Saturday, April 30, 2005

Joe Lovano - Joyous Encounter

Joe's new Blue Note album is a follow up to last year's quartet session "I'm All For You", which featured Joe along with the "dean" of jazz pianists Hank Jones, bassist George Mraz and drummer Paul Motian. "Joyous Encounter" features the same band, this time though the pace is a little more uptempo than the previous ballads session. I enjoyed the previous album by this group, but though Paul Motian maybe wasn't the right drummer for this group, as his minimalist style didn't seem to ever quite mesh with the rest of the group. That of course created a sort of creative tension that can be rewarding on its own, but still it had its odd moments. On this new session, two things help to improve that situtaiton. First, more medium and uptempo pieces provide a better and more varied setting for Motian's pointilistic percussion statements. Second, the group has had a chance to tour over the past year, and it shows. It sounds like a band now, and not just four jazz stars meeting in the studio.

Lovano is in fine form as always, where on an uptempo bop inspired piece like "Bird's Eye View" (based on Charlie Parker's "Confirmation" but with some "Giant Steps" susbtitutions) or on some lovely ballads like "Alone Together." I really doubt that there is a more "mature" jazz musician of this era than Joe Lovano. No matter the setting, he speaks with the authority that we used to hear with all of the greatest jazz musicians, and does so with a highly personal style that both expands and respects the tradition. There is little to be said about Hank Jones that hasn't already been documented by writers far better than me. But simply put, Hank's playing is the pinnacle of mainstream, mid-century jazz piano. No one, and I mean no one does it better than Hank, he is a true legend, and in fine form on this session. This is the sort of jazz album that renews your faith in the genre.

A few final notes. Lovano plays soprano sax on a few numbers. He's playing a "curved" soprano these days, and you can hear the unique sound of that instrument shining through at points, with almost a timbre of a tenor at points, but an octave higher of course. And finally, the album ends with an odd choice for this group - John Coltrane's "Crescent" - a tribute to Hank's departed brother Elvin Jones. I'm not sure if it really works with this group, and specifically Hank's style. It's not bad, but Hank doesn't sound especially comfortable in the setting, especially in the introduction to the tune. But after the rubato open, the group settles into a nice groove, and things sound just fine.

See the "behind the scenes" video and hear some of the tunes from the album on Joe's website...

Schuur Fire a misfire

Dianne Schuur has a new record out with the Carribean Jazz Project on Telarc. I'm not a big fan of Schuur's, but I've enjoyed some of her records in the past, and have played them on the radio. I've played this one too, but I don't care much for it. My main gripe: Schuur (or any jazz singer on record) has rarely sounded so stiff in delivery! Jazz singers, (Louis, Ella, Billie, Joe Williams, even Diana Krall) and jazz influenced singers (Sinatra, Rosie, Nat, Tony Bennett) all share one thing in common, that they don't share with most pop singers. It's not about vocal improvisation, or scatting (I've never heard a record of Shirley Horn or Billie Holiday with "scat" singing, but they're unquestionably jazz singers). Rather it's about rhythm, time, and taking some rhythmic (and often melodic) liberties with a tune.

Given the setting for Schuur Fire, (and the name) you would expect some fireworks, right? But instead Schuur plays it as close to the sheet music as you can get. It's almost jarring to listen to these songs played so straight! Schuur gives each and every quarter note it's exact value, nothing more nothing less. It's not a very inspired set of performances, and this rhythmic detachment is simply annoying after a couple of tunes. The material ranges from James Talyor (Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight) to standards like Poinciana. The band turns in an acceptable performance, but I doubt this will go down as one of the Carribean Jazz Projects most memorable sessions. Maybe if you're a big Dianne Schuur fan, this is for you, but it's not my cup of tea.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Bassist Percy Heath Dies at age 81

Very, very sad news.


From JazzTimes...

Bassist Percy Heath died yesterday morning in Southampton, N.Y. from bone cancer at age 81.

Heath was best known for his work with the Modern Jazz Quartet. He played with the quartet for its four-decade existence, along with leader and pianist John Lewis, vibraphonist Milt Jackson and drummer Kenny Clarke (later succeeded by Connie Kay). Heath also recorded with musicians including Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk.

Heath was born on April 30, 1923 in Wilmington, N.C. and grew up in Philadelphia. His family was a musical one: his father was a clarinetist, his mother a singer in a church choir and his two younger brothers also went on to become professional musicians. After studying violin as a child, Heath took up bass as a student at the Granoff School of Music in Philadelphia in 1946 and was performing in local jazz clubs within a couple months.

In 1947, he and his brother Jimmy moved to New York and in 1950, both joined Dizzy Gillespie’s group. In 1952, Heath formed the Modern Jazz Quartet with three other Gillespie alumni, Lewis, Jackson and Clarke.

Read the complete obit...

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Companies infuse Chicago jazz scene with cash

Good developments out of the Windy City, as reported by Howard Reich in the Chicago Tribune.
Landmark effort to benefit art form

By Howard Reich
Tribune arts critic
Published April 10, 2005

For most of a century, jazz has survived on the kindness of strangers: clubgoers, barflies and other night-lifers have provided the cash that kept the music playing.

Though the musicians typically have worked at the margins of American culture, playing mostly low-paying gigs at tiny nightspots, the art form somehow has kept swinging robustly, despite often dire financial circumstances.

But in an unprecedented development, jazz -- specifically Chicago jazz -- is about to get a large infusion of funding and opportunity.

Three Chicago-area corporations and one local foundation have joined forces to pour an estimated $1.5 million into the city's jazz scene in the next three years, with possibly more money to come during that time. Boeing Co., Bank One and Kraft Food have teamed with the non-profit Chicago Community Trust to create the Chicago Jazz Partnership, which will begin funneling approximately $500,000 into the city's jazz scene this year, with hopes of expanding that support in years to come.

Read the complete article here...

Museum hopes to purchase Coltrane's piano

From Newsday 4/27/05

HIGH POINT, N.C. (AP) _ The High Point Museum is asking locals to help it purchase a piano owned and played by jazz legend John Coltrane, who spent his youth in High Point.

The museum is looking for 88 contributors to purchase each of the piano's keys for $162.50 in an effort to raise the $14,300 needed to bring the piano home. The piano then would be displayed in the museum alongside other Coltrane memorabilia.

"When someone of that caliber, who should be a household name in jazz, having something like that coming back to the community is very exciting," said Wally West, the musical director of the John Coltrane Jazz Workshop, a weeklong music camp the High Point Area Arts Council created about three years ago. "This will put High Point on the map much more than for just its furniture."

Read the complete article here...

Faith Based Jazz - by Nat Henthoff

From the Wall Street Journal

Wednesday, April 27, 2005 12:01 a.m. EDT

For one hundred years, St. Peter's Evangelical Lutheran Church--founded in New York in 1862--has been at Lexington Avenue and 54th Street. Forty years ago, to the surprise and some concern of its congregants, St. Peter's created a full-time Pastor to the Jazz Community, the first post of its kind in the world.

Read the complete article here...

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Dave Holland, Working Some Big-Band 'Overtime'


This spring, bassist and composer Dave Holland has been touring with his Big Band, and he's released a new recording with the ensemble. The CD is called Overtime, and it's out on his own label, Dare2Records. Holland tells Liane Hansen about swinging with a big-band sound.

Listen to the interview...

Monday, April 25, 2005

Where's the Jazz at the "Jazz" Festivals

What do Nelly, The Dave Matthews Band (not David Matthews, the jazz arranger), Jack Johnson (the musical artist, not the subject of albums by Miles and Wynton), Crosby Stills and Nash, Steve Earle, Alice Cooper have in common? They're all headlining "jazz" festivals this summer. Oh, and their music has little to do with "jazz". Of course, this is not a new trend, but it's bad enough when "jazz" gets watered down with the Kenny G's of the world, it's now at the point where you literally have to go out of your way at one of these so called "jazz" events to actually hear, yeah, you guessed it "jazz". Now I think it's fine for a festival to throw a curveball here and there. But if you're going to use the word jazz, than jazz should be say, 40 percent, at the least, of the festival.

"There's Always More" - The lost Monk & Coltrane Tapes

More on the long lost Voice of America tapes that document the famous Thelonious Monk quartet with John Coltrane from 1957, this time from the New York Times...
""There's always more," Mr. Appelbaum said sagely, in a recent interview in his recording laboratory at the Library of Congress's recorded sound division. He repeated the phrase so often during the afternoon that it became a mantra."
Read the complete article here...

Saturday, April 23, 2005

West Coast jazz drummer Stan Levey dead at age 79

Look though any group of "west coast" jazz records from the 50's and you're likely to find quite a few with Stan Levey playing drums. Though not as famous as Shelley Manne, Stan was a fine bebop drummer, and did a ton of studio work over the years.

Drummer played with greats

Self-taught, he worked with Gillespie, Parker
Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES - Stan Levey, an influential modern jazz drummer who played with Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and other musical giants, died Tuesday at Valley Presbyterian Hospital in Van Nuys. He was 79.

Levey underwent surgery in February for cancer of the jaw.

A self-taught drummer, Levey was 16 when he first played with Gillespie in a hometown Philadelphia club in 1942. Levey later moved to New York, where he joined Oscar Pettiford's group.

After working with Parker's band, Levey became part of what the Los Angeles Times' late jazz critic Leonard Feather called "the first genuine all-be-bop group to play on 52nd Street," the famed block in Manhattan where clubs lined the street. The group included Gillespie, Parker, pianist Al Haig and bassist Curly Russell.

Levey also had big-band stints with, among others, Woody Herman and Benny Goodman. He rose to national jazz fame during his two years with the Stan Kenton orchestra.

Read the complete article here...

Thursday, April 21, 2005

High praise for the low-profile Hank Jones

This article comes from Bill Beuttler of the Boston Globe...

Pianist Hank Jones is the eldest and least well-known of the three great Jones brothers of jazz.

The late Elvin Jones, Hank's junior by nine years, revolutionized jazz drumming in the early 1960s as a member of John Coltrane's legendary quartet. Middle brother Thad, an arranger and composer who died in 1986, made his name playing trumpet with Count Basie in the mid-1950s and cofounding the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra a decade later.

Now 86, Hank was smartly labeled ''the dean of jazz pianists" by the New Yorker a few years ago. Still, his self-effacing manner, his genius as an accompanist, and his deft interpretations of others' compositions have conspired to keep his profile relatively low.
''I've learned so much playing with him as far as spontaneous orchestration for a quartet," says Lovano. ''He doesn't play a thousand choruses like a lot of people. He's really clear and focused, and he could play two choruses on any given tune and it's as deep as someone else might have to play 10 [to accomplish]." - Joe Lovano on Hank Jones

Read the complete article here...

Count Basie in Fresno - April 24, 1959

Fresno, California isn't exactly the jazz center of the world, but we do have this album as our claim to fame. Released on CD in the late 80's from a label out of Denmark, this session captures the famed "New Testament" Basie big band in full swing at Downtown Fresno's Rainbow Ballroom. This was the first Count Basie album I picked up (for obvious reasons, considering my hometown) and I still count it as my favorite from this era of Basie. All the great names are there, Thad Jones, Joe Newman, Al Grey, Benny Powell, Frank Foster, Frank Wess, Billy Mitchell, Freddie Green, Sonny Payne, and of course the Count. The charts are standard Basie fare from the era, with arrangements by Neil Hefti and Quincy Jones dominating. The soloists are all "on" and the recording quality and band mix is perhaps the best I've EVER heard on a live big band record. All of the instruments are clearly audible, even Freddie Green and bassist Eddie Jones. Yet it's not over mic'ed, and the mix has a nice room sound, and live feel too it. You can hear the sections of the band blend together, as in real life, not on the sound board. I've since checked out many of the "real" Roulette studio recordings of this era, and they lack that certain special quality that this Fresno concert has. I've also talked with at least one person who reports to have been in the crowd at the Rainbow for the concert in 1959, though perhaps some more research is in order. I have heard second hand from that other Fresno old timers claim this concert didn't take place in Fresno in 1959, so I'll report back with any more info if I can.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Royalties Elusive for Many Jazz Greats

NPR's Felix Contreras continues his series of reports on aging jazz legends with this look at the odd and disturbing area of artists royalties...

All Things Considered, April 20, 2005 ·
Reissues are the bread and butter of the jazz record business, but the artists whose talents made the records possible often miss out on the royalties that could help sustain them in old age.

Singer Jimmy Scott was a star in the years following World War II. In 1950, he had a top 10 R&B hit with "Everybody Is Somebody's Fool." But he only got a flat fee for the song. And even though he was a featured artist, Scott says he never got any royalties for records he made for a variety of small and medium-sized labels in the 1940s and '50s.

Read more and listen to this report online...

Bassist Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen dead at age 58

NHOP was perhaps Europe's finest bass player, ever. He was best known in the US for his work with Oscar Peterson and expatriate American musicians like Dexter Gordon.

Obit from

Famed Danish jazz musician Niels-Henning Oersted Pedersen dies

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) - Niels-Henning Oersted Pedersen, one of Denmark's best known jazz musicians, who performed with legends such as Miles Davis, Dexter Gordon and Dizzy Gillespie, has died at age 58.

Oersted Pedersen, the bass player widely known by his initials NHOP, died Tuesday in Copenhagen, leading jazz experts and Danish media said. The cause of death was not immediately known.

His career as a bass player took off in 1962 when, at age 16, he played in Copenhagen's famed Montmartre jazz club, where American greats including Count Basie, Gordon and pianist Bud Powell performed.

However, his international breakthrough came in 1973, when he joined the Oscar Peterson trio produced by Norman Granz.

"In reality, he was Denmark's best know musician regardless of the genre," said Cim Meyer, the editor of Jazz Special, a Danish music magazine.

Meyer said Oersted Pedersen was lucky to be a jazz musician in Denmark when famous U.S. musicians settled in the country believing they found refuge from racism, police harassment and musical obscurity in the United States.

Read the complete article:

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

San Jose Jazz Festival Lineup Announced

I may have to make it over Pacheco Pass this year for the San Jose Jazz Festival. Hank Jones, Jason Moran, and company make for a pretty good lineup, and best of all, it's FREE!

Read the full press release here:

World's Largest Free Jazz Festival to Feature Hank Jones, Eliane Elias, Eddie Palmieri, Ernestine Anderson, Soulive, Poncho Sanchez, the Bad Plus, Karrin Allyson, Jason Moran and More

The San Jose Jazz Society ( today announced headliners for the 16th Annual Comcast San Jose Jazz Festival, presented by Southwest Airlines. The free Festival, August 11-14, 2005, will feature scores of premiere jazz artists on nine stages in downtown San Jose, Calif. With more than 165,000 people expected to attend the four-day event, the San Jose Jazz Festival is the largest free jazz festival in the world.

"This year's Jazz Festival promises to have all of the traditional aspects people know and love, as well as some great new events," said Steve Saperstein, general director of the San Jose Jazz Society. "We have an amazing lineup of top jazz performers in all jazz styles. This year, we are very excited about the after-hours Jazz Beyond stage, guaranteed to keep people up with a new and unique fusion of music, visual art and technology."

The Festival features a diverse lineup of jazz luminaries, including top Latin pianist Eddie Palmieri, percussionist Poncho Sanchez and the Latin Band, the buzzworthy and innovative trio The Bad Plus, cutting-edge pianist Jason Moran, legendary vocalist Ernestine Anderson and much more. This year's lineup also includes two NEA Jazz Masters, pianist Hank Jones and drummer Louie Bellson.

This year marks the opening of a new attraction at the Jazz Festival, the "Jazz Beyond" stage, made possible by generous support from the James Irvine Foundation. Performances will be from 8:30 pm to 2:00 am on Friday, August 12, and Saturday, August 13. At Jazz Beyond, the frontiers of jazz will be explored by artists who push boundaries, using both traditional live instrumentation and electronic sampling, DJ turntables, looping and other effects

Monday, April 18, 2005

Jazz Musicians, After the Spotlight Fades

Fresno State grad and NPR reporter Felix Contreras contributes this report on All Things Considered about former Basie tenor saxophonist Frank Foster, and the all too familiar story of many elder statesmen of jazz...

Just as many baby boomers face the prospect of caring for aging parents, the jazz world is faced with caring for a generation of aging musicians like Frank Foster. Now 76, the tenor saxophonist, who played with the Count Basie Orchestra, has suffered a stroke and can no longer perform, leaving him with an uncertain financial future.

Although collectively these jazz greats are revered for being the principal architects of a sound that revolutionized jazz after World War II, many now face low wages, little or no health insurance, and often no royalty payments for the recordings that made history.

Read more and hear Felix's report at

This is the first of a four part series airing on NPR about aging jazz musicians.

Billy Taylor's Last Performance

Dr. Billy Taylor has retired from public performance. I guess like Joe DiMaggio, it's best to go out on top. Here's a review of the performance at the Kennedy Center by Larry Applebaum...
JazzTimes Review of Billy Taylor's Last Performance

Famed Harlem Jazz Club Minton's to reopen

It was the birthplace of bebop, but it has sat vacant, boarded up for years as its Harlem neighborhood decayed. Now, according to the New York Times, it may open its doors once again.

Read the article...

Luther Hughes & the Cannonball-Coltrane Project

I must admit, when I first heard about this cd (seeing it on a list of upcoming albums) I wasn’t impressed. Here’s a relatively unknown bassist, Luther Hughes, (probably best know for his work with Gene Harris in the 90’s) supposedly replicating the classic Cannonball Adderley/John Coltrane Quintet in Chicago record, right down to the album art? Didn’t concept albums like that die a couple of years ago? Well, it turns out first impressions can be wrong, the cd isn’t quite what it seems, and it contains some excellent playing by some relatively unknown (outside of LA) musicians, and I’m certain it’s going to get quite a bit of airplay nationwide.

First, while it is a tribute to the record I mentioned earlier, (right down to the album cover), it’s really not a remake of the original album. Only one tune from the Cannonball/Trane album, Limehouse Blues, appears on this new records. There are a number of originals, (and some very fine tunes, like drummer Paul Kreibich’s Partido Mar Vista, and tenor saxophonist Glen Cashman’s tune No Mercy, a sort of musical homage to Joe Zawinul’s Mercy Mercy Mercy. Also included are Coltrane’s Impressions and Bass Blues, plus Tadd Dameron’s Super Jet and Love For Sale, with an arrangement inspired by the Miles Davis Sextet’s recording of that number from 1958.

Oddly enough, though Hughes is the leader, he doesn’t take much of the spotlight, so much so that I would have never guessed that this was a record by a bass player. Given the concept, the saxes dominate, with Cashman, and alto saxophonist Bruce Babad leading the way. While neither are especially distinctive soloists, they are nonetheless a joy to listen to, and make one wonder why there are more bands that feature a tenor/alto frontline. It’s obvious that a considerable amount of work went into this project, more than most normal independent artist produced projects. The band is always right on the money, the recording quality is excellent, there’s nice liner notes, and attractive packaging. A pleasant surprise for what could have been another dull and lifeless “tribute” session.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Alan Pasqua - My New Old Friend

Pianist Alan Pasqua isn’t a household name in the jazz world, though his cv is quite long and illustriuous, including stints on piano and keyboards with everyone from Sammy Haggar to Joe Williams to Tony Williams’ band Lifetime. Pasqua’s new cd crossed my desk the other day, and I was intrigued from the start. First, it’s on Cryptogramophone Records, a small label out of Southern California, that doesn’t release a lot of music, but when it does, it usually is very good and distinctive. They’re the home of one of my favorite new cds, from someone who’s fast becoming one of my favorite bass players, Darek Oles. His new album, “Like a Dream” captures the big toned bassist with Brad Mehldau in a duo setting, (as well as some quintet work with a group including Bennie Maupin). When I saw that Oles appears on Alan Pasqua’s new cd, I was intrigued all the more, and of course, it’s hard to go wrong with the always tasteful Peter Erskine on drums, so into the cd player went “My New Old Friend.” And I must admit, I’m impressed. Pasqua is certainly from the post Herbie Hancock, post Bill Evans school of piano, though his work doesn’t recall too much of those two legends, or any one else for that matter, he’s his own player for sure. He tackles a nice mix of standards and originals, and gives each a very personal touch. The standards, such as You Must Believe in Spring, Body and Soul, and All the Things You Are, hit the sweet spot between playing it too close to the norm, and the “look at how cool my reharmonizations are” gimmicks a lot of players use. There’s an honesty and sophistication to Pasqua’s playing, the sort of thing you hear in only the top players of his instrument, say Kenny Barron or Brad Mehldau. His originals also shine, and add some variety to the program, and perhaps most importantly are melodically compelling. Highly reccomended.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Sonny Rollins - Without a Song (The 9/11 Concert)

Press Release from Fantasy Records: (now a part of Concord Records)

Tenor saxophonist SONNY ROLLINS has completed mixing a new Milestone album for 8/30 release. The CD, Without a Song (The 9/11 Concert), is taken from a show he did at the Berklee Performance Center in Boston on September 15, 2001, just four days after the World Trade Center attacks.

On the 12th Rollins, who had been in his Lower Manhattan apartment at the time of the attacks, was evacuated by authorities along with other building residents. Since planes were grounded, Sonny and his band had to drive to Boston for their Berklee concert, long scheduled for the 15th. Once onstage, he proceeded to unleash a powerful, emotion-charged performance for the next two and a half hours, to the astonishment and delight of the sold-out crowd. (The band that night consisted of Clifton Anderson, trombone; Stephen Scott, piano; Bob Cranshaw, bass; Perry Wilson, drums; Kimati Dinizulu, percussion.)

A single disc with 72 minutes of exhilarating music has been culled from the concert. It will be Sonny's first new recording since This Is What I Do (2000), which earned him a Grammy--his first--for Best Jazz Performance. It's also his first live album since 1978's Don't Stop the Carnival (cut at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco). In addition to the title track, which Sonny last recorded on The Bridge (1962), the songs are: "Global Warming," "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square," "Why Was I Born," and "Where or When."

Without a Song's release will also coincide with the 75th birthday (9/7) of the Saxophone Colossus.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Art Hop in Fresno & Jazz

I've lived in Fresno my entire life, and I can't think of a more exciting time that right now. New people are coming to town, (or back to town) and there seems to be a new optimisim, or at the least enthusiasim for things that years ago wouldn't have happened. The rebirth of Downtown Fresno, and the growth of Art Hop are two prime examples, which converged last Thursday, and KFSR (and yours truly) was there for the whole experience. Art Hop takes place the first Thursday of every month, when local museums and galleries open their doors for free, and everyone goes out and has a great time. Even if you aren't an art lover, it's the place to be. Last Thursday, a new complex of three galleries opened their doors for their first Art Hop in their new digs, in thee rapidly emerging "SoMo" area, south of Mono Street in Downtown. KFSR was invited to by local artist Richard Silva, who shares one of the three new spaces with Dixie Salazar. The other spaces are occupied by The Fig Tree Gallery, and Gallery 25, two long time Fresno galleries forced to move by the expansion of the Fresno Met Museum. While it's very hard to estimate the size of the crowd, it was impressive. People went from gallery to gallery, venue to venue, sampling the works, and enjoying refreshments, wine, cheese, etc. I was there from 5:00pm till 7:30pm, playing jazz for the audience and setting the mood. After I left, our Music Director Frank D! took over, and kept the party hopping well into the evening. We met dozens of people who it turns out love jazz, but didn't know KFSR existed, and that you can hear Miles and Basie, and Brubeck on the radio in Fresno! I think it's probably the best promotional event we've ever done, and I think having a little music helps give such an event a little extra touch of pizzaz. Needless to say we'll be back next ArtHop with even more music, so if you're in the area, come check us out.
(one note on the photo, I was only able to snap a shot when the crowd cleared out, most of the time it was literally packed with people!)

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Tord Gustavsen Trio - The Ground

RIYL: Brad Mehldau, Bill Evans, E.S.T. (but without the electronics)
Opposite of: Oscar Peterson, Red Garland, Chucho Valdes

If Brad Mehldau didn't play standards, and was on ECM, you could imagine that one of his records might sound a lot like those from the Tord Gustavsen trio. Perhaps that's not a fair statement for either artist involved, but it does give you a good idea of what we're talking about musically with pianist Gustavsen's new cd "The Ground". I wouldn't go so far as to say that Gustavsen is influenced by Brad's playing, but they are obviously informed by the great classical piano works, and are unafraid to incoporate some of that knowledge into the piano/bass/drums jazz trio context. His compositions are intruiging, (all originals on "The Ground") and the trio sounds like a true unit. Usually, in such a review, it's now time to dust off one of the tired cliches about ECM production values, Manfred Eicher, barren landscapes, contemplative moments (can someone come up with a better explanation for the 4 seconds of silence at the beginning of the first track on each ECM album?). I won't use the cliches, but will say, this is a very ECM-ish album. Maybe if Bill Evans had recorded on ECM...

Friday, April 08, 2005

Sonny Rollins to headline Monterey Jazz Festival

I've always wanted to see Sonny Rollins live, and I guess this September at the Monterey Jazz Festival will as good of a time as any. He's one of the last true titans of jazz. Usually at Monterey though, I find I like the coffee house trio sets more than the main stage acts. The Denny Zeitlin trio is almost sure to be a highlight this year, with Buster Williams and Matt Wilson. Denny is also one of the brightest and nicest jazz musicians you'll ever meet. Here's an interview I recorded with him in Fall 2004. (RealAudio) - Joe

MJF Press Release:

March 31, 2005; Monterey, California;, With an appetizing array of over 500 artists appearing on 7 stages for 3 nights and 2 days of nonstop jazz, the 48th Annual Monterey Jazz Festival Presented by MCI offers fans a taste to please every palette. From reunions reflecting its storied past to today's "New Grooves", from MJF debuts of vocal masters like Tony Bennett to Madeleine Peyroux, from the world premiere of commissioned music to the Festival premiere of its Next Generation Jazz Orchestra, the world's longest running jazz festival serves up a generous helping of world class jazz, September 16 - 18, at the magnificent forested Festival site in Monterey, California.

The Festival's opening night Arena concert on the Jimmy Lyons Stage will witness the return of Sonny Rollins to the Monterey Jazz Festival, his first appearance since 1997, playing the same stage where he helped launch the MJF in 1958. In another nod to the Festival's past, saxophonist John Handy will revisit his classic 1965 performance, recorded live at the MJF, with a "40th Anniversary Reunion" featuring many members of the same '65 quintet. Spanish Harlem Orchestra will add some spice to the Friday night lineup with their 2005 Grammy award winning salsa style.

Saturday afternoon's Arena concert, traditionally devoted to the blues, will be true to form this year with Larry Carlton & Sapphire Blue, appearing with special guest Ledisi. Mavis Staples, in her first MJF appearance since 1995, will offer fans a touch of her Grammy nominated gospel singing. And, in their MJF debut, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings will have fans on their feet, learning to do the "Dap Dip". Saturday night's Arena show has "debut" written all over the Lyons Stage performances. Highlights will include the much anticipated and long awaited Monterey Jazz Festival debut of legendary vocalist Tony Bennett.

Keeping in the legendary vein, John Scofield Band will perform their new "Tribute to Ray Charles", with special guest Mavis Staples, in another MJF debut. As the Festival's Showcase Artist, Scofield will be appearing throughout the weekend with a number of groups in various venues. Saturday night's Arena concert will also witness another debut, the world premiere of Carla Bley Big Band's MJF commissioned piece, "The Black Orchid". The title reflects Bley's early years in Monterey, playing at the Black Orchid Club.

The Monterey Jazz Festival's 2005 Arena performances will wind down in star-studded style with some of the jazz world's top names gracing the Lyons Stage. Pat Metheny Trio with Christian McBride and Antonio Sanchez will perform in Sunday night's Arena show, and Artist-in-Residence Branford Marsalis will be playing on Sunday night with his quartet, lauded as one of the finest ensembles in jazz. Many Arena artists will be performing on Grounds stages as well, including Branford Marsalis, John Scofield, Mavis Staples, John Handy, Carla Bley, Larry Carlton & Sapphire Blue, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, Christian McBride, and Ledisi.

Friday night's Grounds entertainment will once again highlight "New Grooves" on the Festival's Dizzy's Den stage, featuring John Scofield Uberjam Band, and Banyan with Stephen Perkins, Nels Cline, Willie Waldman, Mike Watt & Norton Wisdom, with special guests Herman Green & Calvin Newborn. Also appearing on Friday's Grounds venues will be Jay Collins Band, Benny Green-Russell Malone Duo, John Handy Quintet, Sheila Jordan-Steve Kuhn Duo, Jacqui Naylor Quartet, Berklee-Monterey Quartet, and The Lost Chords with Carla Bley, Steve Swallow, Andy Sheppard & Billy Drummond.

Saturday afternoon's Garden Stage concert will feature an eclectic "Touch of Gospel, Soul and New Orleans". Mavis Staples will offer up the touch of gospel. Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings will supply the soul. And Zigaboo Modeliste and the New Orleans Jazz Vipers will add a touch of the Big Easy to the mix. Saturday's Grounds entertainment will also include Andy Bey Quartet, Joey Calderazzo Trio, Miguel Zenon, Larry Carlton & Sapphire Blue, Claudia Acuna, Ledisi, Donny McCaslin Group, O-maya, Matthew Bourne, Australian All-Star Big Band, Army Blues-Jazz Ensemble, Jazzschool All-Stars, Berklee-Monterey Quartet 2005 and Lounge Art Ensemble with Peter Erskine, Bob Sheppard & Dave Carpenter.

On Sunday, fans will have a variety of vocalists to enjoy, including Madeleine Peyroux, Clairdee, Natasha Miller, and Valerie Joi Fiddmont & TruJoi. Also appearing on the Sunday Grounds stages will be John Scofield Trio with Steve Swallow & Bill Stewart, Christian McBride Band, Denny Zeitlin Trio with Buster Williams & Matt Wilson, Jang Seven featuring the music of Jon Jang, Doug Wamble Quartet, and the 2005 Clifford Brown-Stan Getz Fellows from the International Association for Jazz Education.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Wayne Shorter to release new live album

The Wayne Shorter Quartet is set to release a new album, Beyond the Sound Barrier, on Verve Records. The album, which hits stores on June 14, is a live collection recorded during the group’s years of touring. read more... (from JazzTimes)

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

New Monk and Coltrane recording discovered

This is great news for fans of either artist, and is a significant historical find, as Coltrane's tenure with Monk was both highly influential, and terribly under-documented on record. Look for this to come out on CD in a few years.

Apr 5, 12:05 PM (ET)


- The discovery of a previously unknown recording by jazz masters Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane was announced Tuesday by the Library of Congress as it revealed this year's additions to its National Recording Registry.

Astronaut Neil Armstrong's first words from the moon, speeches by President Wilson and Gen. Douglas MacArthur and songs by Al Jolson, Muddy Waters and Nirvana are among 50 recordings being set aside for special preservation. Read more...

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

17 year old pianist "Eldar" to save jazz?

Sony Classical has found the new jazz savior, or so they'd like you to believe. His name is Eldar. He's 17 (or was when his eponymous cd was recorded). And he's from the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan. (which has been in the news lately, as the site of another one of those democratic revolutions sweeping that part of the world) His family moved him to the US in 1998, to Kansas City in fact. The record labels are comparing him to everyone from Art Tatum to Bill Evans, and he certainly has influences from both, as well as McCoy Tyner, Oscar Peterson, Herbie Hancock, etc. His cd opens with the fastest version of Sweet Georgia Brown I've ever heard, simply insane. But if you're one of those people who shys away from Oscar Peterson for some of his more "extravagant" virtuoso moments, Eldar may not be your cup of tea.

I'll leave it up to you to decide if Eldar swings. If he doesn't, it sure isn't due to his band, which includes typical B-list talent like Michael Brecker and John Patitucci (I'm kidding about the B-list part). The thing though that strikes me about this cd though is how much it reminds me of the cds of other "young jazz virtuosos"! Anyone remember Christopher Hollyday? He was a Jackie McLean clone who came out in the early 90's, talented kid, but burned out, and is totally off the jazz scene these days, despite a couple of albums via RCA Novus with A-list talent. Or how about Sergio Salvatore? Or last year's young Blue Note piano virtuoso Takashi? At least young virtuoso Hiromi has made it to her second album, though I can't say I care much for her brand of "math jazz." I suppose these records might sell better off the bat, and are more likely to get an NPR feature than, say, a new album by someone like a Barry Harris, but that's how the industry is.

But what about the musician? All of the people I've mentioned are talented, but most, if not all, didn't have the experience of being a sideman, or at least for very long. There's been a long tradition of paying dues in the jazz world, and it's not just about paying dues, it's about learning the music on the bandstand, from the elders, so to speak. That's why almost all of the musicians who came through Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers over the years went on to successful careers. They learned from the best, and waited (well, except Wynton) to make their debut albums. I don't know what will come of Eldar. I wish him the best, but the road ahead is a rocky one, after all, it is jazz.

Carolyn Leonhart - New 8th Day

Ok, time for a CD review. But first, a disclaimer. We get a lot of cds at KFSR. Record labels, artists, and promoters, flood our mailbox with more cds a week than you could possibly listen to. Luckily in the jazz world, most of them are pretty good. I try to give unknown or up and coming artists a good listen, just as much as the Marsalises and Diana Kralls of the world. But one of my pet peeves is really lame albums from female vocalists. We get a TON of these "Holiday Inn Singers" albums every month. They all have the same songs (well worn standards), done the same way (without much creativity), with a pedestrian rhythm section that's just there for the paycheck. And did I mention most of the singers aren't frankly all that talented? And one last thing - all the album covers for these cds must have been from the same photoshoot! (or so it seems)

Well, that said, vocalist Carolyn Leonhart's new cd New 8th Day is none of the above. Yes, there are some standards, (I'm In the Mood For Love, Whisper Not, If I Should Lose You, etc) but they aren't the worn out ones that only artists like Shirley Horn and Cassandra Wilson should be allowed to touch. They're familiar tunes, but they're fresh. And they're all given fresh, but not contrived arrangements, very creative as a whole. And Carolyn has a great voice, fresh, yet mature, and nuanced. And Carolyn's band is one of the best I've heard backing a young singer in a long time, one which includes pianist Hans Glawischnig, and Carolyn's husband, saxophonist Wayne Escoffery.

Carolyn is the daughter of jazz bassist/songwriter Jay Leonhart, who has his own excellent new cd out, called "Cool". You may remember Carolyn, for she graced the cover of Jazziz Magazine a few years ago, for a story on female artists in jazz. As I recall, the article compared many of the singers to Norah Jones, who was then fresh off her big Grammy win. While I like Norah's work (check out her version of Horace Silver's song Peace one day) Carolyn has the real jazz chops that Norah lacks. One interesting note, both Carolyn and Norah worked with the group Wax Poetic, a jazzy trip hop group from New York. You may have also seen Carolyn out on the road with Steely Dan, as their lead backup singer on their latest tour.

Carolyn also wrote several of the songs on the album, (including the ode to those needing an extra day of the week) Noneday. Nice tunes, good lyrics, with interesting melodic content. Combined with the excellent renditions of standards, New 8th Day really stood out in my seemingly endless cd listening, and we've had some nice calls about it on the radio as well. It takes a mature artist to record an album like this, and hopefully, the fickle jazz press will recognize it as such.

Listen Here! - The Jazz Review

If you've read your fair share of jazz magazines or liner notes, the name Neil Tesser should be familiar to you. He was formerly the editor of Downbeat Magazine, and is one of the guys who actually knows what he's talking about in the small world of jazz journalism. He also co-hosts a weekly syndicated public radio show called "Listen Here! - The Jazz Review", with DJ and radio critic Mark Ruffin. KFSR, the station which I work for, just picked up the show a few weeks ago, and I've really be very impressed. While it's only three months since it launched, I'd have to say it's one of the more innovative radio programs to come this way in a while. Think of Ebert and Roeper, but on radio, and about jazz. Frankly, it's a little more entertaining than that show. They of course play various new cds, give their views on what's good or bad about them, (that alone makes it worth more than most print media jazz reviews, which never back up what they're talking about), plus they have artist interviews, a little debate segment (again, with audio clips), and a radio version of the venerable blindfold test, a la Downbeat. Neil and Mark have a great chemistry on the air, and bring a freshness to jazz radio, which often is lacking. They've been hosting their own daily local drive time program, Miles Ahead in Chicago for years, and this takes it nationwide. It's really a program you have to hear to appreciate, but it's on KFSR every Saturday from 3pm-5pm, as well as many other stations nationwide.

Jazz and the Blogosphere - A Jam Session

In an era where everyone seems to have a blog, I was a little surprised recently at the lack of genuine jazz content out there. Jazz, after all, has all the elements of a good Greek tragedy, (well, almost, but Euripides never heard Coltrane), so there's no lack of potential content. Just ask any jazz fan (or better yet, musician) what they think about Wynton Marsalis, and you'll see what I mean. So I'll be addressing a multitude of different jazz related issues here, from trends and discussion of what's hot and what's not, to concert reviews, and of course, commentary about the latest recordings. We might also give you some insights into the world of jazz radio, and non-commercial radio in general. You could say, we'll "improvise" though I'm not sure at this point what set of changes we're going to be using! So stick around, and as Art Blakey said on one of those great live Blue Note lps (I think at the Cafe Bohemia), "take your shoes off, we're going to have ball."