In African-American tradition, "the dozens" is an informal exchange filled with ribaldry, taunting and clever put downs. It is sometimes also known as the "dirty dozens" or "playing the dozens." A classic opening to a dozens riposte might be "Yo mama . . ." (fill in the blank, but first make sure you aren't standing next to the defensive front line for the Crimson Tide).
We also play the dozens at jazz.com, but in a more congenial and decorous manner. As a regular feature on our site, we take twelve jazz tracks based on a particular theme or individual or event, and offer up some frank opinions. As always, we rely on our scoring system -- ranking recordings on a 100 point scale -- and provide personnel, label, session dates, etc. as well as a link to a source for purchasing the music.
“Before Max, all the drummers, even the great ones like Baby Dodds or Gene Krupa or Chick Webb, approached soloing on the drumset from more of a rudimental and snare drum concept,” explains drummer Billy Hart. “Max was the first one to take the rudiments and spread them melodically around the whole drumset—bass drum, tom-tom, snare drum, cymbal.” “Max was adamant that it was just as important for him to know the form and melody as everybody else,” Kenny Washington HAS added. “He took independence between two hands and two feet to the next level.”
No drummer born after the Baby Boom knew Roach more intimately than Nasheet Waits, whose father, the excellent drummer Frederick Douglas “Freddie” Waits (1940-1989), was an original member of M’Boom. Nasheet attended high school with Roach’s twin daughters, Ayo and Dara, and after Freddie Waits passed away, Roach took Nasheet under his wing, eventually hiring him to play with M’Boom. Here Waits looks back at Roach’s incomparable career and highlights twelve essential tracks, in this installment of Guest Artist Dozens, edited by Ted Panken.Read More
Strangely, it has become common practice for today’s leading jazz musicians to perform and record the music of rock chanteuse Björk . Or maybe it isn’t strange: like jazz, Björk ’s music is filled with tension, and mystery. And Björk herself has dabbled in jazz.
Hailing from Reykjavik, Iceland, Björk Gudmundsdottir burst onto the international music scene in 1993 with Debut, an album featuring the jazz standard “Like Someone in Love.” Prior to that, Björk recorded Gling-Glo, an album of vocal jazz, with an Icelandic piano trio. And in 1995, she scored what is still her biggest hit with “It’s Oh So Quiet,” a rambunctious swing number first recorded by Betty Hutton in 1948, under the title “Blow a Fuse.” In the course of her career, she has tapped various musicians from the jazz avant-garde to record on her albums.
But the jazz artists have embraced her in turn. Brad Farberman looks at twelve artists tackling twelve different tunes by Björk in this installment of the Dozens.Read More
According to modern jazz great Slide Hampton, "we trombonists are problem solvers." Although they have been an integral part of jazz bands throughout the music's history, great jazz trombonists are often overlooked by jazz fans and historians. This omission, however, is not due to the lack of amazing music made on the lanky brass instrument. Despite being burdened by an awkward instrument, trombonists have applied virtually every jazz style to the instrument -- from Al Grey's bluesy inflection to Albert Mangelsdorff's multiphonic free improvisation. Since jazz pioneers such as Kid Ory and Jimmy Harrison began recording in the 1920s, trombonists have been making their mark on the jazz tradition.
Alex W. Rodriguez, jazz.com's resident trombone historian, selects twelve of his favorite examples of trombone excellence in this installment of the Dozens.Read More
An apropos torch-passing occurred last May, when Christian McBride took possession of an acoustic bass that had belonged to Ray Brown [1926-2002], his prime influence, mentor, and frequent employer in the ‘90s ensemble Super Bass, along with John Clayton. “We had a very fatherly relationship,” McBride said in the cover feature in Downbeat’s August issue, which cited his victory as “Acoustic Bassist of the Year” in the magazine’s 57th annual critics poll. “I don’t want to sound selfish, but I feel I SHOULD have it, since John has one of Ray’s other ones.”
In selecting his baker’s dozen favorite tracks of the definitive bassist of modern jazz for this installment of Guest Artist Dozens, edited by Ted Panken, McBride selected tracks that, as he put it, “aren’t so much different one from the other as much as each one exemplifies Ray Brown’s sound, his time, his ideas.”Read More
Jazz-rock fusion fans tend to focus on the jazz artists who crossed over to the mass market. But for every Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock there was a Steely Dan or Joni Mitchell, who showed that commerce between pop-rock and jazz could go both ways. In a series of classic albums, Steely Dan raised the standards for FM heavy rotation pop music, drawing on the finest studio players and moonlighting jazz stars, and mixing them up with stylish charts and artsy lyrics. Marcus Singletary looks back at the work of Steely Dan and highlights twelve essential tracks in this installment of The Dozens.Read More
Can the cello swing? Can the cello be as melodically sophisticated as traditional jazz instruments? Is the cello capable of strongly accompanying a jazz band? Since the beginning of jazz, stringed instruments have played an important role in the instrumentation of jazz. Different from early jazz string instruments like the violin and bass, the cello has only recently become a more conventional instrument in the jazz ensemble. Eric Wendell looks at the history of the cello in jazz and highlights 12 essential tracks. His picks cover more than a half-century of music-making and include both familiar jazz names and some surprises.Read More
Hoagy Carmichael was born in Bloomington, Indiana on November 22, 1899. His given name, Hoagland, derived from a circus troupe “The Hoaglands” who stayed with the Carmichaels during Mrs. Carmichael’s pregnancy. Hoagy’s mother was a pianist, and by the age of 6, Hoagy was playing and singing himself. Hoagy received a law degree from Indiana University, but was unable to find lasting employment as a lawyer. Part of the reason was that he had discovered jazz, and his new friend Bix Beiderbecke encouraged him to write music. A slew of early hits, including “Riverboat Shuffle”, “Star Dust”, “Rockin’ Chair”, “Georgia On My Mind”, “Up A Lazy River” and “Lazy Bones” helped keep Carmichael solvent during the early years of the Depression. By the mid-1930s, he was in Hollywood, writing songs for (and sometimes appearing in) movies. While he had written most of his major songs by 1945, his songs have enjoyed immense popularity through the present day. Thomas Cunniffe surveys Carmichael’s career and highlights 12 stellar jazz versions in this installment of The Dozens.Read More
As unassumingly as Bill Frisell presents himself in his everyday life is as fiery and unabashedly bold he is with his musical choices. A stylistic chameleon once all-too-appropriately deemed the “Clark Kent of jazz,” his fascination with and dedication to collective improvisation and his early training with Dale Bruning and Jim Hall imparts a jazz approach to most everything Frisell does – regardless of whether it sounds like jazz, or country, or folk, or rock, or a fusion of all, or none of the above. But the truth of the matter is that stylistic categorization hardly matters in his case, and in fact, it almost surely inhibits his personal mission.
Eric Novod surveys the career of this wide-ranging artist, and highlights 12 essential tracks. These span a quarter of a century of music-making and a whole universe of soundspaces.Read More
Jazz.com celebrates the 100th birthday of pianist Art Tatum, who was born in Toledo in 1909, with this survey of his finest tracks. During an all too brief career, Tatum redefined the scope of the piano in jazz and left behind a body of work unsurpassed for creativity and virtuosity. Certainly, no pianist has been more highly regard by his peers than Tatum When Leonard Feather was compiling his Encyclopedia of Jazz in the mid-1950s, he polled a number of musicians about the players they themselves most admired on their respective instruments. More than two-thirds of the pianists surveyed put Tatum at the top of the list. Gene Lees conducted a similar poll thirty years later, and again Tatum dominated the results. Ted Gioia highlights twelve tracks that capture the great virtuoso at his best in this installment of the Dozens.Read More
Django Reinhardt, artwork by Suzanne Cerny
George Bernard Shaw once wrote that “all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” There could be no greater representation of that maxim than the career of Django Reinhardt. A reasonable man would have given up his career as a guitarist after being severely burned and partially paralyzed in a caravan fire. Django would hear none of it. He taught himself to play again and invented a new way to fret on his instrument. Then he heard jazz and he not only fell in love with the music, but somehow knew that he could express himself through it.
He and violinist Stephane Grappelli created the Quintette of the Hot Club of France, a group made up of only string instruments at a time when most jazz groups featured horns and percussion. And in that remarkable group, Django Reinhardt, already an original voice through his style and heritage, became a major jazz soloist. His style evolved over the course of the QHCF’s heyday, and that progression is sometimes overlooked in the midst of everything else he accomplished. Here Thomas Cunniffe highlights twelve of Django’s finest performances from the pre-World War II era.Read More
“Had I not come to Manhattan School of Music and studied with Jaki Byard (it’s a combination), I definitely wouldn’t be in the position I am right now,” pianist Jason Moran remarks. “If an older cat tells you something that’s smart, then heed their advice. Jaki sent me 50 stride tunes. ‘Hmm! Maybe I should learn this stuff. Maybe I should be able to understand how this is built, and find the freedom within that.’”
When audiences attended a performance by Jaki Byard (1922-1999) they encountered a living repository of jazz history, from stride to avant-garde. Whether playing solo piano or gracing the bands of Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and others, this artist stood out for his technical command, deep roots in the music and fervent creativity.
Moran surveys the career of this seminal figure and highlights 12 essential tracks in this installment of Guest Artist Dozens, edited by Ted Panken.Read More
The Vocalist (artwork by Suzanne Cerny)
The invention of scat singing—that grand tradition of wordless jazz vocal improvisation—is usually attributed to Louis Armstrong, who famously claimed that the music fell to the floor during his recording of “Heebies Jeebies,” thus forcing him to make up some nonsense syllables to fill the gap. Actually scat singing on record began long before Louis, but his example made clear that a great jazz artist needed to no horn or other instrument to create grand solos. Since then, many of the finest jazz singers have specialized in scat singing, and any discussion of the music-making of Ella Fitzgerald, Mel Tormé, Sarah Vaughan and Betty Carter, among others, is incomplete without taking stock of their incomparable skills in this area. Thomas Cunniffe looks at the long history of scat singing in jazz and highlights twelve essential tracks.
Charlie Parker (1920-1955) transformed the vocabulary of the saxophone in jazz and, along with Dizzy Gillespie, spearheaded the bebop music that signaled the arrival of what we now simply call “modern jazz.” In his lifetime, Parker was a cult figure, who enjoyed only a small degree of visibility among the general public, but inspired great devotion from a growing cadre of ardent devotees. After his death, his mystique grew further, inspiring the phrase “Bird Lives”—a mantra and graffiti for the hippest-of-the-hip.
But Parker was, first and foremost, a musician, and there is a tendency for his many conceptual innovations in jazz to be obscured by the sheer force of his image and personality. Steve Coleman rectifies this in his in-depth assessment of key recordings in the career of this pioneering altoist. He digs deep into Bird’s music in this installment of Guest Artist Dozens, edited by Ted Panken.Read More
Born 100 years ago this week, Lester Willis Young (1909-1959) revolutionized the tenor sax. Before Prez (his nickname given to Young by his frequent collaborator Billie Holiday), the big, harmonically-enriched sound of Coleman Hawkins was not only the dominant sound of the horn . . . it was almost the only sound for the tenor. But Young forged a light, melodic alternative that set the stage for the later cool jazz movement of the 1950s.
By the time, Prez had a host of disciples. His influence could be seen most clearly in the work of other tenor players, such as Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Paul Quinichette and Al Cohn. But Young’s cool conception eventually went well beyond the world of saxophony, and it is not going to far to trace his impact on movements such as the West Coast jazz style of the 1950s or the Brazilian bossa nova craze of the 1960s.
In honor of Lester Young’s 100th birthday, Michael J. West surveys this artist's illustrious career and highlights twelve historic tracks.
The great hard bop trumpeter Lee Morgan only lived thirty-three years, but in the short span he captivated audiences with the fire and beauty of his playing. Morgan had the whole package: a tone that was both beautiful and penetrating, a powerful, reliable high range, infallible technique and virtuosic double-timing, sensitivity on ballads, humanized vocal inflections like half-valving and slurred articulations, and some of the filthiest blues licks you’ll ever hear. His boundless energy, creativity, and sense of humor can invigorate, surprise, and make you laugh all in one 12-bar chorus.
In this installment of the Dozens, jazz.com's Matt Leskovic revisits the career of this seminal figure and highlights twelve essential tracks.
Milton Nascimento rose to fame a few months after “The Girl from Ipanema” earned its Grammy as “record of the year.” Was Nascimento’s arrival on the scene the signal that the age of bossa nova had come to an end? Certainly no other individual did more to bring Brazilian popular music into the modern age. In time his influence would expand beyond the borders of his home country, inspiring jazz artists, world music performers, and singer-songwriters. You can hear his impact on artists as diverse as Pat Metheny, Bobby McFerrin and Esperanza Spalding.
In this installment of the Dozens, Ted Gioia looks at twelve essential tracks from Nascimento’s career. They span forty years, and include at least one track from five different decades. The diversity and range of musical settings are striking, but perhaps all too fitting for an artist who first big hit was a song whose title translated as “journey.” Milton Nasicmento has certainly brought listeners along on his journeys, as the songs below testify.Read More
More than two decades after his death, fans are still talking about the remarkable Jaco Pastorius (1951-1987). He was one of the most electrifying performers in the history of jazz music, and though his personal and mental problems ultimately helped contribute to his demise and early death, his contributions to the development of fusion and jazz are undeniable. Jared Pauley looks at the career of this artist, and selects twelve essential tracks. He covers a wide range of Jaco's music-making, encompassing everything from Joni Mitchell to Pat Metheny, Weather Report to solo projects. Along the way, he highlights Pastorius's pocket bass lines, his advanced technique, and superior song writing capabilities. Come along for a high voltage ride in this installment of The Dozens.Read More
Denny Zeitlin first came to the attention of jazz fans via a series of pathbreaking trio recordings made for the Columbia label in the 1960s under the supervision of John Hammond. These invigorating and expansive performances, recently reissued by Mosaic after being long out of print, anticipated many future developments in the evolution of the jazz keyboard. They demonstrated Zeitlin’s compositional skills, solid technique and rich harmonic palette—trademarks that continued to distinguish his later work, which has encompassed everything from electronica to movie soundtracks. However, the small scale acoustic setting, in particular the trio, has been Zeitlin's most frequent format.
Given the brilliance of these performances, it is hard to believe that Zeitlin has simultaneously enjoyed a full time career as a psychiatrist. This multifaceted individual has apparently pursued two vocations without compromising either. The demands of a medical practice have, however, limited jazz fans’ opportunities to hear this artist in concert. Yet a rich body of recorded work testifies to Zeitlin’s visionary music-making.
Bill Kirchner surveys the career of this fascinating figure in this installment of the Dozens, and highlights twelve essential tracks.Read More
Award-winning composer and bandleader Maria Schneider served as musical assistant to Gil Evans from 1985 until his death, and is the perfect guide to take us on an aural tour of the works of this seminal figure in 20th Century music. Evans had revolutionized the big band sound in jazz back in the 1940s, and continued to reinvent himself in later years—in time his aural palette drew on everything from European classical music to Jimi Hendrix. He is best known for his collaborations with Miles Davis—which resulted in classic albums such as Miles Ahead, Porgy and Bess and Sketches of Spain. In these settings as well as a host of other leader dates and guest arranger stints, Evans established a body of work that kept the big band vital and forward-looking during a period in which most larger ensembles were content with recreating sounds of the past.
The same could be said of Maria Schneider, who has emerged as the preeminent jazz orchestra composer and leader of her generation. Since launching her own band in 1993, Schneider has won Grammy awards, appeared again and again at the top of jazz polls, and delighted audiences with the warmth, excitement and emotional power of her music.
In this installment of The Dozens, Schneider looks back at the career of Gil Evans, and highlights twelve essential tracks.Read More
Imagine Fourth of July in America. Get out the barbecue. Light up the fireworks. But also pull out the hi-fi and start up the holiday music. For a different type of Independence Day flavor, consider these twelve explorations of musical Americana. It's quite a ride, from Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong to Jimi Hendrix and Ornette Coleman.
Shortly after World War II ended, Frank Sinatra asked in a song, "What is America to me?" He gave one answer ("All races and religions"), and several more will be found in the short reviews that follow below. Ed Leimbacher takes us on this tour, and he picks some tracks that you may not hear elsewhere on this holiday weekend.
Brown Brown, by Martel Chapman
Back in 1955, no young trumpeter in jazz was more admired than Clifford Brown. Blessed with a big sound, impeccable technique, and swinging melodic ideas, he seemed destined to be the definitive hard bop trumpeter. He was the Wynton Marsalis of his day, and it doesn’t take a big leap of he imagination to envision him playing the classical repertoire—which he never pursued, but had the virtuosity that would have enabled him to do so—while pushing jazz ahead in new directions. But his tragic death in a car accident at age 25 cut short his career, leaving us with just a handful of recordings by which to remember this master of the horn
Al Hood, a trumpeter of note and expert on Clifford Brown, surveys this artist’s career and selects 12 essential tracks in this installment of “guest artist” Dozens edited by Ted Panken.Read More
Fabric collage by Daniele Todaro
In 1919, while in London to perform with composer Will Marion Cook's Southern Syncopated Orchestra, Sidney Bechet bought a soprano saxophone. The New Orleans-born-and-bred Bechet was already becoming famous as a clarinetist; such European classical music eminences as the conductor Ernst Ansermet and composer Igor Stravinsky praised him extravagantly. The young Bechet was as yet only on the cusp of greatness, however. His purchase of the soprano sax helped put him over the top.
Despite Bechet’s example, the soprano sax played only a modest role in the jazz world over the next four decades. The tenor and the alto were the saxes of choice, with an occasional baritone thrown into the mix. Yet John Coltrane’s decision to purchase a soprano sax in early 1959 gave a powerful advocate to the slender horn. His recordings set an example followed by many, and the soprano has maintained its devoted following in his wake.
Jazz.com’s Chris Kelsey surveys more than 80 years of soprano artistry and selects twelve seminal tracks in this installment of the Dozens.
Dave Frishberg once offered his original song “The Underdog” to Frank Sinatra. The song told the story of a gambler who always picked the longshots. Frishberg thought it would be a perfect fit for Sinatra’s image, complete with the trenchcoat slung over the shoulder. According to Frishberg, Sinatra’s reaction was “It’s a good song, but where’s the chick?”
The chick—and actually, love songs in general—have never been the focus of the Frishberg catalog, but every jazz singer of note has at least two or three Frishberg songs in his/her repertoire. Frishberg’s quirky songs usually have some element of humor, but his music is not just light-hearted, laugh-a-minute songs; some of his finest efforts, such contain meanings that go far below the surface.
The dozen tracks featured here, selected and reviewed by Thomas Cunniffe, include some of Frishberg’s most memorable songs as performed by the composer and a few of his best interpreters.Read More
“It’s difficult to write an introduction about Paul Bley,” remarked pianist Aaron Parks. “He’s a chameleon, and he is constantly evolving and constantly changing.” But Parks should know something about that—his own discursive keyboard skills have been shown off to good effect on a number of recordings, most notably his recent Invisible Cinema release on Blue Note. Parks turns his attention to this pioneer of progressive piano and highlights twelve essential Paul Bley tracks in this installment of Guest Artist Dozens, edited by Ted Panken.
Why isn’t Jessica Williams better known? Is it sexism? Is it because she has never recorded for a major label? Is it because she has performed mostly on the West Coast? Whatever the reason, Williams has persevered, earning two Grammy Award nominations, receiving grants and awards, and the praise of her peers. Dave Brubeck, for one, has called her "one of the greatest jazz pianists I have ever heard."
As a pianist, she displays great technical ability (grounded in her classical training at Baltimore's Peabody Conservatory), appealing rhythmic inventiveness and flexibility, impressive left-hand dexterity (no doubt drawn from her early experience with the Hammond B-3), and she can also sustain long improvisations without ever becoming stale or repetitious. She has been as much influenced by saxophonists like Rollins and Coltrane as by pianists such as Monk and Red Garland.
Scott Albin surveys the career of this exceptional, if largely unsung artist, and highlights twelve essential tracks.Read More
Solal is one of the oldest living legend of the piano, yet he can’t stand being bored, like a child who endlessly explores the 88 keys of his main toy: the grand piano. He’s embraced writing film scores and contemporary classical music, but he likes nothing better that improvisation without a safety net. Following him over half a century of his carrier means undertaking a journey from solo to big band records, through two continents and several countries. No wonder: Solal was born in Algiers, when Algeria was still part of France. At the time, becoming a jazz pianist meant moving, at least to the European side of the Mediterranean Sea. Solal never stopped moving and evolving since he first came to Paris in 1950. From then on, the young unknown boy who’d fallen in love with jazz on the radio would rise to glory while spending his “life on a piano stool,” as the title of his recently published autobiography goes. Thierry Quénum selects twelve essential Martial Solal tracks, spanning the course of fifty years, in this installment of The Dozens.Read More
Long before jazz musicians were enthralled by Miles and Trane, they found inspiration in miles on the train. And who can blame, them, considering how much time they spent on the tracks. If you live with those sounds for a few months at a time, they become part of your being—and part of your music. So it’s no surprise that jazz musicians have written many songs about various types of railroad travel. And what pieces they have written! Thomas Cunniffe works up a head of steam as he surveys the long history of jazz music that celebrates the life and sounds of the railroad. He highlights twelve terrific train tracks in this installment of The Dozens.
Dexter Gordon at the Three Deuces (1946)
Artwork by Thomas Andersen
“Long Tall” Dexter Gordon played a vital role in developing and sustaining the bebop vocabulary on the tenor saxophone. He grew up as a West Coast Basie addict and a Pres devotee; played with bands of Lionel Hampton, Fletcher Henderson,and Louis Armstrong; entered the “swing to bop school” that was the Billy Eckstine Orchestra; and then performed with both Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker during the prime years of bop formulation. And at that point in the mid-1940s, Gordon’s career was only getting started.
From there, Gordon performed and recorded in America and Europe for more than four decades, churning out classic session after classic session for the Blue Note, Steeplechase and other labels. His discography is immense, making the consistent high-quality of his recorded output all the more impressive. While a handful of tenor saxophonists may have come along to make more dynamic splashes in shorter periods of time, Dexter Gordon is the architect of his genre’s sound on his instrument. Eric Novod surveys the career of this seminal figure and highlights 12 essential tracks.
King Oliver, artwork by Suzanne Cerny
Call him the Wynton Marsalis of 1923. No bandleader did more to spread the joys of early New Orleans jazz to the rest of the world than Joseph “King” Oliver. Even before Louis Armstrong—mentored by Oliver and hired for his Creole Jazz Band—this exciting cornetist was demonstrating a completely new way of playing the horn and leading a band.
Oliver’s glory days were almost over before they began, but he left behind a number of recordings that still testify to the power of his musical vision. Peter Gerler, an expert on Oliver and early New Orleans jazz, surveys the work of this pioneer of hot music, and selects twelve essential tracks. If you want to learn more about where jazz came from, this is the place to start.
Singer in Red, artwork by Suzanne Cerny
“Jazz singer” used to be one of the most controversial terms in the jazz lexicon. Back in 1963, the British jazz historian Benny Green claimed that was no such thing as a jazz singer, and as late as the 1980s, the argument was being advanced by none other than Mel Tormé! Of course, jazz itself defies definition, and that makes defining a jazz singer difficult as well.
The argument is rarely heard these days because of the large influx of talented, schooled vocalists who prove their right to be called jazz singers by the quality and content of their performances. As in any group of artists, there are some that have gained popularity, and others who are just as talented who are not as well-known. So, without taking anything away from Diana Krall, Jane Monheit, Dianne Reeves, Cassandra Wilson, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Madeline Peyroux, here are Thomas Cunniffe’s guide to 12 other contemporary female jazz vocalists who you should hear.
Not many jazz musicians have had a stronger revitalizing and sustaining impact on the everyday NYC jazz scene over the past two decades years than pianist/composer/educator Frank Kimbrough. Aside from his previous and current work as a sideman with Dewey Redman, Maria Schneider, and Kendra Shank, among others, Kimbrough’s groups as a leader and co-leader represent his generation’s foremost post-bop piano recordings.
After sifting through his record collection, Frank Kimbrough presents the twelve individual jazz tracks he simply can’t live without in this latest installment of “Desert Island Dozens,” edited by Eric Novod. The group of tracks that follows is an intriguing representation of the musicians who have most directly influenced the jazz world since 1960. These performances cover a wide range, but the common denominator, in Kimbrough’s words, are their “warmth and joy.”Read More
Photo by Jos L. Knaepen
Although Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen (or NHØP as he is sometimes known) died in 2005 one month shy of his 59th birthday, his recording career lasted 45 years. His first recording session took place in 1960 with a local Dixieland band called Don Camilo and His Feetwarmers. He was only 14 years old, but a few months later began his professional career in pianist Bent Axen's trio.
Frank Büchmann-Møller selects 12 tracks covering this remarkable career. It wasn't easy to make the selections, since NHØP performed on more than 800 albums. But these performances give a picture of his artistic diversity, such as his phenomenal timekeeping and technique, his fondness for the repertoire of traditional Danish folk music and songbooks, his ability to carry a melody, his well-deserved reputation as a sideman, and his special way of performing an unaccompanied solo piece.
Fans today who know Keith Jarrett primarily from his Standards Trio (now more than a quarter of a century old) can hardly imagine the range of activities this artist has pursued during the course of his career. Jarrett not only expanded the vocabulary of the piano in jazz with his early ECM recordings, and helped bring back solo performance after two decades of decline, but he has also tried his hand, over the years, at soprano sax, guitar, organ, percussion, even vocals.
At mid-career, he made a plunge into classical music, and created works—both as composer and interpreter of the traditional and recent repertoire—at a remarkably high level. His American quartet and European quartet of the 1970s were among the finest bands of the era, just as his Standards Trio has been an important force in recent years. This diversity also makes it difficult to select twelve tracks that sum up Jarrett’s music-making to date. Ted Gioia’s selections come from five different decades, and though they are just a small taste of the hundred or so albums that comprise this artists recorded oeuvre, each one reveals an important facet of this visionary artist.
The first time Lee Konitz recorded a duet was in 1950 with guitarist Billy Bauer (who, like the altoist, was a disciple of Lennie Tristano) on a song named “Rebecca” after one of his daughters. Still Konitz was only to become a real specialist of these one-on-one exchanges in the late sixties and early seventies.
Jazz.com’s frequent contributor Thierry Quénum is an old Konitz buff and has interviewed him several times for the jazz press of his native country, France. Here he has compiled 12 tracks recorded by Konitz over a 40 years period that show him dialoguing with partners as diverse as can be. Konitz, who himself sometime trades his usual alto for a tenor or a soprano sax, has tried it all, matching up with everything from trombone to acoustic guitar, piano to drums,. He has played duos with partners from Germany, France or Italy as well as with fellow Americans; with some who could have been his elder brothers and others who could almost have been his grandsons.
Through tracks covering a 1967 to 2007 period, this vision of Konitz’s career on the duo side should make anyone aware of his openness and eclectism. Indeed, few musicians have covered such a broad musical spectrum in such an intimate setting.Read More
What happens when jazz stars join famous pop and rock stars for a fling? Can Sonny Rollins really coexist with the Rolling Stones? Can Chick Corea and Rick Derringer see eye to eye? What was going on when Stan Getz connected with Huey Lewis?
The rarity angle isn't the only thing that makes these recordings fascinating. These tracks offer glimpses of accomplished, visionary artists transporting their genius to unexpected settings, and shining through despite not only being outside their element, but often having no creative input into the songs. As such, these examples show varying degrees of success—here defined as the number of new fans attracted to these jazz musicians' own music, among listeners who intended merely to take a little taste of rock 'n' roll.
S. Victor Aaron looks at 12 especially strange pairings of jazz cats and rock-pop icons.Read More
Few jazz-related artists are busier these days than pianist-composer Uri Caine, whose international career transpires on the strength of a series of recordings for the German label, Winter & Winter, that document his dialectical tinkerings with multiple musical traditions—concerto, sonata, and opera from the Euro-Canon; Tin Pan Alley; electronica; the jazz canon. Here Caine looks at the work of a jazz icon who has also crossed many musical boundaries during the course of a historic career: pianist Herbie Hancock. Caine surveys Hancock’s work from a period of over four decades, including sideman stints and one-time bands as well as classic leader dates, and highlights 12 essential tracks in this installment of Guest Artist Dozens, edited by Ted Panken.
Roy Haynes at Carnegie Hall (2007)
Few drummers in the history of jazz are more beloved, more enduring and more adaptive to the changing pulse of the music than Roy Haynes. His recorded output shows consistent invention and reinvention to meet the particular demands of the swing, bop, hard-bop, post-bop, avant-garde and fusion eras. Whether working with Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Chick Corea or other masters, or in a band under his own leadership, Haynes has always providing a driving heartbeat for the musical proceedings. These 12 tracks, selected by Eric Novod, the survey the musical career of this drum master.
McCoy Tyner is one of the most celebrated pianists of the last 45 years. Hailing from the musical town of Philadelphia, where he was born in 1938, Tyner has played, recorded and performed with a plethora of musicians, most notably as a member of John Coltrane's classic quartet from the 1960s alongside Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones.
In his post-Coltrane years, Tyner has cultivated a more than memorable career both as leader and as sideman. He has continued to release albums that have experimented with different kinds of instrumentation, musical styles and formats, from the 1960s Reaching Fourth and The Real McCoy to his most recent Guitars. The latter effort made clear that, even in his seventies, McCoy Tyner is a titanic force at the keyboard.
From Latin to African to big band, McCoy Tyner has used various platforms as a stepping-stone for his harmonic virtuosity and fluency as a soloist. This installment of jazz.com's Dozens, Jared Pauley shines a small light on the career of a man who has influenced virtually all pianists and many other jazz musicians of the past half century.
Scads of Broadway show tunes have become jazz standards, but probably no single musical proved more popular with improvisers and balladeers than West Side Story (excepting Porgy and Bess, which Gershwin hoped was an opera). Looking back on 1957, the creative talents involved – savvy composer Leonard Bernstein, lyricist Stephen Sondheim (his debut), choreographer/director Jerome Robbins, jack-of-all-theatre Arthur Laurents, actresses Carol Lawrence and Chita Rivera, not to mention William Shakespeare parting sweetly with his Romeo and Juliet (one good W.S. story leads to another) – that gathering of folks practically guaranteed "something good was coming." Ed Leimbacher survey the many jazz versions of songs from this Broadway classic, and selects twelve essential performances.Read More
My Funny Valentine, artwork by Suzanne Cerny
Why give that special someone a dozen roses for Valentine’s Day? How about a dozen versions of the most famous Valentine’s Day song?
"My Funny Valentine" was composed by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart for the 1937 Broadway show Babes In Arms. The song was slow to catch on with the public: the first hit version didn't appear until 1945, and jazz musicians didn't start recording it in earnest until the mid-'50s. After it was recorded by Chet Baker, Frank Sinatra and Miles Davis, recordings by pop singers flooded the market, and a (probably apocryphal) story claims that a certain nightclub owner, tired of the song's overexposure, banned female vocalists from singing it on stage. But this hard-hearted fellow aside, jazz fans have long loved this ballad. Thomas Cunniffe picks twelve memorable versions of the standard, including a few even seasoned jazz fans might not have heard before.
Wynton Marsalis may be the most frequently discussed musician in jazz, but also among the least well understood. Whenever his name comes up in jazz circles, the focus of discussion shifts (within about ten seconds) to gripes about the politics of jazz. And sometimes it doesn’t even take ten seconds.
But what do we make of the music? How important are CDs such as Black Codes (From the Underground), J Mood, Live at Blues Alley, Blood on the Fields, The Majesty of the Blues, In This House, On This Morning, the Standard Time series, the many live recordings, the multipart Soul Gestures in Southern Blue and others? Here we encounter the essence of Wynton Marsalis’s contributions to the jazz idiom, yet now your talking partners now have little to say beyond the most vapid generalizations. Let me serve it to you straight: if you haven’t listened carefully to this body of work, your opinion about the trumpeter is not worth much.
In this installment of The Dozens, Ted Gioia looks at 12 essential performances by the trumpeter, all made before Marsalis’s 35th birthday. Put aside the Jazz Wars for a spell, and enjoy the best of early vintage Wynton.Read More
Muddy Waters, artwork by Leslie Herman
Country boy McKinley Morganfield, better known as Chicago Blues master Muddy Waters, brought the Mississippi Delta north. Though many other Clarksdale-to-Memphis-to-West Helena bluesmen made similar treks to record their music, Waters quickly settled in at Aristocrat/Chess as the best, most vital link straight back to Robert Johnson and Son House, Tommy Johnson and Charlie Patton, the Delta's undisputed kings.
During a decade and some, his versions of familiar Mississippi-region numbers (and new blues fashioned by Willie Dixon and Muddy himself) expanded, then exploded with electric amplification, and suddenly shot out around the world, striking Bob Dylan, Paul Butterfield, The Yardbirds and The Rolling Stones (who took their name from a Muddy Waters song title), among others. Along the way, Waters more or less invented the rules of the electric blues band and set in play an instrumentation that was later emulated by countless rock groups.
In this installment of The Dozens, Ed Leimbacher reviews the rise of this American music icon, and selects 12 essential tracks covering Waters’s career journey from the Mississippi Delta to the world of Chicago blues and beyond.Read More
Size does matter. At least baritone sax players will tell you that. And if you had any doubts, check out the music in this installment of The Dozens. Eric Novod surveys the history of the biggest horn in the big band, and follows its development over a period of some sixty years.
Yes, there are some obvious names on the list. But as much high praise as Harry Carney (or his boss Duke Ellington, more likely) and Gerry Mulligan receive, is as little recognition that most every other baritone saxophonist does. Yet breezing through the recorded histories of swing, bop, cool, soul-jazz, free jazz, and modern post-bop reveals other significant figures who have widened the scope of each subgenre with their baritone sax playing. Click on the arrow below, and see who made the short list of bari bests.Read More
James P. Johnson, artwork by Suzanne Cerny
Ethan Iverson, as master of the keys with The Bad Plus, has worked to reinvigorate the jazz piano trio and bring the repertoire up-to-date. But he also has a deep grasp of the jazz lineage—a knowledge which he not only demonstrates in performance, but also via his blogging at Do the Math, the blog of The Bad Plus. His commentaries here include some of more astute jazz writing that you will find these days
So he was a natural to contribute a Guest Artist Dozens, a regular jazz.com feature, edited by Ted Panken, which matches current-day jazz artists with historical topics. But Iverson takes on some expansive territory in his survey of more than 50 years of stride piano. Here he covers some of the familiar names, but also highlights some lesser known gems. Click on the arrow below to read his assessment of twelve stride piano classics.
In the long lineage of tenor sax legends, Joe Henderson holds a special place in the hearts of jazz fans. So many tenor saxophonists who came of age in the 1960s adapted heavily from both Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane, but none exceeded the success that Joe Henderson had in forging his own inimitable style from two such familiar influences. Henderson's "inside-outside" approach was nuanced enough to bring vitality to tender ballads and abrasive enough to set more dynamic songs afire. In an age in which traditionalist and progressive camps in jazz rarely saw eye-to-eye, Joe Henderson had a fervent following that straddled the whole spectrum.
Henderson’s career covered a remarkable amount of territory. He served as sideman on seminal Blue Note dates by Horace Silver, Andrew Hill and others. His own leader projects from the 1960s and 1970s were defining statements of the hard bop idiom, but with an experimental twist that set this restless tenorist apart from the crowd. His late career tribute releases were among the most popular jazz disks of the era. S. Victor Aaron surveys this expansive career and selects twelve essential tracks.Read More
Lennie Tristano, artwork by Suzanne Cerny
Few jazz pianists have demonstrated a more expansive and awe-inspiring vision of the improvisational arts than Lennie Tristano (1919-1978). Yet one would hardly know that from reading most what has been written about Tristano. He is usually dealt with as some sort of sociological or anthropological phenomenon—the portrait of a jazz artist as a cult figure. Yet the majesty of the man resides in his music.
In short, this artist must be heard to be appreciated. His recordings span swing and bop stylings, hot and cool, the highly structured and adventurously free. In this installment of The Dozens, Ted Gioia surveys the oeuvre of this provocative pianist and highlights twelve essential tracks.
Jelly Roll Morton, artwork by Suzanne Cerny
It’s evening in Washington, D.C., and the year is 1938. Pianist Jelly Roll Morton, who had once known far better times, tuned in his radio to Robert Ripley’s popular broadcast, “Believe It Or Not.” Ripley’s guest was W.C. Handy, the man who composed or set down some of the most popular blues tunes of all—notably the “St. Louis Blues,” “Memphis,” and “Beale Street Blues.” When Handy was introduced as the originator of jazz and the blues, Morton went uncorked and fired off a 4000-word screed to the Baltimore Afro-American and Downbeat magazine. “W.C. Handy is a liar,” was the headline of the Baltimore paper. He went on: “It is evidently known, beyond contradiction that New Orleans is the cradle of jazz and I, myself, happened to be the creator in the year 1902.”
Did Jelly Roll Morton invent jazz? It’s hard to imagine any single individual filling those large shoes. But few musicians from early jazz did more than Morton in codifying the music and leaving behind a lasting body of work. Rob Bamberger looks at the career of this fascinating figure and selects twelve essential tracks.
How could the jazz world ever make peace with the Beatles? After all, the rise of the Liverpool sound and its many epigones contributed to the declining fortunes of jazz artists back in the day. By the close of the 1960s, the jazz world found itself squeezed between Rock and a hard place. And in large part thanks to John, Paul, George & Ringo.
But, in time, jazz musicians not only learned to accept the Beatles, they even learned how to cover the Beatles. A few brave artists, most notably Brad Mehldau, have turned Paul McCartney into a jazz composer, while other jazz acts (such as Count Basie) have merely used the Fab Four for a one-night stand. But these collaborations between the rock-and-roll icons and the jazz world have often produced surprising results. Jazz.com’s Matt Leskovic looks back at this long history of jazz rapprochement with the Beatles, and highlights twelve fascinating tracks.Read More
Guitar Magic, artwork by Don Pulver
Not everybody gets to be Hendrix or Clapton. But for every guitar hero who struts the big stage there are countless might-have-been stars working on the fringes of the music world. And as dedicated music fans know, the most exciting recordings are frequently found off the beaten track. In this installment of The Dozens, Ted Gioia highlights twelve guitarists whose careers exist on the fringes of the music industry. The range of styles covered here is wide. The selections move from world music to jazz, understated acoustic to sizzling electric, avant garde to traditional approaches. None of figures listed below are superstars, although some have enjoyed brushes with fame, and many have devoted cult followings. They are not household names—unless you live in a very hip household. But each one brings something distinctive and original to their music, and all our deserving of your attention and a place in your CD rack or iPod.
Singer Bob Dorough, who turns 85 on December 12, 2008, has had two fan bases during his career, with some crossover. First he enjoys a cult following (definition: small, loyal and enthusiastic) among devotees who adore him as an eccentric jazz singer and pianist; second, he has a much larger audience among those who loved the many songs he created and sang for ABC-TV's Schoolhouse Rock. On a gig, Dorough is just as likely to get requests for "Three is a Magic Number" or "Conjunction Junction" as he is for "Baltimore Oriole" or "I'm Hip." His discography even includes a noir Christmas track alongside Miles Davis, which deserves a spot on anyone's short list of jazz oddities. Scott Albin canvasses twelve of Dorough's best tracks in a survey that will be a happy reminder for those already in the know, and a beginner's guide for the uninitiated and curious.
Josef Zawinul and Wayne Shorter first played together in Maynard Ferguson's big band in 1959. They later crossed paths when trumpeter Miles Davis began recording the albums that laid the foundation of jazz-fusion. In 1971, Weather Report released its debut album, and the rest is history.
Other fusion bands such as Return to Forever, the Headhunters, and Lifetime recorded timeless music, but none can match the longevity and creative influence of Zawinul and Shorter. In this installment of The Dozens, jazz.com’s Jared Pauley selects twelve essential tracks that cover the overall sound of Weather Report from their early days when the music was largely improvised to the later days when they composed some of the best funk music ever heard.Read More
Jazz.com loves to celebrate classic performances from the past. But what about the dolorous dreck that jazz artists sometimes send our way? Yes, the time has come to pick out Twelve Turkeys of Jazz. And who better to make the selections than the curmudgeonly Alan Kurtz, the man whose down beats are more of a downer than any other critic on the scene. In this installment of The Dozens, Kurtz searches out nefarious jazz tracks that deserve to be put in the oven along with the big bird and stuffing. Who is on his little list? Click on the arrow below . . . if you dare!Read More
The Big Band, artwork by Suzanne Cerny
Don’t let anyone tell you that the “big band is dead." It has just gone underground, maybe as part of the jazz witness protection program, and is waiting for you to rediscover its virtues.
Some of the more interesting musical minds to emerge over the last 35+ years have come out of the big band world, and yet many still receive comparatively little recognition for their effort. Is this perhaps due to their inclusion in a genre that is sometimes unfortunately labeled as a "has-been?" Is it because it's financially unfeasible to assemble a big band and keep it afloat, making it easy to brush past the relatively small number of longstanding, high-ranking modern big bands that have actually made it happen?
Jazz.com’s Eric Novod throws the stereotypes aside, and looks at twelve turbocharged big bands from the modern era. Check out his selections in this installment of the Dozens.Read More
Andrew Hill (photo by Jos L. Knaepen)
In jazz.com’s on-going series of guest artist Dozens, edited by Ted Panken, leading jazz artists of the current day take us on a guided tour of works by major figures from the past. In the current installment, pianist Vijay Iyer conducts a survey of the music of Andrew Hill (1931-2007).
Hill’s recording career began in the mid-1950s, but took on greater focus in the 1960s when he began his relationship with the Blue Note label. Hill recorded extensively for Blue Note, both as a leader and sideman, although he never had the large crossover sales that label-mates such as Lee Morgan or Herbie Hancock enjoyed. As a result, many of his sessions remained unreleased at the time. Yet Hill’s influence seemed to expand with the passing decades, and his attempt to navigate a middle course between the streams of avant garde and hard bop proved to be prescient, charting a path that many leading figures from later years would follow.
Vijay Iyer is an ideal guide for our tour of Hill’s music. Iyer has also found a way of bridging different currents in the jazz world, crafting an exciting personal style of pianism that stands out among his contemporaries. “I was thinking about what it means to be American today,” Iyer told Panken with regard to his recent CD Tragicomic. “I have a particular transnational scope; my perspective is very much American, but inflected and informed by Indian histories and heritage. We can all learn from and participate in the blues experience. The blues is not just a kind of music. It has to do with a certain cry, a desire to be heard, a refusal to be silenced.”
Click on the arrow below to read Iyer’s survey of a baker’s dozen of vital works by the late Andrew HillRead More
Okay, there have been Sonnys in sports (Jurgensen, Liston, heck even Sixkiller), and Sonnys in politics (Congressman Bono, Governor Perdue). But no walk of life has produced more illustrious Sonnys than jazz—where fans always seem to be gravitating to the Sonny side of the street. And despite the diminutive connotations of the name, these artists are some of the biggest personalities in the art form. A group of dedicated musicians, they have experienced careers of varying degrees of success; some met tragic, premature ends while others still perform to large audiences today. They represent a microcosm of life in general, but the jazz fan has a special affinity for these individual creative artists.
In this latest installment of the Dozens, Scott Albin looks at twelve of most illustrious Sonnys in jazz. Check out his selections by clicking on the arrow below.
To drum up some Halloween spirit, jazz.com’s Walter Kolosky has decided to play the role of a jazzy Dr. Frankenstein. His goal was to construct a creepy Dozens stitched together with random body parts drawn from various jazz songs. In fact, he found a way to harvest 14 throbbing organs in only twelve songs. Even Igor was amazed. How do you do it? Just take a hand from David Sanborn, some lungs from John Abercrombie . . . well, you get the idea. But the whole article (available by clicking the arrow below) is definitely not for the faint of heart. And when you reach the conclusion of Kolosky’s Halloween tricky treat, don’t be alarmed if you hear someone shout out “It’s alive! It’s alive.”Read More
George Benson, artwork by Suzanne Cerny
In the latest edition of Guest Artist Dozens, edited by Ted Panken, Bobby Broom selects and reviews twelve essential tracks by newly named NEA Jazz Master George Benson.
Benson is best known among the general public for his soulful vocals and big-selling hits such as “This Masquerade,” “Give Me the Night,” and “On Broadway.” But jazz fans were hip to the brilliance of this artist long before he climbed to the top of the charts, and it was his guitar work rather than his singing that captivated them. With his mastery of the fretboard, improvisational brilliance, and ability to infuse jazz with elements drawn from other styles of contemporary music, Benson would be a seminal figure even without all those gold records on his mantelpiece.
And who better to take us on a tour of Benson’s music than the remarkable Bobby Broom, who has demonstrated his own mastery of the guitar in a variety of settings, and has been a leading exponent of the six strings ever since he made his name on the stage of Carnegie Hall alongside Sonny Rollins back when Broom was only sixteen years old. Broom is still making big statements on the guitar, as demonstrated on his recent CD The Way I Play.
Click on the arrow below to read his insightful commentary on the work of George Benson.Read More
Mildred Bailey, artwork by Suzanne Cerny
Mildred Bailey (1907-1951) was one of the first female singers to make a name for herself with a major band and one of the first white singers to incorporate the innovations of black jazz and blues. She loved the music of Bessie Smith, and she was an early fan and advocate of Louis Armstrong. Bailey is known for her small, agile voice and her ability to swing with the best, including Paul Whiteman, Benny Goodman, the Dorsey Brothers, Coleman Hawkins, and perhaps most notably, the legendary xylophone player, Red Norvo, whom she married in 1933. Together, Bailey and Norvo captivated audiences as “Mr. and Mrs. Swing.” Bailey is a major artist and innovator whose influence extends to singers as diverse as Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Rosemary Clooney.
This Dozens feature, contributed by Sue Russell, presents some of the highlights of Bailey’s musical career, which was unfortunately cut short by her untimely death in 1951. Happy listening!Read More
For most seasoned jazz fans—and even musicians—the “standards” are the old classic tunes by George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Richard Rodgers, and other masters of the American popular song tradition. But, the standards they are a-changin’. Among the latest crop of jazz artist, you’re now as likely to hear the Beatles as you are the Gershwins, Björk as you are Irving Berlin, Radiohead as you are Cole Porter. The introduction of these new compositions to the jazz lexicon creates new challenges, and challenge always spurs creativity. Jazz.com’s Matt Leskovic serves as guide in this installment of the Dozens, sampling 12 of the most engaging new standards for the new jazz era.Read More
Bill Evans, artwork by Suzanne Cerny
Bill Evans’s career as a jazz pianist started with little fanfare. His first leader date, New Jazz Conceptions from 1956, only sold 800 copies during the first year after its release. Yet in time, Evans would become one of the most popular jazz artists of his generation. He first came to the attention of many fans through his sideman work with Miles Davis on Kind of Blue, and alongside other leading jazz artists of the era, including Cannonball Adderley, Charles Mingus, Tony Scott and Art Farmer. Yet Evans would come to exert even more influence over the evolution of jazz piano in a series of highly introspective trio recordings. His work with bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian was almost telepathic, and later Evans ensembles followed a similar vision of ethereal chamber jazz. Evans’s sense of time and space, his harmonic palette and melodic sensibility, continue to hover over the work of many current-day jazz players. In this installment of the Dozens, Ted Gioia selects 12 essential tracks from this seminal figure.
Woody Shaw, artwork by Suzanne Cerny
The jazz trumpet vocabulary was revitalized by trumpeter Woody Shaw in a 1980s on a series of recordings that have stood the test of time. Born in Newark, New Jersey in 1944, Shaw first made his name as a sideman with Horace Silver, Art Blakey, Dexter Gordon and others. He signed with the Columbia label in 1978, and released a series of much heralded LPs that were among the most widely heard and imitated jazz recordings of the era. His untimely death in 1989 cut short a celebrated career, but his distinctive improvisational style still exerts a powerful influence today. Trumpeter Brian Lynch shares his intimate knowledge of Shaw’s oeuvre in this survey of twelve essential tracks. For the full text of this article click on the arrow below.
From its American origins, jazz has spread all over the world. In the process, the music has revealed not just its popularity, but also its adaptability to new surroundings. Just as jazz assimilated different musical influences within the United States, coming to a rapprochement with blues, pop tunes and other prevailing styles, it also found ways of integrating itself into the specific cultural circumstances when it traveled to new locales. As a result, jazz overseas is not just a repetition of jazz in its native land, but provides a constant refreshing and expansion of the art form.
So each country is a different story, with something new to tell us about jazz music. In this installment of The Dozens, Thierry Quénum takes us on a tour of jazz in Italy, encapsulating in twelve tracks a rich Mediterranean perspective on the music.Read More
On September 4, 1948, a live broadcast from the Royal Roost featured a group led by trumpeter Miles Davis. Davis was still largely unknown among the general public, as were most of the other members of the nine-piece band he brought to the Roost that night. The gig itself was largely ignored by the jazz community at the time, but over the next decade, the individual members would revolutionize the jazz world. With good reason, this unit has become known as the “Birth of the Cool” band. These tracks recorded by this short-lived unit remain among the most widely discussed, imitated, analyzed and transcribed in the history of ensemble jazz. Here Jeff Sultanof, who edited the "Birth of the Cool" scores for publication, looks back at recordings of this influential group.Read More
Horace Silver, artwork by Suzanne Cerny
In honor of Horace Silver’s 80th birthday, jazz.com looks back at some essential performances by this seminal figure. Silver's impact goes beyond craftsmanship. If Tadd Dameron (1917-1965) is the under-acknowledged godfather of hard bop—that music's Fletcher Henderson and Don Redman, and one of Silver's avowed influences—then Silver has been hard bop's Duke Ellington. (His closest competition for that title is probably tenor saxophonist/composer Benny Golson.) The trumpet-and-tenor quintet has been Silver's orchestra, and within its seeming limitations he has created a personal, evolving musical language. Bill Kirchner conducts this survey of historic tracks by this popular and influential artist.
For well over forty years, jazz music and hip-hop music have flirted with each other on numerous occasions. When jazz artists began to experiment with sounds beyond free jazz and the avant-garde, they unknowingly helped plant one of the important seeds for hip-hop music. Hip-hop artists returned the favor in the 1980s, sampling some of the most respected music in the jazz catalogue. In the 1990s, popular hip-hop acts took jazz samples to the top of the charts while others worked directly with respected jazz musicians. With the new millennium, this trend continued as jazz artists began incorporating elements of hip-hop into their music through the use of emcees and more importantly deejays. In this installment of the Dozens, Jared Pauley surveys the important steps and linkages between jazz and hip-hop.Read More
Elvin Jones, artwork by Michael Symonds
While Kenny Clarke, Art Blakey, Roy Haynes and Max Roach and others all lent a hand in creating and sustaining the art of four-limb jazz independence on the drum kit, the traditional role of each limb remained fairly intact in each of their (greatly varied) playing styles. Without sacrificing historical respect for these drumming pioneers, Elvin Jones rather efficiently shattered those traditional roles. Following Jones's arrival on the scene, all four limbs were free to play on any beat, at any volume, in any order, at any time. Other jazz musicians soon discovered that interacting with Elvin Jones revealed a new realm of improvisatory possibilities.
In this installment of the Dozens, Eric Novod reviews 12 tracks spanning the majority of Elvin's career. Click on the arrow below to read the full article.Read More
Asked to select a musician to analyze for the “Musician Dozens” column, pianist Jason Moran did not hesitate to choose Muhal Richard Abrams. Like his one-time employers Greg Osby and Steve Coleman, Moran has been inspired by Abrams' predisposition to draw on an enormous range of raw materials in constructing his tonal personality.
Muhal Richard Abrams, by Michael Wilderman
Muhal Richard Abrams developed his determination to follow his own muse on the South Side of Chicago during the years after World War Two, when African-Americans were migrating en masse from Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama to Chicago for factory, railroad and stockyard jobs. Chicago was a center of comparative freedom, both social and musical. “You were expected to do whatever it is that you felt you wanted to do, and nobody said a word . . . Chicago was full of musicians who distinguished themselves as individuals.”
Out of Houston, Moran graduated from Manhattan School of Music, where the iconoclastic pianist Jaki Byard was his mentor, in 1997, and joined Greg Osby, then a Blue Note artist. In 1999, he launched his own succession of seven Blue Note dates on which he’s expressed his own capacious interests. As I recently wrote in Down Beat: ”The tag ‘postmodern’ seems unavoidable for Moran, a gently sardonic ironist in the manner of African-American artists like Robert Colescott, the painter, and Adrian Piper, the conceptual New Imagist—James P. Johnson, Afrika Bambaata, Muhal Richard Abrams and Albert King serve as equally valuable raw materials.”
Jason Moran, by Jos L. Knaepen
A point of aesthetic intersection for Abrams and Moran is their abiding love for the blues and for pre-bebop piano styles. Another is their commitment to experimentalism as a means of navigating the world. “As a teenager or in my early 20s, I didn’t believe it when I heard musicians talk about telling a story,” Moran told Down Beat. “I also wonder what chords and what sounds make me real. Does my band also make me real? Which songs do we play that really tell our narrative? Looking at songs, even song titles or song composers, expresses where I am, or who I am. . . . There’s a great interview with Monk and Hall Overton from the New School, where Monk says, ‘I want to make music that is good for me to play, and I want my audience to enjoy it, and I don’t want any criticism from the other musicians.’ That sets up this place where we sit in current jazz piano, a place where you are able to tell these narratives, which are your personal ones. . . . It’s trying to find that place where you can tell your story freely.” On this latest installment of the Dozens, Moran celebrates an pioneering artist who has traveled this same path.
"Summertime" is a rarity among jazz standards in that it was taken directly from an opera and suffered no changes in melody and form in moving from the classical idiom to the popular. Of course, the major reason for this easy transition is that "Summertime" was written by George Gershwin, whose works are ever popular among jazz players. More than 1,500 jazz versions of "Summertime" have been recorded over the years, with everyone from Sidney Bechet to Kenny G testing their ingenuity against the changes of this popular standard. Jazz.com’s Thomas Cunniffe surveys this star-studded landscape, and highlights twelve essential versions.Read More
Esbjörn Svensson, by Jos L. Knaepen
In the weeks that have passed since the tragic death of Esbjörn Svensson, there has been an outpouring of love and respect in cyberspace. People have left countless comments on Myspace and the ACT Music + Vision website. Still, few fans have taken the full measure of Svensson’s commitment to music and his integrity and modesty. During the past few years, Svensson’s career was taking off, and along with his cohorts—bassist Dan Berglund and drummer Magnus Öström—he was changing the face of jazz. Reversing the stigma that a piano trio is where clichés reign supreme, e.s.t. established themselves on the jazz map, and after years of struggling, they became a presence large enough to be the first foreign band on the cover of Down Beat. At the same time, the trio learned to enhance their instrumental conception by using detailed orchestration, and relying on the expertise of sound engineer Åke Linton, who was a permanent fixture in their performances. Soon enough, the Esbjörn Svensson Trio took their self-styled identity and ran with it. They never looked back.
In this latest installment of The Dozens, David Tenenholtz present a chronological account of Esbjörn Svensson’s musical development and contributions.Read More
Fifty years ago this week, Miles Davis entered the studio to begin work on his classic Porgy & Bess project. Fronting a large ensemble under the direction of Gil Evans, Davis created the definitive jazz interpretation of the Gerswhin magnum opus. Here Miles revealed his sensitive mastery of the flugelhorn, and Evans continued to expand the innovative palette of orchestral colors he had already demonstrated in previous collaborations with Davis. In honor of this golden anniversary, editor Alan Kurtz and a crack team of critics -- Scott Albin, Eric Novod and Jeff Sultanof -- provide a track-by-track assessment of this seminal album and classic of the "cool jazz" genre.
Gary McFarland, artwork by Suzanne Cerny
Gary McFarland's life could be the subject of a movie screenplay. Until he was in his mid-20s, McFarland (1933-1971) was a musical illiterate. By the age of 27, after two summers at the Lenox School of Jazz and a short stay at the Berklee, he had moved to New York City to pursue a career in music. In the next decade, he became one of the most acclaimed and recorded composer-arrangers in jazz; writer Gene Lees called him an "adult prodigy."
Following his tragic death in 1971, McFarland was a virtually forgotten figure. But in recent years, that situation has improved. A number of McFarland's records have been reissued on CD, albeit often only as imports. A comprehensive website is now devoted to his work. And filmmaker Kristian St. Clair has released the documentary This Is Gary McFarland., a In this latest installment of The Dozens, Bill Kirchner looks back at 12 key tracks by this remarkable artist.
The Vibraphonist, artwork by Suzanne Cerny
More than seventy years after vibraphonist Lionel Hampton was invited to join the Benny Goodman band, the vibes still remain a mystery to most folks outside the world of jazz. "People come up to you on a gig," Jay Hoggard relates. "'Yeah, I like the way you play that thing – you hit that thing real well,' or they ask you what instrument do you play and you say, 'Well, I play the vibraphone' and it's like 'What is that?'"
But jazz fans know the magic of the vibes. From the Benny Goodman Quartet to the Modern Jazz Quartet to recent combos led by Dave Holland and Stefon Harris, the vibraphone has been at the heart of many of the most beloved groups in the history of the music. Scott Albin looks back at th rich heritage of the vibes and picks twelve essential performances.
THE DOZENS: THE JAZZY SIDE OF WOODY ALLEN by Alan Kurtz
THE DOZENS: JOE LOVANO SELECTS 12 ESSENTIAL JOHN COLTRANE TRACKS edited by Ted Panken
THE DOZENS: EUROPEAN JAZZ by Stuart Nicholson
THE DOZENS: RETURN TO FOREVER by Walter Kolosky
THE DOZENS: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN ON STANDARDS by Walter Kolosky
THE DOZENS: ESSENTIAL MEDESKI, MARTIN & WOOD by Matt Leskovic
THE DOZENS: TWELVE TUNES THAT TAKE YOU PLACES by Walter Kolosky
THE DOZENS: HARLEM JAZZ by Ted Gioia
THE DOZENS: ERIC REED SELECTS 12 ESSENTIAL AHMAD JAMAL TRACKS edited by Ted Panken
THE DOZENS: THE BEST OF THE ART BLAKEY ALUMS by Eric Novod
THE DOZENS: ESSENTIAL ART BLAKEY by Eric Novod
THE DOZENS: ESSENTIAL GERALD WILSON by Jeff Sultanof
THE DOZENS: RANDY BRECKER SELECTS 12 ESSENTIAL FREDDIE HUBBARD TRACKS edited by Ted Panken
THE DOZENS: ESSENTIAL STÉPHANE GRAPPELLI by Scott Albin
DESERT ISLAND DOZENS: PETER ERSKINE edited by Eric Novod
THE DOZENS: THE OTHER PIANO TRIO by Alan Kurtz
THE DOZENS: ESSENTIAL WAYNE SHORTER by Matt Miller
THE DOZENS: ESSENTIAL STAN KENTON by Jeff Sultanof
THE DOZENS: A DIZZY DOZEN OF GILLESPIE by Mark Lomanno
THE DOZENS: OVERLOOKED CHARLIE PARKER GEMS by Marc Myers
THE DOZENS: ESSENTIAL BIX BEIDERBECKE by Brendan Wolfe
THE DOZENS: ESSENTIAL CHRIS POTTER by Jacob Teichroew
THE DOZENS: THE BEST OF DAVE HOLLAND by Bill Harrison
THE DOZENS: ESSENTIAL MATTHEW SHIPP by Steve Greenlee
THE DOZENS: JAZZ GUITAR CLASSICS by Scott Albin
THE DOZENS: TWELVE ESSENTIAL ELLA FITZGERALD PERFORMANCES by Stuart Nicholson
THE DOZENS: TWELVE ESSENTIAL BILLIE HOLIDAY PERFORMANCES by Stuart Nicholson
THE DOZENS: TWELVE CLASSIC BLUE NOTE GROOVES by Matt Leskovic
THE DOZENS: FRANK SINATRA FOR JAZZ LOVERS by Marc Myers
THE DOZENS: ESSENTIAL BOSSA NOVA by Judith Schlesinger
THE DOZENS: LIVE AT THE VILLAGE VANGUARD by Eric Novod
THE DOZENS: TWELVE LATIN JAZZ CLASSICS by Mark Lomanno
THE DOZENS: TWELVE ESSENTIAL PAT METHENY PERFORMANCES by Mark Saleski
THE DOZENS: THE JAZZY SIDE OF FRANK ZAPPA by Ted Gioia
THE DOZENS: STORMY WEATHER by Alan Kurtz
THE DOZENS: TWELVE GREAT 'LOVERS' by Alan Kurtz
THE DOZENS: TWELVE ESSENTIAL MODERN JAZZ TRUMPET SOLOS by Matt Leskovic
THE DOZENS: ECM - THE FIRST DECADE by Ted Gioia
THE DOZENS: TWELVE BLUE & SENTIMENTAL TENOR SAX BALLADS by Alan Kurtz
THE DOZENS: CRIME JAZZ by Alan Kurtz
THE DOZENS: TWELVE ESSENTIAL JOHN COLTRANE PERFORMANCES by Steve Greenlee
THE DOZENS: TO B-3 OR NOT B-3 . . . A GUIDE TO JAZZ ORGAN TRIOS by Steve Greenlee
THE DOZENS: TWELVE ESSENTIAL 'THIRD STREAM' PERFORMANCES by Alan Kurtz
THE DOZENS: HARMON-IZED TRUMPETS by Alan Kurtz
THE DOZENS: FIFTIES FEMMES FATALES by Alan Kurtz
THE DOZENS: JAZZ EXOTICA by Alan Kurtz
THE DOZENS: JAZZ FOR THE BIRDS by Alan Kurtz
THE DOZENS: TWELVE GREAT MOMENTS IN MODERN JAZZ DRUMMING by Eric Novod
THE DOZENS: TWELVE ESSENTIAL JAZZ FLUTE PERFORMANCES by Alan Kurtz
THE DOZENS: RUDY REINDEER'S FAVORITE JAZZ by Alan Kurtz
THE DOZENS: 1960S MALE HIPSTER VOCALISTS by Alan Kurtz
THE DOZENS: KRAZY KATS by Alan Kurtz
THE DOZENS: TWELVE ESSENTIAL THELONIOUS MONK PERFORMANCES by Steve Greenlee