Thu, 29 August 2013
For my money, the greatest four days of the jazz year come every Labor Day weekend, and the People of Detroit roll out the red carpet and put on a blowout jazz festival that rivals any in the world this year will be no exception with a killer lineup to keep you running from stage to stage to stage….
Podcast 373 gives you just a taste of what the music might sound like, with an hour plus of music from just a few of the great players you can see in the Motor City, including:
Kariem Riggens – “From Detroit/Belle Isle” from Alone Together.
Mack Avenue Superband - “Liberty Avenue Stroll” from Live from The Detroit Jazz Festival – 2012.
Mc Coy Tyner – “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes” from McCoyTyner with Stanley Clarke and Al Foster.
Eddie Daniels & Roger Kellaway – “In a Mellow Tone” from Duke at the Roadhouse – Live in Santa Fe
Joshua Redman – “Stop This Train” from Walking Shadows.
JD Allen – “Luke Sky Walker” from Grace.
Yellowjackets – “I Knew His Father” from A Rise in the Road
Warren Wolf – “Things Were Done Yesterday” from Wolfgang.
John Scofield – “Boogie Stupid” from Überjam Deux.
Geri Allen featuring Marcus Belgrave – “The Smart Set” from Grand River Crossings – Motown & Motor City
Trio de Paz – “Seven Steps to Heaven” from Somewhere.
Gregory Porter – “Hey Laura” from Liquid Spirit.
Danilo Perez – “Daniela's Chronicles” from Providencia
Mon, 26 August 2013
Ego is never an issue for James Zollar. Acknowledged as a “first call” trumpeter, he is more than happy to be known for his stints playing as a sideman with the Count Basie Orchestra, the Duke Ellington Band, Tony Bennett, Marty Ehrlich, clarinetist Don Byron, Latin jazz percussionist Mongo Santamaria, and Wynton Marsalis’ Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. A fierce straight ahead player, his tone reflects a love of be-bop and Kansas City swing.
Only in the past few years has he stepped out as a leader, and his latest CD, It’s All Good People, shows another side to his personality. Rather than follow along the expected path, he has released an album full of West Coast funk and Brazilian jazz. The result is often a treat. While the “spoken word” songs and vocals are not always where they should be, his playing and that of a strong backing band, pays tribute to the likes of Tower of Power, Sly & the Family Stone and other bands he grooved on as a young man.
I spoke with James about the album, his current tour with the David Murray Big Band (which will take him to the Detroit Jazz Festival on Friday August 30th) and his approach as a sideman and a leader. Podcast 371 is our conversation, featuring musical selections that include:
James Zollar – “Bilhete”, “Año Nuevo” and “The Mo’ Doctor” from It’s All Good People. The first two tracks show off the chops of two of James’ guests – harmonica player Gregoire Maret and guitarist Freddie Bryant. The last shows the band in full funk mode, powered by keyboardist Rick Germanson, guitarist Bryant and bassist Ron Richardson.
Don Byron – “Cotton Club Stomp” from Bug Music: Music Of The Raymond Scott Quintette, John Kirby & His Orchestra, And The Duke Ellington Orchestra. Zollar has worked with the mercurial Don Byron a number of times, and here he is featured on a classic slice of Ellington swing.
Marty Ehrlich's Rites Quartet – “You Can’t Beat the Slanted Cards” from Frog Leg Logic. From straight-ahead to the avant-garde to the orchestra pit of Broadway shows, James is comfortable taking on whatever gig challenges him. Here he is part of an innovative quartet recording from 2011 that includes Ehrlich on alto and soprano sax and flute, Zollar on trumpet, Hank Roberts on cello and Michael Sarin on drums.
Direct download: Podcast_371_-_A_Conversation_with_James_Zoller.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 2:30am EDT
Sun, 25 August 2013
The loss of Cedar Walton at the age of 79 earlier this week makes celebrating Wayne Shorter’s 80th birthday today all the more important. We are losing more of the pioneers who made jazz what it is today every day, so we should savor the music and presence of someone of Wayne’s stature while we can.
Thankfully Shorter is alive and well and working, playing with a top quartet and writing new material. His career can be seen one of the many the arcs that jazz took in the 1960’s – from hard bop to a more impressionistic and modal sound to advanced key changes and rhythms to electric fusion and then a wonderful mix of them all. Whether he was leading the band or just stepping in as a sideman, his saxophone and his presence made things special.
And so Podcast 372, “Wayne Shorter at 80”, is an hour plus retrospective of the saxophone legend’s wildly varied work, with tunes he composed wherever possible. The music includes his work in classic bands, sideman contributions, one-off projects and solo and duo recordings, including:
Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers – Title Track from Free-For-All.
Miles Davis Quintet – “Orbits” from Miles Smiles.
Wayne Shorter – Title Track from Adam’s Apple.
Weather Report – “Unknown Soldier” from I Sing the Body Electric.
Joni Mitchell – “Jericho” from Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter.
Shorter, Petrucciani, Clarke, White, Goldstein & Levin – “Nefertiti” from The Manhattan Project - Live at Chelsea Studios NYC 1989-12-16
Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter – “Aung San Suu Kyi” from 1 +. 1
Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Dave Holland, Brian Blade – “Footprints” from an unreleased recording HSHB04 - The Forensic Music Tour, Vol. 3 - London, UK, Barbican
Wayne Shorter Quartet – “Zero Gravity” from Without a Net.
Thu, 22 August 2013
The passing of Marian McPartland at the age of 95 this week fills a void in the jazz world that will not likely be filled by one person anytime soon. She was a composer, a performer, a radio host, an author and a brilliant conversationalist who held the memories of jazz's hey-days in New York both before and during the be-bop era.
I had the pleasure to interview her for a podcast four years ago, so click here to go to that podcast, and read what she had to say that day. Her music, as always, is included in the podcast. A wonderful NPR report can be found here, saluting their host of "Piano Jazz". Older episodes of the show can be found on CD or on the NPR archives.
Category:general -- posted at: 10:28am EDT
Tue, 20 August 2013
"I hear in Luke Celenza a young gifted jazz musician who has the right inquisitive attitude and true potential to become one of the key players in the scene. He brings to the table a fresh sound and an uncommon restrained maturity in his music which I am sure will keep on delighting us for many years to come. ”- Michel Camilo
Those looking for the next wave of talented jazz musicians need not look further than the new CD by Luke Celenza. He only recently turned 21-years-old, and it has already been almost ten years since he was accepted into the Manhattan School of Music (MSM) Pre-College Jazz Division. Now at Julliard, he is a regular performer around the Manhattan jazz scene.
His debut CD, Back and Forth, is a showcase not just for his writing and playing, but his status as bandleader. He has surrounded himself with some of the top young players in the city, including bassist Joshua Twombley (listen to Terence Blanchard sing his praises in Podcast 359), drummer Jimmy Macbride and saxophonist Lucas Pino.
A protégé of Michel Camilo, Celenza writes and plays in a style not unlike his hero, Brad Mehldau, not bothering with academic exercises in time signature or chords, but concentrating on mood, sound and melody. He is currently working on a new CD that will follow Mehldau into the area of electronica.
I spoke with Luke just after he returned from South America, and we talked about his creative process, what other students ask him about jazz, and his brother’s cooking show, for which he writes the scores. Listen to Podcast 370, which features musical selections such as:
Terence Blanchard – “Jacob’s Ladder” from Magnetic. Celenza is full of praise for his bassist and friend Twombley, who wrote this song for, and plays on, the latest Terence Blanchard album.
Luke Celenza – “River Rhodes” and “Mudslide” from Back and Forth. Two very different tunes from the debut CD, and two great stories of how they came to be.
Brad Mehldau – “Kurt Vibe” from Ode. A trio outing by this talented pianist, this time with bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard. Celenza thinks – as do many others – that Brad is the finest pianist in jazz today.
Direct download: Podcast_370_-_A_Conversation_with_Luke_Celenza.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 2:30am EDT
Mon, 19 August 2013
Cedar Walton, one of the great hard-bop pianists of all-time, has died in New York at the age of 79.
Walton was first taught piano by his mother, and, after high school, moved to Colorado to commence studies at the University of Denver. There, during afterhours jazz club gigs, he met musicians, such as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and John Coltrane, who would sit in with Walton's group when traveling through town. Walton was drafted into the Army, and stationed in Germany, cutting short his rising status in the after-hours scene. While in the Army, he played with musicians Leo Wright, Don Ellis, and Eddie Harris.
In 1959, he recorded with Coltrane on his seminal album Giant Steps, but the recordings weren't included on the initial issue of the album; the alternate tracks were later issued on the CD version. From 1960-61, Walton worked as a key member of with Art Farmer and Benny Golson's band Jazztet.
But it was Walton's next significant musical association as a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers (1961-64) that pushed him into prominence as a composer and improviser. Walton tunes like "Mosaic," "Ugetsu," and "The Promised Land" were highlights of the group's repertoire.
Walton recorded nearly forty albums as a leader, and was a valued sideman on such classic albums as Joe Henderson’s Mode for Joe; Donald Byrd’s Slow Drag; Ornette Coleman’s Broken Shadows; Kenny Dorham’s Blue Spring; Dexter Gordon’s Tangerine; Pat Martino’s Strings; Abbey Lincoln’s Abbey is Blue; and Blue Mitchell’s The Cup Bearers. He appeared on Christian McBride’s album New York Time; McBride later wrote a song dedicated to him, “The Shade of the Cedar Tree”.
Category:general -- posted at: 11:52am EDT
Mon, 12 August 2013
CD releases by Steve Swallow as a bandleader are few and far between. While he is constantly in demand as a sideman, with steady gigs on the bandstand with the likes of Gary Burton and Carla Bley, only 2 albums in the last 15 years can truly be called his as a frontman. That’s part of what makes Into the Woodwork, a quintet recording released on his WATT imprint via ECM, so welcome.
The terrific band interplay, shifting textures and moods and wit of the recording makes the CD a winner. Working with his partner Carla Bley on organ (a welcome return after her concentration on piano for the past decade) and long-time collaborators Steve Cardenas on guitar, Chris Cheek on sax and Jorge Rossy on drums, Swallow has formed a band that fits together with a relaxed sense of togetherness. The band has toured together over the past few years, and their sense of timing and collaboration shines. Swallow’s electric bass provides some of the finest textures and tones in the business, and the twelve Swallow originals flow together in an uninterrupted stream.
I spoke with Steve as Into the Woodwork was released, and we talked about his creative process, the strengths of this band, and how he came to play electric bass in a time of double bass domination. Podcast 369 features our conversation, with appropriate musical selections, including:
The Swallow Quintet – “Back in Action”, “Grisly Business” and “Still There” from Into the Woodwork. These tracks show the band capable of shifting from moodiness to playfulness, sometimes within seconds. Swallow calls Jorge Rossy’s drum fills on the second tune perhaps the “scariest drum solo ever”. Check it out and see why.
Steve Cardenas – “D. Marie” from Panoramic. Cardenas’ guitar is a huge part of the quintet’s success. Coming into his own as one of the most versatile and interesting guitar players in the business, he and Swallow met in Paul Motian’s bands and have continued to play together. This wonderfully lyrical track features Cardenas (guitar), Tony Malaby (saxophone), Larry Grenadier (bass), and Kenny Wollesen (drums)
Gary Burton/Pat Metheny/Steve Swallow/Antonio Sanchez – “Falling Grace” from Quartet Live! One of Swallow’s strongest compositions was a highlight of this reunion tour set list from 2008-09.
Gary Burton & Carla Bley – “Fanfare - Mother of the Dead Man” from A Genuine Tong Funeral. From 1967 to 1970, Swallow teamed with Gary Burton and a number of other musicians to create electric jazz. Some argue that Duster was truly the first fusion album, created by Burton, Swallow, Larry Coryell and Roy Haynes a full two years before Miles went electric . This track is from the album composed and conducted by Ms. Bley, and featuring a larger ensemble, including Burton (vibes), Bley (organ and piano), Coryell (guitar), Swallow (bass), Steve Lacy and Gato Barbieri (sax), Jimmy Knepper (trombone), Howard Johnson (tuba and baritone sax), Michael Mantler (trumpet) and Bob Moses (drums).
Direct download: Podcast_369_-_A_Conversation_with_Steve_Swallow.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:00am EDT
Fri, 9 August 2013
Bowing to pressure from those more computer sophisticated than me, I am now on Twitter. If you would like instant updates on postings to this blog, or any of my other jazzy thoughts, please follow me at @Str8NoChsrJazz.
Category:general -- posted at: 3:14pm EDT
Wed, 7 August 2013
Perhaps no musician in recent memory has dominated the critics’ and fans’ polls for excellence in their instruments s much as Gary Smulyan. Downbeat, Jazztimes, and the Jazz Journalist Awards have all given him top honors in the category of baritone saxophone numerous times over the past two decades. Always in demand in big bands and large ensembles, he is also a strong bandleader in his own right, as the acclaimed Smul’s Paradise CD showed.
Gary is the Artist-in-Residence at the 18th Annual Litchfield Jazz Festival in Goshen, CT this coming weekend, and will be leading a Baritone Summit on August 10th. In the Detroit Jazz Festival on Labor Day weekend, he will salute Detroit native – and role model – Pepper Adams with “The 3 Baris Play Pepper Adams.” That show will bring Smulyan on the same stage as Howard Johnson, and young gun Frank Basile, backed by Mike LeDonne, Ray Drummond, and Joe Farnsworth. Pepper Adams was in many ways the antithesis of contemporary baritone players like Gerry Mulligan, who favored melodic cool jazz. In contrast, Adams managed to bring the often cumbersome baritone into the blisteringly fast speeds of bop like no others had before, owing more to Charlie Parker than Mulligan.
I spoke with Gary about what the music of Pepper Adams means to him, why he enjoys the Detroit Jazz Festival and his participation in the recent Mark Masters Ensemble release Everything You Did (The Music Of Walter Becker And Donald Fagen). Podcast 368 contains our conversation featuring musical interludes, including:
Alexis Cole – “Urban Dreams” from I Carry Your Heart: Alexis Cole Sings Pepper Adams. Motema Records released a five CD set late last year that not only recorded all of Pepper Adams’ compositions, but also added lyrics to some for the first time. Singer Alexis Cole takes on this tune,
Pepper Adams – “That’s All” from Reflectory. This late 70’s release shows Pepper at work A three-time Grammy nominee, Adams won both Downbeat’s Rising Star (1957) and Top Baritone Soloist (1980) during his short lifetime. He died of complications from lung cancer at the age of 55.
Gary Smulyan – “Sunny” from Smul’s Paradise, One of my favorite CDs from last year was this homage to famous organ bands put together by Smulyan, Mike LeDonne (organ), Peter Bernstein (guitar) and long-time friend and collaborator Kenny Washington (drums).
Mark Masters Ensemble – “Do It Again” from Everything You Did (The Music Of Walter Becker And Donald Fagen). Constantly in demand as a sideman, Smulyan filled the baritone chair for this big band reimagining of music by Steely Dan.
Direct download: Podcast_368_-_A_Conversation_with_Gary_Smulyan.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:30am EDT
Mon, 5 August 2013
Dave Douglas’ Greenleaf Music label continues to provide some of the most interesting contemporary jazz music being recorded today. The second release on the label for Matt Ulery’s quintet Loom is no exception.
Wake an Echo features the same rhythm section as his critically praised 2012 double-CD By a Little Light - pianist Rob Clearfield, drummer Jon Deitemyer, and Ulery on double bass - joined by Geof Bradfield on bass clarinet and Marquis Hill on trumpet. The result is shifting textures and colors that are not often heard these days, recalling at times the work of Eric Dolphy with Charles Mingus’ smaller combos.
Ulery writes and arranges as well as plays bass, and the material is well thought-out and structured, allowing for improvisation, but not requiring flights of fancy to bring across mood or texture. From top to bottom Wake an Echo is a strong CD, and may well give him even greater exposure. Listen for an NPR Tiny Desk concert for the Quintet later this month.
I spoke to Matt about this CD and group, along with his other projects, including recordings and gigs with the band Eastern Blok and singer Grazyna Auguscik. Listen to our conversation in Podcast 367, featuring Ulery musical selections, including:
Matt Ulery’s Loom – “In Every Lonely Chamber” from Wake an Echo. Ulery explains the writing exercise he uses to spark creativity in our interview, and how it started this composition, which features Ulery on double bass; Rob Clearfield on piano; Jon Deitemyer on drums; Geof Bradfield on bass clarinet and Marquis Hill on trumpet.
Matt Ulery’s Loom – “Dark Harvest” from By a Little Light. This CD earned 4 ½ stars from Downbeat and appeared on NPR’s Top 50 Albums of the Year across all genres. It moves from tunes supplemented by orchestrations and vocals to a core quintet. This track features Ulery on double bass; Ben Lewis on piano; Deitemyer on drums; Michael Maccaferri on clarinet; Tim Munro on flute; James Davis on trumpet; Zach Brock on violin; Dominic Johnson on viola; and Nicholas Photinos on cello.
Eastern Blok – “Octopus” from Underwater. Ulery has held the bass chair in this group for almost a decade. Terming their music “Balkan Fusion”, the tunes are a modern take on traditional folk music from the Balkans, Spain, and the Americas. The group is led by expatriate guitarist Goran Ivanovic.
Grazyna Auguscik – “Fruit Tree” from The Man Behind the Sun. The music of the late Nick Drake continues to inspire jazz musicians, as this CD shows. Ulery and his rhythm section friends Clearfield, and Deitemyer introduced Ms. Auguscik to the music, and helped create this moody and expressive album, joined by trumpeter James Davis and guitarist John McLean.