Before Tarantino, there was Ebert (and Muddy Waters)

Russ Meyers and Roger Ebert

I'm as sad as any Chicago-born & raised movie fan about the death of Roger Ebert, who I saw regularly in the Chicago Sun Times/Chicago Daily News offices when I was a copyboy there in the '70s, but to whom I never spoke. And I take umbrage at the characterization of him as a "middle-brow" -- because Ebert was not that, rather the best kind of populist critic, as the New York Times obituary suggests. "A critic for the common man" is the Times headline. "His opinions propelled film criticism into the mainstream of American culture," writes … [Read more...]

Early days of JazzApril

photo courtesy of the New York Times

Jazz in NYC and vicinity early in Jazz Appreciation Month: Since Monday, April 1 I've -- heard the all-star Monterey Jazz Fest on Tour band at the Blue Note Jazz Club, and singer Imani Uzuri w/band there, too; learned about the James Moody Democracy in Jazz Festival (sponsored by TD Bank) at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC, Newark), and NJPAC's upcoming jazz season; joined representatives of the Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium on the steps of City Hall in Manhattan had lunch with pianist Edsel Gomez and Alex Webb, … [Read more...]

JazzApril begins (no joke!)

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April is Jazz Appreciation Month (so named by the Smithsonian Institution), culminating on the 30th with International Jazz Day (a project of UNESCO, organized by the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz) -- and both those initiatives are endorsed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors. So the Jazz Journalists Association has launched a major media campaign called JazzApril in support of local jazz scenes taking advantage of JAM and IJD to raise awareness of the jazz resources all around us, and today posted bios + photos of 25 JJA "Jazz Heroes," … [Read more...]

Marsalis in Stockton, the Dave Brubeck Institute and Take Five

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It was a big deal in Stockton, CA last Friday, when Wynton Marsalis led his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra at the 12th annual jazz festival produced by the Brubeck Institute at University of the Pacific.  The ticket holders' line to enter the nicely restored Fox movie palace -- now the Bob Hope Theatre, in the center of otherwise near-dead downtown -- stretched around the block. The marquee was bright, and under it flowed well-dressed attendees of nearly all ages and many colors, quite festive mere days before they'd hear whether their … [Read more...]

Celebrate Cecil Taylor, birthday 84

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One-of-a-kind American master musical artist Cecil Taylor turns 84 today, March 25, and deserves our culture's gratitude. His life has been one of relentless, intense, sweeping creativity, which has driven global developments in composition, improvisation, performance, attire and contemporary lifestyle to a much greater degree than has been much acknowledged --  although Taylor does have many staunch proponents and has received high honors. On piano, solo or in duos, trios, bands, with orchestras, he has consistently and constantly presented … [Read more...]

Happy birthday 83 — and 82 — Ornette Coleman

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Ornette Coleman turns 83 today -- and is celebrating it privately. That's unusual, as he has thrown great parties, often full of live music (at his former Harlem Studio and one year at Joe's Pub), always attended by fabulously interesting people -- like the one last year for his 82nd birthday, Friday, March 9, 2012 held at his loft in Manhattan's West 30s. I was pleased to be invited (I've blogged about OC's birthday before), and wrote the following in afterglow. Some 100 individuals, many involved with jazz and/or other highly creative, … [Read more...]

Dr. Donald Byrd, RIP; Jayne Cortez memorial photos

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Dr. Donald Byrd was a trumpeter with an ear for the vernacular and fresh talent. Jayne Cortez was a radical poet -- both esthetically and personally. Butch Morris was a jazz cornetist, composer, conductor and conductioner. Let's celebrate the lives and creativity of all three. Strangely, reports by a nephew of Byrd's death at age 80 on February 4 have remained "unconfirmed."  Morris, having died January 29 at 65. was memorialized Thursday night, Feb. 7 by speakers including Amiri Baraka, Avery Brooks, David Murray. Henry Threadgill and … [Read more...]

Words and images for Butch Morris

Photos of celebrants of composer-conductor Lawrence Douglas "Butch" Morris at a memorial held in Angel Orensanz, a renovated former-synogag in the East Village, by Sánta István Csaba. Writings for and about Butch by Steve Dalachinsky. Conduction # Infinity (Out of Reach but Never Out of Touch) 1. Butch: his mischievous smile > stern look > open laugh > dapper apparel > a real dandy > like back in the days when > his midrange slightly twanged voice > everything I’ll say is clichéd pompous emotional > … [Read more...]

Tate’s notes to Morris Conduction #1 lost, here’s his Vibe article

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Greg Tate, author-essayist as well as guitarist-leader of the Butch Morris "conductioned" band Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber, looked for his evidently unpublished liner notes to the planned 25th anniversary reissue on CD of Morris' Conduction #1, Racism in Modern America, a work in Progress. He couldn't find them. Tate emailed : "hey man those notes are lost in the clouds over here but the 1997 VIBE article  I did on Butch could be copacetic. . ." So here that is, in Google Books so a bit hard to navigate, but on page 60 if you … [Read more...]

Wayne Shorter & Orpheus Chamber Orch: Prometheus, promising but self-bound

orpheus shorter

The Orpheus Chamber Orchestra came to play with saxophonist Wayne Shorter's quartet at Carnegie Hall Friday, Feb 1, and -- though conductorless -- showed the cohesion and verve that will make a jazz-with-symphony program a triumph. If Shorter's writing and improvisations had matched their readiness, the night could have been truly historic. This orchestra, celebrating its 40th year and proud of its radically democratic ethos, in the first half of its evening's program used clarity and pacing to give wistful, introspective nuance to Charles … [Read more...]

Another take on Butch Morris’ Conduction #1, “Current Trends in Racism”

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Poet/playwright/critic  Allan Graubard has been a close friend and collaborator with Buch Morris, writing highly descriptive and evocative notes for Testament: A Conduction Collection  as well as their theater work, "Modette," and the liner notes below, intended for the 25th anniversary re-issue of Conduction #1, Current Trends in Racism in Modern America, A Work in Progress. I posted my own notes to that edition yesterday.  Allan also was working in the months preceding Butch's death January 29 to complete his long-in-progress book about … [Read more...]

Current Trends in Racism in Modern America, A Work in Progress by Butch Morris

big current trends

My maybe unpublished 25th anniversary liner notes for Conduction #1, Current Trends in Racism in Modern America, A Work in Progress, by the late Butch Morris with all-star improvisers, recorded 28 years ago today (Feb 1, 2013) and sonically as relevant as ever.  [The cast is: Frank Lowe, tenor sax; John Zorn, alto sax and game calls; guitarist Brandon Ross; harpist Zeena Parkins; cellist Tom Cora; turntablist Christian Marclay; vibraphonist Eli Fountain; pianist Curtis Clark; percussionist Thurman Barker; vocalist Yasunao Tone and Butch, of … [Read more...]

Butch Morris, musical artist and friend, mourned widely

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Lawrence Douglas "Butch" Morris, one of the most brilliant and musically generous of artists who emerged from New York's East Village in the 1980s as an experimental cornetist, composer of melodies and settings, and instigator of the burgeoning act of Conduction (a term he copyrighted), died January 29 of cancer at age 65, and the world mourns. Besides my "appreciation" for National Public Radio, heartfelt writings have been posted in the New Yorker blog by cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum, in the Wall Street Journal blog by Vipal Monga (who … [Read more...]