Mon, 31 December 2012
To all who are traveling on an evening that often becomes "amateur night" take extra care and pick that designated driver!
A perennial favorite song for New Year's Eve, and the Offical SNC Song of the evening is Frank Loesser's classic, "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?". Written in 1947, when Loesser was already an accomplished songwriter, having co-written hits like "Two Sleepy People" and "Spring Will Be a Little Late this Year".
However, his greatest work was just before him - in 1948 he was asked to score "Where's Charley?" for Broadway, which ran for more than two years. Buoyed by this success, Loesser turned out hits like "Guys and Dolls", "The Most Happy Fella" and "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying". He won two Tony Awards and a Pulizter Prize for Drama for these works. In between, he won an Academy Award for the holiday standard, "Baby It's Cold Outside" from the film "Neptune's Daughter" (1949). Regrettably, Loesser died from cancer at the age of 59 in 1969.
This year's singer is Donna Singer, backed by the Doug Richards Trio from her Kiss Me Beneath the Mistletoe CD. A happy and healthy New Year to one and all.
Fri, 28 December 2012
The loss of Dave Brubeck this month is just the latest of many jazz musicians we lost in 2012. Among the best known were drummers Pete LaRoca and Lionel Batiste; saxophonists Von Freeman (pictured) and David S. Ware; organist Leon Spencer; trumpeter Ted Curson; and guitarist Pete Cosey. Also noted in passing are Teddy Charles; Ernie Carson; John Levy; Kay Davis; Billy Bean; Jodie Christian; Mike Melvoin; Hal McKusick; Rodgers Grant; Joe Muranyi; Jackie Kelso; Frank Parr; Carrie Smith; Faruq Z. Bey; Abram Wilson; Graeme Bell; and Margie Hyams.
Also, Rune Gustafsson; Fritz Pauer; Lol Coxhill; Byard Lancaster; José Curbelo; Eddie Bert; John Tchicai; Erik Moseholm; Bob French; Frode Thingnæs and Austin Peralta.
Musical figures outside of the jazz world that passed away in 2012 included Andy Williams; Levon Helm of the Band; Donald "Duck" Dunn of Booker T & the M.G.’s; Etta James; Ravi Shankar; Davy Jones of the Monkees; Don Cornelius (Soul Train); Whitney Houston; Dick Clark (American Bandstand); Donna Summer; Michael Davis of the MC5; Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees; Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys;composers Marvin Hamlisch and Hal David; and Mickey Baker.
Ana Marquez-Greene, the daughter of saxophonist Jimmy Greene was one of the twenty children who lost their lives in the senseless tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut.
Those whose lives inspired me in one way or another who passed on include writers Gore Vidal, Nora Ephron, and Maurice Sendack; critic Robert Hughes; self-help guru Stephen Covey; football great Alex Karras; attorney Marvin Miller, first president of the Major League Baseball Players Association; newsman Mike Wallace; and Senator George McGovern.
Tue, 25 December 2012
A Merry Christmas to you all. I am a practicing Jew who does not celebrate Christmas as the birth of the messiah. However, I can appreciate the universal themes of peace, love and understanding that are prevelant this time of year, and so the Offical Straight No Chaser song of Christmas Day is "Peace", written by Horace Silver, and sung by Norah Jones.
Considered one of the finest ballads of the hard bop era, "Peace" has a timeless message for us all, as the last few lines of the song show:
When you find peace of mind, leave your worries behind
Silver first recorded this classic fifty-one years ago, on his Blowin' the Blues Away album, one of the last to feature his classic quintet lineup of trumpeter Blue Mitchell, tenor saxophonist Junior Cook, bassist Gene Taylor, and drummer Louis Hayes.
A Merry Christmas to one and all.
Mon, 24 December 2012
It's December 24, which means that once again it's time to break out the Official Straight No Chaser Song of Christmas Eve. It's not really a song, actually, but Louis Armstrong reciting "Twas the Night Before Christmas", in his inimitable raspy voice.
Recorded on February 26, 1971 at his home in Queens, New York, this ended up being the final recording Armstrong made, before succumbing to a fatal heart attack on July 6th.
The poem, written by Clement Moore, is technically titled "An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas", was first published in the Troy Sentinel on December 23, 1823. A wonderful article by Peter Christoph tells that St. Nicholas was likely little known outside of the Dutch community when he published the work, setting into motion a cultural tradition still alive today. Further, I was surprised to learn it was Moore who first named the reindeer!
Here's hoping you'll be nestled all snug in your beds soon....
Sun, 23 December 2012
My friend Frank found this for me, and I wanted to be sure to share it with you. Originally published in Mad Magazine #52 Jan 1960.
‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the pad,
Not a hipster was swinging, not even old Dad;
The chimney was hung in the stocking routine,
In hopes that “The Fat Man” would soon make the scene;
The moon and the snow were, like, faking together,
Which made the scene rock in the Day People weather,
When, what to these peepers should come on real queer,
But a real crazy sleigh, and eight swinging reindeer,
As sidemen in combos pick up as they stomp,
When they swing with the beat of a Dixieland romp,
So up to the top of my bandstand they flew,
With the sleigh full of loot, and St. Nicholas, too.
His lids-Man, they sizzled! His dimples were smiles!
His cheeks were like “Dizzy’s,” his break was like “Miles!”
His puckered-up mouth was, like, blowing flat E,
And his chin hid behind a real crazy goatee!
He blew not a sound, but skipped right to his gig,
And stashed all the stockings, then came on real big,
And flashing a sign, like that old “Schnozzle” bit,
And playing it hip, up the chimney he split;
And then, in a quick riff, I dug on the roof,
The jumpin’ and jivin’ of each swinging hoof.
As I pulled in my noggin, and turned around fast,
Down the chimney came Nick like a hot trumpet blast.
The tip of a butt he had snagged in his choppers,
And he took a few drags just like all cool be-boppers;
He had a weird face, and a solid reet middle
That bounced when he cracked, like a gutbucket fiddle!
He was wrapped up to kill, Man, a real kookie dresser!
And his rags were, like, way out! Pops! He was a gasser!
A sack full of goodies hung down to his tail,
And he looked like a postman with “Basie’s” fan mail.
He was shaking with meat, meaning he was no square,
And I flipped, ‘cause I’d always thought he was “longhair!”
But the glint in his eye and the beat in his touch
Soon gave me the message this cat was “too much!”
He flew to his skids, to his group blew a lick,
And they cut out real cool, on a wild frenzied kick.
But I heard him sound off, with a razz-a-ma-tazz:
“A cool Christmas to all, and, like all of that jazz!”
Fri, 21 December 2012
As the nation continues to mourn the senseless violence that claimed so many innocent lives in Newtown, Connecticut last Friday, musicians around the country are organizing to send a message of sympathy and unity.
Tue, 18 December 2012
‘Tis the season for “best of” lists, and you can find some mighty fine ones from NPR’s A Blog Supreme; Critical Jazz; various members of the Jazz Journalists Association; and Ben Ratliff of the New York Times.
Rather than call things “the best”, I prefer to look back the year’s releases and determine which ones, for one reason of another, earned repeat plays and became my favorites for one reason or another. I’ve made up some categories with which I can list the CDs, since it doesn’t make sense to me to put an archival release against a new release from a young performer. And so, here are a few of my favorite things from 2012, this year with seven entries in each of the five categories:
Great New Things from Old Friends
Pat Metheny Unity Band - Unity Band
John Abercrombie Quartet –Within A Song
Brazilian Trio – Constelacao
Vijay Iyer – Accelerando
Tim Berne – Snakeoil
Dave Douglas Quintet – Be Still
Kenny Garrett – Seeds from the Underground.
New Artists and Those Hitting Their Stride
Matt Wilson’s Arts & Crafts - An Attitude for Gratitude
Grégoire Maret – Grégoire Maret.
Brandon Wright – Journeyman
Donny McCaslin Group - Casting for Gravity
Melody Gardot – The Absence.
Linda Oh – Initial Here.
Ulysses Owens Jr. - Unanimous
Memorable Reissues, Compilations, and Posthumous or Archival Albums
Bill Evans Trio - Live at Art D'Lugoff's Top of the Gate.
Wes Montgomery - Echoes of Indiana Avenue,
Chick Corea & Gary Burton – The Complete ECM Recordings
Paul Winter Sextet – Count Me In (1962-1965)
Charles Mingus - The Jazz Workshop Concerts 1964-65
Pepper Adams and More – Joy Road Project
Thomas Chapin - Never Let Me Go: Quartets '95 & '96
Tribute Albums of Note
Ryan Truesdell - Centennial: Newly Discovered Works of Gil Evans
Luciana Souza – The Book of Chet.
Jimmy Owens – The Monk Project.
Chano Dominguez - Flamenco Sketches
The Wee Trio - Ashes To Ashes - A David Bowie Intraspective
Greg Lewis - Organ Monk
Kurt Elling – The Brill Building Project
Reunions and Collaborations of Note
Chick Corea & Gary Burton – Hot House
Lee Konitz/Bill Frisell/Gary Peacock/Joey Baron - Enfants Terribles
Bill Frisell, Matt Chamberlain, Lee Townsend and Tucker Martine – Floratone II
Marc Johnson/Eliane Elias – Swept Away
Roni Ben Hur & Santi Debriano - Our Thing
Chick Corea/Paul Motian/Eddy Gomez - Further Explorations
Harry Allen & Scott Hamilton - Round Midnight
Special Mention for Special Projects:
JumpinJazz Kids – This CD that introduces children to jazz in a fun way just grabbed a Grammy nomination. Well deserved, and full of great cameos from the likes of Al Jarreau, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Hubert Laws.
The Standards by Ted Gioia and Why Jazz Happened by Marc Myers - Two must have books for any jazz fan’s library.
Terry Teachout's play Satchmo at the Waldorf- More than a portrait of an American icon, but a dramatic tour de force on the nature of talent, race, and art featuring a bravura performance by John Douglas Thompson, portraying Louis Armstrong, his manager , and Miles Davis. I caught the play at Shakespeare & Company in the Berkshires this summer, and it had a successful run a Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven this fall. Look for it and grab tickets if it comes your way.
Podcast 326 gives you a chance to hear something from each category, so click here to listen to:
Dave Douglas Quintet – “Wither Must I Wander? “from Be Still. Douglas lost his mother last year, and this CD features hymns and songs of which she was fond. It is a wonderfully quiet, yet heartfelt project, made more memorable by the vocals of Aoife O'Donovan from the band Crooked Still. Supporting Douglas are crack players Jon Irabagon, Matt Mitchell, Linda Oh, and Rudy Royston. Ms. Oh, whose solo CD made one of my lists, joined Douglas in the super group Sound Prints with Joe Lovano, which will hopefully record in 2013.
Donnie McCaslin Group – “Losing Track of Daytime “from Casting for Gravity. McCaslin is a graduate of Douglas’ bands, and recorded this CD on Douglas’ Greenleaf Music label. But the CD is all Donnie, as he fuses jazz, electronica and rock music into a hybrid that could best be called “Stadium Jazz”, the title of the first track on this great CD. The band – McCaslin on sax, keyboardist Jason Lindner, bassist Tim Lefebvre, and drummer Mark Guiliana – sizzle on this track.
Bill Evans Trio – “California Here I Come” from Live at Art D'Lugoff's Top of the Gate. Two sets recorded by then-college student George Klabin in the New York City club, October, 1968 of Evans, Eddie Gomez (bass) and Marty Morell (drums). Until this year, the music had only been heard on a Columbia University radio show, but Resonance Records (which also did the Wes Montgomery package) gives it to us forever on CD in wonderful, rich sound.
Luciana Souza – “The Thrill is Gone” from The Book of Chet. One of two CDs released simultaneously by the great Brazilian singer (both are nominated for Grammy Awards), this one is a classic late night listen. She never attempts to mimic or copy the late Chet Baker’s sound, and yet you can hear him in every tune, especially here, propelled by the subtle playing of Larry Koonse, David Piltch, and Jay Bellerose.
Lee Konitz/Bill Frisell/Gary Peacock/Joey Baron – “Stella by Starlight” from Enfants Terribles. The title is tongue in cheek – these are not spring chickens – but their attack on a set of standards shows that they are not resting on any laurels. Drummer Baron would be my “player of the year” in jazz for 2012, having made major contributions to 2012 releases by Marc Johnson & Eliane Elias, John Abercrombie, and Steve Kuhn, as well as the live performances of the Sound Prints group.
Podcast 326 gives you a chance to hear something from each category, so click here to listen to:rribles
Direct download: Podcast_326_-_A_Few_of_My_Favorite_Things_2012.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:00am EST
Sat, 15 December 2012
Pianist Ben Sidran is one of those artists who sits on the cusp of rock and jazz music, performing equally well in each genre. On the rock side of things, he was an original member of the Steve Miller Band, along with Boz Scaggs. Sidran co-wrote one of Miller's best known tunes, "Space Cowboy".
On the jazz side, he's been the host of the NPR jazz series "Jazz Alive" and VH-1's "New Visions", both of which have won awards for excellence. He's recorded dozens of albums on the Blue Thumb, Go Jazz and Nardis label, most notablyhis quartet album. The Concert for Garcia Lorca, where he wrote music to the Latin-American poets work. And just to show he's no slacker, he scored the award-winning documentary film "Hoop Dreams", and earned a Ph.D in American Studies from Sussex University.
He's also Jewish, and not afraid to hide his faith. In fact, his next written project will be a text entitled "Jews, Music and the American Dream". So it's no wonder he contributed this cooler than cool version of "I Have a Little Dreidle" to the Celebrate Hanukkah compilation album released in 2006 on the Craig n' Company label (pictured here). A perfect version to listen to as the last candles of the Festival of Lights die down.
Wed, 12 December 2012
Kenny Barron will be celebrating his 70thbirthday in 2013, and you can bet we’ll have a celebratory Podcast that day. One of our finest, most versatile and hard working pianists, Barron shows no sign of slowing down as he approaches this milestone.
He has a new CD set to come out in 2013, and he is currently playing a series of duets with his friend, bass legend Dave Holland. The pair will get the chance to settle in for a four night run at the Jazz Standard this week (December 13-16), giving jazz fans across the tri-state area an early Christmas present.
Born 1943 in Philadelphia PA, Barron was working with drummer Philly Joe Jones while still in high school. By age 21, he’d gigged with Roy Haynes, Lee Morgan and James Moody. The latter recommended him to Dizzy Gillespie, who hired Kenny before ever hearing him play a note. In 1974, the pianist released Sunset To Dawn, the first of his forty–plus albums as a leader, along with easily as many more as a sideman.
Holland has been called “of a generation of bassists who, in the '60s and '70s, built upon the innovations of slightly older players like Scott LaFaro, Gary Peacock, and Barre Phillips, carrying the instrument to yet another new level of creativity.” Known for his pioneering work on electric bass with Miles Davis, he will be playing double bass with Barron.
I caught up with Kenny as he prepped for the gigs, and asked him about his secrets for playing intimate group settings. Click here to listen to Podcast 325 and get his answer, along with his comments on many of my favorite albums to which he contributed, such as:
Ron Carter – “No Flowers, Please” from Superstrings. Barron occupied the piano chair for a number of the legendary bass player’s projects. This Carter original from a 1981 release features Carter on bass, Barron on piano, John Tropea on guitar, Jack DeJohnette on drums, and the late Ralph McDonald on percussion, plus a solid 16 piece string section.
Charlie Haden & Kenny Barron – “You Don’t Know What Love Is” from Night in the City. Bass-Piano duets at the highest level – the “country” of Haden and the “city” of Barron make this 1998 album and this standard in particular worth repeated listenings.
Jane Monheit – “If” from Come Dream With Me. Highly sought after by singers for his ability to be supportive without merely accompanying them, these sessions were a good example of how a great jazz group can really swing, even when backing an ingénue singer. The musicians include Michael Brecker (tenor sax), Tom Harrell (trumpet), Richard Bona (guitar and bass), Barron (piano), Christian McBride (bass), and Gregory Hutchinson (drums),
Abbey Lincoln – “Down Here Below” from A Turtle’s Dream. The most sublime track on a transcendent CD includes Ms. Lincoln on vocals, Barron on piano, Charlie Haden on bass; and Victor Lewis on drums, with strings arranged by Randolph Noel. A 1996 Grammy nominee and a classic.
Stan Getz & Kenny Barron – “Surrey With the Fringe On Top” from People Time. One of the first times I heard a sax-piano duet was on these lives takes from Getz’ last gigs at the Café Montmartre in Copenhagen in March of 1991. Getz died three months later. The album has been chosen part of NPR’s Basic Jazz Record Library and has been re-released in an expanded version as People Time: The Complete Recordings, all 48 numbers (covering 24 different tunes) from the concerts included.
Kenny Barron – “Be-Bop” from Wanton Spirit. My favorite Barron album was also a 1996 Grammy nominee. Barron remembers warmly how this great group of musicians – Barron on piano, Haden on bass, and Roy Haynes on drums – came together for a magical session.
Kenny Barron – “Until Then” from Canta Brasil. Barron’s next release will be a CD recorded in Brazil, available on Verve. He’s no stranger to that sound, having recorded this album with the all-star group Trio de Paz (Nilson Matta, bass; Duduka Da Fonseca, drums; and Romero Lubambo, guitar). This Barron tune also has Anne Drummond on flute and Valtinho on percussion.
Direct download: Podcast_325_-_A_Conversation_wtih_Kenny_Barron.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 4:00am EST
Wed, 12 December 2012
Paste magazine usually focuses solely on alternative and emerging rock music, but occassionally there is a tasty treat on their web pages for jazz fans. Their "Video Vault" today features a video of Miles Davis performing at Tanglewood in the Berkshires area of Massachusetts on August 18. 1970. The show was part of Bill Graham's "The Fillmore at Tangelwood" series and included Santana and The Voices of East Harlem. Click here for a look.
The formidable band for this now legendary performance included Davis (trumpet); Gary Bartz (sax); Chick Corea (electric piano); Keith Jarrett (organ); Dave Holland (bass and electric bass); Jack De Johnette (drums); and Airto Moreira (percussion).
There is apparently a DVD version of this around called "Miles Davis: Tanglewood Wizard".