Fri, 31 March 2017
Singer Marilyn Scott carefully resists being defined by easy labels. She is thrown into the Smooth or Contemporary Jazz category because she works closely with West Coast collaborators Bob Mintzer, Russ Ferrante and Jimmy Haslip (Yellowjackets). By the same token, she is a strong interpreter of the Great American Songbook, and not afraid to thrown in a Bob Dylan or Peter Gabriel tune for good measure, putting her squarely in Straight Ahead mode. And she doesn’t just sing – her albums are dotted with her original compositions as well.
Standard Blue, her latest CD, is her first in almost ten years, other than her fine Christmas release in 2014. Her voice is as entrancing as ever, and Ferrante’s arrangements of blues based tunes are always intriguing. From lesser recorded vocal versions of the Strayhorn-Ellington “A Flower is a Lovesome Thing” to their little heard “Day Dreaming” to a raucous “The Joint is Jumping” that closes the album, Marilyn and her crack band never fail to deliver in the true jazz tradition.
Podcast 566 is my conversation with Marilyn, as we talk about song selection, and her many collaborators on Standard Blue including Michael Landau on guitar, Ambrose Akinmusire on trumpet and Minter’s turn on the bass clarinet. Song selections include “The Joint is Jumping”, “Day Dreaming”, “I Wouldn’t Change It” and Bob Dylan’s “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” from 2006’s Innocent of Nothin
Direct download: Podcast_566_-_A_Conversation_with_Marilyn_Scott.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT
Fri, 24 March 2017
It shouldn’t take Women’s History Month for us to appreciate and enjoy the music of female jazz musicians. Particularly in the last two decades, women have moved from “female performer” to “performer” in their own right, as both leaders and side players.
Women were there at the birth of jazz, and singers like Bessie Smith, and pianists like Lil Hardin Armstrong (who wrote “Struttin’ With Some Barbecue”) and Lovie Austin were leaders in their own right before the end of the Roaring Twenties. Valaida Snow was a top trumpet player during this time.
During WWII, the International Sweethearts of Rhythm were way more than a novelty act, playing hot jazz and swing as well as any man. The names of Anna Mae Winburn, Closa Bryant, Carline Ray Russell (mother of singer Catherine Russell) and more deserve to be held in far higher esteem than they are today. Check out the film “International Sweethearts of Rhythm” to see and hear them in their prime.
The great female singers of jazz’s gold age – Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington, Carmen McRae and Ella Fitzgerald – helped define the Great American Songbook, just as Nina Simone, Betty Carter and Shirley Horn helped deconstruct it. Melba Williams was a first-call trombonist for Randy Weston and Dizzy Gillespie. The likes of Mary Lou Williams, Marian McPartland, and Shirley Scott, and later Carla Bley and Alice Coltrane showed that women could swing, but also be adventurous and part of the avant-garde.
It would be foolish to think that sexism does not exist in the world of jazz, just as racism and homophobia are still issues preventing artists from taking the bandstand and doing their best. But violinist Regina Carter; bassists Linda Oh and Esperanza Spalding; pianists Kris Davis, Helen Sung, Hiromi and Toshiko Akiyoshi; drummers Terri Lynn Carrington, Cindy Blackman Santana and Alison Miller; guitarist Mary Halvorsen, trumpeter Ingrid Jensen (pictured); her sister trombonist Christine Jensen; and big band leader Maria Schneider are all at, or near the top of their game today. Singers like Diana Krall and Karen Allyson are accomplished pianists as well as vocalists. Stacey Kent plays guitar on her many recordings. Cassandra Wilson plays any number of instruments in her various bands.
Apologies to all those who I failed to mention. Podcast 565 features an hour plus of music from some of my favorite women in jazz – enjoy!
Kris Davis Trio – “Waiting for You to Grow”
Cassandra Wilson – “Billie’s Blues”
Linda Oh – “Shutterspeed Dreams”
Rene Marie – “Stronger Than You Think”
Ingrid Jensen – “Ninety-One”
Mary Halverson Octet – “Spirit Splitter (no. 54)
Helen Sung - “Alphabet Street”
Cyrille Aimee – “There’s a Lull in My Life”
Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra – “Blue Yonder”
Marilyn Crispell and Gerry Hemingway – “Table of Changes”
Yelena Eckemoff – “Rising From Within”
Esperanza Spalding – “Unconditional Love (Alternate Version)”
Fri, 17 March 2017
Near the top of the list entitled “Why haven’t I talked to these musicians?” is the name of Lisa Hilton. A pianist and composer whose classical background has influenced her very modern approach to the keyboard, she has continued to produce a series of top-notch group CDs. With over twenty CDs released as a leader, she never fails gather some of the finest talent around to complete her musical vision.
2016 saw Lisa releasing two CDs – Nocturnal, a quintet album, and Day & Night, a solo recording. Nocturnal is a joy to hear, as she plays with and off a killer band – Gregg August on bass, Antonio Sanchez on drums, J.D. Allen on sax and Terell Stafford on trumpet. The band breathes life into standards like “Willow Weep for Me’, while Hilton originals like “Whirlywind” and “Seduction” (which also appears in a reimagined version on Day & Night) give the band a strong melodic base from which to stretch out. Ms. Hilton has been known to throw a curveball or two in her song selection, and here the surprise is the Pixies’ “Where is My Mind?”
Day & Night allows Lisa to keep the spotlight for herself, and she does not disappoint. She has both the chops and soul to keep you constantly listening. The album has nine originals, along with a take on Cole Porter’s “Begin the Beguine” that erases any thoughts of how that song might be played from your memory. It’s that good.
I spoke with Lisa about the two albums, as well as her philanthropic projects of helping blind students at the Perkins School of the Blind, Camp Bloomfield for the blind in California, and at the adaptive music lab for visually impaired musicians at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. Musical selections from Day & Night include “Begin the Beguine” and “Caffeinated Culture”, and selections from Nocturnal include “Seduction” and “Where is My Mind?”