While he was in New York to accept his award as a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master, John Levy talked with National Public Radio’s Sara Fishko. The result was a beautifully produced seven-and-a-half-minute piece that highlights the emotional side of a 93-year-old man who went from bassist to respected artists manager. It ran yesterday. If you missed it, click on this link to NPR’s All Things Considered.
Archives for January 2006
I completed the Yakima-Seattle-New York-Seattle-Yakima odyssey Tuesday evening, only slightly the worse for wear, now rested and restored. Here’s a wrapup of some of my experiences at the IAJE conference and elsewhere in New York:
Buddy DeFranco, approaching his eighty-fourth birthday, played in concert with the U.S. Army Blues Jazz Ensemble. Made up of sergeants of various stripes and led by Chief Warrant Officer Charles Vollherbst, the Blues (named for their dress uniforms) is one of the best big jazz bands at work, military or civilian. It has a stompinâ€™ rhythm section, impressive brass and wind sections, fine soloists, and arrangers with skill and imagination. Staff Sergeant Liesl Whitakerâ€™s lead trumpet work places her among the best in that demanding, punishing craft. Sergeant First Class Graham Breedlove of Lafayette, Louisiana, in addition to being a resourceful trumpet soloist, wrote a masterly piece in the aftermath of hurricane Katrinaâ€™s devastation. â€œNolaâ€™s Lament/Nolaâ€™s Returnâ€ parallels, in a thoroughly modern idiom, traditional New Orleans funeral music, with a mournful first section and a joyous return. Few non-New Orleans drummers get it right when they attempt a Bourbon Street parade beat. In the turnaround between the two sections, Sergeant First Class Steve Fidyk of Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, nailed it.
Eyes closed, a listener might have thought he had been transported to 1949, so finely tuned were DeFrancoâ€™s clarinet chops and his creativity. He made his way through a cross-section of patented bop patterns on â€œI Got Rhythmâ€ changes as he warmed up with â€œLester Leaps In.â€ But in â€œMr. Lucky,â€ a staple item of his repertoire that might have encouraged coasting, he reached for surprising intervals and melodic turns. Then came George Gershwinâ€™s â€œSoonâ€ in an arrangement by Master Sergeant James Roberts of Washington, DC, the bandâ€™s guitarist. Building on the kaleidoscopic impressionism and time shifting of Robertsâ€™ introduction, DeFranco constructed a solo of breathtaking logic and lyricism, a timeless solo, one that must be among the best of tens of thousands he has played since he turned professional in 1939. In his cadenza on the final piece, Rob Pronkâ€™s â€œDonâ€™t You Ever Learn,â€ DeFranco muffed a note in a downward glissando. He played the cadenza again. He still wasnâ€™t happy. He played it a third time, to perfection, and came out of it grinning like a schoolboy. It was an endearing self-correction that a less seasoned player might not have had the nerve to make. Jazz Master, indeed.
It is impossible to predict the course of an artistâ€™s career, but hereâ€™s a name to file away: Logan Strosahl. He is a sixteen-year-old alto saxophonist with the Roosevelt High School Jazz Band from Seattle, Washington. Strosahl has the energy of five sixteen-year-olds, rhythm that wells up from somewhere inside him, technique, harmonic daring with knowledge to support it andâ€”that most precious jazz commodityâ€”individuality. If he learns to control the whirlwind and allow space into his improvising, my guess is that youâ€™ll be hearing from Logan Strosahl.
I signed copies of Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond at the Tower Records store at IAJE, which was impressively managed by Towerâ€™s Larry Isacson. Toward the end of the session I shared the table with Maria Schneider. We sold a respectable number of Desmond books, but the line of fans buying CDs for Maria to sign was along the wall of the store, out into the Hilton hallway and halfway to 54th Street. It seemed never to get shorter. A Grammy and four Grammy nominations will do that. It couldnâ€™t happen to a more deservingâ€”or nicerâ€”person. Mariaâ€™s one-on-one conversation with NEA Jazz Master Bob Brookmeyer, her mentor, was a high point of the events I attended. She opened with a sound montage of Brookmeyer arrangements that covered decades, then discussed music with him composer-to-composer. The wisdom, affection and humor were palpable. The room was packed. Toward the end of the two hours, Clark Terry took over from Maria for an emotional reunion of two men who made it plain that when they say they are brothers, it is not just rhetoric.
The final night of the conference, Chick Corea, Eddie Gomez and Jack DeJohnette played in the cozy setting of the grand ballroom of the New York Hilton. The room is approximately the size and dimensions of two football fields. It was overflowing, every seat filled and people standing jammed to the walls on both sides and in the back. And yet, the three wizards managed to achieve intimacy as they moved through â€œSolar,â€ â€œMilestonesâ€ and â€œBut Beautiful.â€ Corea, always the conceptual arsonist, seemed to be firing the ideas at first. Gomez was being excessively acrobatic at the top of the bass. The set settled into a cooperative three-way exchange of the kind achieved on a good night by players who have profound knowledge and appreciation of each otherâ€™s work.
Out of the hotel, into a cab and over to Columbus Circle to grab a bite at Dizzyâ€™s Club Coca Cola, publisher Mal Harris and I had no idea who was playing. We also had no reservation, but Dizzyâ€™s honcho Todd Barkan succumbed to our disappointment at the initial turndown and installed us on stools along the wall. To our intense satisfaction, the band turned out to be Lewis Nashâ€™s quartet with pianist Renee Rosnes, vibraharpist Steve Nelson and bassist Peter Washington. It was Detroit week at the club and the quartet played a set of pieces by Thad Jones, Tommy Flanagan, Milt Jackson, and one each by John Clayton and Tadd Dameron from Jacksonâ€™s repertoire. Nashâ€™s unaccompanied introduction to Flanaganâ€™s â€œEclypso,â€ using only his fingers and the palms of his hands across the drums, was electrifying. The dignified woman on the next stool was moved to break her silence. â€œMy gosh,â€ she said.
The playing by all hands was exciting, culminating in Jacksonâ€™s blues â€œSKG,â€ which included Nashâ€™s New York debut as a scat singer. Full of harmonic knowledge as well as rhythm, Nash was not pulling a stunt. He was making music. The piece swung so hard that Barkan was grooving in his seat as he waited to make his post-set announcement. The gumbo was good, if not quite New Orleans quality. The panoramic view of the rainy city through the floor-to-ceiling windows was pure New York. It was a fine end to a long, rewarding day and an IAJE conference so packed with opportunities that no one could take advantage of more than a small percent of them.
Finally, with a couple of hours to spare on Sunday before we left for the airport, Mal and I hiked rapidly through the suddenly freezing New York streets to the Museum of Modern Art. We were particularly interested in the exhibit called The Forty-Part Motet, a work by the Canadian artist Janet Cardiff. She recorded the Salisbury Cathedral Choir singing the 1575 Thomas Tallis work Spen In Alium Nunqua Habui, composed in 1575 in honor of Queen Elizabeth The First’s fortieth birthday. Cardiff assembled the singers in an oval in groups of five, each singer recorded on a separate microphone. In the museum, the oval is recreated with a single speaker for each singer. If you stand in the middle of the oval, the choir wafts over and around you from all sides. If you walk slowly past the speakers inside the perimiter of the oval, you hear the individual voices singing their parts. Most, but not all, sing in tune. If you find an especially intriguing baritone or a bewitching soprano, you can concentrate on his or her voice. This is ultimate surround sound. Iâ€™d love to hear, say, the Bill Holman Band or the Vanguard Orchestra, or the U.S. Army Blues Jazz Ensemble recorded this way. Is the Cardiff installation art? Itâ€™s in the Museum of Modern Art, isnâ€™t it?
Other pieces of interest in the lightning tour of MoMA:
William Kentridgeâ€™s Felix In Exile, a wall projection video of Kentridgeâ€™s animated drawings, a disturbing impressionistic story of South African bondage and freedom.
Peter Fischliâ€™s The Way Things Go, another piece of video art, this one displayed on monitors. It shows an endless Rube Goldberg chain of actions and consequences involving fire, ice, explosions, water, oil, tires, metal balls, tipping cans of liquid, dropping weights, catapulted objects. Itâ€™s fascinating and exciting. A couple of small boys seated on the floor near where I was standing erupted in glee every time there was a new burst of flame or an explosion. Better than a car chase. Is it art? I refer you to the previous question.
Back at Rifftides world headquarters, following the semblance of a nightâ€™s sleep, I prepared an introduction of the Brubeck Brothers Quartet, which played a rousing concert to a full house last night at The Seasons. Although the BBQ played a few Dave Brubeck pieces, listeners who may have come expecting to hear a tribute band covering Father Brubeckâ€™s greatest hits were treated to originality, vitality and power. I knew Dan Brubeckâ€™s drumming and Chrisâ€™s electric bass and trombone work, but pianist Chuck Lamb and guitarist Mike DeMicco were new to me. Each is a first-rate soloist and a talented composer.
Lambâ€™s â€œPrime Directiveâ€ and DeMiccoâ€™s â€œLydian Grinâ€ were highlights of the evening, along with Chris Brubeckâ€™s â€œBullwinkleâ€™s Revenge,â€ an amusingly disjunctive blues with a bridge. Chris described his brother as â€œan animal on the drums.â€ Yes, but there is more to Danny Brubeck than concentrated energy. He is also one of the most sensitive brush artists at work today. Perhaps by genetic predisposition, this little band is centered in rhythm. It swings as hard as any Iâ€™ve heard lately. If the Brubecks and friends come to your neighborhood, I recommend not missing them. Saturday night the BBQ joins forces with the Yakima Symphony Orchestra. It will also be the occasion of the American premier of Chris Brubeckâ€™s Prague Concerto For Bass Trombone and Orchestra.
The Rifftides staff is still wending its way from New York back to headquarters. Our two-day stopover is in Seattle, which is entering its thirtieth consecutive day of rain. Perversely, Seattleites are simultaneously complaining about the ceaseless downpours and saying, oh, what the hell, we’re this close, let’s hope we break the record. The thirty-three-day record was set in 1953. Washington and Oregon east of the mountains are getting less precipitation than the Puget Sound area, but enough that there is a good chance the three-year drought over there will end. That’s fine with the growers of apples, alfalfa, hops, peppermint, wine and the other agricultural products that drive the economy on that side of the Cascades.
Tonight, friend Jack Brownlow and I watched the first disc of the expanded two-DVD update of Jean Bach’s film about the monumental Art Kane photograph A Great Day In Harlem. Look for a report on that remarkable documentary after I’ve seen the whole thing.
Later in the week, I’ll post a few more observations and impressions gathered at the IAJE meeting in New York. Hang in there with us, please. These seven days have been full of rewarding events, with little time for blogging.
The new class of NEA (National Endowment for the Arts) Jazz Masters was sworn in tonight at the IAJE bash: Ray Barretto, Freddie Hubbard, Chick Corea, Bob Brookmeyer, Buddy DeFranco, Tony Bennett and John Levy. Each spoke briefly and movingly as he accepted his award. Jon Faddis led a big band that played, beautifully, the “Beige” section of Duke Ellington’s “Black, Brown and Beige.” Bill Hughes and Dennis Wilson led the Count Basie band in a set that turned out to be mostly accompaniment for the singer Nnenna Freelon, who did her patented jazz-cum-show business thing.
Barry Harris was brought up to join the Basie band on piano for one number. Oddly, the most important living Bud Powell successor was relegated to providing accompaniment for Freelon. The two bands combined at the end in “Battle Royale,” a piece the Ellington and Basie bands famously recorded together in the early 1960s. Then, the massed forces played “One O’clock Jump” as a finale, with Paquito D’Rivera, Slide Hampton, Corea, Jimmy Heath and James Moody sitting in. Moody, who apparently left his saxophones in his hotel room, scatted some of the most interesting music of the evening.
There materialized on the bandstand an extremely short, extremely young person holding a trumpet and looking as if he couldn’t wait to start blowing. After D’Rivera on clarinet, Slide Hampton on trombone, Corea on Piano, Heath on tenor saxophone and Moody had soloed, the boy played four or five chourses of the blues. He played well enough–within a narrow range but with continuity of ideas–that the world-class musicians surrounding him looked at first perplexed and then delighted. On the final choruses, Heath and D’Rivera set a riff, everyone joined in, including the boy, and the evening ended in affirmation.
I managed to make my way through the throng at the foot of the bandstand to find out something about this poised youngster. He told me that his name is Tyler Lindsey. He’s from Virginia Beach, Virginia. He’s ten years old. He plays in three bands in his hometown, and he came to the IAJE meeting with his dad. “I was glad to hear you,” I told him. “I was glad to play,” he said. It was quite a night for him. And for the rest of us.
Here at the conference of the International Association of Jazz Education (IAJE) in midtown Manhattan, seven-thousand-odd jazz people are swarming in and between two enormous hotels. If life is a succession of choices, this is dramatic evidence. As I write this at 5:00 p.m., there are ten events on the schedule, six of which I am sorry to be missing. For three days, every waking hour has more or less that many concerts, clinics, demonstrations, workshops, panels and research presentations. The result is that, for most of us, there are many more waking hours and far fewer sleeping hours than usual.
Here are four highlights from what Iâ€™ve heard so far:
The WDR big band from KÃ¶ln, featuring guitarist BirÃ©li LagrÃ©ne, playing the arrangements of Michael Abene under Abeneâ€™s direction. This band dispels any remaining illusion that Europeans havenâ€™t mastered the art of swinging or havenâ€™t produced first-rate soloists. Alto saxophonist Karolina Strassmeyer and pianist Frank Chastenier are sterling improvisers. Chastenier resembles George on the Seinfeld show and plays like a direct descendant of Eddie Costa. The band contains two gifted Americans, trumpeter John Marshall and bassist John Goldsby.
The Sultans of Swing, led by David Berger. The Sultans are a New York big band that plays with a perfect balance of precision and looseness. Their â€œJumpinâ€™ At The Woodsideâ€ was the perfect twenty-first century manifestation of the legacy of Count Basie. Bassist Dennis Irwin, drummer Jimmy Madison and pianist Isaac ben Ayala are the powerhouse rhythm section manning the engine room.
Dan Morgenstern in an interview session with Steve Schwartz of WGBH in Boston, on Louis Armstrong:
He loved to make people feel good, to bring happiness. Thatâ€™s what motivated him. Thatâ€™s what made him such a universally admired person. People could sense that.
Clark Terry, interviewed by Nat Hentoff, on the hard work required to become a master of improvisation:
If you donâ€™t prepare yourself for all kinds of surprises, youâ€™re going to be surprised.
If you donâ€™t check the other artsjournal.com blogs now and then, youâ€™re missing things. For instance, you may have not have seen Jan Hermanâ€™s Straight Up piece about a singer who made his reputation in another field. This singer/author sublimated himself into one of his novels as a character who, among other things, appeared in Don Giovani and wrestled with how to do the serenade.
I wanted to put it up a half tone, so I could get it in the key of three flats, but I didn’t. It’s in the key of two sharps, the worst key there is for a singer, especially the high F sharp at the end, that catches a baritone all wrong, and makes him sound coarse and ropy. The F sharp is not in the score, but it’s tradition and you have to sing it. God knows why Mozart ever put it in that key, unless it’s because two sharps is the best key there is for a mandolin, and he let his singer take the rap so he could bring the accompaniment to life.
Hereâ€™s an easier stylistic clue:
I was in the Tupinamba, having a bizcocho and coffee, when the girl came in. Everything about her said Indian, from the maroon rebozo to the black dress with purple flowers on it, to the swaying way she walked, that no woman ever got without carrying pots, bundles, and baskets on her head from the time she could crawl.
Familiar style? To read all of Janâ€™s post and discover the identity of the novelist, go here.
Hint: It’s not Proust.
After reading about Jessica Williamsâ€™s tribute to Erroll Garner the other night, the nonpareil singer Carol Sloane sent this reminiscence of a summit meeting of pianists:
When Jessica Williams mentions both Tommy Flanagan and Errol Garner in the course of her set, it reminds me of a night in New York in the 1970’s. I cooked dinner for Tommy and Diana Flanagan in the Greenwich Village apartment Jimmy Rowles and I shared. With hundreds of recordings available to us after the meal, we all agreed to listen to Errol Garner. Smiles all around. Jimmy affectionately called him “Orch” because “he sounds like an orchestra!”
The American premier of Chris Brubeckâ€™s new Prague Concerto for Bass Trombone and Orchestra will take place with the Yakima Symphony Orchestra on Saturday, January 21. The concerto reflects Brubeckâ€™s rangy interests and skills in classical music, jazz and rock. That may indicate a bouillabaisse of a composition, but the piece has coherence, unity, and good-natured seriousness. The concerto comes in three movements titled â€œThe Return of the Prince,â€ â€œSong of the Mountainsâ€ and â€œDance of the Neocons.â€ I think that it is likely to further advance the reputation of Dave Brubeckâ€™s number-three son as an American composer of standing and substance. The concerto is one of three of his compositions on this new compact disc. River of Song has ravishing singing by Frederica von Stade; Brubeck keeps good company. The other major work on the YSO program will be Leonard Bernsteinâ€™s Three Dance Episodes from On The Town.
In addition to the trombone concerto, the concert will present the quartet led by Chris, playing trombone and bass, and his brother Danny, a gifted drummer. Their colleagues are guitarist Mike DeMicco and pianist Chuck Lamb. They will play three pieces by Dave Brubeckâ€”â€œCassandra,â€ â€œIn Your Own Sweet Way,â€ and â€œBlue Rondo a la Turk,â€ in addition to Chris Brubeckâ€™s â€œWeâ€™re Still in Love After All These Years.â€ If there is an encore, itâ€™s likely to beâ€”guess what? Right: â€œTake Five.â€
I was asked to write the program notes for the symphony concert and to chat about the music with the YSO music director and conductor, Brooke Cresswell. You can hear our conversation in four short podcasts on the YSO website.
Earlier next week, on Wednesday, January 18, The Brubeck Brothers Quartet will play at The Seasons, that acoustically blessed former church, in another of what is becoming an impressive series of concerts. To many Rifftides readers, Yakima, Washington, may as well be on the far side of the moon, but the word is getting around in jazz and classical circles that a gig at The Seasons is something to be desired.
The following story from Agence France Presse has been popping up in newspapers, on television and radio, and everywhere on the internet. It seems to have (ahem) struck a responsive chord. In the unlikely event that you have missed it, Rifftides brings it to you as a public service.
World’s Longest Concert Sounds Second Chord
A new chord has sounded in the world’s slowest and longest concert, which will take 639 years to perform.
An abandoned church in eastern Germany is the venue for the 639-year-long performance of a piece of music by American experimental composer John Cage.
The performance of “organ2/ASLSP” (or “As SLow aS Possible”) began in the Buchardi church in Halberstadt on September 5, 2001, and is scheduled to last until 2639.
The first year-and-a-half of the performance was total silence, with the first chord, G-sharp, B and G-sharp, not sounding until February 2, 2003.
Two additional Es, an octave apart, were sounded in July 2004 and are scheduled to be released later this year on May 5.
Today, the first chord has progressed to a second, comprising A, C and F-sharp, and is to be held down over the next few years by weights on an organ being built especially for the project.
New pipes are being added to the organ in time for when new notes are scheduled to sound.
Cage originally conceived the piece in 1985 as a 20-minute work for piano, subsequently transcribing it for organ in 1987.
But organisers of the John Cage Organ Project decided to take the composer at his word and stretch out the performance for 639 years, using Cage’s transcription for organ.
The enormous running time was chosen to commemorate the creation of Halberstadt’s historic Blockwerk organ in 1361, 639 years before the current project started.
The organ, built by Nikolaus Faber for Halberstadt’s cathedral, was the first ever to be used for liturgical purposes, ringing in a new era in which the organ has played a central role in church music ever since.
Cage was a pupil of one of the 20th century’s most influential composers, Arnold Schoenberg.
Cage’s avant-garde oeuvre includes works such as the notorious “4’33”, a piece for orchestra comprising four minutes and 33 seconds of total silence, all meticulously notated.
Cage died in New York in 1992.
The organisers of the John Cage Organ Project say the record-breaking performance in Halberstadt also has a philosophical background, to “rediscover calm and slowness in today’s fast-changing world.” (AFP)
In recent years, Shirley Horn, RIP, was the leading exponent of that philosophy, although she never took quite that long between chords.
Rifftides reader Garth Jowett writes:
The Miguel Zenon is “different” from what I expected, but
wonderful in its own way. I would like to hear what he can do with
“bebop” standards, as he has such great control of the instrument, and a
wonderful sound. Thanks for the recommendation.
It’s not quite a bop standard, but Zenon solos on “MDM” with the Mingus Big Band on I Am Three and has interesting solos in Not In Our Name by Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra. With Haden, he is at his most boppish in “America The Beautiful,” but he is unabashedly a post-bop player.
Iâ€™m off this morning to the IAJE bash. Travel will consume the better part of today and tomorrow. Blogging for the next few days will be catch as catch can, but Iâ€™ll keep my eyes and ears open among the throngs and the wall-to-wall music and keep you posted, even if sporadically.
Jessica Williams played a magnificent solo concert Saturday night at The Seasons. A tall, luminous presence in dark tones and silver, she began with her new-agey composition called â€œLove and Hateâ€ and followed it with an explanation that it was â€œthe sort of thing youâ€™d hear on top-forty radio.â€ Well, not quite, but it prompted concern in the hall that we might be headed for an evening in George Winston territory. That worry began dissipating when she was eight bars into Billy Eckstineâ€™s â€œI Want To Talk About You.â€ It was gone forever by the time she played â€œMonksâ€™ Mood,â€ which opened an extended Thelonious Monk medley that ended up swinging so hard and so deeply that the audience of 300 was a mass of smiling faces on bobbing heads. The nine-foot Steinway was stunning in its unamplified glory in the hallâ€™s perfect acoustics. Her command of it was breathtaking.
Williams prefaced a Duke Ellington segment with the observation that she canâ€™t play his music without feeling his warmth. The warmth filled the room as she explored â€œMood Indigo,â€ â€œIn My Solitudeâ€ and â€œTake The â€˜Aâ€™ Trainâ€ in an Ellington segment laced with allusions to several of his other tunes. Engaging if charmingly distracted in her conversation between pieces, she told of opening for Bill Evans at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco in the 1980s. After her first set, she recalled, she passed Evans on the stairs and he said, â€œWhere the _____ did you come from?â€ a compliment she still relishes. (The chaste â€œ_____â€ is hers, not mine). Then, she captured several aspects of Evans in her composition â€œBillâ€™s Beauty.â€
â€œYouâ€™re such a great audience,â€ she said, â€œthat Iâ€™m going to take requests.â€ Before she finished talking, someone jumped the gun. A loud male voice asked for John Coltraneâ€™s â€œWise One.â€ She grinned. â€œJust for that,â€ she said, â€œI wonâ€™t play it.â€ The next request was for â€œGiant Steps. No, she said; if Tommy Flanagan wouldnâ€™t play it, neither would she. It was a good-natured, but odd, refusal. Not only was Flanagan the pianist on Coltraneâ€™s celebrated 1959 recording of the piece, but he also recorded it in 1981 with his quartet, and made trio versions in 1982 with George Mraz and Al Foster and 1983 with Ron Carter and Tony Williams. No matter; Williams was happy to comply with the next request, for â€œâ€™Round Midnight.â€ Again, Monk stimulated her most profound playing. The last piece, another request, Gershwinâ€™s â€œMy Manâ€™s Gone Now,â€ had echoes of Evans that gave way to pure Williams, the kind of inspired creativity that jazz players in the thirties called â€œoriginal stuff.â€
She thanked the audience, bowed and left the stage to a standing ovation, not of the knee-jerk variety that has been sweeping the land, but one motivated by artistry. Called back, Williams spoke about Erroll Garner, identified him as one of her heroes and cautioned her listeners never to take him for granted as a mere entertainer but to realize that he was â€œa great pianist and a great musician.â€ Then she went back to the Steinway and played a two-and-a-half-minute encore, â€œBody and Soulâ€ (â€œNot in D-flat, but E-flat,â€ she said). Except for the key change, it was Garner circa 1951, to the life.
New Rifftides reader John B. an estimable blogger, comments on the apparently endless fascination of Rifftiders with the phenomenon of applause.
I know this is an old post of yours, but I excuse this by saying that I’ve just learned of your blog and so “it’s new to me.” Apologies in advance for prattling.
This topic reminds me of something that happened at a concert by a Slovak orchestra that I attended some years ago in Mobile, Alabama. I can’t remember the piece now, but at the end of the first movement many in the audience began applauding. The conductor, somewhat bemused, half-turned and acknowledged it with a slight bow of the head. But now a precedent had been established: at the end of the second movement, the audience again applauded. This time, though, the conductor’s expression as he turned was a considerably less patient one–the smile tighter, the nod of the head slower. For me, at least, that moment created a tension that lasted the rest of the concert; the focus wasn’t on the music but on that whole constellation of behaviors involved in concertgoing that were transgressed in part that night. The night became a question of what, in the end, do we attend concerts for: to hear music or to observe the obsequies attendant upon hearing music?
I suppose an appropriate analogy would be a deviation from the norm of a high-church’s liturgy: Being a high-churcher myself, I am drawn to liturgy–it connects me to the church’s long, long past in a way that more informal forms of worship do not. But I’m not there to worship liturgy.
Jack Tracy writes concerning Pee Wee Marquette:
PeeWee also was noted for garbling some names, as when he announced the in-house presence one night of “Marlo Brandon.” My favorite, however, was when bassist Teddy Kotick inevitably became “Teddy Kotex.”
John Levy, who is about to receive his award as a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master, appeared this week on the Tavis Smiley Show on Public Radio International. The former bassist, active at ninety-three as a respected artist manager, discussed his life, career and thoughts about what is happening to jazz. He speaks as he looks, at least twenty years younger than his age and full of enthusiasm. John expresses even tough opinions with a smile in his voice. A sample:
Jazz has been put into a different category. In other words, to be in jazz today, to start out in it, you have to be young, you have to be white and, in most cases, female.
To hear the entire conversation with John Levy and see photographic proof of his youthful appearance , go to the Tavis Smiley archive. Thanks to DevraDowrite for bringing the interview to our attention.
The other new NEA Jazz Masters, as everyone probably knows by now, are Bob Brookmeyer, Buddy De Franco, Chick Corea, Freddie Hubbard, Ray Barretto and Tony Bennett. They will be honored at the IAJE conference in New York next Friday, January 13.
As Devra also points out, Bill Kirchner continues his radio series on WBGO in Newark. He sent a reminder that his show this weekend is devoted to a woman whose talent burned brightly and briefly.
Recently, I taped my next one-hour show for the â€œJazz From the Archivesâ€ series. Presented by the Institute of Jazz Studies, the series runs every Sunday on WBGO-FM (88.3).
Sometime in the mid-1950s, a young woman from Detroit named Sara Cassey (1929-1966) moved to New York City. For a few years in the late â€™50s and early â€™60s, while she worked for Riverside Records, her beautifully-crafted pieces (calling them â€œtunesâ€ doesnâ€™t do them justice) were recorded by Clark Terry (with Thelonious Monk), Hank and Elvin Jones, Billy Taylor, Junior Mance, Johnny Griffin (with Barry Harris), Stan Kenton (with singer Jean Turner), and others. Cassey committed suicide at age 37, and she has been virtually forgotten. But her music still sounds fresh and original, as recordings by the aforementioned artists and others demonstrate.
The show will air this Sunday, January 8, from 11 p.m. to midnight, Eastern Standard Time.
NOTE: If you live outside the New York City metropolitan area, WBGO also broadcasts on the Internet at www.wbgo.org
In that excellent Canadian newspaper, The Globe And Mail, J.D. Considine had a column this week that dealt with changes in the way people listen to music. One of his conclusions is that the more music people hear in more places, the less it registers. That development undoubtedly relates to the phenomenon of mindless applause discussed here a few weeks ago. The thread concluded with this posting, from which you may care to trace back through all of the entries about it.
I mentioned half a year ago that I have heard Paul Desmond, â€œin the Safeway while reaching for a box of Cheerios,â€ among many other places.
The truth is, I donâ€™t want to hear Desmond, or any other music, in the Safeway, at the gas station, in Starbucks, the Mexico City subway, The Gap or the dentistâ€™s office, certainly not on the street, and not often in my car. I donâ€™t have an Ipod and donâ€™t want one. I want a little peace and quiet now and then.
To read the whole thing, go here.
In the Globe And Mail piece, headlined â€œAn Ipod Canâ€™t Rock The House,â€ Considine recognizes that there are still audiophiles who demand perfect sound reproduced through perfect equipment perfectly placed.
For most of us, however, dedicated listening has become something of a rarefied pursuit. We hear music all the time — in offices, in shops, in elevators, while driving, while dining, while socializing — and its omnipresence has, ironically, cemented its place as background. Being awash in music most of the day has led to a sort of soundtrack effect, in which we want to hear music constantly but seldom stop and listen.
Perhaps the most poignant example of this effect is in nightclubs and concert halls, where the number of people chatting through a performance testifies to the lack of focus accorded music. It’s not that the audience no longer respects the art of music-making. They simply don’t consider rapt attention to be an essential part of listening.
He doesnâ€™t so much blame technology as bow to the inevitability of it.
Technology eventually makes fogeys of us all. Baby boomers, who snickered at the scratchy sound of their grandparents’ 78s, saw their parents’ hi-fi sets evolve into sophisticated stereo systems, complete with record changers and eight-track tape players. All of which, in turn, seemed strange and old-fashioned to their children, who grew up on CDs and cassettes and thought of LPs as something used only by rap DJs.
To read all of â€œAn Ipod Canâ€™t Rock The House,â€ go here.
At more or less the last minute, I have decided to attend the conference of the International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE) next week in New York. It is a massive gatheringâ€”at least 7-thousand educators, musicians and people from every nook and cranny of jazz as an art and jazz as a business. For three days, the Hilton and Sheraton hotels in midtown Manhattan will be overflowing with concerts, panels, workshops, clinics, lectures, meetings, exhibits, and folks milling around and hanging out. Paul de Barros of The Seattle Times and Down Beat has graciously agreed to let me join the authors on the panel he will moderate.
The panel subject is Jazz Lives In Print. The other biographers in the discussion will be Gary Giddins (Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker), Peter Levinson (Tommy Dorsey, Harry James, Nelson Riddle), Ashley Kahn (Miles Davis, John Coltrane) and Stephanie Stein Crease (Gil Evans). The panel will be at 2:00 pm on Thursday, January 12 at the Sheraton New York. The convention program describes it this way:
The last decade has seen a torrent of new jazz biographies, some comprehensive and thorough, others mere hearsay and hagiography. What makes a good jazz biography? What are readers, fans and musicians looking for in a good bio? Personal anecdotes? Musical analysis? Social Context? A little of all three? Four prominent authors of recent jazz biographies discuss how they did their research and made their decisions about what to include (and not to include).
Make that four prominent authors and me. If you are at IAJE, I hope that you will join us. The folks at Parkside Publications have arranged for me to sign copies of Take Five:The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond at the Tower Records booth on the third floor of the New York Hilton at 2:00 pm on Saturday, January 14. I would be happy to see you there.
The Voice of Americaâ€™s John Birchard writes:
Your Philly Joe material reminded me of an evening back in the early
60s, a Monday Night at Birdland.
Joe had brought a quintet into the club. Following the obligatory
oratory by PeeWee Marquette, Jonesâ€”very clean in a hip three-piece Ivy
League suitâ€”slid behind the drums and counted off the first tune, one
of those up-tempo bop jobs that discouraged amateurs from even thinking
of sitting in.
There’s Philly Joe, with one stick tucked under his arm, adjusting the
angle of the cymbals and tightening the head of the snare with his free
hand while never missing an accent on the complex chart with his other
extremitiesâ€”and smiling a satisfied smile that said, (to me, at least)
“I got this thing covered, baby, stand back!” And, at the exact moment
the band reached the end of the head and arrived at bar one of the first
solo, Philly Joe finished his fine-tuning, put the second stick in hand
and gave his sideman a thunderous press roll as a launch pad. I couldn’t
help but laugh out loud at a terrific piece of show biz.