Thu, 27 November 2014
We all have much to be thankful for today, and so let us begin the day by sharing the sentiment of this song, written by Irving Berlin and sung by Erin Bode, the Official Straight No Chaser Song of Thanksgiving Day:
When I'm worried and I can't sleep
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EST
Wed, 26 November 2014
Twenty-four hours to go before the big Thanksgiving feast! What would go better with some turkey than some "Giblet Gravy", courtesy of guitarist George Benson.
Those who only know Benson from his smooth jazz or Top 40 recordings don't realize that he was one of the funkiest and fastest guitar slingers in his early days. Here he plays with a team of top notch musicians in 1968 sessions, including Herbie Hancock (piano), Ron Certer (bass), Pepper Adams (sax) and Billy Cobham (drums). It's worth noting that three of the four - and Benson as well - are all Miles Davis Alumni.
Click here for a tune well suited to those last minute preparations around the kitchen. Cue it up and let the gravy fly!
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EST
Mon, 24 November 2014
Forty years ago today, two old friends reunited on stage in New York’s Carnegie Hall for a memorable evening of music. Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker had been instrumental in changing the world of jazz together in 1952 with a new approach that helped create the West Coast Cool Jazz Sound:
While arranging for (Stan)Kenton, Mulligan began performing on off-nights at The Haig, a small jazz club on Wilshire Boulevard at Kenmore Street. During the Monday night jam sessions, a young trumpeter named Chet Baker began sitting in with Mulligan. Mulligan and Baker began recording together, although they were unsatisfied with the results. Around that time, vibraphonist Red Norvo's trio began headlining at The Haig, thus leaving no need to keep the grand piano that had been brought in for Erroll Garner's stay at the club.
Faced with a dilemma of what to do for a rhythm section, Mulligan decided to build on earlier experiments and perform as a pianoless quartet with Baker on trumpet, Bob Whitlock on bass and Chico Hamilton on drums (later Mulligan himself would occasionally double on piano). Baker's melodic style fit well with Mulligan's, leading them to create improvised contrapuntal textures free from the rigid confines of a piano-enforced chordal structure. While novel at the time in sound and style, this ethos of contrapuntal group improvisation hearkened back to the formative days of jazz. Despite their very different backgrounds, Mulligan a classically-trained New Yorker and Baker from Oklahoma and a much more instinctive player, they had an almost psychic rapport and Mulligan later remarked that, "I had never experienced anything like that before and not really since." Their dates at the Haig became sell-outs and the recordings they made in the fall of 1952 became major sellers that led to significant acclaim for Mulligan and Baker.
Mulligan’s drug arrest in 1953 broke up the band, and Baker became the “Great White Hope” of jazz. They only played together for one major performance after the breakup, at the 1955 Newport Jazz Festival, and recorded sporadically together over the years.
On November 24, 1974, CTI Records president Creed Taylor brought the pair together at Carnegie Hall in New York City. By accounts, the reunion was contentious. Mulligan had refused to reunite the pianoless quartet, so Taylor supplied a larger CTI backing group (Ron Carter (bass); John Scofield (guitar); Harvey Mason (drums); Ed Byrne (trombone); Bob James (keyboards) and Dave Samuels (vibes and percussion)). Mulligan ‘s tunes dominated the set list (and hence the future royalties), but Baker drew the biggest applause of his night for his solo on “My Funny Valentine.”
Baker’s his best days were far behind him that night, and he argued both onstage and off with his side men. The music is top notch however, perhaps because young Turks like Scofield and James pushed the pair to try new approaches to old tunes. Mulligan and Baker never played together again.
Baker was gone to Europe shortly thereafter, and never returned, dying in a drug-fueled accidental fall in 1988. He was 58 years old. Mulligan spent much of the next two decades writing and arranging orchestral and large-group jazz pieces. In 1991 he released Re-Birth of the Cool, revisiting his seminal 1949 recordings with the original charts. He died in 1996 from complications after knee surgery at the age of 68.
Category:general -- posted at: 10:00am EST
Sun, 23 November 2014
The first ever collaboration of forward-thinking architect / composer Christopher Janney and legendary bassist / producer Bill Laswell promises a wild ride on the highest artistic level. The duo, with its cast of world-class musicians, utilizes composition, dance, sound, and visuals to create a multi-media experience unlike almost anything happening these days.
A new project, entitled “Exploring the Hidden Music”, will be unveiled at New York’s Gramercy Theatre Tuesday, November 25, 2014; at 8PM. Janney has created numerous permanent interactive sound / light installations, attempting to make architecture more "spontaneous" and, in reverse, to make music more physical. The latter will be experienced in his new version of "HeartBeat," a dance / music / cardiology mash-up, made famous in the 1990's with Mikhail Baryshnikov. Janney's "Visual Music Project," introduces visual music in "real time “with Janney performing on his custom "visual synthesizer." Janney and Laswell intend to "explore the hidden music" - found in spaces, the human body and in the meeting of artistic minds.
Laswell is the natural choice to be the musical director for the evening, and his cast of musicians covers a wide variety of styles, from jazz to rock to worldbeat to soul (much like Laswell himself!). Onstage will be Trilok Gurtu (John McLaughlin, Joe Zawinul), Dave Revels (The Persuasions), Sheila E. (Prince, Ringo Starr) and Lynn Mabry (Talking Heads, Sly Stone, Stevie Nicks, Bette Midler) and turntablist D.J. Logic. In Sara Rudner, Janney acquired a prominent choreographer and long-time collaborator who currently holds the position of Director of Dance at Sarah Lawrence College. The interactive sound / light installations at the door and a new interactive light work "Touch my Light" over DJ Adam Gibbons (Uhuru Afrika) set with live drumming makes sure to round out the program.
Podcast 456 previews this event, and my conversation with Christopher Janney digs into the philosophy behind the project, as with the planning and execution of an event of such large scale. Musical selections include representative performances from musicians, who will be performing, like Trilok Gurtu, including an excerpt from a performance of “HeartBeat” with The Persuasions for the American Heart Association, from February, 2013.
Direct download: Podcast_456_-_A_Conversation_with_Christopher_Janney.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 4:53pm EST
Mon, 17 November 2014
The 2014 JazzTimes Readers Poll is underway, and I've decided to make an appeal to my readers, listeners, friends and relatives to go to the on-line ballot - just click here - and fill out a ballot. When you reach the page that has the ballot for "Best Podcast", if you think that I am worthy, please cast a "write-in" ballot for "Straight No Chaser - A Jazz Show".
It may seem a bit presumptuous of me to ask, but as my grandmother would have said, "You don't ask, you don;t get!".
Thanks, and I'll remember you in my acceptance speech.
Category:general -- posted at: 4:03pm EST
Thu, 13 November 2014
November is here and I can no longer pretend that the days are going to be warm. Leaves carpet the lawns and streets here in New England. Autumn is truly in the air.
Last week my wife Nancy and I were in Manhattan for a few days, and found ourselves sitting on park bench in Central Park, resting our feet for a while. In a fit of inspiration, I grabbed my iPhone and serenaded her with Tal Farlow’s version of “Autumn in New York”, as we watched leaves slowly fall from the trees and people bustle about their business. It was a moment of technological serendipity, allowing just the right song to be plucked seemingly out of nowhere.
So Podcast 455 is a slew of Autumn-themed tunes, some extremely familiar to you, others not so much. Of particular interest is the tune that kicks off the podcast, a solo bass version of “Autumn Leaves” by Scott Devine. Scott is a British musician who has a burgeoning online site called Scott’s Bass Lessons, a spot I’ve learned a thing or two from over the past year. Check it out here if you have not done so previously. And enjoy.
Scott Devine – “Autumn Leaves” from his website.
Art Farmer – “Autumn Nocturne” from Early Art.
Patricia Barber – “Early Autumn” from Split.
Hank Jones & Frank Wess – “Autumn Serende” from Hank and Frank.
Jerker Kluge’s Deep Jazz – “Autumn Sun” from The Meeting.
Larry Coryell – “The First Day of Autumn” from The Lift.
Phil Woods – “Autumn Thieves” from Chasin’ the Bird.
Paul Bley – “Autumn Breeze” from Early Trios (1953-1954).
Aga Zaryan – “Autumn Quince” from The Book of Luminous Things.
Sonny Stitt - Title Track from Autumn in New York.
Dee Dee Bridgewater – “Les Feuilles Mortes (Autumn Leaves)” from Keeping Tradition.
Sun, 9 November 2014
Shall we tick off the names of the great jazz guitarists who plied their art before the advent of the rock era? The names always begin with Charlie Christian, Django Reinhardt and Freddie Green. Then we move to Kenny Burrell, Herb Ellis, Barney Kessel, Jimmy Raney - and don't forget about Tal Farlow.
Farlow helped pioneer a be-bop approach to the guitar, playing small clusters of notes, often in rapid succession. His improvisations were highly angular, rather than merely playing the changes of shifting chords. He debuted in1943, and then cut his teeth in bands led by Marjorie Hyams, and especially vibes player Red Norvo.. His huge hands, which earned him the nickname "Octopus", and his keen sense of time made him one of the top guitarists of the era. After six months with Artie Shaw's Gramercy Five in 1953, Farlow put together his own group, which for a time included pianist Eddie Costa, and for five years they were at the top of their craft. Check out The Swinging Guitar of Tal Farlow on Verve Records to listen and learn. Truly, it never got better than this.
In 1958, Farlow retired from full-time performing and worked with the Gibson guitar company (producing the “Tal Farlow model” in 1962), local groups and other pursuits. It wasn’t until the late Seventies that Tal would return to full-time jazz performance and recording, mostly with Concord Records. He died in 1998 at the age of 77 of esophageal cancer.
Since his death, Tal’s legacy has been kept alive by guitar players across the world. The latest tribute to the great man will come with the publication of Tal Farlow – A Life in Jazz Guitar, by Jean-Luc Katchoura and Muchele Hyk-Farlow (Tal’s widow). Full of previously unpublished photos from the guitarist’s private collection, the illustrated biography should do much to reestablish Farlow as a true six-string legend.
To celebrate the release, a number of top guitarists will come together on November 13th to honor Tal Farlow at New York’s Zinc Bar (82 West 3rd Street). Playing that night will be five of today’s finest stylists – Gene Bertoncini, Vic Juris, Ron Affif, Paul Bollenback and Jack Wilkins.
Wilkins, who celebrated his 70th birthday this past summer, knew Farlow, and speaks warmly about his old friend in Podcast 454. A veteran of bands and session work with the likes of Bob Brookmeyer, Stanley Turrentine, Jimmy Heath, Ray Charles, and Tony Bennett, Wilkins’ versatile playing is still in fine shape. Our conversation includes his take on what made Tal great, how the various electronic devices guitarists can use have changed - or not changed - their approach, and what he tells his students about being a musician. Musical selections from Tal Farlow include “Fascinating Rhythm”, “Skylark (with the Red Norvo) and “Autumn in New York”, and Jack Wilkins tunes include “Awakened Sound” and “No Smokin’” from his trio album Bluesin’, backed by Steve Wood on organ and Tony Dawson on drums.
Direct download: Podcast_454_-_A_Conversation_with_Jack_Wilkins_about_Tal_Farlow.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 8:00am EST
Mon, 3 November 2014
Miguel Zenón has become one of jazz's most original thinkers. At the age of 37, he's one of the best-known alto saxophonists in jazz, a winner of a Guggenheim fellowship, and one of only a handful of jazz musicians to be chosen for the coveted MacArthur “genius” fellowships (in 2008), In many ways, he is at the forefront of a new movement that in recent years has brought the composer to a new prominence in jazz.
Beyond his facility at writing and playing music, there is a great intellectual subject at the center of Miguel Zenón's artistic world: the complexity of Puerto Rican culture. He has touched on the musical history of his native land on past albums, most recently Oye!!! Live In Puerto Rico. His latest release, Identities Are Changeable, moves beyond presentations of the folkloric or historical musical genres with a sweeping song cycle for large ensemble, held together with the spoken word. Miguel interviewed friends, relatives and even members of his band on the nature of Puerto Rican-American identity, particularly New York Puerto Rican-American identity. These recordings form the soul of the new CD, as a large ensemble plays new music written for the project, led by his longtime quartet (Luis Perdomo, piano; Hans Glawischnig, bass; Henry Cole, drums).
Commissioned as a multi-media work by Montclair State University's Peak Performances series, it has a multi-media element with audio and video footage from the interviews, complemented by a video installation created by artist David Dempewolf. It's been performed at such prestigious venues as the New England Conservatory's Jordan Hall in Boston, The SFJAZZ Center in San Francisco, and Zankel Hall in the Carnegie Hall complex in New York City.
Direct download: Podcast_453_-_A_Conversation_with_Miguel_Zenon.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 7:55pm EST