Tuesday, December 15, 2009

BOTTI MADNESS BEGINS AT THE BLUE NOTE: CHRIS BOTTI THREE WEEK RESIDENCE

Tonight, Chris Botti will begin his three-week run that will include Christmas and New Year's Eve. Botti considers the Blue Note to be his favorite tour stop of the year, and we're as excited to have him as you are to see him. There are still tickets available - act fast! See you soon and happy holidays!

Check out this video of Chris Botti playing My Funny Valentine in the Golden Horns episode of Legends of Jazz:

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

ENTER TO WIN: 2 FREE TICKETS TO RAMSEY LEWIS @ BB KING BLUES CLUB NOVEMBER 28


RAMSEY LEWIS will be performing a CD Release show at BB King Blues Club & Grill located in Times Square in New York on November 28, 2009. Enter to win a chance to see him on Saturday with his stellar trio. Tickets will be awarded via email by noon on Friday, so make sure you check your email to see if you are a winner, and follow the instructions below:

TO ENTER:
 


1. Email your name and phone number to contests@bluenote.net
2. In the Subject Line, please title your email "BN BLOG CONTEST - RAMSEY LEWIS @ BBKINGS"
3. Indicate which set you would like to tickets for; 7:30pm or 10:00pm.

Monday, November 16, 2009

ENTER TO WIN: 2 FREE TICKETS TO SAVION GLOVER: JAMMIN' WITH THE MASTERS @ THE BLUE NOTE!


SAVION GLOVER will be tap dancing with the jazz masters from November 17 - 22 at the Blue Note. Enter to win a chance to see him for 10:30pm sets only on Tuesday (with special guest McCoy Tyner), Wednesday (with special guest Roy Haynes), Thursday (with special guest Eddie Palmieri) or Sunday (with special guest Jack DeJohnette). Tickets will be awarded via email by noon on the day of the show, so make sure you check your email to see if you are a winner, and follow the instructions below:

TO ENTER:


1. Email your name and phone number to contests@bluenote.net
2. In the Subject Line, please title your email "BN BLOG CONTEST - SAVION GLOVER"
3. Indicate which night you would like tickets for: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Sunday, all 10:30pm sets.




Monday, October 12, 2009

ENTER TO WIN: 2 FREE TICKETS TO OMAR SOSA AT THE HIGHLINE BALLROOM ONE NIGHT ONLY 10/18/09!


A LIMITED NUMBER OF FREE TICKET PAIRS are being offered for OMAR SOSA AT THE HIGHLINE BALLROOM featuring Marque Gilmore, Childo Tomas & Mola Sylla for one night only on Sunday, October 18. The contest will end on Friday, October 16, at 5:00pm ET. To win 2 free tickets to see Omar Sosa and his band at the Highline, follow the directions below. We will contact you via email if you are a winner:
TO ENTER:

1. Email your NAME and phone number to contests@bluenote.net
2. In the Subject Line, please title your email "BN BLOG CONTEST - OMAR SOSA AT HIGHLINE BALLROOM"

*If any of these instructions are not followed, you will not be included in the contest!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

"The Very Thought Of You"

This video features one of jazz's greatest stylists, the one and only Frank Wess, performing "The Very Thought of You," one of the most beautiful ballads of all time.

"The Very Thought of You," composed by Ray Noble in 1934, was originally made a hit by Bing Crosby.

Noble, born in 1903 in England, composed many jazz standards including: "Love is the Sweetest Thing," "Cherokee," and "The Touch of Your Lips."

While many people who love jazz and read about it online know about the musicians performing in videos being described, it is much rarer to know the story behind the song, or the songs connecting one another via composer, songwriter, or arranger.

For example, consider "The Very Thought of You." Many people often think of tunes that are today considered jazz standards as being originally written for something; for a play, for a film, etc. I once saw a show in which jazz musicians paid tribute to Broadway. "The Very Thought of You" was a featured tune. However, "The Very Thought of You" was never on Broadway. It was never featured in a play - it wasn't written for one - and it wasn't on film until 1950, in Young Man With A Horn. It was written by Ray Noble for his orchestra for the purpose of performance.

Noble led a very successful English orchestra whose records sold very well in America. Upon arriving in America, Noble hired Glenn Miller to recruit American musicians for his new band. While they did have a successful run at the Rainbow Room, his American band wasn't as successful; the musician's grew to look up to Miller and resent Noble.

It is really interesting to discover these fascinating relationships between tunes that we all know and love, but may or may not know the complete story behind them.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Happy Birthday Bud Powell

Last week marked what would have been the 83rd birthday of John Coltrane. As an avid reader of jazz writings on the internet, I saw how much publicity this event drew. While certainly a big occasion, I was shocked this morning when I discovered, via a Wikipedia browse, that last week also marked Bud Powell's birthday. While no one would argue against the influence Coltrane has had on jazz, neither would anyone argue against Bud Powell's influence - which may be greater - however, somehow, Coltrane's odd numbered birthday greatly overshadowed Powell's barely publicized, certainly momentous 85th birthday.

I find it shocking that despite the high regards with which jazz fans and jazz critics hold Powell, there was no online mention of this historic milestone.

I wonder why this is so.

Matthew Shipp posted his response to this on Justin Desmangles' Blog, "New Day." (http://sisterezili.blogspot.com/2009/09/matthew-shipp-justin-desmangles.html)

He wrote, "To answer your question about how Bud gets lost in the discourse -in jazz piano now everybody views things through a post-miles prism which means piano is viewed through the -keith-chick and herbie prism with people seeing bill evens as the father of that.
other than that now it is hip to view monk as a weird genius-and the marketing of that idea is easy because the
name-and the persona all fit together in a way where that idea can be marketed. So bud just becomes a bebop pianist in a lot of people's minds and to make matters worst when people think of bebop they think of bird and diz who are the salesman of the idea of bebop and who most people think of the founders of it. That is a paradox considering bud was the heaviest of all of them.
thanks,
matthew shipp"

As a student of jazz in New York, a pianist of whom Powell is a main influence, I notice how many of my friends and fellow students listen to and are influenced by Coltrane. I also notice how few young pianists and musicians truly listen to Powell, but for some reason, always mention him as one of the "greats." It's as if somehow, in their education, the name Bud Powell has been put on a pedestal, but in all honesty, his music has barely been surfaced. It seems that to many, he has been dismissed as a Charlie Parker clone on the piano, a disciple of the bebop founder. However, in truth, Bud was one of the founders, he has many times "out-birded Bird," and is, in Matthew Shipp's opinion and certainly others', "the heaviest of them all."

Has Bud Powell become less influential over time?

I would love to start a discussion about why the 83rd birthday of John Coltrane has overshadowed the 85th birthday of Bud Powell.

Please post your comments and let's start a discussion!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

ENTER TO WIN: 2 FREE TICKETS TO JAMES CARTER & JOHN MEDESKI'S HEAVEN ON EARTH BAND @ THE HIGHLINE BALLROOM

A LIMITED NUMBER OF FREE TICKET PAIRS are being offered for HEAVEN ON EARTH's CD RELEASE SHOW AT THE HIGHLINE BALLROOM FEATURING JAMES CARTER, JOHN MEDESKI, ADAM ROGERS, JAMES GENUS & MATT WILSON for one night only on Wednesday, Steptember 30. The contest will end on Tuesday, September 29, at 5:00pm ET. To win 2 free tickets to see The Heaven On Earth band at the Highline, follow the directions below. We will contact you via email if you are a winner:
TO ENTER:

1. Email your name and phone number to contests@bluenote.net
2. In the Subject Line, please title your email "BN BLOG CONTEST - HEAVEN ON EARTH AT HIGHLINE BALLROOM"

*If any of these instructions are not followed, you will not be included in the contest!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Blast From The Past: Piano Duo

Searching through the vast video archives of YouTube, I stumbled upon this gem.

While piano duets are fairly common, it isn't often that piano duets feature pianists of different generations, especially pianists of these generations.

While Hank Jones has teamed up with everyone from Kenny Barron to Brad Mehldau in recent years, it isn't often that Earl Hines teamed up with someone of a more modern generation.

While Byard is certainly influenced greatly by Hines and certainly plays in a Hines-ish style here, a video and pairing of this sort is very uncommon.

All of that aside, this video is truly phenomenal. It shows the great interplay between two fantastic pianists and a drummer. It is amazing to watch the awe in Byard's face as he plays with one of his heroes.

Enjoy!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

NY TIMES REVIEWS THE OVERTONE QUARTET AT THE BLUE NOTE


September 10, 2009
Music Review Overtone Quartet

An Experienced Leader Brings Out a Collectivist Spirit


Photo by Hiroyuki Ito, NY Times

There are few musicians in jazz with a more untroubled sense of leadership than the bassist Dave Holland. Since the first recordings made under his name, in the early 1970s, Mr. Holland has expressed his point of view with gracious clarity, drawing out the best from his partners while keeping a firm hand on the tiller. But he’s after a greater spirit of collectivism with the Overtone Quartet, which made its first public appearance at the Blue Note on Tuesday night before a handful of tour dates this fall.


The group, with the saxophonist Chris Potter, the pianist Jason Moran and the drummer Eric Harland — musicians born in the 1970s — shares most of its DNA with the Monterey Quartet, which was convened in 2007 for that year’s Monterey Jazz Festival. (A sharp live album was released a couple of weeks ago on the festival’s label, licensed to Concord.) The crucial difference is in the piano chair: the Monterey Quartet featured Gonzalo Rubalcaba, a player of drier touch and steelier temperament than Mr. Moran.


The change registers at almost every level. Throughout the first set on Tuesday, Mr. Moran was far more than a different piece of the puzzle: his rumbling cadences and insinuating voicings took their place at the core of the band, inspiring a more elastic interaction from the others, particularly Mr. Harland. The only person who seemed not to yield to any shift was Mr. Holland, holding down a series of syncopated vamps with his usual definitive aplomb.


Every member of the group had at least one composition in play, and their selections were characteristic. Mr. Moran’s was “Blue Blocks,” a tune with a cascading line and flickers of gospel consonance; it brought out Mr. Potter’s soulful, pithy side. “Treachery,” by Mr. Harland, opened the set on a radiant note, with rhythmic jolts and a fanfare-like melody. “The Outsiders,” by Mr. Potter, was a heady contraption, home to enough moving parts and somber harmony to suggest the influence of chamber music.


Because this is the sort of group that can feel overstocked with poise, there was an important place for ballads in the set. “Maiden,” by Mr. Harland, readily fit the bill, sounding at times like a lullaby. “Walking the Walk,” by Mr. Holland, was more of a border case, with a serpentine bass line in 10/8 meter. What brought it into ballad territory was the tone struck by Mr. Moran, on Fender Rhodes electric piano. Apart from some small discursive tangents, his solo revolved around two notes, and he made this feel like a product of deep focus.


After so much new music Mr. Holland placed a chestnut at set’s end: “Interception,” from his landmark 1973 album, “Conference of the Birds.” With its asymmetrical rhythmic pulse it sounded strikingly contemporary — and the musicians, straining brightly against tempo and tonality, managed to strengthen that impression, all together.


The Overtone Quartet performs through Sunday at the Blue Note, 131 West Third Street, West Village; (212) 475-8592, bluenote.net. For more tour dates, daveholland.com.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

ENTER TO WIN: 2 FREE TICKETS TO KENDRA ROSS AT THE BLUE NOTE MONDAY, SEPT. 21!


KENDRA ROSS will be performing for One Night Only at the Blue Note on September 21. The contest will end on Friday, September 18 at 5pm ET. To win 2 free tickets to see Kendra Ross, follow the directions below. We will email you back if you are a winner:

TO ENTER:


1. Email your name and phone number to contests@bluenote.net
2. In the Subject Line, please title your email "BN BLOG CONTEST - KENDRA ROSS"
3. Indicate which set you would like tickets for, 8pm or 10:30pm

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

NAT HENTOFF WRITES ABOUT FRANK SINATRA JR.


Legendary writer and jazz critic Nat Hentoff spent an hour interviewing Frank Sinatra Jr. just a few months ago at the Blue Note. The result is this very interesting article, published in today's Wall St. Journal.

By NAT HENTOFF;

(image by Ken Fallin)

For years, I have been careful to follow the advice Duke Ellington gave me when I was in my early twenties: "Do not categorize music or ­musicians—like 'Dixieland' or 'modern.' Listen, open yourself, to each musician." I failed to heed Duke's counsel with regard to Frank Sinatra Jr.

Figuring he'd be a shadow of his irreplaceable father, I never listened to him live and I ignored his very few recordings until this spring. I heard his most recent CD, "That Face!," released on Rhino in 2006. Backed by an ­invigoratingly swinging big band, his singing made me feel good with his personal, signature sound, infectious jazz time and conversational phrasing.

That surprise led to a long interview with Mr. Sinatra at New York's Blue Note jazz club, where he was appearing. "If I were still producing jazz ­records," I told him, "I'd ask you to come into the studio. How come you've made so few?"

"There's very little demand for my recordings," he said wryly. But he works steadily in this country and overseas, usually with a 38-piece band. On this gig at the Blue Note, he fronted an octet.

"There aren't many clubs booking big bands left," he said. "Most clubs don't have the room, let alone the money for a big band. So we play in casino theaters—not Las Vegas or Reno but in the casino showrooms in the outlying areas. And for years, during the summer months, we've played state fairs, where I'm asked over and over by high-school band directors, 'You know where an old clarinet player or trumpet player can get a job?' Schools are closing out their music departments and selling off all the instruments."

Mr. Sinatra was born in ­Jersey City, N.J. on Jan. 10, 1944. For years he seldom saw his ­father, who was on the road ­either performing or making movies. But, starting as a kid, Mr. Sinatra wanted to become a piano player and songwriter. By his early teens, he was playing and singing one-nighters on the road. At 19 he became a vocalist with Sam Donahue's band.

"Donahue was a musicians' musician," Mr. Sinatra told me, and a great teacher. "The bulk of what I knew about singing with a band started then, hanging out with him and his musicians. From then on—like mechanics hang around with other mechanics—I stayed around musicians. One of my mentors was Duke Ellington. He took me under his wing."

And although he never had a hit record or television series or movie, Mr. Sinatra has kept performing. His last name gave him some access, but the obbligato of his career, as he describes it: "A famous father means that in order to prove yourself you have to work three times harder than the guy who comes in off the street with a song to sing."

By 1968 he had performed in 47 states and 30 countries; had guested on television shows; had had one of his own briefly in 1969; had opened for stars in Las Vegas's main rooms and had had his own bands in the lounges.

"When I was a boy," Mr. ­Sinatra says of that vital phase of his education, "my father would bring me to Las Vegas. I saw all the stars perform; and late at night, there would always be a name band performing in a lounge. I remember listening to Harry James, Count Basie and many other famous bands. I ­always try to recapture the spirit of those late-night sessions in my own show."

To honor the big-band tradition, he persists in being one of the few big jazz-band leaders still touring. The elder Sinatra was known for his rigorous ­rehearsals of his sizable bands before an engagement. So, too, the younger Mr. Sinatra. In "Frank Jr., the Unsung Sinatra," Wil Haygood's July 9, 2006 article in the Washington Post, Mr. Sinatra's guitarist Jim Fox said:

"He has such high standards. He knows every third trombone part, every cello part." And during a rehearsal of "The People That You Never Get to Love"—a song on "That Face!" that I can't get enough of—Mr. Haygood ­reported:

"Halfway through, Frank ­motions for quiet from the 38-piece orchestra, then walks over and leans on the piano. 'Let's try that again. It has to be half that volume, everybody. This is a lullaby. That's what it is."

In 1988, at the request of his father, the son served as conductor and musical director for the elder Sinatra in the last years of his performances. Poet-composer-singer Rod McKuen, a friend of the elder Sinatra's for 35 years, explained on his Web site why Sinatra summoned his son to be with him and why the younger Sinatra felt that the gig was so important:

"As the senior Sinatra outlived one by one all of his conductors and nearly every ­arranger, and began to grow frail himself, his son knew he needed someone that he trusted near him. . . . He was also savvy enough to know that performing was everything to his dad and the longer he kept that connection with his audience, the longer he would stay vital and alive.

"Sinatra the younger not only put his own career on hold to become his dad's conductor but he became Sr.'s closest confidant, his truest friend."

Mr. Sinatra told me about an assignment his father gave him a year or so before his last performance: "I want to make an ­album of ballads that swing. I want the best soloists. They all have to be songs I've never sung before."

"Great," said Mr. Sinatra. "Anything else?"

"No. Get outta here."

One of the songs he brought his father was "The People That You Never Get to Love," Rupert Holmes's haunting ballad that, I suspect, becomes part of every listener's autobiography.
Tune In

"Where did you get this little puppy?" said the delighted ­father, eager to record it.

"Then age overtook him," Mr. Sinatra told me. "He never did make that album, or that song. So we do it, with the big orchestra, in the wonderful arrangement Nelson Riddle wrote."

"Sinatra Jr.," says Rod ­McKuen, "sings it every night, ­almost. It is one of the moments when the song brings to mind no one but himself. . . . [In time] the audience wises up to the fact that there is room for two Sinatras in this world after all. The beloved memory and the extraordinary new reality. . . . Each Sinatra will take his proper place."

After a 2003 performance by Mr. Sinatra, Richard Ginell wrote in the Jan. 16 Daily Variety: ­"Sinatra, Jr. might have had an easier time establishing himself had he gone into real estate. But his show made me awfully glad he decided music was his calling. There aren't too many singers around with Sinatra's depth of experience in big band music, or his knowledge of the classic American songbook. There are even fewer with such real feeling for the lyrics of a song, and such a knack for investing a song with style and personality."

There's yet another dimension to the singular son of Frank Sinatra. His composing includes a 15-minute song and monologue, "Over the Land" that is now housed in the National ­Archives. On the road as the ­nation's bicentennial was nearing, he thought of Francis Scott Key, who was on a ship in sight of Fort McHenry under British attack during the War of 1812.

"The next morning," Mr. ­Sinatra told me, "despite the rockets' red glare and the bombs bursting in air, the colors of the flag had held, it was still flying, and that's how 'The Star Spangled Banner' eventually came into being. My music is about how that flag grew in impact, where it went and the troubles it survived during its travels."

"Over the Land," which he wrote in 1976, has yet to be publicly available on a recording. But it was performed by the U.S. Air Force Symphony Orchestra at Constitutional Hall in 1984, a performance that I doubt has ever been experienced by any other jazz singer. Because after it, "a U.S. Marine in dress uniform comes up to me at my office in New York and says, 'I have a warrant to commandeer this music.' He gave me a certificate that said of 'Over the Land' that 'This is the property of the United States.'" The marine ­explained these formalities were required for 'Over the Land' to be in the national archives.

That beats a Grammy.

Spending more time with the easeful storytelling of this companionable son of Frank Sinatra, I understood why his sidemen enjoy working with him. Over the years, I've heard similar stories about the elder Sinatra's generosity of spirit from musicians who worked with him.

With my interview with Mr. Sinatra ending, I asked—as I do of just about everyone I interview —"Is there anything you haven't accomplished yet that you want to do, and expect to do?"

There was a pause. "Success would be nice," he said. "Even a little, you know."
—Mr. Hentoff writes on jazz for the Journal.

To listen to Mr. Sinatra Jr.'s work, go to http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204271104574292660988410636.html#articleTabs%3Darticle

FOLLOW THE BLUE NOTE ON TWITTER!

The Blue Note Jazz Club is now on Twitter. The page will feature more videos, interviews, giveaways, and up to date behind-the-scenes news from the Blue Note. Follow us here and don't forget to sign up!

www.twitter.com/bluenotenyc

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

ENTER TO WIN: 2 FREE TICKETS TO CECIL TAYLOR AT THE HIGHLINE BALLROOM ONE NIGHT ONLY 8/31/09!

A LIMITED NUMBER OF FREE TICKET PAIRS are being offered for CECIL TAYLOR'S SHOW AT THE HIGHLINE BALLROOM for one night only on Monday, August 31. The contest will end on Sunday, August 30, at 5:00pm ET. To win 2 free tickets to see Cecil Taylor at the Highline, follow the directions below and will contact you via email if you are a winner:

TO ENTER:


1. Email your name and phone number to contests@bluenote.net
2. In the Subject Line, please title your email "BN BLOG CONTEST - CECIL TAYLOR AT HIGHLINE BALLROOM"
3. Indicate which set (7:30pm or 10:30pm) you would like tickets for

*If any of these instructions are not followed, you will not be included in the contest!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

ENTER TO WIN: 2 FREE TICKETS TO McCOY TYNER TRIO + SPECIAL GUEST GARY BARTZ AT THE HIGHLINE BALLROOM


A LIMITED NUMBER OF FREE TICKET PAIRS are being offered for McCOY TYNER'S CD RELEASE SHOW AT THE HIGHLINE BALLROOM FEATURING GARY BARTZ for one night only on Sunday, August 23. The contest will end on Saturday, August 22, at 5:00pm ET. To win 2 free tickets to see McCoy Tyner at the Highline, follow the directions below. We will contact you via email if you are a winner:


TO ENTER:


1. Email your name and phone number to contests@bluenote.net
2. In the Subject Line, please title your email "BN BLOG CONTEST - McCOY TYNER AT HIGHLINE BALLROOM"
3. Indicate which set (7:30pm or 10:30pm) you would like tickets for

*If any of these instructions are not followed, you will not be included in the contest!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wall St. Journal Interviews Kevin Eubanks

Last night, Wall St. Journal rock and pop critic Jim Fusilli interviewed guitarist Kevin Eubanks, who will be playing at the Blue Note from tonight through Sunday. Check it out!

Kevin Eubanks on Jazz, “The Jay Leno Show” and Playing in New York
Getty

Most people know Kevin Eubanks as the musical director for “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” a position he held since 1995. But prior to that, Eubanks had a reputation for excellence as a jazz guitarist, playing with Art Blakey, Roy Haynes, Dave Holland and others. In addition to his work as a sideman, he’s recorded 18 albums as a leader. This week, he’s fronting his five-piece band at the Blue Note in New York City.

The Wall Street Journal: How does it feel to be on stage at a jazz club again?

It feels wonderful. I really love all the music we get to. Once we’re in front of an audience that’s listening and has a knowledge of what they’re listening for, it’s a vibe. If you have a commitment to what you’re doing, people are attracted to it.

What material are you playing?

All original material. This is a band that’s been together for a while. We have a steady gig at the Baked Potato in L.A. and we get a chance to go out now and then. But most of the stuff is new to the audience. They haven’t heard it on radio, but they get into it. That reinforces my thinking that people want to hear a certain commitment to the music in what you’re doing. It’s all ages too – “The Tonight Show” audience or a lot younger, across the board. They’re into some new music.

Any plans for another album?

Well, I’m meeting with some people while I’m here. I guess I’ll find out what record companies do these days. I’m going to focus on getting the records out to where they’re sold these days – stores, online, gas stations, wherever. We have so much music we want to get out. But I am curious about what record companies do. It’ll help to find that out. After we’re done here and do a few more gigs, we’re going to record in L.A.

Did you get to play enough jazz on “The Tonight Show”?

No, but at the same time I never expected to. I play music that supports the focus of the show. I never had a conflict of interest between what the show needed and what I wanted to do.

You’ll be leading the band on “The Jay Leno Show.” Will you find a place for jazz on it?

When we start the new show, I’d like to bring that into focus. I want to find the right places for the creative expression. I don’t want to force it. I feel everybody has an open mind now that it’s a new show. They’re open to some new ideas.

I see Jay-Z, Rihanna and Kanye West are booked for the first night. Any chance we’ll see jazz giants too?

That’s not my department, but what I can do is bring people on as part of my band and feature them, and I do envision doing that. There are ways to bring the music into the TV show – an extra long bumper, maybe. People are a little more open about it. At 10 o’clock you need a few new ideas. That’s one of the areas I want to try to develop. It wouldn’t be a record company thing. It’d be just people I know. It could be anybody I dig.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

KEVIN EUBANKS - RETURN TO THE PRE-MELLOW

Kevin Eubanks returns to his old, premellow style at the Blue Note.


Nate Chinen previewed Kevin Eubanks' upcoming performance in the New York Times' Sunday paper. The caption below the picture (above) prompted me to seek out some of Eubanks' less "mellow" performances.

Here's some of that pre-mellow style:



And this one, a personal favorite, with Pat Martino on Martino's '98 release "All Sides Now"

KEVIN EUBANKS previewed in NY TIMES THE WEEK AHEAD

By THE NEW YORK TIMES
Published: August 13, 2009

Pop

Nate Chinen

In just a few weeks KEVIN EUBANKS will be back on network television, five nights a week, as the musical sidekick to Jay Leno. It’s a job he has honed to perfection, but it showcases only one side of his talent. Before versatility, amiability and polish became his trademarks, Mr. Eubanks was known as an aggressively nimble postbop guitarist.

He still has the capacity for that sort of playing, though he doesn’t indulge it often. All of his albums in this decade have been released through his own label, InSoul, and they adhere to mellow prescriptions. But when Mr. Eubanks digs in with likeminded players, like the drummer Marvin (Smitty) Smith, he allows himself the license to explore.

Which makes his appearance at the Blue Note from Tuesday through next Sunday something worth noting. He’ll be playing not only with Mr. Smith but also the saxophonist Bill Pierce, in what looks like a potent fusion quintet. Don’t count on too many laughs. 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., 131 West Third Street, Greenwich Village, (212) 475-8592, bluenote.net; cover, $30 at tables, $20 at the bar, with a $5 minimum.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

THE GREAT DAVE HOLLAND

Dave Holland is bringing a brand new group called The Overtone Quartet to the Blue Note from September 8 - 13. I just had to post this amazingly deep and heartfelt solo bass version of Goodbye Pork Pie Hat. And below that is another favorite of mine...the great Chris Potter, who along with Holland, Jason Moran, and Eric Harland, make up the new Overtone Quartet.



And here is Chris Potter at his finest just a few months ago with his band, Underground:

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Jazz Improv Interview with Michel Camilo regarding Blue Note...

INTERVIEW: MICHEL CAMILO by

(Excerpt from Jazz Improv Magazine Volume 7, Number 3)

JI: I remember in our last conversation we were talking about how you came to the U.S. and you were somewhat apprehensive because you didn’t have everything all lined up.

MC: That’s it, exactly, but I think the last drop was when I was playing as the youngest member of the National Symphony Orchestra of the Dominican Republic. I was playing in the percussion section, which included the piano and the vibes and the celesta as well as the timpani and the snare drum and all that. They brought reinforcements - musicians from New York, to reinforce the symphony for the whole four-month opening celebration of the theater. That’s when, in the middle of the rehearsal, I sat down at the piano and started playing some jazz. And some of the American musicians that were there came to the piano and said, “Wow, man, you’re pretty good. You play jazz also?” “Yeah, I play jazz. That’s what I want to do.” One of them who was an incredible percussion player from New York, Gordon Gottlieb invited me to visit. He became a very good friend of mine. In 1975, he took me around to all the jazz clubs in New York. I came and visited and he made me fall in love with New York. That’s when I decided I should be here. I should come and try to make it here. So in 1979—it took me four years, of course, to do that, but when we finally took the plunge, me and my wife Sandra came to New York to see what would happen. We set ourselves a goal of five years to find out what the possibilities were - if we could survive and if I was going to be able to make a name in the jazz field. In the meantime, I also went to Julliard. I kept on studying, which was nice - because everything didn’t really start happening until 1981, ‘82. In the meantime, very little happened, just my name started getting around among musicians. It’s good, because that gives you a chance to hone your skills and go to the clubs and sit in like everybody else does. You make the rounds and try to connect with the musician community. It takes time. But also I think it makes you get better and practice hard and be ready for that opportunity and play in different bands and know everybody and keep on really studying. I studied with Don Sebesky, for example, big-band writing and contemporary arranging in those years. That was very important. In the meantime, the way I survived is I was playing a Broadway show. I auditioned for a Broadway show that needed a player that could play classical, popular, and jazz. That was a show called Dancing, which required a piano player that could play Benny Goodman’s “Sing, Sing, Sing” in the opening of the third act. It required a piano player that could play the Bach-Busoni “Toccata” onstage in the first act. I played there for four years. And that’s how I was able to pay for my studies.

To read the full interview, click here:
http://www.jazzimprov.com/util/articles.cfm?article_id=69

Monday, July 27, 2009

2 New Releases on Half Note Records: McCoy Tyner's "Solo: Live In San Francisco" and James Carter with John Medeski & Friends' "Heaven On Earth"

McCoy Tyner Music/Half Note Records announce the August 25 release of two exciting new albums:
Heaven On Earth - James Carter & John Medeski

Saxophonist James Carter and organist John Medeski (of the pioneering jam-band, Medeski, Martin & Wood) lead a supergroup featuring Christian McBride (b
ass), Adam Rogers (guitar) and Joey Baron (drums).

Together they carve out a groove that captures the buzz and vitality of jam-jazz at its most exhilarating.

Recorded live at the Blue Note in New York, the group throws down the funk on Djanjo Reinhardt's "Diminishing," Larry Young's, "Heaven On Earth," Leo Parker's "Blue Leo," and the songbook standard, "Street of Dreams."

Solo: Live From San Francisco
- McCoy Tyner

Piano Legend McCoy Tyner offers 11 song form vignettes, intimately rendered, befo
re a rapt audience at the Herbst Theater in San Francisco, during the Spring Season of SFJAZZ in May, 2007. This is the third release on his own McCoy Tyner Music Label.

The evening finds him reflective, treating his fans to a mix of originals and standards, delivered in a style as much thunder as mist. Stand out selections include, "Naima," "You Taught My Heart To Sing," "I Should Care," "Sweet And Lovely," and "In A Mellow Tone." An excellent companion disc to his two previous MTM releases, Quartet and Guitars.


Blast From The Past: Herbie Hancock w/Pat Metheny, Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette

Feast your eyes and ears on this gem. Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, Dave Holland, and Jack DeJohnette; Four musical legends and modern jazz masters take on Hancock's "Cantaloupe Island." Certainly one of the funkiest songs of all time, this might possibly be it's funkiest version in existence. Enjoy!


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Nate Chinen's review of Haden/Iverson Invitation Series for THE GIG

"THE GIG" - NY Times writer Nate Chinen's Arts Blog

Haden and Iverson

Iverson Haden

Not far into his second set with Ethan Iverson at the Blue Note on Tuesday, Charlie Haden took a moment to recall their first meeting. It was at a 2006 memorial service for the tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman. For his part in the program, Iverson sat at the piano to play “Broken Shadows,” a processional ballad from the 1971 Ornette Coleman album of the same name. (Redman and Haden both took part in that session, indelibly.) Afterward, Haden recalled, he introduced himself to Iverson, who greeted him this way: “I know what you’re going to say. I was playing your chords.”

Haden told that anecdote after he and Iverson had played a luminous duo version of “Broken Shadows.” At one point in his solo, Iverson had briefly risen from his seat, elucidating long arcs of notes with his right hand while plainly stating the melody with his left. His bond with Haden throughout the set was palpably deep. Among the other tunes called was Tadd Dameron Benny Harris’ “Wahoo.”

I was especially riveted by the Ornette/Dewey stuff, though, because of how deeply it engaged both musicians. This is something Iverson himself has covered in elaborate detail, perhaps most notably in the Haden Q&A he published last year (after an engagement much like this one). It should be read in full, but consider this exchange:

CH: I learned about the importance of listening playing with Ornette. We first played duo at his house, for days. I had never heard such beautiful melodies. He had his compositions written out with changes on them.

EI: There were changes on his charts?

CH: Yes, and he said to play on the changes until he left them, and then just follow him. At first I thought he meant he would play on the written changes for a little while, but then I realized he would be creating a new set of changes almost right away. So I discarded his changes and followed him.
Sometimes the changes he had for the written parts didn't always fit, so I would look for the right note, even if it wasn't the root of the tonal center.

EI: Dewey Redman told me once that he was looking at a piece of Ornette's music and thought he heard some changes in there. He asked Ornette what the structure was, and Ornette responded by putting a chord symbol on every eighth note! He made sure never to ask Ornette that question again.

CH: Yeah, NEVER ask Ornette about the changes!

EI: So, you were making up the harmony. On some of the early music like "Lonely Woman," "Ramblin'", and "Una Muy Bonita," there is also a strong melody in the bass. I have a strong suspicion that those are yours too.

CH: Sometimes I would play what I was hearing instead of what he had written and he usually accepted it.

Haden’s bass-and-piano “Invitation Series” continues through the rest of the week, with a host of different pianists: Steve Kuhn (7/22), Kenny Barron (7/23 & 24), Paul Bley (7/25) & Bill Charlap (7/26). I imagine Ornette Coleman will be another point of reference on the Bley evening. I’m sorry I can’t be there every night.

Incidentally, bassist Reid Anderson was at the club for last night’s set. He’ll be joining Iverson, his Bad Plus band mate, for a Village Vanguard run next week. Paul Motian will be the drummer. That’s a whole different story, sort of.

Related Links:

  • “Broken Shadows” – the original track, at Last.fm
  • BBC3 Interview – Iverson speaks with Keith Jarrett, whose American Quartet was home to Haden and Redman. (This will only be available for a handful more days.)

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Review of 7/21's Show: Charlie Haden & Ethan Iverson Duo

For the full review and poll, please visit: http://lamentforastraightline.wordpress.com/2009/07/22/two-x-two/

TWO X TWO =
by Jim Macnie

Bop sometimes sounds wan without a drummer, but in the right hands, a percussion-less group can deliver the goods by stressing punctuation – which is pretty much the way Charlie Haden and Ethan Iverson got the job done last night at the Blue Note. The tune was Bird and Fats’ “Wahoo,” which as the bassist said, is a spin on “Perdido” that has a fair amount of forward motion written into it. The gig was the first chapter of Haden’s now-annual “Invitation Series,” his chance to spend a week playing single-evening sets with a variety of pianists (Kuhn, Bley, Barron, and Charlap round out the shows). Iverson gave the head a crisp reading and fueled that forward motion with an mistakable dollop of bottom thrust. The evening’s fare may have stressed the graceful nature of the duet realm, but time and again – from the jaunty “Humpty Dumpty” to the melancholy “First Song” – a deep sense of pulse implied a palpable rhythm. Abstractions were kept to a minimum – melody was the set’s calling card, as it is the bassist’s signature trait – but Iverson added inspired maneuvers to a couple tunes, chopping one head in an amusing staccato manner and adding delicate, upper register flurries to the conclusion of another. It prompted the guy next to me – who otherwise seemed to know his stuff about Haden – to tell his pals, “this pianist is out there.” If busting inventive moves to nudge a performance towards a more vivid musical spot is being out there, I guess the dude’s right. Haden, whose earthy bass sound became more and more addictive as the set progressed, had a smile on face as his partner steered left of center.

Blast From The Past: Ahmad Jamal Trio 1959

Listening to the recent BBC broadcast of pianist Ethan Iverson's interview with Keith Jarrett, I found many things very intriguing.

The interview, which can be found here (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00lqyd1), found the often misunderstood jazz legend in a delightful mood, seemingly eager to share his thoughts. Where many past Jarrett interviews seem to find him drifting from the questions or being vague or confusing in his answers, it is obvious that in this interview Jarrett is honest, sincere, and happy to share. The interview is extremely revealing and truly fascinating.

Speaking on his influences, Jarrett confessed his love for the playing of Ahmad Jamal, describing the initial experience of discovering Jamal's music. He said, "It changed my mind about everything that could happen. Up till then it was just a virtuosity thing...playing fast or swinging...at least swinging was there. But then there was a spacial thing, and not a need for constant playing."

Another interesting portion of the interview comes at it's end, when Iverson describes what he finds to be part of Jarrett's appeal and the reason for Jarrett's influence on himself.

He says, "I don't think there's been someone else who's been able to play so much piano yet at the same time not regard that as the mission of the musician. Most piano virtuosos I think end up deciding that the virtuosity is the most important part of the message, but that has never been Keith Jarrett's way."

It is amazing to realize how parallel each pianist's statements are regarding their own pianistic influences.

I've posted a video of the Ahmad Jamal Trio playing "Darn That Dream" in 1959. Enjoy!

Monday, June 29, 2009

MICHAEL BUBLE'S SENTIMENTAL RETURN TO THE BLUE NOTE

On June 16, Michael Buble released a brand new CD/DVD titled Michael Buble Meets Madison Square Garden. The bonus footage includes a trip down memory lane to a jazz club in New York that once gave the man his start - you guessed it - at The Blue Note. Buble even says himself that playing the Blue Note was harder than playing Madison Square Garden (which he would do just days after shooting the footage). Here's hoping that he'll decide to return to the Blue Note some time soon to play a week (or more)...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Blue Note Monday Conversations: OMER KLEIN CD RELEASE FOR HEART BEATS, MARCH 2009

Jazz pianist Omer Klein was interviewed by the Blue Note Blogger for his Monday Night CD Release show for Heart Beats, a solo piano effort that shows the young pianist wise beyond his years. JazzTimes recently wrote that "Klein has the potential to achieve something much rarer for a jazz musician: popularity. What he plays is exotic yet accessible and makes you feel fully alive." Here, he talks about growing up listening to jazz, how he developed his unique melodic sense, and recording Heart Beats in the studio. To close the interview, Klein played a brand new, never before heard piece that he is currently working on. His band that night comprised of the bassist Omer Avital and percussionist Ziv Ravitz. For more information on the Monday Coversations at the Blue Note, visit our blog at www.bluenotejazz.com/blog. Visit www.omerklein.com for more details about Omer and his music.

Blue Note Monday Conversatons: LONNIE PLAXICO Talks About The Jazz Life

Lonnie Plaxico is best known for his work as a sideman with the likes of Cassandra Wilson, Art Blakey, Jack DeJohnette and so many more, but he' a fantastic bandleader and a prolific composer in his own right. Here he talks about his upbringing in the jazz world and his new CD, Ancestral Devotion. For more information on the Blue Note Jazz Club and our projects, go to www.bluenotejazz.com/blog.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

New Sounds: Brian Blade "Mama Rosa"

Probably the greatest influence on this generation of jazz drummers, Brian Blade's newest album features none of his drumming...and no jazz. Blade's most recent excursion is a testament to his folk and blues influences. Featuring his compositions, his singing, and his guitar playing, "Mama Rosa" is a phenomenal album of a very unique music.

This video is a very special sneak peak into this great album. For more info, visit www.brianblade.com, and if you're in the New York are, be sure not to miss Blade's show at the Highline Ballroom tomorrow, June 24.

Blast From The Past: Bill Evans & Lee Konitz

Searching through the vast collection of jazz videos on YouTube, I stumbled upon this gem. While certainly an enjoyable video and recording, this rare video is invaluable for quite a few reasons as well.

For one, this video provides a rare glimpse into one of the most interesting partnerships in jazz; one that is documented (not nearly enough) on recordings, but one that is very rarely - if at all - documented on video; this partnership is the one of Bill Evans and Lee Konitz.

It is interesting to watch and hear Bill Evans in a non trio setting, especially in this non trio setting. Those familiar with Evans' music know that the bassist in his trio plays a very interactive role; he rarely walks a bass line. Instead of keeping a pulse for Evans to play on top of, he and Evans play off one another, responding to each other in a very communicative fashion. Rarely do we get to hear Bill Evans playing with a bassist playing in a hard swinging style a la Ray Brown; we do here. It is interesting to hear Evans in this fashion; playing on top of such a bass player, we really get to hear the strong influence Bud Powell had on his playing. We hear the flowing eight note lines of a phenomenal bebop pianist as well as the natural rhythmic syncopation of an extremely hard swinger. It is interesting to hear these sides of Evans' playing.

Another interesting aspect of this video is the song choice. While both Evans and Konitz make use of many of the tunes from the Great American Songbook, "My Melancholy Baby," is a tune that, in many ways, never left the swing era. While very popular during the 1930's, it never became a tune that the beboppers of the 1940's took with them into the modern era. It is interesting to hear these post-bop modernists take on a swing era standard. One of the reasons it is so interesting is because the players here - while obviously inflecting their own personalities into the music - more or less adapt their styles to that of the song - instead of adapting the song to their more known styles. These players have enormous flexibility and this video is a testament to that; that these masterful musicians do not need to play in a certain style to make the music all their own.

Enjoy!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Blue Note June Vocal Festival Begins Tonight!



Some of music's greatest and most unique vocalists will be gracing our stage in the coming weeks. Beginning tonight (6/15) with Sophie Milman, and continuing on with Jane Monheit (6/16-21), Spencer Day (6/22), Bilal (6/23-24), and Rachelle Ferrell (June 25-28), this year's vocal festival should be quite a thrill.

For more information on the artists please visit their websites:
Sophie Milman - http://www.linusentertainment.com/sophiemilman2006/
Jane Monheit - http://janemonheitonline.com/
Spencer Day - http://www.spencerday.com/
Bilal - http://www.bilal-the-man.com/
Rachelle Ferrell - http://www.rachelleferrell.com/

To purchase tickets please follow this link: http://www.bluenote.net/newyork/schedule/index.shtml

Jazz Survival 101

Eugene Marlow posted a very interesting and thought-provoking article on jazz.com yesterday. We have posted it below and are very interested to see what your thoughts are. Please feel free to comment and discuss!


Jazz Survival 101
by Eugene Marlow

As of early June 2009 there are plenty of indications that the American economy, let alone the global economy, is still mired in what many are calling the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s. We see rising unemployment—predicted to top 10% before it’s over—an increasing number of failing banks, bankrupted car manufacturers (once the jewels in the crown of America’s economic prowess), still rising residential foreclosures, lower tax revenues on the federal, state, and local levels, and expanding deficits.

Reports of the commercial and residential real estate market indicate contradicting trends; clearly, though, the commercial market is overbuilt while the residential market might be coming to a plateau and some price stability. Consumers are saving more (a good thing in the long run), but spending less (not good for retailers in the short run). Foreign companies are buying parts of American companies (not necessarily a new trend), and China, in particular, owns a significant portion of this country’s debt. This also is not a new trend. In 1980 right before the start of the first Reagan administration, the United States was the world’s creditor nation. Today, we are the world’s debtor nation. What a difference almost 30 years makes!

All in all, it’s not a pretty economic picture.

On a more local level with respect to the music world, the picture is also spotty. On a recent visit to Swing 46 on New York City’s restaurant row, owner/manager “John” indicated to me they were holding their own. That night George Gee and his nonet were performing. The dance floor was virtually packed. It was noisy and festive. But John also indicated that, appearances to the contrary, financially it was not great, but he was still in business. Birdland, Blue Note, and The Jazz Standard all seem to be on a solvent economic keel, but there are rumors and anecdotal reports that Jazz At Lincoln Center is, to put it diplomatically, “having money problems.” So, too, the Metropolitan Opera. Not surprising really. The fallout from the Bernie Madoff debacle notwithstanding, many corporations and foundations have dramatically reduced their contributions to deserving organizations. Some have ceased funding altogether.

Further, in New York several “venues” have closed, for example, the ill-fated Brazilian-oriented club Cacha├ža that I wrote about several months ago, and Lola’s, the soul-food club, that hopes to reopen in another location. Sweet Rhythm has reported low audience attendance. And “non-club” venues have closed or are about to: Manny’s on New York City’s 48th Street “music row” shuttered on May 31 because Sam Ash Music stated “it wasn’t carrying its [economic] weight.” And then there’s Patelson’s right across the street from Carnegie Hall’s stage door. While Patelson’s is not a jazz-oriented music shop, it nonetheless represents an important aspect of the music world: printed classical music. It was one of “the” key places to go in New York City to find almost anything printed when it came to classical music. Its fate is representative. All over New York you see “Available For Rent” signs where once were thriving retail outlets of all kinds. Even when retail outlets associated with music and entertainment, such as restaurants, are doing business, they are rarely reaching capacity.

Let’s bring this down to the jazz world, and more specifically, the jazz musician. I recall listening to a talk a few years ago by an executive of Local 802 who was in involved in negotiating film-recording contracts. He reported that at one time New York’s musician local had over 40,000 members. As of a few years ago it had fallen to around 10,000. It’s well documented that CD sales of all genres are down, way down. Today, a CD is more often than not, a musical resume, rather than a product for profit. At the same time, the cost of attending a live jazz concert, regardless of venue, is out of reach for many, especially young people and those of limited economic means—the very same folks who need to hear the music to understand and appreciate its cultural relevance. Meanwhile, academic jazz programs all over the country are turning out highly skilled young musicians with little or no business training and fewer places to play, giving rise to an apparent growing number of non-traditional venues for performance purposes. At the same time the economic value of a musician’s skills seem, for most, to be in decline.

Jazz radio is shrinking. The Boston jazz station just shut down. And all over the country, arts editors, let alone jazz or classical music reviewers, are losing their jobs. Local newspapers, often a source of promotion and support for local arts, are ceasing to exist. There are exceptions, of course, but everyone, everywhere seems to be feeling the economic pinch.

This current, deep recession is exacerbating a much longer trend: the diminution of the social and economic value of the arts, let alone jazz, in the United States. Yes, there is recognition of the arts as a contributor to the economy. In a recent issue of Chamber Music, the official publication of arts organization Chamber Music America, Margaret M. Lioi, reports in her editorial that $50 million for the arts was included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill. These funds went directly to the National Endowment for the Arts.

When the House voted on the final bill, Democratic Congressman David Obey, who sponsored the bill, explained why he thought it was important to retain NEA funding in the stimulus package: “There are five million people who work in the arts industry. And right now they have 12.5% unemployment—or are you suggesting that somehow if you work in that field, it isn’t real when you lose your job, your mortgage or your health insurance? We’re trying to treat people who work in the arts the same way as anybody else.”

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Blue Note Interviews: Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band CD RELEASE WEEK @ THE BLUE NOTE

The Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band will release a brand new CD on Half Note Records titled "I'm BeBoppin' Too" on June 30, 2009. The Blue Note Bloggers posed a question to members of the big band: "Was there a single moment when you knew you wanted to be a jazz musician?" After watching Roy Hargrove conduct the band at sound-check, you'll hear answers from James Moody, Jimmy Heath, Gary Smulyan, Greg Gisbert, Roberta Gambarini, Claudio Roditi, Willie Jones III, Mike Dease, and bassist and executive director John Lee.
The Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band will be at the Blue Note through Sunday (sets @ 8PM & 10PM).

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band Set List

The explosive Dizzy Big Band is releasing a brand new CD this week at the Blue Note on Half Note Records titled "I'm BeBoppin' Too." On Tuesday, Roy Hargrove conducted the band during Tuesday's first set that featured the following numbers:

1. Hot House
2. Manteca
3. I'm BeBoppin' Too
4. Birk's Works
5. Una Moss
6. Lover Come Back
7. 'Round Midnight
8. Blue 'n Boogie
9. Cool Breeze
10. I Can't Get Started
11. In A Mellow Tone
12. A Night In Tunisia

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Blast From The Past: Sonny Rollins

Another viewing of last week's Ben Webster/Teddy Wilson video has put me in that ballad mood. These past few days I've been listening to some of the greatest of jazz balladeers: Lester Young, Keith Jarrett, and Sonny Rollins. Although Sonny Rollins is always mentioned in a listing of the greatest saxophonists of all time, the artistry of his ballads is not often -or not often enough- discussed. Sonny is one of the most powerful of all ballad players. The pairing of his unique, large tone with his heartfelt way of interpretation and improvisation combine to make a truly potent and beautiful ballad. Here Sonny is featured playing "My One And Only Love" in 1982. Enjoy!

Monday, June 8, 2009

WBGO Photoblog

Just wanted to tell everyone to check out the very cool WBGO photoblog. This current batch features some very hip pics of Ahmad Jamal here at the Blue Note taken by Fran Kaufman.
http://www.wbgo.org/photoblog
Enjoy!

David Grisman Quintet

Trumpet master Brian Lynch is quoted on his website (brianlynchjazz.com) saying, "I think that to be a straight-ahead jazz musician now means drawing on a wider variety of things than 30 or 40 years ago. Not to play a little bit of this or a little bit of that, but to blend everything together into something that sounds good."
Being that this is so - that modern jazz now encompasses and fuses so many different styles and genres and influences -, it has become increasingly hard to define the word "jazz." With jazz becoming a melting pot of so many sorts of musical fusions, many are becoming more and more obsessed with defining the word and the music, becoming increasingly protective of what they consider to be jazz. However, in the midst of this identity crisis, I believe Lynch says it best by saying that the goal of this fusion is to "blend everything together into something that sounds good." This quote, reminiscent of the famous Duke Ellington quote ("There are only two kinds of music. Good music, and the other kind."), stands testament to the idea that definitions are irrelevant; that the only thing that matters is the quality of the music.
Even so, it seems to be a natural human compulsion to attempt to define sound; it is hard for most people to simply hear something and say "this is good music," and leave it at that, without attempting to place it in a genre.
For those who simply can't resist this temptation, the following group should yield quite a fun time. Technically filed in the bluegrass section, the music of the David Grisman Quintet is extremely genre-defying. Is it Bluegrass? Is it folk? Is it jazz? It is swing? Is it country? These are all questions you will find yourself asking, while at the same time, mind-boggled that yes, it is all of the above. For those who need proof that genre defining, while hard to try and not do, only confuses -doesn't legitimize- the music, look no further than the David Grisman Quintet. As the Duke said, "If it sounds good and feels good, then it is good."


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Don Friedman

"Why is one player enormously famous and another obscure, when to the naked ear they sound equally as compelling?" So begins the ITunes review of pianist Don Friedman's 1996 album, "The Days of Wine and Roses."
Friedman, despite being an in-demand and well-respected fixture on the New York jazz scene since the early 1960s, has somehow remained relatively obscure. While he is known as a "musician's musician" and a "pianist's pianist," it is surprising that more are not in the know, especially since he has done so much this last half-century.
Born in San Francisco in 1935, Friedman had already established himself as part of the West Coast jazz scene by the mid-1950's gigging around town (Los Angeles) with musicians such as Dexter Gordon, Ornette Coleman, Chet Baker, Shorty Rogers, and Scott LaFaro. A turning point in his career was 1956, when a tour with Buddy DeFranco inspired him to move to New York. The diverse group of artists with whom he played reflects his serious chops as both a hard-bopper, be-bopper, and avant-garde. His ability to thrive as himself in all sorts of musical environments is only one of the things that helped Friedman make a name for himself in New York.
Once in New York, Friedman thrived. He played with nearly every important artist of the era including Elvin Jones, Clark Terry, Booker Little, Eric Dolphy, Pepper Adams, Ron Carter, Paul Chambers, Jimmy Giuffre, Stan Getz, Lee Konitz, Charles Lloyd, Herbie Mann, Oliver Nelson, Zoot Sims, and Phil Woods, among many others. Friedman was also an important solo piano act. His solo piano was often featured at clubs such as Birdland, The Five Spot, and the Half-Note. In fact, during Ornette Coleman's first gig in New York - his famed gig at the Five Spot - Friedman was actually the other act, performing as the second featured performer in between Ornette's sets.
While Friedman is often categorized into the Bill Evans school of piano playing, he certainly has a fresh voice of his own. One amazon.com review of Friedman's "Circle Waltz" album says, "If Evans is Matisse, Don Friedman is Kandinsky."
Over the years, Friedman has gone from being one of the most in-demand avant-garde pianists to one of the most lyrical of pianists. His playing today is often cited as very emotional, displaying the full range of the emotional spectrum; it seems to be an honest and perfect blend of feeling and intellect.
While Friedman has had a successful career and has even enjoyed considerable stardom - especially in Japan - he is certainly a pianist deserving of wider recognition. He truly is one of the greats, and an "Overdue Ovation" is long overdue.
Jazz critic Gene Lees says of Friedman, "if you're not familiar with the artistry of Don Friedman, you have some catching up to do."
Don is featured here on a composition of his own, "Memory for Scotty," a tribute to his friend, Scott Lafaro. Enjoy!


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

FOURPLAY reviewed by Nate Chinen in the New York Times

Music Review Fourplay
Precision High Jinks From a Veteran Jazz Quartet
Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times
Fourplay: From left, Nathan East, bass; Larry Carlton, guitar; and Bob James, piano; at the Blue Note.
By NATE CHINEN
Published: June 2, 2009

During the final moments of their early set at the Blue Note on Monday night, the members of Fourplay engaged in a bit of musical horseplay. First Bob James, the keyboardist, tossed off a pithy phrase. Nathan East, the bassist, picked it up, followed in turn by the guitarist Larry Carlton and the drummer Harvey Mason. The cycle repeated and quickened until the band was frantically circulating just one note, like a hot potato.


It was cute. But then cuteness has always been a reliable strategy for Fourplay, one of the leading brands in adult-contemporary music. Since 1990 the group has kept refining a bright and palatable sound, mixing chirpy melody with crisp rhythm, and R&B (by loose definition) with modern jazz (by an even looser one). Its consistency applies equally to the commercial side of the equation: almost all the band’s 10 albums have landed on the Billboard 200, including “Energy” (Heads Up), the most recent, released last year.

Monday’s set, which kicked off a four-night run, featured songs from that album alongside more established staples of the Fourplay catalog, and the only truly noticeable difference among them involved the relative enthusiasm of the crowd. “Chant,” a trademark single from the 1990s, was a suave opener, with Mr. East’s wordless singing (and, more cutely, whistling) set against a slow funk shuffle. “Ultralight,” a more buoyant tune from the new album, came next, and it was embraced by the audience a bit more tentatively at first.

But that was before the appealingly boppish melody had settled in, and before Mr. Carlton, who wrote the tune, had fashioned his blues-informed solo excursion. Precise and levelheaded musicianship is the stealth principle behind Fourplay’s success, as well as a good reason for its bond with a dedicated fan base. And that principle, often dampened by the airtight dimensions of the band’s recordings, assumes sharper focus in performance. This performance in particular featured a few more thoughtfully controlled statements from Mr. Carlton, who joined the group about a decade ago, replacing Lee Ritenour. On several tunes, including an old favorite, “101 Eastbound,” Mr. James accomplished just as much, imbuing his solos with a clear dramatic shape. As a rhythmic engine, Mr. Mason and Mr. East locked in tight and close, giving each groove a gravitational pull.

The problem, for much of the set, had to do with aesthetics. Mr. James could have toned down the gloss of his synthesizers; Mr. East’s vocals could have been less saccharine. The gauziness and breathiness made an especially lethal pairing on “Sebastian,” a new piece by Mr. James after a prelude by Johann Sebastian Bach. At best, Fourplay isn’t half that precious, though it should be noted that “Sebastian” met with ample applause.

Fourplay appears through Thursday at the Blue Note, 131 West Third Street, West Village, (212) 475-8592; bluenote.net.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Blast From The Past: Ben Webster & Teddy Wilson

This video features two of the most lyrical jazz musicians of all time: Ben Webster and Teddy Wilson. Both musicians had beautiful and unique tones on their instruments as well as emotionally oriented styles; everything they did was very musical, and this is displayed greatly in this video.
Ben Webster's ballad playing is seen by many as the epitome of ballad playing. His lush and robust tenor saxophone sound is very romantic and emotional without being overly sentimental. These musicians create a beautiful aura around the music that they play; notice the vibe that they create in this video - and also notice how quickly they create it.
This video would make a great audio track, but it is very interesting to watch as well. Notice, at the beginning, that Teddy Wilson begins the tune a tad faster than Webster wanted it. Notice how he snaps the tempo down to his liking. Also, notice around 4:45 that Webster begins to cry. In my research, I read that before this performance Webster was informed of Johnny Hodges' death. While this may or may not be true and may or may not be the cause of the tears, it is not hard to imagine tearing up simply because of the beauty of the music at hand.
Enjoy!

Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band

Certainly one of the most revered jazz musicians of all time is Dizzy Gillespie. His virtuosity, compositions, and personality have all contributed to the legacy and institution that is (and has been since the mid 1940's) Dizzy Gillespie. Everything about Dizzy's music was truly Dizzy; everything he did musically was a direct testament to who he was personally. Gillespie's long-time collaborator and sometime instigator - they were known to have gone to jam sessions with their horns hidden under their coats; acting like they were just observing, they would wait for the perfect moment to "devour" the other musicians on stage. "This was known as an ambush," Dizzy said. - Charlie Parker once said, "If you haven't lived it, it won't come out of your horn." Dizzy Gillespie remains proof of this statement. Everything he played or composed represents everything that he was and loved. Among those loves were latin music, bebop, and humor - all of which are reflected in his music.
His music has created quite a following, and, being a man who was loved by all, Gillespie remains an often cause for celebration. One of these celebrations will be taking place next week here at the Blue Note. One of the most powerful big bands on the scene, the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band is also one of the most star-studded. Featuring the likes of James Moody, Jimmy Heath, Roy Hargrove, Slide Hampton, Cyrus Chesnut, and many more, the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band is a show not to be missed. All of the artists are coming together to play tribute to a man that they love, and the music that they play is sure to reflect that. Come out June 9-14 to see what will surely be one of the most exciting shows of the year.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

New Sounds of Jazz: Hiromi

One of the most exciting pianists on the jazz scene today is Hiromi Uehara. Her unique approach to the keyboard - an approach that reflects a complete command of the instrument as well as a sensitive, tasteful, and broad emotional range - has caused quite a stir in the jazz community. Mentored by the great Ahmad Jamal, Hiromi has mesmerized many of the greats, including Chick Corea, with whom she is featured here.
Jamal says, "She is nothing short of amazing. Her music, together with her overwhelming charm and spirt, causes her to soar to unimaginable musical heights."
There is a lot of mystery, adventure, and excitement in Hiromi's music. To experience her explorations in person, come down to the Blue Note June 30-July 5.
Enjoy the video!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Blast From The Past: Oscar Peterson Trio + Guests

A little musical candy for your viewing pleasure. This video features the first of Oscar Peterson's legendary trios. Influenced by the instrumentation of the Nat Cole Trio (piano, bass, guitar), Oscar's first trio featured Ray Brown on bass and Herb Ellis on guitar. The rhythm section in this video is augmented by drummer Jo Jones (whose unique and tasteful style is showcased in this video with a great solo).
The tune is "C-Jam Blues," a standard blues tune composed by Duke Ellington that sometimes goes by the title, "Duke's Place." (Check out the album "Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong" for the a swinging version with the sometimes used lyric). The video showcases some of the great musical stylists of the 1930's, 1940's, and 1950's including Flip Phillips and Illinois Jacquet on tenor saxophone and Roy Eldridge on trumpet. The rhythm section is certainly inspiring to the soloists in this video (check out Eldridge's solo especially), and watching it, it is very apparent why the Oscar Peterson Trio was one of the most popular and sought out rhythm sections of it's day.
The video begins with an introduction by the great jazz impresario, Norman Granz, and features one of the most popular versions of his "Jazz at the Philharmonic" lineups. Loved by the musicians he employed, Granz was especially respected for standing up for them in times of racial inequality.
After this version of the Peterson trio disbanded, Oscar formed his second legendary trio with Ray Brown on bass, and Ed Thigpen on drums. It wasn't until 1990 that the original trio reunited. The place: the Blue Note.
Enjoy!

Friday, May 1, 2009

BLAST FROM THE PAST: BILLIE HOLIDAY & LESTER YOUNG ON "THE SOUND OF JAZZ"

This afternoon at the Blue Note, Nat Hentoff was interviewing John Pizzarelli as a part of the Blue Note Interview Series with Nat Hentoff. Hentoff was talking about an association with Robert Herridge (producer/host of CBS' "The Sound of Jazz") that lead to his involvement in the following video, recorded for "The Sound of Jazz." Hentoff described how Lester was feeling ill but summoned the energy to stand in the shot. Billie Holiday had tears in her eyes during Lester's solo, as you can see here, and according to Mr. Hentoff, so did he, Heriddge, the camerman, and almost everyone else who was there. It's now considered one of the most famous "live jazz" performances in TV history. Other members of the band were Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Gerry Mulligan, Roy Eldridge, Doc Cheatham, Vic Dickenson, Danny Barker, Milt Hinton and Mal Waldron. Enjoy.