Fri, 29 June 2012
Nancy and I start our summer vacation tonight by heading down to Hartford to catch Roger Waters’ “The Wall” extravaganza. Since Pink Floyd is one of the few 70’s rock demi-gods I have not seen in the flesh (pardon the pun, all you Floyd-heads), this should be some real fun.
Jazz and Pink Floyd have crossed paths a few times now. The best of the results has been Jazz Side of the Moon, featuring Sam Yahel (Hammond B3 organ), Seamus Blake (tenor sax), Ari Hoenig (drums), and Mike Moreno (guitar), although the Bad Plus did a pretty good one-off on “Comfortably Numb.” There's even a Smooth Jazz All-Stars tribute to Floyd (check out there take on "Hey You", one of The Wall's most memorable tunes),
From Hartford it’s on to Saratoga, where we’ll be posting updates and photos from the Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival. Keep your fingers crossed for good weather!
Thu, 28 June 2012
I first heard Hailey Niswanger when she played the Gazebo Stage at the Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival two years ago. Barely out of her teens, she played with great poise and elegance, using her alto sax to lay out long, lyrical solos and leading a quartet with great aplomb. The audience loved her.
Two years later, as the festival celebrates the various acts that graced the Gazebo Stage with return gigs, Hailey is one of the acts I will most want to see. Her latest CD, The Keeper, shows she has grown as a player and composer, and her tight band is well worth a listen.
Originally from Portland, Oregon (as is her peer Esperanza Spalding, who is also on the bill in Saratoga), Hailey has made a name for herself while at Berklee in Boston. In fact, her recording band - Michael Palma on piano, Greg Chaplin on bass and Mark Whitfield Jr. on drums – are all fellow Berklee alums. Proficient on alto and soprano sax, clarinet and flute, her sound is perfect for a sunny summer afternoon – languid, lovely and full of expression and optimism.
Hailey is one of five acts making a return engagement each day. On Saturday, Hailey kicks things off at noon, followed by the Jeremy Pelt Quintet, Catherine Russell, Mario Abney & the Abney Effect, and Pedrito Martinez. Sunday will feature Edmar Castaneda, Sachal Vasandani, the Steve Kroon Sextet, the Trio of Oz featuring Omar Hakim & Rachel Z and the Brian Mitchell Group.
I talked with Hailey about her new CD, the joins of playing in Saratoga Springs, and where she hopes her musical talents will take her. Click here to listen to the conversation, along with musical selections, including:
Hailey Niswanger – “Straight Up” from The Keeper. The song is written for onetime Eddie Harris trumpeter Dr. Thara Memory, Niswanger’s instructor at an afterschool arts program during her high school days, who she says always told her things they way they were, and helped mold her into a musician.
Hailey Niswanger – Title Track from The Keeper. One of several “dedication” tracks on the CD, this one (and the entire CD) is for her late high school band director Jeff Cumpston, who lost his life in an accident in Zimbabwe a year after he had re-located there to teach.
Hailey Niswanger – “La Mesha” , recorded at the Confeddie release party in 2007. A live track taken from a YouTube video, featuring her playing with Randy Porter (piano), Greg Chaplin (bass) and Mark Whitfield Jr. on drums.
Direct download: Podcast_283_-_Saratoga_Jazz_Festival_Preview_Part_II_-_A_Conversation_with_Hailey_Niswanger.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 5:00am EST
Thu, 28 June 2012
Tom Reney is the King of Western Massachusetts jazz radio, and his blog always presents good and interesting reading. Today he posts a dream list of jazz custs called "30 Platters of Jazz Perfection" As with any list of the greatest songs, it's highly personal and as a result, full of songs I would have left out and others I would have put in.
Check out his list on his blog, and leave a comment there (or here) as to what you think belongs on the list and why. These are instrumental tracks only, and run from Louis Armstrong through Brad Mehldau (see photo).
For those who care, I left a comment agreeing with many choices, but questioning the inclusion of John Coltrane's "Wise One" over say "My Favorite Things" or even "Crescent", or Miles Davis' "Pinocchio" over "Nefertiti" from the same album. And I have to include Jackie McLean's "Appointment in Ghana" and Lee Morgan's "The Sidewinder" on any list.
What a cool iPod playlist his platters would make! I guess I know what I'll be doing this evening....
Category:general -- posted at: 1:00am EST
Wed, 27 June 2012
I found this article on line at the Ottowa Citizen website (who knew?) and wanted to amke sure anyone who has friends,family or significant others who are anti-jazz have a chance to read it. Pass this one along!
Peter Hum does a great job of explaining to the non-jazz fan why jazz is a vital, exciitng and even fun music form. He writes, in part:
Over the years, I’ve seen jazz dissed from every direction. It’s been slammed as old music for old people, too safe and staid. And yet, for others it’s just too raw and raucous. Of course, the sheer eclectic embrace of jazz – a strength and a weakness — makes it easy to fasten on to some aspect and make it stand for the whole. Neither Kenny G nor avant-garde shriekers are representative...
Maybe I'm preaching to the choir by posting this here, but I think it would be great for you to be sure others get the chance to read it.
Category:general -- posted at: 10:00am EST
Fri, 22 June 2012
My musical summer can begin on June 30th, with the 35th annual Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival takes place at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) in New York. If New Orleans is “The Big Easy”, then this festival should be known as “The Big Hang”, with two days of wonderful vibes, two stages of world-class music, food, crafts and general fun.
And who will be featured on the Main Stage this year? I’m glad you asked.
Saturday kicks off with Mario Abney & the Abney Effect, followed by Christian McBride & Inside Straight. Michel Camilo’s "Mano a Mano" with Giovanni Hidalgo and Charles Flores begins around 2:40, followed by the always incredible Mingus Big Band. The two biggest names follow – Grammy-winner Esperanza Spalding’s "Radio Music Society" and trumpet star Chris Botti. The evening ends with a dose of old school funk, courtesy of Maceo Parker.
They do it all again on Sunday, with the exciting Trio of Oz featuring Omar Hakim and Rachel Z getting things going at noon, followed by fusion veterans The Yellowjackets and the Hiromi Trio Project. A late afternoon treat will be provided by Arturo O'Farrill and his Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, and then Diana Krall and Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue bring it all home.
And then we rest. Or at least my wife Nancy and I will, touring downtown Saratoga Springs as we start our week long vacation.
Danny Melnick is responsible for booking the talent, and we spoke again (listen to podcast 218 to hear last year’s preview) to give everyone a backstage view of what goes into putting on such a wonderful event. Click here to listen to our conversation, including musical interludes by festival Main Stage performers like:
Esperanza Spalding – “Cinnamon Tree” from Radio Music Society. The winner of the 2011 Grammy Award for Best New Artist, Ms. Spalding has recorded arguably her best album yet, composed primarily of original tunes and featuring the sparkling play of her regular band (featuring pianist Leo Genovese and drummer Terry Lynne Carrington), backing guests like Joe Lovano (sax), percussionists Jack DeJohnette and Billy Hart; guitar heroes Jef Lee Johnson and Lionel Loueke; an array of master vocalists including Algebra Blessett, Lalah Hathaway, Gretchen Parlato, Leni Stern and Becca Stevens; hip-hop giant Q-Tip (who performs on and co-produced two tracks); and two Portland-based musicians, Janice Scroggins and Dr. Thara Memory, who provided essential mentorship in Spalding’s youth.
Diana Krall – “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart“ from Quiet Nights. The only jazz singer to have eight albums debuting at the top of the Billboard Jazz Albums chart, Ms. Krall is in the midst of a large-scale world tour. To honor the memory of the late Robin Gibb, here’s her version of the Bee Gees classic tune.
Michel Camilo – “Rice and Beans” from Mano a Mano. Camilo will be part of a sensational trio, featuring long-time bassist Charles Flores and percussionist Giovanni Hidalgo. This should be one that gets the crowd out of their seats early in the festival.
Hiromi Trio Project – “Now or Never“ from Voice. Recorded with bass legend Anthony Jackson (Headhunters) and rock-jazz fusion drummer Simon Phillips, this was an album that was rocking as much as it was swinging.
Mingus Big Band – “Moanin’” from Mingus Big Band Live at the Jazz Standard. A Grammy winning CD, this shows the great power of the world’s greatest interpreter of the works of Charles Mingus. Solos here are by Lauren Sevian and David Kikoski.
Jeremy Pelt – “David and Goliath” from The Talented Mr. Pelt. One of ten acts returning to celebrate the virtuosity of the Gazebo Stage, Pelt leads a quintet that is hardly a group of beginners. Together for five years, tenor saxophonist J.D. Allen, pianist Danny Grissett, bassist Dwayne Burno, trumpeter Pelt and drummer Gerald Cleaver. This track, from last year’s critically acclaimed CD, ended the recording with a blast.
Direct download: Podcast_282_-_Saratoga_Jazz_Festival_Preview_Part_I.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:00pm EST
Fri, 22 June 2012
It was last July that I posted this entry, and it's more than appropriate for today, with 3 straight days of 90 degree weather in Western Massachusetts on these first few days of summer.
Here in Western Massachusetts the mercury in the ol' thermometer ha hit well over 90 degrees all week, with no relief in sight for the weekend. That won't stop Nancy and me from seeing Lucinda Williams and Amos Lee in a dual-headlining concert Saturday night, though. It's worth pointing out that Lee is signed to Blue Note Records, the home of jazz artists exclusively in the past. However, the label's talent has been widened over the past few years, becoming the home of Al Green, Van Morrison, Norah Jones, Lee, and even Jeff Bridges. There is still plenty of good jazz on the label - Robert Glasper, Lionel Loueke, Cassandra Wilson and others are still laying down cutting edge sounds. Music business economics being what they are, it's hard to blame the label. But one wonders - what would Alfred Lion, the label's famous founder say?
But back to the weather, and a song to enjoy it by. While I could post "(We're having a) Heat Wave", today seems like an appropriate time to bring out Cole Porter's "Too Darn Hot", particularly when hearing lyrics like "I'd lile to fool with my baby tonight/Break ev'ry rule with my baby tonight/But pillow you'll be my baby tonight/ 'Cause it's too darn hot."
This version comes from Holly Cole, from her ironically titled 2003 CD Shade. She's recorded albums of standards, as well as an exception album of Tom Waits tunes called Temptation that is well worth checking out. Here she sings, adds a bit of xylophone, and is backed by Aaron Davis on piano, George Koller on bass, Kevin Brett on guitar and Mark Kelso on drums and percussion.
Category:general -- posted at: 10:52am EST
Fri, 22 June 2012
Sonny Rollins, saxophone colossus, was the big winner of the 2012 Jazz Journalists Association Jazz Awards, announced this afternoon at a gala party at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City. The tenor saxophonist was named Musician of the Year, his album Road Shows, Vol. 2 chosen as Best Record of the Year and he was judged Best Tenor Saxophonist, too. Rollins will be one of the headliners at the Detroit Jazz Festival this Labor Day Weekend.
Horace Silver, who at age 84 is residing in an assisted care facility in upstate New York, was hailed for his Lifetime Achievement in Jazz.
Amiri Baraka, author of the books Blues People and Black Music as well as plays, poetry and social criticism, was the recipient of an Award for Lifetime Achievement in Jazz Journalism; author Albert Murray, age 94, was honored with a "Words and Music" Award, co-presented by the JJA and the Jazz Foundation of America. Robin Bell-Stevens, executive director of JazzMobile, and Adrian Ellis, recently resigned executive director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, were celebrated as New York City "Jazz Heroes."
Other Awards in the 40 categories of excellence in music and music journalism voted on by professional members of the JJA went to a broad spectrum of jazz stylists; all the winners are listed here. The sole multiple category winner besides Sonny Rollins was Anat Cohen.
Thu, 21 June 2012
I've spread the news about the wonderful blog Funky16Corners on this site many times, and if you haven't checked it out, now is the time. The annual "Pledge Drive" is underway, so that they can raise money to keep the music coming to you gratis.
For me, the highlight of the postings on the blog are the "mixtapes" of old jazz-soul that routinely pop up for the downloading. This time its Funky16Corners Presents: Greasy Spoon - Hammond Organ 45s from the Old School, a collection of sensational Hammond B-3 tracks, including selections from all the might players, from Jimmy McGriff and Larry Young to Freddie Roach and Shirley Scott. Check it out, download the mp3, and donate to the cause.
Wed, 20 June 2012
Seventy-five years ago today, a major piece of musical history took place in a makeshift studio at the Brunswick Record Building in Dallas, Texas. June 20th, 1937 was the day that a little known blues guitar player named Robert Johnson had his second of two recording sessions that resulted in 13 all-time classic songs, including "Love in Vain", Traveling Rierside Blues" and "Hellhound on My Trail".
This was one of two recording sessions Johnson would do in his brief life. He was dead at 27, allegedly poisoned by a jealous husband of a woman he was seeing. Whether he sold his soul to the devil to become a great guitarist, or merely was a musical genius, his work is among the most influential in the 20th century, and must be considered alongside recordings of Louis Armstrong as seminal American classics.
We celebrate the day by listening to singer Cassandra Wilson's reading of "Hellhound" from her 1993 CD Blue Light 'til Dawn. Musicians on the track include Olu Dara on cornet, Don Byron on clarinet, Charlie Burnham on violin, and Gin Wharton on pedal steel guitar.
Tue, 19 June 2012
Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, is a holiday in the U.S. honoring African-American heritage by commemorating the announcement of the abolition of slavery in the State of Texas in 1865. Celebrated on June 19, it is recognized as a state holiday or state holiday observance in 41 states of the United States.
The celebrating allows me to share a righteous track from Cynthia Felton's latest CD, Freedom Jazz Dance. The talented singer has recorded an album containing mostly jazz standards - she does a particularly nice job on "Lost in the Stars" - and kicks off with the gospel infused "Oh Freedom."I hear more than a little Nine Simone here, and that's a good thing.
Clearly she has the pipes and desire to produce outstanding music, even if this CD never seems to give her that many chances to really cut loose. More than a few times she relies on "American Idol"-type over singing rather than the emotion and sense of timing she brings to other tracks, like Charles Mingus' "Duke Ellington's Sound of Love". The band and the arrangements, including the likes of Terri Lynne Carrington, Ernie Watts, Wallace Roney and Cyrus Chestnut, is top notch, though, and there is real hope that her next album will be a winner from start to finish.