Brubeck Brothers Quartet, Classified (Koch). The band headed by bassist/trombonist Chris and drummer Dan Brubeck is in top form on seven new quartet compositions, an impressive chamber suite and a stirring ensemble version of their father’s “Blue Rondo a la Turk.” Guitarist Mike DeMicco, pianist Chuck Lamb and the brothers have become one of the tightest ensembles in jazz without losing their sense of surprise, even abandon. When they combine with the Imani Winds for Chris Brubeck’s three-movement “Vignettes for Nonet,” they introduce a substantial new concert piece full of rich textures and rhythms.
Archives for June 2008
Fever, The Music of Peggy Lee (Capitol). This quasi-documentary sketches Peggy Lee’s life and career. Its greatest contribution is the use of performance clips, interviews and informal films to create a portrait of a gifted artist whose human warmth matched her talent. She was terrific even in a shampoo commercial. Her first husband, the guitarist Dave Barbour, remained her great love even beyond their divorce. The bonus clip of Lee singing “I Only Have Eyes for You” to Barbour as he accompanies her underlines the heartbreaking story better than the script does in the main section.
Katie Hafner, A Romance on Three Legs (Bloomsbury). The story of Glenn Gould’s search for the perfect piano allows us to know the great pianist–and great eccentric–a little better. The book is a superb piece of reporting, its subtext a meditation on the compelling nature of music and its ability to inspire obsession.
Every once in a while, news appears to remind us of the extent to which jazz has become an international art form and field of study. For example:
The third annual Romanian Jazz Education Summit will begin July 5, and last until July 10, 2008. All jazz music educators and most Romanian jazz students will attend. As always, the purpose of this summit is to provide intensive/detailed instruction of American jazz education techniques for Romanian educators and students through the assistance of dedicated mostly American jazz educators. The approximately 100 educators and selected performers will meet in the rustic Carpathian village of Jupinesti, away from the numerous distractions of cities like Bucharest.
The Romanian venture has come about largely through the efforts of an American musician and professor named Tom Smith, with a boost from the US embassy and the Fulbright Commission. Perhaps our government has not abandoned cultural diplomacy, after all. To read more, click here.
Rifftides reader Ian Bradley writes:
I have been meaning to write for a while to say how much I enjoy reading Rifftides. I was prompted to write following your two most recent posts on Bill Finegan and Billy Strayhorn. Whilst Glenn Miller’s music is often denigrated in jazz circles – criticised for something it never set out to be – I always thought there was lot in there to listen for.
I was fascinated to read – in David Hajdu’s Strayhorn biography, I think – that Billy Strayhorn had listened to, knew and appreciated all of Finegan’s work for the Miller band. I am sorry to think that only until a couple of days ago, we still had with us the man who created that legendary arrangement of “Little Brown Jug” – and that there existed such friendship between two such great arrangers. Add that I think Bill Finegan tutored and offered much to the young Nelson Riddle and you have the three greatest writers of a time when that sad disjuncture between popular music and jazz, written and improvised work, did not exist–and popular music was all the richer for it.
( Mr. Bradley blogs at The Record Shows. — DR)
Billy Strayhorn, Duke Ellington’s creative alter-ego, continues to connect with old audiences and find new ones. His music is for everyone, but it is no surprise
that Strayhorn’s story and songs move the gay community, in which he has become a symbol and icon. The Gay Mens Chorus of Los Angeles paid tribute to Strayhorn last year near the fortieth anniversary of his death on May 31, 1967. Video of that ninety-minute production is now streaming in full on the internet. The chorus sings Strayhorn’s music with the swing and nuance it deserves.
Alan Broadbaent wrote the choral arrangements and the big band charts, led the band and played piano on some pieces. The rhythm section is Broadbent’s trio with bassist Putter Smith and drummer Clayton Cameron. Saxophonists Gary Foster and Bob Sheppard and trumpeter Steve Hofsteter are among the band members. The guest vocalist, enthusiastically received by the audience, is Tierney Sutton. Among the highlights, despite the distractions of strange pseudo-Fosse choreography, is the trio’s exploration of Strayhorn’s “Upper Manhattan Medical Group.” Jazz listeners will also appreciate Broadbent’s piano accompaniment and arrangement of “Lush Life” for Billy Porter, who narrates the evening and is an effective singer of Strayhorn’s songs. Click here to go to the Gay Mens Chorus of Los Angeles site, then click on the May 5, 2007 video at the bottom of the screen. Once it is running, double click on the picture to make it full screen. Do this when you have a spare hour and a half to enjoy it.
Here is a rare and much shorter video of Strayhorn performing his most famous composition with the Duke Ellington Orchestra.
For part of a documentary about Strayhorn, and Ellington’s reaction to his death, go here. If you wish to fully explore Strayhorn’s life and career, read Lush Life, the biography by David Hajdu. Not long after Strayhorn died, Ellington and his band recorded this heartfelt tribute. The CD of Strayhorn compositions is one of the best albums of Ellington’s later career.
Great artists pay homage to Billy Strayhorn’s God-given ability and mastery of his craft. Because he had a rare sensitivity and applied himself to his gifts, he successfully married melody, words and harmony, equating the fitting with happiness. — Duke Ellington
‘A’ Train was born without any effort – if was like writing a letter to a friend. — Billy Strayhorn
Bob Brookmeyer sent this message today:
Bill Finegan passed peacefully on today with his son James and his daughter Helen by his side. He was a hero, a dear friend and one of the most gifted arrangers we have ever had. Somewhere an orchestra sounds better.
Finegan was an arranger who gave Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey some of their most
substantial music. In 1952 he and Eddie Sauter formed the Sauter-Finegan Orchestra, which was famous for its musicianship, wit and a couple of hits that included its theme song, a panoramic arrangement of “Doodletown Fifers.” At one time or another, the band included musicians of the quality of Nick Travis, Urbie Green, Eddie Bert, Mundell Lowe, George Duvivier, Eddie Costa and Don Lamond. This CD has a cross-section of the band’s work.
Finegan once said, ”From the time the late Eddie Sauter and I started this band, everything went wrong but the music.” To read more, go here.
Bill Finegan was ninety-one.
Here’s something I’ve been saving for a slow day–that is, a day when I haven’t prepared a new posting. It’s Freddie Hubbard in 1962 at age twenty-four, getting famous with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. To many, this was the Blakey band. It had Wayne Shorter, Curtis Fuller, Cedar Walton, Reggie Workman and Hubbard. Watch for Blakey’s smile when Hubbard tears into the second chorus of his solo with that beautifully placed allusion to “Why Don’t You Do Right?”
It’s too bad this is cut short after Hubbard, but with YouTube, you take what you get.
If someone wants to play music you do not have to get a ruler or whips to make them practice.–Thelonious Monk.
They would tell me to practice, and they would get on my case, but only because they knew that’s what I wanted to do. They never really did pressure me. They wouldn’t have made me take lessons if my heart wasn’t in it. I was 3 or 4 years old, and I wanted it.–Taylor Eigsti
The Rifftides staff has no more intention of making this blog a birthday watch than of making it a death watch, although there is an endless supply of both phenomena. However, on the Jazz West Coast listserve, Desne Villepigue pointed out that yesterday was the eighty-fourth anniversary of Hal McKusick’s appearance in the world, and that is worth noting. McKusick was one of the most rewarding alto saxophone soloists of the fifties and sixties. He is still active as a player, teacher and inspirer of young musicians.
The screen below brings you his 1958 recording of Charlie Parker’s “Now’s The Time.” There was no movie camera in the studio; we should be so lucky. The visuals are album covers. This arrangement for four saxophones incorporates a harmonized transcription of Parker’s solo on the original 1945 Savoy recording of the piece. It predates by fourteen years Supersax, the group that became famous for this sort of thing. The other saxophonists are Frank Socolow, alto; Dick Hafer, tenor; and Jay Cameron, baritone. Solos are by McKusick, pianist Bill Evans and bassist Paul Chambers. The drummer Connie Kay. Contrary to YouTube‘s information, trumpeter Art Farmer is not present.
Farmer is on several other tracks of the CD, which is a cross-section of music from McKusick’s fine series of albums for Decca. To learn more about McKusick, see Marc Myers’ series of interviews with him on JazzWax.
Butch Warren was a fixture on Blue Note albums in the
1960s. One of the bright young bassists of his generation, he recorded with Herbie Hancock, Dexter Gordon, Jackie McLean, Thelonious Monk and others. Then he disappeared.
Reporting for MSNBC, Antoine Sanfuentes found Warren, traced his success, downward trajectory and attempt to re-etablish his career. The piece includes a link to a video profile of Warren. Thanks to Larry Appelbaum for calling our attention to it.