Tue, 31 December 2013
To all who are traveling on an evening that often becomes "amateur night" take extra care and pick that designated driver!
A perennial favorite song for New Year's Eve, and the Offical SNC Song of the evening is Frank Loesser's classic, "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?". Written in 1947, when Loesser was already an accomplished songwriter, having co-written hits like "Two Sleepy People" and "Spring Will Be a Little Late this Year".
However, his greatest work was just before him - in 1948 he was asked to score "Where's Charley?" for Broadway, which ran for more than two years. Buoyed by this success, Loesser turned out hits like "Guys and Dolls", "The Most Happy Fella" and "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying". He won two Tony Awards and a Pulizter Prize for Drama for these works. In between, he won an Academy Award for the holiday standard, "Baby It's Cold Outside" from the film "Neptune's Daughter" (1949). Regrettably, Loesser died from cancer at the age of 59 in 1969.
This year's singer is Harry Connick, Jr. from his When My Heart Finds Christmas CD.
A happy and healthy New Year to one and all.
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EDT
Wed, 25 December 2013
Merry Christmas to you all. I am a practicing Jew who does not celebrate Christmas as the birth of the messiah. However, I can appreciate the universal themes of peace, love and understanding that are prevelant this time of year, and so the Offical Straight No Chaser song of Christmas Day is "Peace", written by Horace Silver, and sung by Norah Jones.
Considered one of the finest ballads of the hard bop era, "Peace" has a timeless message for us all, as the last few lines of the song show:
When you find peace of mind, leave your worries behind
Silver first recorded this classic fifty-one years ago, on his Blowin' the Blues Away album, one of the last to feature his classic quintet lineup of trumpeter Blue Mitchell, tenor saxophonist Junior Cook, bassist Gene Taylor, and drummer Louis Hayes.
A Merry Christmas to one and all.
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EDT
Tue, 24 December 2013
Grammy-winning musician and composer Yusef Lateef, one of the first to incorporate world music into traditional jazz, has died. He was 93. “Brother Yusef” lived not far from me, and was a towering figure among New England musicians. His appearance backstage at the 2013 Northampton Jazz Festival, which I helped present, was an unexpected delight.
Lateef, a tenor saxophonist known for his impressive technique, also became a top flutist. He was a jazz soloist on the oboe and played bassoon. "I believe that all humans have knowledge," he said in a 2009 interview for the National Endowment for the Arts. "Each culture has some knowledge. That's why I studied with Saj Dev, an Indian flute player. That's why I studied Stockhausen's music. The pygmies' music of the rain forest is very rich music. So the knowledge is out there. And I also believe one should seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave. With that kind of inquisitiveness, one discovers things that were unknown before."
As a composer, he created works for performers ranging from soloists to bands to choirs. His longer pieces have been played by symphony orchestras throughout the United States and in Germany. In 1987, he won a Grammy Award for his new age recording "Yusef Lateef's Little Symphony," on which he played all of the instruments. In 2010, he was named an NEA Jazz Master, the nation's highest jazz honor.
He held a bachelor's degree in music and a master's degree in music education from the Manhattan School of Music, and from 1987 to 2002, he was a professor at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, from which he was awarded a doctorate in education. He created his own music theory called "Autophysiopsychic Music," which he described in the NEA interview as "music from one's physical, mental and spiritual self, and also from the heart."
Born William Emanuel Huddleston in Chattanooga, Tenn., in 1920, Lateef moved with his family to Detroit five years later. He became acquainted with many top musicians who were part of Detroit's active music scene and by age 18 he was touring professionally with swing bands led by the likes of Roy Eldridge and Hot Lips Page. In 1949, he was invited to perform with the Dizzy Gillespie Orchestra, which was playing be-bop.
He took the name Yusef Lateef after becoming a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, and twice made the pilgrimage to Mecca.
Lateef first began recording under his own name in 1956 for Savoy Records, and made more than 100 recordings as a leader for such labels as Prestige, Impulse, Atlantic and his own YAL. In 1960, he moved to New York and joined Charles Mingus' band.
His albums Prayer to the East (1957) and Eastern Sounds (1961, and my favorite of his works) represented some of the first jazz explorations of Middle Eastern and Indian music, which were incorporated into the distinct brand of Detroit hard bop. It’s worth noting that while John Coltrane was experimenting with Indian structures at this time, it would be several years before Trane would record a now-distinctive drone sound and Indian alap improvisational format.
Lateef would go on to perform with some of jazz's best talent, including Cannonball Adderley (he recorded as a member of the sextet in 1962-63), Donald Byrd, Curtis Fuller, Grant Green and Randy Weston, with whom he shared a deep affinity for African music and culture. His final release as a solo artist, Roots Run Deep was released in 2012 on the Rouge Art label.
Category:general -- posted at: 11:03am EDT
Tue, 24 December 2013
It's December 24, which means that once again it's time to break out the Official Straight No Chaser Song of Christmas Eve. It's not really a song, actually, but Louis Armstrong reciting "Twas the Night Before Christmas", in his inimitable raspy voice.
Recorded on February 26, 1971 at his home in Queens, New York, this ended up being the final recording Armstrong made, before succumbing to a fatal heart attack on July 6th.
The poem, written by Clement Moore, is technically titled "An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas", was first published in the Troy Sentinel on December 23, 1823. A wonderful article by Peter Christoph tells that St. Nicholas was likely little known outside of the Dutch community when he published the work, setting into motion a cultural tradition still alive today. Further, I was surprised to learn it was Moore who first named the reindeer!
Here's hoping you'll be nestled all snug in your beds soon....
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EDT
Mon, 23 December 2013
My friend Frank found this for me, and I wanted to be sure to share it with you. Originally published in Mad Magazine #52 Jan 1960.
‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the pad,
Not a hipster was swinging, not even old Dad;
The chimney was hung in the stocking routine,
In hopes that “The Fat Man” would soon make the scene;
The moon and the snow were, like, faking together,
Which made the scene rock in the Day People weather,
When, what to these peepers should come on real queer,
But a real crazy sleigh, and eight swinging reindeer,
As sidemen in combos pick up as they stomp,
When they swing with the beat of a Dixieland romp,
So up to the top of my bandstand they flew,
With the sleigh full of loot, and St. Nicholas, too.
His lids-Man, they sizzled! His dimples were smiles!
His cheeks were like “Dizzy’s,” his break was like “Miles!”
His puckered-up mouth was, like, blowing flat E,
And his chin hid behind a real crazy goatee!
He blew not a sound, but skipped right to his gig,
And stashed all the stockings, then came on real big,
And flashing a sign, like that old “Schnozzle” bit,
And playing it hip, up the chimney he split;
And then, in a quick riff, I dug on the roof,
The jumpin’ and jivin’ of each swinging hoof.
As I pulled in my noggin, and turned around fast,
Down the chimney came Nick like a hot trumpet blast.
The tip of a butt he had snagged in his choppers,
And he took a few drags just like all cool be-boppers;
He had a weird face, and a solid reet middle
That bounced when he cracked, like a gutbucket fiddle!
He was wrapped up to kill, Man, a real kookie dresser!
And his rags were, like, way out! Pops! He was a gasser!
A sack full of goodies hung down to his tail,
And he looked like a postman with “Basie’s” fan mail.
He was shaking with meat, meaning he was no square,
And I flipped, ‘cause I’d always thought he was “longhair!”
But the glint in his eye and the beat in his touch
Soon gave me the message this cat was “too much!”
He flew to his skids, to his group blew a lick,
And they cut out real cool, on a wild frenzied kick.
But I heard him sound off, with a razz-a-ma-tazz:
“A cool Christmas to all, and, like all of that jazz!”
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EDT
Sun, 22 December 2013
A number of jazz legends left this earthly plane to play in that great bandstand in the sky in 2013. Among those legends we lost were guitarist Jim Hall, drummer Chico Hamilton, keyboard players Cedar Walton, Mulgrew Miller, Melvin Rhyne, George Duke, Don Blackman and Marian McPartland; guitarists Jimmy Ponder and Johnny Smith (pictured); trumpeter Donald Byrd and saxophonist/flutist Frank Wess. They will be missed.
Others related to the world of jazz who are noted in passing include Brazilian music legend Oscar Castro-Neves, Claude Nobs, the Swiss founder and general manager of the Montreux Jazz Festival; Bert Stern, the director of the documentary “Jazz On A Summer Day”; Albert Murray, American literary and jazz critic, biographer and novelist; Carline Ray Russell, a pioneer of women in jazz, and Bob Gillet, who was a performer, bandleader, arranger, and record producer.
Also, musicians Jimmy Amadie, George Gruntz , Butch Morris, Frank D’Rone, Butch Warren, Tommy Whittle, Donald Bailey, Gloria Lynne, Fred Katz, Gia Maione, Jane Harvey, Bengt Hallberg, Peter Appleyard, Steve Berrios, Nic Gotham, Ben Tucker, Sam Most, Wendy Saddington, Kenny Ball, Edward Bland, Terry Lightfoot, George Barrow, Sonny Russo, Dirk Fischer, and Claude Black.
Those who were of importance to me through their lives, deeds or art that we lost in 2013 include activist Nelson Mandela, Engineer and inventor of the Dolby Noise Reduction system Ray Dolby, film critic Roger Ebert, rocker Lou Reed, actresses Marcia Wallace, Bonnie Franklin, Julia Harris, Karen Black, and Jean Stapleton, comedian Jonathan Winters, guitarist J.J. Cale, actors James Gandolfini and Peter O'Toole, the Doors’ Ray Manzarek, folk singer Richie Havens, record producer Phil Ramone (Paul Simon, Billy Joel), Ohio Players frontman Leroy "Sugarfoot" Bonner, singer Patti Page, novelists Elmore Leonard and Doris Lessing, talk show host David Frost, sex researcher Virginia Johnson, and bluesman Bobby “Blue” Bland.
Last and not least, let us remember Cosmo Allegretti, who created and voiced puppet characters like Grandfather Clock and Dancing Bear on the children's television show “Captain Kangaroo.”
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EDT
Wed, 18 December 2013
Ah so much to do and such little time to enjoy the holiday season!
Podcast 400 is my reminder to you that life is short, and you should savor every moment you can, preferably with a sterling musical soundtrack. And here is an hour plus of Christmas jazz for you to enjoy as you trim the tree, wrap the gifts, sip a hot toddy or just bathe in the glow of the holiday spirit. Musical selections include:
Jonathan Butler – “Happy Holidays”
Larry Carlton – “Ringing the Bells of Christmas”
Rene Marie – “Santa Baby”
Spyro Gyra – “Carol of the Bells”
Manhattan Transfer – “A Christmas Love Song”
Booker Ervin – “White Christmas”
Julie London – “I’d Like You for Christmas”
Duke Ellington – “Sugar Rum Cherry (Dance Of the Sugar Plum Fairy)”
Stan Kenton – “The Twelve Days of Christmas”
Joe Williams – “Winter Wonderland”
Roy Hargrove – “Christmas Cheer”
Harry Connick, Jr. – “Mary’s Little Boy Child”
Nnenna Freelon And John Brown Big Band – “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”
Tue, 17 December 2013
They start arriving in the late Fall and they just keep on coming - new Christmas jazz CDs vying for space on the record store shelves and your listening devices. As a consumer service, I listen to them all and Podcast 399 presents my favorite holiday releases of 2013, including selections from:
Jonathan Butler - "Little Drummer Boy" from Merry Christmas to You. The South African Smooth Jazz Guitarist has produced a heart-felt Christmas album, made all the more notable due to his unique phrasing and pulsing African rhythms. Maybe you caught him performing this tune on a recent Tavis Smiley show.
Nnenna Freelon and the John Brown Big Band - "Swingle Jingle Bells" from Christmas. A great singer gives us a great CD with a swinging big band and arrangements by the likes of the late Frank Foster. This uptempo beauty will get you trimming that tree with gusto.
Canadian Brass - "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" from Christmas Time is Here. Yet another brass quintet gives us a strong set, featuring holiday tunes old and new, including this take on the memorable Dr.Seuss/Albert Hague composition.
Tianna Hall & Chris Cortez - "A Child is Born/Christmas Time is Here" from Noel. Carol Morgan raved about Chris Cortez in our podcast conversation earlier this year. Here he pairs up the an underrated singer for this inspired idea for a medley. Great backing from alto saxophonist Warren Sneed, trumpeter Dennis Dotson and tenor saxophonist Woody Witt.
Manhattan Brass - "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" from Manhattan Holiday. I did an entire podcast with trumpet player Lew Soloff about this CD, which presents well-known and more obscure tunes together in a slightly avant-garde setting. Well worth a listen, as this one sounds totally different than almost any other Christmas CD you might own.
Brian Culbertson - "The Christmas Song". Culbertson was recording his next CD, due for release in February, when the holiday fever gripped him, and he recorded this intimate, stirring solo piano version of the holiday classic. You can grab the tune on iTunes, Amaxon and other digital sites.
Anita O'Day - "I'll Be Home for Christmas" from Have a Merry Christmas with Anita O'Day. Originally recorded back in 1970 with her combo, this re-release adds a terrific recording of "The Christmas Song" from a 1942 radio broadcast to the collection of subtle swinging and sexy vocals for which Anita was so well known.
Mon, 16 December 2013
Christmas CDs come and go, but the one released this year by the Manhattan Brass Quintet should remain a holiday jazz staple for years to come. R.J. Kelley (horn), Mike Seltzer (trombone), Wayne Du Maine (trumpet), Dave Taylor (bass trombone) and Lew Soloff (trumpet) have put together Manhattan Holiday, with tunes arranged by two of the most creative artists working in music today; Carla Bley and Jack Walrath. This group of musicians brings their intense love of classical music and jazz improvisation to tunes both familiar and unfamiliar to the casual ear, and slyly creates music that is both accessible and avant-garde. Now those are words you don’t usually see mentioned when we’re talking about Christmas music!
I had the pleasure of speaking with Soloff about the group and how the CD came to be. Soloff is the quintessential New York jazz musician, having played in combos, big bands, show pits and elsewhere for over thirty years. He may be best known for his stint with the seminal jazz-rock band Blood, Sweat & Tears – that’s his trumpet solo in the classic “Spinning Wheel”. However, he has nine solo CDs to his credit, while presently working with Manhattan Brass, Manhattan Jazz Quintet and Orchestra, and also his own trio, quartet and quintet. He has just formed a new group with string quartet and trumpet.
Podcast 398 is our conversation, featuring musical selections from Manhattan Holiday to show the broad variety of music they selected - non-traditional tunes like "Siciliana" and Thelonious Monk's "Stuffy Turkey" as well as two Carla Bley arrangements of Chistmas classics, "Oh Tannenbaum" and "Joy to the World".
Fri, 13 December 2013
Bret Primack is well known to jazz fans as the “Jazz Video Guy”, who brings both archival and newly produced video to our computers on a regular basis. His new project – a Jazz YouTube talk show, The Hang, is broadcast live every Saturday at Noon, New York time. Viewers are invited to Tweet #thehang or post their comments to The Hang’s Facebook page. After the show is broadcast live, it becomes a YouTube video and can be retrieved at your leisure. You can watch live or on-demand here: http://www.youtube.com/jazzvideoguy
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EDT