Monday, October 31, 2011
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Thursday, October 27, 2011
The launch of Impulse! Records' 2-on-1 reissue series—which packages two original LPs on one CD—includes six key albums from the glorious first flowering of the astral jazz forged by pianist and harpist Alice Coltrane and saxophonist Pharoah Sanders on Impulse! towards the end of the 1960s.
The style emerged following saxophonist John Coltrane's passing in 1967, when Alice Coltrane and Sanders—both members of John Coltrane's later groups—repositioned at center stage the African and Indian percussion instruments and song forms with which John Coltrane had colored his music during his final years. They married these with hummable melodies, trance music-informed ostinatos, ambient-rich improvisations and, on Alice's albums, harp. The Indian drone instrument, the tamboura, a stripped-down version of the sitar, was emblematic, as were chanted, often wordless, vocals.
Astral jazz continued in full bloom until the mid-1970s, when, in hands other than those of Coltrane and Sanders, it degenerated into cliché and, ultimately, into a blissed-out sub-genre of the fusion movement.
The 2-on-1 reissues are Coltrane's Huntingdon Ashram Monastery (1969), Universal Consciousness (1971), World Galaxy (1972) and Lord Of Lords (1972), and Sanders' Wisdom Through Music (1972) and Village Of The Pharoahs (1973). All these albums have previously been rereleased, but their availability has been patchy and often on relatively expensive, limited editions.
Unlike some of the tackily produced reissues which have been visited on the Impulse! catalogue by a succession of corporate owners since the 1970s, the 2-on-1 series has been put together with care. The LPs' original gatefold sleeves are not used, but they are reproduced in their entirety in the 12-page booklets included with the discs. You may need a magnifying glass to read the original, lengthy liner notes for the Coltrane discs, but read them you can (and it is worth the trouble).
Alice Coltrane's death in 2007 did not bring about the critical reassessment her work deserves. Nothing less than a trailblazer in free and spiritual jazz, the pianist and harpist was a deeply sensitive blues player and top-rate composer. Working in the shadow of her husband, saxophonist John Coltrane, through his controversial, late-period work and her erratic recording career later in her own life have not helped her legacy but Alice Coltrane's work is Important with a capital "I." If you are making CDs from this two-hour playlist, tracks 1 and 3 make up disc one with the remainder on disc two.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Hemphill, like many of his peers in the aftermath of the 1960s, attempted to reconcile the aesthetic differences between the innovations of the New Thing and the proverbial "music of the people." Critical success was often fleeting for most jazz musicians in this regard, especially those operating in the then nascent fusion scene. This spartan date bears the distinction of being one of the first records to capture an artist of Hemphill's caliber successfully transposing the emotional candor of popular African-American musical traditions—from the sacred to the secular—into the rarefied language of free jazz, without compromising the unique characteristics of either idiom.
Monday, October 24, 2011
Composer, bassist and bandleader Graham Collier left town on Friday, September 9,, 2011. He was holidaying with his partner, John, in Crete, when a sudden heart failure took his final breath. It was quick, relatively painless but unexpected. We all felt sure Graham had too much sparkle, too much music in him to go so soon.
His career, indeed his life, was shaped by music. Collier grew up in Luton, Bedfordshire—reason enough to leave home at 16 to join the army and become a band boy. In his early twenties, he won a scholarship to Berklee School becoming its first British graduate in 1963. His fellow students at the time included Rhodesian-born trombonist Mike Gibbs and a precocious vibraphonist by the name of Gary Burton, while the school's Herb Pomeroy was an important early influence.
Collier remained in the States post-graduation but suffered injury in a car crash whilst on tour in Wyoming with the Tommy Dorsey ghost band. Returning to Britain in the mid-sixties, Collier formed his own band and by the early seventies had released a handful of records that remain amongst the finest examples of small group jazz. Songs For My Father, with Alan Skidmore on tenor and Phil Lee on guitar, comes highly recommended, but Mosaics is even greater, revealing an approach to composition and performance that Graham would continue to develop and refine for the rest of his life.
Reissued recently by BGO records, these albums reveal a rare talent able to fuse a British pastoral compositional sensibility with something far more rambunctiously funky that stemmed from an admiration for Charles Mingus. Even more importantly, BGO included amongst the reissues an alternative and very different recording of Mosaics, as well as a stereo version of Deep Dark Blue Centre. The first two BGO sets are indispensable, while the third is perhaps merely necessary.
Sunday, October 23, 2011
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Jeremy Udden is one of those outstanding working musicians on the scene in Brooklyn. A saxophonist, composer, and bandleader, he is—like so many musicians of his generation—influenced by a variety of things outside what is known as jazz, and his music reflects that. He's developed a band called Plainville that offers a different sound and feel. A different tapestry on which musicians can subtly embroider their improvisations. A different mosaic.
Out of the New England Conservatory, he cut his teeth in bands like the Either/Orchestra and stayed in that organization for about seven years. He eventually landed himself in New York City, but he spent time in China and thought of staying there. This year, moving to Stockholm was on his mind. But all the while, he's pushing new projects and is excited about his distinctive band—sax, electric keyboards including organ, banjo, bass and drums—that produces music with an almost-folk quality.
"The band is called Plainville because that's the name of the small town that I grew up in, in Massachusetts," says Udden. The band's previous album was also titled Plainville (Fresh Sound New Talent, 2009). "It continues to be a reflection of getting in touch with that, which is definitely a quieter time in my life, a more peaceful time in my life. Also, it's a reflection of the different music I've been into over those years."
If the Past Seems So Bright (Sunnyside Records, 2011) is Udden's third album as a leader. It shows his compositional skills as well as his abilities on saxophone. There are also things beneath the surface, like how he melds the instrumentation and allows his band mates to have a personal say.
The 60th Anniversary Collection
Warner Music Japan
It's hard to believe that it's been nearly a quarter century since Jaco Pastorius died at the outrageously young age of 35. At a time when other electric bassists like Stanley Clarke were redefining the role of the instrument—no longer playing only a supporting role, but becoming a front-line partner—Pastorius still managed to shake an already fusion-quaked world with the one-two-three punch of his debut as a leader, Jaco (Epic), his first appearances with fusion supergroup Weather Report on Black Market (Columbia), and his stunningly lyrical work for singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell on Hejira (Elektra/Asylum), all in 1976. Three views of a secret, indeed.
Sixty years after his birth in Norristown, Pennsylvania—though his parents ultimately relocated to Florida shortly after his birth, a move that would color his music from a very early age—Warner Music Japan has put together the sumptuous The 60th Anniversary Collection, a six-CD box that, if collected together with his 1976 debut, represents the best music Pastorius made as a leader during his relatively brief time on the planet. He may have lept to fame and relative fortune for his seven-year stint with Weather Report—tracks like the knotty "Teen Town," from the group's bestselling Heavy Weather (Columbia, 1977) remaining required 'shedding grist for aspiring electric bassists—and there's no doubt that group's string of Columbia albums, beginning with Black Market, where Pastorius appeared on just two transitional but nevertheless earth-shattering tracks, through to WR's self-titled 1982 swan song, remain vastly influential. But the 60th Anniversary's six albums, starting with 1981's completely unexpected Word of Mouth, not only confirmed Pastorius' inestimable innovations as a performer on fretless electric bass, but clarified his position in the jazz canon, as a composer of considerable weight if not prolificacy—and an arranger whose ear for large ensemble work was, in many ways, a big surprise for those only familiar with his first album and the Weather Report discography.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
BILL FRISELL + BILL MORRISON COLLABORATE ON MULTIMEDIA WORK INSPIRED BY THE 1927 MISSISSIPPI RIVER FLOODS
The Great Flood Comes to Select Markets Throughout the U.S.
Grammy Award-winning guitarist and composer Bill Frisell and Obie-winning experimental filmmaker Bill Morrison recently premiered “The Great Flood,"—an electrifying, soulful, and thought provoking 75-minute multimedia work of original music and film inspired by the 1927 Mississippi River floods. Now, Frisell and Morrison take The Great Flood on the road, stopping at select University and public venues across the country. The complete list of dates is listed below.
The Great Flood premiered last month at ELLNORA | The Guitar Festival at the University of Illinois' Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, and received a standing ovation for its stirring, contemporary perspective on this natural disaster and the ensuing transformation of American society and music. In the spring of 1927, the Mississippi River broke out of its banks in 145 places and inundated 27,000 square miles to a depth of up to 30 feet. Part of its enduring legacy was the mass exodus of displaced sharecroppers. Musically, the Great Migration of rural southern blacks to Northern cities saw the Delta Blues electrified and reinterpreted as the Chicago blues, rhythm and blues, and rock and roll.
Members of the Illinois Emerging Digital Research and Education in Arts Media Institute (eDream) and the Advanced Visualization Laboratory (AVL) at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) collaborated with Morrison on the film, creating data-driven visualizations of the Mississippi River Valley showing the extent of the destructive floodwaters. “This was a novel collaboration between an inspired artist and data-visualization experts," said Donna Cox, director of eDream and AVL.
The Great Flood is currently confirmed to stop in the following places:
Thursday, November 3—Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH
Friday, November 4—Zankel Hall, New York, NY
Saturday, November 5—Duke University, Durham, NC
Saturday, March 31—Wexner Center, Columbus, OH
Thursday, April 19—UC San Diego, La Jolla, CA
Saturday, April 21—SF Jazz, San Francisco, CA
Additional dates to be announced.
Jazz Audience Initiative Key Findings:
- Tastes in music are socially transmitted.
- Across western-based art forms, jazz still draws a relatively diverse audience.
- Consumption of jazz is artist-driven.
- Music preferences are shaped by local programming.
- Younger buyers have categorically more eclectic tastes in music.
- There are many musical pathways into jazz.
- Jazz buyers strongly prefer informal settings.
“This research provides deep insights into the ways contemporary audiences are choosing to participate in and engage with the arts, and specifically creative forms of music, such as jazz," expressed Robert Breithaupt, Executive Director of the Jazz Arts Group. “From the beginning, we worked collaboratively with our national research partners to share information and new ideas. We're now turning our attention to putting this research into practice and considering the implications of this important data for our organization. We hope other organizations will join us in this work to strengthen the field."
It's no accident that forty years of jazz at Harvard coincides with forty years of Tom Everett at the esteemed university. Everett founded Harvard University's first student jazz band, taught its first jazz history course and welcomed the campus' first visiting jazz artist. He now leads two jazz bands at the prestigious university, continues to teach jazz history courses and welcomes a different visiting jazz artist each year, working with and commissioning works from Anthony Braxton, Dave Brubeck, Dizzy Gillespie, Quincy Jones, J.J. Johnson, Steve Lacy and many others. In April 2011, Harvard celebrated "Forty Years of Jazz at Harvard" with an exhibition of manuscripts and memorabilia, a discussion about the history of jazz at Harvard, moderated by Everett and Quincy Jones Professor of African American Music Ingrid Monson, and a star-studded concert at Harvard's Sanders Theater.
Yet Everett's accomplishments at Harvard are just one part of a long career as a performer, educator and musical advocate. Everett has played with established big bands and premiered over thirty works for bass trombone in the world of classical music. Through it all, he's combined the resourcefulness and imagination of an improviser with the tireless devotion of a teacher.
Friday, October 14, 2011
Kaeshammer debuted with Blue Keys (Alma Records) in 1996. Since that time, he has released six more recordings, including this eponymous release. The staggering reality of Kaeshammer is the fact that so much talent—composing, singing, instrumental chops, and arranging—comes so densely packed in a single person. It seems inconceivable that with such a discography, including Kaeshammer in particular, the singer is not more widely known. Because this is music more infectious than the flu.
Kaeshammer's stylistic range is as deep as it is wide, ranging from the stride piano of the 1930s Willie "The Lion" Smith ("Tightrope") to the Fender Rhodes of the Faces' Ian McLagan ("Kisses in Zanzibar") and singing from 1920's show tunes (an inspired and revamped "Love Me or Leave Me") to the Christopher Cross-meets-Bruce Hornsby style on "Remedy." Ray Charles, Leon Russell, Lindsey Buckingham, Elton John, Don Henley, and so on are all here in a sound that can only be called Kaeshammer's own.
Download a Free MP3
Love Me Or Leave Me
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Music Matters has been reissuing classic Blue Note jazz records since 2007. It has dug deep into the catalog, remastering lesser known, infrequently heard titles, and done so with passionate attention to presenting the highest possible sound quality. Offering an analog solution in a digital age, this exceptional series is available on 45rpm vinyl records only. It is an extraordinary collection of music.
With some of the Blue Note recordings now pushing 60 years old, it's wholly appropriate to release a first-rate reissue series, but to do it right requires people who are fanatics about these titles and who bleed enthusiasm for the music. It also helps to have folks with the attention to detail necessary to worry about the weight of the vinyl and the type of ink used in the jackets. It requires folks who are a little crazy about making the best possible pressings, and are willing to go to any length to make it happen. Ron Rambach (far left above), owner of Music Matters, and his friend and co-conspirator, Joe Harley (second left, with Steve Hoffman, second right, Kevin Gray, far right), have personally overseen every element of the reissue series since its inception. They're both a little nuts about classic Blue Note records, and they've channeled their madness into an exceptional collection.
Rambach and Harley are music fans first and foremost, and they approached reissuing the Blue Note catalog as an extension of their dedication to the label. Original 33rpm Blue Note albums are scarce and outrageously expensive. Many collectors have at least one original Blue Note that they just had to buy, even though the vinyl had clearly been used for target practice. The label has so much cache that some folks will pay a premium for a scratchy, damaged Blue Note record just to have it, even when a CD of the same performance may be readily available. Rambach, a long time dealer in collectible vinyl, was concerned that people would only ever hear poor quality copies, and that they'd overlook lesser known titles: "I didn't know how the next generation was going to hear this music. It's the music that needs to be discovered. It's about bringing these guys back." Both men had a deep knowledge of the label's catalog through their own collections and felt strongly that, handled properly, a reissue could offer something new to enthusiasts.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Bands come in all shapes, sizes and dynamics. Some thrive on the tensions, while others fall apart too soon due to creative differences or inflated egos. None of these challenges seem to present themselves to the group of musicians that takes its name from the vocalist Tierney Sutton. With nine albums under its collective belt, complemented by three Grammy nominations, the Tierney Sutton Band is about to tour again in support of its American Road release (BMF Jazz, 2011).
Since Sutton formed the group in 1994, she has exerted what appears to be a healthy and positive influence over the band's structure and modus operandi, based on her religion. Her adoption of the Baha'i faith, at the age of 18, has led her to incorporate its fundamental principle of collective evolution in the creation and nurturing of the Tierney Sutton Band. Along with Sutton, the band comprises up to four additional members: Christian Jacob (piano), Trey Henry and/or Kevin Axt (bass) and Ray Brinker (drums). The decisions the band makes are holistic, and are focused on providing an effective conduit between the music and the audience—stretching the talents and improvisational skills of each band member, yet seeking to engage and resonate with the listener.
All About Jazz: What were your earliest musical influences?
Tierney Sutton: Early on, I had no conscious exposure to jazz, whatsoever. I grew up in Milwaukee, a Midwest town. My parents didn't have many records and didn't listen to music much at home. My mother had a nice voice and some musical tendencies, but they didn't take me to concerts or have records. I showed an interest in music early on and, like many singers I know, could sing before I could talk.
AAJ: Ah, something you share with Johnny Mercer— his aunt told him he was humming music when he was six months old. As a child, were you encouraged to take up an instrument?
TS: I took piano lessons and sang in children's choirs. When I was only five years old, I had the lead in a school musical of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale Hansel and Gretel. But I didn't really feel passionate about it and want to do it for a living until at college, when I became exposed to jazz for the first time.
Download Ancestral Tales (5:35)
About Anthony Branker
Dr. Anthony D.J. Branker holds the endowed chair of the Anthony H.P Lee ’79 Senior Lecturer in Jazz Studies, is Founder and Director of the Program in Jazz Studies, and serves as Associate Director of the Program in Musical Performance at Princeton University, where he directs an extensive list of ensembles and teaches courses in jazz theory through improvisation & composition, jazz performance practice in historical and cultural context, jazz composition, and the evolution of jazz styles. He has served as a U.S. Fulbright Scholar and visiting professor at the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre in Tallinn, Estonia and has also been a member of the faculty at the Manhattan School of Music, Rutgers University Mason Gross School of the Arts, Hunter College of the City University of New York, Ursinus College, and the New Jersey Summer Arts Institute. Professor Branker was visiting composer at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Hamburg, Germany and for the Socrates/Erasmus Intensive Programme in cooperation with the European Union, the Association of Baltic Academies of Music, and the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre. He has been honored by the United States Department of Education with a Presidential Scholars Teacher Recognition Award, the Institute for Arts and Humanities Education Distinguished Teaching Award, the International Association of Jazz Educators Award for Outstanding Service to Jazz Education, and was the recipient of the 2004 Alumni Award presented by the Association of Black Princeton Alumni. Recently, the New Jersey Association for Jazz Education honored Dr. Branker at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark by presenting him with the 2009 Jazz Education Achievement Award for “Outstanding Accomplishment in the Field of Jazz Studies and Continued Dedication to the New Jersey Jazz Education Community.”
Monday, October 10, 2011
At the dawn of the second decade of his career, saxophonist Miguel Zenón has established himself as one of the most sophisticated and stylish players of the new millennium. In a very short time, Zenón has made his mark as a composer, band leader, educator, and jazz advocate. He has performed and recorded with scores of the scene's most prominent musicians as leader, side man and member of the groundbreaking SFJAZZ Collective, where he is the sole founding member remaining with the group.
Zenón has taken jazz awareness and education to new levels through his work as a Kennedy Center Jazz Ambassador to West Africa, a guest lecturer and teacher at Berklee College of Music, New England Conservatory of Music and elsewhere, as well as with his founding of Caravana Cultural, a quarterly series of concerts and talks aimed at bringing jazz music "to the people" in his native Puerto Rico.
Zenón's work as an educator extends to his creative endeavors as well. His latest release, Alma Adentro (Marsalis Music, 2011), is his third so far to examine and interpret a musical form from his homeland, in this case songs from the Puerto Rican popular songbook of the mid-20th century.
All of this work—and much more—earned Zenón a prestigious MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" in 2008. With its $500,000 prize allocated over five annual installments, the award not only recognizes Zenón's growing impact in the world of music but has afforded him the resources to continue to pursue his passions with vigor.
Friday, October 7, 2011
On a moon of this past June, appropriately enough, Leonardo Pavkovic, owner of the progressive jazz label MoonJune Records, gave All About Jazz an interview at the label's office in Union Square, New York City. The name MoonJune Records, which Pavkovic started back in 2001, is taken from the title of a song, "Moon In June," that appeared on the Canterbury jazz-rock group, Soft Machine's 1970 album, Third (CBS). MoonJune Records aims to provide jazz and progressive rock musicians from different continents and different cultural backgrounds with a very personal, hands-on relationship with a label.
At the time of the interview, MoonJune Records had just hit its 10-year mark. Pavkovic was optimistic about the label's future, and provided details on how he works with musicians and remains responsive to his customers.
The MoonJune office is a working shrine to some of the best jazz and progressive rock artists, past to present—from Pavkovic's own CDs waiting to be mailed out, to extensive video and book libraries and stacks of trade publications and music magazines. One wall is covered with posters and stickers going back to the late 1960s and English bands such as Colosseum, and up to the recent past with Indonesian groups such as Tohpati Ethnomission.
There is no shortage of interest for a visitor to feast eyes on in this office—and from the way Pavkovic jubilantly blasts music out of his sound system, it is obvious he is a man who loves what he does.
If Paradise, the biggest jewel in British composer, keyboardist and trombonist Tony Haynes' recording career to date, joins a handful of orchestral albums which have not so much crossed genre and cultural boundaries as rendered them meaningless. Off-piste singularities may exclude these discs from mainstream jazz history, but their exalted singularity make them artifacts to be treasured. Other high-carat items are pianist Joachim Kühn and arranger Michael Gibbs's Europeana (ACT, 1995) and pianist Randy Weston's Blue Moses (CTI, 1972).
With "If Paradise," a raga-based suite in eight sections, Haynes and his 19-piece Grand Union Orchestra—formed in 1982 as a vehicle for jazz-based, cross-cultural experiment—blend the music and instruments of Bangladesh and India with the jazz tradition to extraordinary effect. Haynes' genius here, as elsewhere in his corpus of work, has been not merely to bolt colorful ethnic exoticisms onto the exterior bodywork of the jazz tradition; instead, he creates a truly syncretic blend in which, much of the time, it is impossible to say where one culture stops and another starts. Listening to it is like looking through a kaleidoscope with a headful of the finest charas.
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Download Chora Baiao (5:11)
From: Chora Baiao
About Antonio Adolfo
Antonio Adolfo is an important composer, having written songs recorded by Nara Leao, Marisa Gata Mansa, Angela Ro Ro, Wilson Simonal, Ivete Sangalo, Leci Brandao, Emilio Santiago, Beth Carvalho, Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66, Stevie Wonder and Herb Alpert among others. Adolfo also had a noted role in the process of making important music available through independent production, through the creation of the pioneer independent label Artezanal. His recordings of important and almost-forgotten composers of the belle epoque, like Chiquinha Gonzaga, Ernesto Nazareth and Joao Pernambuco, are noted cultural initiatives. As an arranger, he worked for Leci Brandao, Angela Ro Ro, Elizeth Cardoso, Emilio Santiago, Fatima Guedes, Marcos Valle, Mongol, Nara Leao, O Grupo, Ruy Maurity (his brother), Sueli Costa, Vinicius Cantuaria, Rita Lee, Zeze Motta, and others.
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Dear Mr. P.C.: On my steady gig, I'll be trying really hard to play well. You know, being in the moment, trying to come up with ideas I've never played before, treating jazz with total respect. Right in the middle of all that I'll hear the drums start to sound like something is wrong. When I look over, the drummer is making kissy faces at some cute woman in the audience and showing off for her with all these fancy but totally inappropriate fills. It totally destroys my concentration. What should I do? -- Drummer Ruins My Sanity
On my steady gig, I'll be trying really hard to play well. You know, being in the moment, trying to come up with ideas I've never played before, treating jazz with total respect. Right in the middle of all that I'll hear the drums start to sound like something is wrong. When I look over, the drummer is making kissy faces at some cute woman in the audience and showing off for her with all these fancy but totally inappropriate fills. It totally destroys my concentration. What should I do?
-- Drummer Ruins My Sanity
Dear DRMS: I understand why you're so upset. Instead of singling out and objectifying a "cute" woman, he could perform a real service by flattering a less attractive woman, particularly a geriatric or grossly misshapen one. Or he could deliver an even bigger blow to chauvinism by "making kissy faces" at the men in the audience, especially the more macho guys--the ones pounding beers and looking hatefully toward the bandstand. But think about it, DRMS: At least he's accompanying you, taking part in your journey. During his solos, you don't even play! Instead, you disengage from the music, silently counting "one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four..." while worrying about what you'll eat during the next break. I can only imagine what you'd be doing if you had his arsenal of gadgets at your disposal: Swiveling around on the drum throne (Look how tall I am! Now look how short I am!), twirling the sticks (Take cover--I'm a nunchuck Master!), and wearing the ride cymbal on your head (Quick, someone find me a rice paddy--it's a coolie hat!). Your drummer may have his faults, DRMS, but you have to give him credit for engaging the audience. And I've got some great news: You can take his approach to a whole new level, combining audience outreach with social activism! Best of all, you can do it during his solos, when you're normally nothing but dead weight on the bandstand! Here's how: When he starts to solo, turn to the people in the audience and leer at them suggestively. But--this is the key--leer only at those who are least accustomed to it, and would therefore most welcome it: The disadvantaged, the disenfranchised, and the disfigured.
Monday, October 3, 2011
Saxophonist Bunky Green bristles at the idea of playing by the rules. On more than one occasion, the Milwaukee, Wisconsin native was on his way to jazz stardom, but each time his principles guided him elsewhere. This is a significant reason why the highly influential musician has mostly remained unsung and out of the spotlight for decades, instead focusing his energies on his role as a leading jazz educator. For the past two decades, Green has served as the Director of Jazz Studies at the University of North Florida at Jacksonville.
During the early days of his career, Green took over for Jackie McLean in Charles Mingus' band in 1960. The legendary bassist's adventurous spirit and willingness to push boundaries, often at the risk of commercial success, proved highly influential on Green's artistic psyche. In 1961, he relocated to Chicago, where he recorded and performed with luminaries including Sonny Stitt, Yusef Lateef and Andrew Hill, while also propelling his solo career forward with albums such as Testifyin' Time (Argos, 1965) and Playin' for Keeps (Cadet, 1966).
Unhappy with how he was treated by labels and the music industry in general, Green began transitioning into jazz education in the early '70s. He taught at Chicago State University from 1972 to 1989, while sporadically recording. During the late '70s, he released three albums for the Vanguard label: the commercially oriented Transformations (1977) and Visions (1978), as well as the uncompromising Places We've Never Been (1979). Places We've Never Been features six expansive post-bop pieces with an all-star band including Randy Brecker, Eddie Gomez and Freddie Waits. It's particularly notable for its first track, "East and West," which finds Green exploring the cultural and aural influences of a trip to Algiers.
Yet since jazz criticism has a history that can be tracked and traced right along with the growth and development of the music, there's no need to stay confined to the past 40 or so years. "How has race played into the way jazz has been covered over the past 100+ years of the existence of the art form?" is one question that has now arisen.
Fortunately, there's a scholar who has researched jazz letters and the history of jazz criticism and has written the thus far definitive work on the critical discourse of jazz from the 1930s to the turn of this century: John Gennari. His book is Blowin' Hot and Cool: Jazz and Its Critics (University of Chicago, Press, 2006.) He's an Associate Professor of English and ALANA U.S. Ethnic Studies at the University of Vermont.
John Gennari and I first met in the late 1990s through the Jazz Study Group (JSG) at Columbia University. I was a grad student in a doctoral program in American Studies at New York University at the time. The Jazz Study Group was founded by Robert G. O'Meally, an English and Comparative Literature professor at Columbia whose scholarship has included a focus on jazz since he earned his Ph.D. at Harvard in 1975. From 1995-2006, the Jazz Study Group held quarterly meetings, mostly on the Columbia campus. Personally, I most enjoyed the occasions when the small group of about 30 of us would meet in the spacious yet cozy book- and CD/LP-lined apartment of Prof. O'Meally and his wife Jacqui Malone, a historian of American dance.
Very relevant to the conversation you are about to read is the following goal of the JSG: "to cultivate and strengthen the then-budding interdisciplinary field of jazz studies at a crucial point in its emergence as a discrete area of scholarship within the context of African American and American Studies."
Gennari's Blowin' Hot and Cold is a prime example of this interdisciplinary direction of jazz studies.
Saturday, October 1, 2011
Rumsey Playground, Central Park
New York, NY
September 22, 2011
Nels Cline can conjure wind. He did so mid-way through the third song of Wilco's performance in New York City on September 22. There were several thousand witnesses.
Cline, Wilco's guitarist-cum-audio mad scientist, was at the crest of an intense solo passage in "Ashes of American Flags" when a strong, crisp breeze blew in from the East, lifting the blanket of early evening humidity that was laid over the crowd gathered in Central Park's Rumsey Playground. Wilco is a live band of such extraordinary powers that a supernatural act of meteorological manipulation seems well within their grasp. Cline's was greeted with an appreciative roar from the devoted crowd.
In 2000, when Wilco was still playing clubs behind their then-current record, Summerteeth, the band's sound was an easy-to-digest gumbo of all that came before: the ramshackle power pop song writing of Big Star; the psychedelic country of the Byrds; the arena rock of mid-period Who. Those strains are still evident, but in the intervening decade-plus they have been joined by hints of Sonic Youth, Kraftwerk and other electronic noise elements. Incredibly, Wilco has never veered too far into experimental territory. They've pushed the boundaries of pop, but there are no throwaway records. Perhaps using the model of The Beatles, Wilco leader and songsmith Jeff Tweedy has managed to keep Wilco about the songs, using technology and noise as spicy embellishments, not the main dish. The result is a book of songs equally at home channeled through a seven-piece electric band as through an acoustic guitar on Tweedy's not- infrequent solo jaunts.