Wed, 29 July 2015
Last year the venerable Newport Jazz Festival shook off a few cobwebs and let the jazz world know that it was not going to rest on its laurels. The Festival added a third day to the mix and brought more up and coming, avant-garde and student groups to the stages than ever.
2015 promises to be more of the same. Friday has big names like Snarky Puppy and Christian McBride, but also ensembles that will bring ensembles that feature Ambrose Akinmusire, Ben Wendel, Bria Skonberg, Herlin Riley, Johnathan Blake, Mark Turner, Ben Street, Chris Potter and the Berklee Concert Jazz Orchestra w special guest soloist Sean Jones.
Saturday’s headliners Cassandra Wilson, Jon Batiste and Stay Human, and the Maria Schneider Orchestra are virtually eclipsed by a cavalcade of top artists - Irvin Mayfield, Cécile McLorin Salvant with the Aaron Diehl Trio, Pat Martino Organ Trio, José James, Conrad Herwig's Latin Side of Horace Silver featuring Michel Camilo and starring Craig Handy, Kenny Garrett, Wycliffe Gordon, Tom Harrell and especially, Jack DeJohnette's Made in Chicago, which celebrates the 50th Anniversary of Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) .
Sunday wraps things up in style, Jamie Cullum; Arturo Sandoval,; Dr. John and The Nite Trippers; Mike Stern/Bill Evans Band; Arturo O'Farrill's Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra with special guest Rudresh Mahanthappa; Bill Frisell Trio; Jon Faddis’ Triumph of Trumpets with Marquis Hill, Sean Jones, David Hazeltine, Kiyoshi Kitagawa & Dion Parsons; Billy Childs’ Jazz-Chamber Ensemble with Steve Wilson, Carol Robbins, Larry Koonse and Ari Hoenig; the Fred Hersch Trio; James Carter Sextet; Lou Donaldson Quartet and Jason Lindner’s Now vs. Now.
And I didn’t even mention all of the acts. Whew.
Podcast 490 lets Danny Melnick, the Festival’s promoter, take us on an inside tour of the Newport Jazz Festival. Musical selections include recordings by Festival artists including Kneebody (“Ready, Set, Go”), Tom Harrell ("After the Game is Over"), Jack DeJohnette's Made in Chicago (“Ten Minutes”), and Dr. John ("I've Got the World On a Dtring"). As there will be a four part discussion commemorating the recent release of a box set of Miles Davis' complete Newport performances, you can also hear "'Round Midnight."
Direct download: Podcast_490_-_Previewing_the_Newport_Jazz_Festival_with_Danny_Melnick.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT
Mon, 27 July 2015
Grammy-Award Winning Music Historian Ashley Kahn will curate four panel discussions during this coming weekend’s Newport Jazz Festival, commemorating the 60th anniversary of Miles Davis’ debut performance at the venerable jazz festival. The event will allow listeners to here selections from Miles Davis At Newport 1955-1975: The Bootleg Series Vol. 4, the most recent release in a series of archival recordings.
Among those joining Mr. Kahn on the "Storyville Stage" will be Newport Jazz Festival founder/creator George Wein; New York Times critic Nate Chinen; Rolling Stone journalist David Fricke; Author/critic Bill Milkowski; festival performer's Jon Faddis, Randy Sandke and Mike Stern; Grammy-Award winning producer Steve Berkowitz; and veteran music consultant/packager Nell Mulderry.
It looks like the highlight of the four discussions will come on Sunday, August 2, with Miles & The Electric Guitar. Fricke, Miles alum guitarist Mike Stern and Milkowski will join moderator Ashley Kahn to discuss and play examples of Miles' long romance and infatuation with the sound of the electric guitar. This first began in the mid-1960s when Miles asked George Benson to sit in a recording session and went into high gear when the rock revolution hit. One of many highlights on Miles Davis At Newport 1955-1975 comes from guitarists Reggie Lucas and Pete Cosey’s work in Davis’ mid-seventies electric band.
Category:general -- posted at: 10:13am EDT
Sat, 18 July 2015
My wife Nancy celebrates her birthday today, so it's time for my annual posting of a version of the song "Nancy (With the Laughing Face)." This year we have an instrumental version courtesy of Delfeayo Marsalis' CD The Last Southern Gentleman.
Since my old blog site has disappeared as of late, let me re-post one version of the story of this song, as reported by Ida Zeitlin in Modern Screen magazine in 1946. I’m not sure how true this one is, but it’s a doozy!
She came running in, her face lighting up as always when she sees her father. Frank scooped her into his arms. “Here’s Nancy with the laughing face—”
Happy Birthday, Nancy! And thanks for marrying me.
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00am EDT
Mon, 13 July 2015
Some significant jazz artists have had tragically short careers. Charlie Parker was gone at the age of 34; Billie Holiday at 44. Lee Morgan has been mentioned a number of times recently on this blog as someone who died far too young – 34 years old – but his fifteen years were so jam-packed with classic sides as a leader and sideman that it hardly seems so. Gary McFarland, a significant force in the jazz world in the 1960s, died in 1971 just after his 38th birthday, the victim of a poisoning. His career lasted just a little over ten years but the music for which he was responsible, as performer, arranger, producer, and label owner, is timeless. And yet for some reason he has slipped from our consciousness.
Considered an “adult prodigy” by former Downbeat magazine editor Gene Lees, Gary did not start any formal studies until he was in his late twenties. After winning a Downbeat scholarship to the Berklee School of Music in 1959, McFarland spent just one semester of study there before moving to New York City. Through his connection with trombonist/composer Bob Brookmeyer, McFarland wrote his first professional arrangements for Gerry Mulligan’s Concert Jazz Band.
McFarland would go on to be one of the most important jazz forces of the 1960’s with his compositions, arrangements, recordings, and film and stage scores. He was also a prolific producer and part owner of the SKYE record label along with Cal Tjader and Gabor Szabo. McFarland was also one of the first jazz musicians to include pop and rock material in his recordings and performances. One recording, America the Beautiful: An Account of Its Disappearance, combined elements of jazz, rock and orchestral writing that proved to be a seminal work from that changing pre-fusion period.
The Gary McFarland Legacy Ensemble is dedicated to the preservation of his music. Percussionist Michael Benedict has studied, performed and recorded McFarland’s music ever since meeting Gail McFarland, Gary’s widow, in 1979. Michael and Gail were married for twenty-five years until Gail’s death in 2007. Michael and his stepdaughter, Kerry McFarland, continue to promote Gary’s music to this day.
Circulation: The Music of Gary McFarlane, the first recording by the Legacy Ensemble, focuses on McFarland’s most recorded material as well as more obscure, unrecorded selections. Benedict leads the group on drums and is backed by a crackerjack group: Bruce Barth (who also did the arrangements) on piano, Joe Locke on vibes, Sharel Cassity on saxophones, and Mike Lawrence on bass.
Those who want to learn and hear more can catch the Legacy Ensemble at The Madison Theatre in Albany New York on July 14th, along with a screening of the documentary This is Gary McFarland, directed by Kristian St. Clair. The film features interviews with Clark Terry, Bob Brookmeyer, Steve Kuhn, Airto Moreira and many more, as well as rare music performances by Bill Evans, Stan Getz and the Gary McFarland Orchestra.
I recently spoke with Michael Benedict about the CD, the concert and film, and especially about the life and music of Gary McFarlane. Podcast 490 is our conversation, featuring music from McFarland himsef (“Last Rites for the Promised Land”). the Gary McFarland Legacy Ensemble (“Dragonhead”, “Summer Day” and “Why Are You Blue”); and Benedict’s band Bopitude ("Three and One") featuring baritone sax star Gary Smulyan.
Direct download: Podcast_489_-_A_Conversation_with_Michael_Benedict_about_Gary_McFarland.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 10:00am EDT
Sat, 11 July 2015
Three months ago I featured a tribute to trumpeter Lee Morgan on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of a number of his finest releases as a bandleader and sideman.
A native of Philadelphia, Morgan loaned his trumpet talents to classic albums like John Coltrane’s Blue Train, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messenger’s Moanin’, and Johnny Griffin’s A Blowing Session. He backed artists like Wayne Shorter, Hank Mobley, Freddie Hubbard and Jackie McLean, while carving out a career as a star in his own right. With the 1963 release of “The Sidewinder,” Morgan even had a jukebox hit. Sadly, less than ten years later he was dead.
It only seems natual that Terell Stafford, the trumpet player most closely associated with the City of Philadelphia today would record a tribute album of sorts to Lee Morgan. BrotherLee Love(on Capri Records) again features the trumpeter’s regular quintet with saxophonist Tim Warfield, pianist Bruce Barth, bassist Peter Washington, and drummer Dana Hall. The result is a CD that is moving in many ways, not the least of which is its ability to move your feet. Stafford picks and chooses carefully through Morgan’s body of work, choosing the well-known (“Speedball”) along with the less heard (“Yes I Can, No You Can’t”). A highlight for me is the ballad “Candy”, with a memorable Stafford solo.
While Stafford may not be a Philadelphia native–he was born in Miami and raised in a suburb of Chicago–he’s become a vocal champion of the city’s storied jazz heritage. Stafford came of musical age on Philadelphia stages, mentored by local legends like Shirley Scott. For the past two decades he’s helped to pass that torch to the next generation through his work as Director of Jazz and Chair of Instrumental Studies at Temple University’s Boyer College of Music and Dance, and he recently established the Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia, an outstanding big band dedicated to spotlighting the city’s most gifted instrumentalists and composers, past and present.
Although he didn’t come to jazz until his early 20s, Stafford was a quick study and was enlisted during his college years to play with saxophonist Bobby Watson’s Horizon. From there he joined McCoy Tyner’s Latin All-Star Band alongside such greats as trombonist Steve Turre, flutist Dave Valentin, and percussionist Jerry Gonzalez. In addition to his work as a leader he’s continued to be an in-demand sideman, including considerable stints with the Clayton Brothers, Matt Wilson’s Arts & Crafts, and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra.
Podcast 488 is my conversation with Terell, as we discuss his admiration for Lee Morgan, the state of students at Temple University, and his memories of playing on some of my favorite albums of the past few years. Musical selections include “Yes I Can, No You Can’t”, “Candy” and Stafford’s composition “Favor” from BrotherLee Love; a cover of Weather Report's "Teen Town" from Matt Wilson’s Arts & Crafts CD An Attitude for Gratitude, and “Shirley's Song“ from Alvin Queen’s I Ain't Looking at You.
Direct download: Podcast_488_-_A_Conversation_with_Terell_Stafford.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT
Fri, 10 July 2015
The release of Some Places Are Forever Afternoon (11 Places for Richard Hugo) by composer-keyboardist-arranger Wayne Horvitz gives us another opportunity to appreciate the length and breadth with which jazz composition continues to grow and mature. Commissioned with funding from the Shifting Foundation, the CD is a suite of 11 pieces based on a different poem by Richard Hugo.
The instrumentation combines two of Horvitz's working ensembles, The Gravitas Quartet and Sweeter Than the Day to great effect (Wayne Horvitz-Piano, Ron Miles-Trumpet, Peggy Lee-Cello, Sara Schoenbeck-Bassoon, Timothy Young-Guitar, Keith Lowe-Bass and Eric Eagle-Drums.) The CD packaging is glorious, and includes a 26-page booklet with the poems, photos and an essay by the composer. As the suite travels in the Northwest, predominantly this fall, local readers will read each poem following the performance of the corresponding piece. Many of these readers knew Hugo, and all of them maintain deep connections to the places that inspired the poet, further grounding the composition with a sense of place.
Richard Hugo was born in White Center, and lived throughout the Northwest before settling in Missoula, Montana. He taught poetry at the University of Montana, and is the inspiration for a plethora of writers of the west, including James and Lois Welch, William Kittredge, Frances McCue and countless others. Hugo loved to visit the small towns and odd places all through this part of the world, from West Marginal Way to La Push to the Union Bar Grill in rural Montana. He was a great lover of music, and jazz in particular. It is Hugo's enduring love of music, rambling, and the places of the Northwest that inspired Horvitz's interpretation of his work, which honors and celebrates the poet's legacy. Hugo passed away in 1982.
Some Places Are Forever Afternoon compares favorably with recent work by the likes of Maria Schneider (The Thompson Fields) as both move effortlessly from the conventions of art music to swinging jazz. Both Horvitz and Ms. Schneider are topnotch arrangers, but they also know where to leave room for their favorite soloists to stretch out. In particular, check out Ron Miles' memorable trumpet solos.
Horvitz has grown from one of the young founding members of the New York Downtown Avant-Jazz Scene (his work with John Zorn, Naked City and other projects on Tzadik, Avanat and Nonesuch label help define an era) to a mature artist who helps the music scene in his adopted home of Seattle, Four years ago, with partners Steve Freeborn and Tia Mathies (of OK Hotel etc.), opened “The Royal Room” in Seattle’s Columbia City neighborhood. The Royal Room’s mission is to create a venue that serves the local community, honors and fosters the diversity and historical culture of Seattle’s south end, while supporting local musicians and encouraging artists to develop new projects. He continues to create pieces of symphony, installations and yes, even gets behind his beloved Hammond B-3 from time to time as well.
Podcast 486 is my conversation with Wayne, discussing the genesis of Some Places Are Forever Afternoon (11 Places for Richard Hugo), his writing techniques and his plans for future projects (hint- Bill Frisell is involved!). Music from Some Places Are Forever Afternoon (11 Places for Richard Hugo) is featured "All Weather Is Yours No Matter How Vulgar? (Fairfield)", "Those Who Remain Are the Worst (Three Stops to Ten Sleep)" and "The Beautiful Wives (Missoula Softball Tournament)", along with "Waltz from Woman of Tokyo", a Horvitz composition from The Westerlies, who were featured here last year when they released Wish The Children Would Come On Home: The Music of Wayne Horvitz.
Direct download: Podcast_487_-_A_Conversation_with_Wayne_Horvitz.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT
Thu, 9 July 2015
I'm a big fan of Marc Myer's top notch blog JazzWax. He writes clearly and eloquently, and often covers topics other sites completely ignore, and his work always leaves a reader ready to run to his record collection and check out something he hasn't heard in years. Or find something new.
Today's column commemorates the 60th anniversary of the day Bill Haley & the Comets hit Number One on the Billboard Charts with "Rock Around the Clock." In a thought provoking essay, Myers tells the story of that record's second release as a feature of the Hollywood film The Blackboard Jungle, and how teenagers and adults changed their view of one another in its wake.
Jazz was a casualty of that film and indeed, of rock and roll. One telling scene in the movie involved delinquent teenagers smashing a "square" teacher's valued jazz record collection. Myers writes:
In that one scene of sacrilege, teens were taught that jazz was a joke and the music of detached, condescending adults—an unfortunate and ignorant lesson that rock musicians still feel guilty about today.
Check out the entire column today, and be sure to peruse the site for more great reading (and listening). You'll agree he was the deserved winner of the Jazz Jounalists of America Blog of the Year last month.
Category:general -- posted at: 8:28am EDT
Wed, 8 July 2015
Over the years my deep love for the music of the Allman Brothers Band has been featured in a number of postings most recently in Podcast 451. While the flashy guitars and Hammond B-3 may get the glory, its the rhythm section that made this band truly great, and at the heart of that rhythm section is Jaimoe. I'm proud to call him a friend, and to wish him a happy birthday.
Born John Johan Johanson in Mississippi 71 years ago, Jaimoe played his way through the Chitlin Circuit into Otis Redding's band, and then through connections at Muscle Shoals, the founding of the Allman Brothers Band. This past fall, the ABB played their final show together, and it was a glorious evening.
But that's not the end of the line for this drummer. Jaimoe and his Jasssz Band are on the festival circuit, playing what can truly be called "American music". They combine elements of Jazz, Blues, Rock-n-Roll, and R&B into a unique blend that captures the spirit and stirs the soul. Their repertoire ranges from new interpretations of classic tunes, as well as original songs that are classics in the making. They might go from Coltrane to the ABB's "Dreams", the hot funk of New Orleans' The Meters to the cool of Miles Davis.
Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band features as its core Jaimoe on drums, Junior Mack on guitar and vocals, Dave Stoltz on bass, and Mathais Schuber on keyboards. A rotating series of some of the finest horn players of our time, including Jay Collins, Frank Kozyra, Paul Lieberman, Kris Jensen and Richard Boulger, have joined the band from gig to gig. To get anidea of their jazz chops, click here to listen to the jazz classic "Softly As in a Morning Sunrise". The track opened up a concert dedicated to the memory of the legendary jazz drummer Ed Blackwell in 2007. The CD is available here.
Category:general -- posted at: 3:45pm EDT
Wed, 8 July 2015
“One reason why people like improvised music is that it’s a direct reflection of life, not something we thought up. It scares you…makes you think you’re going to die for a moment…do you have the courage to play? Can I move out of my desires and wants, and into compositional choices?” – Jerry Granelli
At the age of 74, you couldn’t blame Jerry Granelli if he were taking things easy. But not this veteran drummer. What I Hear Now is an appropriate title for his latest CD, as Granelli’s augmented trio plays new music sans piano and guitar, creating horn-centric jazz.
Those who have followed Granelli’s career won’t be surprised by these fresh sounds – from the Vince Guaraldi Trio (that’s him on A Charlie Brown Christmas) and Denny Zeitlen Trio to Free Jazz and Psychedelia in ‘60’s San Francisco to sideman gigs with We Five (“You Were on My Mind”) and pre-Family Stone Sly Stone, Granelli has always been ahead of the curve.For those – like me – who are just digging into decades of great music - What I Hear Now is an opportunity to hear an ensemble that owes more to contemporaries like Dewey Redman than to Classic Rock. Check out tunes like “Run Danny Run” for horn action, and “The Swamp” for a tight groove. And who can resist a tune called “Walter White”? Not me!
Category:general -- posted at: 2:53pm EDT
Sat, 4 July 2015
merican Independence Day 2015. We celebrate with cookouts, fireworks and concerts, but often fail to recall the brave words that were written by our forefathers in Philadelphia in 1776:
When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.
He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.
He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature.
He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states:
For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing taxes on us without our consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:
For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses:
For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule in these colonies:
For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments:
For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high seas to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.
We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.
The official Straight No Chaser song of Independence Day is Ray Charles version of "America the Beautiful". It seems strangely appropriate that we in the 21st century are able to listen to a recording made in the 20th century, featuring a blind African-American man singing a song with lyrics by a white woman (Katherine Lee Bates), with melody based on a 19th century hymn written by a white man (Samuel Ward). Enjoy!
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00am EDT