Mon, 29 February 2016
Has there more written-about any jazz legend than has been written about Charles Mingus?
A cursory review of the Library of Congress catalog finds seventeen titles about the legendary composer/musician, including the Mingus autobiography Beneath the Underdog . Only Miles Davis and Duke Ellington have had more books written about their lives and storied careers.
Krin Gabbard has written an important addition to the Mingus canon with the publication of Better Git It in Your Soul: An Interpretive Biography of Charles Mingus (University of California Press). While a portion of the book is a chronological biography of Mingus, much of the book veers off into other areas and topics as a way of explaining the importance of the man and his music. For example, one part of the book focuses on Mingus relationship with the “Third Stream” music movement and his place in jazz history; another focuses on his writings, including his poetry.
Gabbard is uniquely qualified to shine these varying lights on the Mingus legend. A trumpet player who wrote Hotter than That: The Trumpet, Jazz, and American Culture, he taught and wrote extensively about the cinema during his full-time academic career. He merged these two loves in writing Jammin’ at the Margins: Jazz and the American Cinema and now teaches in the jazz studies program at Columbia University.
For Krin, Mingus is among the most towering figures in 20th century American music. Classicly trained on cello, he moved to jazz music and played with virtually every major figure in the history of jazz, starting with New Orleans legends Louis Armstrong and Kid Ory. He played bass in the “Greatest Jazz Concert Ever” at Massey Hall in Toronto, sharing the stage with Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell and Max Roach. He recorded with his father-figure Duke Ellington (Money Jungle) , but also with Miles Davis, Lionel Hampton, and helped launch the careers of Eric Dolphy, Booker Ervin, and Paul Bley. As a composer and bandleader, his works moved from bebop to blues, from ballet scores to orchestral pieces, from in-your-face civil rights protests to moving elegies. At his death from ALS in 1979, he was working with Joni Mitchell on the album that would eventually be called Mingus.
Podcast 52_ is my conversation with Krin Gabbard, as we talk about the importance of Mingus, and Krin delves into topics like the “Angry Man of Jazz” handle that haunted Mingus throughout his career; and what Krin sees as the failures of the Mingus album. Musical selections include Mingus performances “Diane”(Mingus Dynasty), “My Jelly Roll Soul” (Blues and Roots), and "Track B – Duet Solo Dancers" (The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady) plus a track from the Joni Mitchell collaboration, “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat”.
Direct download: Podcast_523_-_A_Conversation_with_Krin_Gabbard_about_Charles_Mingus.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 12:00pm EST
Wed, 24 February 2016
Fifty years ago today, Wayne Shorter led a quartet into – where else? – Rudy Van Gelder’s Studio in Englewood, New Jersey to finish recording one of his classic albums, Adam’s Apple. Present at the sessions – the title track was recorded on February 3rd and then the rest of the album finished in a second session on February 24th – were Shorter on saxophone; fellow Miles Davis band member Herbie Hancock on piano; Reggie Workman on bass; and Joe Chambers on drums.
The album may be best known for having the first recording of the Shorter composition “Footprints”, which has become a jazz standard. The song begins as a straightforward 12-bar minor blues format. However, by the ninth bar of the tune, the harmonics have changed dramatically from the typical 1-4-5 format, part of the reason the tune has become a touchstone for jazz players.
A year later, during the recording of Miles Smiles, the tune was revamped in style and meter even more, becoming what one critic called “the first overt expression of systemic, African-based cross-rhythm used by a straight ahead jazz group.”
Read more about the tune’s musical structure on Peter Spitzer’s Music Blog.
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EST
Fri, 12 February 2016
And now for your edification, a brief history of Valentine’s Day, courtesy ofInfoplease.com:
The history of Valentine's Day is obscure, and further clouded by various fanciful legends. The holiday's roots are in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, a fertility celebration commemorated annually on February 15. Pope Gelasius I recast this pagan festival as a Christian feast day circa 496, declaring February 14 to be St. Valentine's Day.
Which St. Valentine this early pope intended to honor remains a mystery: according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, there were at least three early Christian saints by that name. Most scholars believe that the St. Valentine of the holiday was a priest who attracted the disfavor of Roman emperor Claudius II around 270. At this stage, the factual ends and the mythic begins. According to one legend, Claudius II had prohibited marriage for young men, claiming that bachelors made better soldiers. Valentine continued to secretly perform marriage ceremonies but was eventually apprehended by the Romans and put to death. Another legend has it that Valentine, imprisoned by Claudius, fell in love with the daughter of his jailer. Before he was executed, he allegedly sent her a letter signed "from your Valentine." Probably the most plausible story surrounding St. Valentine is one not focused on “Eros” (passionate love) but on “agape” (Christian love): he was martyred for refusing to renounce his religion.
In 1969, the Catholic Church revised its liturgical calendar, removing the feast days of saints whose historical origins were questionable. St. Valentine was one of the casualties.
It was not until the 14th century that this Christian feast day became definitively associated with love. According to UCLA medieval scholar Henry Ansgar Kelly, author of Chaucer and the Cult of Saint Valentine, it was Geoffrey Chaucer who first linked St. Valentine's Day with romance.
In 1381, Chaucer composed a poem in honor of the engagement between England's Richard II and Anne of Bohemia. As was the poetic tradition, Chaucer associated the occasion with a feast day. In "The Parliament of Fowls," the royal engagement, the mating season of birds, and St. Valentine's Day are linked:
For this was on St. Valentine's Day,
Over the centuries, the holiday evolved, and by the 18th century, gift-giving and exchanging hand-made cards on Valentine's Day had become common in England. Hand-made valentine cards made of lace, ribbons, and featuring cupids and hearts eventually spread to the American colonies. The tradition of Valentine's cards did not become widespread in the United States, however, until the 1850s, when Esther A. Howland, a Mount Holyoke graduate and native of Worcester, Mass., began mass-producing them. Today, of course, the holiday has become a booming commercial success. According to the Greeting Card Association, 25% of all cards sent each year are valentines.
The Valentine’s tradition here at Straight No Chaser is to create a mixtape of sorts for you to share with you special someone. You can find previous mixtapes from2013, 2012, and 2011 on the website along with 2014's selection, Podcast 410 and 2015's Podcast 464. Podcast 524 features the following tunes:
Will Downing - "This Song is For You"
Ronnie Laws - "Tonite's the Night"
Vince Guaraldi - "It's De-Lovely"
John Hollenback - "(They Long to Be) Close to You
Gerry Gibbs Thrasher Dream Trio - "Theme from 'A Man and a Woman'"
Sonny Clark - "Someday My Prince Will Come"
George Cables - "Naima's Love Song"
Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga - "I Can't Give You ANything But Love"
Brian Landrus Trio - "I'm a Fool to Want You"
Tord Gustavsen - "The Way You Play My Heart"
Charles Lloyd & the Marvels with Norah Jones - "You Are So Beautiful"
Gregory Porter - "I Fall in Love Too Easily"
Archie Shepp - "My Funny Valentine"
Download them all today, and give them as a gift on Sunday!
Fri, 12 February 2016
“The way we listen to music today is broken”
With that bold statement, pianist/entrepreneur Elan Mehler explained to me the strategy behind Newvelle Records, a new kind of label with a curated repertoire of new music from some of today’s finest jazz musicians. Released only on highest quality vinyl, each album on the Newvelle label is recorded at East Side Sound in New York City by Grammy-winning engineer Mac Urselli, and mastered at famed mastering house Master Disc.
Newvelle release will only be available by a unique subscription arrangement, whereby members will receive one brand new record every two months. They will not be choosing selections from a catalogue, but rather will get the release chosen for the label by Mehler and co-founder Jean-Christophe Morisseau.
The first year's membership includes new recordings on vinyl from the following top artists, with the first release later this month: Frank Kimbrough Quintet, Jack DeJohnette Solo Piano; Noah Preminger Quartet featuring Ben Monder, John Patitucci and Billy Hart; Don Friedman Trio featuring music from Booker Little's seminal albums which featured Don in 1961:Out Front and Victory and Sorrow; Ben Allison Trio featuring Ted Nash and Steve Cardenas; and Leo Genovese Trio featuring Esperanza Spalding and Jack DeJohnette.
Newvelle is also an artist-centric label, as the label pays for all costs of the recording up front, has exclusive rights to the recordings on vinyl only for a few years, and then gives the digital masters to the artist to with what he or she wishes. “Our contract is literally a one pager....I would sign it”, joked Mehler.
Podcast 522 features my conversation with Elan Mehler, as he talks about the lable, the new recordings and where he hopes this business model goes in the future. An exclusive first listen to a track from Jack DeJohnette’s solo piano album ("Ode to Satie") is included, as well as previously released recordings from some of the featured artists, including Frank Kimborough (“Blue Smoke“), and Don Friedman playing with Booker Little (“Man of Words“).
Direct download: Podcast_522_-_A_Conversation_with_Elan_Mehler_about_Newvelle_Records.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 10:35am EST
Tue, 9 February 2016
Today at 12:08 PM
It happens a little earlier on the calendar this year, but the goings on in New Orleans are unmistakable.
For those interested in the religious significant, “Mardi Gras” is the term for Fat Tuesday, or more appropriately, Shrove Tuesday (“Shrove” coming from the word “shrive”, or “confess”). Mardi Gras is French for "Fat Tuesday", reflecting the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season begins.
In New Orleans, the Mardi Gras celebrations begin on Twelfth Night, the last of the Twelve Days of Christmas, and carry on through Ash Wednesday. Parades and general madness that precede the actual Mardi Gras Day, mostly on the riverfront area and French Quarter fall under the category of “Lundi Gras.”
Nancy and I were in New Orleans a week before Mardi Gras last year, and got swept up in the excitement and general bacchanalia that happens there. We even got to take part in a parade by the Krewe of the Cork, a wine, food and fun themed society that strut their stuff in the French Quarter. Click here for a picture from the 2016 Krewe of the Cork parade last month.
The three traditional Mardi Gras colors were selected in 1872 to honor the visiting Russian Grand Duke Romanoff whose house colors were purple, green, and gold. Purple represents justice, green represents faith, and gold represents power.
So it’s time to let the good times roll wherever you are, and enjoy Podcast 52_, an hour plus of uninterrupted Mew Orleans themed and styled music, featuring:
Pete Fountain – "Walking Through New Orleans"
Stanton Moore - "Paul Barbarin's Second Line"
The Hot 8 Brass Band - "We Shall Walk Through the Streets of the City"
Donald Byrd - "House of the Rising Sun"
Wild Bill Davidson - "Big Butter and Egg Man"
Dr. John - "Dis, Dat Or D'Udda"
Cyrille Neville - "Swamp Funk"
Wycliffe Gordon - "Le Marieur"
Davell Crawford - "Ooh Wee Sugar"
The Dirty Dozen Brass Band - "I Shall Not Be Moved"
Kid Ory & His Creole Jazz Band - "Sugar Foot Stomp"
Trombone Shorty - 'In the 6th'
Wynton Marsalis - "Uptown Ruler"
Aaron Neville - "Meetin' at the Building"
Jimmy Smith – “When the Saints Go Marching”
Mon, 8 February 2016
Those who think that jazz-rock fusion is gone should think again. If you listen to Naked Truth’s latest CD, Avian Thug, you would think it never left.
Naked Truth is a quartet composed of Lorenzo Feliciati (bass), Graham Haynes (trumpet), Roy Powell (keyboard, organ and synthesizers) and Pat Mastelotto (drums and percussion). All four augment their instruments with electronics and effects, and Feliciati is joined by Bill Laswell in post-production to add subtle but successfully arranged effects.
The spirit of Electric-era Miles hangs over the recording, especially the rhythmic complexities and textures of Bitches Brew. But this is no homage, nor does it borrow directly from that legendary recording. Rather, these four top improvisers have created music that captures the heart of that sound, but have made I most definitely their own. Haynes electric trumpet would be the easiest to call “Miles-esque”, but he goes beyond Davis’ legendary high-end stabs with
Feliciati, a veteran of six other RareNoise Record releases, takes his bass to a less restrictive and less stereotypical place. Not content to groove along, he moves
Podcast 520 is my conversation with Lorenzo as we discuss the varying incarnations of Naked Truth, how the band records (hint – not too many takes!) and the making of his well-received KOI CD. Musical selections include "Dancing with the Demons of Reality" from their CD Ouroboros; and "Lazy Elephant", “Rapid Fire” and the title track from Avian Thug.
In addition to my conversation with Lorenzo, I got to spend a few minutes with Pat Mastelotto as he prepared to leave his home in Austin for Europe. Naked Truth is another part of his musical evolution – from being a member of the top pop band Mr. Mister; to studio work with the likes of the Sugarcubes, Hall & Oates and XTC; to holding down a drum seat with some of the most important Progressive Rock bands of the past decades, King Crimson, the Flower Kings and KTU, and the Stick Men. He has played with fusion veterans like Eddie Jobson and Allen Holdsworth, and now anchors the rhythm section of Naked Truth.
Direct download: Podcast_520_-_The_Naked_Truth_with_Lorenzo_Feliciati_and_Pat_Mastelotto.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:18pm EST
Fri, 5 February 2016
Another major musical figure of the 1970’s has left us. Maurice White, the major creative force behind Earth, Wind & Fire, passed away yesterday from complications due to Parkinson’s disease. His band was one of the few groups of the rock era to successfully mix R&B, funk, jazz and rock into a sound that appealed to listeners of all races.
White was born in Memphis in 1941, but moved in Chicago in his teens. There he became the house drummer for Chess Records where he backed artists like Etta James, Muddy Waters, and for the jazz-oriented sublabel Argo, Sonny Stitt. It is his sound that propelled classics like “Rescue Me” by Fontella Bass and “Summertime” by Billy Stewart up the charts.
In 1966 he joined the highly successful (and former Chess artist) Ramsey Lewis to create the second great Lewis Trio that included Cleveland Eaton on bass. White played on the Grammy Award winning “Hold It Right There”, as well as classics like “Wade in the Water.” He departed the Lewis Trio amicably, and would collaborate with his former boss successfully in the future, contributing his talents to “Sun Goddess” and the Urban Knights albums.
In 1969 White moved to Los Angeles with his brother, bass player Verdine White, and two friends and began the process of creating a band that would allow him to mix jazz, R&B and rock. Naming the group after his interest in astrology, Earth, Wind & Fire was moderately successful in their initial carnation, most notably recording the soundtrack to the Black Power film Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song. Rearranging band members and signing with Columbia Records, the band recorded one of its signature tunes, “Power” in 1972, a White composition that stands up well against jazz fusion recordings of the day.
The band began chart success in 1973, and by 1975 they had become the first Black group to top the Billboard pop singles and album charts with “Shining Star” and That’s the Way of the World. 90 million records later, the band is among the most successful and honored groups of all time. White left the group after his diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease in 1995, but continued to be an integral part of the band’s management and production until his death. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000, and White joined his bandmates onstage.
Earth, Wind & Fire was not without its critics. Funk pioneer George Clinton once dismissed them as “Earth, Too Much Wind, Not Enough Fire.” But artists like Miles Davis described Earth, Wind & Fire as his "all-time favorite band" saying, "they have everything (horns, electric guitar, singers and more) in one band". Quincy Jones has proclaimed himself to be the "biggest fan of Earth, Wind & Fire since day one." And Barak Obama hired the band to play the first social event he held upon entering the White House.
Category:general -- posted at: 2:01pm EST
Thu, 4 February 2016
I’ve been planning this podcast since the Fall, when I spoke with trumpeter Randy Brecker about his latest CD, RandyPop! That CD was a reimagining by Randy of just a few of the many rock, soul and funk tunes that he had been called upon to play on over the course of his career. That got me thinking of how many jazz musicians had been called upon by popular musicians for their recordings, going back to the mid-60’s.
The passing of Phil Woods made me realize the Podcast was a necessity. So many non-jazz fans learned of the great alto player from his extremely memorable guest work on at least two classic tracks – Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are” and Steely Dan’s "Dr. Wu”. Perhaps I could turn more non-jazz fans to the music if they only knew that jazz musicians had been a key component of classic rock tunes over the years. When David Bowie hired the Donny McCaslin Group for his BlackStar album, the deal was done.
So Podcast 519 is my first attempt at a retrospective of pop and rock acts that added jazz musicians for key solos or to fill out a particular sound they had in mind. I enjoyed doing this, and I promise that I will do a few more before the year is out.
Musical selections for this Podcast, including the artist and the jazz contributor(s) include:
The Mamas and the Papas - “California Dreamin’” – Bud Shank, alto flute.
The Doors – “Touch Me” – Curtis Amy, sax
Ian Hunter – “All-American Alien Boy” – David Sanborn, sax and Jaco Pastorius, bass
Lou Reed – “The Bells” – Don Cherry, trumpet
Steely Dan – “Aja” – Wayne Shorter, sax; Joe Sample, electric piano; and Larry Carlton, guitar
Sting – “Moon Over Bourbon Street” – Branford Marsalis, sax; Kenny Kirkland, piano; and Omar Hakim, drums
The Rolling Stones – “Waiting On a Friend” – Sonny Rollins, sax