Mon, 25 May 2015
Today is Memorial Day in America, a time to pause and reflect on those in our armed forces who paid the ultimate price in serving their country. Formerly known as Decoration Day, it originated after the American Civil War to commemorate fallen Union soldiers. By the 20th century Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans who have died in all wars.
Other than arrangements of certain military anthems and patriotic songs, there are not a lot of appropriate songs to post on a jazz blog for this solemn day. So, in the spirit of world-wide empathy, here is Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra and "The Ballad of the Fallen".
Recorded in 1982 and released the next year, this avant-garde big band recorded their version of songs from the Spanish Civil War and other 20th century civil conflicts in Latin America, including the controversial revolutions in Chile and El Salvador. “The Ballad of the Fallen” is a reworked version of a folk song from El Salvador, which includes a song by Sergio Ortega called “The People United Will Never Be Defeated”, with an original introduction penned by Carla Bley.
The album was the winner of Down Beat's 1984 Critic's Poll as Best Album of 1983. Band members included Carla Bley (piano); Charlie Haden (bass); Don Cherry (pocket trumpet); Jim Pepper (flute and saxophone); Paul Motian (drums); Dewey Redman (tenor sax); and Mick Goodrick (guitar).
Category:general -- posted at: 10:00am EDT
Wed, 20 May 2015
One of the great joys I have in writing this blog and preparing podcasts is the friendship that I sometimes strike up with jazz musicians. I am proud to say that Bob Belden was my friend, and it is with great sadness that I report his passing of a massive heart attack. He was 58.
I had spoken to Bob just a week ago, and recorded two lengthy podcawsts with him, about his trip to Iran and his new CD. And now he is gone.
It will take me a while to sort out my feelings about his passing, so in the meanwhile, here is a wonderful obit from Jazztimes.
I will miss Bob Belden.
Category:general -- posted at: 4:43pm EDT
Wed, 20 May 2015
Bruce Lundvall, the former CEO of Blue Note Records and a man with an uncanny ability to identify talent in jazz music, died May 19, 2015. He was 79 years old, and had been living in a senior assisted living center in New Jersey for complications related to his battle with Parkinson's disease.
Lundvall is credited with signing acts as varied as Herbie Hancock, Wynton Marsalis, Dexter Gordon and Stan Getz in jazz, and Natalie Cole, James Taylor, and Anita Baker in pop and soul. He helped revive the moribund Blue Note label in the 1980’s by re-signing veterans like Freddie Hubbard and McCoy Tyner and bringing into the fold contemporary jazz artists such as Dianne Reeves, Cassandra Wilson, Michel Petrucciani, John Scofield, Charlie Hunter US3 and Medeski Martin & Wood.
His tenure at Blue Note was not without criticism, as for every Greg Osby, Jason Moran or Ambrose Akinmusire he signed, there were more commercial artists like Amos Lee, Willie Nelson and Al Green coming to label known and prized by so many for its jazz artistry. His signing of Norah Jones, hardly a jazz heavyweight, nevertheless allowed much needed exposure to the revived label, culminating with Ms. Jones’ winning eight Grammy Awards in 2003. He resigned from Blue Note in 2010, eventually replaced by musician Don Was, who has continued the practice of signing non-jazz artists.
He was the subject of a 2014 biography by Dan Ouellette, entitled Bruce Lundvall: Playing by Ear. Lundvall is survived by his wife and three sons. A private family service will be followed by a forthcoming public service, details will be announced shortly. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that a donation be made to the Michael J. Fox Foundation.
Category:general -- posted at: 10:05am EDT
Wed, 13 May 2015
When the write the history of popular music composers of the late 20th century, only a handful of names will appear repeatedly. Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, Lennon & McCartney, and Laura Nyro will surely be there. Cases can be made for Smokey Robinson and Randy Newman, and perhaps Tom Waits. And in my humble opinion, above them all, there is Stevie Wonder.
In one very complete package you can find someone who excelled in a wide variety of musical writing styles, performed with the incredible musicianship of a one-man band, wrote memorable melodies, complex harmonies and groundbreaking rhythms, and sang in a variety of moving vocal styles. Can any of the singer-songwriters above claim to have done all of this? I think not.
So Happy 65th Birthday Stevie, and thanks for all the years of memorable music. This “Wonder-ful” Podcast 482 of more than 70 minutes features jazz tributes to Stevie on tunes like:
Johnny “Hammond” Smith – “Higher Ground”
Ramsey Lewis – “Living for the City”
Ronnie Foster – “Superwoman”
Lee Ritenour – “You Haven’t Done Nothin’”
Grover Washington Jr. – “Overjoyed”
Keiko Lee – “Too Shy to Say”
Najee – “Black Man”
Joshua Redman – “Make Sure You’re Sure”
Roy Ayers – “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing”
Alicia Olatuja featuring Gregoire Maret – “Stay Gold”
SFJazz Collective – “My Cherie Amour”
Sun, 10 May 2015
I had much more difficult time picking a song to celebrate Mother's Day than I did for Father's Day. The latter has a natural winner - Horace Silver's "Song for My Father". But Mother's Day was another story entirely.
I could have done like Marc Myers on his JazzWax blog and chosen "16 for Mother's Day." Neil Tesser did a good job here as well with multiple tunes. But I like to choose just one, and so I went with one a bit on the schmaltzy side, but more appropriate to my culutral background - Billie Holiday singing "My Yiddishe Momme".
Now one look at these lyrics will tell you that this is NOT my mother, who ran a women's clothing boutique and could never be identified with a "wrinkled brow" or as "old and grey". But the sentiments remain, and I offer them to you and your mother as well:
My yiddishe momme
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT
Fri, 8 May 2015
May 8, 2017 is Keith Jarrett's 70th Birthday, and I wanted to celebrate the day with a repost of my review of his 2009 release of Paris/London: Testament. I spent a bit of time talking about my admiration for Jarrett, so here is a repost:
Last month celebrates the 40th anniversary of ECM Records, and I offered a number of postings featuring music from this iconic label, including a new CD by Jan Garbarek. For me, one artist represents ECM better than any other - Keith Jarrett.
Jarrett had learned his craft playing with Art Blakey and Charles Lloyd, before joining Miles Davis as one of two electric keyboard players in his band that recorded Jack Johnson and played at The Cellar Door concerts in December 1970.
When Jarrett left Miles, he rebelled against electric music, recording several significant albums of Impulse! Records with his "American Quartet" of Charlie Haden (bass), Paul Motian (drums) and Dewey Redman (saxophone). In 1975, he signed with ECM, where the bulk of his recordings have been released. He has chosen basically three different ways of recording at ECM. His "European Quartet" of Jan Garbarek (sax), Palle Danielsson (bass) and Jon Christensen (drums) served as his outlet for avant-garde music, while his solo records (most notably the sublime The Koln Concert) and his "Standards Trio" records are far more accessible.
It's not possible to document the importance of Jarrett's piano playing on today's Jazz musicians in one podcast. His style is impressionistic, yet he can take standards apart and re-arrange them in new and exciting ways. His solo performances are legendary and his improvisational concert recordings have become classics. I had the pleasure of seeing one of his improvisational performances in 1980 at the University of Massachusetts, and I count it as one of my favorite concerts.
His lastest solo recordings comes in a 3 disc package entitled Paris/London: Testament. Liner notes to the album indicate that Jarrett was under the serious strain of a recent separation from his wife when the concerts were recorded in late December 2008. The results are two very different improvised recordings, both of very high quality.
The Paris concert is a languid, sometimes dissonant affair, allowing Jarrett the time and space to cover the length and breadth of the keyboard. His playing is as active as ever here - his left hand finds a groove he likes and stays with it for stretches at a time, while his right hand explores.
London is different. It's a more reflective, and at times bluesy. Click here to listen to the third section of the concert, and you'll know what I mean. It is followed by a fourth section that has a dizzying display of right hand, and a series of short sections that bring the crowd to their feet with their feeling and dexterity.
Category:general -- posted at: 8:10am EDT