November 29, 2010

Jazz News: New Documentary for Dave Brubeck's 90th Birthday

Dave Brubeck: In His Own Sweet Way will air on Turner Classic Movies on Brubeck's birthday, December 6 - as reported in the Chicago Tribune...
‘In His Own Sweet Way’: Celebrating Dave Brubeck’s 90 Years - on Film
By Howard Reich 

Dave Brubeck will turn 90 next Monday, and of all the tributes sure to flow his way, one of the most endearing will be public: the broadcast of an ambitious documentary film on his remarkably enduring career. More...

November 28, 2010

Jaleel Shaw - "Bemsha Swing" (2008)

Jaleel Shaw on saxophone, with Chris Lomhiem on piano, Billy Peterson on bass, and Kenny Horst on drums.
Note: I had the pleasure of hearing Jaleel Shaw in person recently with Roy Haynes at the SFJAZZ Festival (my review). Terrific young player.

November 25, 2010

This Week in Jazz History: November 25 to December 1

November 25
  • Cornetist Nat Adderley born 1931 in Tampa, FL.
  • Alto saxophonist Paul Desmond born 1924 in San Francisco, CA.
  • Pianist/composer Willie “The Lion” Smith born 1897 in Goshen, NY.
November 26
  • Duke Ellington records “I’m Just A Lucky So-and-So,” 1945.
  • Charlie Parker records “KoKo” at his first session as a leader, 1945.
  • Louis Armstrong records “After You’ve Gone,” 1929.
November 27
  • Bandleader/composer Maria Schneider born 1960 in Windom, MN.
  • Violinist Eddie South born 1904 in Louisiana, MO.
  • Pianist Jacky Terrasson born 1966 in Berlin, Germany.
November 28
  • Drummer George Wettling born 1907 in Topeka, KS.
  • Tenor saxophonist Lester Young records The President Plays with Oscar Peterson, 1952.
  • Saxophonist/composer Gigi Gryce born 1927 in Pensacola, FL.
November 29
  • Drummer Adam Nussbaum born 1955 in New York, NY.
  • Trumpeter Lee Morgan records The Rajah, with tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley and pianist Cedar Walton, 1966.
  • Composer/pianist Billy Strayhorn born 1915 in Dayton, OH.
November 30
  • Trumpeter Jack Sheldon born 1931 in Jacksonville, FL.
  • Louis Armstrong records Satchmo at Symphony Hall with drummer Big Sid Catlett and trombonist Jack Teagarden, 1947.
  • Bunny Berigan records Bix Beiderbecke’s “In A Mist,” 1938.
December 1
  • Saxophonist Jimmy Lyons born 1933 in Jersey City, NJ.
  • Bassist/composer Jaco Pastorius born 1951 in Norristown, PA, and records The Birthday Concert, 1981.
  • Tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin records Five Birds and a Monk with pianist Stanley Cowell, 1978.
Source: Smithsonian Jazz

November 23, 2010

Jazz News: The Bird's Old Roost

A New York Times piece on Charlie Parker's old apartment...

Where a Bird Played Sax, Now Others Find Refuge
By Corey Kilgannon

There are two signs in front of 151 Avenue B, a row house in the East Village facing Tompkins Square Park. One is a bronze plaque identifying the building as a former home of the jazz legend Charlie Parker, who lived in the ground-floor apartment from 1950 to 1954. More...

November 21, 2010

Jazz News: Brubeck Back in Action

Dave Brubeck is back in action after cardiac surgery, as noted in this story from the Worcester, Massachusetts Telegram-Gazette:

Brubeck Makes Up-Tempo Return
Ticker repaired, pianist keeps beat
By Peter Landsdowne

WORCESTER — Joined by alto saxophonist and flutist Bobby Militello, bassist Chris Smith and drummer Cody Cox, perennially popular pianist Dave Brubeck kicked off the 16th annual Mass Jazz Festival Friday night with a dynamic concert at Mechanics Hall that served as part of Music Worcester Inc.’s 151st Worcester Music Festival. More...

Happy Birthday, Coleman Hawkins!

Coleman Hawkins Quintet playing "Centerpiece," filmed in London, 1964. Coleman Hawkins on tenor sax, Harry "Sweets" Edison on trumpet, "Sir" Charles Thompson on piano, Jimmy Woode on bass, and Jo Jones on drums.

November 20, 2010

Jazz Poetry - “Eleven”

Eleven by Sterling D. Plumpp

There ain’t/No word
I ain’t/Heard.
ain’t/No word
Bird/Ain’t heard.

Language is an/Inventor’s

I/Blow psalms.
I/Blow sinner’s deeds.
I/Blow prayer before death.
I/Blow curses.
I/Blow laughter.
I/Blow vocabulary of my axe.

You can’t/Hold
folks/Down who Be-Bop
but you/Kin hold

Every Be-Bopper/Renew
to/Genius when he riff some
thing/New on his axe.

--From Velvet Bebop Kente Cloth (Third World Press, 2003)

Note: Sterling Plumpp was born in 1940 in Clinton, Mississippi. He grew up poor, working in cotton fields and corn fields by the age of eleven and prepared for the life of a field hand. But an aunt of his, who happened to be a bootlegger, had bigger plans and paid for him to attend school in Jackson. He earned a scholarship to a local college, but when the money ran out, he hitchhiked to Chicago and began writing poetry. He graduated from Roosevelt University in Chicago, had his first poems published, and began teaching English at the University of Illinois, Chicago (UIC). His poetry often includes the rhythms of jazz (as does “Eleven”) and especially the blues. In a recent interview, Plumpp said that “bebop becomes the moment when people find their voices in some kind of collective process of innovation” - something that might apply equally to jazz (or poetry) as a whole. He has won numerous literary prizes for his twelve volumes of writing. Plumpp retired from UIC in 2001.

November 18, 2010

This Week in Jazz History: November 18 to November 24

November 18
  • Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra records Hoagy Carmichael’s “Washboard Blues,” 1927.
  • Trumpeter/multi-instrumentalist Don Cherry born 1936 in Oklahoma City, OK.
  • Tenor saxophonist John Coltrane records “Alabama,” 1963, in reaction to the church bombings in that state that killed four girls.
November 19
  • Drummer/bandleader Chick Webb records “Don’t Be That Way,” 1934.
  • Trombonist/bandleader Tommy Dorsey born 1905 in Shenandoah, PA.
  • Pianist Teddy Wilson records “Pennies From Heaven” with vocalist Billie Holiday and clarinetist Benny Goodman, 1936.
November 20
  • Trumpeter Miles Davis records arranger Gil Evans’ version of “Concierto de Aranjuez,” 1959.
  • Tenor saxophonist Don Braden born 1963 in Cincinnati, OH.
  • Guitarist Skeeter Best born 1914 in Kinston, NC.
November 21
  • Pianist Geoff Keezer born 1970 in Eau Claire, WI.
  • Xylphonist/composer Red Norvo records “Dance of the Octopus,” 1933, with Benny Goodman on bass clarinet.
  • Tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins born 1904 in St. Joseph, MO.
November 22
  • Pianist/arranger Horace Henderson born 1904 in Cuthbert, GA.
  • Trombonist /arranger/composer Jimmy Knepper born 1927 in Los Angeles, CA.
  • Composer/author/conductor Gunther Schuller born 1925 in Jackson Heights, NY.
November 23
  • Bassist/composer Ray Drummond born 1946 in Brookline, MS.
  • Composer Johnny Mandel born 1925 in New York, NY.
  • Drummer Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers record At the Café Bohemia, with trumpeter Kenny Dorham, tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley, and pianist Horace Silver, 1955.
November 24
  • Vocalist Bessie Smith makes her last recordings, including “Give Me A Pigfoot,” 1933.
  • Organist/arranger Will Bill Davis born 1918 in Glasgow, MO.
  • Saxophonist/composer/arranger Al Cohn born 1925 in New York, NY.
Source: Smithsonian Jazz

November 17, 2010

Shorty Rogers - "Martians Go Home" (1962)

Shorty Rogers on flugelhorn, with Lou Levy on piano, Gary Lefebvre on flute, Gary Peacock on bass, and Larry Bunker on drums.
Note: When the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first artificial satellite to orbit the earth, on October 4, 1957, the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union was officially on. This became a national obsession for the next decade, culminating with the United States landing men on the moon in 1969. Jazz artists responded to the zeitgeist by producing songs and albums with space-related names. Generally, as in this case with "Martians Go Home," the music wasn't other-worldly at all and was merely given the name as a novelty.

November 16, 2010

A Look at Mingus the Composer

Charles Mingus: Triumph of the UnderdogCharles Mingus: Triumph of the Underdog (1997) is a fascinating look at the life and legacy of bassist Charles Mingus. It combines concert footage, interviews with fellow musicians and family, and bits of a noirish documentary of Mingus made in the late 1960s. It was directed by Don McGlynn and co-produced by the composer’s widow, Sue Mingus.
     The film is hardly a complete portrait, however. It barely touches on Mingus’s troubled early life. For his own take on this - growing up in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles as a mixed-race child whose mother died when he was very young and whose father was abusive - I recommend his autobiography, Beneath the Underdog, which is told partly in stream-of-consciousness quotations and partly in a curious, disembodied third-person point of view. The fractured perspective is disconcerting, but one gets the feeling throughout that Mingus, rather than falling apart, is putting the pieces of his life together. Unfortunately, insights into his musical thinking are few and far between. While one must certainly view his sexual braggadocio in the book with a prophylactic skepticism, Mingus emerges as an intelligent and sympathetic character, someone who had to overcome a great deal to become a great musician.
     In many ways, the film picks up where the book left off. The point it attempts to make is that Mingus should be ranked among the great American composers, and the evidence it presents is pretty convincing. Throughout his career, Mingus had an amazing ability to incorporate ideas and musical influences (classical included) into his own complex tunes. The concert/television footage in the film, from the 1950s to the 1970s, provides tantalizing glimpses, although one wishes that more extensive cuts had been used. None of his songs are heard in totality. Interviewees include his wives Sue and Celia Mingus, musicologist Gunther Schuller, and musicians John Handy, Eddie Bert, Wynton Marsalis, and Randy Brecker.
     His difficult personality is also on display. Mingus was a volatile personality, who could be extremely articulate on almost any topic, a lover and sentimentalist, or a raging and angry man. In one scene, we see him being literally run out of his New York City apartment in the mid 1960s and taken away in a police cruiser. There are also snippets of a documentary (made in 1968 by Thomas Reichman) in which the camera follows Mingus from behind (a la Samuel Beckett’s Film), and he appears as an ominous and shadowy figure wandering down trash-filled streets in the dark of night. I’m not sure what the point of this was, although I have to admit it was evocative.
     Finally, at the end of the film, Mingus’s music gets a little airing out with extended excerpts from “Epitaph,” his posthumous magnum opus. This two-hour orchestral piece was discovered after Mingus’s death from ALS in 1979 and first performed in 1989.
     Although somewhat scattered in its approach to Mingus (who was scattered himself), Triumph of the Underdog is definitely worth viewing for its insights into this troubled genius.

See also: Charles Mingus - "So Long, Eric" (1964) 

November 13, 2010

Happy Birthday, Hampton Hawes!

Hard bop pianist Hampton Hawes was born in Los Angeles on this date in 1928. His father was a Presbyterian preacher and his mother was the church’s pianist. His interest in piano may have first begun as a toddler as he listened to his mother rehearsing, and he was already plunking out tunes by the age of three.
     When he was only in his teens in the 1940s, Hawes was playing with the likes of Wardell Gray, Dexter Gordon, Shorty Rogers, and other musicians active on the West coast. At age 19, he spent eight months with the Howard McGhee Quintet, which included Charlie Parker.
Trio 1     After serving in the Army in Japan from 1953 to 1954, Hawes formed his own group and hit the recording studios. His trio sessions from 1955 (Hampton Hawes Trio Vol. 1 - The Trio, This is Hampton Hawes Vol. 2 - The Trio, and Everybody Likes Hampton Hawes Vol. 3 - The Trio), with Red Mitchell on bass and Chuck Thompson on drums, are spectacular. His speed, rhythm, and innovative harmonies are all on full display. (Just listen to this fantastic version of “All the Things You Are.”) The All Night Session (three volumes) with guitarist Jim Hall, recorded as the name suggests in the course of a single overnight session, are also top notch, with Hawes incorporating elements of gospel and classical music into his brisk and bluesy pianism.
     In 1956, Hawes won the “New Star of the Year” award from Down Beat magazine. He had struggled with heroin addiction for many years and it finally caught up with him in 1958: he was arrested (on his birthday!) for selling heroin to an undercover cop. Hawes refused to squeal on other dealers and was given a ten-year sentence in a federal prison hospital, twice the minimum sentence.
     Here’s where things get strange. While in prison, Hawes watched the inaugural speech of President John F. Kennedy and immediately felt that Kennedy would give him a pardon. And in 1963, against all odds, the President granted Executive Clemency to Hawes.
     He continued playing, touring, and recording after his release. In 1974, he published his acclaimed autobiography, Raise Up Off Me, which detailed his struggles with drugs as well as his thoughts on jazz. Hawes died suddenly and unexpectedly of a brain hemorrhage in 1977 at the age of 48. Even today, Hawes remains one of the more obscure jazz piano greats, which is unfortunate because his bluesy, hard bop style, combined with a surprising emotional lyricism and astounding dexterity in playing, deserves to be widely heard.

November 11, 2010

This Week in Jazz History: November 11 to November 17

November 11
  • Duke Ellington’s band records Billy Strayhorn’s “Progressive Gavotte,” 1947.
  • Cornetist Don Cherry records “Where is Brooklyn?” with tenor saxophonist Pharoah Sanders, 1966.
  • Trumpeter Willie Cook born 1923 in Tangipahoa, IN.
November 12
  • Bassist Sam Jones born 1924 in Jacksonville, FL.
  • Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five record their first piece, “My Heart,” 1925.
  • Trumpeter/arranger Buck Clayton born 1911 in Parsons, KS.
November 13
  • Pianist Hampton Hawes born 1928 in Los Angeles, CA.
  • Cecil Taylor Quintet, with John Coltrane and Kenny Dorham, records Hard-Driving Jazz, 1958.
  • Drummer Idris Muhammad born 1939 in New Orleans, LA.
November 14
  • Pianist Don Ewell born 1916 in Baltimore, MD.
  • Guitarist Billy Bauer born 1915 in New York, NY.
  • Benny Carter Meets Oscar Peterson recorded 1986.
November 15
  • Pianist/composer Thelonious Monk makes his last studio recordings with bassist Al McKibbon and drummer Art Blakey, 1971.
  • Drummer Gus Johnson born 1913 in Tyler, TX.
  • Guitarist Kevin Eubanks born 1957 in Philadelphia, PA.
November 16
  • Composer W.C. Handy born 1873 in Muscle Shoals, AL.
  • Guitarist/bandleader Eddie Condon born 1905 in Goodland, IN.
  • Louis Armstrong records “Big Butter and Egg Man,” 1926.
November 17
  • Bassist/bandleader Ben Allison born 1966 in New Haven, CT.
  • Trombonist Roswell Rudd born 1935 in Sharon, CT.
  • Trumpeter Doc Cheatham and pianist Sammy Price record Duets, 1976.
Source: Smithsonian Jazz

November 10, 2010

Clark Terry - "Miguel's Party" (1959)

Clark Terry with Barney Wilen on tenor sax, Bud Powell on piano, Kenny Clarke on drums, and Pierre Michelot on bass, recorded at the Club Saint Germain in Paris.

November 9, 2010

Roy Haynes - Live at SFJAZZ

We Three: Rudy Van Gelder Remasters SeriesOne can only bow to the master. Drummer Roy Haynes has played with a who’s who of jazz greats over the course of his long career: Lester Young, Bud Powell, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughan, Sonny Rollins, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Stan Getz, Chick Corea. Now 85, he shows no signs of slowing down.
     Haynes was born in Boston in 1925 and made his professional debut at the age of 17. He came out of the bebop era, but in the 1940s played with both Lester Young and Charlie Parker, so he was hardly defined by any single style. He spent five years with Sarah Vaughan in the 1950s, but he also worked with those on the more experimental edges of jazz, such as Coltrane, Andrew Hill, and Eric Dolphy.
     As a sideman, Haynes appeared on Vaughan’s In the Land of Hi-Fi (among others), Monk’s Live at the Five Spot, Rollins’ Brass & Trio, Dolphy’s Outward Bound, Getz’s Focus, Oliver Nelson’s The Blues and the Abstract Truth, Jackie McLean’s Destination... Out!, Coltrane’s Newport ’63, and on and on. He’s also recorded as a leader since 1954’s Busman’s Holiday. Two of my favorites are We Three (with Phineas Newborn and Paul Chambers; 1958) and Out of the Afternoon (1962). There’s also a recently released (2007) 3-CD career retrospective - A Life in Time: The Roy Haynes Story - which is highly recommended.
     His playing modes range from hard swinging to bebop to jazz fusion and the avant-garde, but he is always identifiably Roy Haynes. He has a percolating effect on the drums: popping on the snare, sometimes implying the beat more than playing it (playing with the time), and bringing the cymbal playing to the foreground. He’s long been known as “Snap Crackle” in acknowledgment of this electric and pulsing sound.
     On November 6, Haynes made a stop at the San Francisco Jazz Festival with his band, the aptly named Fountain of Youth: Jaleel Shaw on alto and soprano sax, Martin Bejerano on piano, and John Sullivan on bass. There were very few showy drum solos during the evening, but Haynes made everyone in the band sound better with his constantly inventive playing. One gets a very strong sense of Haynes listening to what the others are playing and reacting instantaneously - hes the groups central nervous system, sending out rhythmic pulses of energy across the synapses to keep everyone swinging. You are always aware of what he’s rapping out on the drums, and he keeps your rapt attention.

November 4, 2010

This Week in Jazz History: November 4 to November 10

November 4
  • Pianist Joe Sullivan born 1906 in Chicago, IL.
  • Louis Armstrong records Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust,” 1931.
  • Alto saxophonist Charlie Parker records “Klactoveedsedstene,” with drummer Max Roach, 1947.
November 5
  • Vocalist Ella Fitzgerald records “Goodnight, My Love” with Benny Goodman’s band, 1936.
  • Jimmie Lunceford’s band records Sy Oliver’s version of “Annie Laurie” featuring trombonist/vocalist Trummy Young, 1937.
  • Pianist Keith Jarrett records his solo The Sun Bear Concerts in Kyoto, Japan, 1975.
November 6
  • Arranger Andy Gibson born 1913 in Zanesville, OH.
  • Pianist Claude Thornhill’s band records Gil Evans’ arrangement of “Donna Lee” featuring alto saxophonist Lee Konitz, 1947.
  • The World Saxophone Quartet records Steppin’, 1981
November 7
  • Tenor saxophonist David S. Ware born 1949 in Plainfield, NJ.
  • The historic Live at Fargo recording is made of the Ellington band in 1940, giving us an informal listen to the band at its zenith.
  • Pianist Joe Bushkin born 1916 in New York, NY.
November 8
  • Trumpeter Kamau Adilifu (Charles Sullivan) born 1944 in New York, NY.
  • Vocalist Billie Holiday records “Don’t Explain,” 1944.
  • Guitarist Russell Malone born 1963 in Albany, GA.
November 9
  • Two alto saxophonists born: Jesse Davis 1965 in New Orleans, LA, and Pete Brown 1906 in Baltimore, MD.
  • Count Basie records “How Long Blues” with his All American Rhythm Section (guitarist Freddie Green, bassist Walter Page, and drummer Jo Jones), 1938.
  • Pianist Oscar Peterson records “If You Could See Me Now” with guitarist Joe Pass, 1983.
November 10
  • Pianist Paul Bley born 1932 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
  • Bassist Walter Page’s Blue Devils make their only recordings, “Blue Devil Blues” and “Squabblin’,” 1929.
  • Tenor saxophonist Mark Turner born 1965 in Fairborn, OH.
Source: Smithsonian Jazz

November 1, 2010

Kenny Barron - Live at SFJAZZ

I recently saw Kenny Barron in performance during the San Francisco Jazz Festival. He is an elegant and melodic player and was in top form on October 24th.
     Barron was born in Philadelphia in 1943 and was already playing piano professionally as a teenager. After moving to New York City, he was hired by tenor saxophonist James Moody. He was a member of Dizzy Gillespie’s Quintet for five years in the 1960s. Barron also played with a number of jazz luminaries, including Freddie Hubbard, Milt Jackson, Ron Carter, and Stanley Turrentine. In the 1970s, he was a member of Yusef Lateef’s band.
     At this time, he also became a professor of music at Rutgers University, a position he maintained until 2000. Barron also toured and recorded with Stan Getz in the 1980s and co-founded the quartet Sphere with Charlie Rouse, Buster Williams, and Ben Riley. He has made over 40 recordings as a leader and has five Grammy nominations.
     At SFJAZZ, Barron was playing with his trio - Kiyoshi Kitagawa on bass and Johnathan Blake on drums - as well as David Sánchez, a former Rutgers student of his, on tenor sax. The program got off to a fast start with a Tommy Flanagan tune called “Freight Train,” with everyone taking solos. This was followed by a more relaxed Kenny Barron original called “New Samba.” There was also a lovely version of “My Funny Valentine,” including a terrific extended solo by Kitagawa on bass.
     A couple of other Barron originals, “Bud Lite” (a tribute to Bud Powell) and “Lemuria” (from the album of the same name), showed how fleet a player Barron is. However, from my sonic vantage point in the balcony, the piano was not sufficiently enunciated from the rest of the band. Fortunately, Barron did a solo medley of Ellington/Strayhorn tunes, showcasing his lovely technique (he does seem to tickle the ivories). The evening ended with a selection (“Theme #1”) from a film soundtrack that Barron had composed but that was never used in the final movie (a straight-to-video classic, apparently). This was the most straightforward bit of jazz played during the whole concert, but the simple melody was a real crowd pleaser.