Thu, 31 May 2012
Bob Wolfman has been an exciting guitar player in New York, and then after his time at Berklee School of Music, in Boston, but has never gotten much national attention. Equally at home with blues or jazz styles, he is a well-known teacher in New England, and has been in demand in the clubs in and around Boston.
That will hopefully change with his latest release, Transition. A CD that moves wildly from fusion to blues to torch songs, it features an outstanding band that has given Wolfman the opportunity to not only showcase his guitar, but his singing.
Wolfman is a life-long friend and protégé of Larry Coryell, the pioneering guitarist who has been on the cutting edge of electric jazz since the mid-Sixties. With his band the Eleventh House, Coryell helped invent fusion, that much criticized and much loved combination of jazz and rock. Arguably, it is Coryell, through his work with Gary Burton and Chico Hamilton that paved the way for the likes of John McLaughlin.
The Bob Wolfman/Larry Coryell Band featuring, bassist Victor Bailey, drummer Kenwood Dennard and keyboardist Ferdi Argenti is set to perform at Bull Run in Shirley, Massachusetts on Saturday, June 2 at 8:00. Bailey was the bass player for Weather Report during their final years from 1982 to 1986, and launched a solo career in 1988. He has toured and recorded with Coryell before, primarily in a trio with Return to Forever drummer Lenny White. Dennard will more than hold his own with these heavyweights, having toured the world with such greats as Chick Corea, Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, and Jaco Pastorius, His numerous recordings include Sting's Nothing Like the Sun, and Live at Montreux with Miles Davis and Quincy Jones.
I spoke with Wolfman about his long friendship with Coryell, about his new CD (which Larry produced) and about the state of jazz fusion today. Click here to listen to our conversation, which features musical selections including:
The Eleventh House with Larry Coryell – “Yi” from Introducing the Eleventh House. This was the band that set Wolfman off on his career as a guitarist. Still fresh sounding today, it was groundbreaking in 1974. The band included Coryell (guitar), Randy Brecker (trumpet), Mike Mandel (piano and synthesizer), Alphonse Mouzon (drums and percussion) and Danny Trifan (bass).
Bob Wolfman – Title Track from Transition. Coryell wrote this burner for Wolfman, and it shows that the two friends know how to mix it up as they share sharp guitar lines.
Bob Wolfman – “Guess Who I Saw Today” from Transition. Wolfman shows off his vocal prowess on a Nancy Wilson tune from the sixties. The gender reversal adds a particularly poignant touch.
Bob Wolfman – “Bailey’s Bounce” from Transition. Victor contributed this composition to close out the CD. No sense having a bass playing legend on board without giving him a chance to show off his stuff as well!
Wed, 30 May 2012
"Grégoire Maret is an exceptional young musician who is taking the harmonica to an exciting new place in jazz." - Pat Metheny
Great jazz musicians who play non-traditional instruments are few and far between. One can think of Edmar Castaneda and Brandee Younger (harp); Jean Luc Fillon (oboe); and Steve Turre (conch shell). Cello players like Erik Friedlander, Peggy Lee and Fred Lonberg-Holm have topped critics’ polls for years. While the tuba was one of the founding instruments of jazz, today it is usually found only in brass bands or in the hands of masters like Howard Johnson or Marcus Rojas. Accordion has come in and out of vogue, and is currently heard in Al DiMeola’s World Sinfonia by Fausto Beccalossi, as well as in the hands of players like Richard Galliano, Ted Reichman and Gary Versace. There are some truly wild instrumental choices out there as well.
The title of “King of the Jazz Harmonica” has long been held by Toots Thielemans, the nienty year old Belgian player who has written a jazz standard (“Bluesette”) and became an NEA Jazz Master. His heir apparent seems to be Grégoire Maret, a Swiss-born musician in his mid-thirties who has been a major contributor on the jazz scene for the past decade. Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, Cassandra Wilson, and Marcus Miller are some of his most prominent employers, and he’s recorded with the likes of George Benson, Jimmy Scott, John Ellis, Jacky Terrasson, Sean Jones, Terri Lyne Carrington, Robert Glasper, Lionel Loueke, Jeff "Tain" Watts, Mike Stern, and Charlie Hunter, to say nothing of Elton John, Sting, and Prince.
His debut CD as a solo performer was released two months ago, and shows new depth and warmth to his sound. Those not familiar with the wonderful texture and color the harmonica can provide to a band will be pleasantly surprised by Grégoire’s sound and approach to both standards and originals. Guest appearances by Cassandra Wilson and Toots himself add to the CD’s cachet.
I spoke with Grégoire the week after his quartet (including Federico Gonzalez Peña on piano; James Genus on bass; and Clarence Penn on drums) headlined the Jazz Standard in New York for a week. He spoke enthusiastically about the gigs, and his approach to the harmonica as a lead instrument. Click here to listen to our conversation, with musical selections including:
Grégoire Maret – "Children's Suite: Children's Song" from Grégoire Maret. Part of a multi-part suite co-written with Gonzalez Peña, this track is intended to capture the gleeful aspects of being a child. Given that Maret was first inspired to play his instrument by a childhood schoolmate's keychain harmonica, this subject seems near and dear to his heart.
Grégoire Maret – “The Man I Love” from Grégoire Maret. Maret arranged "The Man I Love" with Cassandra Wilson in mind long before he ever worked with her, but never showed the arrangement to her during their near-decade collaboration until it came time to record her contribution to his debut album. It has since become a regular part of her repertoire.
Jimmy Scott – “I’ll Close My Eyes” from Over the Rainbow. Grégoire talked about recording with higher register instruments like “Little” Jimmy’s famous falsetto. The venerable singer had Maret join his rhythm section of bassist George Mraz and drummer Grady Tate on three tracks on this 2000 release, which included guitarist Joe Beck and vibes master Joe Locke on this version of the Buddy Kaye-Billy Reid tune.
Pat Metheny Group – Excerpt from “Part Two” from The Way Up. One of the latest versions of the Metheny Group recorded this long-form piece in 2005, sparked by Grégoire’s harmonica sounds. Band members included Richard Bona (vocals); Metheny (guitar); Maret (harmonica); Cuong Vu (trumpet); Lyle Mays (keyboards); Steve Rodby (bass instrument); and Antonio Sanchez (drums).
Cristina Morrison – “Stand Still” from I Love. One of Grégoire’s most recent album appearances is this samba-esque tune on this talented singer’s debut CD An accomplished actress, (she graduated from the prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Arts), Ms. Morrison will have a release concert for the CD, on June 12th at the Somethin’ Jazz Club in New York.
Direct download: Podcast_278_-_A_Conversation_with_Gregoire_Maret.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EDT
Tue, 29 May 2012
It’s a treat to hear a musician coming into his own. A few listens to Journeyman, the second CD release from Brandon Wright, gives you a chance to hear a saxophonist who has the verve and fire to become a major player. His debut CD, Boiling Point, featured his tenor sax alongside trumpeter Alex Sipiagin. Two years later, he’s the sole front man in a quartet with David Kikoski (piano); Boris Kozlov (bass); and Donald Edwards (drums).
The New Jersey native has been a solid contributor and soloist with the Mingus Big Band, as well as ensembles led by Chico O’Farrill, Doc Severinson, Chuck Mangione, and Max Weinberg.
Journeyman is a mix of Wright originals and inventive covers, including tunes from the soundtrack of The Muppets Take Manhattan and by rock bands Oasis and Pearl Jam. The veteran pianist Kikoski, who played with Wright in the Mingus Big Band, helps hold together the band, which gives as good as it gets from Wright’s driving sax.
I spoke with Brandon the day Journeyman was released, and his enthusiasm for the band, the record and his future are clear from our conversation. Click here to listen to our discussion, including musical selections:
Brandon Wright – “Walk of Shame” from Journeyman. A slice of funk (Wright often gigs with James Brown/P-Funk legend Fred Wesley) that allows drummer Edwards to set the tone right off the top.
Mingus Big Band – “New Now Know How” from Live at the Jazz Standard. Both bassist Kozlov and pianist Kikoski took home Grammy Awards for this New Year’s Eve 2009 recording. Kikoski shares solos with Randy Brecker and Kenny Rampton on this Charles Mingus tune.
Brandon Wright – “Better Man” from Journeyman. A teenager in the nineties, Wright has let that side show with covers of Stone Temple Pilots on Boiling Point, and Pearl Jam and Oasis on Journeyman. He takes a melodic approach to the tune, showing that there may soon be a whole new set of candidates for the position of contemporary classics in the modern jazz repertoire.
Abraham Inc. – Title Track from Tweet Tweet. Wright is a key player in this multicultural combo led by Klezmer clarinetist David Krakauer, funk legend Fred Wesley and rapper Socalled. Guitarist Sheryl Bailey joins in on this track.
Direct download: Podcast_277_-_A_Conversation_with_Brandon_Wright.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:00am EDT
Mon, 28 May 2012
Today is Memorial Day in America, a time to pause and reflect on those in our armed forces who paid the ultimate price in serving their country. Formerly known as Decoration Day, it originated after the American Civil War to commemorate fallen Union soldiers. By the 20th century Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans who have died in all wars.
Other than arrangements of certain military anthems and patriotic songs, there are not a lot of appropriate songs to post on a jazz blog for this solemn day. So, in the spirit of world-wide empathy, here is Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra and "The Ballad of the Fallen".
Recorded in 1982 and released the next year, this avant-garde big band recorded their version of songs from the Spanish Civil War and other 20th century civil conflicts in Latin America, including the controversial revolutions in Chile and El Salvador. “The Ballad of the Fallen” is a reworked version of a folk song from El Salvador, which includes a song by Sergio Ortega called “The People United Will Never Be Defeated”, with an original introduction penned by Carla Bley.
The album was the winner of Down Beat's 1984 Critic's Poll as Best Album of 1983. Band members included Carla Bley (piano); Charlie Haden (bass); Don Cherry (pocket trumpet); Jim Pepper (flute and saxophone); Paul Motian (drums); Dewey Redman (tenor sax); and Mick Goodrick (guitar).
Sun, 27 May 2012
Ralph Peterson had just gotten his grades into the registrar at the Berklee College of Music in Boston when we talked last week. However, the talented drummer, composer, and educator was not headed for any restful summer vacation. Instead, he is preparing for the release of his 16th CD as a leader, The Duality Perspective, and a 50th birthday party at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola in New York on May 21st.
The venerable drummer, who has collaborated with the likes of Terence Blanchard, Branford Marsalis, David Murray, Roy Hargrove, Jon Faddis, Michael Brecker, Steve Coleman and Betty Carter over a nearly thirty-year career - not to mention being hand-picked by Art Blakey as the second drummer in the legendary bandleader's Jazz Messenger Big Band until Blakey's 1990 death – has recorded with an organ trio, fo'tet, quintet and sextet in the past few years. His bands often include his students at Berklee, who hope to eventually follow in the footsteps of his past mentees, who include the well-regarded Sean Jones, the Curtis Brothers, and Tia Fuller.
The Duality Perspective is split between his latest Fo’tet, which includes rising stars Felix Peikli (clarinet), Jospeph Doubleday (vibes) and Alexander L.J. Toth (bass), and his sextet, which is an all-star affair. Sextet members are all leading bands these days, and feature trumpeter Sean Jones, saxophonists Tia Fuller and Walter Smith III, bassist Luques Curtis and his brother, pianist Zaccai Curtis.
The new CD is a strong one, using higher register instruments like the soprano sax and vibes to great effect, as Peterson takes the players though their paces. The material is uniformly interesting, including revisions of past Peterson works.
Peterson is justifiably proud of his past work, and looking forward to the future with gusto. Click here to listen to our conversation, including musical selections from the new CD and other Peterson recordings:
Ralph Peterson Quintet – “Art of Blakey” from Art. Peterson is a Blakey discipline in two senses – his playing, and his desire to mentor and develop young talent through his bands. This CD was dedicated to the master drummer’s memory, and features a core of Peterson on drums, cornetist Graham Haynes, Steve Wilson on soprano and alto sax, pianist Michele Rosewoman and bassist Phil Bowler
Ralph Peterson Fo’tet – “Bamboo Bends in the Storm” from The Duality Perspective. A song with great meaning for Ralph, as it relates to his personal and professional career and their ups and downs. The young lions assembled to join him in this edition of the Fo’tet include Felix Peikli (clarinet), Jospeph Doubleday (vibes) and Alexander L.J. Toth (bass).
Ralph Peterson Sextet – “Coming Home” from The Duality Perspective. This portion of the CD was a reunion of sorts, as in-demand former band mates returned to play sideman for Ralph. The band features trumpeter Sean Jones, saxophonists Tia Fuller and Walter Smith III, bassist Luques Curtis and his brother, pianist Zaccai Curtis.
Ralph Peterson’s Unit Project – “The Moontrane” from Ralph Peterson’s Unit Project. To pay tribute to Larry Young and Woody Shaw’s classic Unity album, Peterson put together an organ-based band that included Josh Evans on trumpet, Jovan Alexandre on tenor sax and Pat Bianchi on Hammond B-3.
Mark Elf – “Mr. Suave” from Over the Airwaves. Peterson called this underrated guitarist “a bad cat” – the highest praise from a veteran jazz musician. Check out this trio cut, which includes Peterson on drums and Jay Leonhart on bass.
Don Byron – “Next Love” from Tuskegee Experiments. Renaissance man Byron has played it all, from R&B to Classical to Klezmer to Modern Jazz. Peterson was with him in his formative years, and played on this exceptional CD in a band composed of Byron on Clarinet, Lonnie Plaxico on bass, Bill Frisell on guitar, Edsel Gomez on piano and Peterson on drums.
Direct download: Podcast_275_-_A_Conversation_with_Ralph_Peterson_Jr.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:00am EDT
Mon, 21 May 2012
The 29th Discover Burlington Jazz Festival begins on June 1, kicking off the summer jazz festival season in the Northeast with a bang. For ten days, the college town on the banks of Lake Champlain will be the host for dozens of international and local jazz musicians, along with educational programs that make this a true destination festival for jazz lovers of all ages.
The Flynn MainStage will feature artists like Béla Fleck and the Marcus Roberts Trio; Ninety Miles Featuring Stefon Harris, Nicholas Payton and David Sánchez; Bonnie Raitt; Christian McBride & Inside Straight and Dianne Reeves. The more intimate FlynnSpace will bring Tim Berne & Snake Oil, Jonathan Baptiste; Mary Halvorson ; Vijay Iyer; Craig Taborn and the Donny McCaslin Group. NEA Jazz Master Lee Konitz will lead a quartet at the FlynnSpace to end the Festival on June 10.
The Waterfront stages will feature a reggae evening with Jimmy Cliff and a New Orleans themed event with Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue. Free events like “Jazz on the Marketplace” and shows in local clubs like the Signal Kitchen will keep the music going all day and well into the evening.
Burlington has a strong educational component, including Meet the Artist sessions, panel discussions, Improvisational Workshops, and lectures at the Burlington City Arts Center. The innovative JazzLab will allow musicians and fans to participate in recording sessions and learn techniques usually reserved for professionals at the highest levels.
No wonder Managing Director Brian Mital was so excited when we spoke last week. Click here to listen to our conversation, as he discusses the philosophy of the Festival Board, and discusses his favorite acts. Musical selections from artists performing at the festival are included, such as:
Ninety Miles – “Black Action Figure” from Ninety Miles. This was the title track from Stefon Harris’ second album as a leader in 1999. It gets a revision on this recording from the members of this “super group”, which included Harris on vibes, David Sánchez on sax, Christian Scott on trumpet and a rhythm section of Rember Duharte and Harold Lopez-Nussa. Payton will replace Scott on the festival stage.
Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue – “Big 12” from For True. Covering the bases from R&B to Funk to Jazz to good ol’ Nawlins Soul, Shorty continues to light up the stage from coast to coast. This track from last year’s release features guest Ben Ellman on harmonica.
Tim Berne – “Not Sure” from Snake Oil. Avant-garde hero Berne has made a more accessible but no less impressive album on the ECM release. Band members include Oscar Noriega (clarinet), Mat Mitchell (piano) and Ches Smith(drums, tympani, gongs and congas). Check out my recent interview with Tim here.
Vijay Iyer – “Human Nature” from Solo. Vijay’s trio is currently earning high praise, so it’s his solo gig at the 180 seat FlynnSpace will be one of the highlights of the Festival. Check out his reworked version of Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature”, by way of Miles Davis’ cover.
Lee Konitz, Brad Mehldau, Charlie Haden, Paul Motian – “Lover Man” from Live at Birdland. Lee will lead his quartet, which included top drummer Matt Wilson, onto the stage at FlynnSpace to end the Festival. He will be followed by the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival Nonet featuring Ray Vega and Alex Stewart doing a salute to “The Birth of the Cool”, which featured Konitz more than fifty years ago. Will he sit in and recreate a solo?
Christian McBride & Inside Straight – “The Shade of the Cedar Tree” from Kind of Brown. One of the top bass players in the world leads a top combo, which has often featured saxophonist Steve Wilson. This is one of McBride’s best compositions, a tribute to mentor Cedar Walton.
Burlington Discover Jazz Festival June 1-10, 2012 www.discoverjazz.com . Tickets and general information are available at: www.discoverjazz.com 802-86-FLYNN (802-863-5966) FlynnTix Regional Box Office, 153 Main Street, Burlington, VT 05401
Thu, 17 May 2012
Legendary disco singer Donna Summer died today after a battle with cancer. Often called the Queen of Disco, her sound was a mix of genres, and helped her earn Grammy Awards in the dance, rock, R&B and inspirational categories.
1975's "Love to Love You Baby," written by Summer and produced by long-time collaborator Giorgio Moroder, brought her worldwide fame (and infamy) due to its use of synthezied beats and sexual conent. The song appeared in both a 17 minute album version and shorter single version. The growing number of dance clubs (mostly gay) regularly played the 17 minute version, which helped spread its word of mouth popularity. Partially due to the record's phenomenal appeal, Summer's label, Casablanca Records, became one of the first record labels to popularize the 12" single format, eventually the gold standard in dance music.
"I Feel Love', with its throbbing, icy synthesizers and ethereal vocals, has often been cited as the greatest dance song of all-time. Slant magazine tabbed it as the best in its 2006 survey, writing:
... Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte's futuristic vistavision album coda single-handedly took pop music into the electronic age. No longer would synthesizers remain the intellectual property of prog-classical geeks. And, separated from its LP context and taken as a Top 10 single, it didn't just suggest the future, it was the future. Cooing ascending couplets of an almost banal ecstasy, Summer's breathy vocals still dwelled in the stratosphere of her own manufactured sensation...no musical genre in the last three decades has remained untouched by the neon-lit legacy of "I Feel Love."
Her song "Last Dance" won Summer her first Grammy, an award she took again with "She Works Hard for the Money" in 1984. Summer holds the record for most consecutive double albums to hit number one on the Billboard charts (three) and was the first female to have four number one singles in a 12-month period: three as a solo artist and one as a duo with Barbra Streisand.
After disco's demise, she continued to write and record, releasing the gospel-infused Christmas Spirit to great success in 1994.
Category:general -- posted at: 1:17pm EDT
Mon, 14 May 2012
Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Ian Gilmore Green, better known to jazz fans as Gil Evans, one of the greatest arrangers, conductors and composers in jazz history. I think it’s safe to say that only Duke Ellington, rivaled Gil for his contributions to large ensemble music, as both created new sounds, harmonies and textures in the jazz orchestra sound. After using new and different instrumentation with the orchestra of his mentor Claude Thornhill, Evans worked with Miles Davis to create a quartet of masterpieces – The Birth of the Cool, Miles Ahead, Porgy and Bess, and Sketches of Spain – that helped create the “cool sound” that became his signature.
Gil’s masterpiece without Miles or Thornhill was Out of the Cool, recorded in 1960. The Penguin Guide to Jazz selected this album as part of its suggested "Core Collection" Click here to listen to his version of Kurt Weill’s “Bilbao Song”, by an orchestra featuring musicians like Evans on piano, Johnny Coles (trumpet), Jimmy Knepper (trombone), Bill Barber (tuba), Ron Carter (bass), and Elvin Jones (drums).
Sun, 13 May 2012
Recorded Apr 25, 1999, this is a live performance of a top quartet - Alto saxophonist George Robert, pianist Kenny Barron, bassist Rufus Reid, and drummer Kenny Washington -performing in Lausanne, Switzerland. The second song that night was a lovely ballad that Robert had composed to honor his late mother, who had passed away two years earlier. "Mom's Song" from the album Inspiration is the Official Straight No Chaser Song of Mother's Day, so be sure to share this with your mom, or pause to remember her while listening to the tune.
Fri, 11 May 2012
Maybe it’s the fallout from International Jazz Day, or the onset of warmer weather, but I’ve been increasingly drawn to releases with a Brazilian or South American sound. The weather in New England has been rainy, so perhaps these mellow sounds will chase away the clouds and give us some much needed late spring sunshine. What better reasons for Podcast 274, which features tracks from several of those releases, including:
Receita De Samba – “E Lux O” from Receita De Samba. Receita De Samba are husband and wife duo Anna Borges and Bill Ward, and the band name means “recipe for samba” in Portuguese They hail from Boston’s vibrant Brazilian music and mix acoustic music with drum machines or electronic sampling to make their unique sound.
Frank Herzberg Trio – “Mil Saudades” from Handmade. Herzberg was born and raised in East Berlin, Germany, but followed his love, Brazilian pianist Marta Karassawa, south to São Paulo. His trio is made up of Herzberg on bass, drummer Zé Eduardo Nazário and pianist Alexandre Zamith. . Zamith, who holds a Doctorate in Classical Performance, and Nazário, who seems to have an encyclopedic knowledge of rhythms from Brazil, help make this groove of a track go.
New World Beat – “Song for Brazil” from After Carnival. Miami-based New World Beat mixes Brazilian and other World tones into what they call a “sonic cocktail”, reminiscent of past Pat Metheny sounds. The band - Richard Sprince - vibraphone; Matt Vashlishan – soprano & alto saxophones; Tom Lippincott - 8 String guitar; Diogo Brown – fretless bass; Goran Rista – drums; Tony Cruz, Terezinha Valois – vocals; Cezar Santana - nylon string guitar; and Dwili Dewongy –percussion; are joined by Jorge Pardo on flute for this ballad, which has bolero overtones.
Kate McGarry – “O Cantador” from Girl Talk. Singer McGarry is gaining more exposure and greater acclaim with each album release. This wonderful duet with Kurt Elling is made even more stunning by the deep and talented backing band of Keith Gantz - guitars; Gary Versace - organ and piano; Reuben Rogers - bass; and Clarence Penn - drums and percussion.
Towner Galaher – “Café Con Samba” from Uptown! This is a peak at a CD not due out for another month. Drummer Galaher has put together a band that features trumpeter Brian Lynch, alto saxophonist Donald Harrison, and tenor saxophonist Craig Handy. To give the sound some soul he has added Pat Bianchi, on the B-3 organ. Galaher wrote this one in 6/4, and the band, which has roots in Eddie Palmieri’s groups, knows how to bring the fuego.
Marisa Monte – “Descalço no Parque” from O Que Você Quer Saber De Verdade. The album title translates as “What You Really Want To Know”, and while filled mostly with Monte originals, it also features covers from some of her favorite artists. Here she chooses Jorge Ben’s tune for her latest Blue Note Records release.