ben-Hur – “Besame Mucho” from Jazz Therapy, Volume 1. What began as a project for Ben-Hur and the late bassist Earl May became guitar duets of the highest order. Check out their interplay on this tune, written by Mexican songwriter Consuelo Velázquez in 1940, and now a jazz and pop standard. Bertoncini will play duets with Rick Balestra.
Geoff Vidal – “
John Michaels – “Big Vic” from Spoke. Not content to just be President, he’ll play as part of the Interplay Jazz Band to kick off the day, featuring Michaels on guitar This track from his debut CD has been performed live by Charles Neville, and the recording has Michaels, Mark Dunlop (bass), Geoff Vidal (sax) and Makaya McCraven (drums).
FlavaEvolution – “Dat Dere” from an unreleased demo. The innovative drummerless quartet plays their version of the Bobby Timmons classic, arranged by bassist David Picchi. On this track, the band is Frank Newton on alto sax, Mat Schumer on tenor sax; Paul Olesuk on trombone; and Picchi on double bass.
Direct download: Podcast_235_-_Northampton_Jazz_Festival_Preview.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:00am EST
Mon, 26 September 2011
Originally from North Carolina, John Ellis has been turning heads since his time in New Orleans as an active member of Ellis Marsalis' band in the mid-nineties. A finalist at the 2002 Thelonius Monk International Saxophone competition, John has gone on to record six albums and has played and toured with musicians such as John Scofield, Norah Jones, Jason Marsalis, George Garzone, Reggie Workman, and Joe Chambers. John's band called Double-Wide, which features the unusual combination of saxophone, drums, organ, and sousaphone, released a critically praised CD, Puppet Mischief (dig the “Sesame Street Meets Brooklyn Hipster” cover) in February 2010 on ObliqSound and features the core band of Jason Marsalis, Brian Coogan, and Matt Perrine.
If you don’t know Ellis as a band leader, you probably are familiar with his playing as a member of Charlie Hunter’s bands for a number of years. That’s Ellis featured on the Songs from the Analog Playground and Right Now Move CDs.
John is one of the headliners at the first Northampton Jazz Festival on October 1, 2011, and will lead a quintet elevated by two sidemen who are leaders in their own right – keyboardist Aaron Goldberg and guitarist Mike Moreno. I spoke with John about his New Orleans roots, his time with Hunter, and his plans to re-stage – and perhaps record - a large-scale work in 2012 Musical selections with the conversation include:
John Ellis – “Lonnie” from By a Thread. A good indication of the kind of band that Ellis will bring to Northampton is featured on this cut - Ellis on sax; Aaron Goldberg on Fender Rhodes piano; Mike Moreno on guitar; Reuben Rogers on bass; and Terreon Gully on drums.
John Ellis & Double-Wide – “Bovine Boogaloo” from Puppet Mischief. This is a bonus track from the 2010 CD that made Ellis a jazz-funk attraction. Double Wide is Ellis on sax, Jason Marsalis on drums, Brian Coogan on organ and Matt Perrine on sousaphone. Guesting are Gregoir Maret on chromatic harmonica and Alan Ferber on trombone.
Charlie Hunter Trio - “Moore’s Alphabet” from an unreleased recording made at Forward Hall on May 22, 2004. This Ellis original ended Hunter’s set with a tribute to New Orleans drummer Stanton Moore. Check www.archive.org for the whole show, which featured Charlie Hunter on 8 string guitar, Ellis on tenor sax and bass clarinet and Derek Phillips on drums.
Mike Moreno – “Money“ from Jazz Side of the Moon. Moreno will surely be well-known in short time, serving as a leader on two CDs and recording with the likes of Aaron Parks, Q-Tip, Kendrick Scott and Robert Glaspar. The band for this ambitious re-imagining of the Pink Floyd classic is Moreno on guitars, Sam Yahel on organ, Seamus Blake on sax, and Ari Hoenig on drums.
John Ellis – “Sippin’ Cider” from One Foot in the Swamp. An old standard becomes a hot jazz number in the hands of Ellis and topnotch band mates Nicholas Payton on trumpet; Maret on chromatic harmonica; John Scofield on guitar; Goldberg on keyboards; Marsalis on drums; and Roland Guerin on bass.
Sat, 24 September 2011
Marcus Strickland's seventh recording Triumph of The Heavy Volume 1 & 2 (available on Strick Muzik, September 27, 2011) is a major statement from the critically-acclaimed and world renowned saxophonist. In demand as a sideman, he is ready now to take his place as one of the most innovative and exciting sax players around.
This ambitious two-CD set allows Strickland to show a polished studio side along with a vibrant live set. Strickland and his quartet of David Bryant (piano), Ben Williams (bass) and E.J. Strickland (drums) stretch and reinvent their repertoire, spurred on by an enthusiastic crowd at Firehouse 12 in New Haven, CT on Disc 2.
The title, Triumph of the Heavy, grew out of an experience Strickland had with his girlfriend. The saxophonist explains, "once upon a time, some months after I started seeing my girlfriend Dawn, we were in the car listening to my iPod. We'd never listened to her music in the car, so I said to her 'hey, why don't you put on your iPod?' So she does. And her immediate reaction after hearing her music was, 'You know what? This sounds kind of light compared to the music you listen to.' And that really stuck with me because often times many things have been extracted from commercial music so it can appeal to the masses. Quite often in the music industry, there's an entity (a producer, manager or A & R guy) trying to get artists to adulterate their sound so it's more 'accessible. After that day in the car I wanted to associate the title of my next recording with weight, because I wanted to express that music with substance, a strong sound and which takes risks can triumph, it can move people. It can, in fact, appeal to a greater audience. But, as demonstrated through my girlfriend's experience, only if we give it a chance through exposure. So that's what I call it: Triumph of the Heavy."
I spoke with Marcus recently, as he prepared to head to Detroit for a gig with Jeff “Tain” Watts, and for the live premiere of the CD at Le Poisson Rouge in Manhattan. He is also set to be one of the headliners at the first Northampton (MA) Jazz Festival on October 1. Click here and listen to our conversation, along with tracks from the new CD and other Strickland work, including:
Marcus Strickland – “Mudbone” from Triumph of the Heavy. Titled for a character played by the late Richard Pryor”, this is one of the most vibrant and fun songs in the Strickland repertoire.
Marcus Strickland – “Lilt” from Triumph of the Heavy. David Bryant kicks off the studio CD in the new 2 disc collection with this tune that doesn’t lilt as much as scamper, feint and hop.
Marcus Strickland – “Surreal” from Triumph of the Heavy. Intended to capture a piece of artwork – listen to Marcus’ comments for real insight.
E.J. Strickland - “Angular Realms” from In This Day. E.J.’s debut on the Strick Muzic label featured a core band of E.J. on drums, Jaleel Shaw on alto sax, Marcus on saxes, Luis Perdomo on piano and Hans Glawischnig on bass. All the compositions were E.J.’s and the album was produced by long-time collaborator Ravi Coltrane.
Direct download: Podcast_233_-_Getting_Heavy_with_Marcus_Strickland.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:00am EST
Fri, 23 September 2011
Tens of thousands of music lovers are expected to jam Boston city blocks this coming weekend to enjoy jazz, Latin, blues, and more at the 11th annual Berklee BeanTown Jazz Festival on September 23-25. Two ticketed events, starring the James Farm and the New Gary Burton Quartet, bookend a day full of free music and festivities up and down Columbus Avenue. Danilo Perez headlines a ticketed event Saturday night.
Among the artists scheduled to appear are Oleta Adams, Dave Samuels and the Caribbean Jazz Project, the Pablo Oblanado Octet, Louis Hayes Cannonball Legacy Band, Bernie Worrell & SociaLybrium, and the guest for Podcast 232, drummer Neal Smith and his quintet.
Smith is an associate professor of percussion at Berklee, and has performed with artists such as Geri Allen, Anita Baker, Tom Harrell, Donald Harrison, and Frank Morgan. Until recently, he could be found anchoring Cyrus Chestnut’s various bands, until he moved on to pursue his own bands. He has recorded several albums as a leader and has produced several projects for various artists on the NASMusic label. He recently recorded a well-received CD as part of the “Live at Small’s” series.
Listen to our conversation and hear selections for Smith;s solo works and his sideman sessions, including:
Cyrus Chestnut – “Heartbreak Hotel“from Cyrus Plays Elvis. At least one critic thought this version of the Presley tune sounded like the score from a Hollywood B horror movie, with Chestnut playing in block chords and Smith slashing away on his drum kit. You decide.
Jackie Ryan – “Dat Dere” from Doozy. The Chestnut Trio was called upon to back Ms. Ryan on her breakout sessions recorded on the West Coast. Here they swing with a vengeance on a Bobby Timmons classic.
Neal Smith - “Reality Of The Hidden Truth” from Swingin' Is Believin'. A Smith original, featuring a larger ensemble composed of Abraham Burton on tenor sax, Antonio Hart on alto sax, Vincent Gardner on trombone, Rick Germanson on piano, Smith on drums, Michael Hawkins on bass and Renato Thoms on percussion.
Neal Smith – “Driftin'” from Some of My Favorite Songs Are… This version of a Herbie Hancock staple features Smith on drums, Mark Whitfield on guitar, Germanson on piano, and Peter Washington on
Wed, 21 September 2011
The native was a promising young pianist in the fifties, accompanying the likes of Mel Torme, Woody Herman and Red Rodney, when his performing career was brought to an abrupt halt by severe tendonitis in both hands. Playing the piano suddenly became sheer agony, and Amadie was reduced to improvising only in his head for the next 35 years.
He managed to maintain an influential presence on jazz through those decades thanks to his own teaching (students included Kurt Rosenwinkel, John Di Martino and famed TV composer Edd Kalehoff) and the publication of two highly-regarded instructional volumes: Harmonic Foundation for Jazz and Popular Music and Jazz Improv: How To Play It and Teach It. His own belated recording debut finally arrived in 1995, thanks to a series of surgeries and his own indomitable fighting spirit, honed as a young man in the boxing ring
That solo debut, Always With Me, was followed by a series of widely praised sessions on which Amadie was joined by legendary peers like Benny Golson, Phil Woods, Joe Lovano, Randy Brecker, Lee Konitz, and Lew Tabackin. Just as his luck seemed to be improving he was faced with a further setback. Following the 2007 recording of The Philadelphia Story, he was diagnosed with lung cancer.
I spoke with Jimmy about his latest trio release, Something Special, and his return to the stage for the first time in over forty years on October 14 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Selections from his recent releases compliment the interview, including:
Jimmy Amadie Trio – “Happy Man’s Bossa Nova” from Something Special. The trio is composed of Amadie on piano, longtime friend and drummer Bill Goodwin, and bassist Tony Merino. This Amadie original The title comes from a suggestion for an assistant who felt it perfectly captured Amadie’s personality.
Jimmy Amadie Trio – “Blues for Sweet Lizzy” from Something Special. An uptempo number that celebrates the life of his beloved pet.
Jimmy Amadie Trio – “Marching with Benny G” from The Philadelphia Story: The Gospel As We Know It. Amadie has finally been able to record with some of his favorite musicians after years of silence. This CD featured Randy brecker, Lew Tabakin and for this track, Benny Golson.
Jimmy Amadie Trio – “Well You Needn’t” from Kindred Spirits. The trio is Amadie, Goodwin and Merino again on a Thelonious Monk classic, with Merino stealing the show with a killer bass line.
Direct download: Podcast_230_-_A_Conversation_with_Jimmy_Amadie.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:49pm EST
Tue, 20 September 2011
Category:general -- posted at: 1:34pm EST
Mon, 19 September 2011
The first of a series of reissues of albums recorded by singer Chris Connor in the mid-Sixties appeared this week, giving us a chance to rediscover an artist whose work is often overlooked. Just A Memory Records gives us Chris Connor Sings Gentle Bossa Nova, and it’s worth a listen, if only to reacquaint listeners with Ms. Connor.
Her 1963 live recording At the Village Gate showed she had the vocal chops, and her work in the late forties and fifties with Claude Thornhill, Jerry Wald and Stan Kenton’s Big Bands were both critical and popular hits. She had been the first white female jazz singer signed to Atlantic Records in 1956, and had worked with the best session musicians in the business for almost a decade. However, she made a bad decision to leave the label in 1963, and she bounced from label to label.
The Bossa Nova craze had been ignited by Stan Getz in a big way in 1964, so it was only natural for ABC/Paramount, who signed Ms. Connor after her latest label went bust, to try to match her with pop material and get a hit. The result may have been big news in 1965, but almost fifty years later, there is a pretty high cheese quotient in the song selections and arrangements of ditties like “Downtown”, “Strange On the Shore” and especially “Can’t Get Over the Bossa Nova”.
However, her Broadway tune selections, especially the oft-neglected Sondheim tune “A Quiet Thing” and a sexy take on “A Taste of Honey” show that there was a talented singer there, in search of the right material and band. Unfortunately, she never again found either for any period of time.
Chris Connor died of cancer in 2009 at the age of 81, with much of her work out of print. If Chris Connor Sings Gentle Bossa Nova makes you want to find out more about her, grab one of the top Stan Kenton reissues and take a long listen to her versions of , "And The Bull Walked Around, Ole”, "Baia” or “Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen". Then pick up her first album for Atlantic, the self title Chris Connor, which finds her singing arrangements by Ralph Burns, and backed by the likes of John Lewis, Milt Hinton and Zoot Sims.
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EST
Thu, 15 September 2011
Chick Corea’s return to recording on ECM appears this week, when his duet album with Stefano Bollani, Orvieto, is released. At the age of 70, Corea shows no sign of slowing down or stopping his widely differing artistic output. He spent most of the spring and summer on tour with a new version of Return to Forever, having released a trio album with Lenny White and Stanley Clarke in June, entitled Forever. 2012 should find him playing with long-time collaborator Gary Burton and with Bollani.
Orvieto is their first album release drawn from New Year performances at the Umbria Jazz Winter Festival where the two pianists played several nights of concerts together. Chick and Stefano have been giving such concerts, mostly in the context of Italian festivals, for more than two years now. They started out in Ravello in July 2009, and from the outset it was clear to both artists that this was a combination of great musical potential. Bollani points out that he has been listening to Corea’s music since he was eleven years old, taking what he could “from his style, his phrasing and his incredible rhythm”, and feels honored, he says, to be playing in such company. Corea, from his side, has been monitoring Bollani’s playing for a few years, his liner notes to the ECM box set reissue of Solo Piano Improvisations/Children’s Songs already mentioning Stefano as a pianist who inspired him.
Podcast 231 is a too brief overview of Corea’s brilliance in both writing and playing acoustic and electric jazz. It kicks off with a track from the new CD, and then heads back to his days as a sideman with Stan Getz, moves through his years as a leader of acoustic groups, and ends with some collaboration with his Return to Forever bandmates. Click here and listen to:
Chick Corea and Stephano Bollani – “Darn That Dream” from Orvieto.
Stan Getz – “La Fiesta” from Captain Marvel.
Chick Corea – “Matrix” from Now He Sings, Now He Sobs.
Chick Corea – “Litha” from Tones for Joan’s Bones.
Chick Corea & Gary Burton – “Senor Mouse” from Crystal Silence.
Chick Corea – “Armando’s Rhumba” from Spanish Heart.
Chick Corea – “500 Miles High” from Trios – The Boston Three Party.
Return to Forever – “Spain” from Light as a Feather.
Corea, Clarke & White – “Captain Marvel” from Forever.
Tue, 13 September 2011
Formed in 2001, EXEGESIS is made up of bandleader/guitarist Nick Demopoulos (best known to many readers as the guitarist in Chico Hamilton’s latest group), bassist Danton Boller (who toured with Roy Hargrove), and drummer Tomas Fujiwara. EXEGESIS has performed throughout the United States, Europe and the Middle East, and participated in the "American Music Abroad" program sponsored by Jazz at Lincoln Center and the U.S. Department of State.
Labeling the band is not something that comes easily. The Harmony of the Anomaly (on indie label Dems Dem’s Demos), their second CD as a band, showcases the group’s unique blend of soundscapes, including electronic jazz, live samplers, interactive music software, and complex compositions. Fave rave Gretchen Parlato guests on vocals on a track as well.
I spoke with Nick Demopoulos as the group prepared for their CD release and a release concert on Sunday, September 18 at 8PM @ DROM, 85 Avenue A, New York City (Tickets: $10, www.dromnyc.com). We discussed the technical aspects of the band’s music and how their “gimmicks” can serve their music, and his upcoming solo releases. Click here to listen to the Podcast, which features music including:
EXEGESIS - “Aigon” from The Harmony of the Anomaly. The CD kicks off with a fusion-y scorcher that features some studio trickery to accomplish the guitar solos.
EXEGESIS – “The Maze of Death” from The Harmony of the Anomaly. Gretchen Parlato lends her vocals to a complex, sometimes dissonant piece that shows that the band is ready to push through a number of musical boundaries.
International Fiction – “I Am A Gorgon” from I, Medusa. One of two projects Nick has in the hopper outside the group, this is a recording of the musical score of a theatre piece Nick co-wrote with playwright Ford Wright. Watch for a release later in the fall.
Direct download: Podcast_229_-_A_Conversation_with_Nick_Demopoulos_1.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:00am EST