Monday, May 30, 2005

Oscar Brown Jr. dies at age 78

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Oscar Brown Jr., a legendary rhythm & blues and jazz singer, died on Sunday at age 78 following a two-month illness, his son said on Monday.

The songwriter and playwright had been hospitalized in April and again in mid-May complaining of pain and paralysis in his legs. He had emergency surgery on May 16 to address an abscess on his lower spine, Napoleon Brown said.

Brown was known for such compositions "The Snake," "Signifyin' Monkey" and lyrics for Miles Davis' "All Blues."

Read the complete article here...

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Dena DeRose - A Walk In the Park

I'll admit that I'm quite picky when it comes to albums by vocalists. I could spend hours going into why that is, but it seems like the pool of jazz vocal talent is bigger, but not nearly as deep as it is, say for saxophonists or pianists. And there are other issues at hand, after all, it's easier for a horn player or guitarist to have something interesting to say on a jazz standard than it is for a vocalist, (most of the time).

One of the vocal albums that recently crossed my desk that I enjoy playing on the air quite a lot is a new one by vocalist & pianist Dena DeRose. It's called "A Walk in the Park" and takes it's name from a tune written by DeRose (performed as an instrumental on this cd) inspired by a walk in the park with the late pianist James Williams. Through the whole cd, DeRose's talent at the piano stands out, perhaps more so than even Diana Krall. Not to say that Diana isn't a good pianist, she is, but I think Dena's doing things at a different level. In fact DeRose started out as a pianist and only began to sing after a battle with carpal tunnel syndrome forced her to take a break from the keys. She has a rich voice, with impeccable phrasing, and a jazz musicians approach to rhythm and harmony (lacking in so many "jazz" vocalists today).

A few standout tracks are worth mention. The CD opens with a great arrangement of the Jobim tune "Meditation". Normally performed as a bossa nova, DeRose starts out her version with a solo piano intro, followed by a finger popping swing feel, with just a hint of straight eights bossa feel in drummer Matt Wilson's rimshots and ride cymbal work. The "swing-a-nova" treatment is a great idea for this tune, and really fits with the lyric. I always like hearing a familiar melody in a new context, and this is a great example of that. Another stand out track is DeRose's version of "All the Way" this time dispensing with the usual ballad tempo for an uptempo bossa feel. DeRose really gets a chance to show off her piano work on this track, with some great (and fast) single note lines, singing in unison with her improvisations (much like John Pizzarelli). There is one misfire though. I'm not wild about her version of "I Concentrate On You", which is indeed an interesting experiment in stereo isolation, as well as several other things. But at least DeRose is willing to take some chances and most of the time, it pays off quite well.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

LA Jazz Institute festival a tribute to Stan Kenton's 'Neophonic' orchestra

Marina del Rey Argonaut

The Los Angeles Neophonic Orchestra, directed by the late jazz great Stan Kenton, innovated the concept of the contemporary jazz orchestra-in-residence. Rather than touring and doing one-nighters at clubs across the country, a resident jazz ensemble would perform seasons at a single venue, much like their classical music counterparts.

The original Los Angeles Neophonic Orchestra performed three-seasons, the first in 1965, at The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion of the Los Angeles Music Center, marking a milestone in jazz music history. The 19-member outfit was structured along the lines of a mini-symphony, with outstanding musicianship and imaginative compositions, that played contemporary jazz.

The Los Angeles Jazz Institute is dedicating its yearly four-day jazz festival to the creative ideals set forth by Stan Kenton's Los Angeles Neophonic Orchestra.

The Neophonic Impressions festival is scheduled for Thursday through Sunday, May 26th to 29th, at the Four Points Sheraton-LAX, 9750 Airport Blvd., Westchester.

Tickets range from $10 to $40 for each jazz event, or $325 for a four-day festival pass.

Today's new Los Angeles Neophonic Orchestra, put together to mark the 40th anniversary of the original orchestra, will perform concerts at 9:30 p.m. Friday, May 27th; and 9 p.m. Saturday, May 28th. Guest directors for the concerts will include Clare Fischer, Russ Garcia, Bob Florence, Joel Kaye, Gerald Wilson, Tommy Vig and Lennie Niehaus.

The festival culminates with a performance by Stan Kenton alumnus Bill Holman and his band at 8 p.m. Sunday, May 29th.

Holman began his association with Stan Kenton in 1952, and he he wrote and played for Kenton for many years.

The 1960s were a fertile writing period for Holman, as he contributed to libraries and recordings of bands, including those led by Louie Bellson, Count Basie, Terry Gibbs, Woody Herman, Bob Brookmeyer, Buddy Rich, Gerry Mulligan and Doc Severinsen.

The Bill Holman Band was started in 1975 and has continued performing and recording ever since.

For his Neophonic Impressions concert, Holman will be joined by fellow Stan Kenton alumnus Bud Shank.

The Bud Shank Big Band will also perform a concert of its own at 5 p.m. Saturday, May 28th.

Shank has been on the international jazz scene for about 60 years as a saxophonist, composer and arranger. Shank began playing with Kenton in the late 1940s, as well as with Charlie Barnet. The 1950s were spent performing with the Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse All Stars and with his own quartet in the burgeoning "West Coast" jazz movement.

Read the complete article online...

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

It Seemed Like A Good Idea, (or I Told You Not to Record A Shania Twain Cover)

Mary Stallings is a very talented jazz vocalist. She worked with Count Basie in the late 60's, has recorded several fine albums in the tradition of Carmen McRae, with lots of standards. She has a new album out on Half Note Records, the record label of New York's Blue Note Jazz Club (no affiliation with Blue Note Records). It's a studio session, featuring a somewhat odd lineup, including pianist Geri Allen (co-producer), Frank Wess, Billy Hart, Vincent Herring and Geri's husband Wallace Roney. It's not a great album, but Geri's post-Herbie Hancock arrangements give it an edge that a lot of vocal albums lack. There's several misfires, as I don't think the approach and musicians ever quite click, but there's one simply colossal disaster of the kind you don't normally hear from really talented jazz musicians. Someone, (please raise your hand) decided it would be a good idea for Mary to record a cover of Nashville pop diva Shania Twain's chart topping hit "Still the One" (not the song by the band Orleans of the same name, which would have been a better choice).

Like a car wreck that's so horrible you can't take your eyes off of it, after sitting slack jawed through the first listen through this track, I had to click repeat and hear it about 10 more times. The tune is performed slower than the original, in a quasi swing Billy Hart beat that he's used quite often on Geri's records before. Geri's reharmonized the tune with her typical minimalist approach, and then had the (?)inspired(?) idea to play this dissonant synth organ part behind Mary's vocals, almost an alien pedal point (the chord does change a few times, but you get the idea). The melody of the tune does NOT lend it to a swing beat, especially the B section (the hook). Mary, who is a true pro, tries to make the best of it, but it's a flat out disaster, and I'm actually shocked it made the record. Simply horrible. There's some good stuff on this cd, so I don't want to suggest that you cross it off your list. If anything, it's worth a few listens, as a sort of musical rubbernecking.

Eddie Palmieri interview

A seven time Grammy winner, pianist, composer and bandleader Eddie Palmieri is one of the biggest names in Latin Jazz. This year he's celebrating his 50th year in the music business, and has a big summer tour planned and a new CD, Listen Here to be released in a few weeks on Concord Records. He's also peforming in Fresno at Arte Americas on Friday May 27th. Earlier this week I had a chance to talk with Eddie for a while about his music, his long career and his new cd.

Listen to the interview.... (Real Audio)

Monday, May 23, 2005

XM Radio to Open New Studios at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City

NEW YORK and WASHINGTON, May 19 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- XM Satellite Radio, the nation's leading provider of satellite radio with more than four million subscribers, and Jazz at Lincoln Center, the world's largest producer of jazz performance and education events, today announced a multi-year agreement for XM to broadcast live daily from new, state-of-the-art XM studios at Jazz at Lincoln Center's new home, Frederick P. Rose Hall, at Broadway at 60th Street, in New York City.

As the exclusive satellite radio partner of Jazz at Lincoln Center, XM will greatly expand its presence in New York City with on-air studios and offices starting in June. Frederick P. Rose Hall will be the home for a variety of XM's music channels, such as Real Jazz and On Broadway. XM will record and broadcast select live concerts hosted by Jazz at Lincoln Center at its Frederick P. Rose Hall performance venues. The two partners will co- produce new shows for broadcast, as well as create, promote and distribute other jazz programming.

XM will also host and broadcast live performances originating from the Jazz at Lincoln Center facilities featuring artists across the entire spectrum of music, from rock, hip-hop, and country artists to classical and jazz performers. These XM shows will include new episodes of XM's Original Music series "Artist Confidential" and "Then ... Again ... Live!" Special features from XM's news, public radio, sports, kids, talk, comedy and entertainment channels will originate from the new studios as well. XM will continue to broadcast talk radio shows from its current New York studios at the Economist Building on West 57th Street. XM also broadcasts live daily from its main headquarters in Washington, DC and the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville.

Read the complete press release...

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Rudy Van Gelder - He Helped Put The Blue In Blue Note

May 22, 2005
He Helped Put the Blue in Blue Note

It is one of the cathedrals of jazz, Rudy Van Gelder's studio here, a sacred acoustic space where some of the music's giants and near giants have done their finest work: Sonny Rollins and Horace Silver, Art Blakey and Herbie Hancock, Antonio Carlos Jobim and George Benson and hundreds of others.

"I try not to think about who else has recorded there," Wayne Escoffery, the tenor saxophonist in Ben Riley's Monk Legacy Septet, said after a recent session. "But there was one time, I was recording 'Dedicated to You' with Gloria Cooper, and I started thinking about John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman recording that song at Rudy's. I felt like Coltrane was watching over me as I played my solo, and it was a little intimidating."

The studio even feels like a rustic chapel, its 39-foot-high cedar ceiling held up by arches of laminated Douglas fir. The space is as timeless and pristine as the music that has been captured here by Mr. Van Gelder, whom many jazz fans consider the greatest recording engineer ever. He opened it in 1959, after spending most of the 1950's recording people like Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis and Cannonball Adderley in his parents' living room in Hackensack and refining the sound of recorded jazz working with Alfred Lion of Blue Note Records and other producers.

But Mr. Van Gelder isn't inclined to look backward. He has not succumbed to the deification of fans, and his workplace is not yet ready to become a mere shrine. Mr. Van Gelder, who declined to give his age, still excels at his trade and makes sure that his studio remains world class.

Despite his considerable reputation in the jazz world, Mr. Van Gelder deflects any credit for the sounds he has recorded over the decades. He says that praise should go to the musicians, and to the producers who hire and direct them.

"I'm an engineer, not a producer," he said with characteristic precision during a recent interview in his studio here. "I'm the person who makes the recording process work. I built the studio, I created the environment in which they play, I selected, installed and operate the equipment. An analogy might be, someone wanted to put a man on the moon, but it was an engineer who got him there.

"My goal is to make the musicians sound the way they want to be heard."

Read the complete article here...

Big-Band Music Without the Weight of Nostalgia

Published: May 21, 2005

You have to work a little at understanding Thad Jones, the trumpeter and composer. He arrived in New York in 1954, a decade after bebop exploded. He spent nine years playing and arranging with the Count Basie band, and made some lovely but generally overlooked small-group records under his own name. In the mid-1960's, when so much jazz was open-ended, small-group expressionism, he directed all his energies toward an immaculately sculptured big band.

Big-band music was well over by then, and this was not music for kids. Jones was in his 40's when the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis orchestra began. (Its repertory is still played weekly by the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra.) It was built mostly of skilled studio musicians about his age, not young, freelancing upstarts. It played hot and curious music, but pop culture gave it a different association. Since it evolved from Basie, it carried a whiff of shiny 50's entertainment: many listeners today might associate the Basie-band swing phrasing with the "Tonight" show bandleaders Skitch Henderson and Doc Severinsen.

Read the complete article here...

Friday, May 20, 2005

Oscar Brown, Jr. Hospitalized

From Jim Eigo (Jazz Promo Services) via email:

Industry attorney Jon Waxman reports to us that Chicago native, legendary singer/songwriter, playwright, and true American musical treasure, Oscar Brown, Jr., is in intensive care at St. Joseph Hospital in Chicago. The 78-year-old veteran entertainer was recently admitted to the medical facility in severe pain and reportedly has suffered paralysis to both of his legs. Brown underwent successful 14-hour emergency surgery on Monday, May 16th to stop the spread of an infection in his lower spine. He is presently listed in stable condition recovering from the surgery, however, his prognosis remains uncertain as of this time.

Oscar Brown, Jr. is hailed as a cultural icon and Civil Rights activist, noted for his classic compositions including, The Snake, Signifyin' Monkey and his lyrics for Miles Davis' All Blues, Bobby Timmons' 'Dat 'Dere, and Nat Adderley's, Work Song. Early in Brown's career, he hosted Steve Allen's Jazz Scene USA and the PBS series From Jump Street/The History of Black Music. Brown has mentored several aspiring young performers and in 1968 hosted a Gary, Indiana talent show that led to his discovery of The Jackson Five and singer/actor Avery Brooks. In 1969, Brown is credited for rewriting the comedy production Big Time Buck White, and his musical version of the show was presented on Broadway, featuring former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali in the lead role.

The Brown family requests "Prayers" from his Global family at this time and will provide a formal statement following his recovery period. For information about Mr. Brown and to send to him any personal messages you may have, please visit his web site at, which will also accept messages for Oscar. Good wishes from all of you will go a long way to help aid in his recovery.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Luciana Souza Lends a Fresh Note to Brazilian Music


All Things Considered, May 14, 2005 · When Luciana Souza was gathering material for her new album, she asked guitarist Marco Pereira to write her an original "choro." The choro is a Brazilian form of music that gave rise to samba and bossa nova. It dates back to the late 1800s and was influenced by 19th Century European salon music. The choro relies on improvisation, and is usually played by small ensembles, without any vocals.

But as Jacki Lyden notes, the choro is a fitting metaphor for a performer who is equal parts samba singer, jazz singer and classical singer. It's no wonder she wanted to lend her voice to a choro on her new album, Duos II.

Listen to this story online...

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Swedish Jazz Vocalist Monica Zetterlund Dies

I must admit, I'm not very familiar with her work. This comes from JazzTimes...
Date: May 17, 2005 Written By: Katherine Silkaitis

Swedish jazz singer and actress Monica Zetterlund died in her bed Thursday in a fire in her Stockholm apartment at age 67. Police suspect Zetterlund started the fire by smoking in bed.

Zetterlund was born Monica Nilsson on Sept. 20, 1937 in Hagfors, Sweden. She began her career as a singer in her father’s band and, in 1957, sang with Ib Glindeman’s band in Denmark and Arne Domnerus’ band in Stockholm. She also began performing abroad in the late 1950s and made a name for herself with her 1964 recording with Bill Evans, Waltz for Debbie.

Zetterlund also recorded in Sweden with Harry Belafonte in 1966 (Belafonte-En Granslos Kvall Pa Operan) and in the United States with the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra in 1977 (It Only Happens Every Time) and bassist Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen in 1998 (This Is All I Ask).

Her career began to wane when she was diagnosed with scoliosis, a disease that twists the spine, making it difficult to move. Towards the end of her career, she needed assistance getting on stage and sang sitting down.

Zetterlund was married three times and is survived by a daughter from her first marriage, actress Eva-Lena Zetterlund, and Zetterlund’s partner, Magnus Roger.

Read the complete article here...

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Jazz and Opera Come Together Over Poetry and Pop

Published: May 17, 2005

The jazz pianist Brad Mehldau and the soprano Renée Fleming have been bending toward each other's worlds: Mr. Mehldau with a classically inspired solo-piano record some years back ("Elegiac Cycle") and plenty of written pronouncements about Brahms, Beethoven and Schumann; Ms. Fleming with an interest in jazz that she recently developed into "Haunted Heart," an album of mostly popular music and standards with Bill Frisell and Fred Hersch.

That album, though, has no relation to the art songs she did with Mr. Mehldau on Sunday night at Zankel Hall. This was classical music, and new work, a commission for Mr. Mehldau from Carnegie Hall - specifically from Robert J. Harth, Carnegie's former artistic and executive director, who died not long after commissioning the work. It made sense in most ways, even if it didn't engage on deeper levels.

Read the complete article...

John Scofield's Tribute to Ray Charles - "That's What I Say"

As often happens, the death of an artist brings the kind of attention and sales that even the best PR promoters could only hope to provide. Such is the case with Ray Charles. His final album (thus far) "Genius Loves Company" recently became the best selling of his entire career, and his first to reach #1 on the charts (yes, THE Billboard albums chart) since the early 60's. Now, everyone is trying to cash in and get a piece of the action. Now I'm not accusing John Scofield of not having a deep appreciation and understanding of Ray's music, but this sounds like a record company "suggested" project to me.

It's not a bad album, and has some fine playing by Scofield, and also by David "Fathead" Newman (wish he had more solo space though). But something just seems odd about it. The mix is weird at times, more of a pop record approach. It's almost too clean. Even the times when John and the band get down and funky, it still sounds too clean and polished. It lacks that raw, visceral vibe that Ray would bring to a tune, especially in his Atlantic Records years. The guest stars also are a mixed bag. Dr. John is my pick of all of them, he sounds the most natural and at home doing Ray's material. Aaron Neville and Mavis Staples also add their contributions, as well as one VERY unlikely musician, singer and guitarist (and pop sensation) John Mayer! I never thought I'd see David Newman and teen idol John Mayer on the same record!). His track is ok, but it's more of a John Mayer thing than a John Scofield thing, though it's interesting to hear Scofield tear Mayer to bits trading fours!) But all of these guests, even Dr. John, sound like afterthoughts, or just simply out of place. It sounds like a "special guest" album, where things never quite click. The album doesn't really get to flow, the personnel is always changing, Scofield doesn't really get to stretch out, and the all to perfect, everything in its place mix leaves one longing for the original, sometimes raw, but more powerful recordings of Ray Charles himself. It's not a bad record, and I look forward to hearing this group live (especially hoping David Newman makes the tour!), but it sounds

Monday, May 16, 2005

Mary Lou Williams Fest highlights namesake

By Matt Schudel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 15, 2005; Page N01

This is the 10th year the Kennedy Center has presented the Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival. More than 100 women have performed in that time, but there remains one woman whose music has been conspicuously absent from the festival: Mary Lou Williams.

Her name has long hovered on the misty periphery of jazz awareness, but this year we can finally see why she is more than a figurehead for the festival that honors her career. At long last, the Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival, which runs Wednesday through Saturday, will fully earn its name.

On Friday, vibraphonist and bandleader Cecilia Smith will present a full evening of Williams's compositions entitled the Mary Lou Williams Resurgence Project. The music, ranging from classic swing tunes to ambitious sacred works, will be performed by small groups, a big band and 50 massed voices of the magnificent Morgan State University Choir.

Geri Allen, who portrayed Williams in the 1996 Robert Altman film "Kansas City," will perform Williams's 12-part "Zodiac Suite" on Saturday (on a triple bill with the Dixieland ensemble Jazzberry Jam and singer Rene Marie). Allen is believed to be the first pianist to perform the suite since Williams wrote and played it in 1945.

"For the first time," says Peter O'Brien, a Jesuit priest who managed Williams's career for 11 years and knew her well in the final years of her life, "the Mary Lou Williams Jazz Festival truly represents Mary Lou Williams."

The idea of honoring Williams, and women in jazz generally, came from Billy Taylor, the Kennedy Center artistic adviser and Johnny Appleseed of jazz. It takes place each year in May, the month of both Williams's birth 95 years ago and her death in 1981.

During her 71 years, she was a remarkable, one-of-a-kind artist. She may have been the finest prodigy jazz has ever produced -- a full-fledged professional at 12, who played with Duke Ellington's band when she was in her early teens; a pianist whose abilities were said to rival those of Art Tatum and Bud Powell; a composer of irresistible melodies and forward-thinking harmonics; the hostess of a jazz salon that spawned some of the most imaginative music of its age. She continued to develop new ideas and modes of expression until the end of her life.

She wasn't just "good for a woman" -- she was superior to almost everyone.

Musicians still revere Williams, but to the wider public, and even to the shrinking quarter that listens to jazz, she's Mary Who? The music alone will have to show why a small but devoted coterie believes Mary Lou -- to anyone in jazz she's just "Mary Lou" -- deserves a place alongside the most honored names in jazz.

"Genius," says Smith, who has studied Williams's music for the past four years. "Is there another word for her? I don't think so."

On her expedition of musical archaeology, Smith has made a number of discoveries. One of the works she will present Friday is Williams's 1962 oratorio for orchestra and choir, "St. Martin de Porres" (also called "Black Christ of the Andes," for the first black saint of the Roman Catholic Church from the Americas).

"It's so magnificent," says Smith, "it makes you sit and reflect for a minute."

Read the complete article...

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Coltrane connection continues to illuminate Tyner's career

From the Boston Globe:

McCoy on Ravi Coltrane:
''I look at him and say, 'Oh, my God, he looks like his father,' " Tyner says by phone from his New York City home. ''It's kind of scary. Not only the shape of his face, but his facial expressions are a lot like Coltrane's, like John's. It's amazing."
McCoy Tyner on A Love Supreme:
Then there was ''A Love Supreme," for many the apotheosis of the Coltrane quartet's art. Tyner says the album's deep spirituality came about because the group was so close-knit, not from any overt talk of religion or politics from the leader.
''I mean, from my perspective," Tyner says, ''it was about music. We had people writing books about revolution and music. Nah. They thought they were authorities on that music. They weren't. And I think they missed the motivation. It was spiritual -- John's father was a minister, his mother played piano in church, so he was surrounded by that."
McCoy on today's sidemen:
''Nowadays, we're in a 'I want my own band' period," Tyner says. ''If you've got some good ideas, you say, 'Well, I want my own band.' I grew up at a time where I was happy and honored to stay with John [Coltrane], because there was always something to learn. But nowadays, a lot of guys think they know it all. 'Well, what do you have to teach me, buddy?' It's very funny, because I never had that attitude. I always kept my mind open."

Read the complete article...

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Vanugard Jazz Orchestra celebrates 40 years

From the New York Times...
By Ben Ratliff

The 40 years that the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra celebrates at the Village Vanguard this week do not exactly form an unbroken line. The band's founders, Thad Jones and Mel Lewis, are long deceased. But a few key members are late-period Thad-and-Mel disciples, and it is striking how seriously the current iteration of the band takes the task of prolonging its original music and raison d'être, how elegantly it carries that historical burden and how well it performs its job.

The orchestra seems easygoing. This is not a group that wants to teach you big-band genealogy or create cross-discipline works. Like the club it plays in, it keeps plugging away with the old formula, unpretentiously and extremely well.

The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra is usually the Vanguard's Monday-night band, but this week it plays every night, through Sunday, to celebrate its founding, in 1965. Wednesday night's sets featured compositions by Bob Brookmeyer, who was a trombonist and arranger with the band at its genesis and later, in the late 1980's, supplied it with ambitious new compositions. Tom Harrell, the trumpeter and fluegelhornist, was the evening's guest soloist.

Read the complete article...

Friday, May 13, 2005

Storyville Records is sold

Press Release


Storyville Records, one of the world’s great jazz labels, has been acquired by Edition Wilhelm Hansen, part of The Music Sales Group.

Storyville began life over 50 years ago when legendary Danish jazz enthusiast Karl Emil Knudsen began releasing rare or exceptional recordings by jazz greats such as Louis Armstrong and The Red Onion Jazz Babies. Many of these tracks were initially licensed from the UK label Tempo which had a similar vision of making great jazz recordings more widely available.

Later Knudsen would expand Storyville’s catalogue by recording many American jazz performers when they were on tour in Europe and Scandinavia — Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Clark Terry, Benny Carter, Roland Hanna to name a few.

Danish jazz stars such as Papa Bue & His Viking Jazz Band and Fessors Big City Band were later added to the Storyville roster.

Storyville Records — named after the notorious New Orleans neighbourhood where jazz was born — remained a vibrant force into the 1990s, venturing into modern jazz, re-releasing over 300 revival tracks by among others Chris Barber and gaining exclusive rights to release many of Duke Ellington’s previously unreleased recordings.

By September 2003 when Karl Emil Knudsen, the self-styled “Doctor of Jazz Archaeology”, passed away, his Storyville label was considered by jazz fans to be a prestigious Scandinavian equivalent to America’s Blue Note Records.

Now the acquisition of Storyville by Wilhelm Hansen means that, with the support of The Music Sales Group, it will be possible to digitize the entire catalogue and make it widely available on CDs to be sold online.

Music Sales Chairman and Managing Director Robert Wise says “I am sure Karl Emil Knudsen would have been delighted to know that his precious Storyville catalogue will now become available to an even wider audience and, I hope, to a whole new generation of jazz aficionados”.

Storyville Website...

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Trumpeter Dizzy Reece Returns to the Stage

From JazzTimes...

Trumpeter Dizzy Reece makes his first live appearance in the New York City area in more than 10 years this Sunday, May 15, at the Monmouth County Library Headquarters in Manalapan, N.J.

This free concert starts at 2 p.m. and features Reece with pianist Mike Longo, bassist Cameron Brown and drummer Ray Mosca. The library is located at 125 Symmes Drive, Manalapan, N.J.; phone 732-431-7220. For directions, click here.

Reece is best known for the four albums he made for Blue Note between 1958 and 1960, which were packaged together last year in a critically acclaimed box set by Mosaic Select. The Kingston, Jamaica-born Reece was living in England and recording for the Tempo label when he was offered a Blue Note contract on the strength of the albums he made over there -- and because Miles Davis raved about his playing to Francis Wolff and Alfred Lion. Reece’s primary music style is progressive hard bop, but his harmonic sense -- in his solos and in his compositions -- display his absorption of Indian and Arabic music in addition to the jazz foundations of blues and swing.

While Reece hasn’t been a prolific recording artist in the 45 years he’s lived in the U.S. (with occasional extended stays in Europe along the way), the trumpeter kept busy working in the big bands of Dizzy Gillespie, Clifford Jordan and the Paris Reunion Band, and in small-group settings with the likes of Dexter Gordon, Hank Mobley, Duke Jordan, Philly Joe Jones, Ted Curson and the Sun Ra Arkestra’s John Gilmore.

For more information on the trumpeter, go to his Web site:

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Sometimes I just don't hear it - Lorraine Feather - Dooji Wooji

I listen to a lot of music, and every day hear from countless record promoters about how "great" some cd is, how "important" some artist is for their own bottom line, etc. They all "need a few more spins." Sometimes the hype is justified, sometimes, in my opinion it is not. One of the artists who always gets the big PR push, glowing reviews and all of that is Lorraine Feather, daughter of famed jazz critic Leonard Feather. Lorraine isn't a bad singer, but she's certainly not my cup of tea. Her M.O. is very simple, write cutesy "contemporary" lyrics about everything from cicadas to traffic jams, based upon old, somewhat obscure tunes by Duke Ellington and others. The lyrics never rise to the level of the music, they ramble on and on and never "fit" with the music like Jon Hendricks' lyrics always seem to. It's all about Lorraine, not the music. With Hendricks and other masters of the form, they were more concerned about the brilliance of the song (and when they chose to give them words), the solos. Lorraine's cds also all have the same "sound" quaint retro swing wallpaper, with good musicians like Shelly Berg doing little more in the area of creativity than running through the motions. Lorraine's voice isn't much better. Like the sameness and lack of depth to her A&R formula, her voice is similarly lacking in variety - small, one dimensional, lacking in the expressivity that oozes from up and coming jazz singers such as Dena DeRose, Luciana Souza, Carolyn Leonhart, let alone certified stars Patricia Barber, Cassandra Wilson or Shirley Horn. Those singers tell a story not only with their lyrics, but with their voice. I hear a lot of "unique" stories in Lorraine's lyrics, but not in what she's singing.

I'm not one of those who says that in order to be a jazz singer, you have to "scat" sing. But I do think you need to sing with a little daring, a little creativity, a bit of rhythmic and sometimes melodic variety, etc. And if you're in a swing setting, as Lorraine is, you should also swing! While Lorraine Feather is singing jazz material, with a jazz band, I'm not sure she's a jazz singer. I could be wrong about her music, I've played it on the radio and I probably will in the future, because I think listeners will want to hear it and make up their mind. I could be wrong. There's some critics I respect a lot who disagree. But sometimes, despite all the hype and talk and buzz, (and the prominent jazz family connections!) I just don't hear what those other people are hearing. This is one of them.

Hancock reimagines Headhunters for summer shows

Few things in jazz are more confusing than keeping up with the personnel of the on again off again group The Headhunters. Sometimes Herbie's involved, sometime's he's the leader, sometimes he's not part of the band at all. And I don't think any of the people on this list were on the last Headhunters record (the one on Basin Street). And for those of you surfing the web via wi-fi in Starbucks, yes, you can get Herbie's new record as soon as it's released and get a Frapuccino while you're at it.

Via Reuters

By Jonathan Cohen

NEW YORK (Billboard) - Jazz legend Herbie Hancock has restaffed his famed Headhunters ensemble with a host of notable names and will take the band on the road for four shows this summer.

Anchoring the collective on piano, the artist will be joined by guitarists John Mayer and Lionel Loueke, bassist Marcus Miller, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, trumpeter Roy Hargrove and percussionist Munyungo Jackson.
Meanwhile, Hancock is gearing up for the Aug. 30 release of his next studio album, "Possibilities," which, will be released simultaneously to Starbucks locations and traditional retail via Vector Recordings.

The album's list of guest contributors, which already counts Mayer, Sting, Annie Lennox, Carlos Santana, Damien Rice and Trey Anastasio, has grown to include Paul Simon and Angelique Kidjo. Among the confirmed tracks is a Sting/Hancock interpretation of the former's "Sister Moon," from the 1987 album "Nothing Like the Sun."
Read the complete article here...

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Beyond the jazz barrier

This comes from a newspaper from Australia, The Age, and has some interesting quotes from Wayne. Also of note, his quartet in Australia consists of Brian Blade, John Patitucci, and JASON MORAN, which sounds like a very interesting addition to the group.


Legendary sax player Wayne Shorter is in town to share his views on eternity through jazz. Get into this zone if you can.
By Michael Dwyer

It's the 1960s, and jazz, like everything else in America, is about as free as it's going to get. Miles Davis' legendary second quintet is taking a less liberal route than some, but conversation with his star composer and sax player Wayne Shorter is anything but pedestrian."

Miles turns around to me this one time," recalls the 71-year-old New Jersey jazz giant, "and he says, 'Wayne, do you ever get tired of playing music that sounds like music?'. Then before I answer, he says 'I know what you mean'. We were on the same page. We were comrades."

It's a challenge staying on the same page as Shorter. It's not like he's trying to flip you off. He just seems to leap whole chapters at a time, endlessly cross-referencing from The Da Vinci Code to baseball, from Bill Clinton to English literature, from Stephen Hawking to Emmanuel Kant, and from music to anything but."

Wayne was always out there on his own plane, orbiting his own planet," Davis once wrote, and he seems unlikely to dock before his Umbria Jazz Melbourne 05 shows this weekend.
Miles would say, 'You see how Humphrey Bogart walked in that movie? How John Wayne threw that punch? You see how Marlon Brando played with Eva Marie Saint's glove in On the Waterfront?' Miles would say to the young student, 'Play that'."

Read the complete article here...

Monday, May 09, 2005

Keith Jarrett - Radiance

Keith Jarrett's music has always had the dual streaks of being challenging, yet accessible. Now at the age 60, Keith returns to the live, improvised solo piano format, (his last such record was from 1997) with his new double cd set "Radiance" and both sides of Jarrett are on display from the start. Recorded live in Japan in 2002, Jarrett jumps in head first into some very thorny, "difficult" music, challenging the listener to sit up and pay attention. This is not quiet dinner music, though it does get more "listener friendly". Throughout the 2 discs, almost all the sides of Jarrett the artist are featured: there's Jarrett the classically trained pianist, there's Jarrett the lover of gospel infused jazz, there's Jarrett the brooding romantic, and even a little of Jarrett the beboper. Known for his sometimes surly behavior at concert halls where the piano (or audience) is not quite up to snuff, Jarrett commands the respect and attention of the listener. And if the listener complies, there are great rewards in store.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Jazz great embodied class missing in today's black music

Here's an article from the Chicago Sun Times by Stanley Crouch about the late bassist Percy Heath, and the group he co-led for over 40 years, the Modern Jazz Quartet.
"It was an immaculate band that was important because of what it had done with piano, vibraphone, bass and drums, a still-unusual grouping, and because it made a successful frontal attack on the minstrel tradition that was imposed on Negro musicians. It was known for its class, its virtuosity and its control.

In our era of neo-sambo minstrelsy arriving in the worst of hip-hop, it is hard for many to realize that there was once a time when black musicians aspired to more than money and access to decadence."

Read the complete article here...

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Making a Living In Jazz

NPR's Talk of the Nation takes a cue from Felix Contreras and his recent NPR series about aging jazz musicians, and devotes a portion of their program to an in depth conversation about jazz musicians, making a living and surviving in today's world. The guests on the program are Frank Foster, Jason Moran, Maria Schneider and John Santos.

Listen to this program online...

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

PBS to launch weekly jazz TV program


The PBS series Legends of Jazz will be hosted by Ramsey Lewis and will debut on June 16 with an hour-long special showcasing the winners of this year’s National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Jazz Masters Award. The 13 weekly 30-minute episodes will begin their season this fall.

The premiere Legends of Jazz: The Jazz Masters show will spotlight five of the NEA Jazz Masters: Nancy Wilson (2004; pictured at the taping of the inaugural episode), James Moody (1998), Jon Hendricks (1993), Paquito D’Rivera (2005) and Newport Jazz Festival Founder George Wein. Teen jazz vocalist Renee Olstead will also appear on the show as a special guest, providing a unique counterpoint to the five established musicians.

Read the complete article...

Trumpeter Benny Bailey Dies at 79

(05-03) 08:41 PDT AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) --

Trumpeter Benny Bailey, who played with Dizzy Gillespie and Lionel Hampton before he became a fixture on the European jazz scene, has died in his home in Amsterdam, friends said Tuesday. He was 79.

Bailey, who lived alone, died April 14 of unknown causes, but the death was announced only on Friday by city officials. U.S. authorities located and notified his family Saturday in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, and in Europe, said Rene van Beeck, a Dutch jazz impresario.

Read the complete obit (SF Chronicle)...

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The Bad Plus - Blunt Object: Live In Tokyo

Arguably the most controversial and hyped group in jazz, the bad boys of the piano/bass/drums trio are back, with their third release for Columbia, the major label which has hired the press agents touting the collective as the "next big thing" in jazz. Of course, leave it to Sony/CBS, they have a lot of experience in doing just that, often with mixed results. While "Live In Tokyo" won't be on sale in stores for a while, it is out on Apple's iTunes download service. In keeping with the name of the band, we'll look at the "pluses" and "minuses" of the new cd, and thus the group.

Bad "Pluses"
They aren't lacking in energy, but also know how to use a wide palette of dynamics, which most jazz and for that matter rock groups don't do.

They interact well as a group, and have a "group" approach and sound.

The first time you hear it, it's kind of interesting.

They have a good sense of humor, in a hyper serious way. But like their constant attempts to be ironic, it gets old after a while.

Their own compositions aren't bad, for what they are.

Bad "Minuses"
You can only get so far on irony. The Bad Plus have gone pretty far on that formula. After a while, the novelty wears off.

The group is even more formulaic than the seeming polar opposite Wynton Marsalis, and his jazz must swing co-hort. Aside from the spastic vocal reference to a few of the lyrics of My Funny Valentine, nothing on the new record is really surprising, once you know the formula.

Neither of the three musicians are significant improvisers on their instruments. Once you get past the dog and pony show that attracts the buzz, "oh they're playing a song by Queen, they're jazz, and look funny, and act funny" there's not much going on. I doubt people are going to be transcribing Reid Anderson solos any time soon.

If you're one of those that think that swing and blues, or at least one of those two, are important to "jazz" than this is not for you. Neither are present. But then, you knew that already.

If I want to hear something that rocks, I'm going to listen to a real rock band. I listen to jazz for something else. This group, like many of the worst of the fusion bands of the 70's, tries to be both and winds up in a musical neverland, knee deep in schlock.

Despite all the press, they aren't that innovative. Jazz meets rock? Done that. Jazz trio plays rock tunes? Done that. Jazz trio goes crazy and makes a lot of intense sound? Done that. The marketing (in jazz terms) is innovative, but that's the most important thing about this group, the show, not the music itself. People say they give jazz a new audience and energy. But I'm not sure how they're going to to anything for "jazz" but help "The Bad Plus".

Monday, May 02, 2005

Percy Heath on NPR

In honor of the passing of jazz bassist Percy Heath, here is a link to a feature NPR did a little over a year ago, on Weekend Edition.

April 4, 2004 · The Heath brothers -- bassist Percy, saxophonist Jimmy and drummer Albert "Tootie" Heath -- have made an indelible mark on the history of jazz.

Percy, the oldest sibling, was a key member of the Modern Jazz Quartet beginning in the 1951 and has played on literally hundreds of albums as a stalwart rhythm section sideman. (That was after his stint as a pilot with the Tuskeegee Airmen during World War II).

Heath was recently recognized by The New School University's Jazz & Contemporary Music Program with their ''Beacons in Jazz'' award. It goes well with his 2002 designation as a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master.

While the lifetime achievement kudos have started to add up these days, another recent development in Heath's lengthy career may have more significance to the bassist. At the age of 80, Heath has released his first solo CD, A Love Song.

NPR's Liane Hansen spoke with Heath about his family, his life and his new album.

Hear the complete interview with Percy Heath... (an NPR web only feature)

Stanley Crouch on Sonny Rollins

Stanley Crouch always has something to say, this time on Sonny Rollins, in the online edition of the New Yorker.

"Well, Sonny Rollins is one of the brightest lights in the history of the music; his talent is up there next to that of Armstrong, Young, and Parker. He is a true natural and a great synthesizer. In improvising, he does the same thing that Ellington did when composing: he reinvents the entire tradition, because he understands all of the differences and all of the connections."

Read the complete interview with Stanley Crouch on Sonny Rollins...