Tue, 16 December 2014
I just read a really wonderful, succinct version of the story of Hanukkah, the "Festival of Lights" celebrated by Jews around the world beginning this evening in the Huffington Post. I urge you to read it, and if you have friends and family who are unfamilar with the holiday, which is in no way to be called the "Jewish Christmas", forward the link along to them, please.
Once again we celebrate musically with a jazz version of the Hanukkah song "Maoz Tsur", or "Rock of Ages" from Avi Wisnia. Originally a liturgical poem, "Maoz Tsur" has become a popular Hanukkah song, typically sung after the lighting of the menorah, whose words rejoice in the ability to claim victory over oppressors and overcome persecution. “This song is different from anything I have recorded so far,” explains Wisnia. “But having grown up surrounded by Jewish music my entire life, I wanted to celebrate the holiday by taking this traditional song from my childhood with this simple melody and doing something a little more complex with it.” Quite possibly the most modern take on this classic tune that also stays true to the original melody, here’s hoping that this rendition will found in houses full of families sharing the joy of the holiday.
Mon, 15 December 2014
Podcast 462 is the annual Christms gift from me to you - an hour plus uninterrupted music for decorating, drinking, hanging out and soaking up that holiday atmosphere. I've gone through my library to mix up old and new tunes, some old favorites and others new to your ears. In any event, enjoy, and pass the download on to your friends and loved ones. The 2014 edition includes:
Peggy Lee – “It's Christmas Time Again”
Ramsey Lewis Trio – “The Sound of Christmas”
Ella Fitzgerald – “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”
Hank Jones – “Dear Mister Santa Claus”
Vince Guaraldi – “What Child Is This?”
David Benoit – “We Three Kings”
Kenny Burrell – “Merry Christmas Baby”
Roy Hargrove and Abbey Lincoln – “Christmas Cheer"
Warren Wolf – “Carol of the Bells”
Dave Koz with Jonathan Butler – “O Holy Night”
Will Downing – “The First Noel”
Irvin Mayfield – “O Christmas Tree”
Billie Holiday – “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm”
Diana Krall – “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
Joe Sample – “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”
Diane Schuur – “I'll Be Home For Christmas”
Thu, 11 December 2014
2014 has been something of a lean year for Christmas Jazz releases. While in past years I have had close to a dozen CDs to showcase, this year only three new releases, and one expanded reissue are worth pointing out to those who are shopping for seasonal sounds.
However, the quality is most DEFINTELY here.
Trumpeter Irvin Mayfield has become the standard bearer for New Orleans jazz over the past few years, and this year released A New Orleans Creole Christmas. Crediting the CD to The Jazz Playhouse Revue in honor of his residency at the Jazz Plyhouse in the Hotel Sonesta in New Orleans, Mayfield selects favorites old and new, and whips 'em up Nawlins-style. The band is Irvin Mayfield – Trumpet; Derek Douget - Soprano andTenor Saxophones; Jason Marshall - Baritone Saxophone; Vincent Gardner – Trombone; Jon Chin – Piano; Peter Harris – Bass; Adonis Rose – Drums; Michael Watson - Vocals and Ronald Markham – Piano.
Detroit label Mack Avenue has been cultivating its brand with a Mack Avenue Superband, and now a label-wide release of Christmas tunes called It's Christmas on Mack Avenue. Slections run from a Django-style "Skating" from the Hot Club of Detroit to the wistful clsoing number "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" by Cecile McLorin Savant. Special kudos to Aaron Diehl for acompanying her and chipping in a few tunes of his own, especially "Christmas Star".
If it's Christmas, its time for another Dave Koz holiday release. This year it's 25th of December, a "Dave Koz & Friends" release that showcases R&B vocalists. Dave shows a bit more restraint than in some other years, especailly when he lets the likes of Jonathan Butler or Indai.Arie set the tone.
Lastly, we have the expanded version of Rosemary Clooney's Irving Berlin's White Christmas. In adition to the tunes she made famous in the titular film with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye, there are previously unreleased recordings from her radio show that are more than an exercise in nostalgia. Crooner heaven!
Podcast 460 features tunes from these CDs, including these selections:
Irvin Mayfield – “Winter Wonderland” and “Christmas Time is Here (Trio Version)” from A New Orleans Creole Christmas
Dave Koz with India.Arie and Trombone Shorty – “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm” from 25th of December.
Sean Jones – “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” from It’s Christmas on Mack Avenue
Christian McBride Trio – “Santa Claus, Go Straight to the Ghetto” from It’s Christmas on Mack Avenue
Rosemary Clooney – “White Christmas” from Irving Berlin's White Christmas (Expanded Edition).
Mon, 8 December 2014
With the possible exception of Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, no jazz album has found its way into non-jazz fans’ record collections over the years more than John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. Recorded fifty years ago this week in Rudy Van Gelder’s Studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, two days of recording resulted in another seismic shift in the world of jazz.
Ashley Kahn is uniquely qualified to tell the story of those sessions, including the events leading up to, and aftermath of, the recording. A music historian, journalist, road manager and producer, he serves as an adjunct professor at New York University, teaching various courses for the Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music in NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, and at 92nd Street Y in Manhattan. His most critically acclaimed books have been the Davis and Coltrane classics. A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane's Signature Album is a volume worthy of its subject, as Kahn takes us on a tour of the months leading up to, and the recording of, the album that continues to have a powerful impact to this day.
I will do all I can to be worthy of Thee, O Lord.
Direct download: Podcast_458_-_A_Conversation_with_Ashley_Kahn_on_A_Love_Supreme.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 5:00 AM
Fri, 5 December 2014
"Throughout (Joan) Merrill's books, almost all of the characters, major and minor, are jazz people. There is on-going commentary on today's jazz scene and how it differs from yesterday. No preaching, just strong and well-argued opinions during realistic conversations between characters." -- Bruce Crowther, jazz writer and crime novelist
Sitting in a jazz club listening to a young woman performing a “plaintive and sad” saxophone solo of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” gives Bosch hope that “there was still a chance for him, that he could still find whatever it was he was looking for, no matter how short his time was.”
On this blog I’ve had a conversation with David Fulmer, the author whose novels set in Storyville at the turn of the century feature Creole detective Valentin St. Cyr. St. Cyr is friend and confidant to the likes of Jelly Roll Morton and Buddy Bolden, and Fulmer’s descriptions of early jazz performances are classic. There’s even a jazz musician-detective, Evan Horne, created by Bill Moody in a memorable series of mysteries, including Death of a Tenor Man and Looking for Chet Baker.
The queen of the detective-jazz milieu is Joan Merrill, whose fifth novel featuring San Francisco PI Casey McKie is entitled And All That Motive. The plot line grabs any jazz fan right away - America's number one male jazz singer, Sid Satin, is found dead in his dressing room at a jazz festival, police set their sights on Casey’s good friend, veteran jazz singer and club owner Dee Jefferson. She'd had a blow-up with Satin that afternoon and they believe her gun is the murder weapon. To remove suspicion from her singer friend, Casey sets out to find the killer.
Ms. Merrill has a lengthy and varied career involving jazz. Joan had worked on the jazz scene in talent management and booking, as a publicist, and had produced radio shows for NPR’s award-winning Jazz Profiles and PRI’s Smithsonian Productions. She also produced CDs by jazz singers Nancy Kelly (Well, Alright!) and Rebecca Parris (You Don’t Know Me), wrote liner notes for CDs by the likes of Houston person, and served as producer for a video documentary, Saying It With Jazz. Joan is presently producer of Qué Sera! Celebrating Doris Day, a stage show starring Kristi King that is playing around and about the Pacific Northwest. And if all of that is not enough, she may be the world’s number one fan of singer Carmen McRae, and the keeper of a Carmen fansite, carmenmcrae.com
Thu, 4 December 2014
Three Decembers ago I went whole-hog on the spirit of the season and posted a jazz tune daily in my “25 Days of Jazzmas” extravaganza. Many of you dropped me comments on how much you enjoyed learning about the various tunes and getting a chance to hear some holiday jazz that might normally go unplayed.
This year, I’m not going to do it again. I have a stressful job, and I'm getting ready to be a Grandfather for the first time. You can relate, and you understand (I hope).
But, in the spirit of the season, I encourage you to return to those postings of December 2011 to read and enjoy again. And if you are on the lazy side, here is a list of all the songs I uploaded and blogged about, along with direct links to their posting. Enjoy an early present from yours truly, and stay tuned for more Holiday podcasts and postings as the days go on.
Chris Bauer – “Christmas Time is Here” from In a Yuletide Groove.
Paquito D'Riveraand John Miller – “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” from God Rest Ye Merry Jazzmen.
Michael Franks – “I Bought You A Plastic Star” from Watching the Show.
Dinah Washington – “Silent Night” from The Complete Dinah Washington On Mercury, Vol. 3: 1952-1954.
Ranee Lee and Oliver Jones – “The Christmas Waltz” fromA Celebration in Time
Joe Williams - "Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!" from That Holiday Feeling
Marcus Roberts Trio – “Winter Wonderland” from Celebrating Christmas.\
Dave Koz – “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” from Ultimate Christmas
Urbie Green and His All-Stars – “Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer” from Cool Yuletide.
Bob Dorough and Miles Davis - "Blue Xmas (To Whom It May Concern)" from Jingle Bell Swing.
Charlie Parker – “White Christmas” from Jingle Bell Jam.
Alexis Cole - "Jesus Is the Best Part of Christmas" from The Greatest Gift.
Louis Armstrong - "' Zat You, Santa Claus?" from Hipster's Holiday: Vocal Jazz and R&B Classics.
Ray Charles – “That Spirit of Christmas” from The Spirit of Christmas.
Oscar Peterson – “Away in a Manger” fromAn Oscar Peterson Christmas.
Jimmy Smith – “The Christmas Song” from Christmas Cookin’
Duke Pearson – “Jingle Bells” from Merry Ole Soul
Frank Sinatra – “Mistletoe and Holly” from The Sinatra Christmas Album.
Chet Baker – “The First Noel” from Silent Nights.
Vince Guaraldi – “Skating” from A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea – “Deck the Halls” from Jingle Bell Swing.
The Heath Brothers – “O Little Town of Bethlehem” from A Jazz Christmas.
Category:general -- posted at: 8:35 PM
Wed, 3 December 2014
2014 has been quite a year for the music and memory of the late Jimmy Giuffre (1921-2008). Known primarily by jazz aficionados as one of the early progenitors of Avant chamber jazz, Giuffre wrote a hit or two and performed with virtually all of the jazz greats during his long career, including Art Tatum, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, and the Modern Jazz Quartet. The discovery of two previously unreleased concerts from 1965 by Zev Feldman’s Elemental Music label resulted in one of the year’s best surprises, the Jimmy Giuffre 3 and 4’s New York Concerts. Beyond the critical raves that set produced, trumpeter Dave Douglas paid tribute to him by recording with a quartet that included former Giuffre bassist Steve Swallow, along with Chet and Jim Doxas, called Riverside. Suddenly Jimmy Giuffre wasn’t such a distant memory.
New England Conservatory faculty member and renowned bassist/composer/bandleader Bob Nieske continues the love fest by leading the New England Conservatory Jazz Orchestra in a program featuring his own music alongside music composed by longtime NEC faculty member Giuffre on Thursday, December 4 at NEC's Jordan Hall, 290 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA. Giuffre taught and coached jazz ensembles at NEC from 1978 through 1994.
Featured Giuffre compositions will include his best-known composition, "Four Brothers," made famous by Woody Herman's recording with Stan Getz, as well as "Palo Alto," "Dragonfly" and three arranged by Nieske: "Cry Want," River Chant," and "The Sad Truth." Nieske will direct the ensemble in several of his own pieces, including "For Jimmy·" and "Broken Lotus, a Concerto Grosso."
I spoke with Bob about Giuffre, who was one of his mentors during Nieske’s time at NEC, and why his music is making a comeback in 2014. Our conversation is podcast 459, which includes Giuffre recordings like “Cry, Want” (with Paul Bley and Steve Swallow), “Dragonfly” and his arrangement of “Mack the Knife (with Ray Brown and Jim Hall). Nieske’s “Flatline” is also featured.
Direct download: Podcast_459_-_A_Conversation_with_Bob_Nieske_about_Jimmy_Giuffre.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 5:00 PM
Thu, 27 November 2014
We all have much to be thankful for today, and so let us begin the day by sharing the sentiment of this song, written by Irving Berlin and sung by Erin Bode, the Official Straight No Chaser Song of Thanksgiving Day:
When I'm worried and I can't sleep
Wed, 26 November 2014
Twenty-four hours to go before the big Thanksgiving feast! What would go better with some turkey than some "Giblet Gravy", courtesy of guitarist George Benson.
Those who only know Benson from his smooth jazz or Top 40 recordings don't realize that he was one of the funkiest and fastest guitar slingers in his early days. Here he plays with a team of top notch musicians in 1968 sessions, including Herbie Hancock (piano), Ron Certer (bass), Pepper Adams (sax) and Billy Cobham (drums). It's worth noting that three of the four - and Benson as well - are all Miles Davis Alumni.
Click here for a tune well suited to those last minute preparations around the kitchen. Cue it up and let the gravy fly!
Mon, 24 November 2014
Forty years ago today, two old friends reunited on stage in New York’s Carnegie Hall for a memorable evening of music. Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker had been instrumental in changing the world of jazz together in 1952 with a new approach that helped create the West Coast Cool Jazz Sound:
While arranging for (Stan)Kenton, Mulligan began performing on off-nights at The Haig, a small jazz club on Wilshire Boulevard at Kenmore Street. During the Monday night jam sessions, a young trumpeter named Chet Baker began sitting in with Mulligan. Mulligan and Baker began recording together, although they were unsatisfied with the results. Around that time, vibraphonist Red Norvo's trio began headlining at The Haig, thus leaving no need to keep the grand piano that had been brought in for Erroll Garner's stay at the club.
Faced with a dilemma of what to do for a rhythm section, Mulligan decided to build on earlier experiments and perform as a pianoless quartet with Baker on trumpet, Bob Whitlock on bass and Chico Hamilton on drums (later Mulligan himself would occasionally double on piano). Baker's melodic style fit well with Mulligan's, leading them to create improvised contrapuntal textures free from the rigid confines of a piano-enforced chordal structure. While novel at the time in sound and style, this ethos of contrapuntal group improvisation hearkened back to the formative days of jazz. Despite their very different backgrounds, Mulligan a classically-trained New Yorker and Baker from Oklahoma and a much more instinctive player, they had an almost psychic rapport and Mulligan later remarked that, "I had never experienced anything like that before and not really since." Their dates at the Haig became sell-outs and the recordings they made in the fall of 1952 became major sellers that led to significant acclaim for Mulligan and Baker.
Mulligan’s drug arrest in 1953 broke up the band, and Baker became the “Great White Hope” of jazz. They only played together for one major performance after the breakup, at the 1955 Newport Jazz Festival, and recorded sporadically together over the years.
On November 24, 1974, CTI Records president Creed Taylor brought the pair together at Carnegie Hall in New York City. By accounts, the reunion was contentious. Mulligan had refused to reunite the pianoless quartet, so Taylor supplied a larger CTI backing group (Ron Carter (bass); John Scofield (guitar); Harvey Mason (drums); Ed Byrne (trombone); Bob James (keyboards) and Dave Samuels (vibes and percussion)). Mulligan ‘s tunes dominated the set list (and hence the future royalties), but Baker drew the biggest applause of his night for his solo on “My Funny Valentine.”
Baker’s his best days were far behind him that night, and he argued both onstage and off with his side men. The music is top notch however, perhaps because young Turks like Scofield and James pushed the pair to try new approaches to old tunes. Mulligan and Baker never played together again.
Baker was gone to Europe shortly thereafter, and never returned, dying in a drug-fueled accidental fall in 1988. He was 58 years old. Mulligan spent much of the next two decades writing and arranging orchestral and large-group jazz pieces. In 1991 he released Re-Birth of the Cool, revisiting his seminal 1949 recordings with the original charts. He died in 1996 from complications after knee surgery at the age of 68.
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00 PM