Mon, 27 January 2014
Bob Dorough turned 90 years old last year, but there is no indication he is slowing down.
The singer-songwriter-pianist has been the bringer of tunes with a slightly warped perspective for six decades, going all the way back to his Devil May Care album in the late 50’s. Along the way, he became one of the few singers to record with Miles Davis, wrote the lyrics to the hit song “Comin’ Home Baby” and influenced a generation of children (myself included) with his Schoolhouse Rock and Multiplication Rock Saturday morning cartoons.
2014 finds Dorough is in a bit of a late career renaissance, having released the Duets CD last year, and now the new CD Eulalia, a fine showcase for his singing, writing and arranging. The CD mixes in remakes of some of his oldest tunes (the title track was originally written for Sam Most in 1954) along with a few brand new winners, in particular “To Be or Not to Be Bop”, a Charlie Parker 52nd street tribute tune that fondly recalls Dorough’s early days in New York.
The CD is something of a neighborhood affair as Bob’s daughter Aralee (first chair flute in the Houston Symphony) adds wining touches to a number of tunes. Bob’s neighbor Phil Woods lends his inimitable saxophone stylings to two of the album highlights “I’ve Got Just About Everything” and the gospel-infused “A Few Days of Glory”.
My conversation with Bob is a discussion of both Eulalia and recordings past, including stories of how he came to work with Miles Davis and how he finally got paid for rapper samplings of Schoolhouse Rock and Multiplication Rock songs. Podcast 407 features our talk including musical selections:
Bob Dorough – “To Be or Not to Be Bop”, “A Few Days of Glory” and “I’ve Got Just About Everything” from Eulalia.
Bob Dorough and Heather Masse – “Love Comes on Stealthy Fingers” from Duets.
Miles Davis – “Nothing Like You” from Sorcerer.
Bob Dorough – “Three is a Magic Number” from Multiplication Rock.
Tue, 21 January 2014
The debut release from Nir Felder, Golden Age, showcases the fine young guitarist in a number of different formats and styles. He effortlessly moves from Frisell-like Americana (“Bandits”) to sample-heavy sounds (“Lights”) to Metheny-esqe runs (“Ernest/Protector”) without batting an eye, nor without a drop in quality. Clearly Felder, who first drew raves as a member of Greg Osby’s band (as well as gigs with Joe Lovano and Jason Moran), has listened to and studied the modern jazz masters well.
There’s not a little of John Scofield’s less groove oriented work in Felder and that’s something of which to be proud. And yet, this is not a recording that mimics others. Felder is well on his way to creating his own clear, melodic sound.
He has wisely assembled a band that supports these sounds in pianist Aaron Parks, bassist Matt Penman and drummer Nate Smith. Parks in particular shines on “Ernest/Protector” and Penman’s wonderful harmonics buoy “Sketch 2.”
NPR has tagged Nir Felder “The Next Big Jazz Guitarist”. On the strength of Golden Age, they just might be right.
Category:general -- posted at: 12:14pm EDT
Sun, 19 January 2014
Jazz speaks for life. The Blues tell the story of life's difficulties, and if you think for a moment, you will realize that they take the hardest realities of life and put them into music, only to come out with some new hope or sense of triumph.
This is triumphant music.
Modern jazz has continued in this tradition, singing the songs of a more complicated urban existence. When life itself offers no order and meaning, the musician creates an order and meaning from the sounds of the earth which flow through his instrument.
- Martin Luther King, Jr., in a letter used for the program in the 1964 Berlin Jazz Festival
Today America honors the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday, and given that just 50 years ago this fall he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, I created a jazz-driven sonic collage using portions of that speech. Podcast 406 includes appropriate musical selections including:
Bobby Watson & the "I Have a Dream" Project - "MLK on Jazz (Love Transforming)" from Check Cashing Day.
Clifford Jordan – “Martin Luther King, Jr. / I Know Love” from Zodiac: The Music of Cecil Payne.
Paul Dunham, Tony Bianco – “Reverend King” from Thank You to John Coltrane.
John Coltrane – “Alabama (Takes 4 and 5)” from The Complete Impulse Recordings.
Kendrick Scott Oracle – “I Have a Dream” from Conviction.
Oliver Nelson – “Martin Was a Man, A Real Man” from A Dream Deferred.
Sat, 18 January 2014
Every year about this time, people begin to ask me for musical suggestions for Valentine’s Day. What’s the bst music for a romantic dinner? What’s the best CD to surprise someone with as a gift? Old classics? Maybe some newcomers?
Well, this year the answer is simple – pick up Cava Menzies and Nick Phillips‘ new CD Moment to Moment.
Not that this is an album dripping with love songs. Rather, it's an exploration of how to play jazz ballads. And while albums of ballads are not hard to find, this is a CD of music that happens, as Ms. Menzies explains, "in that space where you have a moment to breathe." In repertoire drawn primarily from the jazz catalog as well as the Great American Songbook, Ms. Menzies (piano) and Phillips (trumpet) - joined by the tastefully simpatico rhythm team of bassist Jeff Chambers and drummer Jaz Sawyer - go far beneath the surface of the melody lines and chord changes. Their improvisations have a quiet wakefulness, a deceptive simplicity that reveals a carefully constructed, unassuming majesty. Not bad for a recording debut, from a pair of muscians who only met a few years ago.
Neither Ms. Menzies nor Phillips makes a living through performance - though hopefully this will go a ways to change that - but they each make a living in music. As a longtime staff producer and Vice President at Concord Music Group, Phillips has worked on hundreds of albums - by noted artists ranging from Karrin Allyson to Poncho Sanchez to Gary Burton - and overseen the label's acclaimed jazz reissue program, where his personal involvement has elevated collections of work by such giants as Dave Brubeck, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Bill Evans, and Thelonious Monk. Check out our podcast interview from 2009.
Ms. Menzies teaches music to kids in grades 6 through 12 at the Oakland (CA) School for the Arts, where she chairs the vocal department and conducts the school choirs; what's more, she can lean on a rich family history. Her grandmother danced at the legendary Cotton Club in New York (the home of Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway); her mother is a classically trained flutist; and Menzies' father, trumpeter Dr. Eddie Henderson, was a founding member of the legendary Herbie Hancock Sextet in the late 1960s, and has recorded nearly two dozen albums under his own name.
Podcast 405 is our conversation, which talks about how they egan working together, how they choose tunes and the great joy that had in recording the album in the famous Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, California. Musical selections from the album include "The Peacocks";"Phantoms"; "Mal’s Moon" (a Cava original); and Nick’s "You".
Direct download: Podcast_405-_A_Conversation_with_Cava_Menzies_and_Nick_Phillips.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:00am EDT
Wed, 15 January 2014
“Weather Report is the closest thing that jazz had to the Beatles. The fans are still worldwide and hungry for the band's legacy." – Peter Erskine.
Seminal jazz group Weather Report rises again with the Weather Report Legacy Project and crowd-funding initiative. The new project will support the creation of a feature documentary, "Calm Before the Storm," which tells the story of the fabled group from its beginnings in 1970, through their 16 year/17 album career, anchored by legendary founders and jazz legends Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter.
Tony Zawinul noted, "We've seen phenomenal fan support from every corner of the world. Weather Report had millions of fans over the years and it's a joy to see their reactions to this landmark initiative." Shorter added, "Taking myself out of it, this is a chance to find out something that happened because of a group of people who have gone down a trail less tread upon in the music world. I give the project a thumbs-up."
Podcast 404 is my conversation with Tony Zawinul, as he reminisces about his late father, growing up surrounded by legendary musicians and what he hopes to accomplish with not only “Calm Before the Storm”, but his passion film project “Joe Zawinul: An American Dream.” Weather Report tracks - all featuring the inimitable sound of Joe Zawinul - are featured on the podcast, including:
“Milky Way” from Weather Report.
“Directions” from I Sing the Body Electric.
"A Remark You Made" - Previously Unreleased performance from the Boston Opera House, July 11, 1981
“The Juggler” from Heavy Weather.
Wed, 8 January 2014
For the past few years, the Jazz Standard in New York City has presented an evening concert that attempts to rethink a classic jazz album in its entirety. Two years ago, it was John Coltrane’s Ascension. Last year, it was Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz. The brain-child of producer-promoter Milan Simich, these shows have allowed some of today’s finest players pay tribute to the past while sharing what these great works have meant to them. Click here to listen to Donnie McCaslin discuss Ascension, here to listen to Ben Allison discuss Free Jazz.
On January 14, Simich and the Jazz Standard will present Compulsion!!! The Music of Andrew Hill as another of these great shows. Many of the musicians for the evening have been on the bandstand for Simich before, including Greg Osby (alto saxophone), Donnie McCaslin (tenor saxophone), Jeremy Pelt (trumpet), Ben Allison (bass), and Matt Wilson and Billy Drummond (drums). Relative newcomers are alto sax player Jaleel Shaw and reedman Marty Ehrlich.
I spoke with Milan about the show, about his love of the music of the oft-misunderstood Andrew Hill, why he thinks musicians take too many solos, and what his plans are for other shows to present in 2014. Podcast 403 is that conversation, including some Andrew Hill music for good measure including:
Title track from Black Fire (alternate take)
“The Day After (alternate take)” from Smoke Stack
“Legacy” from Compulsion!!!
“For Blue People Only” from Mosaic Select
Direct download: Podcast_403_-_Previewing_Compulsion_at_the_Jazz_Standard.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:41pm EDT
Sat, 4 January 2014
Rather than attempt to make a conventional list of "Best of" CDs at the end of each year, I take stock of what artists impressed me the most, what CDs found their way back into the player most often, and whose music continued to move me after the initial novelty of a first listen wore off. Then I break these into a few handy categories, like "Memorable Reissues" or "Tribute Albums of Note". It seems unfair to me to match, say, John Coltrane's Sun Ship Session against Chris Potter's latest CD to say which is "better". The two musicians are from different times and take different approaches to music, although both play the saxophone extremely well.
So without further ado, here are a few of my favorite things of 2013. It was a very good year.
Great New Things from Old Friends
Chris Potter – The Sirens
Wayne Shorter Quartet – Without a Net
Joe Lovano UsFive – Cross Culture
Dave Holland – Prism
Christian McBride & Inside Straight – People Music
New Artists and Those Hitting Their Stride
Cécile McLorin Salvant- WomanChild
Craig Taborn Trio – Chants
Warren Wolf - Wolfgang
Gregory Porter – Liquid Spirit
Aaron Diehl - The Bespoke Man's Narrative
Etienne Charles – Creole Soul
Memorable Reissues, Compilations, and Posthumous or Archival Albums
Jack DeJohnette - Special Edition [Box set]
John Coltrane Quartet - The Complete Sun Ship Session
Charles Lloyd - ECM Box Set
Paul Motian - ECM Box Set
Miles Davis - Live in Europe 1969: The Bootleg Series Vol. 2
Tribute Albums of Note
Tierney Sutton – After Blue
Marc Carey – For the Love of Abbey
Rene Marie – I Wanna Be Evil: With Love to Eartha Kitt
Geri Allen - Grand River Crossings – Motown & Motor City
Terri Lynne Carrington - Money Jungle; Provacative in Blue
Reunions and Collaborations of Note
Fred Hersch & Julian Lage – Free Flying
Charles Lloyd & Jason Moran – Hagar’s Song
Eddie Daniels & Roger Kellaway – Duke at the Roadhouse – Live in Santa Fe
The Swallow Quintet – Into the Woodwork
Bob James and David Sanborn – Quartette Humaine
Podcast 402 gives you a chance to hear music from some of these memorable CDs, one from each category, including:
Christian McBride & Inside Straight – “Gang Gang” from People Music
Cécile McLorin Salvant – “Baby Have Pity On Me” from WomanChild
Miles Davis – “No Blues” from Live in Europe 1969: The Bootleg Series Vol. 2
Geri Allen – “ Save the Children” from Grand River Crossings – Motown & Motor City
The Swallow Quintet – “Exit Stage Left” from Into the Woodwork
Direct download: Podcast_402_-_A_Few_of_My_Favorite_Things_2013.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 2:29pm EDT
Thu, 2 January 2014
Bobby Watson’s distinguished career has taken him from the coveted post of musical director of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers; to co-founder of Horizon, an acoustic quintet modeled after the Messengers that showcased (among others) the talents of Victor Lewis, Edward Simon, and Terrell Stafford ; to a varied and deep catalogue of recordings as a band leader. But it wasn’t until 2010 that he got the opportunity to take some of the risks he’d been putting off.
That was the year he began his own label, Lafiya Music, taking creative and financial control over his recordings. His first release, The Gates BBQ Suite, was a seven-part suite for large ensemble featuring the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music & Dance Concert Jazz Orchestra. This successful attempt at story telling led him to stretch even further - he wrote music for the Kansas City Ballet, and then for a theatrical play, “Kansas City Swing”, about the twilight of the Negro Baseball leagues.
The positive reaction to these extended pieces, which showcased not only Bobby’s talent as a performer, but as an arranger and composer, have resulted in Check Cashing Day, an album that dramatically mixes poetry, jazz, song and history as it reflects on the events and legacy of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and the March on Washington 50 years ago.
Watson assembled many of his favorite collaborators – most notably long-time bassist Curtis Lundy and his wife, singer-keyboardist Pamela Baskin-Watson – and added some first-timers, like Glenn North, the poet-in-residence at the American Jazz Museum to execute his vision. The result is always enjoyable, and often moving. It cries out for a full stage version, something Watson hopes will happen in 2014.
Podcast 401 is my conversation with Bobby Watson, as we discuss what he calls “the perfect storm” of events that led to Check Cashing Days, his hopes for taking the project on the road, and his plans to continue a 30th anniversary tour with Horizon in 2014. Musical selections include:
Bobby Watson & the “I Have Dream” Project – Title Track, “Forty Acres and a Mule” and “ Seekers of the Sun (Son) from Check Cashing Days. A wonderful cross section of the album’s spoken word, instrumental and vocal standouts. The last of the three tunes was written by Pamela Baskin-Watson; the other two are Watson compositions.
Bobby Watson featuring the UMKC Concert Jazz Orchestra – “Beef On Bun” from The Gates BBQ Suite. Watson commented that he was thrilled to record this suite with his student players rather than being forced by a major label to take the work to New York for recording. “They own the work”, he adamantly said.
Direct download: Podcast_401_-_A_Conversation_with_Bobby_Watson.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:00am EDT
Wed, 1 January 2014
New Year's Day - a day of hangovers, resolution writing, college football games, and general recovery. Nancy and I are off to her Cousin Jimmu's open house for an afternoon of family, cut-throat board games, and polite grazing of potluck.
A happy new year to one and all - let's toast 2014 with a verse or two of "Let's Start the New Year Right" by Irving Berlin, sung here by that great crooner (and underrated influence on all jazz singers), Bing Crosby:
One minute to midnight, one minute to go
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EDT