Mon, 31 March 2014
When you hear the name Bernie Worrell, your feet should begin shuffling and your hind quarters should start to shake. That’s because Mr. Worrell is a certified keyboard legend; a founding member and essential collaborator / composer / music director and arranger in George Clinton's Parliament/Funkadelic, and a sideman to bands as wildly diverse as Talking Heads, Jack Bruce, the Rolling Stones, Fela Kuti, Pharoah Sanders, Buddy Guy, Sly & The Family Stone, and more. He is among the most influential and emulated electronic keyboardists in modern music. His synthesizer work became a key element of DJ culture when hip-hop began, as samples from his work defined 80's and 90's West Coast Hip Hop, and is still recognized in the pop hits of today.
So imagine my surprise when I heard Elevation (The Upper Air). The CD turns out to be a straight forward, seemingly simple and yet deceptively touching, solo acoustic piano creation. Featured are delicate impressions of classic jazz (Mingus, Coltrane, Zawinul), soulful sounds (Chi-Lites, Santana, Bob Marley) and three original ambient soundscapes - all delivered with his signature hand.
What’s really surprising is that I shouldn’t have been surprised. Worrell was a piano prodigy, learning to play the piano by age three, and writing a concerto at age eight. He went on to study at Juilliard and the New England Conservatory of Music. It just took him 60+ years to get around to recording music that comes from where he began. Mr. Worrell will turn 70 on April 19.
Worrell’s Elevation (The Upper Air) is produced by legendary iconoclast, Bill Laswell, for his M.O.D. Technologies. I spoke with Mr. Laswell last year about this label, and he and Mr. Worrell will be performing on April 26 as part of Bill’s upcoming residency (April 19, 22-27) at The Stone in New York City.
My conversation with Bernie Worrell covers topics that span his career, and Podcast 418 features our talk and musical selections:
Bernie Worrell – “Redemption Song” and “Realm of Sight” from Elevation (The Upper Air).
Material -"Black Light" from Hallucination Engine. By 1994 Bill Laswell's band was more into mystic-inspired world jams than dance-funk music. This track co-written by Laswel and Wayne Shorter, features, among others, Shorter on soprano sax, Laswell and Bootsy Collins on bass, Worrell on electric piano and Hammond B-3 organ, Jeff Bova on synthesizer and Trilok Gurtu and Zakir Hussain on tabla.
Parliament – “Unfunky UFO” from Mothership Connection. For my money, P-Funk’s finest hour came when Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker (the core of the J.B.’s) joined the band for this funk tourdeforce. The Library of Congress added the album to the National Recording Registry in 2011, declaring "[t]he album has had an enormous influence on jazz, rock and dance music."
Talking Heads – “Once in a Lifetime” from The Name of This Band is Talking Heads. Recorded at Sun Plaza Concert Hall, Tokyo, Japan, February 27, 1981, the group is David Byrne, Chris Frantz, Tina Weymouth and Jerry Harrison joined by the now famous ensemble of Adrian Belew (guitar), Bernie Worrell (keyboards, vocals and clavinet), Busta “Cherry” Jones (bass), Steve Scales and Jorge Rossy (percussion), and None Hendryx and Dolette McDonald (backing vocals).
Nona Hendryx - "I Sweat (Going Through the Motions" from The Art of Defense. A constant Worrell collaborator, Nna, who hit fame with Labelle in the 70's, was a key part of Material and Talking Heads. Bernie just completed work on her latest CD.
Direct download: Podcast_418_-_A_Conversation_with_Bernie_Worrell.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 11:00am EST
Wed, 26 March 2014
Over the past five years, Stacey Kent has grown from a fine vocal interpreter of the Great American Song Book to one of the most continually interesting and moving jazz singers of our time. Beginning with her 2007 release Breakfast On the Morning Tram, Ms. Kent left the comfortable world of standards for songs by European composers and poets, pop interpretations (“Landslide”) and exciting original songs. The latter material, written for her by long-time collaborator Jim Tomlinson and award-winning novelist Kazuo Ishiguro, is among the finest being recorded today
With the release of The Changing Lights, Ms. Kent adds three more Tomlinson-Ishiguro tunes to her collection, while she continues to re-imagine classic songs from the biggest names in Brazilian music, including Tôm Jobim, Dori Caymmi, Marcos Valle and Roberto Menescal. The results are always a cut of above interpretations from other less adventurous singe
I spoke with Stacey from her home in France, where she was resting up from a Far Eastern leg of her tour, which runs well into 2015. She spoke in a n animated and excited fashion of her recent collaborative album with Valle (criminally unreleased in the US) and The Changing Lights. Podcast 417 is our conversation, which covers topics from how she chooses her material, how the Tomlinson-Ishiguro collaboration began, and why she has such an affinity for Brazilian music. Music selections from The Changing Lights (“This Happy Madness”, the title song, “The Summer We Crossed Europe in the Rain” and “O Barquinho”) and her duet with Marcos Valle on “Summer Samba (Samba De Verão)” from Ao Vivo Comemorando Os 50 Anos De Marcos Valle.
Mon, 24 March 2014
Founded in 1954, the Newport Jazz Festival was the first of its kind in America and has been called the "grandfather of all jazz festivals." 2014 marks its 60th year and the Festival is celebrating with a multi-generational tour featuring an all-star band honoring the festival's rich heritage, its significance and the global scope of jazz today. Led by clarinetist and saxophonist Anat Cohen, the ensemble features vocalist Karrin Allyson; five-time Grammy- winning trumpet wizard, Randy Brecker; guitarist Mark Whitfield; and pianist Peter Martin; with Clarence Penn on drums and Larry Grenadier on bass. Ben Allison will spell Mr. Grenadier on some dates.
These sorts of package tours can come off as a little stiff on stage, but the early reviews of the Newport Now60 Band have been stellar, as they all bring compositions to the ensemble, and back each other, as well as solo, with vigor. Many of the top Performing Arts Centers in America will host the show this spring, before the band takes a break and then reunites for Festival season. The Rochester, Montreal, Ottawa and Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival all have them on their lineups for late June gigs, and (of course) the Newport Jazz Festival has them on tap for August.
Jazz trumpeter and composer Randy Brecker is a key member of the band, and has helped shape the sound of jazz, R&B and rock for more than four decades. He made his bones as a member of Clark Terry’s Big Bad Band, the Duke Pearson Big Band and the Thad Jones Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra before making jazz-rock history with Blood, Sweat and Tears, Dreams and the Brecker Brothers Band. In between, he created hard bop magic with Horace Silver, and Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, and to date has won six Grammy awards for work as varied as Brazilian, Big Band and Orchestral Jazz. Mr. Brecker has established a formidable body of work, and has earned a reputation deservedly as large.
I spoke with Randy about the Newport Now60 band, his next planned CD release (a re-arranged tribute to his pop sideman work from days with Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen and Todd Rundgren (among others), and his thoughts on past sessions with the likes of Don Grolnick, Gato Barbieri and Al Kooper. Podcast 416 is our conversation including musical selections from his storied career including:
Randy Brecker - "Oriente" from Randy in Brasil.
Randy Brecker – “Really In For It” from Brecker Brothers Band Reunion.
Don Grolnick – “Persimmons” from Weaver of Dreams.
Blood, Sweat and Tears – "I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know" from Child is Father to the Man.
Chuck Owen & Jazz Surge featuring Randy Brecker and Mike Stern – “Peep” from The Comet’s Tail – Performing the Compositions of Michael Brecker.
Direct download: Podcast_416_-_A_Conversation_with_Randy_Brecker.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EST
Thu, 20 March 2014
It's been a long, cold, tough winter here in New England, but today we say goodbye to all that, and welcome Spring. And what better way to welcome a little warmth than with the last recordings by the late, great Chico Hamilton. The Inquiring Mind is a posthumous release from Chico and his quintet Euphoria, recorded in the fall of 2013, when the great drummer was 92 years old.
Chico's releases were always long on melody and uptempo beats, and this one is no different. Check out "Joy of Spring", which bounces along much as the title indicates, bringing a smile to this reviewers face. The band - Paul Ramsey (bass), Evan Schwam (saxophones, flute and piccolo), Jeremy Carlstedt (drums/percussion), Mayu Saeki (flute) and Nick Demopolous (guitar) - suited Chico to a T, and knows when to blow and when to lay back. Particularly worthy of note is Ramsey's burbling bass, particularly on tunes like "Up to You".
EUPHORIA has been capturing the essence of Chico’s spirit since its formation in 1989. It maintains its monthly concert series at NYC’s DRO.
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST
Mon, 10 March 2014
The number of Israeli jazz musicians are growing at a fast rate, as another generation of musicians begins to follow in the footsteps of the Cohen family (Tuval, Anat and Avishai), bassists Omer Avital and Avishai Cohen, and guitarists Gilad Hekselman, Oren Neiman, Yotam Silberstein and Roni Ben-Hur. Saxophonist Eli Degibri must be included at the top of this list of stellar musicians, having spent much of the last two decades sharing stages with the likes of Herbie Hancock (1999-2002), Kenny Barron, Fred Hersch and Al Foster (2002-2011). Degibri has led bands consisting of musicians such as Aaron Goldberg, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Ben Street, Jeff Ballard, Kevin Hays, Gary Versace, and many others, resulting in five critically-acclaimed recordings under his name.
His latest release, Twelve, finds him in a physical, if not musical, transition. Long a New York native, Eli returned to his native Israel last year, to enjoy the company of family and friends and held lead the growing jazz scene. Therefore, while his last CD, Israeli Song, had sidemen like Brad Mehldau, Ron Carter and Al Foster, his new band is composed of two very young and talented musicians: pianist Gadi Lehavi (16 years old), and drummer Ofri Nehemya (18 years old), as well as his old friend, bassist Barak Mori. The result is an album of exceptional music.
As Eli points out in our talk, even the most seasoned listener will be hard pressed to determine which musicians are teenagers and which are mature players in their prime. There is a great freshness about all the playing, and a warm, open sound the welcomes the listener and calls for repeated plays.
Podcast 413 is our conversation, featuring selections from Twelve, including “New Waltz”, “The Spider”. the title track and "Liora Mi Amor" (featuring Shlomo Ydov on vocals); plus a track from Israeli Song in honor of Ron Carter, “Mr. R.C.”
Sun, 9 March 2014
I must confess that there are times I wish jazz musicians would stop working their way through complicated timings, key signatures and chord voicings and go back to some of the good old soul jazz of the late Fifties and early Sixties. Give me a 4/4 beat, a cooking rhythm section, maybe a greasy Hammond B-3 organ sound, and I’m a happy man.
If you feel as I do, have I got a weekend’s worth of jazz fun for you.
The 92Y in Manhattan has announced its firstSoul Jazz Festival on Friday March 14th and Saturday march 15th. These two nights of modern music with a deep foundation in groove and melody begins with a memorable triple header on Friday, featuring DJ Logic & Friends, followed by the Brian Landrus Kaleidoscope. A Joey DeFrancesco All-Star Band closes the evening’s festivities. While not all musicians were set at press time, among the top players set to appear in these groups are Brian Lynch (trumpet), George Garzone (tenor sax), Nir Felder(guitar), Billy Hart (drums), Lonnie Plaxico (bass) and James Hurt (keyboards).
Saturday night is an evening of music presented by Esperanza Spalding, entitled “New Songs” and featuring band that will include Ms. Spalding (bass/vocals), Nadia Washington (guitar/vocals), Corey King (trombone/vocals),Ray Angry (keyboards) and the always exciting Karreim Riggins (drums).
I spoke with performer/ artistic advisor Brian Landrus about the lineups, the importance of soul jazz, both historically and today, and the fun of performing at the venerable 92Y, which hosts the “Jazz in July” series under the auspices of Bill Charlap every summer Podcast 414 features our conversation along with musical selections from the weekend performers including:
DJ Logic - "Simmer Slow" from The Zen of Logic.
Joey DeFrancesco – “After You've Gone “ from One For Rudy.
Esperanza Spalding – “Winter Sun" recorded Live in A&R Studios.
Brian Landrus Kaleidoscope – “Don’t Close Your Eyes” and "Someday" from Mirage.
Fri, 7 March 2014
I’ve had the great fortune to have gotten my hands on some wonderful jazz music being made in places other than the traditional centers of New Orleans, New York and the West Coast. I’ve been able to feature some players from North Carolina in recent podcasts, and now a sax player from Ohio, Pete Mills.
A native of Toronto, Canada now living in Columbus, OH Mills has been widely heralded for his "virtuosic" and "gorgeous" and "versatile tenor-kick-butt" player (David Franklin, JazzTimes). He's released three previous CDs: two on Summit Records:Fresh Spin andArt and Architecture. His debut CD was Momentum (COJAZZ Records). It was on Art and Architecture that he established a working relationship with one of my favorite drummers, Matt Wilson. There are few drummers in the business today more versatile, and more willing to take chances, and Wilson plays on the wildest of the avant-garde and the most straight-ahead at the drop of a hat.
Wilson and one of his favorite bass players, Martin Wind, form the core rhythm section for Pete Mills’ latest CD, Sweet Shadow. Mills rounds out the band with an old friend, guitarist Pete McCann, and a new voice, pianist and Columbus OH native, Erik Augis. The result is a consistently listenable collection of Mills originals and well-chosen covers. There are even two duets between Mills and Wilson to bring a different sound and texture to the project.
I spoke with Mills about the band, how he writes his material, and the Ohio jazz music scene for Podcast 412. Our conversation includes a selection of tunes from Sweet Shadow, including “Blues for Mel”, the title track, an up-tempo reading of “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” and the improvised “Duo 2” with Wilson.
Tue, 4 March 2014
The terms "Mardi Gras" (mär`dē grä) and Mardi Gras season in English, refer to events of the Carnival celebrations, ending on the day before Ash Wednesday. From the French term "Mardi Gras" (literally "Fat Tuesday"), the term has come to mean the whole period of activity related to those events, beyond just the single day, often called Mardi Gras Day or Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday.
Or for those who love New Orleans, parades, food and music, the ultimate party.
The great variety of music one can hear in any given day in "The Big Easy" leads to Podcast 415, which includes New Orleans institutions like the Allen Toussaint, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Professor Longhair, and Eddie Bo, along with interlopers like Hugh “Dr. House” Laurie. A splendid time is guaranteed for all. Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez!
Los Hombres Caliente - “New Second Line (Mardi Gras 2001)”
Allen Toussaint – “We the People”
Professor Longhair – “Go to the Mardi Gras”
Craig Handy & Second Line Smith - “Mojo Workin’”
Walter “Wolfman” Washington and The Roadmasters - “Funkyard”
Dirty Dozen Brass Band – “Do It Fluid”
Trombone Shorty - “Fire and Brimstone”
Preservation Hall Jazz Band - “Rattlin’ Bones”
Hugh Laurie with Dr. John – “After You’ve Gone”
Kermit Ruffins – “Drop Me Off in New Orleans”
The Meters – “Handclapping Song”
Eddie Bo – “Havin’ Fun in New Orleans”
Dr. Michael White – “St. Phillip Street Breakdown”
Tuts Washington - “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?”