NPR's jazz blog A Blog Supreme recently concluded a series in which they asked jazz bloggers to "name five albums you would recommend to somebody looking to get into modern jazz". The results are now up in the category Jazz Now; the intro has the index, including reactions elsewhere. Destination: Out had some pricklier suggestions—see also their best of the 90s list (and their own nominations). [more inside]
When not pressing the valves on his trumpet or the record button on his tape recorder, Armstrong’s fingers found other arts with which to occupy themselves. One of them was collage, which became a visual outlet for his improvisational genius. ... These little stories, illuminating and entertaining syntheses of Armstrong’s passions, now reside in the Louis Armstrong Archives at Queens College in Flushing, New York. [more inside]
The CTI never sleeps. A collection of LPs from Creed Taylor's CTI and Kudu labels, as compiled by Doug Payne.
Duke Ellington recalled "... that's one of those things Tizol came up with. See, it wasn't in tempo, he stood [and played it] sort of ad lib. He played it, [the] first ten bars, we took it and worked out the rest of it." That thing was Caravan, and the instigator was Juan Tizol, who was a trombonist in Duke Ellington's orchestra. The track, originally recorded in 1936, became a jazz standard. The lyrics were penned in 1936 by publisher and manager Irving Mills, adding to the exotic feeling and romance of what is considered by many to be the first Latin jazz piece, before the late swing era and first decade of bebop when Latin Jazz (also called Afro-Cuban Jazz) came into prominence. The track didn't cross into other genres until Les Paul created his version of the track in 1948, which lead to other covers, and eventually a successful cover by The Ventures (source). [more inside]
Lester Young (Aug. 27, 1909–March 15, 1959) is given not just a memorial, but extensive musicological criticism and contextual information in this ten-chapter series by jazz pianist and blogger Ethan Iverson of The Bad Plus. Solo transcriptions and analyses, interviews with Lee Konitz, Tootie and Jimmy Heath, Benny Golson, an essay on Young's influence on Miles Davis, a discographic primer and more. (Previously.) [more inside]
"...A Fourth of July picnic, a Sunday Best church revival, an urban rock concert and a rural civil rights rally"
There was a historic music festival in the summer of 1969. But it's not the one that took place in Bethel, NY. The Harlem Cultural Festival ran from June 29 to August 24 that summer, presenting a concert every Sunday afternoon in Mount Morris Park (known today as Marcus Garvey Park). Three hundred thousand people turned out for the six free concerts, hearing acts like Nina Simone , Sly & the Family Stone (the only act to play both Woodstock and the "black Woodstock"), Stevie Wonder, Mahalia Jackson, The 5th Dimension, Moms Mabley and. Speakers included Jesse Jackson and "blue-eyed soul brother" Mayor John Lindsay. Security was courtesy of the Black Panthers, since the NYC police refused to provide it. Filmmaker Hal Tulchin recorded over 50 hours of concert footage, which has remained unreleased. Historic Films seems to hold the footage; it was supposed to be made into a movie to premiere at Sundance 2007, but its release seems to be continually delayed for reasons unclear. [more inside]
Ahmet Ertegun was profiled by George W. S. Trow in The New Yorker in a classic piece back in 1978. Ertegun was the son of the Turkish ambassador to the US and he remained behind in D.C. studying medieval philosophy at Georgetown. Instead of devoting himself to his studies he founded Atlantic Records with his friend Herb Abramson. Trow charted how Ertegun moved from tramping through muddy, Louisiana fields in search of hot new sounds to the whirl of Studio 54. Below the cut are links to the songs mentioned in the article, as best as I could find, in the order in which they appear. [more inside]
Les Paul, musician, pioneer of multitrack recording, and creator of one of the most successful and recognizable guitars in history, passed at the age of 94. [more inside]
Jazz pioneer Rashied Ali Has died. He leaves behind him a lifetime of collaborations in out jazz, with artists like Ayler, Coltrane, Cherry, Haino, Laswell, Bley, Sanders, and Ulmer. [more inside]
Audio archive from Small's Jazz Club, searchable by instrument, then performer, then date, starting with September 27, 2007. Hours and hours and hours and hours of the some of the best jazz from New York's downtown scene. Stream and snap your fingers, man.
Melody Gardot was a New York fashion student, until a hit-and-run driver left her disabled and in need of therapy—musical therapy. [more inside]
One of the giants of free jazz, Albert Ayler was also one of the most controversial. His huge tone and wide vibrato were difficult to ignore, and his 1966 group sounded like a runaway New Orleans brass band from 1910. - AllMusic [more inside]
You wouldn't expect Iggy Pop to be the poster boy for rock stars who age gracefully, but he seems to be doing a pretty good job of it. At the age of 62, he's released Preliminaires, an album steeped in French Literature and containing jazz standards, hardscrabble blues, and the Louis-Armstrong-meets-Tom-Waits hit, King of the Dogs. NPR's Fresh Air has this interview with a thoughtful, avuncular Iggy Pop
The Crazy Ken Band! Cool and Hot! Swinging horns! Groovy chicks! Fast cars! Danger! Crazy! CRAZY! [more inside]
NEA Jazz in the Schools takes a step-by-step journey through the history of jazz, integrating that story with the sweep of American social, economic, and political developments. This multi-media curriculum is designed to be as useful to high school history and social studies teachers as it is to music teachers. Start with the introductory video to get a feel for the place. The education outline contains five lessons. If you just want to listen, all the music samples are on one page. Perhaps you're more interested in individual artist biographies, or a jazz history timeline. [more inside]
Wayman Tisdale is dead at age 44. The 2nd pick in the 1985 NBA draft, he played for the Indiana Pacers, Sacramento Kings, and the Phoenix Suns. His first love was always music, retiring in 1997 to focus on a successful career as a jazz bassist. He released eight albums and was well sought out as a studio musician. [more inside]
Kind of Bloop an 8-bit tribute to Kind of Blue, which will be celebrating its 50th anniversary this August 17. (Don't get too excited just yet, it's not going to be released until the actual anniversary). [more inside]
1959. Fifty years ago. Some great jazz was caught on camera that year: Ahmad Jamal Trio: Darn That Dream (1959); Horace Silver: Señor Blues (1959); Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers: Night in Tunisia (1959); Gerry Mulligan/Art Farmer: Moonlight In Vermont (1959); Miles Davis / Gil Evans Orchestra (1959); Bud Powell with Kenny Clarke - Get Happy (1959); The Future of Jazz TV show: Billy Taylor/George Russell/Bill Evans/etc. (1959 or possibly 1958). That is all.
Frankie Manning, as seen previously, passed away, but his 95th birthday party will go on as scheduled which will feature a Battle of the 'Bones with the Wycliffe Gordon Quartet.> [more inside]
If you're in the mood for some of that juicy, satisfying, blues-inflected and soulful-as-hell organ jazz served up Jimmy Smith-style, check out these 1964 BBC TV appearances from Smith and his trio: The Sermon, Wagon Wheels, Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf, Uptempo Blues and Theme from Mondo Cane. [more inside]
Soul! New York City PBS affiliate WNET have digitized 9 episodes of Soul!, a early 1970's live music program, providing a groovy video interface with chapters to break down each hour long episode. [more inside]
Last week was International Trombone Week. But what is a trombone? Can you recognize the many types of trombone? [more inside]
Wynton Marsalis waxes poetic (and music) at the Kennedy Center about art, freedom, jazz, the minstrel shows of yesterday and today, Walt Whitman, American history, the similarities between the Battle Hymn of the Republic and the Mickey Mouse Club March, rock and roll, and how it all ties together. [more inside]
April Fools Day, 2009 also means happy 60th birthday to one of my favorite musicians, Gil Scott-Heron (previously). From his popular early works like the heavily referenced "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised", "Whitey On The Moon", and "The Bottle", to his continued productions and tours over the decades, he's had a few hurdles, but never stopped. For more on his life and music, here's a great documentary from a few years back (MLYT): pt. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.
1980s pop music hasbeen + swing big band = OMIGOD NO MAKE IT STOP.
Destination: Out, an astounding mp3 blog devoted to mostly out-of-print free jazz and improv records, has been linked a few times on Ask, but never gotten the main-page exposure it deserves. Until now. The editors' selections are always interesting and written about well, and they're ready to go to the mat for the music. (The interview with Marsalis by the Bad Plus to which that's a response is also well worth reading.) But the real impetus for this post is only tangentially related to jazz: recently they got saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa to do a guest post on Indian (mostly Carnatic) music, and it won't be long before the links expire. Fall to! [more inside]
As jazz fans know, fifty years ago on March 2, 1959, Miles Davis, Bill Evans, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb met at the Columbia 30th Street Studios in NYC for the first session of Miles new album, Kind of Blue. (Link goes to the 50th anniversary collector's box set edition page at amazon.) It was the touchstone for many other future recordings bearing its mighty influence and it fostered several high profile careers, and a new modal sound for jazz. Kind of Blue went on to be certified platinum, selling 4 million records, the most ever for a jazz album. Bill Evans had left the band in late 1958, but was called back by Miles for the sessions, which included his new pianist Wynton Kelly on one track only, Freddie Freeloader. The tunes they did that day, "So What", "Blue in Green" (written by Evans, though credited to Miles) and "Freeloader" all became standards as did "All Blues" from the April session. Documentaries and entire books have been written on this one album alone. The phenomenon lives on. (previously on AskMeFi, but just on Trane and Miles.)
Lafayette Gilchrist is one of my favorite piano players. Featured on a Down Beat cover a few months ago (with Vijay Iyer and Jason Moran), he has released a half-dozen or so albums with his group, New Volcanoes, and he's the regular piano player in saxophonist David Murray's quartet. His playing and composition styles are informed by funk, go-go and hip-hop. And he's from Baltimore. Of course, you might also know him from his appearance on the soundtrack to The Wire.
29 year old Hiromi Uehara first mesmerized the jazz community with her 2003 Telarc debut, Another Mind. 4 albums later she continues to astonish and inspire. On February 3rd, she released the album Duet, a collaboration with Chick Corea, having first played with Corea at age 17. A graduate of the Berklee School of Music, Hiromi tours relentlessly with her crack band. I defy your jaw not to drop at their performances here, here, and here. [more inside]
Estranged father and son Chucho and Bebo Valdés, both pioneers of Cuban jazz, sat down and immediately played a duet after years of being apart. This recording of their reunion beautifully captures the range of emotions that could only be expressed without words.
"A wildly flamboyant funk diva with few equals even three decades after her debut, Betty Davis combined the gritty emotional realism of Tina Turner, the futurist fashion sense of David Bowie, and the trendsetting flair of Miles Davis, her husband for a year. ... she turned Miles on to Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone (providing the spark that led to his musical reinvention on In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew), then proved her own talents with a trio of sizzling mid-'70s solo LPs." - All Music Guide (many links nsfw-ish)
Leave Me Alone! a jazz opera by Harvey Pekar (libretto) and Dan Plonsey (music) will have its world premiere on January 31, 2009 at Oberlin College, presented in cooperation with Real Time Opera. The performance will also be streamed live. [more inside]
Plays Monk Live at Intersection for the Arts. A terrific video and audio performance of Plays Monk recorded by BayTaper, an excellent one man multimedia operation recording the San Francisco area jazz & creative music scene. (previously)
At Sammy's at 2016 Main, on September 8, a historic jam session occurred, an impromptu reunion of many of the city of New Orleans's finest musicians. Each player who walked in the door was much more than a mere musician that night -- they were an affirmation of life. Not only did their attendance indicate that they had survived the storm, but their collective presence also indicated that their music would survive, too.The New Birth Brass Band (and friends) tears it the hell up in downtown Houston post-Katrina. The whole show is great, but if you're short on time, parts one and three are especially smoking.
In 1972 Lady Sings the Blues was released. Ostensibly a biopic about the life of Billie Holiday, it was a travesty of made up history and glaring ommissions. In response to that release a symposium was held on Lady Day's life and work which included storytelling from Artie Shaw (about hiring her in 1938) and Carmen McRae (about her drug life). The CBC recently put together an excellent podcast with these stories and some interview tape from Billie Holiday herself.
Neal Hefti, trumpet player, arranger, big band leader and composer for film & televison, has died. This may be his most loved work.
The iconic photographer William Claxton has died at the age of 80. His unforgettable shots of Miles Davis, Steve McQueen,Chet Baker (the book of his Baker photos here), Bob Dylan, Charlie Parker, Ray Charles, John Coltrane, Billie Holiday, Bill Evans, Lenny Bruce, Frank Sinatra and so many others are legend. His books "Jazz Life" and "Photographic Memory" are great collections, but his official site is probably the best way to appreciate the amazing legacy of work he left behind.
Last month, a wonderful documentary entitled simply Anita O'Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer debuted in NYC and LA and was very warmly received. It tells the story of a singer regarded by many jazz fans to be among the greatest who ever lived (her strikingly modern small-group recordings from the 1950s attest to a singer whose talent grew far beyond her Big Band days), and who, despite living an incredibly self-destructive life, lived and performed well into her 80's. Here's Anita from her famous 1958 Newport performance, and here are some other notable clips: Honeysuckle Rose, Let Me Off Uptown (w/Gene Krupa and feat. Roy Eldridge; a huge hit in 1941), Love for Sale, and more from the film here.
Trumpet Kings is a blog dedicated to videos of trumpeteers, mostly jazz but there are a few classical ones. On the companion youtube channel there are 184 videos. These are some of my favorite things: Wynton Marsalis - Riot, Dizzy Gillespie - trumpet battle, Maynard Ferguson - Round Midnight, Louis Armstrong - C'est Si Bon, Miles Davis - No Blues, Ray Anthony - Harlem Nocturne, Booker Little - Minor Mode Blues, Ingrid Jensen - Foxy Trot and Sergei Nakariakov - Bach's Air.