The DuPlex on 1/19/17 welcomed back Boston jazz historian Dick Vacca. For this "Boston and Beyond" show, Dick brought in material that illustrated the early work of a number of Boston artists and how that work evolved (BTW, Dick's blog has an interesting salute to Nat Hentoff). Check out the playlist, then:
My mother, Marcia Provizer, died on December 24, at the age of 93. We are very grateful that her end came quickly.
Taking a time out from the usual musical motifs, I am posting my eulogy to her, delivered on Tuesday, December 27, at the Levine Chapels in Brookline.
With the death of a beloved parent like Marcia, all the ambivalences we have of how the universe operates rise to the surface. We think: Is this really how it works: One day you rise up and the next, you're struck down. What game is this, in which no matter what role you play-king, queen, bishop- you are, in the end, just a pawn.
And yet, some people-and Marcia was one-some people have the natural gift of playing the game un-self-consciously, selflessly yet passionately. This, despite being a woman who was forced to mourn so many early deaths: her dear husband in his 40's, her parents in their 50's. Her close friends Evelyn and Bill and others, well before their time.
Despite these losses, this was a woman who continued to have the capacity to experience joy; to laugh and to celebrate life. Why? How could this be? It was because she had the capacity to GENERATE joy. To generate laughter, to lift up people from their sorrows and show them they were worth loving.
She was musical and a talented writer, but with people, she was a genius.
As Marlene said, we joked that no one could "work a room" like her, but when she worked a room, it was not to bring attention to herself, but to bring other people into the energy of the party; to let them know they were seen and cared for.
How many life stories was she able to evoke from people within the first 10 minutes after she met them? How much loyalty and love did she engender from the hundreds of seniors that she took on trips, standing at the front of the bus for hours, telling jokes and making the passage of time a pleasure for Her people? How was she able to make me feel right and justified in pursuing my own passions despite how harebrained they really were?
And now she is gone. She had been leaving for some time. And, as so many others have, I went through the hard process of becoming more the parent as she became more the child. Yet, despite the falls and hospitalizations, the increasing lack of mobility and what must have been some very disorienting delusions, she still retained that magical capacity to emanate joy.
In the last couple of months, in her final home at NewBridge, she grew much more quiet. She ate little and was not the voluble person she once was. But when I went there the day she died, everyone hugged me and told me what a sweet and lovely woman she was. They had all experienced the magic of her gift despite how diminished she was. And I said, boy you should have seen her in her prime.
She lived a long life and her longevity is a consolation to us, but there is a hole in our hearts that can't be filled.
What comforts me now and I hope it does you is this: Although we now say goodbye to the physical presence of Marcia Yoffee Provizer, we will never say goodbye to her spirit.
This blog has had over 500,000 hits since its inception. Brilliant Corners was started by Chris Rich, who first posted on 7.18.09. I took
over on 3.28.10. I'd like to thank everyone who visits the page-even the Russian hackers, who seem to have boosted the number lately. I welcome all feedback, suggestions, brickbats and kudos.
PLAYLIST Paul Bley "Santa Clause Is Comin' to Town" (1953), on Debut
Dave McKenna "Jingle Bells" from "Christmas Party-Holiday Piano Spiked With Swing" (1997), on Concord
Ray Charles "Winter Wonderland" from "Spirit of Christmas" (1956) on MGM
Charlie Parker "White Christmas" from "Live at Royal Roost" (1948) on Savoy
Charles Brown "Christmas in Heaven" from "Christmas in Heaven" (1965) on Jewel Records
Eyal Vilner Big Band "Sevivon" from "Hanukkah - EP" (2016) on Eyal Vilner Big Band
Joe Pass "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" from "Joe Pass - Six String Santa" (1992) on LaserLight Digital
Louis Armstrong "Twas the Night before Christmas" (1971) on Continental
Amos Milburn "Let's Make Christmas Merry, Baby"(1948) on Aladdin
Frank Sinatra "Let It Snow" from "Christmas Songs" (1948), on Columbia
Joseph Spence "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" from "Living On The Hallelujah Side" (1980) on Rounder
The Soul Saints Orchestra "Santa's Got A Bag Of Soul" (1994) on Hot Pie and Candy records
Charles Brown "Merry Christmas Baby" from "Cool Christmas Blues" (1984), on Bullseye Blues
Fats Domino "Jingle Bells" from "Christmas is a Special Day" (2006), on Cap
Otis Redding "White Christmas" (1967) on Atco
The Blind Boys Of Alabama "Last Month Of The Year" from "Go Tell it on the Mountain" (2008), on Real World
Clarence Carter "Back Door Santa" (1968) on Atlantic
Vince Guaraldi "Christmas Time Is Here" from "A Charlie Brown Christmas" (1965) on Fantasy
Funk Machine "Soul Santa" (1973) on Creative Funk
Ella Fitzgerald "The Christmas Song" from "A Swinging Christmas" (1960) on Verve
John Coltrane Quartet "Greensleeves" from "Africa Brass" (1961) on Impulse
Chet Baker "Joy To The World" from "A Christmas Jazz Album" (1997) on Dinemec Jazz
Duke Pearson "Wassail Song" from "Merry Old Soul" (1965) on Blue Note
Wynton Marsalis "We Three Kings" from "Crescent City Christmas Card" (1989) on Columbia
Louis Armstrong "Cool Yule" from "Louis Armstrong With The Commanders" (1953), on Decca
Fats Waller "Swingin' Them Jingle Bells" (1936) on Victor
Dianne Reeves "Christmas Waltz" from "Christmas Time is Here" (2004) on Blue Note
Ray Charles "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" from "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (2009), on Concord
1) Who recorded with both Ma Rainey and Pearl Bailey?
Hot Lips Page
2) Who recorded with both Johnny Dunn in 1922 and Coltrane in '61?
3) Who recorded with both the '27 Goldkette band and '47 Thornhill?
4) Who played with both James Reese Europe and Dizzy?
5) Who recorded with both Bix and Monk?
Pee Wee Russell
6) Who played with both Kid Rena and Sir Charles Thompson?
7) Who recorded with Henry Busse, Louis Jordan and Louis Armstrong?
8) What sax player played with both Miles Davis & Blood, Sweat and Tears?
9) Who played himself in the movies Screaming Mimi and Ocean's 11?
10) Who Played with both the Symphony Orchestra of Los Angeles and Joe Venuti?
11) Who recorded with WIlbur Sweatman and Charles Mingus?
12) Who played with Keppard in the Original Creole Orch and recorded with Bird & Martial Solal? Bechet
13) Who played with Lu Waters & Capt. Beefheart?
The DuPlex Mystery Jazz Hour of 12.15.16 on WZBC.ORG featured Fred Katz (1919–2013), who may have been the most accomplished cellist jazz has seen. After studying under Pablo Casals and performing with several symphony orchestras, Katz made the move to jazz, performing with drummer Chico Hamilton and leading many groups himself. Katz also did film scores, including a bunch for Roger Corman-A Bucket of Blood and The Wasp Woman.
His solos and his compositions are an interesting hybrid of "inside" jazz, classical techniques and harmonic experimentation.
Feelin the Blues, from "Fred katz and His Jammers" Fred Katz (cel) / Don Fagerquist (tp) // Gene Estes (vb) / Leroy
Vinnegar (b) / Lenny McBrowne (d) / Johnny Pisano (gtr), (1959) on
"Elegy" from "Fred katz and His Jammers"-Fred Katz (cel) / Don
Fagerquist (tp) /Gene Estes (vb) / Leroy Vinnegar (b) / Frank Butler (d)
/ / Johnny Pisano (gtr), (1959) on Decca
Chico Hamilton quintet "Jonalah" from "Sweet Smell of Success" reedist/flutist Paul Horn, bassist Carson Smith, cellist Fred Katz, guitarist John Pisano (1957) on Decca
"I Remember Clifford" from "Carmen McCrae For Cool Ones" ,Fred Katz - arranger, conductor, cello, Buddy Collette - flute, alto saxophone, (1958) on Decca
"Old Paint" from "Folk Songs for Far Out Folk" Gene Estes,
vibes - Billy Bean, guitar - Johnny T. Williams, piano - Mel Pollen,
bass - Jerry Williams, drums, (1958) on Warner Brothers
"Pluck It" from "Zen"-Fred Katz, cello - Chico Hamilton, drums & tympani - Paul Horn, alto flute & clarinet - John Pisano, guitar - Carson Smith, bass, (Jazz, 1957) on Pacific Jazz
"Science Fiction," 45 rpm record- Fred Katz Quintet With Ensemble, Paul Horn (flute, clarinet, alto sax, piccolo) Fred Katz (cello) John Pisano (guitar) Carson Smith (bass) Chico Hamilton (drums) (1955) on Pacific Jazz
"Take the A Train/Perdito" Chico Hamilton Quintet from "Ellington Suite" Alto Saxophone, Flute – Paul Horn, Bass – Carson Smith Cello – Fred Katz Drums – Chico Hamilton Guitar – Jim Hall, Tenor Saxophone, Alto Saxophone – Buddy Collette, (1958) on World Pacific
"Stella By Starlight" from "Fred Katz Trio at the Strollers" Fred Katz (cello), Jim Hall (guitar), Carson Smith (bass), (1955) on World Pacific
"Junk Man" Ken Nordine and the Fred Katz Group from "Son of Word Jazz" Bass – Harold Gaylor, Cello – Fred Katz, Drums – Red Holt, Guitar – John Pisano, Narrator,– Ken Nordine, (1958) on Dot
"4-5-6" from "4-5-6 Trio" Fred Katz Trio Fred Katz (cello) Johnny Pisano (guitar) Hal Gaylor (bass), (Jazz, 1958) on Decca
"Wax and Wane" from "The Rubaiyat Of Dorothy Ashby"-Dorothy Ashby - harp, koto, vocals, Stu Katz - vibraphone, Fred Katz - kalimba, Unidentified Orch.(1970) on Cadet
"Tea For Two" from "The Original Chico Hamilton Quintet at the Strollers"-Buddy Collette (clarinet), Fred Katz (cello), Jim Hall (guitar), Carson Smith (bass), Chico Hamilton (drums), (1955) on World Pacific
Trumpeter Lee Morgan was a bravura player on up-tempo tunes, but also a master at medium-slow and ballad tempi. The DuPlex Mystery Jazz Hour of 12.8.16 on WZBC presented a small sample of this beautiful work.
Lee Morgan "You Go To My Head" from "The Gigolo" 1966 Blue Note, Lee Morgan (tp), Wayne Shorter (ts), Harold Mabern, Jr (p), Bob Cranshaw (b), Billy Higgins (d)
Lee Morgan "All the Way" from "All the Way" 1958 Sunset-Lee Morgan (tp) Sonny Clark (p) Doug Watkins (b) Art Taylor (d)
Lee Morgan "I'll Never Be The Same" from "Sonic Boom" (Jazz, 1967) on Blue Note-Lee Morgan-t; David "Fathead" Newman, George Coleman (tenors); Julian Prester (tr); Cedar Walton, Harold Mabern (piano); Ron Carter, Walter Booker (bass); Billy Higgins, Mickey Roker (drums).
Lee Morgan "Flamingo" from "The Sermon!" (Jazz, 1958) on Blue Note-Lee Morgan, Jimmy Smith (org), Kenny Burrell(g), Art Blakey(d)
Lee Morgan "I Remember Clifford" from "Lee Morgan" 1957) on Blue Note-Lee Morgan,Benny Golson-ten,Gigi Gryce-alto, flute, Wynton Kelly-p, Paul Chambers-bass Charlie Persip - drums
Lee Morgan "Ceora" from "Cornbread" (Jazz, 1965) on Blue Note-Herbie Hancock(p), Billy Higgins(d), Jackie McLean(as), Hank Mobley(ts) and Larry Ridley-bass
Lee Morgan "I Remember Clifford", from "Lee Morgan Vol. 3," 1957-Lee Morgan,Benny Golson-ten, Gigi Gryce-alto, flute, Wynton Kelly-p, Paul Chambers-bass Charlie Persip - drums
Lee Morgan "I'm Old Fashioned" from "Blue Train" (Jazz, 1958) on
Blue Note-John Coltrane(ts) Lee Morgan(tp) Curtis Fuller(tb) Kenny
Drew(p) Paul Chambers(b) Philly Joe Jones(ds)
Lee Morgan, "Twilight Mist"-from "Tom Cat" Blue Note, 1964, Lee Morgan, Curtis Fuller, Jackie McLean, McCoy Tyner, Bob Cranshaw – bass, Art Blakey – drums
Jazz tunes that I think were made for the jukebox, on the Duplex Mystery Jazz Hour, 7/14/2016, 5-7 PM. i give you a little bit of jukebox history (you'll be surprised to learn when the first coin-operated music player was invented) and then it's off to the juke joint.
James Moody "I'm In the Mood For Love" from "I'm In the Mood For Love" 1949 on Prestige
Count Basie "One Oclock Jump" 1937 on Decca
Count Basie & His Orchestra "April In Paris" 1955 on Clef
Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra "Song Of India"1937 on Victor
Charles Mingus "Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting" 1959 on Atlantic
Sarah Vaughn w. Clifford Brown "Lullaby of Birdland" 1954 on Emarcy
The Jazztet "Killer Joe" 1960) on Argo Nat King Cole "Route 66" from "Soundie" Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five "What's the Use of Getting Sober" 1942 on Decca
Gene Ammons Quartet "Hittin' the Jug" 1960 on Prestige
John Coltrane "My Favorite Things"1960 on Atlantic
Duke Ellington & His Orchestra "in a Mellow Tone"1940 on Victor
Eddie Harris "Exodus" 1961 on Vee Jay
Glenn Miller & His Orchestra "Elmer's Tune" 1939 on Bluebird
Herbie Mann "Comin' Home Baby"1962 on Atlantic
Bobby Timmons "Dis Heah (This Here)" 1960 on Riverside
Stan Getz/Charlie Byrd "Desafinado" 1962 on Verve
Ray Charles "One Mint Julep" 1961 on Impulse
Jimmy Smith "Walk on the Wild Side" 1962 on Verve
Lionel Hampton "Red Top" 1959 on Audio Fidelity
Mongo Santamaria "Watermelon Man"1963 on Battie
Lee Morgan "Sidewinder"1963 on Blue Note
Ramsay Lewis Trio "The In Crowd" 1965 on ARGO
Harry James "Ciribiribin" 1939 on Brunswick
Cannonball Adderley "Mercy Mercy Mercy" 1966 on Capital
Toots Thielemans "Bluesette" 1962 on ABC Paramount
Ray Charles "What'd I Say" 1961 on ABC Paramount
Lionel Hampton and His Orchestra, Mingus Fingus-Teddy Buckner, Wendell Culley, Duke Garrette, Leo Shepherd, Snooky Young (trumpet) Andrew Penn, James Robinson, Britt Woodman, Jimmy Wormick (trombone) Jackie Kelso (clarinet, alto sax) Ben Kynard, Bobby Plater (alto sax) Morris Lane, John Sparrow (tenor sax) Charlie Fowlkes (baritone sax) Lionel Hampton (vibes) Milt Buckner (piano) Billy Mackel (guitar) Joe Comfort, Charles Mingus (bass) Earl Walker (drums). Hollywood, CA, November 10, 1947
Boppin in Boston Baron Mingus And His Rhythm; probably Vern Carlson (trumpet) probably Britt Woodman (trombone) unknown (tenor sax) Wilbert Baranco (piano) Charles Mingus (bass, vocals) unknown (drums) possibly Wilbert Baranco (vocals -2)
Illinois Jacquet And His All Stars-Bottom's Up Russell Jacquet (trumpet) John Brown (alto sax) Illinois Jacquet (tenor sax) Arthur Dennis (baritone sax) Bill Doggett (piano) Ulysses Livingston (guitar) Charles Mingus (bass) Al Wichard (drums) Hollywood, CA, circa mid August, 1945
Wilbert Baranco And His Rhythm Bombardiers-Weepin Willie; Karl George, Dizzy Gillespie, Howard McGhee, Snooky Young (trumpet) Ralph Bledsoe, Henry Coker, Vic Dickenson, George Washington (trombone) Marvin Johnson, Willie Smith (alto sax) Freddie Simon, Lucky Thompson (tenor sax) Gene Porter (baritone sax) Wilbert Baranco (piano, vocals) Buddy Harper (guitar) Charles Mingus (bass) Earl Watkins (drums), 1946
Ivie Anderson & her all stars - The Voot is Here to Stay-Karl George (trumpet) Willie Smith (alto sax) Gene Porter (tenor sax) Buddy Collette (baritone sax) Wilbert Baranco (piano, arranger) Buddy Harper (guitar) Charles Mingus (bass) Booker Hart (drums) Ivie Anderson (vocals)
Los Angeles, CA, January, 1946
Charles Mingus And His Orchestra-Shuffle Bass Boogie; Karl George, John Plonsky (trumpet) Henry Coker (trombone) Jewel Grant, Willie Smith (alto sax) Gene Porter, Lucky Thompson (tenor sax) Wilbert Baranco (piano) Buddy Harper (guitar) Charles Mingus (bass) Lee Young (drums) Claude Trenier (vocals -1,2,4)Los Angeles, CA, early 1946
Baron Mingus Presents His Symphonic Airs-Story of Love; Vern Carlson, Miles Davis (trumpet) Henry Coker (trombone) Boots Mussulli (alto sax) Lucky Thompson (tenor sax) Buddy Collette (tenor sax, flute) Herb Carol (baritone sax) Buzz Wheeler (piano) Charles Mingus (bass, cello) Warren Thompson (drums), Hollywood, 1946
Pipe Dream (Weird Nightmare) Baron Mingus And His Octet; Karl George (trumpet) Henry Coker (trombone) Marshall Royal (clarinet, alto sax) Willie Smith (alto sax) Lucky Thompson (tenor sax) Lady Will Carr (piano) Irving Ashby (guitar) Charles Mingus (bass) Lee Young (drums), 1946
Charles Mingus - Inspiration-John Anderson, Buddy Childers, Hobart Dotson, Eddie Preston (trumpet) Jimmy Knepper, Marty Smith, Britt Woodman (trombone) Eric Dolphy (alto sax, flute, clarinet) Jewel Grant, Art Pepper (alto sax, clarinet) Herb Caro (tenor sax, clarinet) William Green (tenor sax, clarinet, flute) Gene Porter (baritone sax, clarinet) Russ Freeman (piano) Red Callender, Charles Mingus (bass) Roy Porter (drums) Johnny Berger (percussion) and others
Hollywood, CA, 1949
Red Norvo Trio--Move, September Song, This Can't Be Love; Red Norvo (vibes) Tal Farlow (guitar) Charles Mingus (bass) Los Angeles, 1950
Miles Davis Sextet-Lady Bird; Miles Davis (trumpet) Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Big Nick Nicholas (tenor sax) Billy Taylor (piano) Charles Mingus (bass) Art Blakey (drums), Live Birdland, 1951
Charles Mingus Nonet-Blue Tide; Ernie Royal (trumpet) Willie Dennis (trombone) Eddie Caine (alto sax, flute) Teo Macero (tenor sax, clarinet) Danny Bank (baritone sax) Jackson Wiley (cello) John Lewis (piano) Charles Mingus (bass, arranger) Kenny Clarke (drums) Janet Thurlow (vocals -3,6,7) Paul Bley (conductor) Spaulding Givens equal Nadi Qamar (arranger) NYC, October 28, 1953
The Gordons With Hank Jones Trio-Bebopper; Hank Jones (piano) Charles Mingus (bass) Max Roach (drums) Honey Gordon (vocals -2/6) George Gordon Jr., George Gordon, Richard Gordon vocals NYC, 953
Billy Taylor Trio-Bass-Ically; Billy Taylor (piano) Charles Mingus (bass) Art Taylor (drums) NYC, summer 1953
Miles Davis Quartet - Smooch; Miles Davis (trumpet) Charles Mingus (piano) Percy Heath (bass) Max Roach (drums) WOR Studios, NYC, May 19, 1953
Charlie Parker and His Orchestra - In the Still of the Night; Junior Collins (French horn) Al Block (flute) Tommy Mace (oboe) Manny Thaler (bassoon) Hal McKusick (clarinet) Charlie Parker (alto sax) Tony Aless (piano) Charles Mingus (bass) Max Roach (drums) The Dave Lambert Singers: including Annie Ross (vocals) Dave Lambert (vocals, arranger) Gil Evans (arranger, conductor)
Fulton Recording, NYC, May 25, 1953
Dizzy Gillespie Quartet; Dizzy Gillespie (trumpet, vocals) Bud Powell (piano) Charles Mingus (bass) Max Roach (drums) "Birdland", NYC???, circa late May, 1953
Charles Mingus Nonet-Pink Topsy; Ernie Royal (trumpet) Willie Dennis (trombone) Eddie Caine (alto sax, flute) Teo Macero (tenor sax, clarinet) Danny Bank (baritone sax) Jackson Wiley (cello) John Lewis (piano) Charles Mingus (bass, arranger) Kenny Clarke (drums) Janet Thurlow (vocals -3,6,7) Paul Bley (conductor) Spaulding Givens equal Nadi Qamar (arranger), NYC, 1953
Paul Bley Trio-Zootcase; Paul Bley (piano) Charles Mingus (bass) Art Blakey (drums) NYC, 1953
Ada Moore-The Man I Love; John LaPorta (alto sax, clarinet) Wally Cirillo (piano) Tal Farlow (guitar) Oscar Pettiford (bass) Osie Johnson (drums) Ada Moore (vocals) Alonzo Levister, Charles Mingus (arranger) NYC, June 27, 1954
Thad Jones Quintet-Elusive; Thad Jones (trumpet) Frank Wess (tenor sax, flute)Hank Jones (piano) Charles Mingus (bass) Kenny Clarke (drums) Hackensack, NJ, 1954
J J Johnson & Kai Winding Quintet - Lament J.J. Johnson, Kai Winding (trombone) Billy Bauer (guitar) Charles Mingus (bass) Kenny Clarke (drums) Hackensack, NJ, August 24, 1954
Charles Mingus Sextet-Purple Heart; John LaPorta (clarinet, alto sax) Teo Macero (tenor, baritone sax) George Barrow (baritone, tenor sax) Mal Waldron (piano) Charles Mingus (bass) Rudy Nichols (drums) NYC, October 31, 1954
Charles Mingus Sextet-Minor Intrusion; Thad Jones (trumpet -1/4,7) John LaPorta (clarinet, alto sax) Teo Macero (tenor, baritone sax) Jackson Wiley (cello -1/4) Charles Mingus (bass, piano) Clem DeRosa (drums, tambourine) NYC, December, 1954
Hazel Scott w/Charles Mingus and Rudy Nichols. "A Foggy Day" on YouTube, unknown date
In How to Listen to Jazz,Ted Gioia has tasked himself with writing a book that asks people to drop their musical prejudices and open up their ears. The challenge in writing a book like is to find a middle path between, as Gioia says, "those who pretend that music is objective science and those who insist it is "subjective whimsy…" For my money, he has succeeded; talking about the nuts and bolts of melody, harmony and rhythm in a clear, comprehensible, knowing way, while finding myriad ways to communicate the joy ("jouissance") in the music.
Ted was kind enough to respond to some questions I sent him.
One of the foundations of the
book is that there are standards that are inherent in the music. Talk about the
process of teasing these out.
you want to grasp the dangers of imposing external standards on the music, just
look at the long, sad history of warring camps in the jazz world. In the 1940s,
traditional jazz musicians complained about bop because it didn’t sound like
Louis Armstrong. And modernists
dismissed traditionalists who didn’t know the bop licks. A few years later, a
similar battle erupted over the merits of West Coast jazz versus East Coast
jazz. This was followed by protracted controversies over free jazz, fusion, the
new traditionalists of the 1980s, etc.—indeed almost every new style led to
diatribes and confrontations, and a strange situation in which listeners were
told they had to choose between the combatants.
the jazz wars seem to have ended. Okay, we have a few skirmishes on the border—I
saw an exchange of fire a few days ago on the Kamasi Washington front—but this
is all child’s play compared with the full-scale battles of days gone by. And I
will be the first to celebrate the cessation of hostilities. Let’s enjoy the
there’s a larger lesson at stake here. Different genres and subgenres bring
with them their own standards, and make different demands on us. My enjoyment
of the music—and my understanding of it—have been enhanced by trying to live up
to these demands. Our response to the music comes with a responsibility—two words that derive
from the same etymological root. And part of that responsibility is to enter
into the distinctive worldview and templates that come embedded into the music.
Why was it important for you to
bring in your own experience in learning how to play this music?
book is more autobiographical than anything I’ve ever written. I felt that the
best way to teach readers how to listen to jazz is to share the path by which I
learned to listen deeply to the music. Between the ages of 15 and 25, I spent
around 10,000 hours at the piano, and many more hours studying the performances
of the best musicians I could find, in person or on record. My subsequent work
as a music critic and historian is built on this foundation.
did I learn from that apprenticeship? Sad to say, I learned to appreciate the
greatness of the masters through my own mistakes, and through all the slow,
hard work I put into gaining fluency with the basic building blocks of the
music. I struggled and fought my way through every aspect of jazz, from how to
start and end a phrase to how to how to create rhythmic misdirection and float
over the beat. I really didn’t possess a mature grasp of jazz until I was in my
late twenties and, in retrospect, I’ve often wished I had been a more
precocious learner, or had had access to skilled teachers. I really taught
myself, and a day at a time. It’s no exaggeration to say that I had to invent
my own pedagogy. But this slow path brought some advantages—I developed
analytical and methodological tools that have proven invaluable in helping me
conceptualize and articulate what’s going on in the music. I draw on these
hard-won learnings in How to Listen to
Jazz, and I feel that I have dealt with a number of key issues in a way that
hasn’t been done in other books on the subject.
Can you flesh out this quote a
bit: "We can tell that we are encountering a real work of art by the
degree to which it resists [your emphasis]our
people will tell you that our responses to music are purely subjective. But
everything I’ve learned about music runs counter to that claim. My previous
book on love songs describes in great specificity quasi-universal qualities in
music that cut across cultural and individual differences. The same is true in
my books on work songs and healing music. Music critics and historians ignore
these factors at their own risk. They undermine their work to the extent that they believe they can impose their whims or ideologies on the music.
In the course of reading jazz and
blues history, I've never encountered your interesting points that statistics
used to track diseases can also tell us about the spread of jazz and that
looking at African-American farming plots can help trace the genesis of the
blues. Why do you suppose more of this cross-discipline work hasn't been
done-or have I simply missed it?
learned these analytical techniques through sheer happenstance. In my early
twenties I studied the diffusion of innovations at Stanford Business School. My
professors had no intention of teaching me skills I could use in writing music
history books, but I later saw how these predictive models could answer key
questions in my research into early blues or traditional love songs.
the way, my readers would probably be surprised by how much my analysis of
music has been enhanced by studying microeconomics, game theory, statistics,
business strategy and other issues outside the typical purview of music
critics. This is true of both my writings on music history but also my writings
and talks on the current music industry.
I love that you call those who
deconstruct and recombine musical memes "the gene splicers of jazz."
Why did you choose that metaphor rather than alluding to the idea of
notion of influence tends to promote linear and static thinking. But when we
apply the metaphor of DNA and genetics to our discussions of musical evolution,
we can grasp the dynamic and complex nature of these processes with more
for example, saxophonist Lester Young. A static lineage model would tell you
that he was a major influence on Stan Getz and a handful of other postwar
saxophonists. End of story. But a better way of understanding his impact is to
look at how his expansion of a ‘cool’ vocabulary, with its emphasis on
melodicism and understatement, entered into the global music DNA—and could be
adapted by anyone seeking a certain kind of aesthetic experience. Once you view
Lester Young in that way, you start hearing how he shaped movie soundtracks,
bossa nova, pop music, a cappella vocal arrangements, even classical works such
as John Adams’ recent sax concerto. You understand Young better by viewing his
innovations—which were essentially genetic mutations in the sphere of music—in
this wider context.
You have a definite brief against "global entertainment corporations." Tell us why and what you think might be done to ameliorate their negative influence.
I listened to more than one thousand new releases last year, and I am on track to do the same this year. I cast a very wide net in my listening—I check out all music genres, and though I pay attention to highly-promoted commercial releases from the major labels, I also listen closely to little-known projects from small indie labels and self-produced albums.
This is a large investment of time, but it gives me valuable insights into the priorities of the global entertainment corporations. I can see what they are choosing to promote, and compare it against the projects they turn down or ignore.
And what do I learn from this? My conclusions are depressing ones. First let me share the good news: there is more outstanding music recorded today than at any point in history. But here’s the bad news: it’s harder to find than ever before. The big entertainment corporations are doing a terrible job of scouting talent, nurturing it, and giving it a platform to reach a large audience. There’s a crisis in the music business. And this isn’t just my personal opinion—just look at sales figures and financial statements, or talk to the talented musicians who are trying to build careers in this environment.
Why are labels making such bad decisions? We can speculate on the causes. I would love to give an ear test to folks making decisions at the major labels. How skilled are they at actually hearing what’s happening on a recording, and grasping what the musicians are doing? And then I’d like to give them a polygraph test to see which is more important to them, promoting artistry or making money? And, then, I’d like to have a test to gauge their degree of commitment to musical values, and their courage in pushing against the groupthink and conformity of the huge corporations that employ them. Finally, I would like to compare these results against those of the visionary label execs from today and the past—people like John Hammond or Manfred Eicher or George Martin. I have a hunch we would find some answers to our questions, no?
Do you have a specific idea who
the audience will be for this book? Do you hope it will work its way into
the educational market?
been blessed with great readers. I hear from them all the time—especially in
the last few years, with the rise of social media and worldwide connectivity.
And I learn from them too.
of my readers are musicians, some of them absolute masters of their
instruments. Others played in bands in the past and have transitioned to other
careers, yet still have big ears and trained sensibilities. Some have never had
musical training, but care deeply about the music. This very smart audience
keeps me honest. I have them in mind while I write, and that helps me avoid
glib and facile treatment of the subjects at hand.
try to write in such a way that every one of these readers is served by the
book. My goal with How to Listen to Jazz
was a simple one, but also challenging: I wanted to provide an entry point into
jazz for newcomers, but do it in such a way that even a very knowledgeable fan
would find something useful or insightful on every page. I’ll leave it to
others to judge whether I live up to that goal.
In an interview, Charles McPherson talks about the influence Charlie Parker had on trombonist Jimmy Knepper. I nod internal agreement, but also think: Knepper found musical pathways that are not available to any other instrument. To me, he was among the most expressive trombonists; one who used tremendous technique in service of the music, not in service of the technique.
Knepper was quoted as saying ''in a lot of ways, [jazz is] just shallow, superficial and pyrotechnical.'' Maybe that's why it was so important to him to prove that jazz could be played that was not shallow, superficial and pyrotechnical for its own sake.
Piling on the ironies, although Knepper sounded great in any setting, I believe he was most expressive in the musical context provided by the man who assaulted him and almost ended his career: Charles Mingus. Mingus' music gave a kind of scope that freed Knepper. The stops, starts, changes of tempo and mood, freedom to explore less "refined" tonal directions, provided a dramatic stage on which Knepper thrived. Yet, in 1981, Knepper told Downbeat: ''It was very depressing to think that I'm linked with this guy for the rest of my life." I have no problem with the contradictory nature of all this. It gives the lie to the easy assumptions that people make about personality and art. Before getting to Mingus music, let's start with Knepper in a more straight-ahead context, Here he is in a 1957 release, A Swinging Introduction from September 1957 with Knepper (tb), Gene Quill (as), Evans (p), Teddy Kotick (b) and Dannie Richmond (d). The tone is there-a good deal of vibrato; harmonically it's squarely in the bop idiom, but with some unusual interval leaps and a subtly dramatic quality.
Here he is in his first Mingus recording, Tijuana Moods, recorded the same year-1957. He responds well to this rhythmic environment, which is both more demanding and looser. He also begins to explore the trombone's tonal palette. Here's Jimmy on Gentleman's Agreement (1983) with Danny RIchmond, drums, George Adams, tenor sax, High Lawson, piano. Mike RIchmond, bass. Knepper 's statement is solid and contains almost all the elements we find in the Mingus context. Still...
In this final tune, the title track from Tonight At Noon (1961), It sounds as if Knepper has completely internalized the resonance of this Mingus group. Everything he plays sounds like it comes from a complete emotional commitment. Thanks, Jimmy.
There's been an enormous response to the death of Prince. An internet search leads me to think that he's been eulogized in every major media outlet in the U.S. and many abroad. Consistently, the emphasis is on his musical genius and his influence on popular culture. A common riff is that "pop music will never be the same," but details of what this means are sketchy. The interplay between persona/projection/charisma and the music itself is always complicated. In the case of Prince, the music is both collaborator and counter-foil tothe gender ambiguity of his look and style, the contrast between his stage presence and his reclusiveness and the tension between his Jehovah's Witness-straightness and his sexualexplicitness. These kinds of tensions were present in the work and very public lives of Ray Charles, James Brown and Michael Jackson. However, the cultural impact of these three resides more completely on the bedrock of their music. Prince is reckoned to have done everything supremely well; everything being the key word. Time will tell us if his eclecticism begat something musically new and reproduce-able, or if his influence will ultimately derive from his persona. In the case of jazz, media saturation has always been quantum levels lower, especially for black musicians, and the paradigms I describe above were unlikely to play out as publicly. Still, there are parallels to be seen in jazz careers. Below are five important figures in jazz and brief descriptions of how I think the personal and the musical interacted to determine the scope and area of their influence.
W.C. Handy: His compositions, chiefly St. Louis Blues and Memphis Blues, were widely performed; he organized an orchestra that hovered between ragtime and jazz and he did have some influence within the world of popular music. However, his organizing and entrepreneurial skills brought him much wider cultural renown, to the point where he is widely known as "Father of the blues;" a phrase that both overstates and misplaces his musical importance.
Jelly Roll Morton: His work in the 1920's as pianist,composer, arranger and synthesizer of influences marks him as musically influential in jazz. However, his "re-discovery" and narration of jazz history through the Library of Congress recordings-inaccurate or not-broadened his influence into the larger cultural sphere. His gold teeth, braggadocio and pimp-style also played a part in keeping his name elevated above other contributors, like James P. Johnson.
King Oliver: A trumpet player who was influential musically in the late 19-teens to mid 1920's. You might liken him to Sidney Bechet in that respect, but unlike Bechet-a strong, sometimes volatile character who carried on for many years-Oliver's health issues, a lack of personal charisma and business naivete greatly shortened his career. Oliver's wider cultural impact has been largely relegated to "the man who brought Louis Armstrong to Chicago."
Duke Ellington: His work remains a perennial influence in jazz (not a word he cared for), but he has achieved wider cultural renown. Aside from songs and jazz compositions for his orchestra, he wrote film, television and sacred music and was compared with America's best "classical" composers. His persona is relevant. Ellington seemed perfectly comfortable performing for the rabble and for royalty and his elegant and somewhat enigmatic personal style had a lot to do with bringing him wider cultural acclaim.
Charlie Parker: The co-creator of Bop presents an interesting case. The jazz community acknowledges him as arguably its most influential musician. During his life, he was acknowledged by members of the wider cultural, non-jazz elite as an artist of the highest calibre. Yet, while his name took on a meme-like character ("Bird lives" graffiti) and many in the non-jazz community may say they have heard his name, the trappings of wide cultural renown aren't there. What do I mean? Streets, schools and scholarships very rarely if ever, carry his name. Chic chefs, fashion trend setters, politicians, advertisers and mainstream media seldom, if ever, refer to him as a cultural touchstone. Had his drug use not been so widely known, his place in the wider culture would probably be very different.
Writer-director-producer Don Cheadle took this gig seriously. The cinematography, costuming and editing of the film are strong and Cheadle's performance throughout is impeccable. He completely inhabits the persona of the "late Miles." Also to his credit, Cheadle lets the relationship between Miles' musical genius and being an utter bastard play out, without resorting to childhood flashbacks or other filmic devices meant to lead us to psychological "insights." The first part of "Miles Ahead" gives hope that with the charismatic, controversial genius Miles Davis at the center of the movie, and so well portrayed, there will be enough inherent drama without the film resorting to cinematic cliches. But, while there are moving and satisfying scenes throughout, melodrama starts to creep in and the length of time devoted to car chases and trumped-up plot devices vitiates much of the original promise. The power of the performances of Cheadle and Emavatzy Corinealdi, who portrays Frances Davis, become subsumed in a dense layer of sub-plots that, in the end, don't add up to much. Here's the jazz snob portion of our review: I didn't like the fact that Miles-in-the-film says he rescued Trane from walking the bar. Trane was years away from that. I also don't like that they had Miles playing what looked to me like a sliver-plated Bach trumpet. Someone can tell me if I'm wrong and that it was a Besson Brevete. To his credit, Cheadle mostly did a good miming job and seemed to actually play "Fran-Dance" in one scene. The scene with Miles and Gil Evans in the studio made Evans completely passive and Miles the creative presence. By all accounts, Miles was a good collaborator and they didn't need to overcompensate like that. In fact, the white characters were invariably shmucks and or thieves when, as noted above, Miles collaborated well with musicians of any race. After taking heat-in real life-for having the white Bill Evans in his band, Miles said:"I don't care if a dude is purple with green breath as long as he can swing." Having Miles say that in this film would have been inimical to its racial approach. You don't have to overdraw the difference between racist thug cops and Teo Macero and Gil Evans, but you can have more balance than this movie does. Maybe filmmakers are right in thinking there's not enough drama in the jazz life to sustain an audience's attention for 90 minutes; maybe the exigencies of the form mean they do have to cook the books. If life was fair (hah!), critics would be forced to say what they would put in the film instead of car chases and one-dimensional foils. Ok. How about filling that time by having the audience sit in the theatre with nothing on the screen, just listening to the music of Miles Davis (and this from a guy who's a member of SAG). Ay, caramba; quelle idee.
I went to a show at the Outpost 186 on 3.24.16. The group was an adventurous cohort that included: Charlie Kohlhase/Alipio C. Neto – saxes / Daniel Rosenthal – trumpet, flugelhorn / Bill Lowe – tuba / Curt Newton - drums They played almost all original material and some by John Tchicai. As a group and as soloists, the musicians demonstrated their command of jazz innovations of the last 60 years-angular heads, group improvisation, harmonics overblowing, dissonance, bi-tonality, world music influences and non-swing rhythm section approaches. After this solid musical foray, I went to a friend's house to continue my aural immersion.
Rob put on Cannonball Adderly's 1961 Riverside album "Know What I Mean," And, although a great admirer of Cannonball, I found his playing conservative and unadventurous.
Then, I asked for some Lee Morgan and he put on "Search for the New Land" from 1964. Lee and Wayne are brilliant, but the tunes less so. The title track, an extended composition, aims high, but is not substantial; much pentatonic noodling, tremolos, ostinati. The other tunes are more squarely in the Lee hard-bop mold, but they seem kind of tepid in the light of compositions that Ornette and others had been producing and compared to what I heard earlier that night at the Outpost. The moral of the story: when your ears have been recently opened up, be prepared for some disjunctions when you listen to your old musical pals.