Mon, 28 January 2013
The Sirens is acclaimed saxophonist Chris Potter's ECM debut as a leader, an album of mood and melody inspired by Homer's The Odyssey - both its epic atmosphere and its timeless humanity. Potter, who has been a featured player on ECM albums by the likes of Dave Holland and Steve Swallow, found the timeless tale a source of inspiration as he sought to create for his latest band a year ago.
Since then the music has been honed on the road, and captures the sense of wonder and excitement that faces the explorer as he faces an adventure. Here the crew is composed of five top musicians, and their adventure is a musical, rather than nautical, exploration. Potter stretches out on a number of tracks, and the two-keyboard sound of the band gives him an intriguing base on which to express his musical thoughts.
I spoke to Chris as he prepared to tour with the Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour 55th Anniversary Celebration. That band – which will feature Dee Dee Bridgewater, Christian McBride, Benny Green, Lewis Nash, Potter, and Ambrose Akinmusire – will play more than forty dates between now and the end of April. Potter has plans to put the recording quintet together after that to continue promoting The Sirens.
Click here to listen to our conversation, featuring musical selections including:
Chris Potter – “Wine Dark Sea” and “Nausikaa” from The Sirens. Chris has assembled an unusual two-acoustic keyboard approach to the latest album, which uses the narrative of The Odyssey as a jumping-off point for musical exploration. The band is Chris Potter (soprano and tenor saxophones) Craig Taborn (piano), David Virelles (prepared piano, celeste, harmonium), Larry Grenadier (double bass), and Eric Harland (drums)
Pat Metheny – “Roofdogs” from Unity Band. I caught this band in Detroit this Labor Day, and they seemed to be having a blast playing a mix of electric and straight-ahead jazz to a packed house. Metheny is on guitar, Potter on sax, Ben Williams on bass and Antonio Sanchez on drums.
Steely Dan – “Janie Runaway” from Two Against Nature. Walter Becker and Donald Fagen finally struck Grammy pay dirt with this 2000 release. Potter had a terrific alto sax (“West of Hollywood”) and tenor sax solo on the record, which on this track featured a horn section that included “Blue Lou” Marini on alto sax, Michael Leonhart on trumpet, and Roger Rosenberg on bass clarinet. The core band is Becker on bass and guitar, Fagen on Wurlitzer, Leroy Clouden on drums, Ted Baker on Rhodes and backup vocals from Carolyn Leonhart.
Direct download: Podcast_331_-_A_Conversation_with_Chris_Potter.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EST
Mon, 28 January 2013
Pianist Rahn Burton, also known as Ron Burton and best known for his work with Rahsaan Roland Kirk, died Jan. 25 in New York City. The cause of death was not reported. Mr. Burton is survived by his son Akemela Burton, who is also the administrator of his estate.
Burton was born in 1934 in Louisville, Ky., and began playing in that city in the early 1950s. He joined Kirk’s group in 1953 and stayed with him for six years, recording with Kirk for the Argo label. Later Burton toured with George Adams, rejoining Kirk in the late ’60s and remaining with him into the mid-’70s. He started his own band, the African-American Connection in the early ’70s, while also freelancing with other musicians. An interview with Rahn can be viewed here.
An Emergency Memorial Benefit for Rahn Burton was held on Sunday Jan 27 at 449 LA Jazz Gallery @449 Lenox Ave (corner 132nd st ). All proceeds will go to address immediate internment expenses and necessaries as well as estate emergency expenses. Should you wish to donate, contributions may be sent to Akemela Burton c/o Rahn Burton Estate 484 West 43rd Street Apt 14 H NY, NY 10021.
Sun, 20 January 2013
"I feel no need to explain any further the music herewith other than to say throw all other records of mine away except maybe one other [unnamed]" – Charles Mingus on The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady.
Fifty years ago today, Charles Mingus gathered eleven musicians into a New York studio and created one of his most acclaimed albums. The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, was the the first of three albums he would record for Impulse Records in the mid-Sixties.
The musicians who gathered for the sessions were Mingus (double bass, piano), Jerome Richardson (soprano and baritone saxophone, flute), Charlie Mariano (alto saxophone), Dick Hafer (tenor saxophone, flute), Rolf Ericson (trumpet), Richard Williams (trumpet), Quentin Jackson (trombone), Don Butterfield (tuba, contrabass trombone), Jaki Byard (piano), Jay Berliner (acoustic guitar) and Dannie Richmond (drums). The end results were significantly overdubbed by the always demanding Mingus before it was ready to go.
The finished album consists of a single continuous composition—partially written as a ballet—divided into four tracks and six movements. Each track title – such as “Track B – Duet Solo Dancers”- had a subtitle. In the case of that track, it was "Hearts' Beat and Shades in Physical Embraces."
Piero Scaruffi nicely summed up the Black Saint listening experience:
…it was, by definition, an exercise in colors: Mingus juxtaposed groups of instruments to maximize the contrast of tones, while using a shifting dynamic to lure ever-changing textures out of that jarring counterpoint. The resulting music was highly emotional, bordering on neurotic, merging the ancestral frustration of black slaves with the modern alienation of the urban middle class. The sense of universal tragedy was increased by the facts that instruments were clearly simulating human voices, whether the joyful singing of Mariano's sax or the sorrowful murmur of trumpet and trombone or the ghostly howls of tuba and baritone sax.
Fri, 18 January 2013
“We started the Messengers because somebody had to mind the store for jazz. No America–no jazz. It is the only culture that America has brought forth.” – Art Blakey
The 2013 U.S. Bank Portland Jazz Festival, presented by Alaska Airlines, will start in less than a month, running Friday, February 15 through Sunday, February 24 at venues throughout Portland, OR. The 10th anniversary celebration will include a heady mix of world and west coast premieres and what they term For Portland Only performances, with a series of concerts featuring an imposing array of internationally recognized and local musicians playing a wide-range of jazz styles. Click here for more information on their imposing lineup of stars, which will include Jack DeJohnette Special Quartet featuring Ravi Coltrane, Matt Garrison and George Colligan; the west coast premiere of ACS featuring Geri Allen, Terri Lyne Carrington and Esperanza Spalding; Afro Cuban All-Stars and Alfredo Rodríguez; Steve Kuhn Trio featuring special guest Devin Phillips; Kurt Rosenwinkel Quartet; Kenny Garrett Quartet; Patricia Barber Quartet; and Matt Wilson’s Arts & Crafts. That’s an embarrassment of riches.
One of the most interesting events will come on Friday, February 22 when saxophonist Javon Jackson brings The Jazz Message; Celebrating Art Blakey to the festival. Six former Jazz Messengers, including Jackson, Bobby Watson, elder statesmen Curtis Fuller, Eddie Henderson, George Cables, and Buster Williams pay tribute to the immortal drummer and bandleader. Master drummer Lewis Nash will take on the unenviable role of Art Blakey, and will undoubtedly help bring the house down.
I spoke with Jackson about his beginnings as a young musician with Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, and what the man and his music mean to him today. In addition to touring with Blakey, Jackson has toured and recorded with Elvin Jones, Freddie Hubbard, Betty Carter, Cedar Walton, Ron Carter, Donald Byrd, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Richard Davis, Bobby Hutcherson, Curtis Fuller and Stanley Turrentine. He has developed a formidable career as a leader, recording and touring throughout the world, now with more than 125 recordings to his credit. Two releases came out in 2012 – one under his own name called Lucky 13, which featured guest spots by the great Les McCann, and Javon Jackson and We Four Celebrating John Coltrane, an outstanding quartet recording with Jackson, Eric Reed (piano); Nat Reeves (bass); and the legendary Jimmy Cobb on drums.
Click here to listen to Podcast 330, including musical selections from the Blakey and Jackson canon such as:
Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers – “Along Came Betty” and the Title Track from Moanin’. One of the earlier Blue Note recordings by the version of the Messengers many considered the finest – Blakey on drums; Lee Morgan on trumpet; Benny Golson on sax; Bobby Timmons on piano and Jymie Merritt on drums. Timmons write “Along Came Betty” and Golson wrote “Moanin’”; it would be the last American album Golson would make as a Messenger.
Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers – “Hammerhead” from Free-For-All. Many choose this album as Blakey’s finest hour with his finest band - Freddie Hubbard on trumpet (his last session with the Messengers), Wayne Shorter on tenor sax, Curtis Fuller on trombone, Cedar Walton on piano, and Reggie Workman on bass. Check out Blakey cheering on Hubbard to new heights on his solo.
Javon Jackson – “Buzz-At” from Me & Mr. Jones. Jackson has made it a habit of playing with legendary drummers. This 1991 collaboration with Elvin Jones was a multi-generational event - Jackson, 26 at the time of the recording, joined forces with 40-year-old James Williams (piano), 19-year-old Christian McBride (bass) and the 64-year-old Jones.
Javon Jackson and We Four – “My Shining Hour” from Celebrating John Coltrane. Jackson spent much of last year on the road with Les McCann for the Lucky 13 CD, and with a series of different players honoring John Coltrane. The core was always Javon on sax; and Jimmy Cobb on drums. The other two seats rotated, and for this recording its Eric Reed (piano) and Nat Reeves (bass).
Javon Jackson – “Give It Up or Turnit Loose” from Now. Javon is not one to stick to tried and true jazz forms, incorporating funk, R&B and whatever music inspires him into his art. Here it’s a funky shout out to the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, with Javon (Tenor Saxophone); Lisa Fischer (Vocals); David Gilmore (Guitar); Dr. Lonnie Smith (Organ); Lenny Davis (Electric Bass); and Greg Hutchinson (Drums).
Direct download: Podcast_330_-_A_Conversation_with_Javon_Jackson_on_Art_Blakey.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:30am EST
Sat, 12 January 2013
Fifty years ago today, Donald Byrd gathered a septet and gospel choir in Rudy Van Gelder's studios in New Jersey to record his latest project. Noted as a hard bop trumpet player, Byrd wanted to push the envelope a bit on this session, as he noted in the album liner notes:
I mean this album seriously. Because of my own background, I've always wanted to write an entire album of spiritual-like pieces. The most accurate way I can describe what we were all trying to do is that this is a modern hymnal. In an earlier period, the New Orleans jazzmen would often play religious music for exactly what it was - but with their own jazz textures and techniques added. Now, as modern jazzmen, we're also approaching this tradition with respect and great pleasure.
Five tracks from that day's recordings ended up on the album, none more haunting than the now classic, "Cristo Redentor", written by arranger Duke Pearson. The English translation of the title would be "Christ the Redeemer", and the title is an allusion to the 99 foot tall statue of Jesus Pearson saw in Brazil during a tour of South American with Nancy Wilson. The song beautifully captures what Byrd was reaching for - a sophisticated composition with changing keys and textures, but with an overriding feel of spirituality.
The band on this session is the usual top notch group of Blue Note musicians of the early Sixties: Byrd on trumpet; Hank Mobley on tenor sax; Herbie Hancock on piano; Kenny Burrell on guitar; Conrad Best on vibes; Butch Warren on bass and
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am EST
Thu, 10 January 2013
“…Mr. Fagen's music is a rich-textured, harmonically oblique amalgam of rock, jazz and soul. It is, in a word, music for grown-ups—with lyrics to match. What is especially interesting about Mr. Fagen, though, is that unlike most of his contemporaries, he has always made music for grown-ups. Steely Dan, the group that he co-founded with Walter Becker in 1972, never did go in for kid stuff, and doesn't now. Jazz heavies like Wayne Shorter and Phil Woods have long popped up from time to time on Steely Dan's albums, playing solos that don't sound even slightly out of place.” – Terry Teachout , “How to Be an Aging Rocker”, Wall Street Journal.
Do I need to say more? Perhaps just “happy birthday”, Donald, who turns 65 years old today. But OK, I will say a bit more.
My Dad, from whom I learned my appreciation of jazz, didn’t let me choose the music for family car rides unless it was something he could tolerate. From my music collection circa the Seventies, that meant I could listen to the Beatles, or the Moody Blues, or singer-songwriters like Paul Simon and James Taylor. One day, I slid Katy Lied into the cassette player. After ten minutes or so, my Dad said, “Who is this?”
“Steely Dan”, I said.
“OK. He’s pretty good.”
I didn’t have the heart to explain that it wasn’t a “he” but a “they”. And it didn’t really matter. Donald Fagen and Walter Becker had another convert.
Based on this alone, I stand by the proposition that no band has done more to infuse jazz sensibilities into rock than Steely Dan. Whether they were writing tunes using jazz chords, making references to jazz classics in their tunes (“Mr. Parker’s Band”), or using jazz masters as session players, they were light years ahead of their contemporaries. They even covered Duke Ellington on the Pretzel Logic album.
So it seemed natural to salute Donald – who is still churning out significant music with and without Walter Becker – with a Podcast of jazz covers of tunes from either his solo albums or Steely Dan releases. Click here to enjoy Podcast 329, in which we cover the gamut of songs, including Donald’s self-proclaimed favorite jazz cover (Herbie Mann’s “Do It Again”) and Steely Dan’s acoustic version of “Chain Lightning” with Marian McPartland sitting in from her “Piano Jazz” show. Special thanks to Larry Grogan on the mighty Funky16Corners blog for getting me a track or two.
Frank Gambale – “F.M.” from The Royal Dan – A Tribute to The Genius of Steely Da
The Darcys – “Josie (Vol. 2)” from Aja.
Christian McBride Band – “Aja” from Sci-Fi
Charles Mann – “Do It Again” from Get Down with the Philly Sound (EP).
Wave Mechanic Union – “Dirty Work” from Further to Fly.
John Pizzarelli – “Walk Between the Raindrops” from Double Exposure.
Jay Graydon – “Home at Last” from The Royal Dan – A Tribute to The Genius of Steely Dan.
Woody Herman – “Kid Charlemagne” from Chick, Donald, Walter and Woodrow.
Patti Austin – “I.G.Y. (What a Beautiful World)” from Street of Dreams.
Herbie Mann – “Do It Again” from Turtle Bay.
Roger Smith and Eddie M. – “Bad Sneakers” from No Static At All: An Instrumental Tribute to Steely Dan.
Marian McPartland with Steely Dan – “Chain Lightning” from Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz.
Wed, 9 January 2013
Last year, the Jazz Standard presented a new interpretation of John Coltrane’s Ascension that knocked out audiences and critics alike. Click here to listen to a conversation with participant Donny McCaslin on the project. On January 16th, the Standard continues this tradition and presents an all–star tribute to Ornette Coleman and his influential work Free Jazz.
In the spring of 1961, the alto saxophonist and composer Ornette Coleman (who had “roused more controversy in the jazz world than any musician since Charlie Parker,” according to John S. Wilson in The New York Times) assembled a “double quartet” at the Atlantic Records studio in midtown Manhattan, to record Free Jazz – an album that astonished the music world with its radical spirit and improvisational audacity. “Aside from a predetermined order of featured soloists and several brief transition signals cued by Coleman, the entire piece was created spontaneously, right on the spot,” Steve Huey later wrote at Allmusic.com. “…Jazz had long prided itself on reflecting American freedom and democracy and, with Free Jazz, Coleman simply took those ideals to the next level. A staggering achievement.”
Eight outstanding – and brave – musicians will form a double quartet to pay tribute to Coleman that evening. The band will include Vincent Herring on alto saxophone; Joe Lovano on tenor saxophone; Jeremy Pelt and Tim Hagans on trumpet; Ben Allison and Lonnie Plaxico on bass; and Billy Drummond and Matt Wilson on drums. Pelt, Herring, Drummond, Allison and Wilson all participated in the Ascension show last year. Further information on the date is available here.
Ben Allison spoke at length with me about Coleman, Free Jazz, and what both have come to mean to him as a musician. At the age of 25 he led a movement to encourage new works and innovation in jazz writing, and formed the Jazz Composers Collective, a New York City nonprofit organization, serving as that organization's Artistic Director and as a Composer-in-Residence. The group just finished a 20th anniversary event at the Standard.
Now in his mid-forties, he is well established as a both a composer and band-leader, fronting groups including the Ben Allison Band, Peace Pipe, the Ben Allison Quartet, Medicine Wheel, the Kush Trio, Man Size Safe, and the Herbie Nichols Project (with pianist Frank Kimbrough. His latest project is a trio to play the music of Jim Hall, with Ted Nash (saxophones) and Steve Cardenas (guitar).
Click here to listen to Podcast 328, which features my conversation with Allison and musical accompaniment including:
Ornette Coleman – “Beauty is a Rare Thing” from This is Our Music. One of the first record albums Ben ever purchased – and the first jazz album – was this Ornette Coleman project, recorded in 1960. The cover of the album is a photo of a cooler than cool quartet, radical in its day for outwardly promoting a mixed race group – Coleman on saxophone, Don Cherry on pocket trumpet, Charlie Haden on bass and Ed Blackwell on drums.
Ornette Coleman – Edit from the title track of Free Jazz. Seven months after This is Our Music, Coleman dropped the big one – a double quartet, one in each stereo channel, playing the first album long improvisational recording, broken up only by the need to turn the record over. More than fifty years later, we must not underestimate how innovative, and how difficult, it must have seemed in its time, to say nothing of how influential it became for a generation of musicians. The band members are now all legends – Coleman on saxophone, Eric Dolphy on bass clarinet, Cherry on pocket trumpet, Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Haden and Scott LaFaro on bass, and Blackwell and Billy Higgins on drums.
Ben Allison – “Jackie-ing” from Action/Refraction. For his tenth CD as a leader, Ben recorded an album of many of his favorite tunes, including this Thelonious Monk tune. The band is Allison on bass; Michael Blake on tenor saxophone and bass clarinet; Jason Lindner on Prophet 08 analog synthesizer and piano; Steve Cardenas on guitar and Rudy Royston on drums.
Ben Allison – “Fred” from Think Free. A strong track from a strong album released in 2009. The lineup is unusual for an Allison recording – Ben on bass; Jenny Scheinman on violin and Shane Endsley on trumpet; plus old compadres Cardenas on guitar and Royston on drums.
Direct download: Podcast_328_-_A_Conversation_with_Ben_Allison_on_Free_Jazz.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:00am EST
Fri, 4 January 2013
When ticking off the names of the truly great jazz figures that came out of the be-bop era, Tadd Dameron may be the name that least comes to mind. Saxophonist Dexter Gordon called Dameron the "romanticist" of the bop movement, as perhaps more than any other musician, he added form to the then-emerging style of bop. Whether as a composer (standards like “Lady Bird”, “Hot House”, “Good Bait” and “If You Could See Me Now”), arranger (the Big Bands of Jimmy Lunceford, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie) or performer on piano with Fats Navarro, Charlie Parker and Clifford Brown, Dameron was a star.
Paul Combs new book, Dameronia: The Life and Music of Tadd Dameron(University of Michigan Press) may be the closest we get to a definitive portrait of the man, who passed away far too young from cancer at the age of 48. A talented jazz performer, composer and teacher himself, Combs spent the better part of twenty years researching and writing the book. In the process, he uncovered a number of previously unrecorded or released compositions and arrangements created by Dameron, something of a “holy grail” for bop aficionados
Combs does not shy aware from the more sordid aspects of Dameron’s life – he squandered his talents, becoming a drug addict who served a sentence at a federal penitentiary in Lexington, Kentucky. However, the overall message of the book – and of Podcast 327 – is that Dameron was a formidable talent, and a man who sought redemption at the end of his life. His legacy is safe.
Podcast 327 is my conversation with Paul, including these musical selections from the Dameron catalogue:
Tadd Dameron’s Big Ten – “Webb’s Delight” from WMCA Radio Broadcast from the Royal Roost, February 19, 1949. Per the notes on the website plosin.com:
"Webb's Delight" is essentially the same tune as "Sid's Delight" (as recorded by Dameron and Fats Navarro for Capitol the same year) and the classic "Tadd's Delight" (recorded by the Davis Quintet in June 1956 and issued on 'Round About Midnight). Dameron was evidently keen on delight -- there's also "John's Delight," a different tune recorded with Davis for Capitol in April 1949.
The band is Miles Davis (trumpet); Kai Winding (trombone); Sahib Shihab, Benjamin Lundy, and Cecil Payne (sax); Tadd Dameron (piano); John Collins (guitar); Dillon "Curley" Russell (bass); Kenny “Kloop” Clarke (drums); and Carlos Vidal (conga).
Dizzy Gillespie & Orchestra – “Good Bait” from The Complete RCA Victor Recordings. An early be-bop standard recorded in 1947, originally written for (and credited with) Count Basie, becomes magic in the hands of ol’ Diz. The band includes Gillespie, Dave Burns, and Elmon Wright (trumpet); William Shepherd and Ted Kelly(trombone); Gayles “Big Nick” Nicholas (tenor sax); John Lewis (piano); Al McKibbon (bass); and Clarke (drums).
Fats Navarro and Tadd Dameron – “Lady Bird” from The Complete Blue Note and Capitol Recordings of Fats Navarro and Tadd Dameron. A definitive bop statement, Apex Studios, NYC, September 13, 1948, and featuring Navarro (trumpet); Allen Eager and Wardell Gray (sax); Dameron (piano); Curly Russell (bass); and Kenny “Kloop” Clarke (drums).
Barry Ulanov And His All Star Metronome Jazzmen – “Hot House (Fats Flats)” from The COmplete Charlie Parker-Lenny Tristano Sessions. Recorded from a radio broadcast entitled "Bands for Bonds", at theWOR Studios, NYC, November 8, 1947, this is the sound of bop taking off. The band includes Navarro (trumpet); Charlie Parker (sax); Lennie Tristano (piano); Billy Bauer (guitar); Tommy Potter (bass); and Buddy Rich (drums).
Sarah Vaughan – “If You Could See Me Now” from Young Sassy. The definitive ballad from the Dameron canon, it became the theme song for Sarah Vaughan. Feautirng Freddie Webster (trumpet); Leo Parker (baritone sax); Bud Powell (piano); Leroy Harris (alto sax); Hank Ross (bass clarinet); Ted Sturgis (bass); and a nine-piece string section.
Tadd Dameron with John Coltrane- “Soultrane” from Mating Call. Recorded at the studio of Rudy Van Gelder in Hackensack, New Jersey on November 30, 1956, this session was one of the first after Trane left the Miles Davis Quintet, at least partially for reasons of his heroin use. Dameron knew talent when he saw it, and he quickly put together a quartet that included the pair playing with Philly Joe Jones on drums and John Simmons on bass.
Jeri Brown - "You're a Joy" from Fresh Start. Combs points to this song as one worthy of greater performance. Written by Dameron and recorded for his best post-prison album The Magic Touch, it gets a fine traetment here from Justin Time artist Jeri Brown, backed by Cyrus Chestnut on piano, Avery Sharpe on bass and Wali Muhammadon drums.
Paul Combs – “Do-Bla-Bli” from Quintet Plays Tadd. Here’s proof that author Combs can blow with the best of them as well. This is a tune Dameron originally wrote for Babs Gonzalez’ late Forties group “Babs’ Three Bips and a Bop” for Blue Note. The recording features Combs and Jim Cameron on sax, Don Hemwall on piano, Herman Hampton on bass, and Stanley Swann on drums.
Direct download: Podcast_327_-_A_Conversation_with_Paul_Combs_on_Tadd_Dameron.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:00am EST
Tue, 1 January 2013
New Year's Day - a day of hangovers, resolution writing, college football games, and general recovery. Nancy and I are off to her Cousin Jimmy's open house for an afternoon of family, cut-throat board games, and football on TV. Bring on the buffet! Diets and resolutions start tomorrow.
A happy new year to one and all - let's toast 2012 with a verse or two of "Let's Start the New Year Right" by Irving Berlin, sung here by that great crooner (and underrated influence on all jazz singers), Bing Crosby:
One minute to midnight, one minute to go