Thu, 30 May 2013
Wadada Leo Smith’s four CD, 4 ½ hour opus Ten Freedom Summers is more than an outstanding work of jazz. Rather, it has to be viewed as a major artistic statement about African-American history, and compared favorably with jazz works like Duke Ellington’s Black, Brown, & Beige and Wynton Marsalis’ Blood on the Fields; operas like Anthony Davis’ X, The Life and Times of Malcolm X and Adrienne Danrich’s This Little Light of Mine; and even the plays of August Wilson, and novels of Alice Walker and Toni Morrison.
Smith’s compositions are organized in three principal sections—"Defining Moments in America", "What Is Democracy?", and "Freedom Summers". Each section's pieces musically describe significant figures associated with the Civil Rights Movement during 1954 to 1964 and concepts relevant to the formation of institutions that evolved from human interaction, including government, media, and giant corporations. Trumpeter Smith performs the work with his Golden Quartet (drummers Pheeroan akLaff and Susie Ibarra, pianist Anthony Davis (and composer of X), and bassist John Lindberg). Orchestrations are added by the Southwest Chamber Music ensemble.
Smith and the work have justly received a great deal of adulation of late, including his nomination for a Pulitzer Prize and his victory in the Jazz Journalists Awards last month as Jazz Musician of the Year and Trumpeter of the Year. He was working on musical additions to Ten Freedom Summers and other works when I spoke with him earlier this month.
Click here to listen to Podcast 351, a fascinating conversation which features musical selections from Ten Freedom Summers(which have been edited by me, and therefore may not accurately portay the artist's intent) and other works, including:
Wadada Leo Smith - "Medgar Evers A Love-Voice of a Thousand Years' Journey For Liberty and Justice (edit)"; "Emmett Till Defiant, Fearless (edit)" and "Fannie Lou Hamer and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, 1964" from Ten Freedom Summers.
Wadada Leo Smith & Louis Moholo-Moholo - "No Name in the Street, James Baldwin" from Ancestors.
Direct download: Podcast_350_-_A_Conversation_with_Wadada_Leo_Smith.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:00am EDT
Tue, 28 May 2013
When you are asked to think of the “typical ECM artist”, you could do worse than think of Tomasz Stanko. The Polish-born veteran trumpeter has a distinctive, sometimes mournful sound from his horn that has been called “sophisticated dread” by a well-known critic. His music retreats from the requirement of chord changes and traditional melodies, relying on extended solos over textural foundations.
Still a resident of Warsaw, Stanko has a pied-à-terre in Manhattan that allows him to explore art of all sorts, and to work with the finest jazz performers New York can offer. It’s no surprise then that his latest group is dubbed the “New York Quartet”, and their most recent release, Wisława, is a sprawling two CD set of music inspired by, and dedicated to, the late Polish poet (and Nobel Prize Laureate) Wisława Symborska.
The band is nothing short of sensational. David Virelles, about whom you read and heard at this blog for his work with Chris Potter, is emerging as a major talent on piano. Bass player Thomas Morgan and drummer Gerald Cleaver weave in and out as often as they lock in together, and are a force with which to be reckoned. Stanko, just over the age of 70, still has the ability to provide long, expressive solos that remind the listener of no one less than Miles Davis.
I spoke with Tomasz about assembling the group, his relationship with the sometimes controversial poet Ms. Symborska, and the reception his most recent music has received in Europe and America. Click here to listen to Podcast 349, featuring musical selections including:
Tomasz Stanko New York Quartet – “Song for H”, “Mikrokosmos” and “A Shaggy Vandal” from Wisława. The songs - titled after poems or phrases from Ms. Symborska’s poetry - have a deeply elegiac feel to them, and yet there is nothing overtly maudlin about them, either. Instead, the selections are wonderful soundscapes with which Stanko can express his devotion to his friend, and his sadness at her passing.
Tomasz Stanko, Manfred Brundl, Michael Riessler – “Valse” from Suite Talk. This 1993 release shows the “free jazz” side of Stanko’s playing, as he teams up with bassist Brundl and clarinetist Riessler.
Direct download: Podcast_349_-_A_Conversation_with_Tomasz_Stanko.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 2:00pm EDT
Tue, 28 May 2013
The great pianist Mulgrew Miller has died at the age of 57. Miller had suffered a stroke late last week, and had been hospitalized since then.
Miller was one of a handful of pianists born just after the be-bop period that carried the torch of the likes of Bud Powell and Oscar Peterson, maintaining his acoustic chops through the electric era. His ability to play wonderful chamber-like sounds endeared him to players like Ron Carter, Joe Lovano and Russell Malone, but he was also capable of swinging with the best of them, and spent time with big bands, Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers and a wonderful band headed by Woody Shaw and Freddie Hubbard in the early '80s.
Most of today's finest trumpet plauers and saxophonists - from Lovano, Kenny Garrett and Myron Walden to Terrell Stafford, Wallace Roney, and Nicholas Payton tapped him for the piano chair in their bands. His influence can be felt in the playing and perspective of two of today's finest pianists, Robert Glasper and Geoffrey Keezer.
Miller was an educator as well as player; he was Director of Jazz Studies at William Paterson University and the Artist in Residence at Lafayette College, where he recieved an Honory Doctor of Performing Arts degree.
Click here to listen to Mulgrew in his favorite setting, the piano trio, from his 2005 CD Live at Yoshi's Volume II . He is backed by Derrick Hodge on bass and Kariem Riggins on drums, with whom he recorded four albums.
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EDT
Fri, 24 May 2013
Repost of Podcast 183:
What can I say about Bob Dylan that hasn't already been said a million times over. Perhaps I'll leave it be that as a singer, songwriter, musician and often as a human being, he is in many ways my all-time favorite.
Podcast 183 is a jazz celebration of The Man from Hibbing, Minnesota, including:
Cassandra Wilson - Lay Lady Lay" from Glamoured. This percussive version is a far cry from Dylan's country crooning on Nashville Skyline. As always, Ms. Wilson is a master at reinterpreting "modern standards" and this one, with help from Guitar player Brandon Ross, is no exception.
Keith Jarrett - "My Back Pages" from The Dylan Concert [bootleg] - This is a rare recording I found on the website BigOZine. It's a trio date with Jarrett on piano, Gus Nemeth on bass and Bob Ventrello on drums, live at Tagskægget, Aarhus, Denmark, Sept 15, 1969.
Michael Moore/Lindsey Horner/Michael Vatcher - "With God On Our Side" from Jewels and Binoculars: The Music of Bob Dylan. An import only CD that features Moore on clarinet, Horner on bass and Vatcher on percussion, with Bill Frisell guesting on guitar. Seriously weird and wonderful - and the album title comes from a lyric in Dylan's "Visions of Johanna" ("Oh Jewels and Binoculars hang from the head of the mule/But these visions of Johanna, they make it all seem so cruel").
Stanley Turrentine - "Blowin in the Wind" from Common Touch. Sax man Turrentine and his then-wife organist Shirley Scott put out a winner in 1968, recording this Dylan tune joined by Jimmy Ponder on guitar, Bob Cranshaw on bass and Idris Muhammad on drums. Another Rudy Van Gelder Blue Note classic.
Nina Simone - "I Shall Be Released" from The Essential Nina Simone. My favorite Dylan song was recorded by the High Priestess of Soul and included on an anthology of songs she recorded for RCA Records between 1967 and 1972. Ms. Simone as an unparalleled interpreter of others material, as her versions here of songs by Dylan, Randy Newman and George Harrison shows.
Want to find more jazzy Dylan? Try this blog posting for starters.
Category:general -- posted at: 3:09pm EDT
Tue, 21 May 2013
The passing of Ray Manzarek, the co-founder and musical center of The Doors, leads me to ask the question I do when thinking of many of the great 1960’s rock figures.
What kind of jazz was he into?
I ask because it seems that almost all of these musical pioneers were deeply into the sounds of the Blues and the sounds of Jazz, particularly modal and free jazz. Check this quote from Doors drummer John Densmore:
Ray grew up in Chicago so he had the blues, Muddy Waters and all that. He also had classical training. That was pretty cool. That was invoked in the intro to "Light My Fire," which was very kind of Bach-like. Robby had a flamenco and folk music background. I was so enamored with watching Robby's fingers crawl across the flamenco guitar strings like a crab.
I'm a jazz guy and Ray was also into jazz, so when we met we talked about [John] Coltrane and Miles [Davis]. I think that influence gave me freedom. Like in "When the Music's Over," I just stopped playing the beat, and I would just comment on Jim's words percussively, out of rhythm, like we were having a conversation. I got that from listening to Elvin Jones and John Coltrane.
While the Doors might not have had that many overt jazz moments during their careers, Manzarek had at least one moment in 1973. That year he went into a Los Angeles studio to record The Golden Scarab, his first solo record. The result was a recording more like jazz-rock fusion than psychedelic rock. While Manzarek’s roots clearly had something to do with that, it was more likely due to the presence of Tony Williams.
Williams had been Miles Davis’ drummer and the architect of one of the seminal fusion bands, Lifetime, with John McLaughlin. He anchored a rhythm section that included bassist Jerry Scheff (Elvis Presley, The Doors, Bob Dylan), jazz guitarist Larry Carlton and rocker Joe Walsh, and included jazz saxophonists John Klemmer and Ernie Watts. Click here to listen to “The Purpose of Existence Is?” a centerpiece of the album.
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EDT
Thu, 16 May 2013
The Lost Jazz Shrines series is dedicated to bringing legendary NYC jazz clubs back into the consciousness of the world with a thorough remembrance and celebration. In celebration of the resonant history of Birdland, BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center will host two exceptional evenings that examine the musical and stylistic legacy of Charlie Parker through artists’ completely different lenses and cultural perspectives.
Artistic Director Willard Jenkins will host these final two events, on May 17th and 31st on the campus of the Borough of Manhattan Community College. Friday May 17th will feature a free screening of the film Celebrating Bird: The Triumph of Charlie Parker at 7PM, followed by a concert entitled "Charlie Parker: Timeless Innovation" at 8:30. Rudresh Mahanthappa will present recontextualizations of Charlie Parker’s work as well as new material based on extractions of Bird’s vocabulary as both composer and improviser. He will be joined on the bandstand by Matt Mitchell – Piano; François Moutin - Acoustic Bass; and Rudy Royston – Drums.
On May 31st, the musical program "The Cartographies of Flight" is provided by the Marty Ehrlich Ensemble. His all-star group includes James Zollar – trumpet; Marc Ribot – guitar; Michael Formanek – bass; and Nasheet Waits – drums. Joining the band on stage will be two poets and readers, Erica Hunt and Charles Bernstein. A panel discussion, “The Impact of Charlie Parker” with TK Blue and Marty Ehrlich, moderated by Willard Jenkins will precede the show.
It was a pleasure to reconnect with Jenkins, an independent arts consultant & producer, and writer under his Open Sky banner. He is one of a handful of people in the jazz community who effortlessly move from writer, producer, editor, educator, broadcaster and unabashed fan, all with the highest of standards. We talked about the Lost Jazz Shrines series, and the Bird presentations in particular. Click here to listen to Podcast 348, which is composed of our conversation and musical selections, including
Charlie Parker – “Au Privave” from The Complete Charlie Parker on Verve. Here is the Bird you know and love – stretching out on a classic be-bop composition from 1951.
Charlie Parker & Dizzy Gillespie - “Cubano Be, Cubano Bop” from Bird n’ Diz at Carnegie Hall. Here is a memorable slice of the Latin-tinged jazz Parker (and especially Gillespie) embraced as they re-wrote the book on playing in the 1940’s.
Rudresh Mahanthappa – “Are There Clouds in India?” from Gamak. One of the highlights of the late 2012 CD releases was this quartet session from the always inventive Mahanthappa. He is joined by bassist François Moutin; percussionist Dan Weiss; and guitarist David Fiuczynski.
Marty Ehrlich's Rites Quartet – “ My Song” from Frog Leg Logic. Ehrlich, who divides his time teaching at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA and writing and performing, has now released two CDs of music inspired by the late Julius Hemphill (1938-1995). The unusual configuration of this quartet – Ehrlich on sax and flute, James Zollar on trumpet, Hank Roberts on cello and Michael Sarin on drums - is the same that Hemphill used on his highly influential release Dogon A.D. from 1972.
Call (212) 220 - 1460 or visit Ticketing Services (12PM - 6PM, Tue. - Sat.). Order single tickets online at www.tribecapac.org. BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center is located on the campus of the Borough of Manhattan Community College. A valid photo ID is required when attending an event. Performers Subject to change.
Direct download: Podcast_348_-_A_Conversation_with_Willard_Jenkins_about_Birdland.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:29pm EDT
Tue, 7 May 2013
"A Celebration of the Life and Music of Dave Brubeck" will be held on Saturday, May 11, 2013 at 4:00 P.M. at The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam Avenue in New York City. There are no tickets to this event; the event is free and all are welcome.
Artists scheduled to perform Chick Corea, Paquito D'Rivera, Branford Marsalis, Paul Winter, Eugene Wright, Randy Brecker, Jon Faddis, Roy Hargrove, Roberta Gambarini, Bill Charlap, John Salmon, Renee Rosnes, Andy Laverne, Ted Rosenthal, Rufus Reid, Hilary Kole, Michael Pedicin, Jr., Mark Morganelli, Deepak Ram, The Brubeck Institute Alumni Jazz Quintet and Dave’s sons, Darius, Chris, Matthew and Dan Brubeck. Speakers include The Very Reverend James Kowalski, Dean of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, Iola Brubeck and George Wein. Sirius XM's Mark Ruffin will host the proceedings. It is also expected that some of the artists will share stories and thoughts during the program.
Jazz legend Dave Brubeck passed away on December 5, 2012 at age 91, the day before his 92nd birthday. A private funeral was held in Wilton, Connecticut in December, 2012. However, the family was intent on celebrating Dave’s life and music in a very public way after a brief interval. Working with producer (and Brubeck fan and friend) Danny Melnick, this event was scheduled. I spoke with Melnick as the event was being finalized, and he shared his thoughts about the late, great pianist; the make-up of the event; and the way the Brubeck legacy will continue. Click here to listen to Podcast 346, which features that conversation along with Brubeck music, including:
Dave Brubeck Quartet – “Spring in Central Park” from Jazz Impressions of New York. The Celebration is in New York City, so it seems appropriate to kick off the music with a selection celebrating the wonders of Central Park. This is the classic Brubeck Quartet circa 1964: Brubeck on piano, Paul Desmond on sax, Eugene Wright on bass, and Joe Morello on drums.
Dave Brubeck Quartet – “The Duke” from Jazz: Red, Hot and Cool. Melnick mentions that Brubeck played more of the music of Duke Ellington in his later years, and this composition from 1957 was an early tribute to the great jazz pioneer. The quartet for this recording includes Brubeck on piano, Desmond on sax, Bob Bates on bass and Joe Dodge on drums.
Roberta Gambarini and Dave Brubeck – “Alice in Wonderland” from Disney Jazz Volume 1: Everybody Wants to be a Cat. One of the last original recordings Dave made was his contribution to this anthology featuring the talented singer Roberta Gambarini, who will perform at the Celebration. Brubeck was one of the first jazz performers to find source material in the Disney catalogue, beginning with his 1957 album Dave Digs Disney, four years before Miles and Trane recorded “Someday My Prince Will Come”.
Dave Brubeck – “Thank You (Dziekuje)” from Two Generations of Brubeck. Dave children have become excellent musicians in their own right, and in 1973 he recorded their first collaboration, Two Generations of Brubeck. Sons Chris (bass, trombone), Darius (piano, keyboards), and Danny (drums) are featured on the album.
Dave Brubeck Quartet – “Blue Rondo a la Turk” from Time Out. The Brubeck catalogue of compositions is full of great tunes, including “In Your Own Sweet Way”, “Three to Get Ready”, and this seminal track from 1959. The composition starts in 9/8, with a typically Balkan 2+2+2+3 subdivision into short and long beats (the rhythm of the Turkish zeybek, the equivalent of the Greek zeibekiko) as opposed to the more Western 3+3+3 pattern, but the saxophone and piano solos are in 4/4. The title is a play on Mozart’s "Rondo alla Turca" from his Piano Sonata No. 11, and reflects the fact that the band heard the rhythm while traveling in Turkey.
Information on The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine can be found at www.stjohndivine.org or by calling 212-316-7540. Public inquiries regarding the Dave Brubeck celebration can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org and will be answered when further details become available. Further information on the event can be found at www.absolutelylive.com and www.sueauclair.com
Direct download: Podcast_346_-__Dave_Brubeck_Tribute_with_Danny_Melnick.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:00am EDT
Sat, 4 May 2013
Fred Hersch’s weekly residences at New York’s finest jazz clubs provide highlights of any jazz season. The veteran pianist enjoys performing with a wide variety of sidemen and group configurations, from his trio to solo and duo setting. This week (May 7-12), Hersch takes the stage at the Jazz Standard for a series of duo and trio performances with some very special friends, in the annual tradition known as the “Fred Hersch Duo Invitation Series.” What makes these performances particularly enticing is that Hersch has never played with four of the five co-headliners – Donny McCaslin, Greg Osby, Esperanza Spalding and Lionel Loueke. The series opens with clarinetist Anat Cohen, with whom Hersch has a special history.
Hersch previews these shows in Podcast 347, which includes his thoughts on each player and why he enjoys the duo setting. Click here to listen to our conversation, which features musical selections from:
Fred Hersch – “O Grande Amor” from Fred Hersch Plays Jobim. Hersch and Anat Cohen share a great affinity for Brazilian music, and both have recorded the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim. Here’s hoping for a tune like this one on opening night.
Donny McCaslin – Title Track from Casting for Gravity. Fred has always wanted to play with the talented tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin, and he will get the chance at the Jazz Standard. McCaslin released one of the finest CDs of 2012 with a band of Jason Lindner (electric piano, acoustic piano, synthesizers); Tim Lefebvre (electric bass) and Mark Guiliana (drums).
Esperanza Spalding – “Cuerpo y Alma (Body and Soul)” from Esperanza. The appearance of this talented bassist/singer – who is “a self-avowed Fred fan” - will make for big crowds at the Jazz Standard for the weekend shows. Here Ms. Spalding shows her stuff on this standard, singing the lyrics in Spanish. Her backing band is Leo Genovese on keyboards; Jamey Haddad on percussion; and Otis Brown on drums.
Fred Hersch & Bill Frisell – “Blue Monk” from Songs We Know. Hersch feels that guitar and piano make for tricky duos, but considers it a challenge worth taking. He has recorded duos sessions like this one with Bill Frisell, and also a CD with Julian Lage to be released later this year. He will spend the last night of the run with Lionel Loueke, which should make for some interesting textures and voicings.
Julian Lage – “Familiar Posture” from Sounding Point. Fred’s next recorded duo partner will be the wunderkind guitar player Lage, who has risen from Gary Burton’s group to stardom in a short stretch of time. Hersch explains Lage’s strengths as a duo player in our conversation, and this solo track backs up his enthusiasm.
Thu, 2 May 2013
Veteran saxophonist Wayne Shorter, longtime creative music trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith, and newcomer Ryan Truesdell were top winners of the 2013 Jazz Journalists Association Jazz Awards announced yesterday online at their website.
Category:general -- posted at: 11:06am EDT