main: May 2011 Archives

I turned to the recordings of Gil Scott-Heron after writing that he should have and did known better than to abuse drugs as he did, leading to his decline and demise. They make me ever more impressed with his scope and intensity, in both long ago and recent work. His 2010 recording "Me and the Devil" fully justifies the black and white zombie pulp of the video by Coodie and Chike that accompanies it. It's a horror song of a burned out, psychotic soul, a new link in an American tradition running from Edgar Allan Poe through Robert Johnson and Howlin' Wolf to Jim Thompson, George Romero and Martin Scorsese.

May 29, 2011 3:18 PM | | Comments (2)
Gil Scott-Heron, dead at age 62, was a poet, prophet and spokesperson of the black urban American experience. A merciless and unsentimental truth-teller when he emerged on the scene in the '70s, by telling Afro-identified kids dancing to Motown and grooving on psychedelic rock that "the revolution will not be televised" he meant that the real revolution in Civil Rights and human conduct was not a show, that those who wanted to make it happen or enjoy its results had to liberate themselves from sitting on the couch zoning out, that there was dirty work ahead.

I heard him in 1970 at Colgate University on a bill with the Last Poets -- one reason why the rise of poetry slams and rap didn't seem like anything new to me when they came along a decade later. I didn't listen to him much, but I heard and mostly respected what he had to say -- and anyway, Scott-Heron's message wasn't aimed at me. I admire that he reached his target audience, without compromising his vision.
May 29, 2011 8:41 AM | | Comments (2)
The NEA zeroes out its Jazz Masters program, the Grammys cuts categories so pop best-sellers regain prominence vis a vis less obviously commercial stars, but the Jazz Journalists Association's 15th annual Jazz Awards -- to be held June 11, 2011 with an afternoon gala with all star music at City Winery, NYC, satellite parties hosted by prominent fans and grass roots organizations around the U.S. and streaming live video on the web at -- hails loud and clear the achievements of the jazz music and media makers. (See that website for a list of all the nominees).   

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Pianist Randy Weston, trumpeter Wallace Roney's Sextet, soprano sax/flutist Jane Bunnett with pianist Hilario Duran, and the Hammer Klavier Trio from Hamburg will play up a storm at the gala to further demonstrate the power and beauty of what we're talking about. This photo of orchestra leader Maria Schneider the year she won four Jazz Awards shows what such honors can mean to a musician.
May 23, 2011 1:00 PM | | Comments (1)
Neil Tesser has written an informative post about Zim Ngqawana, the South African jazz musician who died at age 52 of a stroke May 10. Ngqawana, whose name is pronounced with a glottal "click" between the "N" and first "a," performed at the 2007 Columbia/Harlem Festival of Global Jazz," curated by George E. Lewis of Columbia University's Center for Jazz Studies, Nqgawana, with his quartet, in that concert struck me as a powerful and original saxophonist and flutist, improvising with a heightened lyricism no doubt inspired by John Coltrane's late period sound, but standing on its own. (photo by Dragan Tasic).

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His music that night (and on Zimology, his one album I've heard) had little overt reference to the South Africa of, say, Paul Simon's Graceland; rather, it was stately (at times as deep as that of sombre pianist Abdullah Ibrahim) and dynamic like the best of trumpeter Hugh Masekela -- with whom Nqgawana had worked -- but with no pop or commercial aspirations. The Mail and Guardian Online headlines Nqgawana as a "genius," which is a tricky term, but I have admired and can recommend his music, and be sorry that he'll play no more. (PS and full disclosure: The Columbia/Harlem Fest also hosted the first and so far only convention of international jazz journalists in the U.S." "Jazz in the Global Imagination," co-produced by the Jazz Journalists Association, of which I'm pres. . .)
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May 11, 2011 11:49 AM | | Comments (5)
CityArts New York let me play jazz supplement editor. Read my lead feature on upcoming in June the NYC Blue Note Jazz Festival, UnDead Festival, gigs everywhere and more respect! 

Also Kurt Gottschalk on the Vision Festival's backstory, David Adler on three successful, smart, younger jazzers, snapshots of Brazilian drummer Adriano Santos, Korean singer (of Portuguese  Yeahwon Shin and soul-tinged singer songwriter Laura Cheadle by Ernest Barteldes, and the big band w/classical Asian instruments Project Hansori led by Jeff Fairbanks, by Emilie Pons.
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May 5, 2011 3:44 PM | | Comments (0)



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