Thu, 28 February 2013
This week at Straight No Chaser we will continue focusing on some of the finest guitar players in the world of jazz.. Hopefully by now you have enjoyed Podcast 336, which featured a conversation with Japan-born/Boston-based guitarist Yuto Kazamto. Today we feature another talented six string slinger, Jonathan Kreisberg.
I’m familiar with Jonathan’s work as a leader of a talented Quartet, and for his work as a key sideman in Dr. Lonnie Smith’s trio. He plays with an exceptional dexterity, and challenges the listener with both his ability to tackle the complex and to wring feeling from that material. For example, his Shadowless CD, a release of the Jonathan Kreisberg Quartet in 2010, features a tune called “21”, named not for the Blackjack hand, but for the timing signature, a mind-blowing 21/8.
Kreisberg’s latest project is a solo guitar CD, appropriately enough entitled ONE. Recording live in the studio sans any overdubs, and for the most part, any additional guitar effects, Kreisberg has put together a set of classic tunes squarely in the tradition of masters like Joe Pass. Considering himself as afflicted with “Musical A.D.D.”, he has selected tunes from the songbook of titans like Ellington, Rodgers and Gershwin, as well as Wayne Shorter (“E.S.P”) and Leonard Cohen (“Hallelujah”).
I spoke with Jonathan about the new CD as he was leaving Dr. Lonnie Smith’s group to head to Europe with the Quartet. We discussed how he came to record a solo guitar album, what it means for him to perform these songs, and plans to release new recordings with a Trio and the Quartet. Click here to listen to Podcast 337, featuring our conversation and music from Jonathan’s recordings, including:
Jonathan Kreisberg – “Escape from Lower Format Shift” from ONE. One of the few tunes to use guitar effects, Kreisberg says it sounds like something that could have been on the Blade Runner soundtrack. The song is one of two originals on the CD.
Jonathan Kreisberg – “Hallelujah” from ONE. Kreisberg says he approached this Leonard Cohen song with trepidation, given his respect for the penultimate cover of the song by the late Jeff Buckley. While he recalls the Buckley version in his introduction, he makes the song uniquely his own by emphasizing its stark beauty.
Jonathan Kreisberg - "Caravan" from ONE. One of the first tunes Kreisberg learned to play solo, this track captures the wonderful gypsy feel of jazz.
Jonathan Kreisberg Quartet – “21” from Shadowless. Jonathan’s band tears through athorny time signature to deliver the goods on this 2010 release. Kreisberg is on guitar, Will Vinson on sax, Henry Hey on piano, Matt Penman on bass and Mark Ferber on drums.
Jonathan Kreisberg Quartet – “Being Human” from Radio Broadcast from the Jazz-Up Festival, Salle Des Festivals, Avoriaz, France. Be sure to catch the current Kreisberg tour, which will feature the Quartet playing tunes from Shadowless along with some new compositions. Jonathan will have the band lay out for a few solo tunes as well. This live recording comes from the band composed of Jonathan Kreisberg, guitar & effects; Will Vinson, sax & piano; Joe Martin, bass; and Colin Stranahan, drums.
Direct download: Podcast_337_-_A_Conversation_with_Jonathan_Kreisberg.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 5:00am EDT
Thu, 28 February 2013
We noted in passing Donald Byrd earlier this month, and you have made Podcast 335, my tribute to the late trumpet player one of the most downloaded in recent memory. Clearly, he is a musical figure who will be missed.
Blue Note, the label for which much of his best work was recorded, has searched their archives and is making available for your streamed listening pleasure a previously unreleased concert from 1973 That show, recorded at the Montreux Jazz Festival, featured Byrd leading a band that included Fonce Mizell, Trumpet, Vocals; Allan Barnes, Tenor Sax, Flute; Nathan Davis, Tenor Sax, Soprano Sax; Kevin Toney, Electric Piano; Larry Mizell, Synthesizer; Barney Perry, Electric Guitar; Henry Franklin, Electric Bass; Keith Killgo, Drums, Vocals; and Ray Armando, Conga, Percussion.
Don Was, the President of Blue Note, offered this comment when he posted the show:
Shortly after Mr. Byrd's passing on February 4th, we got an email from the noted British music icon, Gilles Petersen, inquiring about a legendary performance from 1973's Montreux Jazz Festival. Blue Note's Curator-In-Chief, Michael Cuscuna , told us that it had, indeed, been recorded and subsequently mixed for release by Bob Belden in 1999. Inexplicably, it has remained hidden in the Blue Note vaults - until now. The tapes are wonderful and reveal a far more raw and gritty side to Donald Byrd's 70's music than his studio recordings might suggest....
Category:general -- posted at: 1:30am EDT
Mon, 11 February 2013
Valentine’s Day can be a tricky day.
If you remember it, but that special someone in your life doesn’t, there can be hell to pay.
If you spend the big bucks on flowers, chocolate, etc., etc. and your special someone didn’t want you to break the budget, you feel like a dolt.
Is it too soon in the relationship to make a big deal about the day? Does it send the wrong message? Or if you go low key, do you come across as uncaring?
For me, the never fail answer to the day is – you guessed it – the gift of music.
So this year’s Straight No Chaser Valentine’s Day Mix comes with a first ever CD insert, so you can download the uninterrupted musical Podcast, burn it to CD, cut out the insert, fit it into one of those now old fashioned jewel cases, wrap it up, and go from there.
Never let it be said I didn’t try to help you out. Or warn you.
Podcast 334 includes:
Kenny Drew – “My Funny Valentine”
Marcus Miller – “I’ll Be There”
Clifton Anderson – “Falling in Love With Love”
Abbey Lincoln – “I Wake Up Smiling”
Joe Lovano Us Five – “Star Crossed Lovers”
Jonathan Kreisberg – “Tenderly”
Eric Alexander Quartet – “The Look of Love”
Molly Ringwald – “I’ll Take Romance”
John Patitucci – “Valentine”
Eddie Higgins Quartet feat. Scott Hamilton – “I Only Have Eyes for You”
Fred Hersch Trio – “You’re My Everything”
Freddie Cole – “You Take My Breathe Away”
Lana Hawkins Jazz Quartet – “My Funny Valentine”
Mon, 11 February 2013
An exciting new jazz guitarist, 26 year old Yuto Kanazawa, will release his CD Earthwards this week to coincide with his appearance at Sculler’s in Boston, MA. Earthwards – also the name of his backing group - will be a world-wide affair, including saxophonist Mario Castro from Puerto Rico, clarinetist Felix Peikli from Oslo, Norway, bassist Zwelakhe-Duma Bell le Pere from Connecticut (USA!) and drummer Roberto Giaquinto from Italy.
The Tokyo-born, Fukushima-raised Kanazawa has been studying all kinds of music--pop, rock, classical, jazz and folk since he was 3. Yuto got the "jazz bug" while at Koyo Conservatory and subsequently moved to Boston to attend Berklee where he studied with guitar guru Mick Goodrick and other top teachers in honing his craft. He has been writing for this CD for several years, and in our conversation, expressed how pleased he was with the end result.
In addition to the instrumental tracks on the CD, which range from fusion-oriented tunes to more introspective straight-ahead numbers, Yuto recorded a special bonus track with jazz vocalist Kurt Elling, entitled "Truth & The Abstract Blues." Elling, who is known as one of the world’s foremost jazz vocalists, is a “friend of a friend”, and gave Yuto a thrill by assisting the young man with the recording.
Click here to listen to Podcast 336, featuring our conversation and musical selections, including:
Yuto Kanazawa – “Floating Twice” and “The Ocean” from Earthwards. Yuto had rock & roll in mind when he wrote the first of these two songs, and the second is a lament to those who lost so much in the tsunami that hit his home town of Fukushima, Japan. Two extreme sides of his compositional style and playing approach.
Yuto Kanazawa & Earthwards, featuring Kurt Elling - "Truth & The Abstract Blues” from Earthwards. The award wining singer took a shine to Yuto, and cut this vocal track to end the new CD. Quite an honor for a 26 year old!
Direct download: Podcast_336_-_A_Conversation_with_Yuto_Kanazawa.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 2:00pm EDT
Mon, 11 February 2013
For the third time in the past decade, jazz has caught the attention of Grammy voters in a most unusual way.
Recent wins by Herbie Hancock (Album of the Year for River - The Joni Letters; 2008) and Esperanza Spalding (pictured, Best New Artist, 2011) seem to have paved the way for voters to honor artists who defy a particular genre with their work. This year, that came in the category of Best R&B album, which was won by Black Radio, the latest release by pianist Robert Glasper and his backing group The Experiment. Whether this means that jazz as a parochial category is dying, or that today's artists are battering down walls and ceilings that unfairly categorize music remains to seen. But in either event, it's an exciting moment.
Kudos to other jazz-related winners, including:
Latin jazz album: "Ritmo!," The Clare Fisher Latin Jazz Big Band.
Jazz vocal album: "Radio Music Society," Esperanza Spalding.
Jazz instrumental album: "Unity Band," Pat Metheny Unity Band.
Large jazz ensemble album: "Dear Diz (Every Day I Think of You)," Arturo Sandoval.
Pop instrumental album: "Impressions," Chris Botti.
Instrumental composition: "Mozart Goes Dancing," Chick Corea
Improvised Jazz Solo: "Hot House”, Chick Corea
Instrumental Arrangement – "Centennial — Newly Discovered Works of Gil Evans,” Gil Evans; Ryan Truesdell, producer
Category:general -- posted at: 11:21am EDT
Mon, 11 February 2013
Last month I posted a podcast interview with Javon Jackson, one of the many jazz stars who are converging on Portland, Oregon this coming week to perform in the 10th U.S. Bank Portland Jazz Festival presented by Alaska Airlines. From February 15 to 24, 2013 there will be large and small events in and around Portland, creating an exciting mix of music.
One of the local bands to be featured in the Festival will be Blue Cranes. While they might no consider themselves to be “jazz musicians” per se, they have found a way to make musical exploration and improvisation in a way decidedly different than their indie band compatriots.
The group, composed of Reed Wallsmith (alto saxophone), Joe Cunningham (tenor saxophone), Rebecca Sanborn (keyboards), Keith Brush (acoustic bass), and Ji Tanzer (drums), began working together as a quintet in 2007 (originally recording as a quartet in 2006). Since then, the band has begun to reap the rewards of collective articulation: a truly individual sound that depends on the contributions of each member. Their latest CD will be released this Spring, and will be produced by Nate Query of the Decemberists, the first time they have worked with an outside producer.
Blue Cranes will appear with the eclectic pianist Wayne Horvitz on February 16th. Now a Pacific Northwesterner, Horvitz was a darling of the “Downtown Jazz” scene in New York, appearing on more than fifteen albums with John Zorn, most notably with Naked City. He has successfully collaborated with Bill Frisell, the late Butch Morris, Bobby Previte, and Marty Ehrlich.
Wallsmith will also participate with Horvitz in the Creative Music Guild Collective Music Ensemble performance during the festival on February 18. The group will be performing music composed and conducted by composer Wayne Horvitz. The instrumentation is similar to a traditional jazz big band. The charts are modified arrangements for large ensemble, but more modular in nature then traditional big band repertoire.
I spoke with Reed about the Festival, what it means to the City of Portland and the Portland music scene, and the future of Blue Cranes. Click here to listen to Podcast 333, which features musical selections including:
Blue Cranes – “Love, Love, Love” from Observatories. Looking for an interesting cover tune to flesh out their recording, Blue Cranes came across this Wayne Horvitz composition and were delighted with it. They sent the recording to Wayne, sparking a sense of collaboration between him and the band. Assisting the Blue Cranes on this track is guitarist Timothy Young.
Wayne Horvitz & The President – “Yuba City” from Miracle Mile. This avant-electric piece comes from a 1992 recording that featured the twin guitars of Bill Frisell and Elliott Sharp. Some of the other participants included Horvitz on keyboards, amplified piano and harmonica; Kermit Driscoll on bass, and Bobby Previte on drums.
Blue Cranes – “Returning to Portland” from Lift Music! Flown Music! Reed wrote this tune which opens the band’s quartet release in 2007. The band was Reed Wallsmith on alto sax, keys, and vocals; Rebecca Sanborn on keys, piano, and vocals; Keith Brush on acoustic and electric basses; and Ji Tanzer on drums.
Direct download: Podcast_333_-_A_Conversation_with_Reed_Wallsmith.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EDT
Sat, 9 February 2013
It’s Carnival time in Brazil! Rio is the epicenter of an earthquake of a festival that shakes the South American continent from February 9 to February 12.
The roots of Carnival trace back to the ancient Romans and Greeks who celebrated the rites of spring. Across Europe, including France, Spain and Portugal, people annually gave thanks by throwing parties, wearing masks and dancing in the streets. Such traditions were carried over to the New World.
The Portuguese first brought the concept of "celebration or carnival" to Rio around 1850. The practice of holding balls and masquerade parties was imported by the city’s bourgeoisie from Paris. However, in Brazil, the traditions soon became different. Over time, they acquired unique elements deriving from African and Amerindian cultures.
Groups of people would parade through the streets playing music and dancing. It was usual that during Carnival aristocrats would dress up as commoners, men would cross-dress as women and the poor dress up as princes and princesses - social roles and class differences were expected to be forgotten once a year but only for the duration of the festival.
One of my favorite Brazilian bass players, Nilson Matta (check out Podcast 298 with Duduka DaFonseca to hear the drummer sing his praises) has taken time out from his work with Trio de Paz and the Brazilian Trio, and his “Samba to Jazz” workshops to release Nilson Matta’s Black Orpheus, available next week on Motema Music. A jazz-flavored reimagining of both the play Orpheus de Conceicao and film Black Orpheus, Matta gathered an all-star cast of players in Rio to give this classic music a slightly more modern feel. Players like Anat Cohen, Randy Brecker and Kenny Barron all have deep Brazilian musical roots that add to the authenticity of the sound.
Rather than rely on past sounds, these versions of some well-known tunes have some exciting new arrangements, courtesy of Matta, and pianists Barron and Klaus Mueller. Backed by a large percussion section led by Alex Kauz and guitarist Guilherme Monteiro, there is a sway and swing to the project that is very satisfying.
Special note should be paid to Gretchen Parlato’s vocal on “Valsa de Euridice”, a less-heard work by Vincius de Moraes’ theatrical presentation. A new composition by Matta, “Hugs and Kisses”, provides the recording in a jamming, dancing finale worthy of Carnival.
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EDT
Fri, 8 February 2013
Dr. Donald Byrd, one of the great trumpet players to emerge in the post be-bop era of the 1950’s has died at his home in Delaware. He was 80 years old.
Byrd was born Donaldson Toussaint L'Ouverture Byrd II in Detroit in 1932 and began his career with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers in the 1950s, in a version that included Horace Silver and Hank Mobley. He appeared as a sideman on more than 50 albums over a ten year period beginning in 1955, recording with Sonny Rollins, Wes Montgomery, Stanley Turrentine, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk and Sonny Clark. He became one of Blue Note Record’s most significant artists, releasing 9 albums as a leader between 1959 and 1961. His 1963 recording A New Perspective broke new ground by including a full gospel choir, and spawned a hit, “Cristo Redentor”.
While his roots were in bebop, he later became equally renowned for soul and funk, and particularly jazz fusion. His 1973 album Black Byrd became the label's biggest ever seller, and became a template for much of the fusion movement to follow.
He prized education above almost all else, and earned no less than two educational degrees, He received a Ph.D. in college teaching and administration from Columbia in 1971, and went on to become the chair of the Black Music Department of Howard University. A number of his students formed an R&B group called the Blackbyrds in his honor, and Byrd contributed a number of songs for their recordings. The group reached the Top 40 with their single “Walking in Rhythm” in 1975, earning a Grammy nomination.
Long after his commercial peak, Byrd's influence continued to be felt in popular music, as his work was routinely sampled by hip-hop artists, including Public Enemy.
This podcast is a salute to Dr. Byrd, and features music from a few of his memorable releases, including:
Art Blakey – “Infra-Rae” from Art Blakey with the Original Jazz Messengers. The final album from this edition of the Jazz Messengers kicked off with this Hank Mobley tune. The band was Blakey on drums, Doug Watkins on bass, Horace Silver on piano, Mobley on sax and Byrd on trumpet.
Donald Byrd – “Bitty Ditty” from Motor City Scene. Byrd returned to his Detroit roots with this 1960 recording, a version of a Thad Jones tune. The all Motor City session was co-led by baritone saxman Pepper Adams, and included Byrd on trumpet, Tommy Flanagan on piano, Louis Hayes on drums, Paul Chambers on bass, and Kenny Burrell on guitar.
Donald Byrd – “French Spice” from Free Form. One of Byrd’s finest Blue Note releases was this 1961 session with pre-Miles Davis appearances by Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock. Butch Warren on bass and Billy Higgins on drums completed the band. It was Byrd who introduced Miles to the young Herbie Hancock, opening the door to their celebrated collaboration.
Donald Byrd – “Flight Time” from Black Byrd. Merging his hard bop and soul-jazz stylings with electric music, Byrd created a seminal fusion release in 1973. Playing electric trumpet like his pal Miles, Byrd joined forces with Fonce Mizell (trumpet and vocals), Allan Curtis Barnes (flute), Roger Glenn (sax), and a slew of young players who would go on to be household names in electric jazz, including Joe Sample, Dean Parks, Chuck Rainey, Wilton Felder and Harvey Mason.
Donald Byrd – “(Fallin’ Like) Dominoes” from Places and Spaces. My favorite electric Byrd release came in 1975, as he created a sound not unlike Earth, Wind & Fire with a tight rhythm section featuring Mason, Rainey, Mayuto Correa and the Mizell brothers. Not only did this top the jazz charts, but it reached number 6 on the R&B charts and the Top 50 on the Pop album charts. Hard to imagine a jazz album doing that today.
Thu, 7 February 2013
It's never too early to start celebrating the Mardi Gras! Fat Tuesday comes a bit early this year - February 12 - so make your plans right here and now to blow it out good before Lent comes along (if you follow that sort of thing).
Here's just about an hour of Nawlins inspired or styled music to get you going. Whip up a little Etouffe or maybe some Jambalaya, crank up these tunes, and have yourelf a time.
Podcast 332 includes the following uninterrupted music:
Lester Young – “Way Down Yonder in New Orleans”
Marcus Roberts – “New Orleans Blues”
McCoy Tyner - "New Orleans Stomp”
Neville Brothers – “Congo Square”
John Ellis & Double-Wide – “Dewey Dah”
Jason Marsalis Vibes Quartet – “Louisiana Gold”
Dirty Dozen Brass Band – “Don’t Stop the Music”
Willy DeVille – “Meet the Boys On the Battlefront”
Nicholas Payton – “Zigaboogaloo”
Gil Evans – “Struttin’ With Some Barbecue”
Lynn Arriale – “Iko Iko”
3 Cohens – “Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans?”
Wed, 6 February 2013
Bill Evans was used to working with great musicians when he entered a New York City studio fifty years ago today. Evans was 33 years old, and had already been the mainstay of bands with George Russell, Miles Davis, Benny Golson, Jim Hall, Tadd Dameron, Kai Winding and both Cannonball and Nat Adderley. He had recorded on a number of undeniable masterworks, including Davis’ Kind of Blue, Oliver Nelson’s Blues and the Abstract Truth, and his own Portrait in Jazz (with Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian).
What he had in mind on February 6, 1963 was to record himself playing – well, if you pardon the parlance - with himself. Using the piano the great Glenn Gould had used for his famous classical recordings, Evans overdubbed himself on a series of tracks that would eventually become Conversations with Myself. Technology for recording was increasing rapidly, and Evans used the abilities of engineers and editors to overdub multiple parts on tape to create something new and different in the jazz world.
He would release eight of these self-collaborations on Conversations with Myself later in the year. The album contained two Monk tunes, five show or movie songs, and an Evans original, “N.Y.C.’s No Lark”. He recorded that final tune first, returning three days later to lay down five more. The album was finished on May 20th.
Evans would go one to record two more albums of “conversations”, one in 1967, another in 1978, two years before his untimely death.
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EDT