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Preview: Straight No Chaser - A Jazz Show

Straight No Chaser - A Jazz Show





Published: Tue, 04 Jul 2017 15:00:00 +0000

Last Build Date: Tue, 25 Jul 2017 15:17:35 +0000

 



The Official Straight No Chaser Song of Independence Day

Tue, 04 Jul 2017 15:00:00 +0000

American Independence Day 2014. Nancy and I will celebrate in England but back here at home, others 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 and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world. He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good. He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them. He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only. He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures. He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people. He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within. He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands. He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers. He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries. He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance. He [...]



Podcast 583: England Swings

Fri, 30 Jun 2017 17:00:22 +0000

There will be no podcasts posted for the next few weeks, as Nancy and I head “across the pond” to England for a much needed change of scene. 

The British jazz scene has more than its share of history and current artists of note. Some may be obvious to you, while others less so. So, what better way to kick off my vacation than giving you an hour plus of music from jazz artists hailing from the UK? The sound varies wildly from the straight ahead of Marian McPartland to the traditional of Tubby Hayes' big band to the Hip-Hop-tinged tunes of Courtney Pine. Selections include:

Dudley Moore Trio – “Chimes”

Dave Holland Quartet – “Go Fly a Kite”

Jamie Cullum – “High & Dry” (live version)

John McLaughlin – ‘The Dark Prince”

John Dankworth – “The Artful Dodger”

Cleo Laine – “Sign No More Ladies”

Marian McPartland – “It’s So Peaceful in the Country”

Tubby Hayes Orchestra - "Song for a Sad Lady"

Courtney Pine – “Modern Day Jazz”

Barb Jungr - "Tomorrow is a Long Time"

 Philip Catherine - "


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/straightnochaserjazz/Podcast_583_-_England_Swings.mp3?dest-id=15281




Podcast 582: Geri Allen (1957-2017)

Thu, 29 Jun 2017 16:00:00 +0000

The passing this week of pianist Geri Allen has taken the jazz world by surprise. Still at the top of her game as performer, composer and educator at the age of 60, it seemed that few knew of her illness, and even fewer of its severity. She will be sorely missed. Her legacy is substantial – 19 albums as a leader; dozens more as sideperson for the likes of Paul Motian, Steve Coleman, Oliver Lake, and Ornette Coleman; a thriving jazz department at the University of Pittsburgh. Musically, her style grew and evolved over the years. A product of the Detroit school system, she integrated the classic Detroit jazz sound she learned from her mentor Marchs Belgrave with 80’s avant-garde and progressive sounds as a charter member of the influential M-Base Collective (Greg Osby, Cassandra Wilson, Steve Coleman). Much of Charles Lloyd's comback can be traced to Geri's support. To me, she shone brightest in her trio recordings, bringing her into contact with Motian and Charlie Haden, Jack DeJohnette and Dave Holland, and most recently, David Murray and Terri Lynne Carrington. Even more importantly, Geri was that rare person who went out of her way to touch people, with both her music and with her words. She will be missed by her students, her fellow musicians, and all others who were lucky enough to have made her acquaintance, even for a moment. Dr. Hankus Netsky, chair, Contemporary Improvisation and former chair of Jazz Studies at the New England Conservatory forwarded these words about her to me and other members of the jazz world:. Like much of the musical world, New England Conservatory mourns the loss of pianist, scholar, and educator Geri Allen who taught at NEC in the early 1990s.  A consummate musician in every respect, Geri was a gentle but demanding teacher who encouraged her students to broaden their listening, hone every aspect of their musical skills, and develop their classical technique. She brought a serious diligence to everything she engaged in and championed a truly global perspective on the African-American contribution to twentieth century music.  Besides her immersion in the musical world of Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, and Eric Dolphy, it seemed like her playing could go in virtually any direction, for example when she accompanied Betty Carter or recorded with Ornette Coleman.  Her years at NEC were like a dream for me and her students (and I remember well when her daughter Laila was born in 1990 since I believe it was the same week as my first daughter, Leah!).  One of my favorite moments from that time was her duo performance in Jordan Hall with bassist and cellist Dave Holland, who also served on our faculty in that era.  We stayed in touch over the years and, most recently, I was glad to be able to connect her to author Mark Slobin, who has been working on a book about the connection between musicians who attended Detroit's public schools and the international music scene.  Her memory will truly be a blessing for all of us who knew her. Podcast 582 is my musical tribute to Ms. Allen, including selections from the many recordings she made as a leader and supporting others: Geri Allen - "Feed the Fire" from Some Aspects of Water Wallace Roney – “In Her Family” from Misterios Geri Allen, Charlie Haden & Paul Motian - "First Song" from In The Year Of The Dragon Geri Allen - "The Smart Set" (with Marcus Belgrave) from Grand River Crossings Charles Lloyd -  Title Track from Jumping the Creek Geri Allen - "Black Bottom" from The Life of a Song  Paul Motian Trio – "Trinkle Tinkle“” from Monk in Motian Geri Allen - "Silence and Song" from The Nurturer   Geri Allen - "The Eyes Have It" from Eyes... In The Back Of Your Head   Geri Allen - "Portraits and Dreams (reprise)" from Timeless-  Portraits And Dreams[...]


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/straightnochaserjazz/Podcast_582_-_Geri_Allen_1957-2017.mp3?dest-id=15281




Podcast 581: A Conversation with Sean Jones

Wed, 28 Jun 2017 16:00:00 +0000

I’ve wanted to have Sean Jones on the show for a long time. A talented trumpeter and composer, he was mentored by the greatest of all trumpet teachers, William “Prof” Fielder at Rutgers University. After graduating, he quickly became a fixture in New York big bands, most notably the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. Based on a strong showing at a Gerald Wilson Orchestra recording session for Mack Avenue Records, Jones was inked to a solo contract with the label at the age of 26. Live at the Jazz Bistro is his eighth release for the label, and their collaboration is still going strong.

The live CD gives us a chance to hear Sean in both quartet and quintet settings. He is blessed by having a core group of musicians who have stayed together for more than eleven years. Each group is anchored by long-time collaborator (and newly minted member of the Bad Plus) Orrin Evans on piano,  Luques Curtis holds down the bass, while Obed Calvaire is the drummer on the quartet sessions, and Mark Whitfield Jr. on the quintet. Brian Hogans (alto and soprano saxophones) contributes both strong material (the moving “Piscean Dichotomy”) and great emotional resonance to the band.

Podcast 58_ is my conversation with Sean, as we discuss the new CD, how he gauges an audience in picking tunes to play live, and how he met Gerald Wilson, who helped launch his career. Musical selections from  Live at the Jazz Bistro include “Piscean Dichotomy”, “Prof” and “Doc’s Holiday”, plus a track from the Gerald Wilson Orchestra album Legacy, entitled “A Night at the El Grotto”.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/straightnochaserjazz/Podcast_581_-_A_Conversation_with_Sean_Jones.mp3?dest-id=15281




Podcast 579: A Conversation with Tedd Chubb

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 16:00:00 +0000

"Ted Chubb is a very talented trumpeter, composer, improviser, bandleader and educator. Ted is the total package, and most of all, he is just one great guy." - Christian McBride

Ted Chubb’s Gratified Never Satisfied allows the seasoned New Jersey trumpeter a chance to broaden his horizons, and he makes the most of it. Backed by a band that can sound throwback at one moment and perfectly modern in another, Chubb’s collection of four original tunes and four well-chosen covers should allow him some well-deserved wider recognition.

Chubb, along with Bruce Williams (alto sax); Seth Johnson (guitar); Oscar Perez (piano and Fender Rhodes); Tom Dicarlo (bass); and Jerome Jennings (drums), makes the material on the CD sound immediately familiar, using Perez’s Fender Rhodes and Johnson’s guitar to great effect. That highly electric sound is mitigated by the straight ahead sound of Chubb’s trumpet, which hits the mark without adornment or electronic flourish. On the ten minute plus “Space”, the result is – well, spacey – and then on “Tuesday” it's wistful and a tad romantic.

Known as a co-leader of the quartet New Tricks, and an in-demand member of major big bands, Ted is also a major contributor to jazz education, with the New Jersey-based Jazz House Kids, a community arts organization—run by singer Melissa Walker and her husband Christian McBride—exclusively dedicated to educating children through jazz. 

Podcast 579 is my conversation with Ted, as we discuss the new CD, his tenure in trumpeter Wallace Roney’s Orchestra and drummer Winard Harper’s band, and what he learned from spending time in the pit of a touring Broadway show. Musical selections from Gratified Never Satisfied include the title track, homage to his mentor William B. “Prof” Fielder; “Tuesday” and Wayne Shorter’s “Adam’s Apple.”


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/straightnochaserjazz/Podcast_579_-_A_Conversation_with_Tedd_Chubb.mp3?dest-id=15281




Podcast 580: A Conversation with Danny Melnick about the 40h Freihofer's Saratoga Jazz Festival

Tue, 13 Jun 2017 20:06:51 +0000

If it’s June, then it must be time for the Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival, at the lovely SPAC in Saratoga Springs, New York. 2017 marks the 40th anniversary of the weekend-long event, and it promises to live up to past triumphs once again.

The festival has two stages, the Amphitheatre for headliners, and the newly-renovated Gazebo Stage for up-and-coming and under the radar talent. Saturday June 24th features Chaka Khan (who had to bail from last year’s festival); Grammy darling Jacob Collier, venerable violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, the exciting singer Cecile McLoren Savant and the all-star tribute act Jazz 100: The Music of Dizzy, Mongo, and Monk featuring Danilo Perez, Joe Lovano, Jason Palmer, Josh Roseman, Roman Diaz, Ben Street and Adam Cruz. Gazebo highlights will include the Dave Stryker Organ Quartet featuring Eric Alexander, Jared Gold and McClenty Hunter; singer Barbara Fasano and the Aruan Ortiz Trio.

Sunday has an even stronger lineup, if that seems possible. The Amphitheatre will feature the first festival appearance of the Gipsy Kings; the Maceo Parker’s To Ray, With Love featuring the Ray Charles Orchestra & The Raelettes; the latest “supergroup” Hudson, composed of Jack DeJohnette, Larry Grenadier, John Medeski and John Scofield; new NEA Jazz Master Dee Dee Bridgewater; a return visit from teen blues guitar whiz Quinn Sullivan; and Cuban jazz from Jane Bunnett & Maqueque.

The Gazebo highlights include two top young groups - Adam O'Farrill's Stranger Days and the Noah Preminger/Jason Palmer Quartet, along with Snarky Puppy member Cory Henry’s side project The Funk Apostles.

Danny Melnick and I talked about the festival for Podcast 580, which all the inside scoop on the weekend and the music you will hear. Featured musical selections include:

Maceo Parker – “Hit the Road Jack” from Roots and Grooves

Dave Stryker – “Blues Strut” from Blues to the Bone IV

Jane Bunnett & Maqueque –  “Song for Haiti” from Jane Bunnett & Maqueque

Hudson (Jack DeJohnette. Larry Grenadier, John Medeski, John Scofield) – “Tony Then Jack” from Hudson

Adam O’Farrill - “Alligator Get the Blues” from Stranger Days


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/straightnochaserjazz/Podcast_580_-_A_Conversation_with_Danny_Melnick_on_the_40th_Saratoga_Jazz_Festival.mp3?dest-id=15281




Podcast 578: A Conversation with Bill O'Connell on Dave Valentin

Fri, 09 Jun 2017 16:00:00 +0000

A Musical Celebration of Life for the renowned Latin jazz flautist Dave Valentin will take place Monday, June 12, beginning at 6 PM at Saint Peter’s Church, 619 Lexington Avenue at 54th Street in Manhattan. The Grammy Award winning-artist passed on March 8 after a long illness at 64 years of age.

In addition to remarks from family and friends, Valentin’s long time group will perform, led by pianist / musical director Bill O’Connell, with bassist Lincoln Goines, drummer Robby Ameen, and percussionist Sammy Figueroa. Additional musicians expected to perform include flutists Andrea Brachfeld, Connie Grossman and Karen Joseph, as well as trombonist Papo Vázquez and other artists to be announced.

Heralded as “the Pied Piper of the Bronx,” Dave Valentin was born of Puerto Rican parents in 1952 and lived his entire life in the borough. He was the first artist to be signed to the popular GRP recording label, beginning in 1979, and he made some fifteen recordings as a leader, helping shape the label’s sound. In 2002, he won a Grammy Award with vibraphonist Dave Samuels and saxophonist / clarinetist Paquito D’Rivera for the Caribbean Jazz Project’s recording The Gathering.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Bill O’Connell about Dave Valentin and his legacy for Podcast 578. O’Connell became a fixture in the New York Latin jazz and salsa scene that was flowering in the city in the 1970s. Eventually he joined the legendary Mongo Santamaria’s Latin jazz group in 1977 and began a three year run as his keyboardist. Bill kept his hand in straight ahead jazz as well, playing with Sonny Rollins and Chet Baker, and building relationships with Charles Fambrough and Jon Lucien that would lead to a number of recordings as a sideman.

O’Connell was introduced to Valentin in 1981 at a GRP session, and was by his side as music director and keyboardist through the release of 15 albums.

Podcast 578 features the music of Dave Valentin and Bill O’Connell, including the title track from Bill’s latest album, Monk’s Cha-Cha. Valentin selections include"Love LIght in Flight" and "Oasis" from Jungle Garden

There is no admission charge to the service, and seating is general admission. Donations can be made in Dave Valentin’s memory to Casita Maria Center for Arts and Education in the Bronx or the Jazz Foundation of America. For more information, please contact the Hostos Center for the Arts & Culture at (718) 518-4455.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/straightnochaserjazz/Podcast_578_-_A_Conversation_with_Bill_OConnell_on_Dave_Valentin.mp3?dest-id=15281




Podcast 577: A Conversation with Moppa Elliott

Thu, 08 Jun 2017 16:00:00 +0000

Mostly Other People Do the Killing – easily the best name in jazz these days – is a quartet that has one foot securely in the past, while another in the adventurous future. Ever since the band came together in 2003, MoPDtK – easily the best acronym in jazz these days – has ventured into areas of classic jazz from the 20’s and 30’s, spinning familiar styles into something new and different with their avant-garde leanings. Heck, they even had the nerve to record their version of Miles Davis’ classic Kind of Blue in 2014, doing a note for note recreation of the best-selling jazz album of all time. Clearly, MoPDtK –lead by Moppa Elliott (bass); Jon Irabagon (sax); and Kevin Shea (drums) have no lack of confidence – or sense of humor.

Their latest release, Loafer’s Hollow, continues their mischievous tradition of naming their albums after fictitious towns in Pennsylvania. The band enlarged to a septet for last year’s Red Hot, and with a bit of a personnel change, they tackle their material with the same instrumental lineup. Trumpet legend Steve Bernstein takes the seat that Peter Evans had held for years, and pianist Rob Stabinsky, bass trombonist Dave Taylor and banjo player Brandon Seabrook all add new and sometimes startling colors and textures on their instruments.

Loafer’s Hollow is effectively a rethinking of the Swing era, as tunes – and yes, the songs are titled as homage to Moppa’s favorite writers. Tunes like "Bloomsburg (For James Joyce)" and "Kilgore (For Kurt Vonnegut)" are stylistically of that time period, but feature different keys, time signatures and solos than one might make Count Basie faint. When they get more introspective, as in "Meridian (For Cormac McCarthy)" interesting rhythms and harmonies show the band owes more to the Avant-Garde than ballroom classics.

Podcast 577 is my conversation with Moppa as he speaks openly on the various configurations of MoPDtK, future projects and how the writes. Musical selections include "Honey Hole", "Kilgore (For Kurt Vonnegut)", and "Hi-Nella" from Loafer’s Hollow and "Blue in Green" from their Kind of Blue project. 


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/straightnochaserjazz/Podcast_577_-_A_Conversation_with_Moppa_Elliott.mp3?dest-id=15281




Podcast 576: A Conversation with John Yao

Wed, 07 Jun 2017 16:00:00 +0000

I’ve pointed out before that we may be living through a golden age for trombone players in the world of jazz. Over the past few years rising stars like Ryan Keberle, Joel Yennior, Charlie Halloran and Michael Dease have joined the ranks of talents like Wycliffe Gordon, Conrad Herwig, Steve Turre and the legendary Roswell Rudd. These guys lead bands, not just hold down a chair in a big band horn section.

Add another name to their ranks – John Yao.

His latest small-group CD, Presence, is aptly titled, as he makes his presence felt right from the get-go, leading his quintet through a number of jazz styles and approaches. Boosted by saxophonist Jon Irabagon, the group tackles Yao compositions that vary from the avant-garde leaning “M Howard” to the straight ahead “Bouncey’s Bounce,” with fine results. Ably assisted by a rhythm section of Randy Ingram (Piano), Peter Brendler (Bass) and Shawn Baltazor (Drums), Yao’s trombone step out in front, but just as often finds a place in the band’s mix, creating a most enjoyable CD.

Podcast 576 is my conversation with John, as we discuss the new CD, his larger “17 piece instrument”, and his place in such institutions as the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and Arturo O'Farrill's Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra. Musical selections include “Tight Rope”, “Fuzzy Logic”, and “Bouncey’s Bounce.”


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/straightnochaserjazz/Podcast_576_-_A_Conversation_with_John_Yao.mp3?dest-id=15281




Podcast 575: A Conversation with Kathleen Potton

Mon, 05 Jun 2017 16:00:00 +0000

Is Kathleen Potton’s new album a tribute to a tyrannical Roman emperor?

She’s quick to laugh that off. NERO, her debut CD which is available this week, is intended to be a nod to the great female singer-songwriters she has learned to admire.  The Australian born Potton became entranced with the music of Laura Nyro after hearing Billy Child’s CD Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro last year, and found some people pronounced the late singer-songwriter’s last name the American “Nee-ro” instead of the British “Nie-ro.” An album title was born.

Rather than cover Ms. Nyro’s work, Kathleen’s CD is almost entirely her own material, music which has the smooth polish and shine of some “Smooth Jazz” singers, but none of the overblown arrangements or saccharin vocal stylings. Instead, there is a sense of intimacy, and the listener is drawn in, her sense of phrasing belying her age.

The sole cover on the album is of another of her musical idols, Joni Mitchell. “Chelsea Morning” is one of the less popular tunes recorded by jazz singers looking for the obligatory Joni cover, and Ms. Potton makes the most of the song’s stops and starts, staying fairly faithful to the original, but spinning it just enough to make it hers.

Podcast 575 is my conversation with Kathleen Potton, as we talk about NERO, the jazz scene in her native Australia, and how her live versions of some of her tunes vary from the recorded version. Musical Selections include her cover of Joni Mitchell's "Chelsea Morning" and “Love Not Lovin’.”


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/straightnochaserjazz/Podcast_575_-_A_Conversation_with_Kathleen_Potton.mp3?dest-id=15281




Podcast 574: A Conversation with Cuong VU

Sat, 03 Jun 2017 16:00:00 +0000

Ever since I learned of the amazing breath of his talents with his stint in the Pat Metheny Group, I’ve been a fan of Cuong Vu. A trumpet player with a decidedly avant-garde style, Cuong is able to use his talents in any number of ways. Whether he is leading one of his groups, or serving as sideman for Metheny, Dave Douglas, and Myra Melford; or guesting on a David Bowie session, his presence seems to raise the game of all who are playing with him.

Born in Saigon, Cuong Vu immigrated to Seattle with his family in 1975.He went east for college, and after completing studies at the New England Conservatory in Boston, he moved to New York in 1994 and began his career. As a leader, Cuong has released eight recordings, many making critics’ lists of the 10 best recordings of their respective years. In 2002 and 2006, Cuong was a recipient of the Grammy for Best Contemporary Jazz Album (Speaking of Now and This Way Up) as a member of the Pat Metheny Group. He currently chairs the Department of Jazz Studies at the University of Washington, where Cuong was awarded the University of Washington’s prestigious Distinguished Teacher Award and is a Donald E. Petersen Endowed Fellow.

Cuong’s latest project is a return collaboration with guitarist Bill Frisell. In 2005 they worked together on Mostly Residual, and continued a friendly relationship. When Frisell wanted to present a musical tribute to his mentor, composer-arranger Michael Gibbs, Cuong invited him to work on the project and perform at the University of Washington. The resulting CD, Ballet (The Music of Michael Gibbs) adds the great guitarist to Cuong’s core band for some shifting, moody often ethereal music. The 4tet – Frisell, Cuong, Luke Bergman (bass) and Ted Poor (drums) – tackle a sampling of Gibbs’ oeuvre (most enjoyably, “Blue Comedy”, made famous by Gary Burton) but always make them distinctively their own with their arrangements and subtle interplay. 

Podcast 574 is my conversation with Cuong, as we discuss Ballet, his continuing association with Pat Metheny, and the state of students these days (his answers may surprise you!). Musical selections include tunes from  Ballet (The Music of Michael Gibbs) and Cjuong Vu Trio Meets Pat Metheny


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/straightnochaserjazz/Podcast_574_-_A_Conversation_with_Cuong_Vu.mp3?dest-id=15281




Podcast 572: A Conversation with Christian Sands

Sun, 07 May 2017 16:00:00 +0000

I’m saying it here and now – Reach is the album that makes Christian Sands a star.

Those “in the know” in jazz are already familiar with the 28 year old pianist, who has been a key member of Christian McBride’s Inside Straight band for the past five years.  With the release of his first album for Mack Records (also McBride’s home), he shows that he is ready to be a leader in his own right.\

It was inevitable, as Sands has been tapped by Ben Williams, McBride, Ulysses Owens and Latin Jazz stars Los Hombres Calientes and Bobby Sanabria for gigs and recordings. Reach showcases Sands talents as a front-line pianist, leading a core group that includes bassist Yasushi Nakamura and drummer Marcus Baylor.  Rather than attempt a classic piano trio recording, a number of his long-time friends and contemporaries make notable appearances, most notably guitarist Gilad Hekselman, reed man Marcus Strickland, and even his old boss McBride.

The album covers a wide variety of styles, touching on Latin Jazz (“Óyeme”), Hip-Hop (“Gangstalude”), Ballads (“Somewhere Out There”), Soul (“Use Me”) and even a touch of electronica (“Freefall”), CDs this stylistically diverse often fail to be uniformly strong and interesting. Reach is that wonderful exception, as Sands takes the various styles through the prism of his talent, and the end result is nothing less than exceptional jazz. Check out my favorite track, “Song of the Rainbow People,” which takes the piano trio format through a number of changes, producing a shimmering, soulful result.

Podcast 572 is my conversation with Christian Sands, as we discuss our Southern Connecticut roots, the mentorship he was provided by Dr. Billy Taylor, and the differences in playing with perhaps the two best bass players on the planet today – Ben Williams and Christian McBride.  Musical selections include “Song of the Rainbow People,” “Freefall,” “Gangstalude,”and “Dream Train” from his work with Christian McBride & Inside Straight on the CD People Music.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/straightnochaserjazz/Podcast_572_-_A_Conversation_with_Christian_Sands.mp3?dest-id=15281




Podcast 573: International Jazz Day

Sun, 30 Apr 2017 20:56:00 +0000

The idea of International Jazz Day is just so wonderful/ Imagine for one day, artists from all over the globe, playing a universal language of music, to celebrate the sheet joys of playing something TOGETHER. It is what the world needs now, my friends. This Sunday, April 30, International Jazz Day will culminate with the International Jazz Day All-Star Global Concert live from Havana Cuba streamed on www.jazzday.com at 9 PM ET.

Podcast 573 celebrates artists from around the world playing music that transcends borders, boundaries, countries and nations. It is just over an hour of jazz from:

 

John Yao - "Fuzzy Logic"

Chano Dominguez - "Gracias a la vida"

Uri Gurvich - "Alfombra Magic"

Ivan Lins - "She Walks This Earth"

Yotam Silberstein - " O Vôo da mosca"

Duduka Da Fonseca - "Song For Claudio"

David Hazeltine - "A.D. Bossa"

Wolfgang Haffner - "Hello"

Cyro Baptista - "Menina"

Miroslav Vitouš  -  "Scarlet Reflections"

Cyrille Aimée -  "Estrellitas Y Duendes"

Gene Ess - "Blues For Two"

Ferenc Snétberger -  "Somewhere Over The Rainbow (Live)"


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/straightnochaserjazz/Podcast_573__-_International_Jazz_Day_2017.mp3?dest-id=15281




Podcast 571: Ella Fitzgerald Centennial

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 16:00:00 +0000

 My first exposure to Ella Fitzgerald was in a television commercial for Memorex audio recording tape. Their slogan was “Is it live or is it Memorex?” and the ad showed Ella breaking a glass with her incredible singing voice. Then a recording of her voice on a Memorex cassette was played, and again the glass was shattered. Since then, I’ve come to appreciate her not just for the amazing power of her voice, but its extreme musicality, warmth, soul and wit. She could go from a torchy ballad to a scatting jam session in a moment, and excelled at both.  In my mind, no one touches her as a singer. Today marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of the First Lady of Song.  Born in Newport News, Virginia, she moved to Yonkers, New York with her mother. She had a difficult childhood, suffering abandonment and abuse, ending with a stint in an orphanage and state reformatory for girls. Her physical appearance was gawky and ungainly, and her clothing often disheveled during these trying times. But she was also a gifted dancer, a keen student of music, and a devotee of the singer Connee Boswell, an early pioneer of jazz singing. While she honed her craft in the church, her big break came when she won the famous Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater in Harlem at the age of 17. Originally planning to dance, she sang two songs and won first prize of $25. Two weeks later she was singing professionally, and within a few months was the female vocalist for the Chick Webb Orchestra, with whom she would have her first hits. Her signature tune “A-Tisket A-Tasket”, written by Ella and  Al Feldman, came a few years later and cemented her status as a major jazz singer through the end of the big band era and through bop. She made some of her finest recordings in the early fifties as part of Jazz at the Philharmonic, and with Louis Armstrong, including the seminal Porgy and Bess. But Ella went beyond being a “jazz singer”. Beginning in 1956, she began recording a series of albums for Verve that was released over eight years. Each one was a “song book” of a major American composer of popular tunes – Irving Berlin, Johnny Mercer, Cole Porter, the Gershwins, Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. Together this body of work stands as the encyclopedia of what we today call the Great American Songbook. No less a singer than Frank Sinatra considered the albums to be the final word on interpretations of these songs, and he refused to allow record labels to release any of his albums in a similar fashion. Perhaps the ultimate compliment came posthumously from Frank Rich, when he wrote that in the Songbook series Fitzgerald "performed a cultural transaction as extraordinary as Elvis' contemporaneous integration of white and African American soul. Here was a black woman popularizing urban songs often written by immigrant Jews to a national audience of predominantly white Christians.” In 1958 she became the first African-American to win a Grammy award, one for the Ellington songbook and one for the Berlin songbook. Ella would eventually win 13 Grammys along with a Lifetime Achievement Award. As jazz fell out of favor in the Sixties, and her record labels either dropped her or failed, she remained a top stage attraction. She performed on a regular basis through the Seventies, including a memorable series of shows with Sinatra and Count Basie in Las Vegas and on Broadway. Diabetes eventually took their toll on Ella, and she was repeatedly hospitalized through the Eighties. Her last public performance came at Carnegie Hall in 1991. Shortly thereafter, both her legs were eventually amputated below the knee. She died at home in California at the age of 79. While there are hundreds of recordings I [...]


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Podcast 570: A Conversation with Jim Alfredson of organissimo

Tue, 18 Apr 2017 16:00:00 +0000

I’m a huge fan of the greasy, soulful sound of the Hammond B-3 organ. Few instruments have so distinct a sonic impression, and even fewer have such an iconic physical presence on stage, particularly when paired with the famous rotating Leslie speaker.

Ever since Medeski, Martin & Wood deconstructed the organ trio, there have been fewer traditional practitioners of the art making recordings. Gary Versace has recorded some fine albums, but the disbanding of Soulive and the Deep Blue Organ Trio have left a void that only a band like organissimo can continue to fill. The Michigan-based trio, composed of Jim Alfredson (Hammond B3 Organ); Larry Barris (Guitar) and  Randy Marsh (Drums) are perhaps the finest example of the soul jazz sound that was a popular and critical sensation in the Fifties and Sixties.

In more than fifteen years, they have been the type of group that attracts devoted jazz fans, jam band devotees and neo-soul followers in close to equal number. Their concerts can be one-part jazz revival and two-parts dance marathon. Their recorded output has been mostly original tunes, but their latest CD goes down quite a different road.

Abbey Road, if you will.

B3tles - A Soulful Tribute To The Fab Four is not just a great organ trio record, but perhaps the finest Beatles tribute album by a jazz artist since George Benson’s The Other Side of Abbey Road in 1970. In the great tradition of jazz arrangers and improvisers, the memorable melodies of John, Paul, George and Ringo are always there, but the tunes are often refashioned by using different time signatures and styles. “Can’t Buy Me Love” is a blues shuffle, “Taxman” is taken at 7/8 and “All You Need is Love” swings between 5/4 and ¾.

I spoke with of Jim Alfredson about the new CD, which was recorded in his home studio, and how they chose from the Beatles catalogue, their process for innovation, and even what saxophone player – living or dead – with whom he would most want to perform. Hint – he made a number of recordings with a famous female Hammond B-3 player.

Music selections include “Can’t Buy Me Love”, “Within You Without You” and “Taxman.”


Media Files:
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Podcast 569: A Conversation with Wallace Roney

Mon, 17 Apr 2017 19:38:02 +0000

This is music for the ages, and a story for the ages as well.

Trumpet great Wallace Roney and his orchestra pay tribute to Newark jazz legend Wayne Shorter with the first full performance of Universe, a long-lost composition originally created for Miles Davis by Shorter. Wallace has termed hearing composition to be like finding missing gospels in the Dead Sea Scrolls, so important is the music as both an historical and a living piece of art.

Roney, of course, is the sole trumpet player that Miles Davis chose to mentor, and who joined and supported the legend on stage at his final performances in Montreux. When the members of Miles’ Second Great Quintet – Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams – wanted to tour in honor of their fallen leader, it was Roney who had the imposing task of taking the trumpet sear.

Since then he has established himself as one of the finest players around, as well as a solid composer, and a great bandleader. His current group, featuring Buster Williams (bass), Lenny White (drums) and Patrice Rushen (keyboards and piano) is among the tightest bands around.

I’ve been friendly with Wallace for a number of years now, since the late Bob Belden introduced us. During that time, and for a number of years before, Wallace has sought to bring Universe to the stage, and make a permanent recording, He seems finally ready to present both.

The story of how Universe came to be, how Wayne Shorter determined that only Roney could do it justice, and the importance of the piece are the core of Podcast 569. The story is classic, and its supplemented with Wallace performing with Shorter, Hancock, Carter and Williams on the Quintet classic “Pinocchio”, Roney and his larger ensemble performing an unreleased take of one of the parts from Davis’ Aura, and “Air Dancing” from the latest Roney album, A Place in Time.


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

Sun, 16 Apr 2017 13:00:00 +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: Spiritual Jazz - "Crucifixtion" by David Murray

Fri, 14 Apr 2017 16:00:00 +0000

n 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: Spiritual Jazz: David Axelrod's "Holy Thursday"

Thu, 13 Apr 2017 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 the late David Axelrod's "Holy Thursday". As he said 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.




Repost: Music for Passover: "Go Down Moses"

Mon, 10 Apr 2017 16:00:00 +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 568: Spirituality

Sun, 09 Apr 2017 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, as today is Palm Sunday. The oldest of Jewish celebrations, Passover, begins with the first seder tomorrow night. The festival of Vaisaki, celebrated by Hindus is this week, just as Theravada, the New Year festival for Theravada Buddhists, is celebrated.Buddhists celebrated the birth of the Buddha in Japan last week, as their Water holidays follow this week. 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. Perhaps this year, more than any other in the six decades I have been alive, the world needs to find that commonality of spirit.  In order to celebrate this season of spirituality, I offer my annual podcast of jazz with a spiritual strain to bring us together in a universal language.

Podcast 568 is an hour of music, including:

Kenny Barron Trio - "Prayer"

Jack DeJohnette, John Patitucci & Danilo Perez - "Earth Prayer"

Mahavishnu Orchestra - "Hymn to Him"

Rene Marie - "Blessings

Eric Revis Trio - "Prayer"

Podcasts from  2016(, 2015,  2014,  2013, 2011, and 2010),  can be found by clicking the link.


Media Files:
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Podcast 567: A Conversation with Marilyn Scott

Fri, 31 Mar 2017 16:00:00 +0000

Singer Marilyn Scott carefully resists being defined by easy labels. She is thrown into the Smooth or Contemporary Jazz category because she works closely with West Coast collaborators Bob Mintzer, Russ Ferrante and Jimmy Haslip (Yellowjackets). By the same token, she is a strong interpreter of the Great American Songbook, and not afraid to thrown in a Bob Dylan or Peter Gabriel tune for good measure, putting her squarely in Straight Ahead mode. And she doesn’t just sing – her albums are dotted with her original compositions as well.

Standard Blue, her latest CD, is her first in almost ten years, other than her fine Christmas release in 2014. Her voice is as entrancing as ever, and Ferrante’s arrangements of blues based tunes are always intriguing. From lesser recorded vocal versions of the Strayhorn-Ellington “A Flower is a Lovesome Thing” to their little heard “Day Dreaming” to a raucous “The Joint is Jumping” that closes the album, Marilyn and her crack band never fail to deliver in the true jazz tradition.

Podcast 566 is my conversation with Marilyn, as we talk about song selection, and her many collaborators on Standard Blue including Michael Landau on guitar, Ambrose Akinmusire on trumpet and Minter’s turn on the bass clarinet. Song selections include “The Joint is Jumping”, “Day Dreaming”, “I Wouldn’t Change It” and Bob Dylan’s “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” from 2006’s Innocent of Nothin


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Podcast 565: Women in Jazz 2017

Fri, 24 Mar 2017 16:00:00 +0000

It shouldn’t take Women’s History Month for us to appreciate and enjoy the music of female jazz musicians.  Particularly in the last two decades, women have moved from “female performer” to “performer” in their own right, as both leaders and side players.  Women were there at the birth of jazz, and singers like Bessie Smith, and pianists like Lil Hardin Armstrong (who wrote “Struttin’ With Some Barbecue”) and Lovie Austin were leaders in their own right before the end of the Roaring Twenties. Valaida Snow was a top trumpet player during this time.   During WWII, the International Sweethearts of Rhythm were way more than a novelty act, playing hot jazz and swing as well as any man. The names of Anna Mae Winburn, Closa Bryant, Carline Ray Russell (mother of singer Catherine Russell) and more deserve to be held in far higher esteem than they are today. Check out the film “International Sweethearts of Rhythm” to see and hear them in their prime.   The great female singers of jazz’s gold age – Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington, Carmen McRae and Ella Fitzgerald – helped define the Great American Songbook, just as Nina Simone, Betty Carter and Shirley Horn helped deconstruct it. Melba Williams was a first-call trombonist for Randy Weston and Dizzy Gillespie. The likes of Mary Lou Williams, Marian McPartland, and Shirley Scott, and later Carla Bley and Alice Coltrane showed that women could swing, but also be adventurous and part of the avant-garde.   It would be foolish to think that sexism does not exist in the world of jazz, just as racism and homophobia are still issues preventing artists from taking the bandstand and doing their best. But violinist Regina Carter; bassists Linda Oh and Esperanza Spalding; pianists Kris Davis, Helen Sung, Hiromi and Toshiko Akiyoshi; drummers Terri Lynn Carrington, Cindy Blackman Santana and Alison Miller; guitarist Mary Halvorsen, trumpeter Ingrid Jensen (pictured); her sister trombonist Christine Jensen; and big band leader Maria Schneider are all at, or near the top of their game today. Singers like Diana Krall and Karen Allyson are accomplished pianists as well as vocalists. Stacey Kent plays guitar on her many recordings. Cassandra Wilson plays any number of instruments in her various bands.   Apologies to all those who I failed to mention. Podcast 565 features an hour plus of music from some of my favorite women in jazz – enjoy!   Kris Davis Trio – “Waiting for You to Grow” Cassandra Wilson – “Billie’s Blues” Linda Oh – “Shutterspeed Dreams” Rene Marie – “Stronger Than You Think” Ingrid Jensen – “Ninety-One” Mary Halverson Octet – “Spirit Splitter (no. 54) Helen Sung - “Alphabet Street” Cyrille Aimee – “There’s a Lull in My Life” Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra – “Blue Yonder” Marilyn Crispell and Gerry Hemingway – “Table of Changes” Yelena Eckemoff – “Rising From Within” Esperanza Spalding – “Unconditional Love (Alternate Version)”[...]


Media Files:
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Podcast 566: A Conversation with Lisa Hilton

Fri, 17 Mar 2017 16:00:00 +0000

Near the top of the list entitled “Why haven’t I talked to these musicians?” is the name of Lisa Hilton. A pianist and composer whose classical background has influenced her very modern approach to the keyboard, she has continued to produce a series of top-notch group CDs. With over twenty CDs released as a leader, she never fails gather some of the finest talent around to complete her musical vision.

2016 saw Lisa releasing two CDs – Nocturnal, a quintet album, and Day & Night, a solo recording. Nocturnal is a joy to hear, as she plays with and off a killer band – Gregg August on bass, Antonio Sanchez on drums, J.D. Allen on sax and Terell Stafford on trumpet.  The band breathes life into standards like “Willow Weep for Me’, while Hilton originals like “Whirlywind” and “Seduction” (which also appears in a reimagined version on Day & Night) give the band a strong melodic base from which to stretch out. Ms. Hilton has been known to throw a curveball or two in her song selection, and here the surprise is the Pixies’ “Where is My Mind?”

 Day & Night allows Lisa to keep the spotlight for herself, and she does not disappoint. She has both the chops and soul to keep you constantly listening. The album has nine originals, along with a take on Cole Porter’s “Begin the Beguine” that erases any thoughts of how that song might be played from your memory. It’s that good.

I spoke with Lisa about the two albums, as well as her philanthropic projects of helping blind students at the Perkins School of the Blind, Camp Bloomfield for the blind in California, and at the adaptive music lab for visually impaired musicians at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. Musical selections from Day & Night include “Begin the Beguine” and “Caffeinated Culture”, and selections from Nocturnal include “Seduction” and “Where is My Mind?”

 

 


Media Files:
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Podcast 563: Valentine's Day 2017 - Hearts

Tue, 14 Feb 2017 11:00:00 +0000

OK, what's the most popular symbol of Valentine's Day?

Uh - Cupid?

Well....no. Try again.

Uh....a heart?

Bingo!

And so Podcast 563 is our annual Valentine's Day mixtape, and this year the theme is - hearts. Each song has "heart" in the title, and it's a pretty spiffy group of tunes if I do say so myself.

Feel free to download and burn this one to a CD for that last minute Valentine's Day gift for your sweetie. Forgot a gift? Problem solved. You're welcome.

Podcast 563 features:

 John Pizzarelli - "Oh How My Heart Beats for You"

Art Farmer & Tommy Flanagan - "My Heart Skips a Beat"

Bob Belden Ensemble - "Straight to My Heart"

Michael Franks - "Heart Like an Open Book"

Bob James - "I Feel a Song (in My Heart)"

Marquis Hill - "My Foolish Heart"

Keith Jarrett - "My Foolish Heart"

Sonny Clark  "With a Song in My Heart"

McCoy Tyner - "You Taught My Heart to Sing"

Stacey Kent - "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart"

Lester Young and Nat King Cole - "Peg O' My Heart"

Kenny Dorham - "My Heart Stood Still"

 


Media Files:
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Podcast 564: Remembering Al Jarreau (1940-2017)

Mon, 13 Feb 2017 11:00:00 +0000

Seven-time Grammy award winning singer Al Jarreau died on Sunday at his home in Los Angeles. He had recently been ill, and had cancelled his touring plans. Jarreau was 76 years old.

Jarreau is one of the few artists to have won Grammys in three separate categories — jazz, pop and R&B. He is ability to perform the most difficult vocalese stylings could easily slide into his more mainstream songs, making him the type of performer who attracts fans to jazz. He was one of the few jazz musicians to perform on the “We Are the World” single for Live Aid.

Jarreau earned a B.S. in Psychology and a Masters’ Degree in Vocational Rehabilitation, before moving to music full time in 1969. He quickly developed a strong following, following the likes of Jon Hendricks with his vocalese.  It was not until a 1976 performance on NBC’s Saturday Night Live, however that he broke through to a wider audience; releasing his hit album We Got By that next week. He recorded ten albums for Warner Brothers/Reprise, including the Grammy winning All Fly Home, Breakin’ Away and Heaven and Earth. His song “Moonlighting” was the theme for the popular television series starring Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis.

He had been in declining health since 2010, canceling shows due to respiratory illness and exhaustion. He had not recorded an album since 2014’s tribute to his long-time collaborator and friend George Duke, My Old Friend: Celebrating George Duke.

Podcast 564 is my tribute to Al, with almost an hour of his tunes, showing his R&B and jazz chops, and including:

“My Favorite Things”

“Let’s Stay Together”

“We’re in this Love Together”

“My Foolish Heart”

“Sophisticated Lady”

“Grandma’s Hands”

“Churchyheart (Backyard Ritual)”

“Take Five”

“Spain (I Can Recall)”

“Compared to What”

“Mornin’”

“Agua de Berber”

“Moonlighting”


Media Files:
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Podcast 562: A Conversation with Miguel Zenon

Fri, 10 Feb 2017 17:00:00 +0000

It’s always a pleasure to speak with saxophonist Miguel Zenón, a musician who has impeccable academic, bandstand and compositional credentials. One of an increasing number of jazz musicians who have been awarded a Guggenheim and MacArthur Fellowship, the latter more commonly known as the "Genius Grant”, Miguel’s music continues to grow and expand its horizons.

For example, his last CD, Identities are Changeable was the recorded version of multimedia presentation about the Puerto Rican immigrant community in the United States. All the music on the album was written around a series of interviews with several individuals, all of them New Yorkers of Puerto Rican descent. The narrative created by these conversations gave birth to all the compositions on the record, with audio excerpts from the interviews weaving in and out each piece, and then executed by an expanded ensemble. Nominated for a Grammy, it showed Zenón at his most innovative.

Tipico is a return to the quartet sound that first brought Miguel to the world’s attention. His long-time collaborators - Luis Perdomo (piano), Hans Glawischnig (bass) and Henry Cole (drums) - play a key part in the album, with Perdomo in particular supplying some stunning solos.

Zenón is on the road with the Quartet now, and will also be seen with the ever-entertaining SFJAZZ Collective soon. A founding member of the group, their repertory performances are focused on music associated with or inspired by Miles Davis for the Spring tour. A CD will be released shortly.

Podcast 562 is my conversation with Miguel, where we discuss how the new CD came to be, how the SFJAZZ Collective stays fresh, and how his continued philanthropic efforts in his native Puerto Rico, Caravana Cultural , is progressing. Musical selections from Tipico include “Academia”, “Sangre de mi Sangre” and “Entre las Raises”.

 


Media Files:
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Podcast 561: A Conversation with Troy Roberts

Thu, 09 Feb 2017 17:00:00 +0000

I first heard Troy Roberts when he appeared in auspicious company at the first International Jazz Day at the United Nations in New York in 2012. There shared the stage with the likes of Wayne Shorter, Richard Bona, Vinnie Colaiuta and Zakir Hussein and more than held his own.

Since then, the West Australia-born, saxophonist has won 3 consecutive DownBeat Jazz Soloist Awards, a Grammy Nomination medal, and become a regular member of both the Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts Quartet and Watts’ ‘Blue 5’, as well as a key part of Joey DeFrancesco’s new quartet, ‘The People’. His 7th record as a leader, Tales & Tones (Inner Circle Music) builds on his past two stellar releases, and matches him with his long-time collaborator Silvano Monasterios on piano, as well as the one-two punch from Wynton and Branford Marsalis bands, bassist Robert Hurst and drummer Watts.

Roberts is capable of playing any number of styles at a high level. His two albums with his Nu-Jive 5 showed he could hit classic R&B and soul sounds, and Tales & Tones comes across as something of a classic quartet album. Given his solid rhythm section, Troy wisely intersperses his solos – some of which, like on “Mr. Pinonoock,” are soaring and inspiring – with band play, and Monasterios’ restrained playing creates mood and color that Hurst and Watts bring out with their flourishes.  Not that Silvano can’t cook – check out the frenetic playing on “Boozy Bluesy” that ends the album.

Podcast 561 is my conversation with Troy Roberts, and we discuss how a nice boy from Perth got into jazz, how Tales & Tones came to be, and how he fits his own work in with the many sideman gigs he takes. Musical selections from Tales & Tones include "Pickapoppy", "Boozy Bluesy" and "Take the A Train".


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/straightnochaserjazz/Podcast_561_-_A_Conversation_with_Troy_Roberts.mp3?dest-id=15281




Podcast 560: A Conversation with Theo Bleckmann

Sat, 04 Feb 2017 17:00:00 +0000

Do we have a more diverse singer today than Theo Bleckmann?  The German born singer and composer’s recordings range from albums of Las Vegas standards, Weimar art songs, newly-arranged songs by Charles Ives (with jazz/rock collective Kneebody); and his acclaimed Hello Earth - the Music of Kate Bush.  You may also have heard Bleckmann on jazz recordings by Ambrose Akinmusire and Julia Hülsmann, but also with Meredith Monk, Laurie Anderson and Michael Tilson Thomas. Yet, he considers himself first and foremost a jazz singer.

His newly formed Elegy Quintet composed of Snai Maestro [piano], Chris Tordini [bass], John Hollenbeck [drums] and Ben Monder [guitar] has just their new CD, appropriately entitled Elegy. As with so many projects on the label, ECM label head and founder, Manfred Eicher, was the producer. In so many ways, Theo is the consummate ECM vocalist – he uses spacing with great dexterity, allowing silence and a slow turn of a phrase to be key components of his sound. Clearly, he is well suited for a label that advertises their music is “the most beautiful sound next to silence”. Whether turning Stephen Sondheim’s “Comedy Tonight” on its head or supplying wordless vocals for “Fields”, Bleckmann’s voice commands your attention at all times.

Podcast 560 is my conversation with Theo, where we discuss his early interest in music, how jazz compares to classical and pop music in his approach, and what it was like to record with the legendary Eicher on projects. Musical selections from Elegy include “Comedy Tonight”, the title track and “To Be Shown to Monks at a Certain Temple.”   


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/straightnochaserjazz/Podcast_560_-__A_Conversation_with_Theo_Bleckmann.mp3?dest-id=15281




Podcast 559: Noah Preminger Takes a Stand

Tue, 31 Jan 2017 16:00:00 +0000

With the release of Meditations on Freedom, Noah Preminger takes a stand against what he perceives as difficult, even dangerous times to be an artist, to say nothing of an American.  While it’s the third album featuring the tenor player’s current quartet - Jason Palmer (trumpet), Kim Cass (double-bass) and Ian Froman (drums) – it’s his first to take classic protest songs and mix them with his own compositions that reflect the tumultuous times in which we live.

It only took a few weeks from the project’s genesis – a political conversation with his friends and engineer Jimmy Katz – until the band had completed a series of urgent, one take tunes. Whether covering Bob Dylan, Sam Cooke or George Harrison, or his own topically titled work – “The 99 Percent,” “Women’s March,” “Mother Earth,” “Broken Treaties,” “We Have a Dream,”- there is great power, emotion, and even a little bit of hope in the album.

I talked with Noah way back in Podcast 380, and since then he has grown in stature and artistic spirit. Preminger’s previous albums Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground and Pivot: Live at the 55 Bar justly earned wide acclaim for their emotional intensity and individualist engagement with the blues. He followed those with a set showcasing his more intimate, romantic side with a collection of ballads, Some Other Time, released exclusively as a vinyl LP by Newvelle Records. He recorded this with a dream band featuring old collaborator Ben Monder, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Billy Hart.

Podcast 559 is my conversation with Noah, as we discuss the latest album, how he feels he can make a statement in the Trump era, and where his talents will lead him next. Musical selections include “The 99 Percent,” “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth,” and “Broken Treaties”.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/straightnochaserjazz/Podcast_559_-_Noah_Preminger_Takes_a_Stand.mp3?dest-id=15281




Podcast 558: A Conversation with Yotam Silberstein

Mon, 30 Jan 2017 17:00:00 +0000

Israel is producing some of the finest jazz musicians outside of the US these days. Israeli guitarists are particularly prolific, including artists like Roni Ben-Hur, Gilad Hekselman, Oren Neiman, and Tel-Aviv native Yotam Silberstein.

 

Silberstein is something of a prodigy, having picked up the guitar at ten, and having won the “Israeli Jazz Player of The Year” title by the age of 21. Since coming to New York in 2005 to study at the New School, he has been a finalist at the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Guitar Competition, and released albums under his own name and with others. His mentors included James Moody and Jimmy Heath, leading to gigs in their ensembles. Released under the name “Yotam,” his critically acclaimed releases Resonance and Brasil on the Jazz Legacy Productions label set the stage for his work with Monty Alexander’s Grammy-nominated Harlem-Kingston Express Live!

The Village represents a chance for Yotam to not only lead an exciting quartet, but also to produce the work. Using Kickstarter, he raised more than enough money to allow him to bring his friends Aaron Goldberg on piano, Reuben Rogers on bass, and Greg Hutchinson on drums. The result is full of the wonderful interplay between musicians we have come to love from Yotam. With eleven original compositions, those who loved the Blue Note guitar sounds of artists like Grant Green will find much to enjoy on this CD.

Podcast 558 is my conversation with Yotam as he describes the Kickstarter process, relates stories of the recording of The Village, and talks about his gigs with Monty Alexander and his upcoming appearance as part of John Patitucci’s Trio on the album Irmaos De Fe that will be out in February on Newvelle Records. Musical selections include "Nocturno", "Stav", anf "Changes" from The Village and "Compassion" from Harlem-Kingston Express Live!

 


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/straightnochaserjazz/Podcast_558_-_A_Conversation_with_Yotam_Silberstein.mp3?dest-id=15281




Podcast 557: A Conversation wtih Kendra Shank

Fri, 06 Jan 2017 17:00:00 +0000

Serendipity - the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way. No word can better describe the series of events that brought singer Kendra Shank and pianist Geoffrey Keezer together a few years back.

A cancelled flight prevented Ms. Shank's regular pianist, Frank Kimbrough, from making a West Coast gig. Learning Keezer was in town, and with just 30 minutes to spare before hitting the stage, the pair showed instant chemistry, and wowed the audience.

Fast forward to two January’s ago, and again Kendra needs a pianist, this time on the East Coast, and Keezer is in town playing a run of shows with Chris Botti. They played a duo performance in a friend's apartment, which fortunately was recorded and now is available as Half Moon (Ride Symbol recordings).

Kendra Shank has been a “musician’s singer” for year. Rather than just wrap herself around a classic tune, she uses her musical training on guitar, piano and percussion to drive her vocal interpretations. Her mentors include Bob Dorough, Shirley Horn, and especially, Abbey Lincoln. Since 2000 she has lead a working quartet of first call musicians, including pianist Kimbrough, bassist Dean Johnson, and drummer Tony Moreno. Their three recordings – sometimes supplemented by guitarist Ben Monder and reedman Billy Drewes - and have mixed Kendra originals and classic tunes, bridging the Great American Songbook with the Singer-Songwriter oeuvre of the Sixties and Seventies (Ms. Shank herself began as a folk singer-guitarist in Seattle).

Half Moon gives listeners a chance to experience Kendra in an intimate setting, highlighting not only her vocal prowess, but her musicality, as she improvises with Keezer on standards like “Alone Together” and newer tunes like Jeremy Siskind’s “Kneel”.  Her wordless vocals on Cedar Walton’s “Life’s Mosaic” shows she can match anyone on the scene today in her ability to wring nuance and emotion from a jazz tune.

Podcast 557 iis my conversation with Kendra Shank, as we discuss her background, her approach to tunes, and why she and Geoffrey Keezer have developed such great rapport. Musical selections from Half Moon include the title track, “Healing Song”, “Kneel” and “When Love Was You and Me”, the last of which comes from a chart written by Abbey Lincoln. The medley “Reflections in Blue/Blue Skies” comes from her 2008 album Mosaic, with her quartet, Drewes and Monder. 

Kendra Shank and Geoffrey Keezer will perform two sets at Mezzrow in New York City on Monday January 9, 2017, at 8:00 and 9:30.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/straightnochaserjazz/Podcast_557-_-_A_Conversation_with_Kendra_Shank.mp3?dest-id=15281




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

Sat, 31 Dec 2016 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 Official 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 Pulitzer 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 Nancy Wilson. Check back to previous year's New Year's Eve postings for other renditions.

A happy and healthy New Year to one and all. 2017 HAS to be a better year than 2016, right?




Podcast 556: A Few of My Favorite Things 2016

Tue, 27 Dec 2016 17:00:00 +0000

You’ve been reading the “best of” lists for the past few weeks in the press and online, but here at Straight No Chaser we take a slightly different approach to list making. Rather than presume to match artist against artist, album against album, we try to give you a list of those 2016 releases that made the greatest impression or were in the heaviest rotation throughout the year. I created five different categories within which to share my favorite things with you. It seems only fair that the work of a new artist – say the Hot Sardines – should not be matched up against that of an experienced veteran like Fred Hersch for purposes of comparison. And given that 2016 was the Year of the Resonance label treasure trove of unreleased recordings from the likes of Bill Evans, Larry Young and Sarah Vaughan, how can those masters of the genre be compared with the genre-busting work of Donny McCaslin and Theo Croker? So, here are a few of my favorite things from 2016: Great New Things from Old Friends Avishai Cohen – Into the Silence Herlin Riley – New Direction Warren Wolf – Convergence Donny McCaslin – Beyond Now Fred Hersch Trio – Sunday Night at the Vanguard  New Artists and Those Hitting Their Stride Theo Croker – Escape Velocity Julian Lage – Arclight The Hot Sardines – French Fries and Champagne Daniel Freedman – Imagine That Marquis Hill – The Way We Play  Memorable Reissues, Compilations, and Posthumous or Archival Albums Larry Young – Larry Young in Paris: The Ortf Recordings Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra – All My Yesterdays Sarah Vaughn – Live at Rosy’s Bill Evans – Some Other Time: The Lost Session from the Black Forest Erroll Garner – Ready Take One  Tribute Albums of Note Miles Davis & Robert Glasper - Everything’s Beautiful John Beasley – MONKestra, Volume One Dave Stryker – Eight Tracks II Catherine Russell – Harlem on My Mind Brian Lynch - Presents Madera Latino: A Latin Jazz Interpretation On The Music Of Woody Shaw Reunions and Collaborations of Note Jack DeJohnette/Ravi Coltrane/Matt Garrison – Movement Dave Holland/Chris Potter/Lionel Loeuke/Eric Harland – Aziza Phil Woods and Greg Abate – Kindred Spirits Ron Carter and Vitoria Maldonado – Brasil L.I.K.E. Branford Marsalis Quartet & Kurt Elling – The Upward Spiral I traditionally chose a "Most Valuable Player", meaning someone who has either appeared on multiple albums or released multiple works that show their abilities as leader, sideman, composer or arranger. This year the "MVP" is Wadada Leo Smith, for his outstanding collaboration with Vijay Iyer, A Cosmic Rhythm With Each Stroke, both as a recording and for the great live performances they gave together, and for Smith's sweeping jazz work America's National Parks, with his Golden Gate Quartet. Jazz finishes 2016 in surprisingly good shape. Jazz was in the movie theatres more than ever, with documentaries on John Coltrane and Rahsaan Roland Kirk in the art houses, and with fictional films based on the lives of Miles Davis and Chet Baker at the multiplex.  David Bowie’s final album, while not a jazz release, brought the Donny McCaslin Group in as a perfect[...]


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/straightnochaserjazz/Podcast_556_-_A_Few_of_My_Favorite_Things_2016.mp3?dest-id=15281




Noted in Passing 2016

Mon, 26 Dec 2016 18:51:57 +0000

2016 has been the most devastating of years in recent memory, and not just because of the horrendous results of the October US elections. More great musicians have passed away this year than I have ever recalled, and their loss is felt daily in my life. Our annual Noted in Passing feature is far too long. In a category beyond jazz - indeed beyond popular music itself – were the losses of Prince and David Bowie, Maurice White and Sir George Martin. I honor their memories still, and you can listen to tribute Podcasts where highlighted. Also gone in 2016 were pianist Paul Bley; trumpeter Alfredo "Chocolate" Armenteros; organist Alan Haven; Tower of Power’s trumpeter and founder Mic Gillette; pianist Bryce Rohde; saxophonist Harald Devold; trumpeter John Chilton; bandleader Joe Cabot; arranger Claus Ogerman; percussionist Naná Vasconcelos; drummerJoe Ascione; trumpeter Sidney Mear; singer Roger Cicero; and symphonic jazz composer David Baker. Also, producing legend Rudy Van Gelder; trumpeter Joe Shepley; singer Don Francks; saxophonist Getatchew Mekurya; saxophonist and educator Pete Yellin; guitarist Doug Raney; trombonist Buster Cooper; trumpeter Paul Smoker; drummer Randy Jones; pianist Willy Andresen; keyboardist Bernie Worrell; bandleader Mike Pedicin; saxophonist Charles Davis; guitarist Roland Prince; bassist Dominic Duval; and saxophonist Allan Barnes (BlackByrds). Also bassist Bob Cranshaw (pictured); pianists Don Friedman, Derek Smith,  and Connie Crothers; vibes master Bobby Hutcherson; guitarist Louis Stewart; harmonica legend TootsThielemans; pianist Karel Růžička; trumpeter Mike Daniels; pianist and singer Mose Allison; singer Shirley Bunnie Foy; saxophonist Gato Barbieri; singer Natalie Cole and drummer Joe Harris. Outside of jazz, individuals whose lives had impacted mine in some way or another include boxer Muhammad Ali; hockey player Gordie Howe;  newscaster Morley Safer; poet-composer-singer Leonard Cohen,  soul men Billy Paul and Mack Rice; rockers Scotty Moore; Rob Wasserman; Greg Lake; Paul Kantner; Leon Russell; Keith Emerson; Dan Hicks; George Michael; and Glenn Frey; country singers Merle Haggard and Guy Clark; conductor Neville Marriner; NPR broadcast Craig Windham; sportscasters Jim Simpson, Craig Sager and Joe Garagiola; actors Gene Wilder; Alan Rickman, Patty Duke, Fyvish Finkel; Florence Henderson; and Kenny Baker (R2D2); singer Marnie Nixon, the dubbed-in voice of great movie musicals; basketball coach Pat Summitt and point guard Dwayne “Pearl” Washington; Golfer Arnold Palmer; writers Michael Herr; Harper Lee; Pat Conroy; Umberto Eco and Elie Wiesel; and playwright Edward Albee. Perhaps most deeply felt was the loss of my father-in-law Alfred Dellapenna, who would regale me with stories of seeing the original big bands in western Massachusetts dance halls. He will be greatly missed by all who knew “Big Al”..[...]



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

Sun, 25 Dec 2016 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 prevalent this time of year, and so the Official Straight No Chaser song of Christmas Day is "Peace" written by Horace Silver, and sung by Norah Jones. This year we have a new version recorded by Norah from her latest CD, Day Breaks, which marked her return to creating a jazz sound. Avideo of Norah playing "Peace" cab ne found here.

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 fifty-one 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.




Repost: For Dreidl Spinners Everywhere

Sat, 24 Dec 2016 20:00:00 +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.




The Official Straight No Chaser Song of Christmas Eve

Sat, 24 Dec 2016 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....




The Jazzbo 'Twas the Night Before Christmas

Fri, 23 Dec 2016 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 middle
That 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 touch
Soon 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 555: A Very Jazzy Xmas - The Secular Mix

Fri, 16 Dec 2016 17:00:00 +0000

For years, I’ve combed through album after album of Christmas songs to bring you podcasts of both beloved and fresh jazz for the holiday. One thing I have noticed during the course of my investigations is the number of tunes that seem to have absolutely nothing to do with the Christmas holiday. So many of the most included tunes on Christmas jazz albums – I’m looking at you “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” – are seasonal in nature. They celebrate the winter cold, whether frolicking outside or cuddling inside before a fire. Others take pop songs with appropriate themes - "Get Here" certainly fits the "I'll Be Home for Christmas" mood; "My Favorite Things" - gift giving and receiving. Some artists just choose downright odd selections on their holiday albums. I can see Chet Baker selecting the gospel "Amen", but how did Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" end up on a Chris Botti CD? Or "Scarborough Fair" on Al DiMeola's? Therefore, Podcast 555 is the first of two “Very Jazzy Xmas” podcasts. This one is “The Secular Mix”, and only contains songs that have been included on Christmas albums, but have no mention of Santa, the Nativity, Mistletoe or anything else that smacks of Christmas.   Not that there’s anything wrong with that.   Musical selections include:   Jimmy Smith – “Jingle Bells” Harry Connick Jr – “Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow” Dave Koz - "Get Here" Norman Brown – “Skating” Shirley Horn – “Winter Wonderland" Chris Bauer- "My Favorite Things" Diana Krall - "Sleigh Ride" Jo Stafford – “Moonlight in Vermont” Ray Charles and Betty Carter - "Baby, It’s Cold Outside" Ramsey Lewis Trio -“Snowfall” Michael Franks – “Watching the Snow” Billie Holiday – “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm " Al DiMeola - "Midwinter Nights" Rosemary Clooney – “Suzy Snowflake”[...]


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/straightnochaserjazz/Podcast_555_-_A_Very_Jazzy_Xmas_-_The_Secular_Mix.mp3?dest-id=15281




Podcast 554: A Conversation with Fabian Almazan

Thu, 15 Dec 2016 17:00:00 +0000

Fabian Almazan won the 2014 Downbeat Critics Poll for Rising Star Pianist, and has worked steadily as a core member of Terence Blanchard’s groups since 2007. Born in Cuba, he began playing classical piano at an early ag4e, but when he and his family fled Cuba, he found himself exposed to new and different music as well. A product of the Brubeck Institute and Manhattan School of Music; Fabian has been mentored by the likes of Kenny Barron and Jason Moran.

His two CDs as a leader – Personalities and Rhizome – point to a growing interest in harmonic invention and an intriguing integration of Latin rhythms and more avant-piano sounds. The latter album even added a string quartet to the piano-based band.  Carefully taking control of his musical output, Almazan has announced the creation of Biophilia Records as an outlet for his work, and those of meaningful, imaginative musicians.

“Biophilia” means “love of living things”, and label has a distinctly environmental approach to its packaging and distribution. Their artists collaborate with organizations that specialize in conservation, sustainability and outreach initiatives, regularly volunteering in community events. The first release from the label will come in December. from the Awakening Orchestra, with interlude: Atticus Live! - the music of Jesse Lewis.

Podcast 554 is my conversation with Fabian, as we discuss the Rhizome Project, his goals for Biophilia, and what it’s like to hold down the piano chair in Terence Blanchard’s band. Musical selections include "The Adventures of Dirt McGillicudy" from the Awakening Orchestra release: "Hugs (Historically Underrepresented Groups)", an Almazan composition on the Terence Blanchard album Choices; and "Take Off" from the Blanchard composed soundtrack of Red Tails.


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/straightnochaserjazz/Podcast_554_-_A_Conversation_with_Fabian_Almazar.mp3?dest-id=15281




Podcast 553: A Conversation with Patrick Zimmerli

Mon, 12 Dec 2016 19:19:04 +0000

It was almost twenty-five years ago that saxophonist-composer Patrick Zimmerli recorded six original compositions in sessions that were eventually shelved. He met that day with a few of his musical peers and friends, who today are recognized as some of the most exciting and in-demand players in the jazz world – pianist Kevin Hays, bassist Larry Grenadier, percussionist Satoshi Takeishi, and drummer Tom Rainey. After Zimmerli was pestered for years to release the performances, Shores Against Silence finally saw the light of day this month.

The album is a fine example of what Zimmerli brings to his compositions, arrangements and performances – an integration of contemporary classical compositional techniques with modern jazz execution. Whether you are listing to Shores Against Silence, or his recent performance of “Clockworks” backed by pianist Ethan Iverson of the Bad Plus , bassist Chris Tordini  and percussionist John Hollenbeck, or his collaborations with Brad Mehldau or Joshua Redman, the listener is hearing challenging yet engaging and welcoming music.

Patrick came onto the national  jazz scene during the fabled 1993 Thelonious Monk competition, when “The Paw”, which opens Shores Against Silence, took top composition honors. Zimmerli was a finalist in the saxophone competition that year, when Joshua Redman and Chris Potter finished first and second. Since then, his reputation as composer and arranger has steadily grown, and he even had the chance to curate of the IN/TER\SECT Festival at Bryant Park this past summer.

Podcast 556 is my conversation with Patrick, as he tells the tale of Shores Against Silence, as well as relates playing with the likes of Ben Monder and Joshua Redman. Musical selections include “The Paw”, "Athena" and "Three Dreams of Repose."

 

 

 


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/straightnochaserjazz/Podcast_553_-_A_Conversation_with_Patrick_Zimmeril.mp3?dest-id=15281




Congratulations to the Jazz Grammy Nominees

Wed, 07 Dec 2016 17:00:00 +0000

Congratulations to the artists who have received Grammy Award nominations in categories that feature jazz musicians:  Best improvised jazz solo “Countdown” — Joey Alexander, soloist “In Movement” — Ravi Coltrane, soloist “We See” — Fred Hersch, soloist “I Concentrate On You” — Brad Mehldau, soloist “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” — John Scofield, soloist  Best jazz vocal album “Sound of Red” — René Marie “Upward Spiral” — Branford Marsalis Quartet With Special Guest Kurt Elling “Take Me to the Alley” — Gregory Porter “Harlem On My Mind” — Catherine Russell “The Sting Variations” — The Tierney Sutton Band  Best jazz instrumental album “Book of Intuition” — Kenny Barron Trio “Dr. Um” — Peter Erskine “Sunday Night at the Vanguard” — The Fred Hersch Trio “Nearness” — Joshua Redman & Brad Mehldau “Country For Old Men” — John Scofield  Best large jazz ensemble album “Real Enemies” — Darcy James Argue's Secret Society “Presents Monk'estra, Vol. 1” — John Beasley “Kaleidoscope Eyes: Music of the Beatles” — John Daversa “All L.A. Band” — Bob Mintzer “Presidential Suite: Eight Variations On Freedom” — Ted Nash Big Band  Best Latin jazz album “Entre Colegas” — Andy González “Madera Latino: A Latin Jazz Perspective on the Music of Woody Shaw” — Brian Lynch & Various Artists “Canto América” — Michael Spiro/Wayne Wallace La Orquesta Sinfonietta “30” — Trio Da Paz “Tribute to Irakere: Live In Marciac” — Chucho Valdés  Best Contemporary Instrumental Album: “Human Nature” — Herb Alpert “When You Wish Upon A Star” — Bill Frisell “Way Back Home Live From Rochester, NY” — Steve Gadd Band “Unspoken” — Chuck Loeb “Culcha Vulcha” — Snarky Puppy Nominees in other categories of interest include: Best instrumental composition -  “Spoken at Midnight" — Ted Nash, composer Best compilation soundtrack for visual media  “Miles Ahead" (Miles Davis & Various Artists) Best arrangement, instrumental or a cappella “Ask Me Now” — John Beasley, arranger "Good Swing Wenceslas" — Sammy Nestico, arranger "Linus & Lucy" — Christian Jacob, arranger “Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds" — John Daversa, arranger "We Three Kings” — Ted Nash, arranger “You And I" — Jacob Collier, arranger Best arrangement, instruments and vocals “Do You Hear What I Hear?” — Gordon Goodwin, arranger (Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band Featuring Take 6) “Do You Want To Know a Secret” — John Daversa, arranger (John Daversa Featuring Renee Olstead) “Flintstones” — Jacob Collier, arranger (Jacob Collier) “I'm a Fool to Want You” — Alan Broadbent, arranger (Kristin Chenoweth) “Somewhere (Dirty Blvd)” (Extended Version) — Billy Childs & Larry Klein, arrangers (Lang Lang Featuring Lisa Fischer & [...]



Podcast 552: A Conversation with Matt Slocum

Mon, 14 Nov 2016 17:00:00 +0000

Matt Slocum’s Black Elk’s Dream was one of the best jazz CDs of 2014. Backed by musicians like Dayna Stephens, Gerald Clayton and Water Smith III, drummer Slocum presented a concept album inspired by the visionary Native American leader Black Elk and the book Black Elk Speaks. The music, whether original or deftly chosen covers, was orchestral in its feel, and packed a punch, either through mixed meters, interesting harmonies or the dynamic solos of the saxophones.

With Trio Pacific, Volume 1, Slocum now moves to a stripped down sound, and manages to stand the historical concept of the jazz trio on its head by performing as a drummer, sax (Stephens again) and guitar (Steve Cardenas) threesome. The result is shimmering, subtle and often beautiful music, and proof the Slocum is well on his way to being one of our finest leaders.

Born in St. Paul, Minnesota and raised in western Wisconsin, Slocum began musical studies on piano before switching to percussion at age 11. While in high school he was introduced to jazz through recordings featuring Max Roach and Philly Joe Jones. He received a full scholarship to attend the University of Southern California where he studied with the great Peter Erskine. Moving to New York a few years later, Slocum has performed and recorded as a leader on four CDs, while serving s sideman for the likes of Seamus Blake, Alan Broadbent, Wynton Marsalis, Linda Oh, Anthony Wilson, Sam Yahel and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.

Podcast 552 is my conversation with Matt, as we talk about the way Trio Pacific came together, how the lack of preparation led to exciting discoveries in the studio, and what he learned from his time with Peter Erskine. Musical selections from Trio Pacific, Volume 1 include “Passaic”, “I Can’t Believe You’re in Love With Me” and “For Alin”, a song dedicated to his wife.


Media Files:
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Podcast 551: A Conversation with Scott Morgan

Sun, 13 Nov 2016 22:37:30 +0000

Scott Morgan has been around the New York jazz scene for more than a decade, but Songs of Life is his debut CD as a leader. After a few listens, the obvious question is:

Man, what took you so long?

Morgan has a warm, engaging tenor, and his phrasing rivets the listener to the lyrics he is singing, creating a wonderful intimacy. His band – pianist Fred Hersch, bassist Matt Aronoff, tenor saxman Joel Frahm, and drummer Ross Pederson – plays in a sensitive, yet solid, manner, allowing his to ring every drop of emotion he wants from the album’s13 well-chosen tunes.

Morgan treats songs from the Pop/Rock era with the same respect as those from Broadway, finding new ways to interpret songs by James Taylor and the Beatles that let them stand up with the Great American Songbook. His lyrics to Hersch’s “Mandevilla” allow the Brazilian flavor of the song to seep through with sensitivity and soul. His duet with Janis Siegel, “I’ll Follow” is an emotional highlight.

Podcast 551 is my conversation with Scott, as we discuss the CD, how he selects his material, and what songs he thought might work on Songs of Life, but ended up dropping. His story of how “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly” came to be melded with the late Dave Catney's "Little Prayer" in a memorable performance is both heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. Musical selections from Songs of Life include that medley, Kurt Weill’s  “Lost in the Stars”, “I’ll Follow”, and Lennon and McCartney’s “I Will.”

Scott Morgan will play two matinee sets at the Blue Note in New York on November 20th, 2016 at 11:30 am and 1:30 pm.


Media Files:
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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:
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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:
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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, [...]


Media Files:
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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-Mak[...]


Media Files:
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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:
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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:
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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:
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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:
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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 an[...]


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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:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/straightnochaserjazz/Podcast_541_-_A_Conversation_with_The_Hot_Sardines.mp3?dest-id=15281




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 r[...]



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").


Media Files:
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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 Nonfics.com. 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 53[...]


Media Files:
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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"

 


Media Files:
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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".


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/straightnochaserjazz/Podcast_536_-_A_Conversation_with_Dominck_Farinacci.mp3?dest-id=15281




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, [...]


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/straightnochaserjazz/Podcast_535_-_A_Conversation_with_Mac_Gollehon.mp3?dest-id=15281




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 perhap[...]


Media Files:
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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).


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/straightnochaserjazz/Podcast_532_Pt_2_-_A_Conversation_with_Brian_Bromberg.mp3?dest-id=15281




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 Braz[...]


Media Files:
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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,


Media Files:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/straightnochaserjazz/Podcast_532_Pt_1_-_A_Conversation_with_Brian_Bromberg.mp3?dest-id=15281




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 releas[...]


Media Files:
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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” Her[...]


Media Files:
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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.  [...]


Media Files:
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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[...]


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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 Younge[...]


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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 w[...]



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 D[...]


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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 ofInfoplease.com: The history of Valentine's Day is obscure, and further clouded by various fanciful legends. The holiday's roots are in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, a fertility celebration commemorated annually on February 15. Pope Gelasius I recast this pagan festival as a Christian feast day circa 496, declaring February 14 to be St. Valentine's Day. Which St. Valentine this early pope intended to honor remains a mystery: according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, there were at least three early Christian saints by that name. Most scholars believe that the St. Valentine of the holiday was a priest who attracted the disfavor of Roman emperor Claudius II around 270. At this stage, the factual ends and the mythic begins. According to one legend, Claudius II had prohibited marriage for young men, claiming that bachelors made better soldiers. Valentine continued to secretly perform marriage ceremonies but was eventually apprehended by the Romans and put to death. Another legend has it that Valentine, imprisoned by Claudius, fell in love with the daughter of his jailer. Before he was executed, he allegedly sent her a letter signed "from your Valentine." Probably the most plausible story surrounding St. Valentine is one not focused on “Eros” (passionate love) but on “agape” (Christian love): he was martyred for refusing to renounce his religion. In 1969, the Catholic Church revised its liturgical calendar, removing the feast days of saints whose historical origins were questionable. St. Valentine was one of the casualties. It was not until the 14th century that this Christian feast day became definitively associated with love. According to UCLA medieval scholar Henry Ansgar Kelly, author of Chaucer and th[...]


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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 1[...]


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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"[...]


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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 po[...]


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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 compositi[...]



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 – “Mo[...]


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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. Mu[...]


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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 mo[...]


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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.[...]



"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).  Perhaps no time in recent memory is it more necessary for all Americans to consider Dr. King's legacy, and state of race relations in the United States than today. “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., and for a 2014 Podcast, click[...]



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 Amazon.com 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 Wea[...]


Media Files:
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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 sax[...]


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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 [...]



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 Bla[...]



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 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, football games on TV, 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?