Wed, 28 May 2014
The first major jazz event of the summer is on its way.
OK, the summer solstice doesn’t start the season until June 21st, but for my money, Memorial Day starts off the summer season, and the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival will start on May 30th and run until June 8th. Good enough for me.
And the Festival is more than good enough for jazz fans. For 10 days and nights, the idyllic Vermont town will host major artists like Tony Bennett, Regina Carter and Benny Golson; up and coming acts like Julian Lage, Dawn of Midi, Cecile McLorin Salvant and Warren Wolf; plus a slew of films, discussions, workshops and educational performances. Add to all that a pair of outdoor tented shows right on the shores of Lake Champlain with funkmaster Maceo Parker and local legends Belizbha, and you’ve got yourself a time.
I had the pleasure of discussing the events with Linda Little, the Managing Director of the Festival. Linda earned a B.M. in Jazz Performance Studies from Berklee College of Music. Her longstanding commitment to jazz presentation started while at Berklee where she formed the college’s first jazz record label and established a 10-week jazz concert series with Lyme Properties. She performed extensively as a professional saxophonist throughout the United States, England and Japan. Prior to joining the Jazz Festival, Linda was Managing Director of Kingdom County Productions, bringing world-class performing arts to one of the most isolated areas of Vermont.
Podcast 429 is our preview of the Festival, including musical selections from artists performing during the 10 days of music, such as:
Regina Carter -"I'm Going Home" from Southern Comfort.
Benny Golson - "Killer Joe" from Meet the Jazztet.
Dawn of Midi - "Nix" from Dysnomia
Warren Wolf - "Grant Central" from Wolfgang
Cecile McLorin Salvant - "You Bring Out the Savage in Me" from WomanChild.
Jerry Bergonzi - "Of a Feather" from By Any Other Name.
Direct download: Podcast_429_-_Previewing_Burlngton_Discover_Jazz_Festival.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 9:00am EDT
Wed, 28 May 2014
JazzCorner.com is honored to join Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in presenting the live webcast of Grammy® Nominated Recording Artist Cecile McLorin Salvant today, May 28 at 9pm/London - 10pm/Paris - 4pm/NY at live.jazzcorner.com. The webcast will be on demand until June 1, 2014. It will also be streamed on JazzCorner's Facebook page (click on the Livestream tab) and at Ronnie Scott's page.
Ms. McLorin Salvant may have the deepest roots of any singer of her generation. She knows the sounds and styles of modern jazz but also possesses complete command of the classic blues and early American vocal tradition. She has studied the entire recorded legacy of the great Bessie Smith (1894-1937), often called the Empress of the Blues, and also has deep familiarity with Valaida Snow, Bert Williams and other early masters of American music. For her, these musicians are exponents of living traditions that she has drawn into the orbit of her own work.
However, McLorin Salvant can't be pinned down as a jazz traditionalist. Alongside fellow Monk Competition winner Jacky Terrasson, she has recorded works by John Lennon/Yoko Ono and Erik Satie, and can sing in French, Spanish or English as the mood and situation warrant. Knowledgeable jazz fans will identify the influence and inspiration from some of the most distinctive modern jazz stylists, such as Betty Carter, Carmen McRae and Abbey Lincoln. She is also currently continuing her studies of the classical and baroque tradition. In short, McLorin Salvant is a seeker and a creative spirit who is determined to push ahead, even while she shows an extraordinary command of the tradition that has preceded her.
Her debut album on Mack Avenue, WomanChild, was selected as one of “A Few of My Favorite Things” in my year end podcast for 2013.
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am EDT
Tue, 27 May 2014
Both artists have personal significance for me. Ramsey Lewis’ Sun Goddess was one of the first jazz records I listened to with any serious interest. It was a perfect mix of funk, electric jazz, and soul, presented by a longtime keyboard player with serious jazz credentials. Add to it the addition of Maurice White and Earth, Wind & Fire, just then becoming a commercial power, on the ubiquitous title track, and the album was bound to be a hit when it appeared in 1974.
Little did I know that White had been the drummer in Ramsey’s trio from 1966 to 1970, after which he left to form Earth, Wind & Fire, making Sun Goddess in effect a reunion for the pair. It was this sort of connection that drove me deeper into Ramsey’s jazz albums, as I soon grooved on “Wade in the Water” and “Hold It Right There”. From that point forward, jazz was no longer something old and staid to me, but something vibrant and living.
I met Dee Dee when she gave a stunning performanace at a small theatre in Hartford's Wadsworth Atheneum. I had seen top singers before, but never a singer who put interaction with the audience so high on her list of goals. Dee Dee is a true actress on the stage, which is one of the reasons that her version of standards are always a cut above the crowd.
Those who are enjoying Audra McDonald's Broadway performance as Billie Holiday should check out Dee Dee's versions of the great singer's songbook. Ms. Bridgewater took on the challenge of singing the well known – and well loved - songs of “Lady Day” from a different perspective than many singers might when she went into the studio last year “I tried to take another look at her and make people understand that she was a full-fledged woman with a lot of emotion and talent, not just a melancholic person surrounded by all the drama and pathos that she has been stereotyped with,” she told me. The resulting CD, Eleanora Fagan (1915-1959): To Billie with Love From Dee Dee Bridgewater, won a 2011 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album, her third such award.
Category:general -- posted at: 8:21am EDT
Mon, 26 May 2014
The duet-playing partnership created by African-American jazz pianist Warren Byrd, and Jewish-American jazz bassist David Chevan blossomed into a full-scale group, the Afro-Semitic Experience, for an interfaith Martin Luther King memorial service in 1998,. Their music is an intricate tapestry of the distinct cultures and heritages of the members of the group, weaving stories and music together as they celebrate, compare, contrast and explain the Jewish and African-American sacred traditions.
For more than fifteen years, their results have been compelling, both from a social perspective (their first CD had the striking image of a restricted beach club sign warning “Membership Limited to Gentiles Only” on the cover, driving home the title This is the Afro-Semitic Experience) and musical perspective. The band sound brings the traditional trumpet/sax frontline to a new place when joined by a resonator and lap-top guitarist/violinist and multiple percussionists.
Jazz Souls on Fire, an album that celebrates the group’s favorite spiritual music, is a logical set for the band. Choosing from traditional Jewish music (“Avadim Hayinu”), Spirituals (“Up Above My Head I Hear Music in the Air”) and classic jazz from John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner and Hank Mobley may seem to be a mixed bag, but in the well-trained hands of this group, the connections between the music shine through. They wisely try new and different approaches to the tunes – “The Creator Has a Master Plan” is driven by Stacy Phillips’ strings rather than the horn associated with Pharaoh Sanders; Duke Ellington’s “Shout ‘Em, Aunt Tillie” sounds like a Eastern European dance tune thanks to Will Bartlett’s clarinet .
Perhaps what is most enjoyable about Jazz Souls on Fire is the obvious joy and sense of fun with which the group plays this music. “Spiritual Jazz” can sometimes be atonal, and take itself too seriously, missing the goal of true spiritual transcendence and ecstasy. There’s no chance of that happening here – check out the way “Soul Station” is handled, and you’ll know that the Gospel according to the Afro-Semitic Experience is one of love.
Category:general -- posted at: 10:00am EDT
Sun, 25 May 2014
Ten years after nearly walking away from the piano due to his struggles with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), an incurable connective tissue disorder with which he was born, Noah Baerman is playing and composing with more authority than ever. These challenges and his experiences as a foster parent have deepened his already fierce commitment to "message music." The result is a new CD, Ripples, that allows him to explore more deeply his desire to merge the beauty of music with messages of hope, strength and love.
Ripples is the first release produced in conjunction with Resonant Motion, Inc. (RMI), a not-for-profit organization founded in 2012 by Baerman and some equally committed individuals. Viewing music as a healing force and artistic expression as a means to both expand awareness and promote action, RMI seeks to inspire, not preach; to uplift, not depress.
The music is presented by two distinct ensembles. The Jazz Samaritan Alliance, comprised of Baerman, vibraphonist Chris Dingman, saxophonists Jimmy Greene and Kris Allen, and drummer Johnathan Blake, was formed with similar goals as those of RMI. They perform on three pieces here joined by special guests Linda Oh on bass for two tracks, and Kenny Barron on piano for one tune.
Four other pieces feature Baerman’s trio of 10 years – with bassist Henry Lugo and drummer Vinnie Sperrazza – augmented by a chamber ensemble of cellist Dave Eggar, violinists Meg Okura and Zach Brock, Erica Von Kleist on flutes and Benjamin Fingland on clarinet. The end result is an album of varying textures and sounds, but all with a wonderful sense of spirituality, and what we can only call “soul”.
Podcast 428 is my conversation with Noah, as we discuss “socially conscious music”, why he remains keenly involved in jazz education, and the reactions he received to the new music on his just completed tour. Musical selections from Ripples augment our conversation, including “The Healer”, “Lester”, and “Ripple: Brotherhood.”
Direct download: Podcast_428_-_A_Conversation_with_Noah_Baerman.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 10:00am EDT
Thu, 22 May 2014
I posted a podcast last month about Sun Ra, but there is so much music to share that I wanted to add a mixtape podcast to shwocase the great breadth of his musical talent. As for further explanations of the man and his music, I point you to the Village Voice and John F. Szwed's 2006 piece "The Sun Ra Guide." To quote Mr. Szwed on the expanse of Sun Ra's music:
It's as if Sun Ra planned the hopelessness of the task from the beginning. Pick the best of what might be an infinite number of recordings? Nobody has them all or knows how many exist. Find the recording dates of music made by people for whom time meant nothing, who often mixed together recordings from different years? Even the album titles are dicey, sometimes with a word or two wrong, or with the same title used on more than one recording, or with no title given at all. Sometimes there was no cover. It's all part of the Sun Ra mystique and also, incidentally, the force that drives all collecting: not just that you want to own them all, but that you'll never be sure if you have them all.
Podcast 427 features selections from "The Sun Ra Guide" and elsewhere, including:
Le Sun-Ra and his Arkistra - “Supersonic Jazz” from The Singles.
Yochannan with Sun-Ra and his Arkestra – “The Sun Man Speaks (Alternate Take)” from The Singles.
Sun Ra and his Intergalactic Arkestra – “Dorothy’s Dance” from Holiday for Soul Dance.
Sun Ra and his Myth Science Arkestra – Title Track from We Follow the Space Ways.
Sun Ra and his Arkestra – “Search Light Blues” from Bad and Beautiful.
Sun Ra and his Astro-Infinity Arkestra – Title Track from Atlantis.
Sun Ra – “Sea of Sounds” and “Rocket Number Nine” from Space is the Place.
Sun Ra and his Astro-Galactic Infinity Arkestra – “Journey to Saturn” from The Singles.
Sun Ra & his Outer Space Arkestra – “Outer Space Plateau” from The Singles.
Tue, 20 May 2014
No author does more to introduce children to the wonderful world of jazz than Chris Raschka. The author and illustrator of Charlie Parker Played Be Bop, an introduction to the saxophone player and composer Charlie Parker, which has become a part of many a kindergarten reading list, he has also written Mysterious Thelonious and John Coltrane’s Giant Steps.
To that impressive list, Raschka has added a profile of Sun Ra, The Cosmobiography of Sun Ra: The Sound of Joy Is Enlightening . What better way to turn your youngster on to this avant-garde great?
To quote from Publisher’s Weekly:
One century ago, in 1914, “Sun Ra landed on Earth. Looking around, he found himself in Birmingham, Alabama.” Claiming to be from Saturn and mystified by terrestrial customs, young Herman (Sonny) Blount invented a new name, learned to compose all manner of music, and traveled the U.S. performing and absorbing musical cultures. Raschka pictures Sun Ra and his Arkestra orchestra in chromatic gouache daubs and silhouette-black lowlights, bringing to mind Romare Bearden’s sultry palette and mellifluous collages. Raschka acknowledges the social and musical influences on the innovative artist, noting Sun Ra’s surprise that the “earthlings insisted on sorting themselves into two varieties: the white variety and the black variety” and Sun Ra’s conscientious objector stance during WWII (curiously, Raschka mentions Sun Ra’s love of Egypt, but never the sun god Ra). Although Raschka cannot fully convey “the sound of joy” in a silent picture book, he provides a selective list of recordings, encouraging readers to consider Sun Ra’s nonconformity and genius alongside a first listen to his polyphonic music. Ages 6–9. (May)
Category:general -- posted at: 9:51am EDT
Mon, 19 May 2014
When I last heard from Jamie Saft, it was his wonderfully abrasive Black Aces CD from the collaborative Slobber Pup. He’s never without something wild and adventurous to perform, whether it’s got dub, klezmer or noise-rock as it’s leaping off point.
So imagine my surprise when I heard The New Standard, his trio recording with drummer Bobby Previte and bassist Steve Swallow for RareNoise. For nearly an hour, we find Saft alternating between piano and organ, playing straight ahead jazz scales and keys, and making thoughtful, melodic contributions to an album of original material, seven of which are Saft compositions. Improvsiation is always the key, as in any Saft recording, but this time the groove is up front and accessible, and the playing inviting and open.
Take "Blue Shuffle," which opens with a bluesy solo organ by Saft that recalls the great sound of Hammond B-3 masters of old. A minute in, Previte sets the beat, and the trio settles into an early '60s organ lounge vibe with Swallow walking on bass and Previte providing a supple backbeat.
For those who like their Saft on the avant-side, check out his latest collabroation with guitarist Joe Morris called Plymouth. The CD is comprised entirely of purely improvised music, Saft and Morris are joined by a rhythm section of bassist Chris Lightcap and drummer Gerald Cleaver, who have played together in various settings (including Morris' quartet) since the late '90s, and rising star avant-garde guitarist Mary Halvorson (a former student of Morris').
Where The New Standard is inviting to even the casual listener, Plymouth’s three long pieces demand attention, as Saft sets the stage with his tricked-out piano sound, and Morris and Halvorsen rip through their solos and duets in fuzzed out wonder. While it doesn’t reach the highs of Black Aces, Plymouth shows that even as he enters his mid-40’s, Jamie Saft isn’t ready to mellow out.
Category:general -- posted at: 10:00am EDT
Tue, 13 May 2014
Almost two and one half years ago, I released Podcast 247, entitled "Talking 'Mobro' with Andy Bragan." That podcast profiled the librettist/playwright who was collaborating with saxophonist/composer John Ellis on an experimental musical production commissioned by and mounted at the Jazz Gallery in New York called “MOBRO.” Loosely based on the real life odyssey of a garbage barge in 1987 that obtained national attention for its inability to find a place to dump its cargo, the production was "about" a lot of things, as press materials pointed out at the time:
The Mobro 4000 was carrying the trash no one wanted; refuse from an overflowing city that sailed the seas for five months and 6,000 miles. Denied port repeatedly, the barge's contents were viewed as hazardous and infectious. This "Flying Dutchman" of garbage barges returned home close to twenty five years ago, but the questions it raises about what we consume, what we waste, and what we reject are still urgent and relevant. The odyssey of our trash may also serve as a metaphorical microcosm for western society, with a particular focus on those that we expel or deny.
For those of us who did not catch the very limited run of this production. Ellis' and Bragen's seventy-five-minute through-composed piece for nine musicians and four singers is now available on CD on Ellis' newly formed label, Parade Light Records (distributed by RED).
Less jazz than modern art music, MOBRO assembles as many of the original cast members as possible, including Becca Stevens, Miles Griffith, Sachal Vasandani, Johnaye Kendrick, Ellis, Alan Ferber, Josh Roseman, Shane Endsley, John Clark, Mike Moreno, Ryan Scott, Joe Sanders, Rodney Green and Roberto Lange. The vocals range from Moreno's death metal growl on "Sailing" to a free-for-all chorus on "Mutiny/Rebellion", and always serve to move the story forward. Ryan Scott delivers a standout turn that recalls his own recorded work on "2nd Rejection."
Ellis' Sax and Endelsy's trumpet only get a few chances to stand out, but now and again you can hear them step up and take a sol o worth following, or power a group sound like in the beginning of "Military.". Moreno's guitar gets a bit less, save for a winding solo in "2nd Rejection" and leaves us wanting more.
This is the kind of recording that benefits from having th libretto included in the CD packaging, allowing the listener the chance to be completely immersed in the world of MOBRO. Here's hoping that jazz musicians will continue this kind of collaboration, bringing exciting new music and projects their fans, stretching the boundaries of their listening each time.
Category:general -- posted at: 11:00am EDT
Mon, 12 May 2014
Theo Croker’s musical journey may seem traditional, but it has a truly a 21st century twist.
The grandson of New Orleans trumpet legend Doc Cheatham, Croker’s parents were music fans, not music professionals. After his grandfather’s death in 1997, Theo decided that he wanted to make music a career, and so his parents supported their son’s ambitions, sending him to the Douglas Anderson School of Arts, where he became an artist in residence at the Ritz Theatre with its big band. Upon graduation, he attended the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio, drawn by Dr. Donald Byrd and a faculty of jazz legends including Gary Bartz. Croker won the Presser Music Foundation Award in 2006 and used the money to fund a debut album of original compositions, The Fundamentals.
The twist? To hone his craft, Theo headed for China, where he spent the better part of six years playing six nights a week, several sets a night at clubs in Shanghai and the surrounding area. This provided him invaluable time to “woodshed” his playing, and he emerged ready for bigger and better things.
Croker met singer Dee Dee Bridgewater in October of 2009 during the Shanghai Jazz Festival, where he was playing in the big band that backed her. The two hit it off at an after-party jam and soon they were in discussions about recording an album.
The result is AfroPhysicist, out this week on Dee Dee Bridgewater's DDB Records via Sony Masterworks' imprint OKeh Records. Croker says that he did not want to make a “genre record” and the new CD accomplishes that well. The music is unmistakably jazz, but it draws heavily on the soul, hip-hop and blues to which Croker grew up listening. The core group of keyboardist Sullivan Fortner, wind and reed man Irwin Hall, drummer Karriem Riggins, acoustic/electric bassist Michael Bowie and guitarist David Gilmore, is more than up to the musical challenges that Theo’s compositions throw down. Theo’s musical hero Roy Hargrove guests on one track; vibes master Stefon Harris is on another.
AfroPhysicist includes three vocals sung by Ms. Bridgewater, each from different eras and genres, and all re-imagined in bold strokes: "Moody's Mood For Love" (the classic James Moody instrumental vocalized by Eddie Jefferson in the `50s, then by George Benson with Patti Austin in the `80s); "Save Your Love For Me," (made famous by Nancy Wilson with the Cannonball Adderley Quintet in 1962); and "I Can't Help It," originally introduced by Michael Jackson on 1979's Off the Wall, and flipped here into a sizzling, chattering Afro-Cuban whirlwind. Theo and his touring band will back Ms. Bridgewater on tour dates this spring and summer, as well as playing sets on their own.
Podcast 426 is my conversation with Theo, including musical selections from the new CD, “The Fundamentals”, “Realize”, “I Can’t Help It” and “It's Not You It's Me (But You Didn’t Help).”