Fri, 30 January 2015
One of the great Melting Pot bands working in jazz today, The Afro-Semitic Experience manages to resist definition as it finds new adjectives to describe the music they play. Co-founded by African-American jazz pianist Warren Byrd, and Jewish-American jazz bassist David Chevan in 1998, the seven-piece band combines an eclectic array of styles, sophisticated musicianship, good songwriting, deep grooves, and years of friendship with a simple message: Unity in the Community. By taking the music of their respective heritages – the African Diaspora and Jewish liturgy – and treating it as if it were a jazz, gospel, or even funk tune, Byrd and Chevan create something truly unique.
Warren Byrd is a Hartford, Connecticut native with roots in the church choir with his older By the timehe’d been awarded a full scholarship for Classical Vocal Studies at Hartt College of Music, he’d decided he wanted to be a Jazz artist. His piano playing has graced the stage with and recordings of Archie Shepp, Eddie Henderson, Steve Davis, and many more.
David Chevan was born in Philadelphia and grew up in Amherst, Massachusetts. His passion for music has led him to explore a wide range of musical realms from singing in synagogue, to playing in Gospel groups, Polka bands, Klezmer bands, and Italian wedding bands, and finally to Jazz and contemporary composition and improvisation. He has composed music for a wide range of artists and ensembles, including several collaborations with dance and film. His most recent compositions have focused on melding jazz improvisational practice with Jewish liturgy. In addition to performing regularly in a duo with pianist Byrd and leading their group, Chevan is an active participant in the Radical Jewish Culture movement. He has recorded and performed with Frank London and plays, composes and writes arrangements for the Ayn Sof Arkestra.
The Band’s current lineup expands on these two fine collaborators, and includes Will Bartlett (sax), Alvin Carter Jr (drums), Alvin Carter Sr. (congas), Stacy Phillips (violin/slide guitar) and Saskia Laroo (trumpet).
Our conversation covers their musical philosophy, how Jewish and African Diaspora music have merged into something unique and wonderful, and where to find the group on Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday week. Musical selections include their version of John Coltrane’s “Wise One” form their latest CD, Jazz Souls on Fire; “Tivieynu” from their collaboration with Cantor Jack Mendelson on Further Definitions of the Days of Awe; the title track from Let Us Break Bread Together; and "Heaven's Gate."
Direct download: Podcast_462_-_A_Conversation_wtih_the_Afro-Semitic_Experience.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 12:00pm EST
Mon, 19 January 2015
To honor the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King on the anniversary of his birth, here is the Official Straight No Chaser song of the holiday - “Martin was a Man, a Real Man” as recorded by Oliver Nelson in 1969. The band for the recording included Nelson, Pearl Kaufmann and Roger Kellaway (piano); Chuck Domanico (bass); John Guerin and Roy Haynes (drums); Frank Stroizer and John Gross (sax) and Bob Bryant (trumpet).
For last year’s podcast tribute to Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, click here. For a 2008 podcast of tunes from Charlie Haden's Liberation Orchestra, Grant Green, Cecil Payne, Horace Silver, and the Blind Boys of Alabama, click here.
Mon, 12 January 2015
“These are real experiences that I’ve had, and I want somebody else to know that they’re not alone. That’s what the blues is all about. It’s about togetherness. It’s not just, ‘I’ve got the blues.’ It’s not just, ‘I’m not OK.’ It’s ‘Let’s bear this all together.’” – Allegra Levy
A few listens to Lonely City, and you’re thinking “This is a really good album.” When you realize the songs – which sound strikingly like tunes you’ve heard before – are all originals written by the singer, you’re thinking “This is a really big talent.” And then, when you realize that the singer-songwriter is 24 and this is her first album, you’re thinking “I’ve got to tell someone about her.”
And so I am.
Not only has Allegra Levy emerged from her tenure at New England Conservatory and the clubs of New York with a voice coming into its own, but she also writes songs a veteran would be proud to call their own. She has wisely put together a veteran band to back her, fleshing out her tunes by adding color and soul. She fronts a tight quintet led by Adam Kolker (sax) and John Bailey (trumpet), with the rising young star pianist Carmen Staaf (recently chosen as the pianist in the prestigious Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance at UCLA's Herb Alpert School of Music) the band’s secret weapon. Drummer Richie Barshay, a veteran of the Herbie Hancock Quartet, ties it all together beautifully. Kudos go to John McNeil for his many arrangements and production of the session, allowing the band to play and not merely back Ms. Levy up, making this a real jazz album.
Guest spots by the great guitarist Steve Cardenas (“Anxiety”) and violinist Mark Feldman (“Everything Green”) add to the accompaniment that showcases Ms. Levy’s talents. She sings of lost (misplaced?) love with the eye of a sadder but wiser girl, particularly on “I’m Not Okay”, her voice emerging from a mildly dissonant opening from Kolker and Bailey, recalling Peggy Lee in her approach. “Everything Green” lets her open with wordless singing, setting the mood before delivering the dramatic, torchy tune in her upper register. Listen to “A New Face”, and tell me you’re not dealing with someone with real talent.
Levy is currently completing a seven-month residency at the Four Seasons Hotel in Hong Kong, getting the chance to hone her craft in an increasingly rare residency. Book me a table when she comes back stateside in the Spring.
Category:general -- posted at: 10:00am EST
Sun, 11 January 2015
2015 has just begun, and I’ve already got a new CD on heavy rotation. That rapid-fire thumping you hear from my office – that’s Ali Bey.
A product of the fertile Detroit Jazz scene, Ali has been playing electric bass since the age of eleven. Ali’s musical development was strongly influenced by both parents - his father’s love of Jazz, Blues, and R&B and his mother’s encouragement for him to study gospel music. Time with mentors like Harold McKinney, a Grammy nominated composer and arranger; trumpeter Marcus Belgrave; and Jazz Master and acclaimed Saxophonist Donald Walden paved the way for Bey to become an in-demand funk, fusion and straight-ahead jazz bassist. Both as a sideman and with the Ali Bey Quartet (Timothy Stroud (drums), Larry Andrews (lead guitarist), Raphael Statin (saxophonist) and Bey (bass guitarist)), he has become a fixture in the Motor City.
My Finest Hour, his CD that has caught my attention, is a wonderful mix of old-school fusion bass and straight ahead playing. Right from the get-go, “’Dam’ I Got a Toothache” sets the tone – lightning fills over shifting a time signature and a driving beat that wouldn’t be out of place on mid-70’s Return to Forever. Bey uses Stroud and Andews as his core collaborators, but wisely fills out the sound with not only Statin but Ladarrel Johnson on sax (especially on his rave-up “Ace in the Hole”) , and Raymond Davis Jr.’s keyboard on “Sanktum Sanktorium.”
This is not just an album for fusion fanatics, though. Check out the soulfulness of “Ace in the Hole” or the chill of “Joe Cool” and you’ll know that Ali Bey has more than a few good tricks in those four strings.
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00pm EST
Sun, 11 January 2015
On Tuesday, January 20, 2015, Paul Simon, James Taylor, Bobby McFerrin, Dianne Reeves and others will honor the memory of their friend and colleague, 15-time Grammy-winning saxophonist Michael Brecker, at The Nearness of You benefit concert in New York City.
Hugh Jackman and Deborra-lee Furness are the benefit chairs, and Meredith Viera will serve as master of ceremonies. Proceeds from the concert will support cancer research at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC), particularly the Myelodisplastic Syndromes (MDS) Center at CUMC.
This extraordinary event will also feature: Randy Brecker, Mike Mainieri, Joey Calderazzo, Jack DeJohnette, Ravi Coltrane, Bill Evans, Gil Goldstein, Adam Rogers, John Pattitucci, Antonio Sanchez, Danny Sadownik, Steve Wilson, Charles Pillow, Alex Sipiagin, Robin Eubanks, Chris Komer, Roger Rosenberg, Joyce Hammann, Mark Feldman, Lois Martin and David Eggar.
The New York Times hailed Michael Brecker as, "Among the most influential musicians in jazz since the 1960s." As a result of his harmonic and rhythmic innovations, Brecker is one of the most studied musicians in music schools throughout the world today. He has also recorded and performed with a Who's Who of jazz and pop giants from, Charles Mingus and Herbie Hancock, to Parliament/ Funkadelic and Aretha Franklin, to Bruce Springsteen and Eric Clapton - as well as James Taylor and Paul Simon. In 2005, Brecker was diagnosed with MDS. In need of a bone marrow transplant, the International Bone Marrow Registry was searched for a match. Failing to find a matching donor, Brecker died at age 57. As a result of the tens of thousands of people worldwide who registered in an effort to save Brecker's life, 54 lives were saved when new registrants turned out to be perfect matches for others in need.
TICKET INFORMATION: The concert will be held in The Appel Room at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Frederick P. Rose Hall at 7:30pm. General admission tickets start at $200 and are available by calling Center Charge at 212-721-6500, or online at http://www.jazz.org/events/t-3947 or at The Jazz at Lincoln Center box office, located on the ground floor of the Time Warner Center. Benefactor sales, which provides access to the pre- and post-concert receptions, can be obtained by contacting Hindy Komin at firstname.lastname@example.org or (212) 342-5597.
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EST
Sat, 10 January 2015
Family and friends, including many jazz greats, will come together to celebrate the life of Charlie Haden (1937-2014), one of the most innovative and influential bassists in the history of jazz. A three-time Grammy winner, Haden has received many awards and accolades throughout his five-decade career including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, the NEA Jazz Master Award, and was most recently bestowed the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture.
Just as importantly, he was a husband, a father, a colleague, a friend, a teacher, and a human being passionately concerned about social justice. Haden first came to fame as a member of the iconic Ornette Coleman Quartet, and literally changed the way the bass was played. He went on to play with Keith Jarrett and a who’s who of music’s greats, including John Coltrane, Alice Coltrane, Pat Metheny, Michael Brecker, Stan Getz, Chet Baker, Abbey Lincoln, and so many more. At the same time he formed his iconic bands Liberation Music Orchestra (in 1969) and Quartet West (in 1986) with which he performed and recorded until his untimely passing. In 1982, he founded the Jazz Studies Program at California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, CA.
Among the many performers and speakers attending the event at The Town Hall on 123 West 43rd Street in New York will be Geri Allen, Kenny Barron, Carla Bley, Jack DeJohnette, Denardo Coleman, Ravi Coltrane, Mark Fain, Bill Frisell, Ethan Iverson, Josh Haden and the Haden Triplets, Ruth Cameron-Haden, Dr. Maurice Jackson, Lee Konitz, Pat Metheny, Josh Redman, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Brandee Younger et al., as well as several special guests to be announced. The evening will be anchored by performances by Haden's two preeminent bands, Quartet West with Alan Broadbent, Ernie Watts, Rodney Green, with Scott Colley on bass, and Liberation Music Orchestra with Carla Bley, Tony Malaby, Chris Cheek, Loren Stillman, Michael Rodriguez, Seneca Black, Curtis Fowlkes, Vincent Chancey, Joe Daley, Steve Cardenas, Matt Wilson, with Steve Swallow on bass.
THIS IS A FREE EVENT, but Tax Deductible Donations to benefit the Charlie Haden CalArts Scholarship Fund, a 501c3, providing tuition assistance for jazz students in need, will be accepted at the venue or can be sent to PO Box 520, Agoura Hills, CA 91376. The event will be General Admission, with doors opening at 6pm.
To here my podcast tribute to Charlie Haden from this past summer, click here.
Category:general -- posted at: 1:30pm EST
Fri, 9 January 2015
Jeff Golub, a smooth- jazz guitarist who was equallya dept at playing blues and rock,died on New Year's Day in New York City. He was 59. While a cause of death has not been determined, in 2011, Golub contracted a rare degenerative brain disease called progressive supranuclear palsy that caused him to lose his sight, but failed to hamper his guitar playing. His last CD, the first since he lost his sight, had just recently been released.
Raised in Akron, Ohio, Golub’s initial goal was to play bluegrass. That changed with the British Invasion, which revealed to him the joys of playing pop and turned him on to blues. Golub didn't study jazz until enrolling at Boston's Berklee School of Music in the late 1970s. He moved to New York in 1980 bent on becoming a studio musician. Within a few months, he was asked to join Billy Squier's band. The first record they recorded was ''The Stroke,'' and it had found an audience on FM rock radio and AM top 40. Two more singles – ''My Kinda Lover'' and ''In the Dark'' – followed and the album went on to sell millions.
''It was my dream come true, what my dream was at that time,'' Golub had said. ''It was just exciting, suddenly playing coliseums. I was 24 years old and a single guy and traveling the country with a rock band.''
He played with Rod Stewart from 1988 to 1995 on four albums and five world tours. He also performed on albums by Tina Turner, Vanessa Williams, Peter Wolf and Bill Evans. But jazz, in particular the kind of smooth jazz played by Bob James and Kirk Whalum became his real love. He released 12 jazz discs to date (and three with his instrumental band, Avenue Blue), including his latest soul-jazz collection, Train Keeps A Rolling. The title was a reference to an incident that occurred last year when Golub fell onto the New York City subway tracks and was clipped and dragged by a train. He miraculously escaped with only minor scrapes, bruises and a slew of New York City media coverage. Golub’s courageous spirit remained undaunted to the end.
Category:general -- posted at: 12:58pm EST
Thu, 1 January 2015
New Year's Day - a day of hangovers, resolution writing, college football games, and general recovery. Nancy and I are off to her Cousin Jimmy's open house for an afternoon of family, cut-throat board games, college boel games that actually matter, and polite grazing of potluck.
A happy new year to one and all - let's toast 2014 with a verse or two of "Let's Start the New Year Right" by Irving Berlin, sung here by that great crooner (and underrated influence on all jazz singers), Bing Crosby:
One minute to midnight, one minute to go
Category:general -- posted at: 10:00am EST