Thu, 29 November 2012
Books written about jazz over the years have tended to focus on musicians and their creative process or influences. There are great tomes like Garry Giddons’ Visions of Jazz or Hear Me Talkin' To Ya, the Story of Jazz As Told By the Men Who Made It by Nat Shapiro and Nat Hentoff. Both tell their stories with grace, style and detail and are essential reading for any jazz fan.
Now another book joins these titles as indispensable jazz reading. Marc Myers, the winner of the 2012 Jazz Journalists Association's "Best Blog Award" for JazzWax.com has written Why Jazz Happened (University of California Press), a social and economic history of the period from 1942 to 1972, a time when jazz moved from dance and folk music to popular music and finally to art music.
By focusing on external events, from the political (the passage of the G.I. Bill, the Civil Rights Movement), to advances in technology (the use of magnetic tape to record or vinyl to make long-playing records), Myers tells a fascinating story that brings an entirely new slant to the topic of modern jazz. Always dramatic and entertaining, the book is full of little tidbits that make the reader want to go on and on. For example, saxophonist Gigi Gryce was one of the first jazz artists to create his own publishing company and take control of his music away from record labels. The attorney he hired to assist him with paperwork was the soon to be famous “radical lawyer”, William Kunstler.
Podcast 317 is my conversation with Marc Myers, and I’ve dropped some appropriate musical selections into the Podcast to shed a little more light on the subjects we discuss, including:
Coleman Hawkins and His Orchestra – “Woody’n You” from Coleman Hawkins And His All Stars. Perhaps the first recorded be-bop session was held in New York for Apollo Records on February 6, 1944. Personnel was Vic Coulsen, Dizzy Gillespie, Eddie Vanderveer (trumpets), Leonard Lowry, Leo Parker (alto sax), Ray Abrams, Don Byas, Coleman Hawkins (tenor sax), Budd Johnson (baritone sax), Clyde Hart (piano), Oscar Pettiford (bass), and Max Roach (drums), This session might never have been possible without the creation of micro-labels following the first break in the recording ban called by the American Federation of Musicians against the labels that lasted from 1942 to 1944
Lester Young – “Jumpin’ With Symphony Sid” from The Complete Aladdin Sessions. With the advent of recorded music on the radio, tastemakers like DJs “Symphony Sid” Torin and Fred Robbins; writers Leonard Feather and Barry Ulanov; and promoters Monte Kay and Leonard Granz had a huge effect on the ability of jazz musicians to have their music heard across the nation. As Sid’s popularity grew, a number of songs were written about him, like this one by Prez, which later had lyrics added by King Pleasure, mentioning the location on the radio dial where Symphony Sid's Friday night show could be found.
Gerry Mulligan Quartet – “Walkin’ Shoes” from The Complete Pacific Jazz Recordings Gerry Mulligan Quartet and Tenette with Chet Baker. The famous piano-less quartet of Mulligan (baritone sax), Baker (trumpet), Bob Whitlock (bass) and Chico Hamilton (drums) helped usher in the “West Coast Cool” style of jazz in the early 1950’s. Myers postulates that the sudden economic ease of the times, the warm weather and general laid-back lifestyle of California helped create this less frenetic sound.
Lou Donaldson-Clifford Brown Quintet – “Cookin’ (alternate take)” from The Clifford Brown Memorial Album. 12inch LPs replaced 78s, 45s and 10 inch records in the early 1950’s, allowing for longer solos and new compositions to fill jazz records. This 1953 session in WOR Studios, New York, presents an early version of what became known as “Hard Bop”, and helped create powerhouse labels like Blue Note. The track features Brown (trumpet), Donaldson (alto sax), Elmo Hope (piano), Percy Heath (bass), and Philly Joe Jones (drums)
Gary Burton Quartet – “One, Two, 1-2-3-4“ from Duster. Myers points to this 1967 record as the first true jazz-rock fusion album, and I would agree him. As technology allowed musicians to play at louder volume without losing clarity, jazz bands joined their rock brethren on the stages of the Fillmore in New York and San Francisco and at rock festivals across America, This ground breaking quartet was composed of Burton on vibes, Larry Coryell on guitar, Steve Swallow on bass and Roy Haynes on drums,
Thu, 29 November 2012
renew Jersey is a message of hope and affirmation for the millions affected by Hurricane Sandy on the New Jersey shore and beyond. A simple concept - buy a tee shirt, show your pride in New Jersey, and help those millions of people affected by the storm.
New Jersey has a strong musical heritage from Thomas Edison's invention of the phonograph record to a vastly impressive list of native New Jersey musicians. Such inspirational artists include Nelson Riddle, Frank Sinatra, Whitney Houston, George Clinton, Count Basie, Wayne Shorter, Glenn Danzig, Debby Harry, Ice T, and of course, Bruce Springsteen. From the Newark jazz scene of the early 20th century, to the first Hip-Hop recording of Rapper's Delite in 1978, to the unrelenting punk and metal scene, New Jersey is and always has been a place of musical innovation. This blog interviewed Jersey born Brandon Wright for a podcast earlier this year.
Category:general -- posted at: 10:47am EST
Tue, 27 November 2012
“Jimi had a trio that sounded like an avalanche coming down off Mt. Everest. Even when he laid out his band thundered on, bringing to mind Miles Davis’ fabled comment: “This black dude made two white cats play their asses off.” I loved that! Wes Montgomery was also playing around New York at the time but a Hendrix performance compared to a Wes performance—I once saw them both the same night—was simply iconoclastic. It was beyond categorization of jazz versus pop or blues. It was a force unto itself.” – Larry Coryell.
It would be wrong to call Jimi Hendrix a jazz guitar player, but it would be wrong to put him in almost any category. As a visionary who saw unlimited possibilities for his music, he belongs in a category all his own. Had he not died an unnecessary death on September 18, 1970 at the age of 27, many believe he would have collaborated with the likes of Miles Davis, Larry Coryell and John McLaughlin to create new avenues for the use of guitar, feedback and amplification in modern jazz. Or would he have gone into heavy, heavy funk with the likes of Sly Stone and Larry Graham? Would it have been a mix of the two, like the unreleased sessions he recorded in New York with organist Larry Young in 1969? What kind of fusion might have come from his integration of contemporary European Art music theorists like Stockhausen into his composition? Or would his Electric Sky Church gone off into parts unknown? Sadly, we will never know. We know that most jazz musicians of his generation who saw him live loved what they saw and heard. And we known that hundred of jazz musicians have at least tried to picked up his mantle after his death.
Podcast 316 features some of these jazz artists paying tribute to the great guitarist with songs written or recorded by Hendrix, on the day he would have turned 70 years old. Selections include:
Lonnie Smith Trio – “Purple Haze/Star-Spangled Banner” from Purple Haze – A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix.
Artur Dutkiewicz – “Angel” from Hendrix Piano.
World Saxophone Quartet – “The Wind Cries Mary” from Experience.
Hiram Bullock, Billy Cobham, and the WDR Big Band Koln – “Red House” from Plays the Music of Jimi Hendrix.
Brian Bromberg – “Spanish Castle Magic” from Plays Jimi Hendrix.
Los Lobotomys – “Little Wing” from Los Lobotomys.
Brad Mehldau Trio – “Hey Joe” from Where Do You Start.
Jaco Pastorius – “The Medley: Purple Haze/The Third Stone From the Sun/Teen Town” from Smoke On the Water – Live in Rome, 1986.
Sun, 25 November 2012
As a child of the 1970’s, progressive rock was a big part of my musical life. Bands like Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer were huge at that time, much to the chagrin of rock purists and my father, who thought they butchered classical music, I have fond memories of seeing ELP at the Hartford Civic Center on their “Works” tour, just after they let go the symphony orchestra previously being schlepped on tour with them.
Ryan Fraley is a bit more than a decade younger than me, but his early record collection included many of the “prog rock:” masterpieces from the 1970’s. In a move that brings together his early exposure to that music with his strength as a jazz arranger and performer, he has helped create the Wave Mechanics Union, a group of jazz musicians who create large ensemble arrangements of songs from the prime days of Gentle Giant, Yes and King Crimson.
Further to Fly is there second CD, following the highly enjoyable Second Season. Rather than stay only with re-imaginings of rock groups, the Union has added a touch of singer-songwriter to their list, creating new and exciting opportunities for the core members of the group to reinterpret songs they love. Apparently they are doing a good job, as no less a figure than Jon Anderson, the lead singer of Yes, asked to join them for two tracks on the new CD.
Podcast 315 is my conversation with Ryan, discussing how the group chooses songs and creates arrangements and what kind of audience they have been attracting. Musical selections include:
“Rain Song” from Second Season. Vocalist Lydia McAdams turns the Led Zeppelin power ballad into an orchestral tour-de-force from the first CD.
“Wondrous Stories” from Further to Fly, Yes lead singer and songwriter Jon Anderson contributed background vocals to this song, rearranged by Fraley. Sylvain Carton contributes the saxophone solo. Fraley wrote of this tune, which he first heard at the age of 4, “True, this song was written when I was four years old. But I have admired it since I was old enough to pay attention. This is the kind of song writing that makes Yes so attractive to me — the unpredictable harmonic progression; the angular, soaring melody; and the stream-of-consciousness lyrics all meld into a trippy and rich experience.”
Title Track from Further to Fly. Paul Simon’s South American inspired tune is arranged by percussionist Ralph Johnson, who adds a hot solo to the track. Carlton again solos on sax.
“Dirty Work” from Further to Fly This Steely Dan tune (trivia time – David Palmer sang the original version, one of the few songs on which Donald Fagen did not take the lead) was arranged by Justin Kessler, who explains “While my original interest in ‘Dirty Work’ was derived from the lyrics, the recognizable hook and surprisingly simple (for Steely Dan) chord progression lent itself well to a solo piano treatment with a darker, more angular reharmonization that I think complements the sentiment of the lyrics.”
Direct download: Podcast_315_-_A_Conversation_with_Ryan_Fraley_of_Wave_Mechanics_Union.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:00am EST
Sat, 24 November 2012
One hundred years ago today, Theodore Shaw “Teddy” Wilson was born in Austin, Texas. Frequently noted as the most significant pianist of the swing era, Wilson is perhaps best known in the jazz canon for becoming one of the first black musicians to publicly and prominently appear with white musicians -- in this case, with the Benny Goodman Trio (with drummer Gene Krupa) in 1935.
Music producer/talent scout John Hammond heard Wilson late at night on the radio in New York and recommended him to bandleader Benny Carter, who drove out to Chicago to hear Wilson in person and asked him to join his band.
Hammond also introduced Wilson to a second musician that would influence his career -- vocalist Billie Holiday, with whom he recorded a series for Brunswick under his own name (Teddy Wilson and his Orchestra) between 1935 and 1939, which included mass of jazz heavyweights including Johnny Hodges, Ben Webster, Lester Young, Roy Eldridge, Charlie Shavers, Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa, and Pee Wee Russell, among others.
The latter half of Wilson’s career found him as an instructor at the Juilliard School of Music (where he taught Dick Hyman, among others) in the 1950s, several reunion tours with Benny Goodman (including a trip to the USSR in 1962), and recording abroad in Stockholm, the Netherlands, Switzerland, France, and Japan.
WKCR-FM, the student-run, non-commercial radio station affiliated with Columbia University is in the midst of a 96-hour broadcast, covering all areas of Wilson’s recorded career, focusing in on his work as a leader and soloist. Check it out here.
Category:general -- posted at: 2:30am EST
Thu, 22 November 2012
We all have much to be thankful for today, and so let us begin the day by sharing the sentiment of this song, written by Irving Berlin and sung by Erin Bode, the Official Straight No Chaser Song of Thanksgiving Day:
When I'm worried and I can't sleep
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EST
Wed, 21 November 2012
Twenty-four hours to go before the big Thanksgiving feast! What would go better with some turkey than some "Giblet Gravy", courtesy of guitarist George Benson.
Those who only know Benson from his smooth jazz or Top 40 recordings don't realize that he was one of the funkiest and fastest guitar slingers in his early days. Here he plays with a team of top notch musicians in 1968 sessions, including Herbie Hancock (piano), Ron Certer (bass), Pepper Adams (sax) and Billy Cobham (drums). It's worth noting that three of the four - and Benson as well - are all Miles Davis Alumni.
Click here for a tune well suited to those last minute preparations around the kitchen. Cue it up and let the gravy fly!
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EST
Mon, 19 November 2012
A timely musical followup to my "Telegraph Avenue Mixtape" can be found on the pages of our friends at Funky 16 Corners, who post two funky versions of the soul standard "Never Can Say Goodbye", performed by Hammond B-3 masters Johnny "Hammond" Smith and Reuben Wilson. Both artists are expressly mentioned by Michael Chabon in his interview about the novel.
The tune was made a Top Ten hit by the Jackson Five, but was not written by the usual Motown songwriting crew. Instead, it was written by Clifton Davis, who would have more exposure as a telepvision actor ("That's My Mama") and a minister.
Smith’s version, from his 1971 Breakout album is largely a showcase for saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr., who did some of the arrangement on the album. The rhythm section generally comps in the background, with some groovy guitar work (George Benson) and some nice, hard –hitting drums from Billy Cobham.
Wilson’s take on the tune is not only taken at a faster tempo, but with a little more Hammond in the mix, though the lead is once again taken by the sax (Ramon Morris).
Category:general -- posted at: 9:46am EST
Fri, 16 November 2012
Fifteen years ago, Marc Samuels decided to add a part-time job running a record label to his already busy life. Since that date, his Basin Street Records has signed a dozen artists and has released nearly 50 projects including 2012 Grammy winner Rebirth of New Orleans by the Rebirth Brass Band.
To celebrate their anniversary, Basin Street Records artists will be performing all across the world this month, from Jason Marsalis w/ Marcus Roberts at the London Jazz Festival Nov 17 to Dr. Michael White and the Original Liberty Jazz Band at Xavier University in New Orleans Nov 27. Rebirth Brass Band will be opening 8 shows for the Red Hot Chili Peppers (Nov 14-26) and Theresa Andersson will be appearing at Byronz in Shreveport, LA on Thursdays all month. Irvin Mayfield's NOJO Jam at Irvin Mayfield's Jazz Playhouse in New Orleans will take place on Wednesdays in November.
I spoke with Samuels about how the label began, the joys and frustrations of working in the music business, what HBO’s Treme has meant to New Orleans music, and what the label has planned for the future. Click here to listen to our conversation, including musical selections from Basin Street Records artists like:
Kermit Ruffins – “I Got a Treme Woman“ from Happy Talk. Kermit and his band the Barbecue Swingers signed the first Basin Street Records' recording contract, the first of which was recorded on November 14, 1997 in front of a packed house at Tipitina's. That recording was later named The Barbecue Swingers Live and was released in February 1998. Since then, Kermit has continued to record for Basin Street on a regular basis, and included this original on his 2010 release. If you find yourself in NOLA, you can almost always catch Kermit and his band Tuesdays at Bullet’s Sports Bar and Thursdays at Vaughan's Lounge!
Los Hombres Calientes – “El Barrio” from Los Hombres Calientes, Vol. 1. Cyrille Neville guests on this track from the top Latin Jazz album that helped catapult Basin Street Records to national prominence in 1998. The band included Jason Marsalis on drums for this recording, and was led by legendary percussionist Bill Summers (Headhunters), trumpeter Irin Mayfield, bassist David Pulphus and pianist Victor Atkins III.
Henry Butler – “North American Idiosyncrasies” from PiaNOLA Live. Called “the pride of New Orleans" by no less an authority than Dr. John, Butler is the latest in the Crescent City's lineage of piano players going back from Professor Longhair to James Booker; Tuts Washington to Jelly Roll Morton. This tune was composed by clarinetist/educator Alvin Batiste, with whom Butler studied at Southern University. It was Batiste who arranged, somewhere in the mid-1970s, for Butler to sit down for with ‘Fess himself.
Dr. Michael White - “I Love You Too Much To Ever Leave You” from Adventures In New Orleans Jazz, Part 2. Perhaps the most important source of traditional New Orleans music still performing and teaching, Dr. White has received the National Endowment for the Arts’ National Heritage Fellowship Award; and the Louisiana Humanist of the Year by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. He also won the Offbeat Magazine Best of the Beat Award as Clarinetist of the Year, and Gambit Magazine’s Big Easy Entertainment Award for Traditional Jazz Artist of the Year.
Rebirth Brass Band – “Do It Again” from Rebirth in New Orleans. Basin Street records’ first Grammy winning release (Best Regional Roots Music Album) featured this raucous collection of brass players, currently on tour opening for alt-rock gods the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Formed by the Frazier brothers, Phil and Keith, along with Basin Street labelmate Kermit Ruffins in 1983, the Rebirth Brass band has gone from playing on corners in the French Quarter to selling out concert halls across the world and appearing in David Simon’s HBO hit
Irvin Mayfield – “Ninth Ward Blues” from Tremé. Irvin Mayfield. Mayfield has been serving as Cultural Ambassador of the City of New Orleans and State of Louisiana since 2003, just around the time he founded and became Artistic Director of The New Orleans Jazz Orchestra (NOJO). This track, from his debut CD in 1998, features a crew of New Orleans heavies, including David Pulphus on bass, Delfeayo Marsalis on trombone and Donald Harrison on sax.
Thu, 15 November 2012
“(Bill) Laswell’s pet concept is 'collision music' which involves bringing together musicians from wildly divergent but complementary spheres and seeing what comes out." – Chris Brazier.
If Bill Laswell excels in making music that uses a world-wide sonic palette, then his latest release, Means of Deliverance (Innerhythmic Records), represents a rare return to his musical roots. Armed with a new instrument, the Warwick Alien fretless four-string acoustic bass guitar, Laswell has released a solo acoustic bass album that sounds more like an early evening session on the front porch in middle America then the wild mix of dub, electronica and worldbeat upon which he has built a reputation. The music is deceptively simple, and far more accessible than the layers of sound usually associated with his projects.
Laswell is among the most prolific musicians and producers in the world, perpetually involved in projects that may take him literally anywhere in the world. Rock fans may know him from work with Mick Jagger, P.I.L., and Brian Eno and for his band Material; world music fans adore his work with reggae legend Lee “Scratch” Perry and with musicians across Northern and Western Africa. Jazz fans may be familiar with his collaborations with Herbie Hancock in the mid-Eighties. He also participated in sessions with avant-garde legends like Sonny Sharrock and Peter Brotzmann. Laswell has released albums of remixes from two of the most influential musical artists of the 20th century – Bob Marley (Dreams of Freedom) and Miles Davis (Panthalassa).
I spoke with Bill Laswell just after the CD’s release, and he was already on to new projects. He will soon be performing a new interpretive score to the classic cult film Koyaanisqatsi, originally scored by Philip Glass. With the endorsement of the film's director Godfrey Reggio, Laswell has composed his own innovatory score to accompany a one-hour edit of the original film, allowing the unique interplay between the film and Laswell live on stage. Click here for more information about the music.
Podcast 313 contains our conversation including musical selections from Laswell’s extensive oeuvre, including:
Bill Laswell - “Lighting in the South” and “Against the Upper House” from Means of Deliverance. Two tracks that showcase Laswell’s solo compositions and technique. They may seem like easy musical repetitions, but lead to hypnotic – and often moving - results.
Miles Davis – “Rate X” – Panthalassa – The Remixes. Laswell took Miles electric recordings and refigured the results on the Panthalassa CD, and then took it one step further when he brought in DJs to remix his remixes. “Rate X” was originally released as part of the Get Up with It CD that put together unreleased Miles tracks from 1970 to 1974, and featured Davis on organ (!), and an extensive rhythm section featuring electric sitar and tabla. The Laswell version has been remixed by DJ Jamie Myerson.
Herbie Hancock – “Rockit” from Future Shock. Criticized by jazz fans when it was released, “Rockit” became a seminal hip-hop track, at lease partially due to an innovative MTV video. Written by Laswell, Hancock and Michael Beinhorn, it is now recognized as the first charting single to feature scratching and other turntable effects.
Ginger Baker – “Under Black Skies” from Middle Passage. Laswell mixed African drummers (Ayib Dieng, Mar Gueye, Magette Fall) with the great ex-Cream and Blind Faith drummer and top bassists (Jah Wobble and himself) in this 1991 project. By adding touches of funk (Bernie Worrell), and jazz (Jonas Hellborg), the ending result is other-worldly. Laswell discusses Jay Bulger's documentary on Baker, "Beware of Mr. Baker," in our talk. That film won the SXSW Documentary Grand Jury prize in 2012.
Direct download: Podcast_313_-_A_Conversation_with_Bill_Laswell.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:00am EST