Following his 2015 big band album On a Clear Day, British jazz singer-pianist Anthony Strong showcases four live tracks recorded in concert with the Danish Radio Big Band. The stream is available exclusively for streaming on JAZZIZ.com
Strong, who is signed to French label Naïve, made his debut at the Los Angeles Hollywood Bowl this summer as part of Playboy Jazz and has built a reputation at some of Europe’s biggest festivals for his swinging, feel-good live shows.
More than twenty musicians were involved in the making of his 2015 album On A Clear Day, which was a statement in which Strong showed his intent to continue playing a repertoire of unashamedly ‘old school’ material – from jazz standards and classics through to early Stevie Wonder and Motown – in a modern, fresh and energetic way.
These latest tracks, recorded by Strong with the Danish Radio Big Band in front of a live audience at the Copenhagen Koncerthuset, are the culmination of a 7-date tour through Scandinavia late last year.
In the mid-60’s, a young Jack DeJohnette attended a John Coltrane concert at a Chicago music venue. At the time, DeJohnette was a young talented composer, drummer and pianist and was making a name for himself playing in other musicians’ ensembles and fronting some of his own. Meanwhile, Coltrane was making history with his celebrated quartet, featuring bassist Jimmy Garrison, pianist McCoy Tyner and drummer Elvin Jones. On this particular concert, the saxophonist asked DeJohnette to join them onstage for a few numbers. The drummer has often referred to this moment as one of the most important ones of his entire career.
Earlier this year, and around fifty years after the aforementioned event, In Movement was released on ECM Records. Produced by ECM label head Manfred Eicher, the album features DeJohnette playing alongside the sons of John Coltrane and Jimmy Garrison: saxophonist Ravi Coltrane and bassist Matthew Garrison. Although the trio played together for the first time in 1992, In Movement marks their debut studio recording. Despite their intertwining personal histories, the homages and influences from the past are just as important on this album as the search and exploration of new territories within the jazz idiom and beyond.
This statement is made clear from the very beginning. The album’s opening track sees the trio ambitiously take on one of the most important compositions in jazz history: the Civil Rights-elegy “Alabama.” The song was composed by John Coltrane in response to the dramatic events surrounding the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing of September 15, 1963. On this tragic date, four members of the Ku Klux Klan planted at least fifteen sticks of dynamite attached to a timing device beneath the front steps of the Church. The explosion killed four young girls and injured many others. In the version presented by the trio on In Movement, after some evocative cymbal play by DeJohnette setting up the tone, Ravi Coltrane starts the song’s famous theme by playing its final part, which makes it seem like a continuation of Coltrane’s statement on racially motivated violence rather than a standard modern-day adaptation. Garrison gradually turns up the fuzz tone in his bass sound throughout the song, a move that adds further intensity to the mood of the piece.
The original version of “Alabama,” is also generally considered to be a significant landmark composition in John Coltrane’s personal artistic evolution, much like the live album on which it was first released (Live at Birdland, 1964). In the years that follow it, the saxophonist would enter freer territories, especially in terms of improvisation. Interstellar Space was certainly one of his wilder albums from his later years. The album was part of a wealth of recordings that were only released, on the Impulse label, after the saxophonist’s death and has since gone on to be considered as one of the saxophonist’s greatest works. Interstellar Space features Coltrane playing alongside drummer Ali Rashied. The music they recorded on this album serves as the inspiration for “Rashied,” from In Movement. On this track, DeJohnette on drums and Ravi Coltrane on sopranino play in much the same way. The resulting track is arguably the most faithful tribute presented on the album. (According to a press release, their performance inspired a standing ovation from the crew in Avatar Studios in New York City, where it was recorded.)
DeJohnette occasionally performed second drums alongside Ali onstage in the John Coltrane Quintet at the end of the ‘60s. In a 1989 interview with Rick Mattingly, later published on his book The Drummer’s Time: Conversations with the Great Drummers of Jazz (1998), DeJohnette said, “Rashied Ali is another favorite drummer. He and I worked together with Coltrane for a week in Chicago, and I really got a chance to know him. A lot of people didn’t understand what he was doing but when I first heard him play with [John] Coltrane at Newport, it just clicked. It was this multidirectional sound, multi-rhythms where he could play or play free over it, but it was all based out of the rudiments and time playing.” In that same interview, DeJohnette also sang the praises of Ali’s work on Interstellar Space. “One of my favorite records is Interstellar Space. There are a couple of drum solos on there that bring tears to my eyes. He gets that motion going – talks about that rolling sound!”
Ravi Coltrane also has a personal relationship with Ali. In a press release for In Movement, he says, “Rashied Ali was an incredible man, an incredible drummer, and somebody who affected us personally in a very deep way. Rashied was like a second father to me, just like Jack has become a second father to me.” This quote also reveals an important element of the album, which relates to the familial bond shared by the three musicians. DeJohnette, in fact, strengthened his family bond with the Coltranes and the Garrisons since those days of performing with them in the ‘60s. For instance, when in 2004, pianist Alice Coltrane ended her 26-year hiatus by recording her album Transcendent Light, produced by her son Ravi, DeJohnette contributed to the project by playing drums on five of its tracks. This bond is even greater in the case of Matthew Garrison. After the death of his father in 1976, Garrison and his family moved to Rome, Italy, where he began to study piano and bass guitar. When he returned to the United States, he lived in the house of DeJohnette, his godfather, with whom he continued his studies, before receiving a full scholarship to attend the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
In the years that followed, Garrison played bass with such artists as vibraphonist Gary Burton, pianist Herbie Hancock and guitarist John McLaughlin. He also made a handful of albums as leader, the first of which was his self-titled and self-produced release from 2001. Along with his skills as a bassist, he established a reputation as an electronic experimentalist. His second album as leader, Shapeshifter (2005), features compositions often blending ethnic, exotic melodies with electronica. On In Movement, his electronic layering, loops and chords add color and enhance the music’s soundscape. Often they even provide the framework for the group’s improvisations. Such is the case with the title track, with its looping chords and swirling layer of electronic noise, over which DeJohnette beats on his drum authoritatively and Coltrane blows on his soprano impassioned. Such electronic experimentation is as notable on the album’s original compositions as it is in distinguishing the trio’s versions of older compositions. “The use of electronics gives me the opportunity to re-imagine how I hear those compositions,” Garrison states on the album’s press release. “I like to be able to take those things and filter them through my own processes, and then they have to bounce off Ravi and Jack, so that the music becomes this series of undulating movements.”
Garrison’s words echo the mission implied by the title of the album, which also conveys the re-occurring theme of motion in DeJohnette’s over fifty-year career. The drummer has often described his music as “multi-directional” and whether it was through his involvement with the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians or his aptly titled acclaimed group Directions (and subsequent New Directions, with its constantly changing line-up), among many other notable projects, one always gets the feeling of DeJohnette’s music constantly heading places. His stylings and innovations have kept his works constantly new and invigorating. They have also contributed to the evolution of the music of his collaborators. Miles Davis recognized the size of his impact on the music they made together from 1969 to 1972, a time-span that included the transformative Bitches Brew (1970). On his 1989 autobiography, co-authored by Quincy Trope, Davis said “In the band with [pianist] Keith Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette, Keith and Jack dictated where the sound went and what they played, the rhythms they laid down. They altered the music and then the music pushed itself out into something else.”
Something similar happens in the trio’s tribute to Davis on In Movement, a version of his smoky modal classic “Blue in Green” from Kind of Blue (1959), co-written by Bill Evans (DeJohnette was the only musicians to play in both men’s groups). On this track, DeJohnette dictates the rhythm through his piano for Coltrane and Garrison. Here, too, the music pushes itself out into something different. Like “Alabama,” this reading of reading of “Blue in Green” is recognizable, but the lack of drumming adds tension to the piece and makes it seem more abstract.
“Blue in Green” is also one of three tracks on In Movement on which DeJohnette sits at his second favorite instrument. The other two are his loving tribute to his wife “Lydia” and the album’s sweet closer, “Soulful Ballad.” DeJohnette’s musical training began on the piano, at the age of 4, before switching to the drums in his teens. Throughout the years, however, he has occasionally performed on the piano, gaining recognition for his skill and creativeness on this instrument, as well as others. On his debut album as leader, The DeJohnette Complex (1969), he also played melodica. Later, on his Golden Beams label meditation and relaxation albums, he experimented prominently with synthesizers. One of these releases, Peace Time, was awarded a Grammy for Best New Age Album in 2008. Earlier this year, DeJohnette released his first ever piano solo album, Returns. On it, he revisits some of his older compositions in solo piano format. The album was released on vinyl only on the French label NewVelle Records.
During the early part of his career in Chicago, before his move to New York City, he founded a number of piano groups. One of them, a trio, featured Maurice White on drums. White’s passing this February makes the inclusion of the Earth, Wind and Fire R&B track “Serpentine Fire,” a fitting celebration of his legacy. It’s also one of the highlights of In Movement. Its blend of jazz funk recalls the drummer’s stint with Davis’s fusion era ensemble, and the hard-grooving sophisticated backbeat echoes the grooves that Davis loved to play over. Coltrane seems to express the same type of delight, showcasing his own, slow, snake-like and hypnotic phrasing. That song is directly preceded by “Two Jimmy’s,” a joint tribute to fellow innovators Jimmy Garrison and Jimi Hendrix. The song, written by the trio, showcases the undulating movements referred to by Matthew Garrison, with its modal Middle Eastern influenced psychedelic synth and a treated bassline.
Every track on In Movement has a fascinating history behind it. DeJohnette, Coltrane and Garrison’s past is inescapably interlinked. Yet, what truly makes this album stand out is the plain excitement the three musicians showcase by the simple act of playing with one another. This excitement and delight allows them to experiment with new sounds, often breaking through the boundaries of jazz. It is therefore hard to disagree with DeJohnette’s statement, from the album’s press release, in which he says: “I’m inspired by what we did – we got into some amazing sonic grooves. It’s a continuation, a moving our music forward – music that’s not locked into any one genre. I know I haven’t heard any combination like this. There’s the past and the present and the future in what we are doing.”
The Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, New Jersey, will continue to keep its name for another century thanks to a new agreement struck between the nonprofit organization that runs the theater and the William J. Basie Trust.
The contract between the two parties officially allows the venue to keep its name for the next 50 years, plus five 10-year extensions, provided it will continue to preserve the legacy of the great bandleader. In exchange for the extended naming rights, the theater has agreed to keep information about Count Basie on its website and in its playbills, a bust photo of the musician in the venue’s lobby and develop an educational program around Basie for local students.
Originally opened as the Carlton Theater in 1926, the venue was renamed in 1984 to honor the jazz great and Red Bank native William “Count” Basie.
Last month, Red Bank’s zoning board approved a $20 million expansion project that will double its size and add a second performance space. Work is expected to be finished in the summer of 2018.
On May 6, Carla Bley celebrated her 80th birthday. Five days later, on May 11, her latest album Andando el Tiempo was released on ECM Records. Produced by Manfred Eicher, the album sees her playing with her trio of over 20 years, composed of Andy Sheppard on saxophone and Steve Swallow, her longtime musical and romantic partner, on bass. Over the years, this has become Bley’s main outfit as both a composer and a producer. Since making their debut on the live album Songs with Legs (1994) and being joined by drummer Billy Drummond and trumpeter Paolo Fresu on a number of subsequent recordings, the three returned with some of the most introspective music they ever recorded in 2013 on their aptly titled Trios.
Trios was an album of firsts for Bley. It marked her debut for the ECM label, somewhat surprising given her longstanding affiliation with Watt, the independent label she founded with her second husband, trumpeter Michael Mantler, in the ‘70s, through which all her previous recordings had been distributed. It was also the first Bley album not to feature any new material. Its track list, in fact, comprised a number of her earlier compositions, arranged for a smaller band. While Trios and Andando el Tiempo are both characterized by the private nature of their music, and both were recorded at RSI Studios in Lugano, Italy, the latest album in entirely composed of new material. Andando el Tiempo shows that Bley has not lost her ability to write great music and showcases her skills as a pianist. As a musician, she has never been praised for technical prowess or virtuosity but rather for expressing her instrumental excellence through attentiveness, intuition and praiseworthy improvisational creativity.
It is quite impressive to consider just how much Bley has accomplished, particularly when considering that she received minimal formal musical education. Rather than seeing this defect as a drawback, however, she has referred to it as a key element that led her on a unique path to self-discovery as an artist. Speaking of her formative years, she once proudly remarked, “I had managed to retain my ignorance, something you can never get back once you lose it.”
Lovella May Borg, later Carla Bley, was born in Oakland, California, the daughter of Christian fundamentalist parents with Swedish ancestry. In her childhood, she was exposed to classical music and religious hymns. Her father, Emil Borg, was a church organist and a piano teacher. He attempted to teach his daughter how to play but eventually gave up due to exasperation with her lack of discipline. He was still able to teach her to write music and to this day she writes the vast majority of her works on pencil, at an upright piano in her home office. Later, while living in New York City in the late ‘50s, she would apply for a scholarship at the Lenox School of Jazz where pianist George Russell, one of the earliest established musicians to record Bley’s compositions, used to teach. The application was rejected and the school closed down entirely in 1960.
As an autodidact, she relied on influences from other artists she admired and from her own personal experiences to shape her craft as a composer, arranger and musician, sometimes willfully and other times accidentally. Celebrated as one of the most original jazz figures of the post-bop era, she has collaborated with countless musicians, written for anything from duets to big band ensembles and won numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1974 and an NEA Jazz Masters Award in 2015. She spent the vast majority of her formative years in New York City during the ‘1950s and early ’60s. This was a time in which the city’s burgeoning art scene was characterized by cross fertilization among all of the arts, which led to the formation of many revolutionary movements and waves, from beat writing to abstract expressionism to method acting. The soundtrack to this eclectic artistic evolution was undoubtedly jazz, which itself underwent constant changes during these times.
In many ways, Bley’s process of self-teaching encapsulates the essence of these vibrant creative times. Her openness to a large variety of influences to shape her style is reflected in her magnum opus Escalator Over the Hill (1972), widely considered as the work that established her reputation. Upon its release, she referenced Kurt Weill, Erik Satie and The Beatles as her primary influences for the album. All three provide a loose overview on the origin of some of her most reoccurring characteristic traits: Weill through his own theatricality and informed sense of humour; Erik Satie with his modernism, unorthodox rhythmic structures and sophisticated melodies; The Beatles for being experimental while, at the same time, fundamentally accessible. (Escalator Over the Hill is often considered to be the jazz-opera equivalent of Sgt. Peppers’ Lonely Hearts Club Band.)
Escalator Over the Hill was also inspired by poet Paul Haines, who wrote its libretto and would later write the one for its follow-up Tropic Appetites (1974). “Peking Window,” one of his poems, inspired “Naked Bridges/Diving Brides” from Andando el Tiempo. The line which specifically inspired it reads: “From naked bridges / Diving brides relax / In freefall fistfuls / of sparkling albumen.” The track was commissioned for last year’s London Jazz Festival and it was also Bley’s wedding present to Andy Sheppard. Its middle section quotes a piece from Felix Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March.” Bley’s admiration for Mendelssohn’s work led her to titling her 1976 self-published collection of compositions from 1961 to 1975 Songs Without Words, in reference to Mendelssohn’s series of the same name that comprises short lyrical piano pieces he wrote between 1829 and 1845.
Bley has often quoted works of other artists in previous tracks for different purposes. “Greasy Gravy/Awful Coffee” from Appearing Nightly (2008) quotes briefly and liberally from other songs about food and drink, such as “You’re the Cream in My Coffee,” “Salt Peanuts” and “Watermelon Man.” The move alludes to remembrances of her first musical engagements as a pianist back in the ‘50s by evoking a mixture of nostalgia and humor. Similarly, on “National Anthem” from Looking for America (2003), she includes pieces from anything from Dixieland classics to military marches. Here, the intention is to highlight the theme of opposing the surge of patriotism that had taken over America at the time through satire and more than a hint of irreverence.
Bley’s underexposure to formal musical education allowed her to be less caught up in technique and theory. She learned to rely on her instincts and intuition whenever faced with an obstacle. She also learned to integrate mistakes in her craft. For instance, when she was 17, she landed a job at a Monterey club called The Black Orchid, where she played a repertoire of Tin Pan Alley tunes and would sometime resort to improvisation to cover up her mistakes. Improvisation was something that, as a player, she was unfamiliar with up to this point. In 1970, she told DownBeat magazine, “I like to make mistakes. It makes me think of ways to correct them.” Saxophonist Ornette Coleman, one of the main exponents of the free jazz movement, shared a similar viewpoint. He once said, “From realizing that I can make mistakes, I have come to realize that there is an order in what I do.”
Mistakes have been constructive reoccurrences in her entire life, musically or otherwise. She officially changed her first name to Carla from Lovella May in the summer of 1957. The note providing the explanation for the change on the correctional affidavit read “incorrect name was added to the birth certificate at the time of registration.” At some point, during the late ‘50s, perhaps fearing a mistaken career choice, she went to a psychiatrist who told her to stop thinking that she was a composer and strongly encouraged her to consider a career as a seamstress. She never followed that advice. When bassist Charlie Haden died last year, Bley sat down at the piano and started writing a piece in honor of her great friend and long-time collaborator. “Time Life” will be included in the upcoming Liberation Music Orchestra album, due out this summer on Impulse Records. Speaking to Nate Chinen of The New York Times, she said, “In the piece I wrote for Charlie there’s a note that’s really wrong. That’s the wrongest note that I ever played. And I made it right.”
Author Amy C. Beal, who wrote a book on the music and influence of Carla Bley (Carla Bley, 2011) stated that “Donkey” can be credited as being Bley’s earliest mature work. She wrote it in 1958, and it was recorded in 1960 by musician Don Ellis for Essence, the title of which comes from another Bley composition. “Donkey” is based on a standard 12-bar blues structure and the publication of the song in a collection of piano music from 1981 instructs the player to improvise “in the traditional manner.” This would suggest that bebop and blues form the foundations of Bley’s mature compositional work. However, Beal also says that Bley has claimed in the past to have been introduced to jazz as an adolescent. Considering that she started playing piano at the age of 3, this would be quite late on her formative timeline. In fact, Beal’s book also informs that Bley considers to have written her very first composition as a child and that it was a set of variations on the traditional church hymn “Onwards Christian Soldiers.” The impact of religious music on Bley also draws an interesting parallel with two names that often come up in critical writings on her music: Charles Ives and Duke Ellington. The modernist composer Charles Ives, who was among the first composers to engage in a systematic program of experimental music, shared many of the formative elements of Bley’s upbringing, such as church-music traditions of his youth and an early exposure to European art music. Duke Ellington created three Christian jazz concerts in the last decade of his life, between 1965 and 1973, and called them “the most important thing I have ever done.”
Despite being born in a family of Christian fundamentalists, Bley herself claims to have become an atheist at the age of 12. This has not distanced her in any way from church music. Time and time again, she has embraced its influence on her works by including hymns in her songs and by writing for church choirs. The Carla Bley Big Band Goes to Church (1996) was entirely recorded in a Church in Perugia, Italy, performed during the Umbria Jazz Festival. She even released a critically acclaimed album of Christmas songs, Carla’s Christmas Carols (2009), although its track list included an original composition titled “Hell’s Bells,” which she described to an NPR interviewer as a carol for people who don’t go to heaven. “Everything’s going wrong in that piece. It’s sort of like hell — what hell must be, I thought. I have these little scenarios that amuse me as I’m writing.”
The imaginative narrative quality in some of Bley’s works is often a concrete source of inspiration for Bley’s music in its own right. The stories she tells through her compositions and arrangements range from abstract and bizarre to human and personal. Escalator Over the Hill revolves around strange happenings in a hotel populated by even stranger individuals. Each one of the instrumentalists in the ensemble, credited as the Jazz Composer’s Orchestra, plays an active role in its storyline. A polar opposite is represented by “Saints Alive!” from Andando el Tiempo, a subtle waltz inspired by the scenario of a group of old ladies sitting on a porch on a cool evening, gossiping. On this track, Bley, Swallow and Sheppard are the three old ladies and the imagined set-up provides a narrative structure to their musical interplay that feels like a colloquial ladies’ chit-chat.
Theatricality is an equally important element in Bley’s role as a performer, beginning with Bley’s own characteristic outlook, with her straight blonde hair and her matchstick thin figure. A 1979 issue of the Montreal Gazette featured a report from a Carla Bley concert and stated, “Bley, looking like an underweight rag doll in her loose-fitting pink dress, runs between her piano or organ and center stage, her hands flexed into claws, conducting, it seems, by impetuosity.” The same report also commented on the comedic behaviors of the band as a whole, stating that they “sucked on beer bottles, they played with puppets, they kidded each other over supposed mistakes and they provided a sometimes breathtaking, sometimes hypnotic display of intricate arrangements.”
Bley’s career as a composer really took off in 1955, when she decided to move to New York City on a whim, apparently inspired to attend a Miles Davis concert at Café Bohemia. Soon after that, she started working as a cigarette girl at the notorious New York City night club Birdland. Founded in 1949, Birdland became an epicenter of American music in the ‘50s. During its golden age, many jazz greats performed there regularly, including Count Basie, Anita O’Day, Bud Powell, Stan Getz, Lester Young and many more. By working there, she had the opportunity to learn directly from these artists every night and would listen to them attentively. Bley has credited her time at the Birdland as constituting her formal education. It may not have been formal by any conventional means but it was, perhaps, the best.
Birdland was where she met pianist Paul Bley. The two became a couple shortly after their meeting. At the time, he was looking for less traditionally rooted material to play with his band and encouraged her to write for him. He was also responsible for introducing her to the second stage of her personalized educative process, when she followed him to Los Angeles where his band had landed a long-term engagement at The Hillcrest Club. The Paul Bley Quintet included drummer Billy Higgins, bassist Charlie Haden, trumpeter Don Cherry and saxophonist Ornette Coleman. Carla Bley’s exposure to free playing on a nightly basis would go on to influence her writing for many years.
Shortly after returning to New York City, her reputation started to grow among the exponents of the New York jazz scene. Many artists, including Jimmy Giuffrè and George Russell, recorded her compositions. Around this time, she also met Steve Swallow, who would play a vital part in her growth as an instrumentalist. They had been collaborating for over 20 years before the release of their album Duets (1988). Around this time, Bley seemed determined to put her own piano playing at the forefront. The warm atmosphere and relaxing vibes of the album provided her with enough security to expose herself and evolve as an instrumentalist. Not to mention that the chemistry she shares with Swallow is remarkable. Just by listening and without glancing at the cover artwork, it’s obvious that the two were sharing something special.
Her playing on Andando el Tiempo is, arguably, better than ever. Her typical quirk is slightly subsided for something much deeper and more intimate. The songs set up great interactions between the three musicians, with strong statements by Swallow and Sheppard. Instead of one upstaging the other, all three function like a tight unit, a three-headed monster, a well-oiled machine. Their remarkable mutual understanding and familiarity with one another allows them to delve upon delicate themes in a heartfelt, painful and emotional way.
The album’s opening title track, a three-part suite inspired by the trials and tribulations of addiction, is particularly powerful. The first part of the song, aptly titled “Sin Fin,” (“Endless” in English) is defined by a sad tango-like rhythm and a seven-bar harmonic sequence that seems capable of spiraling onward endlessly. In the liner notes, Bley writes “’Sin Fin’ is the realization that the endless cycle of medication to stay free from anxiety and pain is becoming insufferable.” The second part, titled “Potacion de Guaya,” is also founded on a soft tango rhythm, but comes across as even more somber and sad. She describes it as a representation of “the ongoing sorrow felt by everyone affected.” The third and final section, “Camino al Volver,” ends the track in uplifting hopefulness. This is evoked by its freer structure. While the track is still based on a Latin American rhythm, it leaves plenty of room for each of the members of the trio to play both in unison and as individuals, only occasionally playing one or two carefully placed reoccurring notes to prevent it from getting out of hand. It’s a type of controlled chaos. As mathematically precise as it sounds, it is ultimately just as vulnerable.
Over the years, Bley has kept a healthy habit of staying busy and working on a variety of different projects at the same time. At 80, nothing seems to have changed in these regards. Rather than resting on her laurels, she is as active now as she has ever been. The release of Andando el Tiempo on ECM and upcoming tour dates with the trio is only part of what will keep her busy for the next number of months. She has a forthcoming album with the Liberation Music Orchestra, which will be out on Impulse on June 14. It will be titled Time Life and include two of the last performances by Charlie Haden. In addition, she is currently working on “La Leçon Française” (“The French Lesson”), an oratorio for big band and boys’ choir, which she has called her biggest work to date and is expected to be released on ECM next year.
Noel Muir, a Long Island contractor who lived next door to pianist Cecil Taylor, has pleaded guilty to larceny after stealing nearly $500,000 in prize money from the free-jazz legend.
Muir said to have befriended Taylor and accompanied him to Japan, where he was to pick up the Kyoto Prize in 2013, received for recognition of cultural, scientific and spiritual achievements. He was subsequently able to defraud him by convincing the Japanese foundation into believing that his account was in Taylor’s name.
Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson said that Muir “shamefully bilked an elderly, vulnerable man. In doing so, the defendant pretended to Cecil Taylor’s friend, but this guilty plea and sentence show that he was just a thief.”
Muir received a sentence of one to three years in prison. He has already returned $200,000 dollars of the award, and promised to return the rest.
The sixth and final concert of the JAZZ ROOTS – A Larry Rosen Jazz Series 2015/16 season will take place at the John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall of Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center on April 8 at 8 p.m.
The event, titled “Cool Velvet,” will consist of two sets. The Christian McBride Trio will be opening the show. Led by bassist McBride, the trio features pianist Christian Sands and drummer Jerome Jennings. Vocalist Vanessa Williams will then take to the stage, along with her 7-piece ensemble with whom she has toured the world.
Liz Wallace, vice president of programming of the Arsht Center, said “I can’t think of a better way to conclude an extraordinary JAZZ ROOTS concert season than with the remarkable talents of Vanessa Williams and Christian McBride on our Knight Concert Hall Stage. Both of these artists personify the rich variety and broad spectrum artists we present in this series each and every year.”
Cuban saxophonist and clarinetist Paquito D’Rivera, celebrated both for his artistry in Latin jazz and his achievements as a classical composer, will be honored as this year’s recipient of the annual Highlights in Jazz Award, which has been presented every year since 1974 to honor a singular living jazz musician for their “matchless musical achievements.”
D’Rivera will receive the award on March 3, at the second concert of the 44th season of Jack Kleinsinger’s Highlights in Jazz, New York’s longest jazz concert series. The show is titled “A Salute to Paquito D’Rivera” and will see the multi-Grammy Award-winning artist performing with his working quintet, which features trumpeter Diego Urcola, pianist Alex Brown, bassist Zach Brown and drummer Erik Doob. He will also be performing as part of a Clarinet Summit with previous Highlights in Jazz Award recipient Ken Peplowski and twin brother reedmen Will and Peter Anderson.
This will mark D’Rivera’s fourth appearance at Highlights in Jazz. His first took place in 1984, not long after he first arrived in the U.S. from his native Cuba. On that occasion, he was part of a program billed as “Jazz is My Passport” that also featured Brazilian songstress Astrud Gilberto and Belgian harmonica legend Toots Theilmans.
D’Rivera remembers Jack Kleinsinger as “one of the first impresarios to invite me to join his prestigious series. For that, and for his contribution for this music, I hold him in high esteem, and as a dear friend.”
Previous recipients of the honorary award of the annual Highlights in Jazz include Roy Eldridge, Lionel Hampton, Roy Haynes, Hank Jones, Frank Wess, Dr. Billy Taylor and many others.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of one of the world’s greatest and most iconic entertainers of the twentieth century – Frank Sinatra.
In this series of entries on JAZZIZ.com which will run for the whole month of December, we celebrate the life, times and legacy of ol’ blue eyes by talking about some pivotal moments in his career, interesting facts about the man behind the man and other Sinatra-related things that will hopefully illustrate the incredible and unparalleled impact he has had as a vocalist, actor and beyond.
What better way to begin this series of features than by talking about the first, tragic and traumatic event in his life – his birth.
Sinatra is one of the world’s most influential and popular vocalists. American music critic Robert Christgau referred to Sinatra as “the greatest singer of the 20th century”. Throughout his career, he sold more than 150 million records worldwide and received many awards, including eleven Grammys one of which was for Lifetime Achievement. He even won an Academy Award for his role in the film From Here to Eternity in 1953, and received much praise for many other cinematic roles that would follow.
It’s hard to imagine that all this could have never happened. Sinatra’s life did not exactly start on the right foot. Born on the 12th of December 1915, Dolly Sinatra’s labour had stalled and the midwife immediately sent for the doctor. When he arrived ten long minutes later, he clamped metallic forceps round the baby’s head and pulled hard, hauling the child from its mother’s womb and in the process, tearing the left side of its face, neck and ear.
The doctor left little Frankie for dead by the kitchen sink, shifting his efforts to saving the life of his mother, who was nearly unconscious. It was his grandmother who apparently picked up the seemingly lifeless baby and ran ice cold water from the sink over it, while slapping its back – and that is when Sinatra howled his first song.
Both mother and child survived, but neither forgot the violence and brutality of the event.
Those forceps had also left their mark in the form of a scar on the left side of Sinatra’s face, a scar that ran from the corner of his mouth to his jaw line, and that “earned” him the nickname “Scarface” as a teenager.
As he grew older, he remained conscious about his looks and physical appearance. It is a well reported fact that he, for instance, avoided at all costs being photographed on his left side, and a lot of the photographs that did shoot him from that brush were specifically airbrushed. Even in the most amorous moments, he remained sensitive to being caressed on his left cheek. As an adult, he would applay Max Factor Pan-Cake to his face and neck every morning and again after each of the several showers that as a compulsive and obsessive hand and body washer he took throughout the day.
His own personal take on what had happened during his birth can be read through the words he told a lover of his named Peggy Connelly, to whom he said “they weren’t thinking about me, just about my mother. They just ripped me out and tossed me aside.”
One can’t help but wonder whether this traumatic experience left such a mark on ol’ blue eyes in a way that would lead him to the determination which drove his rise to the top of the world. Nevertheless, it also speaks volumes on the enigmatic relationship with his own mother, Dolly, a strong and determined Italian blooded woman with an unpredictable and volcanic personality who Frank seems to have hated and loved in equal measures throughout his life.
The life of Tubby Hayes is a classic story of crash and burn. Born Edward Brian Hayes, on the 30th of January 1935, he was an English jazz multi-instrumentalist, though he made a name for himself on the London jazz circuit for his exceptional skills as a tenor saxophonist.
From 1957 to 1959, he was the co-leader of the famous British modern jazz group The Jazz Couriers with fellow saxophonist Ronnie Scott.
In 1961 he was invited to play at the Half Note Club in New York City; a new transatlantic Musicians’ Union agreement meant that, in exchange, Zoot Sims played at Ronnie Scott’s. When he played a three-week stint Stateside, word had already got around that Tubby was a kid who meant business, so much so that Miles Davis turned up on the first night in New York.
Back in London, Hayes formed his own big band, working in television, film, and radio, and even having his own television series, which went on from 1961 to 1963. Tubby played with the very best from Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus and Roland Kirk to Henry Mancini and played on over 60 LPs, solo and with other artists.
But with the dawning of Beatlemania, British jazz produce in particular became less and less on demand, and gigs became harder for Hayes to find. His severe drug addiction did not help, and in fact damaged his health so much so that he underwent several heart operation, and eventually died during another one such operation at on the 8th of June 1973, at the young age of thirty-eight.
Decades later, it seemed that history had almost forgotten him. But in comes Mark Baxter, the writer of the new documentary entitled Tubby Hayes: A Man in a Hurry, which was released in the UK earlier this month. The documentary is a culmination of his two-year quest to ressurrect the memory of an all but forgotten man. On board with Baxter is videographer Lee Cogswell and BAFTA and Emmy Award-winning actor Martin Freeman, himself a fan of Hayes, who narrates the story.
Tubby Hayes: A Man in a Hurry also includes 21 interviews with people who knew Tubby, including pop art kind Peter Blake, who collaborated with him on countless occasions at the height of his career, and Tubby’s own son Richard.
“It’s a British culture piece. It’s Soho, London, the 1950s and ’60s. It’s a story that hasn’t been told properly before. Tubby passed the 11-plus to attend Rutlish School, in south west London, so he was an intelligent fella, but the music found him,” says Baxter. “It was a let-go lifestyle from the beginning with little or no responsibility informing his choices.”
The DVD of the documentary Tubby Hayes: A Man in a Hurry will be released on the 26th of October 2015. For more information, visit the official website of the film ->http://amaninahurry.london/<-
“A-Tisket, A-Tasket” was the breakthrough hit of vocalist Ella Fitzgerald with the Chick Webb Orchestra. She co-wrote the song with Al Feldman, the arranger who would later be known as Van Alexander, in 1938.
Four years prior to the recording of “A-Tisket, A-Tasket,” Fitzgerald had famously entered an amateur contest at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York. Aged 15, she had initially entered as a dancer but changed her mind after seeing the Edward Sisters, an incredible tap team, perform. She ended up winning by singing Hoagy Carmichael’s “Judy” and the Pinky Tomlin/Jimmie Grier tune “Object of My Affection.”
Soon after the contest, she met drummer Chick Webb, who offered her a spot as the singer of his band. In 1935, she recorded “Love and Kisses” with the Chick Webb Orchestra and began performing with them regularly at Harlem’s Savoy Nightclub.
“A-Tisket, A-Tasket,” based on a popular children’s nursery rhyme originating from the late nineteenth century (the story of a little girl who had lost her little yellow basket), became the hit that brought Fitzgerald wide public acclaim. Its success also inspired a follow-up tune, “I Found My Yellow Basket,” co-written by Fitzgerald and Webb, which was less successful.
In 1942, the First Lady of Song performed “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” in her first ever screen role on Abbott and Costello’s Ride ‘Em Cowboy. Throughout her career, she would also integrate some of its lyrics in performances of others songs during moments of vocal improvisation.
The GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles, California, will celebrate the life, music and charitable legacy of vocalist Ella Fitzgerald with a new exhibit, “Ella at 100: Celebrating the Artistry of Ella Fitzgerald.”
The exhibit will open on April 25, the day of Fitzgerald’s 100th birthday, and will celebrate 100 years of the vocalist’s lasting legacy through rare recordings, photos, and one-of-a-kind stage costumes.
In conjunction with the opening of the exhibit, which will be on display through September 10, a special evening exploring the legacy and career of the First Lady of Song will take place at the GRAMMY Museum on May 3.
The event will feature live music and a panel discussion with Patty Austin, who will be releasing a recorded tribute to Fitzgerald titled Ellatunes later this year, and writer/radio host Geoffrey Mark, who authored the bestselling book First Lady of Song: Ella Fitzgerald for the Record. The panel will be moderated by Scott Goldman, Vice President of the GRAMMY Foundation.
Saxophonist Kamasi Washington has released “Truth,” a 14-minute track from his upcoming EP Harmony of Difference, which will be released later this summer via Young Turks.
“Truth” is the sixth and final movement of Harmony of Difference, a 37-minute six-track suite that coheres around warm-hued harmonies and rhythms that mix swing, funk, and calypso. Its accompanying video was shot by director A.G. Rojas.
Harmony of Difference premiered in March as part of the Biennial at New York City’s Whitney Museum of American art. It will be the first album since The Epic, which was released in 2015.
“Ain’t Misbehavin'” was composed in 1929 by Fats Waller and Harry Brooks, with lyrics by Andy Razaf. The song was specifically written as the opening number for the all-black musical revue titled Connie’s Hot Chocolates, hosted by the legendary Harlem nightclub Connie’s Inn. There, “Ain’t Misbehavin'” was sung by Margaret Simms and Paul bass.
The show was so successful that it soon moved to Broadway. It was renamed Hot Chocolates and premiered at the Hudson Theatre in June 1929, with trumpeter Louis Armstrong as its orchestra director. During intermission, Armstrong would get up on stage and perform a reprise of the opening number as a trumpet solo. This turned him into an overnight sensation and, as his popularity with audiences increased, his name was added to the posters of the show.
“Ain’t Misbehavin'” became one of the most successful songs of its day. Ted Gioia states that more than 20 artists recorded the song in 1929 alone, including Armstrong, Waller (an instrumental version) and Bill Bojangles with Irving Mills & his Hotzy Totsy Gang.
Waller re-recorded the song with vocals in 1943 for the film Stormy Weather. Produced by 20th Century Fox, Stormy Weather is regularly noted as one of the best musicals of its time to feature an African-American cast – along with MGM’s Cabin in the Woods, also released in 1943.
This Waller recording of “Ain’t Misbehavin'” received the Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1984 and was one of fifty recordings selected for inclusion in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress in 2004.
“Ain’t Misbehavin'” has resurfaced many times over the years and interpreted by many jazz artists, including Anita O’Day, Nat “King” Cole, Django Reinhardt and Dave Brubeck. It was also adapted as a rockabilly tune by Bill Haley & His Comets in 1957 and sung by actor Burt Reynolds in the comedy film Lucky Lady (1975).
The city of Havana, Cuba, has been selected as the 2017 Global Host City for the sixth annual International Jazz Day, which will be celebrated worldwide on April 30.
The day will culminate with an All-Star Global Concert presented at the Grand Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso, under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture of Cuba, the Cuban Institute of Music and the Cuban National Commission for UNESCO.
Herbie Hancock, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Intercultural Dialogue, said in an official statement: “Afro-Cuban jazz and its rich history have played a pivotal role in the evolution and enrichment of the entire jazz genre. The incomparable trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie along with beloved Cuban musicians Mario Bauzá, Machito and Chano Pozo, infused American jazz with Afro-Cuban rhythms to create a brand new, energetic sound that defined modern music. We are so pleased that Havana, Cuba, will serve as the Global City for International Jazz Day 2017.”
The All-Star Global Concert will be streamed live by UNESCO and feature an extraordinary array of artists from around the world paying tribute to the international art form of jazz. The concert will have pianists Hancock and Chucho Valdés serving as its artistic directors and feature performances by an international roster of artists including saxophonists Kenny Garrett, drummer Antonio Sánchez, bassist and singer Esperanza Spalding, vocalist Kurt Elling, pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, trombonist Gianluca Petrella and many others.
Many acclaimed musicians and educators from Cuba and around the world will participate in free jazz performances, master classes, improvisational workshops, jam sessions and community outreach musicians in schools, art venues, community centers, jazz clubs and parks across the city of Havana and throughout Cuba beginning on Monday, April 24, and leading up to the festivities on April 30.
International Jazz Day highlights the power of jazz as a force for freedom and creativity, promotes intercultural dialogue through respect and understanding, and unites people from all corners of the globe. Presented in partnership with the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, the day is recognized on the official calendars of both UNESCO and the United Nations.
Alfi Records is celebrating the new release by Urbanity by giving you the star treatment. You could win a 2 night stay at the luxurious Boca Raton Resort and Spa in South Florida and 2 tickets to JAZZIZ One Nite Stand featuring Urbanity. Plus you’ll get a signed vinyl record and a signed CD of the new Urbanity release (signed the night of the show!).
Transportation (including flights) is not included. Hotel stay is not transferable.
JAZZIZ One Nite Stand at Boca Resort featuring Urbanity.
Pianist, keyboardist, and composer Herbie Hancock is one of the all-time jazz greats. Born in Chicago, Illinois on April 12, 1940, he began studying piano at the age of 7 and became interested in jazz during high school. In his college years, he was torn between a career in engineering and his love of music. Eventually opting for the latter, he somehow managed to integrate his interest in electronics, which he gradually included in his constantly evolving music styles.
Known as a jazz innovator, Hancock was one of the first jazz musicians to integrate synthesizers and funk elements in his compositions and is continues to experiment with various styles and genres to this day. We celebrate his legacy with a top 10 list of his best albums.
10 – TAKIN’ OFF (1962) Takin’ Off is the sturdy hard-bop debut album by Hancock, recorded when he was only 22 years old. Released on Blue Note Records, it showcased his precocious skills as a musician, bandleader, and composer. In fact, every track on the album was written by him, including “Watermelon Man,” which made its debut here and was released as a single, reaching the Top 100 Billboard Pop listing. Takin’ Off also featured Freddie Hubbard, Dexter Gordon, Butch Warren and Billy Higgins.
9 – GERSHWIN’S WORLD (1998)
Less known than other entries on this list, Gershwin’s World was a project put together by Hancock on the year of composer George Gershwin’s centennial. Far from being a reverential album of covers, it is a collage of Gershwin’s music and other music that was popular during his time. It is also marked by cross-stylistic imprints and various references to the entire history of jazz. Not to mention that the album guest stars a cast including Joni Mitchell, Wayne Shorter, and Stevie Wonder.
8 – MR. HANDS (1980)
Unjustly overlooked upon its original release, Mr. Hands is now recognized as the best album from a period in Hancock’s career that was marked by lackluster electric and disco-influenced releases. Mr. Hands is also notable for a number of reasons: it was Hancock’s landmark 30th album, it featured all five members of the original Headhunters quintet, it included an all-synthesizer track and bassist Jaco Pastorius played on the track “4 A.M.”
7 – THRUST (1974) Thrust continued Hancock’s jazz fusion ventures. It was the keyboardist’s follow-up to his 1973 monumental Head Hunters album and almost replicated its commercial success, peaking at number 13 on the Billboard Hot 200 listing. The line-up of the Headhunters remained mostly unchanged, with the exception of drummer Mike Clark replacing Harvey Mason, adding more ferociousness to an already well-oiled funk machine.
6 – SPEAK LIKE A CHILD (1968)
Before venturing into electronic experimentation and the use of synthesizers, Hancock played with the conventions of hard-bop in many ways. For example, on Speak Like a Child, he composed music for a sextet fronted by flugelhorn, bass trombone, and alto flute. Allegedly influenced by the music of Gil Evans, Oliver Nelson, and Thad Jones, Hancock was more interested in sounds than definite chord patterns and tried to give horns notes that would give color and body to the sounds he heard as he wrote the music.
5 – MWANDISHI (1972)
During the late 60’s and early 70’s, Hancock adopted a Swahili name, Mwandishi. He also began to integrate notions of funk and rock in his compositions. This period of re-invention culminated with the release of Mwandishi, which saw him definitely depart from the traditional jazz idiom. This was especially done to appeal to a wider audience. Indeed, promotion of his works around this time tended to avoid making reference to jazz and called Hancock “the most honored pianist in pop music.”
4 – INVENTIONS & DIMENSIONS (1963) Inventions & Dimensions was an exciting exploration of modal jazz and hard bop-influenced by Latin jazz rhythms and percussions. Although the album was entirely made up of Hancock’s original compositions, it would be re-released by Blue Note Records in the mid-1970’s under the title Succatash and credited to both the pianist and drummer Willie Bobo.
3 – MAIDEN VOYAGE (1965) Maiden Voyage was released in 1965 on Blue Note Records and was the fifth album led by Hancock, who was only 24 years old at the time. It is a concept album aimed at recreating an oceanic atmosphere. The title track, along with “The Eye of the Hurricane” and “Dolphin Dance” also featured on the album, has now become a jazz standard. Maiden Voyage was presented with the Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1999.
2 – EMPYREAN ISLES (1964) Empyrean Isles is arguably the best of Hancock’s Blue Note Records albums. Having gone through a period of Latin rhythmic influences on previous outings, Hancock returned to pushing the boundaries of hard bop through soul and post-modal experimentation. He was ably supported by his adventurous quartet, which featured Freddie Hubbard, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams. Their collaboration birthed two of Hancock’s most popular tunes, “One Finger Snap” and “Cantaloupe Island.”
1 – HEAD HUNTERS (1973)
Hancock returned to the “lighter stuff,” as he called it, after producing a number of more experimental works. The first of his Head Hunters albums presents an exciting and complex blend of music of many styles and genres, including jazz, funk, African and Afro-Caribbean music. Many have also noted that while Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew was primarily aimed at a “white” audience, Head Hunters was all “black.” In 2007, the Library of Congress added it to the National Recording Registry, which collects “culturally, historically or aesthetically important” sound recordings from the 20th century.
bonus – BLOW-UP (1967)
Many lists of the best albums by Herbie Hancock fail to mention his soundtrack to Michelangelo Antonioni’s film Blow-Up. Perhaps this is due to the inclusion of a Yardbirds track. Nonetheless, the rest of the bluesy soundtrack was written by Hancock and contributed immensely to shaping the ambiance of the swinging London of its time. Ironically, the album was first recorded in London with British musicians. However, this version was rejected, and its composer re-recorded every track in New York with a personnel that featured Ron Carter, Phil Woods, Jack DeJohnette, Joe Henderson, Jimmy Smith and Freddie Hubbard.
Charlie Watts will be honored with an award for his outstanding contribution to jazz at the 2017 Jazz FM Awards, that will take place in London, United Kingdom, on April 25. The Rolling Stones drummer will be receiving Jazz FM’s Gold Award in recognition of his lifelong dedication to jazz and blues music.
“I am very grateful to be honored by Jazz FM for my contribution to jazz and blues,” said Watts in an official statement. “I’ve always loved and been influenced by the music and its players. It was one of the reasons I wanted to be a musician myself. It’s still important that we continue to support this music to ensure it lives on for the next generations.”
The Rolling Stones are also up for two awards at the ceremony: album of the year for Blue and Lonesome and blues artist of the year.
This year’s Jazz FM Awards will take place on the 100th anniversary of vocalist Ella Fitzgerald’s birth. It will feature a tribute to Fitzgerald’s music from singer Laura Mvula and performances by such artists as saxophonist Donny McCaslin and singer and keyboardist Georgie Fame.
“Walk On By” was composed by Burt Bacharach, with lyrics by Hal David, in 1964. Originally recorded that same year by vocalist Dionne Warwick, the song was featured on her album Make Way for Dionne Warwick. The LP included other renowned Bacharach/David compositions, such as “A House is Not a Home” and “You’ll Never Get to Heaven (If You Break My Heart).” Oddly, “Walk on By” was
Oddly, “Walk On By” was initially released as a B-side to the single “Any Old Time of Day,” a song that her label Scepter, her manager, and Warwick herself thought would be the surefire hit they needed to end their string of flops. According to Robert Dimery, it was influential New York DJ Murray “the K” Kaufman who felt the B-side would be the more likely hit and refused to play “Any Old Time of Day,” choosing to plug “Walk On By” instead.
His insistence paid off. “Walk On By” became a hit and went on to become one of Warwick’s most famous songs. It has also been covered by many artists, including numerous jazz artists, earning it jazz standard status.
For example, guitarist Gábor Szabó included his own instrumental cover version of the song on his debut album as leader, Gypsy ’66 (1965). Vocalist George Benson released a jazzier version of the track on his 1968 album Giblet Gravy. More recently, it was featured on pianist and vocalist Diana Krall’s album Quiet Nights (2009).
Bacharach stated in a 1998 interview featured in the book In Their Own Words: Songwriters Talk about the Creative Process that he looked at his songs as “three-and-a-half minute movies, with peak moments and not just one intensity level the whole way through.”
Despite the composer’s emphasis on duration, one of the most famous interpretations of “Walk On By” is a 12-minute funk vamp by musician Isaac Hayes. Recorded in 1969, Hayes’ version was featured on his album Hot Buttered Soul, released as a single, and peaked at number 30 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, eventually becoming almost as popular as Warwick’s original recording.