Fri, 29 March 2013
In keeping with the theme of presenting spiritual music performed by jazz artists this week, here is "Crucifixion", a traditional spiritual with a copyright credited to its arranger, Jester Hairston.
Hairston (1901-2000) was a prolific composer and arranger of African-American music. In addiiton to dozens of arrangments still in use today, he composed what is now considered a Christmas standard, "Mary's Boy Child" in 1956. Seven years later, he penned the universally known "Amen" for Sidney Poitier's film "Lilies of the Valley". That song has gone on to be recorded by hundred of artists, most notably the Impressions in 1964. It's worth pointing out that an up-tempo version of the song, "Amen, Brother" by the Winstons in 1969 had six seconds of its drum solo sampled as what is referred to as the "Amen Break", a sample credited with launching the drum and bass movement, and included in rock, hip-hop and soul tracks for several decades.
Click here to listen to David Murray's version of the venerable tune, from the 1988 Spirituals album. Murray recorded this pensive, rather straight ahead (for Murray) version with a quartet including Murray on sax, Dave Burrell on piano, Fred Hopkins on bass, and Ralph Peterson, Jr. on drums.
Thu, 28 March 2013
The fine blog Any Major Dude with Half a Heart (dig that Steely Dan reference) has always gone deep into the crates for goodies, usually of the soul variety. Today, celebrated as Holy Thursday by Catholics around the world, he has a real winner. Visit his page for David Axelrod's "Holy Thursday". As he says on his blog:
Well, it is Holy Thursday, and while this orchestral jazz track might not feed your pieties, it should at least get your toes tapping. That does not mean that the title is irreverent. Axelrod, son of a leftist activist who grew up in a predominantly black neighbourhood, wrote and recorded several musical works referencing religion. In 1971 he arranged a jazz-rock interpretation of Handel’s Messiah and in 1993 he titled a work on the Holocaust a “requiem”. I have read that Holy Thursday also featured in Grand Theft Auto V, a game I’ve never played but the soundtracks of which seem quite excellent.
Axelrod has had a massive influence on jazz, in particular fusion. He produced legends such as Lou Rawls and Cannonball Adderley (including his big hit Mercy, Mercy, Mercy), as well as avant gardists The Electric Prunes.
For another posting I did on this tune, click here.
Wed, 27 March 2013
Continuing with musical selections of a spiritual or religious nature, here is a piano jazz version of the African-American Spiritual "Were You There?" from Pamela York's new CD, Lay Down This World - Hymns and Spirituals. The Cd may displease hardcore lovers of religious music in that at times it takes wonderful liberties with melody, meter and rhythm. However, the wonderful messages and themes of the tunes always shine through. As Ms. York says in her liner notes:
As a jazz pianist, it’s part of my tradition to reharmonize melodies and reinvent standards from the Great American Songbook. It naturally follows that this would carry over into the realm of church music. In fact, many of these arrangements began as preludes or offerings during a church service. While each hymn and spiritual on this album precedes the 20th century, it is my hope that you enjoy the contemporary sound I bring to the timeless beauty of these celebrated melodies. May this music bring you hope as you listen to this collection of 'joyful noise'.
The lyrical message is straight and simple, and since this is an instrumental, a brief quote this needed:
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
A nice blog post you can find here will give you a little hsitory and background on the song.
The group is Ms. York on piano, Lynn Seaton on bass, and Sebastian Whittaker on drums.
Mon, 25 March 2013
Christian Holy Week includes the Jewish holiday of Passover this year, so this week will feature jazz music of a spiritual nature. As the first Seder is tonight, celebrating the Exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt under the leadership of the prophet Moses, I've tabbed "Go Down Moses" as the official song of the Jewish holiday that is so near and dear to my heart.
Versions of the song seem to go back to 1862, when it was called "Oh! Let My People Go (The Song of the Contrabands)". The openign verse was published by the Jubilee Singers in 1872. It's easy to see the coded message in the lyrics - "Israel" in the lyrics stands in for African-Americans oppressed by slavery and recism, and "Egypt" as their oppressors. The seminal recording of the song is likely Paul Robeson's version from 1958, which became a rallying cry for those fighting for civil rights in the American South.
Click here to listen to Louis Armstrong's version of the spiritual, taken from his Louis and the Good Book album. Armstrong recorded the song in February 1959 with Sy Oliver's Orchestra. Armstrong had jsut finished his popular Porgy & Bess album with Ella Fitzgerald, and entered the studio to record a series of spirituals and religious-tinged music. Among those in the band were Trummy Young on trombone, Hank D'Amico and Nicky Tagg on clarinet, Billy Kyle on piano and Barrett Deems on drums.
In Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong biographer Terry Teachout quotes an outspoken Armstrong as being a great friend of the Jewish people, who he felt gave him a break in his youth when his fellow African-Americans would not. He wore a Star of David around his neck for most of his life.
Sun, 24 March 2013
Holy week for those of the Christian faith begins today, and the first night of Passover, the Jewish festival of freedom, begins tomorrow evening. Last week marked the Baha'I festival of Nowruz, and the Hindu festival of Holi takes place later this week, as does the Sikh holiday of Hola Mohalla. The Buddhist New Year festival of Theravada takes place on April 6. And of course, the pagan celebration of the Vernal Equinox was just a few days ago.
It’s a blessing when these festivals of many faiths coincide on the calendar, reminding us of the great similarities and wonderful differences that make up these faiths. In order to celebrate this season of spirituality, I offer my annual podcast of jazz with a spiritual strain running though the tunes. Click here to listen to Podcast 341, including:
Yakov Okun – “Heaven” from New York Encounter.
Afro-Semitic Experience – “Oseh Shalom” from Let Us Break Bread Together.
Andrew Cyrille with Haitian Fascination – “Spirit Music” from Route de Freres
World Saxophone Quartet – “All Praise” from Requiem for Julius.
John Zorn – “Jerusalem” from A Vision in Blakelight.
Tim Green – “Philippians 4:13” from Songs from This Season.
Dave Douglas – “God Be With You” from Be Still.
Ernie Watts – “Where the Spirit Lives” from Musician.
Jack DeJohnette, Larry Goldings, John Scofield – “Allah Be Praised” from Trio Beyond: Saudades.
Linda Oh – “Come Sunday” (featuring Dayna Stephens, Fabian Almazan, Rudy Royston & Jen Shyu) from Initial Here.
Charles Lloyd & Jason Moran – “I Shall Be Released” from Hagar’s Song.
Wed, 20 March 2013
Spring arrived this morning in Western Massachusetts, but you could have fooled me. We’re coated with a new blanket of slushy snow and ice from a sudden storm.
Which is the not too subtle lead-in for a posting of the standard “Spring Can You Really Hang You Up the Most” by pianist Pamela Hines. She falls squarely in that category of jazz musicians who should get wider exposure, based on her strong compositions and performances in a variety of group configurations.
3.2.1 is her latest CD, and she is matched with two equally strong musicians for the recording – bass player David Clark (Cyrus Chestnut, Danilo Perez) and drummer Yoron Israel (a leader in his own right). All have Boston area connections, either as students at New England Conservatory or as instructors at Berklee School of Music. The song selection suggests a moody, Bill Evans-inspired sound would be in order, but the group plays with a spark that prevents the recording from becoming formulaic. Clark in particular is given some room for solos and well-placed runs, and Israel always seems to know when to add a key brush stroke or fill.
As for Ms. Hines, she continues to show her interpretive skills, taking on well-known material but leaving her own stamp on the result. I’m particularly fond of her playing on the ballad “If You Could See Me Now”, bringing a warm sound to the Tadd Dameron composition, and setting up a wonderful Clark solo.
Category:general -- posted at: 11:00am EDT
Mon, 18 March 2013
2013 has started off as a very good year for Jazz CDs. We’ve had excellent releases from Wayne Shorter, Chris Potter, Joe Lovano and Charles Lloyd, and I’m looking forward to some new material from Tomas Stanko, Jane Monheit and Terence Blanchard in the next few months.
The CD I’ve been waiting for with the greatest anticipation, though, is the studio debut of pianist Aaron Diehl. Ever since I caught him at a jazz brunch in Detroit in 2012, it’s been apparent to me that this poised young man has a lot to offer. The release of The Bespoke Man's Narrative has not disappointed me one bit. In fact, I think it represents the appearance of a major new talent.
He began his public persona playing for Mass in the Catholic Church that his parents attended in the Midwest, as well as services held for a primarily African- American clientele at his father's funeral home. At 13 he joined Stoll's Columbus Youth Jazz Orchestra; at 16 he took a steady trio gig in a Columbus hotel lounge; at 17, directly after graduating high school, he joined the Wynton Marsalis Septet for a European tour of one-nighters. By 2007 he had graduated from Juilliard, and in April of 2011 he earned first place in the rigorous Cole Porter Fellowship in Jazz Competition of the American Pianists Association. The award garnered him $50,000 in career support and an opportunity to record with Mack Avenue Records. The Bespoke Man's Narrative is the result.
The CD is a quartet session that will remind listeners of the finest work of the Modern Jazz Quartet. With Diehl at piano, David Wong on bass, Rodney Green on drums and Warren Wolf on vibes, the group oozes the sophisticated, cool sound of the MJQ, but is ready to strike out on musical territory that makes the album uniquely their own.
Diehl was fresh from performing at St. Joseph of the Holy Family Church in Harlem, where he has music director duties. A man of great faith and modesty, we talked about his relationship to the music of the MJQ, the strengths of his group, and his coming projects. Click here to listen to Podcast 339, which includes musical selections from Diehl including:
Aaron Diehl - "Generation Y" from The Bespoke Man's Narrative.Diehl con tributed a number of originals for the CD, the best of which may have been this number. The quartet is Diehl on piano, David Wong on bass, Rodney Green on drums and Warren Wolf on vibes
Aaron Diehl Trio - "Moonlight in Vermont" from Live at The Players.Diehl, Wong and Quincy Davis recorded this version of the standard tune. Diehl enjoys working and re-working the tune so much he re-recorded it on the new CD.
Aaron Diehl - "The Cylinder" and "Blue Nude" from The Bespoke Man's Narrative. In his sophomore year at Juilliard, Aaron worked with John Lewis’ widow, helping with archival work on the great pianist’s notes and scores. It follows that he would record this Milt Jackson tune, which was a highlight of the 1974 MJQ concert released as The Complete Last Concert. "Blue Nude" is another stellar Diehl tune.
Sat, 16 March 2013
“Paul was one of a kind: a musicians' drummer who thought about the music, not just the rhythm, and cast his own sound on everything he played... he could play anything, and with anybody." -Keith Jarrett
Symphony Space in Manhattan will be presenting an all-star cast of jazz greats on March 22, coming together to pay tribute to their colleague, legendary drummer and composer, the late Paul Motian, voted number one in the 2012 Downbeat Critics Poll Hall of Fame. One of the most influential jazz musicians of the 20th century, Motian played with Joe Lovano, Bill Frisell, Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett, Paul Bley, and many other bandleaders, including Lee Konitz, Warne Marsh, Mose Allison, Tony Scott, Stan Getz, and Johnny Griffin.
The concert, curated by Bill Frisell and Joe Lovano features members of Paul Motian's distinguished ensembles, such as the early 1980's Quintet, his longstanding trio with Frisell and Lovano, the Electric Bebop Band, Tethered Moon, and Trio 2000. They reunite to play his music as well as perform in solos, duos, trios, quartets, quintets and larger ensembles, with repertoire and program order to be announced. Joshua Jackson, host of "The Checkout" on WBGO, will serve as MC for the evening.
Among the musicians confirmed as performing will be Andrew Cyrille, Ben Monder, Ben Street, Bill Frisell, Billy Drewes, Billy Hart, Chris Cheek, Ed Schuller, Ethan Iverson, Jakob Bro, Joe Lovano, Joey Baron, Larry Grenadier, Mark Turner, Masabumi Kikuchi, Petra Haden, Steve Cardenas, Greg Osby, Gary Peacock, Matt Wilson, Ravi Coltrane and Tony Malaby. Joe Lovan describes the event as "an evening of celebration for one of the true Jazz Masters of our times. As an innovative drummer, composer, collaborator, and band leader, Paul Motian has inspired all of us who have encountered his magic to be as honest and expressive as possible in our music. The program will feature various ensembles that Paul put together through the years with some of the most creative musicians on the scene today. We will explore some of his timeless compositions as well as other tunes he loved to play. This not is not to be missed; it will live on as part of his amazing story and legacy."
I spoke at length with Joe Lovano about what his memories of Paul Motian, and about the special evening he has helped plan in his old friend’s memory. Podcast 340 is dedicated to the music of Paul Motian, including the following selections from his recorded history:
Keith Jarrett – “Mortgage on My Soul” from Birth. The “American Quartet’ was one of Jarrett’s mainstays in the 1970’s. That group – Jarrett on piano, sax and percussion; Dewey Redman on sax and percussion; Charlie Haden on bass and percussion and Motian on drums and percussion – released thirteen recordings for various labels over a short five year period.
Joe Lovano – “Six and Four” from Joyous Encounter. Lovano spoke warmly of his days with the quartet of him on sax, Motian on drums, George Mraz on bass and Hank Jones on piano. Check the tasty way Motian ends the track with his drums.
Paul Motian Band – “White Magic” from Psalm. Check out Lovano’s story of a performance he, Bill Frisell and Paul Motian had in then-Yugoslavia and what it said to him about Paul’s intelligence and maturity as a player. This was Frisell’s “big break” album, having been recommended to Motian by Pat Metheny when the latter could not make a date.
Paul Motian, Joe Lovano and Bill Frisell – “This Nearly Was Mine” from Time and Time Again. Motian was the consummate New York drummer, and he had a strong affinity for Broadway scores. Here the trio takes a gentle but moving approach to a Rodgers and Hammerstein classic from South Pacific.
Paul Motian Electric Be-Bop Band – “Split Decision” from Reincarnation of a Love Bird. Motian never shied away from unusual ensembles, and this band, which featured two saxophones (Chris Potter and Chris Cheek) and two electric guitars (Kurt Rosenwinkel and Wolfgang Muthspiel), shows Motian’s ability to choose great band members and write great songs. Motian anchors the rhythm section with Don Alias on percussion, and Steve Swallow on electric bass,
Jim Hall, George Mraz, Lewis Nash and Joe Lovano – “Border Crossing” from Grand Slam. This 2000 release was recorded live at the Regattabar in Boston. After a number of year’s hiatus, the group will play a series of dates in early May of this year at Blues Alley in Washington, D.C.
Venue: Symphony Space Location 2537 Broadway New York, NY Phone 212-864-5400
Direct download: Podcast_340_-_Paul_Motian_Tribute_Concert_Preview_with_Joe_Lovano.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:00am EDT
Mon, 11 March 2013
Hammond B-3 Hero Melvin Rhyne passed away on March 5, 2013 at the age of 77. Born in Indianapolis in 1936, he started playing the piano shortly thereafter. At 19 years old, Rhyne began an association on piano with then-unknown tenor saxophonist Rahsaan Roland Kirk but quickly switched over to the instrument that would make him famous: the Hammond B3 organ. Rhyne's piano skills translated to the organ fluently and before long he was backing famous blues players like B.B. King and T-Bone Walker.
In 1959 he was asked to join fellow Indianapolis musician Wes Montgomery's newly formed trio, along with Paul Parker. They would record off and on for 5 years for the Riverside label, whenever Montgomery wanted the soulful organ sound.
He returned to the organ trio format again and again during his lengthy career, including sessions with the likes of Herb Ellis (Roll Call), Peter Bernstein and Fareed Haque. Click here to enjoy “All God’s Chillun Got Rhythm” from his 1994 release Boss Organ. He leads a top quartet composed of Rhyne (organ); Joshua Redman (tenor saxophone); Peter Bernstein (guitar); and Kenny Washington (drums).
Fri, 8 March 2013
There has been a plethora of strong guitar-based music coming across my desk lately, so Podcast 338 is an attempt to pass on some of the news about these releases. Some of the artists, like Kevin Eubanks, may be well-known to you. Others, like Dan Phillips, may be as new to you as he was to me. In any event, these are jazz guitarists at the top of their game, and well worth a listen.
Kevin Eubanks – Title track from The Messenger. It’s easy to lose yourself in Eubanks playing and forget that he is a fine leader and composer as well. This latest CD only features 2 covers, and both of those are innovative rearrangements, especially the version of John Coltrane’s “Resolution” with a vocal bass line sung by Alvin Chea of Take 6. The title track has a Blue Note feeling about it, and shows off the tightness of Eubanks’ tight combo of Bill Pierce on sax, Rene Camacho on bass; and Marvin “Smitty” Smith on drums. The group will showcase the new CD with a run of shows at Birdland in New York April 9-13, 2013.
Dan Phillips BKK Trio - “Ask Me Now” from Bangkok Edge. Dan has been a Jazz educator and performer in Bangkok, Thailand for the last several years and this trio session features one of Bangkok's best rhythm sections, bassist Pornchart Viriyapark and drummer, Chanutr Techatananan, both of whom are already performing and touring internationally. This is a player with serious chops, and the CD nicely mixes some originals with covers like “Naima” and “A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing”.
Vo-Duo – “Frelele” from Nou La. From Bangkok we head to Haiti, from where guitarist Monvelyno Alexis hails. His new CD with partner percussionist Markus Schwartz draws on the Afro-Haitian musical tradition of mizik rasin, which mutated into the singer/poet movement of samba. Whether it’s filed under world music or jazz, this is not something you have heard much of before.
Tom Dempsey/Tim Ferguson Quartet – “Ted’s Groove” from Beautiful Friendship. This CD was originally released in June of last year, but it never found its way into my hands until just now. It is a wonderful session, with guitarist Dempsey and bassist Ferguson hooking up with saxophonist Joel Frahm – a long-time SNC favorite – and drummer Eliot Zigmund. This track lets some sparks fly.
Troy Roberts – “Team Jago” from Nu-Jive 5. This quintet – composed of Troy Roberts on sax; Tim Jago on guitar; Silvano Monasterios on keys; Eric England on bass; and David Chiverton on drums – plays a mix of R&B. electronica and smooth jazz, and this track, a pun based on the name of the guitar player, is perhaps the best track on the CD.