Carla Bley, Steve Swallow, The Partyka Brass Quintet, Carla’s Christmas Carols (Watt). Bley arranges nine classic carols with tenderness, wit, harmonic brilliance, wide dynamic range and a wry sense of nostalgia. She adds two of her own pieces, the gorgeous “Jesus Maria” and “Hell’s Bells”, a joyous concoction on “I Got Rhythm” changes. Swallow’s bass work, as always, is perfection. Prepare to be captivated by the brass ensemble and by the solos of trombonist Adrian Mears, trumpeter Axel Schlosser and hornist Christine Chapman.
Archives for 2009
On the Jazzhouse web site, W. Royal Stokes posts a valuable column recommending recent jazz, blues and pop photography and art books. It is an extensive list, just in time for Christmas. Stokes gives each book a thorough paragraph of review and a link to an online source for purchase. Here is some of what he writes about Hank O’Neal’s Ghosts of Harlem, a recent Doug’s Pick:
That he shot them with an ancient wooden view camera, setting up lights, inserting a plate, and throwing a cloth over his head and the instrument (shades of Matthew Brady!) says much about his determination to capture that “moment of truth” in the best possible light. Which he did in image after image.
I was surprised and pleased to find that Mr. Stokes included Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond despite its being a biography, not a picture book. Now I am even happier that the publisher insisted on lots of photographs.
Chris Potter, Steve Wilson, Terell Stafford, Coming Together (Inarhyme). This was to have been the recording debut in 2005 of the young tenor saxophonist Brendan Romaneck. That year he died at 24 in a traffic accident. In his memory, saxophonists Potter and Wilson, trumpeter Stafford and a fine rhythm section completed the project. Eight of the compositions are Romaneck’s. Three are standard songs. Potter is compelling with a pianoless trio on “My Shining Hour.” Wilson and Stafford shine on Romaneck’s daring “Minion.” Pianist Keith Javors, bassist Delbert Felix and drummer John Davis are strong throughout.
Miles Davis, Kind of Blue (Columbia). Okay, this is the zillionth reissue, and it’s not the first to include alternate takes, false starts or a second CD of performances by the classic Davis sextet. The difference? Columbia got the sound right – no forced reverberation, echo, clipping, compression or other digital-age engineering cuteness. This is how the music should sound. Nice packaging, too, retaining the original cover on a sturdy three-panel fold-out box. If you don’t own Kind of Blue, this is the one. If you do, the improved sonics are worth considering.
Woody Herman, Live in ’64 (Jazz Icons). This captures Herman on British television long after he stopped naming or numbering his Herds. It was one his most exciting bands, driven by drummer Jake Hanna and bassist Chuck Andrus. Upstate New York terrors Joe Romano and Sal Nistico are fascinating in their contrasting tenor sax styles. Two underrated trumpet soloists, Paul Fontaine and Billy Hunt, stand out, as does trombonist Phil Wilson, a master of high-note eloquence. But it’s the tout ensemble that grabs you. Woody is charming in his set-piece introductions. BBC sound and video quality are good.
Helene La Faro-FernÃ¡ndez, Jade Visions: The Life and Music of Scott La Faro (North Texas). There will be other books about the most important young bassist of the last half of the twentieth century. Their authors will mine this invaluable first biography. The insight La Faro’s sister gives into his character, musicality and determination could come only from someone so close. But the book is not just memories. La Faro-FernÃ¡ndez conducted dozens of interviews and did meticulous research to create a full portrait of the man who in a tragically short career changed jazz bass playing.
Thanks to Bill Royston for calling our attention to a strange turn of events at a jazz festival in Spain. Here is beginning of The Guardian‘s story about the incident:
Jazzman Larry Ochs has seen many things during 40 years playing his saxophone around the world but, until this week, nobody had ever called the police on him.
That changed on Monday night however, when’s Spain’s pistol-carrying Civil Guard police force descended on the SigÃ¼enza Jazz festival to investigate allegations that Ochs’s music was not, well, jazz.
Police decided to investigate after an angry jazz buff complained that the Larry Ochs Sax and Drumming Core group was on the wrong side of a line dividing jazz from contemporary music.
The jazz purist claimed his doctor had warned it was “psychologically inadvisable” for him to listen to anything that could be mistaken for mere contemporary music.
To read the whole thing, go here.
This raises the perpetual question, “What is jazz?” and gives a perfect excuse to once again provide Sid Caesar’s attempt to answer it.
That nearly subliminal face at the end was Carl Reiner’s. He doesn’t know, either.
The Kennedy Center Honors ceremony held last Sunday will be televised on CBS December 29. In the meantime, the White House has released a clip of President Obama’s informal talk at the reception before the event. It runs about 18 minutes, with the camera on the President the whole time. The following video, nicely edited and produced, incorporates a shortened version of his remarks and interaction with the honorees, Dave Brubeck, Mel Brooks, Grace Bumbry, Robert De Niro and Bruce Springsteen. I thought you would find it interesting.
(When the video ends, it goes to black and hangs there, evidently forever. That’s how the White House provided it. If you click on your “reload” symbol in the address bar at the top of your screen, it goes back to normal.)
It was six degrees above zero here last night, but the calendar says we have eleven more days until winter. Before autumn leaves, let’s enjoy Bill Evans playing his signature arrangement of one of his favorite pieces. This was Copenhagen in 1965, with Eddie Gomez on bass and Alex Riel playing drums. There are several videos of Evans playing the song, but this one comes closest to the spirit of the version he first recorded in Portrait In Jazz, the 1959 album that brought him to wider attention and critical acclaim.
Indiana Public Media’s Night Lights has posted on the internet a one-hour program about Vince Guaraldi. The host, David Brent Johnson, traces the pianist’s career, plays a broad selection of his recordings and talks with guitarist Eddie Duran, Charlie Brown specials producer Lee Mendelson, Guaraldi’s son David, pianist Luke Gillespie providing analysis, and others who were close to Guaraldi. I am pleased to be included in the broadcast. To hear It’s Jazz, Charlie Brown: The Vince Guaraldi Story, click here.
Want even more about Vince? My Guaraldi spot with Scott Simon is still up on the NPR web site.
ABC-TV will air its traditional rerun of A Charlie Brown Christmas with Guaraldi’s music tomorrow, December 8, at 8 pm EST.
The Kennedy Center Honors for 2009 went last night to Dave Brubeck on his 89th birthday, and to Mel Brooks, Grace Bumbry, Robert De Niro and Bruce Springsteen. CBS-TV will broadcast two hours of highlights from the ceremony at 9 pm EST on December 29. This morning’s papers and tonight’s newscasts will be full of the story. Googling the name of the event will turn up dozens of items on the web.
For the jazz community, of course, the big news is the inclusion of Brubeck. By dint of talent, conviction and fortitude he has persevered through a 63-year career of struggle, fame, misfortune, rewards, unjustified calumny and ultimate acceptance by nearly everyone, including many who once found it convenient to use him as a symbol of whatever they found unworthy, inartistic or unfair in the jazz business. When he had survived a long time, they started listening.
Nothing I have read in the past few days has seemed to capture Brubeck more accurately or movingly than Ann Gerhart’s feature piece in yesterday’s Washington Post. Here is a bit of her article about an interview with Brubeck and his wife Iola.
They are in a hotel suite in Minneapolis, he in stocking feet, white shirt, khaki dress pants and suspenders, doing this interview, she in black sweater and slacks, silk scarf about her neck, peering at a laptop at their autobiography, now in progress for at least a decade. An easy, slow afternoon late in the autumn of a remarkable life and partnership. If you were scoring at home, perhaps you’d open with a reverie in waltz time, each note a lingering, almost melancholy kiss.
Brubeck would be good with your intro for maybe 16 bars.
Then he and his sidemen would crack that ballad wide open in a hard-charging, swinging version in a time signature you couldn’t hope to count out, you’d just have to close your eyes and hold on. That is how Brubeck is. That is how he plays. That is how he lives, in stubborn and sunny defiance of all conventional rhythms of jazz and age itself.
To read all of Ms. Gerhart’s story, go here.
Congratulations to Dave and Iola Brubeck.
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The Rifftides staff thought you would be interested in this announcement from Jim Wilke of an imminent broadcast pairing. Besides, the photographs by Jim Levitt are too good not to use.
Tenor saxophonists Hadley Caliman and Pete Christlieb first played together in LA in the 60s and have remained friends ever since. They reunited in Seattle last month to record a CD together for Origin Records and to play at The Ballard Jazz Walk. Highlights from their reunion (with Bill Anschell, Chuck Deardorf and John Bishop) will air Sunday, December 6 at 1 PM Pacific Standard Time on Jazz Northwest from 88-5, KPLU. The program will also stream live to the internet at kplu.org.
Jazz Northwest is recorded and produced by Jim Wilke exclusively for KPLU and kplu.org. A podcast will be available at kplu.org after the airdate.
Here are video snapshots of both saxophonists from their slightly younger days. First, Caliman with Freddie Hubbard at the Jazz Jamboree in Warsaw in 1979. The vocalist is Leon Thomas, with Billy Childs on piano, Larry Klein on bass and drummer Carl Burnett. The song is Coltrane’s “Cousin Mary.”
Christlieb was a mainstay of the Tonight Show band for years. Here, we see and hear him on the Arsenio Hall Show after the band, its leader Doc Severinsen and host Johnny Carson left the Tonight Show. Severinsen also solos. Never underrate Severinsen.
Things change. The bass player for instance; John Leitham is now Jennifer, and still swinging. I don’t want to think about how many of those guys are dead. Christlieb is decidedly not.
Art Blakey, Live in ’65 (Jazz Icons). The Blakey entry in the new Jazz Icons DVD release will come as a surprise even to many of the drummer’s most persistent fans. The band it presents in France was not an edition of Blakey’s celebrated Jazz Messengers, but a short-lived quintet billed in the opening credits as “Les Art Blakey’s New Jazzmen.” Assembled for a European tour, it had played a few concerts by the time it appeared at the Palais de la Mutualite as part of the Paris Jazz Festival. The band was primed, collectively and individually.
Rather than a pianist he could count on to operate within his defined rhythmic guidelines, Blakey hired Jaki Byard. As Michael Cuscuna emphasizes in his comprehensive essay, Byard thrived on fluidity of time, a concept that would seem at odds with Blakey’s more regimented approach. The bassist is Reginald Workman who could operate with equal effectiveness in Blakey’s strict temporal realm and Byard’s free one, and it may have been Workman who provided the commonality that made this rhythm section function so well together. The film shows Blakey directing frequent glances and grins of approval at Byard and Workman.
The tenor saxophonist is Nathan Davis, who was living in France at the time and pleased Blakey so well on the tour that the drummer offered him a job when he reformed the Messengers. Davis opted to stay in Paris because of family obligations or he might have become as famous as a number of other Blakey sidemen. Freddie Hubbard came to prominence with Blakey in the early sixties and by 1965 was acknowledged as the hottest young trumpet player in jazz. Each of the band’s musicians is impressive, but Hubbard owns this concert. He was at the peak of his form in conception, execution and taste. He maintains a stunning level of excellence through each long solo on extended treatments of his compositions “The Hub” and “Crisis” and a brilliant version of “Blue Moon,” a signature ballad feature for him during this era. Midway through his virtuoso “Crisis” solo there is a moment emblematic of Hubbard’s energy and enthusiasm when he pauses for a breath, executes a deft dance move and, perfectly synchronized, between a grunt and a groan exclaims “Woo, ooh, ooh.” Throughout, this was Freddie Hubbard’s night.
Davis had a few worthy albums as a leader and a sideman, but relatively little exposure during his most active playing days. When he returned to the States he concentrated on music education. Since 1969, he has been director of jazz studies at the University of Pittsburgh. He had a generous tone and a fine sense of line in construction of his solos. His work here demonstrates that he was in a class with several tenor players who worked with Blakey over the years. Byard’s accompaniments are inspirational to the horn players. His solos are a bit more restrained than they might have been in company with Tony Williams, Alan Dawson or other drummers more inclined to go with his flow. Nonetheless, his mastery of the range of jazz piano styles and his irrepressible cheer and whimsy are in full operation. As for Blakey, he is sui generis, a force of nature, a marvel of swing, one of the great drummer leaders. To see him beaming through his extended solo on “Crisis” is to see a man immersed in his work and in love with it.
The digital remastering of the slightly grainy black and white source film results in acceptable picture and good audio quality. The fourth batch of Jazz Icons DVDs maintains the high standard set by the first three. The series is a boon to listeners and to the preservation of jazz history. Let us hope that its proprietors continue to mine European film and television for more treasures like this one.
Jazz is known all over the world as an American musical art form and that’s it. No America, no jazz. I’ve seen people try to connect it to other countries, for instance to Africa, but it doesn’t have a damn thing to do with Africa.
Music washes away the dust of every day life.
Cindy (Schreiber) Scontriano writes from California:
I just heard your NPR interview about Vince Guaraldi. I really enjoyed it and then I had a flash from the past and wanted to ask you a few questions. I think I met Vince as a little girl. My uncle played the stand-up bass in Cal Tjader’s band in the sixties and seventies. His name was Freddie Schreiber, from Seattle. I have his most famous LP, Saturday/Sunday Night at the Blackhawk. Did you happen to know uncle Freddie and if so, do you have any stories, anecdotes etc?
We lived in the bay area and sometimes my mom would take us to the Blackhawk, and other clubs, in SF to visit my uncle and hear them practice. Once the band was on TV and my uncle said “when I scratch my head, I’m saying Hi to you!” and, while he was playing the big ol’ bass, he actually scratched his head on TV! I remember Vince as a warm affectionate nice man, and as a kid I listened to all the cal Tjader music, and Brubeck, and Vince I could.
My uncle died young too, he had kidney failure and at that time
dialysis was reserved for people with families, etc (not single jazz
musicians with no children) and he passed in the mid seventies.
Anyway, thanks for your work and if Fred Schreiber rings a bell it
would be fun to hear how.
Ms. Scontriano’s message gets a reply in the form of a visit to the Rifftides archives. This item was first posted on September 13, 2005.
Freddie Schreiber was making a mark in Cal Tjader’s quintet when he died, far too young, in the 1960s. I remember him in Seattle in the mid-1950s as an aspiring bassist and an extremely witty man. He struggled to master the instrument, not with notable success. Later, within a period of two or three months, his hard work kicked in and he became a superb player. Tjader told me that he was thrilled to have Freddie on the band. Schreiber’s best recording with Tjader was Saturday Night/Sunday Night At the Blackhawk, San Francisco (Verve 8459). It has never been reissued on CD, which is a shame, but it can occasionally be found on web sites, including e-Bay. I have always liked the album. It includes, among other things, a marvelous version of Gary McFarland’s “Weep,” but in the July 5, 1962, Down Beat, reviewer John S. Wilson gave Saturday Night/Sunday Night a lukewarm once-over that ended with this:
Schreiber comes in for an occasional solo, but this scarcely relieves the generally monotonous sound of the group. The performances are loose and airy, but none of the soloists is sufficiently distinctive to raise the set out of an anonymous although generally pleasant rut.
A few issues later, Down Beat published a response from Schreiber that has been quoted by musicians for years.
I am the bass player with Cal Tjader’s group, and I have just finished reading John Wilson’s review of our latest record on Verve recorded at the Blackhawk (DB, Jul 5) I think Mr Wilson was very fair in putting down Cal and the other guys in the group, but I really think he should have listened to me more carefully. Evidently he did not listen closely to my angular, probing lines, and I am sure that not once did he take note of my relentless throbbing beat. I just hope that when our next album is released, which is entitled It Ain’t Necessarily Soul, that Mr Wilson pays more attention to my great playing–because, man–I’m too much!
And that’s one reason I miss Freddie Schreiber.
For others, see this Rifftides archive item, and this one.
And if after reading those, you haven’t had enough of Freddie’s genius at the art of inventing hilarious names, try this rambling discussion on the Talk Bass Forum.
In addition to the Blackhawk album, Freddie is on Tjader’s Time for Two with Anita O’Day, Cal Tjader Plays, Mary Stallings Sings and his Contemporary Music of Mexico and Brazil. That to my knowledge, is the extent of the Schreiber discography. I scoured my scrapbooks and the internet for a photograph of Freddie, but could not find one. If a Rifftides reader has one and would like to share it, I’ll be glad to post it.
Rifftides reader Len Gardner writes:
I recently purchased and viewed the Anita O’Day DVD in the Jazz Icons series.
I am writing to you, Doug, because you wrote the fine liner notes. What I’d really like to do is write to Anita, but that is no longer possible.
What a revelation this DVD is! How marvelous her artistry is!
Too often, I buy a CD or DVD and am disappointed. Not this time. This DVD exceeded my expectations, which were already high.
For those who haven’t yet seen it, be prepared to fall in love.
In the days when commercial television networks in the United States were still working their way toward the shallowness we know and love today and cable networks did not exist, there was an NBC-TV program called The Subject Is Jazz. Its host was the cultural critic Gilbert Seldes. One 1958 installment of the series explored the proposition that a fairly new tributary of the jazz mainstream ran cooler than the jazz that preceded it. The musicians were Lee Konitz, alto saxophone; Warne Marsh, tenor saxophone; Don Elliott, trumpet, mellophone and vibes; Billy Taylor, piano; Mundell Lowe, guitar; Eddie Safranski, bass; and Ed Thigpen, drums.
This investigation with examples is valuable enough that Rifftides is going to bring you the whole thing. You’ve had enough football this weekend anyway. It is necessary to post it in sections, which is how it is available. Here is part 1.
In the second part of the program, Seldes again quotes Andre Hodeir on the nature of cool, introduces Konitz and Marsh playing hot in “Subconscious-Lee,” and interrogates Konitz, who is forthcoming and, bless him, amused by the idea of pigeon-holing art.
Was there a difference between approaches to justify the claim that there was a cool school? According to Billy Taylor there was. He explained and demonstrated it to Seldes with the articulateness that in following decades viewers of CBS Sunday Morning came to know well.
Bret Primack, the jazz video guy, deserves great credit for posting those segments on YouTube. Gilbert Seldes’ book The Public Arts, published in 1956, is still a great, stimulating read. Seldes died in 1970.
National Public Radio has activated a link to my interview with Scott Simon about Vince Guaraldi. This is it.