Thursday, July 28, 2005

More news on Michael Brecker...

FROM: Susan Brecker
SUBJECT: Michael Brecker needs your help.

Dear Family and Friends,

My husband, Michael Brecker, has been diagnosed with MDS
(myelodysplastic syndrome), and its critical that he undergoes a stem
cell transplant. The initial search for a donor (including Michael's
siblings and children) has not yet resulted in a suitable match.
Michael's doctors have told us that we need to immediately explore ALL
possible options. This involves getting as many people of a similar
genetic background to be tested.

There are some important points to understand concerning this process:

1. The screening involves a blood test only. It can be done very
quickly either at a marrow donation center or at a LOCAL LAB. The cost
is anywhere from $40 to $75 and your insurance may cover it. (In NYC,
you can call Frazier, at the NY Blood Bank, at 212-570-3441, and make
an appointment for HLA typing. It costs $40.00.) Check with your
local blood bank, or go to to find the donor
center nearest you.

2. Your blood typing information can be posted on the international
registry, if you choose, where it would also be available to others in
DONATE, it just means that you may be ASKED to do so. You can take your
name off the registry at any time.

3. Should you be selected as a potential donor for Michael, please
understand that there have been tremendous advances in bone marrow
transplants and the term itself can be misleading. Bone marrow
donation is no more invasive than giving blood. Stem cells are simply
harvested from your blood and then transplanted to Michael.

4. A match for Michael would be most likely to come from those of Eastern
European Jewish descent. If you or anyone you know are in this category
please make a special effort to immediately get tested. Ultimately, you
would be doing something not just for Michael, but for so many more who
are in a similar situation as my husband.

5. You are now part of our internet-based drive for donor testing. If
everyone who receives this can motivate a bunch of their friends to get
tested, and those friends then forward this email to get their friends
to get tested, we will have rapidly expanded the pool of potential
donors. I urge all of you to get tested AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

Any local blood center/Red Cross center can assist in organizing a
drive for Michael, although it would be desirable if you can get a
large group, e.g. a synagogue, to sponsor it. Should you have any
questions about this, please don't hesitate to get in touch with
Michael's management office at 212.302.9200 or

Thank you so much for your love and support.

We are so grateful.

Susan xo

Herbie Hancock goes pop! - Christina Aguliera on Herbie's new record?

Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter have a kind of musical yin-yang thing going on. That's certainly not news for jazz fans, the two have been musical associates at the highest level since the 60's. Two highly individualistic players, masters of their instruments, and innovators in jazz, they often travel in elliptical orbits, ones that sometimes cross, but more often than not swing wildly to opposite sides of the musical spectrum.

Right now, Wayne is at a creative peak not seen since his work from the 60's - playing new and re-invented material from his own composition book, with an exciting young band, producing three excellent cds since 2001, a true late career renaissance. You could say there is no more profound improviser & composer in jazz than Shorter, and he is "on his game" as few musicians are today.

Meanwhile Herbie Hancock, still as talented and marvelous a pianist as ever, seems to be taking a more meandering path, one that leads to some nice solos, but not the great musical heights of his longtime associate. While Herbie has toured with Wayne within the last year, and made some fine music in those settings I'm sure, his latest project, to be released via the Starbucks owned "Hear Music" label, is likely to make this distinction all the more clear. While Wayne is creating brilliant music with amazing talents like Danilo Perez, Brian Blade and John Patitucci, (music that will likely one day be considered "classic" on par with his work from the 60's), Herbie is set to release a new record with talents such as Christina Aguliera, John Mayer, Annie Lennox, Jonny Lang, Sting, Paul Simon and Carlos Santana.

Now I'm not saying that this record won't be good. I have NO idea. I'm not saying all of those guest stars don't have talent. Rather I'm just noting that it seems that Wayne has taken the path less traveled, creating some truly significant and important music, meanwhile Herbie has decided that the best way to cement his reputation as a jazz icon is to record with Christina Aguilera? (I guess Brittney Spears was unavailable due to her pregnancy) Maybe Herbie doesn't care what jazz people think about this, doesn't care about cementing his legacy. I'm sure he'll make more money off this deal with Starbucks than Wayne will on his record. And to that I say good for him, this is America after all. But 30 years from now, we'll all be sitting around saying, "why didn't Herbie play with some real jazz musicians, instead of leaving us with this stuff." Kind of like critics and jazz fans today lament Wes Montgomery's A&M recordings, which though often containing one good jazz track, usually were little more than mood music for AM radio. And one last note, to bring this whole thing full circle - guess who played piano on those A&M and CTI dates for Wes? Yeah, Herbie. Some things never change.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

European Musicians Eclipse US Jazz Artists?

The high level of skill and artistic merit of European jazz musicians is nothing new. Manfred Eicher made a career out of that very thing in the 1970's with his ground breaking ECM label, and artists like Jan Garbarek and the like. But lately, I've really been struck by the great quality of music coming out of Europe, from musicians most US listeners have likely never heard of, music that often eclipses the biggest American jazz names today.

Case in point - the relatively new Italian jazz label CAM Jazz. Talk about some exquisite records, featuring the likes of Enrico Pieranunzi, Enrico Rava, Salvatore Bonafede, and Americans Chris Potter, Paul Motian, Charlie Haden and others! Pieranunzi's touch at the piano rivals that of Brad Mehldau or Fred Hersch, and offers its own sublime lyricism that makes one wonder why he isn't a household name in US jazz circles. Two excellent new cds by Enrico Rava just arrived on my desk from this label this week, and they're really captivated my ears, something that not a lot of records do.

The records on CAM Jazz aren't alone, there's music from folks like Martijn Van Iterson, Yuri Honig, Amina Figarova, Rob Van Bavel, Tineke Postma, Tord Gustavsen, Biréli Lagrène and many others, all who just seem to be interested in making good music, and blow away a lot of far more well known US based musicians. This is not to say that US musicians across the board are in a slump, as excellent new albums by Joe Lovano, Bill Charlap, Dave Holland, Mulgrew Miller, Hank Jones, and Wayne Shorter, etc make clear. But a lot of US musicians seem more concerned (and thus sound more forced and contrived) about working on their public image, or consciously trying to innovate, and thus not doing much of either. Right now, we have a whole generation of musicians who had been cast by the jazz media as "young lions", who now are neither young, nor especially "lion like" in their playing. Confined artistically by the world created for them by their record company PR types, they are, with a couple of exceptions, trying to "reinvent" themselves, by wearing new clothes, plugging their trumpets into wha wha pedals, and striking mean looking poses wear sunglasses from the Miles Davis collection circa 1970. It's as if, stung by the criticism that they were trying to re-invent jazz circa 1965, they are now determined to do something totally different, reinvent the jazz of 1975! I'm not saying new albums by Terence Blanchard and Joshua Redman are bad, they aren't. But they don't speak to me like the new records from the relatively unknown players from Europe are as of late. Even the electric stuff coming from Europe sounds more fresh, and less a remake of Bitches Brew or Eddie Harris than a lot of the new "innovative" records from US musicians. A lot of US musicians also seem to dilute their focus, with a multitude of interesting, but not really captivating side projects (something I'll discuss at length in a few days), that lead to something akin to musical attention deficit disorder!

Again, I'm not saying that all European jazz is better than all American jazz. The players themselves often appear on each other's records, and music as they say knows no boundaries. But there seems to be a lot more focus on making really good, serious, and really well crafted jazz among the best European musicians, than there is across the pond, with their more well known peers.

-note- I neglected to mention British jazz label Dune, which has some very fine and innovative records from the likes of Denys Baptiste and Soweto Kinch that also deserve recognition.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Michael Brecker seriously ill

Very sad news from Michael

"Very sadly, Michael is seriously ill with the blood disorder myelodysplasia for which he is currently undergoing treatment. All concerts have either been cancelled or postponed for approximately one year. Thanks for your positive vibes, and should you be so inclined, get well wishes can be sent to"


About Myelodysplasia from St.
Disease Information

Leukemias / Lymphomas: Myelodysplasia (MDS)

Alternative Names: MDS


Myelodysplasia (MDS) refers to a group of disorders in which the bone marrow does not function normally and produces insufficient number of normal blood cells.

MDS affects the production of any, and occasionally all, types of blood cells including red blood cells, platelets, and white blood cells (cytopenias).

About 50 percent of pediatric myelodysplasia can be classified in five types of MDS: refractory anemia, refractory anemia with ring sideroblasts, refractory anemia with excess blasts, refractory anemia with excess blasts in transformation, and chronic myelomonocytic leukemia.

The remaining 50 percent typically present with isolated or combined cytopenias such as anemia, leucopenia and/or thrombocytopenia (low platelet count). Although chronic, MDS progresses to become acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in about 30 percent of patients.

Read more about this disease...

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Pat Metheny, you're no Bob Geldoff...

Or so the Globe and Mail says. Maybe it's the other way around...

Special to The Globe and Mail

Pat Metheny is not a celebrity. So what are all these TV cameras, photographers and reporters doing, crowded into a small salon at the official hotel of the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal? Well, when the festival beckons in this city, the media respond. And there really is a story here: The always personable and currently well-tanned Missouri-born guitarist will have performed at least six times before the festival is over tomorrow, his schedule concluding on the final night with an outdoor show by the Pat Metheny Group at the corner of St-Catherine and Jeanne-Mance.

Actually, there's even more of a story here, if only the media knew or, perhaps, cared. Metheny at 50 is a political animal -- "the most political person I know," said his friend, bassist Charlie Haden, no political slouch himself, in an interview at this same festival last year.

Metheny has a troubled view of the world, one that forms the rationale for his latest CD, The Way Up, whose single, 68-minute title composition was "a reaction," as he put it in an interview with JazzTimes earlier this year, "to a world where things are getting shorter, dumber, less interesting, less detailed, more predictable." And no, he's not a big fan of the Republicans either.

The media, however, seem to prefer fishing for compliments about the festival and about Montreal more generally. Metheny is obliging, and quite sincerely so, noting in his opening remarks, "I've said many times, and I really believe it, [this] is the best festival in the world." To which André Ménard, the festival's artistic director gloating to the guitarist's left, can't help but chime in, "You were the first [musician] to say that we have the best jazz festival in the world. You did not change your mind. Cool." But Metheny allows himself to be led only where he's willing to go. When asked about "music of the francophone world and what you feel about it," presumably in search of a similar endorsement, he takes a different tack.

"You know," he responds, "I don't really think about 'francophone' or 'jazz' or 'rock' or 'classical.' To me, music is one big thing. When I hear something I love, I love it, and I don't really care much about nationality or style or genre. To me, music is something that is very instructive at showing how really kind of meaningless those terms often are. It cuts right to the humanity of it."

Read the complete article online...

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

John Stubblefield 1945-2005

Received via email from Jim Eigo:

5 July 2005

At five minutes before seven on the evening of the forth July 2005, after enduring great suffering with remarkable strength and courage, our beloved John Stubblefield left us on a soft note held gently at the end of a bitter sweet ballad.
Surrounded with love by sweetheart Katherine Gogel, sister Joyce Pattillo, cousins Harry Stubblefield and Stephanie Barber, and by friends Rolando Briceño and Yvonne, John quietly passed away into paradise, where he will compose brilliant works and perform music to fill the universe with love, hope and joy. We will continue to be inspired by John's generosity of spirit, his for ever glowing soul, and the vision of John's smiling face, which always lights up the lives of everyone he encountered.
Thank you for sharing with us your thoughts about how John touched your lives.
May peace be with us all.
Katherine, Joyce, Harry and Stephanie

p.s. : Please pass this message on.