Tue, 28 February 2012
In a world of outsized personalities and vanity projects, the SFJAZZ Collective stands as a truly unique gathering of musicians. Every member of the Collective is a bandleader in his or her own right, and yet they check their egos at the door, so to speak, and enjoying working together to make memorable music.
Launched in 2004 by SFJAZZ—the West Coast’s largest nonprofit jazz institution and the presenter of the annual San Francisco Jazz Festival—the Collective has become one of the most exciting and acclaimed groups on the jazz scene. With a membership that changes from season to season, and a repertoire that focuses each year on a different legendary composer, along and new works by its members, it is a band worth seeing again and again.
The 2012 edition of the SFJAZZ Collective launches their Spring Tour at the University of Massachusetts Fine Arts Center on Thursday, March 1, touring behind their latest CD, featuring the music of Stevie Wonder. Taking the bandstand in Amherst will be eight award-winning musicians - Edward Simon (piano), Eric Harland (drums), Matt Penman (bass), Stefon Harris (vibes), Mark Turner (tenor sax), Robin Eubanks (trombone), Avishai Cohen (trumpet), and Antonio Hart (alto saxophone).
Recorded during a five night run last year at The Jazz Standard in New York, the Collective’s three CD album features eight Wonder tunes arranged by members of the Collective, as well as eight original compositions. “We’re something like a small big band, or maybe a large ensemble”, said Edward Simon. “It’s such a pleasure being able to play with people of this caliber, and work at this level.”
Simon said he found it liberating to not be in charge of musical proceedings or decisions. “We all lead when we perform our respective compositions or arrangements, but otherwise it’s a constant learning experience from one another.” Simon contributed an original composition inspired by his children “Young and Playful,” as well as an arrangement of “My Cherie Amour” to the band.
Stevie Wonder is the first non-jazz composer the SFJAZZ Collective has chosen to feature, having previously performed and recorded the works of Ornette Coleman (2004), John Coltrane (2005), Herbie Hancock (2006), Thelonious Monk (2007), Wayne Shorter (2008), McCoy Tyner (2009) and Horace Silver (2010). Simon said that the 2012-13 season will feature the music of Chick Corea, a decision about which he is particularly excited. “He’s a major influence on my playing”, he said, “His repertoire will give us a whole new level of varying pieces to perform.”
Simon indicated that Wonder was chosen by a democratic process. “The decision was made before I joined the group, but I understand that nominations are made by the members, as to whose music they might like to perform. Then there is a vote. Most of us have a strong connection to Stevie Wonder. Robin Eubanks played with him, and Stefon Harris is a huge fan. So it wasn’t too surprising when the choice was made.”
Jazz fans should not worry about the Collective “selling out”, though. “Make no mistake about it, these are jazz arrangements and performances.” said Simon, “By choosing Stevie’s music we get more non-jazz fans interested in the Collective, which is always a good thing.”
Simon is coming off a memorable 2011. A 2010 Guggenheim Fellow, he spent last spring in residency at the MacDowell Colony, the recipient of a Fellowship given annually to artists of exceptional talent, providing time, space and an inspiring environment in which to do creative work. Edward used his time to compose Improvisational Episodes, for Piano and String Orchestra, which he hopes to record in the future.
Born in the small coastal town of Cardón, Venezuela, Simon arrived on the New York jazz scene in 1989, where his reputation as versatile player caught the ear of noted saxophonist Greg Osby, who Simon credits as a mentor. He has put in time as a member of Bobby Watson’s influential group Horizon as well as the Terence Blanchard Group, before concentrating on work as a leader. He alternates between piano trio recordings and work with the quartet Afinidad, which he co-founded with saxophonist/composer David Binney, which includes bassist Scott Colley and drummer Antonio Sanchez. Afinidad focuses on eclectic contemporary American music with a focus on jazz, reflecting a wide range of musical influences such as Pop, Brazilian, Latin American and contemporary classical music.
Simon will tour Europe this summer with his latest trio, which includes drummer Adam Cruz and bassist Joe Martin This autumn he will reunite with what he termed his “All-Star Trio” of John Patitucci (bass) and Brian Blade (drums) , to support the release of their live album.
Podcast 261 features the music of the SFJAZZ Collective and Simon, including:
SFJAZZ Collective - "My Cherie Amour" from SFJAZZ Collective Plays the Music of Stevie Wonder and New Compositions. Simon decided to arrange this familiar Wonder song "because it really called out to me." It features Miguel Zenon on sax, and strong solos from Simon and vibes master Stefon Harris.
SFJAZZ Collective - "Young and Playful" from SFJAZZ Collective Plays the Music of Stevie Wonder and New Compositions. A Simon original, dedicated to his children Goren and Kira. Again, its the interplay between Simon and Harris that makes the song shine.
Edward Simon - "Abiding Unicity" from Unicity. The “All-Star Trio” of John Patitucci (bass) and Brian Blade (drums) and Simon on piano recorded some of their finest moments on this 2006 release.
John Patitucci - "Love Eternal" from Songs, Stories & Spirituals. I first became aware of Simon when he conibuted to this moving album in 2003. It featured the trio of Simon, Patitucci and Blade as the rhythm section, aided by Tim Ries on flute and a number of string players,including Sachi Patituccion cello.
SFJAZZ Collective - "Do I Do" from SFJAZZ Collective Plays the Music of Stevie Wonder and New Compositions. Eric Harland arranged this Wonder song, with Avisahi Cohen filling in where Dizzy Gillespie originally layed down the trumpet solos.
The SFJazz Collective performs Thursday, Mar 1 7:30pm at UMass Amherst Fine Arts Center, Amherst, MA Reserved seating- $35, $30, $15, Tickets may be obtained by calling Fine Arts Center Box Office at 545-2511 , at the box office or online. Sponsored by the UMass Amherst Alumni Association and New England Public Radio.
Mon, 27 February 2012
A jazz band on late-night TV? On a major network? Yes, indeed.
The Robert Glasper Experiment is set to appear on CBS Late Show With David Letterman on February 29 with special guests Lupe Fiasco and Bilal. The band will perform “Always Shine” off of Glasper’s just released album Black Radio, on EMI’s Blue Note Records. The Experiment is Robert Glasper (piano and Rhodes), Casey Benjamin (vocoder, synthesizer), Derrick Hodge (bass), and Chris Dave (drums).
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00pm EDT
Mon, 27 February 2012
Red Holloway, a tenor and alto saxophonist who was one of Los Angeles' most highly regarded jazz artists for more than four decades, died Saturday February 25th in San Luis Obispo due to kidney failure, complicated by several strokes, He was 84.
A product of the Chicago music scene, he graduated from DuSable High School, where he had played in the school big band with Johnny Griffin and Eugene Wright, and later attended the Conservatory of Music. He joined local players like Dexter Gordon and Yusef Lateef in the scene, taking his talents from jazz to blues and soul.
In the 1950s he played in the Chicago area with Billie Holiday, Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Ben Webster, Jimmy Rushing, Arthur Prysock, Dakota Staton, Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, Wardell Gray, Sonny Rollins, Red Rodney, Lester Young, Joe Williams, Redd Foxx, B.B. King, Bobby “Blue” Bland and Aretha Franklin. During this period, he also toured with Sonny Stitt, Memphis Slim and Lionel Hampton. He and George Benson were the mainstays of Brother Jack McDuff’s band from 1963 to 1966. Holloway moved to Los Angeles in 1967, where he played in the house band at the famed jazz club the Persian Room. He retained the position for 15 years, meeting and often performing with some of the biggest names in the jazz world. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Los Angeles Jazz Society in 2004.
Category:general -- posted at: 2:34pm EDT
Sun, 26 February 2012
Stephen Sondheim is among our greatest living composers, have spent more than sixty years collaborating with legends (Leonard Bernstein, Oscar Hammerstein, Jule Styne) and then becoming one himself, with ground breaking musical theatre pieces like “A Little Night Music”, “Follies”, “Company”, “Pacific Overtures” and “Sweeney Todd”. His songs have regularly been recorded by singers of from many genres, but until recently, there has been something of a dearth of instrumental jazz or classical reworking of his material. Contemporary classical composer/pianist Anthony de Mare is in the process of correcting this right now.
LIAISONS: Re-Imagining Sondheim from the Piano is an intrepid program featuring 36 short solo piano pieces based on Sondheim’s music. Commissioned purely for this landmark project, the world’s foremost contemporary composers of varying genres and generations have come together to pay homage this modern master. Chosen by de Mare in consultation with Sondheim, the roster spans both established and emerging composers from the realms of classical, jazz, film, pop, musical theater, opera and avant-garde music. Each composer put their own spin on recognizable classics including “Send in the Clowns”, “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd”, and “Being Alive”, to name a few. The pieces range from direct transcriptions of original tunes (such as Ricky Ian Gordon’s re-working of “Every Day A Little Death” from A Little Night Music) to clever de-constructions (such as Frederic Rzewski’s “I’m Still Here”) to full-fledged paraphrases (such as David Rakowski’s “The Ladies Who Lunch” and Ricardo Lorenz’ Latin fusion of “The Worst Pies in London” and “A Little Priest”.)
Of particular interest to jazz fans is de Mare’s collaborations with Fred Hersch, who re-examined “No One Is Alone“ from Into the Woods, and the Bad Plus’ Ethan Iverson, who was the first to request Sondheim’s most recognizable tune, “Send in the Clowns.“
I spoke with de Mare about the dearth of jazz versions of Sondheim’s music, and why he took on an epic project like this one. Click here to listen to Podcast 260, which features limited music, as the recordings will not be available until the Fall of 2012. But we managed to sneak out a little something special for you:
Anthony de Mare – “No One Is Alone” recorded live in Banff, Alberta. A previously unheard recording of one of de Mare’s concerts features him playing Fred Hersch’s arrangement of a plaintive ballad.
John Zorn – “Carny” from Criminal/S&M. Written in a joint commission for de Mare and Stephen Drury, this classical/jazz piece shows a successful marriage of both genres. The pianist is Tomoko Mukaiyam, with Annette Bergman on viola, Ermo Hartsuiker on bass clarinet, Arnold Marimossem on percussion, and Jan-Erik Van Regteren Altena on violin and cello.
Karrin Allyson – “Send in the Clowns” from ‘Round Midnight. It’s hard to do a podcast about Sondheim and not include this one.
Tue, 21 February 2012
Three words that should make jazz fans tremble with joy: Miles....1950...Birdland.
Don't miss a chance to grab a rare listen to “Mile Davis: A Very Special Concert - WNYC Jazz Festival from Birdland, NY, NY 2-18-50” being featured on the always interesting Big O site. The band for this amazing evening was a who’s who of the jazz scene as it left be-bop and moved on to cooler sounds: Miles Davis on trumpet; Stan Getz on sax; Art Blakey on drums; JJ Johnson on trombone; Tadd Dameron on piano; and Gene Ramsey on bass. Special guests hit the stage that night as well – guitarist Dick Hyman, sax players Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt, and drummer Max Roach.
Wed, 15 February 2012
POEMJAZZ, the new CD recorded by Robert Pinsky and Laurence Hobgood on the Circumstantial Productions label represents a continuation of a tradition of jazz and the spoken word. Jack Kerouac teamed with pianist David Amram for memorable performances, as did Ken Nordine with the Fred Katz Group in the 1950’s. Lawrence Ferlinghetti collaborated with Stan Getz. More recently, Michael Mantler’s treatment of Edward Gorey’s texts in 2001’s The Hapless Child and Other Inscrutable Stories stretched the boundaries of what we might call “jazz poetry”.
But POEMJAZZ takes things to a whole other level.
Robert Pinsky, the only three-term United States Poet Laureate, brings an innovative energy to all he does. In 2011, his acclaimed Selected Poems appeared. In 2010, his libretto for Tod Machover’s opera Death and the Powers: A Robot Pageant premiered in Monaco before coming to Boston’s ART. Next year, his adaptation of Friedrich Schiller’s Wallenstein will be presented by the Shakespeare Theater of Washington, D.C.
As Poet Laureate, he founded the Favorite Poem Project, in which thousands of Americans—of varying backgrounds, all ages, from every state— shared their favorite poems, as documented by the video segments, as seen on PBS and now at www.favoritepoem.org.
Connecting all of these projects is Pinsky’s conviction—clear to anyone who has heard him read a poem—that poetry is a vocal, bodily art, closely allied to music. For that reason, POEMJAZZ, his collaboration with Laurence Hobgood, expresses something at the core of Robert Pinsky’s art.
“In jazz, as in poetry,” Robert Pinsky told The Paris Review in an interview, “there is always that play between what’s regular and what’s wild. That has always appealed to me.”
Hobgood is easily the best pianist for this project. In 1993, Hobgood met singer Kurt Elling and began a collaboration that resulted in Elling’s signing with the storied Blue Note label. Musical Director for Elling since 1995, he’s played on, composed, arranged and co-produced all of Elling’s CDs (six for Blue Note and three for Concord), each Grammy-nominated. Elling’s recordings and live performances often feature spoken word selections, either spontaneous or scripted.
I spoke with Hobgood this week, and we discussed the unique challenges of collaborating with the spoken word, the upcoming POEMJAZZ tour, and his plans for the rest of 2012. Click here to listen to the conversation, featuring these interludes:
Robert Pinsky/Laurence Hobgood - "The Green Piano" and “The Hearts” from POEMJAZZ. Hobgood explains in our interview the process of matching music to poems, and the numerous ways the final result was a true collaboration. He’s looking forward to performing these pieces live.
Laurence Hobgood – “Goin’ Back to Joe’s” from Left to My Own Devices. Laurence’s debut recording as a leader was this solo piano date for Naim Records. Buddy Kurt Elling contributes his vocal styling to this barroom theme and three other tracks on the CD.
Kurt Elling - “Freddie’s Yen for Jen” from This Time It’s Love. Here’s a good example of what Elling and Hobgood can do. On this track, they take Freddie Hubbard’s classic “Delphia” and add Elling’s poetic lyrics to create something new and different. Rather than stay with the traditional arrangement, Hobgood rethinks the song, and is aided by Rob Amster on bass, Michael Raynor on drums and percussion, and Dave Oderdonk on guitar.
“An Evening of POEMJAZZ” featuring renowned poet ROBERT PINSKY and Grammy-winning jazz pianist LAURENCE HOBGOOD will have its premier performance at The Regattabar at the Charles Hotel, One Bennett Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts on Friday, February 24 at 7:30 PM. Reserved seat tickets at $25.00 can be purchased on line at www.regattabarjazz.com or by calling: 617-395-7757.
Direct download: Podcast_259_-_A_Conversation_with_Laurence_Hobgood.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:00am EDT
Mon, 13 February 2012
I've listened to so much wonderful Brazilian jazz this past week that I decided the annual Valentine's Day Podcast would be devoted 100% to that genre. It's still winter here in New England, so some sultry, warm music should help conjure up an appropriate romantic mood for you and your special someone. Of special note is a sneak peak from the upcoming CD from Marisa Monte, O Que Você Quer Saber de Verdade.
Click here to listen to Podcast 258, which includes these musical selections:
Jim Tomlinson – “I Concentrate On You”
Lars Albertsen & Nelson De Lamotte – “O Grande Amor”
Ondine Darcyl – “Corcovado”
Joe Henderson – “Happy Madness”
John Pizzarelli – “Love Dance”
Joao Gilberto – “Só Em Teus Braços (Only in Your Arms)”
Oscar Castro-Nieves – “The Very Thought of You”
Stefano Bollani – “Samba e Amor”
Rosa Passos and Ron Carter – “Eu Sei Que Vou Te Amar (I Know That I Will Love You)”
Mario Adnet – “Sue Ann”
Marisa Monte – “Amar Alguém (Love Someone)”
Trio de Paz with Joe Locke – “All the Things You Are”
Stan Getz & Astrud Gilberto – “Only Trust Your Heart”
Herbie Mann & Joao Gilberto – “Deve Ser Amor (It Must Be Love)”
Jacintha – “Summer Samba (So Nice)”
Sun, 12 February 2012
Writer Andi Sharavsky reminds me that standards are not all they are cracked up to be in the 21st century. Or are they? I recently read a tongue-in-cheek column she wrote entitled "Jazz Standards Updated for the Modern Young Lady" on McSweeney's Internet Tendency site late last month. Her playlist?
“I’ll be Seeing You (On Skype Until We Give Up On This Long-Distance Relationship)”
“Someone to Watch Over Me (While I Pee in the Woods Behind This House Party)”
“I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues (And Eat This Economy-Sized Tub of Hummus)”
“The Lady is a Tramp (But Only Her Friends are Allowed to Call Her That)”
“Until the Real Thing Comes Along (I’m Not Shaving My Legs)”
“I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm (And His Name is Jim Beam)”
So is she blowing off the canon? Not really. I asked her about these love songs, and she responded:
I love jazz. To me, the standards are like Shakespeare's plays -- they'll always be around, and they'll always be relevant and moving because they capture all of what it is to be human -- love, passion, angst, longing, anger. I listen to "You Go To My Head" on repeat every time a new romantic fling is going well, and if I ever have kids, I intend to make sure they pine after their crushes to "In the Wee Small Hours." It's fun to see art from days gone by in a new context, the way "The Taming of the Shrew" became the '90s cinematic gem "10 Things I Hate About You" or "Romeo and Juliet" became "West Side Story" (a legendary work in its own right, of course). But since the lyrics of certain standards are a bit dated in their treatment of romance, my liberal-arts-educated brain couldn't resist the temptation to add a healthy dose of modern cynicism to some of my old favorites.
Follow her at http://chiblogo.tumblr.com/.
Sat, 11 February 2012
One of my favorite jazz singers is Catherine Russell, a bluesy vocalist who has an amazing ear for picking lesser known or obscure tunes to include on her albums. She is something of jazz royalty, as her father was the great Luis Russell, a composer and bandleader of note who collaborated with King Oliver and Louis Armstrong, among other stars of the day. Her mother is Carline Ray, was a member of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, a talented vocalist, bassist, and a graduate of Julliard, who has been featured with Mary Lou Williams and Doc Cheatam. Four CDs into her solo career, she continues to show she is her own woman, developing a vocal style all her own on her latest CD, Strictly Romancin',
Today’s Music for Lovers is the sensuous slow dance of “Romance In The Dark”, written by the great Lil Green (who coincidentally toured as featured vocalist with the Luis Russell Orchestra in the mid-1940’s), dazzles the senses. I asked Cat how she came to choose these songs, and she simply stated: “A good love song never gets old. If I can relate to the lyric and melody of a song, I can live through it when I sing it”.
Band members include guitarist Matt Munisteri, trumpet great Jon-Erik Kellso, trombonist John Allred, and her usual rhythm section, Mark Shane on piano, Lee Hudson on bass, and Mark McClean on drums.
Category:general -- posted at: 2:30am EDT
Fri, 10 February 2012
Blossom Dearie (1924-2009) was a jazz singer beloved by the cognoscenti from New York to London to Paris and beyond. Miles Davis and Gil Evans were among her famous fans and friends in the '50s, to be joined by John Lennon in the '60s. Dearie said her key influences included Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and the team of George Burns & Gracie Allen; that, wrote jazz vocal authority Will Friedwald, was "a statement that speaks volumes about the nature of her music and the importance of humor therein, particularly mischievous, impish humor." Dearie paired a small-yet-pure voice with an ever-swinging sense of rhythm, and she had a deft way of delivering a lyric. Friedwald described the storytelling in her singing as being like a striptease, "giving up secrets only slowly and reluctantly." Traditional love songs were a part of Blossom’s set list, but she was better known for tunes that skirted the main stream.
Today’s Music for Lovers is from singer Amy Cervini, from her latest CD, Digging Me, Digging You, a tribute to Blossom. It’s far more than homage to Dearie's vocal sensibility and repertoire; it's also tribute of sorts to old-school artists and the way they made records back “in the day.” Ms. Cervini and her "family" of musicians - including pianist Bruce Barth, bassist Matt Aronoff, drummer Matt Wilson, clarinetist Anat Cohen and trumpeter Avishai Cohen, among others - recorded mostly live in the studio with everyone together, without rehearsals and in a single eight-hour day. The results are both spontaneous and spirited.
I asked Amy to pick a song from the CD for this “Music for Lovers” series, and she responded in a way that I suspect Blossom would have truly liked:
Since love is so many things to so many people, picking love songs can be dangerous territory. I try to find something in the lyric that I’ve had experience with so that it rings true. I’m lucky to have had some pretty great experiences in love. While I definitely can’t sing “Guess Who I Saw Today” with true authority, I can sing “Down With Love.” I think everyone can relate to that! Blossom’s delivery on that song almost seems to be daring the next lover to come along. I hear it as kind of hopeful from her...not an anti-love anthem.