Wed, 24 June 2015
We haven’t had a good jazz super-group in a couple of years now. The last time I could really put that tag on a group was the Five Peace Band, led by pianist Chick Corea and guitar legend John McLaughlin, who formed their first group together since playing with Miles Davis decades earlier. They added Kenny Garrett on saxophone, Christian McBride on bass, and Vinnie Colaiuta on drums for a terrific one-off album and tour.
This year’s candidate for super-group status comes from the appropriately named Heads of State. After years of playing in various combinations, we finally get a working band of saxophonist Gary Bartz, bassist Buster Williams (both Herbie Hancock alumni), pianist Larry Willis and drummer extraordinaire Al Foster. Their debut album, Searching for Peace, is a wonderful mix of standards and Bartz originals, played by masters at the tops of their games. The band will be headlining some of the biggest festivals this summer, including stops at the Montreal Jazz Festival and the Main Stage at Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival on Sunday June 29th.
I spoke with Buster Williams about the group, and he shared his enthusiasm for the working band. Williams is among our most durable and innovative bass players, mastering the art of double bass accompaniment for singers like Dakota Staton, Sarah Vaughan, Nancy Wilson and Betty Carter; and holding down the groove for artists like McCoy Tyner, Dexter Gordon, Roy Ayers, Stanley Turrentine, and his early mentors, Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt. He backed Miles Davis, and then with Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi Sextet, he helped revolutionize electric bass playing with classics like “Tell Me a Bedtime Story.” Williams was nominated for a Grammy Award for his work with pianist Hank Jones and drummer Tony Williams on Love For Sale, the first of Jones’ records credited to the appropriately named "The Great Jazz Trio."
Podcast 486 is my conversation with Buster, as he talks not only about the new CD, but recalls the recoding of a number of his great back catalogue, including the classic Jewel in the Lotus CD with Bernie Maupin. Musical selections include “Impressions”, “Crazy She Calls Me” and the Bartz-penned “Uncle Bubba” from Searching for Peace; “Past is Past” from Jewel in the Lotus; the title track from Herbie Hancock’s Fat Albert Rotunda; and Nancy Wilson signing the blues on “(They Call It) Stormy Monday” from her Something Wonderful CD.
Direct download: Podcast_486_-_A_Conversation_with_Buster_Williams_of_Heads_of_State.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 10:00am EDT
Wed, 24 June 2015
“Prolific” would be an understatement to describe the recorded output of saxophone player Ivo Perelman. Over the past 30 months, Ivo has released at least ten CDs under his own name on the Leo Records Label, most of them fascinating avant-garde improvisations on the tenor sax.
His output almost came to a sudden halt last year when he began to experience pain and bleeding from his mouth. He discovered that he had damaged his larynx by the heavy use of notes in high registers, exacerbated by the use of equipment that was not conducive to his schedule. He was forced to take a break, but luckily found that rest and a change in gear fixed the potentially career-ending injury.
During this hiatus, he began listening to opera, particularly singers who had suffered similar problems with their larynx. This led him to re-discover the music of Maria Calls, diva par excellence. He soon had a “new hero”, and the style and fire of her recordings led to his new double-CD Callas, featuring one of Perelman’s longtime collaborators, Matthew Shipp on piano.
That might be a lot for most musicians, but Ivo released two other CDs last week as well. Tenorhood is his opportunity to salute the spirit of his favorite tenor sax players, from Ben Webster to Sonny Rollins, and from John Coltrane to Albert Ayler. Taking a page from Coltrane’s book, the CD is a set of duets with drummer Whit Dickey, and rather than recording say, “Oleo” as a tribute to Rollins, he instead channels Sonny’s spirit and approach in an improvised portrait of both the man and the player.
Lastly, and perhaps most adventurously, Perelman recorded Counterpoint, a trio setting with two masters of avant-garde string sounds – violinist Mat Maneri and guitarist Joe Morris. The result is a dynamic – and challenging to the ear - series of improvised conversations between three masters, at times sounding quite unlike anything I have ever heard.
Podcast 484 is my conversation with Ivo Perelman, as he discusses his background and his growth as a musician from his childhood in Brazil through his short stint at Berklee ending with his new home in New York. Musical selections from the new CDs include the opening “Part 1” from Counterpoint; “Tosca” titled in honor of one of Maria Calls’ greatest roles from Callas; and a tribute to one of the great saxophonist of our time, “For Coltrane” from Tenorhood.
Direct download: Podcast_484_-_A_Conversation_with_Ivo_Perelman.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:00am EDT