Thu, 31 July 2014
“I'd put him on the Mount Rushmore of New Orleans drummers, along with Smokey Johnson, Johnny Vidacovich and Herlin Riley." -- George Ingmire, DJ, WWOZ New Orleans.
Idris Muhammad, one of the most versatile and funky drummers of the past fifty years, has died at the age of 74. His cause of death has not yet been confirmed, but friends noted that Muhammad had been receiving dialysis treatment in New Orleans — where he had returned from New York City to retire back in 2011.
Born Leo Morris in New Orleans, the young man was mesmerized by the chants and rhythms of the Mardi Gras Indians. By the time he was 16, he had played the drums for Fats Domino's 1956 hit, "Blueberry Hill," and later played with the Hawketts (led by Art Neville) on their iconic anthem, "Mardi Gras Mambo."
After he relocated to New York (and then Europe), he discovered the Islam faith and changed his name to Idris Muhammad. It was his mastery of those rhythms – slinky, funky, martial, liquid – that made him a master session musician. Over five decades, he logged hundreds of recordings and thousands of performances with the likes of soul artists like Sam Cooke, Jerry Butler, and Roberta Flack; jazz mainstays like Pharaoh Sanders, Ahmad Jamal, and Joe Lovano; and most recently, as a member of saxophonist Big Chief Donald Harrison's tribe.
But for me, it was his recordings with saxophonist Lou Donaldson, aided by ultra-funky guitarist Melvin Sparks, which were his finest moments. The genre of “jazz-funk” or “acid jazz” was an amalgamation of jazz, R&B and funk, and no one could handle the drum kit like Idris Muhammad. He anchored Donaldson’s band from 1965 to 1971, supplying the beat for classics like “Alligator Boogaloo”, and“Everything I Do Gon' Be Funky (From Now On)." He loaned his talents during the seventies to the likes of George Benson, Gene Ammons, Paul Desmond, Leon Spencer and Sonny Stitt. He remained in demand through the next twenty years, recording with Randy Weston and
He released 13 albums under his own name, most notably 1974’s Power of Soul which brought Randy Brecker, Grover Washington Jr., Bob James, Joe Beck, Gary King and Ralph MacDonald together for sessions produced by Creed Taylor. Check it out and see why no one did it better than Idris.
Category:general -- posted at: 8:25am EDT
Sun, 27 July 2014
The Newport Jazz Festival, the multi-day jazz festival held every summer in Newport, Rhode Island is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. The venerable festival was established in 1954 by socialite Elaine Lorillard, who, together with husband Louis Lorillard, financed the festival for many years. The couple hired jazz impresario George Wein to organize the event to help them bring jazz to the posh resort town.
The relationship between the tony town of Newport and the festival has often been rocky - the National Guard was called to calm spectators who created a major disturbance in 1960, resulting in cancellation of the 1961 event. The Festival returned in 1962, but was met with trepidation by the town leadership when Wein began bringing in rock, funk and jazz fusion acts for the Festival including Sly & the Family Stone and Led Zeppelin in 1969 and the Allman Brothers Band in 1971. The Festival was not welcomed back after those gigs led to massive trespassing and gate crashing.
The Festival moved to New York City in 1972, initially using a format involving multiple venues, including Yankee Stadium and Radio City Music Hall. It became a two-site festival in 1981 when it returned to Newport and also continued in New York. It’s been a New England summer institution since then, regularly packing them in to see music on three stages at Fort Adams State Park in Newport.
The Festival expands to three days of music this year, with a day of cutting-edge music on Friday August 1, highlighted by John Zorn’s Masada Marathon, featuring Dave Douglas, Marc Ribot, Cyro Baptista, Mark Feldman, Erik Friedlander, Ikue Mori, Greg Cohen, Joey Baron, Kenny Wollesen and more. The world premiere of Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Charlie Parker Project will take place that day, as will a set by Downbeat magazine’s newly appointed Queen of Jazz, Cecile McLorin Salvant. Friday night will be the annual indoor event at the International Tennis Hall of Fame at the Newport Casino (the original site of the festival itself), starring Wynton Marsalis and Dee Dee Bridgewater.
Saturday will have a wide variety of talent, from favorites like Marsalis, the NewportNow060 Band and Dave Holland’s Prism to those whose talents are just reaching a wider audience, including Robert Glasper, Trombone Shorty and Gregory Porter. The SFJazz Collective performance should be a highlight, as should sets by Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band and the Kurt Rosenwinkel New Quartet
Wrapping things up on Sunday will be some of the biggest names in history (Ron Carter, Lee Konitz, the Mingus Big Band, Dr. John); new groups from Gary Burton, David Sanborn, Vijay Iyer, and Danilo Perez; plus Wein himself, playing in an all-star setting with Anat Cohen, Randy Brecker, Lew Tabakin, Howard Alden and Jay Leonhardt.
The inimitable Danny Melnick books this show with his mentor George Wein, and helps us preview the Festival in Podcast 437. Musical selections from Festival players include:
John Zorn - "Orchestral Variations" from Fragmentations, Prayers and Interjections.
Mostly Other People Do the Killing - "Two Bppt Jacks" from This is Our Moosic.
Gregory Porter - "Moanin'" from Great Voices of Harlem.
Lee Konitz with Ethan Iverson, Larry Grenadier and Jorge Rossy "Blueberry Ice Cream - Take 2" from Costumes Are Mandatory
Direct download: Podcast_439_-_Previewing_Newport_Jazz_Festival.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 10:00am EDT
Wed, 23 July 2014
With his participation in the Bill Warfield Big Band’s Trumpet Story, the legendary trumpeter Randy Brecker continues a series of fine guest recordings with large ensembles. Since his Grammy winning Randy in Brasil CD in 2008, he has continually made recordings with ensembles as varied as the Danish Radio Big Band and The Danish National Chamber Orchestra (The Jazz Ballad Book); the Kalisz Philharmonic Orchestra (Night in Calisia, also a Grammy winner); and Chuck Owen’s Big Band Jazz Surge (The Comet’s Tail – Performing the Compositions of Michael Brecker).
Brecker’s playing has been a major influence on the work of fellow trumpeter/composer Bill Warfield. Brecker first collaborated with Warfield on a Sketches of Spain concert at Lehigh University, where Warfield is an Associate Professor of Music and directs the jazz studies program. Since then, whenever Warfield considered working on a large scale tribute to his favorite trumpet players, he always heard Brecker in his head.
The project, a four-part suite, morphed into Trumpet Story, a Big Band recording of four Warfield pieces, a Brecker tune (“Sponge”) and arrangements of songs that influenced Warfield over the years, including “Speak Like a Child” and “Pharoah’s Dance”. Brecker shines throughout, especially on Warfield’s funky “When Janie Takes the Stand.” As always, Brecker can play with the bombast needed for a a Big Band soloist, yet with the undeniable lyricism that has made his versions of Brazilian tunes so plaintive and seductive. For me, the highlights come on the soloing on “Sponge”, as Brecker lays it down, and Mark Phaneuf’s tenor sax and Sam Burtis’ trombone answer the challenge.
Category:general -- posted at: 11:43am EDT
Fri, 18 July 2014
My wife Nancy celebrates her birthday today, so it's time for my annual posting of a version of the song "Nancy (With the Laughing Face)". This year the track comes from Kurt Elling's album, Dedicated to You, a tribute to the collaboration of Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane.
Since my old blog site has disappeared as of late, let me re-post one version of the story of this song, as reported by Ida Zeitlin in Modern Screen magazine in 1946. I’m not sure how true this one is, but it’s a doozy!
She came running in, her face lighting up as always when she sees her father. Frank scooped her into his arms. “Here’s Nancy with the laughing face—”
Happy Birthday, Nancy! And thanks for marrying me.
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am EDT
Tue, 15 July 2014
For me, the piano trio is the most consistently artistic expression of jazz music being made. Perhaps I feel this way having being musically raised with the chamber music overtones of Bill Evans and the considered swing of Ahmad Jamal and Oscar Peterson. The idea of musical counterpoint and instrumental support – particularly in the traditional piano-double bass-drums lineup are most appealing to me. I also remain fascinated with the amount of listening each instrumentalist must do in this format, and how the slightest change in their playing affects the resulting tune.
A few top trios have released new CDs recently, and some are on the road right now. Fred Hersch begins a six night stand at the Village Vanguard this week in support of his first trio studio album in four years. Floating is an appropriate name for the collection, as the trio of players – Hersch on piano, John Hebert on bass and Eric McPherson on drums – often seem to playing above the music, allowing it to flow freely between the acoustic instruments. These are musicians who know each other well, and so their interplay is thoroughly satisfying to me. Hersch is one of the great melodists in piano today, and he never fails to deliver lyrical playing throughout the album.
Denny Zeitlin has released a number of interesting solo piano CDs lately, so it’s nice to hear that he was able to dip into his archives for a trio session recorded live at the Jazz Bakery in November 2001. He is ably supported by Buster Williams on bass and the ever-versatile Matt Wilson on drums. The CD mixes Great American Songbook tunes like “There Will Never Be Another You” and the title track Stairway to the Stars with jazz standards from Wayne Shorter and Sonny Rollins. The closing track, “Out for a Stroll” is a bouncy Zeitlin original that wraps up an engaging set. A special tip of the hat to Wilson, whose brush work and subtle fills make him a model drummer for the piano trio setting.
The Brooklyn Jazz Underground Records label has continued to release some of the most engaging jazz on record, and a highlight of their recent crop of CDs is from pianist/composer John Chin. Chin, whose piano trio album Undercover, features Orlando le Fleming (bass) and Dan Rieser (drums), elected to record live in one room in Brooklyn, with no preconceived arrangements and no edits. The result is an impressionistic evening of improvised standards – an especially riveting “Countdown” – and originals. Chin takes control of the bandstand with “polyphonic improvisation,” broadening his technique in order to improvise several lines at the same time. If the CD is not a melodic treat like Hersch’s Floating or a bouncy classic trio set like Zeitlin’s, it is a consistently interesting and sometimes challenging take on the piano trio that shows that the future of the format is in good hands.
Category:general -- posted at: 2:00pm EDT
Mon, 14 July 2014
Charlie Haden, one of the most influential and recorded bass players of the last seventy years, has died of a long illness related to post-polio degeneration. He was 76 years old.
Haden is unique among the stars of the rhythm section in that he could handle the most difficult avant-garde music, could swing with the best of the straight ahead players, and always brought to anything he played an American sensibility anchored in his youth in Iowa. A member of the Haden Family band who starred on Midwestern radio in the thirties and forties, he seemed destined to be a country music performer forever, until a chance encounter with the music of Charlie Parker in 1951. People ask me how I could go from country to jazz,” Mr. Haden said. “It’s been a natural convergence for me.”
Haden was at the core of Ornette Coleman’s quartet (with trumpeter Don Cherry and drummers Billy Higgins, and then Ed Blackwell) in the late Fifties, creating the pulse that drove albums that sounded like none before them. It’s safe to say that Free Jazz and The Shape of Things To Come were among the most important recordings of their time, and Haden – a white man playing in an otherwise black band – stood out in more ways than one.
He helped create at least two other seminal avant-garde groups in the next twenty years – Keith Jarrett’s “American Quartet” with Dewey Redman on saxophone and Paul Motian on drums; and his own Liberation Music Orchestra, which released four politically charged albums featuring compositions and arrangements by the pianist Carla Bley, mingling wildness with the tradition of Latin American folk songs.
Haden was always in demand as a sideman, and recorded a number of duets and trio albums with the likes of Hank Jones, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Jarrett, Pat Metheney (with whom he won his first Grammy), and Kenny Barron. Perhaps my favorite of all Haden’s work came with , Quartet West, a longtime band with the tenor saxophonist Ernie Watts, pianist Alan Broadbent and the drummer Larence Marable. Highly melodic, these albums reach back to the golden age of Hollywood for themes and style, creating an accessible and romantic sound.
Haden released a duet album with Keith Jarrett in June, and at least one posthumous album has already been scheduled: a concert recording made in 1990 with the guitarist Jim Hall, who ironically died just last year.
A founder of the CalArts Jazz program in 1982 Haden taught generations of musicians. He was recognized as a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master in 2012 and received a lifetime achievement honor at last year’s Grammy Awards, though his health prevented him from attending the ceremony.
Podcast 437 is a tribute to the wonderful music that Mr. Haden produced in his lifetime, including musical selections from the following albums:
Charlie Haden’s Quartet West - “First Song (for Ruth)” from In Angel City.
Charlie Haden, Jan Gabarek and Egberto Gismonti - “Ballerina” from Magico.
Charlie Haden with Old & News Dreams - “Happy House” from A Tribute to Blackwell.
Charlie Haden’s Liberation Army Orchestra - “Rabo de Nube” from Dream Keeper.
Charlie Haden and Gonzao Rubalcaba - “Noche de Ronda (Night of the Wandering)” from Nocturne.
Charlie Haden - “Turnaround” from The Golden Number
Charlie Haden and Kenny Barron “Waltz for Ruth” from Night and the City.
Keith Jarrett and Charlie Haden - “Goodbye” from Jasmine.
Wed, 9 July 2014
Bassist/Composer Mario Pavone will kick off his celebration of 50 years in music with a three night Mini Festival at The Cornelia Street Cafe, July 10-12. Mr. Pavone will be featured on all nights (bass & compositions) with the following top-notch players:
Thursday, July 10, 8:30 & 10 PM: Quartet Arc, featuring Gerald Cleaver (drums), Ellery Eskelin (tenor saxophone) and Dave Ballou (trumpet);
Friday, July 11, 9 & 10:30 PM: CD celebration for the release of Pavone's new CD, Street Songs (on Playscape), feat. Pavone's Nonet - Adam Matlock (accordion), Julian Shore (piano), Carl Testa (bass), Steve Johns (drums), and a Brass Quartet featuring Dave Ballou (cornet, flugelhorn), Leise Ballou (french horn), Peter McEachern (trombone) and Gary Buttery (tuba); and
Saturday, July 12, 9 & 10:30 PM: Pavone's Pulse Quartet with Gerald Cleaver (drums), Ellery Eskelin (tenor saxophone) & Michael Pavone (guitar).
It’s always a pleasure to see Pavone work in a variety of different formats. The bassist has collaborated with both legendary innovators and today's most respected young musicians to consistently define the cutting edge of jazz for the past 40 years. He has anchored the trios of Paul Bley (1968-72), Bill Dixon (1980's), and the late Thomas Chapin (1990-97), and co-led a variety of notable ensembles with Anthony Braxton, Wadada Leo Smith, Marty Ehrlich, and Michael Musillami.
I first discovered Pavone around 1980, when he began an 18-year musical relationship with Chapin, which would lead to a number of collaborations, most notably Chapin's seminal trio with drummer Michael Sarin. Mario has been working with filmmaker Stephanie Castillo on a film she is making about Chapin’s too-brief life and career, most recently playing a fundraiser at the City Wintery in Manhattan with John Zorn, Dave Douglas, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Matt Wilson, Steve Bernstein, Marcus Rojas, Pablo Aslan, and more
Podcast 436 is my conversation with Mario, as he prepares for the residency, and features tunes from a number of his CDs, including "Miro" from Trio Arc; "Elkna" and "Alban Berg" from the new Street Songs; and "Don't Mind If I Do" from his tribute album to Thomas Chapin, Remembering Thomas - Nu Trio.
Direct download: Podcast_436_-_A_Conversation_with_Mario_Pavone.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 10:00am EDT
Fri, 4 July 2014
American Independence Day 2014. We celebrate with cookouts, fireworks and concerts, but often fail to recall the brave words that were written by our forefathers in Philadelphia in 1776:
When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.
He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.
He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature.
He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states:
For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing taxes on us without our consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:
For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses:
For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule in these colonies:
For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments:
For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high seas to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.
We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.
The official Straight No Chaser song of Independence Day is Ray Charles version of "America the Beautiful". It seems strangely appropriate that we in the 21st century are able to listen to a recording made in the 20th century, featuring a blind African-American man singing a song with lyrics by a white woman (Katherine Lee Bates), with melody based on a 19th century hymn written by a white man (Samuel Ward). Enjoy!
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00am EDT