Fast forward three years, and Gillespie is ready for a rematch, and this time he brings along alto speedster Sonny Stitt to try to put even more pressure on Mr. Getz. Again the tempos are faster than normal, and Stitt sets the pace here with all of his usual double time licks. Gillespie follows, and though he is not quite as prepossessing over these changes as he would have been a decade before, he still makes a very strong statement. But Getz's playing here is the real revelation. Those who have only heard his bossa or ballad work may not know how much technique this artist had at his command, and how well he responded in pressure situations on the bandstand. I especially like Getz's overall sound on this trackhis tone keeps its warmth and full body even when he increases the intensity of his attack. Give the nod here to Stan, who shows how deep his bebop roots went in this must-have performance for Getz fans.
August 31, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1950s jazz · lover come back to me · tenor sax · trumpet · verve
But it's Grey's wailing plunger work on the out-chorus that steals the show. He lays so far back into the groove that it's impossible to tell where he's feeling the beat; nonetheless, his unmistakable roar cuts through. His virtuosic flourishes are capped by a brief cadenza whereperhaps just to show that he couldhe pops out a high F. Wow. The breathtaking finish serves as a reminder of Grey's virtuosity and his importance to the fabric of the 1960s Count Basie sound.
August 31, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1960s jazz · makin whoopee · trombone
August 31, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1970s jazz · trombone
August 31, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: brass bands · just a closer walk · new orleans
On the intro to the spirited Entre Cuerdas (which translates to "between strings") Castaneda's harp sounds like a cross between a flamenco guitar and a Middle Eastern oud. Trombonist Marshall Gilkes uses deeply slurred tones that pose the perfect counterpoint to Castanedas slightly tinny, high register fingerings. Half way through the song, Castaneda slaps his bass strings which re-energizes the piece and Gilkes replies with a raucous response. The combination of sounds, along with a battery of effects from drummer/percussionist Sillman, creates an engaging interchange that could stir the soul of a dancer.
August 31, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 2000s jazz · harp
But it was a hard place to find a rhythm section that lived up to his finicky standards. Getz was difficult to please as a bandleader, and wanted the right pulse, and no rushing, the proper dynamic range, and a rich harmonic palette underpinning his solos. Stan could co-exist briefly with West Coasters in the band, but for the important gigs he typically preferred to fly in a rhythm section from the East Coast if the money were available to do so. He was especially happy with the line-up on this project (Kenny Barron on piano, George Mraz on bass, and Victor Lewis on drums) and invariably played at a very high level when they were on stage with him. Fans of this artist will never agree on which period of Getz's career produced the finest music, but it would be hard to top the tenorist of this periodsober, alert, impassioned, confident.
Yet, maddeningly, Getz hadn't been in the studio for a leader date in ages, and many fans had no idea of how well he was playing at this point. As strong as the Concord releases of the early 1980s were, Getz seemed even more commanding now. Those who heard him live wondered when he would make a record to document this period of intense music-making. We are fortunate that Dr. Herb Wong managed to reach terms with the tenorist and bring this band into the Music Annex in Menlo Park when the group was on the West Coast for performances. Take after take demonstrated Getz's brilliance and the band's chemistry, but perhaps especially so on this heartfelt ballad. Getz would sometimes make fun of this song in concert, sharing an off-color witticism based on its lyrics ("I turned a trick on a train..."); but this was standard practice for the artist, and the jokes often merely indicated some self-consciousness at how much emotion he was channeling into his playing. Perhaps his comment about the Voyage session, that this was the "first date that my head was completely clear," is an exaggeration (or perhaps not), but it is hard to argue with the results. In a career filled with outstanding ballad performances, this one ranks among the finest.
The good times would not last. A year later, Getz was diagnosed with cancer. And though he would continue to perform and record at a very high level for some time to come, this record will always remind me of a glorious period of poise and promise in the life and times of this complex, intensely creative artist.
August 30, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1980s jazz · i thought about you · tenor sax
August 30, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: brass bands · romania
August 29, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: brass bands · struttin with some barbecue
Mistaken identities aside, White would have enjoyed this lava hot version of his most popular song. He never cared much for being a traditional blues artist, and was always looking to take his music into the future. And that is just what the high energy Portland band Woodbrain does in this track from their impressive debut on Yellow Dog Records. Woodbrain (formerly the Joe McMurrian Quartet) is one of the best electric blues bands on the scene. They play loose and tight. The energy level starts out a fever pitch and never lets upand the band brings in just enough of a rock flavor to appeal to younger fans without losing the Delta edginess of their music. Think of Woodbrain as the North Mississippi Allstars of the Pacific Northwest. Certainly this band has enough dynamite in its sound to blow up a small bridge. With the right exposure, Woodbrain could attract a sizable audience.
August 29, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: blues
August 29, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: blues
These two versions of "All The Things You Are," the first recorded in the studio as "Bird of Paradise" five months before the second, are examples of how Charlie Parker approached creating in a studio environment differently than playing in live performances. It seems to me that Bird thought of the studio as a place to present his ideas to the public in the clearest possible formanalogous to sculptures, where each take was an attempt to improve upon the last. On the other hand, the gigs seem to be a dynamic laboratory for experimentation, an area for taking chances and trying out new ideas and combinations, and for unfettered communication among the musicians and between the musicians and audience members (who were usually rather vocal in their feedback). Many professional musicians take this approach. From a musician's standpoint, I much prefer listening to the live recordings, although the sound quality, of course, is far inferior. Here I look at two versions of the same form, one a studio recording taken at a slightly slower tempo (although both versions serve a ballade function), the other from a gig that featured a singer.
"Bird of Paradise" (essentially the same form as "All The Things You Are" without a statement of the composed melody) is truly a sculpture, pristine and refined. Parker had three attempts at creating this masterpiece, each take a refinement of the last. Consisting of only a one chorus statement, the form of the spontaneous composition is exactsimilar to a fine jewel. However there is little chance taking, Charlie seems to be concentrating on getting it right.
Bird performs the live version of "All The Things You Are" with much more abandon, being encouraged by band mates and audience members alike. Here different kinds of devices are attempted reminiscent of the previous performances we have looked at. After the first reserved and extremely melodic opening phrase, there is a sudden outburst of a wild nature, a posture which increases as the song moves on. Melodically there are a lot more alternate paths and the rhythms are more varied; it is clear that by this point in Parker's career, these devices had been totally internalized and had become second nature. However, Bird's trademark sense of melodic and rhythmic symmetry is still evident even in his most experimental forays.
I consider this period around 1948-1949 to be Parker's most creative and stable period. His entire professional career was about 151/2 years total, very short by most standards, due to the chaotic nature of his life. Many of the experiments that he wanted to try out were left unexplored because of lack of organization and the various health problems that plagued him in the '50s. Also during 1948-1949 he had a stable band that worked consistently and which he rehearsed, with the result that the arrangements and forms of the compositions were more sophisticated. Much of the original material in his repertoire comes from this time period as wellhe composed later compositions primarily either just before or during record dates. With the exception of Max Roach, the sidemen in this steady working band were not on Bird's level. Miles was still developing, beginning to hit his stride around the time he left Parker's group, and the other musicians were competent but not extraordinary. However this group was balanced in that everyone fulfilled a function.
Miles Davis once mentioned that Charlie Parker's approach was not one style, but many. I agree with this statement, and as a result I've never liked calling Bird's style Be-Bop. Charlie Parker had a complicated personality, and his approach to music reflected this complexity. From the perspective of a spontaneous composer, he was in many ways a bridge figure who came of age among accomplished veterans of a sophisticated blues-based idiom, but had the vision to look forward to an even more sophisticated abstract expression while still retaining the feeling and storytelling function of folklore. Parker's time in the physical plane was brief. However, in a short period of time he served the function of a modern griot, an avatar for the prototypical spontaneous composer. In the process, his creations turned the musical world upside down.
August 29, 2009 · 0 commentsTags:
Obviously this recording was altered to highlight the differences between these players, as Hodges and Carter were the two major alto saxophone stylists during the era before Parker arrived on the scene. Based on the jump in tempo after Bird's statement, you can hear that the original recording was edited so that Benny Carter's statement would follow Bird's. Clearly, this was not how it was originally recorded.
The two older alto saxophonists are East Coast players; Hodges from Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Carter from New York City. During that time, a player's musical style seemed to reflect the region of the country they came from; regional differences seemed more pronounced than they are today. Of course, these differences had little to do with the level of musicianship, but they did seem to show up in some of the stylistic tendencies of the players. This is not at all meant as a critique. I only wish to point out that each of these players had different approaches to the Blues idiom, and some of that was a reflection of which area of the country they came from.
Bird was a blues player by nature. In terms of emotional content Parker was not very different from other blues players from this part of the country (south Midwest). However, what Parker introduced to the music was a level of hip sophistication that generally had not been previously expressed in this musical form. Tenor saxophonist Von Freeman calls it the university blues, versus what came before. What he is referring to is the ability to preach while simultaneously being able to interject very sophisticated melodic voice-leading. This performance by Parker is a clear example, although there are many. The preaching begins right from the outset, complete with exclamations and repeated gestures for emphasis. Bird's clear and self-assured, hard-edged sound, lacking in the exaggerated vibrato of the earlier stylists, already signals a markedly different approach to the blues, one in which the inflections are more subtle than in the previous era.
This first appearance of more complex voice-leading occurs at the beginning of what's called the turnback (2:28), a pivot area in the seventh through eighth measures that progresses from the subdominant through the tonic and dominant areas, then back towards the subdominant, where Bird's spontaneous melody perfectly follows Ray Brown's bass line. The cadential target on the upbeat of the end middle of this phrase (2:30) rhymes with the target upbeat cadence at the end (2:34) via the adroit use of contour and paraphrase. The next phrase flips the cadential targets from upbeat to downbeat, while simultaneously slightly lengthening the cadences, in a motion leading to the tonic. However, immediately upon touching the tonic, Bird progresses to the subdominant. This chorus ends with a blues-tinged afterthought.
The second chorus begins with a miniature version of a classic blues form, against the background chorus of the other horns functioning as the congregation to Bird's preaching. The opening phrase is repeated three times in an I don't believe ya heard me form, with the middle phrase as the darker lunar expression (i.e., subdominant). After this bluesy statement, beginning in the fourth measure, Bird, in a whispering statement that feels like an explanation, shifts gears into a level of sophistication rarely heard in the blues of this time. In the sixth measure (3:07), Parker literally falls out of this mode of playing, through an alternate tonal path in the form of a descending semi-pentatonic figure, again melodically shadowing Brown's bass line with sophisticated rising and falling voice-leading in the crucial pivoting area of seventh and eighth measures, hitting every passing tonality while still maintaining his melodic emphasis. Moving into the tenth measure (3:19), Parker again shifts into the overdrive, ascending as a light color, squeezing out the top of the line, descending using shifting darker hues, then moving towards the subdominant before doubling back on a darker dominant path towards the tonic.
Normally, this level of detail was not expressed prior to Parker's arrival on the scene (of course there were exceptions like Art Tatum and Don Byas). The piano players at that time generally knew more about harmony than most of the horn players, but these pianists usually expressed this level of detail as chordal figures, not intricate melodic figures. In Parker's case, the sophistication is expressed in the form of extremely melodic and expressive voice-like phrases, not simply as basic patterns.
I believe that one key to Bird's melodic concept is that each individual part of every phrase is a melody in miniature, a fractal-like concept where even the smaller melodic segments are balanced melodically within themselves. This is coupled with an uncanny ability to utilize what I call connectants, small chain-like phrases or hooks (not in the sense of today's popular music) that are used to connect the melodic cells through a complicated process analogous to weaving or the peptide bonds that connect amino acids in RNA chains. Bird had a strong sense of the nature of melody, from its more primitive constituents to a more universal point of view.
Parker's innate sense of balance was incredible, as is clearly demonstrated at the end of this solo. Whereas most players today with his level of technique would feel a need to follow the harmony explicitly, Bird is able to suggest the voice-lead just with the shape of his pentatonic and diatonic line, using a well developed sense of just where to rhythmically place the tones that lead by proximity to the target pitches that express the passing tonalities. With Parker it is the melodic contour and path which rules supreme, not the tones in a particular chord. The difference is subtle.
Finally, I would like to state that I think of these slow versions of the blues as examples of secular rituals. In much West African music there is this constant interplay of 3 communing with 2, an intimate marriage of the ternary feel (called perfect meter in medieval times because it was related to the Trinity) and the duple feel (imperfect meter). The intervals of the Perfect Fifth and Perfect Fourth were called perfect for this same reason, as they were associated with the number 3, considered perfect since ancient times. This was also true in early European music. For example, the metered sections of some Notre Dame organum as well as some of the secular music of medieval times was typically governed by rhythmic modes which were all expressed in triple meter to symbolize the Trinity. So in some ways, this connects to what Dizzy called Parker's Sanctified Rhythms.
If you listen carefully to Parker's opening phrase, it is almost completely in a kind of ternary feel, and this is true of the most blues-inflected parts of his performance. Other slow blues that he performed (for example "Cosmic Rays") exhibit this same tendency.
August 29, 2009 · 0 commentsTags:
The melody itself is a theory lesson. So much subtle detail is involved that it is rarely played this way by modern musicians. Parker normally soloed first when he played with Dizzy, Birks said it was because when Parker played first, he (Diz) was inspired to play at his best. What's extraordinary is not only Parker's virtuosity, but the fluidity of his ideas and how they proceed from one to the next in such a conversational manner. Again Bird only takes three choruses, but he tells an epic story in this short period of time.
There is a lot of cramming in this spontaneous composition. Cramming is a term I first heard used by Dizzy in his autobiography To Be Or Not To Bop when he talked about Parker squeezing a longer rapid phrase into a smaller time space, a phrase that was not simply double time but some other unusual rhythmic relationship to the pulse. There is plenty of it in this version of "Confirmation," and not all of it rapid. Bird had the ability to land on his feet like a cat after playing some of the most outrageous rhythmic phrases. But the key to what Yard was doing was his incredible time feel, so smooth that the phrases do not even feel odd in any way. In fact, most of the players who imitate his style have far less rhythmic variety in their playing. Obviously the impression that they get from Parker's playing is that he is playing a steady stream of notes, all of the same rhythmic value. But nothing could be farther from the truth. Again, the conversational aspect of Yard's playing is always on display, the way he is always in dialog with himself, even when there is not much in the way of dialog coming from his accompanists (as is the case in this recording).
My analysis here comes mostly from a rhetorical and affections perspective which deals with the poetics of the music. This perspective is the one most stressed in the African-American community.
Parker opens with a very strong melodic statement. I love the way Bird plays in sentences that straddle the square (every 2 or 4 beats) progression of the harmony. Bird's statements flow right through several tonal changes, his sentences mutating and reflecting the changing tonalities as they move, while still being very strong melodies, perfectly balanced. His statements make perfect intuitive melodic sense to the uninitiated listener while simultaneously providing worlds of sophisticated information for experienced musicians. The exclamation starting at the second measure of the second eight is incredibly vocal and moves into a blues-tinged statement. This second eight section ends with a very strong melodic sentence at 1:09 that terminates with a dominant-subdominant-tonic melodic progression, instead of the normal dominant-tonic motion. Parker normally has strong ending statements just before the bridges, but these terminating statements traverse an incredible variety of harmonic paths.
The feeling of the bridge is like when another person interjects with a different subject, or adds another part to the story. Of course this is what occurs harmonically as well, but I am referring here only to the character of Parker's melodic statementsit's almost as if another person is talking at this point. These statements then get resolved going into the last eight of this first chorus, as if returning to the original speaker. This first chorus concludes with a very strong closing melodic statement that sums up the previous statements, which may be the quote to some standard that I don't know. I've always heard this last phrase at 1:32 as saying, "Well..., but it's always gonna be like that."
The beginning of the second chorus responds with "but you know we've gotta keep on goin'," which is my personal interpretation of this response to the end of the first chorus. This second chorus is by far the most involved and complex part of this story, and this middle chorus feels like the meat of the story. I noticed that the most complex passages come in the second eight and the bridge of this second chorus; these sections are symmetrically right in the middle of this entire spontaneous composition! Now, either Bird planned it this way or he has a hell of an intuition in terms of formor both. There are several advanced rhythmic devices, double-timing, rhymes (the phrase at 1:38 rhymes with the phrase at 1:41), and backpedaling phrasing from the offbeats (1:46). The double-timing phrases that begin inside the fourth measure of the second eight (1:52) still contains all the rhythmic complexity and clave-like phrasing that Parker is known for; however, the accuracy of these lightning fast statements is absolutely frightening! This hyper phrase ends in a question, both harmonically (in the form of a secondary dominant) and melodically (the rise of the melody at this point). It's answered moments later with a bluesy statement, a rising subdominantdescending whole-tone dominant phrase.
Second Chorus second 8 of "Confirmation":
These complex double-time statements continue in the bridge and represent the height of the story. The opening melody of the bridge moves through several unusual tonal areas which I hear as:
/ / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /
|| Cmin | Dbmin6 F7 | Bbmaj Ebmaj Bbmaj | Bbmaj |
This Cmin to Dbmin6 to F7 progression was something that Parker played often, but it's one of those esoteric dominant progressions which never caught on among the majority of musicians who were influenced by Bird. It really says something about the level of Yard's intuition that he could arrive at such a progression seemingly by feeling and ear alone, although I am by no means certain that this was the approach he used.
Second Chorus Bridge of "Confirmation":
The last eight continues the conversational style established in the first chorus, a strong melodic statement that is answered by one of those "do you know what I mean" or "understand what I'm sayin'" phrases (2:14). The last closing statement of this chorus sounds like a rhetorical question, which Yard leaves open for the interjections and constant commentary of the musicians to become part of the conversation, just as if in church.
The entire third chorus feels like a summation of what went before. The first eight begins with a question, followed at 2:27 with a bluesy partial response, completed with a typical Lydian secondary dominant expression followed by one of those "understand what I'm sayin'" phrases at 2:33. The following fragmented statement beginning at the end of the first measure of the second eight takes the form of a question-answer within a question. The smoother response at 2:28 is answered by an ending which, in contrast to the ending of the second eight of the first chorus, concludes with a statement that moves subdominant-minor subdominant (what I call negative dominant)-tonic (2:40).
The entire story seems to begin to come to a definite close with the three sentences in the bridge of this chorus, some of the most beautifully crafted phrases in this entire performance. The last eight, after an angular sentence that briefly hangs before moving to the subdominant, finishes with a bird-like flurry that has the sound of someone walking away mumbling disjunct statements, not quite correct English, but perfectly reflecting the way people normally converse. All of this is an example of Parker's very conversational style.
August 29, 2009 · 0 commentsTags:
The kinds of shifts in phrasing that we looked at in "Perhaps" are even more apparent in "Mango Mangue," especially against the backdrop of the static harmonic material, a rarity in Parker's musical repertoirein fact, rare in the music of this time period. Parker was one of the few musicians of that era who could really wail over a vamp. Most of the cats back then did not know how to blow over one static harmonic palette, with the exception of blues-based improvisations, as their entire improvisation language was constructed around playing through an environment that involved moving chord changes. That was the difference between Parker and many of the people influenced by him. Bird was primarily a melodic player who played through keys. Most of the people influenced by him played through chord changes (this is Dizzy Gillespie's way of characterizing what Bird did). Not that Bird had no knowledge of chord structure; it's just that he had an intuitive gift for melody and melodic patterns that allowed him to adapt his language to a variety of music genres.
Again to quote Mingus:
Bud and Bird to me should go down as composers, even though they worked within a structured context using other people's compositions. For instance, they did things like "All The Things You Are" and "What Is This Thing Called Love." Their solos are new classical compositions within the structured form they used. . . .
For instance, Bird called me on the phone one day and said: 'How does this sound?' and he was playing ad-libbing to the "Berceuse," or lullaby, section of Stravinsky's Firebird Suite! I imagine he had been doing it all through the record, but he just happened to call me at that time and that was the section he was playing his ad lib solo on, and it sounded beautiful. It gave me an idea about what is wrong with present-day symphonies: they don't have anything going on that captures what the symphony is itself, after written.
So Mingus considered Parker a composer, a spontaneous composer, and it is apparent from this quote that Bird had the ability to improvise on a variety of structures. We can only imagine what progress would have been made in the area of orchestra music had the great spontaneous composers been given access to the symphony orchestra with all of the colors it presents. However, Bird's melodic structures on this recording of "Mango Mangue" are not really out of the ordinaryfor him at least. It is because of the timing and rhythmic sophistication of Parker and the accompanying musicians that I picked this example.
At 0:46 the bongos execute a beautiful rhythmic voice-leading passage (started by the congas), beginning with a setup on the third beat; and then, starting on the following third beat, playing 2 identical patterns that are each contained in 4-beat lengths; then again, starting on the following third beat, playing 2 identical patterns that are each contained in 3-beat lengths. This has the effect of shifting the start of the phrases from the third beat to the second beat, and leading to the first beat at the beginning of Bird's solo. Again this is a demonstration of establishing a pattern, then altering it to rhythmically to voice-lead towards specific target point in time, to either set up another event or to terminate a process.
The shifting diminished harmonies of the saxophones are beautiful, not often heard in American popular music at that time, and it is uncanny how Bird's phrases fit perfectly melodically with the shifting textures from about 1:05 to 1:19 of the song. But what really turned me on to this song is the call-and-response montuno section at 2:11 and how Bird's spontaneous rhythms mesh perfectly with the Cuban players. Passages like this made me realize how often Parker's playing contained clave-like rhythmic patterns, a clear example of African retention. Even though the clave cannot be clearly heard, by listening to the cáscara pattern in the previously referenced section at 0:46 of the song you can orientate yourself to the clave (clave on top below):
Example at 0:46 of "Mango Mangue," clave (top) and cáscara (bottom):
The phrase beginning at measure 9 in the example below (2:18 of the recording) and the phrase at measure 25 (2:32 of the recording) show how Parker's stresses hookup with the clave and cáscara at key points in the phrasing of both.
Example at 2:11 of "Mango Mangue"
Based on this musical evidence, I believe that Parker played a larger role in integrating these two musical cultures than he is usually given credit for. Bird is usually given a minor mention when historians talk about the merging of African-American and Afro-Cuban music. However, Machito and Mario Bauzá paint a different picture. Machito has said that Parker was involved with his orchestra of Cuban musicians long before Norman Granz suggested making the recordings in 1948, and even before they met Parker, Machito and Mario Bauzá knew of Bird's music, and Bird knew of their music. Machito declared with modesty, "Charlie Parker era un genio, yo no era nada comparado con él.""Charlie Parker was a genius, I was nothing compared to him." I also read where Bauzá remarked in an interview that Parker's rhythmic improvisations fit naturally with the rhythms that the Cuban musicians were playing at that time, and that Bird was one of the only musicians from America whose rhythms fit well with theirs. By the way, in this performance Machito's rhythm section is killin'!
August 29, 2009 · 0 commentsTags:
Parker was on fire during this concert, in top form. The rhythm section was not the greatest, but Bird was soaring. This is not the most creative of the Parker recordings I've heard (it's certainly no slouch), but it is very refined playing on par with his famous strings version of "Just Friends." From what I read, they brought Bird on stage for this quintet concert, which was sandwiched between two sets of Dizzy's big band.
I dig this 1947 Carnegie Hall concert more than the May 15, 1953 Massey Hall concert in Toronto, where the musicians were distractedthey were running across the street between solos to check out the ongoing heavyweight championship fight in Chicago between Rocky Marciano and Jersey Joe Walcott (Marciano won by first round knockout)! Also, I always felt Mingus ruined the recording with the bass overdubs he did laterthe bass is way too loud and playing on top of the beat.
Parker's incredible time feel is on display from the moment he takes his break. He swings hard, even more evident here because during these four measures he is playing unaccompanied. The song begins in Eb major, but just before Bird's solo the music modulates during an interlude to Db major, then, after a second interlude, back again to Eb major for Dizzy's solo. Yard's solo break contains a classic example of what I call cutting corners, where Bird takes this one path, then, beginning with his characteristic rhythmic vocal-like sigh just after the 8th beat of the break, moves briefly into a harmonic path in the area of Amin6, before falling back into the subdominant Gb major (of Db major). In this case the melody that he plays is more melodic voice-leading than harmonic, as Bird's melodic trajectory is aimed towards the high F and Ab, both pitches that have a dominant function from a melodic perspective in the key of Db major. So functionally this final phrase is a subdominant-to-dominant progression.
Parker's solo break on "Groovin' High":
For the next three choruses, Parker gives a clinic on economy, telling his story with a compact approach, getting right to the point. His musical sentences are perfectly balanced without being predictable; he was a master of intuitive form. But what I want to discuss here is the loose precision that is demonstrated, a kind of playing that is extremely relaxed and variable and yet at the same time extremely detailed. This kind of laid-back, behind-the-beat, loose accuracy seems to have been the norm with players like Art Tatum, Don Byas, Bird and Bud Powellin Chicago we used to call it the beginner-professional sound. The expression of rhythms and modes is so precise that repeated detailed listening is like reading an advanced music theory text, only a text that reveals more on each reading, and the words are in motion on top of it! In this sense it's like the oral storytelling traditions, but here the information is encoded in musical symbolism. For this reason, I've always felt that this music really was telling stories, on many different levels.
August 29, 2009 · 0 commentsTags:
I have owned several versions of this exact recording, and almost all of them are technically flawed in one way or another. My most complete version is a CD re-mastered with the help of the excellent drummer Kenny Washington, who pitch-corrected the recording. Also the complete Bud Powell solo is present in this recording, whereas on my original LP edition that I still own, Bud's solo was edited out.
These performances are some of the strongest that I have heard from these participants, but what makes this recording great for me is the fact that they are all performing and interacting together. Blakey provides a totally different kind of drum accompaniment than Max Roach. Nevertheless, Art's driving rhythms are very effective. But it is the front line of Parker, Navarro and Powell that is simply off the hook! Each soloist's performance is beyond words. These cats are truly spontaneous composers at the top of their game, their statements so precise they could have been composed on paper.
The first thing we hear is Bud's meandering intro, very loose as always, which starts harmonically as far away from his D pedal as possible, sliding from Ab major to A minor to Gmaj into Bird's opening statement of the melody. Despite the impression of rubato, Bud is actually playing in time in the intro to the song. It sounds to me like Bud was already playing when the recording was started, as the first sounds we hear are measure 3, beat 3 of an 8-measure intro. At any rate, what we hear from Bud is 51/2 measures (22 beats) before Yard enters.
A book could be written discussing just this one performance, but I'll only point out a few things here. We can learn a lot from the various versions of the spontaneous harmonies that Fats plays at the end of the melody, with the harmonization at the end of the song being different from the one at the beginning.
Fats Navarro's harmony on top staff, at the end of "Ornithology"
It seems to me that Fats' rhythmic conception and feel was the closest to Bird's among the trumpet players of this era. They are rhythmically as one going into the break of Bird's soaring solo. One of my favorite sections of this recording is the woman hollering "Go Baby" right after Parker's break, I even used to call this recording 'Go Baby!'
Fats Navarro's harmony on the top staff, going into Parker's solo on "Ornithology"
Parker's melody right after this exhortation seems to rhythmically answer the woman's voice. Bird seemed to have an intuitive grasp for the connection between musical and nonmusical expressions. Parker once mentioned the connection between music and the utterances of various animals to his band mates in the Jay McShann band on a tour through the Ozarks. His music was full of oblique coded references that could be understood by his colleagues on the bandstand and those musicians in the audience who were privy to this way of communicating. Bird also directly expressed to his last wife, Chan Parker, a desire to use music in a more overtly linguistic fashion, and he mentioned this to many musicians, such as bassist Charles Mingus (Charlie Parker, by Carl Woideck, pp 214-216).
I have an audio interview that Paul Desmond conducted with Charlie Parker, where Bird mentions how telling a story with music was for him the whole point:
CP: There's definitely stories and stories and stories that can be told in the musical idiom, you know. You wouldn't say idiom but it's so hard to describe music other than the basic way to describe itmusic is basically melody, harmony, and rhythm. But, I mean, people can do much more with music than that. It can be very descriptive in all kinds of ways, you know, all walks of life. Don't you agree, Paul?
PD: Yeah, and you always do have a story to tell. It's one of the most impressive things about everything I've ever heard of yours.
CP: That's more or less the object. That's what I thought it should be.
Most people take this in a non-literal sense, but I believe that Parker and many other musicians were dead serious when they spoke of telling stories through their music, as demonstrated in the discussion of the composition "Perhaps."
In the first chorus of Ornithology its immediately clear that Bird is a master at shifting the balance of his musical sentences. One example of this is how he sets up a shift in momentum by building expectation with the regularity of the phrases at 0:42 for 4 measures; which is answered at 0:46, where Bird truncates the paraphrase to 2 measures to set up the shifting clave-like phrase at 0:49 (the middle of measure 16 in my example above). This is similar to the technique that Max utilized in the "Ko-Ko" example that I discussed previously. This concept is difficult to explain without showing it in musical form.
I hear the phrase at 0:42 in two distinct sub-sections, antecedent and consequent, in terms of their melodic curves and emphases:
0:42 sub-section 1a (set-up antecedent):
0:44, sub-section 2a ( set-up antecedent consequent):
0:46, sub-section 1b (truncated antecedent):
0:48, sub-section 2b (extended shifting consequent):
clave pattern in above phrase, from the middle of second measure of sub-section 2b (0:49):
The antecedent phrase at 0:42, sub-section 1a, runs continuously into its consequent at sub-section 2a. However, the antecedent phrase at 0:46, sub-section 1b, is interrupted, followed by the extended consequent at sub-section 2b (0:48), in which the rhythmic displacement or shift of emphasis occurs at around 0:49, from the middle of the 3rd measure of sub-section 2b. The phrases at 0:42 (sub-section 1a) and 0:46 (sub-section 1b) are symmetrical in length. The following phrase, which Parker did not play, is what I imagine the consequent at 0:48 (sub-section 2b) could be without the clave-like extension.
But there is even more at work here, and what I suspect is the intuitive reason that the last consequent was extended. The opening phrases of each antecedent are themselves clave-like, in that they contain the same kind of offsetting rhythms (i.e. groups of 3) that are present in clave patterns. These are answered by the extended version of these kinds of rhythms in the consequent of sub-section 2b, at 0:49.
It is this kind of sophisticated rhythmic symmetry in the sentence structure of Parker's music that is often overlooked when analyses of his spontaneous compositions are attempted, but many musicians of this period intuitively grasped it. The structure has an "Able Was I Ere I Saw Elba" form, where the figure at the beginning of these phrases is balanced by the same figure at the end. If you listen to this entire passage as rhythm only, disregarding the pitches, then I think it becomes easier to hear the rhythmic patterns I'm referring to. In an example of one variation of this particular symmetry, the second half of the 3rd chorus (2:01 to 2:08) contains virtually the same antecedent-consequent structure as was played at 0:42, with a response that is balanced in a different way, but that still uses the same clave-like pattern.
[2:01] of "Ornithology"
This approach to balancing rhythmic phrases and the resultant dynamic rhythmic symmetry, are reminiscent of the phrases that tap dancers and drummers use. These devices are constant occurrences in Parker's music, as demonstrated in this song, and Navarro and Powell demonstrate much of the same tendencies. Of course, all of this is occurring so rapidly that there is no such analysis as I am giving here is involved on the part of the musicians. But I do think that these kinds of balances are involved in the feel of the music, and this is what contributes to the music's effect. I believe that the initiated (the musicians who are near Parker's musical level) are the first who are affected, then they transmit the information and influence the musicians just below their level, and so on. The collective impact of these concepts (albeit necessarily in diluted form) eventually gets communicated to the public's ear.
The types of rhythms that Parker plays at 1:05 are similar to things that I've heard drummers from the African Diaspora execute. If you listen to it purely as rhythm, you can imagine a drummer playing exactly the same kind of phrasein fact, Blakey does play parts of the phrase with Bird, and you can hear Bud stressing the same rhythmic weights, what I call pushing the beat. As with the woman's exclamation at the beginning of his solo, I believe these lightning-fast musical responses were as internalized in Bird's playing as fans' spontaneous responses at sporting events.
At the top of 3rd chorus (1:40), Bird executes one of those tricks that I think he learned from pianist Art Tatum, of turning the form around by starting it 2 beats early. This is not easy for a melodic player to do, as your spontaneous melody has to be strong enough that it suggests the displacement. You can even feel Bird stop to think about what he is about to do before he plays it.
Skipping ahead, after Fats tells his outstanding story and Bud Powell takes an absolutely killin' solo, the two choruses of trading between Parker and Navarro are absolutely hair-raising.
6:09 has one of those crazy cartoon quotes followed by ridiculous cram. Two guitarist friends reminded me that this quote is from the song "Jarabe Tapatío," known in English as the "Mexican Hat Dance." The original form of the melody is:
Fats responds with a similarly shaped answer.
At the top of the second choruses of the horns trading (6:25), Bird plays this modulating tetrachord figure which he subtly changes to match the underlying structure of the song, played in his typically laid-back manner, and the groove is killin':
The antecedent is structured as a Lydian tetrachord, in this case G A B C, with a Bb passing tone added:
However, the consequent contains a Dorian tetrachord, with a B passing tone added:
(Notice that the references to the terms Lydian and Dorian follow the Medieval terminology for these structures, which are based on the top fourth of the Medieval Lydian and Dorian modes, referred to as 'species of the fourth' in Medieval times.)
Both forms of this tetrachord are plentiful in Bird's spontaneous melodies and are among his favorite melodic structures. Even if you did not know the underlying harmonic structure of the song, you could discern the melodic structure by listening to how Bird emphasizes the second pitch from the top of the tetrachord, demonstrating which are the main tones and which are the passing tones. This again shows the importance of rhythm and stress in this music. Also in the consequent, Bird contracts the end of the phrase, again highlighting the structure of the tetrachord. Aurally this subtle change would probably be unnoticed by most listeners, which is the point, as in this case the consequent is really a subtle paraphrase of the antecedent. There is functional symmetry involved here, as technically the beginning of the two phrases contain the same pitches, but the B and Bb change function relative to the two tetrachords. In the first figure (1st measure), B natural is functionally part of the tetrachord and Bb is the passing tone, whereas in the second figure (middle of the 3rd measure) Bb is functionally part of the tetrachord and B natural is the passing tone.
At 6:41 Parker plays another strong clave-like figure, followed by a cram. Finally, I love the spontaneous harmonizing that Bird does on the out head, particularly the melodically symmetrical phase at 7:39, with the Db pickup to the next phrase (well, closer to D-flat than D-natural) being the symmetrical axis of the preceding 10 pitches:
These are just a few examples. There is so much going on in this song that I'll just have to stop talking about it! The main point for me is how much we can learn from these very advanced techniques. So much more is going on than just swinging-however, Bird does that too.
August 29, 2009 · 0 commentsTags:
These various performances of Parker, recorded by saxophonist Dean Benedetti, demonstrate the combination of looseness and tightness of this particular band, which I consider Bird's most effective working band. I heard about these recordings before I knew they physically existed, and I even heard a few of them long before this box set came out, so it was a real pleasure to finally hear the entire collection. For economic reasons, Benedetti usually only recorded the solos of Parker and not the other musicians, so these recordings are quite fragmented. Furthermore the sound quality is frequently poor; these are not recordings that audiophiles will be writing home about. However, for musicians studying this music, this collection is a goldmine. I compare it to finding a new ancient tomb in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt, in terms of the musical treasures it yields.
Example A: 52nd Street Theme #275
This version of Monk's composition was usually played as a break tune, a signal that the set is coming to a close. This take is really just a fragment (similar to a find in an archeological dig), but man, it swings hard! When Parker's sax solo enters after he speaks to the audience, the band settles into a serious groove, everybody responds to Yard, and the beat lays back to the extreme, giving the impression that the band is slowing down.
Birds solo on "52nd Street Theme #275"
It's clear that this groove emotionally hits those who are present, as can be heard by the various exclamations. This reaction from the people is what I love about live recordings in generalat least recordings done in the presence of responsive audiences. The steady rhythm of the rising spontaneous melody that Yard plays in the opening eight measures creates tension and is perfectly offset by the snaking melody of the second eight, with its dancing, shifting, clave-like patterns that begin in the 11th measure (at 0:42):
Rhythm of the clave-like pattern at measure 11 of "52nd Street Theme #275"
Again, this demonstrates the use of rhythms that reveal elements retained from West-African concepts.
Example B: 52nd Street Theme #238
This version is also very dynamic. I love the space that Bird utilizes in this very loose version. Right from the beginning, when Parker plays the augmentation of the melody, we know that he is on top of his game. He does not even bother to complete the melody, immediately launching into a spontaneous statement. The bridge is beautiful! Obviously Parker meant to play the melody here, but stumbles a little. But he sounds like Michael Jordan here, if you follow what I mean, by adjusting in midstream and turning his misstep into a beautiful melodic statement where antecedent and consequent are both preceded by the same rhythmic misstep (mm 1 and 5 below), which transform the original stutter into part of the form of the statement. As with many of Bird's conversations, the form of the statement is irregular but makes perfect rhythmic sense in terms of balance, one of the traits that distinguishes him from most of his musical colleagues. Also the many alternate tonal paths and delayed resolutions (6th, 7th and 9th measures of bridge) add to the hipness of the statement.
Bridge: 2-beat stutter - 6-beat antecedent, 3-beat stutter - 18 beat consequent of "52nd Street Theme #238"
Starting from the second eight of the first chorus of the solo we hear the kind of smooth melodic voice-leading that Parker popularized in this music.
2nd eight, Bridge and last eight of "52nd Street Theme #238"
These types of clear and precise statements were already present in the music of some spontaneous composers, such as tenor saxophonist Don Byas. However, it was through Parker's dynamic performances that most musicians were exposed to this concept, due in large part to Bird's unique phrasing and advanced rhythmic conception. Both Byas and Yard were from the Midwest and both had that Midwest sanctified rhythm thing happening. Byas was from Muskogee, Oklahoma, and Bird developed his musical skills in Kansas City, Missouri, although he was born in Kansas City, Kansas. The Midwest produced many great musicians. For example, Oscar Pettiford, was a fantastic bass player from Okmulgee, Oklahoma, who made tremendous contributions to this music, although these contributions are rarely acknowledged in proportion to their importance. Both Muskogee and Okmulgee are in the eastern part of Oklahoma, just south of the Kansas City metropolitan area, so this area of the country was a hotbed of activity during the 20s, 30s and 40s.
The slickness of the rhythmic concept in this example is striking. There are several clave-like rhythms where Parker plays in groups of 3 pitches, which tends to produce shifting rhythmic patterns. Overall Bird had a very rhythmic conception, even in his formative years, and it was this conception that most contributed to the change in the direction of the music during that time. Consider this statement by Dizzy Gillespie:
I guess Charlie Parker and I had a meeting of the minds, because both of us inspired each other. There were so many things that Charlie Parker did well, it's hard to say exactly how he influenced me. I know he had nothing to do with my playing the trumpet, and I think I was a little more advanced, harmonically, than he was. But rhythmically he was quite advanced, with setting up the phrase and how you got from one note to the other. How you get from one note to the other really makes the difference. Charlie Parker heard rhythm and rhythmic patterns differently, and after we had started playing, together, I began to play, rhythmically, more like him. In that sense he influenced me, and all of us, because what makes the style is not what you play but how you play it. (From Giant Steps: Bebop and The Creators of Modern Jazz 1945-65)
I would like to emphasize here that Charlie Parker's rhythmic contribution amounts to more than just phrasing. Usually people write about triplets, so-called pick-up notes, etc. These perspectives reveal more about the musicologist's academic background than they do about Parker's sensibilities. Rhythm was something that was constantly stressed in the African-American communities; as Dizzy mentions, it was associated with the way and the how something was done. In my opinion, not only was Bird's phrasing important, but also his placement of entire musical sentences and how they balanced each other.
Example C: 52nd Street Theme #218
What I like about this version of "52nd Street Theme" is the form of the first chorus, which sets up the rest of the performance, and this partly illustrates what Dizzy was referring to in his quote. This is a true example of spontaneous composition and how the micro-forms can be very complex. One cannot underestimate the power of developed intuition and insight, when coupled with preparation, logic and talentand Yard's performance is a clear example of this.
At first listening, the phrases may seem to sound very symmetrical and smooth, yet a cursory observation reveals what at first appear to be random starting and stopping points with no clear balancing points. A more detailed examination exposes a sophisticated natural symmetry. The first antecedent is approximately 3 measures long, answered by what feels like a 5-measure consequent. This division of an approximately 8-measure space into 3 and 5 measures is something that has been discussed throughout history as being related to the proportion of the Golden Mean. Much has been written about this kind of balance on the Internet and in books, so I will not go over it in detail here. However, the linguistic quality is the result of rhythm and melody, and the timing of the phrases and their contour contribute to the effectiveness of the music.
The opening phrase is cryptic in the sense that it creates a lot of motion within a compact contour. There is a lot of doubling back (what we used to call going back for more) that is reminiscent of one of former NBA basketball player's Tim Hardaway's killer crossover moves, and Yard is truly breaking ankles here. The answer in measure 3 contains its own paraphrase, with the phrase in Gbmaj being woven into its answer in Fmaj (a 5-5-4 balance in terms of 8th note pulses) before mutating into another ankle breaking phrase from which Parker eventually achieves escape velocity. The next phrase feels perfectly centered within the second 8 measures, being contained in the internal 4 measures of the 8, however in reality it is shifted forward in time by one beat.
The question-and-answer in the bridge has that same kind of Golden Mean balance, i.e., a 3-5 measure grouping to the phrases. After one of those preacher-like exclamations to begin the last 8, the final phrase has a beautiful and subtle voice-leading device where Bird plays a ghosted Eb (3rd measure after the bridge) which announces a more complex sentence. This phrase also seems to wake Max up, as he becomes much more responsive at this point.
Here Parker's melodic choices are brilliant, seamlessly alternating between diatonicism, voice-leading chromaticism that is very carefully placed, and pentatony. As for the phrasing, Bird's sentences have the quality of someone speaking with a southern accent. If you listen carefully, there is a slight drawl to the phrases, a slightly behind-the-beat drag similar to the way people talk in the south, or in the hood.
1st chorus of "52nd Street Theme #218"
Example D: 52nd Street Theme #214
This version begins in progress, near the end of the 5th measure, but who knows how long Bird had already been playing. I paid a lot of attention to this version of "52nd Street Theme," as it is very intricate with a lot of great interaction. However, I will only briefly comment on each section.
The first chorus has Parker's typical conversation-like phrases. One thing that stands out is the repeated five-note figure that occurs beginning on the 4th beat of the 4th measure of the bridge (0:13 into the performance). What is intriguing is the rhythm, where there is diminution in the amount of time between the phrases. The first phrase begins on the 4th beat of the 4th measure and ends on the 2nd beat of the 5th measure. This is repeated 2 beats later, beginning on the 4th beat of the 5th measure and ending on the 2nd beat of the 6th. Then, as the phase shifts in tonality from the secondary dominant to the dominant, Bird immediately begins the phrase again, this time starting on the 3rd beat of the 6th measure and ending on the 1st beat of the 7th measure. Passages like this always made me feel that Parker was keenly aware of not only melodic target points, but rhythmic target points also, always balancing the starting and ending points so that the phrases, even when seemingly starting in strange places, always fall exactly in balanced proportions. In other words, Bird was very attentive to melodic and rhythmic forms, but as Dizzy mentioned, the real deal is the placement of the phrases.
The second chorus begins with an aborted attempt by Parker to play a typical lick of his that comes from clarinetist Alphonse Picou's variation on the 1901 Porter Steele march "High Society," a phrase that Bird frequently quoted (for example at the start of the second chorus to his famous 1945 "Ko-Ko" performance). It is clear that when playing this phrase Parker's G# key sticks on his saxophonethe bane of all saxophone players. However, Parker quickly unsticks the key, changes directions in midstream, and continues with a flawless execution of his improvisational statement. Two clues help me draw this conclusion. First, he succeeds in playing G# nine beats later in an immediately succeeding phrase (keep in mind this tempo is blazing). Second, while watching the video of the 1952 broadcast of Bird and Diz playing "Hot House," I noticed that Bird had an ability to very rapidly fix problems with his horn, when just before the bridge during the melody he unsticks his octave key, again in mid-flight. When I was first learning this music, I saw many other musicians do this kind of thing, notably the great Chicago tenor saxophonist Von Freeman.
The start of the second 8 also begins with an aborted quote. I'm not sure of the source of the quote (it sounds to me like it's from an etude book), but I have heard Parker play it many times, for example, in performing his blues called "Chi Chi" and in other songsso I know it should move something like this:
However Yard stumbles a bit and it comes out like this, including the spontaneous recovery, again a demonstration of how fast his mind worked:
Max's response to the phrase in the last eight is again one of those funky dialogs. Max sets up this hip transition with the single snare hit right after Parker's repeated blues exclamation, then two snare drum hits in between Yard's phrases, followed by one of those funky ratios, this time 4 against 6, that is Max's bass drum playing the 4 against the cut time 6 of the beat, again timed to end on the measure before the top. I tend to think of this kind of playing as targeting, a technique where you calculate (using either feel, logic or both) the destination point in time where you want to resolve your rhythm, a kind of rhythmic voice-leading. I alluded to Bird doing something similar above. I also dig the spontaneous counterpoint commentary of one of the listeners during this phrase, which seems to go with what Yard and Max are doing.
The next four choruses keep up the heat, and there is a lot to learn from the various techniques. Some highlights are Bird playing in layers of phrases in 3-beat groupings (0:53), the contrasts of light-to-dark-to-light beginning with the secondary dominant in the bridge at 1:04, the extreme cramming in the bridge at 1:26, the modulating descending octatonic figures (i.e. diminished) at 1:44 (which function as cycles of dominant progressions), the diminution effect in the consequent phrase at 2:12 (somebody in the audience dug it also), the extremely melodic phrase at 2:15, and finally the funky way that Max sets up the fours between Bird and Mileswhich Max continues leading into and throughout the fours. The way Max Roach shifts to the hi-hat moving into the fours, and intensifies his interactions with the horn players, also demonstrates his compositional approach to playing spontaneously.
The fours are off the hook, brilliant, beginning with Parker's ultra-melodic opening. The phrase he plays at 2:46 is unusual even by Bird's standards, as it begins in a very dark dominant tonality, progresses to a bright, dominant sound, then anticipates the move to the subdominant with the last tritone. The energy that this phrase generates is resumed at 2:52 (after Miles' statement) with a pair of brilliantly placed ascending tritone progressions, unusual in their rhythm and tonal progression. The rhythm is similar to the 4-against-3 patterns that Max has been executing, where the basic pulse of the song is seen though a different perspective (that of 3 against Bird's 4). And although the tonal implications are too difficult to fully explain here, these 8 tonesBb-E-Bb-E progressing to B-F-B-F-functionally serve to reverse the normal tonal gravity by approaching the dominant tonality (the G7 matrix) from a 5th below instead of from the normal 5th above. There exists an entire theory based on polarity that can explain this kind of movement (see my website), but here it is enough to say that the naked expression of these tritones permits an ambiguous interpretation. The Bb-E-Bb-E tritone could be seen to be the functional equivalent of the tonal spectrum represented in part by C7, F#7, Gmin6, Dbmin6 (any or all of these dominant chords, and yes, I consider a minor 6th chord as potentially having a dominant function). Likewise the B-F-B-F tritone could be functionally seen as G7, C#7, Dmin6, Abmin6; therefore, the progression represents the fairly dark transition of tonalities in progressions of ascending 5ths, which I associate with lunar energies.
This tritone phrase is a continuation of the tritone ending of Bird's previous phrase. To my ears, Miles does not seem prepared to respond to this statement. Bird is playing in a rapid stream of consciousness manner, where each idea picks up from the last, interspersed with Miles' responses. At 2:59, Yard continues this dark-to-light sound, giving us the third consecutive statement where he appears to be tonally emerging from a dungeon, and it becomes clear that he is on a roll. Even his entrance into the bridge is a continuation of this approach, as he approaches from the dark side, 7 flats or the mode of Gb Mixolydian, and, after a snaking Gdim turn, emerges into the sunlight of F major. This gives us his 4th consecutive lunar progression. Parker ends with a phrase that is a functional reprise of the descending octatonic figures earlier in the performance; however this sentence ends with a rocking melodic progression functioning as dominant-subdominant-dominant. Obviously he was at his creative peak this night.
August 29, 2009 · 0 commentsTags:
This composition is another example of the many linguistic rhythmic devices Parker used in his music that are not much discussed. In my opinion, the composed melody is clearly an explanation with variations. The opening phrase of the melody is an explanation of some kind, followed by but perhaps (going into measure 5), which begins the first alternate explanation. Then perhaps (into measure 7) begins a second alternate explanation. Perhaps (into measure 9) begins the final clarification, then the melody ends with the responses in measures 11 and 12perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. Therefore we can think of the melodic segments in between the perhaps as some sort of discussion and clarification of a particular situation, lending more evidence to the literal admonishment of the cats to always tell a story with your music. Obviously in this song there is an added onomatopoetic dimension to the melody that allowed me to at least recognize the perhaps musical phrase at an early stage in my career when I knew very little about the structure of music. But this more obvious example also served notice to me that these possibilities existed within this music, and just maybe there also were elements of the spontaneous compositions that exhibited these features.
This was my intuitive reaction to this song when I first heard it in my formative years as I was still learning how to play, and it is still how I understand it when I listen today. But beyond the more obvious example of this composed melody, I feel that the spontaneous part of this composition, indeed of all of Parker's compositions, are also explanations, and that they are all telling stories. And as mentioned before, they contain the same kinds of exclamations, dialog, linguistic phraseology, and common sense structure that is contained in everyday conversation, with the exception that this linguistic structure is based on the sub-culture of the African-American community of that time, what most people would call slang. This is particularly evident in the rhythm of the musical phrases. The way Max answers the melody is definitely conversational. I hear the same kinds of rhythms that I see when watching certain boxers, basketball players, dancers, and the timing of most of the various activities that go on in the hood. However, this same rhythmic sensibility can occur on various levels of sophistication, and with the music of Bird and his cohorts, it occurs on an extremely sophisticated artistic level.
This subject of musical conversation brings up the issue of African-Diapora DNA. Scholar Schwaller de Lubicz made reference to a theory that the ancient Egyptians, at some very early point in their existence, had a language whose structure and utterances consisted of pure modulated tones similar to music, as opposed to the phonetic languages of today. Given that their ancient writing contained no symbols for vowels, this idea may seem far-fetched. However, because the recorded writing of this civilization documents over two millennia, a great deal of change must have occurred within the language.
Many modern linguists believe somewhat the opposite, that the original human languages contained clicks or were predominantly click languages. These linguists use the languages of the Hadza people of Tanzania and Jul'hoan people of Botswana as evidence. However, the evidence of drum languages in the Niger-Congo region of Sub-Saharan Africa tells another story. For example, the drum languages of the Yoruba of Nigeria, Ghana, Togo and Benin; the Ewe of Ghana, Togo and Benin; the Akan of Ghana; and the Dagomba of northern Ghana, still exist today. In the languages of these areas, register tone languages are common, where pitch is used to distinguish words (as opposed to contour, as in Chinese). Since many of these West-African languages are tonal, suprasegmental communication is possible through purely prosodic means (i.e. rhythm, stress and intonation). There is little doubt that emotional prosody (sounds that represent pleasure, surprise, anger, happiness, sadness, etc.) predated the modern concept of languages. If the early ancient Egyptians developed a highly structured form of suprasegmental communication, it is quite possible that de Lubicz' theory is correct. In any case, there is plenty of precedent for the exclusive use of tones as language.
Regarding the sections containing spontaneous composition, of course, many musical devices are involved, rhythmic, melodic, harmonic and formal, all on a very high level. Which is why most students of this music are absorbed in the musical parametersthere is so much there. But I propose that much of what is being accomplished musically can be seen more clearly if we take into account the perspective of the African-Diaspora, rather than have discussions primarily about harmonic structure, etc. Many of the rhythms that Parker uses are not merely related to African music in the linguistic sense that I have outlined above, nor only related to the notion of having a certain kind of swing or groove. Also many of the structural rhythmic tendencies of the Diaspora have been retained within African-American culture.
We can start by looking at the concept of clave in Parker's playing. The phrase at 0:26 of take 1 is precisely the kind of slick musical sentence that Parker was renowned for among his peers. I feel that the emphasis in the phrasing contains rhythmic figures very similar to various clave patterns. This phrase is repeated almost verbatim at 0:55 with the addition of a turn and a slight shift in the clave pattern:
(at 0:26 )
Of course, you need to listen to the recording to get a feel for the emphasis, but my point here is that there does not seem to be much discussion of this aspect of Bird's internal sense of rhythmic structure. Recognition of a sense of clave in Parker's playing is a key (pardon my pun) to beginning to investigate his complex rhythmic concepts in greater detail. It would be instructive to listen to Bird's spontaneous compositions only for their rhythmic content without regard for the pitches. Then it would be revealed that many of his phrases contain the same kinds of rhythmic structures found in the phrasing of the master drummers of West Africa, with the exception of the pitch conception. An investigation of the starting and ending points of Parker's phrases reveals a kinship to these Sub-Saharan drum masters.
Take as an example this melodic sentence at 0:38 of take 1 of "Perhaps":
There are several rhythmic shifts of emphasis here that suggest a compressing and lengthening of phrases. Starting on beat 3 of measure 2, the shift in emphasis within the phrase suggests groupings of 6-4-5-3-4 (in quarter note pulses). This concept is similar to the classic mop-mop figure; i.e. 4-3-5-4, and is one of the hallmarks of Bird's spontaneous compositions.
August 29, 2009 · 0 commentsTags:
Unlike "Ko-Ko," I included this cut because of the lack of dialog between Parker and Buddy Rich (drums), who plays more of a time-keeping role here. As a result Bird's phrases stand out more against the relief of a less involved backdrop. Here we can concentrate on the question and answer qualities of Parker's playing as well as on the melodic and harmonic content. The harmonic structure of the song is based on one of the standard forms of this time period, Rhythm Changes, derived from the George and Ira Gershwin composition "I Got Rhythm."
In my opinion, the main keys to Bird's concept are the movement of the rhythm and melody, with the harmonic concept being fairly simple. Not only has this been communicated to me directly by several major spontaneous composers of that era, but one can find quotes from musicians of this period stating this idea, such as the following from bassist and composer Charles Mingus:
I, myself, came to enjoy the players who didn't only just swing but who invented new rhythmic patterns, along with new melodic concepts. And those people are: Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Max Roach, Sonny Rollins, Lester Young, Dizzy Gillespie and Charles Parker, who is the greatest genius of all to me because he changed the whole era around. (Liner notes to Let My Children Hear Music )
If you have not read these liner notes by Mingus you should really check them out.
It is clear that from Mingus' perspective, it is the rhythmic and melodic concepts that are the real innovations of this music. On the one hand, Mingus refers to rhythmic and melodic innovation and sophistication, things that could keep a musician interested from the perspective of the craft of music. At other points in the article Mingus talks about the necessity that the spontaneous compositions be about something, that they tell a story about the lives, experiences and interests of the people performing the songs or of other people, and that these are principles that transcend the craft of music as a thing and move toward the core of what it is to be human. I see Bird's music as fitting squarely within this tradition, whatever name it may be called by.
I've always thought of Bird's spontaneous compositions as explanations containing various types of sentence structures. Here, after Buddy Rich's drum introduction, Parker begins "Celebrity" with a 27-beat opening statement, but within this statement is an internal dialog. The harmony and timing help to structure the statement, and gives the listener a sense of the dialog. Generally speaking, what I call dynamic melodic tonalities suggest open ended sentences which are usually (but not always) followed by a response, and in fact lead to or invite a response.
Opening (8 beats static to dynamic)
Response (8 beats preparation to dynamic)
Elaboration (8 beats dynamic to static)
Closing (2 beats)
New Opening (8 beats static to dynamic)
Response (8 beats preparation to dynamic)
Extension (7.5 beats dynamic to dynamic)
Semi-Closing (6.5 beats)
First 16 measure of "Celebrity"
Following up on what Mingus referred to as new melodic concepts, many times musicians use what I call Invisible Paths, meaning that they are not necessarily following the exact path of the composed or accepted harmonic structure for a particular composition, but instead following their own melodic and harmonic roads which functionally perform the same job. The musical description of that job is to form dynamic roads that lead to the same tonal and rhythmic destinations as the composed harmony. This differs slightly from the academic concept of chord substitutions, because these Invisible Paths can be entire alternate roads that are not necessarily related to the composed harmony on a point-by-point basis, and resist being explained as such, but nevertheless perform the same function of voice-leading to the cadential points within the music. These paths may be rhythmic, melodic or harmonic in nature; all that is required are the same three elements that are required with a physical pathan origin, a path structure and a destination.
Many older musicians, especially the self-taught musicians with less training in European harmonic theory, have told me that the musicians of that time were primarily thinking in terms of very simple harmonic structures, mostly the four basic triads (major, minor, diminished, augmented) along with some form of dominant seventh chords. Although the harmonic structures were simple, the different ways in which they progressed and were combined were complex, again pointing to the idea that it was the movement of the musical sounds that most concerned these musicians. This is often overlooked by academics who are used to analyzing music by relying on the tool of notation, instead of realizing that music is first and foremost sound, and sound is always in motion. It was in the areas of rhythm and melody where most of the complexity was concentrated. Many of these musicians did not learn music from the standpoint of music notation, so they had a more dynamic concept of the music closely allied with how it sounded rather than how it looked on paper. Unfortunately, for copyright reasons, this website cannot allow me to use sound examples for this article, so, ironically, I will myself be forced to use notation. My choice would be to use geometric symbols and diagrams. However, I would then need to spend a large sections of this article explaining the symbols.
In analyzing these passages, we can sometimes see hybrid structures or harmonic schemes which shift in the course of a single melodic sentence. Coming out of Buddy Rich's solo, a simple version of this idea seems to be along the following path, or something similar, for 32 beats.
|| Cmin7 F7 | Bb A7 | F7 Dbmin6 | Cmin7 F7 | Fmin7 Bb7 | Ebmaj Ebmin | Bbmaj | C7 F7 ||
The bridge is even more varied, with Birds melodic paths creating their own internal logic, which then resolve back into the logic of the composition.
|| Ebmin6 | Amin6 Ebmin6 | Dmin | Fmin6 | Gmin6 (maj7) | Gmin6 | Cmin6 | (F7) ||
With a little thought, you will notice that these passing tonalities provide the same function as the composed harmonic structure of the song. Notice here that Yard is doing just what he stated in two different versions of the same quotation:
I realized by using the high notes of the chords as a melodic line, and by the right harmonic progression, I could play what I heard inside me. That's when I was born. (c. 1939, quoted in Masters of Jazz )
I found that by using the higher intervals of a chord as a melody line and backing them with appropriately related changes I could play the thing Id been hearing. I came alive. (1955, Hear Me Talkin' to Ya )
However, Parker's version of higher intervals of a chord was not in the form of flatted 9ths, 11ths and 13ths, but in the form of simple melodic and triadic structures that reside at a higher location within the tonal gamut which I refer to as the Matrix (who really knows how Bird thought of it?). In this case, simple minor structures such as Ebmin6, Amin6 and Fmin6 are the upper intervals of Ab7, D7 and Bb7, respectively. These minor triads with an added major sixth are very important structures in music, often mistakenly called half-diminished (for example Amin6 could be called F# half-diminished today). In this instance, the function of Amin6 is that of dynamic A minor, in the same sense that the function of D7 is that of dynamic D major. By dynamic I mean energized with the potential for change. Adding a major 6th to a minor triad has a similar (but reciprocal) function to adding a minor 7th to a major triad, and that function in many cases is to energize the triad, to infuse it with a greater potential for change, due to the perceived unstable nature of the tritone interval. Pianist Thelonious Monk was a master of this technique, and demonstrated this to many of the other musicians of this time (including Dizzy and Bird). Regarding whether to use the name half-diminished or minor triad with the added 6th, this is a case where a simple change in name can obscure the melodic and harmonic function of a particular sound. Dizzy Gillespie mentions this in his autobiography when he says that for him and his colleagues, there was no such thing as half-diminished chords; what is called a half-diminished chord today, they called a minor triad with a major sixth in the bass.
Monk doesn't actually know what I showed him. But I do know some of the things he showed me. Like, the minor-sixth chord with a sixth in the bass. I first heard Monk play that. It's demonstrated in some of my music like the melody of "Woody 'n You," the introduction to "Round Midnight," and a part of the bridge to "Mantaca.".... There were lots of places where I used that progression... and the first time I heard that, Monk showed it to me, and he called it a minor-sixth chord with a sixth in the bass. Nowadays, they don't call it that. They call the sixth in the bass, the tonic, and the chord a C-minor seventh, flat five. What Monk called an E-Flat-minor sixth chord with a sixth in the bass, the guys nowadays call a C-minor seventh flat five... So they're exactly the same thing. An E-Flat-minor chord with a sixth in the bass is C, E-flat, G-flat, and B-flat. C-minor seventh flat five is the same thing, C, E-flat, G-flat, and B-flat. Some people call it a half diminished, sometimes. (from the chapter "Minton's Playhouse" in To Be or Not To Bop)
August 29, 2009 · 0 commentsTags:
This is one of the slickest melodies that I've ever heard. And the manner in which it is played is just sophisticated slang at its highest level. The way the melody weaves back and forth is unreal, and Yard and Max keep this kind of motion going in the spontaneous part of the song.
I'm a big boxing fan, and I see a lot of similarities between boxing and music. To be more specific, I should say that I see similarities between boxing and music that are done a certain way. There was a point in round eight of the December 8, 2007, Floyd Mayweather, Jr. versus Ricky Hatton fight, starting with an uppercut at 0:44 of this video (2:19 of the round), and also beginning with the check left hook at 2:22 of the video (0:42 of the round) when Floyd was really beginning to open up on Ricky, hitting him with punches coming from different angles in an unpredictable rhythm. If you listen to this fight with headphones on you can almost hear the musicality of the rhythm of the punches. Mayweather was throwing body shots (i.e. punches) and head shots, all coming from different angles: hooks, crosses, straight shots, uppercuts, jabs, an assortment of punches in an unpredictable rhythm. But it's not only that Mayweather's rhythm that was unpredictable, It was also the groove that he got into.
In my opinion, the work of Max Roach in this performance of "Ko-Ko" is very similar to the smooth, fluent, unpredictable groove that elite fighters like Mayweather, Jr., employ. The interplay of Max's drumming with Bird's improvisation sets up a very similar feel to what I saw in Mayweather's rhythm. Near the end of "Ko-Ko," at 2:15, Max does exactly this same kind of boxer motion, accompanying the second half of Miles' interlude improvisation and continuing into Bird's improvisation, only in this case it is like a counterpoint, a conversation in slang between Yard and Max. This is a technique that is both seen and heard throughout the African Diaspora. A certain amount of trickery is involved, a slickness that is demonstrated, for example, by the cross-over dribble and other moves of athletesfor example, the 'ankle-breaking' moves of basketball player Allan Iverson. In addition to this, Max's solo just before the head out is absolutely masterful. Try listening to it at half speed if you can.
This was the first Charlie Parker recording that I ever heard, as it was the first cut on side A of an album (remember those?) that my father gave me. And I can still vividly remember my responseI had absolutely NO IDEA of what was going on in terms of structure or anything else. It all seemed so esoteric and mysterious to me, as I was previously exposed to the more explicit forms of these rhythmic devices as presented in the popular African-American music that I grew up listening to. Compared to music that I had been listening to when I was younger (before the age of 17), the detailed structures in the music of Parker and his associates were moving so much more quickly, with greater subtlety and on a much more sophisticated level than I was accustomed to. However from the beginning, while listening to this music, I did intuitively get the distinct impression of communication, that the music sounded like conversations.
In discussing "Ko-Ko," first of all the rhythm of the head is like something from the hood, but on Mars! In the form and movement there is so much hesitation, backpedaling, and stratification. The ever-present phrasing in groups of three and the way the melody shifts in uneven groups, dividing the 32 beats into an unpredictable pattern of 3-3-2-2-3-3-2-2-1-3-4-4. By backpedaling I mean the way that the rhythmic patterns seem to reverse in movement; for example the 8s are broken up as 3-3-2, then as 2-3-3. By hesitation I am referring to the way the next 8 is broken up as 2-2-1-3, as kind of stuttering movement.
The opening melody of "Ko-Ko"
Stratification is just my term for the funky nature of the melody and Max's accompaniment. With this music I always paid more attention to the melody, drums and bass; however, this song form is composed of only melody and drums, with Max's part being spontaneously composed. The way Max scrapes the brushes rhythmically across the snare, frequently pivoting in unpredictable places, adds to the elusiveness and sophistication of this performance. For example, during the head and under Miles' first interlude improvisation (starting at measure 9), Max provides an esoteric commentary, filling in a little more as Parker enters (in measure 17)however, the beat is always implicit, never directly stated. On this rendition of "Ko-Ko," Bird's temporal sense is so strong that his playing provides the clues for the uninitiated listener to find his/her balance.
Melody of "Ko-Ko", trumpet, sax, snare & bass drum:
One rarely hears this kind of commentary from drummers, as much of today's music is explicitly stated. The way Max chooses only specific parts of the melody to use as points for his commentary is part of what makes the rhythm so mysterious. Much is hinted at, instead of directly stated. This continues in the spontaneously composed sections of this performance, as Yard plays in a way where there are very hard accents which form an interplay with Max's spacious exclamations. Punches are being mixed here, some hard, some soft, upstairs and downstairs, in ways that form a hard-hitting but unpredictable groove. I've always felt that the obvious speed and virtuosity of this music obscures its more subtle dimensions from many listeners, almost as if only the initiates of some kind of secret order are able to understand it. This kind of slickness and dialog continues throughout this performance, building in ways that ebb and flow just as in a conversation. By the way Miles plays the F in measure 28 early; based on the original 1945 studio recording with Diz and Bird playing the melody, this F should fall on the first beat of measure 29. However, Yard and Max play their parts correctly, so the still developing Miles Davis probably had trouble negotiating this rapid tempo.
Spontaneously composed music can be analyzed in a similar fashion to counterpoint, in terms of the interaction of the voices. However, it is a counterpoint that has its own rules based on a natural order and intuitive-logicwhat esoteric scholar and philosopher Schwaller de Lubicz referred to as Intelligence of the Heart. Also, in my opinion, the cultural DNA of the creators of this music should be taken into account, just as you should take environment and culture into account when studying any human endeavors. Max tends to play in a way that both interjects commentary between Bird's pauses and punctuates Parker's phrases with termination figures. For a drummer to do this effectively he/she must be very familiar with the manner of speaking of the soloist in order to be able to successfully anticipate the varied expressions.
I have heard many live recordings where it is clear that Max is anticipating Parker's sentence structures and applying the appropriate punctuation. This is not unusual; close friends frequently finish each other's sentences in conversations. With musicians such as Parker and Roach everything is internalized on a reflex level. As this music is rapidly moving sound being created somewhat spontaneously, I believe that the foreground mental activity occurs primarily on the semantic level in the mind, while the internalized, agreed-upon syntactic musical formations may be dealt with by some other more automated process, such as theorized by the concept of the mirror neuron system. What is striking here is the level that the conversations are occurring onthese are very deep subjects! Most of the time, critics and academics discuss this music in terms of individual musical accomplishments, and don't focus enough attention on the interplay. I feel this music first and foremost tells a story. There is definitely a conscious attempt to express the music using a conversational logic. So what I am saying is that while syntax is important, semantics is primary. Too often what the music refers to, or may refer to is ignored.
The last half of the bridge going into the last eight before Roach's solo (at 1:32) provides one of these rhythmic voice-leading points where Max goes into his boxing thing, playing some of the funkiest stuff I've heard. Just as instructive are the vocal exclamations of the musicians and possibly some initiated members of the audience, which form additional commentary. There is so much going on in this section that you could write a book about it; an entire world of possibilities is implied, as the rhythmic relationships are far more subtle than what is happening harmonically.
2nd half of last bridge and last 8 of "Ko-Ko", Birds solo
This illustrates that on these faster pieces Yard tended to play with bursts of sentences punctuated with shorter internal groupings using hard accents, whereas Max played in a way that effectively demarcated Parker's phrases with longer groupings setting up shifting epitritic patterns*. Max sets these patterns up by repeated figures designed to impress upon the listener a particular rhythmic form, only to suddenly displace the rhythm from what the listener was conditioned to expect. The passage above is a perfect example of this, setting up a hypnotic dance of 2-3-3, only to shift the expected equilibrium with the response of 2-1-3-1-1, then continuing with a slight variation of the initial dance.
Even the vocal exclamations of the musicians and audience members participates in what I consider to be secular ritualized performances. All of these features that I mention are traits that I consider to be a kind of musical DNA that has been retained from Africa. This music's level of sophistication demanded the intellectual as well as emotional participation of musicians and non-musicians alike (when they could get into the music, which not all people could). The rate of change of each instrument is also instructive. Obviously the soloists are in the foreground playing the instruments that have the swifter motion. In the case of this particular group, the bass would be approximately half the speed of the soloist, with the drums having a mercurial and protean function. In terms of commentaries, the drummer would be the next slowest after the bass and piano, and would be providing the slowest commentary from a rhythmic point of view. However, elements of the drum part are closer to the speed of the soloist.
*The epitritic ratio is 4 against 3; that is, Max playing the 4 against slow 3 (i.e. a slow pulse which is every 3 measures of 1/1 time). This ratio is used a lot on the continent of Africa.
August 29, 2009 · 0 commentsTags:
August 29, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1930s jazz · guitar · gypsy jazz · i'll see you in my dreams
August 29, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1930s jazz · guitar · gypsy jazz · tea for two · violin
August 29, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1930s jazz · fats waller covers · guitar · gypsy jazz · honeysuckle rose
August 28, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1930s jazz · celeste · guitar · gypsy jazz
The calm introduction (which is actually all there is of a melody) offers little clues to what follows, but it features a rare instance of a string bass solo on a QHCF record. But when the second bass break suddenly becomes very aggressive, Django kicks off the main tune, the group lays into the minor chord sequence, and we're in for a wild ride! Django's fiery solo stays in single-string for the first two choruses, achieving its passion through dramatic bent notes. Then in the third chorus, he combines a block chord, a roll and a glissando up and down the guitar, and his instrument roars like a lion. Grappelli picks up on the growing intensity and his violin solo builds and builds with each successive chorus. Eugene Vees and Joseph Reinhardt, who hardly got notice in the QHCF, are excellent on this recording--I still marvel at how they could create such a strong backbeat without a drummer behind them!
And then there's the talking. Django had quite a reputation for shouting verbal encouragements during recording sessions. According to Benny Carter, it was Django that shouted "Go on, go on" to Coleman Hawkins on their 1937 recording of "Crazy Rhythm". (The fact that Hawkins did go on--unheard of in those days--created one of the greatest recordings of the 78 rpm era). On "Minor Swing", we can hear Django egging on Stephane as the performance builds. It's only at the very end of the record, when the entire group says "Oh, Yeah" that we realize the QHCF has played a little joke on us and has brilliantly set the whole thing up during the course of the record.
August 28, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1930s jazz · guitar · gypsy jazz · violin
Trumpeter Bill Coleman and trombonist Dickie Wells were touring Paris as part of the Teddy Hill Orchestra when they recorded this session for Swing (Dizzy Gillespie was also with the band, and ironically, he was the only trumpeter from the band not invited to play at the session!) This delightful version of Japanese Sandman was the last song cut that day and it features remarkable solos by all three principals. Wells is up first, barely touching the melody before moving into his own invention. Yet he never loses sight of the opening motive and many of his ideas are related to that motive, either rhythmically or melodically. Coleman follows with his sunny, open tone. His first half-chorus features a set of perfectly-balanced phrases. Then the last phrase spills into the bridge and his phrasing shifts three beats off the form. Coleman keeps things that way until he ties it all up with a beautifully-played 6-bar phrase. Then Django steps up with a mostly single-string solo that features some intriguing harmonic choices in the 5th-8th bars. The rest of the solo is rather straight-forward harmonically, so its hard to know whether Django was fully aware of what he was doing and if he considered it a momentary mis-step (If Dizzy had been at the session, he would have known!). However, it was not an isolated incident and Django, who later expressed admiration for the harmonic innovations of Gillespie and Charlie Parker, would experiment again with advanced harmonies in the next few yearsseveral years before bebop was born.
August 28, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1930s jazz · guitar · gypsy jazz · trombone · trumpet
When the back room cutting contests are translated to the concert hall, they usually come across as hollow and staged, lacking the spontaneity that is essential to these kinds of performances. But not on this track, which ranks among the finest recorded jam sessions in the jazz annals. Handy starts out hot, and sets the bar high for the following soloists with a 15-chorus excursion over blues changes. Hamiet Bluiett takes a few steps outside the changes, but George Adams makes the plunge with an ear-scorcher of a solo that is a panzer attack on the authority of the tonal center. You may think that there is nowhere else to go at this point, but then Rahsaan Roland Kirk steals the show by dipping into Adams' own bag and playing it better than Adams himself. And that is just the appetizer for a whirlwind solo of heroic proportions. . .
If you had any doubt that this was a real cutting contest, the blood on the reeds should dispel any doubts. Rahsaan was notorious for these kinds of in-your-face attacks. Two years before this concert, he had pulled off a similar stunt at a Radio City Music Hall event amidst a high profile cast that included Dexter Gordon and Zoot Sims. "Rahsaan could be competitive," Steve Turre has commented. "Don't mess with him at a jam session because he didn't play just one way. He could shift gears on you and take it in another direction. He could destroy people at a jam sessions if they tried to get competitive."
Faddis and McPherson try to pick up the pieces and bring some decorum back to the blues. But by the time you get to the end of this 24 minute track, all hell has broken loose. C Jam Blues is done broke and don't wanna to go back to the key of C no more. Yet I'm sure the composer, who always brought his big scores to this hall, would have been on his feet screaming and clapping along with everyone else.
August 28, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: c jam blues · carnegie hall · ellington covers
August 28, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1930s jazz · france · guitar · gypsy jazz · when day is done
August 28, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1930s jazz · france · guitar · gypsy jazz · violin
August 27, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1930s jazz · france · guitar · gypsy jazz · shine · violin
August 27, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1930s jazz · after you've gone · guitar · gypsy jazz · violin
August 27, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1930s jazz · guitar · gypsy jazz · st. louis blues · violin
August 27, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1930s jazz · gershwin covers · guitar · gypsy jazz · lady be good · violin
August 27, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: tenor sax
World War II would break out in Europe exactly four weeks after this session, but you would never guess it from this sweet, lighthearted evocation of a much different kind of Pacific island than the ones jazz-fans-turned-soldiers would soon be "hopping" in full uniform. Lester's tone is beautiful here, and if you have only heard his Verve recordings from the 1950s you might not even recognize it as coming from the same artist. Yes, the war would scar Young too, and this type of oh-so-relaxed phrasing would also become rarer in his playing in future years. But back in 1939, no one else in jazz was improvising with this sense of tranquil nonchalance. What a revelation: that jazz could be so loose and easy. The coherence and thematic integrity of Young's solo is exceptional, with the second eight bars developing what was played in the opening eightthen the band comes in with mocking horns, almost as if they were irritated that a sax could sound so cool.
And here's the kicker: the whole solo is only sixteen bars long. But Prez, pre-eminently among jazz saxophonists, was perfectly suited for these short solos. Hey, sometimes Lady Day only gave him eight barsso he knew how to make every measure count. How many of today's great jazz soloists could make a complete statement in just a few bars? Maybe they need to start listening to Prez. Certainly Stan Getz was paying attention.
August 27, 2009 · 0 commentsTags:
Haas plays Monk's "Four in One" theme liltingly, with subdued theremin-sounding background sighs from Combs' guitar and crisp, unvarnished rhythm support from Hayes and Raymer. Combs in a lyrical solo break takes his lap steel to the island of Hawaii, before Haas returns to moderately embellish the theme. Combs then resumes his improv, continuing to toy with the tune's melodic rather than harmonic structure, and eventually giving way again to Haas's equally thematic ruminations. Haas concludes by playing Monk's line once more in an appealingly light-touched manner. This is an unchallenging yet sonically fascinating take on "Four in One," not unlike the streamlined approach you might expect from Bill Frisell.
August 25, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 2000s jazz · four in one · monk covers
Her duet with bassist Rufus Reid on "Beautiful Love" is a stark, definitive example of what Niemack is all about. Her understated wordless intro is bolstered by Reid's sensitive and continuing commentary. The singer glides seamlessly into the standard's lyrics, her pliant voice shaping each phrase in a fresh and inventive manner. Niemack's scatted solo that follows is made that much more effective by the harmonic base she has established previously in her melodic exposition. She concludes by reexamining the lyrics even more creatively, this time breaking up the tempo and effortlessly revamping the expected phrase lengths in ways that are totally musical and invigorating, and never over the top. This is a masterfully realized duet performance, and essential listening for those already hip--or new to--Judy Niemack.
August 25, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 2000s jazz · beautiful love · jazz vocals
For that reason, the instrumental "Suite Mary"--dedicated to Mary Lou Williams--stands out. The track is also buttressed by a shining guest appearance by trumpeter Ambrose Akinmisure, the promising winner of the 2007 Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Competition. The piece essentially consists of three sections each introduced by a separate theme, the first funky and riff-based, the second more legato and ethereal, and the third Caribbean-flavored with an allusion to "Shortnin' Bread." Akinmusire's pure, full-bodied tone accentuates these melodies, and his fresh, confident solo is regrettably short. Keyboardist Miki Hayama's exploration is soothingly voiced and thematically focused, while guitarist Marvin Sewell's guitar work ranges from pensively melodic to bluesy and wailingly forthright. A return to the second theme and a melancholy interlude are followed by an energetic, uplifting finale. This absorbing, multi-textured, well-arranged work truly shows Jones' potential more than any other on the CD.
August 25, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 2000s jazz · bass
Joe Beck was a master of the hybrid alto guitar (featured on other cuts from this album), which allowed him greater harmonic range while covering the functions of the bass. But here the Martin CF-1 also works well within the context of this guitar/vocal duo, sounding almost as rich as a fat archtop. On this track Becks sparing use of studio enhancement only emphasizes the lush substitutions which give his Martin an orchestral feel, actually serving to underscore the ballads intimacy. His lines are confident, authoritative, and well-situated between reference chords as he solos without really needing any other accompaniment. Laura Theodores sultry voice and relaxed phrasing fit snugly with the spontaneity of Becks guitar throughout the piece and do justice to Peggy Lees poignant, ultra cool ballad.
August 25, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: guitar · jazz vocals
The cheerful arrangement of "You Turned the Tables On Me" is a breath of fresh air in comparison to most of the other more downbeat treatments by Faiten and her backing group. That is, if you are not paying much attention to the lyrics, for there's no happy ending or resolution here. Fatien's bouncy, floating-on-air vocal captures the attitude of a woman simply dusting herself off and bravely moving on, all the wiser for an unfortunate experience partially her own doing. "But after thinking it over and over / I got what was coming to me / Just like the sting of a bee / You turned the tables on me." A seductive waltzing rhythm underlines Fatien's world-wise admissions, while Robert Glasper's lively piano solo seems to be looking ahead optimistically. Note how he skillfully mixes resounding chords, two-hand unison voicings, and prancing single-note lines. He and Fatien make quite a musical pairing.
August 25, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 2000s jazz · you turned the tables on me
August 25, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: clarinet · muskrat ramble · new orleans
August 25, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: new orleans
August 24, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1960s jazz · jazz vocals · new orleans
This is one of the most under-produced, intimate jazz vocal recordings you will ever hearit sounds like it was conceived in a NY apartment building with thin walls where the musicians need to play at a whisper so neighbors won't complain. But Parlato blossoms in the quiescence, delivering a pristine performance that refuses to follow the predictable path at any point. Her intonation is flawless, as it needs to be in this setting, where there is no place for a singer to hide. There's no bass, no keyboards, and only the singer's handclapping for percussion . . . but Lionel Loueke is there at every breath and phrase, matching Parlato's singing perfectly, yet also challenging her with his own unexpected twists and turns. He sometimes seems on the brink of entering some strange polytonal set of alternative changes, but Parlato dances over the turbulence like the lepidoptera commemorated in the song title.
This track, and the entire recording, are built on what the music industry always promises but rarely delivers: a singer with a breathtakingly fresh approach and a daring personal style that stands out from the crowd. This CD is in frequent rotation on my home sound system, and will probably stay there for quite some time. I'm not sure if the general public is ready for Gretchen Parlatomusic like this is usually kept off the airwaves of mainstream radio stationsbut in a way she reminds me of some other understated singers (Astrud Gilberto, Chet Baker, Kenny Rankin) who became surprise crossover stars. So who knows?
August 24, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: butterfly · herbie hancock covers · jazz vocals
Can we detect the lingering influence of New Orleans style in Young's later sound? The clarinet, not the tenor saxophone, was the king of the reed instruments in early jazz, and here Young plays bothand in a manner which emphasizes the similarities rather than the differences between the two horns. I love Prez's clarinet work, which reminds us of his New Orleans origins, and wish more of it were available on record, but this is one of his finest tenor solos. Young's early role model, the taken-for-granted sax pioneer Frankie Trumbauer, recorded this same song a decade before Young, and it is interesting to compare their two versions. Young's less syncopated, more fluid phrasing points toward the future of jazz improvisationbut it is to his credit that this low-key revolutionary could do so on a track that also reminds us of the music's (and his own) earliest days.
August 24, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: clarinet · tenor sax
August 24, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: new orleans · sludge metal
August 23, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: brass bands · new orleans
August 23, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: new orleans
Monterey continues this tradition of courting the unexpected, as demonstrated by this charged performance by an all star band from the 2007 festival. Dave Holland's music has been amply recorded over the years, but how often do fans get to hear him with a piano player? He has proven, in work with Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock, that he matches up admirably with the 88 keys, but he has banished them from most of his leader dates. Cuban-born Gonzalo Rubalcaba handles the ebonies and ivories here, and he brings his fiery brand of pianism to the forefront on this track. Chris Potter is a flexible accompanist, able to handle the exigencies of any situation, but it is refreshing to hear him in this setting after the garage jam band ambiance of his latest release. Eric Harland is both drummer and composer on this track, and plays with a sound that is both big and crisp, qualities that sometimes seem to be mutually exclusive in the work of other percussionists. No one is playing on the home court here, but it's all for the better, as the players strive for a more collective approach than in their own individual projects. All in all, the music lives up to the rich heritage of Monterey music-making that proceeds it, and it serves as a worthy choice for the festival's entry into producing recordings of current day artists.
August 23, 2009 · 0 commentsTags:
This track sounds like a throwback to an earlier period when jazz was still in an embryonic stage. The opening statement seems better suited to a procession than a nightclub, and like Jelly Roll Morton's "Dead Man Blues" from the previous year, begins by evoking a funeral march, before shifting into raw and lowdown jazz. Celestin was more focused on tone and texture than improvisational brilliance, and the open horn solo here is likely played by Richard Alexis. But Papa's personal history encompasses one of the great success stories of New Orleans jazz. He enjoyed a successful comeback during the trad jazz revival of the 1940s, and went on to play for President Eisenhower at the White House. He even shows up in a Cinerama movie. This venerable master of the New Orleans funeral procession certainly earned a grand one of his own: some 4,000 friends and admirers marched for Papa Celestin at his death in 1954.
August 23, 2009 · 0 commentsTags:
I also wish we knew more about the personal history of this composer, who was apparently born into slavery in 1845. A piece of sheet music published in New Orleans in 1860 is credited to a "Basile"âno last name. If, as is commonly assumed, the composer was Basile BarÃ¨s, it is remarkable both as a work created by a slave and published while he was still a slave, but equally for the fact that the copyright is assigned to the composer. Three days before the end of the Civil War, a Mr. "Bazile" gives a concert in New Orleans. Is this our same mysterious composer? By 1867 there can be little doubt about our musical sage's whereabouts: he plays for four months at the Paris International Exposition. Photos of the pianist in France are in the archives of Xavier University (where the manuscript of "Los Campanillas" also resides).
The role of New Orleans in the development of American music is substantial, and well out of proportion to the size of its population or economy. Yet the survival of an intriguing composition such as "Los Campanillas" reminds us that behind all the famous figures from the Crescent City, other equally brilliant artists worked in comparative obscurity, yet with an equally powerful musical vision. Why didn't BarÃ¨s publish this composition? Did he see it as too experimental for his audience? In any event, this work deserves to be far better known and factored into accounts of the American music history, where it is completely ignored at present.
August 22, 2009 · 0 commentsTags:
August 21, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: new orleans
August 21, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: new orleans
Edmond DÃ©dÃ©, born in New Orleans in 1827, was one of small group of "free black" composers from the Crescent City who managed to earn a livelihood from concert hall music during the 19th century - although mostly overseas. DÃ©dÃ©'s 1852 song Mon pauvre coeur is the oldest surviving published piece of music by a Creole of color from New Orleans. Yet at that time, the composer needed to supplement his income with work as a cigar maker. In 1857 he left for Paris, where he studied music, composed, conducted and, in 1864, married a French woman, Sylvie Leflat. Most of his career was spent in Bordeaux, where he wrote around 150 dances, 6 string quartets, and almost 100 songs - virtually all of this music forgotten after DÃ©dÃ©'s death in 1901. He only made on trip back to New Orleans, in 1893, where he performed as a violinist and was accompanied by William J. Nickerson - who was later a teacher to Jelly Roll Morton. (Another historical connection: the 1856 Chickering piano used on this recording was once played by Louis Moreau Gottschalk.)
But even more than personal ties, DÃ©dÃ©'s compositions also anticipate Morton - who spoke of the importance of the Spanish tinge in his pianism - and other later currents in New Orleans music. One of the key achievements of the New Orleans musicians was their ability to transform the march beat into something less rigid and military, tapping into a more liberating current hidden inside the rhythm. Hints of that same spirit can be heard in this March espagnole, which starts out with great formality, but soon spins a hypnotic web that is more dance than procession. DÃ©dÃ© may have left his home town behind, but the vitality and dynamism of its aural personality still reside in his work.
August 21, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: new orleans
August 20, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1940s jazz
So many famous artists have performed this songthe Rolling Stones, Barbara Streisand, the Righteous Brothers, Roy Orbisonbut it has New Orleans stamped on every measure, and can be traced back to the local R&B duo Shirley and Lee. They had enjoyed earlier hits; "I'm Gone" climbed to number two on the R&B chart in 1952, but this 1956 single made it all the way to the top spot and even crossed over on to the airwaves of mainstream America.
Despite a marketing campaign which proclaimed them as "Sweethearts of the Blues," Shirley Goodman and Leonard Lee were just friends. By the early 1960s they had split up, each pursuing a solo career that never matched the success of the early work as pretend lovers. (Although Shirley had one more taste of fame with her lead vocal on the disco hit "Shame, Shame, Shame.") On "Let the Good Times Roll," boy meets girl and invites her to a "roll" of vague description. Just another Spring day in New Orleans.
The vocals are convincing, but Earl Palmer's drumming is a major contributor to this song's success. He rocks and rolls as the need arises and briefly switches into stop time, butbest of allengages in a circus-type march beat over the main theme that is both strange and effective. The history of New Orleans music is partly the tale of how the march beat was liberated, taken from the soldiers and given to the lovers and assorted party-goers. "You could always tell a New Orleans drummer the minute you heard him play his bass drum," Palmer himself once noted, "because he'd have that parade beat connotation." Here is a classic example from the height of Big Easy R&B.
Note: This song should not be confused with the Louis Jordan hit of the same name.
August 20, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: new orleans
Whew! Taking such a trip around the world can be exhausting. Ah, but thrilling, too.
August 20, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 2000s jazz
They loved it, and everyone wanted a scoop of "Tutti Frutti." Even Pat Boone had a hit with his cover version, but his "Tutti Frutti" is plain vanilla when compared with Little Richard's tour-de-hoarse rendition. This definitely ranks among the most uninhibited vocals in the history of rock and roll, up there with John Lennon's throat-abrading version of "Twist and Shout" and Roger Daltrey's nightmarish scream in "Won't Get Fooled Again." The future of popular music is prefigured here, but you can also hear the echoes of the past. "Tutti Frutti" belongs to that great tradition of New Orleans pseudo-gibberish party-time songsfrom "Heebie Jeebies" to "Iko Iko." It just feels so fine ricocheting off the lips: Womp-bomp-a-loom-op-a-womp-bam-boom! The band plays with as much energy as they can muster, and drummer Earl Palmer pulls out all the stops. But Little Richard is in the zone, and could take it full court one-on-five right to the hoop. Seriously good booty!
August 20, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: new orleans
The tradition of African-Americans dressing up as Indians at Mardi Gras time is a venerable one, and supposedly reflects a gesture of gratitude to Native Americans due to their help in securing freedom for runaway slaves, a historical relationship that cemented ties between these two groups. Also blacks sometimes circumvented discrimination by passing themselves off as members of one or another tribe. The tradition continues today, and in grand ceremonial fashionit is not uncommon for a Mardi Gras Indian costume to cost several thousand dollars. The visual effect is heightened by singing, chanting, drumming and a general spirit of revelry.
Enter the Wild Magnolias. My source documents are strangely silent about the so-called "peace pipe" mentioned in this song. Are the Wild Magnolias referring to some time-honored Native American tradition? A powerful medicine? A shamanistic ritual of cosmic proportions? They are sticklers for ritual purityadmonishing the listener to "smoke it right"; but how do they get around all those local anti-smoking restrictions? You can't even light up a cigar in a smoke shop these days without a squad car arriving to take you away in 'cuffs. Of course, the music presents its own puzzle. Could this really be a traditional Native American song? Did they have electric bass back then? The uninitiated might be tempted to describe this track as watered-down 1970s soul music, but that shows how little they know.
In short, your humble music critic has too many unanswered questions. But a few more puffs on this peace pipe, and perhaps things will clear up a bit. Still I wonder: am I smoking it right?
August 20, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: mardi gras · new orleans
August 20, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 2000s jazz · trumpet
August 20, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 2000s jazz · trumpet
Being a pianist, I might be biased but Hilton Ruiz runs laps around this song with his solo. It's magical! Every note he plays is the note you're supposed to play and then he tops it off with montuno phrases before the swing section and it gives the song a rich blend of all of the aforementioned stylistic elements. Hats off to Tito, you really did it on one!
August 20, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1990s jazz · latin jazz
The orchestral element of this song can be a little too much at times but that was just a thing that they did in the 1970s. Everything was over the top, including the recording. When you get down to the meat of this track, you have a funky bass line played by Will Lee and a moving solo by James on the Fender Rhodes. What does tend to get annoying are the string backgrounds during James's solo but he overcomes them with his solid blues work. Bob James is a musician that is all too often put in the light jazz category, especially for his later work with Fourplay, but his output from the 70s is very inspiring. Take note, many others have. Bob James has got that funk!
August 20, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1970s jazz · fusion
August 20, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1980s jazz · latin jazz
August 20, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1980s jazz · latin jazz
August 19, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: mardi gras · new orleans
It baffles me why more jazz artists aren't using percussion in their recordings because the group interaction heard in Latin jazz is uncanny, heard no where else. This song adds to that statement with fire and fury as the percussion ensemble behind Puente and company provide an almost supernatural backdrop and cohesive rhythmic execution.
August 19, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1980s jazz · latin jazz
August 19, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: new orleans · royal garden blues · trumpet
Alexander, on the other hand, lets it all out, with vocal inflections, nuances, and other devices that at times recall not only Dinah, but Nancy Wilson, Aretha Franklin, Etta James, and Ernestine Anderson--but at little cost to and without diminishing her own unmistakable musical personality. (Wilson, Franklin, and James also recorded the tune.) Alexander sings "This Bitter Earth" at a deliberate tempo that allows her to stretch and savor notes and syllables, and artfully utilizes space for dramatic effect. Mike Logan's piano accompaniment is strictly old school, soulful and patiently appropriate, and his solo has a Gene Harris flair and glow. Alexander's stunning command is reaffirmed when she revisits the lyrics, putting her final stamp on them with a succulent held-note falsetto. Just listen to this track and her treatment of "Wild is the Wind" and you will be forever hooked on this vital singer.
August 19, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 2000s jazz · jazz vocals
August 19, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: mardi gras · new orleans
In preparation for making this record, the Baltimore-born and Dever-raised guitarist embarked upon a pilgrimage through the deep South, journeying through North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and across the river into Arkansas to Heber Springs. I'm not sure how much this vision quest, or even these strangely formal photographs of everyday folks, contributed to this music, but there is no disputing the power of the results. "Disfarmer Theme" is a haunting 6/8 piece in which the interweaving layers of string instruments evoke those traditional bands at casual Southern entertainments that didn't need drums or a bulky piano to move people to their feet and on to the dance floor. Yet there is also some dark, brooding center to this music that refuses to be exposed to the photographer's flash.
This opening track sets the stage for 25 more songs on a CD that is destined to be one of the defining moments in Frisell's career. The return to primal beginnings is a dominant theme among creative musicians these days, and sometimes expresses itself in the most banal tribute bands and marketing-oriented projects; but a recording such as this one reveals the powerful almost Jungian drive behind this commercial trend. A musician, unlike a child, gets to create a personal genealogy, selected from a wide array of possible sources of influence. Frisell, for his part, may have found a sound palette from the past which also serves as a fresh beginningan achievement all the more striking given this artist's own expansive personal legacy.
August 19, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: americana · guitar
The group heard here on "New Orleans" is Cheatham's New York Quartet that appeared at Sweet Basil. Cheatham's initial treatment of the theme on trumpet possesses a majestic richness of tone and expression. He then sings Hoagy's lyrics in his ingratiating conversational, gentlemanly style, even rolling an "R" at one point. His sincere sentimentality is such that one might think he had been born and raised in The Big Easy, rather than Nashville. Folds' piano solo is wistfully restrained and bordering on impressionistic, which makes the trumpet blast announcing Cheatham's own solo all the more jolting. Doc's phrasing comes out of Louis Armstrong (who he subbed for in the '20's), but he imbues it with his own personality and originality. After another brief but welcome vocal, Cheatham ends with a brash fanfare that both evokes, and does justice to, Armstrong in his youth. And all this remarkably from an 87 year-old!
August 19, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1990s jazz · trumpet
"Light" is a waltzing, playful theme that Niculescu executes with a tone similar to Grappelli's, but with not quite as pronounced or creamy a vibrato. His solo exudes Grappelli's swinging buoyancy, and his phrasing, inflections, and grace notes adhere closely to Grappelli's style. However, Niculescu displays his own personal idiosyncrasies as well, including two country fiddle-like modulated runs that pay homage to Stuff Smith. Peter Beets' lyrical, effervescent piano solo extends the mood (as does his and bassist Daryl Hall's and drummer Bruno Ziarelli's discerning support of the violinist throughout). Niculescu provides delicate and tasty embellishments as he performs the melody a second time, and the prepared climactic figure should sound familiar to most Grappelli devotees.
August 19, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 2000s jazz · violin
"Spring Ahead," the first track on Stargazer, would have fit nicely on any of Shorter's '60's Blue Notes. James Genus's loping but determined bass line leads to Uri Caine's ostinato pattern and then the lighthearted, oscillating theme, with its subtle shifts in tempo and dynamics. Joey Baron's sprightly stickwork accentuates the prevailing tension and release, as well as the unpredictability of direction and movement. Just as Douglas resolutely surges into his solo, Chris Speed's clarinet and Josh Roseman's trombone briefly visit for an inquisitive three-way dialogue. Douglas now enters the meat of his improv, his ripe tone undergoing a variety of tonal transformations that enrich a series of hurtling, interconnected extended runs. Caine follows in a straight-ahead bluesy vein before introducing more provocative, progressive voicings. Douglas, Speed, and Roseman resume their earlier swirling counterpoint until the theme's appealing contours are once again explored.
August 19, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1990s jazz · trumpet
I highly recommend this release to anyone out there that's looking for a little bit of diversity in their musical diet. Barsh definitely delivers and proves it beyond a doubt with I Forgot What You Taught Me .
August 19, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 2000s jazz
Don't be fooled by the name of the album. Sam Barsh might have forgot what you taught him, but he learned enough to make up for it. This is an excellent release from a musician that I'm sure we're going to be reading about more as the future grows and as jazz music opens its door to the 21st century musician. Salud!
August 19, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 2000s jazz
August 19, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: blues
Medeski lays down his own mellow, cool jazz influenced organ without losing a beat. We also finally get a little glimpse into the solo abilities of Billy Martin, who plays a short but satisfying solo break before the band comes back in with the head. This song is Bossa-funk at its best, go and get yourself some.
August 18, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1990s jazz · guitar
This album is highly recommended and is a must have for anyone who wants some jazz gumbo. Serve me up some more, please. Pretty please!
August 18, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1990s jazz · guitar
There's a such a deep understanding of music going on in this re-arrangement. The back ground orchestrations behind the solos are absolutely genius and help the song become the masterpiece that it is. Scofield finishes off the solo section with an angular passage that sounds like only Scofield can sound. That tone is recognizable from any stereo on the face of planet earth! A perfect song deserves a perfect rating and this one gets it folks.
August 18, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1990s jazz · beatles covers
With stellar musicianship, acute knowledge of dynamics and interaction and even better songwriting, Hancock scores gold with this album and proves that he was truly ahead of his time and ahead of most musicians.
August 18, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1970s jazz · fusion · synthesizer
Although Hancock would explore disco funk to no end towards the latter part of the 1970s, the Man-Child period finds him walking the line finely.
August 18, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1970s jazz
In fact, 'Fess's whole career looks like a joke CV of oddities and eccentricities. He started his professional music-making helping to pitch a patent medicine, then he turned to tap dancing, then guitar, then drums, and finallyalmost as an afterthoughthe settled on the piano. For a while he was working as Little Lovin' Henry. And when he finally got a recording contract, 'Fess decided to call his band . . . the Shuffling Hungarians?
Don't try to make sense of it, just enjoy it. Here he plays a blues-rhumba, which is his own personal take on American vernacular keyboard music. It's not quite boogie, and it's not quite jazz. You could call it R&B, but it doesn't sound like what any of the other jive pianists were playing at the time. And what about that killin' B natural in the second chorus melody line? Just like so much else from New Orleans, Longhair's music makes up its own rules as it goes along. Yes, there is a band participating, but they are as unnecessary as an overcoat on a Gulf Coast summer day. The sideman were just trying to keep up with the Professor. Strange? Certainly. But make no mistakethis is classic Crescent City piano straight from the source.
August 18, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: new orleans · piano
Its just an informal musical confab among three consummate pros who are letting their hair down without bringing down the level of musicianship. We as listeners are like auspicious flies on the wall.
August 18, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 2000s jazz · electric bass
But Morton never bragged about participating in this first racially integrated jazz recording sessionwhich left us this track, and a handful of others from a 1923 date in Richmond, Indiana. Yet this is a milestone event, much more important than anything you can do with a fly-swatter. And the music? Two different schools of thought exist about this historic collaboration. The conventional view is that Morton taught these white boys a thing or two, and loosened up their stiff conception of jazz. The opposing camp holds that the New Orleans Rhythm Kings already knew what they were doing, and that Morton was a sideman not a professor at the date.
Since Morton takes no solo here, he may seem to be playing a minor role. But his comping behind Roppolo (whose name is often misspelled as 'Rappolo") is excellent, and clearly inspires this under-appreciated clarinetist to some heartfelt playing. This interlude is followed by an inspired burst of ensemble double-time playing, where one can clearly hear Morton driving the band. These ten seconds are the most energized and cohesive part of the performance.
My verdict: This band didn't need Jelly Roll to teach them about jazz melody lines, which they understood and played lucidly, but he definitely enhanced the rhythmic flow of their work. Too bad this was just a one-time collaboration in the studio. They might have shaken up the jazz sceneand, of course, the general public in that segregated eraif they had taken their show on the road.
August 18, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1920s jazz · new orleans
In 1924, Jelly Roll Morton teamed up with King Oliver for a duet performance of this same song. Can any duo today surpass the "inventors" of New Orleans jazz at "King Porter Stomp"? Ah, Marsalis and Lewis do just that. Both are absolutely true to the inner meaning and spirit of Morton's classic tune, yet also are absolutely true to themselvesnot an easy combination given the tendency to treat these old New Orleans songs like venerable relics from a golden age. You hear this and you can't help concluding that the golden age is right now, when an artist of this statue can take on the mantle of past masters and bring their music so vividly to life.
August 18, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: king porter stomp · new orleans
August 18, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: jeepers creepers · trumpet
August 17, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: new orleans · trumpet · when the saints go marching in
Niswangers higher register alto sax replaces Freddie Hubbards trumpet from the original and states the two-tempo theme just has Hubbard did, but with a little more cadence. Following Palmas bouncy solo, Niswanger uses a variety of articulations to keep her own solo fresh: trills, arpeggios and other expressions, keeping loose with that shifty rhythm. More than those things, her ability to handle the songs chord changes with such ease is the mark of mastery.
When a song stretches over seven minutes as this one does, the ideas are usually exhausted by then; instead, Hailey Niswanger seems to be just getting warmed up.
August 17, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 2000s jazz · alto sax · herbie hancock covers · oliloqui valley
With Akinmusire playing in lower reaches of his trumpet as Oh does the same, the mood is somber and reflective. Its in this unlikely setting that Ohs bass sounds dominant, not from playing heavy-handed, but with any ability to make each note hang over like a dark cloud and effectively fill space in a trio that lacks a comping instrument.
Its in this spare, dark setting that Oh shines brightly.
August 17, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 2000s jazz
August 17, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: blues
August 17, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: new orleans
There is little to add to the legend of Young and Holidays last performance together: how they staked out positions on opposite sides of the room during rehearsal, then locked eyes during Youngs broadcast solo as the producers looked on and wept; how they were both ravaged from hard living and would be dead within less than two years. Their art was intact, and for those few minutes on national television, the two old friends and partners once again put light into each others lives.
August 16, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1950s jazz · fine and mellow · jazz vocals · tenor sax
August 16, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1950s jazz · piano · stardust · tenor sax · verve
August 16, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1940s jazz · royal roost · tenor sax
August 16, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1940s jazz · i want to be happy · tenor sax · verve
Surely its no coincidence that the Lester Young Effect would soon dominate the music in that city, first nourishing young L.A. players like Dexter Gordon, Buddy Collette and later Wardell Gray, then setting the standard for the scenes new cool style. Here we find Lester delivering it to their very doorsteps.
August 16, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1940s jazz · piano · tea for two · tenor sax
August 16, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1940s jazz · jazz vocals · time on my hands
August 16, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1930s jazz · big band · kansas city jazz
August 16, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: new orleans · trumpet
August 16, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1930s jazz · big band · jazz vocals
August 16, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1930s jazz · jazz vocals
August 16, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1930s jazz · clarinet · kansas city jazz · tenor sax
August 16, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1930s jazz · big band · fats waller covers · honeysuckle rose
So what if the Preservation Hall Jazz Band came after "So What." It's the spirit that counts. And occasionally a bit of that spirit rises to the fore here. William Tyers's "Panama" is much beloved by fans of ragtime and early jazz, and it is played fast and loose for the Lake Wobegon crowd on this recording, with lots of hot New Orleans counterpoint. The horns are convincing in their anachronistic stylings. The weakest point is the bandleader. I'm not sure how Sweet Emma got her nickname, but it certainly didn't come from the touch her fingers display at the keyboardthey are about as subtle as ten falling bowling pins. But the band reaches the end of the song without any noticeable casualties, and lives to swing another day. There is, of course, no truth to the rumor that Jimmy Carter tried to give this version of "Panama" back with the canal, only to have Torrijos reject the offer.
August 16, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: new orleans · panama
August 16, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1930s jazz · gerswhin covers · kansas city jazz · lady be good · tenor sax
Well, this song will at least get grandpa perking up his ears, and maybe even out of his easy chair. If Percy Humphrey's vocal were any grittier, you could sand down at least two of the exterior walls of Preservation Hall with it. And brother Willie's clarinet solo is fine and fluttery, with bird-call like figures, friendly patterns, and even a few phrases that might have been improvised. Jazz purists will have little patience for the 1960s-era institution masquerading as an authentic piece of early New Orleans history, but only a sourpuss would denounce all this lighthearted fun. And it was probably better that the tourists spent their money at Preservation Hall than down at Big Daddy's Gentlemen's Club.
August 16, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: new orleans
August 16, 2009 · 0 commentsTags:
August 16, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: mardi gras · new orleans
We all know that the Rolling Stones can "borrow" music from New Orleans. So why can't New Orleans musicians do the same in return? Here the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, joined by Dr. John, delivers a spirited rendition of "It's All Over Now," which served as the British rockers' first number one single back in '64. Of course, the Stones had picked it up from the Womack brothers, so this song has crossed the Big Pond enough times to earn frequent flyer miles and a free upgrade.
The tradition of New Orleans brass bands is a venerable one, and the Dirty Dozen are the most celebrated practitioners of the modern era. They are not afraid to update the sound, and add a full rhythm section when necessary, although everyone here except the good Doctor is playing an instrument that can be held in two hands and carried down Canal Street. Besides, who needs a stinkin' electric bass when a sousaphone is lying around? The funky march beat is a New Orleans trademark, and no one does it better than this ensemble. Dr. John is in top form, and proves that he is one of the few singers who can take a song from Mick Jagger and make it sound even grittier and more lowdown. Parade music meets dance hall funk, and everyone is a winner.
August 15, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: brass bands · new orleans
In between the themes, Blanchard rides the Big Easy rhythm like the old pro that he is---more like the old Orleanian that he is--blowing notes in the freewheeling style of a jazz parade, his languid pace placing him back in the very Crescent City from whence he came. Louekes unique wah-wah guitar intonations compete against the trumpeter, providing the friction that keeps the easygoing vibe from getting rote. And then theres the urgency that comes from Almazans persistent note; symbolic, perhaps, of the challenges that must be faced in the new world as described by Dr. West.
August 15, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 2000s jazz · new orleans · trumpet
August 14, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: new orleans · solo piano
August 14, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: new orleans · when it's sleepy time down south
Lewis plays a nice solo on this song, it's very subdued and lyrical at the same time. It's not over the top but quenches the thirst just right with choice note selections and good use of tension and release. I'm glad that this album finally got to see the light outside of Japan. There are so many good albums that have never been released here in the United States but thank goodness this one made it.
August 14, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1970s jazz · funk
The song opens up with a East Asian/African influenced string line over some nice percussion. Then Paul Jackson throws down the anchor and the funk begins. The song is highlighted by a screeching guitar solo by McKnight, which kindly walks the gray line between tonal and atonal. Overall, this song is a gem on an album that has been largely overlooked by jazz heads and more embraced by hip-hop heads for its drum breaks and sample friendly grooves. Go get this, you won't be disappointed and if you are, call me and I"ll buy it from you!
August 14, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1970s jazz · funk
August 14, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: new orleans
August 14, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: new orleans · soprano sax
Lewis was a forgotten figure, a dock worker whose musical talents were virtually unknown outside of his home town. But the attention given to his friend Bunk Johnson, the darling of the revival movement, got Lewis a sideman gig and then his own record date. Lewis was unhappy with the results of a session with a larger band, and volunteered to record againwithout paywith this clarinet-banjo-bass trio. The resulting session is one of my most cherished moments from the New Orleans revival, and provides a rare chance to hear traditional clarinet without trumpet and trombone filling up the mix.
Lawrence Marrero and Alcide "Slow Drag" Pavageau (one of my favorite jazz names, that) are a delight to hear. Lewis, for his part, stays close to the melody here, ornamenting it and adding occasional fills. Eric Dolphy it's not, and no circular breathing is required. But this some of the most joyous music in the pantheon of jazz, rarely heard these days by fans who have little patience with New Orleans oldsters. Their loss. This is one more classic track that proves that, in this city, the least well-known names sometimes delivered the best music.
August 14, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: clarinet · new orleans
Of course, Randy Newman would have good reason to feel some sympathy with folks from Louisiana. He spent much of his childhood in New Orleans, and a dose of that city's musical personality even rubbed off on himand can occasionally be heard in his work. Hurricane Katrina added new poignancy to this song about a Louisiana flood during the Coolidge administration, and here Newman offers a moving rendition at a benefit concert in Avery Fisher Hall. Yes, he may love L.A., but he clearly has a soft spot for that other LA too.
August 13, 2009 · 0 commentsTags:
August 13, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: new orleans · piano
Chalk up a loss for the New Orleans would-be saints . . . and a victory for the sinners in Place Congo.
Few today know the bamboula, but anyone who cares to understand the origins of American music, ought to make its acquaintance. The very first use of the word tango to describe a dance comes from an apparent reference to the bamboula in New Orleansa full century before the word shows up in Argentina. If one could trace the full history of this word, this music, this dance, it would clearly encompass the roots of a wide range of American performance styles and help us understand the complex interweavings of African, Latin and European currents in the New World.
At the center of this sublime turbulence in the aural atmosphere sits New Orleans. The citys most famous classical composer, Louis Moreau Gottschalk tapped into these currents at age 18, when he composed Bamboula, Opus 2 (Danse des nègres). The concept of ethnomusicology didnt exist back in 1848, nor did the discipline itself in any real sense. The fusion of different ethnic music cultures happened rarely and only in the most cautious manner. Yet here was Gottschalk, a prodigy who was partly of Haitian descent, comprehending the importance of this wicked custom of his native city and somehow capable of translating it into the language of concert music. More than 150 years later, this process is still underway, anddare I say it?still in its infancy.
August 13, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: new orleans
After the vocal section, the groove changes up and Bennie Maupin comes soaring through the sound spectrum with a high octane saxophone solo that pushes the song over the edge, making it even funkier. Not enough is said about the abilities of the Headhunters band. Herbie always gets the props and recognition but I think without his backing band, his sound might not have been as strong. If you don't own this album, go out and buy it. Go out and buy it now, it's so worth the money and it was reissued on CD in 2001.
August 13, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1970s jazz
The credits list is just sick, pulling in some of the most in-demand veteran rock and fusion session players for each chair. These two drummers combined have the talent of about twenty pretty good drummers, and it makes one wonder why were they both needed. That question is answered near the end of the song, when the two engage in call-and-response drum soloing. They mostly eschew the over-the-top theatrics in favor of tasty syncopations and dont drag it out too long. Good battle, but Fig gets the nod.
Fusion is supposed to be fun, isnt it? At least, thats the message Im getting from Oz Noy.
August 13, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 2000s jazz
Intoning as if he is sitting back in a rocking chair as an old grandpa smoking a pipe filled with tobacco, he says, "Some of you young folks been saying to me, "hey, Pops, what you mean what a wonderful world," continuing, "How 'bout all them wars all over the place? You call them wonderful?" A quick change in tone finds him pleading with listeners, stumping for public support for a message which is the exact same as John Lennon's ("Give Peace a Chance").
My first reaction is one of disappointment, for I was unaware that this was not the original version until I heard it. As a result, my second (and final) reaction is to wonder who the "young folks" that turned to Louis Armstrong for political leadership in the late 1960s were and if they knew what brand of youthful folly they were dabbling with by doing so.
August 13, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1970s jazz · jazz vocals · new orleans · what a wonderful world
Steig had already performed "So What" on his Flute Fever session with Zeitlin [see jazz.com review], and of course Evans had played it on the album that introduced the now jazz standard, Miles Davis' revered Kind of Blue. Evans and Steig essay a diverting free-form intro and play the theme together alongside Eddie Gomez's bass vamp. Steig's breathy tone and swirling, tenacious attack is encapsulated in his first brief solo, which gives way to Evans' lengthier improv. Evans' pronounced McCoy Tyner-like left-hand figures, two-handed unison exclamations, and unyielding momentum are all a far cry from the pianist's contemplative, subdued side. Steig's second solo seems to be propelled to greater and greater heights by Gomez's driving, variegated bass lines. The flutist's tonal inventiveness is boundless, including the use of overblowing, humming, and vocalized overtones. Even at his most possessed, however, Steig's phrasing retains logic and relevance. Gomez's feature prior to the theme restatement is an excellent early example of his deliberate yet elaborate modus operandi.
August 13, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1960s jazz · flute · miles davis covers · modal jazz · piano · so what
"Cotton Tail" was introduced in 1940 by the celebrated Jimmy Blanton-Ben Webster edition of Ellington's orchestra, and featured Webster's famous tenor solo and a riveting unison interlude for the saxophone section. The combination of Rick Rozie's persistent bass line and Hanna's spiky keyboard clusters precede the ensemble's theme reading, with Newton and Blythe energetically splitting the bridge. Blythe's extravagant solo is pumped by Rozie's race-walking bass, playing the Blanton role. The altoist's wide vibrato accentuates the high-pitched squeals and shrieks that pepper the many riffs and subtexts that he succeeds in assembling into a coherent whole over the composition's "I Got Rhythm" changes. Hoggard and Hanna follow in a sparkling duet that gravitates from call-and-response mode to contrapuntal engagement, with modernistic Hanna here sounding very little like Duke. Newton's flute solo is one of his best on record in a straight-ahead, no-frills context, his marvelous tone and ample technique bringing to life his inventive, lucidly streaming lines. The theme's recurrence ignites brisk fills from Blythe and Newton, and then a concluding exultant flurry from the band.
August 13, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1980s jazz · cotton tail · ellington covers · flute
After a transfixing blues guitar intro by Shuggie Otis, James and Vinson alternate verses, and Etta's more intense style contrasts nicely with Eddie's much more laid-back delivery. James' quavers, melismas, and biting inflections seem to elicit a greater reaction from the audience than Vinson's vocals, which sound like a combination of Billy Eckstine and Arthur Prysock. Unfortunately, "Cleanhead" doesn't play his boppish alto on this track, but Red Holloway's tenor solo more than makes up for that, offering a soulfully unrestrained lesson in blues saxophone eloquence. For two nights in May of 1986, James and Vinson gave those in attendance at Marla's Memory Lane Supper Club a time to always remember, even if they only rarely shared the bandstand.
August 13, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1980s jazz · blues · jazz vocals
The track "Sixteen" vividly exhibits the close interplay between Hemphill, Wadud, and drummer Joe Bonadio (the latter had performed in the orchestra of Long Tongues). The piece starts out with Hemphill playing the stair-stepping theme with ample space left for Bonadio's lusty fills. The altoist quickly enters his solo, backed by Wadud's accompaniment that shifts continuously from walking bass-like lines to plucked accents and bowed patterns. Hemphill never veers far from the blues-based foundation that prevailed in so much of his playing. He changes tempo and intensity of attack frequently, as he freely but explicitly examines the initial thematic material. Bonadio's drum improvisation is tonally nuanced and thoughtfully constructed. Wadud's catchy pizzicato vamp launches his own extended statement, which alternates between walking lines and oblique motifs, with the essence of country blues lurking not far from the surface. Hemphill returns with more blues-drenched phrases supported by Bonadio's backbeat, before evolving into less grounded microtonal exploration leading up to the reprise.
August 13, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1990s jazz · alto sax · avant-garde
The three-chord resolution-heavy second half features one of Trucks' best recorded moments, as the entire group's playing sounds vital with the musicians feeding off of each other and Trucks surfs effortlessly atop their slippery slope. I would not personally call any of what is heard indicative of a musical passion for Elvin Jones (even though the main phrase is constructed around two beats, or, in this case, a pair of syllables that symbolize the song's title), but it sounds as if Trucks was deeply moved by something having to do with someone of that name that day, at least.
August 13, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 2000s jazz · guitar
A sample from a TV program is utilized to drive home the "scientific viewpoint" that a new ice age will soon occur. Instrumentally, it is one of the earliest examples of the Frippertronics that would, later, lead to Fripp's invitation to the G3 festival, but you could debate the lyrical content and redundancy of the oft-heard warning of mass destruction. According to the MC (and with "scientific theory" supposedly on his side), it is now "likely" that "great changes" to the Earth's climate will occur within "forty years" of a broadcast that sounded forty years old in 1977.
"The north part of the world [will freeze over] like it used to be," he states while he emphatically claims "Calcutta" and "London" will soon flood over. It would be safe (and wise) to refute those claims today, as doomsday never happened and likely won't for many millennia, if ever. It's tough to believe that those responsible for this product truly believe in the rhetoric they're selling us.
August 13, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1970s jazz · guitar
Samples that were lifted from an old film serve as this track's "vocals," but they seem rather ineffective as it is tough to suss out what is actually being said. It is obvious that a couple involved in a domestic relationship is engaged in a verbal fight, but the content is cryptic and could be a statement by Fripp on the world around him at the time of Exposure's release (although curious listeners can check out the CD sleeve for lyrical clarification).
As he had taken up residency in the New York of 1977, the urban landscape that he called home at the time was characterized by violence. In traversing Hell's Kitchen with warpaint plastered on, Fripp could have gone into this recording with the desire to verbalize the negative effect that living in the largest American city had upon his psyche. The vision is compelling, to say the least.
August 13, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1970s jazz · guitar
Processed bird whistles sound like they belong on The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, and, by the time Taylor settles into the sublime "A Minor" section, you get the feeling that you are listening to an early Steve Hackett solo offering. While "Spanish" showcases Taylor's guitar, "A Minor" provides an extended coda to the previous song that allows piano and synthesizer stabs to set the mood. Of course, Taylor's axe is the frosting on the fusion cake, and he brings it all home with some lyrical chops that revisit his solo part from the Stones' "Time Waits for No One" (1974), which still stands as his best individual moment on disc.
August 13, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: guitar
Even though it is brief, the reason Taylor was hired by Mick and Keith is clear, because, as a player, he initiates a great amount of space, and, within its borders, passion rings out while patience ensures that the music is never forced. The tune is loosely performed, and the mood is as evocative as many classic blues tracks that are not laced with rock stylings.
Certainly, this sound could be classified as either blues, jazz, or rock, and the stylistic diversity provides much of its charm. Of more significance, though, is that the recording gives listeners an opportunity to hear Taylor apart from the Glimmer Twins and in his own casual setting.
The inspiration level is high, the musicians' jamming is focused, and Taylor delivers as he steps up and fronts his own show. It returns his music to the primal intensity of his earliest recordings (cut with John Mayall) while retaining the quality of a Stones side project-which is exactly what it is.
August 13, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: guitar
While you may hear about the virtues of James Jamerson and Chuck Rainey more often, Weeks deserves mention alongside both players, as the fluidity and inventiveness of his bass is often stunning many years after it was laid down. It takes awhile to digest this fully, because the embellishments are heavily steeped in Hathaway's theory training; as the sole voice, he consciously sings many harmony lines that replace the expected melodies that Marvin Gaye mapped out. The tonality of his electric piano is crisp, jazz chords abound, and the band is in top form on the night of recording.
While this certainly isn't Kind of Blue nor even "Afro Blue," this is a track well worth your dime, your time, or, quite possibly, both.
August 13, 2009 · 0 commentsTags:
While few elements could have been added to stretch this jam past its already-long 13:48 running time, each player is allowed to pitch in with an individual statement via a round of solos in which Hathaway goes first. While he rocks the groove to its foundations, the "second" and "third" movements (as he calls them) consist of two guitar solos-one from Mike Howard and the other by Cornell Dupree. Howard's solo is distinctive for its basic disjointedness, while Dupree's is an exercise in six-string proficience.
Of course, this track is known for Willie Weeks' bass solo, which has inspired instrumentalists of all levels. Awesomely received by the enthusiastic Bitter End audience, it was also lifted a year later by Gerald Johnson for his own solo on Steve Miller's "Sha Ba Du Ma Ma Ma." Who knows why Johnson was unable to compose one, given his own talent, but what is assured is that he was obviously listening to (and learning from) this recording before cutting Miller's breakthrough album The Joker, which appeared on record shelves only a few months afterward.
August 13, 2009 · 0 commentsTags:
However, upon deeper inspection, a simile arises between the befallen animal and that of black Americans during the Civil RIghts era. That this somewhat dispirited recording was cut in 1970 is telling, but forced, idiosyncratic lyrics such as "falls down time and again/gets hung up and never wins/that's his history, my friend" will lead you to believe that this whole misconceived junket was not his idea.
The "hip" production style, which fuses Armstrong's growl with cheerful and frothy big-band backing, ultimately exposes how flat and ill sounding Armstrong's voice was at the time of this session, and further verification that Pops was obviously out for the pay comes to light when considering his background. Who knew that Armstrong, a poor black man born in total impoverishment in the New Orleans of 1901, even cared or knew this much about politics and race relations anyway?
August 13, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1970s jazz · jazz vocals · new orleans
The image that springs to mind is that of the smooth, romantic everyman-much like Chris Isaak. Fittingly, this recording utilizes many of the same elements that comprised the recordings cut during Isaak's heyday-mainly, brassy arrangements, tons of backing vocals, and confident, swinging percussion that dons the edges. In fact, this track is effective on the very same level, as it is meant for pop consumption with its most enduring aspect being its crisp compositional sense and a professional construction that, in the right hands, could potentially find recognition.
The whole package seems to mirror legendary jazz images from years past, from the Blue Note inspired CD cover design to the retro sounding music inside (the CD itself resembles a vinyl LP and a case could be made that this music is also influenced by popular music recorded during the post-Elvis, pre-Beatles era). There is an audience for it that consists of, for the most part, high earners who carry Blackberries and frequent Starbucks.
August 13, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 2000s jazz · jazz vocals
The recording's beginning busts out with some Trucks-inspired slide guitar that seems to occupy the exact same position in the mix as Trucks generally does. The keyboards and horns function in a similar manner, meaning that the music is obviously derivative. Unfortunately, it also boasts little melody (even though the group does achieve the goal of simmering instead of boiling).
Chiming in like a female version of Trucks' vocalist Mike Mattison, Jones tries hard to sound tough but, in the end, the triple and quadruple tracking ensures virtually no roughness whatsoever. The entire package sounds like it was cut following a previewing of either Almost Free or Songlines by the Trucks band, and listeners will immediately acknowledge that a fair quotient of originality is lacking.
While it's safe to say that, given the bandleader's background, she is likely more familiar with Roberta Flack than Derek Trucks, stranger things have happened in American history.
August 13, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 2000s jazz · jazz vocals
Of course, none of this is as fluid (or as interesting) as the music recorded by those two fusion groups, but the players do attempt to sound like Larry Carlton, Victor Feldman, and Steve Gadd, and some keyboard flourishes that can be heard in the works of both Donald Fagen and Herbie Hancock exist.
Listeners will wish that Jones and company had explored the musical form more instead of relying on a single chord with few distinct changes and some recorded sounds that lack clear rendering, but, as they say, "the cut ain't half bad." She manages to emit a sultry sound while being devoted to the tune as it stands, and, in this, there is merit.
August 13, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 2000s jazz · jazz vocals
As it was during WRs 1970-72 period, this band tears down the walls separating the rhythm section and the front line, with each performer assuming equal parts in a musical democracy pioneered by that incarnation of WR. Cleaver never keeps time, instead using his kit to provide waves of percussion that melds into the tapestry of the tonal instruments. Vitous himself plays with randomized vigor, oscillating between plucked and bowed bass at multiple points throughout the track, and without causing any disruption.
The spare, murky sound produced by Vitous group is a far cry from what his old group later became, but what it lacked in structure and groove, it more than made up in freedom, direct communication between players and unpredictability. That holds true even when Vitous recycles an old song from his ex-bandmate that wasnt originally conceived to be used in that way.
August 13, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 2000s jazz · ecm · nefertiti · wayne shorter covers
Dr. John reportedly plays a cassette of this music for musicians in his band so they can hear how New Orleans music is supposed to be played. But, honestly, there can't be many bands in the Big Easy, or anywhere else, that operate consistently at this level. The rhythm section is hot, but Booker is clearly in command from the opening vamp. I once heard a bandleader lament about piano players who have learned all the Bill Evans chords and McCoy Tyner patterns, but don't really know how to create a groove at the keyboard. For that kind of lesson, you couldn't find a better teacher than James Booker or a sweeter pedagogy than these tapes.
August 12, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: new orleans
The composition is a gem, one of Morton's finest efforts, and I wonder why it isn't played more often. You could serve it up as a stylish encore at a classical piano recital or let it rip at a juke jointit works either way. The hook comes with the hesitation in the breaks. Let's turn again to Morton's own words: "Without breaks and without clean break and without beautiful ideas in breaks, you don't even need to think about doing anything else; you haven't got a jazz band and you can't play jazz." Again he lives up to his own standards. And exacting standards they were. Let me remind you that Morton was the bandleader who pulled out a pistol at a session when trombonist Zue Robertson didn't play the boss's tune the way he wanted. (Let it be noted, for the record, that the next time, Zue delivered it perfectly, note-for-note.)
At a time when swing bands dominated the charts and war was looming on the horizon, many jazz fans dismissed Morton as a pathetic blowhard, a stale leftover from a bygone musical era. The parade has passed you by, old man. But make no mistake about it: these final recordings from the New Orleans master, and this track in particular, reveal one of America's greatest musicians at peak formshowing the way with his clean breaks, beautiful ideas . . . and that Spanish tinge.
August 12, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1930s jazz · latin jazz · new orleans · solo piano
August 12, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: new orleans
The New Orleans R&B diva got no satisfaction from seeing the young rockers' success - and was so upset that, for a time, she only performed it in response to determined requests from the audience. Her intense 1964 version is no less stirring for its flip-side status, and one could easily imagine it becoming a hit on its own. But even if time wasn't on her side in this instance, Thomas proved resilient: at the close of 1964 she released another single - "Times Have Changed," a song which sounded somewhat similar to the hit record of her British rivals.
August 11, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: new orleans
You don't really need to know what "Iko Iko" means to enjoy it, but a grad student could spend a month deciphering the Creole patois and the song's various significations. The tune was originally recorded under the name "Jock-A-Mo" - which means jester. A "spy dog" is a lookout. Marraine is a godmother, etc. But even the composer claims he was just imitating phrases he had picked up from Mardi Gras Indians, and didn't really know what they meant. He thought it was some sort of victory chant. Works for me. Next time you come up on the winning side - in the office football pool, with pocket aces in a hand of Texas hold 'em, with a lottery ticket from the convenience store - try it out: Jockomo feena nay.
August 11, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: mardi gras · new orleans
Hirt's record reached number four on the Billboard chart, while Toussaint had trouble even collecting royalties. At one point he found that money was going to a mysterious "Joe Friday" who was credited as co-composer. Of course, Toussaint was a mystery man of his own back then, having recorded this song for RCA under the name of "Al Tousan." But his piano style is immediately recognizable and blows his cover within the first few bars. His spirited rendition is full of the bouncing and rolling keyboard licks that are the calling card of Crescent City keyboard, and Toussaint adds to their exoticism by mixing in some open some open fifths that sound like a parody of Chinese music. I'm not sure how this all adds up to java, but the caffeine level is certainly high enough to give you a jolt.
August 11, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: new orleans · piano
How sad to see Sam Morgan's amazing jazz ensemble left behind in obscurity because it stayed in New Orleans. The ingredients here are not promising: Sam hired two of his young brothers and the trombonist brought in his cousin to play string bass. None of these artists ever became a star or even moderately well-known beyond the inside circles of New Orleans music. But take my word (or better yet, listen yourself and discover): this was one of the finest jazz bands in the world, circa 1927. The ensemble sound is perfectly balanced, and the rhythm section is more advanced than any you will hear in New York or Chicago groups from this period. Why Sidney Brown isn't revered by bass players is a mystery to mehe was laying down supple and driving 4/4 time when almost everyone else was two-stepping. This is Kansas City rhythm before Kansas City discovered it. The call-and-response among the horns is also noteworthy, and only a step away from big band jazz. Yet the jubilant spirit of the New Orleans tradition permeates every chorus.
Thanks goodness Columbia Records captured this band on wax during a field trip down south. The fact that musical riches of this caliber were hidden away back home while the world got to know Armstrong, Bechet, Morton and others tells us much about the depth of jazz talent In New Orleans in the 1920s. It begs the question: how much music of this caliber is totally lost to us because no one thought to record it?
August 11, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1920s jazz · new orleans
Which brings us to the subject of Johnny Dodds. Here the great New Orleans clarinetist, best remembered as a sideman with Armstrong and Oliver, gets to step to the forefront at a recording session and makes the most of the opportunity. He contributes two majestic choruses that rank among the finest examples of traditional jazz clarinet playing you will ever hear - and shows that he doesn't need a famous brass player in tow to validate his artistry. George Mitchell plays better on his Jelly Roll Morton sides, and Ory's solo is sleep-inducing. But Dodds alone is enough to enshrine this track in the pantheon of New Orleans classics. The ensemble playing in the final seconds is picture perfect, and Dodds shines in the coda. Okay, you can hold off on the crown, but playing like this certainly deserves at least an earldom or principality.
August 11, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1920s jazz · clarinet · new orleans
This recording captures the Eureka Brass Band back in 1951. This ensemble had been together since 1920 and kept playing until 1975, and even after that leader Percy Humphrey (also a regular at Preservation Hall) occasionally revived the group. But even this relatively authentic recording shows the tendency for this tradition to morph and modernize. Immediately after this somber hymn, the brass band launches into Gerswhin's "Oh, Lady Be Good"a Broadway song that wasn't even composed until four years after the Eureka Brass Band was founded.
August 11, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: brass bands · just a closer walk · new orleans
Coltraro? Wasn't he the tenor player who invented circular breathing?
Of this group of pioneers, none became more famous than Louis Prima, but his success in crossing over has led many to forget his strong jazz and Crescent City roots. If he is connected in the public's mind with a city, it is probably Las Vegas, not New Orleans, where he worked the casinos and kept the partyin' festive and the slot machines spinnin'. But the boisterous, uninhibited quality of his performance of "Jump, Jive, an' Wail" would be equally at home on Basin Street or in the heat of a Mardi Gras celebration. Give credit to Sam Butera, too, who played John Gilmore to Prima's Sun Ra, aways finding the right licks for the mix.
How to describe Prima's approach? Doggerel Sicilian rhythm & blues? Jump tune meets "Funiculì, Funiculà"? Storyville with pomodoro? Honestly, it's just the one and only Louis Prima, a big talent too large to be contained by any casino . . . or even a small island off the coast of Africa.
August 11, 2009 · 0 commentsTags:
August 10, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1920s jazz · new orleans
For better or worse, we are left with the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. And, yes, you should listen to the music before passing judgment on this ensemble. LaRocca was a fine cornet player, and the band plays with enthusiasm and energy here. The tempo is quite fast by the standards of New Orleans jazz (which was played with more restraint than you might think), and the sense that this band is on the brink of veering out-of-control no doubt was a major reason why the ODJB sold a million records. The novelty effects aren't as entertaining to modern ears as they were to the first listeners, and I would rather hear more cornet and fewer squeals from the tiger. Yet, say what you will, this band was hot.
Note: Click here for David Sager's review of a follow-up version of the same song made six months later by the ODJB.
August 10, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: new orleans · tiger rag
August 08, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 2000s jazz · drums · jazz vocals
August 07, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 2000s jazz · piano
August 07, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: impulse · jazz vocals · my one and only love · tenor sax
This artist, who was working in a shipyard when he was discovered by Gene Krupa in 1942 and three years later won the Downbeat poll on tenor sax, has been largely forgotten by the current generation of jazz fans. But he was a skilled and versatile soloistVentura was one of the first Swing Era stars to embrace bopand deserves a better fate than benign neglect. Sometime, somewhere, when a tenor saxophonist launches into this song, let it be dedicated to Mr. Ventura.
August 07, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: my one and only love · tenor sax
August 07, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: guitar · new orleans · st. james infirmary
August 07, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: brazil · gershwin covers · s'wonderful
August 07, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 2000s jazz · jazz vocals
August 07, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1980s jazz · i hear music · jazz vocals
Droppin Things is based on Carters scat tune, Jumps. It sounds like Carter hadn't decided whether the song should be started in duple or triple time. In fact, the recording includes a false start in 2/4 time before restarting in 3/4. The time moves back and forth between the two meters, even during the solos. To further cloud the meter, Carter sings her melody in straight quarter notes without any downbeat implied. In the second A section, bassist Tarus Mateen plays so fast, there is no clear sense of time signature. To keep all of this together, Carter has guest instrumentalists Freddie Hubbard and Craig Handy solo on the harmonies of the bridge, and she inserts segments of the melody as signposts. Carters own scat solo uses a single scale instead of the chord changes so that the signposts are not necessary as she improvises. Her solo, based on short ideas, morphs into a musical conversation, starting with Carey, who is eventually joined by Hubbard and Handy. The tension builds steadily for nearly two minutes, and then there is a slight repose before Carter closes the performance with the main motive of her melody.
August 07, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1990s jazz · jazz vocals
August 07, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1980s jazz · in walked bud · jazz vocals · monk covers · vocalese
In the 1998 notes for the Smithsonian collection,The Jazz Singers, Robert G. OMalley wrote that Gaillard had transformed the moments of parody in the recordings of Fats Waller and Al Hibbler into an aesthetic of parody. While such an analysis seems rather high-brow, there is little doubt that Gaillards comedic concepts were unparalleled in jazzor any other music, for that matter. At any rate, such theories are much less damaging than those offered during his career, including the idea that Gaillards vout promoted drug use. That accusation caused Gaillard to lose a lot of work and led to long nomadic periods in his life.
August 06, 2009 · 1 commentTags: 1950s jazz · afro-cuban · jazz vocals
August 06, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1950s jazz · cool jazz · jazz vocals · lullaby of birdland
Getz, for his part, makes his contribution sound so free and easy, that it's easy to under-estimate his artistry; even he made light of his achievementâintroducing this song in concert as "Dis Here Finado" (an coy allusion to the funky hard bop tunes "Dat Dere" and "Dis Here"), or joking that it was the tune that would put his children through college. But can you imagine another jazz tenorist of the era who could have played this music with such perfect sensitivity to its nuances and inner emotional life? Let 'Trane have his "Giant Steps" and Rollins his late night bridge heroics; ah, but beachfront property never loses it value, and there is a stretch of it down Copacabana and Ipanema way that Getz will always own.
August 06, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1960s jazz · bossa nova · brazil · tenor sax
These sides represent his complete recorded output, and Armstrong had left the band several years before. Even so, "Frankie & Johnny" gives us a taste of authentic riverboat music. This performance is lighthearted, danceable, swinging but not too hotâone can understand how this type of music captivated listeners from New Orleans all the way to St. Paul. The quote from Wagner in the intro is a reminder of the popularity of "jazzin' the classics" during this period. The opening melody statement sounds more like rag than jazz, but the stop-time trumpet solo is real New Orleans jazz. One wonders what a young Louis Armstrong would have done with this arrangement; perhaps it was even written with him in mind. In decades to come, jazz would go on the road, traveling to every corner of the globe, but this jazz proselytizer of the waterways will always be the rememberedârightly or wrongly, don't matter; the romance of the river is too potent to denyâas the one who started it out on its journey. Fate indeed!
August 06, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: new orleans
August 06, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1950s jazz · jazz vocals · scat-singing
August 06, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1950s jazz · jazz vocals · scat-singing · trumpet · verve
August 06, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1930s jazz · dinah · jazz vocals · scat-singing
August 06, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1920s jazz · jazz vocals · new orleans · trumpet
(The MP3 link above is not from the Anamule Dance CD, which only includes the musical demonstration. Instead, the linked recording is from Mortons The Complete Library of Congress Recordingsalso from Rounderwhich includes the spoken introduction. The recording begins with the final section of the Morton composition Anamule Dance and segues into the discussion of scat at 2:35.)
August 06, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1930s jazz · jazz vocals · new orleans · scat-singing
Very quickly my conception of jazz began to change. That record dipped jazz in a funk steambath, the same technique used by Miles...but I didn't know that yet. Heck, I bet I hadn't even heard Kind Of Blue yet....or Coltrane! Yet despite my lack of jazz knowledge, it was obvious that this Ulmer guy had something going on. His sound was a roiling mass of barely contained energy. The funk and jazz worked with and against each other to torque up the sonic karma.
Rashied Ali knows all about torqued up music. His post-Elvin work with Coltrane is legendary. On this track it's gratifying to see Ali come full circle, revisiting material from his old Phalanx cohort, Mr. Ulmer. With horns taking the lead melodic roles (instead of the guitar), this version has more bop sensibilities than the original. My ears say the highlights are Ali's incredible, far-reaching drum solo and Lawrence Clark's busting-at-the-seams tenor solo that follows. Ali avoids (as usual) the pulse and comps his ass off underneath Clark. Beneath the squall, there's a lot of beauty — for my ears, one of the defining characteristics of free-ish jazz.
August 06, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 2000s jazz · avant-garde · drums
Johnson played along with the game, and even cheated a bit, jiggering his birth date to strengthen his case as the midwife, or at least one of the three wise men, present at the birth of jazz. In those over-heated days of jazz wars (have we outgrown them today?), fans battled like horn players in a cutting contest, and Johnson was not just praised as a musician, but held up as some sort of antidote to everything that was wrong with the jazz world. This provoked a backlash, and inspired a more progressive contingent of fans to debunk Bunk . . . and on and on the battles raged.
Given this history, it's hard to listen to Bunk's revival recordings as just good ol' hot music, but that is precisely how one should approach this track. This band may lack for polish, and the performance is rough around the edges. But the spirit is with these old men playing their hearts out in San Jacinto Hall on that hot midsummer day in 1944. They evoke a type of revelry that only a sourpuss could scorn. Let jazz warriors make war, but I would rather tap my foot to the beatand there is plenty here to keep me tapping. You won't get any polemics from this corner, but I am ready to scrawl it on the wall: Bunk Lives!
August 05, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: new orleans · you are my sunshine
Getz's occasional collaborations with Chick Corea are a case in point. Corea was himself in the midst of a fertile period of experimentation and threw many curveballs at the tenorist, including proto-fusion and neo-Latin charts. Getz was on the heels of his own huge bossa nova success and could have easily continued in that vein indefinitely, but here he digs into Corea's intricate "Litha," which includes meter changes (6/8 to fast 4/4), modal interludes and some unconventional harmonic movement. Needless to say, nothing in Getz's formative experience with Jack Teagarden, Benny Goodman or even Woody Herman prepared him for this. No matter . . . Stan positively flies over this chart as if he had written it himself.
This is exhilarating music. The rhythm section of Corea-Carter-Tate is as good as any Getz would ever employ; they challenge the leader at every step along the way, and he asserts himself in return. In short, there is not the slightest touch of saudade anywhere on this track. I wish Getz had undertaken more sessions of this sort, but I am grateful this one took place before Corea went off into fusion-land and the tenorist went through his own period of musical redefinition in the late 1960s and 1970s.
August 05, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1960s jazz · tenor sax · verve
I can't say which was more of a hook: Domino's prancin' poundin' piano or his throbbing waa waa vocal. But put them together and you open the page on a new era in American music. Over the next decade, the piano would lose its position as anchor of the rhythm section in most commercial recordingsits place usurped by the plugged-in guitar. But I can't believe for a second that six strings could ever adequately replace Domino's ten fingers. Was Fats the father of rock, that first falling domino that set everything else in motion? I might not go that far, but New Orleans is clearly the place where rock learned how to roll.
August 05, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: new orleans
Less than two years before his death in 1975, the then 65-year-old Jordan recorded this instrumental version of "Take the A Train" at a session in Paris, a track that was not released until the CD reissue in 1992. Listening to it, one wonders what Duke Ellington's orchestra might have sounded like with Jordan in the sax section and as a featured soloist (and singer!). The theme is taken at standard Ellington pace and harmony between Jordan's alto and Irv Cox's tenor, while Duke Burrell lays down some Dukish chords and phrases. Jordan enters his solo with a clarion call before suavely gliding through a series of interconnected and engagingly bluesy riffs, motifs, and exuberant shouts. His trades with drummer Archie Taylor are a little one-sided, as Taylor seems to be a better timekeeper than improviser. Burrell's fills during the horns' hearty reprise even top those of the pianist at the beginning of the piece, adding to the reverent authenticity pervading this small group treatment.
August 05, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1970s jazz · ellington covers · take the a train
One such standard on her breakthrough CD in 2000 was "The Very Thought of You." Marie sings it with much attention to detail, nuanced in her intonation, inflections, phrasing, and emotional message and impact, and finishing with a swooping Sarah Vaughan-ish descending melisma just before Mulgrew Miller's piano solo. Miller's accompaniment is all-embracing, and his ringingly lyrical solo possesses more than a little touch of grandeur, Marie returns with a more playful attitude, taking liberties with the melodic line that reveal a Betty Carter influence. All in all, in its subtlety, this remains one of Marie's best recorded performances of a standard tune.
August 05, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 2000s jazz · the very thought of you
Just like a tune by Monk, the saxophonist J. D. Allen has appeared on at least one track on all of Tamburrino's CDs, and joins the pianist for his "Out of a Blue Reflection." The theme as played by Allen alludes briefly to "Straight No Chaser" before going its own sweet way, but it is straight out of Monk's bag nonetheless.. Lepore produces a playfully lucid bass solo, followed by the compelling Allen, who creates an improvisation that seems to borrow equally from John Coltrane and Charlie Rouse, while retaining a sure-footed individuality. Tamburrino then resolutely approaches Monk's angularity from his own independent direction, employing glistening arpeggios and distinctive chordal formations in a technically impressive display that builds a skyscraper on top of Monk's implied foundation. By the time Allen has finished replaying the theme, this could easily have made your list of best Monk-inspired compositions. The appeal of this track also beckons Tamburrino and Allen to unite once again in the future for an all-Monk CD. Now that would definitely be something to hear.
August 05, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 2000s jazz · piano
Written for his daughter Kim, Taylor's ballad "Just the Thought of You" rivals in its graceful beauty the standard with a similar title, "The Very Thought of You." Taylor executes an enticing, undulating intro that leads to Mulligan's heartfelt rendering of the touching theme. Mulligan plays it with a supple, well-rounded tone, which hardens at times during his solo for added expressiveness. His circular phrases, and the extended lines that encompass them, are artfully and cogently resolved. Taylor's improv takes rhapsodic flight when he guides a fetching motif through a variety of arpeggiated modulations. Mulligan begins an equally absorbing second solo that gradually segues back to the memorable theme. Taylor / Mulligan collaborations should have come more frequently. (A 1993 meeting, Live at MCG, was released in 2007.)
August 05, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1990s jazz · piano trio
I even performed it with Stan, and matched my piano part to what McNeely plays on this tracksince Getz's approach to this song was not about improvisation. Instead, playing this composition again and again, he seemed to be seeking a quasi-ritualistic revisiting of some primal experience. On this studio version, as in concert, he never departs far from the written melody. Getz's whole attitudenot just to music, but to lifewas about improvisation, yet I never once heard him take a real solo over these changes. He might briefly allow his horn to stray from Strayhorn's line, for a fill or ornamentation, but would always come back to it. I think he would have considered an extended solo on this piece some sort of sacrilege. Instead, I sensed him reaching for what Kierkegaard talks about with his metaphysical concept of Repetition, a return to the same that is the antithesis of sameness.
This had been Strayhorn's final composition, written shortly before his death from esophageal cancer. This exquisitely crafted piece is one of the composer's most multilayered efforts, its power rising from the tension between the surface elegance and the submerged anguish of the music. Getz's interpretation took on added poignancy as his own health started failing during the course of the decade. One couldn't help hearing Stan confronting his own mortality as he returned to this piece night after night.
What a testimony to the focus musicality of this artist, that he could channel so much of his own inner life into a mere melody statementand not even a melody he had writtenand communicate it to every member of the audience. If you haven't heard it, you need to. Check out either this studio version, or the later live performance in Copenhagen. Against the backdrop of a career chock full of memorable tracks, both classic and commercial, Getz delivered one here for the ages.
August 05, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: billy strayhorn covers · blood count · tenor sax
August 05, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 2000s jazz · latin jazz · trombone
Less attention is paid to the music that Keppard actually recordedalbeit more than a decade later. But in "Stock Yards Strut" he plays with vigor and swing, and one can understand the claims of those who saw him as the great interregnum ruler of New Orleans cornet between the reigns of King Buddy (Bolden) and King Joe (Oliver). I wish we had more Keppard tracks at this level, and devotees of traditional sounds will forever dream of what this artist sounded like when he was in his mid-20s. Dream on, but don't dismiss this hot side, which contains some stuff eminently worth stealing.
August 05, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1920s jazz · cornet · new orleans
August 04, 2009 · 0 commentsTags:
For their gig, Stan and Bob played a number of charts they had recorded more than thirty years earlier. After the performance, I expressed my surprise to Brookmeyer that Stan played all the compositions, some of them quite intricate, without looking at any music. After all, Getz had recorded these charts before I was born, and the Stanford concert was a one-time eventyet Getz dug into these pieces as though they were on his set list every night. Brookmeyer shrugged his shoulders and commented "Well, that's Stan Getz."
The Brookmeyer partnership was just one of many musical relationships for Getz during the mid-1950s. The Cool Sounds album finds him in five different line-ups. But the interplay with the valve trombonist is especially effective. The chemistry between Getz and Brookmeyer is in the same league as those other ultra-cool period pairings: Mulligan & Baker, Marsh & Konitz, Sims & Cohn, heck maybe even Bogart and Bacall. Hear Getz riffing behind Brookmeyer's solo, then starting his own improvisation with a variant of the same riff before launching into a slick, thematically-cohesive workout over the changes. Getz was a master at these medium-up tempos, and knew better than any tenorist of his generation how to be hot and sweet at the same time. I can't find much rusticity in this "Rustic Hop"which sounds to me more like a joyride in city trafficbut it does keep hopping for the duration. A stirring example of a band that could have been far more influential if it had stayed together longer.
August 04, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1950s jazz · tenor sax · trombone · verve
Which brings us to Milton Nascimento, who is one of the most subversive singer-songwriters of modern times. "Nozani Na" is a traditional song from the Mato Grosso, best known for its adaptation by Hector Villa-Lobos. But compare Nascimento's version with the classical composer's and get a lesson in the primacy of sound over notes, aural fluency as a deeper intuiting of music than the printed score. Accompanied solely by percussion and guitar, Nascimento and singer-ethnomusicologist Marlui Miranda (who spent 17 years researching Amazonian music) engage in a luminous duet. If you are a seeker after music that cuts through the noise, and resists reduction to the formulaic, this is a track you need to hear.
August 04, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: brazil · world music
August 04, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: bass · hoops
The title (and lead) track on baritone saxophonist Alex Harding's The Calling is a movingif unfortunately incompleteprologue/introduction to some very fine music. The first of the tune's two parts is a rubato, minor-key dirge over a bowed pedal point in the bass, specifically reminiscent of John Coltrane's "Spiritual." Pianist Lucian Ban strums the piano strings and limns the modal harmonies, drummer Nasheet Waits provides portentous cymbal and tom-tom rolls, percussionist Andrew Daniels sets an independent course on congas, and Harding renders the sustained, rising-and-falling opening theme with guts and sensitivity, before setting a gritty ostinato that forms the basis of the tune's forceful, latin-tinged second half. The band leaps wastes no time in reaching a very high gain of intensity, again reminiscent of mid-period Coltrane, especially A Love Supreme. While the band's approach isn't distinctive, the strength and conviction with which they play is commendable.
Harding is one of the best young baritone saxophonists. His sound is huge, varied, and expressive; his manner spontaneous, his ideaswhile certainly owing to Traneare original enough to call his own. Overall, the music's biggest flaw is the premature and musically nonsensical fade that cuts off the band in mid-flight, leaving one with a definite sense of incompleteness. The abrupt ending sabotages (not fatally, but noticeably) an otherwise powerful performance.
August 04, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 2000s jazz · avant-garde
August 04, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: brazil
August 04, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 2000s jazz · bossa nova
August 04, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: new orleans · solo piano
August 03, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: brazil · cantaloupe island
August 03, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: brazil · world music
This one begins and ends with DeJohnette, who is better than just about anyone else behind a drum kit at applying his available tools at the right moments in the right measures. He listens closely to the exchange Surman and Abercrombie are having and detects even the slightest mood changes and responds accordingly, including the point of peak intensity erupting just before the five minute mark. He does all this while simultaneously synchronizing his hi-hat to Gress rapid runs.
Thats not to diminish the contributions of the others; Surman, Abercrombie and Gress are playing telepathically, too. The drummer, however, pushes Haywain out to its substantial potential.
August 03, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 2000s jazz · baritone sax · ecm
August 03, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 2000s jazz
Good performances all around (especially Richards propulsive drumming), but the main appeal lies in the tone of the proceedings. Sometimes, its all about attitude.
August 03, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 2000s jazz
Roberts knack for setting aside rigid solo construction and playing on feel and emotion while remaining reverent to the masters of the past puts a sprawling composition such as Love Call over the top.
August 03, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 2000s jazz
Washington Square Park is zestful, a bit exotic and peppered with little surprises. Whats there not to like?
August 03, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 2000s jazz · soprano sax
Iversens ability to craft tight melodies and enliven them with intelligent arrangements, along with agile bass playing, makes her a triple-threat force to be reckoned with.
August 03, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 2000s jazz
August 03, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 2000s jazz · avant-garde
Al McKibbon's relentless thumping bass, Akira Tana's prodding drum rhythms, and Ronnie Mathews' more laid-back, sparse comping provide Williams with the cushion he needs to navigate the changes of "Cherokee" with genuine feeling and vivacity. His long, smoking solo is both fleet and authoritative, packed with dissonant inflections, breakneck breezy lines, and rapidly bowed, almost boppish, riffs and modulations. Guitarist James Chirillo plays several fresh and nimble chrouses with a twangy, appealing sound. Mathews' melodious solo is equally well-executed, and unwavering in its development. McKibbon and Tana say their piece as well before Williams sails lustily through the familiar theme once again.
August 03, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1980s jazz · cherokee · violin
For his first album as leader in 1956, Moore fronted a group of obscure local San Francisco area musicians. On the track "I Can't Believe that You're in Love with Me," his tenor surges confidently through the theme and his solo with a perfectly matched buoyant rhythmic pulse and flowing phraseology, his somewhat foggy tone recalling Zoot Sims. Moore's sidemen acquit themsleves quite well, especially John Marabuto, whose piano solo is played with both a sound and percussive attack similar to that of Eddie Costa.
August 03, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1950s jazz · i can't believe that you're in love with me · tenor sax
Whereas much of the score rejoices in the multifaceted traditions of New Orleans style polyphonic jazz, from its midst emerges a winsome Marsalis ballad with lyrics by Joel Siegel, a sort of less subtle "Teach Me Tonight" involving the relatively inexperienced film character Martin (Keanu Reeves) and Julia (Barbara Hershey), the older woman that he woos. The band plays a poignant vamp preceding Marsalis' limning of the graceful, floating theme, as the horns waft gently in and out. Then Shirley Horn enters to tenderly express, with her usual masterful understatement, the essence of the lyrics. "Cradle me in your embrace / and soothe me until you hear me sigh / pleasure me in all the secret places / teach me all the ways of love." Marsalis lush writing for his augmented septet, in support of Horn's vocal, is warmly articulate and radiantly colored.
August 03, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: 1980s jazz · soundtrack · trumpet
Garzone's captivating LennieTristano-like reharmonization, or countermelody, with Lovano weaving in wisps of the original melody, stunningly launches this essential track. Garzone's solo is typically complex, as he appears to be conducting a responsive dialogue with himself between intriguing constructs played alternately in the upper or lower registers of his horn. (A transcription of this terrific solo is included in the CD's notes.) Calderazzo follows with a swinging, driving pulse that animates his impressively formed and delivered runs. Like Garzone, Lovano's improvisational approach is oblique, his meaty phrasing and tonal variations plunging deep into the heart of the tune's attractive harmonies. After John Lockwood's brief Paul Chambers-sounding bass interlude, the two horns again engage in the swirling in-an-out revision of the theme.