Tue, 28 August 2012
A four day free jazz festival in the heart of one of America’s greatest cities? Featuring Sonny Rollins, Pat Metheny, Terence Blanchard, Wynton Marsalis, Wayne Shorter, Gary Burton, Chick Corea and more? Did I mention it was free? Count me in!
The 33rd annual Detroit Jazz Festival, presented by Chrysler, features this one-of-a-kind lineup of today’s greatest jazz performers. The performers at this year’s festival have been nominated for and won more than 200 Grammy Awards, and won a staggering number of Critics’ and Reader’s Polls in the world’s great jazz magazines. It all happens from August 31 to September 3, in and around the waterfront area of downtown Detroit, Michigan.
A very quick aside – I attended last year’s event, and found the Motor City to be an inviting, friendly and well-organized city, despite the horrid press it has received My wife and I wandered around downtown at all hours of the day (and evening) and never felt threatened or ill at ease. I have no qualms about going back again this year.
My only real dilemma is what acts to see. With four stages going strong for more than ten straight hours most days, the shear volume of talent makes for tough decision making. I ask you – is it fair to have to choose between the near simultaneous performances of Arturo O’Farrill’s Septet with Donald Harrison, Brian Lynch’s Unsung Heroes, the Fred Hersch Trio and the Pat Metheny Unity Band? And that’s just late Saturday afternoon!
The Festival website gives you all the pertinent information, including downloadable maps and performance schedules. Podcast 295 tries to give you an overview of what might be highlights of the Festival, including musical previews from the likes of:
Sonny Rollins – “Tenor Madness” from Road Shows. At the age of 82, Sonny Rollins (pictured above) continues to perform epic concerts, and win awards by the armful. I have never seen this legendary saxophone player, and this should be the perfect setting for a wild show. The Terence Blanchard Quintet – no slackers here - opens for him on Friday night to kick off the Festival.
Grégoire Maret – “Travels” from Grégoire Maret. I interviewed Grégoire earlier this year, and have heard wonderful things about his recent performance at the Litchfield Jazz Festival. This track from his eponymous CD is a Pat Metheny cover, a nod to his former boss.
Alfredo Rodriguez – “Cu-Bop” from Sounds of Space. One of the highlights of Saturday will be the appearance of the Mack Avenue Superband, with musical director Rodney Whitaker. This all-star collective will feature some of the label’s most high profile acts, including. Gary Burton, Kevin Eubanks, Carl Allen, Alfredo Rodriguez, Aaron Diehl, Tia Fuller, Evan Perri, Sean Jones and Cecile McLorin Salvant. Here’s a track from the talented pianist Rodriguez, who will also get a featured spot on Sunday night.
Pat Metheny – “This Belongs to You” from Unity Band. One of this fall’s biggest touring attractions will be this stellar quartet, featuring Chris Potter on sax, Ben Williams on bass, and Antonio Sanchez on drums. The CD is excellent, marking something of a return to straight ahead sounding jazz for Metheny, after his (mostly) successful sonic experiments of the past few years.
Wayne Shorter – “As Far as the Eye Can See” from Beyond the Sound Barrier. For four hours on Sunday, the music of the great Shorter will be featured in three separate performances. First will be the new “Sound Prints” Quintet, co-led by saxophonist Joe Lovano and trumpeter Dave Douglas, which plays all-new pieces inspired by the sound of the 1960’s Miles Davis Quintet. The band is rounded out by Joey Baron (drums), Linda Oh (bass) and pianist Lawrence Fields. Next comes “A Tribute to the Music of Wayne Shorter” by the Detroit Jazz Festival Orchestra, performing newly commissioned arrangements by Renee Rosnes, Ellen Rowe, Russ Miller, Scott Gwinnell and Walter White. Performers will include Jerry Bergonzi, Steve Wilson, Lew Tabackin, Rick Margitza, Sean Jones and Donny McCaslin. Lastly, it’s the master himself, closing the evening with his “Footprints Quartet”, featuring Danilo Perez (piano), John Patitucci (bass) and Brian Blade (drums). This track comes from that group’s 2005 live CD.
Tia Fuller – “Royston Rumble” from Angelic Warrior. The prolific Ms. Fuller, who just left the road with Esperanza Spalding, will also feature multiple Festival performances and showcase a forthcoming CD. Her Monday performance is billed as an “Album Release Party”, and should feature this tune, a tribute to band mates Shamee (piano) and Rudy (drums), who also are her sister and brother-in-law. Mimi Jones fills out the quartet on bass.
Donny McCaslin Group – “Henry” from Casting for Gravity. Besides contributing to the Shorter tribute, this rising sax star will also play with Geoffrey Keezer on Saturday, and lead his fiery quartet on Monday. This comes from their forthcoming CD, which features synthesizer laced performances of new material that stomps more than it swings. The quartet is McCaslin on sax, Jason Lindner on piano, Tim Lefebvre on bass, and Mark Guiliana on drums.
Mon, 27 August 2012
A new CD from Brazilian singer Luciana Souza is always good news. Two new CDs on the same day is reason to celebrate. For ten years Ms. Souza has been releasing CDs as a leader, earning four Grammy-nominations (Brazilian Duos, North and South, Duos II, and Tide). She has also been widely in demand by other artists, most notably Herbie Hancock, who showcased her on his Grammy-winning River- The Joni Letters.
After a three-year hiatus from recording, Ms.Souza returns to Sunnyside Records with two new albums produced by Grammy-winner Larry Klein – Duos III, and The Book of Chet. The simultaneous release of the two CD’s will be accompanied by tour dates throughout the Fall and Spring including Joe’s Pub in New York City on September 12 and an evening at Los Angeles’ Broad Theatre on September 1.
Duos III continues her winning formula of recording intimate musical dialogues with fellow Brazilian musicians. For this CD, she sings with three very accomplished, yet very different, guitar players. Long-time collaborator Romero Lubambo contributes four exquisite tracks. Luciana gets her first chance to record with Toninho Horta, whose intricate compositions and original guitar playing have influenced a generation of musicians in Brazil and North America on four other songs, including two of his originals. Brazilian classical guitarist Marco Pereira shines on covers of Jobim and Gilberto Gil, and contributes an original, “Dona Lu”, to boot.
If Duos III is standard Souza, then The Book of Chet is an exciting departure. Recorded with West Coast greats Larry Koonse (guitar), David Piltch (bass), and Jay Bellerose (drums), the CD is Luciana’s first exclusive recording of American standards. She pays tribute to the great Chet Baker, finding new ways to interpret songs he made famous, always with a delicate combination of quiet and expressiveness.
I spoke with Luciana earlier this summer, and had a delightful conversation about how these two CDs came to be. Her reminiscences of some of her past work with jazz masters like Hancock, Steve Kuhn and John Patitucci are nothing short of wonderful. Click here to listen to Podcast 294, which includes the following musical interludes:
Luciana Souza – “The Very Thought of You” from The Book of Chet. From an album of Chet Baker covers comes “a song he should have sung”, but never did, according to Luciana. The arrangement is a perfect showcase for her aching vocal.
Luciana Souza – “Doralice” and “Beijo Partido” from Duos III. The first song features the incomparable Romero Lubambo on guitar, while the second is a Toninho Horta composition and collaboration that closes the CD.
John Patitucci – “Now The River” from Songs, Stories & Spirituals. Wordless vocals are something of a hallmark of Luciana’s work, and this track (written by Luciana) from one of my favorite CDs allows her to turn her voice into a haunting instrument. Musicians include Patitucci (acoustic bass, 6-string bass); Thomas Patitucci (nylon-string guitar); Elizabeth Lim Dutton, Richard Rood (violin); Lawrence Dutton (viola); Sachi Patitucci (cello); Tim Ries (flute, alto flute); Eddie Simon (piano, percussion); and Brian Blade (drums, percussion).
Ryan Truesdell – “Look to the Rainbow” from Centennial - Newly Discovered Works of Gil Evans. This E.Y. Harburg/Burton Lane tune was arranged by Gil Evans in 1965 for a project with singer Astrid Gilberto. It was dropped from the final version, and presented on Truesdell’s masterful CD for the first time, with Luciana taking over the vocals.
Herbie Hancock – “Amelia” from River- The Joni Letters. This homage to the great Joni Mitchell was a surprise winner of best album at the Grammy Awards, the first jazz album to win in 43 years and only the second in the award's history. Luciana was not originally to be involved in the final recording, but she tells a delightful story of how she came to be a contributor. Musicians include Hancock (piano), Wayne Shorter(saxophones), Dave Holland (bass), Lionel Loueke (guitar) and Vinnie Colaiuta (drums).
Direct download: Podcast_294_-_A_Conversation_with_Luciana_Souza.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:00am EDT
Mon, 27 August 2012
Dexter Gordon had been recording his soulful saxophone stylings for almost fifteen years when he signed a contract with Blue Note Records. He had largely been forgotten at that point, and few could foresee that he would record and release an amazing six albums of classic material in three years, beginning in 1961.
Fifty years ago today, August 27, 1962, Gordon and his band – pianist Sonny Clark, bassist Butch Warren and drummer Billy Higgins – entered Van Gelder Studio in Englewood Cliffs, NJ for a day-long session that would become Go!, probably my favorite Dexter Gordon album. Two days later, the same musicians returned to the studio to record what would be released as A Swingin' Affair. These would also be his last recordings before leaving the United States for Europe, an exile that lasted fifteen years.
Beside Gordon’s best known composition, “Cheese Cake”, Go! has a series of wonderful ballads by Cole Porter (“Love for Sale”) and Jule Styne (“Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out to Dry”) and a swinging Billy Eckstine tune (“Second Balcony Jump”). According to the liner notes by writer Ira Gitler, this session was "not recorded in a nightclub performance but, in its informal symmetry, it matches the relaxed atmosphere that the best of those made in that manner engender. Everyone was really together, in all the most positive meanings of that word."
Wed, 22 August 2012
The art of the vocal jazz group has a long history. Early singing groups that came out of the swing era like the Andrews Sisters or the Boswell Sisters pioneered the idea of close vocal harmony taking the lead over an instrumental jazz band. Male groups such as the Ink Spots (”Stompin’ at the Savoy, “That Cat is High”) and Mills Brothers (“Tiger Rag”, “Chinatown My Chinatown”) certainly had elements of jazz in their singing as far back as 1931. The Four Freshman were highly influenced by the Big Bands of Woody Herman and Stan Kenton and had a hit with “Tuxedo Junction.” Herman helped make widespread the use of vocal groups attached to Big Bands by creating the Blue Flames, a group that introduced singer Blossom Dearie.
The Blue Stars of France, composed in part of Michel Legrand's sister, Christiane Legrand, Bob Dorough and Ms. Dearie, hit the charts in 1954 with their version of George Shearing’s “Lullaby of Birdland.” The Blue Stars would eventually become the Swingle Singers, the mostly acapella group that had a hit with their version of Bach’s "Air on the G String", recorded with the Modern Jazz Quartet.
The most influential jazz vocal group would be the trio composed of Dave Lambert, Jon Hendricks and Annie Ross. They pioneered modern vocalese, turning instrumental sounds into vocal arrangements, and even writing lyrics to classic tunes to further capture their sonic qualities. They topped the Downbeat Reader’s Poll as Best Vocal Group for six consecutive years before Ross left, to be replaced by Yolande Bavan. Lambert died just a few years later in a tragic car accident, ending the group’s collaborations. Check out their classic Sing a Song of Basie to see just how innovative and fresh they sound even today.
The past thirty years have been dominated by groups like the New York Voices, and the Manhattan Transfer, the latter of whom crossed over to the pop charts a number of times in the Eighties. However, this decade has found group recordings to be few and far between, to the point that Downbeat no longer lists the category in their polls.
But there is hope. The rise in the popularity of acapella groups (see Straight No Chaser and other groups that came out of colleges across America) may mean that more people will be singing and writing for, listening to, and - dare we hope – buying the music of jazz vocal groups.
The latest sign that all is not lost comes from the Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet from the Washington, D.C. area. Currently composed of Ginny Carr (alto); Robert McBride (tenor); Holly Shockey (soprano); and Andre Enceneat (bass), the group has been together for over two decades, and they make the kind of swinging sound that recalls all the prior legends. Even more impressive are the original compositions on their latest CD, Hustlin’ For A Gig, written by Ms. Carr. That CD was released this Spring and hit the Jazz Charts with a bullet.
I spoke with Ginny Carr just a week after the group appeared on NPR‘s Weekend Edition, showcasing their vocal chops. We talked about the “overnight success” of a group that has been gigging for all these years, how she writes for the various singers in the group and the state of jazz in our nation’s capital. Click here to listen to Podcast 293, which includes musical selections from Hustlin’ For A Gig such as “Hustlin’ For A Gig”, “He Was the Cat” (a tribute to the great Eddie Jefferson, a pioneer of vocalese), “Java Junkie” and “Gone Gone Gone.”
Thu, 16 August 2012
This went over so well last year, I thought I'd bring it back for another try!
It's summer in New England, so why not some lazy music for these lazy, hot days? Today is August 16th, the feast day of Saint Roch, the patron saint of Dogs, so why not celebrate the "Dog Days"?
The Romans referred to the dog days as diēs caniculārēs and associated the hot weather with the star Sirius. They considered Sirius to be the "Dog Star" because it is the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major (Large Dog). Sirius is also the brightest star in the night sky. The term "Dog Days" was used earlier by the Greeks in Aristotle's Physics.
The Dog Days originally were the days when Sirius rose just before or at the same time as sunrise, which is no longer true, owing to procession of the equinoxes. The Romans sacrificed a brown dog (Sorry Angus and Hamish, my two miniature dachshunds)) at the beginning of the Dog Days to appease the rage of Sirius, believing that the star was the cause of the hot, sultry weather.
Click here for Podcast 292, featuring the coolest of summery tunes inclyding:
Kenny Garrett – “Boogety Boogety”
Jazznovation – “Summer Sun”
Bill Connors – “Melting”
Alan Pasqua, Peter Erskine, Dave Carpenter – “Summer’s Waltz”
Michael Franks – “Barefoot On the Beach”
James Taylor Quartet – “Summer Fantasy”
James Carter – “Summer Babe”
Lonnie Liston Smith – “Summer Days”
Tierney Sutton Band – “Summertime”
John Handy – “The Hissing of Summer Lawns”
Mike LeDonne – “Deep Blue”
Roni Ben-Hur & Santi Debriano – “Fotografia”
Esperanza Spalding – “Samba Em Preludio”
John Pizzarelli - "I Feel Fine/The Sidewinder"
Project Grand Slam – “Remember (Instrumental)
Sat, 11 August 2012
My son Matthews gets married today in Maine, and I couldn't be happier or prouder. He is marrying his Anna, who he met in college and has been with since.
They are making a home for themselves near Freeport, Maine (L.L. Bean here I come!) and my family and friends will be heading up that way for the festivities. The photo you see is the site of the ceremony.
I had to find a jazz-oriented track for today, so I tabbed a "Wedding March - Slow Waltz" from Charles Mingus' Cumbia and Jazz Fusion album. The song was written by Mingus and included on the CD version of the 1977 release.
Thu, 9 August 2012
Jack DeJohnette, one of the most influential and talented percussionists of the past 100 years, turns 70 years old today. A series of concerts in his native Chicago will take place this fall to honor the newly minted septuagenarian, but today is the day we honor him with a “mixtape” podcast of his recordings.
From his earliest moments as a jazz musician, DeJohnette has been in demand by the most talented, adventurous and demanding players. Within his first few years as a professional he was playing the Richard Abrams and Roscoe Mitchell, to say nothing of John Coltrane. By the time he was 24 he was anchoring the rhythm section of the Charles Lloyd Quartet with a young Keith Jarrett. After stints with Jackie McLean, Abbey Lincoln and Bill Evans, he was tabbed by Miles Davis to replace Tony Williams in Davis’ touring band in 1969.
For the next five years, DeJohnette redefined what it meant to be a jazz drummer on Miles’ projects like Bitches Brew, Jack Johnson and On the Corner. He can be heard laying down thunderous grooves on the two Davis live albums recorded at the Fillmore East and West.
Since then, whether as a leader of his own groups (with many recordings on ECM) or a valued sideman, whether electric or acoustic, he has personified the sound of the greatest jazz drummers. He can play intimately, as he has with trios like the piano trio with Keith Jarrett and Gary Peacock, or the Gateway Trio with John Abercrombie and Dave Holland. He can push boundaries with his New Directions Trio or Special Edition band, the latter of which has included the likes of David Murray, Arthur Blythe, Chico Freeman, John Purcell, and Rufus Reid. Or he can just cut loose playing in electric quartets with Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny and Holland, or in the Trio Beyond, with John Scofield and Larry Goldings. He has dabbled in Latin, World and New Age sounds, winning a Grammy Award for the meditiative Music in the Key of OM.
This tribute to DeJohnette merely scratches the surface of his recorded output, but I hope you enjoy Podcast 291, which includes DeJohnette as leader and sideman on:
Jack DeJohnette – “Welcome Blessing” from Oneness.
Jack DeJohnette – “New Muse” from Sound Travels.
John Scofield – “Fat Lip” from Time On My Hands.
David Fiuczynski – “Meditacion” from Planet MicroJam.
Miles Davis – “The Big Green Serpent” from The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions.
Jack DeJohnette – “Nine Over Reggae” from Parallel Realities.
Jack DeJohnette & Bill Frisell – “Otherworldly Dervishes” from The Elephant Sleeps But Still Remembers.
Ron Carter – “Opus 2” from Pick’Em/SuperStrings.
Keith Jarrett – “Facing East” from Always Let Me Go.
John Patitucci – “King Kong” from Imprints.
Sonny Rollins – “Sonny Side Up” from Reel Life.
There will be a 70th Birthday Concert for Jack at the Bearsville Theater, 291 Tinker Street, Woodstock, NY on August 12th featuring the Terri Lynne Carrington Quartet. Special guests will include Sheil Jordan, Greg Osby, Joe Lovano, Matt Garrison, Tim Ries, Don Byron and many surprise guests.
Tue, 7 August 2012
Composer/performer Marvin Hamlisch has died at the age of 68. Hamlisch is one of only two songwriters to win a Grammy, Emmy, Tony and Academy Award, as well as the Pulitzer Prize. The other songwriter so feted is Richard Rodgers.
Hamlisch wrote primarily for the movies and stage, creating the classic musical A Chorus Line with Edward Kleban, James Kirkwood, Nicholas Dante and Michael Bennett in 1975. A year earlier, he co-wrote “The Way We Were” with Marilyn and Alan Bergman, recorded for the film of the same title by Barbra Streisand.
Perhaps Hamlisch’s greatest contribution to jazz came from his selection of the music of Scott Joplin for his score of the 1973 film The Sting. His recording of the ragtime genius’ “The Entertainer” was a surprise Billboard hit and re-introduced Joplin’s body of music to the general public.
Sat, 4 August 2012
Having been brought up on a steady diet of Simon & Garfunkel on my Dad's car stereo, I find that "Bridge Over Troubled Water" is a song I always enjoy hearing performed in new and different ways, so long as it remains true to its gospel-tinged roots. The song surely must be considered a modern standard.
Paul Simon wrote the song when he was in a period of great personal reflection, as he was on the rocks with his partner Art Garfunkel and was questioning what musical direction to follow next. Simon wrote the song after listening to a number of older gospel recordings, and was particularly impressed by Claude Jeter’s line "I'll be your bridge over deep water if you trust in me," from the Swan Silvertone’s in the 1958 song “Mary Don’t You Weep”. He claimed to have Garfunkel’s airy tenor voice in mind when he wrote the tune, and insisted on his partner singing lead on the entire song. To this day, Simon often claims to regret that decision.
The song was recorded in 1969 in New York and Lost Angeles and released as a single on January 26, 1970, It reached number one on the Billboard charts a month later, and stayed at the top of the chart for six weeks. It went on to win Song of the Year and Record of the Year at the 1971 Grammy Awards. It’s worth noting that the highly memorable piano introduction to the song was composed and played by session veteran Larry Knechtel, who worked for four days before getting it to a point everone liked.
Podcast 290 examines a number of artists' interpretations of this Paul Simon classic, which is estimated to have generated about $7 million in royalties from cover versions alone. The original recording ranked in the top 50 of the latest Rolling Stone magazine list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All-Time, including:
Paul Simon from Paul Simon in Concert: Live Rhymin’. A few years after the duo broke up; Simon finally got his chance to record the song without Garfunkel singing lead. This live recording is closer to the gospel feeling Simon mined when he wrote the song, and features the Jessy Dixon Singers supplying background vocals and the Reverend Dixon singing one verse.
Aretha Franklin from Queen of Soul: The Atlantic Recordings. Paul Simon asked the Queen of Soul to do a cover version of the song, and the result won the 1971 Grammy Award for best R&B Performance. Peaking at Number 6 on the Billboard charts. This may be the single finest recording of the song, placing it squarely in the church from which Aretha began.
Jay Hoggard and James Weidman from Songs of Spiritual Love. Jazz musicians have enjoyed the gospel setting of the song as well. Here, a vibes/piano duet presents a quiet, even delicate, mood of need, but also of support.
Kevin Hays Trio from You’ve Got a Friend. Musicians also can place the song with those tunes with which “Bridge” dominated the charts in the early Seventies. Kevin Hays: (piano); Doug Weiss: (bass); and Bill Stewart: (drums), mixed songs by the Beatles, Carole King and Paul Simon with jazz standards on this 2011 release. The result is a wonderful set of improvisations and reexaminations of their melodies and harmony structure.
Lua Hadar with Twist from Like a Bridge. One of the latest cover versions of the song comes from this Cabaret singer and her musical arranger, pianist Jason Martineau. Recorded live in the legendary Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, California Hadar and her band take a decidedly global approach to reinventing tunes without losing the spirit originals. Martineau takes a world beat approach to “Bridge”, and Hadar glides through the song on a wave of sonic bliss, sparked by solos from horn player Larry De La Cruz.
Matt Wilson’s Arts & Crafts from An Attitude for Gratitude. One of my favorite recordings of 2012 is from this talented drummer and a quartet that includes Terrell Stafford on trumpet, Gary Versace on keyboards and Martin Wind on bass. This is a respectful yet decidedly different take on the song, with Versace leading the way.
Fri, 3 August 2012
Tune in on August 4th as WKCR-FM celebrate the true birthday (although he believed it to be one month prior) of Jazz great and American Hero, the trumpeter and vocalist, Louis Armstrong, with 24 hours of Armstrong's music. Louis was born in New Orleans at the turn of the century, and grew up surrounded by a vibrant musical culture, informed by the rags of Scott Joplin and the funeral marches that made up the New Orleans music scene.
Louis was a featured soloist with King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band, serving as a melodic foil to the pyrotechnics of a young King Oliver. By 1924 he had quit Oliver's group, and moved to New York City to play with the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra (which then also featured a young Coleman Hawkins). In 1927, Louis created some of his most famous recordings with the Hot Fivess and Hot Sevens, which featured luminaries such as Kid Ory, Lil' Hardin, Earl Hines, Johnny Dodds, Jonny St. Cyr, and a host of other greats. Louis would later form a prolific big band, led by Luis Russell and Carol Dickerson at points, that would go on a whirlwind tour of Europe, returning to the states in 1935.
In 1947, Louis' manager, Joe Glaser, would fire the group and form a new smaller group titled Louis Armstrong's All Stars, which would feature luminaries such as Jack Teagarden, Earl Hines, Barney Bigard, Sid Catlett, and Trummy Young. For the remainder of his life, Louis would have a string of hits with this group, and would go on to record definitive versions of tunes such as "Hello, Dolly" and "What A Wonderful World". Throughout his life, Armstrong would be the definitive model for individualism in jazz, crafting an exceedingly melodic, but pyrotechnical trumpet style that would be an influence on all after him; not to mention his gruff but soulful vocal stylings,that would have an influence on Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. While he wasn't a composer, Louis was the father of jazz as we know it today, and a profound cultural ambassador for this incredible music.
This celebration will begin at midnight on August 3rd! WKCR can be heard on the radio at 89.9 FM New York, online through Real Audio, or on iTunes under College Radio.
Category:general -- posted at: 1:35pm EDT