Esperanza Spalding got nudged further into the mainstream by earning herself a sizable chunk of real estate in the NY Times Fashion supplement, T. What’s it like to rock a $14K de la Renta?
Pi Recordings got a well-deserved moment in the sun with a Times biz profile. If it ever goes sour for Yulun and Seth, they could perhaps sell their entire imprint on Craig’s List, like Black Jazz was trying to do. Nate offered a little Pi interview lagniappe on his blog.
Darcy James Argue launched the site for Brooklyn Babylon, his multi-media collaboration with visual artist Danijel Zezelj. It unites projected animation, live painting, and an original score performed by Argue’s ever-impressive big band, Secret Society.
A Blog Supreme reported on the Jazz Audience Initiative’s provocative finding about the demographics of jazz ticket-buyers. Kids & kash are the koncerns.
Chris Barton says that the Joni/jazz affair in L.A. was a success in the large. I would like to have seen Kurt Elling bounce through “The Dry Cleaner From Des Moines.”
Jason Crane’s 301st Jazz Session show connected with the inimitable Jamie Saft, who explained his ravishing New Zion Trio disc, working with Zorn, and getting a great sound in the studio. No mention of Spanish Donkey‘s disturbing grandeur Here’s a chunk of their world debut.
Kurt Gottschalk threw us to Dangerous Minds who threw us to a very cool, and very percussive, Sun Ra clip.
The Voice interviewed Jenny Scheinman about her Mischief & Mayhem group, and she told ‘em about feathers falling out of the sky. I went to the show and clocked these three high points. Josh Jackson and company went to the show and brought it to the planet in real time (and archived time). Fred Kaplan went as well; seems he truly enjoyed himself.
In the midst of what’s been kinda/sorta deemed a vibraphone resurgence, Roy Ayers talked about Lionel Hampton. And in the midst of mucho pop competition, Christian McBride’s big band disc was the only jazz title to be included in Billboard’s Fall Album Preview.
@peterhum found a restaurant called Thelonious Monkfish and @destinationout and others messed around with the #jazzrestaurants meme for a bit. A certain gentleman might have won with “Lenny White Castle.”
A new short-form documentary about David S. Ware was announced. “I work on concepts,” says the saxophonist. He also plays “My Ship” quite nicely. Doc hits right here on August 30. New solo disc Organica, comes out on AUM Fidelity on October 25.
Tom Hull applied a grade to a long list of new discs. I agree with him on the Eliane Elias title (not the “pale and purple” part, the guitar and percussionist part), but I would have nudged Chris Dingman’s disc a tad higher. Phil Freeman scrutinized the SFE’s extended work on Clean Feed, Positions & Descriptions.
@geniusbastard reminded his twitter stream that Kind of Blue dropped on August 17. I played “Blue In Green” for the 12,134th time, and asked people to weigh in on their favorite moments from the disc.
Jazz Times had Randy Brecker choose 10 key Lee Morgan tracks. Yep, he chose a Beatles tune.
Ted Gioia reminded us about Mingus’ thoughts on cat poop. Eat that chicken?
Mike Pride’s new edition of From Bacteria To Boys got a pat on the back from the Times.
Nat Hentoff talked BeanTown roots in Jazz Times.
The Konceptions series at Korzo in Brooklyn kept on being excellent.
Red Barat’s “Chaal Baby” is used as the music bed in the new season of Its’ Always Sunny in Philadelphia promo clip.
Improvisers from the Pine Tree State brought Ellington to the hinterland. Maybe Bill McHenry will work some Duke into the set when he plays at the Barncastle, in Blue Hills, Maine, tonight. He’s joined by RJ Miller and fried shrimp addict, Jamie Saft. Did they get free rooms?
Ted Panken celebrated Mal Waldron’s birthday by sharing archival interviews. The beauty of the pianist’s music piqued Hank Shteamer’s interest and he evoked Ethan Iverson’s poetic investigation of his hero’s work. Here’s one by Mal I’ve always liked.
Ian Patterson dug deep into trumpeter Cuong Vu. He asked about Pat Metheny, but not about that Jackson Browne cover.
George Colligan reflected on working with Gary Bartz. Earlier in the summer an elated Bill Frisell, part of McCoy Tyner’s ensemble that particular week, said to me, “I get to work with Gary Bartz!!”
Alex W. Rodriguez put his writing career on hold and ponders how the jazz corner of Blogville has changed in the last two years.
Nicolas Payton wanted us to watch Miles having it out with Harry Reasoner. Harry: “Are you anti-white?” Miles: “Not all the time.”
Many of us have embarrassing moments in our past, but when one of the hippest jazz dudes around admits to donning a leisure suit and playing in a show band, you prepare for a wince on the seismic level. Indeed, Bill Frisell scrunches up his face when recalling his performance at “a Holiday Inn kind of place” in Warwick, R.I. in the late ’70s but, after a second or two, a half-smile blossoms. The guitarist, one of jazz’s most inventive improvisers, was a student in Boston at the time; another now-famous musician, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, was also part of the group. On the recommendation of bassist Kermit Driscoll, Frisell lightened some money woes by slipping into the band uniform (powder blue, we hope), and familiarizing himself with the highly charged emotions of Morris Albert’s “Feelings.”
“And lots of Donna Summer hits, too,” the guitarist recently recalled during a chat in New York’s Washington Square Park. “It was right when disco was starting. I remember on the second or third gig, Vinnie was bashing — he was really into Tony Williams at the time — and I started to mess around with different ideas. We were supposed to be playing it straight, but I was going all over the place. The bandleader gave me a big lecture — I almost lost the gig. I learned something there, though. I’ve always had some kind of itch to change things around.”
That impulse has worked out well for Frisell, who brings…read the rest of the piece at the Providence Phoenix. Frisell plays in Cambridge tonight and Fall River on Saturday, and Northhampton on Sunday.
Went to see Jim Hall and Ron Carter play duets last week and was reminded how deeply their art impacted me when I first started listening to jazz. Their Alone Together disc is classique to say the least. Hall is the hero of many string players, and I wondered which pieces other guitarists might choose when asked about favorites. The response is also the kickoff of a new franchise called “Five by Five.” Five players weighing in on one common subject. Hats off to the participants and Jim himself. Which JH tunes are you knocked out by? Tell the world in the “Comments” section below.
I remember one of the first times I heard Jim Hall was with Michel Petrucciani, and I got to hear them do this song. I remember vividly the altered blues/diminished kind of thing. They were playing beautiful standards, and then they got to that tune, and it sounded so modern, startling and incredible. I remembered that there was a performance on YouTube, so it would be perfect choice for this list. The first thing that stands out is the angular melody starting over the hypnotic groove. I’ve heard “Careful” played various ways, but I like the setup of this duo. At first you get that rush of tri-tones and half-step/whole step alternating…and they’re grooving so hard you’re with them immediately. Boom: it takes nothing to join them. Jim is a master duo player. He knows exactly where to place himself in relation to another person. His time is so relaxed. I love the ease with which his right hand plays, too. When he stings a note it really stands out. Great texture, very percussive. He brings in the blues, gets lyrical by bending strings. There’s such an array of colors that he brings to six choruses. And with zero flash. Rather than trying to be impressive, he reaches for things that are, in themselves, interesting. Many guitarists don’t make that kind of choice. But fast flurries for their own sake aren’t even an issue for Jim Hall – he would never do that. Equally interesting: the way he comps. As Petrucciani develops his ideas, Jim’s right there in the conversation. He’s always flowing, which is really hard to do. And not just playing 4/4, but truly engaging the partner. It’s playful. Even when you’re playing in a modern framework, there should be no fear to play the blues a bit. When you play a blue phrase – which is a beautiful thing that younger people might shy away from because they don’t want to be ‘old style’ or something – it has real impact. Jim Hall, even when he’s playing in a more angular way, reminds me of blues players of old. There’s something in his attack. It funny that I can so vividly remember first seeing him play this tune. The things that are formative really stay with you. I can always remember seeing them play “Careful” when I was a teenager.
That whole record is incredible, and that performance has struck me for a long time. In a way there are a lot of Jim Hall elements in that. You hear signature ideas. For a long time there was this notion of “Oh, Jim Hall, the gentleman guitar player, he doesn’t display chops, etc.” I thought that was funny because Jim Hall has as much chops as anyone and if you need proof, listen to “I Hear a Rhapsody.” He’s all over the place on that thing. It’s not as if he’s trying to do anything slick, he’s just playing his heart out, and that’s what comes out. He does it so effortlessly. Like wow, if anyone ever doubted that he had abilities beyond playing the one beautiful note, here’s the proof. Not only that, but what’s going on between him, Don Thompson and Terry Clarke is amazing, a real conversation. It almost sounds orchestrated, but you can tell that’s simply the way they improvise together. On this record we’re hearing Jim Hall in an extremely comfortable environment and we’re hearing things that probably wouldn’t have happened in the studio. The relaxed situation allows him to go beyond on this one. I think this is the first Jim Hall album I bought, and it has has always unfolded for me over the years. Seems like every time I listen to it, I’m hearing new things. It’s that kind of record.
When I was young and I found Jim Hall, there was an extended moment where I really had some blinders on. Everything I did was Jim. I had the same guitar, I played the same way, I would have shaved my head if I had the guts. It was a mimicery thing. I stayed in that zone for a few years. I had heard Wes Montgomery, and that got me going. “Oh man,” right? And I found a teacher in Colorado. He was encouraging me, “Yeah,you sound like Kenny Burrell, keep going.” He was being nice. He said, “Ever heard of Jim Hall? His playing might not jump out at you right away, but if you take a sec, it will.” So I got Intermodulation, the second duet disc with Bill Evans. From the moment I heard “My Man Is Gone Now,” I loved it. His sound, and the way they were playing together. I was drawn in. I’ve been trying to play that song ever since. When I first connected with Paul Motian, we rehearsed at his place with Marc Johnson, who Paul had just met, and we were just going to try and play a bit. We said “Okay, what tunes do we want to do?” And “My Man Is Gone” was one of the things we tried. Motian and Marc…Bill Evans, right? I was intimidated. I’d been trying to play that song for 20 years and couldn’t really do it. But back to Jim & Bill: the track is so simple, there’s nothing extra messing things up. And wow, the emotional power. I love both of those duet records. I’ve come to realize that the second one is a bit more tentative, which I like.
Choosing the song was a no-brainer for me. I got into this track when I was nine years old. I remember my teacher telling me to check out Jim Hall. I’d heard a couple things by him, but this was the one that stuck. The CD had two versions, and I studied the difference between the two. Became obsessed with them, really. At first I was knocked out by the rhythm guitar playing; Jim kind of takes an adaptation of the Freddie Green approach. No matter what Bill Evans does – block-chord, single note – Jim is never opposing him. He’s always working towards Bill. I was just saying friend today that there’s this incredible steadfastness to Jim’s playing, meaning no matter what figure or idea he plays, he lets it live a full life. He might offer fragments of a line, but he shows you variations. At many points, if Bill were to drop out completely, Jim’s line would be its own fascinating statement. It baffles me. His lines are so clear. He’s a metronome in the best sense, solid but human. And he’s often got this free floating thing going on. I studied these tracks six years straight, no joke. My parents used to always keep the CD in their car. Another idea: The tone he has is rather unheard of. If I had that set-up I feel like I’d be totally dry, no nuance. But Jim sounds like he’s in a cathedral. The reverb is in his touch. Brilliance and clarity of intention – wow. If you have a healthy relationship with your touch, it’s going to come through crystal clear, whether you play through a tin can or a state of the art sound system.
He was one of the main guys I’d listen to when I was figuring out my direction. These days I revisit him for inspiration. He reminds me of what I enjoy about music. I picked this tune because it’s like a distillation of the things that make Jim Hall Jim Hall. He has some humor here. He’s quoting “Mood Indigo” with the actual Ellington voicings, but in distant keys from “In a Sentimental Mood,” so it’s a bit of a funny sidestep. And I don’t think of him having a heavy blues voice, but he sneaks in some really traditional blues lines, which is another great Jim Hall thing: sneaking stuff into a piece in really creative ways. You’re always surprised about what he did and where he did it. The other thing I hear in Jim Hall is the motion he puts into a piece. In this track, he’ll interpret the melody in a certain way and the line will go down and become the bass line and you get these two-note motion things that are interesting. It really keeps things moving in a very personal way. He’s got that kind of legato touch, but he goes from note to note – he’s almost sliding around. It’s almost like the individual notes don’t matter, because the way he gets there directs your ear so strongly. It’s a really heavy thing about his playing that gets overlooked: How he gets from place to place. That subtlety of sound and dynamics. Incredible. My dad is a guitar player. We had Jim Hall records. The other reason I picked this track is because when I was a teenager I loved this track so much I wrote him a letter. I wanted to tell him how much I loved the piece. I didn’t know what was going on musically, but the piece moved me. I wrote to the label, Tel Arc Jazz. A couple weeks later I was doing my homework or whatever the phone rings, and my dad says, “Hey, it’s for you. It’s Jim Hall.” I said “Get out of here,” but it really was. I picked up the phone and low and behold it was Jim. I don’t even remember what we talked about. I was too thrilled. Amazingly, he had gotten the letter, read it, dialed information and called. Amazing. Who would do that, go that far? I would up taking some classes with him later.
Lee Konitz strolled downstairs from the second floor dressing room at the Blue Note last night. When he started to wind through the tables, he began greeting folks he recognized and folks he didn’t know from Adam. “Hi, how are you,” he queried with a big smile on his face. Several fans enjoyed this informality. “Have fun,” said one fiftysomething. “You have fun, too,” replied the 83-yr-old. Then, with saxophone in hand, he took the stage and began messing with a bunch of phrases that fed the imaginations of his cohorts, guitarist Bill Frisell, bassist Gary Peacock, and drummer Joey Baron. They responded by messing with the shards of melody and rhythm that Konitz had been messing with. Almost instantly, everyone was messing with everything. A theme? Nope, no statement of theme necessary, thanks. There were few long lines, and only fleeting moments of swing tempo, but the music’s kinetics sketched out an engaging narrative. Part of it was textural, some of it was propulsive. All of it was lyrical. The level of intimacy – between the artists and with the audience – was remarkable. At one point Konitz turned to his left and told the patrons behind him not to talk so loud. He did it without an ounce animosity. A few moments later he put on his suit coat while his band mates played on, and mouthed to the customers at the table in front of him, “I’m cold, are you cold too?” Then he put his lips back on his instrument and answered a pecking query Frisell had just sent his way. Baron flammed softly behind them. Everything stopped for a moment. Peacock began to solo. The dynamic was similar to that used by Derek Bailey’s Company ensemble, quicksilver improv at its most unscripted, dazzling in it ingenuity. The sound level was muted, so was the lighting. The Blue Note seemed different than it did a few weeks earlier when I was there for another show. The interplay halted; the denouement of “All The Things You Are” had been reached. Konitz announced the tune, and added to no one in particular, “Well, that was a few of the things we are.” Baron beamed. “And now, for you dancing pleasure…,” Konitz went on by way of introduction. But the version of “Body and Soul” that came next probably was a take that would be best enjoyed sitting in a chair. Shards of melody searched for opportunities to form alliances, topsy-turvy counterpoint maneuvers tried to manufacture grace (not unlike the action on this new jewel). Things were going nicely – the music’s verité qualities were amplified somehow. I almost felt like I was on stage with them. Then more candor from Lee. “Let me have it for a few seconds,” he said to the group, as if the audience wasn’t there. The action stopped, and Konitz generated a terse soliloquy whose honesty was disarming. It was as if we were in the privacy of his apartment, listening to him decipher some musical puzzle. One more romp, this time through Bird, and this time reminding me that I recently wrote about Konitz’s dedication to perpetual inquiry, and the performance concluded. In some ways, it was like watching an off-Broadway show – that sense of sharing a tiny space made all the emotions resonate deeper. Ultimately two lessons were learned: art may well increase its impact when waxing guileless, and treating audience members like confidantes just might empower a performance. All in favor of further informality in jazz, honk twice.
Since the main thrust of Dylan’s canon has been the way he’s wielded words, it’s a bit odd that instrumentalists would be jumping into his songbook. But those Zimmy melodies are rather remarkable as well, and from Bill Frisell’s “Just Like a Woman” to Marty Ehrlich’s “I Pity The Poor Immigrant,” they offer improvisers some sweet turf to plow. Everyone’s celebrating the man’s 70th birthday, which takes place on Tuesday. Here are 10 jazz pieces to plop on your playlist.
1 “Blind Willie McTell,” Marty Ehrlich’s Dark Woods Ensemble, Sojourn (Tzadik)
Slave ships, chain gangs, bootleg whiskey – Dylan drums up a portrait of psychological decimation citing spots “where many martyrs fell” while burglarizing the melody of “St. James Infirmary.” Ehrlich salutes such incisiveness with one of his most passionate soprano outings ever. With guitarist Marc Ribot plucking along, the saxophonist goes for several deep moans, sustaining the melancholy and milking the sorrow.
2 “Dark Eyes,” Jewels & Binoculars, Jewels and Binoculars (Ramboy)
Michael Moore, Lindsay Horner, and Michael Vatcher get the prize for the deepest dedication to the Dylan songbook. From “Lay Down Your Weary Tune” to “One More Cup of Coffee” to “Sign On the Window,” they have turned overlooked nuggets into unexpected beacons on three distinct albums. “Dark Eyes” is a perfect example. Eloquence is everywhere on this genteel stroll through the sullen ballad. Somehow it finds beauty at each turn.
3 “Blowing In the Wind” Stan Getz, Reflections (Verve)
Every time it seems as if there’s nothing left to do but rubber stamp this ‘60s track as misguided hokiness, something about said hokiness becomes a bit more attractive. The soft glow of the tenor giant’s tone – full of air yet full of heart – balances the icky formula moves of the strings and the rhythm section. Commercial silliness with a heart of gold.
4 “Dirge,” Jamie Saft, Trouble (Tzadik)
There’s a chill in the air when Zimmy wanders lower Broadway mumbling “I hate myself for loving you.” Breaking up is hard to do, no doubt. Pianist Saft, in a full Dylan program, lets bassist Greg Cohen do all the emoting on this Planet Waves plaint. And tempo-wise they take the title as an instruction.
5 “I Shall Be Released,” Nina Simone, Just Like a Woman (Sony)
Odd that she would use a slow grind groove to wax plaintive about being hemmed in, but then again idiosyncrasy is her stock in trade. It’s got the church, it’s got the barroom, and the depth of its blues reverberates in several key phrases (“every man must fall”). This album also features a capable take on “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues.”
6 “The Times They Are A-Changing,” Joshua Redman, Timeless Tales (For Changing Times) (Warner Bros)
He attacks it from the downbeat, like he can’t wait for everyone within earshot to heed the call. When I first heard it I thought it was a tad fussy – over-arranged. But Josh has a way of making intricacy sound natural, and as the blues creep from the piano and the tempos aggressively shift (“the wheel’s still in spin,” indeed) the message hits home.
7 “Mr Tambourine Man,” Abbey Lincoln, Who Used To Dance (Verve)
She once told me that she’d never heard the iconic fantasia before she recorded it in 1996. Seems impossible, right? But the ardent way Abbey dances below that diamond sky glows is full of a newcomer’s joy. Happily, the performance also resounds with a veteran’s perspective for narrative. Gotta think she was reading the lyrics from a page in front of that mic, but between the drummer crashing and the bassist twirling, she sounds like she’s singing a story she’s been waiting forever to tell.
8 “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” Bill Frisell, East-West (Nonesuch)
In the intro, he searches for answers as he twists the melody: “Where did you go/what did you see?.” I didn’t know it was possible for desolation to be dreamy, but acting alone, Frisell comes up with a stretch of sound that could drive a few chapters of McCarthy’s The Road. Later, when Viktor Krauss and Kenny Wollesen kick in, the sweep makes everyone waltz the plank.
9 Masters Of War, Scott Amendola, Cry (Cryptogramophone)
This one takes the protest to the explosive level. You can almost see the drummer and his crew (Cline, Sheinman, Sickafoose, Crystal) landing a punch on the chin of the Bush/Cheney machine (the disc was released in 2003, during the Iraq invasion). Carla Bozulich’s wailing anguish is a blend of Yoko and Diamanda, perfectly integrating with the instrumental onslaught, especially that martial undertow.
10 “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding),” Jewels & Binoculars, Ships With Tattooed Sails (Upshot)
The buzzing alto, the pulsing rhythm section – both ignite to parallel the original’s ornery mania. Some “rules of the road have been dodged,” no question. But the trio makes sure its frenzy is lined with grace. The whole thing is utterly buoyant; even special guest Bill Frisell’s fractious solo errs on the side of shimmer. The galloping tempo is still palpable long after the music fades away.
Stephan Crump / Steve Lehman, Kaleidoscope & Collage (Intakt)
Seabrook Power Plant, II (Loyal)
Bruce Cockburn, Sunwheel Dance (True North)
Joe Fiedler Trio, Sacred Chrome Orb (Yellowsound)
Andy Friedman, Laserbeams & Dreams (City Salvage)
Various Artists, Everybody Wants To Be A Cat (Disney)
Kris Davis, Rye Eclipse (Fresh Sounds)
Middle Brother, Middle Brother (Partisan)
Jeremy Udden & Plainville, If The Past Seems So Bright (Sunnyside)
Bill Frisell’s 858 Quartet, Sign of Life (Savoy)