Wed, 31 July 2013
The jazz-tinged sounds of Steely Dan have inspired a number of musicians to celebrate their catalogue over the years. At least three all-star jazz tribute albums (The Royal Dan, No Static At All and AKA) are in print, along with The Hoops McCann Band Plays the Music of Steely Dan. Now we have the Mark Masters Ensemble’s Everything You Did (The Music of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen) to eclipse them all.
Big band legend Woody Herman arranged a handful of Walter Becker-Donald Fagen compositions for his Chick. Donald, Walter and Woodrow album in 1978, maybe the best interpretations of tunes from the Steely Dan canon up to now. The Masters Ensemble – a band which not coincidentally would feature baritone sax legend Gary Smulyan, then a young player in the Thundering Herd – takes things to another level
Masters doesn’t arrange these tunes – he deconstructs them into fabulously new and different material. He leads a band that includes Billy Harper on tenor sax; Tim Hagans on trumpet; Smulyan on baritone sax; Hamilton Price on bass; and Peter Erskine on drums. Individually they are capable of some killer solos – Price on “Kings”, Hagans on “Show Biz Kids”, Smulyan on “Do It Again” – and collectively, they take these songs places that the Dan never imagined.
As a life-long Steely Dan aficionado, I can honestly say I was reaching for the liner notes to determine exactly what song the Ensemble was playing at times, so great is the re-arranging and re-imagining of these venerable tunes. That’s exactly what makes Everything You Did so challenging, and ultimately rewarding for the listener who takes the time to truly hear what this group is laying down. Bravo.
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EST
Tue, 30 July 2013
Jazz relief is on the way for victims of the recent Yarnell fire. The M.U.S.I.C. Foundation of Arizona and Arizona Jazz Festival producer Brad Laughlin have teamed with Phoenix City Council Member of District 8 Michael Johnson and Alan “AP” Powell to assemble a galaxy of contemporary jazz stars to perform a benefit concert for the families affected by the tragic fire, including the 19 families of the fallen firefighters and those who lost homes. The show featuring a bevy of hitmakers will be held this Friday, August 2nd at 7 PM at the Orpheum Theatre. Tickets are on sale now at www.arizonajazzfestival.com or by calling 602-244-8444. The minimum donation per ticket is $50.00 although digging deeper is encouraged.
The All-Star Jam will feature contemporary jazz and R&B luminaries George Benson, Brian Culbertson, Peter White, Euge Groove, Warren Hill, Michael Lington, Eric Darius, Jessy J and Dominic Amato along with other surprise guests.
“This is a tremendous loss for our community and we need to continue to support the families of those 19 firefighters not just today, but even years from now. We reached out and gathered an all-star line-up of jazz artist from across the country who wanted to help and all of them have waived their fees so we could give everything we make this night to the families and children of fallen firefighters,” said Johnson.
All of the proceeds will aid the victims of the Yarnell fire disaster through the 100 Club of Arizona, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that provides immediate financial assistance to families of public safety officers and firefighters who are seriously injured or killed in the line of duty, and provides resources to enhance their safety and welfare.
The M.U.S.I.C. Foundation of Arizona purchased tickets and has set them aside so the families of the fallen firefighters can attend and be part of the evening.
Category:general -- posted at: 9:12am EST
Sun, 28 July 2013
Since its beginning in 1954, the Newport Jazz Festival has delivered line-ups that have both showcased jazz history and predicted it, while the city of Newport has lent the festival an unparalleled home steeped in history and culture. When you throw in fans that really are more of a community than an audience, you have much more than just a series of concerts of a weekend.
The Festival left the friendly confines of Newport in 1972 for New York City, an decision which was corrected a decade later when it came back to Rhode Island, giving the New York festival its own .persona as the JVC Jazz Festival. Now back as a permanent part of the summer schedule in New England, the 2013 Festival should be memorable in many ways.
The music kicks off on Friday, August 2 with "An Unforgettable Evening" of Natalie Cole, joined by the Bill Charlap Trio and her Uncle, Freddie Cole. The next day is a magical mix of the established stars (Wayne Shorter Quartet with Special Guest Herbie Hancock; Marcus Miller; Michel Camilo Sextet; Terence Blanchard Quintet) with rising stars (Esperanza Spalding’s Radio Music Society; Robert Glasper Experiment; Gregory Porter; Rez Abbasi Trio).
Sunday brings out the larger ensembles (Eddie Palmieri Salsa Orchestra; Dizzy Gillespie Big Band under the direction of Paquito D'Rivera; Dirty Dozen Brass Band) and some exciting new formats and collaborations, including Chick Corea’s new band The Vigil with Christian McBride, Tim Garland, Marcus Gilmore, & Charles Altura and the Jim Hall Quartet featuring Julian Lage.
My conversation with producer Danny Melnick about the Festival can be found in Podcast 366, where you can listen to his picks for special performances, and listen to music from some of the participants, including:
Marcus Miller – “Redemption” from Renaissance.
Ray Anderson Pocket Brass Band – “Sweet Chicago Suite - Same Day” from Sweet Chicago Suite.
Dirty Dozen Brass Band “Don’t Stop the Music” from Twenty Dozen.
Jim Hall Quartet – “Chelsea Bridge” from Live at Birdland.
Direct download: Podcast_366_-_Previewing_the_Newport_Jazz_Festival.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:00am EST
Fri, 19 July 2013
Podcast 362 was a profile of educator/musician Ira Wiggins, so it seems appropriate that this Podcast features a student/musician. Drummer Alex Snydman graduated from Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, just a stone’s throw from where this humble writer lives. I became familiar with his name on the local scene, and was pleased to see that he had moved to Los Angeles to pursue his Masters in Jazz Performance at The California Institute of the Arts.
His first CD, Fortunate Action, is a piano-heavy affair, featuring three of his closest piano associates, Chris Pattishall; Doug Abrams, and Miro Sprague. They collaborated or wrote the tunes on the CD, which shows Snydman playing with what he termed a “quiet fire”, supporting the players more than stealing the spotlight as band leader.
Perhaps his sense of playing the drums is different from other percussionists as in 2003 he made a surprising yet decisive switch from guitar to drums. Since that time, Alex has sought out a veritable who’s who of modern jazz drummers to study with, including first-call drummers like Eric Harland, Gregory Hutchinson, and Joe La Barbera. Mentor and close friend Eric Harland comments. “Alex really embodies the spirit we call Love. He’s proven that it’s never too late to pursue your dreams…his dedication and character have always impressed me and he’s climbing the ladder fast!”
Podcast 365 features our conversation, along with musical selections from Fortunate Action, including:
Alex Snydman - “Non Linear”, Title Track and “In Joy” from Fortunate Action. All originals, and all written by or with a different piano player. The first is by Doug Abrams, the second co-written with Miro Sprague and the last by Chris Pattishall. Each author plays piano on their track, and Snydman is on drums on all three tracks, as is bassist Alec Derian. Carl Clements plays sax on “Non-Linear”.
Direct download: Podcast_365_-_A_Conversation_with_Alex_Snydman.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:00am EST
Fri, 19 July 2013
Carline Ray, one of the great jazz pioneers, an activist in women's rights, a performer and educator, and an active member of Saint Peter's Church, died at Isabella House in Manhattan on July 18, 2013. She was 88 years old. Carline is survived by her daughter, Catherine Russell, also a great musician, her sister Irma Sloan, and nieces, nephews, and cousins.
From a young age, Carline sang and played piano, and at the age of 16 entered the Juilliard School of Music, from which her father had graduated in 1925. While at Juilliard, Ray studied composition and she also first played jazz, joining Edna Smith, a fellow student and bass player, gradually becoming adept on this instrument.
Category:general -- posted at: 2:30am EST
Fri, 12 July 2013
Just a year ago I previewed a new music festival, Yidstock! in Podcast 285. A year later the festival is back, bigger and better. From July 18-21, 2013 at the National Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, MA there will be live performances, music-related films, lectures, exhibits and other events that will culminate in two days of concerts featuring some of the top names in klezmer and Yiddish music. For a full schedule and to purchase tickets, go to www.yiddishbookcenter.org/yidstock or call 413.256.4900.
I discussed the festival once again with music critic and author Seth Rogovoy (The Essential Klezmer: A Music Lover’s Guide to Jewish Roots and Soul Music) who wrote the all-time bestselling guide to klezmer music. An award-winning music critic, teacher, radio commentator, and musician, Seth – who curated the festival - is the editor and publisher of Berkshire Daily and the Rogovoy Report and the author of Bob Dylan: Prophet Mystic Poet, the first full-length biographical analysis of the famed rock poet from a Jewish perspective. Seth frequently writes about Jewish music and culture for Forward, Pakn Treger, and the Berkshire Jewish Voice.
The highlight of this year’s festival will come at the 2 pm concert on Sunday, when renowned “downtown” legends Steve Bernstein (pictured) and Frank London share the stage for the first time, leading a quartet that includes keyboardist Jamie Saft (see Podcast 361) and drummer Kenny Wollesen. They will explore the classic era of cantorial music through their trumpet voices, going back to such greats as Koussevitzky, Rosenblatt, and Sirota.
Podcast 364 features my conversation with Rogovoy and includes musical selections:
Klezmer Conservatory Band – “A Heymisher Bulgar / Mayn Elterns Fargenign” from Old World Beat. One of the oldest and most respected klezmer bands in the world is based in Boston and led by the venerable Hankus Netsky of the New England Conservatory.
Margot Leverett & The Klezmer Mountain Boys – “High Lonesome Honga” from 2nd Avenue Square Dance and Klezperanto – “Diddley Shmiddley/Kleine Princessin” from Klezperanto! Saturday night is “Klezmer fusion” as two bands present their take on the merger of country, bluegrass, American Roots and zydeco with klezmer music. Klezperanto is led by clarinetist Ilene Stahl. Having two female clarinetists leading the bands make these groups even more unusual and exciting.
Steve Bernstein – “Sim Shalom” from Diaspora Hollywood. Bernstein may be best known as an avant-garde trumpeter whose “Diaspora” series on John Zorn’s Tzadik label, but a check of his discography show he moves effortlessly from groups like the Levon Helm Band and Medeski, Martin & Wood to his own nonet Millennial Territory Orchestra to scoring films and organizing benefits. His band Sexmob just released a new CD, Sexmob Plays Fellini: Cinema, Circus & Spaghetti. It is a real coup to have Bernstein and Frank London on stage together on Sunday afternoon. http://www.stevenbernstein.net/sb-discography
Golem – “Train Across Ukraine” from Citizen Boris. “Klezmer punk”, according to Seth Rogovoy. ‘Nuff said.
Wed, 10 July 2013
Had he not met a tragic end in a domestic dispute in 1972, Lee Morgan would be celebrating his 75th birthday today. A peer of the many great musicians who came to prominence with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in the late 1950’s, Morgan was a major voice on the trumpet, and wrote and recorded Hard Bop tunes as well as anyone, with several of his tunes now standards.
A Philadelphia native, Morgan came to prominence as a member of the Dizzy Gillespie Big Band, taking his cues from that legendary trumpeter and perhaps the greatest trumpeter of the day who was not named Miles, Clifford Brown. After guesting on Hank Mobley sessions, he was tabbed by another Philly musician, John Coltrane, for Trane’s only Blue Note release, Blue Trane.
A year later he was holding down a trumpet chair in the Jazz Messengers, and playing on their greatest hit “Moanin’”. It was Morgan who suggested that Blakey replace Bennie Golson with the young Wayne Shorter in 1959, ushering in one of the most prolific periods of Jazz Messenger history. Regrettably, this was also the period when Morgan became addicted to heroin, and he was eventually replaced in the Jazz Messengers by Freddie Hubbard.
By the mid-Sixties Morgan was a fully functioning leader in his own right, recording some of the most exciting sessions that Blue Note ever held. The sheer amount of star power that appeared on these recordings from 1960 to 1968 boggles the mind – Jackie McLean, Joe Henderson, Billy Higgins, Curtis Fuller, McCoy Tyner, Hank Mobley Cedar Walton, Paul Chambers and Ron Carter are just a few of the all-time greats that played on Morgan recordings.
The most widely known of Morgan’s tunes is “The Sidewinder”, which became an unlikely jukebox hit when released in December 1963. It became ubiquitous when it scored placement in television commercials for Chrysler during the World Series of 1964. The Sidewinder is routinely included in the greatest jazz albums of all-time, and is certainly one of the top five Hard Bop albums ever recorded.
Morgan was getting into soul jazz, funk and fusion when he was tragically shot and killed by his common- law wife Helen More (a.k.a. Morgan), following a dispute between sets of a gig at Slug’s Saloon, an East Village jazz club. The injuries may not have immediately been fatal, but the ambulance service was reportedly reluctant to go into a “bad neighborhood”, and Morgan bled to death. He was just 33 years old.
Podcast 363 honors Morgan’s legacy with a selection of his music, including classic tracks like:
John Coltrane - "Lazy Bird (alternate take)" from Blue Train Coltrane only recorded one session for Blue Note, and it was this 1957 classic that included Coltrane on sax, Morgan on trumpet, Fuller on trombone, Kenny Drew on piano, Chambers on bass and Philly Joe Jones on drums.
Johnny Griffin - "The Way You Look Tonight" from A Blowin' Session That same year saw Morgan sitting in with three sax titans - Griffin, Hank Mobley, and Coltrane, the rhythm section was Wynton Kelly on piano, Chambers on bass, and Art Blakey on drums.
Lee Morgan Sextet - "Whisper Not" from Lee Morgan Sextet. This was Lee's second sessions as a leader for Blue Note, and he brought some f his Jazz Messenger friends with him – Mobley on tenor sax, Kenny Rogers on Alto, Horace Silver on piano, Chambers on bass and Charlie Persip on drums.
Lee Morgan – ‘Fat Lady (alternate take)" from The Young Lions. Wayne Shorter and Morgan recorded a number of sessions for Vee-Jay Records, all of which are collected now by Mosiac Records. This track features a pride of young lions: Shorter, Frank Strozier, Morgan, Bobby Timmons, Bob Cranshaw, Albert Heath and Louis Hayes
Lee Morgan - "The Lion and the Wolff" from Lee-Way. Perhaps my favorite Morgan album - other than The Sidewinder - is this Blue Note release from 1960, featuring Morgan on trumpet, McLean on alto saxophone, Timmons on piano, Chambers on bass and Blakey on drums. The title to the track refers to Blue Note producer Alfred Lion and producer/photographer Frances Wolff.
Lee Morgan - title track from The Sidewinder. Perhaps the most recognizable of all hard bop tunes, the title track made the Top 100 pop charts, and was an integral part of a series of Chrysler television commercials. Morgan is on trumpet, a young Joe Henderson on tenor saxophone, Barry Harris on piano, Bob Cranshaw on bass and Billy Higgins on drums.
Lee Morgan - "The Joker" from Searching for the New Land. Although Morgan recorded this in the aftermath of The Sidewinder, it was not deemed commercial enough to be released for two more years. Morgan is on trumpet, with two Miles Davis Quintet members, Wayne Shorter (tenor sax) and Herbie Hancock (piano), being joined by Grant Green on guitar, Reggie Workman on bass, and Higgins on drums,]
Lee Morgan - "Hey Chico" from Charisma. Another album that took three years from recording to see the light of day. It features twin sax players in McLean and Mobley, along with Walton on piano, Chambers on bass and Higgins on drums.
Charles Earland – “Morgan“ from Intensity. Morgan’s last recordings came as a sideman on this soul-jazz session. Two days later, he was shot and killed. This appropriately titled tune features, among others, Hubert Lawws on flute and Billy Cobham on drums.
Tue, 9 July 2013
America’s college campuses increasingly include students filling Jazz Studies programs. There are dedicated schools well-known for producing jazz musicians – from Boston’s New England Conservatory and Berklee School of Music to Los Angeles’ Thelonious Monk Institute – but increasingly the most sought after places are mainstream schools with top programs. These range from traditional “heavies” like the Rutgers, University of Miami, USC and North Texas State to up and comers like SUNY Purchase, University of North Florida, and the home of Ira Wiggins, North Carolina Central University.
Wiggins is the Director of Jazz Studies at the school, and his students have received Downbeat Magazine Awards, IAJE Sisters In Jazz Recognition, and Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead Selections. Among their r notable performances include two performances at the Montreux, Switzerland and Vienne, France jazz festivals, two performances at the White House, a tribute to Dr. Billy Taylor in Kansas City, Missouri, the 55th Annual Newport Jazz festival and the 30th Annual Detroit Jazz festival. Wiggins is the recipient of the Walter J. Norfleet Award for Outstanding Service to the Arts by an Artist, the UNC-Greensboro Jazz Education Service Award and the 2012 UNC Board of Governors Excellence in Teaching Award.
I spoke with Ira Wiggins about the CD, which includes his friend Cyrus Chestnut on eight tracks; about his path to education and got some tips on some students to watch for in the future on the world’s bandstands. Podcast 362 features that conversation with musical selections including:
Ira Wiggins – Title Track, “Killer Joe” and “Red Top” from When Freedom Swings. An original and two covers are includes, the second of which features Cyrus Chestnut on piano. The players include Wiggins on sax and flute; Baron Tymas: Cyrus Chestnut and Ed Paolantonio, Alvester Garnett and Thomas Taylor, drums; and Herman Burney: bass; Mavis "Swan" Poole adds vocals to “When Freedom Swings”.
Mon, 8 July 2013
Jamie Saft is likely the hardest working musician in the jazz avant-garde today. With no fewer than half a dozen working bands, plus recurring gigs with the likes of long-time collaborator and friend John Zorn, Saft is never at a loss for something new and exciting into which he can throw his many talents. Now living in the Catskills area of New York, he enjoys a beautiful new studio, Potterville, and his own label, Veal Records, that allow him the artistic freedom of which lesser artists can only dream.
I spoke with Jamie about one of his most exciting new projects, Slobber Pup. The quartet, which finds Saft’s keyboards joined by electric bassist Trevor Dunn, guitarist Joe Morris (a free jazz icon whose discography numbers over 100 albums as a leader/co-leader over the past 30 years) and Hungarian hardcore drummer Balazs Pandi, have released their first CD, Black Aces, and Saft is justifiably proud of the results. You start to get the picture when he calls the CD a “connection between the worlds of metal music, avant, microtones, and true forward improvisation”. These are not standards in 4/4 time.
Podcast 361 is our fascinating conversation, which moves between topics as disparate as Twelve Tone Music, the Blood Libel, and Roots Reggae. Only with Jamie Saft are all those topics not even close to disparate; they are a major part of his resume. Music selections compliment the podcast and include:
Slobber Pup – “Basalt”, “Accuser (edit)” and an edited version of the Title Track from Black Aces. Most of the tracks on the CD are lengthy, with “Accuser” running over 25 minutes. The pieces are fully improvised and follow a musical theoretical concept called “snake time” or “Glacial time”. Listen to the podcast for more on that. The edits versions are mine; thanks to Jamie for letting me cut up his work to bring you a taste.
Jamie Saft – “Black Shabbis: The Trail of Libels” from Black Shabbis. My all-time favorite band name started as a joke between Saft and John Zorn, but ended up in a very serious musical project that explored the themes of Anti-Semitism in the form of “The Blood Libel”, a centuries-old false allegation that Jews murder Christians – especially Christian children – to use their blood for ritual purposes, such as an ingredient in the baking of Passover matzah.
Jamie Saft – “Fresser Dub” from Sovlanut. Although the cover of the CD appears as Manischewitz Matzah, inside is an insidious reggae beat. Saft is a huge fan of dub and roots reggae, and plays with a number of bands, including his latest, New Zion Trio. “Fresser” is a Yiddish term that roughly translates into “glutton”.
Sat, 6 July 2013
I can’t be alone in missing the experience of holding a phonograph record jacket in my hand, reading the detailed liner notes and enjoying the photos and other material those artists and their labels routinely put out before the digital era swept it all away. A number of jazz labels in particular were in the forefront of graphic design when it came to album jackets – I think of Blue Note and Impulse in particular. So much of that has gone the way of the phonograph and analog recording.
In an effort to revitalize their catalog, and not coincidentally, recreate that experience for the 21st century, Blue Note has teamed up with Groovebug to deliver a rich experience for both jazz aficionados and newcomers alike. The application they are offering provides an immersive way of discovering and enjoying classic jazz recordings from the legendary label. It features a deep catalogue of seminal tracks to stream and a wealth of interactive content from iconic Blue Note artists such as Wayne Shorter, Dexter Gordon and Art Blakey and since it works on your tablet, you can once again have the experience of holding a (virtual) record jacket in your hands while you listen.
Jeremiah Seraphine, CEO of Groovebug, said: “We designed the Blue Note by Groovebug iPhone and iPod touch experience from the ground up. It is important to our users to quickly play music, navigate with one hand, and still enjoy the immersive and visually stunning experience we achieved with the iPad app. We're excited to get this in front of jazz fans everywhere.”
Podcast 360 is my conversation with Jeremiah, as we “go down the rabbit hole”, as he puts it, discovering how the app works and can be enjoyed. Classic Blue Note recordings punctuate the conversation, including:
Freddie Hubbard – “The Melting Pot” from Blue Spirits. This track form a 1966 session was a CD extra to the Blue Spirits re-release. It features Hubbard on trumpet, Joe Henderson and Hosea Taylor on sax, Herbie Hancock on piano, Reggie Workman on bass and Elvin Jones on drums.
Joe Henderson - "Caribbean Fire Dance" from Mode for Joe. This 1966 recording was Henderson’s last as a leader for Blue Note, and has one of the all-time great lineups: Henderson on sax, Curtis Fuller on trombone, Lee Morgan on trumpet, Bobby Hutcherson on vibes, Cedar Walton on piano, Ron Carter on bass and Joe Chambers on drums.
Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers – Title Track from The Freedom Rider. This was the final album for this particular group of Messengers – Wayne Shorter on sax, Lee Morgan on trumpet, Bobby Timmons on piano, Jymie Merritt on bass and the incomparable Blakey on drums.
Grant Green Sextet - "Sookie Sookie" from Alive!. This oft-sampled track from Green's only live album was recorded at the Cliche Lounge, Newark, NJ on August 15, 1970. The group is Claude Bartee on sax, Bill Bivens on vibes, Ronnie Foster on organ, Green on guitar, Idris Muhammad on drums and Joseph Armstrong on congas.
The Blue Note by Groovebug App is available for free exclusively on the App Store for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch at www.AppStore.com/bluenotebygroovebug. The initial download features 30-second clips of all the music contained in the app. For all of the app’s tracks a monthly subscription charge of $1.99/£1.49 via In-App Purchase is required