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Preview: Straight No Chaser - A Jazz Show

Straight No Chaser - A Jazz Show

Published: Mon, 10 Oct 2016 14:00:00 +0000

Last Build Date: Mon, 10 Oct 2016 14:16:08 +0000


Song of the Day: "Christopher Columbus"

Mon, 10 Oct 2016 14:00:00 +0000

Columbus Day has become a deeply divisive event in the US. What once was the naive celebration of the "discovery of America" - take that Amerigo Vespucci and the Native Americans - is now marled with protests, given the start of the genocide his arrival in the New World began.

But let's go back to a simpler time, like May 1936, when Fats Waller and his Rhythm appeared on a popular radio show, The Magic Key Show, which originated from New York. That day, he performed two tunes - the well-known "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter", and the lesser known "Christopher Columbus". The lyrics?

Mr.Christopher Columbus/Sailed the sea without a compass/Well, when his men began a rumpus/Up spoke Christopher Columbus

He said: "There is land somewhere/So until we get there we will not go wrong/If we sing a swing song/Since the world is round, we'll be safe and sound/'Till our goal is found we'll just keep the rhythm bound

Soon the crew was makin' merry/Then came a yell, let's drink to Isabella/Bring on the rum/A music in that all the rumpus/That wise old Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus/Christopher Columbus

Maybe not a Shakespearean sonnet, but you get the idea. And as always, Fats knew how to swing.

Podcast 550: A Conversation with Mehmet Ali Sanlikol

Tue, 04 Oct 2016 22:07:46 +0000

One of the great delights in modern jazz comes when a talented composer or arranger takes on material which we have come to expect to sound a certain way, or be presented in a certain manner, and turns it upside down, or at least off-kilter. Whether it’s a singer reimagining the way a tune from the Great American Songbook is interpreted (Cassandra Wilson, Kurt Elling); a soloist wringing emotion from a tired chestnut (almost anything Fred Hersch, Brad Mehldau or Keith Jarrett cover) or bringing in sounds from other genres or cultures to make us rethink the very sound of jazz itself (Kamasi Washington, Donnie McCaslin, Robert Glasper), we are listening to new music at a very exciting time.

Mehmet Ali Sanlikol fits firmly into this category. As a composer, he brings contemporary classical, straight ahead jazz and the music of his Turkish heritage into a wondrous sonic collision. With his band Whatsnext?, he is allowing us to think twice before putting music into one category or another.

Resolution is his new CD, and from the very start, you can tell there is something exciting happening here. “Turkish Second Line” takes the sound of classic New Orleans street music (driven forward by guest soloist Anat Cohen) and merges it with the kind of Turkish dance music that Sanlikol has heard at parties since he was a child in Istanbul. Whether he is pairing scat singing with traditional Turkish singing or adding micro-tonality to big-band charts, Mehmet is making this music uniquely his own. Aided by additional guest soloists David Liebman, Antonio Sanchez and Tiger Okoshi, Whatsnext? rises to the occasion time and time again playing this strong material.

 Podcast 550 is my conversation with Mehmet Ali Sanlikol, as we discuss his musical background, and how he seeks to merge the music of his Turkish roots with Jazz. Musical selections from Resolution include the title track, “Turkish Second Line” and “Whirlaround.”

\Sanlikol and Whatsnext? will present the new CD at concerts at Joe’s Pub in New York on October 6th, and Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport, MA on October 9th.


Media Files:

Podcast 549: A Conversation with Gene Ess

Thu, 22 Sep 2016 23:10:01 +0000

If you listened to Podcast 471 last March, you heard singer/composer Thana Alexa sing the praises of guitarist Gene Ess. Ms. Alexa collaborated with Gene on his two releases, Fractal Attraction and Eternal Monomyth, two of a series of fine albums he has made since leaving the Rashied Ali Quartet over a decade ago.

Growing up on a US Army base in Okinawa, Japan, Gene was exposed at an early age to a wide variety of music (his mother is a classical pianist), which goes a long way to explain his sound on electric guitar. A graduate of Berklee School of Music, he arrived in New York after a chance meeting with Rashied Ali. The drummer, who was a member of John Coltrane’s last band and a veteran of sessions with Gary Bartz, Alice Coltrane and David Murray, helped shape Ess’ approach to jazz and to life itself, bringing him closer to Coltrane and his legacy than any text could ever.  Ess traveled the world with Ali, and played with Coltrane alum Reggie Workman; Coltrane’s son Ravi; Carlos Santana and Lonnie Plaxico.

He has released six albums under his own name, the most recent of which have added vocals to his already eclectic sound. Ess’ latest CD is Absurdist Theater. He has again brought Ms. Alexa on board to lend her vocals (she also contributes lyrics to two tunes) and assembled a truly diverse band – Cuban pianist Manuel Valera; Japanese bassist Yasushi Nakamura and American Clarence Penn on drums.  Thematically the CD attempts to take the listener on a journey to explore the philosophical idea of absurdism, contrasting our search of meaning in this life with the sheer joy of musical aesthetics. If this all sounds pretty weighty be assured that the music is hardly ponderous and overwrought.

Musical selections include “Torii (The Gate)” and Gene’s tribute to Ornette Coleman, “Forkball”.

 A CD release party for Absurdist Theater will take place at the Blue Note in New York on September 25th, 2016.

Media Files:

Podcast 548: A Conversation with Nate Wooley about Anthony Braxton

Tue, 30 Aug 2016 15:16:15 +0000

What seems a lifetime ago, I had the opportunity to serve on a panel to award grant money from the Connecticut Commission on the Arts to musical applicants. My group reviewed instrumental music, and one of the members of the panel was none other than Anthony Braxton. For those who are unfamiliar with the name, Mr. Braxton is one of the foremost composers and performers of avant-garde jazz, opera and instrumental music of the past sixty years.

Mr. Braxton was at that time serving a as professor at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, so his inclusion in the Commission’s deliberations was fortuitous. I could not have asked for a more polite, warm and open person with whom to spend an afternoon, and despite the huge gap in knowledge between himself and the rest of the panel, he generously acknowledged our opinions and was patient in explaining his views.

Now just past 70 years old, Mr. Braxton has recorded hundreds of albums during his career. From his time at the AACM in Chicago, to his quartet collaborations with the likes of Chick Corea, Kenny Wheeler, Sam Rivers and Dave Holland (Circle; Conference of the Birds), to Creative Orchestra Music, “Ghost Trance Music,” Trillian Opera and other large and small group improvisations; Mr. Braxton has eschewed any sort of genre or characterization for his daring and challenging music.

As a way of exploring his music, most notably his post-1980 compositions and recordings, trumpeter-composer Nate Wooley has devoted the latest issue of his on-line publication, Sound American to Anthony Braxton. Essays written by the foremost scholars and performers of these compositions have made contributions to the site, which you can read now at no cost (although donations are most welcome, and should be made immediately). Complete with streaming samples of Braxton’s music to illustrate the points made by the writers, this is an indispensable guide to those who know and love Anthony Braxton’s work, and a key to entering the world of his sound if you do not.

Nate Wooley has become one of jazz’s latest versions of a Renaissance Man, writing about and composing music; performing with his trumpet as part of the downtown free jazz, experimental, rock, and noise scenes; crating his own Pleasure of the Text music label; and generally standing out as one of today’s great improvisational innovators. He has just released two new CDs, the hypnotizing Argonautica, his tribute to and collaboration with mentor Ron Miles (Firehouse 12 Records), and the ecstatic Seven Storey Mountain Von his own label. A the 2016 FCA Grants to Artists Awards recipient from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts , he was awarded $40,000 to use for future work alongside percussionist William Winant, composer Ashley Fure, and legendary vocalist Joan LaBarbara.

Podcast 548 is my conversation with Nate about Anthony Braxton, Sound American, and his latest (and coming) musical projects. Musical selections include a Braxton quartet recording including Kenny Wheeler, and Dave Holland(“Opus 60“); "Fifth Meeting" from a trio recording with William Parker and Milford Graves called Beyond Quantum;  an excerpt from one of his "Echo Echo House" Recordings from Three Compositions, and a brief excerpt from Wooley’s Argonautica.

Media Files:

Podcast 547: Bobby Hutcherson (1941-2016)

Wed, 17 Aug 2016 17:21:48 +0000

Bobby Hutcherson, a vibraphonist whose adventurous, harmonically challenging playing in the 1960s made him one of the most influential jazz musicians on his instrument, died Aug. 15 at his home in Montara, California at the age of 75. The cause was emphysema.

A major player in the halcyon days of Blue Note Records, Hutcherson took the vibes in different directions than his mentors and peers would attempt. For every melodic, lyrical solo he recorded, there were also the dissonant, rhythmic and pulsing sounds of modern jazz in his work.

Inspired by the sounds of Milt “Bags” Jackson, the vibes master who helped create “third stream” and chamber jazz, Hutcherson taught himself the demanding instrument, eventually serving as the bridge between the traditional sounds of Red Norvo, Lionel Hampton and Jackson to the contemporary sounds of Gary Burton, Joe Locke and Stefon Harris and more recently, Warren Wolf.

Recording for Blue Note Records from 1963 to 1977, Mr. Hutcherson effortlessly moved from hard-bop jazz to more avant-garde styles. Besides the 22 solo albums he released for the label during that time, he served as sideman on some of the most important albums and for cutting edge artists of the day, taking key roles and contributing songs to Jackie McLean’s One Step Beyond; Grant Green’s Idle Moments; Eric Dolphy’s Out to Lunch!; Joe Henderson’s Mode for Joe; and Andrew Hill’s Judgment!. McCoy Tyner counted him as a regular member of his recording ensemble, and he cut sides with the likes of Woody Shaw, Sonny Rollins, Harold Land and Donald Byrd.

Born Jan. 27, 1941, in Los Angeles, the son of a brick mason and hairdresser, he moved to New York as he advanced in his craft. A 1967 arrest for buying marijuana cost him his valuable cabaret card, and led him to return to California. He remained there for the rest of his life, writing, recording and assisting in the formation of the SFJazz Collective, a thriving repertory group.

He continued to record well into his 70’s, including Enjoy the View for Blue Note and Somewhere in the Night for the Kind of Blue label. Hutcherson was named an NEA Jazz Master in 2010.

Podcast 547 is my tribute to Bobby Hutcherson, featuring tunes from his solo albums as well as some of my favorite sideman sessions. Musical selections, many of which Hutcherson wrote, include:

Bobby Hutcherson – “Little B’s Poem” from Components

Bobby Hutcherson – Title Track from Medina

Grant Green – “Django” from Idle Moments

Bobby Hutcherson – “Blues Mind Matter” from Stick-Up!

Jackie McLean – “Blue Rondo” from One Step Beyond

Eric Dolphy – “Something Sweet, Something Tender” from Out to Lunch!

Harold Land – “Timetable” from The Peace-Maker

Andrew Hill – “Alfred” from Judgment!

Bobby Hutcherson – “’For Heaven's Sake" from Enjoy the View

Media Files:

Podcast 546: Jazz for the Dog Days 2016

Tue, 16 Aug 2016 14:00:00 +0000

It's summer in New England, so why not some summer themed music for these lazy, hot days? Today is August 16th, the feast day of Saint Roch, the patron saint of Dogs, so why not celebrate the "Dog Days"?

The Romans referred to the dog days as diēs caniculārēs and associated the hot weather with the star Sirius. They considered Sirius to be the "Dog Star" because it is the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major (Large Dog), as well as the brightest star in the night sky. The term "Dog Days" was used earlier by the Greeks in Aristotle's Physics.

The Dog Days originally were the days when Sirius rose just before or at the same time as sunrise, which is no longer true, owing to procession of the equinoxes. The Romans sacrificed a brown dog (Sorry Angus and Hamish, my two miniature dachshunds!) at the beginning of the Dog Days to appease the rage of Sirius, believing that the star was the cause of the hot, sultry weather.

I've done four previous Dog Day postings,  Podcast 292Podcast 225,  Podcast 442,  and Podcast 492  if you'd like some more summer-themed music. There's a few repeats between these posts, but what the hey. It’s all grooving or relaxing music for soaking in those wonderful warming rays. Winter is just around the corner, and I am gonna grab all the warmth I can. Look for me on my deck with Angus and Hamish - and Nancy - and a cold beverage or two. I’ve been learning a bit of mixology, so I think Frozen Whiskey Smash is the drink of the day.

Podcast 546 features the following uninterrupted hour of music, featuring a few new tunes I've recently received from upcoming or imminent releases:

Rebecca Angel – “Jet Samba”

Paul Desmond – “Wave”

The 3 Cohens – “Beaches”

Holly Cole – “Too Darn Hot”

Lou Donaldson – “Hot Dog”

Kenny Garrett – “Backyard Groove”

Stanley Clarke – “Hot Fun”

The Rippingtons – “Flamingo Beach”

Pieces of a Dream – “Warm Weather”

Kenny Burrell – “Hot Bossa”

Jeff Golub – “On the Beach”

Project Grand Slam – “The Rescue”

Media Files:

Podcast 545: A Conversation with Sergio Pereira

Tue, 16 Aug 2016 00:35:28 +0000

Originally from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sergio Pereira starting playing acoustic guitar (violao) at the age of 8 years old, influenced by his older brother who helped him play his first chords and the bossa-nova giants at the time - Joao Gilberto, Tom Jobim, and, Marcus Valle. Growing up in Rio in the 60’s and 70’s contributed tremendously to the energy, groove and rhythms reflected in his music today.

Moving to New York in the 80’s, exposed Pereira to an entirely different “scene.” It motivated the guitarist to not only continuing playing the guitar, but to further enhance his knowledge of the music and the instrument itself, which led him to studying with jazz greats including Chuck Wayne, Sal Salvador and Alex Adrian. Beginning in the early 90’s he has been travelling the world extensively, playing with different groups and at countless venues in many different countries in Europe, Africa and beyond. For over 20 years Pereira has been a member of the United Nations Jazz band for which has afforded him the opportunity to perform in various high profile venues.

Recently, he returned to his Brazilian roots, working to further broadened his understanding of harmony, improvisation and technique.This has led to the release of his first CD as a leader, Swingando. Recorded in New York City and Brazil, the album includes some of the top musicians in Brazilian jazz today, a veritable who’s who of heavyweights, such as Helio Alves, Teixeira, Nilson Matta, Mauricio Zottarelli, Duduka da Fonseca and Itaiguara Brandao.

Podcast 545 is my conversation with Sergio, who spoke with me while setting up his new home in Valencia, Spain, Musical selections include “My Girls” and Chega Ai", both of which features the killer rhythm section of Alves, Matta and da Fonseca; and the the more intimate “Ela.” 


Media Files:

Podcast 544: A Conversation with Livio Almeida

Wed, 10 Aug 2016 16:55:24 +0000

With the whole world’s eyes trained on Rio for the Summer Olympics, it should come as no surprise to readers of that I’m thinking about Brazilian music. Here in America we think primarily of Bossa Nova and Samba, but I also enjoy more esoteric genres like Choro, Forro, and Tropicalissmo. The release last month of two new CDs from Brazilian artists that were not previously on my radar was cause for celebration here at SNC, and the next two podcasts will feature my conversations with saxophonist Livio Almeida and guitarist Sergio Pereira.

Livio Almeida is Brazilian saxophone/woodwinds player and composer/arranger. He received his Bachelor in Classical Saxophone in Brasilia, Brazil, and received his second degree at The City College of New York with a BFA in Jazz Performance. You may have heard him in his role in the O’Farrill Brothers Band, or for his solos on recent releases by Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra. He also directs a 10 piece band, the only one of its kind in the USA, a “dectet" dedicated to perform large ensemble Brazilian music, with regular residencies at the traditional Zinc Bar and Iridium Jazz Club in New York.

Action & Reaction is his second CD as a bandleader, and features his working quartet of Vitor Gonçalves on piano, Eduardo Belo on bass, and Zack O’Farrill on drums. Adam O’Farrill drops in to lend a hand on trumpet as well.

Podcast 544 is my conversation with Livio, as we discuss the differences in “Latin Jazz” and “Brazilian Jazz”, what went into his latest CD, and where he plans to take his music next. Musical selections include “Mercado en Domingo" from Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra’s Grammy winning The Offense of the Drum, as well as “Living in the Dark”, “Those (Not So Infant) Eyes”, and the title track “Action & Reaction.”

Media Files:

Podcast 543: A Conversation with Chico Freeman

Wed, 03 Aug 2016 23:11:56 +0000

At the turn of the millennium, saxophonist Chico Freeman left the US for Europe, and embarked on a multi-year journey of exploration, both of music and his soul. He traveled across the continent and to Africa, playing music with different types of musicians, and in different genres. 

Quite frankly, he was missed. He hasn't been to the US in quite a while to play,and a player, performer and composer of his stature is not someone we can lose lightly. The son of the great Von Freeman, he was mentored by his Dad and the likes of George Lewis and the members of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. From there he has tackled almost any musical style he wanted - playing the blues; funking it up as a member of Earth, Wind & Fire's horn section; and leading his own groups through dozens of memorable sessions.

Now he's back. In May he released a fine new CD, Spoken Into Existence, with a 4-tet of mostly European musicians. It finds Chico in a gentle, lyrical mood, as he performs five compositions in honor of each of his daughters, among other originals.

He wowed them with his Plus-Tet at Dizzy's Coca-Cola earlier this Spring, and now he's on a rare West Coast swing. If you are a left coast jazz fan, don't miss him.

Podcast 543 is our conversation, and it's a memorable one. He talks about the new CD, his approach to writing, and tells a few great stories about growing up in a household always full of music. Musical selections from  Spoken Into Existence include "Nia's Quest", Stanley Turrentine's blues "Soft Pedal Blues" and "India Blue".

Media Files:

Happy Birthday, Jerry Garcia

Mon, 01 Aug 2016 10:25:16 +0000

Dead & Company have been playing stadium shows this summer, but clearly, something is missing from their presentation of the music of the Grateful Dead. Let's pause for a moment and remember that today would have been Jerry Garcia’s 74th birthday, and like so many other fans, I'll spend a few moments contemplating his music. Maybe a few "Scarlet Begonia/Fire on the Mountain" and "Dark Star" tracks are in the cards. How about a "Ripple" as well?

Named after composer Jerome Kern, Garcia was a student of American music, whether it was bluegrass, show tunes or the blues. Jerry had a love of jazz, and while the Dead themselves did not dip into the jazz canon all that often, Jerry’s side projects gave him a chance to show his jazz chops. Click here to listen to a recording of Milt Jackson’s “Bag’s Groove” from the 1998 release So What from Garcia and mandolin player David Grisman. Other members of the band were Joe Craven on percussion, Matt Eakle on flute and Jim Kerwin on bass.

The latest edition of the GarciaLive project was released last month, and featured Jerry Garcia & Merl Saunders live at the Lion's Share on July 5, 1973. Filled with the typical wide variety of tunes (Motown, Country-Rock, Fifties R&B) it also features a fascinating version of "My Funny Valentine", showing that Garcia could reach into the Great AMerican Songbook as well. Check it out here,  

Podcast 542: Previewing the Newport Jazz Festival with Danny Melnick

Wed, 27 Jul 2016 22:26:11 +0000

The Newport Jazz Festival continues to reinvent itself from year to year, and attendees at the Festival at Fort Adams State Park Friday, July 29 to Sunday July31 will get a chance to see and hear music from a veritable plethora of musical genres. It’s truly rare, in these days when “Jazz Festivals” are often “jazz” in name only, to be able to celebrate the latest groundbreaking acts and the most venerable classic groups in the same 72 hours.

Last year saw promoters George Wein and Danny Melnick expanded the Festival to include a Friday slate of up and coming or avant-garde leaning musicians, ensuring the Festival will remain relevant. In addition, the intimate Storyville allowed solo piano and other instruments for those seeking refuge from larger stages across the compound. As you’ll hear in my conversation with Danny Melnick, acts that allow even the hardest core jazzbo to find something new and exciting are all over the three-day schedule.

Friday features New Orleans funk stars Galactic; today’s “It” musician, Kamasi Washington; and acts often missing from festival bills, like Kneebody, Eric Revis, Sullivan Fortner, Steve Coleman and the Five Elements, and Kris Davis. One of my favorites, Tierney Sutton, brings her After Blue Joni Mitchell Project to Newport as well.

Saturday has some of the biggest names of the Festival - Gregory Porter; Chick Corea’s Trilogy with Christian McBride and Brian Blade; Anglique Kidjo; and a highly anticipated performance of Ornette Coleman’s Science Fiction by the Bad Plus. Crowd pleasers like the John Scofield/Joe Lovano Quartet; Monty Alexander Harlem-Kingston Express; and the Butler, Bernstein & The Hot 9 project are set for the stages, as are the latest projects from veterans Stefon Harris and Dave Liebman. And don’t miss the Festival debut of The Hot Sardines!

Sunday wraps things up in style, with headliners like the Charles Lloyd New Quartet with Jason Moran, Reuben Rogers and Eric Harland; last year’s sensation Jose James, crossover star Robert Glasper and his Experiment; Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah’s Stretch Music and a return set from Kamasi Washington. Several of our finest musicians are here with their latest groups: Potter, Holland, Loueke and Harland; Anat Cohen's Clarinet Re-Imagined; the Kenny Barron Trio and bassist Ben Williams & Sound Effect with Gilad Hekselman and Christian Sands. For those who follow this blog, the appearance by west coast brass musicians The Westerlies will be a must-hear.

Danny Melnick takes you through the festival with hints on who to see and why he booked them in Podcast 542. Musical selections from acts you’ll catch at the Festival include:

“Qb4r“ – Eric Revis

“Final Thought“ – Kamasi Washington

“Hey Laura” – Gregory Porter (a live version from a BB2 recording earlier this month)

“Ghetto Walk” – Robert Glasper featuring Bilal

“Dreams“ – Kenny Barron

Media Files:

Podcast 541: A Conversation with The Hot Sardines

Mon, 25 Jul 2016 23:36:40 +0000

It would be easy to dismiss The Hot Sardines as a nostalgia novelty act, coming across like Jazz Age Hipsters. But that would be a mistake. A BIG mistake.

Like other acts that have come to prominence in the past few years – think Lake Street Dive for example – they have incorporated older sounds and sensibilities into something very contemporary, and at times, downright exciting. Remember when Jazz WAS Pop music? They will help you recall, singing Cole Porter and Robert Palmer side by side.

Evan “Bibs” Palazzo and Elizabeth Bougerol lead the group, which has just released their latest CD, French Fries & Champagne, a truly fun romp through a variety of musical styles and sounds. From a straight ahead take on “Running Wild” (immortalized by Marilyn Monroe in Some Like it Hot) to a duet with Alan Cummings (Broadway’s Cabaret and TV’s The Good Wife), to a reimagining of Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love”, French Fries & Champagne never fails to bring a tap to your toes and a smile to your face.

Palazzo and Ms. Bougerol have strong support from band members Jason Prover (trumpet), Alex Raderman (drums), Nick Myers (saxophone and clarinet), and Mike Sailors (trombone and cornet), and a building reputation as a live act to watch. It’s no wonder they’ve gone from New York Clubs to the stage at the Newport Jazz Festival this coming weekend. More on the Festival later this week.

I spoke with Mr. Palazzo and Ms. Bougerol just as French Fries & Champagne was being released. Our conversational topics range from the new CD to the nature of song selection to how the band constructs (and deconstructs) its material. Song selections from the CD include “Running Wild”, “When I Get Low (I Get High”);  and the Title Track.

Media Files:

The Official Straight No Chaser Song of Independence Day

Mon, 04 Jul 2016 18:14:22 +0000

American Independence Day 2014. 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 judic[...]

Podcast 540: Previewing the Freihofer's Saratoga Jazz Festival with Danny Melnick

Wed, 22 Jun 2016 18:00:00 +0000

The 39th Freihofer's Jazz Festival will kick off the summer festival season in style at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center this coming weekend. "The Hang" has something for everyone to enjoy, and this year is no exception.

Saturday June 25th brings something blue to the Main Stage with Eric Lindell and Shemekia Copeland, before bringing the new (Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah; Joey Alexander) and the old (Pieces of a Dream 40th anniversary tour and a Steps Ahead reunion). The ageless Chaka Khan was forced to cancel her appearance, but the always exciting Isley Brothers will bring their mix of R&B, Funk and Rock to end the evening.The Gazebo Stage will showcase some of today’s best jazz musicians, with sets from the criminally underrated Vincent Herring & the Kings of Swing (featuring Mike LeDonne, David Williams & Carl Allen); singer Karrin Allyson; and relative newcomers Jamison Ross and Elio Villafranca.

Sunday’s Main Stage offerings are full of treats for hardline jazz fans: Chick Corea’s award-winning Trilogy featuring Christian McBride & Brian Blade; Bria Skonberg Quintet; Pat Martino Organ Trio plus Horns; and singer Lizz Wright. Jon Cleary & The Absolute Monster Gentlemen will bring some New Orleans piano soul to Saratoga, and the man once called “the Greatest Living American Poet” by none other than Bob Dylan (supposedly) - Smokey Robinson - will end the festival in style. 

I’m very high on the Sunday Gazebo lineup of up-and-coming stars – pianist Aaron Diehl; singer Alicia Olatuja;  the Skonberg Quintet; and a performance of “LaFayette Suite” featuring Walter Smith III & Laurent Coq.

Impresario Danny Melnick and I talked about the festival bookings and what to look for over the weekend in Podcast 540. Musical selections include tunes from Pieces of a Dream ("Fo-Fi-Fo"), Vincent Herring ("Soul Leo"), Lizz Wright ("Coming Home") and Aaron Diehl ("Kat's Dance").

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Podcast 539: A Conversation with Adam Kahan on Rahsaan Roland Kirk

Wed, 15 Jun 2016 16:00:00 +0000

2016 has been a good year for jazz films, from the biopics on Miles Davis and Chet Baker to documentaries like I Called Him Morgan. The latest addition is Adam Kahan’s The Case of the Three Sided Dream, a documentary on the life and times of Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Released in early May on just recently available on iTunes, and had a special screening at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas last week. Rahsaan Roland Kirk(1935-1977) was one of several jazz artists – think of John Coltrane, Albert Ayler and Eric Dolphy – who in many ways created the Sixties’ image of the jazz artist as spiritual leader. A seminal figure in the Avant-Garde, he pioneered the use of circular breathing to play as many as three saxophones simultaneously. Blind from birth, he discovered and integrated unusual instruments into his sound, including the nose flute and siren. Ridiculed as much as revered by the general audience, many found Kirk’s onstage theatrics and dress merely window-dressing, rather than components of his complex persona. He was a man of intense will, who not only followed his own muse musically, but had a cutting wit and a strong sense of politics. It was this kind of will that allowed him to overcome a stroke at the age of 40, returning to the stage playing with one hand. A second stroke felled him at the age of 42. Filmmaker Adam Kahan has labored over the film for more thana dozen  years, leaving the project and returning a number of times. The Case of the Three Sided Dream premiered at the 2014 South by Southwest film festival and went on to win Best Documentary at the 2015 Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles, as well as Best Documentary at the 2015 Soundtrack Cologne festival in Cologne, Germany. It was also named one of the top ten music documentaries of 2014 by While The Case of the Three Sided Dream is his first feature, he has also made a number of short documentaries on contemporary visual artists that have played on national television and in festivals internationally I believe the film will go a long toward establishing Kirk as the major musical visionary he truly became. Packed with electrifying archival footage of Kirk and his music, intimate interviews, and inspired animated sequences, the film allows us a rare chance to get into the world of this legend. It’s no wonder that almost forty years after his death, his influence is still being felt, and his compositions continue to be played. Podcast 539 is my conversation with Adam Kahan, featuring musical selections from the inimitable Rahssan Roland Kirk, including "Kirk's Works", "Blue Roi", "Serende to a Cuckoo" and "The Inflated Tear". [...]

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Podcast 538: Chick Corea @ 75

Sun, 12 Jun 2016 21:16:21 +0000

This will be short, and to the point - Chick Corea is having a special birthday, and this is my card to him.

Those who read this blog know that it was the music of Chick Corea, first with Return to Forever, and then moving backward in time, with Stan get, that was my first step intot he world of jazz. Check out this posting for more on this.

But with Chick turning 75, I wanted to give you all an hour plus of his music, which comes so varied, with so many different collaborators, that I barely scratched the surface of his work with this Podcast. But dig in, and I'm sure you will find music that moves you.

Selections for Podcast 538, "Chick Corea @ 75", include:
Return to Forever - "Spain"
Chick Corea - "Armando’s Rhumba"
Chick Corea & Gary Burton - "Hot House"
Chick Corea Elektric Band II - "Blue Miles"
Corey, Clarke & White - "Senor Mouse"
Chick Corea - "Windows"
Corea- McBride-Ballard - "Fingerprints"
Chick Corea & Origin - "Wigwam"
Chick Corea & Hiromi - "Do Mo (Children’s Song #12)"
Chick Corea & Friends - "Bud Powell"


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Podcast 536: A Conversation with Dominick Farinacci

Sat, 04 Jun 2016 16:00:00 +0000

 Short Stories is more than an album title for the latest release from Dominick Farinacci, it’s the overriding theme of a diverse collection of material. The trumpeter has assembled an all-star band as his core collaborators – Larry Goldings on piano, organ and celesta; Christian McBride on double bass; Steely Dan and fusion veterans Steve Gadd on drums and Dean Parks on guitar; and two of the most sought out session men around in Jamey Haddad on percussion, and Gil Goldstein on accordion. Produced by the man who brought us George Benson’s Breezin’, Tommy LiPuma, the album contains wide ranging sounds, song selections and textures.

 Trumpeter Farinacci has spent much of his time over the past few years in Qatar and Abu Dhabi as a Global Ambassador from Jazz at Lincoln Center. The experiences have broadened his musical palate, and tunes like “Doha Blues”, with its Middle Eastern shadings and Lebanese vocalizing from Mike Massy show his growth. He’ll reinterpret pop tunes as varied as Tom Waits’ “Soldiers Things”, Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” and the Gipsy Kings’ “Bamboleo” with jazz sensibilities, and recalls his musical hero Louis Armstrong on “Black Coffee”.

 LiPuma and Farinacci share a Midwestern background, growing up in the Cleveland suburbs. Farinacci moved on to Juilliard on the strength of his appearances with Wynton Marsalis’ Big Band, and has been working mostly with his own band since. Short Stories is his most mature statement to date, and bodes well for the future.

 Podcast 536 is my conversation with Dominick, in which we discuss the new record, his times in the Middle East, and his strong support for a number of causes, including supporting returning veterans and the Music & Wellness movement. Musical selections from Short Stories include “Doha Blues”,"Sunshine of Your Love", and "Black Coffee".

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Podcast 535 : A Conversation with Mac Gollehon

Sat, 21 May 2016 17:03:45 +0000

The working jazz musician has to wear many different musical hats, sometimes more than one at a time, If that were taken literally, Mac Gollehon would have difficulty walking through any doorway in New York without knocking a few fedoras off the top of his head.

His career has taken him from the Latin Jazz Big Bands and Orchestras of Ray Barretto, Héctor Lavoe,  Hilton Ruiz, Larry Harlow, and Charlie Palmieri, to a nine year tenure with Lester Bowie’s Brass Fantasy band, to studio sessions with David Bowie (Let’s Dance), Duran Duran, Chic, and Mick Jagger. In all, Gollehon can be heard on over 100 gold and platinum and double platinum records. Bet you didn’t know that.

This extraordinary cross-section of experience allows him to release his 9th CD, Mac Gollehon & The Hispanic Mechanics, an intriguing hybrid of Latin Jazz, Caribbean sounds, Hot Jazz and Electronic Dance Music (EDM). While tunes like “No More Drama” and “Exito Obscuridad” sound like club-shaking anthems, his jazz sensibilities show through on “'Il Aceite” and “Elegancia.” There is something for everyone here.

Podcast 535 is my conversation with Mac, as we discuss the recording process of the new CD, and he recalls with great humor and pathos his past meetings and recordings with legends like Lavoe, Lester Bowie, Woody Shaw, Miles Davis and David Bowie. That’s Mac’s trumpet solo in the introduction to the title track. Musical selections from Mac Gollehon & The Hispanic Mechanics include “No More Drama” and Amor Tragico”, as well as David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” and an unreleased recording of Lester Bowie’s Brass Fantasy performing “Good Morning Heartache” from the Deutschen Jazz Festival in Frankfurt, Germany; October 22, 1999. That entire recording can be found at Big O's ROIO page on the web, 

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Podcast 537: Happy 80th Birthday, Carla Bley!

Wed, 11 May 2016 14:00:00 +0000

Carla Bley turns 80 years old today. Her various creative incarnations - composer, band leader, side person, singer – have all been at the highest level, and she shows no sign of stopping now. So let us now praise Carla Bley. She entered the jazz consciousness as a composer. Encouraged by her first husband, pianist Paul Bley, she wrote strong compositions that were quickly recorded by the likes of Jimmy Guiffre, Don Ellis, George Russell, and most memorably, the Paul Bley Quintet on Barrage. Buoyed by that success, she became an integral part of the Jazz Composers Guild, a musical “think tank” that for ten years was a catalyst for the avant-garde, beginning in the mid-60’s. With trumpeter Michael Mantler, Ms. Bley helped create the Jazz Composers Guild Orchestra, which featured innovative soloists like Pharaoh Sanders, Don Cherry, Larry Coryell, and Cecil Taylor. On her own, she wrote, played organ and piano and conducted Gary Burton’s seminal A Genuine Tong Funeral, an album that predated Bitches Brew as jazz-rock fusion. It was with the Jazz Composers Guild Orchestra that Carla’s most ambitious work was realized – the “chronotransduction” known as Escalator over the Hill, a collaboration with Paul Haines and Mantler. Something of a jazz opera, it took three years to record, finally appearing in 1971 as a 3-record box set with extensive lyrics and liner notes. It is hard today to realize the impact this work had on the music scene, bringing together seemingly disparate genres like European art music and cabaret; free jazz; Indian raga; and improvisatory rock. Artists from Jack Bruce and Linda Ronstadt, to John McLaughlin, Charlie Haden, Gato Barbieri, Roswell Rudd, Paul Motian and of course Ms. Bley and Mantler, brought a difficult and sometimes thrilling score to life. One of the few jazz recordings to catch the eye of Rolling Stone magazine, Jonathan Cott wrote in those pages that the album was “an international musical encounter of the first order.” The next year, she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for music composition. Whether she was working with Charlie Haden’s Liberation Orchestra; dabbling in rock (Jack Bruce, Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason, Golden Palominos) ; or collaborating with long-time companion Steve Swallow the music she makes could never be pigeon-holed in type or genre, more so than perhaps any artist since Duke Ellington. The albums that she released under her name were constantly shifting sounds – Big Bands, Trios, Sextets and Duets. She re-interprets and reimagines her old work with grace, and continues to write and perform new work of the highest order, often in a keyboard style that is uniquely her own. She continues her satisfying relationship with ECM with the release today of Andando el Tiempo, a trio record with Swallow and one of her favorite saxophonists, Andy Sheppard. It shows an artist still growing, still exploring, still a joy to discover. Let’s celebrate the creative work of Carla Bley with Podcast 537, featuring music selected from the body of work that bears her name as bandleader, including: Carla Bley and Her Remarkable Big Band - "Greasy Gravy" Carla Bley Trio - "Andando el tiempo: Camino al Volv" Carla Bley - "Sing Me Softly of the Blues" Carla Bley and Steve Swallow - "Walking Batteriewoman" Carla Bley and the Lost Chords Quartet - "Three Banana" Carla Bley - "The Girl Who Cried Champagne Parts 1-3" Carla Bley Big Band - "Who Will Rescue You?" Carla Bley Sextet - "Healing Power" Carla Bley - "Nothing"          [...]

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Podcast 532 Part 2 - A Conversation with Brian Bromberg

Mon, 02 May 2016 14:00:00 +0000

Talking with Brian Bromberg can be like drinking from a fire hose. Ask him a question that he fins interesting, and he is off on a lengthy, usually fascinating answer. For that reason, I broke our conversation into two podcasts. Part 2 of Podcast 532 focuses on his lengthy discography, and the slew of projects he has planned for the near future.

Bromberg has never stayed with one genre for long. Among my favorites from his catalogue are the highly electric tributes to Jaco Pastorious (Portrait of Jaco) and Jimi Hendrix (Plays Jimi Hendrix) , both of which manage to convey the great sense of wonder and mystery these two ground-breaking artists brought to their music, without trying to mimic or copy their classic licks.

A polar opposite is the highly intimate Hands, a collection of double-bass solos on classic tunes from the past and present. Somewhere in between sit his Metal albums, where he plays electric bass (both piccolo and regular).

As a budding bass player, I also took the time to ask Brian’s advice for young bass players, and generously gave some very good advice. Check it out.

Musical selections for the Podcast includes a piccolo bass version of "Teen Town" from Portrait of Jaco;  “King of Pain” (Hands);and an exciting take on “Voodoo Chile” (Plays Jimi Hendrix).

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Podcast 534: International Jazz Day Celebration

Sat, 30 Apr 2016 20:06:00 +0000

April 30th is the day set aside as International Jazz Day around the world.  Beginning in 2012, UNESCO set aside the day as a celebration of “the virtues of jazz as an educational tool, and a force for peace, unity, dialogue and enhanced cooperation among people.” I was fortunate enough to attend the first International Jazz Day concert on the floor of the United Nations that year. It was a fabulous event, bringing talent form across the globe onstage for memorable performances. Click here for my review of the event. The past few years have had celebratory concerts in Istanbul, Turkey; Osaka, Japan; and Paris, France. The 2016 blow-out will take place in Washington, D.C. Our nation’s capital will join with towns, cities and villages in over 190 countries on all 7 continents to observe International Jazz Day through thousands of performances and programs. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will host the 5th anniversary International Jazz Day All-Star Global Concert at the White House on April 29th, broadcast the next day as a one-hour primetime ABC television special, “Jazz at the White House,” on Saturday evening, April 30th and streamed on the United Nations, UNESCO, U.S. State Department and White House websites. Among those scheduled to appear in D.C. are pianists Joey Alexander, John Beasley (Music Director), Kris Bowers, Chick Corea, Robert Glasper, Herbie Hancock, Danilo Pérez and Chucho Valdés; trumpeters Terence Blanchard, Till Brönner, Hugh Masekela and James Morrison; vocalists Dee Dee Bridgewater, Jamie Cullum, Kurt Elling, Aretha Franklin, Al Jarreau, Diana Krall, Dianne Reeves and Sting; saxophonists Eli Degibri, David Sánchez, Wayne Shorter and Bobby Watson; bassists Christian McBride, Marcus Miller, Esperanza Spalding and Ben Williams; guitarists Buddy Guy, Lionel Loueke, Pat Metheny and Lee Ritenour; drummers Brian Blade, Terri Lyne Carrington and Kendrick Scott; percussionist Zakir Hussain; trombone player Trombone Shorty; and the Rebirth Brass Band. Here at Straight No Chaser, it is our tradition to celebrate International Jazz Day by giving you an hour plus of uninterrupted jazz from artists who hail from the four corners of the earth. It’s a delight to see that performers like Anat Cohen, born in Israel, brilliantly play Brazilian music, while artists from Africa and South America are playing American jazz with their own unique twists and turns. Enjoy Podcast 53_, featuring music from artists including: Avishai Cohen (Israel) - “Muhammad’s Market” Anat Cohen (Israel) - “Beatriz” Abdullah Ibrahim (South Africa) - “Soweto" Vijay Iyer (India) and Wadada Leo Smith (USA) - “Passage” Marcos Varela (Brazil) - “Colinas de Santa Maria” Gato Barbieri (Argentina) -  “Gato Gato” Joachim Kuhn Trio (Germany) - “Blues for Pablo” Tee Mac (Nigeria) - “Nam-Myoho-Renge-Key” Hiromi (Japan) - “What Will Be, Will Be” Darren Barrett (Canada) featuring Warren Wolf (USA) - “The Club Up the Street” Ferenc Snetberger (Hungary) - “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” Cyrille Aimee (France) - “T’es Beau To Sais”  Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gl (Brazil) - 'Tropicalia" Esbjorn Swensson Trio (Sweden) - "Viaticum"[...]

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Podcast 532 Part 1: A Conversation with Brian Bromberg

Tue, 26 Apr 2016 16:00:00 +0000

Brian Bromberg’s latest CD, Full Circle, truly lives up to his name. The long-time bass player has been virtually absent from the public for the past four years, as he recovers from a serious back injury the required extensive physical therapy. Now he returns to recorded music, not only playing his trademark piccolo bass (among the many he uses), but also playing drums, the instrument upon which he first cut his musical teeth.

Bromberg also takes the opportunity to finally play in a combo with his late father. His Dad – a talented drummer on the East Coast scene who left the big time behind after World War II – never played with Brian during his lifetime, but by overdubbing a bass line onto an old acetate recording, Bromberg finally makes a long-time dream of his come true on two tracks.

Bromberg is often grouped into the “smooth jazz sound”, despite lengthy time in the Stan Getz band in the past, The new CD is full of moments that move beyond any one genre, whether it is the Latin Jazz of “Havana Nights” (playfully subtitled “Havana Nagillah”), the straight-ahead sound of “Bernie’s Bop” or the funky cover of Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough.” And as always, there is that piccolo bass, making Bromberg sound as if he were playing electric guitar with the best of them.

Podcast 532 is the first of two podcasts with bassist Bromberg. The first part of our conversation centers on his gear and sound, plus the stories behind the new album. Musical selections include “Jazz Me Blues”, “Bernie’s Bop” and “Havana Nights (Havana Nagillah).” The second part of our talk will appear later in the week and will focus on his earlier work and musical progress,

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Podcast 530: A Conversation with Rob Garcia

Sun, 24 Apr 2016 02:00:00 +0000

Artist-run organizations are a new and successful trend in the jazz world, and Rob Garcia has been a major force in this new way for jazz to continue and thrive. He is the founder and executive director of an artist-run, non-profit organization called Connection Works, which presents world-class jazz performances and educational events to the Brooklyn community. He is a member of the Brooklyn Jazz Underground, an association of independent artists with a shared commitment to creativity and community. He was also a founding member of the Douglass Street Music Collective, an artist-run rehearsal and performance space, featuring some of New York’s most creative and cutting edge musicians/composers.

A top composer, arranger, drummer and band leader, Garcia has released a number of top CDs: Place of Resonance, which features Dave Kikoski and Mike Formanek; Heart's Fire; Perennial with Noah Preminger, Dan Tepfer, and Chris Lightcap; and his latest release, finding love in an oligarchy on a dying planet. This presciently titled album features Preminger, Gary Versace and Masa Kamaguchi, with guest spots from the likes of Joe Lovano, Kate McGarry and Brendan Burke.
With song titles as startling as “terror, fear and media” and “guns make killing easy,” you might expect a dissonant, atonal work. Nothing could be further form the truth. In fact, the CD begins with a fairly straight reading of Stephen Foster’s “Beautiful Dreamer”. While he works intriguing rhythms and drum fills into the tunes, they remain accessible, primarily due to Preminger’s tenor playing. Kate McGarry’s vocals lend a welcome touch to two strong tunes with positive messages, “people are everything” and “the journey is the destination.” The band is tight throughout, and I particularly enjoyed the integration of Kamaguchi’s basslines in a number of tunes.

Podcast 530 is my conversation with Rob Garcia, as we talk about the new CD, the Brooklyn Jazz Underground label where he has thrived, and the many artists for whom he has been the main man behind the drum kit. Musical selections from the new CD include “Greenland is turning green”, “the journey is the destination” and the title track, plus "String and Poise" from a previous release, The Drop and the Ocean 

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Repost: Shakespeare and All that Jazz

Sat, 23 Apr 2016 16:00:00 +0000

As an English major at Clark University (Class of '77) I spent many a fond moment with one of my favorite professors, Dr. Virginia Vaughan discussing the Immortal Bard, William Shakespeare. Although Shakespeare's birthdate is unknown, it is traditionally celebrated on April 23, St. George's Day. He was born 452 years ago today.

And whither, you might ask, does this great writer intersect with Jazz? Look no further than the 1964 album by Cleo Laine, Shakespeare and All That Jazz, arranged and written for her by her husband, Sir John Dankworth. Dankworth adapted sonnets and portions of the plays to create an artistically satisfying work. Many of the tunes are written by Dankworth, but he also picks from the Ellington-Strayhorn canon for "My Love is as a Fever (Sonnet 147)" a portion of the suite they composed entitled Such Sweet Thunder. Of particular interest are the tracks which feature Kenny Wheeler on trumpet.

For those interested in an updated take on this album, check out Christina Drapkin's version.

Podcast 533: Jazzin' On Prince (1958-2016)

Fri, 22 Apr 2016 23:42:49 +0000

 One of the astounding things that we realize when we contemplate the musical legacy of Prince (1958-2016) is that while he passed away at the age of 57, he had written and recorded music since he was 17. Those forty years of wildly exciting, innovative, profane, uplifting music will be with us always, and we are once again left wondering what might have come as he continued his evolving career. In December 2013, my wife Nancy and I had the chance to get as up close and personal with Prince as I had ever hoped. We had purchased tickets to see his concert at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut (Esperanza Spalding, opening act) and had possibly the most distant seats you could have in that arena. However, minutes before the show started, a representative of His Royal Purpleness came through the nosebleed seats and upgraded us to the second row. A miracle! We spent that evening dancing to the hottest band I’ve ever seen. More than a dozen or more musicians filled the stage, from a choreographed horn section to a hard rock trio, always with Prince in the lead. If he left out a tune that I wanted to hear, I can’t recall it. The years of keeping a low profile had done nothing to slow Prince down; he looked remarkably youthful for his age, and his moves and grooves were as in step as ever. It was truly, as the band sang, a beautiful night.  And now, just as he was returning to relevance, he is gone. His song “Baltimore” released almost a year ago, was one of the few major musical artists’ comments on the unrest in the city and the #BlackLivesMatter movement. He had released two CDs since September 2015, and had been  touring to rave reviews again. As is the custom here at Straight No Chaser, non-jazz artists are celebrated or memorialized with a “Jazzin’ On…” podcast, featuring jazz artists performing their versions of his or her tunes. Past Podcasts like this include honoring Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell, Radiohead, George Harrison, John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney and more. Podcast 533 is my tribute to Prince, featuring the following jazz artists and their versions of songs he wrote: Peter Bernstein – “1999” Herbie Hancock – “Thieves in the Temple” Jimmy Scott – “Nothing Compares 2 U” Fareed Haque/Mike Cain – “When 2 R in Love” Bob Belden featuring Tsidii Le Loka – “Little Red Corvette” Miles Davis – “Movie Star” Joshua Redman – “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore?” Bob Belden featuring Tsidii Le Loka – “Purple Rain”[...]

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Repost: Music for Passover: "Go Down Moses"

Fri, 22 Apr 2016 14:00:00 +0000

One of my favorite holidays is the celebration of the Jewish holiday of Passover As the first Seder is tonight, celebrating the Exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt under the leadership of the prophet Moses, I've gone into the category of music that was called "Negro Spirituals" when I was in school, and picked "Go Down Moses"

Versions of the song seem to go back to 1862, when it was called "Oh! Let My People Go (The Song of the Contrabands)". The openign verse was published by the Jubilee Singers in 1872. It's easy to see the coded message in the lyrics - "Israel" in the lyrics stands in for African-Americans oppressed by slavery and recism, and "Egypt" as their oppressors. The seminal recording of the song is likely Paul Robeson's version from 1958, which became a rallying cry for those fighting for civil rights in the American South.

Click here to listen to Louis Armstrong's version of the spiritual, taken from his Louis and the Good Book album. Armstrong recorded the song in February 1959 with Sy Oliver's Orchestra. Armstrong had jsut finished his popular Porgy & Bess album with Ella Fitzgerald, and entered the studio to record a series of spirituals and religious-tinged music. Among those in the band were Trummy Young on trombone, Hank D'Amico and Nicky Tagg on clarinet, Billy Kyle on piano and Barrett Deems on drums.

In Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong   biographer Terry Teachout quotes an outspoken Armstrong as being a great friend of the Jewish people, who he felt gave him a break in his youth when his fellow African-Americans would not. He wore a Star of David around his neck for most of his life.

Podcast 531: A Conversation with Daniel Freedman

Fri, 15 Apr 2016 16:00:00 +0000

The many musicians who are today identified as veterans of the “Smalls scene” of the 1990’s are truly coming of age. The influential Greenwich Village jazz club was the launching pad twenty plus years ago for some of the top improvisers and composers of today, including Jason Linder, Mark Turner, Avishai Cohen (both the trumpeter and the bassist), Kurt Rosenwinkel, Guillermo Klein, Omar Avital, Seamus Blake and Peter Bernstein. Daniel Freedman backed many of these players on drums and percussion, and with the release of Imagine That, he is firmly establishing himself as a leader and composer in his own right.

Born and raised in New York City to a musical family, in high school he studied with master drummers Max Roach, Billy Higgins and Vernel Fournier. Later, he traveled to study drumming in West Africa, Cuba and the Middle East, forging his own unique approach to drumming.  Those who have enjoyed Freedman’s work as a member of Anat Cohen’s band or the collective Third World Love will find much to enjoy in his third CD under his own name.

Working with a dream band of Lionel Loueke, Lindner, Avital, and Gilmar Gomes, the sound of Imagine That is a wonderful mix of electric jazz, world beat and dance music.  There is real joy in these tracks, whether from Linder’s shifting soundscapes, Loueke’s crying guitar or the percussive interplay of Avital, Freedman and Gomes. Add to it a guest vocal from Freedman’s former boss Angelique Kidjo, and Imagine That earns the wonder the encompasses its name in spades.

Podcast 531 is my conversation with Daniel Freedman, as we discuss the making of the CD, and his adventures playing with Anat Cohen, Third World Love and other members of the burgeoning Anzic label. Music selections from Imagine That include "Determined Soul", "Eastern Elegy" and "The Sisters Dance" plus "Lilia“ from Anat Cohen’s Luminosa and “The Immigrant's Anthem (Sad Song)“ from Third World Love’s CD Songs and Portraits.


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Podcast 529: A Conversation with David Fiuczynski

Tue, 12 Apr 2016 14:00:00 +0000


David Fiuczynski is not your typical guitar hero.

Usually playing his double-necked guitar – the lower fretted, the upper fretless – he is capable of making a roaring sound when he wants, but more often he is interested in microtonality. He writes and plays non-western scales that can have exponentially more notes and sounds than the classic 12 tone chromatic octave we all learned in school.

In 2012, RareNoise Records released a statement CD, Planet MicroJam that let us all listen in to what “Fuze” was doing at the Berklee College of Music, as director of its Planet MicroJam Institute. A year earlier, he had been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, and had begun working on the project that eventually became Flam! Blam! Pan-Asian MicroJam! Inspired equally by the 20th century French classical composer Olivier Messiaen and innovative beat-maker J Dilla, the seven movements that make up the bulk of the CD allow him to craft an exciting musical statement that connects Messiaen’s birdcall compositions with J DIllas’s beats and field recordings ofl bird sounds, filtered through microtonal sounds recalling Gagaku, the ancient court music of Japan, and other Pan-Asian ingredients. This is not easy listening, but this is rewarding, and at times exciting, listening.

Fiuczynski is joined on his latest release by former Microjam Institute students Utar Artun on microtonal keyboard, Yazhi Guo on suona (Chinese oboe) and percussion, Helen Sherrah-Davies on violin, Jack Sherman on microtonal keyboard, Justin Schornstein on bass and Alex Bailey on drums. And in a reprise of their collaboration on Gamak a few years back, Rudresh Mahanthappa joins on three tracks with his alto sax.

Podcast 529 is my conversation with David Fiuczynski, where he explains his interest in microtonality, how Flam! Blam! came to be, and what he learns from his students at Berklee. Musical selections from the CD include “Flam”, “Loon-y Tunes”, “Oiseaux JDillique", and one tune that Mahanthappa played on, "UiraHappy Jam."

A CD release event for the album will take place at Shapeshifter Lab in New York with special guest Rudresh Mahanthappa on April 14. 



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Podcast 528: A Conversation with Tony Lustig

Mon, 11 Apr 2016 14:00:00 +0000

If you go to the New York Clubs, you’ve probably seen Tony Lustig capably filling the Baritone Sax chair in Big Bands lead by the likes of Wynton Marsalis, Christian McBride, Arturo O'Farrill, Gerald Wilson and, George Gee, amongst others. The release of his quintet album, Taking Flight, allows us to see another side of this talented musician.

Lustig has wisely surrounded himself with top musicians, with whom he shares roots from his days at Michigan State and Julliard. The rhythm section - Samora Pinderhughes (piano), Ben Williams (bass), and Ulysses Owens (drums) – is rock steady, and allows the wide variety of tunes to swing, strut or funk along. The unusual pairing of Lustig’s bari (or sometimes bass clarinet) with Michael Dease’s trombone shows off the strong melodies Lustig has written with an entirely different sonic palette than the more traditional alto sax or trumpet.

Hailing from Detroit, Michigan, Tony was introduced to the world of music through the violin, but when his school failed to offer a strong music program, he took up the alto sax his sister had abandoned. Eventually, this lead to a transition from alto to baritone saxophone, spurred on by his love of the sound and music of Gerry Mulligan.  Like so many other youngsters playing around Detroit over the past four decades he was mentored by, and played with, such local greats as the late Marcus Belgrave and Rodney Whitaker.

Podcast 528 is my conversation with Tony, as we talk about his writing style, how he hopes to expand jazz to a larger audience, and his current projects, which includes a Horn Band a la Chicago or Tower of Power with an Indie Rock flavor. Musical selections from Taking Flight include “Change is Comin’”, “Fraytown” (in honor of his hometown in the Detroit suburbs), “Prometheus” and “Burning Grease.”

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Podcast 527: Wrapping Up the Portland Jazz Festival wth Don Lucoff

Sun, 10 Apr 2016 16:00:00 +0000

In 2016, it is safe to say that there are jazz festivals, and then there are jazz festivals. Many events slap the word “jazz” in the title, even though the acts they are presenting may only peripherally have anything to do with jazz – Blues, R&B and Classic Soul headliners are all too common. Other jazz festivals are narrow in their presenting scope – think the smooth jazz and soul jazz that gets presented each winter in the popular Berks Jazz Fest in Reading, Pennsylvania. There is nothing wrong with that festival – in fact, it gets bigger and better every year – but it does not present the kind of cross-section or overview that a modern jazz festival should have.  And there is less curating at festivals as time goes on. To me, that means that the acts are those who are on tour and are making a stop at this particular venue, rather than acts that are coming specifically for this festival, to play especially themed shows, or to match up with new and different talent. Detroit has done this exceedingly well with their “Artist in Residence” program, bringing in a jazz giant to play in a number of different musical configurations and styles over four days. Lastly, should the 2016 jazz festival be a weekend at a gated location – think Newport, Monterey, or Saratoga – or should it be let loose across multiple venues in a city, as in Burlington, Vermont, and to a lesser extent, Detroit? I offer up the PDX Jazz Festival as perhaps the best of all worlds. The 13th annual festival, held in Portland, Oregon, just completed a highly successful ten plus days of entertainment in and around the City of Roses. The event showcases local talent as well as brings in world-caliber players. This year the thematic thread that ran through the festival was the 90thbirthday anniversary of John Coltrane, with curated events that honored his work. As a result, PDX presented the likes of Ravi Coltrane in “Universal Consciousness”, a tribute to his mother Alice Coltrane with bassist Reggie Workman, pianist Geri Allen, harpist Brandee Younger, and drummer Andrew Cyrille.; and Africa/Brass in concert under the direction of Portland Jazz Master Charles Gray, with featured solos by Coltrane. The closing night of the festival may have shown what it does best - three contemporary saxophonists in “The Saxophone Summit Supreme” to play final odes to Coltrane, channeling the spirit of the early 2000s group Saxophone Summit. The collective covered multiple generations, including Jimmy Greene, Devin Phillips, and JD Allen, with backing piano by Orrin Evans. Veteran publicist and jazz lover Don Lucoff is the artistic director of the PDX Jazz Festival, and it was a pleasure to pick his brain as to the ins and outs of curating a financially solvent event. Podcast 527 features our conversation and wrap-up of the festival. Musical selections include a track from Portland native Esperanza Spalding’s new CD, “Fear the Funk” and John Coltrane’s classic “Alabama”.  [...]

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Gato Barbieri (1932-2016)

Mon, 04 Apr 2016 14:33:29 +0000

Leandro (Gato) Barbieri, a Grammy-winning Latin jazz saxophonist known as much for his wildly evolving styles as his trademark black fedora, died this weekend at the age of 83.

While Barbieri will likely be known by most music fans for his wildly instrumental score for the film "Last Tango in Paris,” or for his definitive version of Carlos Santana’s “Europa”, jazz fans may remember a more adventurous and avant-garde saxophonist.

While he recorded 35 albums, many that defied easy categorization, for me it was the incredibly fruitful period from 1965-1972 that made him special. Barbieri was a key performer and contributor to seminal work by Don Cherry, Carla Bley (Escalator Over the Hill), Charlie Haden (Liberation Music Orchestra), Gary Burton (A Genuine Tong Funeral) and the Jazz Composer’s Orchestra. That work, along with Last Tango in Paris, lead to his record deal with Impulse! Records in 1973, leading to his four “Chapter” recordings. Some of my favorite albums, these allowed him to deeply explore his Latin Roots, reimagining and reinterpreting the music and sounds through his modern saxophone. 

While much of his remaining recorded output veered closer to smooth jazz, it was always deeply felt and had his trademark fiery solos. I had the pleasure of booking Gato in 2002 at the Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz, just as he had begun a return from recording exile and health issues. Having difficulty with his sight and braving a rain-soaked stage,  I took him by the elbow to the center of the stage, where he received rapturous applause. And then he played, and age, health, and time all fell away. It was a memorable performance by a memorable jazz man.

Click here to listen to Gato Barbieri circa November 5, 1972, courtesy of an unreleased ROIO on Big O World Wide It is a show from Berliner Jazztage in Berlin with a band lead by Gato on sax, Lonnie Liston Smith on keyboards, JF Jenny Clarke on bass, Mandrake on percussions, and Han Bennick on drums.

The Official Straight No Chaser Song of Easter: "Easter Parade"

Sun, 27 Mar 2016 14:00:00 +0000

The song of the day is Irving Berlin's "Easter Parade", performed by Sarah Vaughan and Billy Eckstine and released on their 1957 album Sarah Vaughan and Billy Eckstine Sing the Best of Irving Berlin. Although Vaughan had made many recordings with Eckstine, this was their only album together.

Writing a song about celebrating a Christian holiday was not an anomaly for the Jewish composer Berlin. Born in 1888 into a Russian Jewish family who came to New York City to escape religious persecution when he was five years old, Irving Berlin quickly shed his religious roots and fell in love with America. He became an American citizen when he was 29. "Patriotism was Irving Berlin's true religion," writes biographer Laurence Bergreen in As Thousands Cheer: The Life of Irving Berlin (1990).

Irving Berlin was "not a religious person," according to his daughter Mary Ellin. Relating the story of Irving's marriage to Ellin Mackay in 1926, whose devout father had a deep reluctance to welcome a "lower-class" Jew into the wealthy Catholic family.

Once they had children, Mrs. Berlin did try to keep up a minimal appearance of religious tradition. Mary Ellin writes that her unbelieving parents "had their first bad fight when my mother suggested raising me as a Catholic . . . ."

The Berlins had three daughters. "Both our parents," Mary Ellin recalls, "would pass down to their children the moral and ethical values common to all great religions; give us a sense of what was right and what was wrong; raise us not to be good Jews or good Catholics or good whatever else you might care to cite, but to be good (or try to be) human beings. . . . When we grew up, she said, we would be free to choose--if we knew what was best for us, the religion of our husband. . . . It wouldn't quite work out, when we 'grew up,' as my mother hoped. All three of us would share our father's agnosticism and sidestep our husband's faiths."

The man who wrote "White Christmas" actually hated Christmas. "Many years later," Mary Ellin writes, "when Christmas was celebrated irregularly in my parents' house, if at all, my mother said, almost casually, 'Oh, you know, I hated Christmas, we both hated Christmas. We only did it for you children.' "

Christmas, for Irving Berlin, was not a religious holiday: it was an American holiday. He simply needed a melody in 1940 for a show called Holiday Inn, an escapist "American way of life" musical (when all hell was breaking loose in Europe) which called for a song for each holiday. The words to "White Christmas" are not about the birth of a savior-god: they are about winter, the real reason for the season.

Read more about Irving Berlin, religion and patriotism here.

Repost: Music for Holy Week - "Crucifixtion" by David Murray

Fri, 25 Mar 2016 15:00:00 +0000

In keeping with the theme of presenting spiritual music performed by jazz artists this week, here is "Crucifixion", a traditional spiritual with a copyright credited to its arranger, Jester Hairston.

Hairston (1901-2000) was a prolific composer and arranger of African-American music. In addiiton to dozens of arrangments still in use today, he composed what is now considered a Christmas standard, "Mary's Boy Child" in 1956. Seven years later, he penned the universally known "Amen" for Sidney Poitier's film "Lilies of the Valley". That song has gone on to be recorded by hundred of artists, most notably the Impressions in 1964. It's worth pointing out that an up-tempo version of the song, "Amen, Brother" by the Winstons in 1969 had six seconds of its drum solo sampled as what is referred to as the "Amen Break", a sample credited with launching the drum and bass movement, and included in rock, hip-hop and soul tracks for several decades.

Click here to listen to David Murray's version of the venerable tune, from the 1988 Spirituals album. Murray recorded this pensive, rather straight ahead (for Murray) version with a quartet including Murray on sax, Dave Burrell on piano, Fred Hopkins on bass, and Ralph Peterson, Jr. on drums.

Repost: Music for Holy Week: David Axelrod's "Holy Thursday"

Thu, 24 Mar 2016 14:00:00 +0000

The fine blog Any Major Dude with Half a Heart (dig that Steely Dan reference) has always gone deep into the crates for goodies, usually of the soul variety. For Holy Thursday, celebrated by Catholics around the world, he has a real winner. Visit his page for David Axelrod's "Holy Thursday". As he says on his blog:

Well, it is Holy Thursday, and while this orchestral jazz track might not feed your pieties, it should at least get your toes tapping. That does not mean that the title is irreverent. Axelrod, son of a leftist activist who grew up in a predominantly black neighbourhood, wrote and recorded several musical works referencing religion. In 1971 he arranged a jazz-rock interpretation of Handel’s Messiah and in 1993 he titled a work on the Holocaust a “requiem”. I have read that Holy Thursday also featured in Grand Theft Auto V, a game I’ve never played but the soundtracks of which seem quite excellent.

Axelrod has had a massive influence on jazz, in particular fusion. He produced legends such as Lou Rawls and Cannonball Adderley (including his big hit Mercy, Mercy, Mercy), as well as avant gardists The Electric Prunes.

For another posting I did on this tune, click here.

Podcast 526: A Conversation with Marc Copland

Mon, 21 Mar 2016 16:00:00 +0000

Marc Copland’s music career started with a sax, but he’s made his name as a pianist. Hailing from Philadelphia, Copland was a peer of Michael Brecker, and the pair often studied and played together. Copland attended Columbia University, where he eventually landed in the influential Chico Hamilton Quartet, meeting lifetime collaborator John Abercrombie in the process.

But Marc put down the sax soon after, and began the process of reinventing himself as a pianist. The results were outstanding. Fifteen long years later he was not only in demand on gigs, but he had begun a recording career that has resulted in more than three dozen releases, most recently with Copland playing a key place in the Gary Peacock Trio and John Abercrombie Quartet.

Zenith, his latest CD as a leader, is a quartet session featuring his long-time bassist Drew Gess; drummer Joey Baron; and trumpeter Ralph Alessi. The album is full of musically complex and yet welcoming music. Alessi is in something of a career renaissance right now, having released a fine CD on his own this year, Quiver, and he adds much to Copland’s compositions. One interesting addition is the rarely played Duke Ellington composition, “Mystery Song”, which gets an interesting reading here.

Podcast 526 is my conversation with Marc Copland, as we discuss the new album and quartet; and his long-time musical relationships with Drew Gess, Peacock and Abercrombie. Musical selections include three tracks from the new CD - "Waterfalls", Mystery Song" and "Sun at the Zenith" as well as recording with John Abercrombie ("Shadow of a Doubt") and Gary Peacock ("Noh Blues").

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Podcast 525: Spirituality

Sun, 20 Mar 2016 14:00:00 +0000

The Spring is truly the season of spiritual awakening and celebration. Holy week for those of the Christian faith is underway, coming early on the calendar this year. As a result, the Jewish holiday of Purim, rather than Passover, tis this coming week. The festival of Vaisaki, celebrated by Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs iis their Spring holiday, just as Theravada, the New Year festival for Theravada Buddhists, is celebrated. Soon will begin the Baha'i festival of Ridvan, and Pagan/Wiccan followers commemorate the end of the Celtic Tree Month Alder and beginning of the Celtic Tree Month of Willow. 

It’s a blessing that these festivals of many faiths all come in the early Spring , reminding us of the great similarities and wonderful differences that make up these faiths. In order to celebrate this season of spirituality, I offer my annual podcast of jazz with a spiritual strain running through the tunes in Podcast 525 (previous Podcasts can be found for 2015,  2014,  2013, 2011, and 2010), including:

Wynton Marsalis - "Psalm 29"

Vibration Society - "Spirits Up Above"

Pharoah Sanders - "Prince of Peace"

Albert Ayler - "Saints"

Mark Weinstein - "Mizmor L'David"

Marcus Miller - "The Lord's Prayer"

Dirty Dozen Brass Band - "Amazing Grace"

Winard Harper - "The Prayer"

Kamasi Washington - "Seven Prayers"

Kirk Whalum - "Love is the Answer"

Wynton Marsalis - "Psalm 29"


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Podcast 523: A Conversation with Krin Gabbard about Charles Mingus

Mon, 29 Feb 2016 17:00:00 +0000

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”.[...]

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Fifty Years Ago Today: Wayne Shorter Leaves His "Footprints"

Wed, 24 Feb 2016 17:00:00 +0000

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.

Podcast 524: A Valentine's Day Podcast

Fri, 12 Feb 2016 17:00:00 +0000

And now for your edification, a brief history of Valentine’s Day, courtesy 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, When every fowl cometh there to choose his mate. 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[...]

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Podcast 522: A Conversation with Elan Mehler about Newvelle Records

Fri, 12 Feb 2016 15:35:50 +0000

“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. Those interested in learning more about Newvelle should visit their website or participate in their Kickstarter program through February 14th. 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“). Click here to watch a video about the label[...]

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Podcast 521: All On a Mardi Gras Day 2016

Tue, 09 Feb 2016 14:00:00 +0000

Today at 12:08 PM It happens a little earlier on the calendar this year, but the goings on in New Orleans are unmistakable.  Mardi Gras! 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” For prior year Mardi Gras podcasts, click on the year: 2014; 2013; 2011; 2009 [...]

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Podcast 520: The Naked Truth with Lorenzo Feliciati and Pat Mastelotto

Tue, 09 Feb 2016 01:18:05 +0000

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.

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Maurice White (1941-2016)

Fri, 05 Feb 2016 19:01:49 +0000

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.  [...]

Podcast 519: When Rockers hire Jazz Musicians

Thu, 04 Feb 2016 16:29:27 +0000

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

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Podcast 518: A Conversation with Cyrille Aimee

Thu, 21 Jan 2016 17:00:00 +0000

Since winning the “Triple Crown” of Jazz Vocal Competitions – Montreux Jazz Festival, Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocal Competition and Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition – Cyrille Aimee has been working hard at carving out a special place for her talents in the music world. While she plays and has recorded with her traditional jazz backing group, the Surreal Band, her recordings for Detroit’s Mack Avenue label have eschewed the piano/horn sound of most singers.

Instead, she has drawn on her life experiences, growing up the daughter of a Dominican mother and French father in the town of Samois-sux-Seine in France, the home of the annual Django Reinhardt Festival. The result is a multi-guitar approach to jazz sound with a wink at gypsy jazz, an approach that suits her sometimes chirpy vocal style to a T.

Let’s Get Lost is her second album for Mack Avenue (after 2014’s It’s a Good Day), and again it mixes originals with her versions of lesser known standards and international sounds. Her band – Adrien Maignard and Michael Valeanu on guitars, Sam Anning on bass and Rajiv Jayaweera on drums – is a tight, well-executed ensemble, and they lift the songs in every way.

Her version of the title song, best known as a slightly-up-tempo ballad from Chet Baker, is a good insight into the Aimee approach. Rather than give us yet another cover version of a great song, we get a version that brings to mind flappers and bootleg gin, the tune taken a Charleston-like speed.

Podcast 518 is my conversation with Cyrille, where we discuss her musical origins, how she chooses material, and the nature of her sound. Musical selections include a top-notch cover of Stephen Sondheim’s “Live Alone and Like It”, the title track, "Each Day" and her creative collaboration with Valeanu on “Nine More Minutes”.

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Podcast 516: A Conversation with Mark Weinstein

Wed, 20 Jan 2016 17:00:00 +0000

Multi-instrumentalists are not unusual on the bandstand or in the studio these days. Reed players switch off from clarinet to saxophone, string players move between multi-stringed instruments from around the world. What IS unusual is Mark Weinstein’s multi-instrumental tale. By the age of 14, when he started to play trombone in Erasmus Hall High School, he also tried clarinet and drums. Playing his first professional gig on trombone at 15, he added string bass, a common double in NYC at that time. A few years later, along with Barry Rogers, Weinstein formed Eddie Palmieri’s first trombone section, changing the sound of salsa forever. With his heart in jazz, Weinstein was a major contributor to the development of the salsa trombone playing and arranging. He extended jazz attitudes and techniques in his playing with salsa bands. His arrangements broadened the harmonic base of salsa while introducing folkloric elements for authenticity and depth. Mark continued to record with Eddie Palmieri, with Cal Tjader and with Tito Puente. He toured with Herbie Mann for years, played with Maynard Ferguson, and the big bands of Joe Henderson, Clark Terry, Jones and Lewis, Lionel Hampton, Duke Pearson and Kenny Dorham. In 1967 he wrote and recorded the Afro-Cuban jazz album, Cuban Roots for the legendary salsa producer Al Santiago. Called by many the “Holy Grail of Latin Jazz” due to its rarity today, the album revolutionized Latin jazz; combining authentic folkloric drum ensembles with harmonically complex extended jazz solos and arrangements. Chick Corea was on piano and the rhythm section included the finest and most knowledgeable Latin drummers: Julito Collazo, Tommy Lopez Sr. and Papaito (timbalero with La Sonora Matancera) . And then, a change of heart, a change of lifestyle and a change of career found Mark Weinstein putting away the trombone forever. It took almost ten years before he returned to the music scene. He earned a Ph.D in Philosophy with a specialization in mathematical logic. He became a college professor (and remains so until this day). When he returned to the music scene in 1978 playing the flute, he wrote produced and recorded the Orisha Suites. Slowly her returned to the jazz world, and now has released more than 25 albums of jazz flute, touching on Brazlia, Latin Jazz, Straight Ahead and now, Jewish Themes on his new CD In Jerusalem. Taking classic Hasidic melodies that occurred in liturgy known as “nigun” – wordless melody to sing in preparation of or participation in prayer – he has assembled a group to bring a jazz treatment to ancient music. Joining Mark on the CD are guitarist Steve Peskoff, bassist Gilad Abro, drummer Haim Peskoff (Steve’s son) and percussionist Gilad Dobrecky. Podcast 516 is my conversation with Mark Weinstein about his career, his transition from Trombone to F[...]

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"Martin Was a Man, A Real Man"

Mon, 18 Jan 2016 15:00:00 +0000

To honor the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King on the anniversary of his birth, here is the Official Straight No Chaser song of the holiday - “Martin was a Man, a Real Man” as recorded by Oliver Nelson in 1969. The band for the recording included Nelson, Pearl Kaufmann and Roger Kellaway (piano); Chuck Domanico (bass); John Guerin and Roy Haynes (drums); Frank Stroizer and John Gross (sax) and Bob Bryant (trumpet).

“Martin was a Man, a Real Man” was released on Nelson’s Black, Brown and Beautiful album in 1970 on the Flying Dutchman label. Considered to be one of Nelson’s hippest releases, the album continued Nelson’s move from blues-based jazz arrangements to cinematic, nearly stream-of-consciousness concept albums. With tracks with titles like “Lamb of God” and “I Hope in Time a Change Will Come”, and the sounds of sirens, rioting and unrest, the album comes across as a deeply felt response to Dr. King’s assassination. Even hipper – and more controversial – was the completely nude torso of a lovely black woman on the cover, coming close to a full frontal reveal.

For a previous podcast tribute to Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, click here. For a 2008 podcast of tunes from Charlie Haden's Liberation Orchestra, Grant Green, Cecil Payne, Horace Silver, and the Blind Boys of Alabama that are appropriate for the day, click here.

Podcast 517: A Conversation with Peter Erskine

Sat, 16 Jan 2016 18:00:00 +0000

For those of you who are fans of seminal fusion groups like Weather Report and Steps Ahead, the drumming of Peter Erskine is well ingrained in your musical memory. Erskine moved away from that louder, more frenetic music years ago, becoming a more accomplished jazz drummer, and then beginning a career in film scores, education and musical application development as his interests in music in general grew.

For those who needed a prescription for his old music, let me declare firmly - the doctor will see you now.

Dr.Um (read it slowly and you'll get the wordplay) is his latest CD, a plugged-in delight that is sitting on top of the Jazz CD charts as I write this posting. Why did Peter return to his fusion background after all this time? Maybe it was all the time he spent immersed in Weather Report lore and music in 2015, having worked on the Jaco Pastorius documentary and the Weather Report box set The Legendary Live Tapes 1978-1981. Regardless of the reason, the CD is a joy, satisfying both the nostalgia of older fans with the sense of exploration and discovery a new generation of music fans should feel with each listen.

Erskine's discography is approaching 700 albums at this point, so he has nothing to prove. Yet there is a spirit of joy that permeates Dr. Um, of an artist shining a light on music he wants to share, not afraid to not take himself too seriously, and work with old and new musical friends on a project.  

Podcast 517 is my conversation with Peter Erskine, as he discusses the new CD, spins tales of Weather Report, and talks about the rise of music apps. Musical selections include three tracks from Dr. Um, Joe Zawinul's "Bourges Buenos Aires", Erskine's "Hawaiian Bathing Suit" and a radically re-arranged version of Vince Mendoza's "Sprite"; plus Weather Report's "Fast City" from The Legendary Live Tapes 1978-1981.


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Podcast 515: Considering David Bowie at 69 - Talking "Blackstar"

Fri, 08 Jan 2016 15:00:00 +0000

Four years ago I posted a review of The Wee Trio’s Ashes to Ashes – A David Bowie Intraspective, and had these comments: Rock Star/actor David Bowie turned 65 earlier this week. One of the great musical chameleons of our time – perhaps only Miles Davis tried more musical styles and guises during his career – he’s unfortunately something of a recluse these days, producing little new work. He’s left a body of recorded projects that dominate my iPod – I go nowhere without Ziggy Stardust, Station to Station, Low and ‘Heroes’.  How things can change! Bowie turns 69 years old today, and rather than resuming to the musical hiatus that ended in 2014, he has released one of his most interesting and talked-about albums since Jimmy Carter was in the White House. Blackstar is also Bowie’s attempt to bring jazz into his music in a bigger way. A saxophone player from way back, Bowie has had jazz flourishes in many tunes, and has hired the likes of Lester Bowie to play trumpet and David Sanborn to play sax for him. However, his 2014 collaboration with the Maria Schneider Orchestra, “Sue (or a Season in Crime)” marked an outright jazz approach to the textures and structures of his longer musical pieces. A key soloist for Ms. Schneider is SNC favorite Donny McCaslin, and working with Bowie on that track (click here for my interview with Donny and his comments on the session) clearly made an impression, since Blackstar features the Donny McCaslin Group as Bowie’s backup band. McCaslin on saxophones, Jason Lindner on keyboards, Tim Lefebvre on electric bass and Mark Guiliana on drums make for formidable foils on the new material. In fact, much of the sound is similar to the past two McCaslin Group albums, Casting for Gravity and Fast Future,  which successfully stretched the boundaries of jazz and electronica, putting texture, beats and effects ahead of chord changes as the center of the listener's experience. Click here for a thorough New York Times article about the collaboration. That said, Blackstar is not a jazz album. Not that that’s a bad thing. In these days a handful of our best, and most adventurous artists are looking to stretch their music beyond genre or type. I think of Robert Glasper, or Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah in jazz; Kendrick Lamar in hip-hop, and any number of electronica artists, an area that drummer Guiliana approached successfully in his Mehliana and Beat Music releases. So Blackstar can be enjoyed for Bowie’s grafting of 21st century jazz sound onto his rock sensibilities. He wisely lets Jason Linder take a big part in the overall sound and Lefebvre’s throbbing bass clearly has been honed to crossover perfection during his tenure with the Tedeschi Trucks Band. McCaslin lets loose with [...]

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Podcast 514: A Tribute to Paul Bley

Wed, 06 Jan 2016 15:00:00 +0000

Yesterday I posted a brief obituary of pianist Paul Bley, who passed away on January 3, 2016. For a musician, a written memorial seems empty. Therefore, here is Podcast 514, nearly an hour of the music of Bley, in varying combos, including a number of solo performances.

A first listen to these selections, which admittedly are chosen and programmed somewhat at random, might lead a listener to think Bley a bit cold or analytic. But listen again, particularly in his great trio recordings with Gary Peacock (bass) and Paul Motian (drums) to hear the varying ideas, approaches and heart that permeates his playing.

Musical selections include:

Paul Bley with Charles Mingus and Art Blakey – “Spontaneous Combustion” from Introducing…

Paul Bley – “Once Around the Park” from Fragments

Paul Bley – “Seven” from Homage to Carla

Paul Bley & Gary Peacock – “Sunrise Sunlight” from Mindset

Paul Bley, Gary Peacock, Tony Oxley & John Surman – “Spe-cu-lay-ting” from In the Evening Out  There

Paul Bley – “Compassion” from Notes On Ornette

Paul Bley – “Late Night Blue” from Blues for Red

Paul Bley, Gary Peacock & Paul Motian – “Don’t You Know” from Not Two, Not One

Paul Bley – “Mondsee Variations X” from Solo in Mondsee

Paul Bley Trio – “Goodbye” from My Standard

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Paul Bley (1932-2016)

Tue, 05 Jan 2016 13:33:45 +0000

Sad news from the family of the great Paul Bley:

Paul Bley, renowned jazz pianist, died January 3, 2016 at home with his family. Born November 10, 1932 in Montreal, QC, he began music studies at the age of five.  At 13, he formed the “Buzzy Bley Band.”  At 17, he took over for Oscar Peterson at the Alberta Lounge, invited Charlie Parker to play at the Montreal Jazz Workshop (which he co-founded) made a film with Stan Kenton and then headed to NYC to attend Julliard.

His international career has spanned seven decades.  During that time, he released over 100 albums, toured widely, and collaborated with jazz greats including Lester Young, Ben Webster, Sonny Rollins, Charles Mingus, Chet Baker, Jimmy Giuffre, Charlie Haden, Paul Motian, Lee Konitz, Pat Metheny, Jaco Pastorious and many others. He is considered a master of the trio, but as exemplified by his solo piano albums, Paul Bley is preeminently a pianists' pianist.

He always thought in terms larger than himself, helping to form the influential Jazz Composers Guild in New York City in 1964, a a co-operative organization which brought together the likes of Roswell Rudd, Cecil Taylor, Archie Shepp, his ex-wife Carla Bley and Sun Ra, among other figures who would define the jazz avant-garde. He created what might well be considered the first music video with the multi-media initiative Improvising Artists in the early 1970's, working with videographer Carol Goss to record and preserve live recordings. Before jazz-fusion took place, Paul had investigated the musical possibilities of the Moog synthesizer, releasing albums and performing in halls with the equipment in the late 60's.

He is survived by his wife of forty three years, Carol Goss, their daughters, Vanessa Bley and Angelica Palmer, grandchildren Felix and Zoletta Palmer, as well as daughter, Solo Peacock.  Private memorial services will be held in Stuart, FL, Cherry Valley, NY and wherever you play a Paul Bley record. My podcast tribute to his music will appear tomorrow.

Fifty Years Ago Today: Dewey Redman's Debut Album

Mon, 04 Jan 2016 17:00:00 +0000

Fifty years ago today, a bright new voice on the tenor saxophone began recording his first solo album, in a San Francisco studio. Dewey Redman’s quartet of Redman on tenor sax; Jim Young on piano, Donald Garrett on bass and clarinet, and Eddie Moore on drums recorded five original tunes that day. That session would originally be released on the Fontana label out of the Netherlands, and re-released in the US almost ten years later.

Looking for the Black Star was, as might be expected now, a somewhat avant-garde album, full of the pent-up yearning that the 35 year old Redman had collected over the previous years, working as a music teacher and studying Industrial Arts in college. Towards the end of 1959, Redman had moved to San Francisco, a musical choice resulting in an early collaboration with clarinetist Garrett.

Redman was well known around music circles for his collaborations with saxophonist Ornette Coleman, with whom he performed in his Fort Worth high school marching band. He later performed with Coleman from 1968 to1972; appearing on the recording New York Is Now! among others. He also played in pianist Keith Jarrett's “American Quartet” from 1971 to 1976, recording 12 highly influential albums, and winning Jazz Album of the Year by Melody Maker in 1978 for The Survivors' Suite.

In the mid-70s Redman formed the Quartet Old and New Dreams together with fellow Coleman-alumni Don Cherry Charlie Haden and Ed Blackwell. They recorded four albums in the period over ten years. Redman also performed and recorded as an accompanying musician with jazz musicians who performed in varying styles within the post-1950s jazz idiom, including drummer Paul Motian and especially guitarist Pat Metheny (80/81 in 1980).

Redman passed away in 2006 of liver failure. He is the father of Joshua Redman, the best-selling and critically acclaimed saxophone player who follows in his father’s footsteps. He was also survived by his other son Tariq, and by his wife, Lidija Pedevska-Redman.

The Official Straight No Chaser Song of New Year's Day

Fri, 01 Jan 2016 15:00:00 +0000

New Year's Day - a day of hangovers, resolution writing, college football games, and general recovery. Nancy and I are off to her Cousin Jimmy's open house for an afternoon of family, cut-throat board games, college bowl games that actually matter, and polite grazing of potluck.

A happy new year to one and all - let's toast 2014 with a verse or two of "Let's Start the New Year Right" by Irving Berlin, sung here by that great crooner (and underrated influence on all jazz singers), Bing Crosby:

One minute to midnight, one minute to go
One minute to say good-bye before we say hello

Let's start the new year right, twelve o'clock tonight
When they dim the light, let's begin

Kissing the old year out
Kissing the new year in

Let's watch the old year die with a fond good-bye
And our hopes as high as a kite

How can our love go wrong if
We start the new year right?

The Official Straight No Chaser Song of New Year's Eve

Thu, 31 Dec 2015 17:00:00 +0000

To all who are traveling on an evening that often becomes "amateur night" take extra care and pick that designated driver!

A perennial favorite song for New Year's Eve, and the Offical SNC Song of the evening is Frank Loesser's classic, "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?"  It was written in 1947, when Loesser was already an accomplished songwriter, having co-written hits like "Two Sleepy People" and "Spring Will Be a Little Late this Year".

However, his greatest work was just before him - in 1948 he was asked to score "Where's Charley?" for Broadway, which ran for more than two years. Buoyed by this success, Loesser turned out hits like "Guys and Dolls", "The Most Happy Fella" and "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying". He won two Tony Awards and a Pulizter Prize for Drama for these works. In between, he won an Academy Award for the holiday standard, "Baby It's Cold Outside" from the film "Neptune's Daughter" (1949). Regrettably, Loesser died from cancer at the age of 59 in 1969.

This year's singer is Diana Krall from her Christmas Songs CD, an album I tabbed as one of the ten best Christmas jazz albums of all-time a few years back.

A happy and healthy New Year to one and all.

Noted in Passing 2015

Mon, 28 Dec 2015 12:58:34 +0000

The Celestial Band and Choir got a great horn section this year. 2015 was the year we lost some of the great innovators in jazz music. An incomplete list of those who passed away during this calendar year who left a mark on the jazz world include: Ornette Coleman, 85, free jazz saxophonist; Clark Terry, 94, jazz trumpeter and flugelhornist; Phil Woods, 83, jazz and session saxophonist and clarinetist; Bob Belden, 58, jazz saxophonist, composer, arranger, producer; Guillermo Rubalcaba, 88, Cuban pianist, bandleader and composer; Ray Warleigh, 76, Australian-born saxophonist and flautist; Wilton Felder, 75, saxophonist of The Crusaders and session bass player (pictured) who created immortal bass lines for Steely Dan and the Jackson Five; Harold Ousley, 86, jazz saxophonist; Hugo Rasmussen, 74, Danish jazz musician; Bob Whitlock, 84, jazz bassist (Gerry Mulligan Quartet); Howard Rumsey, 97, jazz bassist and bandleader; and Van Alexander, 100, songwriter (“A-Tisket, A-Tasket”) , film and TV score composer, arranger. Allen Toussaint, 77, New Orleans legend as piano player, arranger, producer and songwriter; B.B. King, 89, blues legend; Monica Lewis, 93, jazz singer and actress; Buddy Boudreaux, 97, jazz saxophonist and band leader; Harold Battiste, 83, jazz and R&B composer, arranger and musician; Jerome Cooper, 68, free jazz drummer and percussionist. Ortheia Barnes, 70, American R&B and jazz singer; Bruce Lundvall, 79, former head of Blue Note, Elektra and Manhattan labels; Louis Johnson, 60, legendary bassis; Marcus Belgrave, 78, jazz trumpeter and the King of the Detroit Sound; Margo Reed, 73, jazz musician; Eric Allen Doney, 62, musician, musical director (Bob Hope), jazz label founder; and Marty Napoleon, 93, jazz pianist. Orrin Keepnews, 91, jazz producer and writer, co-founder of Riverside Records; Lew Soloff, 71, jazz trumpeter (and with Blood, Sweat & Tears 1968-73); Ted Reinhardt, 62, jazz and prog-rock drummer for Spyro Gyra in their formative years; Paul Jeffrey, 81, jazz saxophonist; John Renbourn, 70, guitarist of British folk-jazz band Pentangle; William Thomas McKinley, 76, jazz composer; Hulon Crayton, 58, smooth jazz saxophonist; Jeff Golub, 59, jazz and pop guitarist; Cynthia Layne, 51, jazz singer,; and Ward Swingle, 87, musician with The Swingle Singers, and Les Double Six. Dave Pike, 77,  vibraphone and marimba player; Kjell Öhman, 72, Swedish jazz musician; Al Aarons, 83, jazz trumpet and flugelhorn player with the Count Basie Band; Judith Hendricks, 78, jazz singer with Lambert, Hendricks & Bavan; Bengt-Arne Wallin, 89, Swedish jazz trumpeter;[...]

The Official Straight No Chaser Song of Christmas Day: "Peace"

Fri, 25 Dec 2015 15:00:00 +0000

Merry Christmas to you all. I am a practicing Jew who does not celebrate Christmas as the birth of the messiah. However, I can appreciate the universal themes of peace, love and understanding that are prevelant this time of year, and so the Offical Straight No Chaser song of Christmas Day is "Peace", written by Horace Silver, and sung by Norah Jones.

Considered one of the finest ballads of the hard bop era, "Peace" has a timeless message for us all, as the last few lines of the song show:

When you find peace of mind, leave your worries behind
Don't say that it can't be done
With a new point of view, life's true meaning comes to you
And the freedom you seek is won
Peace is for everyone

Silver first recorded this classic more than fifty years ago, on his Blowin' the Blues Away album, one of the last to feature his classic quintet lineup of trumpeter Blue Mitchell, tenor saxophonist Junior Cook, bassist Gene Taylor, and drummer Louis Hayes.

A Merry Christmas to one and all.

The Offical Straight No Chaser Song of Christmas Eve

Thu, 24 Dec 2015 15:00:00 +0000

It's December 24, which means that once again it's time to break out the Official Straight No Chaser Song of Christmas Eve. It's not really a song, actually, but Louis Armstrong reciting "Twas the Night Before Christmas", in his inimitable raspy voice.

Recorded on February 26, 1971 at his home in Queens, New York, this ended up being the final recording Armstrong made, before succumbing to a fatal heart attack on July 6th.

The poem, written by Clement Moore, is technically titled "An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas", was first published in the Troy Sentinel on December 23, 1823. A wonderful article by Peter Christoph tells that St. Nicholas was likely little known outside of the Dutch community when he published the work, setting into motion a cultural tradition still alive today. Further, I was surprised to learn it was Moore who first named the reindeer!

Here's hoping you'll be nestled all snug in your beds soon....

Repost: The Jazzbo ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

Wed, 23 Dec 2015 17:00:00 +0000

My friend Frank found this for me, and I wanted to be sure to share it with you. Originally published in Mad Magazine #52 Jan 1960. ‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the pad,Not a hipster was swinging, not even old Dad;The chimney was hung in the stocking routine,In hopes that “The Fat Man” would soon make the scene;The moon and the snow were, like, faking together,Which made the scene rock in the Day People weather,When, what to these peepers should come on real queer,But a real crazy sleigh, and eight swinging reindeer,As sidemen in combos pick up as they stomp,When they swing with the beat of a Dixieland romp,So up to the top of my bandstand they flew,With the sleigh full of loot, and St. Nicholas, too.His lids-Man, they sizzled! His dimples were smiles!His cheeks were like “Dizzy’s,” his break was like “Miles!”His puckered-up mouth was, like, blowing flat E,And his chin hid behind a real crazy goatee!He blew not a sound, but skipped right to his gig,And stashed all the stockings, then came on real big,And flashing a sign, like that old “Schnozzle” bit,And playing it hip, up the chimney he split;And then, in a quick riff, I dug on the roof,The jumpin’ and jivin’ of each swinging hoof.As I pulled in my noggin, and turned around fast,Down the chimney came Nick like a hot trumpet blast.The tip of a butt he had snagged in his choppers,And he took a few drags just like all cool be-boppers;He had a weird face, and a solid reet middleThat bounced when he cracked, like a gutbucket fiddle!He was wrapped up to kill, Man, a real kookie dresser!And his rags were, like, way out! Pops! He was a gasser!A sack full of goodies hung down to his tail,And he looked like a postman with “Basie’s” fan mail.He was shaking with meat, meaning he was no square,And I flipped, ‘cause I’d always thought he was “longhair!”But the glint in his eye and the beat in his touchSoon gave me the message this cat was “too much!”He flew to his skids, to his group blew a lick,And they cut out real cool, on a wild frenzied kick.But I heard him sound off, with a razz-a-ma-tazz:“A cool Christmas to all, and, like all of that jazz!”[...]

Podcast 513: A Few of My Favorite Things 2015

Mon, 21 Dec 2015 23:48:27 +0000

The newspapers and internet are swarming with critics “Best of 2015” lists right about now, but here at Straight No Chaser we once again take a slightly different approach. I am grateful to get the chance to listen to a great number of jazz-related releases during the course of the year, and rather than attempt to say what is “best” using some sort of rating system (A Christgau grade, perhaps?), I prefer to lay out a list of recordings that I found particularly moving or interesting, or those that I found myself returning to over and over again. The list changes over the course of the year, and follows a strict calendar year receipt basis. To do this in a fair way, I create five different categories, ranging from “Great New Things from Old Friends” to “Reunions and Collaborations of Note”. I do this on the theory that it is simply wrong to compare an expanded re-release of John Coltrane’s groundbreaking album A Love Supreme: The Complete Masters with genre bending CDs like those from newcomer Kamasi Washington or constantly growing players like Donny McCaslin. Is a sophomore album on a major label from Cécile McLorin Salvant comparable to a project by Chris Potter that reflects years of growth? I choose to think the answer is no. So, here are releases that are a few of my favorite things from 2015: Great New Things from Old Friends Maria Schneider – The Thompson Fields Chris Potter Underground Orchestra – Imaginary Cities Antonio Sanchez – Three Times Three Jack DeJohnette– Made in Chicago Charles McPherson – The Journey New Artists and Those Hitting Their Stride Donny McCaslin - Fast Future Cécile McLorin Salvant – For One to Love Kamasi Washington – The Epic Chris Lightcap - Bigmouth Epicenter Amy Cervini, Hilary Gardner and Melissa Stylianou - Duchess Memorable Reissues, Compilations, and Posthumous or Archival Albums Miles Davis – Miles Davis at Newport: 1955-1975 - The Bootleg Series, Vol. 4 Weather Report – The Legendary Live Tapes 1978-1981 John Coltrane - A Love Supreme: The Complete Masters Brad Mehldau – 10 Years Solo Live Erroll Garner – The Complete Concert by the Sea Tribute Albums of Note Cassandra Wilson – Coming Forth By Day Terence Stafford – Brother-Lee Rudresh Mahanthappa – Bird Calls The Gary McFarland Legacy Ensemble - Circulation: The Music of Gary McFarlane Jose James - Yesterday I Had The Blues - The Music Of Billie Holiday Reunions and Collaborations of Note The[...]

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Repost and Revised - Frank Zappa's 75th Birthday and a Look at His Jazz Sidemen

Mon, 21 Dec 2015 15:30:00 +0000

Five years ago I posted Podcast 200 in honor of Frank Zappa's 70th birthday. As today would have been his 75th birthday, I'm bringing it back for your enjoyment:  Was Frank Zappa as much of a jazz musician as he was a rock or classical artist? Let’s let Ed Palermo, the noted trombonist, answer the question. Here’s a quote from his essay on FZ’s music: Frank Zappa wasn't what you would call a "jazz musician." In fact, he made fun of jazz and jazz musicians throughout his whole career. But that was Zappa. He derided EVERYTHING and EVERYBODY. You can tell, however, by listening to so much of his music that he really loved jazz. Since I never met him, everything I write about him is conjecture, but listening to a modal masterpiece like "King Kong" proves, at least to my ears, that he had listened to and digested a lot of Miles and Trane.  One thing is certain – Zappa hired the best and most versatile musicians to assist him in executing his demanding compositions, and many of them WERE in fact jazz greats. So, without further ado, let’s get to Podcast 200, a review of some Zappa recordings featuring jazz musicians as sidemen, including:  George Duke on “Big Swifty” from Waka-Jawaka. One of Zappa’s most frequent collaborators, I count more than fifteen releases that included the keyboard player. Here he joins Zappa and Tony Duran on guitars, Sal Marquez on trumpet and chimes, Erroneous (?) on bass and Aynsley Dunbar on drums on a 1972 track. Ernie Watts on “Cleetus Awreetus-Awrightus” from The Grand Wazoo. The sax player who starred as a member of Charlie Haden’s Quartet West played woodwinds with Mike Altschul in sessions recorded in 1972. Marquez is joined by Ken Shrover on brass, and the rhythm section remains the same. That’s George Duke on electric piano and vocals.  Jean-Luc Ponty on “It Must Be a Camel” from Hot Rats. The jazz violinist may be best known for his work in the Mahavishnu Orchestra with John McLaughlin, but he was a key member of the group that recorded Hot Rats in 1969, making it one of the first jazz-rock albums ever made. The rest of the band was Ian Underwood on keyboards, Zappa on guitar, bass and percussion, John Guerin (who played with Tom Scott in the LA Express) on drums, and Max Bennett on bass. Zappa would work with Ponty further that year, contributing songs, production and backup for the highly regarded King King: Jean-Luc Ponty Plays the Music of Frank Zappa.  Vinnie Colai[...]

Podcast 512: Our Annual Nuthin' But Christmas Jazz Podcast

Fri, 18 Dec 2015 17:00:00 +0000

Here's an hour plus of uninterrupted jazz, our present to you, intended to get you through that last minute shopping, tree trimming, gift wrapping, and egg nog guzzling. I've mixed in a few of this year's newest Christmas Jazz releases to give you something different, plus a number of old favorites.  Hopefully you have been able to enjoy the Holiday season. Here's hoping Santy is good to you, and that you are good to one another. We need a little Christmas now! Podcast 512 includes: Dave Koz - "Welcoming the Season (Prelude)" Chris Botti (featuring Eric Benet) - "I Really Don't Want Much for Christmas" Russell Malone - "O Christmas Tree" The Singers Unlimited - "Caroling, Caroling" David Benoit - "What Child is This?" Anita O'Day - "One More Christmas" Eric Reed - "I Wonder as I Wander" Chris McDonald Orchestra - "Blue Christmas" Carmen McRae - "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On an Open Fire" Jane Monheit - "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" Matt Wilson's Christmas Tree-O - "Mele Kalikimaki" John Zorn - "Christmas Time is Here" Seth McFarlane & Norah Jones - "Little Jack Frost Get Lost" Al Jarreau - "White Christmas" Will Downing - "The First Noel" Urbie Green - "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" India.Aire & Joe Sample with Dave Koz and Trombone Shorty - "I've Got My Love to                       Keep Me Warm" John Pizzarelli - "Let's Share Christmas" David Koz - "Welcoming the New Year (Coda)" Looking for more Christmas Jazz here? Check out similarly themed Podcasts from 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008 and even one from way back in my primitive days of 2006.   [...]

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Podcast 511: Vintage Christmas Jazz

Tue, 15 Dec 2015 16:00:00 +0000

Jazz re-issues and compilations of Christmas tunes are a wonderful way to get nostalgic. So for this Holiday themed Podcast, why not turn back the clock to the 1940's and 1950's - maybe even further - and enjoy some vintage cheer I assembled from a variety of wonderful sources. Is it just me, or do you find that the brass is brassier, the crooning sweeter, and yes, the cheese factor considerable on these older tunes? But it just might bring back a memory or two. If not - go ask your father. Or Grandfather. Or Great-Grandfather.....

Podcast 511 includes:

Kay Starr - “The Man With the Bag”

Ella Fitzgerald – “Santa Claus Got Stuck in My Chimney”

The Mills Brothers – “You Don’t Have to Be a Santa Claus”

Johnny Mercer – “Winter Wonderland”

Peggy Lee – “The Christmas Spell”

Nat King Cole – “The Happiest Christmas Tree”

Les Baxter Orchestra – “Santa Claus Party”

Dean Martin – “Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow”

Rosemary Clooney – “Suzy Snowflake”

The Andrews Sisters & Bing Crosby – “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”

Frank Sinatra – “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”

Eartha Kitt – “Santa Baby”

Les Paul – “Jingle Bells”

Dean Martin – "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer"

Julie London - "Warm December"

Benny Goodman & His Orchestra - "Winter Weather"

Louis Prima - "Shake Hands with Santa Claus"

Charlie Parker - "White Christmas" 

Bullmoose Jackson – “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”

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Podcast 510: The Frank Sinatra Centennial Podcast

Sat, 12 Dec 2015 17:00:00 +0000

In Podcast 491 we took on the question "What Makes Frank Sinatra Great?".  Go to my conversation with Anna Harwell Celenza, as we discuss the various aspects of Sinatra’s career to determine just why he has remained a major cultural figure today, December 12th is the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of Francis Albert Sinatra, the pride of Hoboken, New Jersey. Louis Armstrong and Bing Crosby may have been more important in the development of jazz singing and recording; Billie Holiday may have been more innovative and moving; and Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan more technically adroit, no one could touch Ol’ Blue Eyes for sheer star power, charisma and yes, vocal prowess. Wisely associating himself with great supporting artists, Sinatra conquered every type of song he attempted. There was backing musicians led by Harry James in 1939 or Tommy Dorsey’s Big Band in the early 1940’s. Later, there was Count Basie’s Band in Las Vegas and two exquisite sessions with Antonio Carlos Jobim in the 1960’s. Arrangements by Nelson Riddle (1953-1959), Billy May (1959 through the mid-60’s) and Gordon Jenkins (the 1970’s) helped make his “sound” and turned his recordings into classics. And oh that voice! At least three of his albums capture the incredible range of drama and emotion his tone could bring perfectly – 1955’s In the Wee Small Hours, 1956’s Songs for Swingin’ Lovers and my favorite, 1958’s Sings for Only the Lonely. No record collection is complete without these discs. Sinatra was also an innovator behind the scenes. He produced the first concept albums in the Fifties, with his travelogue Come Fly With Me in 1959 and the “suicide songs” of 1958’s Sings for Only the Lonely. He took control of his album releases by establishing Reprise Records after he failed to buy Verve Records. Earning the nickname “The Chairman of the Board”, he released his own albums on the imprint along with those by Crosby, Jo Stafford, Rosemary Clooney, daughter Nancy Sinatra, and comedians Soupy Sales and Red Foxx. So for Podcast 51_, here is a highly subjective overview of his career - twenty-one tunes from Frank Sinatra in close to chronological order, over four decades – from “I Get a Kick Out of You” in 1954 to the appropriately titled “A Hundred Years From Today” in 1984: “I Get a Kick Out of You” “I Get Along Without[...]

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Podcast 509: A Conversation with Mike Moreno

Thu, 10 Dec 2015 17:00:00 +0000

Guitarist Mike Moreo's clean, uncluttered sound s prominently displayed on Lotus, his new CD on Kendrick Scott's World Culture Music. The CD reunites Mike with longtime friends and collaborators Aaron Parks (piano), Doug Weiss (bass) and Eric Harland (drums). For all his talent, Lotus id not a "guitar hero" album, but rather a set of top-notch songs played na straightforward and stirring manner.

Originally from Houston, Texas, Moreno began studying music formally at the Houston High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, a school renowned for its musical alumni, which includes such luminaries as Jason Moran, Robert Glasper, Brian Michael Cox, Eric Harland, Chris Dave, Kendrick Scott, and Beyoncé. Since moving to New York he has become a guitarist with a unique sound, oe that has led him to play and record with Terence Blanchard, Ralph Bowen, John Ellis, Robert Glasper, Jimmy Greene, Stefon Harris, the Joshua Redman Elastic Band, the Kendrick Scott Oracle, Sam Yahel, and others. He has appeared on three Grammy-nominated recordings. In 2010 both Q-Tip's The Renaissance and Geoffrey Keezzer's Aurea were nominated for Best Album in the Rap and Latin Jazz categories, and in 2008, Eldar's Re-Imagination received the same nomination in the Jazz Category.

Podcast 509 is my conversation with Mike, as talks about the pros and cons of releasing music on an independent label, his talented quartet and his work on the latest Kendrick Scott Oracle album. Music includes “The Last Stand”, “Can We Stay Forever” and “Epilogue – The Rise” from Lotus; “The Long Shadow” from the Kendrick Scott Oracle’ We are the Drum; and “Money” from his collaboration with Sam Yahel, Seamus Blake and Ari Hoenig Jazz Side of the Moon.

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For Dreidl Spinners Everywhere

Tue, 08 Dec 2015 18:55:58 +0000

The Eight Crazy Nights of Chanukah are upon us, and so I bring you some jazz for the occasion – Don Byron’s take on “Dreidl Song” from his 1993 album Don Byron Plays the Music of Mickey Katz.

Katz – who was born Meyer Myron Katz in 1909 - was a legendary musician and comedian specializing in the type of humor that would eventually characterize the “Borscht Belt” of the Catskills. A meeting with Spike Jones in 1947 led Katz to make a career decision that proved fruitful:

Katz soon decided to make an English-Yiddish comedy record. Having written the lyrics to Haim afen Range years ago, he had it approved by RCA. He quickly wrote another song for the flip side, Yiddish Square Dance, and had his friend Al Sack sketch out the melody for it and set Haim afen Range to music as well. The original run of 10,000 copies released in New York City sold in three days, and RCA received orders for 25,000 more. Katz then went on to parodize Tico, Tico with Tickle, Tickle, and backed this new record with Chloya, a parody of Chloe. He then hired a manager in Los Angeles, and in 1947 performed in Los Angeles' Boyle Heights, a largely Jewish- and Mexican-American neighborhood. In Katz's words, he was a "double-ethnic smash."

The death of Yiddish culture on a wide scale basis in the 1950’s forced Katz into broader humor, and he wrote parodies and performed until he passed away in 1985. His son is the award-winning actor Joel Grey, and his granddaughter is Jennifer Grey of Dirty Dancing fame.

The band is Byron in clarinet; Richie Schwarz on drums and percussion; Uri Caine on piano; Dave Douglas on trumpet; Steve Alcott on bass; Mark Feldman on violin; Josh Roseman on trombone; and J.D. Parran on flute.

Podcast 508: A Conversation with Matt Wilson

Thu, 03 Dec 2015 17:00:00 +0000

Reknown jazz drummer Matt Wilson brings us on a joyful and adventurous romp through holiday music with his celebrated Christmas Tree-O during their 16 Days of Christmas North American Tour beginning November 30, 2015.  You've never really heard “You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” or “The Chipmunk Song” until you have heard them served-up with Christmas Tree-O's elfin sense of humor and dazzling musicianship. The band features Wilson with longtime bandmates Jeff Lederer on saxophones and Paul Sikivie on bass. Reviewing their 2010 Palmetto recording Matt Wilson's Christmas Tree-O, DownBeat declares the group "provides Yuletide greetings so eloquent and mind-bending even the nastiest of Scrooges will want to pay attention."   Behind the humor is a deep grounding in jazz and serious chops. A gifted composer, bandleader, producer and educator, Wilson is renowned for his virtuosic flair as a drummer and his good-vibes positivity as a bandleader, not to mention his facility for collaborating with top musicians across the spectrum of jazz - from the mainstream to the avant-garde and virtually everything in between. When I last saw him onstage, he was pounding the skins in Christian McBride’s Big Band at the Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival, his sheer joy at being a part of that group evident as he soloed. One of the things I most enjoy about Matt is his ability to play so many different kinds of music with so many different players. He currently leads the Matt Wilson Quartet, the Arts and Crafts group, Christmas Tree-O, and the Carl Sandburg Project. He is also an integral part of Trio M (with pianist Myra Melford and bassist Mark Dresser) and the new trio Sifter (with Kirk Knuffke and guitarist Mary Halvorson), in addition to his myriad sideman gigs, education initiatives and broadcast projects. Two even newer bands, with young New York and Danish musicians are coming in early 2016, along with releasing a new recording in the spring of 2016 to celebrate his 20th anniversary with Palmetto Records. That recording, titled Beginning of a Memory is dedicated to memory of Wilson's wife Felicia, who passed away in 2014.  Podcast 508 is my conversation with Matt, who is always one of the most engaging, outgoing and yet thoughtful interviews in jazz today. We talk about the Tree[...]

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Repost: Starting the Holiday Season Off Right

Tue, 01 Dec 2015 16:00:00 +0000

It was Decembers ago I went whole-hog on the spirit of the season and posted a jazz tune daily in my “25 Days of Jazzmas” extravaganza. Many of you dropped me comments on how much you enjoyed learning about the various tunes and getting a chance to hear some holiday jazz that might normally go unheard. I've made certain that I give the album title from which the songs came, allowing you to grab interesting compilations and individual artist CDs as well. In the spirit of the season, I encourage you to return to those postings of December 2011 to read and enjoy again. And if you are on the lazy side, here is a list of all the songs I uploaded and blogged about, along with direct links to their posting. Enjoy an early present from yours truly, and stay tuned for more Holiday podcasts and postings as the days go on. Chris Bauer – “Christmas Time is Here” from In a Yuletide Groove. Paquito D'Riveraand John Miller – “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” from God Rest Ye Merry Jazzmen. Michael Franks – “I Bought You A Plastic Star” from Watching the Show. Dinah Washington – “Silent Night” from The Complete Dinah Washington On Mercury, Vol. 3: 1952-1954. Ranee Lee and Oliver Jones – “The Christmas Waltz” fromA Celebration in Time Joe Williams - "Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!" from That Holiday Feeling Marcus Roberts Trio – “Winter Wonderland” from Celebrating Christmas.\ Dave Koz – “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” from Ultimate Christmas Urbie Green and His All-Stars – “Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer” from Cool Yuletide. Bob Dorough and Miles Davis - "Blue Xmas (To Whom It May Concern)" from Jingle Bell Swing. (Be sure to go to Podcast 407 and hear Bob talk about his time with Miles - it is a classic story!) Charlie Parker – “White Christmas” from Jingle Bell Jam. Alexis Cole - "Jesus Is the Best Part of Christmas" from The Greatest Gift. Louis Armstrong - "' Zat You, Santa Claus?" from Hipster's Holiday: Vocal Jazz and R&B Classics. Ray Charles – “That Spirit of Christmas” from The Spirit of Christmas. Oscar Peterson – “Away in a Manger” fromAn Oscar Peterson Christmas. Jimmy Smith – “The Christmas Song” from Christmas Cookin’ Duke Pearson – “Jingle Bells” fr[...]

Podcast 507: The Billy Strayhorn Centennial Podcast

Sun, 29 Nov 2015 15:00:00 +0000

"Billy Strayhorn was my right arm, my left arm, all the eyes in the back of my head, my brain waves in his head, and his in mine.” – Duke Ellington This week marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of William Thomas “Billy” Strayhorn, one of the greatest jazz composers of all-time. Podcast 5__ celebrates the life and works of the man called by man names - "Strays", Swee' Pea","Weely" – and remembered by all who love jazz. Strayhorn was a collaborator – and much more – with Duke Ellington from late 1938 until Strayhorn’s untimely death from cancer in 1967. At one time or another, Strayhorn was Ellington’s arranger, composer, pianist, collaborator and muse. Many have felt that Strayhorn’s arrangements were the reason that the many incarnations of the Ellington band sounded the way they did, and that as a result, he may have been more important than Ellington himself to the creative process. In David Hajdu’s fine biography of Strayhorn, Lush Life, he suggests – but never insists – that Strayhorn may have been deprived of songwriting credits and appreciation by Ellington during their time together. Instead of fighting for recognition, Strayhorn seemed happy to remain in Ellington’s shadow. One of the reasons that Strayhorn may have been content to stay in the background was his homosexuality. Strayhorn was a private person, and was publicly gay, with a small, tight circle of friends to support him. A man about town, Billy was dapper, sophisticated and always ready with a quip, He has been called “the Truman Capote of the jazz world”. But he was also an ardent supporter of civil rights,and developed a friendship with Dr. Martin Luther King, who he immortalized in the song "King Fit the Battle of Alabama" His compositions have survived far longer than he did, and his reputation continues to grow as more musicians discover and reinterpret his works. Here is more than an hour of Billy Strayhorn compositions, and one appreciation, by a variety of artists, including: James Carter – “Take the A Train” Joe Lovano and Hank Jones – “Chelsea Bridge” Don Byron – “Snibor” Jimmy Heath – “Ellington Strayhorn” Chick Corea – “Lush Life” Dianne Reeves – “My Little Brown Bo[...]

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The Official SNC Song of Thanksgiving Day: "Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep)"

Thu, 26 Nov 2015 15:00:00 +0000

We all have much to be thankful for today, and so let us begin the day by sharing the sentiments of this song, written by Irving Berlin and sung here by Diana Krall, the Official Straight No Chaser Song of Thanksgiving Day:

When I'm worried and I can't sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep
And I fall asleep counting my blessings
When my bankroll is getting small
I think of when I had none at all
And I fall asleep counting my blessings

I think about a nursery and I picture curly heads
And one by one I count them as they slumber in their beds
If you're worried and you can't sleep
Just count your blessings instead of sheep
And you'll fall asleep counting your blessings

I think about a nursery and I picture curly heads
And one by one I count them as they slumber in their beds
If you're worried and you can't sleep
Just count your blessings instead of sheep
And you'll fall asleep counting your blessings

The Official SNC Song for the Day Before Thanksgiving: "Giblet Gravy"

Wed, 25 Nov 2015 15:00:00 +0000

Twenty-four hours to go before the big Thanksgiving feast! What would go better with some turkey than some "Giblet Gravy", courtesy of guitarist George Benson.

Those who only know Benson from his smooth jazz or Top 40 recordings don't realize that he was one of the funkiest and fastest guitar slingers in his early days. Here he plays with a team of top notch musicians in 1968 sessions, including Herbie Hancock (piano), Ron Carter (bass), Pepper Adams (sax) and Billy Cobham (drums). It's worth noting that three of the four - and Benson as well - are all Miles Davis Alumni.

Click here for a tune well suited to those last minute preparations around the kitchen. Cue it up and let the gravy fly!

"A Love Supreme - The Complete Masters" Arrives Today

Fri, 20 Nov 2015 15:00:00 +0000

With the possible exception of Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, no jazz album has found its way into non-jazz fans’ record collections over the years more than John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. Recorded fifty years ago this week in Rudy Van Gelder’s Studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, two days of recording resulted in another seismic shift in the world of jazz.

On November 20th a two-disc (and deluxe three-disc) version of the album will arrive in stores. A Love Supreme - The Complete Masters will go beyond previously released outtakes to give us studio chatter, false starts and more, creating a complete picture of what happened during hose two mighty days. For those who want to dig deep into Trane's creative process, this is the holy grail.

To get further inside the recording of A Love Supreme, check out Podcast 458 when I spoke with journalist Ashley Kahn on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the album's release.  Kahn contributed an essay about Coltrane and the album for the new CD set.

Podcast 505: A Conversation with Gil Rose about Gunther Schuller

Tue, 17 Nov 2015 17:45:34 +0000

The worlds of classical music and jazz lost a leading light earlier this year when Gunther Schuller passed away at the age of 89. Since the Pulitzer­-winning composer would have celebrated his 90th birthday on November 22, it seems appropriate that two of Boston’s leading musical ensembles—the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP) and Odyssey Opera— will unite onstage for a special concert honoring his memory. To make it even more special, the concert with be on the campus of the New England Conservatory in Boston, a place he helped build and make flourish over the years. Gil Rose will lead BMOP in two enjoyable narratives for all ages, Schuller’s Journey Into Jazz and The Fisherman and His Wife, joined by Gunther’s sons Ed Schuller (bass) and George Schuller (drums) as special guest artists, and Odyssey Opera, featuring Met Opera regular, mezzo-­soprano Sondra Kelly. Rounding out the program will be Schuller’s sinfonietta work Games. Ranking among the most eclectic of his generation or any other, Schuller combined jazz and classical music in new ways. He was a part of Miles Davis’ The Birth of the Cool project, and took those concepts to a new level with a revolutionary, hybrid style that became known as “Third Stream,” and entered the classical music mainstream. Schuller served as President of the New England Conservatory, where he established a successful degree-­granting jazz program, from 1967-­1977. He made his home in Newton, MA, and passed away on June 21, 2015 in Boston at the age of 89. Whether you consider his work jazz or classical, we must consider Gunther Schuller a giant in 20th century American music. Podcast 505 is my talk with Gil Rose about his late collaborator and friend, featuring musical selections from Schuller’s jazz related history, including “Transformation” from The Birth of the Third Stream, which features jazz stars like Art Farmer (trumpet), Jimmy Knepper (trombone) and Bill Evans (piano); “Variants for Jazz Quartet and Orchestra” from Journey into Jazz; and “The Soul” an excerpt from Charles Mingus’ Epitaph, which Schuller conducted when i[...]

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Podcast 500: My Jazz Education in Six Songs

Thu, 05 Nov 2015 12:05:03 +0000

This is my 500th podcast. When I started this project as a creative outlet more than ten years ago, I never thought that it would go on so long, and become such an important part of my identity. Thanks to the many generous and welcoming people in the world of jazz, I have gained access to music, gone places I never thought I would go, and met people that I never dreamed I would meet, The podcast is, to paraphrase a Bill Evans album title, a conversation with myself, as I share six songs that trace my jazz education. Dave Brubeck Quartet - “Blue Rondo a la Turk” I begin pretty early - jazz was something that I heard in my playpen. My father, Bert Siegel, was a jazz fan and persistent record collector. He played double bass and accordion as a teenager and college student, and was a huge fan of West Coast Cool Jazz, and “The Chairman of the Board”, Frank Sinatra. Although his bass stood in the living room as a decorative touch rather than a working instrument during most of my life, he stayed a jazz fan. Some of my earliest memories involve hearing the music he played on the Hi-Fi. Steely Dan – “East St. Louis Toodle-oo” By the time I was a teenager, I was into rock music and had inherited my father’s lust for purchasing vinyl, spending much of my spare money down at E.J. Korvette at the Trumbull Shopping Park. Very little of the rock music I bought and listened to appealed to my father. He liked anything that sounded like Simon & Garfunkel or the Moody Blues, so I’d be safe playing cassette tapes of Seals & Crofts or Cat Stevens or even Crosby Stills & Nash in the car when we drove together. He liked Chicago enough to take me and my friends David Speicher and Paul Freidman and I to see them at the New Haven Coliseum, our first rock concert.. Where our tastes started to come together, and where I had my first “a-ha” moment regarding jazz, came when I played my new copy of Steely Dan’s Pretzel Logic for him. He liked the band, and pointed out the jazz references – the cop of “Song for My Father”on “Rikki Don’t Lose that Number”, the name-checking of Charl[...]

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Podcast 506: A Conversation with Ariel Pocock

Tue, 03 Nov 2015 17:00:00 +0000

One of the more exciting fresh voices I’ve had the fortune to listen to this year comes from a 22 year old singer-pianist named Ariel Popock. Based currently in North Carolina, she is a graduate of the University of Miami's Frost School of Music and a double-award winner at the Essentially Ellington Competition at Lincoln Center - Outstanding Pianist and the Ella Fitzgerald Outstanding Vocalist Award.

Touchstone is her debut CD, and it has taken a twisted path to reach jazz fans, starting with a prematurely shortened stay at Verve Records, and ending on the fine Canadian label Justin Time (home of Hank Jones, Rana Lee, Halle Loren and others). Fortunately, Ariel was able to keep her Verve advance, and put the money to good use, assembling a killer band that any musician would die for. Imagine your first recording in a studio with Julian Lage (guitar), Eric Harland (drums), Larry Grenadier (bass), and Seamus Blake (saxophone). Where do you go from there?

The CD is a fine mix of standards, pop covers (James Taylor, Randy Newman), and even a Popock original, “Barrell Roll.” All of the arrangements were written by Ariel, and she sings and plays with a straight ahead confidence that belies her age.

Podcast 505 is my conversation with Ariel, as we talk about her song selection, how she got the band together, and even what music is on her Spotify list. Musical selections from Touchstone include “Ugly Beauty/Still We Dream”, “Barrell Roll” “When I Fall in Love” and the album’s highlight, “Real Emotional Girl.”

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Podcast 504: A Conversation with Jim Snidero about Phil Woods

Wed, 28 Oct 2015 16:00:00 +0000

The passing of Phil Woods last month is still being felt in the jazz world. One of Woods’ protégées, alto saxophonist Jim Snidero, will take a moment to honor his long-time mentor and friends this Thursday with a concert called “One for Phil” at the Smoke Jazz and Supper Club in New York City. Snidero’s band – Snidero on Alto Saxophone; Alex Sipiagin on Trumpet; Andy LaVerne on Piano; Ugonna Okegwo on Bass; and Jason Tiemann on Drums – will play three sets at Smoke, in what promises to be a memorable evening. Snidero first met Woods in 1975, and then studied with him until moving to New York in the early 1980's. They kept in contact over the years, with their last visit being this past June. “Phil was the guy that inspired me to commit to the music, and for that, I will always be grateful" states Snidero. "Without question, he was one of the greatest jazz musicians and alto saxophone players of all time". Snidero has been one of the finest alto players in the world over the past thirty-five years, having made his bones as member of an astonishingly wide variety of important groups including The Mingus Big Band, Brother Jack McDuff, Eddie Palmieri and Frank Sinatra’s “East Coast Band.” As a leader, he has released nineteen CDs, including sessions with Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette; trumpeters Tom Harrell and Brian Lynch; and pianists Mulgrew Miller and Benny Green. As strong a player as Snidero may be, he may be even more important as a jazz educator. He has written three 11-volume series of jazz etude books keyed to play-along CDs that are becoming the standard for students around the world. He also has produced courses in jazz improvisation and performance for The Jazz Conception Company that earned rave reviews. Podcast 504 is my conversation with Jim, as he talks about his friendship with the late Phil Woods, what aspects of Woods’ playing and personality made him great, and even picks a favorite Woods tune or two. Musical selections for the episode feature Phil Woods performances from across his career, in[...]

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Podcast 503: A Conversation with Yelena Eckemoff

Fri, 23 Oct 2015 15:00:00 +0000

“Part of our human consciousness constantly searches and yearns for the divine, unspeakably beautiful, eternal, In my world, I call this place Everblue.” - Yelena Eckemoff

I have enjoyed the piano-based jazz albums of Yelena Eckemoff for a number of years now. The Moscow-born pianist was a child prodigy, and had been classically trained at the finest Moscow schools. Her teachers included Anna Pavlovna Kantor, who also trained the celebrated Evgeny Kissin, and she also studied with Galina Nikolaevna Egiazarova at the Piano School of the Moscow State Conservatory. But she also had an ear for jazz, which she has developed more fully since her arrival in the United States about fifteen years ago.

Residing with her family in North Carolina, Yelena rarely plays live, and so the series of CDs she has released are her primary creative output. She writes all the material for each CD (except for her latest), and brings in the finest musicians to help her flash out the sounds she hears. These sidemen have included drummer Peter Erskine on her Cold Sun CD; Mark Turner (saxophone), George Mrasz (bass), Joe Locke (vibes) and Billy Hart (drums) for A Touch of Radiance; and now Tore Brunborg (sax) , Arild Anderson (bass) and Jon Christensen (drums) for her latest CD, EverBlue.

I’m not the first listener to think that her music would not be out of place on a label like ECM, as it often evokes a sense of serenity and wonder, with pastoral overtones. There is not much swinging on one of her CDs, but her nature-centric compositions are strong, and her fellow musicians flawless.

Podcast 503 is my conversation with Yelena, as she tells how she arrived in the US, who her early influences were as she moved into the world of jazz, and how she came to work with so many fabulous musicians. Musical selections from EverBlue include “Sea Breeze” and “Blue Lamp”, and “Pep” is from A Touch of Radiance.

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Podcast 502: A Conversation with Randy Brecker

Thu, 22 Oct 2015 13:52:05 +0000

It may be hard for many of us who learned about Jazz from the recordings of Michael and Randy Brecker to accept that Michael is gone, and that Randy will turn 70 years old in November. He must have a recent taste for nostalgia, as he reassembled many of his jazz buddies for a Brecker Brothers Band Reunion CD/DVD set in 2013, and now goes back to his days as a first-call studio “cat“ who could play any music or write any chart a producer or artist needed. Randy’s reputation was well-earned, considering the timeless recordings featuring his trumpet, including iconic albums by Frank Zappa, Paul Simon, Steely Dan, James Brown and Bruce Springsteen. The album is called RandyPOP! and it’s already a favorite of mine. What makes this more than a look back at past glory are the “derangements” of memorable pop tunes by Kenny Werner, who refuses to simply cover a song. Instead, there are key, tempo and meter shifts, along with time to stretch out for memorable solos. And what a band Brecker has put together for this live recording: Werner ( Piano, Keys), David Sanchez (Tenor Saxophone), Adam Rogers (Guitar), John Patitucci (Bass), and Nate Smith (Drums). Brecker’s daughter Amanda lends powerful vocals to several of the tunes, most notably on “New Frontier”, which Werner has dramatically altered in time, making a hard song even more difficult to sing. Watch for a new project from her next year in collaboration with guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel. Podcast 502 is my conversation with Randy, where he tells some of the best stories you will hear in a podcast this year – how the Brecker Brothers Band came together, why he left Blood, Sweat & Tears before their ultimate commercial success, and fly-on-the-wall accounts of sessions with Parliament (Mothership Connection) and writing horn charts for Bruce Springsteen (Born to Run). Musical selections from RandyPop! include “Let Me Just Follow Behind” (originally recorded by Bette Midler) and a dramatic “Think/I’ve Got a Bag of M[...]

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Repost: "Christopher Columbus"

Mon, 12 Oct 2015 14:00:00 +0000

Columbus Day has become a deeply divisive event in the US. What once was the naive celebration of the "discovery of America" - take that Amerigo Vespucci and the Native Americans - is now marled with protests, given the start of the genocide his arrival in the New World began.

But let's go back to a simpler time, like May 1936, when Fats Waller and his Rhythm appeared on a popular radio show, The Magic Key Show, which originated from New York. That day, he performed two tunes - the well-known "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter", and the lesser known "Christopher Columbus". The lyrics?

Mr.Christopher Columbus/Sailed the sea without a compass/Well, when his men began a rumpus/Up spoke Christopher Columbus

He said: "There is land somewhere/So until we get there we will not go wrong/If we sing a swing song/Since the world is round, we'll be safe and sound/'Till our goal is found we'll just keep the rhythm bound

Soon the crew was makin' merry/Then came a yell, let's drink to Isabella/Bring on the rum/A music in that all the rumpus/That wise old Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus/Christopher Columbus

Maybe not a Shakespearean sonnet, but you get the idea. And as always, Fats knew how to swing.


Podcast 501: Jazzin' On John Lennon @ 75

Fri, 09 Oct 2015 16:00:00 +0000

Had it not been for an assassin’s bullet on December 8, 1980, John Winston Ono Lennon would have turned 75 years old today. Given that we lost him at the age of 40, it gives one pause to think about how much great music we might have received over the years from his genius. It’s easy to argue that Lennon’s memorable work came in a spectacularly creative period of writing and recording that began with 1964’s A Hard Day’s Night and ended with 1971’s Imagine, followed by a general decline, if not outright silence. But what a body of work that gave us! And given the relative strength of the material on his final sessions in 1979 and 1980, there was definitely hope that an older, more mature, and perhaps more dedicated Lennon was far from finished. Alas, we will never know. Jazz musicians have recorded Lennon material almost since it first appeared, and you can check our previous podcasts that have focuses on Beatles music in my previous “Jazzin’ On…” podcasts of the music of George Harrison, Paul McCartney. and two prior John Lennon podcasts, #142 and #196. Podcast 501 features the following tunes written by John Lennon, during both his Beatles period and solo career, including: Laurence Elder - "Imagine"  Wayne Brasel – “Strawberry Fields Forever” Beatlejazz – “Cold Turkey” Bill Frisell – “Mother” Diane Reeves & Cassandra Wilson – “Come Together” Freddie McCoy – “I Am the Walrus” John Basile – “In My Life” Don Randi Trio – “Tomorrow Never Knows” Ramsey Lewis – “Julia” Steve Marcus – “Rain” Arif Mardin – “Glass Onion” Al DiMeola - "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite"  John Pizzarelli – “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”[...]

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Podcast 499: His Final Interview, Part Two - Talking with Bob Belden About His Final Album

Wed, 07 Oct 2015 16:00:00 +0000

When I spoke with Bob Belden this spring, I had no idea that it would be the last conversation I would ever have with him. Oe tht he would have with a jazz writer. The outspoken Belden had just returned from a trip to Iran with his band Animation, the first American performer to play there since the Islamic revolution in the late Seventies. He had wrapped work on two new CDs, and performed in a well-reviewed show celebrating the legacy of the Royal Roost club and Miles Davis. And then he was gone, dead of a heart attack on May 20th, after lengthy struggles with various illnesses. His legacy as something of a renaissance man - performer, composer, orchestrator, conductor, arranger, record executive – is considerable, highlighted by Grammy award winning CD The Black Dahlia and the genre-bending Miles from India. He also won Grammys for his liner notes to the box set reissues Miles Davis Quintet 1965-1968 and Miles Davis & Gil Evans: The Complete Columbia Studio Recordings. His final recording with Animation, Machine Language, continues the trend he began two years ago with Transparent Heart, both releases on Rare Noise Records. Little about these records can be considered “jazz” in the sense most of us think of it. And that was exactly what Belden had in mind, he told me in that final conversation, calling his music “intimidating” and “adult music”. Jazz as we know it, he said, is “not an intellectual music. Not anymore. It’s basically college music. Music for students…It’s becoming like Colonial Williamsburg, where everyone is expected to play a role. Everyone is expected to imitate someone from the past. You’re the reincarnation of this person and you’re the reincarnation of this person. And so forth. “ Machine Language fits that bill in spades. The group for this session features Belden on saxophone and flute, Peter Clagett on trumpet, Roberto Verastegui on keyboards, Bil[...]

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Podcast 498: A Conversation with Don Vega about Monty Alexander

Tue, 06 Oct 2015 23:41:50 +0000

When we list the great piano players of the last fifty years, for some reason Monty Alexander seems too often to be forgotten. In a career spanning five decades, Alexander has built a reputation exploring and bridging the worlds of American jazz, popular song, and the music of his native Jamaica, finding in each a sincere spirit of musical expression. In the process, he has performed and recorded with artists from every corner of the musical universe and entertainment world. Who else can claim working with Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Ray Brown, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, Clark Terry, Quincy Jones, Barbara Hendricks, and Bobby McFerrin, but also with Ernest Ranglin, Sly Dunbar, and Robbie Shakespeare. When Clint Eastwood wanted to record the soundtrack to his film Bird, a movie about the life of jazz titan Charlie Parker, it was Monty Alexander he chose to record the piano track. And Alexander is still going strong, having released the second album of his Harlem-Kingston Express band’s material this past spring.  In celebration of the Jamaican jazz icon, pianist Donald Vega has put together a hard swinging compilation of Monty's great, early compositions. With Respect To Monty features an all-star lineup backing Vega, including Anthony Wilson (guitar), Hassan Shakur (bass) and Lewis Nash (drums). Shakur, a long-time Alexander collaborator, lends a welcome tone of authenticity to the group’s tunes. Vega does more than imitate Alexander – he successfully brings out the spirit and joy of the great pianist’s work in these tracks. It helps that he has Wilson’s guitar front and center – this CD s in many ways a testament to his playing, be it soaring leads or supportive comping. Shakur, a long-time Alexander collaborator, lends a welcome tone of authenticity to the group’s covers. Lewis Nash plays like – well, Lewis Nash, which is a high compliment indeed. Pod[...]

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Fifty Years Ago Today: Andrew Hill Acts On a "Compulsion!!!!!"

Mon, 05 Oct 2015 16:00:00 +0000

One of the very first podcasts I did here at Straight No Chaser featured the music of pianist/composer Andrew Hill. It feels appropriate that as I reach the cusp of my 500th podcast, that I stop and appreciate the fiftieth anniversary of the recording of Compulsion, one of Hill’s finest works. By 1965, Hill had recorded with Rashaan Roland Kirk, Hank Mobley and Joe Henderson, and released more than a handful of albums as a bandleader. Compared to say, Black Fire, his 1963 classic, Compulsion seems a very different kind of album. Where Black Fire is a Blue Note session to a tee – a quartet composed of Hill, Joe Henderson, Richard Davis and Roy Haynes – Compulsion begins to explore more adventurous rhythmic ground. Hill explained later that his intention was to "...construct an album expressing the legacy of the Negro tradition," and for that he would need percussion. Compulsion ended up with just four lengthy tracks, full of fascinating improvisation that Hill would develop over the next few years. The band is top notch – Hill on piano, Freddie Hubbard (trumpet, flugelhorn), John Gilmore (tenor saxophone, bass clarinet) Cecil McBee (bass), a three-headed monster rhythm section of Joe Chambers (drums), Renaud Simmons (conga), and Nadi Qarmar (percussion), and, for the driving track “Premonition”, Davis returning as a second bass player. The music shows Hill's continued growth as a composer, as he eschews overt melody in favor of harmonic invention and texutre. As a subtly prepared “concept album” with a distinct thematic connection between the four tracks, Compulsion stands as a mature work of art. He would record five more albums for Blue Note in the Sixties, but only two saw the light of day for at least a decade, as the label chose to either sit on them, release them under others' name (Sam Rivers) or put the tracks solely on comp[...]

Phil Woods (1931-2015)

Wed, 30 Sep 2015 12:14:40 +0000

Here in the suburbs of Springfield, Massachusetts, I take moment to reflect on the passing of one of our native sons – alto saxophonist Phil Woods, who passed away yesterday from complications of emphysema at the age of 83. The loss of woods severs another tie that today’s jazz world has with the Be-Bop Generation of the late Thirties and Forties. Woods was one of the players who picked up the mantle of Charlie Parker after Bird’s untimely death. The New York Times reported that Mr. Woods was known to some, “admiringly if a little back-handedly, as ‘the new Bird.’” The association was solidified when he married Parker’s widow, Chan, in 1957. They later divorced. While Woods won four Grammy awards for his jazz recordings, most notably his work on large ensemble sessions, the average music listener knows his unique sound for his work on rock and pop sessions. On the recommendation of the producer Phil Ramone, an old classmate at the Juilliard School, Woods was featured on Paul Simon’s 1975 album, Still Crazy After All These Years, playing a lightning –fast bebop-inflected outro on the song “Have a Good Time.” That same year he played a memorably soaring solo on the Steely Dan’s “Doctor Wu.” Two years later, Phil Woods was chosen to play the classic solo on Mr. Joel’s now-standard ballad “Just the Way You Are.” Bet you didn't know that was the master. I had the pleasure of meeting Phil when he played the Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz, and found him unassuming, even self-deprecating when he talked about himself or his prodigious talents. He was a man capable of swinging with the best, and yet playing the most silken of ballads. His take on “The Summer Knows” remains my favorite version of that tune. Woods had been active to the end, releasing collaborative albums with younger music[...]

Podcast 497: Previewing the Berklee Beantown Jazz Festival with David Gilmore

Thu, 24 Sep 2015 19:57:01 +0000

The Berklee Beantown Jazz Festival—Boston's biggest block party—takes place from 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., on Columbus Avenue between Massachusetts Avenue and Burke Street in Boston's South End. The outdoor performances, which have drawn as many as 80,000 music fans, are open to the public free of charge. Check here for updates and a full schedule of events. This year’s festival theme is Jazz: the Voice of the People. “Jazz is a universal language that unites cultures and brings communities together,” said John Hailer, president and chief executive officer of Natixis Global Asset Management in the Americas and Asia. “As one of the world’s premier cultural centers, Boston is a natural home to showcase this amazing American musical tradition, and we are proud to partner with Berklee again this year.” The outdoor celebration also features a variety of vendor booths offering foods and crafts from all over the world. “Roxbury's High Notes of Jazz” Roxbury Walk is offering tours throughout the day for a nominal fee, exploring the area around the Berklee Beantown Jazz Festival. The site was once the epicenter of music, food, and nightlife for Boston's jazz community during the 1930s through 1950s. Tours will organize from the Discover Roxbury booth at the festival. Musical highlights from multiple outdoor stages include nine-time Grammy-nominated R&B artist Ledisi; tenor saxophonist Javon Jackson with legendary drummer Jimmy Cobb; Marcus Miller; the Mosaic Project, a collective led by three-time Grammy-winning drummer and producer and Beantown artistic director Terri Lyne Carrington, with Philly-based soul/R&B vocalist Jaguar Wright; rising funk bassist Alissia Benveniste and the Funketeers; and many others, including our guest in this podcast, Berklee instructor and guitar ace David[...]

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Podcast 495: "Playboy Swings" with Patty Farmer

Tue, 22 Sep 2015 21:51:12 +0000

Since the launch of Playboy magazine in 1953, two elements have been remarkably consistent: the first is the celebration of the world’s most beautiful & desirable women and the second is its involvement with music.  If we are to believe Hugh Hefner, the Playboy experience was never to have been just about sex—it was about lifestyle. And music—particularly the finest jazz, a personal passion of founder  Hefner’s—has always been an essential component of that lifestyle. While many books have been written about the Playboy organization and the ultimate playboy himself, no book—until this one—has focused specifically on Playboy and the music scene, its impact on popular entertainment (and vice versa), and the fabulous cadre of performers who took to the stages of the mythic Playboy Clubs and Jazz Festivals. For that, we can now turn to Patty Farmer’s Playboy Swings. The highly readable book features candid, in-depth interviews with a multitude of musicians and singers, as well as those involved behind the scenes, as the book moves from the inception of the Playboy Empire through the 1959 jazz festival, to the opening of club after club. From the first issue of the magazine, music enjoyed pride of place, and by 1957, Playboy had launched its “All Star Poll,” in which readers were invited to vote for their favorite musicians and acts. This led to what was, at the time, a rather bold step for the young company: Playboy began to produce records. Now, Playboy was doing more than discussing or reviewing music; it was actually presenting it. Playboy began to sponsor a series of historic jazz festivals, starting with the groundbreaking 1959 Playboy Jazz Festival in Chicago celebrating the magazine’s 5th Anniversary. It was the success of that inaugural ja[...]

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Podcast 496: A Conversation with Nathan East

Tue, 22 Sep 2015 16:34:00 +0000

"Just call Nathan; it's locked." – Lionel Richie He could only be talking about Nathan East, the man who is credited on more than 2,000 albums and several Grammy-winning songs including "Get Lucky," "Footloose" and "Change the World." Perhaps the most in-demand sideman in jazz and pop today, his career has gone from being a 16-year-old touring with Barry White's Love Unlimited Orchestra to Grammy Award-winning session player for Daft Punk, Beyoncé, Barbra Streisand, EricClapton and so many more. Nathan’s latest project is a duet member with a fellow founding member of the contemporary jazz group Fourplay, Bob James.  The New Cool (on Yamaha Entertainment Group of America is the first true duet project for both, as they follow in footsteps of the legendary bass and piano combos like Eddie Gomez and Bill Evans. The album has a gentle sound, a combination of epic melodies (on new and old songs) and soulful tunes. James, the distinguished pianist, and East, an unparalleled bass player, are both known for the meticulousness and originality in their music. Both have made careers alternating between electric and acoustic sounds, so while the listener’s initial reaction might be one of surprise, eventually they win you over, assisted by James’ strong arrangements. James recorded his first solo album 52 years ago and has since composed more than 30 solo albums in the genres of jazz and classical. East released his first solo album in 2014. That self-titled project, also on the Yamaha Entertainment Group label, climbed the charts, setting a record with 26 weeks at No. 1 on the Top 50 chart and earning a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album.  East was recently featured in a documentary film entitled [...]

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Podcast 494: A Conversation with Pete McCann

Tue, 15 Sep 2015 18:56:39 +0000

Pete McCann is the kind of jazz musician with whose name you might not be familiar, but you almost surely have heard him onstage or on record. The New York jazz scene is deep with players, and while Pete doesn't necessarily hang out in Gotham anymore, he sure seems to get his share of gigs and calls, including those from Kenny Wheeler, Dave Liebman, Lee Konitz, Patti Austin, Bobby Previte, Brian Blade, and the Maria Schneider Orchestra. He regularly tours as a member of Grace Kelly’s band. He has appeared on over fifity CDs, and as a leader, he has showcased his abilities at straight-ahead, post-bop, avant garde, Latin, and jazz-rock fusion. Range is his latest CD, the follow up to McCann's previous critically-acclaimed releases, Extra Mile (Nineteen-Eight), Most Folks (Omnitone), Parable and You Remind Me of Someone (both on Palmetto). For this release, he has put together a cast of some of New York City's finest musicians; John O'Gallagher (alto sax), Henry Hey (piano, Rhodes and organ), Matt Clohesy (acoustic & electric bass) and Mark Ferber (drums). In many ways his most personal CD, Range features his tributes to mentors and muses of his past, from Kenny Wheeler (“Kenny”) and Lee Konitz (“Rumble”) to Anton Webern (“Dyad Changes”) and Bill Frisell (“To the Mountains”). McCann pulls out all the stops on his solos here, which can range from dancing lines to driving rock chords. Podcast 495 is out conversation, as Pete talks about the new CD, his time with Wheeler, Konitz and Grace Kelly, and his current tour plans. Musical selections include “Kenny” , “Rumble” and “Mustard” from Range; “Something in the Way She Moves” from Melissa Stylianou’s Silent Movie; and “Kiss Away[...]

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Repost: L'Shana Tovah, and All that Jazz

Mon, 14 Sep 2015 12:00:00 +0000

Today is the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, the celebration of the New Year 5775. The traditional greeting for the day is "L'Shanah Tovah" - "A Good Year". Bassist David Chevan of the Afro-Semitic Experience has been working on some jazzed up versions of music associated with the High Holidays for the past few years. I' ve written before about his CDs Days of Awe and Yizkhor: Music of Memory, both of which are full of traditional materials done in the fascinating way he and his partner, pianist Warren Byrd, have become known for. Click here for a rehearsal recorded. July 29, 2010 featuring Byrd, Chevan, and Cantor Jack Mendelson performing "Avinu Malkeinu", a song asking "Our Father, Our King" for his compassion and blessings for the New Year, Chevan explains about the recording: This recording came to be because about two weeks ago I recorded a rehearsal with Warren Byrd and Cantor Jack Mendelson. One of the pieces we looked at was Avinu Malkeinu. Funny thing about playing standards . . . give a listen, we didn’t even talk this one through, we just began playing and this is what came out! If you listen hard you can hear Jack’s air conditioner puttering away in the background.[...]

Podcast 493: A Conversation with Oran Etkin about Benny Goodman

Fri, 21 Aug 2015 14:00:00 +0000

2015 marks the 80th anniversary of Benny Goodman's famous Palomar concert that started the “Swing Era,” and Israeli-American clarinetist Oran Etkin commemorates the event by bringing together a crack quartet, including Steve Nelson (vibes), Matt Wilson (drums), and Sullivan Fortner (piano) for a creative homage to the groundbreaking quartet of Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, Teddy Wilson and Gene Krupa of the 1930s. Praised as a great clarinetist and all-around improviser by the New York Times, Etkin felt a deep connection with Benny Goodman, whose groundbreaking work in redefining the role of the clarinet and challenging the status quo inspired a generation of musicians. The Motema label will release this band’s celebration of the daring and playful spirit of Benny Goodman,  What's New: Reimagining Benny Goodman  next month. The album is a tribute not by recreating his music note for note, but rather by getting, as Etkin told me,  at the essence of who Goodman was and the spirit that he brought to the music, On August 21, 1935, at the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles, California, Benny Goodman and his quartet performed for thousands of young fans in the live audience and millions more tuning in to a live radio broadcast. Historians today credit this moment as the opening of the Swing Era, In Podcast 493, Etkin talks about this famous gig, and his lifetime fascination with Goodman and his place in musical history. Goodman had begun to perform “hot” arrangements by African-American bandleader Fletcher Henderson—arrangements that departed from the more romantic style of the day by employing loose, upbeat, syncopated rhythms that had been common in[...]

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Podcast 491: What Makes Frank Sinatra Great? with Anna Celenza

Thu, 20 Aug 2015 15:00:00 +0000

December will make the centennial celebration of the birth of Francis Albert Sinatra – Ol’ Blue Eyes, the Chairman of the Board. Perhaps the most iconic male singer – if not of all genders – of the jazz age, Sinatra made his mark on American culture by excelling as a recording artist, performer and movie actor. From his days as the teen idol who made the bobbysoxers swoon with the Harry James Big Band, through his years of growth as mature interpreter of the Great American Song Book, Sinatra was a one of a kind talent. As part of Tanglewood’s “One Day University” program in Lenox, Massachusetts on Sunday August 23, Anna Harwell Celenza, the Thomas E. Caestecker Professor of Music at Georgetown University and the author of several scholarly books, including Music as Cultural Mission: Explorations of Jesuit Practices in Italy and North America, will lecture on the topic “A Sinatra Centennial: What Made Old Blue Eyes Great?”  Ms. Celenza’s work has also appeared in The Hopkins Review, Musical Quarterly, Nineteenth-Century Music, Notes, The Cambridge Companion to Liszt (2005), and Franz Liszt and His World (2006) and The Cambridge Companion to Duke Ellington (2014) . In addition to her scholarly work, she has authored a series of award-winning children's books with Charlesbridge Publishing: The Farewell Symphony (2000), Pictures at an Exhibition (2003), The Heroic Symphony (2004), Bach's Goldberg Variations (2005), Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue (2006), Duke Ellington's Nutcracker Suite (2011), Vivaldi's Four Seasons (2012), Saint-Saëns's Danse macabre (2013) and a 14-part syndicated series on Louis Armstrong for t[...]

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Podcast 492: Jazz for the Dog Days

Sun, 16 Aug 2015 14:00:00 +0000

It's summer in New England, so why not some summer themed music for these lazy, hot days? Today is August 16th, the feast day of Saint Roch, the patron saint of Dogs, so why not celebrate the "Dog Days"? The Romans referred to the dog days as diēs caniculārēs and associated the hot weather with the star Sirius. They considered Sirius to be the "Dog Star" because it is the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major (Large Dog), as well as the brightest star in the night sky. The term "Dog Days" was used earlier by the Greeks in Aristotle's Physics. The Dog Days originally were the days when Sirius rose just before or at the same time as sunrise, which is no longer true, owing to procession of the equinoxes. The Romans sacrificed a brown dog (Sorry Angus and Hamish, my two miniature dachshunds!) at the beginning of the Dog Days to appease the rage of Sirius, believing that the star was the cause of the hot, sultry weather. I've done three previous Dog Day postings,  Podcast 292, Podcast 225and Podcast 442,  if you'd like some more summer-themed music. There's a few repeats between these posts, but what the hey. It’s all grooving or relaxing music for soaking in those wonderful warming rays. Winter is just around the corner, and I am gonna grab all the warmth I can. Look for me on my deck with Angus and Hamish - and Nancy - and a cold beverage or two. Podcast 492 features the following uninterrupted hour of music: Chieli Minucci – “Endless Summer” James Taylor Quartet – “Summer Song” Jimmy Smith – “Summertime” Christian McBride – “Summer Soft” Eric Alexander Quartet - "Sl[...]

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Happy Birthday, Jerry Garcia

Sat, 01 Aug 2015 15:00:00 +0000

With all the hullabaloo over the "final" Grateful Dead shows last month in Santa Clara and Chicago, we might forget that today would have been Jerry Garcia’s 73rd birthday, and like so many other fans, I'll spend a few moments contemplating his music. Maybe a few "Scarlet Begonia/Fire on the Mountain" and "Dark Stars" are in the cards. Definitely a "Bird Song."

Named after composer Jerome Kern, Garcia was a student of American music, whether it was bluegrass, show tunes or the blues. Jerry had a love of jazz, and while the Dead themselves did not dip into the jazz canon all that often, Jerry’s side projects gave him a chance to show his jazz chops. Click here to listen to a recording of Milt Jackson’s “Bag’s Groove” from the 1998 release So What from Garcia and mandolin player David Grisman. Other members of the band were Joe Craven on percussion, Matt Eakle on flute and Jim Kerwin on bass

Podcast 490: A Preview of the Newport Jazz Festival with Danny Melnick

Wed, 29 Jul 2015 16:00:00 +0000

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[...]

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60th Anniversay of Miles' Newport Debut Feted at Festival

Mon, 27 Jul 2015 14:13:38 +0000

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. [...]

"Nancy (With the Laughing Face"

Sat, 18 Jul 2015 13:00:00 +0000

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—”     “Hey, that’s a cute song title,” said Phil Silvers, who’d dropped in at Frank’s with Jimmy Van Heusen. Jimmy was doodling at the piano. “Lemme write a lyric and run the pros out of town—”     He didn’t mean it. Phil’s that unique bird who doesn’t want to write a lyric. All he wants is to be an employed actor. This lyric he wrote in spite of himself. Because Jimmy grinned up at him and went on doodling, and out of the music little Nancy’s face laughed again, and words began forming inside Phil’s dome.     When it was finished, he sang it for big Nancy, who got all choked up and made the boys send it to Frank in New York. He read it and gulped and introduced it on his next broadcast. Maybe he sang it three times altogether before leaving with Phil and the rest of the gang for the ETO. No one expected the song to be commercial. The boys had written[...]

Podcast 489: A Conversation with Michael Benedict about Gary McFarland

Mon, 13 Jul 2015 14:00:00 +0000

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 j[...]

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Podcast 488: A Conversation with Terell Stafford

Sat, 11 Jul 2015 16:00:00 +0000

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[...]

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Podcast 487: A Conversation with Wayne Horvitz

Fri, 10 Jul 2015 16:00:00 +0000

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 od[...]

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Around the Internet: The Rise of Rock, The Fall of Jazz

Thu, 09 Jul 2015 12:28:20 +0000

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.[...]

Happy Birthday, Jaimoe

Wed, 08 Jul 2015 19:45:14 +0000

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[...]