Sat, 29 September 2012
This is the 300th podcast for my show! It hardly seems possible that when I started eight years ago I would have this much to show for it, and over 1.1 million downloads from around the world.
To celebrate, I thought I would take a moment to examine the song from which the blog takes its title - "Straight, No Chaser" by Thelonious Monk. The tune was originally recorded by Monk for Blue Note Records in 1951, and was written as a basic 12 bar blues in B flat. Much of its longevity comes from the creative use of chromatics in the melody, and syncopation in the rhythms.
Music educator Mark C. Gridley wrote about Monk's composition style: "Monk employed simple compositional devices with very original results. His ‘Straight, No Chaser’ involves basically only one idea played again and again, each time in a different part of the measure and with a different ending."
Click here to listen to a few of my favorite versions of the song, including takes from the following albums:
Gerry Mulligan and Thelonious Monk – Mulligan Meets Monk.
Miles Davis – Milestones.
Marian McPartland – Bossa Nova + Soul.
Larry Coryell – Laid Back and Blues.
Ben Sidran Hammond Quartet – Cien Noches.
Jane Ira Bloom – Art and Aviation.
Keith Jarrett – The Complete Live at the Blue Note.
Bill Evans – What’s New – Bill Evans with the Flutists.
Thu, 27 September 2012
Paste magazine tends to deal with alternative rock music, but from time to time they come through with an interesting jazz posting. To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the passing of the great bass player Jaco Pastorius, they gathered six bass players to talk about his legacy.
Click here for a read, as six bass players—Oteil Burbridge, Victor Wooten, Todd Smallie, Esperanza Spalding, Chris Wood and Chris Stillwell—discuss the life, music and enduring legacy of Jaco Pastorius. And for a quick view of the master himself, here's a wonderful YouTube clip of him playing "The Chicken" in 1982, one of the few Jaco tunes I can muster up on my electric bass.
Category:general -- posted at: 8:48am EDT
Wed, 26 September 2012
It's a question that jazz fans had to ponder. Why did the venerable Duke Ellington decide to record a session with John "Sheets of Sound" Coltrane? Fifty years ago to day they met at Rudy Van Gelder Studios, in Englewood Cliffs, NJ, to record tracks that would become an Impulse! Records releae early the next year.
The Duke had been recording collaborative albums for the first few years of the decade, including small group sessions with Coleman Hawkins, Louis Armstrong, and most importantly, Charles Mingus and Max Roach (Money Jungle). Into his sixties, Ellington needed some of the cache that hot young players might provide to keep being relevant to a younger jazz audience.
As for Coltrane, always one to honor his elders, it was likely an opportunity he couldn't pass up. He brought members of what had just become his Classic Quartet, and had Jimmy Garrison (bass) and Elvin Jones (drums) join him with the Duke. In the CD booklet, Coltrane would say:
"I was really honoured to have the opportunity of working with Duke. It was a wonderful experience. He has set standards I haven't caught up with yet. I would have liked to have worked over all those numbers again, but then I guess the performances wouldn't have had the same spontaneity. And they mightn't have been any better!"
Click here to listen to the quartet play "Take the Coltrane", a song writen by Ellington's right hand man, Billy Strayhorn.
Sun, 23 September 2012
September 23 marks the anniversary of the birth of John William Coltrane in Hamlet, North Carolina. His impact on the world of jazz is still being felt three quarters of a century later.
One of the more unusal aspects of Coltrane's legacy is the founding of the St.John Coltrane African Orthodox Church in San Francisco. Quoting from their webpage:
Founders Archbishop Franzo King and Reverend Mother Marina King began this work in 1971 under the name of “One Mind Temple Evolutionary Transitional Body of Christ.” The inspiration came after the young couple had seen John Coltrane perform live in San Francisco in the year 1965. Being raised in the Pentecostal Church, Franzo King knew the presence of the Lord when it came through the power of the Holy Ghost. Seeing John Coltrane and hearing his sound that night was that familiar feeling he knew since childhood. It was the presence of God. Archbishop King refers to this as a “sound baptism” which touched their hearts and minds. Further investigation into this man proved him to be not just a “jazz musician” but one who was chosen to guide souls back to God.
Whatever your religious denomination or affiation, you have to agree these are not bad thoughts on a Sunday in Autumn 2012.
To celebrate Trane's birthay 11 years ago, WKCR made a broadcast containing the unreleased takes of the Sunship Album. These takes have never been released officially, but you can find them at Big O Worldwide today. The band is the famous Coltrane Quartet of Coltrane on sax, McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums.
Fri, 21 September 2012
Is “Stretch Music” is the new Next Big Thing in Jazz, and perhaps music in general? I had discussions about the music released recently by Robert Glasper and Christian Scott with several writers covering the Detroit International Jazz Festival earlier this month, and they all felt that a number of jazz musicians are whipping up a tasty brew of modern jazz, neo-soul, hip-hop and downtempo chill music that defies categorization.
Part of this trend is the use of jazz musicians by Soul/R&B singers to create deeper and more detailed music. One such musician, Jeremiah Abiah – who goes professionally by his last name only – has a new CD, Life As A Ballad, which features vocals that call to mind the likes of Luther Vandross, Maxwell or D’Angelo, but is created a band of musicians with deep roots in the world of jazz.
An experienced singer-songwriter-arranger, Abiah wisely surrounded himself with top jazz-based talent like keyboardist Robert Glasper, guitarist Marvin Sewell (long-time player for Cassandra Wilson), in-demand drummer Ulysses Owens Jr., and bassist Keith Witty. The resulting music sets off the stunning mult-octave range of Abiah’s singing to great, and often moving, effect.
I spoke with Abiah just as Life As A Ballad was released digitally, and he was preparing for live performances to celebrate the physical CD release. The Release Party will take place at Le Poisson Rouge in New York on Monday, October 15 and reunite the recording band onstage. Click here to listen to our conversation, featuring musical selections such as:
Abiah – “Doves” from Life As A Ballad. One of Abiah’s great strengths as a musician is rearranging other artists’ tunes. As a result, Prince’s “When Doves Cry” becomes almost unrecognizable under this innovative restructuring.
Robert Glasper Experience – “Ah Yeah (Radio Edit)” from Black Radio. Glasper has played with Abiah for years, and had become friendly with him before he learned that the two were in fact cousins. Vocals on the track come from guests Musiq Soulchild and Chrisette Michele.
Abiah – “Goodbye” from Life As A Ballad. A thrillingly high key sets this song in motion, which was written by Abiah with Dianne Reeves in mind.
Abiah – “Foolish Heart” Life As A Ballad. Abiah described this track as "the most personal song on the record" and features a guitar solo by Marvin Sewell in which he slides his guitar with a glass bottle to great effect.
Direct download: Podcast_299_-_A_Conversation_with_Jeremiah_Abiah.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 2:27pm EDT
Mon, 17 September 2012
Today is the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, the celebration of the New Year 5774. The traditional greeting for the day is "L'Shanah Tovah" - "A Good Year".
Bassist David Chevan of the Afro-Semitic Experience has been working on some jazzed up versions of music associated with the High Holidays for the past few years. I' ve written before about his CDs Days of Awe and Yizkhor: Music of Memory, both of which are full of traditional materials done in the fascinating way he and his partner, pianist Warren Byrd, have become known for.
Click here for a rehearsal recorded. July 29, 2010 featuring Byrd, Chevan, and Cantor Jack Mendelson performing "Avinu Malkeinu", a song asking "Our Father, Our King" for his compassion and blessings for the New Year, Chevan explains about the recording:
This recording came to be because about two weeks ago I recorded a rehearsal with Warren Byrd and Cantor Jack Mendelson. One of the pieces we looked at was Avinu Malkeinu. Funny thing about playing standards . . . give a listen, we didn’t even talk this one through, we just began playing and this is what came out! If you listen hard you can hear Jack’s air conditioner puttering away in the background.
Wed, 12 September 2012
Drummer/Composer Duduka Da Fonseca is a blender, set at high speed. The Brazilian drummer (born in Rio De Janeiro in 1951), who arrived in New York City in 1975, has been actively exploring the perfect marriage and mixture of jazz and samba since forming his first Samba Jazz trio as a precocious 14 year old (a band he called "Bossa Trio"), with brother Miguel on bass. Over the years Da Fonseca has becomea master at combining these seemingly disparate worlds, and has emerged as one of the foremost proponents of the genre.
Flowing from his heart, his head and his hands, these two rich musical forms amalgamate as one glorious sonic experience that is the modern Samba-Jazz juggernaut, The Duduka Da Fonseca Quintet. The group's new recording on Anzic Records, Samba Jazz - Jazz Samba, features his friend Anat Cohen (tenor saxophone, clarinet), and long-time collaborator Helio Alves (piano) among other Brazilian stalwarts.
Duduka is the first call percussionist for Brazilian music in New York, and he is a founder of two top working bands, Trio de Paz and the Brazilian Trio. He also rounded out the trio in the recent release from guitarist Roni Ben-Hur and bassist Santi Debriano entitled Our Thing.
I spoke with Duduka last month, and we talked at length about his beginnings as a self-taught drummer, his love of straight ahead jazz and all forms of Brazilian music, and his coming projects. Click here to listen to the conversation, including musical selections:
Rufus Reid – “Dona Maria” from Out Front. Bassists Eddie Gomez and Rufus Reid gave Duduka his first breaks as a straight ahead jazz player when he arrived in New York. Duduka wrote this track for a trio composed of pianist Steve Allee, bassist Reid and himself on drums.
Duduka Da Fonseca Quintet – “The Peacocks” from Samba Jazz - Jazz Samba. Duduka first heard "The Peacocks", played by its composer Jimmy Rowles at Bradley's, where NYC's jazz musicians congregated. The Quintet is composed of Anat Cohen (tenor saxophone, clarinet), Helio Alves (piano), Guilherme Monteiro (guitar), Leonardo Cioglia (bass) and Duduka (drums).
Duduka Da Fonseca Quintet – “Obstinaa” from Samba Jazz - Jazz Samba. Duduka likes to showcases compositions old friends who might not get wider exposure without his inclusion of their work on his CDs. This one from pianist Haroldo Mauro is a great example of Samba Jazz.
Brazilian Trio – “LVM - Direto Ao Assunto” from Constelacao. This outstanding album released earlier this year showcases what I consider to be the premier Brazilian rhythm section at work in the world today - pianist Helio Alves, drummer Da Fonseca and bassist Nilson Matta.
Roni Ben-Hur & Santi Debriano – “Green Chimneys” from Our Thing..Duduka pointed out the way this Thelonious Monk tune is taken apart by the trio in our conversation. A wonderful CD from top to bottom.
Trio de Paz featuring Joe Locke – “Wave” from Live at Jazzbaltica. If you take the Brazilian Trio and replace pianist Alves with guitarist Romero Lubamba, you have Trio de Paz. Here they collaborate with one of Duduka’s favorite vibes players. Be sure to listen to the interview, as he explains why the band takes this classic Jobim tune at a slower pace than normal.
Direct download: Podcast_298_-_A_Conversation_with_Duduka_Da_Fonseca.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:00am EDT
Mon, 10 September 2012
The second annual Northampton Jazz Festival will be presented on Saturday, September 15 from 11 a.m. - 8 p.m. in downtown Northampton, Massachusetts. Building on the success of the inaugural event, the NJF will feature two stages on Hampton Ave (behind Thorne’s Market) and a space in the Market.
Known as the "Paradise City", Northampton, MA offers a lifestyle rich in cultural, artistic, academic, and business resources. It's downtown center, where the festival takes place, is one of the most vibrant in New England. The superb quality of life in Northampton contributes to a strong and diversified economic base. Northampton is unique in the number of independently owned businesses that make up its business community.
The Festival presents internationally known musicians, as well as established local performers and promising young players from area Colleges and High Schools. Attendees can also watch the “12 Mile Meal Challenge,” and root for their favorite local chefs as they compete to see who can create the most innovative cuisine, using food grown by local farmers. As with last year, attendees can enjoy food, beer and wine from local restaurants that make Northampton a favorite among “foodies” everywhere.
“The Jazz Festival is the perfect event to showcase both Downtown Northampton and really great jazz music,” said Bill Collins, vice president of the Northampton Jazz Festival. “The mixture of top pros and student players was fantastic last year and we expect even more excitement from this year’s lineup.”
The main stage - there will be three stages this year - will be highlighted by appearances from Matt Wilson's Arts & Crafts; the Gary Smulyan Quartet; and the Sheryl Bailey 3. To listen to a podcast with Gary Smulyan, click here. Local favorte Flava Evolution opens the main stage at 11:00 am, followed by singer Jessica Freeman.
The Fest will run from 11 a.m. - 8 p.m. and is free of charge. The event is sponsored, in part, by TD Bank, The Spoleto Group, Peak Organic Brewing, the Northampton Business Improvement District, BayState Health, WRSI and other local businesses.
Category:general -- posted at: 1:55pm EDT
Mon, 10 September 2012
Some people know how to throw a birthday bash.
Noted saxophonist/poet/painter/all-around good guy Oliver Lake will celebrate his 70th birthday this week with a series of shows in New York. The winner of a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1993, Lake has executed commissions for the Pro Musica Chamber Orchestra and the Brooklyn Philharmonic; arranged for Björk, Lou Reed and A Tribe Called Quest; collaborated with poets, choreographers, and international musicians; led his own Steel Quartet and Big Band, and worked with cooperative ensembles the World Saxophone Quartet and Trio 3.
Three entirely different and equally exciting bands, all led by Mr. Lake will perform at The Jazz Standard from September 13-16. The Oliver Lake Organ Quartet (Oliver Lake – alto sax; Jared Gold – organ; Freddie Hendrix – trumpet; and Chris Beck – drums) kicks things off, followed by the return of the 17 piece Oliver Lake Big Band. That ensemble features Lake, Beck and Hendrix, along with artists like Darius Jones on sax; Yoichi Uzeki on piano and Robert Sabin on bass. The Trio3 (Oliver Lake – alto sax; Reggie Workman – bass; and Andrew Cyrille – drums) will play for two nights, with special guest Geri Allen on piano.
I spoke with Lake as he rested up for these and other September dates. He had just come off the road from Europe with the World Saxophone Quartet, and looked forward to heading to Japan with the band shortly thereafter. At least two new Lake CDs are in the can, and should be released shortly, including a new Big Band CD. Out conversation centered on how he keeps his creative spark alive, particularly as he approaches this milestone birthday. Click here to listen to Podcast 2197, including that conversation and musical selections, including:
Oliver Lake Organ Quartet – “Backup” from Plan. Awarded 4 ½ stars by Downbeat in 2011, the album features some of the best young talented musicians in the New York area: organist Jared Gold; Trumpeter Freddie Hendrix; and the highly creative drummer, Johnathan Blake.
Oliver Lake Big Band – “Boucin’ Back (Bumpin’ Me Against the Wall)” from Cloth. Lake’s youngest son is a DJ who keeps his father supplied with the latest in hip-hop music. As a result, he has created jazz works from rap songs in the past, such as this one originally performed by Mystikal.
Trio3 – “Crooked Blues” from Encounter. The solid trio of Lake, Andrew Cyrille (drums) and veteran bassist Reggie Workman recorded this CD in 2001, and they are still going strong. Workman, you may recall, was on hand for John Coltrane’s legendary Live at the Village Vanguard sessions, and is currently a professor at the New School. In New York City
World Saxophone Quartet – “Hey Joe“from Experience. David Murray’s liner notes talk about Hendrix as being a jazz player at heart. I’m not quite sure of that, but here’s a famous blues recorded by Hendrix on his first album, done WDQ style. The four sax players are Lake, Murray, Hamiet Bluiett, and John Purcell, backed by Craig Harris on trombone, the late Billy Bang on violin, Matthew Garrison on bass and Gene Lake on drums.
Oliver Lake – “Owshet” from Heavy Spirits. Here’s a small group session from 1975, produced for Arista by Michael Cuscuna. The band is Lake (alto sax), Olu Dara (trumpet), Stafford James (bass), Donald Smith (piano) and Victor Lewis (drums).
Direct download: Podcast_297_-_A_Conversation_with_Oliver_Lake_on_his_70th_Birthday.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 5:00am EDT
Mon, 3 September 2012
John Pizzarelli has become one of today’s “Voices of Jazz” in the media, by virtue of his non-stop appearances onstage and in the recording studio. Yes, that’s even him on the omnipresent Foxwoods Resorts Casino ads on television. He has conquered the radio dial as well, hosting the urbane "Radio Deluxe with John Pizzarelli" a nationally syndicated radio program co-hosted with his wife, Broadway star Jessica Molaskey.
Known primarily for his versions of the Great American Songbook, Broadway show tunes, and the oeuvre of great singers like Sinatra and Nat “King” Cole, he turns his back on the classics every few years to record something in a different vein. After twelve albums of standards, he recorded an album of Beatles tunes. He has done two albums of Brazilian music, one with Rosemary Clooney.
Double Exposure gives Pizzarelli the chance to reach back to the record collections that first influenced him – both his rock and pop albums and the jazz discs owned by his father, guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli. The result is a delightful mash-up that mixes jazz classics recorded by Lee Morgan, Horace Silver, Wes Montgomery and John Coltrane with pop tunes from the Beatles, James Taylor, the Allman Brothers Band, Tom Waits and Joni Mitchell. Recalling the “acoustic smashing” of West Coast signer Jacqui Naylor, the selections keep listeners on their proverbial toes as they cross from genre to genre, sometimes in seconds.
I spoke with John as he prepared for a September 8 show with his Quartet (keyboardist Larry Fuller, bassist (and brother) Martin Pizzarelli and drummer Tony Tedesco) and we talked about how the project came to fruition, how he chooses material, and how he finds the energy to continue as performer/recording artist/radio host/television personality. Click here to listen to Podcast 296, featuring musical selections from the Pizzarelli catalog, including:
John Pizzarelli – “I Feel Fine/The Sidewinder” from Double Exposure. To my ears, the most natural of the mash-ups on the CD is this mixture of the Lennon & McCartney tune and the Lee Morgan classic.
John Pizzarelli – “Traffic Jam/The Kicker” from Double Exposure. Pizzarelli has both recorded with James Taylor and chosen his songs for Pizzarelli albums. Looking for a Taylor tune to include on the CD, the highly syncopated original seemed a natural fit with this Joe Henderson burner, made popular by the Horace Silver Quintet.
John Pizzarelli – “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” from Double Exposure. Dickey Betts’ instrumental was (and remains) a staple of the Allman Brothers Band’s repertoire, and this version, which channels Wes Montgomery’s “Four on Six”, is a real delight. I look forward to seeing this one stretched out in concert next week at Bull Run.
John Pizzarelli – “Fascinatin’ Rhythm” from Bossa Nova. Reaching deep into Antonio Carlos Jobim’s recorded history, Pizzarelli plucked this Gershwin classic, originally recorded on the Brazilian master’s LP Passarim in 1987.
John Pizzarelli and Maya Beiser – “You've Got to Be Carefully Taught” from an unreleased recording of a rehearsal with the Boston Pops. First recorded on John’s Richard Rodgers tribute album With a Song in My Heart, this version comes from rehearsals for a performance in Boston in 2009 with the noted cellist Maya Beiser,
The Pizzarelli Boys – “When You’re Smiling” from Sunday at Pete’s. The musical family lets their hair down on an informal session that is so delightful you can practically see them smiling as you listen. Bucky Pizzarelli (Rhythm Guitar), John Pizzarelli (Electric Lead Guitar), Martin Pizzarelli (Bass), and Tony Tedesco (Drums) are the band.
John Pizzarelli – “I Like Jersey Best” from I'm Hip (Please Don't Tell My Father). Something of a theme song for the Jersey-born singer, this tune written by Joe Cosgriff and originally recorded by the Phil Bernardi Band in the Eighties is always an audience favorite, with lyrics like:
Betting halls, shopping malls,
John Pizzarelli – “You've Got To Hide Your Love Away” from Meets the Beatles. While the Great American Songbook is his bread and butter, John never hesitates to reach back to the music on the radio from his early days. Using a variety of innovative arrangements, he finds new ways to present old favorites. Here the Trio of John and Martin Pizzarelli and Tony Tedesco are supplemented by percussionist Sammy Figueroa and long-time arranger Don Sebesky.
The John Pizzarelli Quartet appears at the Bull Run Restaurant in Shirley, MA on
Direct download: Podcast_296_-_A_Conversation_with_John_Pizzarelli.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:00am EDT