Jazz in Jordan: Yacoub Abu Ghosh explains and plays

Jazz and its evolution goes on everywhere - as bass guitarist/bandleader/composer/producer Yacoub Abu Ghosh explained and demonstrated to me in Amman, Jordan last March. Ghosh and his Stage Heroes performed at their weekly gig at Canvas Cafe Restaurant Art Lounge. His new album As Blue As The Rivers of Amman is due to drop July 2.   T … [Read more...]

Jazz lofts as they used to be

Composer Steve Reich said, "Without John Coltrane, there would be no minimalism." The topic was Hall Overton, the man who arranged Monk's music, treating jazz as contemporary "classical" composition. The occasion was a panel discussion sprung from an exhibit at the NY Public Library of the Performing Arts about the Jazz Loft hosted by photographer W. Eugene Smith from 1955-1964 (this is Smith's shot of Overton with Monk in the Loft).Read about it in my new City Arts column. … [Read more...]

US remains jazz central

Jazz is global, but its most ambitious players still flock to the US to soak in its roots and prove they're part of the scene. Tonight a Parisian septet called Fractale wraps up an eight-gig tour of the States at the Drom in the East Village, after stops in New Orleans, Cleveland and Chicago. From December 3 to 6 Spanish pianist Chano Domínguez & his Flamenco Quintet bring its commissioned "The Flamenco Side of Kind of Blue" to the Jazz Standard to assert that the Barcelona Jazz Festival (in which they premiere the work on November 12) has … [Read more...]

Civil Rights-Jazz document, 1963

Prior to tomorrow's inauguration, the New York Times (and I suspect many other publications) has focused in many columns, book reviews and reports on Barack Obama's election as a turning point in the U.S.'s movement towards full civil rights for all people. The entertainment section makes the case for movies having led the way to our first not-completely- "white"-identified President. I maintain that the jazz community was in the forefront of the civil rights movement, and remains in the lead for demonstrating how all-inclusive meritocracies … [Read more...]

Armstrong to Ellington to Obama

If anyone needs a primer on how jazz leads directly to the inauguration of Barack Obama as 44th president of the U.S., see Nat Hentoff's Wall Street Journal article on the history of musicians, audiences, presenters and producers of all "colors" in the struggle for Civil Rights. The march from Buddy Bolden playing in New Orleans' "back 'o' town" to a man of diverse ancestry leading the free world from the White House has been direct (if not necessarily "straight") and determined. … [Read more...]

The jazz of victory and celebration

It's odd that of all the nuances of expression jazz can convey, the thrill of victory and celebration of success is hard to find among the music's classics. Barack Obama's heartening win of the presidency prompts me to search out joyous music, but I can't think of a movement akin to the bells ringing in Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" in the repertoire of Miles, Ornette, Cecil or Coltrane, Mingus, Monk, Bird and Diz, or Ellington, Basie and Goodman. The crowning last chorus of Armstrong's "Tight LIke This" comes to mind, though the satisfaction … [Read more...]

hail Studs Terkel, Jazz Age Chicagoan

A talker and listener, actor-dj-writer-oral historian, good humored realist and pragmatic idealist, Studs Terkel (1912 - 2008) stands as an American cultural patriot, who enjoyed as rich if not untroubled a life as genuinely democratic artist might hope for over the course of the 20th century -- earning Roger Ebert's thumbs up as greatest Chicagoan. Studs was hugely enthusiastic about music, loving blues as well as jazz, gospel, rootsy folk, the Great American Songbook, the soundtrack of the labor and Civil Rights movement, classical stuff too … [Read more...]

Presidential politics and jazz: Show of hands

Google "Obama" and "jazz" and this Jazz Beyond Jazz post comes up second! The search engine flatters, so here's more research on the connection/support of the jazz world for the candidates, and the candidates of jazz (as a fundamental American cultural phenomenon). This concert seems indicative of most jazz musicians' preference:(gen'l admission: $100; vip seats and post-show reception: $250; students/seniors, $50).Comparable events last week in Cincinnati, Ohio and Oct. 12 in Kansas City MO, with Dick Gregory as keynote speaker on the occasion … [Read more...]

Jazz, secure, shrugs off “joke” threat

"We're doing everything we can to eliminate jazz from American culture," a promoter for Live Nation Artists, the world's dominant pop music production and marketing firm "joked" to Florida councilmen considering a proposed upcoming music festival. Jazz responds with a can't-be-bothered shrug. Too hip to be rattled by ignorant, idle, defensive -- and of course, revealing - threats, the greatest living musicians are basking in hard-earned recognition and producing inspiringly energized, not necessarily mellow music. Undeterred by Live Nation-like … [Read more...]