Tue, 31 July 2012
From fusion to dreamy modern sounds to straight ahead jazz, John Abercrombie has led the way as one of the finest guitarists in the business. Since 1974 he has recorded almost exclusively for Manfred Eicher’s ECM label, and has made memorable duo, trio (particularly with the band Gateway) and quartet albums with varying instrumental composition.
For his jazziest record in years, Abercrombie has assembled some of his favorite collaborators – drummer Joey Baron, saxophonist Joe Lovano, and bassist Drew Gress to record his tribute to his first jazz heroes and their recordings. Within a Song features covers of tunes from Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Bill Evans, along with originals intended to pay tribute the early 1960’s legends from which Abercrombie first received inspiration.
This version of the Quartet (with Adam Nussbaum replacing Joey Baron) will play a run of shows at Birdland in New York from August 14-18, playing much of this fine new CD, making those performances “must see” from the Manhattan jazz cognoscenti.
I spoke with John from his home in New York State, where he was relaxing after a short tour. We talked about why he is so pleased with the new CD, his beginning as a jazz student in Boston, and his plans for a possible Gateway reunion in the near future. Click here to listen to the conversation, along with musical selections that include:
John Abercrombie Quartet – “Wise One” from Within A Song. Abercrombie said he liked the accessible melody and Latin-tinged rhythms on the track from John Coltrane’s seminal Crescent album.
John Abercrombie Quartet – Title Track from Within A Song. To pay tribute to Sonny Rollins’ album The Bridge, Abercrombie wrote this song, and merged into it elements of the classic “Without a Song”. Abercrombie calls this album, which featured mentor Jim Hall on guitar, perhaps his favorite jazz album.
Billy Cobham – “Moon Germs” from Total Eclipse. Abercrombie was at the epicenter of the musical earthquake that was fusion in the late 1960’s. With the Brecker Brothers and Billy Cobham he formed the band Dreams, and he guest starred on this Cobham solo album from 1974, supplying a screaming guitar solo to close the track.
John Abercrombie Quartet – “Out of Towner” from Wait Till You See Her. Abercrombie has a long standing musical relationship with violinist Mark Feldman, with whom this quartet is based. Joey Baron is on drums and Thomas Morgan plays bass. Abercrombie considers this version of the Quartet to be one of his ready working bands.
Gateway – “Unshielded Desire” from Gateway. As a member of this supergroup, Abercrombie has worked with bassist Dave Holland and drummer Jack DeJohnette off and on for 35 years. He will pay tribute to DeJohnette at concerts honoring the legendary drummer on his 70th birthday this fall. This track comes from their debut album on ECM, and was co-written by Abercrombie and DeJohnette.
Direct download: Podcast_289__-_A_Conversation_with_John_Abercrombie.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:00am EDT
Wed, 18 July 2012
Readers of this blog know that eery year on my lovely wife Nancy's birthday, I post a recording of "Nancy (With the Laughing Face)", written by Phil (Sgt. Bilko) Silvers and Jimmy Van Heusen, and made famous by Frank Sinatra. This year's version is a mellow take by saxophone legend Ben Webster from his The Warm Moods CD. Originally released in 1960, the tenor player is joined by Don Bagley on bass, Frank Capp on drums, Don Trenner on piano, and a string section arranged and conducted by Johnny Richards.
Happy birthday, baby! Thanks for coming into my life and making it so sweet.
Category:general -- posted at: 2:30am EDT
Tue, 17 July 2012
When Downbeat magazine’s Critics Poll appeared earlier this month, to no one’s surprise, Anat Cohen captured the award as Best Clarinet player, and earned the Rising Star award on Tenor Saxophone. She was a dual winner at the Jazz Journalists’ Awards for Clarinetist of the Year and Multi-reeds Player of the Year. She is an inspiring performer and composer, and is at the top of her game on any number of instruments.
She is also an entrepreneur, as she and her partner Oded Lev-Ari have created Anzic Records, an independent label that features recordings by and Anat and her siblings Avisahi and Yuval, as well as their various groups and projects, Going beyond the immediate family, Anzic also has released works by Israeli musicians Eli Degibri and Omar Avital; singers Amy Cervini and Melissa Stylianou; saxophonist Joel Frahm, and the Wavery Seven.
Anat will get a chance to show the many different sides of her musical gift at the Jazz Standard in New York later this month. As part of that club’s 10th Anniversary series, she will present the “Anat Cohen Invitation Series” from Thursday - Sunday July 26 – 29. Each night will be a different ensemble, and performers will include Romero Lubambo, Howard Alden, the Anzic Orchestra, and Fred Hersch.
I spoke with Anat about these upcoming gigs, as well as about her future plans, including performances at the Newport Jazz Festival in August and a new CD in September. Click here to listen to the conversation, which features musical interludes:
Anat Cohen – “Jitterbug Waltz” from Notes from the Village. Anat swings the Fats Waller classic on her clarinet with help from band mates Jason Lindner (piano), Daniel Freedman (drums and percussion), and Gilad (guitar).
Anat Cohen & the Anzic Orchestra – “Medley: Samba de Orfeu/Struttin' with Some Barbeque” from Noir. A killer medley that mixes Brazilia with New Orleans, played by a large ensemble featuring three cellos. Musicians include Anat Cohen (clarinet, soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone); Guilherme Monteiro (guitar); Greg Heffernan, Robert Burkhart, Erik Friedlander (cello); Billy Drewes (clarinet, tenor saxophone); Yuval Cohen (soprano saxophone); Avishai Cohen , Frank Greene, Tanya Darby (trumpet, flugelhorn); Deborah Weisz (trombone); Duduka Da Fonseca (drums, percussion); Antonio Sanchez (drums); and Zé Maurício (percussion).
3 Cohens – Title Track from Family. Anat and brothers Avishai and Yuval released this CD last year, which featured Avishai’s ballad as the title track. The sextet is rounded out by pianist Aaron Goldberg, bassist Matt Penman, and drummer Gregory Hutchinson.
Amy Cervini – “My Attorney Bernie” from Digging Me, Digging You. Produced and arranged by Oded Lev-Ari, Ms. Cervini’s husband, this salute to the music of Blossom Dearie was one of two vocal releases on Anzic Records in early 2012. This is one of my favorite tunes on the album, an interpretation of Dave Frishberg's witty ditty, The vocalist is backed by Bruce Barth (piano) and Matt Wilson (drums), while Anat and Avishai Cohen appear from track to track.
Anat Cohen – “Eyn Gedi” from Poetica. Anat’s remembrance of the Israeli oasis town was a highlight of this 2007 release. Band members include Anat Cohen (clarinet and violin); David Creswell (violin, viola); Belinda Whitney (violin); Danny Miller (cello); Omer Avital (bass); Antoine Silverman (violin); Jason Lindner (piano); Daniel Freedman (drums, percussion); and Gilad (percussion).
Mon, 16 July 2012
Saxophonist Steve Newsome writes a blog "created to reach out to fellow sax players and musicians committed to sharing ideas about the soprano saxophone." Sounds like a good idea to me.
A recent posting is great reading, so I thought I would share the link with you. Entitled "Jazz Innovations from an Economist’s Perspective", it uses Chicago University economist David Galenson's article "Old Masters and Young Geniuses: The Two Life Cycles of Human Creativity," to define two types of innovators: the experimental and the conceptual. Newsome applies this to jazz musicians, comparing visual artists like Picasso and Cezanne with Miles Davis and Charlie Parker. Well worth a read.
Category:general -- posted at: 2:30am EDT
Thu, 12 July 2012
Bret Primack has posted hundreds of short films about Jazz musicians on his JazzVideoGuy YouTube channel the past seven years. Now he has a story to tell that needs a larger canvas. His new film, "Pauly Cohen, Trumpeter," is a one-hour documentary about a soon-to-be ninety-year-old trumpeter named Pauly Cohen, still following his big band dream.
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EDT
Wed, 11 July 2012
It’s July in New York, which means its time for the 92nd Street Y’s “Jazz in July” series of concerts (July 16-26), curated for the eighth year by pianist Bill Charlap. This year’s series of six events will feature dazzling jazz performed by some of the finest soloists and ensembles in jazz. There will be themed nights (tributes to Richard Rodgers, Bill Eavns and Art Blakey) and a wide variety of contributing musicians, ranging from Charlap’s long-time trio of Kenny Washington and Peter Washington to guests Freddy Cole, Ernie Andrews, Barbara Carroll, Houston Person, Bucky Pizzarelli, Sachal Vasandani and more.
It’s also a family affair for Charlap, who will be joined by his mother, Sandy Stewart, and a distant cousin, Dick Hyman for an evening of swing, and wife Renee Rosnes for a number of shows.
I spoke with Bill at length about how he chose the music for these concerts, his tenure at the Y, and his love from the piano trio format. Click here to listen to our conversation, including musical interludes from performers featured during the festival, including:
Freddy Cole – “There Are Such Things” from Music Maestro Please. While singer-pianist Freddy leads his own group, this recording comes from a set where the Charlap Trio (Bill, Kenny Washington and Peter Washington) backs him on a set of standards.
Bill Charlap Trio – “Where or When” from Written in the Stars. Here’s the format where Bill really pulls out all the stops, pushing the art of the piano trio to another level. What are the odds this one is on the set list the night Richard Rodgers is feted on July 19?
Harry Allen with the Bill Charlap Trio – “Just Squeeze Me” from Harry Allen Plays Ellington Songs. One of the great tenor players, Allen will get to strut his stuff with other New York “first call” players like Ken Peplowski on July 24.
Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers – “Along Came Betty” from Moanin’ A classic Benny Golson tune from perhaps his finest studio album in 1958. Three of this band’s members went on to lead their own groups to major artistic successes – Lee Morgan (trumpet), Golson (tenor sax), and Bobby Timmons (piano) . Jymie Merritt (bass) and Blakey (drums) round out this edition of the Jazz Messengers.
Count Basie – “Roseland Shuffle” from The Complete Decca Recordings. This indispensable compilation covers the Basie band from 1937 to 1939, when the “All-American Rhythm Section” of Freddie Greene (guitar), Walter Page (bass) and Jo Jones (drums) propelled the band to greater and greater heights.
Direct download: Podcast_286_-_Jazz_in_July_92nd_St_Y_-_A_Conversation_with_Bill_Charlap.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 1:00pm EDT
Mon, 9 July 2012
Singer-songwriter-pianist Peter Cincotti was the darling of the jazz media when he made his recording debut at the age of 18. His eponymous first album showed him to be a crooner of the first order, and a piano player with one foot in boogie-woogie and another in straight-ahead jazz.
Ten years later, Cincotti has moved well beyond the persona that singers like Michael Buble have assumed, and writes and records his own material, sometimes with a jazz feel, and other times with a pop or R&B sound. His first attempt at writing the music and lyrics for a musical, entitled How Deep Is The Ocean? with a book by his sister Pia Cincotti, has been selected for the 2012 New York Musical Theatre Festival and runs July 12-21 at the Theater at St. Clements (423 W. 46 Street).
Peter’s latest CD, Metropolis, seems as if it moves well away from his jazz roots, and yet there are elements of stride piano and harmonic shifts that show he hasn’t abandoned his training in jazz just yet. I spoke with him about his change is musical styles, how he came to become involved in a musical, and whether he catches grief from fans at leaving jazz crooning behind. Click here to listen to the conversation, including musical selections from his albums, including:
Peter Cincotti - “St. Louis Blues” from On the Moon. Peter began his career by showing a sense of swinging that’s apparent from this classic bluesy cover. This CD, his second, also included his first original compositions, showing that he was on to something different. The top notch band includes Barak Mori (bass) , Mark McLean (drums), Jeffrey Mironov (guitar) , Scott Kreitzer (tenor sax), and Sam Yahel (keyboard).
Peter Cincotti – “Do or Die” from Metropolis. Diametrically opposite from the swinging blues in sound is this cool synthesized production, but lyrically it’s still full of heart and soul.
Peter Cincotti – Title Track from Metropolis. Beginning in the future and ending in the past is how Peter describes the title tune from his new CD, and so it is, beginning with synthesizers and ending with piano James P. Johnson would have admired.
Peter Cincotti – “Goodbye Philadelphia” from East of Angel Town. A smash hit in Europe, this song, produced by David Foster (of Celine Dion infamy/fame) showed another side of Peter.
Peter Cincotti – “Spinning Wheel” from Peter Cincotti. And we end pretty much where we began, with Peter’s driving jazz piano take on the Blood, Sweat, & Tears classic.
Tickets for How Deep Is The Ocean? are $25, and the show plays at the Theater at St. Clements (423 W. 46th Street) from July 12 – July 21, 2012. Tickets can be purchased by calling (212) 352-3101 or by visiting www.nymf.org. For more information: www.nymf.org.
Direct download: Podcast_287_-_A_Conversation_with_Peter_Cincotti.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 4:00am EDT
Mon, 9 July 2012
Lionel Batiste, the vocalist, bass drummer and assistant leader of the Treme Brass Band, has died. He was 81.
Fans of the HBO series “Treme” (truh-MAY) may not have known Batiste by name, but they often saw him close up. He was the skinny guy with the big drum in the band, one of the acts regularly featured on the show.
Batiste, known as “Uncle Lionel,” had been ill for about a month, said band leader Benny Jones Sr. He said Batiste had been with the band since it was formed in 1995, but had played bass drum since childhood.
Batiste used his drum to stay afloat in the floods after Hurricane Katrina, Clarinetist Michael White said.
“The water kept rising,” White said. “He couldn’t swim. The water was too high for him to walk out. He saved himself by floating out on top of his bass drum.”
Batiste’s singing voice was “somewhere between blues and old-time gospel, kind of raspy but with a nice quality to it,” White said.
He recalled that in the late 1960s, Batiste wasn’t playing but “second-lining” — dancing and strutting with a decorated umbrella to the band’s music — and acting as grand marshal for parades and jazz funerals.
“He would bring joy and just New Orleans spirit. ... He made people feel good about themselves and about living,” White said.
Category:general -- posted at: 1:00am EDT
Sun, 8 July 2012
The Yiddish Book Center, located in Amherst, Massachusetts, is a great cultural jewel, serving as a repository and place of advocacy for the left-for-dead language of Jewish Eastern Europe. They will host “Yidstock!", from July 11-15, a multi-day festival of new Yiddish music including musical performances, music-related films, lectures, exhibitions and other events culminating in two days of concerts featuring some of the top names in klezmer and Yiddish music.
Klezmer music and jazz have always intersected in America, and this Festival presents a great opportunity to learn about the similarities and differences between the two art forms. This summary puts it nicely:
While Klezmer features improvised solos over a series of chord changes, it's far removed from what we know as jazz. Klezmer does bear some resemblance to the early New Orleans Dixieland jazz—in which all solos take place within a very tightly constructed framework—but while jazz continued to evolve with ever-increasing difficulty and harmonic complexity, klezmer remained a more static form.
There were, however, Jewish musicians who played both klezmer and jazz. The mixing of these styles led to a short-lived fad: Yiddish-pop crossover. Hits from this style include Benny Goodman's "And the Angels Sing," the Andrews Sisters' "Bei Mir Bist Du Schon," and Cab Calloway's, "Ot Azoy." But none of these songs could slow the tides of change. Young American Jews cared more for their new culture than the remnants of the Old World, and by the 1950s, klezmer was no longer a key part of Jewish life.
However, Klezmer is alive and well and some of the finest jazz musicians in the world perform it on a regular basis. I talked with music critic and author Seth Rogovoy (The Essential Klezmer: A Music Lover’s Guide to Jewish Roots and Soul Music) who wrote the all-time bestselling guide to klezmer music. An award-winning music critic, teacher, radio commentator, and musician, Seth – who curated the festival - is the editor and publisher of Berkshire Daily and the Rogovoy Report and the author of Bob Dylan: Prophet Mystic Poet, the first full-length biographical analysis of the famed rock poet from a Jewish perspective. Seth frequently writes about Jewish music and culture for Forward, Pakn Treger, and the Berkshire Jewish Voice.
Click here to listen to our conversation, including musical interludes by artists who will perform at Yidstock!, including:
Frank London & Klezmer Brass All-Stars – “In Your Garden Twenty Fecund Fruit Trees” from Carnival Conspiracy. My favorite of London’s albums is this wonderful mixture of Yiddish-Brazilian-Mexican brass sounds. Band members include London on trumpet; Danny Blume (guitar); Sanne Moericke (accordion); Matt Darriau (alto saxophone; Curtis Hasselbring (trombone); and Mark Rubin (tuba).
Don Byron - Berele's Sherele from Plays the Music of Mickey Katz. It’s easy to forget that the amazingly diverse talents of Don Byron (who is African-American) include gigs playing Klezmer music. This tribute album, full of the music of a Borscht Belt comic/musician provides glimpses into the klezmer/jazz connections.
Joseph Cherniavsky's Yiddish American Jazz Band – “Yiddisher March” from Yiddish-American Klezmer Music 1925-1956. When you are talking American Klezmer, you’re talking Dave Tarras. Henry Sapoznik worked with Tarras before his death in 1989 to put together this exhaustive collection of wonderfully cleaned up masters. Freed of the snap, crackle, and pop of unedited 78s, what emerges is real soul music with swing. It’s only a short hop from Tarras to Benny Goodman and the Andrews Sisters.
Andrews Sisters – “Bei Mir Bistu Shein” from Their All-Time Greatest Hits. The title translates to "To Me You're Beautiful” and comes from a Yiddish stage play. Composer Sammy Cahn supposedly heard it being played by an African-American band in a nightclub and convinced the still unknown Andrews Sisters to record the song on November 24, 1937. The result was a monster hit, covered hundred of times in the last 75 years.
Andy Statman – Title Song from Flatbush Waltz. “The dean of living klezmer clarinetists”, Statman learned klezmer from legendary klezmer clarinetist Dave Tarras, who bequeathed several of his clarinets to him.
Klezmer Conservatory Band – “Mayn Ershte Vals” from A Taste of Paradise. The title is Yiddish for “My First Waltz”. Hankus Netsky, a multi-instrumentalist and composer, is the founder and director of this internationally renowned Yiddish music ensemble and serves as research director of the Klezmer Conservatory Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to research in and perpetuation of Yiddish music.
Solomon & Socalled feat. Michael Alpert – “Kale Bazetsn (alt. shul)” from HipHopKhasene. The track can also be found on The Rough Guide to Klezmer Revolution, which I highly recommend this compilation for those curious about the latest carrier of the Klezmer torch. Here, the traditional - violinst Solomon - teams up with the modern - beats, loops, and samples from Socalled, aided by clarinetist David Krakauer (Klezmatics) and trumpeter Frank London.
Frank London & Klezmer Brass All-Stars - “T'hay Yeshua Zoys” This arrangement was originally performed at the Moers Jazz Festival. It is Frank London’s interpretation of Shmuel Brazil’s nigun in the style of Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra, and features London, Matt Darriau (sax) and Marcus Rojas (tuba).
Sat, 7 July 2012
The recent release of Live at Art D'Lugoff's Top of the Gate by Resonance Records offers listeners a table at the front of the stage for a stellar performance by one of jazz's greatest trios. It's October 23, 1968 in Greenwich Village, and legendary pianist Bill Evans is joined by bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Marty Morell for two top-notch sets, represented here in their entirety. Aired only once, on Columbia University radio station WKCR-FM, this concert hasn't been heard for more than forty years and has never been released in any form.
Once again producer Zev Feldman has found rare material that shows facets of a legendary performer that might not have been available previously. Earlier this year, Feldman helped Resonance release Echoes of Indiana Avenue, a landmark collection of previously unreleased recordings of guitar master Wes Montgomery.
The album has wonderful clarity, primarily because George Klabin, then a 22-year-old recording engineer, separately miked each performer and allowed for a high quality mix. Bassist Gomez in particular was “on” that night, and the sound quality of his solos stands out.
Listening to the CD put Evans on my mind, so here’s a podcast of recent material I’ve heard that celebrates Evans, including:
Bill Evans Trio – “’Round Midnight” from Live at Art D'Lugoff's Top of the Gate. One of three songs on the CD that appear in both the first and second set, Evans gives the Monk classic a lovely reading, particularly as he sets the theme through the introduction.
Allan Harris and Takana Miyamoto – “Waltz for Debby” from Convergence. Singer Harris and pianist Miyamoto revisit the Tony Bennett/Bill Evans collaborations of the early 1970’s with an album that gives them a chance to pay tribute, but also show their own talents. Harris has a warm, mellow baritone, and Ms. Miyamoto supports and caresses his voice with her playing. Well worth a listen.
John Abercrombie Quartet – “Interplay” from Within a Song. The CD won’t be out in the US until the end of July on ECM, and I already have a podcast in the can featuring a conversation with the great guitarist. He talks a length in that interview of Bill Evans’ strength as a composer, so I thought it would be nice to include this tune, which has Joe Lovano (sax), Drew Gress (bass) and Joey Baron (drums) joining Abercrombie.
John Abercrombie – “Turn Out the Stars” from Structures. Speaking of Abercrombie, he recorded a trio album with Evans’ bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Gene Jackson in 2006 for Chesky Records. This Evans’ tune was one of many Abercrombie woodshedded on for years, as guitarist Jim Hall, one of his musical idols, recorded a memorable version of the tune with Evans on their first duo record, Undercurrent.
Bill Evans Trio– Title track from Polka Dots and Moonbeams. June 5 was the 50th anniversary of the recording of this seminal Evans trio album. The group at that time was Evans (piano) Chuck Israels (bass) and Paul Motian (drums). They cut five of the album tracks that day in New York, a typical “day at the office” for Evans in 1962, as he recorded eighteen different sessions that year, including albums with Benny Golson, Herbie Mann, Jim Hall, and the Tadd Dameron Orchestra.