Fri, 26 September 2014
Kenny Wheeler, one of the giants of British jazz, died last week at the age of 84.
Born in Canada in 1930, the trumpeter and composer joined the London jazz scene after moving to Britain in 1952. He played in groups alongside the likes of Ronnie Scott, John Dankworth and Tubby Hayes as well becoming part of the free-improvisation movement.
In later life, he was the founding patron of the Junior Jazz programme at the Royal Academy of Music and was the subject of a year-long exhibition by the Academy Museum. He was honored by the Annual Festival of New Trumpet Music (FONT) in 2011, and made a rare New York appearance at that time.
Podcast 447 celebrates the musical vision of Kenny Wheeler, concentrating mainly on his body of work released on ECM Records, where he recorded right albums from 1975 to 1990. He guested on at least three other ECM releases during this period.
My favorite Wheeler recording is his 1968 debut on Fontana Records with the John Dankworth Orchestra, Windmill Tilter: The Story of Don Quixote. His take on the timeless Cervantes novel, the recording was long considered the “holy grail of British jazz” since it inexplicably went out of print and was not released on CD until 2010. A nine-part suite, it featured strong ensemble playing, along with two quintet tracks featuring pre-Miles Dave Holland on bass and John McLaughlin on electric guitar. If you haven’t heard it, check it out immediately, and see why singer Norma Winstone once called Wheeler “the Duke Ellington of our times.”
New England Conservatory's Jazz Studies Department Chair Ken Schaphorst remembers Kenny Wheeler talking about composition at a master class at the school.
The process I go through to write or compose a new melody is this-I get up about 7:00 and don't wash or shave or anything, but put on a bathrobe or dressing gown and take a couple of biscuits, a tea, and sit at the piano which is an old slightly out of tune upright. Then I play through some 4-part Bach Chorales. After that I try, with my limited technique to play through some Bach 2 or 3 part Inventions or maybe Preludes. Then I fumble through some more modern music such as Ravel, Debussy, Hindemith, Bartok or maybe the English Peter Warlock.
And then begins the serious business of trying to compose something. This consists of improvising at the piano for anywhere from 1/2 hour to 3 or 4 hours or even more. What I think I'm looking for during this time is something I'm not looking for. That is, I'm trying to arrive at some semi-trance-like state where the improvising I'm doing at the piano is kind of just flowing through me or flowing past me. I don't mean at all that this is any kind of a religious state but more of a dream-like state. And then, if I do manage to arrive at this state, then I might play something that catches the nondream-like part of me by surprise. It may only be 3 or 4 notes. But it's like the dream-like part of me managed to escape for a second or two from the awake part of me and decided to play something of its own choice. But the awake part of me hears that little phrase and says "What was that? That's something I didn't expect to hear, and I like it." And that could be the beginning of your new melody.
But there is no guarantee that you will reach this semi-dream-like state. After many hours you may not get there. But you might take a break, or you might have a little argument with your wife, and go back to the piano a little bit angry and bang out a phrase in anger which makes you say "Wait a minute! What was that?" There doesn't seem to be any sure way of reaching this state of mind where you play something that surprises yourself. I just know that I can't start the day all fresh at the piano at 7:00 and say to myself "And now I will compose a melody." It seems I have to go through this process which I described.
Song selections for the Podcast include:
Kenny Wheeler Quintet – “Everybody’s Song But My Own” from Flutter By, Butterfly.
Kenny Wheeler – “Peace For Five” from Deer Wan.
Kenny Wheeler, Norma Winstone and the London Vocal Project – “Humpty Dumpty” from Mirrors.
Kenny Wheeler Quintet – “Hotel Le Hot” from The Widow in the Window.
Kenny Wheeler, Keith Jarrett, Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette – “Smatter” from Gnu High.
Kenny Wheeler, Lee Konitz, Bill Frisell and Dave Holland – “Kind of Gentle” from Angel Song.
Kenny Wheeler with the John Dankworth Orchestra – “Don No More” from Windmill Tilter: The Story of Don Quixote.
Thu, 25 September 2014
Today is the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, the celebration of the New Year 5775. The traditional greeting for the day is "L'Shanah Tovah" - "A Good Year".
Bassist David Chevan of the Afro-Semitic Experience has been working on some jazzed up versions of music associated with the High Holidays for the past few years. I' ve written before about his CDs Days of Awe and Yizkhor: Music of Memory, both of which are full of traditional materials done in the fascinating way he and his partner, pianist Warren Byrd, have become known for.
Click here for a rehearsal recorded. July 29, 2010 featuring Byrd, Chevan, and Cantor Jack Mendelson performing "Avinu Malkeinu", a song asking "Our Father, Our King" for his compassion and blessings for the New Year, Chevan explains about the recording:
This recording came to be because about two weeks ago I recorded a rehearsal with Warren Byrd and Cantor Jack Mendelson. One of the pieces we looked at was Avinu Malkeinu. Funny thing about playing standards . . . give a listen, we didn’t even talk this one through, we just began playing and this is what came out! If you listen hard you can hear Jack’s air conditioner puttering away in the background.
Category:general -- posted at: 10:00am EDT
Mon, 22 September 2014
One of the highlights of the early Fall Jazz season will be the release of a CD lead by the exciting tenor saxophonist Mark Turner. Lathe of Heaven is his first album as a leader in a decade, but is his third appearance on ECM Records in 2014, after gracing sessions with Billy Hart, and Enrico Rava and Stefano Bollani. Turner has recorded three CDs for ECM in the past, as part of the trio Fly, with bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard.
His new quartet features trumpeter Avishai Cohen, bassist Joe Martin and drummer Marcus Gilmore, and together the group makes some astonishing music. Long touted as “the thinking man’s improviser”, Turner never fails to deliver thoughtful, and yet physical solos. His band is more than up to the task, particularly trumpeter Cohen, who has shared the bandstand with him in the SFJazz Collective for years.
Podcast 446 is our conversation about all three ECM sessions, as well as his past work (and future plans for) Fly. Song selections from these CDs include:
Mark Turner – Title Track and “Sonnet for Stevie “ from Lathe of Heaven
Billy Hart Quartet – “Sonnet for Stevie “ from One is the Other.
Stefano Bollani – “Alobar e Kudra" from Joy In Spite Of Everything
Fly – “Salt and Pepper“ from Year of the Snake.
Sun, 21 September 2014
Temple University Libraries, concert with noted Philadelphia-based jazz
Offering: Live At Temple University documents a legendary concert by John Coltrane at Temple University's Mitten Hall
Category:general -- posted at: 10:00am EDT
Fri, 19 September 2014
Can jazz become culturally relevant again? That provocative title kicks off a new column called "The Big Question" on allaboutjazz.com. Founder Michael Ricci wants your input, so check out the initial posting by click this link.
Not to surprise anyone, but the initial posting is a bit grim. Here's a sneak peak of a depressing statistic:
Writing in The Root.com, Frank McCoy painted a gloomy picture for the idiom, "It's even harder in jazz today as CD/album sales have plummeted. In 1999 the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) said that jazz sales were 3 percent of all recording sales. By 2008 they were 1.1 percent. In 2000 Soundscan reported that 18,416 jazz albums were sold; nine years later, fewer than 12,000 jazz-genre albums were purchased.
Category:general -- posted at: 9:23am EDT
Thu, 18 September 2014
One would be hard pressed to find a more intrepid musician on the scene today than drummer, composer, bandleader and educator Mark Guiliana. I first came across Mark as a key member of Donny McCaslin’s band, as the fiery sax plyer, keyboardist Jason Lindner and bassist Tim Lefebvre joined him to make music that stretched the boundaries of jazz. Casting for Gravity was one of my favorite CDs of 2012, and their live performances were truly magical, mixing jazz, electronica and rock sounds to create something wonderful.
But Guiliana is more than an innovative jazz drummer. He’s worked with and recorded with Meshell Ndegeocello, Gretchen Parlato, Avishai Cohen, Matisyahu, Lionel Loueke, Jason Lindner's Now vs. Now, Dhafer Youssef and most notably, pianist Brad Mehldai, with whom he released one of this year’s most intriguing albums, Mehliana: Taming the Dragon.
This month, Guiliana dives head first into another creative endeavor, the launch of his new record label, Beat Music Productions. The label will be flying out of the gate with two new recordings, My Life Starts Now, and Beat Music: The Los Angeles Improvisations. These CDs are excitingly different - one completely improvised and one composed, representing two sides of this artist's striking arsenal.
On My Life Starts Now, the band, featuring Guiliana on drums and electronics, along with Stu Brooks on electric bass, Yuki Hirano on keyboards, Michael Severson on guitar, the voices of Jeff Taylor and Gretchen Parlato, and spoken word from Meshell Ndegeocello, uses fourteen original compositions to explore electronic textures married with, and carried by, provoking beats and rhythmic assertions, often augmented with emotive spoken-word performances.
On August 19, 2013 Guiliana and three of his favorite musicians set up in a small studio in Los Angeles and improvised for the entire day. The results are Beat Music: The Los Angeles Improvisations. All of the music was performed in real time by four distinct musical personalities creating one "voice", in the moment, with no overdubs. This specific configuration, with Tim Lefebvre on electric bass, Jeff Babko on keyboards, and Troy Zeigler on electronics, makes exciting and genre-defying music.
Podcast 445 is my long overdue conversation with Guiliana, featuring discussions of his approaches on these new ventures. Musical selections include :
"The Result of a Ring" and "Strive" From My Life Starts Now
"That DeeJay Chick Works at the Bank Now" and "Bobby Moons Goes to Jail" From Beat Music: The Los Angeles Improvisations
Brad Mehldau and Mark Guiliana – “You Can't Go Back Now “ from Mehliana: Taming the Dragon
Direct download: Podcast_445_-_A_Conversation_with_Mark_Guiliana.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 10:00am EDT
Thu, 18 September 2014
It’s a cold, foggy morning here in New England, and I needed a little hot jazz to warm up. Luckily, I recently got my hands on the latest CD from saxophonist Dan Moretti and his new band, The Hammond Boys. Recorded Live at Chan’s in Rhode Island, it’s one of those CDs that perfectly captures the sizzle of a blues-soaked performance by the Boston based saxophone and flute player.
As the liner notes indicate, fans of the music of Stanley Turrentine, Jimmy Smith, and Kenny Burrell will find this collection a spot-on tribute to their brand of music. The Hammond Boys are led by veteran blues guitarist Duke Robillard (Roomful of Blues), ably supported by Jesse Williams on bass, Lorne Entress on drums and a great turn by Dave Limina on the Hammond B-3 organ.
From the opening “Moanin’” through covers of tunes by Gene Ammons, Roland Kirk and Grant Green, this is jazz that makes you want to move your feet and shake your rump. I particularly liked their version of King Curtis’ “Da Du Dah”, which is lifted by Moretti’s twisting and turning solos. This CD is a welcome blast from the past.
Category:general -- posted at: 9:45am EDT
Wed, 17 September 2014
I’ve wanted to interview Jane Bunnett for a number of years, and it was a pleasure to finally get the chance to talk with her about her love of Cuban music. You might not expect a Canadian flutist and saxophonist to be one of the most innovative performers of Latin Jazz, but with album after album, she finds new and glorious ways to make the music her own. In addition, her trips to the island have brought listeners the first chance to hear artists like Dafnis Prieto, Yosvany Terry, Pedrito Martínez, and David Virelles,
Her new sextet, Maqueque, allows her to continue those traditions by introducing the world to some of Cuba's most promising female musicians, injecting her own music with an invigorating dose of youthful energy in the process. The new CD, appropriately enough entitled Jane Bunnett and Maqueque, features Bunnett and the music of vocalist Daymé Arocena, pianist Danae Olano, bassist Cecilia Jimenez, drummer Yissy García, and percussionist Magdelys Savigne.
The band's name was provided by Arocena's grandmother, a practitioner of the Afro-Cuban Yorùbá religion. It translates to "the spirit of a young girl," which perfectly captures the vibe of the group and the song that shares its name. "I imagine that's what I was like as a ten-year-old girl," Bunnett says. "I was very energetic, I could be sweet and I could be feisty. That's Maqueque."
Podcast 44 features my conversation with Ms. Bunnett, including selections from the new CD like "Tprmenta" and "De La Habana a Canada" and previous Bunnett releases, including "La Luna Ariba"
Direct download: Podcast_444_-_A_Conversation_with_Jane_Bunnett.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:00am EDT
Mon, 15 September 2014
The William Way LGBT Community Center, with generous support from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, is proud to launch the official website for OutBeat: America's First Queer Jazz Festival. Tickets for the festival, which is set to take place from Thursday, September 18 to Sunday, September 21, are now available for purchase at OutBeatJazzFest.com, including VIP Weekend Passes, Standard Weekend Passes, and Individual Tickets. Check out the website for an updated schedule with exciting new headliners.
The Jazz world has notoriously lagged behind other musical communities in welcoming LGBT artists. Whether it was the machismo of male instrumental soloists or the femme fatale persona adopted by so many female singers, there seemed little room for the gay man or woman in jazz.
Things changed slowly. To quote from a particularly on-point article from JazzTimes in 2001:
Political correctness may keep most educated liberals from calling anyone a “faggot” anymore, but how much have attitudes really changed? Some attention was drawn to the question in the ’90s, when three outstanding jazz musicians—pianist Fred Hersch, vibraphonist Gary Burton and singer-pianist Andy Bey—all came out publicly as gay men. Patricia Barber, a much-heralded singer-pianist and an open lesbian, showed her nerve by recording Paul Anka’s love song “She’s a Lady” on her 1998 album Modern Cool. Two years earlier came Lush Life, David Hajdu’s biography of arranger-composer Billy Strayhorn (1915-1967), one of the very few openly gay jazzmen of his (or any) time. Duke Ellington, his creative partner, called Strayhorn “my right arm, my left arm, all the eyes in the back of my head, my brain waves in his head, and his in mine.”
More than a dozen years later, there is a full-fledged weekend festival celebrating LGBT performers, and the event looks like a doozy. Kicking off the festival on Thursday, renowned pianist Fred Hersch will be interviewed by New York Times music critic Nate Chinen, followed by a special kickoff reception and fundraiser, all taking place in the centrally located William Way Center in Philadelphia's Gayborhood. On Friday, the Fred Hersch Trio will perform as part of the Philadelphia Museum of Art's popular "Art After Five" series. The evening will conclude with "Lush Life: Philadelphia Celebrates Billy Strayhorn," a showcase of Philadelphia's finest musicians, vocalists, and poets celebrating the life of Duke Ellington's longtime collaborator, pianist, composer, and arranger, Billy Strayhorn.
Saturday will begin with a pre-concert discussion with singer/pianist Patricia Barber and drummer Bill Stewart, moderated by JazzTimes' critic John Murph. Stewart's quartet will perform following the discussion at The Painted Bride Art Center. Also performing that evening is Grammy® Award-winning drummer Terri Lyne Carrington at Chris' Jazz Café with material from her Money Jungle project.
The first of its kind festival will culminate on Sunday with a marathon event at Philadelphia's Union Transfer. Performers will include Carrington, Barber, Andy Bey performing solo, Jennifer Leitham Trio, Dena DeRose Trio, the music of Drew Paralic, David Coss Quartet, Ben Flint and more.
OutBeat would once again like to thank the William Way LGBT Community Center and the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, and would also like to welcome our new sponsors and partners: JazzTimes, Philadelphia Gay News, Coors Light, Brooklyn Brewery, Union Transfer, Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Painted Bride Art Center, Alexander Inn, and Sonesta Hotel. “Philadelphia has enjoyed a legacy of being a great music city. We’re also a city that affirms the lives of LGBT people,” says Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. “Hosting the first LGBT jazz festival in North America provides an opportunity to showcase the rich and vibrant culture of our city. We’ll be celebrating all of this for 4 days in September with OutBeat. I hope to see you there!”
Category:general -- posted at: 9:44am EDT
Sun, 14 September 2014
British singer Polly Gibbons descends from a grand tradition of jazz and blues women whose singing exudes strength, defiance, and sassy wit. At the age of thirty, she has moved form an R&B/Pop flavoring in her recordings to a solid set of jazz tunes. Polly has a raspy, lived-in tone, a walloping sense of swing, and a dramatic flair that brings the listener inside her songs.
Recorded for Resonance Records, Many of Faces of Love is something of a song cycle, with Polly singing about different facets of love. She has a band most singers would kill for assisting her, most notably violinist Christian Howes and guitarist Anthony Wilson, who knows a thing or two about singers, having been a mainstay of Diana Krall’s band for years.
Polly wisely avoids singing the standards that so many singers repeat again and again. Instead, she reaches for tunes like the blue standard “Please Send Me Someone to Love”, or songs well-sung by other female singers from Betty Carter (“Make It Last”) to “Sarah Vaughan (“After Hours”) to Rickie Lee Jones (“Company”).
She’s touring America now, and will be in New York and Cambridge, MA this week. She’s picking up musicians as she goes, and the Cambridge band will include Boston stalwarts like drummer Bob Gullotti, bassist Marco Panascia, and pianist John di Martino. We spoke while she was packing up for the transatlantic trip, and Podcast 44_ is our conversation. Musical selections form the CD Many of Faces of Love is included, such as “After Hours”, “Company” and “Love Comes and Goes”.
Direct download: Podcast_443_-__A_Conversation_wtih_Polly_Gibbons.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 2:48pm EDT