Danielle Reich – This Year’s Kisses

For emerging jazz singer Danielle Reich, there have been only short steps from her classical coloratura opera focus in Florida to standing room only in the Heights of Houston.

From orchestras to a first time out at an intimate Houston jazz jam, Danielle has enjoyed the support of many outstanding Houston musicians as she has developed her organic interpretive style, expanded her repertoire, and engaged in an array of small groups that blur musical boundaries. Her current projects range from traditional straight ahead combos to gypsy swing to jazz-adapted 70s and 80s pop. Throughout her growth, she has particularly enjoyed the support and expertise of musicians Carol Morgan, Joe LoCascio, Larry Slezak, and Andrew Lienhard.

A regular performer in Galleria wine cafes and night clubs, Danielle is also well known to the customers at the King Biscuit Patio Cafe in The Heights, where fans regularly have to stand on the sidewalk to be a part of the new jazz sounds. Danielle continues to host the weekly Biscuit Jazz Jam, which she founded in 2007 with guitarist Erin Fisher Wright and bassist Thomas Helton. The Biscuit Jazz Jam, in combination with weekly appearances by the Danielle Reich Trio, led to the King Biscuit Patio Cafe receiving the 2010 Houston Press Award for Best Jazz Club in Houston. Recent jam sessions have featured outstanding teenage musicians and local jazz legends.

Danielle’s performing passions have crossed genres from classical to jazz to the avant- garde. After beginning her performance career in classical productions at The University of Florida and Stetson University, Danielle moved to Houston where she has premiered new works by Julliard-trained trumpeter and composer Carol Morgan and pianist Joe Locascio, and has performed with the Houston Grand Opera Chorus. She was featured in Houston and New York venues with avant-garde composer/bassist Thomas Helton, a Houston Arts Alliance grant recipient, as well as performing experimental works for musicians and dancers with the Michele Brangwen Dance Ensemble.

Currently performing American and European jazz favorites in English, French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese, Danielle Reich also creates jazz interpretations of an eclectic mix of songs from the popular genre, including 70s and 80s folk, pop, and country selections. While in Houston, Danielle has performed for the oldest club in Texas, The Galveston Artillery Club, the Da Camera Society of Houston, and the French Consulate. She has just completed her first studio recording project, “This Year’s Kisses,” recorded at Sugar Hill Studios and produced by NYC trumpeter Carol Morgan. Danielle looks forward to sharing her musical ideas and unique sound with a world-wide audience.

Mary Jenson – Beyond

Born on an Air Force base in Biloxi, Mississippi, Mary Jenson is the 6th of 8 children. Her childhood as a military brat was a nomadic one, moving from Mississippi to California, Germany, Georgia, and then back again to California by the time she was 9 years old.

The family eventually moved from the Bay Area of Northern California to Las Vegas, Nevada when Mary was just a pre-teen. She spent the next 7 years in Las Vegas and studied music education at UNLV.

As the vocal curriculum at UNLV was confined to classical music, Mary suspended her formal music education and returned to Northern California at 21 years of age. Jenson studied Broadcasting in San Francisco and began a brief career in radio up on the Mendocino coast of Northern California. As a radio disc jockey on the infamous Left Coast of California, Mary Jenson observed a completely different lifestyle than what she had experienced in her youth and the accompanying exposure to music very diverse and eclectic was powerful.

What was really cool about KMFB was that I had free rein. I was my own program manager and played music that I personally found worthy; my playlist was not dictated by major market requirements. That spoiled me and when I left that radio job; I really didn’t pursue the career anymore and it was partly because I knew that I was never going to be able to duplicate that situation again.

Although Mary had been singing locally in Mendocino with a trio and the Big Band, she hadn’t found her way. Music was frustrating her. She returned to the Bay Area, turning her back on both radio and music. She eventually landed in the wine country of the Napa Valley, got married, raised children and had a successful career in the financial industry.

Sometimes I look back on the choices I’ve made and think that I should have tried harder and not given up so soon. But then I recall what someone asked me those many years ago after I had just sung a mournful jazz ballad. “How can you sing something like that? You haven’t even lived yet!” They were, of course, referring to my age. I hadn’t suffered through life just yet. I hadn’t born the pain, carved the lines of laughter and tears on my face. And I hadn’t yet made any sacrifices for anyone else. Being a mother and a wife, a friend… these things bring wisdom that comes from living, not from talent. I think Life has made me a better singer than I was in my youth.

Happily, Mary was able to leave her business career behind and begin to focus on music once again. Old dreams resurfaced and Mary began to study music and begin performing again. Attending Napa Valley College, Jazz Camp West and The Jazz School in Berkeley, Mary focused on bringing her voice back into shape and her musicianship skills up to snuff. 8 years later Mary has just released her second CD, Beyond, a jazz/world/pop fusion including 4 originals, 4 covers of contemporary pop songs and 3 jazz standards. Many of the songs are melodies still echoing from those few but powerful years spinning vinyl in the pygmy forest of Mendocino.

Leslie Lewis – Keeper of the Flame

Leslie Lewis, a native of East Orange, New Jersey, enjoys a vibrant career as a jazz vocalist. She has performed throughout the country including tours as a featured vocalist with the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra, and with members of the Duke Ellington Orchestra on an Ellington Tribute concert as well as performances with Jazz Tap Ensemble. Leslie was featured, along with Jack Sheldon, on the Tom Kubis Big Band recording “At Last”. Her solo recording, Of Two Minds features Leslie with the Gerard Hagen Trio and L.A. jazz all-stars, Gary Foster, Ron Stout, Rob Lockart, and Larry Koonse. The recording charted at #28 on the CMJ national jazz radio chart and was released in Japan on SSJ Inc, where it received 5 stars in Swing Journal magazine. Recently, Leslie released her follow up recording Keeper Of The Flame, which features her and the Gerard Hagen Trio exploring Brazilian Jazz music. She has worked with pianist John Bunch, trombonist Britt Woodman, trumpeter Joe Wilder, and saxophonists Norris Turney and Harry Allen. She recently appeared with Patrice Rushen at the L.A. County Museum of Art Jazz Series and in New York City with the Jazz Tap Ensemble. Currently she resides in Laguna Niguel, California with her husband, pianist Gerard Hagen and is busy performing throughout the Los Angeles area.

Keeper Of The Flame is Leslie Lewis’ follow up recording to Of Two Minds (2008). It is a vocal jazz recording of (mostly) Brazilian music with a few standards done (predominately) in a Brazilian style. The music has those things that make it feel like Jazz!

Leslie has taken these songs and put her imprint on them with the support of the Gerard Hagen Trio (Gerard Hagen piano, Domenic Genova bass, Jerry Kalaf drums) and guest artist Gary Foster (saxophone/flute). Some of the composers represented are: Antonio Carlos Jobim, Richard Rodgers, Mark Levine, Ivan Lins, and Kurt Weill. The music has a rhythmic energy that propels these songs in an engaging and dynamic fashion.

Roxy Coss – Roxy Coss

New York City based musician and composer Roxy Coss is making a name for herself as a versatile, original voice within the vibrant and thriving jazz scene today. All About Jazz is saying, “Coss is head and shoulders above many of the gifted, well-schooled young people who are trying to get a toehold in the intensely competitive NYC jazz and improvised music scenes. Her multiple talents are worthy of wider recognition, right now.”

Roxy’s exploration of musical styles emerged from an exceptional base in bebop, and has grown into a diverse and creative mix of genres which manifests in her playing, composing, and arranging. Her mastery of instruments extends from her primary instrument, tenor saxophone, to flute, soprano and alto saxes, and clarinet.

Originally from Seattle, WA, Roxy began winning awards for her composition at the age of 9. She went on to receive numerous soloist awards at various jazz festivals, including Outstanding Saxophone Soloist at the prestigious Essentially Ellington Competition in 2004, while playing first Tenor chair in the acclaimed Garfield High School Jazz Band.

Roxy accepted a full Presidential Scholarship to attend William Paterson University in NJ after receiving scholarship offers from some of the top music schools. At WPU she had the opportunity to study with Clark Terry, Mulgrew Miller, Harold Mabern, Gary Smulyan, Rich Perry, Rich DeRosa, Steve LaSpina, Bill Goodwin, Bill Mobley, Kevin Norton, and David Demsey, among others. She graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2008 with a Bachelor of Music Degree in Jazz Studies/Performance.

Roxy has extensive experience performing around the world in Germany, Paris, at the North Sea, Vienne, and Montreux Jazz Festivals in Europe, IAJE in Toronto, and the JVC – New York Jazz Festival. Roxy has also appeared on the Today Show Live, at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center, Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, and at the world famous Blue Note Jazz Club. Her rich background has offered her the opportunity to perform alongside jazz legends and greats such as Clark Terry, Claudio Roditi, and Grassella Oliphant. She has also appeared with the Smoke Big Band, the Seattle Women’s Jazz Orchestra, and opened for the Dave Leibman Big Band and Rufus Reid’s Quintet plus Four as part of the esteemed Jazz Room Series. Roxy is also a prolific composer, and was commissioned by the Daniel Gwirtzman Dance Company in 2009 to write a full score for a 35-minute dance piece, Tribe, which was commissioned by the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City.

Roxy’s self-titled debut album released in October of this year, featuring eight original compositions on which she plays Tenor and Soprano Saxophones, as well as Flute. “My goal is to explore new musical genres, breaking boundaries and preconceptions of present day music. I want to make music you can feel in your bones, full of honesty, passion, joy, and awareness,” says Coss.

Currently, Roxy is playing with the DIVA Jazz Orchestra, which has taken her to Europe, and on the 10th Annual Jazz Party at Sea, a cruise through the East Caribbean. She also leads the Roxy Coss Quintet, based out of New York. She appeared twice in this year’s Earshot Jazz Festival in Seattle, WA; once as a featured guest with the Garfield High School Big Band at the Triple Door, and once with her own Quartet at Tula’s Jazz Club & Restaurant, which was recorded by Jim Wilke for his radio show, Jazz Northwest on KPLU, Seattle.

Matt Savage – Welcome Home

My next album, Welcome Home, will be released November 9, 2010, with a CD release concert at the Regattabar in Boston on the 10th (plus a big radio interview on WICN on the 8th!)

Recorded in Brooklyn, NY at Systems Two Recording Studio in July 2010, Welcome Home features the legendary Bobby Watson on alto sax, Jeremy Pelt on trumpet, Joris Teepe (John Funkhouser on some songs) on bass and Peter Retzlaff (also Yoron Israel) on drums. The album is all original compositions, recorded with a trio and (for the first time) a quintet!

This album is all about the different places I’ve seen in my life (my organic farm in New Hampshire, New York City, Berklee College of Music in Boston). No matter where I am, I still feel at home, and that’s what this album describes. The album changes moods many times, ranging from “epic” piano ballads to trio pieces to upbeat quintet showcases. The first single from the album will be “Big Apple Blues,” a funky piece (featuring some fun trumpet/sax/piano trades) from my five-part “Big Apple Suite.”

Marty Williams – Long Time Commin

Bay Area jazz pianist and vocalist, Marty Williams, was called “The Catalyst” by San Francisco Chronicle critic Phil Elwood. Anna deLeon of Anna’s Jazz Island recently said: “Marty Williams is one of the Bay Area’s treasures. His piano playing and singing are passionate, humorous, and unique. Think Oscar Brown Jr. plus Mose Allison plus Monk with just a dash of Redd Foxx! Yes, unique!”

Marty’s formal training came well after he received his “calling” — he tells the story of a snowy night in Milwaukee listening to Ahmad Jamal’s album “Voices” as a turning point for him. Listening to that album and pondering the questions a young man faces in his life, Marty knew his destiny was to play the piano. As with so many great jazz pianists, Marty’s spirit taught him to play the music he felt.

Through his career Marty has played at numerous venues and with many other notable musicians in the US and abroad. He has been part of the San Francisco jazz scene well over 25 years and plays regularly with world-class musicians, guitarist Eric Swinderman, bassist, Ruth Davies and drummer, Ranzel Merritt. His most significant influences include Hampton Hawes, Les McCann, Ahmad Jamal, Thelonious Monk, Ramsey Lewis, Herbie Hancock, Shirley Horn, Miles Davis and Junior Mance, just to name a few…

In addition to his work as a performing artist, Marty’s writing, arranging, composing and producing abilities are enhanced by his certification as an Apple Certified Logic Pro.

Jacqui Sutton – Billie & Dolly

Turning 50 and starting a garage band is not the usual vocalist’s narrative. But that’s what happened with me. It’s not just any band, but what I call the Frontier Jazz Orchestra-a stylistic mash-up of jazz, bluegrass and orchestral/chamber music that come together in my debut CD Billie and Dolly-an homage to my two vocal heroes, Billie Holiday and Dolly Parton. As a singer, getting there wasn’t a straightforward trip.

I was born in Orlando, Florida, the second of six children. In the 1960s, my mother (newly single, and pregnant with her sixth child), was determined to make a better life for all of us. She moved us to Rochester, New York. Think: Martin Luther King, Jr., the Beatles, school busing, and the Jackson 5. It was about crossing lines. That sense of boundary trespass filtered into my world as I found myself drawn to experiences that were the opposite of my own. I could never get enough of Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life, nor the Beatles’ “Yesterday.” We had one of those old-fashioned, what I call “kitchen table radios”, with the round wooden body, fabric over the speakers, and a crackly dial. I’d lean against that radio and be consumed by the sadness of “Yesterday.” Later in life, even certain songs that I heard on Muzak radio stations could make me stop in my tracks. It just had to sound beautiful to my ears.

As a musician, I had a brief stint in grade school as a flutist-recitals and everything-which ended abruptly at around age 11 when I lost the instrument and was terrified to report it. Around 1982 (my early 20s), I realized that there were no flute police in the Rochester City School District, and

I could well have gone on to have some kind of instrumental career.

I made this revelation during my time in the San Francisco Bay Area. Bobby McFerrin and Tuck & Patty were on the rise. As soon as I got there, I cast aside what I thought was my dream to be an environmental designer and at the insistence of one of my roommates, I auditioned for Jazzmouth, a vocal jazz ensemble led by Molly Holm. I had been a competitive gymnast for 11 years, but nothing seemed more dangerous, physically precarious or, paradoxically, beautiful than singing. My roommate helped me prepare one song: “Summertime.” I had several false starts in the audition room, the most serious being I could not find my starting note. I finally pleaded to sing it a capella so I could get the heck out of there. Embarrassed, I bolted as soon as I was done. Molly called me up several days later and asked me to join, with one admonition: “You’ve got to study.” I did. A lot.

Well, Jazzmouth came and went. I moved to Portland, Oregon and got lured into the world of stage acting-from Shakespeare to dance theatre. Acting felt safer than singing because I was part of an ensemble-and besides there was “work to do.” I could distract myself-plus, there was all that cathartic emoting! Things changed after I moved to New York. I began studying with Jane Burbank, which was a partnership that lasted my entire 15-year stay. When my husband and I moved to Houston, Texas, the foundation that Jane gave me helped me fully appreciate the last steps that were needed to help my voice become reliable. And I took those steps with Cynthia Clayton, an amazing, no-nonsense instructor who helped me love singing for the first time in my life. Not the idea of singing, but the act. Now you can’t shut me up! She gave me the freedom to create a vocal style and sound that produced what I think of as “vocal honesty”-something I hope that is authoritative, and my own.

Billie & Dolly is the beginning of the journey for me. I’m curious to see where this will lead. Stay tuned …

Glen Ackerman – The Glenious Inner Planet

Glen Ackerman has always been a composer. As a young child he blew up his parent’s stereo gear with wild tape loop experiments. When his mother (whose eclectic tastes fueled his musical imagination) noticed him experimenting with the family piano, she decided to put his disastrously creative energy to good use by enrolling him in piano and guitar lessons. At the age of 12 he was given a bass, which today is his primary performance instrument.

Glen spent his middle and high school years writing tunes, practicing, and creating homemade recording projects with an old four track. His musical influences flourished, and jazz became his genre of choice. After high school he spent some years exploring the palate of electric sounds found in rock. However, restlessness settled in and he found his way back to jazz.

The next few years found him firmly establishing himself as a top bassist in the Houston Jazz scene. As a sideman, Glen shared the bandstand with national artists such as; Randy Brecker, Bill Evans, and Bill Charlap. He has also been fortunate to perform with many local artists such as: Chris Cortez, Woody Witt, and Paul English.

Now, emerging as a bandleader in his own right, his new group The Glenious Inner Planet gives him the opportunity to flex his creative muscles.

Shawn Costantino – Waltz for Anne

Born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1978, Shawn took to music at a very young age. As a student, Shawn performed at various district and all state festivals, but his primary inspirations toward a life in music were three fold. First, as a 4 year member of the Massachusetts Wind Ensemble or “MYWE,” Shawn enjoyed learning and studying under legendary conductor Daniel Riley at the esteemed New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. This group was honored to perform for the president of Sony Corporation in Japan, in addition to performing concerts all around New England, Canada, Europe, and Spain. Membership in this group led to Shawn being invited as a scholarship student to the Boston University Tangle Wood Institute (BUTI) and then as a Governors scholar to the world respected Interlochen Arts Camp.

In 1997, Shawn enrolled at The University of Miami to study with saxophone master, Gary Keller. This was a period of enormous development in Shawn’s playing. While at the “U” Shawn was a member of numerous award winning large and small ensembles.

In 2002, with his college degree in hand, Shawn moved to Chicago. While pursuing a graduate degree at DePaul University, Shawn hit the streets at night, sitting in, playing wherever and whenever possible. Shawn developed a reputation that led to his acceptance into the vibrant Chicago music scene. Shawn’s playing truly began to flourish during his time in Chicago. Under the watchful eye of jazz masters such as Larry Novak, Bob Lark, Mark Colby, and Bob Palmieri, Shawn studied harmony intensively, while playing lead alto with the internationally recognized DePaul Jazz Ensemble, he played behind such luminaries as James Moody, Phil Woods, Bobby Shew, Wynton Marsalis, Jim McNeely, Kenny Werner, John Faddis, and David “Fat Head” Newman. The band had highly successful engagements at Chicago’s Jazz Showcase and aboard Norwegian Cruise Lines, “Jazz Party at Sea”. Additionally, he was in several local bands that were big in the “jam band” scene, appearing at many regional festivals and touring extensively.

In May of 2004, at the request of jazz legend Phil Woods, Yamaha invited Shawn to join their cooperation as a clinician, and endorsed artist. At the time, he was the youngest saxophonist to receive this very distinguished honor. With the assistance of Yamaha, Shawn has conducted dozens of clinics, residencies, and performances around the nation each year.

In 2006, while pursuing a doctoral degree at the University of Northern Colorado, Shawn was hired at the Harvard-Westlake School in North Hollywood. He is currently enjoying his 5th year as the director of jazz studies at this elite Los Angeles High School. He directs classes including; 3 big bands, 10 combos, jazz history and improvisation. Furthermore, he frequently performs and records regularly with top musicians in the Los Angeles area.

Brulee – New Beginnings

2010 – Owl Productions

Evoking the timeless composers of the past as well as contemporary tunesmiths, this is an album of tenderness, passion, juxtaposition, humor and love. Brulée, featuring Julie Weiner’s beautiful and iconic vocals and Doug Onstad’s compositions & piano interpretations, leads the listener on a musical journey of unspoken thoughts, warmth and longing from the cafés of Paris to the expansive landscape of the American song.

Brulée has created a breezy and uplifting contribution, truly jazz with a twist. Weiner uses every range of her voice to engage the listener with scatting, top register flights and articulate delivery of witty lyrics. Onstad, also a contributing vocalist to this savory offering, has a familiar and inviting style; the two create a delightful journey with a cavalcade of guest artists. Each cut is accessibly smart and creatively entertaining in a convivial setting, a perfect release to brighten your day and put a skip in your step.

Julie Weiner is a born vocalist who comes from a family of singers and musicians. Julie is also an exceptional dancer and veteran of theater, especially musical comedy, and reveals her love of lyric and melody with captivating tenderness and a heart full of soul. She has a voice that is at once technically spot on and capable of improvisation and searing emotional declaration. Julie has a nearly three octave range and a tone of crystalline clarity, yet deep, sultry resonance in her lower range.

Doug Onstad, who has arranged all of the duo’s piano interpretations, knows how to hold the gorgeous melodies of the pair’s song book in chordal inventions that are at once classic and adventurous. Julie and Doug also perform some of Doug’s own compositions that have grown out of Doug’s love for American music: jazz, rock, classical and R&B.

Reggie Pittmann & Loren Daniels – Point A to Point A

Loren Daniels – pianist, vocalist, composer, lyricist Loren studied music at Hofstra University and Berklee College of Music before graduating from SUNY at Old Westbury with a B.S. in music and elementary education. He received an M.A. in music education from New York University. Loren currently teaches choral music and music technology in the Teaneck, NJ public schools. He has been a member of the faculty there since 1979. He is also music coordinator for Jazz Vespers at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Teaneck.

As a composer/lyricist, Loren has written music for a variety of settings. Many of his original pieces are performed by the Loren Daniels Trio. He has composed several highly successful musicals for elementary school students. Loren collaborated with choreographers Joanne Koob and Susan Cherniak and composed new music for a series of modern dance performances that were reviewed in the New York Times.

Loren composed and arranged music for two original theatrical productions, “The Man Was King” by Lottie Porch and “A Watch on King” by Veona Thomas. A suite of his choral pieces based on phrases from the Declaration of Independence recently had its premiere performance and the Teaneck Community Chorus has commissioned and performed several of his choral pieces including, “A Place At The Table” and “I Like Jazz.” Loren has also composed, performed and recorded original soundtrack music which has been used on the Today Show and other NBC programs.

Loren’s professional experience as a jazz pianist/ vocalist spans over 25 years. He has performed with such notable musicians as Calvin Hill, Craig Harris, Milt Jackson, Rufus Reid, Makonda (Ken) McIntyre, Dan Willis, Warren Smith, Richard Harper, Fred Hendrix, Jim DeAngelis, David Demsey, Jimmy Owens, Andrei Strobert, Billy White, Jeff Sheloff, Alonzo Gardner, Reggie Pittman, Tim Horner, Eliot Zigmund, Lauren Hooker, Bradford Hayes, Mark Ivan Gross, David Robinson, Greg Searvance, Bruce Jackson, Bill Moring, Mike Richmond, Takashi Otsuka, Jackie Jones, Waren Batiste, Dave Brown and Johnny Maestro.

Reggie Pittman – trumpet, flugelhorn, composer Reggie Pittman is a professional musician with over 30 years experience in the music business. He actively works in the music fields of performance, recording and producing.

Reggie’s love for music began in Cleveland Ohio where, at a young age, he played the trumpet and developed his musical talent. As his love for the performing arts developed Reggie decided to further is knowledge in music, he earned his bachelor degree in Music Education and his Masters in Music Technology.

The bandstand is where Pittman’s predominate resume resides, he has had the great privilege of collaborating with some of the best performing artists in the music industry, and also recorded with many musical talents including: Sarah Vaughan, Louis Bellson, Lester Bowie, Branford Marsalis, Curtis Fuller, Eddie Palmieri, Hank Jones, Aretha Franklin, Diahanne Carroll, Mitzi Gaynor, Joe Williams, Gladys Knight, The O’Jays, The Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra, The Ohio Chamber Orchestra, Natalie Cole, Allman Brothers, The Pointer Sisters, Queen Latifa, The Temptations………..

Television and Movies: Money Train, Malcolm X, “Loving” Soap Opera, The Tony Awards, The Apollo Night of Stars, One Hundred Years of Jazz ( Documentary), PSA for the Cleveland Pubic Schools. Recordings: Babyface, New Jersey Lottery Commercial, Five Guys Named Moe, Lionel Hampton, Oscar Figueroa, The Wheaton Family (Gospel), Lester Bowie and the Ohio Public Schools.

Carlo De Lorenzi – Four Seasons in One Recess

On the Toronto and Northern Ontario music scenes for over 30 years, keyboardist Carlo De Lorenzi has composed, performed and recorded with a diverse collective of musicians and bands. Recent collaborations include performing and/or recording with: Practical Blues, Compass Rose, guitar virtuoso Jason Sadites, East Coast Music Award nominee Dave Carroll, the Sons of Maxwell, and Kris MacFarlane (Great Big Sea). He has also performed and arranged for several stage shows and musicals.

Carlo De Lorenzi has been playing piano and keyboards professionally since he was in high school. His first exposure to music at age four came from watching his older brother dazzle audiences with his accordion playing wizardry. Carlo took classical piano lessons from a gifted and inspiring teacher from age 5 but became interested in pop and jazz around age 12 – Carlo relates “I always had the impulse to want to learn the tunes sung by crooners on my parent’s hi-fi stereo rather than practice my etudes and sonatas.”

Carlo’s songwriting bridges the genres of pop, jazz, and world music. His major influences include: Bruce Hornsby, Dave Brubeck, Chick Corea and Bob James. Carlo’s versatility has been captured in his latest recording Four Seasons in One Recess. Converging a community of highly talented, emerging and established musicians, the ten song CD contains a savory and invigorating collection of melodies and rhythms.

Northern Ontario keyboardist Carlo De Lorenzi announces the release of his new CD Four Seasons in One Recess. A collection of ten original songs spanning a veritable spectrum of influences from jazz and R&B to pop, reggae and world music, Four Seasons in One Recess marks Carlo De Lorenzi’s first solo project. The blend of vocal and instrumental tunes on the recording showcases De Lorenzi’s song writing and musicianship. An assembly of both well established and young dynamic artists are featured on the project including Jason Sadites (WEVE, Behind the Laughter) on guitar, Brendan Colameco of Neverest on drums and a guest appearance by multi-East Coast Music Award winner Dave Carroll (United Breaks Guitars) on “Blue Sky Down.”

Frank Butrey – Malicious Delicious

Philadelphia based guitarist Frank Butrey offers a wide array of techniques, colors and unpredictability on his offering, Malicious Delicious. From stirring sensitivity to romping in-your-face explorations, Butrey is a compelling guitarist and a distinctive composer. Butrey’s tone is certainly all his own, the closest description would be; mix the fiery speed and agility of Pat Martino, the harmonic complexities of Chick Corea, the exploration of sounds and raw bite of Hendrix and the grooving abilities of Carlos Santana and you can start to imagine Frank Butrey, but be prepared – he is certainly all that and more.

Joined by a stellar line-up of players lending their interactive support, the group expertly executes Butrey’s motivic ideas. Tony “Stickman” Wyatt on drums and Clifton Kellem on acoustic and electric bass are a solid rhythm section for Butrey to expound his ideas upon. Butrey is also joined by percussionists Tom Lowery (tracks 3 & 5), Doug “Pablo” Edwards (track 6), Joe Ruscitto (track 3), Leonard “Hub” Hubbard on electric bass formerly of The Roots (track 8), long time collaborator Warren Oree on acoustic bass (track 6), Umar Raheem on soprano sax (track 6) and Greg “Ju Ju” Jones on drums (track 6). Malicious Delicious is a burning CD, one guaranteed to satisfy any guitar aficionado and beyond.

Gabriel Riesco Project – Sculptures in Time

Sculptures in Time is a Tribute to the famous sculptor Eduardo Chillida. It was recorded in one day with very little rehearsing to capture the moment and fresh ideas from the musicians.

The music was inspired by Chillida

Esperanza Spalding – Wins Grammy For Best New Artist

Portland, OR Bassist Esperanza Spalding won the Grammy for Best New Artist at the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards held Feb. 13th, 2011 at the Staples Center in L.A., beating out Hip Hop hopefuls Drake and tween sensation Justin Beiber.

When asked about thanking her teachersduring her acceptance speech she said “I was speaking to many, many, many teachers. I started playing music when I was 5, so I don’t think you’ll want me to go through all the teachers, but in particular … Greg McKelvey, Hazel DiLorenzo, Dorothy McCormick, Ken Baldwin, all my teachers at Portland State University and Berklee.”

Spalding’s most recent album, ‘Chamber Music Society,’ was recorded in 2010 and features Spalding’s vocals and upright bass playing.

ISC 2004

International Songwriting CompetitionNow Accepting Entries
2004 International Songwriting Competition (ISC)

ISC is the perfect opportunity for bands, artists and songwriters looking to gain exposure in the music industry. In addition to celebrity judges such as Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, Bo Diddley, John Ondrasik (Five For Fighting) and more, ISC judges also include many high-profile record label executives who turn to ISC, looking for new talent. “This (ISC) is a great A&R source to find new artists,” stated Monte Lipman, President of Universal Records.

ISC 2004 will yield 50 winners that will share in $100,000 cash and prizes; but for many songwriters, the prizes are just one of the many benefits from winning a competition of this stature. Today’s music industry is highly competitive, and winning the ISC can help open doors for an artist: “I’ve had requests from labels in America asking me to send them more music, and there just seems to be so much good will with this competition” said British singer-songwriter Jane Taylor (2003 ISC Folk/Singer-Songwriter category winner).

The exposure and attention given to their songwriting achievements is another benefit for many ISC winners. “Winning the ISC is the highlight of my composing career. Radio stations celebrated my win in their news bulletins, with one even describing me as a national treasure!” said 2003 Grand Prize winner Moana Maniapoto. Echoing that sentiment is Rick Fines, the 2003 Blues category winner: “The media has been really good to me since winning! I am thrilled with the prizes and the media attention!”

ISC is now accepting entries in 16 musical categories. Deadline for submission is October 15, 2004. http://www.songwritingcompetition.com

2004 Judges: Monte Lipman (President, Universal Records); Bo Diddley; John Ondrasik (Five For Fighting); Taj Mahal; Clint Black; Sean “P. Diddy” Combs; Macy Gray; Aaron Lewis (Staind); David Hidalgo (Los Lobos); Branford Marsalis; Darryl McDaniels (Run D.M.C.); Peter Furler (Newsboys); Sully Erna (Godsmack); Stacey Earle; Scott Kirkland (The Crystal Method); Michael Gudinski (Chairman, Mushroom Group of Companies); Alan Meltzer (CEO, Wind Up Records); Tara Griggs-Magee (Executive VP Gospel/Urban Music, Sony Records); Michael McDonald (President, ATO Records); Tracy Gershon (Sr. Dir A&R/Artist Dev, Sony Records Nashville); Chris Parr (VP of Music Programming & Talent Relations, CMT); Peter Asher (Co-President, Sanctuary Artist Management); Kim Stephens (VP A&R, Lava Records); Barbara Sedun (VP Creative, EMI Music Publishing Canada) and Leib Ostrow (CEO, Music For Little People).

Categories for 2004: AAA/Roots/Americana, Dance/Electronica, Jazz, R&B/Hip-Hop, Blues, Folk/Singer-Songwriter, Lyrics Only, Rock, Children’s Music, Gospel/Christian, Performance, Teen, Country, Instrumental, Pop/Top 40, World Music

International Songwriting Competition
211 Seventh Avenue North, Suite LL-20
Nashville, TN 37219
Phone: 615.251.4441
Fax: 615.251.4442

Isaac Hayes – Live @ 2004 African Festival of the Arts in Chicago

Isaac HayesIsaac Hayes Live at the
2004 African Festival of the Arts in Chicago

(September 2004)
by D. Kevin McNeir

When Isaac Hayes started his musical career, he was a little-known keyboardist at Stax/Volt in Memphis. But perseverance paid off for this 60-year-old Tennessee native as he honed his craft, writing hit songs for Sam & Dave and eventually becoming a top-selling composer, director and recording artist.

Hayes closed out Chicago’s 15th anniversary celebration of the African Festival of the Arts of the Arts, held in the heart of the City’s South Side in Washington Park. The festival has grown in size and reputation since its humble beginnings, even rivaling the City of Chicago’s Annual Jazz Festival which takes place each year during the same Labor Day Weekend.

And with this year’s theme, “Umbhiyoza,” which means “to celebrate” in South African Xhosa language, Hayes was an appropriate selection for the final entertainer.

While the start of his performance was delayed by almost one hour, Hayes did not disappoint his followers, hitting the stage in his trademark three-quarter length black leather jacket, black leather slacks, black shades and his shaved head and beard.

For some fans of soul/funk/jazz, Hayes, with his always soft-spoken, low-key vocal style, remains the senior statesman for a cadre of like-minded musicians that followed his lead: Norman Whitfield, Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield and the Ohio Players.

During his heyday in the 70’s many African Americans were drawn to him because he represented the antithesis of white sensibilities—a big, black, bald brother with an unnerving presence and a gritty voice that serenaded his listeners with songs of love, betrayal and racial affirmation.

For those who have never seen Hayes live, this concert was certainly entertaining—his vocalists were outstanding, particularly Rhonda Thomas (a vocal siren who has recently released her own solo CD). And with Jerry Patterson on drums, his longtime guitarist “Skip” and a cadre of other fine musicians, the band was as hot as the weather. But some may have been distracted by his familiar spoken verse offerings that sometimes were extended a little too long, specifically during his rendition of Jimmy Webb’s “By The Time I Get To Phoenix.” He employed the same technique while performing the Bacharach and David classic “Walk On By,” but with more positive results—the audience loved every measure of his soulful rendition.

To illustrate his ability to perform that “get-off-your-feet-and-jam funk sound, Hayes wowed listeners with “Do Your Thing,” an amazingly arranged piece that even segued into The Isley Brothers’ hit from the 70s, “It’s Your Thang.”

“It’s your thang, do what you wanta do; I can’t tell you, who to sock it to.” That was real music, in case you didn’t know. Hayes would close his performance with the always popular, Clifton Davis-penned “Never Can Say Goodbye,” his version of Chicago’s own Jerry Butler’s “I Stand Accused,” and finally, the “Theme from Shaft.”

Despite the need for fans to depart and prepare for work after the last long weekend of the summer, most remained just to hear Hayes say, “that cat Shaft is a bad mother … shut your mouth.” It was audience participation as its best and everyone, young and old, rose to their feet in tribute to a song that for the first time in America’s musical history celebrated and continues to affirm the black man’s masculinity and commitment to his family and community.

“Right On,” brother Isaac!

A Word With Irvin Mayfield, The Ambassador of Jazz

Irvin MayfieldThe Ambassador of Jazz
A Word With Irvin Mayfield
by Matthew S. Robinson

New Orleans has always been known as a legendary music town. From Louis Armstrong to Buckwheat Zydeco, the Big Easy has launched some of the biggest names in music. It seems that almost everyone is in a band. And for those who are not, there are artists like Irvin Mayfield to pick up the slack.

In addition to being a co-founder and driving force behind the popular Afro-Latin group Los Hombres Calientes (who will be appearing at Scullers Jazz Club on August 18 and 19), Mayfield is also the leader of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, a collection of talented young performers from all over the south.

“I can’t lie about that I am pretty busy,” Mayfield laughs, “but I love to do it!”

In addition to his performance pursuits, Mayfield is also the Cultural Ambassador for the State of Louisiana and the City of New Orleans.

“That takes a lot of time too,” he says. “I have to transfer art into development and keep Jazz at the forefront of the creative industry.” “I played because my best friend played,” Mayfield admits. “All the girls liked him and he got good grades, so I wanted to be like him.” Though his new hobby may have brought him popularity, Mayfield says that he did not come to truly love it until he began to attend the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts at age 14.

“They took me on a tour to Germany,” Mayfield recalls. “That was not only my first time in Europe. It was my first time on a plane! And it amazed me that I could bring this music so far away and have people appreciate it.”

Convinced that he had found his calling, Mayfield began to study the history of the horn. “From that moment, I never had another doubt,” he says. “I wanted to carry on the legacy of Miles and Louis and Dizzy.” As a trumpet player in New Orleans, Mayfield was constantly being looked to as a bandleader.

“People expected me to have my own band together,” he explains, “so I had a band since I was 15.” After touring Greece at age 16, Mayfield entered (and eventually flunked out of) the University of New Orleans. When that was done, he went to New York with New Orleans neighbor Wynton Marsalis.

“That is where I met a lot of the people I work with now,” he explains, making special notion of Latin legend Chucho Valdez. “He was giving Wynton a lesson in Cuban music and I was just amazed at how familiar it was,” Mayfield says. “It reminded me of New Orleans music, so I started to look into it.”

Returning to New Orleans, Mayfield called drummer Jason Marsalis (Wynton’s brother) and musicologist Bill Summers. “At the time, I was deciding whether to move to New York for good,” he says, “so I figured I could put together a project in New Orleans that would at least bring me home every so often.”

A month later, that part-time project got signed to a record deal and Los Hombres Calientes (named after the Rap group The Hot Boys) was officially born.

Since that time, the band has grown, shrunk, and changed a great deal. Throughout it all, however, there have been Mayfield and Summers and that great Latin-New Orleans sound. “For our latest album, Volume 4, we actually went to the countries where the music comes from, like Jamaica and Brazil and the Dominican Republic,” Mayfield says. “We put it all into our shows, but the band still has a strong New Orleans sensibility.”

Currently, Mayfield and Summers are putting the finishing touches on Volume 5: Carnival which, Mayfield says, should be out early next year. “We left the final ‘e’ off ‘Carnival’ so people do not think we are a Spanish band,” he explains. “After all, from New Orleans to Brazil, there is a carnival all over the world, so that is what we wanted to capture.”

Speaking of ‘capturing,’ Los Hombres were recently captured themselves on a live DVD that was filmed at the House of Blues in New Orleans. “That was a bunch of fun,” Mayfield says. “It is a typical night in New Orleans and that was what we wanted to show. We wanted people to get a feel for the party atmosphere that we try to bring to every town we play.”

Unfortunately, Mayfield says, the DVD could only be so long. “When we are in New Orleans, we usually play for three hours straight,” he says. “The DVD can only offer so much. So I guess the only way to really get us is to come to the live shows.” Speaking specifically of his forthcoming Boston gigs, Mayfield maintains that the Hub gets a bad rap as a party town.

“Boston is one of the hardest partying towns we play,” he says. “The only difference is that, in New Orleans, people expect 10 PM shows to start at 12 while, in Boston, if we are ten minutes late, people get itchy.”

Mayfield makes another north-south distinction between his Jazz Orchestra and similar projects like old friend Wynton Marsalis’ Jazz from Lincoln Center. “Whereas Jazz from Lincoln Center is like fine wine, we are like corn bread and greens,” he suggests. “They are sophisticated. We are down home.”

Even so, Mayfield says, he is very proud of his home made orchestra. “The New Orleans Jazz Orchestra is the most significant Jazz institution in the South,” he says. “We play the music at the highest artistic levels at all times and we also have a strong educational initiative that takes us to schools wherever we tour in order to help develop Jazz curriculum and programming.”

In addition to bringing his beloved Jazz to schools throughout the South, Mayfield also brings it to educational and political venues throughout the world as his home state’s Cultural Ambassador, a new government position that he helped create.

“It’s hard to explain how important the arts are without being involved,” he says, “so that is what I do.”

As he looks forward to finishing his new album, starting another project with famed father Ellis Marsalis and beloved brother Aaron Neville, going to Hungary with his cultural attaché and touring with Los Hombres, the Jazz Orchestra and other artists, Mayfield continues to be thankful for all he has accomplished and all his music has allowed him to do.

“Music is always a good reason to get together,” he says, “so it works really well!”

George Benson – Irreplaceable

George BensonGeorge Benson
(GRP – 2004)
by Ricky Miller

Boy, is George gonna catch some flack for this one. Although that famous guitar / vocal combination is still there, there’s a LOT more of the vocal part. The feel of this release is a cross between Benson and the stylings of your 90’s vocal R&B group. George has always been innovative, and this time I think he’s seeking the

Listen to Take You Out using RealAudio.

same objective as other jazz/R&B collaborations, but with a different slant. Note that there are no original Benson compositions on the CD, ’nuff said about that. Although the heavily pushed single is probably going to be Cell Phone, I like the moody Black Rose featuring Joshua P. Thompson, on guitar, who also penned this track (with Hip Hop veteran Joe) featuring sweet background harmonies by Benson and Hasan Smith.

My next three choices on the CD are Arizona Sunrise and Softly as in a Morning Sunrise both remixed by smooth jazz master Paul Brown and Take You out; all three tracks are well written, well performed and Instrumental. If there were a few more guest vocalists like Will Downing or Phil Perry, even a little taste of a real R&B vocalist like Brian McKnight performing lead on many of the tracks you’ve got a better CD here.

Verve smartly brought in heavy smooth-jazz hitters Rex Rideout and Paul Brown to do a final mix on this CD before releasing it to insure that it had enough of a jazz flavor, otherwise this might have been relegated to the R&B bin at the store… and on the airwaves. Take You Out with accompanying keyboards from Rideout captures some of the zest and flavour of the Benson of yore, and there are some hellacious riffs on Missing You that prove there is life left in the king of the Masquerade. Three stars.

The Brubeck Brothers Quartet – Intuition

The Brubeck Brothers Quartet
(Koch – 2006)
by Staff

The Brubeck Brothers Quartet carries on the family tradition with this crisp, exciting new recording. Joined by pianist Taylor Eigsti and guitarist Mike DeMicco, Chris and Dan Brubeck come out swinging on this energetic and enjoyable CD-full of straight ahead jazz compositions. This is one of those CDs that you can drop in your player and leave it there for a few days. The tracks are all enjoyable, well performed and produced.

Chris Brubeck composed most of the tracks as well as playing bass and trombone; brother Dan is the drummer – and what an exciting and energetic drummer he is. Their musical virtuosity shines on this release filled with original music that “brings a new spirit to straight-ahead jazz,” (Boston Globe) explores odd metered funk, gorgeous ballads and “swings as hard as any group I’ve heard lately” (noted Jazz journalist & author Doug Ramsey). The impressive chemistry of these outstanding musicians and their ability to express themselves in a wide range of moods is captured on this new Koch CD. Currently, you can catch the group in select PBS markets on the concert music series Sierra Center Stage and on NPR’s nationally syndicated Jazz Set with Dee Dee Bridgewater.

Chris Brubeck is not only a distinguished performer — with the good luck to have cut his teeth playing and recording alongside his famous father — but is also making a name for himself as a composer as well. In May of 2001, when the legendary Boston Pops celebrated the centennial of Boston’s Symphony Hall, conductor Keith Lockheart premiered Brubeck’s “Convergence: Concerto for Orchestra,” commissioned for the occasion. His music also caught the attention of superstar mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade who premiered his “River of Song” in 2002. These pieces are featured on Chris’s latest orchestral CD, “Convergence” also on Koch. The disc has earned fabulous reviews in both the jazz and classical press. John von Rhein of the Chicago Tribune refers to Chris’s compositional style as “crossover in the best sense of the word — a 21st Century Lenny Bernstein.” Through all of this, Chris still finds the time to make guest appearances with the Dave Brubeck Quartet, having recorded dozens of records with them over the years.

Drummer Dan Brubeck, according to Jazz Times, “will cause your mouth to drop when you hear him take off. To call his drum solo exciting is to sell him short.” Dan and Mike DeMicco led their band, The Dolphins, for over two decades, recording three CDs which received extensive airplay on the radio at home and abroad. He was also co-leader — with Chris — of the Brubeck, Laverne Trio, whose record “See How It Feels” made the Top 25 list in national jazz airplay. He also has been featured on ten of his father’s records, including the Grammy-nominated “Trio Brubeck” with Chris. Dan has toured with legendary musicians like Gerry Mulligan, Paul Desmond, Roy Buchanon, Jerry Bergonzi and The Band.

Eileina Williams – Introducing

Eileina WilliamsEileina Williams
(Eileina williams – 2005)
by Narvy James

Oh Hell Yeah! Just when you thought that the age of great female jazz singers was dead and gone, along comes Eileina Williams. Do you like Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan or Carmen McRae? Then you’ll love Eileina. Continuing in the style of these great, and her self-professed heroines, Eileina continues the tradition by providing a fresh vocal viewpoint of her own while remaining true to the Jazz art form. With a musical background that encompasses Gospel, R&B and Euro-popular music Eileina transitions effortlessly to the Jazz World and is a welcome addition indeed!

Williams steps out with style on this release, covering classic standards like “Our Love Is Here To Stay” and bluesy nightclub numbers like “Willow Weep For Me,” showing the range and projection she has developed through the years. With a sultry style and innate sense of rhythm, her warmth and spirituality comes shining through on every track. The vocal and solo drum version of Harry Woods’ “What A Little Moonlight Can Do” is simply out of this world. This young, gifted and Black vocalist has a bright future.

Visit the Eileina Williams web site.

Andrea Brachfeld – Into the World A Musical Offering

Andrea Brachfeld
Into the World A Musical Offering
Shaneye – 2008

Andrea Brachfeld’s latest release “Into the World A Musical Offering” features Mike Longo, longtime musical director for Dizzy Gillespie, Paul West, worldwide known bassist extraordinaire, and Brian Lynch, Eddie Palmieri’s trumpet player.

The music on the CD ranges from Latin Jazz to Salsa, Yoruban and Hebrew chants, to straight ahead jazz. Andrea’s original compositions comprise the majority of the tracks and her compositional skills as well as technical versatility on the flute are outstanding.

This CD is one not to be missed. Her longtime band members include Bob Quaranta on the piano, Andy Eulau on the bass, Kim Plainfield and Diego Lopez on the drums, and Chembo Corniel on the congas. One of the favorite tracks on the CD, “Passing Friends” is dedicated to the multitude of masters who have passed away in the past couple of years.

Check it out!!

Cary Simms – Intimate Thoughts

Cary Simms
Intimate Thoughts

(Cary Simms Publishing – 2001)
by Raymond Redmond

A friend brought this CD by for me to hear, said a local sax cat had put it out himself and that I should take a listen. Well, I put it on and was so impressed that I felt the need to share it with all of you! Cary Simms can play… his music is full of emotion and funk and the production on the CD is top notch. From the first track I.O.U. to the last track Intimate Thoughts, each song is an experience of it’s own. No two quite the same, but all performed with a consistency of skill and depth of feeling that is rare in todays ‘pump-em-out’ world. You can tell that he put a lot of time and effort into both the creation and performance of these tracks as well as the pre and post production. Kind of like the feel you get from Grover Washington tunes… Rich and funky yet full of energy and pop!

Simms co-produced the CD with musical prodigy Rick Callier who also performs. They are accompanied by some of Portland’s premier musicians including Doug Lewis on guitar and Danny Wilson on bass with a guest appearance from Nathan East. This is a beautiful CD and should be an inspiration for all the young musicians out there… Simms put this together and got it out with no backing from the majors (or the minors). Please go out and buy this CD. If it’s not available, ask your local record store to order it. Hopefully someone in the industry will get ahold of this and help this young man get the recognition he truly deserves.

For more information visit the Cary Simms Web Site.

Tony Monaco – Intimately Live at the 501

Tony Monaco
Intimately Live
at the 501
(Summit – 2002)
by S.H. Watkins, Sr.

I’ve said it before and it still holds true… Tony Monaco is the current king of the swinging B3. His first release, Burnin’ Grooves gave us our December 2001 Hot Single Ashleen. His second release Master Chops T was even hotter, catapulting him into the upper echelon of the rare hand-and-foot organ jockeys. I had the pleasure of witnessing the trio in performance in Long Beach, CA and I’ll testify that as good as the CD’s were, they don’t transmit all of the electricity you get at the live performances. This CD solves all that. From the opening The Cat to the traditional Sweet Georgia Brown Monaco delivers song after song with the same energy and creativity. He takes take the Coltrane and literally flys away with it.

Note that word energy, Tony has some of the fastest feet in the biz, and a left hand to go with it. The bonus track is a grits-and-gravy rendition of Wayne Shorter’s Footprints. This CD was recorded on the spur of the moment in the 501 club during their regular Sunday night gig, and it couldn’t have been planned any better. The trio was at their smoking best that night, the audience the atmosphere and the impromptu nature of the whole thing led to a classic recording. If the Tony Monaco Trio ever comes within driving distance of your town, I’d suggest you go see them. If not, then get the CD and experience the next best thing to being there live with Tony at the 501.

Patti Austin – Intimate

Patti AustinPatti Austin
(Mosaic Contemporary – 2007)
by Paula Edelstein

Patti Austin crosses all musical genres, has made 16 solo albums, and has performed her award-nominated hit songs on the Grammys and the Oscars. As a performer, songwriter and vocalist she has had a star-studded career that began at the age of four, making her one of the most beloved artists literally the world over. The daughter of a jazz trombonist and goddaughter of musical legends Quincy Jones and Dinah Washington, Patti Austin made her stage debut with Dinah Washington at the world-famous Apollo Theater in Harlem. During the 1970s she was the undisputed “Queen” of the New York commercial jingle session scene.

Her voice was heard on literally hundreds of commercials, behind everyone from Paul Simon, Cat Stevens and Joe Cocker to Bette Midler, Roberta Flack, Luther Vandross and Diana Ross. At the beginning of the 1980’s, Quincy Jones gave Patti exposure to a wider audience through her participation on his best-selling album STUFF LIKE THAT and the Grammy-winning classic THE DUDE. Her debut album for Quincy’s Qwest label included the chart-topping hit “Baby Come To Me,” a now classic duet with James Ingram. The pair reprised their success with the Oscar nominated “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?” In 2002, Patti recorded FOR ELLA, her critically acclaimed and Grammy-nominated tribute to the legendary Ella Fitzgerald in Cologne, Germany. In 2007 Patti celebrated the title of one of her biggest hits, “How Do You Keep The Music Playing?” by signing an exclusive recording and media project development deal with Rendezvous Entertainment.

Her first offering with Rendezvous was the release of AVANT-GERSHWIN, a new and adventurous big band rendering of Gershwin songs. Again, for AVANT-GERSHWIN, Patti worked her magic with the WDR Big Band of Cologne, Germany. In May 2007, Mosaic Contemporary introduced their INTIMATE SERIES. INTIMATE PATTI AUSTIN features 12 of Patti’s most intimate songs including “Stop Look, Listen” and “Baby Come To Me.” Her extraordinary career continues to cross over boundaries and reach new heights. Learn more about Patti Austin at www.pattiaustin.com.

Reprinted with permission of…

Matthew Von Doran – In This Present Moment

In This Present MomentIn This Present Moment
Matthew Von Doran
(Bcat Records – 2004)
by John Thompson

I’m gonna throw some big names at you; just nod your head if you’ve heard of them: Bob Mintzer, Larry Goldings, James Genus, Jimmy Haslip, Terri Lynn Carrington, Peter Erskine.

Whether you nodded or not, you can trust me when I say that these are big names; and all of them appear on Guitarist Matthew Von Doran’s “In This Present Moment.” Produced by Yellowjackets’ member Haslip, this is a CD that should sell well to Pat Metheny listeners and fans. While all songs are originals by Von Doran and performances by guest artists are very nice, V.D. does not shine on an instrument that lives to be played.

Being that most of the songs are long enough, V.D. wastes his opportunities. Writing certainly seems to be the strong point of this cd, along with an outstanding cd cover. Unfortunately, the playing contributions by Von Doran, compared to the other musicians on this cd, made very little impact. Casual guitar players will appreciate Von Doran more than the aspiring artist. – – 3 stars.

In The Studio and In Concert With Mel Tormé

Mel Torme In The Studio and In Concert
Mel Tormé
by Paula Edelstein

Mention the name of Mel Tormé and anyone who had the pleasure of seeing him perform “live” will compare his voice to a string of pearls in a velvet glove and one that ranks among the greatest jazz singers of the 20th century. Born Melvin Howard Tormé in Chicago, he began singing with the Coon-Sanders Original Nighthawk Orchestra at a Chicago restaurant; studied piano and drums, sang with various bands and acted in radio soap operas, toured as a singer and arranger with the Chico Marx band in the 40s, appeared in films and with his own vocal swing ensemble, the Mel-Tones. WOW!

Before his untimely death in 2000, his prominent career as a pop and jazz vocalist received worldwide recognition and even garnered Mel Tormé successive Grammy awards for best male jazz vocalist for the albums AN EVENING WITH GEORGE SHEARING AND MEL TORME in 1983 and for TOP DRAWER in 1984. Mel Tormé also appeared as soloist and conductor with several symphonies, including the San Francisco and Dallas symphonies. In Los Angeles, the city officials proclaimed Mel Tormé Week in commemoration of his 50th anniversary in show business in 1980. With over 300 songs written by the great Mel Tormé, his “The Christmas Song,” has become a holiday favorite. Two books: The Other Side of the Rainbow and Traps, The Drum Wonder, recount his associations with Judy Garland and Buddy Rich respectively. However, if you missed Tormé’s many spectacular concerts, then that’s unfortunate. But don’t despair. The great folks at Concord Jazz had the good fortune to record his great sessions and concerts for posterity sake in 1988 and 1989 and their re-issue of two of Tormé’s greatest CDs are now in one great package! MEL TORMÉ and the Marty Paich Dek-Tette, IN THE STUDIO AND IN CONCERT is a two CD-set that features two classic albums: REUNION and IN CONCERT TOKYO. The mid-’80s collaborations mark the first and only meetings between the legendary vocalist and the brilliant arranger and his swinging 10-piece Dek-Tette. “In Concert Tokyo” is the only recording of their “live” concert in existence! On REUNION, you get nine great songs, complete with the accompaniment of Marty Paich’s conducting and arrangements. Tormé’s great phrasing, swinging style, and scat singing is excellent on his Bossa Nova Potpourri: “The Gift” and “One Note Samba.” “The Goodbye Look,” and his medley of “For Whom The Bell Tolls” and the Chick Corea and Al Jarreau favorite, “Spain (I Can Recall)” are thrust into the limelight with expert variety and musical expression. His phrasing and harmony is abundant and the lush big band is right there with him. He stretches on “The Blues,” by Duke Ellington and designates this as one of his own…gently pressing a sympathetic vibration. In other words, this CD is filled with great singing, great songs, and great musicians. On IN CONCERT TOKYO, Tormé sings his holiday favorite, “The Christmas Song,” as the finale of a 12-song program. Opening and reprising with “It Don’t Mean A Thing” Mel Tormé sings his heart out. Recorded “live” in Tokyo, Japan in 1989, this recording is a career recording that demanded all of Mel’s savvy, musicianship and bravado to pull it off. He swings, and then breaks stride with introspective moments of feeling and the Tormé-Paich collaboration. He breaks free on “Cotton Tail,” drumming away on the incomparable Marty Paich arrangement with Ken Peplowski on clarinet. “Sweet Georgia Brown,” “When The Sun Comes Out,” and “The Carioca” leap off the pages with Tormé’s exceptional delivery. This collection has “heart” and this is what makes Mel Tormé one of those great musicians that were able to do things that the rest of the world thinks impossible. A Must Have.

Althea René – In The Moment

Althea René
In The Moment
(Chocolate Caramel – 2006)
by S.H. Watkins, Sr.

When I was coming up we had the likes of Hubert Laws and Herbie Mann on the flute, but there was also the unique and beautiful Bobbie Humphries. Bobbie was my favorite both for her characteristic flair and her feminine perspective on jazz music styling. Much like contemporary flutist Sherry Winston, Althea René has taken the torch waiting to be passed from the inimitable Ms. Humphries in grand style.

The CD starts with the jazzy title track in a smooth and harmonic flow. “I Can” is a walkin’ piece that draws on Althea’s stylistic ability and a catchy hook. With some Byrd-ish mutes and some Duke-ish keyboard lines “Campari Juice” is a throwback to the golden ages of Donald Byrd and fusion jazz. On “More Than You Know” Althea sings with a voice that is reminiscent of Sadé while serenading us on the flute to some nice guitar accompaniment.

I particularly enjoyed her remake of the hit “Me, Myself and I”. Although not technically the best song on the CD, it caught my attention the most often while I was listening to the CD. The same goes for “When You’re Around” .. I noticed it each time it came up in the rotation and noted that it was particularly pleasant. This is good travelling music, good working music, just plain old good listening music.

Breathtakingly beautiful and unmistakably talented, Althea René has performed with the likes of Kem, Ronnie Laws, Herbie Mann, Nancy Wilson, Al Jarreau and Donald Byrd to name just a few. The life experiences were not lost on Althea Ren&eacute, who sounds like an angel and performs like the consumate professional that she is. This is HIGHLY recommended listening.

Brulee – New Beginnings

New Beginnings
2010 – Owl Productions

Evoking the timeless composers of the past as well as contemporary tunesmiths, this is an album of tenderness, passion, juxtaposition, humor and love. Brul�e, featuring Julie Weiner’s beautiful and iconic vocals and Doug Onstad’s compositions & piano interpretations, leads the listener on a musical journey of unspoken thoughts, warmth and longing from the caf�s of Paris to the expansive landscape of the American song.

Brul�e has created a breezy and uplifting contribution, truly jazz with a twist. Weiner uses every range of her voice to engage the listener with scatting, top register flights and articulate delivery of witty lyrics. Onstad, also a contributing vocalist to this savory offering, has a familiar and inviting style; the two create a delightful journey with a cavalcade of guest artists. Each cut is accessibly smart and creatively entertaining in a convivial setting, a perfect release to brighten your day and put a skip in your step.

Julie Weiner is a born vocalist who comes from a family of singers and musicians. Julie is also an exceptional dancer and veteran of theater, especially musical comedy, and reveals her love of lyric and melody with captivating tenderness and a heart full of soul. She has a voice that is at once technically spot on and capable of improvisation and searing emotional declaration. Julie has a nearly three octave range and a tone of crystalline clarity, yet deep, sultry resonance in her lower range.

Doug Onstad, who has arranged all of the duo’s piano interpretations, knows how to hold the gorgeous melodies of the pair’s song book in chordal inventions that are at once classic and adventurous. Julie and Doug also perform some of Doug’s own compositions that have grown out of Doug’s love for American music: jazz, rock, classical and R&B.

The Bad Plus – Never Stop

The Bad Plus
Never Stop
E1 Music – September 2010

Recorded in Minnesota, NEVER STOP does just what the title says. It’s a rapid-fire succession of engaging performances by three musical explorers operating as highly skilled individuals — bassist Reid Anderson, pianist Ethan Iverson and drummer David King — and as a seamless unit at the same time. NEVER STOP is a strictly instrumental affair and, as a result, is a 180� departure from the group’s previous release, For All I Care, which featured alt-rock vocalist Wendy Lewis on covers of rock classics, along with re-imaginings of 20th Century classical compositions by Stravinsky, Ligeti and Babbitt.

“We approached the recording of this album more like a jazz record from the ’50s or ’60s,” says King. “To eliminate studio separation as much as possible, I set up in the same room as Ethan, with Reid in plain sight. It created a really free atmosphere, as if we were playing a show.”

For the past 10 years The Bad Plus have created an uncompromising body of work by shattering musical convention. Rolling Stone called their amalgam of jazz, pop, rock and avant garde “about as badass as highbrow gets,” while The New York Times said the band is “better than anyone at mixing the sensibilities of post-’60s jazz and indie rock.” Few jazz groups in recent memory have amassed such acclaim, and few have generated as much controversy while audaciously bucking musical trends.

While the bulk of their output has been originals, they have famously deconstructed covers in the pop, rock, electronic and classical idioms. Their belief in a band ethos and “avant-garde populism” has placed them at the forefront of a new instrumental music movement, resulting in ever-larger audiences.

The threesome has been exchanging musical ideas since their teenage years. In the late ’80s, Anderson and King were two Minnesota high schoolers playing in fledgling rock bands and digging records by Coltrane and The Police. Anderson met Iverson in 1989.  All three played together on one occasion a year later before going their separate ways for ten years.

They reconvened for a gig in Minneapolis in 2000. Sparks flew, studio sessions for an indie release ensued, and suddenly The New York Times called their maiden voyage one of the best releases of 2001. The band signed with Columbia, where they released These Are the Vistas in 2003, followed quickly by Give and then Suspicious Activity?  In 2007 they released Prog, an album which balanced originals with spellbinding covers of Bowie, Bacharach, Tears for Fears and Rush. For All I Care, with its intriguing juxtaposition of rock and classical sensibilities, followed in 2009.

Ten years ago, not one of these musicians could have predicted where The Bad Plus was going, how long it would last, or what it might become along the way. What they were sure of, though, was a fierce sense of commitment that has blossomed into artistic success.

“We’ve always believed in our ideas,” says Anderson. ” We’ve always believed in making music that sounds like us, and we always thought there would be an audience for it.”

NEVER STOP showcases the band’s range as well as its three distinct personalities. From gentle and melodic to fierce and abstract, from swing to ’80s techno, NEVER STOP is the result of a group sound that embraces diversity as strength.

Nestor Torres Interview 2004

Nestor TorresNestor Torres Lets The Music Speak
by Paula Edelstein

Jazz flautist and Latin Grammy Award winner Nestor Torres has been captivating audiences with his sexy, sensual mix of Latin, jazz, and pop sounds for more than 15 years. With SIN PALABRAS, the handsome, charismatic Torres is well on his way to claim another major share of the music market with this exceptional debut for Heads Up. With the addition of label mates James Lloyd of Pieces of A Dream and Jimmy Haslip of The Yellowjackets, co-writing several songs, Torres’ fresh, positive, sound and major talent is sure to come to the attention of his peers but better yet, just about anyone headed for the dance floor. Also on board are Richie Bravo whose impressive percussion work for Ricky Martin and Christina Aguilera have garnered him major recognition, and Italy’s Carlo Pennisi, who co-wrote “Piper Dance” and “Maybe Tonight” with Nestor, Daniel Sembello and Baby Boy, among other special guests.

Born in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, Nestor Torres took flute lessons at age 12 and began formal studies at the Escuela Libre de Musica, eventually attending Puerto Rico’s Inter-American University. At 18, he moved to New York with his family and that is where he first developed his improvisational skills as a charanga flutist. In charanga, the flutist improvises a great deal – the focus of his solos is to make people dance. Even when he plays today, his approach is still very rhythmic and melodic.

Let’s just tell it like it is. SIN PALABRAS is wonderful! Eleven great songs keep you in tune with all of your musical needs. Whether Nestor’s flute is dancing over a hip-hop beat on “Labios Dulzes” or beautifully asking you to “Stop Staring,” Nestor Torres is at the top of his game – with or without words. We caught up with the musical genius recently and had a great conversation about SIN PALABRAS, jazz education and much more!

P.E.: Congratulations on SIN PALABRAS your debut for Heads Up. It is being lauded as an instrumental pop masterpiece and we agree! At what point did you feel compelled to write the songs for this new CD?

Nestor: When the association and the opportunity to work with the likes of James Lloyd and Jimmy Haslip came about. But actually working with them is really what got things started. It’s what I call the “Da Muse.” Sometimes the muse will pick up the momentum of the songs and I think you can really say that this is something that really happened that way. We started trying new ideas and things took its course. Also, once when I worked with James, and got to spend time together then he’d come up with some kind of groove and I’d start to play on top of that to give him an idea of what my style and my approach was. So he came up with some other idea. It was back and forth…building upon each other. Something I brought in and he built on it so it was a very symbiotic thing.

P.E.: From the sound of the CD, it seems as if you had a lot of fun!

Nestor: Oh yeah, we certainly did.

P.E.: There’s James Lloyd from Pieces of A Dream, and Jimmy Haslip of The Yellowjackets wearing a few different hats themselves and of course your sensitive inspired flute playing. What was it about the flute that made it your instrument of choice?

Nestor: Oh, simply put, it was different. See my father is a musician so the whole aspect of being around music is very natural for me from the beginning ever since I can remember. So when I had a chance to study music, they asked me what instrument what I wanted to play. So I was looking around and I saw the picture of a flute and thought, “Oh, you know that’s different, I want to try that.” Needless to say with my father being a musician he wasn’t very excited. (Smiles) Flute player??? (Smiles) Oh man!! But he supported me and turned me on to the great musicians like Herbie Hancock and the like…so that’s how I got started.

P.E.: Great, fabulous. Nestor, you’ve included such Latin classics as “Contigo Aprendi,” and “Regalame La Silla Donde Te Espere,” and nine original tunes. This CD will definitely have a long life.

Nestor: I certainly hope so!

P.E.: You guys are “killing” on SIN PALABRAS. This CD is as beautiful as it is hot! What do you want your listeners to gain from your music?

Nestor: Well that’s interesting … the way you asked me that! What do I want them to gain? (Smiles) Okay, the official answer… the light-hearted one. I want them to enjoy and have a good time and make it the soundtrack of their daily lives. And the REAL answer is that I want them to be empowered. To be inspired. Yes, I want them to use this music as the soundtrack of their daily lives whereas they can actually feel that they are actually on a great musical adventure…feeling a great story.

P.E.: What a great way to say it…con palabras! There is a lot of great music on SIN PALABRAS. Who were some of your early supporters along your road to fame?

Nestor: Well I have to start with my family of course. After living in Miami for over 20 years, little by little I started playing in little places here and there and developed a wonderfully devoted following. There is a gentleman named Jeff Fisher who was the music director of a radio station there and he said, “Nestor, please give us a record.” And when he said that, I thought, “Gee, how many recording artists are knocking on the doors of this radio station and here he is asking ME for it.” So that brought about yet another supporter and later a gentleman by the name of Richard Siedel, who was at Polygram at the time, signed me. That’s how is all started.

P.E.: And good for us that they were open minded, reached out and tapped your potential and drew from your vast well of creativity. Nestor, there are so many great songs from around the world. How did you choose which songs would be included on SIN PALABRAS?

Nestor: Well, I wanted…there were two things that I wanted to accomplish. One was to expand my range a bit…to delve more into the R&B, hip-hop language. I specifically use the word “language” because sometimes when a musician is expanding or trying to become more relevant or current, there is a danger or perception that “this is not my style, this is not where I come from” or “if I need to do something other than what I have done up until now, then I guess I’m not really being myself.” And I’ve had to confront those fears myself. But what I discovered through this process of this record was that once I started working with James Lloyd and Jimmy Haslip, it was not so much about my doing some other music that is not who I am, or doing something different, but rather learning a new “language.” It’s very much like me speaking with you in English, but if need be, we can engage in a conversation in Spanish. I’m still the same person; I’m still conveying the same ideas with the same intent. It’s simply a different language. With “Sin Palabras” with that word, I really felt that it was like learning a new language and expanding my range. But on the other side of the spectrum, I did want to bring something of the essence of who I am in terms of my culture and in terms of being Latino. So with “Contigo Aprendi” we decided that we wanted to do something that is very much a Latin standard but that is not necessary known to non-Latin audiences. That way it brings a sense of freshness and originality to non-Hispanic audiences but at the same time, giving the Latin folks a sense of familiarity and a sense of recognition with a song that is loved by many. On the other hand, “Regalame La Silla Donde Te Espere” is a song that I wanted to do to pay homage to one of my favorite artists, Alejando Sanz. He is really such an important artist, very real, very legitimate and during the time that I was in production of the record, his new CD came out. So I got it, listened to it and I loved it. And this song, “Regalame La Silla Donde Te Espere” really inspired me and I wanted to do it. It was just like when I first heard Janet Jackson’s song “Doesn’t Really Matter,” and just had to do it. I included her song on my Grammy winning CD THIS SIDE OF PARADISE and that same feeling happened when I heard Alejandro Sanz’s “Regalame La Silla Donde Te Espere.” I just had to do it.

P.E.: That’s cool, very cool. In terms of inspiration and education, you’ve studied at some of the best music colleges in the world including Berklee College of Music, The Mannes College of Music, and the New England Conservatory of Music. You have really honed your skills and craft over the years and your music is better than ever. Is there one educator/flautist that stands out more so than others with respect to their influence on you to continue playing the flute?

Nestor: Hmmmm, that is a good question. There were really a number of professors but there was this one professor named David Org and he was really a good teacher. Academically it was a combination of factors. But the one that I would have to say – even though I never studied with him but his example was my guiding light throughout my process– is that of Hubert Laws. He has set a standard that is yet to be attained by anyone.

P.E.: Wow! You’re absolutely on it. Hubert Laws is an amazing flautist and teacher. I was reminded of his great flute playing after seeing him duet with Chick Corea at a club called Platinum Live in Studio City, CA where Chick was demonstrating the SACD. Hubert was in the audience and Chick invited him onstage to play a couple of songs including “Spain.” It was totally improvised and they were absolutely amazing. So your choice of influences and jazz educators couldn’t be more profound. On another note, I’m sure that you realize had you considered mining another genre other than contemporary Latin jazz – i.e., R&B, Pop, Hard Rock, etc. — that the commercial success may have been much more advantageous than most jazz artists realize. I’ve noticed you’ve included Richie Bravo who has worked with Ricky Martin and Christina Aguilera on the CD. Having his pop influence on the CD is probably going to bring in another audience for your music and it’s a brilliant way to introduce your music to another generation. Was this a marketing plan?

Nestor: No, it just so happens that he’s a good friend and has worked with me before. He just said, “Hey man, when you’re doing another record, let me know.” He is a very well versed musician and has his own studio. He was very generous. Richie Bravo understands everything – the hard-core Latin approach, he understands my music well…and having worked with Christina, Ricky and other folks, he has that understanding of where Latin percussion fits within a pop sensibility.

P.E.: He sure does. Nestor, I’m going to change the subject a bit and this question is not to pull you into some political debate about jazz radio, but today, very few jazz stations come close to airing the vast amount of new releases on the market. Give us your strongest argument for jazz radio including new releases and fresher material on their play lists as opposed to just playing oldies or having consultants determine what the consumer will hear. I mean many folks have to turn to satellite radio or Internet radio to find out what’s new out there or to hear the new releases.

Nestor: I am going to be honest. It’s really a mute point because the purpose of radio today is the commercials. But once radio stations realize that their listeners are no longer listening and are going to satellite radio…that a significant portion of the market or the consumer is no longer listening, that will be the day that they make the changes.

P.E.: Hopefully that day will be soon because we all have our favorite radio stations and personalities but sometimes that’s just not enough. Well, Nestor, I’ll tell you, it’s been a real pleasure talking to you. I wish you all the success you’ve ever had and more with SIN PALABRAS. Your music definitely says it all. We really appreciate the interview and thank you so much for all the great music over the years.

Nestor: Thank you, my pleasure.

Reprinted with permission of…

Neil Tesser

A Conversation With
Neil Tesser
by Mark Ruffin

This month, noted jazz journalist and annotator Neil Tesser debuts a new book on jazz. “The Playboy Guide to Jazz” is an entertaining and informative guide through the important developments in jazz. The overriding theme of the book is an honest effort to help consumers, from a jazz novice to a worn veteran, build a music collection at home. Each chapter in the book deals with a direction in jazz and then details the essential albums to have in that form. The end of the book is devoted to what Tesser thinks are the 50 most essential albums to have to represent all the various directions in which jazz has gone.

JazzUSA: I noticed, and what I like about the last list in the book is that it covers such a wide space in jazz history, that had to be hard.

NT: Here’s the thing I did. I made clear that this is not the 50 best albums. That’s not what I tried to do here. What I did try to do is go through each chapter and each decade and try to pull out a few things that would be representative. So if you actually did buy all of these, you’d have a full chronology. There are better albums from the 50’s than Roy Hargrove’s The Vibe, which is 45 on this list. The reason I picked that was that I felt it was important to have a couple of things from the 80’s, and that’s a pretty good representation of that style atthat time. One reason that that gets picked is because in the 80’s, there were no where as many good albums as in the 50’s.

JazzUSA: Also wasn’t it important to have young lions of the future like Hargrove and Danilo Perez represented?

NT: I think so, because I think what Danilo is doing is very important. Frankly, the album I picked here, The Journey, I think is pretty good, but it has problems. I think Danilo Perez is an example of someone who has never yet made an album that is a good as his performances. I wrestled with that for a long time, and that will be one of the one that’s controversial, another one is Myra Melford. People are going to say, well what are they doing there. I say, well let’s talk in five or ten years and see then if it made sense to put them on there.

JazzUSA: So the last part of the list is like prognosticating?

NT: To a certain extent. Although I do believe that, looking at the list, Danilo Perez, Myra Melford, Cassandra Wilson and Bill Frisell really represent certain areas of what’s going on in the 90’s and that if you have those albums, you have a really good idea of what the 90’s are about. Bill Frisell, with the lower New York thing and Cassandra because she’s Cassandra and she’s been so important. I think that Danilo combining North and South American music, I think that’s already an important thing in the 90’s, and it will be more important in the next decade. I don’t know, Myra, I just might have slipped on, it’s got Dave Douglas on it, people are on it that I think are really important. And I love the album, so maybe I think something inside me wanted to shake things up just a bit.

JazzUSA: It must have been hard also to make the choice you had to make concerning the be-bop period.

NT: It wasn’t really that hard, because in be-bop, since so many of those guys played together, it was okay not to have a Dizzy Gillespie album in there, because he’s all over the Charlie Parker collection. It’s really just the four or five of them, if you count Ella. It’s Ella, Monk, Powell, Parker and the Woody Herman, which was kind of transitional thing. If you were going to sit down with people and say here’s what you need to hear to understand be-bop, you’d pretty much come up with Bird and Diz, Powell and Monk and a couple of other people. So, that part wasn’t as hard. When I looked at them and said, whoa, there’s only four or five of them here, but when I realized that the albums that are there involved so many of the other important people that it worked out okay. I think it was probably harder to keep the swing stuff down to nine or ten, which I did, and it was definitely hard from the 50’s because there’s so much good stuff there.

JazzUSA: And what about Duke Ellington? Miles is represented, but there’s one Duke Ellington album.

NT: Well it’s a three cd set.

JazzUSA: Even so, to say the 50 essential jazz albums and then limit the Duke Ellington. How do you make that call?

NT: You sit down and you say I have to make it. Again, throughout this book, and it’s kind of exemplified on the last list, but really throughout the book, I had to keep uppermost in my mind what the goal was which was to provide a stripped down yet fairly complete introduction to jazz. You and I could sit down and make a list of people who are not really mentioned in this book at all, and it would be funny. Two that are going to bother me for a while are Ray Anderson, he’s in the index, but there’s no albums of his, and Stanley Turrentine.They’re going to bug me for a while. And yet, when I got to the 50’s and was trying to keep it reasonable…. The overriding idea was not just that I want you to hear all this stuff that I like or here’s my friend that you need to hear. Ray Anderson is a friend. The overriding concern was what you sort of need to have to get what’s going on in that period while keeping your expenses down. I applied the same thing to the final list.

I think Miles is the only person who’s on more than once, and he could have been on four times. The reason for that is unlike Ellington, Miles continued to spearhead entirely new movements. Duke, I think, is beyond reproach and beyond comparison, but basically,from the 40’s on, what he wrote was set. He refined it and expanded it in the 60’s with suites and stuff, and the sacred concerts, but it’s not like he spearheaded a new movement. So in my mind, it was easy to say, it’s just going to be one Duke, and there’s going to have to be three Miles’. There’s The Birth Of The Cool, there’s Kind Of Blue which you can’t leave off, and then how can you tell people what fusion was without Bitches Brew. But the reason, Miles is represented three times and Coltrane twice is that each of those albums were just a Miles album or a Coltrane album, but a key album in a different direction in jazz.

What I wanted was that if people had a hold on to all the 50 albums on this list they would have, not only a good sampling of the important musicians, but also a good handle on the different directions that jazz took. So it would be hard to leave off Giant Steps, if you were so inclined, because that’s like a summation of the whole hard-bop thing. And if would be hard to leave out A Love Supreme, or something like it, because that direction was so influential on so many musicians, and Coltrane was Coltrane. That doesn’t mean that I think that he’s a greater musician than Duke Ellington. It had more to do with the fact that Duke Ellington didn’t make these radical lurches in his stylistic presentations. That’s not just the kind of musician he was. Now you could argue that he probably had a more fully formed idea of what he wanted to do and say at the beginning than these other guys. Maybe he didn’t make those changes because he knew earlier than they did what was the thing that he should be doing.

JazzUSA: You also didn’t take the easy out by putting on the list something like the Miles Davis Chronicles: The Complete Prestige Recordings or the complete John Coltrane recordings. Isn’t that an easy way to build an essential jazz collection?

NT: I actually said something about that in the introduction at the very beginning of the book. Roman numeral twelve says, “in choosing which albums to recommend, I could easily have cheated.” I then talk about these completed boxes. Again, the idea was to try to keep this reasonably priced to new listeners, and I don’t think that’s fair. I think saying this eight-cd set counts as one entry, you know, no new listener and pretty few old listeners are actually going to sit down and listen to those eight discs. Those serve a different purpose. Those are for people who want to have everything or want to be able to reference that information. It’s not really for people listening to the music as a new experience.

JazzUSA: What about the advent of, and I hate the term, smooth jazz?

NT: I hate the jazz part of it. They can call it smooth whatever they want. I didn’t cover that.

JazzUSA: But beyond covering that, there’s a period in jazz that is often overlooked, and smooth jazz folks are overlooking it too, and that is what happened when fusion and r&b kind of came together,

NT: Okay, you’re talking about what, like Herbie Hancock?

JazzUSA: Yeah, and George Duke, the Crusaders, I mean there was some serious improvisation going on and some growth in the late 70’s.

NT: Yeah, it wasn’t smooth. It wasn’t elevator music. People complained about fusion, because it was electronic and rock oriented.They didn’t say ‘oh, it’s just snoozy.’ They said it’s noise. I covered that, because I felt that that stuff was important and I felt that was a real outgrowth of developments in jazz and the history of jazz is complete with the constant infusion of elements from other musics and from other areas. They were bringing in elements from rock and electronics. To me, that fits quite comfortably in the history of jazz, at the time, the next logical development. It didn’t necessarily go very far, but at the time, it was probably the right thing to do.

In terms of smooth jazz though, the stuff that’s come up in the 80’s and 90’s, I don’t recognize that as jazz. Fusion was still primarily jazz, but it hasn’t changed a lot. But this stuff is, for the most part, just pop instrumental music, or in many cases, vocal music that they have thrown some jazz instruments onto like saxophone and trumpet. But I don’t think it’s recognizable as jazz, in even the broadest definition. I think, in most cases, it’s been a marketing ploy designed to connect to the fact that a lot of people seem to think that jazz is something cool and somewhat forbidden and somewhat elitist and so if you let people think that they’re connecting with that idea, but don’t actually give them the music that led to those ideas, well then you have a successful radio format. Oh man, I just love that Randy Crawford, and oh man, that Gerald Albright. Now, he can sometimes play.

JazzUSA: That’s exactly my point there. Gerald Albright can play.

NT: But he doesn’t usually. He can play, but he doesn’t usually bother, or he’s not usually allowed to. Which is worse, a guy that doesn’t have the ability and makes money like Kenny G, or a guy who has the ability and purposely puts it under the table.

JazzUSA: Well take people like Ramsey Lewis, Joe Sample and Grover Washington Jr. These are all people that we know can play, right?

NT: Yes.

JazzUSA: Yet, they still play, unfortunately, what has become a form of smooth jazz, but actually a lot of that is an outgrowth of what they were trying to do in the 70’s.

NT: I don’t think of Grover Washington Jr. and for the most part, Joe Sample, as playing smooth jazz.

JazzUSA: But they are associated with it.

NT: Yeah, it’s hard to say, but it is an outgrowth of the 70’s and at the time it was considered like kind of like a soul jazz thing, different from the funky stuff of the 50’s and 60’s. I’ve always felt that Grover could play pretty well and even on those albums in the 70’s that he played the hell out of that stuff. While it was kind of tamed from a rhythmic standpoint, I thought there was a lot of good jazz playing going on. And I’ve always liked Joe Sample. I’ve always thought that Joe Sample was kind of like the 70’s answer to Errol Garner. And Ramsey I like personally. I like some of his music, I mean, what is he going to do when he picks up the book and find out he’s not mentioned. What kind of friendship are we going to have now.(laughs).  But where would you put him? Where would you put him in this book saying to somebody here’s what you really need to know about jazz.The best stuff is the stuff that’s been re-issued, which is sort of watered down Ahmad Jamal. Or you could say The In Crowd, simply because it was a hit, but is that an important development in jazz?

JazzUSA: As important as Horace Silver to really spur that movement?

NT: Right, and if you really want to understand that movement, what are you going to do, recommend Horace Silver or Ramsey Lewis? In retrospect, I wished I’d found a little room to give him mention.

JazzUSA: What was the hardest thing to do about this book?

NT: Everything. Well, you know, I never wrote a book before. And as simple as it sounds, it’s just a matter of thinking of a book like this as a series of smaller articles. That sounds simple, but it took me halfway through it before I was able to understand that. Because you’re writing stuff in chapter one and you’re thinking of stuff for chapter five, and you’re always writing down notes and wondering what if I forget this. You make yourself very crazy. I would say the single hardest thing was in really sort of ruthlessly whittling down the many albums that are available. Each chapter is made up of essentials, the last chapter is that 50 essential, but each chapter is based on the idea that there are 20 or 25 essential albums that will help you really get this. I’d say the hardest part was in deciding what to leave out. You and I both know that there are 60 albums for each chapter that you can recommend to people and all of them for good reason. I’d say the hardest thing was making those choices and in my own mind, defending those choices. If somebody said to me, ‘how could you pick this album over this one?,’ for the most part, I’ll be able to tell them, because I’ve been thinking these things through. These are not chosen arbitrarily. Very often, I went back and listened to different things.The other hard thing was trying to find out what was still available and trying to keep it current.


NEA Jazz Masters Awards Concert 2005

NEA Jazz Masters Awards Concert 2005
by Gene Thompson

It’s amazing how in life, just when you thought you’ve done it all, seen it all, know it all and experienced it all, in all actuality (and in the words of my father) you really don’t know jack! Okay, maybe I substituted the word he really said, but I think you get my point. That’s how I felt while attending the IAJE in Long Beach California January 5-8, 2005. During four of the most interesting days of my life the music, the people, the artists, the educators and the overall experience was surreal. It was Saturday night January 8, 2005 while attending the 2005 NEA Jazz Masters Awards Concert at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center, that it all came together for me.

The show hosted by Jazz Legend Ramsey Lewis honored legends who have made exceptional contributions to the advancement of Jazz as NEA Jazz Masters, based on nominations submitted by the public. Although he couldn’t attend, even President George W. Bush commended our greatest living jazz artists for efforts that have influenced the development of music and advanced appreciation of the performing arts.

Also taking part in this historic event was the great Nancy Wilson who kicked things off with the first award of the evening, presented to famous Keyboardist Jimmy Smith. I didn’t know much about Jimmy Smith prior to this event, but a brief video presentation that captured his accomplishments during the 1950’s and 60’s made me feel as if I was right there enjoying his work.

The night was filled many video presentations of the awardees and with entertainment. The Geri Allen Trio performed as well as a cameo performance from legendary jazz drummer Chico Hamilton. The evening also featured performances by 1990 NEA Jazz Master Gerald Wilson and his Orchestra along with the inimitable Dee Dee Bridgewater.

I thoroughly enjoyed this event. It was truly an historic moment for me as well as those in attendance as the standing room only crowd watched as some of the greatest ever to make the music receive their honors as 2005 NEA Jazz Masters.

Here’s a list of the 2005 NEA Jazz Masters:

  • Kenny Burrell – Guitarist
  • Paquito D’ Rivera – Clarinetist – Saxophonist
  • Slide Hamilton – Arranger – Composer/Trombonist
  • Shirley Horn – Vocalist
  • Jimmy Smith – Keyboardist
  • Artie Shaw – Big Band Leader
  • George Wein – Jazz Advocate

  • The 12th Annual National Endowment for the Arts – American Jazz Masters Fellowships Awards

    The 12th Annual National Endowment for the Arts
    American Jazz Masters Fellowships Awards Concert

    by Phyllis Lodge

    Great moments, like great artists, – along with the singular opportunity to witness their receiving even a portion of the accolades they so richly deserve – happen so rarely that we must seize the moment immediately. This episode is one that I share with great joy, enthusiasm, and yes, some emotion. Last month I had the honor of attending the Jazz Masters Fellowships Awards Concert where the legendary Frank Foster, Percy Heath and McCoy Tyner were the recipients of the Fellowship in acknowledgment of their immense, musical contribution. And long overdue, I might add.

    The ceremony was extremely well presented and the entire evening was like something out of the stuff that Bright Moments are made of. It was certainly a Bright Moment for me, because Alfred McCoy Tyner was my escort for the event. Aside from being one of the legends in his field, McCoy is also my mentor and friend. If someone had told me even ten years ago that I would be participating in this experience, and witnessing his receiving this acknowledgment of his work, I would have immediately asked where the “fast forward” button was. Just sitting there watching McCoy, Frank Foster and Percy Heath sit and enjoy someone performing for them was exhilarating.

    As an aspiring historian, I could barely stay in my seat as I listened to A.B. Spellman devote a portion of time highlighting the musical careers of each of the musicians with care and precision. Watching the videos that chronicled the musical careers of each musician growing into his art, was like heaven. For many years, McCoy Tyner has been probably my greatest influence outside of my family in my quest to document and memorialize this great art form called jazz. And the only thing I am grateful for even more than this experience of learning about the man and musician, is that the world stood aside long enough to grant me the opportunity to nominate him. One thing about McCoy, the greater he becomes, the humbler he grows. McCoy Tyner, like his beloved music is always growing. And even more rewarding was seeing the never-ending line of well-wishers express their congratulations to McCoy. I am certain Percy Heath and Frank Foster enjoyed the same kind of outpouring of love from the folks who were there that night.

    I walked away from this night with a spirit filled with beautiful memories, although a couple of things stand out more than anything. Percy Heath shared some extremely poignant remarks on what this music is really about. It brought tears to the eyes of some, I’m sure, and it definitely brought the entire audience to its feet. And we thank him for this. I sat in front of the Heath Brothers and friends, and to sit and honor not only masters, but a family of masters, is a real shot in the arm for an African-American woman such as myself who was raised to be proud of her heritage and culture. And to sit alongside Frank Foster whose musical prowess enabled us to experience the Basie magic for just a little while longer, made me look quietly to my musical ancestors whose years of teaching and caring brought me to be among these great ones. “It was even more gratifying to hear Frank express his appreciation for his wife and friend, Cecilia who has truly experienced the ups and downs of this business right along with her husband.”

    One last thing. Just watching McCoy, as well as Percy and Frank, savoring that experience and especially enjoying the music, I urge you who read these words to take the time to nominate another of our musicians for this fellowship. It is an annual NEA Fellowship. Percy admitted that he didn’t even know who submitted his name, but he certainly thanked them for it. The experience is immensely rich, you get to rub elbows with legends like Frank Foster and Percy Heath and McCoy Tyner, and you will be one of those who thanked them for their countless performances in a very meaningful way.

    An Interview with Nancy Wilson

    Nancy Wilson
    Speaking with the Legendary
    Nancy Wilson
    by Mark Ruffin

    Nancy Wilson has been christened with a few monikers in her long career. Fancy Nancy and the Baby are the ones that immediately come to mind. However, the adjectives used to describe the music of this savvy show business vet stretches on ad infinitum.

    But ask Wilson what kind of singer she is and the word jazz will not be among the description.

    “I am a song stylist,” she said in a phone interview from her Southern California home.

    As she proudly and comfortably settle into the seventh decade of her life, she has persevered long enough to serve a loyal audience spiced with several generations But, like most Black pop singers over 40, she suffers from the universally recognized, but seldom discussed problem of the ageism that is systematically practiced at the major record labels. After 24 years at Capitol Records and 15 years at Columbia, Wilson is without a recording contract.

    But that doesn’t mean that the year 2000 won’t be a good year for addition to the singer’s discography, for just this month, Capitol has released “Nancy Wilson-Anthology.” It is a 30-song retrospective that focuses on the more pop and R&B aspect of her long career.

    The handsomely packaged album features some of those singles that were chart-toppers like “Face It Girl (It’s Over), “You’d Better Go,” and the 1964 Best R&B Grammy winner “You Don’t Know How Glad I Am,”

    “Is that what they’re doing,” the sincerely uninformed singer asked. “I didn’t know what was going to be on that compilation, but I must agree with the theme. Most of my stuff is not jazz, it’s pop.

    “Save Your Love For Me,” that’s R&B to me,” she said of the timeless chestnut included on the anthology. “That is not a jazz tune. It’s all in other people interpretation. When I started recording, what I was recording was considered pop. I’m a song stylist. I don’t put labels on it.”

    The heavily annotated 2-cd set also reveals just how important Wilson was to the economic health of Capitol Records during the 60’s. With a huge roster that included Frank Sinatra, the Beach Boys, Nat “King” Cole, Peggy Lee and the Beatles, according to the liner notes, only the four lads from Liverpool bested Wilson for combined sales for the company during the decade.

    Another tune from the collection, “Guess Who I Saw Today,” was the very first song Wilson recorded for Capitol and it is one of her biggest hits. It is the one song that the singer is guaranteed to sing at her next concert.

    “I have to perform it every night. I have to,” said the singer, who turned 63 earlier this year. “People would be really upset if I didn’t do it. I remember inadvertently, not singing it one night and getting a nasty note about it. It is such a strong song that I do not mind doing it. I’ve never gotten tired of it.”

    Later this fall, Wilson will also be in Pittsburgh to work with the amazing non-profit performing arts group, the Manchester Craftsman Guild. In the recent past, the Guild has put out albums by the Count Basie Orchestra, Joe Williams, and Brazilian superstar Ivan Lins. Wilson is next on the MCG docket.

    “This year, Nancy will be doing something that surprisingly she’s never done before, ” chirped Lynn Coles, Wilson’s long time publicist and personal assistant. “She’s going in the studio in the fall, and she’s recording her very first Christmas album. Then she going to give all the proceeds to charity.”

    Throughout her long career, Wilson has maintained her super-star status with a busy schedule of concert dates and tv appearances during the decades. The singer has also made time to volunteer her services to a wide selection of worthy organizations such as the Martin Luther King Center for Social Change, UNCF, CORE, the NAACP, the National Heart Association and the American Cancer Society.

    “I have given so much of my life for the last 45 years, that I am now planning to start devoting most of my time to my kids and me,” said the busy woman, who in addition to touring half a year, also does commercials for breast cancer research and hosts a show for National Public Radio. “I’m a little tired, and I won’t be touring as much and doing as much ripping and running as I’ve done in the past.”

    When asked which young singers she admires today, Miss Wilson immediately ran off the names of Vanessa Rubin, Diana Krall and Nnenna Freelon.

    “But, I think Regina Belle is one of the great young vocalists out there. I love her and I miss Phyliss Hyman,” she adds. “These are all young voices with great instruments, as opposed to some of these bubble-gum kids making it. I’m kind of fed up with that.”

    This past April, at Aaron Davis Hall in New York, some females singers who admire Wilson, paid tribute to her. Belle was one of the performers as was Cassandra Wilson, Dionne Warwick, Cissy Houston and Mavis Staples.

    For more information visit the Nancy Wilson Web Site.

    A Nancy Wilson Christmas – November 2001

    A Nancy Wilson ChristmasA Nancy Wilson Christmas
    (MCG – 2001)
    by John Barrett

    There are two things you need for a proper Christmas album: lavish arrangements, a cheerful voice … and a pure heart. Nancy Wilson kisses the lyrics gently: the emotions come naturally, and that is the best way. She sounds prim on “Let It Snow!”, but check out that arrangement: the Gillespie Alumni Big Band swaggers, with a sound that’s pure Sinatra. She has fun with it, letting some words drift long as the brass slowly builds. (Jon Faddis’ stratospheric, Dizzy-like solo is a keeper.)

    With New York Voices cooing a chord behind her, Nancy is humble on “Sweet Little Jesus Boy”. She has some gospel inflections, and a little blues: when she sings “We didn’t know who You were”, she sounds truly sad. Check the samba guitar on “White Christmas”: Marty Ashby is soft and sensuous, a great foil for Herbie Mann’s flute. Their tropical heat sounds great with Nancy’s traditional reading; reminds me of Darlene Love’s version on the Phil Spector Christmas album. A quiet trio trips through “What Are you Doing New Year’s Eve?”; she sounds excited for the season, and begs you to accompany her. I doubt you’ll refuse.

    The programming here is splendid, interspersing secular songs with the sacred. The wordless choir will grip you on “All Through the Night”. Renee Rosnes puts the Guaraldi touch on “O Christmas Tree” – before Claudio Roditi stirs up a Brazilian breeze. (Speaking of Guaraldi, Mann flutters through “Christmas Time Is Here” – and Nancy chirps like a skylark.) The woodwinds and strings on “O Holy Night” are a wondrous concoction, and “Carol of the Bells” has an a cappella intro you must hear to believe. This features the Voices, and they are magical – suddenly pianos rush in, with the power of Tyner. (Monty Alexander has a beautiful solo, jabbing in sophisticated, bluesy figures.)

    “Angles We Have Heard” could almost be by Ella: new chords, Basie piano, and endless melismatic joy. For “The Christmas Song” we get a few quiet chords, formal strings in parallel lines, and a hint of Billie Holiday. I love her new lyrics: “They know that Santa’s on her way/ I’ve got lots of toys and goodies on my sleigh!” Both heartfelt and grand, it’s hard to do better than this. On the best Christmas music, you can feel the snow falling. After this wonderful effort, I’m shivering … and from joy.

    Nancy Wilson and Ramsey Lewis Live – Live @ Scullers

    Nancy Wilson and Ramsey Lewis LiveNancy Wilson and Ramsey Lewis
    Live @ Symphony Hall

    (April 17, 2004)
    by Matthew Robinson

    In celebration of their 150th collective recording and their third album together, vocal legend Nancy Wilson and key master Ramsey Lewis joined forces to raise money for the Pine Street Inn homeless shelter. Backed by the burbly and richly bowed bass of Larry Gray, the crisp and animated percussion of Leon Joyce and the often busy and occasionally superfluous keyboards of Llew Matthews, Wilson and Lewis took turns performing alone and together, rarely failing to impress.

    Opening with an energetic reading of Van Morrison’s “Moondance,” Wilson tipped her mic to Kenny Rankin with a tender Jazz take on “Lost Up in Loving You” and paid tribute to her family with a heart-felt offering of “God Bless the Child” that brought to mind those for whom the evening had been organized. With her elegant red gown and a set of pipes as big and bright as the gleaming organ looming above, Wilson danced gracefully around her scales, filling the hall with rich expression. From a revisit to her first B-side – an instantly recognizable “My Foolish Heart” – to a preview of her forthcoming all-star rendition of “Why Did I Choose You?” Wilson waved her microphone and told it like it is, just as she always has. During his trio set, Lewis presented a diverse palette of sounds – from Gray’s spacious and snappy arrangement of Brahms’ “Symphony No. 3” to a medley of spirituals that turned Symphony Hall into a foot-stomping gilded revival tent – demonstrating his universal command of his instrument throughout.

    Among the highest points of the evening were Wilson’s ever-timely and always surprising “Guess Who I Saw Today,” and a funked up, Earth, Wind & Fire-meets-Jimmy Scott version of “And So Is Love.” With 75 albums to each of their credits, it is safe to say that Wilson and Lewis are doing something right, but perhaps never so right as when they do it together!

    © 2004, M. S. Robinson, ARR

    Najee – A Point of View Interview

    Najee is one of contemporary jazz’s true pioneers. Creating a fresh and pulsating “rhythm and jazz” dynamic in the early days of the smooth jazz format, the versatile saxophonist—whose first two recordings, 1986’s Grammy nominated NAJEE’S THEME and 1988’s DAY BY DAY, went platinum—inspired the whole urban vibe that took over the instrumental world throughout the ’90s. Mixing up his trademark soulful soprano with dynamic touches of flute and alto, Najee made a dramatic return to the scene this August with his Heads Up debut, MY POINT OF VIEW.

    A native of Jamaica, Queens, New York, Najee shared all of his musical dreams—and later, many professional gigs—with his brother Fareed, a guitarist who was a year younger. Their father passed away when they were very young, but their mother encouraged a deep exposure to jazz via recordings by artists as diverse as the Miles Davis Quintet, Junior Walker and Mongo Santamaria. Najee showed an early interest in the sax but a grammar school teacher steered him towards clarinet when there were no sax chairs available in the school band.

    “My life and career have been shaped by what I like to call ‘life defining moments,'” he says, “and the first of these came when I took a tenor sax solo in my jazz band at August Martin High School and realized that suddenly, all the girls knew my name! Fareed and I started playing professional gigs together at 15, and had a mutual support system going.”

    Najee began studying under the direction of Jimmy Heath, Frank Foster and Billy Taylor at Jazzmobile in Harlem, and he also studied flute with Harold Jones at the Manhattan School of Music. “Later,” he adds, “Fareed and I spent a year in the music department at Bronx Community College, then auditioned and got into the New England Conservatory of Music, with me majoring as a woodwind and composition major and Fareed focused on guitar and composition. Musically, I really loved everything, from Kool & The Gang to Grover to Sanborn to Maceo Parker. I also couldn’t get enough when one of my teachers played Charlie Parker for me.”

    Needless to say, Najee’s POINT OF VIEW is the culmination of his studies, brilliant influences, and creative skills set to music. This stellar debut also offers the saxophonist/composer/arranger the promise of a future among the best of the best at Heads Up International. We caught up with Najee as he launched his concert tour in support of POINT OF VIEW. Here’s what he told us so, listen up!

    Najee’s Point of View
    A New Contemporary Jazz Aesthetic
    by Paula Edelstein

    PE: Congratulations on your debut for Heads Up International – MY POINT OF VIEW! It’s been a long time coming but it’s well worth the wait. What a great CD Najee. I understand the buzz is really positive. You got to be really happy about that.

    NAJEE: Yes I am, I’m very happy to work with people I enjoy working with from the Heads Up label.

    PE: Oh yes, they’re a great group. Najee, you got some hot guest stars including guest appearances by vocalists, Will Downing and newcomers Lomon Andrews and Sisaundra, keyboardists James Lloyd and Rex Rideout and Chris “Big Dog” Davis. How did you hook up with them or had you played with them before?

    NAJEE: Yes, they’re actually friends of mine. Will and I go back many years. The first time we worked together was on a record called JUST AN ILLUSION. Over the years, we’ve toured together in different packages and I had the pleasure of playing on his Christmas CD this past year. When we were recording this song, Chris Davis said, I’d love to have Will come in here and do this.” So I called Will and Will told me politely in a nice way, “Man, I was going to come in there and surprise you but you just messed it up.” As far as the other people, Sisaundra is a very gifted vocalist and is on tour with Celine Dion and has her own solo career. Then Lomon Andrews is a young gentleman out of Connecticut who, when I was recording, came by. I ended up putting his song on the CD.

    PE: Let’s talk a little about your jazz influences. I understand you began studying under the direction of Jimmy Heath, Frank Foster and Billy Taylor at Jazzmobile in Harlem, and he also studied flute with Harold Jones at the Manhattan School of Music. These are very heavy jazz influences and that association really surfaces in your music. What do you think was the one most important thing learned from your association with Jimmy Heath and Billy Taylor?

    NAJEE: I think the one thing that I learned from them was diversity. Originally, I went in there with a mindset as a kid that all I was going to play was R&B music and that was cool. But they encouraged us to study music seriously – jazz in particular but also classical and to learn the fundamentals. And to be as diverse as possible even though they were primarily known in the jazz realm, they were very diverse and knowledgeable about music. They also encouraged to play more than just saxophone and to play flute.

    PE: Najee, you’ve also played with some very hip contemporary artists such as Prince, Quincy Jones, Lionel Ritchie, Chaka Khan, Freddie Jackson, Stanley Clarke, Billy Cobham, Larry Carlton and so many others. An incredible career! With MY POINT OF VIEW, you have come full circle with that whole urban vibe influence that you helped to launch back in the late 80s. What are your thoughts on the state of contemporary jazz today? There’s some criticism about it being too formulaic.

    NAJEE: I think it’s somewhat formulaic. It would be nice to have some variety of artists that are out there doing some interesting things and to be able to listen to what they’re doing and give them a shot to help the format live. As with all formulaic things, after a while they tend to become predictable. I am not excluding myself from this criticism. So I think it would be healthy for the industry to allow some of the artists that are doing some interesting things. You never know who’s going to be the next big one!

    PE: I agree. There is music out there that barely scratches the surface and then there is music that reaches deep inside of a person’s soul. Najee, your sound on soprano, tenor and alto are so emotional and romantic and you’ve often said your music is a product of your personal life experiences. But technology also plays a part in getting that trademark sound. Do you have a favorite saxophone voice?

    NAJEE: No, I can’t say that I have a favorite. The song dictates to me what I’ll play. I’m one of those guys who people call a doubler, which means that I play more than one voice. People know David Sanborn as an alto saxophonist, but I enjoy playing alto, tenor and soprano. The soprano ended up becoming the most successful voice even though it was an instrument that I didn’t like very much in the beginning.

    PE: Do you have to use a certain technology, mouthpiece or reed to obtain these heartfelt sounds that we hear?

    NAJEE: Well, my set up has changed over the years. Recently I’ve gone back to using a very simple mouthpiece made by Beachler.

    PE: Your brother Fareed produced some tracks on MY POINT OF VIEW. His arrangement of Sisaundra’s vocals on “Emotional” is awesome. What was the inspiration for “2nd To None” and “Emotional?”

    NAJEE: “2nd To None” was written by James Lloyd and myself. We had made a loose commitment years ago to work together and we’ve been friends for many years. We’ve always said, “Man, we got to get together and write.” On this particular record, I made sure that I wasn’t going to let him slip out on this one! Especially since it was his idea to check out Heads Up. He spoke very highly of Dave Love and all the staff over there.

    PE: Well congratulations on your new association with Heads Up Najee. They’re an excellent group of people. Will you be on tour in support of MY POINT OF VIEW and where can your fans find your schedule?

    NAJEE: Yes, we’re currently on tour and putting together the cities as we speak. We’ll probably play South Africa again in January and be back in the states to continue the tour in 2006.

    PE: Wonderful, we’ll look forward to your playing the West Coast and here’s to much success with MY POINT OF VIEW.

    NAJEE: Thank you Paula.

    Patricia Barber – Mythologies

    Patricia BarberPatricia Barber
    (Blue Note – 2006)
    by Matthew Robinson

    As soon as the “play” button is pushed, you can tell that this album is something special. After all, what other jazz artist has ever won a Guggenheim Fellowship and used it to put elements of Ovid’s Metamorphosis to music?

    From the haunting shades of “The Moon” and the romantic reflections of “Narcissus” to the meandering animalistic rap of “Phaethon,” Mythologies offers a diverse array of musical explanations of the unexplained. “Hunger” is a succulent and seductively skronky social commentary and “Whiteworld/Oedipus” (perhaps the high point of the album) is a multi-hued groove through colonialistic patricide. In “Icarus,” Barber combines ancient heroes with contemporary ones by paying tribute to modern-day iconoclastic flyer Nina Simone through this tale of waxed wings and prideful strivings. Though some of Barber’s band members appear to be caught in rehearsal mode at times, the unpredictable riffs keep ears riveted and minds firing, working to figure out the links between Barber’s studied words and her smoothly angular arrangements. ©2006 M. S. Robinson, ARR

    Patrice Williamson – My Shining Hour

    Patrice Williamson - My Shining HourPatrice Williamson
    My Shining Hour
    by R. Redmond

    Patrice Williamson shines on this characteristic mix of American standards. Covering material written by the likes of Arlen and Mercer, Irving Berlin and George Gershwin (with an original piece by Patrice), this album ranges from ballads and burning be-bop to swinging standards and sensual bossa novas. Often vocalists sing standards to get a better response from the audience…if you sing a song that everyone likes, they are more likely to like your singing. The drawback to this theory is that everyone also has an expectation of what the song should sound like…if you butcher it everyone knows! Patrice manages to combine her amazing energy with innovative arrangements that keep you interested and involved in the music. If ‘My Shining Hour’ is any indication of things to come, Patrice Williamson will string many ‘Shining Hours’ into a luminous career.

    Named “Best Jazz Vocalist” in Boston Magazine’s 1997 “Best of Boston” awards, the talent and versatility of Patrice Williamson cannot be overstated — accomplished musician and composer, veteran of numerous clubs and festivals, graduate of the University of Tennessee and New England Conservatory of Music.

    Boston has been good to the young singer, who left her native Memphis in 1992 to pursue jazz studies at New England Conservatory with award-winning, RCA Victor Recording Artist Dominique Eade. When NEC offered her a place in its prestigious Artist Diploma program in 1994, she accepted – on the condition that she first be allowed to complete a scheduled four-month engagement at Somerset’s Bar of the Westin Hotel in Singapore, that country’s premier jazz venue. A string of successful appearances include The Regattabar, the Gardner Museum’s “Jazz at the Gardner” series, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston Concert Series, the Hatch Shell, the IDB Cultural Center’s Concert Series in Washington, D.C. , Tanglewood, Jordan Hall, and Symphony Hall. Praise for Williamson’s instrument – and the way she uses it – comes readily from some of the biggest names in the Boston jazz scene. Says Dominique Eade, “Patrice is a hard-swinging interpreter and a refreshingly accomplished jazz vocal improviser.” Ran Blake, head of NEC’s Contemporary Improvisation Department, agrees. “It’s a breathtaking voice,” he says.

    Given the assured fluency of her jazz styling, audiences would never guess that Williamson’s first musical endeavors were classical. She began studying the violin at age 4, and the flute at age 11. As an undergraduate at the University of Tennessee, she was principal flutist for both the Opera and Symphony Orchestra. It wasn’t until the conductor of the UT Studio Jazz Orchestra overheard her singing during a rehearsal break, and immediately offered her a solo, that she considered singing as a possible career. Her reception was so positive that, encouraged by jazz pianist Donald Brown of the UT Faculty, she headed for Boston to focus full-time on her voice.

    From all appearances that decision was a wise one. Boston audiences can happily attest to what Tennesseans have known for quite a while — the talent of Patrice Williamson is for real!

    Band members:
    Helen Sung – Piano
    Christian Bausch – Bass
    Phil Grenadier – Trumpet
    Ron Savage – Drums

    David Klein Quintet – My Marilyn

    David Klein Quintet
    My Marilyn

    (Enja – 2002)
    by John Barrett

    From the laminated box the disc comes in to the thick illustrated booklet to the music itself – this production is a class act. Most of the tunes appeared in Marilyn Monroe films, many of which she sung herself – all presented here in a bright romantic glow. Miriam Klein has a cool, mature voice, trembling on the big words … a cross between Miss M and Billie Holiday! Listen to “Kiss”: the words seem to flutter, dwelling on each emotion. (When she says “affection”, you feel warm and fuzzy inside.) Triangles trill, Mulgrew Miller floats a few chords, and Miriam’s son David speaks out – a lusty tenor, groaning like the masters. He’s stronger than Lester, softer than Ammons … you’ve got to hear this.

    Foggy brushes pour through “Incurably Romantic”, as Miriam explores the depth of her range. Husky at this pitch, the words seem to pick up more meaning; Miller comp is direct, and it sparkles. She drawls a bit on “You’d Be Surprised”, with a touch of Marilyn’s phrasing. (“When you catch him alooooone … YOOOU’D be surpriiiiiised.”) The chords are lush, the cymbals fall, and the sax crackles with the sound of love. You must get acquainted with the Kleins – once you do, they’ll seem like old friends.

    Now it’s time to get cozy … as if we weren’t already. Miriam talks the lyric to “Let’s Make Love”; Ira Coleman answers each line with a groan from his bass. She says “I could COO! like a dove” – and she does. You’d call this a slow burn, and it is hot. She’s got a slight lisp on “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend”; it only adds to the charm. While Miriam lilts her part, David muscles his – a fast pace, a big rasp, and a whole lotta oomph. Miller trips through his solo, which is an elegant, airy construction. This track is David’s best; his mother’s as well. “Some Like It Hot” pours it on thick: the cymbals strike hard, and Mulgrew makes it bluesy. In between the squeals of the horn, she purrs: “A conflagration/ Baby, that’s what!” David works it up strong, like Turrentine; Miller pours on the block chords and it can’t get better than this. It’s the perfect tribute, honoring the performer and the subject at the same time.

    In between the vocal gems are three instrumentals, where David shouts and the band does likewise. “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” has the glitter of evening, with soft notes from Mulgrew and a Pink Panther tone from Klein. Slowly it slinks … and slowly it grows. “Specialisation” comes on like Turrentine’s “Sugar” – bluesy keys, aggressive drums, and a horn that knows its business. He sounds metallic on the second chorus, pushing the notes ever harder – priceless. And a silky vibrato carries us home on “I’m Through with Love”, as Miller chimes and the smoke gently rises. If you like Marilyn or the jazz of her era, you should hear this. It’s truly a labor of love … and I think you’ll love it.

    Rebecca Parris – My Foolish Heart

    My Foolish HeartMy Foolish Heart
    Rebecca Parris
    (Koch Jazz – 2001)
    by Matthew S. Robinson

    With the winds of an international distributor behind her once more, Boston’s undisputed queen of Jazz is ready to set sail for farther shores in her continuing conquest of deserving ears and willing hearts. Forgoing her signature scat and energizing pacings, Parris uses her fireplace voice to warm and warn herself and her fellow lovers before they venture forth once more into the romantic unknown.

    While “Never Let Me Go” plaintively pleads for known security, “If You Could See Me Now” tries vainly (or perhaps “Vaughan-ly”) to put on a brave face after the love is gone, leaving Parris to unlock her inner needs with the after hours keys of “Lover Man.” Despite such rhythmic recollections of past loss and pain, Parris goes forth once more with a full-hearted whisper of “Body and Soul.”

    Though her vocal acrobatics sometimes get away from her, Parris is able to wrap each note in her experienced cords, letting them out only when they are truly ready. The intimate expression of this personal collection is not a dream that will fade and fall apart. This time, it’s love, Parris style.

    © 2001, M.S. Robinson, ARR

    My Architect: A Son’s Journey

    My ArchitectMy Architect: A Son’s Journey
    (Original Score)
    (Commotion / Koch – 2004)
    by Matt Robinson

    So few of us ever come to know our fathers- that is truly know them. It was with this contemporary dilemma in mind that Nathaniel Kahn launched a world wide search for his own father ­ famed architect Louis Kahn. On this album, composer Joseph Vitarelli puts together travel music for this most adventurous and perilous of journeys. From the spare shroud of “Penn Station” (the site where Kahn’s body was found over 25 years ago) to the swaying chimes of “Travel Waltz,” from the gypsied strains of “BeginningsŠ,” and the fleeting glimpse of “The Nomad,” and from the spacious pair of “American Hymns,” and the closing narration by Kahn himself, Vitarelli effectively and affectingly captures many parts and aspects of the father’s life while musically chronicling the son’s quest.

    Along the way, the Kahns dance to Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man,” Cantor Benjamin Maissner’s “Hayom T’amtzeinu” and an Islamic “Call to Prayer.” In each of these songs, there is a piece of Kahn. Still, at the end of the album ­ as at the end of the Academy award-nominated film ­ the question remains- can the enigmatic and oft mysterious genius named Louis Kahn ever be known, even by his own son?

    © 2004, M. S. Robinson, ARR

    Monty Alexander – My America

    Monty Alexander Monty Alexander
    My America
    (Telarc Jazz – 2002)
    by Matthew S. Robinson

    What does it mean to be an American?
    For Jamaican-born pianist Monty Alexander, it means one thing ­ music. Yet within that one thing lies an impressive diversity which Alexander tackles impressively. From Pop standards like Kurt Weill’s “Mack the Knife” and Nat Cole’s “Straighten Up and Fly Right” (sung by Nat’s son Freddy) to Soul classics like Rev. Al Green’s “Love and Happiness” and Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing.” Speaking of “sex” (another great American pastime), Alexander lays down the funk on an extended “soul/yard meeting” of James Brown’s “Sex Machine.”

    Speaking of special guests (and Soul), in addition to the younger Cole, another famous son, John Pizzarelli, takes his turn at the mike for a Jamaican-tinged zephyr through Johnny Mercer’s “Summer Wind” and Kevin Mahogany does the honors for the Ray Charles classic “Hallelujah I Love Her So.” That is not to say that this is strictly a standards and Soul album, however. In tribute to his early cowboy heroes, Alexander opens the set with Cole Porter’s jaunty “Don’t Fence Me In,” and in honor to the country he is now proud to call home, he closes with a triumphant build into “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” In between is a musical portrait of our great country and the great men who have set it to music.

    ©2002, M. S. Robinson, ARR

    Broadway – Music from West Side Story

    Music from West Side Story
    (Stanza USA – 2003)
    by D. Kevin McNeir
    As a college instructor of music history and English literature, I am always amazed at the response of my students when I introduce them to the lyrics and music of Sondheim and Bernstein’s “West Side Story.” My surprise stems from the fact that with theatrical revivals and DVDs, this radical revision of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”—a true Broadway and American classic, popularized in Robert Wise’s 1961 Hollywood adaptation–still resonates with today’s hip hop generation.

    Now the quartet of flutist Ali Ryerson, pianist Rex Cadwallader, bass Mike Asetta and drummer Arti Dixon, or broadway, have teamed up for their first Broadway-based recording venture.

    In its original version, Bernstein developed “West Side Story” as a jazz score, so it makes sense that these four highly-trained and respected jazz musicians would collaborate on such a project. From the first notes on “Jet Song” to their haunting version of “Maria” and the finale piece, “Somewhere,” one can tell that this is a music enterprise entered into among friends.

    The instruments talk to one another, almost like the two lovers Tony and Maria, did in the play and subsequent film. Cadwallader probably lends the most to this recording with his wonderful sense of piano improvisation, but the creative trills and turns of Ryerson on the flute ably meet him. In fact the four artists illustrate the kinds of heights that musicians can climb when they journey with a boatload of enduring melodies and carefully transform them with the subtle, yet artistic skills of improvisation.

    Whether you’re feeling lonely or are celebrating being in love, there’s a song for you on broadway’s Music from “West Side Story.”

    I hate to admit that I’ve been walking down Chicago’s State Street whistling “I Feel Pretty,” but after reviewing this CD, I just can’t get that tune out of my head.

    IAJE Gone! – Music Institution goes Bankrupt

    IAJE Gone!
    Music Institution goes Bankrupt
    IAJE Website

    The IAJE is officially dead and gone. Is this another sign of the times? Is jazz really waning? Is commercialism going to gobble up all of the creativity and innovation and leave us with… youtube??? Here’s the post from the IAJE web site (in case it goes down)…

    Dear IAJE Family,

    It is with a great sense of loss that I inform you that despite drastic efforts to cut expenses and raise emergency funds, the IAJE Board has voted to file for bankruptcy under Chapter 7 of the Federal Bankruptcy Law. I want to thank profusely those who responded with their generous donations and offers of assistance following my last communication. While over 250 individuals contributed just over $12,000, this, along with the many other efforts and contributions of IAJE staff, Board members, and association partners, was simply not enough to address the accumulated debt of the organization or its urgent need for cash relief.

    In the next few days, a Kansas bankruptcy court will appoint a trustee to oversee all ongoing aspects of the association. This includes the ability to examine IAJE’s financial records and mount an independent inquiry into the causes of it’s financial downfall as well as disposing of the remaining assets of the association with proceeds distributed to creditors in accordance with Kansas and Federal law. The board will no longer be involved in operation of the organization and will at some point resign. IAJE as it presently stands will no longer exist.

    Approximately a week after filing, all potential creditors of the association will receive notice of the association’s filing from the court. Members who desire additional information regarding the petition, including a complete listing of association assets and liabilities, may retrieve this, as it is a public document, through normal court procedures. Undoubtedly, however, you will have more immediate questions deserving of responses I hope to address in this report.

    Since the first communication to the membership outlining this crisis, there has been considerable public speculation as to its causes. As noted in that communication, years of dependence upon the conference as a primary (but unreliable) revenue stream and the launch of a well-intentioned capital campaign (the Campaign for Jazz), which generated a meager response but required considerable expenditures in advance of contributions, drove the association into insolvency. Sadly, the attendance at the conference in Toronto (the lowest in 10 years) exacerbated an already critical situation, depriving the association of the cash-flow needed to continue daily operations as well as the time needed to seek alternative resources.

    While ultimately not able to skirt the financial land mines placed in its path, I want to assure you the IAJE Board has acted responsibly, ethically, and with a sense of urgency ever since it was blindsided last fall with the discovery of the extent of the accumulated association debt. Since that time, the board slashed spending, set specific performance targets for the Executive Director, sought outside consultations, and enlisted the services of several past-presidents and strategic association partners in attempts to raise funds – sadly, with minimal success.

    It goes without saying, the board you elected is comprised of very accomplished, intelligent, and dedicated educators and professionals who have given generously of their time in service to this association and care about it passionately. Likewise, our entire professional staff, led by Associate Executive Director, Vivian Orndorff, and Executive Producer, Steve Baker, has worked heroically in the face of declining resources to meet the needs of the association and its members. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank both the board and staff for their service. I have been privileged and honored to serve with them. While there may be those who question specific decisions or strategies in efforts to meet this crisis, the dedication and integrity of these individuals should never be in doubt.

    As we move forward, one of the most pressing questions is how the operations of individual chapters and affiliated associations will be affected by this filing. Since our chapters are either separate corporate entitles or voluntary associations with their own boards, constitutions and bylaws; IAJE views them as completely independent entities. Ultimately, however, the trustee and the court will make this determination and it is anticipated that the trustee may request certain information from the chapters in this regard.

    Sadly, the 2009 IAJE International Conference in Seattle has been cancelled. However, there has been some discussion of mounting a regional conference in its place. At the moment, Lou Fischer, U.S. Board Representative is fielding inquiries: ljazzmanf@yahoo.com.

    For the time being, the IAJE website will remain up. However, the international offices of IAJE will close their doors at the end of the day on Friday, April 18th. Should there be additional questions you may submit them to info@iaje.org and every attempt will be made to respond to these as staffing allows.

    Today, we, the members of IAJE and the global jazz community, face an extremely important task. For, as we all recognize, the opportunities, impact, and work of this association are too vital to simply disappear. Whether you were first drawn to IAJE for its conference, its magazine or research publications, its student scholarship programs such as Sisters in Jazz or the Clifford Brown/Stan Getz All-Stars, its Teacher Training Institutes, the resources provided through its website or Resource Team, or any one of a number of other offerings; it is clear the mission of IAJE still resonates and its advocacy is needed today more than ever. We must, therefore, look at this as an opportunity to refocus the mission, scope, programs, and vision of IAJE (or whatever succeeds it) to better meet the needs of our members and the jazz community not only today but looking toward the future.

    I am, in no way, suggesting the membership turn a blind eye towards the need for an independent inquiry into causes and ultimately assigning responsibility for this situation. I ask you recognize the court appointed trustee, who will have access to all necessary documents and facts, is charged with that task. Our efforts and our passion, should be to collectively rally the community to recognize the importance IAJE has had and continues to have in the life and development of jazz and jazz education – seeking new strategic partnerships, new government structures, and a revitalized mission that embraces current needs.

    Already there are efforts to do just that. I know that Mary Jo Papich, who would have begun serving her term as President of IAJE beginning this July, is dedicated to recreating such an association. As many know, Mary Jo has been a tireless advocate for IAJE, serving it long and well. You will, undoubtedly, be hearing from her in the near future. When she does contact you, I urge you to join me in offering her every support and assistance. Of course, others may also seek to fill this void by promoting alternative visions for empowering, serving, and gathering the jazz community. While I generally believe such diversity is quite healthy, I would strongly encourage all such efforts and leaders to attempt to collaborate and seek ways to unite us in spirit and strength.

    Finally, I would encourage you to recognize and remember IAJE for all the tremendous good it has done in the past 40 years. Many individuals have contributed along the way, often at considerable personal sacrifice of their time and resources, to establish and advance the work of this association. Much has been achieved that can never be taken away! Therefore, the vision, effort, and shared passion that have fueled the growth of IAJE and its programs should not be forgotten or considered in vain. Rather, the spirit that is IAJE must be rekindled into a new vision for the future.


    The IAJE Board – Chuck Owen, President

    Oscar Peterson – Music in the Key of Oscar – DVD

    Oscar Peterson
    Music in the Key of Oscar – DVD
    VIEW Video
    S. H. Watkins, Sr.

    Oscar Peterson is one of the greatest pianists in the history of Jazz. From his early days as Montreal’s teenage boogie-woogie sensation through his meteoric rise to international celebrity, Peterson has wowed audiences far and wide with his mastery of the ivorys. Music in the Key of Oscar chronicles this journey for you through a combination of TV and video clips and commentary from friends, family and the legendary Mr. Peterson himself.

    There’s also a great reunion performance of the Oscar Peterson Trio (bassist Ray Brown and guitarist Herb Ellis) who after a twenty-year hiatus, reunited in order to “prove that it still had the magic.” All in all there is over 100 minutes of classic and contemporary performances, rare film footage and in-depth interviews with a cast of jazz legends and multiple Bonus Features. I’m an Oscar Peterson fan and even I learned a lot that I did not know about Oscar Peterson… he way quite a pioneer in the jazz industry in Canada.

    This is highly recommended viewing both for it’s historical content as well as the sheer pleasure of the performances. This DVD is available at your local movie rental store or online at VIEW Video.

    Ron Davis Trio – Mungle Music

    Ron Davis Trio
    Mungle Music
    (Davinor – 2004)
    by Matthew Robinson

    To begin with, this is NOT music for relaxing. It IS music to sit up and take notice of. From the peppy intro to “D’hora,” Toronto-an pianist Davis demonstrates that he has his award-winning trio (drew Birston, bass; Ted Warren, drums) well in hand. While the live take of “Drew Bouree” switches back and forth between angular expositions and slippery group explorations, “Blues 54” makes full use of the reverberent studio. “Popeye” takes the familiar theme in fun new directions that would surely send the steroided sailor and his gaunt gal jitterbugging across the deck.

    Guest sax Richard Underhill sobs about Davis’ “Down by 3” (a typical Toronto situation) but swings brightly through his own composition “Blues for Suze.” Davis’ appropriately-titled “Stop’n’ Start’n'” sounds like the theme song for an as-yet nonexistent TV show. N. Marshall Villeneuve’s “La Quiega” is full of Latin romp and fire and Davis’ own “Not What You Think” is equally paced and propulsive (see opening sentence). The album begins to wind down with the soprano sax swept Davis original “Summon Someone” before closing with a firm and fun rendition of “You Make Me Feel So Young” that is sure to induce finger snapping.

    Overall, Davis makes good use of his own creativity and his talented team to create an album that should serve him well on both sides of the borderŠand beyond.

    © 2004, M. S. Robinson, ARR

    Mt. Hood Jazz Festival 2003

    Mt. Hood Jazz
    (Twenty) Two Years and Rolling
    by S.H. Watkins, Sr.

    Bravo to Bill Royston and his crew for continuing to put the annual Mt. Hood Jazz Festival on the map. After 20 years of ballooning out of control and eventually crumbling, Royston took the failed jazz fest and remade it last year as a very audience-friendly and comfortable affair, at the last minute! This year there was a little more time to plan the venue and prepare the fest, so what we got was another couple of fine afternoons at Gresham city park with a good assortment of jazz musicians. No stadium chairs or VIP seating here, it’s all general admission and you’d better bring a lawn chair or blanket to sit on.

    Greg Osby mesmerized the crowd

    Day one featured the Peters Drury Trio, Local legend Ron Steen’s jam session, Jason Moran and the Joe Lovano Nonet with incredible drummer Louis Nash. The Mt. Hood Jazz Festival Student Big Band opened both days. Although we managed to miss the first day, reports from all the folks we know that did make it said the turnout was smaller than day two, but the music was excellent.

    Day two was sunny and not too hot, hovering in the 70’s, perfect for music. The turnout was great, filling the park but not overcrowding the available space. As

    Tin Hat Trio

    before, the affair was large but intimate and the acoustics were clean and clear and the volume was good. We arrived while Tin Hat Trio was playing, and found them to be more than expected (although I didn’t actually know what to expect.) Best described as “freewheeling chamber music” the group is comprised of Rob Burger on accordion, piano, pump organ, harmonica, and marxophone, Carla Kihlstedt on violin and viola, and Mark Orton on guitar, dobro, and banjo. I’d describe the sound as “Accoustic Folk Jazz” and it was very enjoyable for it’s quality and the different direction it takes jazz music.

    Saxophonist Greg Osby followed and put on a good solid performance. Osby

    Nnenna Freelon
    photo Courtesy of Barry Frankel

    kicked some of the tracks from his latest release St. Louis Shoes and had the audience mesmerized. His live performance outshines the vinyl rendition by far, showing the flair and talent that’s made Osby one of today’s young lions! Osby was followed by one of my own favorite Jazz vocalists, Nnenna Freelon, who was as lovely and vivacious on stage as I’ve ever seen her. Nnenna took the stage and began to sing with such strength and flavor that she could have been singing anything… nursery rhymes even … and it would have sounded good. The last act on the bill was The Classical Jazz Quarter featuring Kenny Barron, Stefon Harris, Rufus Reid and drummer extraordinaire Lewis Nash. This immensely talented group brought the festival to a close on a warmer, jazzier note. No time for play, these guys got right down to it and kept the audience in their control throughout the set. By the time we left the sun was going down and our musical appetites had been fully and enjoyably sated.

    One of the problems with the Mt. Hood Jazz festival in recent years was the Bloat … I guess it just got too big. Patrons were treated more like cattle than jazz fans, the price was too high, the acts were too far away to see, the

    Festival Saviour
    Bill Royston

    concessions required BIG dough and the sound was usually so-so. This was all because the nice little festival got way too big for it’s britches and it’s

    More Mt. Hood Jazz 2003 Photos in

    formerly-cool venue. The fact that it went under was a blessing in disguise because this new incarnation has all the intimacy and enjoyment that Mt.Hood jazz once stood for. Bill Royston has clearly targeted the festival to the straight-ahead jazz crowd, and it seems to have been a good idea because it indeed brought out the people to fill up the park. Another reason the old festival went under (in my mind) is because it tried to cater to ALL flavors of jazz, eventually needing too many acts to fulfill that mission. The current formula is working, but I’d personally like to see a little bit of smooth jazz and it would bring out a few more patrons, I think. You can keep the Kenny G., but a little Mindi Abair or Peter White would add to this already great affair.

    Mt. Hood Jazz Festival 2002

    Mt. Hood Jazz Festival Back from the Grave

    August 3-4, 2002

    by S.H. Watkins, Sr.

    Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the recently bankrupt, 20-year-old Mt. Hood Jazz Festival is back. It seems the Mt. Hood Jazz Association got a group of sponsors together, including the city of Gresham Oregon, and held a festival at the Gresham city park.

    Jenna Mammina

    The affair was intimate and the acoustics were clean and clear and the volume was good. I only made part of the second day, but that part was wonderful! As we arrived at the venue I heard the unmistakable voice

    Darrell Grant

    of songbird Jenna Mammina, flowing and lilting with pianist Darrell Grant. Jenna was scatting and telling the story about how Joe McBride was on the way, running a little late, but every thing would be fi-i-ine!.. every word and phrase tinged with a smile, every piano chord a springboard for her pixie-ish creativity.

    Pianist Joe McBride and Saxman Wayne DeLano followed with a set that was

    Joe McBride

    inspired and rocking. At times you had to remind yourself that there were only two people on the stage, the sound was so full and vibrant. McBride tickled the ivories with a passion, accompanying his gravelly voice with clever runs and intricate phrases. DeLano held a mastery over his sax, and the audience, that will ensure success when he steps into the

    Kevin Mahogany

    limelight as an album leader in his own right. The synergy was incredible, piano and horn intertwining, then DeLano brought out his flute and jammed some more!. The set was hot and the audience was truly loving it. Joe McBride is known for his live performance, and he was in form this afternoon. Vocalist Kevin Mahogany closed the evening with his full, rich vocals singing Motown hits from his ‘Pride & Joy’ CD. When we left he was crooning and jamming with the audience.

    One of the problems with the Mt. Hood Jazz festival in recent years was the Bloat … I guess it just got too big. Patrons were treated more like cattle than jazz fans, the price was too high, the acts were (usually) too far away, the concessions required BIG dough, the sound was usually so-so and the line-ups were not very diverse (read NO Smooth Jazz). This was all because the nice little festival got way too big for it’s britches and it’s formerly-cool venue. The fact that it went under was sad, but I now think it may have been a blessing in disguise. This new incarnation of an old favorite festival brings back the intimacy and enjoyment that Mt.Hood jazz used to exemplify. People were actually able to sit and picnic and hear and SEE the music… imagine that! Kudos to the folks that put it together. I hope they can keep it going.. as long as it doesn’t get TOO big.

    Day One featured sets by Russell Malone & Benny Green, Melissa Walker, Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Rick Braun, as well as the Beacock all-stars who opened both days. What a line up. Everyone I spoke with said that the show was great all day. Wish I’d gotten back in town a day earlier…

    Mt. Hood Jazz 2001

    Rejuvenated Affair Dazzles
    Mt. Hood Jazz Festival
    by Dick Bogle

    Mt. Hood Jazz 2001 The 20th anniversary Mt. Hood Jazz Festival last weekend took a giant step in restoring its credibility with mainstream jazz fans. The three-day event, held on the football field of Mt. Hood Community College, was pleasantly diverse but stayed straight ahead for the most part.

    Trombonist Steve Turre and his band were a big time hit on the mid-sized Xeta stage. The potent quintet of pianist George Cables, bassist Buster Williams, drummer Dion Parsons and last-minute addition, tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander, wowed the audience. Alexander, who cut his jazz teeth working with organist Charles Earland, was brilliant with never-ceasing fresh ideas flowing from his horn and delivered with his big, full tone.

    Turre was exquisite on his other instrument, conch shells. He played five of the shells, each of a different size and with varying tones on “All Blues” to the whistling, screaming delight of the sun-drenched crowd.

    However, sometimes even groups with great musicians can disappoint. Such was the case of the Joey De Francesco-Pat Martino Quartet, with Alexander and drummer Byron Landham. The musicianship was excellent but the program didn’t possess the grit or soul listeners expect from De Francesco.

    Plenty of work for resident jazz artists too. Trumpeter Thara Memory had his Superband on the Xeta stage noon Saturday for a funk exercise with vocalist Marilyn Keller out front. Trumpeter Paul Mazzio had a band with pianist Tony Pacini, bassist Ed Bennet and drummer Ron Steen on the same stage on Sunday. Pianist Tom Grant played three sets on Friday and Darrell Grant’s piano blended nicely with Joe Locke’s vibes.

    Jazz diva Dianne Reeves — backed by a small group of her own players and a large orchestra comprised of local artists and conducted by John Newton — left an indelible mark describing everything a singer could and should be. Her program featured songs from her Sarah Vaughan tribute CD, “The Calling.” So blessed with talent is Ms. Reeves, had her and Sarah Vaughan’s birthdates been reversed, Vaughan would likely have recorded a Dianne Reeves tribute.

    A Sunday treat was the performance of saxophonist-flautist-vocalist James Moody. He played and sang his patented “Moody’s Mood For Love” and had the audience in stitches with his humorous “Bennies From Heaven.”

    The Sunday night closing act, the Roy Hargrove Quintet, brought the festival to a rousing conclusion with Hargrove switching back and forth between trumpet and flugelhorn. He enthralled the audience with the latter on “Nature Boy” and “Never Let Me Go.”

    Most spectators called this year’s festival an improvement. Jazz journalist and deejay Eugene Rashad said this festival went a long way to restoring its identity. He said he particularly liked steel drummer Andy Narell’s set.

    Portland resident Gail Johnson said she came back because of the lineup with her personal favorites, Roy Hargrove, Dr. Billy Taylor, Ramsey Lewis and Joshua Redman. Another attendee said he thought this year’s event was neck-and-neck with last year’s. He also said he missed blues night and thought there was too much restrictive security at the event.

    Former Book Store owner O.B. Hill found out Dr. Billy Taylor was to appear, he said, “No way am I going to miss him.” Los Angeles resident Richelle Lewellyn said she particularly enjoyed the Steve Turre band with one reason being the trombone is such an uncommon lead instrument. She also appreciates Turre giving conch shells a strong presence in jazz. She called this year’s festival “a great improvement,” and rated it a 9.5 of a possible 10.

    Former Jazz Society Of Oregon president Leroy Cameron said George Cables, Buster Williams and Carl Allen turned in a “heart-stopping” version of “Emily.” He also said jazz — the original American art form — must be recognized as such and preserved. He feels it should be subsidized much like a symphony or ballet.

    Subsidized or not, the Mt. Hood Festival ship has been righted. What remains is getting the word out and more folks in the seats.

    Marlena Shaw – Elemental Soul

    Marlena Shaw
    Elemental Soul

    by Andrew Rowan

    Elemental Soul marks the second stop on Marlena Shaw’s Concord Jazz odyssey. An impressive recording, it is firmly rooted in the bedrock of Shaw’s singular talent. Choosing songs from the wide spectrum of American music — jazz, blues, gospel, rhythm-and blues — Marlena Shaw unifies these related but highly individualized strains, creating her own jazz sound-world.

    Mose Allison’s southern-fried blues, “Your Mind Is On Vacation,” compliments Otis Blackwell’s salacious blues opus, “Handy Man.” Shaw’s own gospel cri de coeur, “Why, Oh Why,” is soothed by the hopefulness of Benny Carter’s “Brothers.” Bill Withers’ soul-ballad “Paint Your Pretty Picture” and Irving Berlin’s standard “How Deep Is The Ocean” are both dressed up in contemporary style — as are “My Old Flame” and the Monk/Williams/Hanighen classic, “‘Round Midnight.”

    Ever mindful of the more traditional strains of jazz singing, defined by Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, Marlena Shaw essays trenchant versions of “Our Love Is Here To Stay,” “I’m Alone Again” (yet another heartbreaker from the fertile imaginings of the late, lamented Alec Wilder and Loonis McGlohon) and “Once Again We’ve Begun To Love” (a sweetly swinging opus from long-time Shaw collaborator Bill Tragesser). And, best of all, there’s Johnny Mandel’s “Where Do You Start?,” where she inhabits the melody and illuminates every nuance of Alan and Marilyn Bergman’s lyric.

    From beginning to end, Marlena Shaw is attended to by an intrepid group of musicians. Tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine, her special guest, places his imprint on the proceedings in his immediately recognizable style. Pianist Dave Hazeltine, who also appeared on Dangerous, Marlena Shaw’s first Concord Jazz session, is sensitive in his accompaniment and probing in his solos. Shaw states, “He understands what I’m trying to do, so I don’t have to make any compromises in my approach.” Drummer Jerry Jones, an 18-year Shaw confrere, and bass stalwart Earl May create a comfort zone, allowing the singer to soar fearlessly into the clouds, sure of her anchor below.

    Marlena Shaw’s vocal prowess results from years of hard work honing her considerable God-given talents. A native of Valhalla, New York, she appeared at Harlem’s famed Apollo Theater at age 10, but it was not until later — beginning in the 1960’s — that she earnestly began her performing career, working, initially, up and down the East Coast. The big breakthrough came when her vocal version of Cannonball Adderley’s “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” became a hit, leading her to joining Count Basie’s orchestra, where she remained for more than four years. Leaving the Band in 1972, Marlena Shaw has since pursued a well received career. Her singing has reached the far corners of the earth? and in each place where she has performed, she has been hailed for her straight-from-the-heart approach.

    With Elemental Soul and its Concord Jazz predecessor Dangerous? the fully matured artist has finally come forth, unfettered by commercial restraints, corporate interference and personal doubts. As Shaw herself has said, “As you mature, it should show. There is less fear.”

    Elemental Soul is perhaps the quintessential embodiment of that sentiment, for there is no fear. With its release, the public can hear this scintillating distillation of all Marlena Shaw has seen, heard and sung during a lifetime spent making music. The experience is one of life’s finer pleasures: bold, soulful, intense, swinging and, above all, deeply moving. Stop by and witness an artist at the top of her game.

    Your Mind Is On Vacation
    Paint Your Pretty Picture
    How Deep Is The Ocean
    Where Do You Start?
    Once Again We’ve Begun To Love
    Handy Man
    Why, Oh Why
    ‘Round Midnight
    I’m Alone Again
    My Old Flame
    Our Love Is Here To Stay
    Marlena Shaw – vocals
    Dave Hazeltine – piano
    Earl May – bass
    Jerry Jones – drums
    Stanley Turrentine – tenor saxophone
    Barnaby Finch – keyboards
    Terry Miller – electric bass
    Michael Spiro – percussion

    See also: The Concord Records Marlena Shaw Bio

    Vincent Herring – Mr. Wizard

    Vincent Herring
    Mr. Wizard
    (High Note – 2004)
    by John Thompson

    During the 1980’s “resurrection of Jazz”, the Marsalis brothers were the dominant names; however, many other young artists were on that same scene including sax man and California native Vincent Herring. Having played with the likes of veterans Nat Adderley, Sonny Fortune, Cedar Walton and others, this bob-filled Herring release features some of today’s “young lions.”

    The Herring produced CD presents nine tunes, featuring Jeremy Pelt (T), Danny Grissett (P), Richie Goods (B), and E.J. Strickland on drums. The bops, All God’s Children Got Rhythm, McCoy Tyner’s Four by Five, Mr. Wizard, and the challenging opening of Hopscotch represent my favorites, along with Pelt’s Cassius. Citizen of Zamunda finds Herring on soprano with a slight funk feel that spotlights Grissett reminding of a piano player with the last name of Hancock.

    Minus a few obvious tuning problems between sax and trumpet in spots, this is a disc worth owning. The group is well balanced, and the tracks are well placed to make the disc enjoyable to listen to. 4 stars


    Monty Alexander – Impressions in Blue

    Monte AlexanderMonte Alexander
    Impressions in Blue
    (Telarc – 2003)
    by John Thompson

    Usually I’m not a big fan of trios, but this one? A winner! This Monty Alexander CD could have been named ‘IMPRESSIVE in Blue.’ Along with Mark Taylor(d) and Hassan Shakur(b) this Trio gets lots of bang for the buck and plenty of miles per gallon. Listen to this release and hear how full the sound of only three can produce. The band is in wonderful harmony with the individuals and vice versa. This CD is loaded with songs of varying tempos, dynamics and musical eras. The songs are written by the likes of Ellington, Gershwin, Mercer, and Alexander, which are categorized as “Duke Reflections,” “Where The Trade Wind Blows”(Island music), “King Cole Reflections”(featuring John Pizzarelli(g)) and “Way Out West,”(“I’m An Old Cowhand”).

    My two favorites are the bluesy “Creole Love Call” and “Pointe-A-Pitre”(Why does Speedy Gonzales come to mind?). I can imagine that the musicians had fun playing the songs on this CD. Like a well-built car, this is one that is fun to drive, and one that your friends will want to borrow but will gladly purchase. 5 stars

    Moxie – Interview and Performance Review

    Moxie Chicks
    Three ladies of Manhattan transfer to Les Zygomates
    by Matthew S. Robinson
    Moxie Chicks

    On April 6, a hot new girl group hit Boston, bringing the sweet sounds of the Big Apple to Beantown. The group was called Moxie, and with good reason, for these three ladies combined enough spirit, spunk and expertise to fill all of Manhattan. In fact, they have!

    Laurel Masse and Janet Siegel were the original female half of the Grammy Award-winning vocal quartet Manhattan Transfer. When a near fatal car accident sidelined Masse, recent Mass. import Cheryl Bentyne took up the torch singing some of the Great American Songbooks swingingest songs. Now, for the first time ever, the ladies of Manhattan Transfer will get off at South Station for a weekend of MT classics and contemporary favorites at Les Zygomates. For Bentyne, this tour represents a return to the Leather District’s favorite wine bar.

    Moxie @ Les Zygomates, Boston, MA 4/6/2001
    Having defined the metaphor for contemporary jazz vocalizations, the women of Manhattan Transfer took their own show on the road for a debut weekend stand at Boston’s hottest bistro/listening room. From the tenored tenor of Vaudeville to the Yellowjacket-ed strains of smooth jazz, these two pair of partners made for a terrific trio. Cheryl Bentyne conducted with her entire body and soul while Laurel Masse sang a cello piece by Bach and forever member Janis Siegel offered some of the best mouthed mute trumpet lines to be heard for Miles.

    Combining the Boswell Sisters with the Pointer Sisters, the ladies of Moxie swayed and laughed through alternating solo sets and group efforts that displayed both individual talents and newly-discovered collaborative strengths. Among the most notable high points were Bentyne’s animated Latinate lump of Cole Porter’s “My Heart Belongs to Daddy,” Laurel’s appropraite and uproarious Frenglish hip-shaker “Language of Love” and Siegel’s Streisand-y “Witchcraft” and well-titled “Tender Trap.” Though no major tour is planned, the boys of Manhattanmight want to consider their own side project, as they may need to find other work for a while.
    © 2001, M.S. Robinson, ARR

    “Last year, we presented the world premier of Cheryl’s Cole Porter revue,” recalled Les Zygomates General Manager Lorenzo Savona, noting that Bentyne’s stellar solo shot inaugurated the bistro’s Jazz Side Cabaret Series.

    “I had gone to the restaurant a number of times,” Bentyne explained, “and when Lorenzo told my husband [show Producer/Arranger Corey Allen] about his ideas for the new music venue, he made me promise to be the first show.” Bentyne is very much looking forward to coming back to the bistro. “I love this place,” she said, “and there are so few good rooms in town these days.”

    As for Masse, she is looking forward to singing with her stand-out stand-in. “I had been singing alone for a number of years,” Masse remembers. “I went to see Manhattan Transfer in 1997 and ended up sitting in with them.” This fateful five-part reunion would plant the seed for the terrific trio that is due to land in Boston next weekend. “Cheryl and I hit it off,” Masse recalled happily, “and the idea soon found itself in all of our female brains that we might all sound good together and we might get along – which we do and we do!”

    Bentyne remembers the reunion in very similar terms. “When Laurel sat in with us at Saratoga,” she said, “we had this bizarre psychic connection and we acted on it.”

    Though Bentyne and Masse had filled a similar role in the group, they had never actually met until the Saratoga show. Now they are looking forward to spending time together and getting to know each other personally and musically. “This is the first group singing I’ve done since leaving The Transfer,” Masse admitted, “and to sing with two such fabulous singers is a great experience.”

    “It’s a very interesting process we’re going through,” Bentyne agreed. “It will bring me up to the plate to do my best work because these women are tremendous singers.”

    As for what they will be singing (tremendously), Masse and Bentyne mention names like The Bosley Sisters and, though they are yet to find a Beatles’ song, Siegel has suggested “The Married Men” by The Roches. “This is a girl thing,” Masse maintained. “There’s something to be said for the timbre of the female voice and there are some things that just women have to sing about.” Bentyne agrees. “As we are all women,” she suggested,” we can look in different places for subject matter and range.”

    Through solo spots and collaborative efforts, Moxie brought a wide variety of music to their fans and friends in Boston. “We all have different strengths,” Masse said, “but put us all together and we sound good!”

    This confident sound comes from years of experience at the mike. “I was born to sing,” Masse declares. “It has always been the thing that has made me feel best.” In fact, Masse says, she did not realize that people did not sing all the time until she reached grade school. “How can you not sing?” she queried. Today, Masse helps hesitant harmonists by offering workshops across the country. “There are people who are afraid to sing,” Masse mused, “and I make it safe for them to try.”

    Bentyne also got an early start in music. “My parents saw me in a high school musical,” she remembered, “and when the show was over, my mother said ŒI didn’t know you could sing.'” As a tutor at Berklee College of Music, Sudbury-based Bentyne also helps other aspiring vocalists reach their potential (and fool their folks). “My kids are great,” Bentyne lauded, “and they help me figure out what I know and don’t know.”

    One thing the women of Moxie do know is that they are ready to take a tip from another talented set of independent and entertaining women (i.e., Laverne and Shirely) and do it their way. “We’re three grown-up women who know how to do it,” Masse said, “and that’s rare!”

    © 2001, M.S. Robinson, ARR

    Ed Johnson & Novo Tempo – Movimento

    Ed Johnson & Novo Tempo

    (Cumulus – 2004)
    by Paula Edelstein
    Ed Johnson formed Novo Tempo after recording Over That Wave. The name mean new time or ne times and was taken from the title of song composed by Ivan Lins and Vitor Martins. Movimento, Ed Johnson’s third solo recording, features the Brazilian guitarist on both original compositions and covers written by well-known Brazilian composers. The recording opens with “Scotch Baiao” an original song that features the Brazilian baiao rhythm that became popular in Rio de Janeiro around 1950 as a reaction to the popular music of that time. Kristen Strom plays a pleasant soprano sax solo that compliments Johnson’s cool guitar licks and swaying rhythms.

    “Movimento” is a beautiful vocal ballad that features Johnson’s harmonious voice in tandem with samba accents and coloring from Strom beautifully placed accompaniament. This song draws the listener to its core with its beautiful lyrics and actually conjures up the movement of coconut tree fronds in a breezy, light wind. Accompanied by such jazz luminaries sa Rene Worst on bass, Scott Sorkin on guitar, Jeff Busch on percussion, Mark Ivester on drums & percussion, Kristen Strom on sax, flute and vocals, Jennifer Scott on piano and vocals and John Worley, Jr. on trumpet, flugelhorn, Movimento is the epitome of great Brazilian jazz and one that deserves a place in your Brazilian Jazz collection.

    Michael McDonald – Motown

    Michael McDonald
    (Motown – 2004)
    by Matthew Robinson

    The Motown sound has always been known for its smoothness and understated sensuality. That is why it seemed to be a natural to have of the smoothest and sexiest voices left in the Blue Eyed Soul camp work his way through the greatest American songbook. Unfortunately, the meeting of two smooths makes many of these songs a little flat. The offering of lyrics to such timeless classics as “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” may hint that this collection is intended as a primer to the soulfully-challenged who are not already familiar with these timeless hits. However, the presence of deeper cuts like Stevie Wonder’s “All In Love is Fair” and “I Believe” may reopen even the most seasoned Motown ears.

    That the album was recorded in New York, Nashville, LA, and France also depicts a bit of distance from the Detroit sound. Even so, McDonald’s arrangements make the most of his equally singular sound. Screaming into “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours,” McDonald bubbles into the synthesized devotional “You Are Everything” before slinking into a Gospel-tinged R&B take on “Reflections.” “I Want You” has every silky string and deep bass pull intact, “Since I Lost My Baby” is truly remorseful and longing, and “Distant Lover” reaches nearly as far out as the original. Even though “How Sweet It Is” may be a bit too sweet, “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” may be more Smooth Jazz than true Motown Soul, and “Ain’t No Mountain” may sound more like Eddie Money than Nick Ashford, McDonald is most able to hold the songs together with his signature style and obvious love for the music.

    © 2004, M. S. Robinson, ARR

    Regina Carter – Motor City Moments

    Regina Carter Regina Carter
    Motor City Moments
    (Verve – 2000)
    by John Barrett

    She comes a place loaded with jazz tradition, on an instrument you don’t associate with the city. Her tribute is wonderfully thorough: songs composed by Motown’s finest, in a band with many such folks. They start with Thad Jones’ “Don’t Git Sassy” – sassy it is, thanks to Regina’s glissando. Following her solo is another squeak; James Carter starts like a sax, then burbles low on his bass clarinet. Her violin strolls “For Someone I Love”, with a ballroom formality – then it explodes with Latin fire. Daryl Hall has a great bowed bass; Regina plucks a guitar-like solo. She sobs “Forever February”, a cold ballad – next she’s energetic, waving strength on Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground”. The pace is a leisurely blues, while the mood is tribal; suddenly it fades to eerie stillness. Like the city itself, the album is many things and defies classification. So does Regina.

    “Spartacus” comes as a breeze: cool and calm, she lets the melody work its sweet magic. (The best version I’ve heard since Yusef Lateef, who also called Detroit home.) Marcus Belgrave adds a spectral flugelhorn; Lateef’s old bandmate Barry harris drops by, waxing sweet on his “Fukai Aijo”. The violin swings like Grappelli, very sleek and very lovely. The resemblance grows on “Chattanooga Choo Choo”, where she’s joined by the guitar of Russell Malone. She quotes “Beginning to See the Light”, “Shortnin’ Bread” – absolutely stunning. Better yet is “Up South” – Malone twangs a single-string blues, stomps his feet, and she offers some country fiddle. It’s a different sound, from a different kind of player – you can tell that “Regina” means “queen”.

    Steve Kuhn Trio – Mostly Coletrane

    Steve Kuhn Trio
    Mostly Coletrane
    ECM – 2010
    Sounds of Timeless Jazz

    Mostly Coletrane is one magnificent homage to the legendary John Coltrane. As the pianist with Coltrane for a brief eight weeks at the Jazz Gallery in 1960, Steve Kuhn remembers those nights with respectful renditions of such great Coltrane songs as “Welcome,” “Song of Praise,” and “Crescent.” 

    Joined by Joe Lovano on tenor saxophone and tarogato, David Finck on double bass and Joey Baron on drums, Steve Kuhn brings a mature feeling to the music. Just 21 when he initially played with Coltrane, Kuhn now realizes and certainly understands the depth and immense spirituality of Coltrane’s music and brings it from the past century with new relevance to our present century. On “Welcome,” and throughout the program, the quartet plays the music with deep respect and love.

    Lovano’s blowing is priceless, passionate, resonant, and freely spoken through burnished melodies and awesome improvisations. Kuhn’s quartet really brings it together on 13 great songs.  Although Coltrane’s great pianists – Elvin Jones and his wife Alice Coltrane- have been documented as two of the greatest pianists to ever play with Coltrane, Kuhn, with his new gathering of Coltrane followers, has earned a place next to them. MOSTLY COLTRANE is an awesome recording and one that should be in your collection

    Reprinted with permission of…

    Mose Allison – Greatest Hits – The Prestige Collection

    Mose Allison
    Greatest Hits
    The Prestige Collection

    (Orig Jazz Classics – 1988/91)
    by Matthew S. Robinson

    From Tippo, MS to the tip of Jazz’s pantheon, Mose Allison has had one of the genre’s most enduring and beloved careers. Now well into his golden years, tis honey and chickoree-voiced storyteller continues to reminisce about his beloved South. Among the prevalent themes on this gently sparkling collection are the infamous 12-foot cotton sack and other elements of life on the plantation (including life on the penal farm for spousal homicide). It was a different place and a different age, but Allison sing-songs about it as if he lived it himself. And when he’s not singing about a life not lived, Allison offers equally personalized renditions of the greats, from Ellington to Williamson and Ray Charles to Willie Dixon.

    Though his Chet Baker-y vocals are occassionally under-propped, Allsion’s jaunty key work is impressive and fun on its own. His pianist take on “Blueberry Hill” gets up there a bit faster than Fats Domino, but the svelte Allison is in better shape anyhow. While waiting for one or the other of his musical skills to take shape on “Trouble in Mind,” the Baker comparison takes on more wight as Allison reveals himself as a capable horn man as well. So many skills over so many years make this collection and this man a treasure for Rebel and Yankee alike.

    ©2002, M. S. Robinson, ARR

    Mose Allison Live at Scullers

    Mose Allison

    Mose Allison
    Live at Scullers

    Boston – October 22, 2005
    by Matthew S. Robinson

    There were few better places to be for the weekend of the famed Head of the Charles Regatta than the award-winning Scullers Jazz Club (www.scullerjazz.com), overlooking the Charles River where said race takes place while listening to the contemporary timelessness of Mississippi sage Mose Allison.

    From the swagger of ‘Fools Paradise’ to the bassy bounce of ‘Look What You Made Me Do,’ Allison worked his dipping baritone and firmly tinkling fingers through a near nonstop jukebox of hip and insightful tunes, showing time and again that there is a heckuvalot more to write about than just love. In addition to the Randy Newman-esque ‘Ever Since the

    World Ended’ and Gov. Jimmy Davis’ ‘You Are My Sunshine,’ Allison also offered a paced run through John Loudermilk’s ‘You Call It Jogging’ and a cool and breezy stroll around George Perlman’s ‘Indian Summer.’ ‘Everybody’s Crying Mercy’ was as pertinent as ever and

    ‘Your Molecular Structure’ may have been all the more appropriate considering that MIT was an oarstroke away. In any case, Allison offered something for everyone in his multi-generational audience. In fact, despite the fact that his rhythm section was made up of what the septugenarian Southern gentleman might call ‘yung’uns,’ this cleverly self-proclaimed ‘Certified Senior Citizen’ left them half a beat behind time after time, showing that he has not lost a lick of timing over the course of his long and storied career.

    C. 2005 M. S. Robinson ARR

    Scott Wilkie – More Than You Know

    More Than You KnowMore Than You Know
    Scott Wilkie
    (Narada Jazz – 2000)
    by John Barrett

    It’s not the performance that grabs you; it’s the sound. Scott Wilkie has a splashy piano, with a mild touch of blues; his major skill is arranging, and he blends smooth sounds in an engaging mix. “Sign of the Times” begins with a Morse code synth, then yields to Matt von Doran’s guitar. “The Chicken” is a cute funky riff that puts Scott at three different keyboards. (The Fender Rhodes is especially sly.) “Pier 39” is a calm sunrise, notes coming in a gentle spray.Von Doran is simple but elegant; Scott turns on the charm. With nothing flashy to speak of, this grabs your attention – and caresses. This is not a song … it’s a moment.

    It’s a different ballgame in the second half: the tunes are more forceful, and horns help immensely. It’s Eric Marienthal on “The Gnu Won”; his alto grooves slow, behind one of Scott’s stronger themes. “Fruit Sandwich” starts as a mambo and then slows down, while simmering hot. Lots of percussion; Scott does a montuno in places, and von Doran has his best moment. “Summer Vacation” is breezy and tough; Marienthal returns for “Whale Song”, drifting sweet as “Pier 39” did. The soprano whistles as the piano reflects: a fine end to a happy day. Without raising his voice, Scott Wilkie has made a statement.

    Teri Lyne Carrington – More to Say

    Teri Lyne Carrington
    More to Say
    Koch – 2009
    Sounds of Timeless Jazz

    Grammy nominee Terri Lyne Carrington has more to say and she says it well on her follow up to Real Life Story.  On MORE TO SAY…(REAL LIFE STORY: NEXTGEN), Carrington employs an all-star roster of contemporary jazz musicians including George Duke, Kirk Whalum, Everette Harp, Patrice Rushen, Jimmy Haslip, Gregoire Maret, Christian McBride, Danilo Perez, Dwight Sills, Chuck Loeb, Walter Beasley, Anthony Wilson and Robert Irving III to help her do what she does best.

    Need we say more? Check out this exceptional R&B infused, jazz influenced CD that also features jazz greats Nancy Wilson and Les McCann on “Dream Come True,” and “Hold Me Again, respectively.

    Incognito – More Tales Remixed

    More Tales Remixed
    Heads Up – 2009
    Ray Redmond

    Incognito has to be one of the more prolific groups on the scene. I guess the more darts you throw, the more likely you are to hit the bulls eye. Last summer they put out their Tales from the Beach on Heads Up records and everyone raved.

    Now Incognito’s Mauritius-born guitarist/founder/frontman Jean-Paul ‘Bluey’ Maunick has gotten some world DJs like Dimitri from Paris & DJ Meme from Brazil, Brooklyn’s Tortured Soul, UK’s Ski Oakenfull, Germany’s Christian Prommer and many others to put out a remix of the CD.

    “From its conception to current times, Incognito has had one foot in the dance world and another in live concert performance,” says Bluey. “Along that path, the two have crossed and merged and become one. DJs and the club connection have been as strong a point of reference as our live performances throughout our history.”

    More Tales Remixed is another permutation of the rich multicultural sounds that first made their way into Bluey’s consciousness during his childhood. “When I was a kid, my first taste of music came from the beaches of Mauritius,” he says. “I spent a lot of time listening to the hotel bands, or the bands playing around the bonfires and cookouts. It’s a small island, so there were beaches everywhere. I was always watching live musicians play. So for inspiration for Tales from the Beach, I went back to various beaches around the world – in Italy, Indonesia and elsewhere – and just let the music flow.” When that natural flow meets the rhythmic undercurrent of the many talented DJs in Bluey’s international circle of musical associates, the result is a tidal wave from start to finish.

    Dimitri & DJ Meme’s combination of lush strings over uplifting beats take the opening track, “Step Aside,” to a whole new level. The track is a defiant declaration of independence delivered by lead vocalist Joy Rose and propelled by a pulsating bass line, funky horns and the shimmering rhythm of the exotic-sounding African shekere.

    Tortured Soul brings an ’80s-style synthesized groove to their remix of “Love Joy Understanding.” After meeting the band at the Java Jazz Festival in Jakarta, Bluey sent the band the track and gave them free rein. “There was no brief, and they were left to their own devices. When I heard what they had done, I was grinning from ear to ear.”

    Yam Who? weighs in on “Freedom To Love” and reconnects Bluey and company to their early jazz-funk roots. “This reminds me of all my previous bands – Light of the World, Freeez and the early Incognito sound,” says Bluey. “Yam’s jams are always exciting, but I think he has outdone himself here. He’s a Brit-funk mate!”

    Francis Hylton’s mix pays tribute to the late Isaac Hayes with a funky soul mix of “I Remember a Time” that retains the poignant vocals of Maysa Leak, a recurring and consistently popular figure in the Incognito lineup.

    Keyboardist Matt “The Latin Project” Cooper closes the set by reverting to his Outside guise for his remix of “Tales from the Beach.” Bluey notes: “As with any Outside-related tracks, no prisoners were taken.”

    “Though I’m an out-and-out jazz funker,” says Bluey, “anyone who truly knows me knows how much I love soulful house music. More Tales Remixed is a continuation of Incognito’s journey on the parallel lines of live and dance music.

    Hubert Laws – Moondance

    Hubert Laws
    (Savoy Jazz – 2004)
    by Ray Redmond

    Hubert Laws is back with a CD that proves there’s still some life in that old flute. The title tune Moondance teams Hubert with guest Chris Botti and the smoke flows from start to finish as the duo duels and dances, Botti accenting Laws’ riffs and runs with his distinctive trumpet stylings. Bloodshot brings in smooth jazz legend Jeff Lorber to join Laws on a 70’s style funky-jazz track that really swings; without becoming corny. But everything goes better with Lorber, doesn’t it?

    Summer of 75 shows another Hubert Laws as he picks up the piccolo and styles with pianist Brian Culbertson, another smooth jazz giant and producer. Hubert has some nice runs here and the track is really infectuous. Herbie Hancock, who was on CTI records with Laws waaaay back when, makes a guest appearance on Nighttime Daydream. This is my favorite track and brings back memories of the old Wild Flower days… sweet smooth and wonderful.

    Malibu and Clarita are the best of the rest, but those first four tracks with guests are well worth the price of admission. The rest of the CD is good Laws, but he really rose up and shone when put to the test with the greats. The rest of the CD is good listening music. If you listen to the first four tracks last, you’ll love the entire CD right away. Check it out for yourself, I think this is definitely a keeper.

    Ray McCarty – Mood Swing

    Mood SwingMood Swing
    Ray McCarty
    by John Barrett

    There are two sides to this story, contrasts you see from every angle. He’s a nimble-toned smoothie who’s played with the Yellowjackets’ Russell Ferrante; he’s an old-style houserocker who started in the R&B clubs of San Jose. Recording in Texas, he’s spinning the sounds of Brazil – when he isn’t bringin’ the blues. All this on his first date as a leader. Many styles, but only one mood – and it’s a beauty.

    Feel the breeze as we head south on “We’re Still Here”: sweet rounded notes as the rhythm ticks softly. The B-3 comes forward, a mellow partner to the gentle guitar (or rather, guitars – that’s Ray on an overdubbed rhythm part.) It’s a slow drifter, with room for a surprise: there’s a hint of Martino in the solo. The island breeze fades, and before us is “Verbena Way”, a stretch of raw blacktop with a roadhouse nearby. The single-string is tough and greasy; shades of Freddie King, whose “Heads Up” appears later. On the side is Robert Skiles; his easy boogie goes down smooth. To cool off, we go to the beach: Ray floats metallic chords, and a sax calls from the distance. Wait for the end: a flute calls, the saxes respond, and Ray spins a flourish. It’s called “The Light”, and sounds like dusk: the lovely end to a romantic day. The mood can’t be better…

    And the blues come back. Spooky chords waft by, a pattern of shifting clouds. Before this Ray twangs, a sound authoritative and dark. He starts to howl and the comp gets busy, like sheets of rain. He’s “Comin’ Home Baby”, and his presence is welcome. “Tidal Wave” is “Still Here” gone active: tough drums, a little distortion, an eternal chord from the organ. It’s a shade of light blue, and wonderfully restless. “Watermelon Man” lives on that wonderful riff, carried mostly on guitar. Ray spins some smoke, and Skiles has his best moment – it’s the tune you remember. And you should.

    “What’s Up” moves in funk territory – Ray opens with wah-wah, then chords with a little fuzz. The tone is impressive, even if the tune’s on the plain side. Now he tries octaves, with a springy sound. His attack is strong, prodded a bit by the organ – now add some distortion, and he’s a guitar hero. That’s a nice moment, and here comes the last. “Heads Up” stomps hard at the barroom: soaring notes that end in broad wiggles. Pay attention to Skiles: his boogie influences Ray’s solo, as it did on “Verbena”. The riffs keeps getting stronger, and no one wants it to end. Least of all you.

    Rating: *** ½. Some tunes sound alike, but this has a lot going for it. The blues are superb, and the smoothies show variety. It’s all inviting, and the mood should do it for you.

    Songs: We’re Still Here; Verbena Way; The Light’ Comin’ Home Baby; Tidal Wave; Mister Magic; Watermelon Man; What’s Up With That?; Always There; Heads Up.

    Musicians: Ray MacCarty (guitar); John Mills (tenor sax flute); Robert Skiles (piano); Riley Osborne (electric piano, organ); Larry Seyer (keyboards, percussion); Chris Maresh or Kyle Brock (bass); Kevin Conway (drums); Brad Evilsizer (drums on “The Light”); James Fenner (percussion)..

    For more info, contact: Viewpoint Records

    An Interview with Monty Alexander

    Monty Alexander Having a word with
    Monty Alexander
    by Mark Ruffin

    Bob Marley and Oscar Peterson will be crossing paths this whole spring in the person of the amazing pianist Monty Alexander. He’ll be touring with his trio promoting his new album “Goin Yard.”

    “Oscar Peterson will say ‘why don’t you cut your hair, man,” Alexander said laughing at the thought of the imaginary meeting. “Bob would say, ‘hey man, lighten up.”

    Ever since the early 60’s, when the youthful looking 55 year-old Jamaican was discovered as a teen-ager by Frank Sinatra in a Las Vegas nightclub, he has been dazzling the jazz world with his lilting accent, Caribbean charm, devilish sense of humor, and world class jazz piano playing.

    For the last seven years, however, the reggae world has taken notice of Alexander, as he has been concentrating on music from his homeland. His latest release, Goin’ Yard, is a live jazz/reggae album, featuring interpretations of two Marley songs, Exodus and Could You Be Loved.

    Goin’ Yard succeeds Monty Meets Sly & Robbie, last year’s collaboration with Jamaica’s top rhythm section, and Stir It Up: The Music of Bob Marley, in 1999. While he has always toyed with mixing Jamaican folk music with jazz on many of his more than 50 albums, Alexander’s first full album of reggae was another live album, Yard Movement, in ’95.

    “This really all started about 20 years back,” Alexander explained in his melodious island tongue. “I had a sense that I wanted to honor my heritage, and bring some Caribbean musicians into it.

    “So, instead of getting American based cats, who are always great musicians, I wanted to introduce something people hadn’t heard before.”

    The result was the creation of the 1980 album, Ivory And Steel, which feature Trinidadian steel drum player Othello Molineaux.

    “He’s a great musician, but he happened to be playing an instrument outside the jazz system in America,” Alexander said of his island compatriot. ” I wanted to give jazz people something they have never heard before. But what happened was a sense of pride developed in the musical statement that we were making.”

    Alexander first heard steel drums growing up in Kingston, Jamaica, where he was born. He started playing piano at the age of six, inspired by his parents’ piano playing friends.

    “They weren’t accomplished enough to play Carnegie Hall,” he laughed, “but they could sit there and have some fun.

    “I also heard local musicians who played calypso, the folk music of Jamaica. I heard those rhythms on banjos and guitars and it was all natural, like the blues in this country.

    He also heard blues and r&b from New Orleans, and at the age of ten, he saw Louis Armstrong in concert. That was the incident that paved his road to jazz. Alexander absorbed and was influenced by piano players Errol Garner, Art Tatum, Ahmad Jamal, Eddie Heywood and of course Oscar Peterson. By the age of 15, he was on the Jamaican pop charts with his group Monty and the Cyclones.

    In 1963, he was playing his first American job with Art Mooney’s orchestra when Sinatra and his friend, Jilly Rizzo saw him. Within weeks, he was the house pianist at New York City’s legendary bar, Jilly’s. That is where he met vibraphonist Milt Jackson and bassist Ray Brown, the two men who would help make Alexander an international jazz star.

    Since that time, Alexander has recorded more than 50 albums for a variety of jazz labels. He would only periodically drop hints at his heritage early in her recording career by recording a calypso number or two. Then after Ivory And Steel, he’d periodically record a reggae tune, until like a derrick blowing it’s top, he erupted in reggae in the mid-90’s.

    “The older I’ve gotten, the deeper my regard for my roots have grown,” Alexander said. “That’s a very big part of my music.”

    While he was making a name for himself in jazz, the pianist had to watch the development of his homeland’s music from afar. But, watch and listen he did.

    “I did not meet brother Bob,” Alexander said of his biggest musical regret. “So much of the environment he came from and the very studios he recorded in, I was there as a musician before him.

    “When I came to America, he was in Jamaica functioning and getting more and more powerful with his musical statements. I kept tuned into the whole thing.

    “I didn’t know Bob Marley, but I knew the world he was coming from,” said the musician who said he returns home two to three times a year, “A lot of friends of mine are of the Rastafarian persuasion, and I have nothing but honor and deep respect for those people and their music.”

    That said; don’t expect your local jazz club to turn into the Reggae Sunsplash.

    “I’m not a prisoner to my albums,” he concluded. “When I play, I let the spirit move me. The best I can be is what I do, and that can be the whole language of jazz piano, including blues, funky music and reggae.”

    New Orleans drummer Troy Davis and young Los Angeles bassist, Brandon Owens, will join Alexander on tour.

    Monty Alexander – Profile

    Monte Alexander By Ellen Collison

    Fans and fellow musicians know Monty Alexander as a strong, two handed pianist influenced by the work of Nat “King” Cole and Oscar Peterson. His joyful, swing playing has graced twenty Concord releases, fifteen of them as a leader. Alexander is a suburb interpreter of popular songs, and Echoes Of Jilly’s (CCD~769-2) offers him a rare chance to show off his skills on some of the best tunes in the genre. In so doing, he revisits his years as house pianist at Jilly’s, the legendary New York nightclub owned by Frank Sinatra’s friend Jilly Rizzo. Jilly’s was a watering hole for the glitterati and a home away from home to major show business personalities and a host of mega-jazz musicians including Miles Davis, Ron Carter, Tony Williams and Errol Garner.

    As Monty explains in his liner notes, Jilly’s was, first and foremost, a singers room. While working as an accompanist there, he backed many of the great exponents of The American Popular Song (Sammy Davis, Jr. and Judy Garland among them), but the headiest moment of all came when Frank Sinatra walked onto the bandstand with a few requests. One result of that most exhilarating of collaborations is this album, for Echoes Of Jilly’s is Alexander’s highly personal tribute to Ol’ blue Eyes, featuring thirteen numbers from his repertoire. Given that it is nearly impossible to pull a bad tune from Sinatra’s book, this album is no mere exercise in nostalgia on Alexander’s part. As a double bonus, Alexander’s interpretations of songs bearing the Chairman’s imprimatur are as original as they are authoritative.

    Montgomery Bernard Alexander was born in Kingston, Jamaica on June 6, 1944. He began playing piano and accordion at age six. During his early years he absorbed the folk and popular music of his homeland, along with Trinidadian calypso and other Afro-Caribbean sounds and styles. North American popular music reached him via the radio, Hollywood movie musicals and attendance at live concerts by visiting R & B and jazz musicians such as Fats Domino, Ray Charles, Louis Armstrong, New Orleans pianist Professor Longhair, and one of the best singer-pianists of all time, Nat “King” Cole.

    As a youth, Alexander sat in with musicians who were interpreters of older styles of Jamaican music, including ska, which was a blend of mento (traditional Jamaican dance music) and R&B. As he remembers those teenage years, “We’d go to house parties and ‘sound system’ dances. Musicians would cover the tunes that they saw American artists play live in the theaters. We’d try to imitate them, but somehow we always added our raw Jamaican flavors, so it turned into ska.” By his mid-teens, Alexander was fronting his own ska group, Monty And The Cvclones. The group reserved a semi-permanent spot on the Jamaican Hit Parade from 1958 to 1960.

    Monty Alexander came to the United State in 1963 and played a slew of East Coast clubs ranging from New York to Clearwater, Florida. It was in Clearwater that he first attracted the attention of Jilly Rizzo, who offered him a standing gig as house pianist at his club. Alexander’s liner notes to Echoes Of Jilly’s capture the excitement musical and otherwise, of the club’s heyday as he experienced it from 1963 until his departure in 1967.

    Alexander soon began working with many jazz greats, including Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry, Herb Ellis, Ray Brown, Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins. Indeed, he made his mark so quickly that by the mid 70’s he was performing and recording as a leader in the United States, Europe and Jamaica. In 1976, he was a headliner at the Montreux Jazz Festival, and he was recorded m concert with John Clayton on bass and Jeff Hamilton on drums. Alexander has always played straight ahead, hard swinging bop infused with island rhythms. His affection for island music led him to record a Carib-jazz album featuring the great Jamaican guitarist Ernest Ranglin in 1978. Monty’s continuing exploration of his island roots has found particularly impressive expression in his three Ivory And Steel recordings for Concord.

    The ever prolific Alexander has played on film soundtracks composed by Quincy Jones and served as a consultant to Clint Eastwood during the making of his film, “Bird.” Meanwhile, he still works with singers on a consistent basis. He accompanied Natalie Cole on her 1991 Grammy winning tribute to her father,Unforgettable. This year, he backed Concord recording artist Mary Stallings on her Manhattan Moods CD.

    For Echoes Of filly’s, Alexander joined forces with the crack rhythm team of John Patitucci on acoustic bass and Troy Davis on drums. The combination, a natural, produced a recording with an unusually loose, live feel. From the first bars of “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” (which Davis gives a ska-plus-New Orleans-style second-line kick) to the earthy abandoned swing of “Fly Me To The Moon” and the aching “Angel Eyes,” a showcase for Patitucci’s warm, melodic playing, this set radiates style, balance and swing. Alexander plays “I’m A Fool To Want You” and “Here’s That Rainy Day” solo, using carefully calculated dissonances, reharmonizations, and a few grace notes plucked from Ravel to intensify these ballad’s sense of loss and longing. Monty also does a solo turn on a quintessentially Jamaican instrument, the melodica, on “Strangers In The Night” an appropriately bittersweet closer.

    Echoes Of Jilly’s, Alexander’s first trio date since 1995’s Steamin’ (CCD-4636), demonstrates beyond doubt his impressive ability to discover fresh approaches to the trio setting. U.K. jazz critic Ken Rattenbury said it best: “As long as we get lashings of Monty, all will be right with the world!”

    I’ve Got You Under My Skin
    Call Me Irresponsible
    The Su mmer Wind
    Angel Eyes
    You Make Me Feel So Young
    Come Fly With Me
    I’m A Fool To Want You
    Here’s That Rainy Day
    Just One Of Those Things
    Strangers In The Night
    All The Way
    Fly Me To The Moon (In Other Words)
    In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning
    Monty Alexander – piano
    John Patitucci – bass
    Troy Davis – drums
    Monty Alexander Concord Discography  	CCD-4769	Echoes Of Jilly 's  	CCD4721	To The Ends Of The Earth  	CCD-4658	Maybeck Recital Hall Series, Vol. Forty  	CCD-4636	Steamin'  	CCD4422	The River  	CCD-4394	Triple Treat 111 (with Ray Brown and Herb Ellis)  	CCD-4359	Jamboree  	CCD4338	Triple Treat 11 (with Ray Brown and Herb Ellis)  	CCD-4287	Full Steam Ahead  	CCD4253	Overseas Special (with Ray Brown and Herb Ellis)  	CCD4231	Reunion In Europe (with John Clayton and Jeff Hamilton)  	CCD4193	Triple Treat (with Ray Brown and Herb Ellis)  	CCD4136	Trio (with Ray Brown and Herb Ellis)  	CCD4124	Ivory And Steel  	CCD410X	Facets  

    Montreux on Tour – Chateau Ste Michelle

    Montreux on Tour Montreux on Tour
    Sunday Afternoon Jam
    at Chateau Ste Michelle

    September 4, 2000
    by Stephen H. Watkins, Sr.

    After driving three hours and spending 1/2 hour parking and riding the shuttle, we arrived at 5:25 … 25 minutes late. But once we got there, all that was forgotten…the Chateau Ste Michelle winery was the perfect venue, the sky was blue and cloudless, and the temperature was just right. This was the perfect day for what was arguably the best concert to come to the area this summer. People were spread all over the hillside overlooking the stage, with rolling green hills and the Chateau itself in the background. Al Jarreau, Roberta Flack, Joe Sample, Layla Hathaway, David Sanborn, and The George Duke All Star Band were scheduled to appear and anticipation ran high.

    The sound and VIP tents were plopped right in the middle of the hill. The food and wine sales tents were lined up along the very top of the hill. The people were crammed in everywhere else… walking around, on blankets, folding chairs, coolers and sometime even on the ground. As we walked in, the announcer was anouncing the entrance of Al Jarreau and Joe Sample, who performed tunes from Al’s new release ‘Tomorrow Today’. After two songs, George Duke and David Sanborn joined them on stage and broke into a lively version of ‘Camel Island’, also accompanied by Ronnie Castro on percussions and Buddy Williams on drums.

    Duke and Sanborn then left, and Layla Hathaway came on to sing two songs from Joe Sample’s new release. ‘Fever’ was particularly well received by the crowd. Al Jarreau then rejoined Layla to perform a duet of ‘Summertime’, accompanied by Joe Sample and David Sanborn. This ‘rotating ensemble’ thing went on for aother half-hour or so, performing various hits by David Sanborn, The Crusaders, Joe Sample and Al Jarreau.

    Then George Duke and his all-star band took over for a while, starting out with a medely of songs from his new CD ‘Cool’ (which comes out in October) featuring Lori Perri singing background. Then he got down to business playing various tunes that he wrote in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. After talking about how he and Al Jarreau played together at the Halfway Club many moons ago, Jarreau came back and sang with the band. Duke continued through the years, playing songs he wrote both for himself and for others, including the immensly popular Jeffrey Osborn hit ‘On the Wings of Love’. George ended the ‘Duke Band’ part of the set by getting the crowd clapping and singing the ever-so-funky ‘Reach For It’.

    Joe Sample and Layla Hathaway came back for another single, then Al Jarreau came back as well to perform the crowd-rousing “Morning”. Finally Al sang his sweet classic ‘Since I Fell for You’ accompanied by George Duke and Joe Sample on keyboards, Layla Hathaway and Lorri Perri on vocals, and behind it all was David Sanborn’s horn, playing off of Al’s vocalizations, sending chills through the crowd. A wonderful closer. The show then ended at 8:00 sharp, leaving everyone satisfied yet somehow wanting a little more.

    The rotating ensemble that performed here was one of the best groups of musicians I have ever seen perform that way and a little bit MORE would have been nice, but what we got was one of the best shows I’ve seen in years. My only regret is missing the first 25 minutes.

    Montreux on Tour – Los Angeles

    Montreux on Tour Montreux on Tour
    Bringing Down The House
    in Los Angeles

    September 1, 2000
    by Paula Edelstein

    Let me just break it down! The Smooth, Sexy, Summer Madness of the Montreaux Festival on Tour hit US shores August 4th in Chicago, Illinois and swept through 18 cities before kicking off a dynamic, fun-filled Labor Day Weekend for 1000s of Los Angeles jazz fans. The Montreaux Jazz Festival has caused a sensation for 34 years throughout Europe and Friday night that sensation filled the Universal Amphitheatre for nearly 4 hours as a packed house welcomed Al Jarreau, Roberta Flack, Joe Sample, David Sanborn, and The George Duke All Star Band. Call it the night fantastic because at show time, they owned the night!

    Performing songs from his #1 Billboard Contemporary Jazz release, TOMORROW TODAY, Al Jarreau knows how to bring it on! From the moment he hit the stage, the crowd was on its feet. The fireworks Jarreau generated was worth the price of admission alone. He just sings it like he means it, inadvertently speaking volumes about social ills that abound around the world on the title track, “Tomorrow Today,” and exerting his continuing vitality and viability on “his jazz cocktail booster shot … the real deal tour.” Jarreau infused his performance with an endearing playfulness synthesizing his wide variety of artistic strategies and made for a soulful, sexy, organic, slyly mercurial musical experience with enough great songs to pervade one’s memory for many years. A rousing rendition of songs from his BREAKIN’ AWAY album also brought the house to its feet again as the maestro of jazz vocalese put on a show that is surely one of the greatest shows this year.

    Perhaps it’s a case of like minds rather than mimicry, but like Jarreau, Roberta Flack has an admirable work ethic and an impressive discography spanning jazz, R&B, improv and collaborations with theatre, dance, film and the visual arts. Tonight the peak of a great tour was met with much appreciation as she sang “Killing Me Softly With His Song,” “Feel Like Making Love,” and songs from her CD, ROBERTA. Roberta Flack also played piano and got the crowd involved with her duet with Al Jarreau on “All The Way.”

    Joe Sample has straddled both R&B and jazz contexts, playing in the early music circles with such luminaries as The Crusaders and more recently inviting vocalists such as Lalah Hathaway to his sing his musical ideas and take them down another avenue. Sample, even though improvising, can pick out the details and offer them to an audience without your knowing he’s done exactly that! On his new composition “Creole Eyes,” a song he wrote with David Sanborn, he exhibited the jazz piano finesse he’s widely recognized for and together with David Sanborn and Lennie Castro, Buddy Williams, Mike Manson the song was a very welcome contemporary jazz number.

    David Sanborn’s sexy sax was as smooth as ever. Playing songs from his latest CD INSIDE, Sanborn embraced his musical stories and beautifully caressed them into shape with his saxophone. While this sort of musical interpretation might sound ordinary to die-hard straight-ahead aficionados, Sanborn’s mastery of his distinctive musical voice on the tenor saxophone is a truly beautiful experience. He employs circular breathing and alternate and polyrhythmic fingering patterns, producing among other things, multiphonics, or several notes at once, as well as other techniques to achieve a sonic personality unlike any other player in smooth jazz circles. The audience was enthralled as he laid into “Chicago Song,” and “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” with George Duke and Joe Sample on keyboards and acoustic piano and received a rousing ovation.

    The George Duke All Star Band was a band of rapid action, of overtones each piercing each other, of gradual change within a series of alternating and mesmerizing groupings of sounds. Duke treated the crowd to a display of his classical, rock and jazz piano virtuosity. George Duke can dissect a note, with each part reaching a member of his band within just the right second. His almost paranormal relationship with Al Jarreau stems from their early days in Northern California at the Half Note Club in 1965 when they performed in the same band! More important, was their performance tonight and the synergetic effects of the live electronics and improvisation during “Tomorrow Today.” Duke performed a medley of hit songs from his early career including “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” “On The Wings of Love,” “Stay With Me Tonight” and “Sweet Baby” a major hit with Stanley Clarke, brought the house down with his “No Rhyme No Reason” and the funk anthem “Mothership Connection/We Want The Funk.” George Duke was at home in Los Angeles and by the thunderous, standing ovation that he received, he should know by now that he can come home again!! And again!!

    The Montreaux Festival on Tour is a cool happening that is also a historic moment in jazz. The ensemble of Al Jarreau, Roberta Flack, Joe Sample, David Sanborn and The George Duke All Star Band is entertainment at its best. For America, its arrival is like the arrival of the Oldsmobile Aurora, the pianoforte, the computer or the Internet — exciting, varied and essential!! Welcome to the USA, we hope we’ve made you welcome!

    Montreal International Jazz Festival 2001

    Pleasant Memories
    Montreal Int’l Jazz Festival
    by Matthew S. Robinson

    Montreal Int'l Jazz Festival 2001 It had been a few years since last I had climbed Mount Royal to look over a score of diverse neighboring venues all stocked with some of the best jazz and jazz-derivative sounds available on the planet, and I was raring to get right into the action.

    June 28, 2001

    Minutes after I was efficiently whisked through the press room, it was off to a special (and arguably historic) 25th anniversary performance by The World Saxophone Quartet. Led by founding member David Murray, the brass octopus known as the WSQ combined Southern Soul with Eastern charms which had the packed crowd snaking in their seats. Veering at times into cacophony where it was oft difficult to follow who was playing what line, the Quartet spent most of its time playing on the solid grounds laid down by low man Hammiet Bluett. Taj Mahal’s “Jamaican Sunrise” was more Kansas City nocturne than island revellie, but Murray’s tongue-slapped compositions left licks that were Justin Time.

    Running down St. Catherine, I arrived just in time to see undersung harmonica master Howard Levy completely steal the show from the Greg Armirault Quartet (here a trio). Though his French vocabulary was limited, Levy’s musical lexicon ranged from Charlie Musslewhite to Toots Thielman, with bits of Stevie Wonder and George Benson spat in. Combining polka-fied pyrotechnics with flashy flourishes, Levy led the diminished quartet on harp and keys, both of which he bent to offer string sounds and other musical layers that bounced and flowed along with his coif.

    Down at the other end of the street, on the overly-raised GM stage, beat-minded beauty Lulu Hughes offered an even more diverse melange of musical styles which combined Aretha and Brittney and ranged from French to Funk. Though “Rock Steady” did, “You’ve Got to Funktify” was a bit too preachy, though not as much as Hughes’ anti-gun Reggae chant “Here We Go.” An authentically bilingual “Lady Marmalade” took the color out of Pink’s version while keeping the chime of LaBelle clean and clear.

    “Feelin’ Alright”? You bet! …And this was only day one!

    After a bit of local cuisine (smoked meat is much less dirty and more delicious than it sounds!), it was back out for on emore show. Tonight’s dessert was to be provided by Rockin’ Dopsie, who headlined the Louisiana stage. Though he looked ready to strut with some BBQ, what with his apron and all, for the most part, all the prince of Zydeco could offer was some baste-ardized Pop covers and mush-mouthed two-steps. Given an opportunity to tout his heritage, Dopsie fell back on the safety of familiar numbers, many of which needed more coverage. “Love the One You’re With” was lonesome and “Satisfaction” wasn’t. Though the Bayou’s favorite entertainer’s toot-toot-shakin’ energy was high and kept the crowd on their feet, but at times, even the guitarist seemed tired. Oh well- it had been a long day.

    June 29, 2001

    The next morning was spent wandering the neighborhood, checking out the myriad souvenir stores and walking PAST the many adult entertainment establishments.

    Who needed them when we had Bebel Gilberto at Spectrum? Slender but not Ip-anemic, Gilberto was a pleasure both for the eyes and ears. Traipsing onto the stage direct from a late flight, the feminine heir to the Bossa Nova crown shimmied on and off the stage, combining lyrical Spanish with impressively dictioned transliteration and sticking primarily to the traditions of her father’s style, with only a few techno touches. The one-word samba “Lonely” combined Steely Dan and Herbie Mann with a trial run at body-shaking Spanish rap which led nicely into the set’s funky finale.

    Back at the other end of the Festival area at the the cleverly named Club Soda, Nnenna Freelon was putting the spunk back into the Great American Songbook and some more contemporary faves as well. Running easily through multiple metres, Freelon combined Fitzgerald-ed scat with languid intro solos. Her tribute to fallen Jazz heroes silenced the crowd, as did her plaintive and pure take on “Let it Be Me.” A Reggaed “Body and Soul” caught the crowd pleasantly unawares and her “frisky,” rhythm-packed run through “Say a Little Prayer” was simply beautiful.

    The true highlight of the Festival, however, was to wait until the next day, when Renaissanced legend Jimmy Scott took the Spectrum stage by storm, with the support of his casually conforming support team The Jazz Expressions. In this week of legends (which would later offer the likes of George Benson, native son Oscar Peterson and TAOAKAP), this was the show to take in. And everyone who was there took it all in. Strutting and snapping around the stage, Scott belied his age by decades, and though his voice wavered during some extensions, the emotion rang through his entire five-foot frame. Filling every corner of the balconied dance club. Even away from the mike, Scott’s effervescent joy peaked the meters and is signature delays brought all ears even closer to catch every experienced nuance. From a syncopated but straight “It Had to Be You” to covers of Lennon’s “Jealous Guy” and John’s “Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word,” Scott pleased old and young alike and showed that, after 50 years of performing, he still had room to grow.

    June 30, 2001

    Among the other high points of the Festival were film maestro Michel Legrand’s performance with the chapeaud Phil Woods, some of 2001 Miles Davis Award-Winner Michael Brecker’s varied combos (including an acoustic set with brother Randy), a killer second set featuring Wayne Shorter, Danillo Perez, Jon Patitucci and Brian Blades, Cassandra Wilson’s supports of Terrence Blanchard’s sextet and “next big thing” Jane Monheit’s occasionally over-extended attempts at the title. However, with no fewer than three shows going on at any time from 3 PM to nearly 3 AM, late night jam sessions and the rest of Montreal’s strong performance scene all in full effect (except during the occasional showers which at times developed into flash floods), there was just too much to see.

    And when the music became too much (if such quality music ever can), the city beckoned with offerings ranging from the pre-Revolutionary charms of Old Montreal to the aforementioned challenge of Mount Royal (oh those stairs!) to the ill-fated engineering of the Olympic Stadium. Whether there for two days or the full two weeks, the city was an absolute whirl. Speaking of the whirl of the city, most of it came out despite threatening rain to see, or rather experience, the (I mean “Le”) Grand Événtment. Groove Alla Turca combined the traditional Turkish instrumentation of Burban Oçal’s Oriental Istanbul Ensemble with contemporary elements of contemporary Jazz and Funk, ringleadered by bassman Jamaaladeeb Tacuma. It also offered Turkish “Rap,” amateur Hip-Hop dancers and actual Whirling Dervishes whose spiritual spins lasted throughout most of the sight and sound extravaganza.

    Especially for those for whom North Sea may not be a viable vacation choice, Montreal is the preeminent Jazz festival. Where else can you find the likes of Joe Lovano, Charlie Haden, John Scofield, Diana Krall, Joao Gilberto, Wynton’s Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Steel Pulse, Femi Kuti and George Thorogood(?) in the same five-block area in the span of two weeks? And where else can you find these things among one of the world’s most historically diverse metropolitan areas?

    Am I gushing? Well it was really that much fun!

    At Montreal Jazz, the music may be just the beginning, but it is certainly a solid start.

    &Copy; 2001, M. S. Robinson, ARR

    Thelonious Monk – Monk In Paris

    Thelonious Monk
    Monk In Paris
    (Hyena – 2003)
    by John Thompson

    Ali, Louis, Dempsey. Mantel, Ruth, Bonds. Trump, Gates, Allen. Ellington, Armstrong, Davis. Monk.

    These are the heavyweights, the hard hitters, the big boys. These are Legends. For now, let’s focus on Monk Live at the Olympia. This is some great stuff here folks! For starters, T.S. Monk Jr., who plans to release more previously unreleased materials in the future, released this disc on Thelonious Records. Second, the recording quality of this 1965 concert is excellent, and guess what? Of the 7 tunes, 5 are more that 5 minutes long. Third, the release contains TWO discs, the second being a bonus DVD. Prepare yourself for some glute-kicking Classic Jazz.

    The music disc contains notable tracks worthy of mention: Rhythm-a-ning, Well You Needn’t, Body and Soul, I Mean You, April In Paris, Bright Mississippi, and Epistrophy. The Quartet contains members Monk (P), monster Tenor Saxman Charlie Rouse, Larry Gales (B), and Drummer Ben Riley. The DVD has the band showcasing 3 performances of “Lulu’s Back In Town, Blue Monk,” and “Round Midnight.”

    Without going into much detail and personal likes-dislikes, this much will be said: “Monk in Paris”, with it’s extended song versions (especially the swinging tunes) will keep you on the edge of your seats and will heighten your musical awareness’. 5 stars.

    Music From The Motion Picture – Mona Lisa Smile

    ­Music from the
    Motion Picture

    Mona Lisa Smile
    (Epic – 2003)
    by Matthew S. Robinson

    Though it may not be encouraging, it seems fitting that a film featuring four bubbly starlets pretending to be serious students should feature a soundtrack of similar simulations. On the men’s side are Seal’s semi-titular attempt at Nat King Cole and Chris Isaak’s Iglesi-esque “Besame Mucho.” Though Elton John’s contribution is an original, “The Heart of Every Girl” fits in best because it seems to be almost self-parody. Even Trevor Horn’s orchestral takes on “Istanbul” and “Sh Boom” are languid. Across campus, featured performer Tori Amos does her best to recapture the glamour of “You Belong to Me” and “Murder She Says” while Macy Gray croaks her way through “Santa Baby.”

    Celine Dion’s Streisand-esque “Bewitched” might get by if Babs herself did not cap the collection with a tenderly touching take on Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile.” While Kelly Rowland’s “Beginning to See the Light” is rather flat, fellow tween queen Mandy Moore’s subtly theatrical “Secret Love” is reminiscent of the likes of Bernadette Peters and makes for one of the strongest showings on this hyper-retro soundtrack.

    © 2004, M. S. Robinson, ARR

    Dewey Redman / Cecil Taylor / Elvin Jones – Momentum Space

    momentumspace.jpg (1722 bytes)Dewey Redman / Cecil Taylor / Elvin Jones
    Momentum Space

    Three giants of improvised music came together for the first time in August of 1998 in New York City to record this extraordinary studio session. Momentum Space, commissioned by The Creative Music Institute, is a collection of trios, duets, and solos, that creates a powerful musical statement.

    The individual resumes of these leaders serve as bookmarks for key chapters in the history of modern jazz: Dewey Redman has been an integral part of two seminal groups, the Ornette Coleman quartet featuring Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, and Billy Higgins, plus the Keith Jarrett ensemble of the 70’s, with bassist Haden and drummer Paul Motian. Cecil Taylor has simply written his own book throughout his trailblazing career as one of the most unique piano stylists in 20th century music. Elvin Jones, primarily known as the driving rhythmic force in the great John Coltrane quartet with McCoy Tyner and Jimmy Garrison, is also unquestionably one of the most influential percussionists of all time.

    The music on Momentum Space, though admittedly not for the casual listener, is ripe with buoyant and accessible passages, that will surprise and delight those who take the journey.

    Arthur Lipner – Modern Vibe

    Arthur LipnerArthur Lipner
    Modern Vibe
    (Jazzheads – 2004)
    by John Thompson

    Stay with me on this one. Jazz category, starring a Vibes and Marimba player, the opening song, the ever popular Love the One You’re With. Also included: Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together, and Ain’t  No Sunshine. No way! Way. Vibist Arthur Lipner presents us with a very nice release which features some stellar 80’s style soft fusion.

    The 10 songs are non-acoustic, featuring some fusion-esque vamps and smooth-like finger pop jazz with electric guitars, basses, keyboards and drums. REAL DRUMS !!  These fellas bring fresh, proactive energy to the music, with the type of force usually found in live performances.

    Let’s Stay Together is done at nearly break-neck speed, Love The One You’re With is performed up-tempo funky, and both are well arranged. Mood Vibe should be receiving national air play on smooth jazz stations, but the flaw may be that the arrangement is not simple enough. Flor De Lis and Blue Tango are Island-flavored delights. This is one for the collection that does not land in the ho-hum, and will surprise many whom aren’t familiar with Lipner. 4 stars.

    Ernest Ranglin – Modern Answers to Old Problems

    Ernest Ranglin Ernest Ranglin
    Modern Answers to Old Problems
    (Telarc Jazz – 2000)
    by Paula Edelstein

    Ernest Ranglin’s career spans five great decades! The guitar virtuoso began playing ska and reggae in Jamaica and has worked on dozens of hit records including those of the great Bob Marley and The Wailers. His debut for Telarc Jazz, Modern Answers to Old Problems features the world-class guitarist in the company of British jazz saxophonist Courtney Pine, and attracting African musicians Orefo Orakwue on bass guitar, Olalekan Babalola on congas and percussion, Olakunle Ayanlowo on talking drum. Ranglin is also accompanied by Tony Allen on drums, Chris Franck on percussion, rhythm guitar, berimbau, Joe Bashorun on Wurlitzer, organ, Denys Baptiste on tenor sax and Sylvia Tella on vocals.

    Ernest Ranglin wrote eight of the ten compositions and they are some of his finest. “Memories of Senegal,” and “Sound Invasion” both fascinating fusions of Ranglin’s ability to develop the full range of Black musics – soul, reggae, and African as well as jazz, are but two of the exciting musical interests on this CD. He and saxophonist Courtney Pine enjoy themselves on “Inflight” with each contributing their own styles to modern jazz while Joe Bashorun pulls out the stops on the Wurlitzer. This is one of the best songs on the CD. Modern Answers to Old Problems elevates Ernest Ranglin to the front ranks of jazz interpreters.

    ModeReko – Modereko


    (Blue Thumb – 2001)
    by John Barrett

    In this dense, flavorful stew of a record, one is never sure what will come up next. These guys love their pop culture: spy and go-go themes appear often, with the steady thump of ’70s funk. While this goes on, other things slither though: scraping metal on “Sahara Sod”, giving way to massed horns. Bobby Read does some Brecker-like tenor, while John D’Earth sounds ancient on his muted trumpet. Suddenly Read switches to bass clarinet, dubbing several to play the theme – and that’s just the first minute. The tune’s title makes sense when Bobby plays Arabian themes on his flute, next to Tim Kobza’s exotic guitar.

    There’s a tough Latin groove on “Some of That”, as the horns TRY to match Kevin Davis’ fury on the drums. (They can’t, but get wonderfully close.) The deep reeds moan on “Tree Blind”, burbling like a didgeridoo; D’Earth blares with his mute, creating a textured fog. The theme is mournful but somehow comforting; “Nitrous” is hot and dirty, with exhaust from a dozen weathered horns. Flutes bark, Jimmy Haslip snaps the mean bass, and Kobza smokes a wah-wah guitar … in contrast to the feel-good vibe of “L.A.-VA”. Nothing here is terribly substantive, but it sure is fun. Think of it as a soundtrack to an especially freaky Austin Powers movie.

    If you take away the sampling and other effects, it sounds like a jam-band with horns – lots of good playing, but indulgent at times. Reed pipes a shrill riff on “Slump Town”, with a slew of dubbed flutes – he’s a calliope all by himself! Kobza’s turn is bluesy and sweet; it ends with a keyboard squiggle on top of an old bossa record. D’Earth gets his chance on :Old Creed”, unfurling sift notes on a fusion background. Wait for Kobza’s psychedelic solo, creeping its way over the Fender Rhodes. “Schoolin'” is a fractured acid-jazz lick (Zac Rae has the RIGHT sound on organ) and “Heart of Seoul” has a runaway synthesizer making all the noise it can. There’s a lengthy false ending, and an untitled bonus track, with lazy rhythm and looped monkey noises. If you want to feel groovy, give this a spin, It’s lightweight, but the musicianship is heavy.

    Marion Meadows – Pleasure

    Marion MeadowsMarion Meadows

    Rhythm and jazz soprano saxophonist Marion Meadows’ four RCA recordings have made him one of the most popular and dynamic smooth jazz artists of the 1990s, but it was a chance meeting at New York’s Grand Central Station in the late ’80s that really started it all. Waiting for a train with a friend, Meadows – for the fun of it – pulled out his horn and began playing under the huge dome. His sweet sound, coupled with the location’s perfect acoustics, attracted the ear of fellow traveler, TV composer Jay Chattaway, who was so impressed that he hooked Meadows up with legendary keyboardist Bob James. James signed the musician to his TappanZee label, and although a subsequent album project went unreleased, the experience put Meadows on the road to becoming one of the genre’s most recognizable voices.

    Ten years down the road, Meadows and his well-traveled soprano are still making that sweet, funky music. Raw and street wise one minute, sensual and romantic the next, his Discovery debut, Pleasure, more than lives up to its name. Meadows believes it’s his most accomplished album to date: “Conceptually, I was thinking of pleasure as a dichotomy, both in the hedonistic sense and bringing listeners pleasure through the music I make.” He continues, “My previous albums all had certain vibes, but in many ways I just sort of let the music flow and follow where it leads. Here I focused more on the kind of music I find spiritually fulfilling, that makes me happy.

    Pleasure is something unique for each person, because everyone responds to music differently,” he adds. “My music is sexual, happy and uplifting, and the sax is simply pleasurable to hear. That’s why one of the lines in my liner notes reads, ‘Oh sweet sax, what pleasure you bring.’ If you study the history of the saxophone, it’s been a sound people can identify with in many contexts including orchestral, jazz and R&B.”

    While Meadows has on occasion played other horns on his projects, here all the main melody lines are played exclusively on his trademark instrument. “I played the much more difficult clarinet from the time I was eight, and found that playing soprano was the smoothest transition I could make when I was a teenager,” he reflects. “When I turned professional, people would call me for my soprano work, and I realized emotionally it fit me best as a means of spiritual expression. And when it came time to pursue a solo career, I had the most confidence in my ability to make a unique statement on that horn.”

    The ten impressive tracks on Pleasure leave no doubt that the soprano is the powerful, passionate core of who Meadows is as an artist. The album kicks off with the hopeful strains of “January Spring,” a whimsical, orchestral flavored ode to new beginnings, before breezing into the steam heat of late night romantic seduction on “Get Away.” The funky, groove intensive electric guitar-sax jam “Picture This” perfectly captures the spicy mix of soul and jazz traditions that Meadows is best known for, while the swaying, frequently percussive “Lucky Girl” touches on modern laid back hip-hop flavors. The gently caressing “No Other Love” is vintage Meadows all the way – a soft spoken, candle lit romance that calls the name of passion.

    Meadows is not one to choose cover tunes unless a pop hit really grabs him, and such was the case with the Toni Braxton gem “Unbreak My Heart,” which the saxman dresses up with equal amounts of melancholy and jazz improvisation. The vocal-tinged “Gotta Move On” combines the best tastes of inspirational gospel and a raw, scratchy street vibe, while the thick funk of “UK Underground” is Meadows’ irresistible, spirited take on the modern club grooves coming out of Great Britain. Rounding out the set are the smoky, atmospheric come-hither ballad “Until Tonight” and the rambunctious, explosive, blues flavored “Child’s Play.”

    Born in West Virginia, Meadows grew up in Stamford, Connecticut, where he began playing clarinet and studying classical music at the age of eight. His passion for different types of music led him to appreciate numerous jazz musicians, including Stanley Turrentine, Sidney Bichet, Johnny Hodges, Duke Ellington and Coleman Hawkins, and he naturally gravitated to the soprano sax in his high school years. After studying jazz with Anthony Truglia, Meadows attended Berklee College of Music, where he majored in arranging and composition. He later went to the SUNY Purchase School for the Arts, where he studied under Ron Herder. “I got a lot of sideman jobs in college, and I have always said I got a graduate degree playing clubs,” says Meadows, who perfected his craft studying with Joe Henderson, Dave Liebman and Eddie Daniels. “Not long after I finished school, (well-known jazz drummer) Norman Connors recorded my song ‘Invitation’ and then asked me to join his band. I later produced his Passion album with him. Things just fell into place.”

    Through the Bob James connection, Meadows hooked up with numerous vocalists and musicians and became a well-known sideman in his own right, recording or performing over the years with Brook Benton, Eartha Kitt, Phyllis Hyman, Jean Came, The Temptations, Michael Bolton, Angela Bofill, Will Downing and Native American flute player Douglas Spotted Eagle, among many others. He also contributed to three Fantasy Band albums (with Chuck Loeb, George Jinda, John Lee and Dave Samuels) from 1993 to 1997 (The Fantasy Band, Sweet Dreams, The Kiss) and, working with guitarist/producer Brian Keane, the Windham Hill Records holiday samplers, Carols of Christmas and Winter Solstice Vl. In the fate ’80s, Meadows stretched his usual pop/jazz boundaries as a member of the New York avant-garde band called the Aboriginal Music Society. He was performing in Japan when he got the call that RCA Records was interested in signing him to a solo deal based on his first album which he had recorded and financed himself. His catalogue includes For Lovers Only (’91), Keep It Right Here (’93), Forbidden Fruit (’94) and Body Rhythm (’96).

    “I can always look back and find things I really like on any of those albums,” he says, “but I have to say that in every creative way, my work on Pleasure has been my most satisfying to date.”

    Mark Ledford – “Miles 2 Go”

    milestogo.jpg (9474 bytes)Mark Ledford
    “Miles 2 Go”
    by Denis Naranjo

    Imagine being an in-demand vocalist and multi-instrumentalist. Going solo, would you choose to play like a six-piece band, arrange acapella voices, croon soulfully with R&B/hip-hop, or improvise with jazz scat and special wordless syllables? If you’re Mark Ledford, you’re doing all of this just for starters.

    Listening to “Miles 2 Go,” his new CD and Verve Forecast label debut, reveals an exhibition of grooves and melody is ripe for consumption. Indeed, the centerstage ringmaster is vocalist-arranger-producer Ledford, a Detroit-bred and classically trained stylist who’s learned how to admire and employ all things jazz, R&B, hip-hop, pop, and classical.

    You’ve likely heard him backing up Pat Metheny, Jonathon Butler, Jon Hendricks, Bill Evans, Eliane Elias, Special EFX, Bobby McFerrin, and Kevin Eubanks, among others. As “Miles 2 Go,” proves, this solo profile exudes individuality, one remarkably separate from previous associations. Sampling Ledford head-on discloses a complex, vibrant, and intriguing musicology in the making.

    markledford.gif (34212 bytes)Playing pocket trumpet, Ledford intones a Davis-like presence throughout, seemingly in tribute praise on “So What,” “Blue In Green,” and with urban calm on “A Toucha U.” His horn casts forward appealing shades in color and tone. As elsewhere, Ledford’s nimble handiwork with keyboards, synthesizers, drum programming, whistle, and guitar typifies his wide-angle approach, fusing harmony, melodic voicing, and a varied bag of hip rhythm structures.

    “Miles (Davis) was an impetus for the project. But it was time to present Mark Ledford the artist, not just the singer. In the context of arrangements, this was my record to say who I really am vocally,” says Ledford, from home in Minneapolis, taking a break amid a 10-week world tour with the Pat Metheny Group, a gig he’s held since 1986.

    His jazz neighborhood boasts heavyweights like guitarist Metheny, saxophonists Michael Brecker and Najee, drummers Lenny White and Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts, pianist Cyrus Chestnut, vibraphonist Joe Locke, bassists Victor Bailey, Darryl Jones, and Lonnie Plaxico, but to name a few. Their cadence of rhythms neatly matches up to the composer’s voiced multi-tracking and bottom-edge drum programming.

    “There’s sound bites, grooves, environments, even a trip-hop element in places. So I captured aspects of each musician’s style, put the right person in the right groove, and just let them do their thing,” he says.

    Electric beats underfoot, a beguiling pathos emanates through “Bye-Bye Blackbird” and “Someday My Prince Will Come.” Likewise on “Summertime,” and with Metheny’s fingering dashing nearby, Ledford imbues a tingling mood-set using a core matrix of pocket trumpet riffs, vocals, and whistling, serving up sheer melodicism atop pulsating grooves.

    He vigorously reworked Eddie Harris’ “Freedom Jazz Dance” and, bowing to Mr. Davis, “Walkin (Miles 2 Go),” both fueled by Ledford’s breakneck vocalese trading solos with Brecker’s herculean tenor sax. On “U Gotta Be Crazy” a brassy arrangement and jazzy lyrics can high-step you to the dance floor.

    Ledford ultimately types the “Miles 2 Go,” rhythm express as hip-bop, an amalgam of hip-hop grooves and jazz bebop. “The hip-bop movement basically mixes rhythmic cycles with a harmonic cacophony of sound. And the harmonic inventions come through the rhythm and melody together as one,” he says.

    Courting guest artist’s schedules and recording opportunities when possible, Ledford spent the past two years to record 10 of the 11 tracks. He also squeezed in recording and touring time with Metheny, McFerrin, Evans, Lenny White, and Jonathon Butler.

    Small potatoes for Ledford, whose ascending career began as a violin virtuoso with the Detroit Symphony Junior Orchestra, through age 11. From being musical director for Stephanie Mills, to playing trumpet in Hendrick’s band, touring with rockers Vernon Reid and Living Colour, and Steve Winwood, Ledford feels he’s only begun to tap into his estimable Berkelee School of Music (’78-82) education as a composer.

    “I’m giving jazz fans, who love classics, and young fans, who enjoy rhythmic development, something to live with,” says Ledford. “I feel I’ve been on the cutting edge of this hip-bop movement. Artists like Courtney Pine, Greg Osby, Branford Marsalis, and Quincy Jones have all done something similar. But they didn’t have the gravity of melody like I did. That’s what’s gonna bring more listeners to the music. Melody has its own rhythm.”

    Visit the Mark Ledford web site for more information.

    Mel Brown – Mister Groove

    Mel Brown
    Mister Groove
    (Karmenpolicy Records – 2000)
    R. Redmond

    Mel Brown - Mister Groove This is Mel Brown’s first studio-recorded release in over a decade. Being a Portlander, I get the chance to go see Mel often, so I think that makes me qualified to judge his performance, and this one has essence. Accompanied by regular sidemen Fred Trujillo on Bass and Bobby Torres on Congas, Bongos and percussion, and Glenn Holstrom bringing up the Organ, Mel puts down a series of strong, funky tracks. Renato Coranto’s sax is melodic and creative on the second track “Break and Run”, a very up tempo run from start to finish.

    Young, multi-talented Portland-based producer Luther Russell plays guitar on a number of tracks including the Bluesy original “What It Is”, one of four original tracks. Russell also assisted in the production and engineering of the CD. The cover of “Viva Tirada” is sweet and soulful. Originally performed by the East L.A. band El Chicano, Mel’s cover of “Viva” is reminiscent of soulful Santana hits of the 70’s, carried by Holstrom’s flowing organ and Torres conga.

    Through it all, Mel is there. Steady, rhythmic and funky. “Red Bones” is probably the smoothest track. Charles Earland would applaud the feel and flavor of this one. Another great Portland jazz figure, “Sweet Baby” James Benton lends his syrupy vocals to the mellow “I Want a Little Girl”. The CD ends with a lively take on the Marvin Gaye classic “What’s Happening Brother”. This is a good CD, you should give it a listen.

    Bobby Hutcherson – Mirage

    Bobby Hutcherson
    (32 Jazz – 1991/2000)
    by John Barrett

    The album has a simple concept. Bobby Hutcherson had never played with Tommy Flanagan; the two work in mutual admiration, all stated with precision and taste. They are delicate on”Nascimento”; at a breezy tempo, Flanagan seems to tiptoe. Bobby’s on marimba and his solo ripples deep, rolling like a wooden wheel. When he speeds up, Tommy gets more aggressive; his own solo quotes “Beautiful Girl”most appropriately. The title tune glimmers through a maze of cymbals: as Billy Drummond crashes, Bobby meditates. His notes are round, placid; the whirlwind around him makes it more beautiful. (Listen close for Flanagan: his Eastern turn is very effective.) “Beyond the Bluebird” sounds a bit like MJQ, in its elegant chords and weeping mallets.

    Tommy’s the star, and his bluesy solo works great against the bass. Both men give”Del Valle” a ton of sustain (the tune floats like a worried cloud) and Bobby gives “Am I in Love” the bounce it needs. No doubt – these guys should have gotten together sooner.

    Of special interest are two duets,full of that contemplative calm. On “Pannonica”, Tommy blends Monk-isms with thick languid chords. Bobby’s part is decoration, ringing on top with happy little bells. The two trade fragments of melody on “Love Letters”, which turns melancholy in their hands. Bobby makes a low rolling hum, with Flanagan’s icy notes on top – a still-life portrait, sad but beautiful. Peter Washington is a major presence on”Zingaro” (including a finely bowed intro) and the marimba works its way into your heart.

    And they glide off into the night on Billy Childs’ sublime “Heroes”. Bobby’s notes are simple and blunt, while Tommy whispers from the distance. Everything is relaxed, and everything is gorgeous. When Bobby wanted to play with Tommy, producer Orrin Keepnews called it “the best suggestion I’ve heard in a long time.” You will agree – so do I.

    Terence Blanchard – Miracle at St. Anna

    Terence Blanchard
    Miracle at St. Anna
    Hollywood Records – 2008
    Sounds of Timeless Jazz

    “Miracle at St. Anna,” directed by Spike Lee, is a big-budget World War II saga shot mostly in Europe. The movie’s script, adapted by James McBride from his own historical novel, is a fact-based adventure revolving around the heroic exploits of four Black American soldiers  (Derek Luke, Laz Alonso, Michael Ealy and Omar Benson Miller) who became separated from their unit while fighting behind enemy lines in Italy in 1944.

    The 100-minute original score was written by the distinguished Grammy-winning artist Terence Blanchard and is his twelfth collaboration with director Spike Lee. This musical masterwork provides a solid palette of thematic music which amplifies the awesome scenes that tell the stories of the noble men of the 92nd Division – The Buffalo Soldiers – during their fight against the Nazis in Tuscany, Italy.

    Blanchard’s original score is not aural wallpaper. It is an active character with an active role in the film and has become part of the subtext of the film. It is also a completely orchestrated work that can stand alone independent of the film. Unlike the classic way of writing a soundtrack and having only one or two themes that are used throughout the whole film, Blanchard composed at least 24 signature pieces of music in the film that work in complete harmony with such dramatic sound effects as high intensity action sequences, explosions, flying ammunition, and other agonizing aspects of war. These signature pieces (themes) communicate specific emotions and alternate between tumultuous and lovely. Throughout the film Blanchard never fails to deliver the appropriate impact or feeling of harmony in order to immerse the viewer in the dialogue, character’s profile, the environment, or the subconscious gap between sight and sound. 

    When you put all of that together, Blanchard’s imaginative score succeeds on all levels. The impeccably placed orchestral arrangements are logical and out of the box. In the world of war epics, this is no small feat. Blanchard’s inspired creativity also supports the fact the he knows who each character is, knows their context, knows his own limitations and impeccably relates the music to the visuals. In conveying the horrors and hell of war by implementing a variety of themes, such as “War Is Hell,” “War Is Hell – Final Battle” and “War Is Hell – Mourn The Dead,” among others, he chose to use powerful, tumultuous crescendo to depict the suspense, battles, heroism and bravery of the Buffalo Soldiers. These themes had audience members on the edges of their seats in response to the outbursts of crescendo. Blanchard’s further use of military drum marches to depict the arrival of the Nazis as in the “Third Reich” piece, and his use of penetrating, ricocheting trumpet tones in the ambush scenes and final battle scene to depict flying ammunition, the gravity and doomsday effect of dying and death were also effectively placed and played authoritatively and with finality.

    By contrast, Blanchard used different techniques to offset the violent and graphic nature of the war scenes. In “Great Butterfly – Part 1” he successfully balances the viewer’s moods and the on-screen action through the use of a melodic, colloquial folk music duet played on guitar and accordion. Several serene, placid motifs were used to convey the astounding beauty of the 800-year old Italian village where the film was shot on location, the love scene, and the interdependence of the citizens as heard in both “Renata You’re Beautiful Themes.”

    Terence Blanchard was also faced with the challenge of composing musical dialogue that would speak to the religious themes of hope, faith, prayer and God, inherent in James McBride’s screenplay. As a result, Blanchard was inspired to compose “Theme of An Angel – Parts 1, 2 and 3,” “Main Theme – The Prayer,” as well as several others. A native of New Orleans, Blanchard survived Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and may have experienced the guidance of his own guardian angel and muse as he reached deep within his own sensibilities and sense of mortality to infuse the concept of divine protection and miraculous intervention into the scenes involving Angelo’s recuperations and interaction with his unseen angel – Arturo.

    It took Terence Blanchard eight weeks to write the unforgettable score and ninety- seven musicians to perform the music that helped to convey the heartbeat, the action, the spirituality , emotions and the outcome framed within the war epic and suspenseful murder mystery. Spoken in Italian and German (with English subtitles) as well as in English, Spike Lee’s epic vision, THE MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA, is not only set to catapult him, McBride, and Blanchard to the level of Academy Award winners for Best Director, Best Adaptation for Screen, and Best Score, respectively, this film now becomes the first full length feature film to be released by a major Hollywood studio that documents a factual account of the Buffalo Soldiers’ heroism and bravery during World War II.

    Reprinted with permission of…

    Mingus Big Band – Live in Tokyo

    Live in Tokyo
    Mingus Big Band
    (Sunnyside – 2006)

    This release showcases the exhilarating Mingus Big Band launching into newly arranged compositions from the Mingus songbook at a New Year’s Eve concert at the Blue Note. Continuing the Mingus tradition of great difficulty yielding great rewards, the last-minute replacement of new father and bassist Boris Kozlov (who was to debut two new arrangements) by Kenny Davis (who had never played with the band, and who stepped in seamlessly) is testament not only to the musicians’ talents, but to the strength of the music itself.

    The 14-piece big band – comprising trumpeters Eddie Henderson, Jack Walrath and Alex Sipiagin; saxophonists Abraham Burton, Craig Handy, Wayne Escoffery, Seamus Blake, and Ronnie Cuber; trombonists Ku-umba Frank Lacy, Conrad Herwig and Earl McIntyre; pianist Dave Kikoski; bassist Kenny Davis; and drummer Johnathan Blake – buoyantly give new voice to such Mingus classics as “Meditations” and “Ecclusiastics,” from the ’60s, “Opus 4” and “Free Cell Block 8” from the early ’70s, and such early ’50s-era tunes as “Celia,” “Bird Calls” and “Wham Bam,” which opens the CD with characteristic Mingus Big Band explosive energy.

    When talking about the legacy band’s weekly New York club dates, Sue commented that her husband would have “given his eye teeth to compose for musicians of this caliber week after week, though he rarely had the opportunity to work with such a large group.” But through the posthumous Epitaph concerts (in the 80s and coming again in 2007), and through Mingus’s enormous compositional legacy, today’s musicians have the opportunity to continue his creative process and, through these recordings, listeners have a privileged entry to the dialogue. Mingus may not be shouting from the bandstand or dismissing them for “mental tardiness” but his music continues to inspire musicians to heights of individual artistry through the power and longevity of his compositions.

    Charles Mingus – At UCLA: Music written for Monterey 1965

    Charles Mingus
    Music written for Monterey 1965 Not Heard
    Played in it’s entirety At UCLA Sept. 25, 1965

    (RLR – 2006)

    This recording captures Mingus leading an octet performing at the University of California, Los Angeles. To expand the story of the title: Mingus had triumphantly performed at Monterey Jazz Festival in 1964, and returned the following year with a collection of difficult new material that he intended to debut there. However, Mingus’ set was truncated to a half an hour, and most of the set list was scrapped. A week later he premiered and recorded the material at UCLA, which demonstrates in raw, you-are-there detail why Mingus liked to refer to his live shows as workshops, where he could continue to rehearse new material (not written down for the other musicians) until he was satisfied with the spirit and sound.

    That this “workshop” concert was also recorded opens a window on Mingus’ creative process, and the listener is privy to the inner workings of the composer, his outward shouts and reprimands. It is an unvarnished behindthe-scenes look at the struggle Charles Mingus sometimes faced in his efforts to get his demanding compositions performed. It includes musical confrontations on stage, the difficulties band members experienced with brand new music, his own furies and, ultimately, his refusal to edit out the warts, to tell it like it was.

    This fearless exposure of the creative process in all its contradictions had led earlier to his concept of the jazz workshops– performances on stage in which the trials and errors of creating music were presented to viewers, unedited. He also understood the fascination with “process” for an intelligent audience. “All these years I’ve been trying to promote Mingus the composer, and downplaying Charles the larger-than-life character,” Sue laughs. “By putting this CD out, here I am playing right into that image of Charles. But what eventually transpires after the musical fist fights, extraordinary solos, hirings and firings and a feast of new composition –is musicians achieving incredible musical heights as they resolve their conflicts in the fire of the music.”

    Released by Mingus’ own label forty years ago, Mingus pressed only 200 copies before he ran out of money, and then the masters were destroyed in 1971 when Capitol cleaned out its vaults. This two-disc CD was re-mastered from the original vinyl. (Sue Mingus and Fred Cohen also issued a limited edition version of the LP in 1984.) In the liner notes to At UCLA Sue writes, “It should be obvious that no established re-cord company at that time – or any other – would have released a recording with so much dissension and so many irregularities. Mingus opted for the truth of the performance, and we witness not only the flaws and failures but the sheer joy as he shrieks his approval, encourages his drummer, exhorts his trumpet player and jumps from the piano chair to the bass and back in order to conduct his compositions.”

    Mingus’s band included trumpeters Hobart Dotson, Lonnie Hillyer and Jimmy Owens; alto saxophonist Charles McPherson; French horn player Julius Watkins, tuba player Howard Johnson; drummer Dannie Richmond; and Mingus on bass. Tunes included “Meditation on Inner Peace,” “Don’t Be Afraid, the Clown’s Afraid, Too,” and “Once Upon a Time There Was a Holding Corporation Called Old America” (a later version was titled “The Shoes of the Fisherman’s Wife Are Some Jive-ass Slippers”), and a rare opportunity to hear Mingus perform on otherwise unavailable compositions “They Trespass the Land of the Sacred Sioux,” “Don’t Let It Happen Here,” and “The Arts of Tatum and Freddy Webster,” and arrangements of “Muscrat Ramble” and a be-bop medley, “Ode to Bird and Dizzy.”

    Jon Pareles in the New York Times wrote about the “irrepressible” UCLA concert, and how Mingus, through his workshop format, was “eager to remind his audiences that jazz is simultaneously a body of tradition and an art of the moment.” Four decades later, this recording still sounds as modern as the Mingus Big Band Live at Tokyo, which spans generations of Mingus compositions and still manages to combine the unique personalities of the performers and art of the moment with the timelessness of these compositions.

    2010 Portland Jazz Festival Lineup


    2010 Portland Jazz Festival
    Mingus Big Band, Dave Holland, Pharoah Sanders to Headline
    Feb 21-28, 2010

    The 2010 Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air Portland Jazz Festival presented by US Bank will be held February 21-28 with jazz outreach programming in area schools and community centers on Monday through Friday, February 21-26, leading up to a series of headline concerts Thursday through Sunday, February 25-28 throughout downtown and inner Eastside Portland venues.

    The 7th annual Portland Jazz Festival features three-time Grammy Award-winning bassist, bandleader and composer Dave Holland,legendary saxophonist and John Coltrane collaborator Pharoah Sanders, the Mingus Big Band devoted since 1993 to the musical legacy of Charles Mingus, Brazilian vocalist Luciana Souza, and contemporary trumpeter Dave Douglas & Brass Ecstasy.

    Additionally, Portland Jazz Festival’s annual thematic programming asks the provocative question Is Jazz Dead (Or Has It Moved to a New Address)? – New Music from Norway, featuring North American premieres of leaders in Norway’s new and burgeoning jazz scene. This “festival-within-a-festival” includes the avant-garde chamber jazz of the Christian Wallumrod Ensemble, the saxophone/ accordion duo of Trygve Seim & Frode Haltli, and the jazz/rock fusion of In The Country featuring Morten Qvenild (keyboards), Roger Arntzen (bass) and Pal Hausken (percussion).

    Complete headline concert schedule:

    Thursday, February 25, 7:30pm, Hilton Pavilion Ballroom, Luciana Souza
    Friday, February 26, 7:30pm, Newmark Theater, Mingus Big Band
    Friday, February 26, 9:30 pm, Norse Hall, In The Country
    Saturday, February 27, 3:00pm, Norse Hall, Trygve Seim & Frode Haltli
    Saturday, February 27, 7:30pm, Newmark Theater, Dave Holland Quintet
    Saturday, February 27, 9:30 pm, Norse Hall, Christian Wallumr�d Ensemble
    Sunday, February 28, 3:00pm, Newmark Theater, Pharoah Sanders
    Sunday, February 28, 7:30pm, Crystal Ballroom, Dave Douglas & Brass Ecstasy

    Jazz Education and Outreach

    Jazz education and outreach events include performances of The Incredible Journey of Jazz, a Black History Month celebration staged in Portland area middle schools each February. The 60-minute musical/theater piece was originally developed by Portland State University professor and pianist Darrell Grant and the Leroy Vinnegar Jazz Institute. The performance features seven actors and musicians who each play multiple roles in depicting the experiences of African-Americans through the history of jazz. Early scenes have students communicating through African rhythms, and then follow the evolution from gospel, blues, ragtime, Dixieland and New Orleans. Eventually, we witness the migration of Black Americans up the Mississippi River to Chicago and other industrial centers with the big band sounds of Ellington and Basie, to the bebop of Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, contemporary experimentation of Miles Davis and Ornette Coleman, and ultimately to rap and hip hop.

    Another key outreach component is the popular Jazz Conversations, one-on-one interviews with jazz headliners and members of the Jazz Journalists Association (JJA). These interviews are presented before a live audience in the intimate PCPA ArtBar throughout the festival. The sessions are recorded by KMHD-FM, Portland’s jazz radio station, for later broadcast and subsequently are available on the Portland Jazz Festival website, pdxjazz.com, for general listeners.


    Tickets are available at all TicketMaster locations, by calling 503-228-JAZZ (5299), or online at pdxjazz.com.

    Mindi Abair Interview

    Mindi AbairJust ‘Come As You Are’
    Speaking With Mindi Abair
    by Baldwin “Smitty” Smith

    After the release of her debut CD in the spring of 2003, It Just Happens That Way, I would venture to say that she’s been on the road for about 85 percent of the time. And somehow she’s manage to release another great CD called Come As You Are. We spend a moment with GRP recording artist, the lovely and multi-talented Mindi Abair.

    Smitty: Wow you have been some kind of busy.

    Mindi: I’ve had a pretty cool year. We’ve been busy on the road, we’ve had a blast playing for everyone. We spent the very beginning of 2004 in the studio recording this CD so, here it comes. It’s awesome that it’s being released now, I’ve been waiting for this time, the release date, and finally it’s here.

    Smitty: You’ve done so many interesting things in just one year, some of which many artists don’t get around to doing for several years. For example, you played at just about every major venue, TV appearances; you’ve played the National Anthem at baseball stadiums. How do you keep up?

    Mindi:: (Laughing) Well, I think I have that kind of personality anyway; I’m really the happiest when I’m out and about, and doing things, and creating things. So this actually fits my personality quite well. But I really wanted to do all of this. People would come to me and ask; “hey do you want to play the National Anthem for the Dodgers game” and I’d say; “Yes, of course I do, I’d love to”! And to get to do Emeril’s show was absolutely amazing. Then I got to taste everything, which was so good. There’s been so many cool things; to open for Josh Groban on tour was absolutely fantastic, playing in front of 15,000-20,000 people. I mean, we were tired at the end of that tour, but it was so amazing. I think for me and my band, we’re having fun doing all of these different things, and we’ll deal with the tiredness later.

    Smitty: You mentioned being on tour and opening for Josh Groban, and that had to of been a fun gig. Tell me how all of that came about?

    Mindi: I guess Josh was looking for an opening act, and my record label was contacted, and they sent my CD’s, the first one and my new CD. And I guess Josh listens to a lot of stuff, as he really wanted to be personally involved, and choose who was going to open up for him. Which I think is really cool you know, some people don’t do that. So I got a call from his manager, and he said; “We really enjoyed your music and we really think that you would be a really cool opening act, so let’s do this”. So I got the chance to open up for him for a month, and it was just breathtaking night after night. He’s such an interesting artist because he appeals to such a wide variety of people. I mean, you’d have teenagers there, but you’d have older people too. You’d have anywhere from fifteen year olds to seventy year olds. And for someone to appeal that much across the board, it was very cool. And for me it was very interesting to walk on stage to an audience of which probably ninety percent of them didn’t know who I was. So night after night, me and my band got to walk on stage to people who first looked at us and went “hmm, she’s not Josh Groban” (both laughing), to maybe the second song and went “huh, ok, that’s pretty cool”. Then on third and fourth songs they were clapping and clapping after solos and really getting into it, and by the end, a lot of times we’d get standing ovations. And it’s so fun for me to go into an audience that doesn’t know me or doesn’t know my music, I feel like it’s such a cool quest to win them over or to just show them who I am. So this past month has been really, really amazing for me.

    Smitty: Well, they know who you are now, don’t they?

    Mindi: They do, they do.

    Smitty: And I love the conversion factor, because when you’re appealing to an audience that normally doesn’t listen to this genre of music, and have never heard of the artist, and then at the end of the performance, they recognize you so well, it’s just a beautiful thing.

    Mindi:Yes, I mean, I was really, first of all just honored to open for him. Because I think he’s such a talented guy, and he puts so much quality in what he does, and he’s really a perfectionist. And his voice is amazing, the music he does is amazing, the arrangements, the orchestra, just the whole show is phenomenal. So to be a part of it in the first place was just incredible. But to have the chance to be in front of people and show them who you are, and hopefully win them over, that’s a chance not many people get, so I was pretty honored, it was an amazing month.

    Smitty:Well even though you’ve had so many nice things to say about him, I took the liberty of asking Josh what he thought about you being on tour with him. And this is what he said; “I was a fan the moment I saw a tape of one of her concerts. Her ability to connect with the crowd and appeal to jazz fans as well as those who aren’t as familiar with her, makes her such an exciting artist, and I was thrilled to have her as a guest on my tour”. How about that?

    Mindi: : Wow. I’m honored that he would say anything close to that. That’s incredible. He’s a top notch artist, so I’m the lucky one that I got to be on tour with him. What a great quote! Wow.

    Smitty: Indeed it is! Just to switch gears a little, you’ve got to tell me a little about the Emeril show. That had to be so cool!

    Mindi: Yes, I played there for about two or three years. It was quite an education, it was fantastic for a young man as I was, to be there in the symphony orchestras in Paris and play with all of the great composers, discovering music that I did not know of and the sound of the orchestras. It was a great experience.

    Smitty: Yes, I can just imagine. So, how did you slip into jazz from all of that great orchestral music surrounding you (both laughing)?

    Mindi: Yes! I have to say, he was one of the nicest guys on the planet. You know, you never know how people are behind the scenes, you always kind of wonder. He seems like such an amiable guy when you see him on television. But he couldn’t have been more gracious and nice. I sent my music to his band, and his band learned about six of my songs, and we went in there and just rehearsed for about twenty minutes before the show. And they knew everything, and we did these cool little acoustic arrangements, and changed around some instrumentation to kind of fit them, and it turned out so vibey and cool. And Emeril, between all of the segments, he would introduce us and introduce the song or the album and……it was just a party!

    Smitty: Could you smell the food on the set?

    Mindi: No, you couldn’t smell it too much because it was a chocolate special. For example, he made this chocolate mousse out of mascarpone with all of these really rich ingredients, and he made this chocolate spaghetti, it was inSANE, it was SO good and he passed it around and anything that didn’t get passed around of course was passed to the band. So, I’m sitting over there getting ready to play, because I know the break is coming up, but I’m woofing down this chocolate stuff and strawberries…(both laughing). I know that’s not what you’re supposed to do before you play, but I broke the rules for Emeril.

    Smitty: How could you resist!

    Mindi: I couldn’t. That was the perfect show for me….C’mon, you get to play on a show that’s doing a special about chocolate.

    Smitty: That’s to dream for, no doubt.

    Mindi: Pretty much, it doesn’t get much better than that. That was a good day.

    Smitty: Mindi, you’ve been on the road literally all of 2003, you were in every major event as far as contemporary jazz, and beyond. And then you had some time the first part of 2004 to do this great CD. What was that like, coming out of that barrage of all-out great shows and appearances and then getting into the studios? How did you get into the mode of doing this new CD?

    Mindi: For me, it’s very much kind of a ying yang situation, and I really love the live performances, it’s what I’ve done my whole life, it’s just amazing to me. But then to come off the road and be able to let all of this music pour out of you, it’s a whole different amazing. And for me, I enjoy both and it’s a great kind of evening out period for me. So, I got off the road in January from the Peter White Christmas Tour, and I just started writing and worked with a few friends and spent a lot of time with Matthew Hager, writing, he is the guy who produced my first record. We really had a kind of very “home grown’ experience with the whole thing. I would go over to his little bungalow right across the street from my house, and we’d get on the porch and we’d write songs, and when we thought it was written enough, we’d move inside and start recording. And a lot of the recording process happened as we were writing the songs, and I’d record sax in the bathroom, so I had my whole little setup in there. And he would be in the control room which was the bedroom (both laughing). So it was very “Low Fi”, as a lot of recordings go. Some people get into the big studio and spend lots of money and lots of time. But we really embraced the opportunity to take chances, record what we wanted, and try some different things. And if we didn’t like something, we’d do it over. We didn’t have a big studio with a clock running, with money being spent, we really got to do what we wanted.

    Smitty: And that is so cool because then you’re into such a beautiful atmosphere for writing, recording, and you don’t have the pressure and you recorded it while it was fresh, you know.

    Mindi: Yes, that’s my feeling. On my first CD, It Just Happens That Way, a lot of times we had the demos that we would do, kind of like when we would write the songs you just go in and put a mic in front of me and I’d just blow through it and do my thing. While when you actually go to record the album, you try to recreate that. And many times on that record, we tried to recreate it, and it just wasn’t the same. It didn’t have that spirit of …we’ve just written the song, when it was fresh and it was new, and I wasn’t thinking about what I was playing. Therefore, it came out but not with the same spirit, and half of that record was the demos. But we just went back and said, “You know what, it’s shinier and cleaner, and all of this, but it just didn’t have the spirit that it used to have. So, we scraped a lot of stuff in the big studio. So this (The new CD) for us was …we wanted to make a very real record, a record that was very honest to what I was feeling at the time, to who I am as an artist, and explore some different facets of who I am that maybe no one has heard before.

    Smitty: And the vocals, wow Mindi the vocals are fantastic! I could feel some crossover pop vibes there too. Perhaps you should have been standing next to Josh Groban (both laughing).

    Mindi: Thank you! You know I sang a lot on his tour actually. We did three vocals in our set and two of them were off this new record and they went over great. It was really fun to be able to play them for the first time and kind of find out how they work live and feel the audience response to them, and they responded great, which is always nice.

    Smitty: Oh yeah, that’s for sure. I know you and I did a follow up of last year’s tour, and I know there were many performances after that. So tell me, what was the most interesting experience you had on tour last year?

    Mindi: I don’t know if I can break it down to just one experience. I think looking at the year as a whole; we started out as a band that no one knew. And me myself, people knew as someone’s saxophone player. They knew me because they seen me with Jonathan Butler, or Adam Sandler, or The Backstreet Boys, or Duran Duran. But no one knew me as a solo artist, no one knew what to expect. So we were the band that started out as the opening act for every festival. And we’d open up at 11AM or 12 Noon, and people were walking in. And from that point to where we are now, we started headlining, and I’ve had a lot of theater shows where I’ve been the headliner now, and wow it’s such a different feel, and a different place than where we were even a year ago. And it’s so fun, the guys in my band and I look at each other sometimes and just go “Wow, we’ve done this in the last year, we’ve come this far”. And it’s so fun to work your way up and to prove yourself, and get out there and play, and win fans. People actually come back to the shows now and they say “Hey we’ve been to three shows of yours in the last year, and wow this is a different show and it’s so cool, we’ve seen you grow this far”, and it’s fun. It’s fun to change your show and evolve and to try different things, and to win over new people. So in that respect, I don’t know if there has been one thing that would stand out, I think it was the whole year that was just spectacular in that respect.

    Smitty: Yes, I guess I’m guilty of that too, I think I caught at least two or three shows last year myself.

    Mindi: Yeah!

    Smitty: Mindi, I’ve got to give your Dad some props here. Because I really love that little duet thing you did with him in Vegas. That was ultra cool.

    Mindi: Thank you. Well I’ve been trying to get him to sit in with my band for so long. And he’s always been kind of shy about it, or you know…didn’t want to invade his daughter’s space, you know he’s very wary of that. He doesn’t want to intrude and be the dad, “hey ah, I can come sit in, you know.” That kind of stuff (both laughing). But I really just beg him and beg him, and finally he was like “you know, maybe we’ll come out to Vegas”, and he sat in and it was amazing wasn’t it?

    Smitty: It was truly amazing. I couldn’t help thinking, “I know where she got her talent”, because man he ripped it up, it was totally cool. And I noticed how the audience was totally into that, I think they wanted more.

    Mindi: I think they did want more. We only had a finite amount of time to get up there because there were a lot of groups on that day. But I don’t even think my band knew what to expect. Because I told them that my dad was going to sit in, and this is what we’re going to do, and they were like “yeah, ok cool, Mindi’s dad’ going to sit in, that will be nice”. And really, when he came out, I just don’t think they expected that much, and he came out and really played. I mean, he’s like a rock n roll, gutsy, growly, fun player. He gets out in people’s faces and get down! And I think they were more shocked than even the audience. That was a dream come true for me. We’re going to do it as much as humanly possible. I’m actually flying him down to play at my CD release party.

    Smitty: Oh cool! When’s the CD release party?

    Mindi: September 15th in Los Angeles, at the “Garden Of Eden”.

    Smitty: Oh a “Wave” deal!

    Mindi: A “Wave” deal! My home turf, you’ve got to do it.

    Smitty: Yeah, I must come out for that.

    Mindi: You must come out to it. It will be a lot of fun.

    Smitty: Mindi you’ve had so many highlights in your career already, I think you’ve erased three years. I think you are three years ahead of where most artist are, given the time of your debut release, you’ve erased a lot of time, and a lot of great shows in such a short period of time. You’ve covered a lot of ground.

    Mindi: I appreciate that. We’ve just been having a good time and taking what’s been thrown our way, and it’s been a pretty special year and a half for all of us. I think that we all, from myself to the guys in my band to Matthew who produces my CD’s, we all just get together and soak it in. We’re not the types of people who take it for granted, or don’t think about it. I think all of us worked to get to where we are. I mean I’ve done everything from play on the street, to waitress, and answer phones when I first moved to LA, and did anything I could to sit-in at all of these clubs. I’m just not the type to, now that it’s in front of me, to not take advantage of it, or not have a good time with it and not embrace it, and know what a special thing it is. So for me and the people surrounding me, we’re just soaking it in and having a good time with it. Because it doesn’t happen this way for most people. And most people don’t have the opportunity to do these really cool amazing things like open for Josh Groban or play concerts with people like David Sanborn, or Al Jarreau, or whoever. I mean these are just amazing life experiences, so I’m just soaking it in and smiling a lot.

    Smitty: That’s too cool. I guess it just happens that way sometimes huh?

    Mindi: (Both laughing) It’s funny how that phrase ended up being used a lot this past year and a half. Very fitting.

    Smitty: I must tell you that I often get numerous requests for Mindi Abair to come back to Houston, Texas.

    Mindi: Oh, I want to come back to Houston so badly. We are actually working on it as we speak. So hopefully I can come back there.

    Smitty: It was such a great night when you were in Houston, and everyone after the show was just blown away, which is normal, and they just couldn’t wait for you to come back. So you have a special request from Houston, Texas.

    Mindi: All right, you tell Houston that I will be there as fast as humanly possible.

    Smitty: Yes, and please give my regards to Matthew and Bud Harner, as they did a magnificent job with the production of this CD. Great sound, the vocals are great, you really mixed it up on this one very well.

    Mindi: Yeah, I think that maybe people have a preconceived notion of what this record will be for me, and I think it is probably wrong (both laughing). I think that this is probably not the record that people might think I’d make, but it’s definitely the record that was in my heart to make. And it explores a lot of different styles and fun things while still keeping, even more keeping with who I am. It’s a very personal record for me, I had a lot of friends play on it, my father played on it and I wrote everything on it, so it’s a very fun record, I’m very proud of it.

    Smitty: Yes, and you rolled out some great guitar players on this one.

    Mindi: Yes, well you know me, I love guitars. So most of my songs are very guitar based. So yeah, you’ve got to have some fun guitars on it. Mike Landau, Matthew Hager, and Ty Stevens.

    Smitty: Yes, and give it up for the Band, they really rocked it out.

    Mindi: Ah, thank you. They do a great job, I have great guys playing for me.

    Smitty: Are they still acting as body guards?

    Mindi: (Both laughing) Ahh, no, no, not so much. We just have a good time out there and goof off and eat Krispy Kreme donuts, and get into trouble and, you know.

    Smitty: And you’ve got Steve Ferrone, Luis Conte on your new record, and smiling Russell Ferrante.

    Mindi: Yes, Russell Ferrante was amazing. I actually got together with him to write a couple of songs and it was pretty amazing.

    Smitty: What’s the release date for the record?

    Mindi: September 14, 2004.

    Smitty: Wow, that’s not far away.

    Mindi: Not far away is right! I’m so excited!

    Smitty: You should be. You‘ve had such a great solo career. Short in time frame but packed full of substance. So people can go to the website and check out some new things about the new record, and all of the activities and check out your seriously cool road diary of course?

    Mindi: Yes, you can either go to my website which is www.mindiabair.com and check out the road diary, it’s pretty fun, it’s on the “touring” page. There I put up pictures of most every show that we do, with kind of a recap of what happened that night, and special stuff like that. Actually, we do have info about the new record on my website, and if you go to www.grp.com they have some samples of the new songs, some information about who’s on the record, the artwork and everything.

    Smitty: Well Mindi it’s always great to talk with you and all of the exciting things that you are doing, and it gets us excited as well. It always a party, and you know that you have a standing invitation here at The Jazz Nation.

    Mindi: Thank you! You guys have been so good to me, and thank you so much for coming out to so many shows, and you know, keeping up with the latest, because there’s a lot to keep up on. You’ve been so great, just calling or coming up and saying “what’s going on, or come back up and do an interview”. I love that.

    Smitty: Thank you. It’s my pleasure. So I will catch up to you soon on the road. I can’t wait to hear some of the new songs at the shows, because I know it will be times ten live.

    Mindi: Yes, we have already been changing up the show and putting a bunch of the new songs in, and it’s turning out to be a lot of fun to mix it up and try the new material, and who knows what craziness we will get into this year.

    Smitty: Mindi, it’s been my pleasure. Please come back again and talk about your great career and the new music.

    Mindi: You got it.

    Smitty: We’ve been talking with saxophonist and songwriter, GRP recording artist, the lovely Ms Mindi Abair, she has a great new CD that comes out September 14, 2004 appropriately called Come As You Are. Put this one at the top of your CD purchase list! Mindi thanks again, and much success in 2004.

    Mindi: Yes, thank you. Hopefully I will see you in Houston soon.

    Najee – Mind Over Matter

    Mind Over Matter
    Heads Up – 2009
    Ray Redmond

    The title of the new Najee release Mind Over Matter was inspired by the late Miles Davis’ improvisational approach to songwriting, particularly toward the end of his career, focusing more on the groove and less on the songwriting itself. On first listen the reaction is “Wow, Najee came back smoking.”

    We Gone Ride is my favorite – funky from the start with some smooth vocals by Eric Benet. Sweet Summer Nights fulfills your smooth-sax cravings almost instantly with it’s smooth lines and rolling groove. Mind over Matter is my favorite ‘highway track’ right now.

    Stolen Glances (written by Smooth Jazz Legend Jeff Lorber) is freshly funky. The Lorber stamp is all over this one, soon as he starts to play you know who it is, and you know why the track is so tight. The two team up for more Lorber flavor on One More Thing. Putting Jeff Lorber on your CD is usually a recipe that will ensure you a few good, smooth tracks.

    In the case of Mind Over Matter, I think the CD would have been grooving either way. Lorber’s presence surely helps, but it’s Najee’s style and ability to keep the grooves coming that solidify his position as one of the most enduring and talented performers in the smooth jazz genre.

    Jason Miles – Miles to Miles

    Jason Miles
    Miles to Miles
    (Narada – 2005)
    by D.J. Fazio
    One of the original hipsters, Jason Miles is a highly-acclaimed arranger, composer, keyboardist, synthesizer programmer and producer extraordinaire. With the ears and the knack for laying out songs that reshape musical boundaries, he has and continues to be inspired by his work with jazz legend Miles Davis. Perhaps an influence of his gig on the 1986 album Tutu, his latest project, not a tribute per se, is rather a modern-day genre-fusing. This is a style that Davis himself would most likely dig. So it is with great humility and a deep respect that he presents his latest offering, Miles to Miles (In the Spirit of Miles Davis) with a who’s who of today’s artists including: Gerald Albright, DJ Logic and Michael Brecker (to name a few) who, no doubt have also been inspired by Davis as well.

    He unleashes several groove-inspired tunes on this recording. Whether it’s the trippy opening track Ferrari with its funky trumpet & sax lines weaving along side a driving percussion or the sassy sax and ultra-hip keyboard performances on the decadent Butter Pecan, one thing’s for sure, you’ll want more! King of the Bling boasts some very impressive trumpet/sax stylings and shows some edge with electrified guitar work and scratching. Not to be out done, Street Vibe kicks it up and I love the use of organ, as well as counterpoint on this one. Very cool song!

    Miles brings world music into focus as the song Bikini teases with playful percussion/keyboard elements, and the sexy Love Code continues with beguiling vocals and trumpet stylings. But the mood culminates with one of my favorite tracks on the disc, Davis’ Flamenco Sketches. Painting a romantic interlude, the acoustic guitar and piano work by Marc Antoine and Keiko Matsui respectively, are the perfect accompaniment to Barry Danielian’s trumpet interpretation.

    Another highlight is the song Guerilla Jazz which shows off modal jazz stylings reminiscent of John Coltrane and Davis, and features one of the last recordings of the late saxophonist Bob Berg.

    With so many jazz-lovers craving innovative songs, this recording is perfectly timed. In the true spirit of jazz and In the Spirit of Miles Davis, Jason Miles gives us a CD that’ll make you listen to music differently. It’s modern, exciting, risky and completely satisfying. Straight up, Miles to Miles is a record that’ll go the distance. This one’s a keeper!

    An Interview with Miki Howard

    A Word With Songstress
    Miki Howard
    by S. H. Watkins, Sr.

    Miki Howard is probably best known for her stint with the pop/R&B group Side Effect, but jazz runs deep in her blood. Raised in Chicago, her mother was a member of the renowned gospel group ‘The Caravans’ and her father a member of ‘The Pilgrim Jubilees’. The home was often visited by the likes of James Cleveland, Fats Domino and Aretha Franklin… music was all around and she naturally wanted to become a professional singer.

    Miki first began to spread her jazz roots while signed for Wayne Henderson’s record label, performing with the likes of Roy Ayers, Chico Hamilton, Willie Bobo, Ronnie Laws and Esther Phillips. Her 1986 debut album Come Share My Love was notable in that one of the 5 billboard hits generated by that release was the Glen Miller remake “Imagination”, making it one of the first Jazz standards to be played on R&B radio. Miki also released an album on Giant records titled “Miki Sings Billie Holiday”, another obvious indication of her love of jazz. We got a moment to talk to Miki about her life and the new CD, “Three Wishes”…

    JazzUSA: Hi Miki, how are you doing?

    MH: Pretty Good!

    JazzUSA: A little history first. I know you’re a native Chicagoan, and I was wondering if you ever get a chance to go back?

    MH: I did go back! You know I had a house in Chicago for a while, and I plan on going back again. There’s something about it, every time I go there I want to stay… I never want to leave. I love Chicago!

    JazzUSA: Let’s talk about the new album, “Three Wishes”. I notice that it’s mostly ballad stuff… you saved the funk for the last tune.

    MH: (laughing) It’s the only one!

    JazzUSA: Was that planned? Is there a reason for that?

    MH: I believe it probably just worked out that way. I’ve never really been known for up-tempo songs. I just do whatever… just do whatever fits.

    JazzUSA: There’s a lot of Gospel influence in your style.

    MH: You know why! My Mom and Dad were both Gospel singers. I was heavily influenced by singers like James Cleveland, Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, Shirley Bassey, Lena Horn, Pearl Bailey, on and on and on… I guess that’s why.

    JazzUSA: This release is being marketed to both the R&B and the smooth jazz audiences. Historically, you are not known as a jazz performer, but you’ve actually done a lot of jazz over the years.

    MH: Really, truly. I think I was more popularly exposed and accepted by the R&B audience. I think I have never been 100% exposed to the Jazz population, you know? But I really love jazz, it’s really what I love to do…

    JazzUSA: Right… you did an entire album of….


    JazzUSA: Exactly… you also played Billie Holiday in the Spike Lee movie “Malcolm X”. Any other plans to go on the silver screen?

    MH: I would love to, maybe once or twice if it’s something really, really great that I think I could really do, but it’s not my career direction to go into acting, uh uh.

    JazzUSA: But if it happens, fine?

    MH: Yeah, you know everybody wants to be in the movies! It’s the best feeling in the world to see yourself on that screen.

    JazzUSA: What’s your favorite track on the new album?

    MH: “Kiss of a Stranger”.

    JazzUSA: Why?

    MH: Because it exemplifies who I am and what I do, right now.

    JazzUSA: You write music, but none on this CD…

    MH: No… This record… well I had several years off. And in some cases I had time to pick the tunes, and I just did whatever I thought I liked, then the record company… we all had to agree, and these are the songs we all agreed on.

    JazzUSA: Let’s see… you put out three CD’s in three years, took three years off, put out two more releases in two years, took three more years off, put out two MORE releases in two years, then took another three years off, and now “Three Wishes”.

    MH: (Laughing) yes, that’s me!

    JazzUSA: Based on your track record, we should expect another record next year, right?

    MH: Hopefully…

    JazzUSA: Are you planning to tour at all for this CD?

    MH: Oh DEFINITELY! I LOVE to tour…I can’t WAIT to tour this summer!

    JazzUSA: So there IS a tour planned?

    MH: (Laughing) Yes… come see me! Tell everybody to buy tickets and come see me. Purchase the record.. because ALL artists need audience support. It’s not good enough to just say “I LOVE so-and-so”…

    JazzUSA: They need to BUY so-and-so….

    MH: Yes, or we won’t be able to continue making records.

    JazzUSA: Where can our readers go to find out more about your upcoming tour and latest CD information?

    MH: To the Peak Records web site. I’m supposed to do my own web site, but I’ve yet to get around to it.

    JazzUSA: It’s a great album and It’s nice to hear you back on the air. Any last words for our readers?

    MH: I’d just like to say that everyone should consider other people’s feelings, try to be more loving and patient. That’s the only thing I want to say to everybody.

    JazzUSA: That’s a wonderful thing, and you say it in your music too.

    MH: Thank you.

    For more information visit the Visit Miki’s Page at the Peak Records web site.

    An Interview with Mike Stern

    Mike Stern - PLAYA Few Words with
    Mike Stern
    by Fred Jung

    George Costanza used to scream and moan on SEINFELD that when the two Georges (commitment and independent) should meet, commitment George would kill independent George. In some ways, I have felt that if an artist crosses between genres of music, he or she is tempting fate. Take for example, Michael Bolton and Phil Collins. Who convinced Michael that it was a swell idea to release an album of opera arias? That had train wreck written all over it. And what has the world come to when Phil Collins has to release a big band album? But there are always exceptions to the rule and Mike Stern is the definition of exception. The guitarist has effortlessly made the transition from the rock medium to that of improvised music and made me a believer along the way. He attracted the interests of Miles Davis, befriended Jaco Pastorius, and is one of only a handful of band leaders strong enough to hire the monster drummer (and one of my personal favorites), Dennis Chambers. So when Mike was set to release his new Atlantic recording, PLAY, he and I sat down from his home in New York to talk about his career, Jaco, and how he managed to score John Scofield and Bill Frisell to guest on his latest (PLAY).

    FJ: Where does your ‘story’ begin?

    Mike SternMS: Well, in music in general, I was kind of a, my mom used to be an avid piano player. She almost was a professional classical player, but she had a bunch of kids, so that was that. It took a lot of her time. She used to listen to a lot of music around the house, so I was always very much into music and I kind of got into, started playing the piano for a little bit and then I just decided I kind of wanted to choose my own instrument and started playing guitar. I was way into it and it felt great. For the next bunch of years, I was kind of taking some lessons but more self-taught and playing along with more rock kind of stuff and blues players, Hendrix and B. B. King were early influences, players like that. Then a few years after that, like seven or eight years, I started when I was about twelve, so by the time that I was eighteen, I was much more into jazz. I hate the label “jazz,” but I think you know what I’m talking about, Fred. I was listening to more Wes Montgomery and Jim Hall, those kind of players. Then I got more and more into that genre and just fell in love with it. My style, I guess, is a kind of both worlds. And I don’t try to fight it. I don’t try to compartmentalize my style. Even if I’m playing standards, I think you can sometimes hear some kind of influence from some of the other stuff. “Body and Soul” with a stack of amplifiers, it’s not like that. But certainly, there some of the influences from blues and from rock as part of my style and certainly a lot of traditionals in jazz too, of course.

    FJ: Do you recall your first guitar?

    MS: I guess the very first one was a nylon string guitar. I forget what the make was. It was state of the art (laughing). It was good enough. It sounded cool. And then I got a, actually, I got a really great guitar a few years later. I got an ES175, which is a Gibson. And then I also was into, I had a Fender guitar too. I’ve kind of settled on this Telecaster, or Telecaster style guitar, which is what I use. I use two now. One is a Tele that was made for Tele style like a Fender, but it’s not a Fender. It’s a custom guitar made for me. Somebody in Boston who used to see me play a lot when I was using a Telecaster, which was Danny Gatton’s old guitar. Danny Gatton and Roy Buchanan. Danny got it from Roy and I got it from Danny. It was an amazing guitar, but it got ripped off. When I was in Boston, some kid pulled a gun on me so, he had a persuasive argument and I let it go, which is a drag. But this guy who builds guitars used to see me play with that guitar all the time and so he made me some kind of guitar that looks like a Tele, but it’s really not.

    FJ: Who knew that Boston was such a high crime area?

    MS: Well, every city can be. I just got caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. But since then, Yamaha has also made a signature model for me, which I was certainly delighted about. They designed it after this custom guitar that I use, so I use this custom guitar and I use the Yamaha guitar. They’re very similar.

    FJ: Getting back to Boston for a moment, you studied at Berklee and it was during that time that you met Pat Metheny during that time.

    MS: Well, it’s hard to say. I wasn’t really studying with Pat. We, kind of, he was teaching there and he was about twelve at the time (laughing). He was like nineteen of something. I was about twenty. I heard him play and I heard his reputation and stuff and I said, “Well, I’d really love to study with him.” And I went in and we played a standard tune and I hit all the wrong notes and he said, “Man, sounds great.” So after that, we just played. He would just come in with whatever he was writing or whatever we was working on or some tunes that he taught would be fun for us to play and we would just play. He would suggest a couple of things, so it wasn’t teaching in a formal sense.

    FJ: So it was more like an instrumental think tank?

    MS: We were just playing to tell you the truth, Fred. It was really just playing and he’d say, “Yeah, sounds cool.” It wasn’t so specific. He was more supportive. I think of him, he was just very supportive in helping me to gain my confidence or something in some ways. I tend to be self-critical in a lot of ways, which is useful to me. That was the deal with him. He was just really supportive. And like I said, I tend to be, and certainly was then, very self-critical in some ways, which is a good thing, a positive things in some ways because it keeps you growing. In some ways, it’s not so great because it can get you really insecure. He used to say that I had some stuff going on that he seemed to hear and it took a minute for me to kind of relax about it and get some confidence in playing. He just suggested that I play more and just push past whatever doubts I had and all that stuff and play as many real situations as possible, so he got this audition with Blood, Sweat, and Tears and they were looking for a guitar player and so he recommended me for the audition. I went and I got the gig, all the while trying to talk myself out of doing it. But then, I went ahead and did it and it was great. It was a really good learning experience and a fantastic band actually.

    FJ: Let’s talk about your days with the before mentioned Blood, Sweat, and Tears.

    MS: That was great for me. First of all, Jaco Pastorius was in the band for about three months, right before he joined Weather Report. He played with Blood, Sweat, and Tears. And he was killing, Fred. Larry Willis was the piano player, who is amazing. I think he is playing with Roy Hargrove. He’s played with Cannonball, with everybody. He’s an amazing piano player. The bass player, when I first joined the band, right before Jaco joined, was Ronald McClure for a while, another fantastic player. The horn section was amazing. Different cats came in and out, but they were all fantastic players. For me, it was great, but I was terrified. I was a little bit nervous to do it. After about six months or so, I settled into it and I learned a lot from that gig. David Clayton-Thomas was singing and I think he’s still got that band together. And at that time, Bobby Colomby was still the drummer and then they changed up. I was there for about two years and they changed it to Roy McCurdy was the drummer after that. He’s a fantastic drummer. Don Alias played drums for a while. He’s actually a percussionist, but he also plays great drums. He played drums there for a while and played percussion for a while. It was a bunch of fantastic players. I played rock and blues gigs in DC, where I grew up before then and then all of the sudden I was in this situation of playing a lot bigger venues and playing with that band. It can focus the brain a little bit. It got me in a very real situation where I had to deal with whatever you have to deal with in a real live situation. It was fun. I learned a lot just from the players and the whole experience.

    FJ: Let’s touch on your tenure in Miles Davis’s band.

    MS: After Blood, Sweat, and Tears, I went back to Boston and I was playing just a lot of more straight-ahead bebop gigs. I had been playing some before Blood, Sweat, and Tears in Boston, but much more when I went back to Boston. I started playing with this guy, Jerry Bergonzi.

    FJ: Very good tenor player.

    MS: Yes, he’s one of the great tenor players. He’s an amazing tenor saxophone player. The cat is killing. So I played with him a bunch and also with this guy Tiger Okoshi in a kind of more electric jazz kind of setting.

    FJ: Good trumpet player.

    MS: Great trumpet player. I played with him for years. Actually, Fred, me and Bill Frisell used to play in the same band. Sometimes we’d play gigs together with Tiger. We were in Tiger’s band. He played before me. I played in that band for a while. And then after that, I got a call to play with Billy Cobham about another year, just after Blood, Sweat, and Tears. I spent a year in Boston just playing with those two guys, mainly, and then some other gigs that were pretty much straight-ahead. Then I got a call to play with Billy Cobham and I played with him for about a year. I had played at this one little place in Boston. I played a gig with Bill Evans, the saxophone player, playing just some standards. Bill really liked my playing and he said, “You know, I’m working with Miles Davis now. We’re recording. We’re actually getting ready to go on the road and if some reason it doesn’t work out with the guitar player he already has, I’ll let Miles know about you and see if that works out.” I said, “Gee, that would be nice.” But I didn’t think anything of it. I thought, “That’s not going to ever happen.” So I was playing with Billy Cobham in this tour that I did close to a year and I was playing in New York City and Bill Evans called me up and actually, we were taking a break. We were at the Bottom Line in New York and Bill Evans called me and said, “Guess who I’m bringing to the gig to check you out?” I went, “Oh shit!” I guess he liked what he heard because he hired me and I played with the band, with his band for about three years. It was a fantastic experience with Al Foster playing drums, Marcus Miller on bass, and Mino Cinelu on percussion, and Bill Evans on saxophone, and Miles.

    FJ: As one of the legends of this music, Miles’s persona has been subject to so much speculation. Having spent such a prolonged residency with him, you have first hand knowledge of his demeanor.

    MS: He’s a great cat in a lot of ways. I mean, difficult, a little nuts, but not as crazy or as mysterious as people perceive. People write all kinds of stuff just from first impressions, but if you talked to him, he was a lot more down home then some people realized and also could be incredibly supportive. I did a gig where he got so much attention because he had been in retirement for like seven or eight years and all of the sudden he came back and he was like a superstar. I’m playing with him and playing in New York. I moved to New York because of that gig. It was an exciting time and some kind of pressure also to play with Miles. He was great. He just said, “Just play and have a ball. You play your ass off.” He was always just very supportive, the kind of thing that people don’t realize about Miles. He could be really very sensitive in a lot of ways. Obviously, I think that was his gift and also the price he had to pay for whatever his gift was. He was very sensitive. Once again, it was like starting over. It was such a special situation that I was nervous about it, and he was just really supportive about it. In general, Miles was much more sensitive and much more compassionate. He certainly had a side like that, that people never knew. If you knew him, you got that sense. And then of course, he had a more difficult side to him when he’d get pissed off about stuff, kind of like everyone else I know (laughing). That’s kind of a normal thing, but with Miles, maybe it was a little bit more extreme. He was a lot warmer than a lot of people think. Sometimes, I think, people characterize him as kind of more mysterious and a bad motherf—er, you know, this and that, but he was a lot more sensitive and warmer than people gave him credit for, at least that was the vibe I got. I always hear that in his playing, for sure. I feel like you can’t hide who you really are. If you play long enough and a chance to develop your own voice, it comes out. You can hear the gentle Miles, you know what I mean, Fred? The essence of his soul definitely came through in his playing and that’s the way he was.

    FJ: The same trappings that Miles’s persona fell prey to occurred with another musician you have played with, Jaco Pastorius.

    MS: He was like a really good friend of mine, an amazingly good friend of mine and we just hung out all the time, played all the time, and were kind of crazy together all the time, which was the way some of those years were. I worked with him with Word of Mouth and we used to play together constantly, just jam together, standards. He’d come over and stay in my place in New York and we’d just play a lot. I played with Jaco, as I already said, with Blood, Sweat, and Tears and when he was with Blood, Sweat, and Tears, he was just coming out of Florida. People knew about him in Florida, but a lot of people hadn’t heard him. No one ever heard a groove played that hard. He was killing. I played with his band, like I said, and it was a great experience. We were just real tight and I really miss him, obviously. He left a lot of really great music behind, but I wish he was still around because he was a sweetheart, a really great cat. Just to know him personally was great, also the same kinds of things as Miles, very difficult in a lot of ways sometimes, but he was a really great cat and an amazing musician.

    FJ: Is Jaco’s life tragic in that his mark on the music may have been something much more heavier had it not been for his untimely death?

    MS: I think he could have done more, most certainly more people would have heard about him if he were still around, but more than that, just knowing him as a friend, even if he decided to put down the bass, I’d still want to hang with him a lot. We were just really close friends, so on that level it’s really just a tragedy. It’s always a tragedy when someone dies at such a young age. It was a tragedy for his family and all his close friends. I think musically, there was a lot more in him and a lot more people would have heard of him. But the other side of it, Fred, is that he did leave a lot of great music behind, which is forever.

    FJ: In his day, was he the best bass player in the world?

    MS: It’s hard to say best or worst with anybody I think because people have their own, after a certain point, if you do stuff enough, I think you kind of have your own voice and your own heart comes out in music and it’s like up for grabs. It’s just a taste kind of a thing. Certainly, I have played with amazing players and to me on some nights, I hear them do what they do better than anybody. They’ve got their own voice so it’s really hard to say best or worst. But he was amazing. He was really amazing. One of the things that I loved about him could play the electric bass and make it sound like an upright. He definitely had that kind of a concept. When he was swinging, it was swinging. And that’s hard to do on the electric bass. I think Lincoln Goines does that amazingly well. It’s a hard thing to do, to make it sound like that and that kind of legato. He was swinging.

    FJ: Throughout your career you have frequently collaborated with Michael Brecker, you were in a group with him called Steps Ahead.

    MS: He has been on a bunch of my records with Atlantic Records, which I am happy about because it’s been a long stay at the same label and they’ve been cool with me. They’ve kind of let me do what I want to do. They have suggestions but no one forces my hand in terms of if I want to try something new. So that’s been great. Brecker is on about three, maybe four of mine and we’ve played together a lot. He’s a very close friend and a fantastic musician and a great writer as well. I worked with him in Steps Ahead, originally, with Mike Mainieri, Darryl Jones, the bass player, and Steve Smith. It was a really fun band. And then I worked with Mike in his band right after that. That was also a great experience. He’s like the most, in some ways, the most, of all the guys that I’ve gotten a chance to work with, he includes all the musicians in shaping the sound of the band. He definitely has his own ideas and his own concepts, but he asks everybody their opinions. If anybody has an idea he is down to try it. He is open that way. In some ways, I think I’ve learned more, if not as much, than from anybody else I’ve ever worked with. He’s just an amazing musician.

    FJ: Let’s touch on your last album GIVE AND TAKE and your latest Atlantic release PLAY.

    MS: That one was really, just the whole album was really fun to make because like it was with DeJohnette, who I played with a little bit, but not much. And boy, is he a special drummer, Fred. Because he plays great piano also, he’s just got a sense for hearing everything that’s going on and kind of playing around it. I guess the more, from what people have told me that have worked with him a lot, the more he feels comfortable, when he feels like the time is taken care of by all the players, he feels like he doesn’t have to play time so much. He can just color the music in certain ways and do like amazingly unpredictable things, which he does a lot of, certainly on that CD, I think. I loved the way it came out because of that, because of his playing and John Patitucci’s playing and they’ve played together some and so he felt really comfortable with John, and of course Mike is on there too. And he just plays great on that CD. But the trio stuff was in some ways the most fun that we did. So when we did the trio stuff, we did a bunch of trio stuff. I couldn’t use it all on the CD. A lot of stuff came out that was pretty good but I had to pick and choose. One of the things that we did was “Giant Steps” and we did it playing ahead and in front and then playing solos. Some of the trio stuff, I just called the tunes, some tunes that I had in mind that I knew everybody knew. Sometimes we just started playing the stuff and the tape was rolling. So with “Giant Steps,” we did two or three versions, one that was even faster then the one on the album. Actually, Jack suggested, “Just start on it and don’t play the head until the end.” So I did. We did that. We just started right from the blowing and we played the melody at the end and the vibe was really cool and Patitucci, of course, is an amazing player. That was a fun, just that whole couple of days of doing that, that record was really fun.

    FJ: And that leads us to PLAY, which has the three most phenomenal guitarists of my generation, John Scofield, Bill Frisell, and yourself.

    MS: Thank you, Fred. Thank you. I guess you have heard the record.

    FJ: It’s is a kick ass record.

    MS: Oh, man, Fred, I appreciate that a lot. Well, that was really fun for me. It was the same kind of idea that I had in min with GIVE AND TAKE. It was like, since I’ve made now, GIVE AND TAKE was the eighth record for Atlantic and this is the ninth, PLAY, I want to try to do different things. In the past, I have used so of the same people on records, and it still has got different stuff, I’m always trying to change stuff, but it was a little bit, these last to for me were a little bit more adventurous. I was using people more at the last minute and maybe it’s not the band that I have been touring with so much, that kind of thing. I still wanted to get the band that I had been touring with on this record as well, so I kind of wanted, same thing with GIVE AND TAKE, I kind of like went for it in some ways without trying to arrange everything. Just keep it kind of loose. I wanted to, it was kind of last minute, I had some tunes and I thought maybe this is the record to do one of those things that I’ve always said I want to do eventually, which is to record with John Scofield and Bill Frisell, who were friends of mine for years. I have never had another guitar player on anyone of mine. I just felt that this was the time to do that and I called Bill and Sco and they both said that they would be into it. We just kind of went for it. I had some music that I kind of tweaked a little bit and a couple new tunes that I wrote with those guys in mind and thinking, “This would fit Sco’s style great and this would fit Frisell.” It seemed like it worked out. And then I did this stuff with them and then I wanted to do some stuff with my own band, with Bob Malach on tenor saxophone and Dennis Chambers on drums and Lincoln Goines on bass. Lincoln plays on this whole CD, but the other drummer that plays with the other guitar players is Ben Perowsky, a drummer that I’ve played with a lot. He’s a great, great player. With my band, I just kind of did it on, it was one day with Frisell or a day and a half with Frisell and then a day with John Scofield and then a day with my own band. At the end of it, I tried to sequence it and it was no problem. I thought it was going to take it out of the thing of just being guitarists and maybe I should get another guitar player in addition to Frisell and Sco and keep it all in that kind of thing because it might be too defused as a record if all of the sudden there is a saxophone and not two guitars. It seemed like it worked out great. I like it better in regards to that in some ways. It’s just that it is not a guitar kind of record. I don’t really think of those guys as, I know they are guitarists, of course, but Sco and Frisell, I think of them as such complete musicians, who happen to play guitar. They are a couple of my favorite musicians too. They are just fantastic overall musicians. They are great writers and have really strong concepts on where they want to go musically and that kind of thing.

    FJ: If this were a pop album, what would the first single from PLAY be?

    MS: I’d say maybe the second tune or “Small World” or maybe that tune, “All Heart.” Bill Frisell plays acoustic guitar on it.

    FJ: Let’s talk about someone whom you have worked with for an extensive period, a monster drummer, Dennis Chambers.

    MS: (Laughing) He really is. He’s, all these guys are such good friends. That really, to me that’s so important in the music, the whole vibe. That’s as important as anything else in some ways. If there is a guys who is an absolute motherf—er and you don’t get along that well on a personal level, for me, that wouldn’t work. I couldn’t tour with somebody like that. Sometimes you hear about stuff like that where people don’t even talk to each other but they play. I couldn’t hang with that. I am certainly lucky to be playing with all these guys and they’re all such really good friends too. Dennis, I’ve known him for years. We’ve been working together for years in different kind of situations. He was in a band with me and Bob Berg. Lincoln and Dennis were the rhythm section. But Dennis, man, he keeps getting better and better, which is kind of amazing because when I first heard him, I was completely blown away. He’s got some really unique stuff happening. He’s rock solid. He’s got amazing time. His groove is really deep. It’s phenomenal. But the more he plays in this setting, he plays a lot more straight-ahead, a lot more swinging stuff. He’s really getting strong at that and what he is doing solo-wise is just incredible. Sometimes we’d play a vamp and we’d just kind of play over this static kind of vamp on a couple of tunes that I kind of wrote. I wrote them with Dennis in mind and just, kind of, a drum, a feature for the drummer, whoever the drummer is and most of the time, it’s Dennis, to kind of play over this vamp, and Dennis takes it out. It’s literally like playing a different tune over this vamp, so it’s really hard to keep the time. I feel like at the end of one of Dennis’s solos in this kind of context, I feel like taking a bow just for keeping the time. He really played like either like right behind the beat or right on top of it or in a totally different time feel and it’s so strong, so it sounds almost Charles Ives-y. It’s like two things happening at once. It’s really kind of deep. The way Dennis thinks of it, it’s so home grown. It’s so underground. It’s nothing like I’m doing this over that or metric modulation. It’s just, “Oh yeah, that’s the way I’m feeling.” It’s just like this straight-ahead kind of way of coming up with some amazingly complex shit. It’s really cool. He’s great. He’s an amazing player.

    FJ: I would never have believed it if I had not seen it with my own eyes, but I have seen Dennis take a twenty-five minute drum solo. I know because I timed him. Does he take those extended solos while he is on tour with you?

    MS: Oh yeah, and sometimes I want him to and then at certain time, logistically, it’s kind of a drag because you want to play longer and sometimes you just can’t. The club says that it’s an hour and fifteen for the whole thing. That’s like about a solo for Dennis (laughing). But a lot of times, we get to stretch and everybody kind of stretches out in a live setting, especially with that band. Bob Malach also is just a ridiculously great player. I’m really fortunate to have that group together and I hope to be keeping that band together for a while. There is another guy that I play with a lot who also is I think a fantastic drummer that sometimes does a gig, Richie Morales, who used to play with Brecker Brothers. He played with Spyro Gyra for a while when they were actually at the top of their commercial success, which was, he was great at that gig too, but he’s real strong suit is actually more about really playing and swinging and he can go in a whole bunch of different directions, similar to Dennis and all those guys. He’s got a lot of depth to his musicality so he’s another cat that I love working with. I’ve really been lucky to get some great musicians. I don’t know how they put up with me. Thank God they do.

    FJ: Tour plans?

    MS: A lot of stuff is in Europe. I’ve been doing some stuff in the States, in Los Angeles, DC, and in New York. Now I’m going to Europe with a special project actually, this bass player, Chris Minh Doky (Doky Brothers), who is from Denmark and we’re playing in Denmark and Ben Perowsky, who plays on PLAY and this tenor player, this fantastic tenor player who I’ve been working with a lot lately. That’s kind of a special project in the middle of, at the end of October, beginning of November. And then I’m going to Brazil with the group I was just talking about, with Dennis. And then it’s December. I know I will be doing some stuff at the Blue Note with that same band in February in New York. There is some stuff in the middle before that. Then we’re going to Europe in the middle of March, end of April. I’ll post all that stuff on the home page.

    FJ: What’s the home page address?

    MS: It’s, and by the way, I’m the only guy in the world left that doesn’t have a computer. I can’t even turn one of those f—ing things on so. I’m a caveman at heart. (www.mikestern.org) I usually post all the dates. Usually they are all posted a couple of weeks before that.

    Mike Phillips Interview

    Mike Phillips
    the Uncommon Denominator
    by Baldwin “Smitty” Smith

    We are welcoming back one of the most prolific and charismatic sax players in the business. He’s got a great new record out called Uncommon Denominator, you know him from his debut album You Have Reached Mike Phillips, please welcome the incomparable sax player, Hidden Beach recording artist, Mr. Mike Phillips.

    Smitty: How are you my friend?

    Mike Phillips (MP): Most good man, how about yourself?

    Smitty: Alright, feeling good, especially after the last couple of nights! (laughing)

    MP: Man, it was crazy.

    Smitty: Yeah, did we have a great time, or what?

    MP: Man, especially times when people were just on their feet, waving their hands, it was awesome, I enjoyed it.

    Smitty: Oh yeah, it was cool. We are always happy to have you come back, so it was a great couple of nights of great music, and it’s always that way when Mike Phillips comes in to Houston.

    MP: No doubt, no doubt. You know how we like to bring it. We like to bring a lot of energy, a lot of fun and incorporate different things in the music and show people how different things can connect. We can all have fun.

    Smitty: We definitely did that! Let’s talk about this new record. When You Have Reached Mike Phillips was released, a lot of fans were able to reach you because of this great album and now you’ve released Uncommon Denominator. Talk to me about how you continue to connect with your fans and with new fans with this new record.

    MP: I think that You Have Reached Mike Phillips was just self-explanatory. It’s an introduction, it’s like everybody up here is happy to be a part of this young man, this is my reason, my individuality, you know, and there’s so many different flavors that pertain to this format. I just wanted to make sure that I can look in the mirror and stay true to the flavor I can bring to it, and You Have Reached Mike Phillips was that. It was like, ‘listen everybody, this is me’. Uncommon Denominator, you know, I took about three years between the first and the second record but between that time I’ve done the Musicology tour with Prince and, I’ve toured with Stevie Wonder. When you’re around those icons you have to have the ability to grow as a musician. Just being around Prince, he has a habit of just growing and making sure that musically you’re always changing and everything, growing and morphing into something that isn’t like before. So Uncommon Denominator, it culminates from the spirit of that, which is growth, which is connecting with new things and doing some things a little bit different, but still staying to the fire and emotion that I want people to hear every time I put my lips to the horn.

    Smitty: And you were Philly last night, you weren’t Mike Phillips last night, you were Philly!

    MP: Oh no doubt, no doubt

    Smitty: (Laughing) That was too cool. I think that’s a great statement you just made because I know during the Musicology tour with Prince you can’t help but grow with him, and what a tour that was.

    MP: Yeah, it was the number one grossing tour last year and for me to be, you know, a smooth jazz artist and to be a part of that, to see how big things can get, not to stay in the box that has developed and the genre of our music but to see how things can get when you combine different genres and add things and have the music appeal to more people than the box can deliver. It’s beautiful. So to be a sideman next to these great musicians, it helped me in my mindset as to what I want to accomplish as a solo artist.

    Smitty: It’s interesting that you made those comments about Prince because he had some pretty strong accolades for you as well after watching you play on his tour, you know, he was amazed by the way you connect with the fans at the live shows, he was amazed at how you were able to peak their emotions by the music you were delivering at each show so, there was sort of an interchange of compliments there with the both of you making it quite a unique collaboration.

    MP: Yes and when I read that in Rolling Stone……his compliments came as he was coming back on stage; because I take a 10 minute break’, he takes a 10 minute break and gets changed and I come out then and play my little solo and what he said in Rolling Stone that ‘when I get back out on stage I want to get to the level that Mike Phillips was on’, when that’s quoted, it actually gave me goose bumps, man (laughing), that this dude, not only is he a great artist but he can sit back and appreciate something and give it the most highest compliment and so, from Prince, that’s a scary compliment! (laughing). It’s kind of two-fold, I’m happy he said it but I’m like ummmmm, I don’t know, it scares me! (laughing) But I’m glad that the spirit and the emotion moved him to say that, what a beautiful compliment. Speaking of that I think my threesome is, Art Porter, George Howard and Grover (Washington Jr.), and the big difference is that you felt something when they played, they just weren’t playing pretty notes, you felt the emotion.

    Smitty: Yeah, absolutely

    MP: Grover, Art Porter and George Howard, if they look down at me and if I make them proud, I know that I’ve accomplished the aspect of giving everything that’s in my soul and in my heart. So people can feel it and that’s what the whole premise of the Mike Phillips experience is.

    Smitty: It’s a beautiful thing. I must tell you that, because each time that I’ve seen your live performance, I noticed not just the level of your music but how the fans come to your level as fans in their emotions.

    MP: It’s a great thing because I cover the Frankie Beverly song, We Are One. Literally when there’s a concert or where there’s a gig, that’s exactly what it is. I give it to you, they give it to me and we are all co-existing in this one musical umbrella of me giving it to people appreciating it and moving in a circle.

    Smitty: It’s truly an amazing experience. You’ve traveled with Stevie Wonder, you’ve collaborated with Rochelle Farrell, Wayman Tisdale, Jonathan Butler, Babyface, Boyz2men, Jill Scott, I mean the list goes on of a who’s who in music, period. No doubt you’ve got to have taken some beautiful elements of life from those experiences as well. Talk to me about how you’ve incorporated those experiences into the Mike Philly thing.

    MP: Well, for 100 percent I remember I was one of those guys, like when I was in 10th grade or even younger, we used to hang out on the corner and one guy does the beat box and I would do my rhythmic thing, we’d always think that we would grow up to be Jay Z or something like that (laughing). I think that whole aspect of what hiphop is, what great music is and how it’s done is truly a part of my presentation, not because it sounds cool, because it’s a part of who I am. So when I have a track that’s hiphop oriented, I’m that same type of dude that was out on the corner, I’m battling somebody, you know, I want to have a hiphop freestyle battle (musically), you know. So even when you hear me on a rap, I relate to that stuff because I am that stuff. Now, mind you, I can put on a suit and we can go the wineries and we can play and I can have my linen shirt on and linen pants and blowing in the wind and, that’s cool too because I appreciate the aspect of embracing the fact that you have to attain some level of versatility. However, keep in mind that even when Bird, Trane and all those guys, Dizzy, they started experimenting with Bebop, that stuff came from the ghetto, it came from the inner city, Kansas City and those places like that where Bebop would just pop up out of nowhere. It didn’t start in what you call the high echelon aspect of musical society so, I think even embracing hiphop, embracing other elements that are grass roots and ground breaking, that’s the spirit of what Bebop was from the beginning.

    Smitty: Yes, absolutely man, and you’ve really done a unique job of blending those cultures in your music today and I think that’s why it’s embraced so much by your fans because I think many of them remember that era, and then you have some that perhaps have not even experienced that but it’s so cool for them to be, the appreciative newbies of this style of music.

    MP: Oh yeah.

    Smitty: So, not only have you pulled those cultures together but you’ve gotten into some pretty high profile events yourself, such as sporting events, the NBA Finals, the US Open, the Ronald MacDonald House charity, you were on tour with the charity tour with Venus and Serena Williams.

    MP: With Venus and Serena, which I just recently spoke to, I kind of expressed that, I’m in Houston now and the bad thing about that is now I’m not going to be able to see them play at the US Open, but, you know, I’ve got to hold it down, I’ve got to support the record.

    Smitty: When I heard you were on tour with them, I got real jealous (laughing).

    MP: Well, you know, I’ll get Serena to send you a picture.

    Smitty: Oh please! (laughing)

    MP: You see, my thing is, being that sometimes the business of smooth jazz not embracing something different, sometimes I have to take the alternative routes. So, looking at the grass -roots clubs, the fact that I can go on tour with Venus and Serena, and you know, hit and make impressions on 30,000 people when they are playing tennis, and I’ll come out and do the national anthem, and they also have me to play a song when they change sets. Another thing is hooking up with the historically black colleges like FAMU and Tennessee State; when they have the Battle of the Bands, I’ll be there, I’ll be in the middle helping do the battle and then I’ll come out and play a song and that’s 70,000 people in one stadium. Hooking up with the NBA, the NFL and doing the national anthems and all the college the NCAA and all of these different things. It allows me to build a grass-roots foundation without getting on my knees and begging the infrastructure who control what happens to let me in. Now, I’m sure that the record is good enough to be sanctioned for the format, but at the end of the day I think you get more attention by being more pro-active in your career. And then when they sanction it and when BA and all the other smooth jazz stations finally sign off on it, then I’m cool because I’m so excited about being involved with the format. I think we have to find different ways to reach another generation because there’s a whole next level of college kids and younger generation of people that are ready to experiment and get into the format, but the environment right now in this format is not breathing the next generation. So, at the end of the day, we are going to be stuck in the old format if we don’t reach out and do innovative things to get the next wave of people that will support this great format and I’m doing that right now.

    Smitty: I totally agree with you, because you’ve got to have creativity, you’ve got to have growth in anything you do. If you don’t grow, then what happens? You eventually wither away.

    MP: Exactly and then I want this format to survive so that the next Mike Philly or the next Grover, the next whoever, 35 years after this can have a shot and, not only play some great music but have a built-in fan base that when they do their thing in the format they will be appreciated.

    Smitty: Very well stated.

    MP: You know, when you talk about the format and the growth of the format, I can’t think about how I’m going get my style, obviously as a musician who has accomplished a little in my small time in the music industry, I’ve never missed a meal. So it’s not about me but it is about making sure that the next generation of musicians are properly set up so that they can enjoy the hard work. You look at John Coltrane and these great musicians who played during his era, after they finished playing a gig, they could not even sit down and eat everyone, they had to go to the back or sit where the garbage was. Then, that made life easier of Quincy (Jones) which made life easier for Grover (Washington Jr.), which made life easier for Wayne (Shorter)… you see what I’m saying, so now, it’s still legacy, whether you want to view it like that or not. What I feel I have to do is truly just stick to my guns of being who I am and maybe an executive will understand how cool that is, and the next dude that’s ready to do what I’m doing but on a whole other high level will be ready to insert himself into the business and give the next generation of listeners great music.

    Smitty: We appreciate you for what you’ve done in the music world because you’ve definitely torn down some walls and opened some new doors as well and it’s a wonderful thing. So, let’s talk about this record, man, because I’m really digging it. You already know my favorite track on the whole record is If it takes all Night (laughing)

    MP: You’ve been listening to that message! (laughing)

    Smitty: I’m a good listener, man. (laughing)

    MP: Yeah, that song is for all the brothers, like, if it takes all night, you’ve got to make it happen!

    Smitty: That’s right (laughing)

    MP: I think it’s one of the sexiest songs on the album. I always tease people and say if you’re not trying to have any babies then you have to listen to track 4! (laughing)

    Smitty: That’s cool. You’ve done something else that’s not common, speaking of Uncommon Denominator; you’ve done something that’s not so common. There are 16 tracks on this record. So you’ve given everyone their money’s worth, they’re not only getting quality but they’re getting quantity too.

    MP: I feel that’s highly important now. Sometimes we might, how it works is, you get a budget and the less songs you do, you know, the less money you spend. The less money you spend, if you don’t spend you’re budget money then you can get it back. My goal was never to turn around and see how much money I could keep. It was always based around the fans and even delivering 16 tracks is the same thing because you split up all your budget money to make these songs, but at the end of the day, when people have a great choice, they like 80 percent of the album that’s still more songs than what one album would normally have. 80 percent of my album would be 13 songs, so I just wanted to diversify and do some different things but also raise the track amounts so people can have a variety of music that they truly enjoy. Because people are not going to like every single track, but if you can diversify and slip in a little bit of Latin over here, and do hiphop here, and do some fusion with some cool and different changes. Then you get to bounce around and people will overall like the product, because you tried as an artist to do so many different things within the context of the record without it being too confusing. I appreciate the fans so much that, this record, I just had to put it out there and do something that they can truly enjoy and have a choice, a huge amount of track choices.

    Smitty: Very Cool! Talk to me a little about some of the cats on this record because you’ve got some great musicians. I see that you mentioned Wayman Tisdale that was cool of you.

    MP: Yeah, if it wasn’t for Wayman I wouldn’t even be in this format. He’s one of the guys that, I was playing in the clubs in New York, he picked me up and was like, ‘listen, I want you to play a gig with me’. After I played that gig with him, I kind of looked at what he was doing and said ‘you know what, one day I want to be a part of this community, of this jazz community’ but, without Wayman taking me under his wing and exposing me to what it is to be a part of this, I would never have gotten the opportunity to even deliver the music to people that are now Mike Phillip fans.

    Smitty: Yeah, I know. He’s a cool cat.

    MP: Yeah, He’s a cool cat. Jeff Lorber, we did the single Heartbeat of the City, and Rex Rideout.

    Smitty: Yeah, Mr. Club 1600!

    MP: So, it’s a lot of great musicians and producers. The thing on this record, I wanted to keep the guests to a minimum because I didn’t want this record to have a compilation feeling to it. So I had some great producers and musicians, this was solely from start to finish a Mike Phillips record because when you look at it, a typical album sometimes can have like 11 tracks and, you have maybe 5 or 6 featured artists, so now you have 70 percent of your album being done with or by other people. I think it just sends a wrong message in what it means to do your album so people can feel what you do from start to finish. If it’s a compilation concept like Unwrapped, then that’s cool because you have different artists, you’ve got different guests but I think a personal albums need to be so much more of a statement of who and what the person is trying to play.

    Smitty: They get Mike Phillips on Mike Phillips record.

    MP: Even though my first record was titled You Have Reached Mike Phillips, I want that to always happen. When it’s time for a Mike Phillips record I want you to always reach me.

    Smitty: You’ve accomplished that goal with both albums, but it’s nice to have a couple of cats on there that can mix it up a little.

    MP: Yeah, and that’s why we put Jeff on Heartbeat of the City and he also did an organ solo on We are one. He killed it! Frankie Beverly heard it and he flipped out! So, I mean, I have great musicians just to add some spice and some life to the record other than what we can do ourselves. It’s a great blessing to have a guy of that caliber on my record.

    Smitty: Yes indeed. This is a great album, well constructed with a lot of fire and with a lot of open doors where people can see some different shades and some different sides of music and the creativity of music, I should say. You’ve really mastered this CD quite well and mixed it slick It comes over really well, and I think it’s important to make a record that you can really expand upon in a live setting and I think you accomplish that every night. I think that’s very important.

    MP: Yes, yes, it is. I’m just truly happy when I’m out there for all the fans out there that understand that I am different and that embrace me. When you look at the title Uncommon Denominator, I was reading the Miles Davis biography…. and he and his father, they were listening to a Mockingbird so Miles father said to him ‘do you know what that is?’ and Miles was like ‘No’ and his father said ‘what you hear is a Mockingbird’ and a Mockingbird’s responsibility is to listen to every other bird and emulate the sound, and as Miles Davis father said ‘you are not that Mockingbird, I want you to have your own sound’ so, you know, just the whole energy of Uncommon Denominator is being influenced by all the people who influenced me, from Grover, Trane, Sonny Rollins, taking all of these and throwing them in the pot and then looking in the mirror and saying ‘what is my individuality?’ and throwing that in the pot and mixing it up and coming up with something I can truly authentically say is Mike Phillips. Although I’ve been influenced by so many people and I’ve absorbed that influence, but when I’ve sprinkled my little fingerprints on it and mixed it up into something that truly and authentically comes from my heart’. I’m thankful for even having people’s ears to listen and then to appreciate it, that’s nothing but love.

    Smitty: Yes it is, and I’m sure you appreciate the love of Hidden Beach. I heard you mentioning it at the show last night, the love of Hidden Beach, to allow you to put this record together, the last record and really let it flourish and let people enjoy it.

    MP: Yeah because, I mean, Hidden Beach, what I like to call these albums nowadays is the CCCA, Cheerfully, Corporately, Consulted Albums where the labels will sit you down and say ‘OK, we’ve have to do this because we have to reach this criteria’ ,’we have to do this, no we can’t not this, blah, blah, blah’, Hidden Beach never, from day one did things in the spirit of that. I feel that’s a point because at the end of the day what Steve McKeever told me, He said ‘if you don’t know what you want to do, then I cannot help you’. So that was him signing off on the confidence in my individuality to come up with something that can authentically, truly be a style that I would be proud of and Hidden Beach would be ready to market and promote.

    Smitty: Yes, give it up for Hidden Beach.

    MP: So, I’m just happy to have a label that allows me to, you know, I can..

    Smitty: Do your thing.

    MP: Yeah, do my thing and just, just like Ray Charles said in the movie “Ray” ‘Make it do, what it do’ (laughing) and I make it do, what it do! (laughing)

    Smitty: Yeah (laughing) I like that. That’s a great example, I like that.

    MP: Yeah, I’m going to quote that ‘I’m going to make it do what it do’.

    Smitty: Well Mike it’s been real this past weekend and just a beautiful experience to have you back in town and hanging with you and mixing it up with the music, you know, and just doing the overall ‘hang’.

    MP: Definitely man, I’d love you to give the inside about what you saw in the show, how the hiphop elements had people flipping out. I think it’s really important for people to understand the energy that they haven’t experienced yet and just having good guys like you within the media to really let people understand where I’m coming from. I’m really glad I have this outlet to speak to you so then you can crunch the information and speak to the people that I’ll never be able to speak to, but you can speak to them, with you being the media. So, thank you so much Smitty, you’re my man for real.

    Smitty: Hey,that’s the real about it. I’m just glad you’re out there still creating and making great music. Keep doing your thing my friend.

    MP: Well, it’s nothing but love, my brother.

    Smitty: Yes, indeed. Alright Mike, and hey. Let’s do it again man, let’s do it again.

    MP: Keep in touch with your boy too.

    Smitty: Yeah man, you know it. We’ve been talking with the incomparable Mike Phillips, his great new album, Uncommon Denominator, this is one you’ve got to put in your CD changer. I highly recommend this album. Mike, thanks so much, thanks to everyone at Hidden Beach and please come back and visit with us again.

    MP: No doubt.

    An Interview with Michael Wolff

    Flexing His Creative Thoughts…
    Michael Wolff
    by Paula Edelstein

    “I use my head for the science, my hands for the craft and my heart for the emotion, to create the music of IMPURE THOUGHTS.”~ Michael Wolff

    When my colleague, John Barrett of JazzUSA.Com reviewed Michael Wolff’s Impure Thoughts back in October 2000, I thought to myself, “This is smokin’!” The well-deserved praise kept pouring in and we played it several more times because of its great improvisations, its bop syntheses and fresh grooves. As only Michael could, he captivated us with his blend of some of the most adventurous musical elements from around the world and captured them on eight great songs. With a heritage rich in several distinct styles culled from growing up in such culturally rich cities as New Orleans, Memphis, and Berkeley, CA, Micheal Wolff releases an implosion of musical colors and textures that is mysterious, yet bright, sexy yet serene. His musical thoughts are captured with long-time band members, Alex Foster on saxophones and bass clarinet, John B. Williams on bass, Victor Jones on drums, Frank Colon on percussion and Badal Roy on tablas. They are collectively known as Impure Thoughts. We caught up with Michael and got the inside scoop on his new CD, Impure Thoughts! Here’s what he had to say!

    JazzUSA: Congratulations on your latest CD Impure Thoughts. We have received a lot of interest from our readers, and as you know, John Barrett, Jr. was the first to bring it to our attention here at JazzUSA.com. How did the concept for the project come about?

    MW: To tell you the truth, there were two reasons. First of all, I just grew up listening to all kinds of music and I always loved music from Africa and South America and that kind of music. Being a jazz lover, I love music by Miles Davis and Cannonball Adderley who both had experimented with those different kinds of music. Second, my first gigs were with Cal Tjader, who is the Latin jazz vibist, and the second was with Airto Moriera and Flora Purim from Brazil — so I was always drawn to that kind of music. After doing a lot of straight-ahead music for the last five or six years, I thought I’d do something different. I hear a lot of World music, in addition to spending a lot of time in Europe – particularly in Paris — so I just wanted to put that music into what I was playing…especially those beats.

    JazzUSA: It sounds great. I’d like to focus on a few aspects of the music from the three components of music: rhythm, harmony and melody. First, in the harmonic sense, you’ve based the music more on Middle Eastern scales, which is a big change in the harmonic sense of your playing. Why did you choose this particular approach for Impure Thoughts?

    MW: I’d just been listening to…particularly working with the tabla, Badal Roy and the tabla,and that instrument just has that feeling (harmonic) to it for me. The way that the tabla is played is a swinging kind of jazz instrument in that way and yet I think that the tones that I hear out of it just seem to fit. You know in Indian music, it’s all based on one major tone; they don’t modulate. They just have everything in one key so they have many more notes. We have 12 notes in our chromatic scale and they have a lot more. Just having those scales (Middle Eastern) just seemed to me that they would feel like there would be more colors going on within a root.

    JazzUSA: The band is playing a lot of music around drone tones and as a result, the tone colors we hear from you are constantly developing and lay the groundwork for the next theme or subject of the improvisation. This is especially strong on the opening track, “Eritrea” and on “Euphoria.”

    MW: Right.

    JazzUSA: The mix of African and Indian beats and sounds is especially intriguing and mystical. I really like the compositional synthesis of Badal Roy’s tablas with John B. Williams’ bass and your piano underlining the musical centers of the songs. Was there a particular circumstance or event that shaped “Eritrea?”

    MW: Yes, actually my mother and stepfather took a trip to Eritrea and Ethiopia about five years ago. They travel all over the world and usually bring back music from all these places. This particular CD had Arabic writing and I had no idea what it was! So I listened to it, and I heard this mix of Indian and African music so that was really the inspiration for that. Also there was a guy named John Cartwright who worked for many years with Harry Belafonte who had traveled a lot in Africa. He had some different sample beats on a drum machine. So I put those two things together again and came up with that tune. That was the whole basis for the concept for the whole band and the CD.

    JazzUSA: That’s cool! The title track, “Impure Thoughts” features Alex Foster out front on the saxophone stating the melody. He seems to abandon himself to the flow of music, immersing himself in the magic of the musical thought, so to speak…sort of like a Sonny Rollins kind of vibe! Had you been playing together a lot?

    MW: Alex and I have known each other for over 20 years! He and I moved from the San Francisco area so we’ve had many bands together. He and I breathe together. He and I and John B. Williams have been playing together for years. Whatever we do together, it’s always in sync…neither has to move a muscle. It just goes. It’s amazing how it works.

    JazzUSA: It sure does work! You’ve had some pretty intense associations with some of the greatest jazz musicians of all time, and have played a variety of jazz styles, i.e., Airto’s style, Sonny Rollin’s style, Christian McBride’s style, Thad Jones/Mel Lewis’, style, etc. They all have quite different styles and make up a really nice gumbo of jazz! How would you compare “Impure Thoughts” to the mixture of jazz giants that you’ve worked with?

    MW: Well I think that Impure Thoughts is kind of a step forward in that it’s blending the jazz background that I have with more World Music and funk. Cannonball Adderley always said he was trying to get that last foot out of Birdland and he was trying to keep it moving forward. I’m not the kind of person that wants to go recreate music from the 50s, although I like what other people do, I want to try to come up with something new. Knowing where I’m coming from and utilizing the past but pairing what’s going on in the present and projecting into the future…that’s where I’m coming from.

    JazzUSA: “On Papa Was A Rolling Stone,” and “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” you elaborate further on their original funky melodic concepts by adding some great homophonic textures. These are both outstanding songs but you approach the piano with total harmonic, rhythmic and melodic freedom.

    MW: Right and as you know, most of our music is based around a very simple chord center as is most of folk music. I feel that jazz and the music that I play is a combination of folk music and our music. It’s not one or the other. That’s what makes the folks like it! And then again, as a piano player, I see myself not only as a soloist but also as an orchestrator. So when the bass is thumping on songs like “Papa Was A Rolling Stone,” I have complete freedom to play any color I want.

    JazzUSA: Your rendition of “In A Silent Way” is classic! There is such a cerebral aspect to it as well as your skill in arranging the melody for saxophone, the addition of exotic percussive instruments and your piano solo really capturing the listener with its manipulation of musical motives, your varying them and elaborating on them. This song is still a catalyst that ignites one to put together another remarkable body of work that is serene but explosive. You’ve done a great job with this one.

    MW: Thanks. That’s a tune that I’ve always loved and I recorded once before. I just can’t get enough of it. It’s magic. When it came out in ’69, it blew my mind! It blew everybody’s mind. It’s a whole different direction. Joe Zawinul, who’s responsible for the tune, really laid the groundwork for Miles’ electric fusion days with this one. Alex Foster also doubled on bass clarinet on the melody to give it a little more bottom and richness. I played it in a totally different mode than what the tune is…I played my piano solo in a major 7th different scale.

    JazzUSA: Do you plan to feature any of the songs in concert this year? If so, where can your fans see and hear you?

    MW: Absolutely. We’re playing the whole CD in concert this year. We’ll be at the Kennedy Center on January 11th at the Terrace Theater for the Art Tatum Piano Series. Benny Green, Ellis Marsalis, Cyrus Chestnut will be there. On the 12th, I’ll be in New York City playing at The Friends Seminary School, which is a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration and Fundraiser and I will be a part of the International Association of Jazz Educators Panel on the 13th. Also on the 13th, we’re playing at The West Bank Café, which is where we started the band. And on the 14th we’ll be at Miami Jazz Festival with Pancho Sanchez, David Sanborn, Jonathan Butler.We have a U.S. Tour starting in February 2001 so check out the schedule at our website http://www.michaelwolff.com

    JazzUSA: We sure will. Thank you so much for this interview, Michael. We really are enjoying Impure Thoughts and wish you continued success with it.

    MW: Thank you Paula.

    Michael Manson Interview


    Bass-ic Jazz with
    Michael Manson
    by Mark Ruffin


    Over the last 40 years, bass players from Chicago have had incredible success at reaching national and international status. This is true in pop music, but especially in jazz. No matter if it’s smooth, contemporary, avant-garde or straight-ahead jazz, improvised music seems to be best served in Chicago from the bottom.

    Mike Manson is the latest entry.

    Seemingly, he exploded onto the scene, from out of nowhere last month when he debuted his album release party at Chicago’s Park West with his super-star friends George Duke and Kirk Whalum. His debut album, “The Bottom Line,” is one of the hottest records at smooth jazz stations across the country.  Manson knows all the bassists who have made it big from Chicago, and the list in formidable. Most of them, naturally became famous backing up others, but eventually found their own niches.

    Eldee Young, who became internationally known with Ramsey Lewis in the 60’s, today is a major singing star in the Far East, though he still resides in Chicago. Another is Steve Rodby, who has been the bassist for the Pat Metheny Group for over 20 years, and is today a Grammy-winning producer. If you want to talk acoustic bassists, there’s Richard Davis, Malachi Favors, Cleveland Eaton, Lonnie Plaxico, Kenny Davis and Larry Gray. Among the well known electric bassists are Billy Dickens and Larry Kimpel, whose name seems to be on every other smooth jazz record out of Los Angeles.

    There’s a whole slew of examples, but no bigger endorsement of Chicago’s impact on jazz bass playing can be made than the tribute the late Miles Davis made to that city’s musicians. Chicagoans, including a succession of bass players, heavily dominated the last decade of the great trumpeter’s life. These were the Chicago bassists who influenced Manson the most.

    Felton Crews began the Chicago era with Miles on his 1981 comeback album, The Man With The Horn, and it ended with Richard Patterson, who was in his band in 1991 when Miles died. In between there was Angus Thomas and Daryl “Munch” Jones, who now plays with the Rolling Stones and was written about extensively in Davis’ autobiography.  All four hung out at a legendary Chicago nightclub called the Bulls, that was the Windy City’s hotbed of contemporary jazz during the 80’s and 90’s.

    Patterson, who now plays with David Sanborn, is remembered fondly by Manson and many Chicagoans because he played with, arguably, the two hottest bands of that era, Insight and keyboardist/vocalist, Ghalib Ghallab, who now performs daily at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

    Manson knows all this history, he just didn’t always have the time to check it out first hand. He was either in church or at school.  “I did, on the q.t., go into the clubs, like the Bulls, and I was influenced so heavily by all the bass players I saw. But my heart was in the church.  “It is oxymoronic,” the bassist said with a laugh. “I played gospel for over 13 years, but I never felt like that was my calling,

    My calling was to remain true to who and what I believe in, but to be out there in the world performing music with excellence that will bring glory to His name. “It wasn’t until 1995, when I played my first club. Of course, it was the Bulls , and that night, I had a revelation.

    “Not to sound too spiritual, but I found my calling to be a witness to (other jazz musicians) and show them that there’s alternatives to the immoral life that’s associated with being a jazz musician.” Manson is hardly one of those smooth jazz musicians with no grasp of the jazz tradition. The bassist said 90% of what he knows about improvisation came from one of the legendary Chicago jazz professors, Bunky Green, who is now head of the music department at the University of Northern Florida.

    By the time Manson got his undergraduate degree in music from Chicago State University and his masters in music from Northwestern, the jazz scene had evolved to where there were a number of very successful national musicians who were deep into church too. Among them, Manson’s guests at his album release party last month, Duke and Whalum.  It was Whalum who gave Manson his first big break in the music business, in 1997, two years after his first club gig, and the year the Bulls closed.

    In those two years, Manson had hooked up with two of Chicago’s biggest smooth jazz stars, saxophonist Steve Cole, and keyboardist, Brian Culbertson. Meanwhile, a gospel pianist friend of Manson’s took a job at the church in Nashville where Whalum began researching the genesis of his Grammy nominated album, “The Gospel According To Jazz. Call it an act of God, but Whalum couldn’t find the right bass player with the right attitude, until the pianist mentioned that he knew a jazz and gospel bassist.

    The rest is Chicago bass history.

    Manson has been Whalum’s bassist ever since, but he’s made other connections too. “It was through Kirk that I met George (Duke), Paul Jackason Jr., Larry Carlton, and other Christian musicians who play jazz and lead a good clean positive life.”

    Michael Buble

    Michael Buble Michael Buble
    Michael Buble
    (Warner – 2003)
    by Matthew S. Robinson

    Looking like a cross between Justin Timberlake, Chet Baker and a young Johnny Cash, Michael Bublé also sound slike and chooses music froma variety of other artists. Swinging into a “Fever” that is bumped along by bassman Brian Bromberg, Bublé channels Bobby Darin for Johnny Mercer’s “Summer Wind” and even catches a tiny bit of Frank in his covers of Van’s “Moondance.” Though Bublé is no Lou Rawls, David Foster’s keys add just the right weight to Gamble and Huff’s “You’ll Never Find” and Paul Anka’s “Put Your Head on My Shoulder” is delivered with appropriate tenderness. Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” is overpacked with Pop, but the slight accelration of “The Way You Look Tonight” and slowing down of “That’s All” seem to work.

    Though his vocal and musical center remains to be found, Bublés aggregate talents are strong enough to warrant the support of giants like arrangers Johnny Mandel and Don Costa and even Barry Gibb, who lends pitch-perfect support for “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart.”

    © 2003, M. S. Robinson, ARR

    An Interview with Michael Brecker

    Michael BreckerWe Have A Talk With
    Michael Brecker
    by Mark Ruffin

    Tenor sax legend Michael Brecker has a new album out titled ,”The Nearness of You,´ It is a ballad album featuring gorgeous work by Herbie Hancock and pop vocalist James Taylor. Brecker, of course, is just as good a friend of pop musicians as he is in jazz. His most famous pop collaborations include work with Taylor, Paul Simon and numerous others. Of course funkateers will lionize him as being an original member of George Clinton’s Horny Horns concept (the others included his brother Randy on trumpet and Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker of James Brown fame.) But it is jazz music where Brecker’s heart lies. This month he is doing a limited number of dates celebrating the 75th birthday of John Coltrane by performing with trumpeter Roy Hargrove and piano giant Herbie Hancock playing the music of Miles and Trane. JazzUSA’s Senior Editor, Mark Ruffin, talked to Brecker before embarking on the tour.

    JazzUSA: Why did you decide to do a ballad album at this time?

    MB: Well, the idea had been lingering in the back of my mind for a few years. It had been suggested strongly to me years ago by Charlie Haden, and a few other people. Somehow, this year, Richard Seidel at Verve suggested it again to me, and the idea kind of resonated more strongly. I just felt more like I could do it now, and I had more of an inclination to do it.

    JazzUSA: Why did you include James Taylor?

    MB: Once I decided that I was going to have vocals, my first thought was to call James, because I’m an amazing James Taylor fan. I love his voice and he and I have been friends for years. I’ve recorded six or seven albums with James.

    JazzUSA: Isn’t that you on the original version of “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight?”

    MB: Yes, we did it back in 1970, 71, somewhere in there. We have a good blend, a good chemistry.

    JazzUSA: But you don’t associate James Taylor, one, with jazz, and you don’t associate James Taylor with a group that includes Herbie Hancock and Pat Metheny.

    MB: That to me was the exciting idea of it. I associate James with being an amazingly great musician, and being around him a lot, I know what he can do. He’s a great guitarist, a great composer and he has the ability to be spontaneous, so I knew that that would work. The idea was exciting, to hear him surrounded by Herbie, Pat, Charlie and Jack (De Johnette) I knew that it would work. And it work even beyond what I expected.

    JazzUSA: You know, a lot of people don’t associate James Taylor with spontaneity either. Obviously you know something that people who buy his work, or at least jazz people who know his work, don’ t know.

    MB: Well, yeah. I’ve worked with him a lot and I know his approach. He never sings the same song twice the same way. He’s not a jazz singer, or not coming from the jazz tradition, like Joe Williams, Sarah Vaughan, Ella, Billie Holiday, he’s not coming out of that jazz tradition, but he can be spontaneous and has great ears.

    JazzUSA: Pat’s a big fan of his too, isn’t he?

    MB: In fact, Pat has a song called “James,”

    JazzUSA: Yep, written for James Taylor.

    MB: Yeah, so the idea was pretty natural for us.

    JazzUSA: This record, to me, seems to be a departure from your last couple of Impulse records, in that, well, to, me, there is a broad line between acoustic jazz and contemporary jazz that a number of people like you and Pat seem to straddle effortlessly, and you seemed to have straddled that line on previous records. Whereas this record doesn’t seem to be a contemporary jazz record at all.

    MB: I don’t know, because I don’t quite know what all the labels mean anymore. I’m not quite sure what you mean by contemporary jazz.

    JazzUSA: Well electric jazz. I mean you screaming away on your EWI and Pat wailing away, ain’t exactly acoustic be-bop.

    MB: Well the last three records of mine have been completely acoustic, so it ‘s hard for me to comment on that.

    JazzUSA: I hear what you’re saying Mike, but like that album with you, McCoy Tyner and Pat, (Tales From The Hudson,) sure it was an acoustic record, but it completely has that vibe of a contemporary jazz, or electric album, not a traditional jazz record.

    MB: Okay, okay, I see what you’re saying. That’s just the sort of sensibility I bring to it. I’m a product of my time. I grew up playing electric music as well as acoustic. I am who I am, influenced by a lot of different musical voices and that comes out when I play. It also influences who I play with, et cetera. Even though they are acoustic records, they’re not in the traditional jazz vein.

    JazzUSA: But the new one is right there in the acoustic jazz vein, even with James Taylor’s appearance on it.

    MB: I’d agree with that.

    JazzUSA: I’m a child of the 70’s, so you’re a hero because of your funk escapades. You’re a bona fide funkateer.

    MB: (laughs) Oh, thank you.

    JazzUSA: Is any of that still in your smorgasbord now? Do you go back to your P-Funk roots?

    MB: Well, when I play with my brother, we try to visit those roots.

    JazzUSA: So you and your brother still play together?

    MB: Yes, we just finished a tour of Europe. It was an acoustic group, but it was pretty funky.

    JazzUSA: What does Coltrane mean to you?

    MB: Coltrane was probably my biggest influence. His music is what kind of propelled me into pursing music as a lifetime pursuit.

    JazzUSA: In what way? Can you elaborate?

    MB: Well, it’s just that he and his quartet reached places in me that I didn ‘t know could be reached through music and affected me on a number of levels. Enough so that I wanted to try to play music and see if I could have more of that (laughs)

    JazzUSA: To try to find whatever it was he was looking for?

    MB: Well, in my own way. I’m a different person (laughs) I don’t know how to put it.

    JazzUSA: In a different time,

    MB: Yeah, in a different time and in a whole different set of circumstances. Coltrane’s music for me was extremely exhilarating, powerful, spiritual, intelligent, emotional, technical, non-technical, everything.

    JazzUSA: Did you keep following him after the heyday of the quartet and he moved into “Om,” and…

    MB: Yes, I listened to everything and continued to. He was a brilliant force. I think his music affected all of the arts. He had the ability to move forward and change in a way that I couldn’t even begin to approximate. He was a real musical spirit.

    JazzUSA: You said ‘moved forward and changed,’ has there been times in your career where you’ve said ‘yes, I’ve accomplished something and I’m moving on.’ Have you ever felt that?

    MB: It doesn’t quite come like that. It comes in small steps for me. Changes for me have been gradual and not so fast and big. Coltrane from year to year, but I think if you were to examine it on a day to day basis, it would appear to be smaller, but the overall effect was fast and rapid growth. I’m a much slower learner. It takes me a much longer time. I’m perfect with small changes in small increments.

    JazzUSA: We heard those changes in big steps, but he recorded so much, he was on to something else, by the time we heard a new album,

    MB: That’s true.

    JazzUSA: So to us, it seems like big shit,,,

    MB: Number one, you’re right, he recorded a lot. At a pace that I couldn’t even imagine. They seemed to be in the studio every couple of months. Coltrane played a lot and practiced a lot. If you listen to night to night performances, you can hear them performing the tunes that they recorded, and realize that he was working on that stuff and gradually change. But he played so much, that the overall effect was huge change from record to record, at least from period to period..

    JazzUSA: So this tour, is all this month, and it’s you, Herbie Hancock, Roy Hargrove and who else.

    MB: It’s a tour of 28 dates and it will also feature John Patituci and Brian Blade.

    JazzUSA: Wow, that’s a great group. How did this come together?

    MB: The idea was the brainchild of a guy named Scott Southerd, a friend of mine, who also happens to be a booking agent. He approached us with the idea and we all liked it. It seemed to be a good time to do it, and I knew we were going to have a lot of fun. Also, for me, a chance to learn.

    JazzUSA: In what way?

    MB: Well, for me, anytime I get to play with Herbie, it’s always a learning experience. I mean, he is such a brilliant musician, and we’ll be reinterpreting some of Miles and Coltrane compositions, and of course, Herbie was one of the prime elements in one of the greatest Miles’ bands ever. So that will be interesting.

    JazzUSA: Have you played with Roy Hargrove before?

    MB: I’ve done a teeny-weeny bit of playing with him. So I’m looking forward to hitting with him. I’m a big fan. I think he is so incredibly talented. And I’ve played a lot with John Patituci, and this will be a fine chance to play with Brian Blade as well. I think the group has a great chemistry.

    JazzUSA: Any plans on recording this group?

    MB: None so far, but there’s been some talk. So, I wouldn’t be surprised. It would be a shame not to.

    Gumbi Ortiz –

    Gumbi OrtizGumbi Ortiz
    (KWIP – 2006)
    by Paula Edelstein

    Master percussionist Gumbi Ortiz’s debut for KWIP MUSIC is a musical tribute to his home state of Florida. MIAMI features an all-star cast of musicians including Al DiMeola, Jeff Lorber, Eric Marienthal, Dave Weckl, Jay Beckenstein, Brandon Fields and many others. Ortiz kicks off his set with “South Beach” the first of 3 original compositions that reflect the ambience of Florida cities and neighborhoods.

    “Miami” and “Biscayne” bring about an array of Latin rhythms and Caribbean beats that will have you on the dance floor before you know what happened. The CD also uses Ortiz’s expertise as a percussionist to features an array of samba, retro soul and even a little gospel inflected R&B rhythms. Very few percussionists can boast of such affiliations, but Gumbi Ortiz who has played with Al DiMeola for the past 19 years – can definitely be proud of this stellar debut and should gain ample respect for his abilities as a bandleader. Check it out.

    Reprinted with permission of…

    Kyle Eastwood – Metropolitan

    Kyle Eastwood
    Mack Avenue – 2009
    Sounds of Timeless Jazz

    Kyle Eastwood gets down to some great jazz business on Metropolitan and you’re going to love this one people. This recording was co-produced by Erin Davis, (yes the son of the great Miles Davis), and Eastwood’s long time writing partner Michael Stevens.  It brings Kyle Eastwood’s musical integrity into a brilliant spotlight that illuminates his songwriting, acoustic and electric bass genius as well as his comprehension of the various styles of this great art form.

    Eastwood co-wrote eight of the ten songs on the CD and each song is clean, cool and resonates right down to your tone centers. Opening with “Metropolitan,” a smooth and soulful song written by Eastwood, Stevens and Davis, Eastwood features French vocalist Camille on backing vocals alongside his infamous electric bass, Till Bronner on trumpet, Manu Katche on drums, Eric Legnini on acoustic and electric piano – all great musicians who help to shoulder the workload.

    Bronner offers a great trumpet solo that is sure to get this song a lot of airplay around the world because of its passionate resemblance to Miles Davis’ electrifying playing. Eastwood changes directions and adds more colors and textures on “Bold Changes,” a mid-tempo song that features Graeme Blevins’ soulful and burnished tenor saxophone playing alongside Bronner’s muted trumpet. All the while Eastwood is holding down the rhythm logic and does it with such subtle flavoring that you find yourself immersed in his subliminal moods and understated voicings.

    “Black Light” also provides a great place for Bronner to exercise his cool chops a la Miles Davis. This song is among the best on the CD. But don’t ever think Eastwood isn’t locked and loaded on any of these songs. “Bel Air,” a piano, bass and drums gem, provides the perfect vehicle for Eastwood’s notched up bass chops and Eric Legnini’s piano finesse. Changing directions again, one of the prettiest songs on the CD is “Song For You.” Andrew McCormack’s gentle piano grace is simply mesmerizing and provides a serene sense of peace and relaxation.

    Given the right attention this song could easily become a pop or jazz standard because of the lovely melody. Overall, Metropolitan tops Eastwood’s previous recordings and is the best jazz recording in Eastwood’s burgeoning repertoire. A MUST HAVE for all jazz collectors.

    Reprinted with permission of…

    Pat Metheny Teams Up With Bassist Charlie Haden

    Pat Metheny Teams Up With Bassist Charlie Haden

    One of the musical highlights of the year is already here; the long-awaited duet recording by Charlie Haden and Pat Metheny. After years of hinting at such a collaboration, the two natives of the Show Me state decided to do just that with a set of aural landscapes titled “Beyond The Missouri Sky, (Short Stories.)”

    “I have always admired Pat’s musical vision, his melodies, chords and voicing are unique unto him,” Haden says. “He is an innovator in the sound he gets, as he is in his composing and improvising. His musical presentation is always beyond category, and his sense of the sound in music that comes from the feeling of this country is uncanny. Of course, he is from Missouri, as am I, which surly has something to do with it. I call his sound contemporary impressionistic Americana.”

    Adds Metheny: “Charlie has been a huge influence on me as a musician and as a person. He is simply one of the greatest improvising musicians ever, and his bass playing has set the standard for what is now several generations of musicians. It was an honor to be asked by Charlie to make this record. For me, personally, this is one of the most special recordings I’ve ever been a part of.”:

    The title of the album suggests what has become of the careers of these two musicians after they left the respective towns, 50 miles apart, that they were raised in. Though Haden and Metheny have recorded together in many different contexts, they didn’t know each other as kids, and this is their first duet recording.

    It is well documented how Metheny, as a teen, caught the ear of Berklee School of Music legend Gary Burton, toured the country, and before long was teaching at the University of Miami. Legendary Boston drummer, Bob Moses, and the late great Floridian bassist Jaco Pastorious, his trio mates on his very first album is an homage to the two cities he developed in

    After his very successful recording career took off, Metheny began to explore the avant-garde music of saxophonist Ornette Coleman, and he went right to the source in asking Haden to play that music with him.

    Though he was born in Iowa, Haden spent most of his early years elsewhere in the midwest, particularly Missouri. From the time he was two years old, until he was 15, he sang on the radio, and later television with his family’s country and western group. Haden learned to play the bass during his teenage years and after graduating from high school, moved to Los Angeles where he made history in the late 50’s.

    Barely out of his teens, Haden met saxophonist Ornette Coleman who had just arrived from Texas. Coleman had trouble fitting into anyone else’s jazz scene, but immediately struck up a revolutionary and enduring relationship with Haden, trumpeter Don Cherry and drummer Billy Higgins. For decades to follow, musicians such as Metheny, would stop their career dead in its tracks to investigate just what it was these four musicians were up to with their improvising on all aspects of a tune, not just the chord changes.

    Haden played a vital role in this revolutionary approach, evolving a way of playing that sometimes complemented the soloist and sometimes moved independently. He helped to change the role of the bass player from being strictly and accompanist to becoming a more direct participant in a group.

    Years later Haden also was apart of two other important groups in jazz history. In 1969, along with composer/arranger Carla Blay, Haden formed the 11 member Liberation Music Orchestra, which has gained almost enough fame for their politics as their music. From 1979 to 1987, Haden collaborated with the group, Old & New Dreams. It was Coleman’s group and his vision with Dewey (Joshua’s dad) Redman in the sax chair.

    Since 1987, Haden has led the thrice Grammy nominated group Quartet West. But throughout his career Haden always recorded with a most eclectic range of musicians. In recent years alone, he’s collaborated with Portuguese guitarist Calos Paredes, singer Rickie Lee Jones, rock legend turn jazz drummer Ginger Baker, blues legend James Cotton, alternative rocker Beck, classical composer Gavin Bryars and jazz stalwart Hank Jones..

    Haden’s family is also deeply involved in music and the arts. His son, Josh, plays bass in the rock band Spain, which records for Restless Records. Daughters Petra and Rachel have a band, That Dog, with two albums on Geffen Records. Third triplet Tanya will soon graduate from California Institute of the Arts, majoring in Animation. She also plays cello sometimes with That Dog. Haden’s wife, Ruth, is also an actress and record producer.

    Haden, like Metheny has a unique sense of American musicality and it is expressed quite well in the music they have made over the years.

    “This album celebrates our country,” Haden says, ” It’s right at a time when the election has just taken place and the country now has a chance to come together again. The two musics that are this country’s strongest art forms are ones I’ve been involved with all my life, country and western and jazz. I think this record brings all of our musical art forms together.”

    Kerry Strayer Septet – Mentor

    Kerry Strayer SeptetKerry Strayer Septet
    (Rhombus – 2004)
    by Paula Edelstein

    If you’re listening for great Kansas City swing and bebop, give Mentor by the Kerry Strayer Septet a hot listen! Joined by guest saxophonist Gary Foster, this ensemble brings a fresh perspective to songs written by Clare Fischer, Charlie Parker, Dave Brubeck, and Ray Noble. Also included are several originals penned by Foster such as “Saturday 10AM,” “Sweet Lips,” and “Warne-ing” with each adding its own special flavor to this special mix.

    The CD pays homage to Gary Foster for his ‘mentoring’ during Strayer’s quest to become a professional musician. Topping the many stellar highlights is Strayer’s excellent romp through Parker’s “Yardbird Suite,” with Gary Foster on alto saxophone. Both multi-faceted musicians really re-activate this jazz standard for not only alto sax but for brass, clarinet and baritone sax solos.

    Reprinted with permission of…

    An Interview with Mel Brown

    Mel BrownAn Interview With
    Mel Brown
    by S. H. Watkins, Sr.

    Mel Brown is one of the most versatile and skilled drummers in the world. With a resume that includes tours with the likes of The Supremes, The Temptations, Diana Ross and Teddy Edwards; recordings with the likes of The Beatles; Marvin Gaye, and Leroy Vinnegar; Brown continues to work six nights a week in Portland. Brown leads such diverse bands as a hard-bop sextet on Tuesday nights to live D.J. acid jazz on Wednesdays. He took a moment from his hard working schedule to sit down over a cup of coffee and talk to us about the past, the present and the future.

    JazzUSA: I often hear references to ‘Northwest Jazz’, is there such a thing?

    MB: It’s kind of hard to call it Northwest Jazz, because the musicians that are around here have played in all parts of the country with other people, they just happen to live here. I don’t think we have a certain style, just a jazz sound. You know, like in the east coast you got the hard hitting stuff, the west coast you have more of a laid back style which is a kind of a smooth thing; like the LA sound. As far as the Northwest, it’s kind of hard for me to put my finger on it.

    JazzUSA: What about NAS? Some say that New Age originate in Portland or Seattle with that whole Jeff Lorber, Kenny G. thing.

    MB: Well from that standpoint, it really started right here in Portland with Jeff Lorber. Lorber was a part of my band when I first moved back here from New York. When our saxophone player left, Jeff said “I have a friend in Seattle who plays alto”. I said “bring him down.” I knew him as Kenny Gorlick.

    A couple of nights later I was leaving the club and I said to Jeff, “let me help you with your electric piano.” He said, “No I’ve got it, everythings cool.” I didn’t realize it at the time, but he and Kenny were waiting for me to leave the club so they could go to the club owner. They told the owner “we’ll start our own band and work for less money than Mel is charging you.” I got wind of that through Thera (Memory), that’s when I fired them. That’s when they started that Lorber thing.

    JazzUSA: The rest is history. So in a strange way, you’re kind of responsible for the whole new age jazz thing getting started.

    MB: Yeah, Jeff came to me and said “let’s practice this, let’s see what this is about.” So Thera, myself and Omar, we just kind of laid down grooves, and said this is a different feel but let’s try something. We kind of started some stuff, but he (Jeff) twisted it into another direction.

    JazzUSA: What made you decide to become a musician?

    MB: Actually from the time I was 12 or 13, when I started playing the drums. My dad was a Scoutmaster in the Boy Scouts. He brought in an assistant from New York, a guy that just got out of the service. His assistant turned me onto the jazz thing. He said, “Oh you like jazz? Here I got a tape of some music, try this out.” And it was that “Milestone” album with Miles Davis. I heard that and I said “this is what music is about, this is what I want to do.” But the guy, the assistant Scoutmaster that brought this music to me, his cousin is Max Roach. So that got me off and running.

    JazzUSA: What about education?

    MB: I started in the seventh grade playing drums. When I got really into the jazz scene, got really serious, I hit it. And then I had a scholarship to college, actually to any school I wanted to take it to, through the Oregon Women’s League, so I went to school at Portland State. That’s when it was Portland State College, back in 1962, we only had four buildings. So my junior year I switched to Business Admnistration, because by that time I was already recording with Billy Larkin and the Delegates. I saw things that were happening in LA and I said to myself “what happens if I get in a car wreck and I can’t play drums? I gotta have some back up!” I’m a numbers man, so I just got into accounting.

    JazzUSA: You said you spent time in New York?

    MB: Yeah, I lived there for five years, 1970 to 1975. I was working with the Temptations at the time.

    JazzUSA: We talked a minute ago about how you helped launch the careers of Kenny G. and Jeff Lorber. Are there any other noteable jazz musicians out there now, that did a stint with you?

    MB: Not from right here in Portland per say. There are a lot of drummers around here that I’ve taught that are out doing some things now.

    JazzUSA: Like who?

    MB: There’s a guy named Bruce Carter, he’s playing with Kenny G now. Basically, every drummer around town was a student of mine at one time or another. There are some guys that aren’t playing jazz, but are doing other things. There’s a guy by the name of Dee Castranova, that has been playing with all the heavy rock bands. He use to play with a group called Bad English, he’s recorded some with Kiss and now he’s like the rock and roll drummer.

    JazzUSA: I know Max Roach is one answer, who else would you say were your two biggest influences.

    MB: My other two teachers, Philly Joe Jones and Poppa Joe Jones.

    JazzUSA: What about the rumors that you’re really just a blues muscian, playing jazz, as opposed to a jazz musician who can play the blues.

    MB: Basically, I’m just a musician that can play all different styles.

    JazzUSA: You like the blues?

    MB: Oh yeah, I didn’t wake up and start playing jazz. I started out with rock and roll and then got into the blues. I use to work with some different people. I was working with Little Johnny Taylor and I did some things with Lowell Folsom. My very first gig that I ever played, I mean professional gig, was here (in Portland) at the Crystal Ballroom, with Ike and Tina Turner. I’ve covered so many different genres, cause when I was very young I was classically trained. A lot of guys used to tease me because I was standing up in an orchestra playing nothing but a snare drum, or I was playing timpani. They said, “awww man, you need to come out in the street and see what the other stuff is about.”

    JazzUSA: You did a stint with Motown, didn’t you?

    MB: Yeah, a long one.

    JazzUSA: Were you living there as well?

    MB: I was actually in California, but I was in Detroit so much, you might as well say I was living there.

    JazzUSA: I was looking at the list of people you played with. And Motown list like everybody, I mean everybody. The only person I didn’t see on the list was Smokey, and you probably played with him.

    MB: Oh yeah, I was with Smokey. I started with Martha Reeves and the Vandellas. See, every year back in Detroit we had a Christmas show, and it ran from Christmas Eve to New Years Day. Everybody that had a contract with Motown was on the show. So while I was out with Martha, doing “Jimmy Mack” or “Dancin’ in the Street,” or “My Baby Loves Me,” Gladys (Knight) would be in the wings singing, Smokey over here, Levi (Stubbs) and boys they were waiting in the wings. It was a big family affair.

    JazzUSA: Give me one thing you remember most from your Motown days.

    MB: I just remember a bunch of fun, because it was a big family thing. You could be recording something for Junior Walker and Stevie Wonder would run by. And you’d say “Stevie what are you doing in here?” and he would pick up something and just start playing, that’s how things were back then. Even with the singers! They could be laying down some tracks and somebody would walk through, and they would say “hold it, hold it stop the track, put your voice on this!” A lot of the stuff like that was happening. Even with Martha and the Vandellas you might hear a male voice in the background… that could have been Johnny Bristol or Harvey Fuqua.

    JazzUSA: What about now? You’ve got a new album out. It’s recorded live in a club (Jimmy Macks in Portland) but the acoustics are nice. Did it come out the way planned?

    MB: Oh sure, it came out even better than I anticipated. I wanted to capture that live thing like Cannonball had on that “Mercy, Mercy,” where the crowd is involved. Most of the things I do here, if it’s a live album, the band is across the street and the crowd is on the other side of the street. The two don’t really mix, you’ll hear a few applause… that’s it. But with this CD you can hear people hollering, screaming and clapping and getting involved.

    JazzUSA: Who’s idea was it to do that?

    MB: I actually wanted to do something live, and Tim Gallineau (The Producer) said “ok, I’ve got the people that can do that.”

    JazzUSA: People need to know you have a rich history. There’s going to be a lot of people who say “who the heck is Mel Brown?” Then they’re going to read this and realize that they’ve been listening to Mel Brown all their lives.

    MB: Plus there are going to be people back on the east coast, who are going to say “I wondered what ever happened to him!”

    JazzUSA: Any gripes with the business in general?

    MB: It’s just time that somebody from back behind the scenes, gets a chance to come out in front. As you and most of the people know, everybody always talks about the singers out in the front. Who are the musicians who made the singers sing the way that they sing? There’s a lot of those guys who are dead now, that were actually back there doing those things. There are very few of us still around, and back then they didn’t even put our names on the albums.

    JazzUSA: Drummers seem to have a tendency to write pieces that are drum-centric, and listeners don’t always want to listen to things that are drum-centric for an entire CD. You almost seem to take a backseat throughout this taping . You are the driving force but you give a lot of space to the other performers.

    MB: Basically, what’s happening with me is I don’t have to prove a point. These other guys are saying “look at me I’m going to compete for the number one slot in Downbeat magazine, to be the best drummer.” I don’t want to do that, I want to compete with the other folks who are saying the President of this bank knows me by my first name, because I put a lot of money into this bank. So it’s the main appeal, I put myself in the position of saying if I sat in the audience, how long could I sit there and listen to this group.

    JazzUSA: How did you choose your band members?

    MB: I kind of hand picked them. There was a certain sound that I wanted to hear. And I knew who could give me that sound.

    JazzUSA: What are you going to do in the future besides working six days a week?

    MB: I gotta slow down before I go crazy here. I’m getting that itch to travel and move around, It’s time for me to get on the road. I need to get in touch with what’s happening musically. Do some festivals as opposed to playing clubs. Clubs are fine but, but I like the whole festival situation too; I guess it’s about 50/50. The thing about playing festivals that’s nice is that you don’t play for a long period of time, and you make pretty decent money. But you also spend half the night on your set adjusting to the sound because the sound men that are there aren’t familiar with your sound. You have to fight these guys to get what you want. When I do a soft press roll, they start turning up the dials, and it sounds like the building is coming down. So you spend all your time really upset by the time you finish your set. You didn’t play the music, you just fought for 45 minutes to an hour. Whereas in the club you can kind of get situated and the the sound can get down. And you can really get into your stuff.

    JazzUSA: Any more albums in the works?

    MB: We’re going to try and get busy and do something else, maybe with the sextet. We’re gonna take it and mesh it together with the quintet on one release. It’s not going to be a live thing, but it’s going to be the sextet on one side and the quintet on the other.

    JazzUSA: We’ll be looking for that one. Good luck to you and thanks.

    Marc Antoine – Mediterraneo

    Marc Antoine
    (Rendezvous – 2003)
    by S.H. Watkins, Sr.

    He was born in France, and has lived in both London and Los Angeles. Now living in Spain and playing everywhere, Marc Antoine has been influenced by music and cultures from all over the world. Marc’s last album Cruisin was fabulous, and he’s taking it up a notch here. Antoine penned ten of the eleven tracks and I think that MY favorite is Funky Picante, or maybe the staid and somber Gotham. Then again, Preludio is very seductive with some delicate percussion work from longtime associate Luis Conte. In fact, it would be easier to say which one I like the least than to call out the best track here…

    I won’t do that however because all of the tracke are well played, well writen and well recorded. Afromenco and Señor Groove toss a flamenco flavor into the mix and make it even HARDER to choose a favorite. Everything But The Girl’s Lady, the only track Marc did not write here still has the trademark Antoine stamp on it. The album was recorded in Antoine’s Madrid studio by multiple Grammy Award winner Rafa Sardina (Angie Stone, Macy Gray, Dru Hill and Luis Miguel) and was mixed by Mike Pela, who is known for the distinctive, lush sound he’s helped to create on records by Sade, Maxwell and Savage Garden. Mixing styles and influences, you’d think that Antoine was a world music artist, but the contemporary jazz radio format has championed him and made him a future smooth jazz legend. Get the CD and you’ll agree.

    Alekos Galas – Mediterranean Breeze

    Alekos Galas
    Mediterranean Breeze
    2010 – Esthima Music

    A dream realized through tradition and vision….Master Bouzouki artist, Alekos Galas came from humble beginnings, but his visionary dreams have brought his traditional instrument to new heights. Alex ‘Alekos’ Galas was born in San Francisco, California. His mother and father were Greek immigrants to the U.S.; his mother immigrated in 1948 and his father in 1952.

    As far back as he can remember Alekos wanted to be a musician and to perform in front of an audience. Galas explains, “Kids 4-5 years of age pretend and imagine different fantasies; I always pretended that I had a stringed instrument in my hands, moving my fingers and imagining large crowds applauding. The day the instrument ended up in my hands was the providential event of my life. While playing ‘Hide-and-Seek’ at eight years old, during a visit with a relative, I hid in the closet where there, seemingly staring at me, was a Bouzouki. I put the instrument in my hands and started to pluck the strings. The sound fascinated me and as I took it out of the closet to explore the sounds, my uncle, the owner of the bouzouki confronted me. I thought I was in trouble like most mischievous kids, touching what did not belong to me. Instead, he simply asked me if I liked the instrument. I replied, ‘Yes, very much!’ Seeing that I was in awe with the Bouzouki, he then said, ‘OK Alex, I want you to have it.’ From that day forward, my life changed forever. When I often look back and think about that day, I believe that it was “written in my life destiny” and was definitely meant to be. As a performer, I am always asked the question, ‘Why did you choose the Bouzouki?’ My reply: ‘I didn’t choose the Bouzouki, it chose me.’ ”

    As a youth, Galas played and practiced the Bouzouki for hours upon hours, learning by ear to play television show and movie themes, music from the radio, and of course, the traditional music of Greece. Alekos reminisces, “On one summer day, after practicing the entire day, it was getting late and my father asked me to stop since he and my mother were ready to turn in for the night. I asked permission to go to the garage in order to continue playing. Finally, I became tired and decided I’d better go to bed. To my great surprise, when I looked out the window, it was sunrise!” To this day, Alekos has the same passion about his instrument.

    It was becoming increasingly apparent that Alekos had found his destiny. Aware of his talent, his father bought records of Bouzouki artists and Alekos would learn note for note the many instrumental pieces. Galas’ father was very proud of him and at the age of eleven, he bought a Bouzouki that cost $600; very expensive for those years and considering the family was not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination.

    Alekos continued to hone his skills as a youngster. His father (mentor and guide) could tell his son was ready to become a true performing musician. He knew to embark on this journey Alex would have to perform live in front of audiences. His father would take him to Greek night-clubs that showcased Bouzouki artists. Mr. Galas would speak to the owners of clubs and venues on his son’s behalf to arrange performances with the various groups. Galas remembers vividly, the first time he performed on a professional stage at a night-club when he was 11 years old. “Performing together with a professional band, I played several Bouzouki instrumentals with no mistakes and as if I had rehearsed with them. I also remember not being shy performing in front of the audience. It seemed so natural. I would perform as a featured soloist at many various venues, for large and small crowds at different events, and performing at Colleges and High Schools as well. When I was 14, I performed at the San Francisco Civic Auditorium (now called the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium) in front of 7,000 people for the event, ‘International Day’ that featured Arthur Fiedler conducting the San Francisco Pops Orchestra. This performance featured several ethnic groups performing music from their respective countries such as: Spain, Italy, Germany, and Poland. My group represented Greece and to my thrill, I played the exciting Bouzouki piece ‘Zorba the Greek,’ receiving a resounding applause. ”

    It was at 17, Galas began his professional musical career performing in major cities all over the United States and Canada. This spanned over 4 decades and included many concert appearances at Performing Art Centers and Concert Halls. Through the years, Galas recorded and featured the Bouzouki for many artists in the Greek music genre, as well as successfully crossing over into other genres of music, recording for different World Music projects, jazz fusion, and for pop & smooth jazz artists. He was privileged when asked by record producer and composer, Steve Wood, who has written the music scores for over 30 IMAX films, to play Bouzouki for the IMAX FILM, “GREECE: SECRETS OF THE PAST.” The soundtrack ended up winning the GSCA Award for best film score of 2006.

    Throughout his musical career, Galas has performed with top musicians and recorded for music projects of many genres. MEDITERRANEAN BREEZE is a project that is a culmination of experiences and ideas he has wanted to release for some time. His compositions are from his heart and soul; a musical expression of beauty, human emotions, and love. Music is his life, and for that reason, the compositions and performances of Alekos Galas undoubtedly reflect the passion and creativity of his life-long journey to not only bring his music to the masses, but to also infuse other genres with the beautiful sounds of the Bouzouki, which is clearly exhibited in his latest release, MEDITERRANEAN BREEZE.

    Eddie Daniels – Mean What You Say

    Eddie Daniels
    Mean What You Say
    (Ipo Recordings – 2006)
    by John Thompson

    The name Eddie Daniels is synonymous with jazz clarinet. In this quartet setting, he is joined by greats such as Richard Davis (b), Kenny Washington (d) and the monumental jazz veteran, Hank Jones (p). There is no question that Daniels’ technique and control on the clarinet is nearly unmatched, as he definitely displays on Strayhorn’s Passion Flower. While the rhythm section is rock-solid, the smoothness of Jones’ ivory add body throughout the 12 tracks.

    Daniels first came to the attention of jazz audiences as a tenor saxophonist with the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra. In 1968, a single clarinet solo on that group’s Live at the Village Vanguard garnered sufficient attention for Daniels to win Down Beat’s International Critics New Star on Clarinet award.

    Though the tenor sax playing on this release is only average, this is still one to own for moderate-style listener minus the hard bop. 3 stars.

    Jenna Mammina – Meant To Be

    Jenna Mammina
    Meant To Be

    (Mamma Grace – 2002)
    by S.H. Watkins, Sr.

    It was at the 2001 IAJE that I initially heard Jenna Mammina’s voice, at a private performance she hosted at the hotel. This year she did it again, performing songs from her new release Meant To Be and it was one of the highlights of the entire trip, particularly when she slipped into her version of the Steely Dan classic Dirty Work. Jenna’s unique sound falls somewhere between Phobe Snow, Carly Simon and a Nightingale’s song. Her control is excellent and her style is very entrancing. The CD starts off with Lotus Blossom delivered in a hot flamenco-like style by guitarist Andre Bush, Jenna coming in like a cool breeze to carry the melody. Her voice has a sassy way of curling when she pushes it, then sliding back into a sweet whisper, very noticeable on her rendition of Fats Waller’s Honeysuckle Rose.

    The More I See You is another of the tunes she sang at the hotel, and the CD version is almost as good as live (nothing is as good as live, but a lot fuller since at the hotel it was only Jenna and Andre Bush. Her treatment of Ellington’s In A Mellow Tone is jouncy and ‘Hep’, as Duke would have said. Distant Water is a softly spun ballad, storytelling reminiscent of Phoebe Snow in the 70’s and 80’s. Jenna Mammina performed at a couple of the now-defunct Mt. Hood Jazz festival and absolutely wowed ’em. Be sure to grab a copy of this one for your collection, and stop by Jenna’s web site to see if she’s playing anywhere within a few hundred miles or so of your town. If so, try to go, it’s a show you don’t want to miss.

    McCoy Tyner Live at the Jazz Showcase

    McCoy Tyner McCoy Tyner
    Live at the Jazz Showcase

    by Phyllis A. Lodge

    For years I have been attending McCoy Tyner concerts, beginning with his sextet in the 1970’s. As has become his custom, McCoy Tyner waits unobtrusively a few moments in a dimly lit area of the room after being introduced at Joe Segal’s Jazz Showcase. He lingers patiently while bassist Avery Sharpe and drummer Aaron Scott climb onstage and situate themselves with their instruments. He watches silently as though he is part of the audience before proceeding silently to the stage. Every McCoy Tyner performance is different, yet identical. He will come onstage last – he will open the performance with a rousing, thunderous bright sounding number; he will announce most of the tunes in his slightly husky, cordial tone and then he will rock the house.

    Thanks to Jazz Showcase impresario, Joe Segal, who began arranging for the pianist’s instrument to be shipped in to the club specifically for McCoy’s performances, the shows are even more electrifying. There is much history wrapped up in McCoy Tyner’s piano. Ah if it could talk. Actually in many ways, it does. The instrument speaks for McCoy the moment he raises his hands like a gentle wizard. Wearing his customary, gracious smile, he situates himself at the keyboard, lowers his hands and immediately envelopes the room in a full-bodied version of My Romance, which is becoming a standard in the pianist’s repertoire. The music just rushes forth. And McCoy enjoys doing it in an upbeat, lively tempo, as Avery Sharpe’s bass and Aaron Scott’s drum set swaddle his rich piano tones in shimmering, buzzing rhythms. After a couple of sprightly rounds in the piece, Avery assumes the lead, plucking mightily at the bass as though they are giant heartstrings. McCoy duets softly behind his bassist of nearly 20 years, producing a few harp-like phrases behind Avery’s rolling circles of sound. They then bring the piece to a close.

    McCoy picks up the mike and welcomes his listeners as he encourages a warm round of applause for Avery Sharpe and Aaron Scott before they move into Trane-Like, a fairly recent Coltrane-inspired composition. McCoy embarks on a rich, vivid and deeply textured line of harmonics filled with his trademark cluster of sound. Avery’s bass and Aaron’s percussion swath McCoy in their own masterful rhythms. It is highly reminiscent of the seeking, climatic style Coltrane became famous for in his hey-day during the mid-1960’s. McCoy’s moving solo holds fast the audience’s attention throughout the entire introductory passages of the piece. He falls back quietly allowing Aaron’s hypnotic drum patterns to emerge , swelling gracefully into a multi-directional, tone-driven statement. As Aaron’s highly crafted solo progresses, Elvin Jones crossed my mind only briefly. Aaron’s style is his own, but there was something in the spirit of his playing, or maybe just the spirit of the number, that called up this impression as he played.

    Again Avery Sharpe comes forth in solo. Even after years of listening to Avery’s slap-string, rolling approach to the instrument, I am continually astounded at the grace with which he advances exciting, spiced and highly articulate solos. And he does so like one totally detached from the outcome, while remaining completely in harmony with his instrument. Then the trio brings Trane Like to a graceful close. McCoy again thanks the audience before he announces My Foolish Heart. In this ballad McCoy exhibits his flare for transitions. He can change keys consistently throughout the number while maintaining integrity of the tune. He may play a few bars in stride tempo, singing slightly audibly under the keyboard and gently pounding his left foot on the floor, which is all part of the music. McCoy continues also to recreate this healing sense of perpetual waves and graceful arches of golden sunshine. He also employs his famous echoing octaves that recreate an ascension of mountainous peaks, while sounding like gongs throughout vast canyons. Then he lands the number lightly in graceful close like a seasoned pilot. Throughout the performance, the audience is taking turns clapping at various high points in his solo. Sometimes we clap in between transitions within the number. I have often seen audiences become collectively overwhelmed with the magnificence of McCoy’s playing style, and tonight is no exception.

    Another McCoy Tyner original, Happy Days, always draws early applause and approval from the listeners. After a couple of bars of one of his extended introduction which usually has the audience in suspended, silent focus, he gets into the heart of the tune and the audience almost McCoy Tyner cheers. Happy Days moves the listener down a lazy river of sound as it incites the people to rock in unison. It enchants with the feel of gospel — joyous, spiritual, down-home and satisfying. McCoy’s effect on the audience with this number is always mellowing, and within the context of the trio it leaves an indelible impression of good-old, down-home peace. McCoy performs another solo ballad this evening is entitled Memories, which is much newer for me. Anytime McCoy performs solo, the other musicians alight from the stage allowing the pianist to bathe the audience in polished, reverent beauty.

    The audience is treated to another Coltrane classic, Mr. PC, written for the great bassist, Paul Chambers. McCoy dives headlong into a cut-time version, showcasing his uncanny practice of what I have christened his piano dialog. The two hands are both chattering back and forth at the same time. The effect this time feels like a group of ladies all chattering breathlessly after a wonderful sermon. After a while, the music begins to take on its own life. The solos become more and more compelling as they work to surpass what they had done before. McCoy even stops announcing the numbers. They are simply caught up now in the music. The audience is all responding at their own discretion, praising a phrase the ‘speaks to them’. The set becomes a conversation between everyone in the room. Even the hostess who is serving the drinks occasionally stops a moment to focus on the performance onstage.

    During the course of the evening, McCoy performs Fly with the Wind, one of the few numbers that is not somehow directly connected to his Coltrane-inspired tribute. Since, however Fly with the Wind is an admitted favorite composition of McCoy’s, it is still a tribute. It is a number that you can often look forward to hearing after an interval of time, regardless of what phase of the music McCoy is feeling right then. It is one of those numbers that he just enjoys performing, and he pulls it out at unpredictable times just to hear it again.

    Actually, the order of the show has been a bit compromised here. The group actually finished with Mr. PC and moved into a good old-fashioned blues number that was a cross of “St. Louis Woman” and McCoy’s composition, Blues for Basie. It didn’t really have to be either, now that I think back, since the nature of the blues is an across the board experience. The seasoned musician can play the blues endlessly, moving from one tune to the other without running out of various titles within the form.

    The point is that this trio draws a great crowd whenever McCoy Tyner comes to town. The music was so invigorating, I stayed for a second set even though I had to come to work the next day. And funny, I was not tired when I had to rise early the next morning, because sometimes it’s just worth it to experience that kind of energy in your day. And the beauty of it is, McCoy always has positive experiences with Joe Segal and the Showcase in Chicago. And we always look forward to what we know will be a powerful show with some of the greatest music the world has to offer. I understand the group is on its way to California next. I say to the West Coast, get ready. These men are fired up and ready to pack a thrilling punch with their show that will surely rock the house. For more of the same, McCoy Tyner recently released a CD with two more of his favorite colleagues, Al Foster and George Mraz entited McCoy Tyner Plays John Coltrane Live at the Village Vanguard.

    An Interview with McCoy Tyner

    An Interview with
    McCoy Tyner
    by Mark Ruffin

    McCoy TymerSimply put, McCoy Tyner is one of the best piano players in the world. His new album, “McCoy Tyner And The Latin All-Star” features Dave Valentin, Steve Turre, Giovanni Hildalgo and a host of musicians.

    JazzUSA: McCoy, why did you choose a Latin theme for your latest album?

    MT: Well, the first time I did a record like this, I think was in 1982. That was “La Layenda De La Hora( Legend Of The Hour)

    JazzUSA: Yeah, it was just re-issued last year.

    MT: Yeah, I did that a long time ago. Paquito D’Rivera had just defected from Cuba and I thought wow, what a great opportunity to do a Latin album. I’ve been interested in this music, because of the ethnicity of it, I mean there are common roots between Afro-Cuban music and American jazz.

    JazzUSA: “Legend Of The Hour” was big band, strings, this album is pared down with a much smaller group, which gives you more room to explore, is that right?

    MT: That’s right. That’s very important. That’s one thing about small groups. Basically, the groups are different and the way you deal with each situation. You can still keep your character and your inventiveness, but it’s different when you have like 15 or 16 people to deal with.

    JazzUSA: So it’s even easier with just a trio?

    MT: Oh yeah, and even easier playing solo (laughs).

    JazzUSA: Your current trio is Avery Sharpe on bass and Aaron Scott on drums and how long have you guys been together?

    MT: Avery has been with me 17 and Aaron for ten.

    JazzUSA: The album is really wonderful and your version of “Poinciana” is so you, despite the stamp that Ahmad Jamal has perpetually put on that song, usually no matter who does it.

    MT: I loved Ahmad’s version of it so much that for a long time I wouldn’t even consider recording it, because I held it in so much reverence. It was just so beautiful with that trio he had and they way they recorded it. So it took me a while but I thought now was a good time to do it.

    JazzUSA: McCoy you have such a long history, but that period with John Coltrane must’ve been very special.

    MT: It was unbelievable. I couldn’t wait to go to work at night. He was like family. See, I met John when I was like 17. He was kind of like a big brother to me. I used to sit and talk to him on his mother’s porch. I kind of grew up playing in his band. It was wonderful just to talk to him and play music every night. And he was so serious about his music.

    JazzUSA: I think a lot of people don’t know that you actually knew John Coltrane a few years before you joined the band.

    MT: About three years before I joined the band.

    JazzUSA: In fact, correct me if I’m wrong, you made your recording debut with the Art Farmer/Benny Golson Jazztet?

    MT: Well there was a record I did before, a Curtis Fuller record and then we did “Meet The Jazztet,”

    JazzUSA: Which included the original version of “Killer Joe,” and you were 19.

    MT: Something like that.

    JazzUSA: And there’s this story about how you were with this band, but actually you were on call waiting for John Coltrane to call you.

    MT: That’s very true. What happened was John would come around when Miles wasn’t working and if he got a gig in Philadelphia, I would play with him. He told me when I form my band, I want you to join the band. But every time he wanted to leave, Miles would give him more money to encourage him to stay. So he stayed for a little while. But I decided I couldn’t wait. I was working in the daytime and playing at night, and it was just too much. So when Benny (Golson) came through and the Jazztet was formed. But I told them whenever John leaves Miles, I’m gone. After about two months after he left Miles, I joined the quartet.

    JazzUSA: When Coltrane formed the group, were a lot of people surprised at the difference in Coltrane’s groups as opposed to Miles’ group?

    MT: He was headed in that direction even when he was with Miles, at least the latter part of his stay with Miles, he was working on those things. In his solos you could hear him changing. But, like you said, when the band happened, it really did have it’s own identity. He had his own music and it was different.

    JazzUSA: And Atlantic Records, the company he first recorded the quartet with, made a lot of recordings real fast.

    MT: Yeah, we went in and we did “My Favorite Things” and “Coltrane Plays The Blues” and there was something else, and we did those in the same week.

    JazzUSA: And the result was that by the time some of those records came out, Coltrane was in a whole different place as a live performer.

    MT: Yeah, he was moving quickly, constantly developing (laughs) evolving. He was an amazing individual, a major force in our music.

    JazzUSA: And you said you couldn’t wait to go to work every night. Was it different every night?

    MT: Yes it was. You didn’t know what to expect. It was very exciting.

    JazzUSA: Yeah, but when folk who were expecting to hear the famous version of “My Favorite Things,” and it was a big success at the time, heard something different when they heard Coltrane live.

    MT: Well, we tried to keep that in character in terms of the melody, because we knew a lot of people really wanted to hear it. I mean we were getting three and four request a night for that song. We’d say ‘we just played it last set,” and they’d say ‘well we want to hear it.” (laughs) But within the solo context, it would be different every time we played it back, but we tried to keep some semblance of it.

    JazzUSA: By the time it came out, he was on his way to Impulse Records and took music to another place. But also during that time, you got a chance to start making your own solo records on Impulse. After that you did time with Blue Note, then spent most of the 70’s with Milestone. But then something happened where you became like this ultimate free agent. I admire the way you handle them and I think it’s your stature in music that allows you not to let record companies dictate to McCoy Tyner.

    MT: There’s nothing wrong with having a home. I had a home with those record companies you just mentioned but the thing is I feel now I have to be encouraged to sign a long term contract. But it’s really not something I look forward to right at the moment. I like to free-lance. But there’s nothing wrong, if things were proper, I’d sign a long term deal, as long as it’s not too long.

    JazzUSA: But there are some advantages in being that free agent.

    MT: Yes there are many advantages, because what you do is have a project and you see who’s interested and you see whether or not they can meet the demands of the project in terms of budget. So there are a few concerns but the main thing is if someone is willing to rise to the occasion and take care of everything that needs to be taking care of, then it can happen.

    JazzUSA: And like I said, it’s your stature that pretty much allows that to happen, because you tour whether or not a record company has something new on you out or not. How many dates do you do a year?

    MT: That’s hard to figure out (laughs).

    JazzUSA: At least 200.

    MT: I do travel a lot. I enjoy what I do and people like it and that’s wonderful. I’m here to play for the people and me.

    JazzUSA: I love the wide variety of formats that you use including the two pop records you’ve done. The first one, “Looking Out,” is one of the greatest mixtures of jazz and pop I’ve ever heard. I mean, Phyliss Hyman, Stanley Clarke?

    MT: Don’t forget Carlos Santana.

    JazzUSA: How can you? Then the Burt Bacharach record, I mean, it was okay for what it was, but nowhere near “Looking Out,” but now I hear there’s a chance you might doing a big Brazilian record, is that right?

    MT: Well, I’ve talked to Gilberto Gil, but he’s into politics down in Bahia. I”ve been trying to reach him and I’m going to talk to him some more about it and we’ll see what happens.

    JazzUSA: Anything else in the future, you can mention?

    MT: There’s always something new, but I learned a long time ago that you don’t talk too much about your future project because then it’s out there and those ideas float around and…you know. I like to get it done, but I don’t like to talk about it.

    For more information on McCoy Tyner’s new album
    with the Latin All Stars
    McCoy Tyner and the Latin All Stars
    our review from the April 1999 JazzUSA.

    McCoy Tyner and the Latin All-Stars

    McCoy Tyner

    McCoy Tyner and the Latin All-Stars
    (Telarc Jazz)
    by Fred Jung

    For those of us who were chagrined that McCoy Tyner did a whole album devoted to Burt Bacharach tunes, the pianist redeems himself with McCoy Tyner and the Latin All-Stars. With a truly all-star cast–Johnny Almendra on timbales, Gary Bartz on saxophones, Ignacio Berroa on drums, Giovanni Hidalgo on percussion, Claudio Roditi on trumpet, Avery Sharpe on bass, Steve Turre on trombone, and Dave Valentin on flute, McCoy Tyner and the Latin All-Stars is a collection of seven selections from Tyner’s small Latin-ensemble that has been touring around the States, most recently at Yoshi’s in San Francisco.

    An Afro-Cuban “Poinciana” has a focused Tyner laying down the familiar Ahmad Jamal melody against a percussive background. Tyner’s dancing piano lines hark back to vintage Tyner, before LiPuma took him back to the Stone Age. “A Song for Love,” a Tyner original is a fine illustration of the pianist’s mastery of his instrument, accompanying Roditi with articulate quotes. “La Habana Sol” is a vehicle for Hidalgo and Almendra to their vibrant intensity. The two percussionists glow in the dark, banging away in front of the band or behind a confident Turre or the impeccable Bartz. There’s the John Coltrane side of Tyner and the Latin side, which this Telarc recording promptly displays. Both are vastly different stylistically, showing why Tyner is one of the most influential pianists today. We’ll just forget about that whole Bacharach fiasco.

    Corky McClerkin and Henry Johnson

    Corky McClerkinHenry Johnson

    Talking with Chicago Musicians
    Corky McClerkin
    and Henry Johnson

    by Mark Ruffin

    Whether they should play electric jazz or acoustic jazz is a question that many musicians are grappling with these days. The answer for some is to straddle this musical fence, while it’s not an issue at all for many who easily choose one or the other. The way two Chicago veterans, pianist Corky McClerkin and guitarist Henry Johnson, have chosen to deal with this dilemma on their new recordings makes for an interesting case study.

    McClerkin’s new disc, his third, is Island of Dreams, and Johnson’s sixth album is An Evening At Sea. The dichotomies in these albums are many, including the fact that this is the first album by Johnson that is not on a major label, while all of McClerkin’s releases have either been on his own imprint, or with the small Chicago company, Southport Records.

    “All of the major record companies are signing the flavor of the month, and they all wanted me to do that smooth jazz stuff,” Johnson detailed with distain. “I don’t do that anymore.”

    The keyboardist, on the other hand, feels that electric jazz, whether it’s called smooth, contemporary or even fusion, is part of his heritage, just like traditional jazz. Therefore the first seven tracks of Island of Dreams are decidedly smooth, while the rest is blowing straight ahead music.

    “It’s hard for me to label what I am and what I do,” McClerikin explained. “Traditional jazz, hard-core jazz, contemporary jazz, smooth jazz, whatever, I’ve always had various people who like different parts of things I play. I wanted to bring a mixture to the sound of the cd.

    “Besides, the concept of jazz has always been about continual growth,” McClerkin continued, “and the versatility of musicians and what we have bought from a historical standpoint must not be overlooked in contemporary jazz.”

    Though it pains him to admit it now, Johnson was once a smooth jazz darling.

    “And, I’ve spent the last four years or so trying to get rid of that tag,” Johnson retorted.

    It’s the rampant commercialism of the modern music that has turned the guitarist off.

    “I was in Dallas once, and I was listening to the smooth jazz station there, called the Oasis.” Johnson recalled. “One of my tunes was playing and they totally edited my solo out, taking the art totally out of my hands.

    “When radio started making formula out of the music and started simplifying it to the point where it’s just a bunch of crap, I stopped playing. If you do anything contemporary with really progressive improvising, it won’t be played, or edited really badly.”

    After a stellar period as a sideman to first-rate contemporary stars like Ramsey Lewis, Angela Bofill, Stanley Turrentine and others, Johnson signed with MCA Records in the mid-80’s and produced three albums for that multi-international music giant. In 93, he put out the first of two albums for Heads Up International, a company that specializes in smooth jazz.

    Since he’s had a stylistic change of strings, sort of speak, Johnson has recorded with acoustic stars Norman Simmons, Kenny Drew Jr, and jazz singers Vanessa Rubin, Freddie Cole and the late Joe Williams. An Evening At Sea is his first album in six years and it 100% be-bop.

    “I’m not one of those guys they talk about on smooth jazz radio anymore, and that’s cool with me ” Johnson said with a sense of pride. “The music right now is so terrible, it’s like a clone that’s been cloned over and over again, getting weaker with each cloning.”

    Needless to say, McClerkin has a totally different view perched on top of his keyboard with one hand in the past and the other firmly in the future. He has not been spoiled with major label success and ample radio airplay.

    Island of Dreams brims with optimism, adventurous contemporary rhythms and polished improvisational passages. Among the four producers listed are arranger Mike Logan, who is well known in smooth jazz in Chicago, and Curtis Prince, who is one of our towns hardest working acoustic jazz drummers in the Windy City..

    The album features two of Chicago’s finest singers in Joan Collaso and Dee Alexander, both of whom, like McClerkin, also go both ways musically. While traditional local stars Sonny Seals and John Watson, saxophonist and trombonist respectively are also featured.

    “I featured these performers because they are so important to the total jazz sound of Chicago,” McClerkin concluded. “We were all raised in the straight-ahead style, but to survive in this town, you have to evolve to deal with all forms of jazz music.

    Johnson doesn’t feel that way at all. But, he also has a national name that he can take to other cities across JazzUSA

    MaxJazz Holiday – November 2001

    MaxJazz HolidayMaxJazz Holiday
    (MaxJazz – 2001)
    by John Barrett

    From a label specializing in vocal jazz, this is the kind of Christmas album you’d expect: soft, subtle backgrounds and big emotional voices. Carla Cook overdubs herself for “Do You Hear What I Hear?” – pure on the high notes, she becomes a choir on the chorus. Cyrus Chestnut also goes dubbing: he’s spiritual at the organ, funky at the piano. René Marie is girlish for “Let It Snow!”; this voice was made for snuggling.

    Bruce Barth keeps the piano nice ‘n’ warm – and the drummer clicks a near-samba! Laverne Butler giggles her way through “Sleigh Ride”, and Mary Stallings is the sound of pure class on “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”. Making her first records in the ‘Fifties, Mary sounds nostalgic, matched well with Barth’s lush accompaniment. It’s a lovely “old” sound – and it fits, as this is the season for memories.

    With a crisp 6/8 and a warm reedy voice, Phillip Manuel brings joy to “Go Tell It on the Mountain”. Peter Martin jabs some expressive piano, and Phillip transcends it with ease. Barth plays “We’ll Dress This House” as a bossa, while Christine Hitt coos the lyric in satisfaction. (Barth then plays “O Christmas Tree” as an instrumental: he’s funkier than Guaraldi, but in the same general area.) René tries to go sultry with “Winter Wonderland” (nice idea, but a little plain in execution) while Laverne does “The Christmas Song” with just a little vibrato – a little, but it’s enough. Some moments need no embellishment.

    Turning a little sassy, Mary has a “Merry Little Christmas”; Bruce surrounds her in block chords, and all is well. Chestnut dances on Carla’s version of “Silent Night”. Christine is thoughtful on “Some Children See Him”, and her bold piano fills the silence; Barth follows with a gentle “Greensleeves”, powered by exciting cymbals. Avoiding comparisons to Tyner, Bruce’s tone is broad … and restless. Manuel’s “Peace on Earth” (the only original composition) has a smooth approach and a well-stated lyric.

    “Christmas is the story of a great and wondrous birth/ Mary’s child, a baby boy; His message, ‘Peace on Earth.'” The piano is quiet, the brushes thick – and slowly the message sinks in. Without histrionics or an overblown production, this album uses its many talents to convey the one thought of a special season.

    David Maxwell and Friends – Max Attack

    David Maxwell and Friends – Max Attack David Maxwell and Friends
    Max Attack
    (95 North – 2005)
    by Matt Robinson

    The first line of the Blues is repeated a second time.

    I said the first line of the Blues is repeated a second time.

    And yet, in that limited oeuvre, some artists are able to make their mark.

    One such artist is David Maxwell.

    On his latest album, the long-time local legend is able to call upon not only years of personal experience, but also a bevy of similarly lauded friends (which is NOT in quotes because the sense of camaraderie on this album is so authentic), among whom are such Blue stars as the Fabulous Kim Wilson, the regal Duke Robillard and Ronnie Earl and über-legend Pinetop Perkins (who is tributed in a special and heartfelt closing duet). Maxwell even enlists award-winning writer Ted Drozdowski to scribe the brief but informative liner notes which rightfully site “Max Attack” as “a true Blues album.”

    From the traditional riffs of “Thanks for All the Women” to the yummy booty-shaker “Sticky Buns” and the sweet and low down “What’s the Use of a Broken Heart” to the cleverly innuendoed “Long Distance Driver” and “Handyman” (which include lines like “I’m headed down your highway, Baby / Headed into you”) to the barroom stride of “Twisted Tendons” to the synthetic Stax sounds of the title track, Maxwell runs the gamut of Blues-related grooves, all with a calculated sloppiness that make you feel as if you had just plunked down on the bench next to him to watch the Max-ster at work. And when his flying fingers aren’t captivating ears, his husky throaty vocals are drawing them in.

    No wonder Maxwell has so many devoted friends!

    David Maxwell will perform at Regattabar May 27 at 7:30 and 10. For tickets, call 617 395 7757 or go to regattabarjazz.com.

    C. 2006 M. S. Robinson ARR

    An Interview with Matthias Lupri

    Deep Vibes…
    An Interview with Matthias Lupri
    by Paula Edelstein

    Matthias Lupri Chartmaker Jazz is currently distributing the eclectic sounds of Matthias Lupri on Birdleg Records and no jazz mind-set is spared on his second release entitled, SHADOW OF THE VIBE. Matthias reaches deep to the soul and strokes many of the moods that we usually reserve for those wee hours of solitude after getting rid of the day’s vibe…so to speak. The young master, and protégé of Gary Burton, delivers on eleven compositions filled with great thoughts, imagery and musical excellence. Helping to round out his musical visions are the great George Garzone on saxophones, John Lockwood on acoustic bass and the exciting Sebastian deKrom on drums. What a concert! We caught up with Matthias just as Summer 2000 was winding down and talked about a couple of things that you should know!

    JazzUSA: Hello Matthias. First off, congratulations on the success of WINDOW UP, WINDOW DOWN. That CD said a lot about your direct articulation and character on the vibraphone. Now with SHADOW OF THE VIBE, you have impressed many of your followers with your tremendous growth. Let’s talk about the quartet members. George Garzone on tenor and soprano saxophone, John Lockwood on acoustic bass, drummer Sebastian DeKrom, all play with that great first take energy. How do you get them to pick up on the direct reflections of your life, which is what a few of the compositions on SHADOW OF THE VIBE are about?

    Matthias LupriML: Thanks Paula. Since I wrote the tunes, the tunes somewhat automatically dictate the direction and feel of what I was trying to express via the composition. For the players to pick up on it, it’s a combination of what they see on the chart, hear, feel and react to. I also talk about the tunes a bit before pushing the record button. Like what is the title, and how it relates to the music, and the mood that it suggests. But, you can only talk about it so much though, and then you have to just let it happen and hope for the best. Garzone, Lockwood and deKrom are all really great players and I already new it was going to be fine. It’s also just a matter of myself letting go of to many preconceived ideas of where the tune should go. That’s something I’m still always battling with. I think it’s something from my Rock N’ Roll days as a drummer where it was considered a good thing to do exactly the same way night after night and you and the band knew exactly what was going to happen with each tune.

    JazzUSA: Spontaneity is the lifeblood of improvisation and is often the difference between a good and great jazz performance. Your quartet is really spontaneous and in the pocket on the title track, “Shadow of the Vibe” which I understand correlates to that whole first take thing we just discussed. Is tapping into your quartet’s mental rhythms a vital part of this spontaneity and shadowing?

    ML: Definitely. Every take is different but usually the 1st take is always the freshest. It is where the conversation first starts. If you do another take right away, it is somewhat of a repeat. You tend to remember what you just said and repeat it if you like it. If you try not to say what you just said in the previous take, then your thinking about it too much and not really reacting, like you did in the first take. Of course this is all very subconscious to a degree, and the listener may or may not pickup on this, especially because they don’t know what take it usually is, and they hear the final version as it is. You also try to make the studio situation as comfortable as possible so the only thing on the players mind is the music at hand. If there are to many obstacles, it can really change the player’s attitude on a tune. If everyone’s mental state is 100% on the music, group interaction and shadowing is at its peak. Sometimes you may have mistakes in the 1st take, and you still go with it because it has a “fresher life” to it. Also Garzone and Lockwood play in a trio called the Fringe, which has been a big thing in Boston for the past 28 years. They play every week at a club and the music is 100% improvised, no charts what so ever. So having them bring this kind influence over to my music brought everything to a different space, which was very cool.

    JazzUSA: It is so very important to remain true to yourself because you want your soul and spirit to come through the music but many times we need a master educator to influence those aspects of our talents that we don’t realize are lurking beneath ourselves! How did the great Gary Burton help you attain that level of awareness of your internal sound?

    ML: When I studied with Gary Burton, he talked a lot about that in relation to a tune. Not theory, or what notes to play, but more about the character of each tune and finding the essence of what makes the tune what it is, what it means to you, and what separates it from so many others. The title and the mood it suggests, certain phrasings of the melody, the harmonic structure and how it feels, the tempo and rhythmic feel etc. I try to always remember that and make every tune as personalized as possible. Since I like to write my own tunes too, it becomes even more so. To me it’s also about listening to one note and finding the beauty of it from your instrument and internalizing it. If you listen to the space before and after it, and how it molds from and back into silence, you can internalize the sound and make it your own. There’s so much beauty in one note, and it’s something I’m still working on and searching for. When I can, I love sitting at a huge grand piano and just playing one note and just catch the vibe from it, before you move onto another note. It’s great for writing tunes too.

    JazzUSA: The true giants of jazz often know that the dynamic range of soft, medium and hard will allow you to play as naturally and freely as you can. Have you found that different musical settings require different dynamic ranges? How do you have to adjust your level of relaxation and concentration for those ranges?

    ML: Ya, different musical settings do require different dynamic ranges. I do tend to play on the louder side though, because the vibes need to cut through the band and it can be tricky sometimes. It’s easy for vibes to get drowned out by a band if they’re not always sympathetic to the nature of the instrument. I also play with pick-ups on my vibes, which give it a bit more of a modern sound and can increase the volume when needed. Even up to eleven sometimes! Naturally, ballads tend to be quieter, and up-tempo burners are louder. The level of relaxation and concentration is always an issue. If you’re totally “in the zone” of the music, your mind doesn’t really think any more – it just happens. As soon as you say to yourself while your playing, “Am I relaxed, am I concentrating, etc?” your out of the zone and not playing to your potential. It’s a tricky place to be sometimes. But when you’re there, it’s like no place else.

    JazzUSA: “Intrusion” is so pensive. What is it about?

    ML: I asked a friend of mine (Boris Weidenfeld, a great pianist and also producer of my 1st CD) to write a dark solo piece for me, and that’s what he came up with. He sent me two different tunes, and after playing them I chose “Intrusion.” The title and feel really represented what I was looking for as a solo piece for this project. I was able to let a lot of notes breathe and capture a quality of the vibes that I find to be really cool, in a dark kind of way. The title suggests the need to be alone – hence a solo piece.

    JazzUSA: I really enjoyed “Moonlamps,” especially the imagery of the call-and- response between you and Garzone. The concept is very visual and meditative. I could really feel it. What inspiration do you find most useful when creating such great music? Imagination, inspiration from some other source, etc.

    ML: Thanks a lot. I write mainly from a piano that I have looking over my window, which views on to the street and park below. The imagery and inspiration comes a lot from just watching the people and the everyday occurrences of life. The moon always casts a great beam of shadowing light in the late after hours on to the piano also. A moonlamp you could say, and it’s cool to write/play music in the wee hours with just this shadowing light. The call and response kind of came from gazing up at the moon and then back to the piano, gazing up at the moon, back again, etc. I think these kinds of every day life things just work their way into the music, sometimes very subconsciously.

    JazzUSA: Well, we’re definitely on the same vibe! One conclusion that I’ve come to is that we all possess inner strength but need a creative outlet for giving off some of that good energy. What is it about playing the vibes that satisfies your creative needs more so than playing the drums? Does the “steel” say it better than the “skin” for you?

    ML: I guess I really was eventually drawn to melody and needed to express that side of me more. Playing drums is great, and you can play melodically there also, but it’s not the same, at least for me. Plus, I love harmony and that side of music, which is pretty hard on the drums. I still play sometimes, but not like I used to. Mainly, I think I can express myself more as an individual through the vibes than I could with the drums. I initially thought I would continue to do both, but I guess I really needed to focus on the vibes and writing, and the time just isn’t there like I wish it were to do both. Check out Brian Blade! There’s a good example of drummer who is writing a lot and playing drums and sounding great with his own melodic sound.

    JazzUSA: When composing, do you write the sections for the vibraphone before the other instruments or do you write your compositions as a whole?

    ML: I write the compositions mainly as a whole. I have lately been going for a very simple approach to writing, where the tunes are shorter and simpler, with much more room for creative expression by each individual. There are certain parts for each instrument, but it’s basically a guideline with a lot of room for ad lib. I used to write more complex charts, and still do sometimes, but right now “blowing type” tunes are great for the smaller band settings that I’m writing and playing for.

    JazzUSA: Where can we see you in concert this year?

    ML: Always call ahead because things change, but as of this writing I’ll be at the Regatta Bar in Cambridge, MA – November 14, 2000 and at the Acton Jazz Cafe, in Acton, MA – January 5, 2001. Probably at the Knitting Factory in New York City in early 2001, and Toronto, Canada at the Senator Feb 27th – March 4th, 2001. There are also more gigs in between that always just crop up. So please go to my website for updates: www.jazzcorner.com/lupri

    JazzUSA: You bet we will. Congratulations to you and here’s wishing you continued success with WINDOW UP, WINDOW DOWN and SHADOW OF THE VIBE. They are among the premier works this year. Matt, thank you so much for this interview.

    ML: Thanks a lot Paula, and JazzUSA.com for having me here.

    JazzUSA: Our pleasure!

    Click Here to hear audio samples or to purchase a copy of the new CD.

    An Interview with Matthew Shipp

    Matthew Shipp
    The Blue Series and NEW ORBIT
    by Paula Edelstein

    Matthew Shipp is the curator and Artistic Director of The Blue Series, a stellar artistic endeavor currently available on Thirsty Ear Recordings. Throughout the year 2000, Matt launched and produced the series’ debut, PASTORAL COMPOSURE, and the series’ subsequent releases PAINTER’S SPRING by The William Parker Trio and BLUE DECCO by The Mat Maneri Quartet. All three recordings have been highly praised and lauded for their production excellence, originality, avant-garde expressions and brilliant improvisations by music journalists and appreciative audiences around the globe.

    As one of the most daring and original pianists in jazz, Matt Shipp continues to cover a wide spectrum of musical concepts and methods. From avant-garde atonal textures to classical music textures and reams of bebop and free expressionism, Shipp has been positioned in a lineage between Thelonious Monk and Cecil Taylor. The fourth release in the series, NEW ORBIT, finds Shipp at peace with himself in his attempt to unite the many experiences he has had as an Afro-American composer and the “various strands of the modern music world that are relevant to him.” Matt Shipp is joined on NEW ORBIT by a great ensemble that includes Wadada Leo Smith on trumpet, bassist extraordinaire William Parker, and the dynamic Gerald Cleaver on drums.

    JazzUSA: Hello Matt, The Blue Series is awesome! Excellent listening opps for unequaled musicianship, atonal textures and great avant-garde jazz! I really like your stylistic approach throughout the entire Series. How do you feel about the Series so far?

    Matt: Hey Paula, what’s happening? Thanks. I’m happy with all the different musicians taking on the challenge of trying to do what we’re trying to do. Especially since what we’re trying to do is not easily definable, but I feel that they’ve all really tried to give it the spirit of the whole thing.

    JazzUSA: Let’s talk a little about NEW ORBIT, the fourth release in THE BLUE SERIES on Thirsty Ear. You’ve stated that “this is the CD that you’ve always wanted to make, and it’s taken me 17 CDs and over 10 years to get here.” Is this the final release in the series since you feel your many artistic merits have been realized by it?

    Matt: Oh no, no! There are three other CDs this year by other people.

    JazzUSA: Who are the artists that you plan to record for the next three CDs for THE BLUE SERIES in 2001?

    Matt: Well of course, in 2001 we have NEW ORBIT released in January, which is the fourth release in the The Blue Series. The next will be Tim Berne with a band called Lobo; and I’ll have Craig Taborn on electric keyboards and Tom Rainey on drums this time with a psychedelic electric band. The next one will be a Roy Campbell Quartet that will have Roy on trumpet, Khan Jamal on vibes, Wilbur Morris on bass and Guillermo E. Brown. The fourth will be Craig Taborn Trio. That was supposed to happen last year but didn’t. That will have Craig on piano, Chris Lightcap on bass, Gerald Cleaver on drums. So that’s the plan for the Blue Series this year.

    JazzUSA: You’ve really conveyed a sense of peace and unity on NEW ORBIT with the four-part suite that includes “New Orbit,” “Orbit 2,” “Orbit 3,” and “Orbit 4.” Were there certain elements of transcendental meditation that influenced this distinctive suite?

    Matt: Thanks. I would say a peaceful river of sorts!

    JazzUSA: This quartet excels with the inclusion of trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith who has been compared to both Miles Davis and Don Cherry. Did you choose him because he has an ear to the future, so to speak?

    Matt: Actually I chose Leo because I’ve known him for years and I’ve always wanted to play with him. He’s kind of timeless to me…there’s something about his sound that to me, when I hear it, it just something very natural about it. So I guess natural and timeless…his sound conveys naturalness and timelessness to me. So I just felt that he fit the idea that I wanted for this particular recording…that he was the person who’d pull this off.

    JazzUSA: Cool! Your players have very open minds and grasp the concept of a NEW ORBIT completely. We feel that you’ve accomplished a tremendous goal in making it relevant to the 21st Century -it’s definitely right now and right in time for the new millennium-2001. Have you any aspirations to write an avant-garde jazz symphony for ballet or modern dance?

    Matt: (Laughs!) I would have to be commissioned to do that because that’s quite an undertaking. So, things like that, you need some sort of support system and as of now, as we speak, that doesn’t exist…since it’s quite an undertaking.

    JazzUSA: You also mentioned that you’ve always viewed yourself as an Afro-American composer and always wanted an opportunity to present a suite like this, i.e., NEW ORBIT, that is a synthesis of the various strands of the modern music world that are relevant to you. Were there other instances within your musical growth when you felt you wanted to pursue such as straight ahead, classical, etc. as opposed to the avant-garde jazz genre?

    Matt: I really feel quite at home in the avant-garde jazz genre. That’s basically where I put my feet up on the table. That’s one of the great things about the avant-garde genre, in that it’s kind of free to be a melting pot for everything. That’s what I like about the idiom. I mean there is Albert Ayler playing marches and spirituals and whatever. So I kind of feel that I can take all the various things that I like and melt them down and use them within this idiom that I feel so at home in. Straight ahead is just not where my head’s at these days. I mean I enjoy doing it sometimes, but as far as doing it regularly, it’s just not where I’m at…and classical music doesn’t really give me the chance to be who I am.

    JazzUSA: Will you be appearing in concert soon? If so, where?

    Matt: I’ve been on the road a lot recently. I’ll be in France in January and on the West Coast in February and hopefully it’ll come together.

    JazzUSA: Thank you for this interview. I really appreciate it. Congratulations again on THE BLUE SERIES for Thirsty Ear Recordings. It’s an amazing undertaking and you’re doing an excellent job. Matt, you’re great.

    Matt: Thanks Paula. Take care.

    JazzUSA: You’re welcome. Matthew Shipp is a genius with a remarkable ear to the future. The Blue Series would be an excellent addition to any collection and is highly recommended. Keep in touch with Matt Shipp at www.thirstyear.com.

    Grant Green, Jr. – Introducing G.G.

    GMatt Betton

    I.A.J.E. Founding Executive Director
    Matt Betton Passes Away at 89

    Matt Betton, Executive Director Emeritus of the International Association for Jazz Education and founder of Manhattan Enterprises, Betton’s Family Music Center, and Jazz Education Press passed away on November 3, 2002, at the Hospice Care Center in Loveland, Colorado.

    As founding Executive Director of the National Association of Jazz Educators (later renamed the International Association for Jazz Education), Betton is credited with building the organization from the ground up during its first 20 years and establishing its reputation as the primary voice and leading authority for jazz education worldwide. Today, IAJE has upwards of 8,000 members in 42 countries.

    “Matt’s contributions to the field of jazz education are incalculable,” said IAJE President and Indiana University Distinguished Professor of Music, David Baker. “He and his wife Betty were the rocks in IAJE’s foundation. Without their dedication and personal sacrifice, there would be no IAJE today.”

    Born May 14th, 1913, Betton was a 1938 music education graduate from Kansas State University. The Matt Betton Orchestra was an institution in the Midwest United States from 1933 to 1973, and was designated the #1 College Dance Band in the nation by Billboard magazine in 1941. Over 150 students worked with the Betton Orchestra during its 40 year tenure, including noted vocalist Marilyn Maye.

    Betton was founder of the American Federation of Musicians Local #169 (Manhattan, KS); co-founder of the KSU Summer Band Camp, co-founder of the National Stage Band Camps, musical director of NBC’s Joan Fairfax Show, and co-founder and director of the Stan Kenton Jazz Clinics.

    Among his numerous awards are an honorary doctorate from Boston’s Berklee College of Music, the Kansas State University Alumni Medallion Award, and induction into the Hall of Fame for the International Association for Jazz Education, Kansas Music Educators Association, and Kansas State University Music Service Guild.

    Most recently he was awarded the IAJE Humanitarian Award, given to individuals whose passion for teaching transcends the usual academic environment and exhibits the four elements of humanism: dedication, non-prejudice, altruism, and love. Matt is survived by his wife of 61 years, Betty Betton, Manhattan, KS; sister Sue Shurtz, Kansas City, KS; and children Linda Tippett, Martha Stitzel, and Matt Betton, Jr. Also surviving 5 grandchildren 2 great grandchildren.

    A memorial celebrating Matt’s life will be held on Saturday, January 11, 2003, at the IAJE International Conference in Toronto, Canada. IAJE and the Kansas State University Foundation will also schedule a memorial celebration in the Spring of 2003 at the KSU Alumni Center in Manhattan, KS.

    The family asks that notes of condolence and letters containing memories of Matt be sent to Betty Betton, c/o Linda Tippett, 1725 Yucca Ct., Fort Collins, CO 80525. Memorial contributions can be made to the IAJE Matt Betton Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 724, Manhattan, KS 66505, or to the KSU Foundation Matt Betton Scholarship Fund, 2323 Anderson Rd., Suite 500, Manhattan, KS 66502.

    Tony Monaco – Master Chops T

    Tony Monaco
    Master Chops T

    (Summit Records – 2002)
    by S.H. Watkins, Sr.

    I thought Tony’s last CD Burnin Grooves was good. In fact one of the tracks was our Hot Single last December, but Monaco’s newest effort Really has the burning grooves on it. Monaco plays the B-3 with a rhythm and dexterity (and fast footwork) that I don’t think I’ve heard since Charlie Earland passed away. The CD starts out at full steam with the hard-driving Acid Wash. White dude special is straight out of an old-style juke joint, with some nice sax riffs by Donny McCaslin. Gramps Blues slows it down with Monaco going soulful using his accordion instead of the classic blues harmonica, then he swings it right back into gear with the rollicking Ode to Brother Jack. Tony demonstrates pretty nimble hands to go with his flying feet, and Guitarist Derek DiCenzo shows some pretty good chops here as well.

    So may it secretly begin is a good cover of the Metheny tune, showcasing DiCenzo’s deft guitar playing. On Luck be a Lady Monaco slips into his Frank Sinatra persona complete with the sexy vocals. There are two bonus tracks here as well, Pick up the Pieces and Me and Mrs. Jones, On Mrs. Jones, Monaco again dons his lounge singer hat and puts it out with sincerity and charm. Pick up the pieces is my favorite and his treatment of it is fresh and funky, but I am also very partial to the song itself. The thing that stands out is how Monaco runs with the melody on the keys while keeping the bass line intact and funky using the foot pedals… major coordination required and delivered!

    This is a great album, and the story is all the more interesting when you find out that Monaco was stricken with neuralgic amyotrophy and at one point in life could barely lift his arms or speak. Tony underwent hugh amounts of physical therapy, musical retraining and plain old practice and determination learning to walk and talk all over again. And as a result he has come back and risen to his current position as one of the premier Hammond masters on earth.

    Marcus Miller – Master of all Trades – DVD

    Marcus Miller
    Master of all Trades – DVD
    Koch – 2005
    S. H. Watkins, Sr.

    Wow! Marcus Miller is arguable one of the best electric bassists in the world and you need only get a few minutes into this CD to see why. Few performers can stand with bass in hand and pop it like Marcus Miller does. Backed by Poogie Bell, Dean Brown, Roger Byam, Bruce Flowers, and Michael “Patches” Stewart Miller leads the crew through some seriously funky and sometime mellow sets.

     Recorded live at the famed Knitting Factory in Hollywood, CA in October of 2002, Miller and the band are joined on a few numbers (Boomerang, People Make The World Go Round) by vocalists Lalah Hathaway and Raphael Saadiq.

    What else can I tell you? The man has written music for Miles Davis and Aretha Franklin, performed on over 400 artist CDs including Barbra Streisand, Mariah Carey, Bill Withers, Elton John, Frank Sinatra, and LL Cool J as well as producing countless hits and scoring over a dozen films.

    But the point is the music. Marcus and the band JAM the tunes, the DVD production is excellent and the listener is immersed in the experience.

    DVD 2 contains a series of guest interviews with – Luther Vandross, Herbie Hancock, Roberta Flack, Stanley Clark, Reginald Hudlin, Lalah Hathaway, Lenny White, Omar Hakim, Bill Withers and Ralph MacDonald.

    This is a must have DVD.

    Track List01. Power
    02. Lonnie’s Lament
    03. So What
    04. Scoop
    05. Boomerang
    06. Panther
    07. When Your Life Was Low
    08. People Make The World Go Round
    09. Amazing Grace
    10. Burning Down The House
    11. Killing Me Softly
    12. Miles Medley: Hannibal – Tutu – Amandla.

    Marshall Vente – Marshall Law

    Marshall Law
    Marshall Vente & Project 9
    (Middlecoast – 2002)
    by Shaun Dale

    Marshall Vente is the Leonardo of midwest jazz. A composer and arranger who was personally tutored by Gil Evans and David Matthews, Vente is also a radio DJ, pianist and bandleader. While he’s gifted in each category, it may be his accomplishments as a bandleader that deserve the most attention. He currently leads no less than five active units, including the Latin jazz group Tropicale, a trio with Chicago jazz legend Eldee Young (of Ramsey Lewis Trio and Young-Holt Unlimited fame) and a blues review. The cornerstone ensemble, though, is Project 9, a nonet (which can expand to a dozen or more as the occassion demands) that has been a fixture on the Chicago jazz scene for over 20 years. Marshall Law is a Project 9 retrospective, beginning with their 1981 recording of Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s “Bright Moments” and extending through a pair of cuts from 2000 featuring Eldee Young on vocals.

    Along the way there are classics from the books of Miles Davis and Tom Jobim and a handful of Vente originals. One of the most impressive aspects of the album is found in the personell listings. Players like drummer Isa Perez, bassist Scott Mason and saxophonist Jimm Massoth aboard for two decades or more. In the process, they’ve played everything from swing to funk, standards to fusion, and have developed the kind of artistic rapport that can only come from years of rehearsal and performance. If there’s another active rhythm section in jazz with greater longevity, some attentive reader will have to tell me about it, because I haven’t heard of them. The benefit of time well spent together is evident on every track, and Marshall Law provides the ideal opportunity to track the growth of a great band and it’s peerless leader.

    An Interview with Marion Meadows

    Finding Pleasure
    An Interview With
    Marion Meadows
    by Mark Ruffin

    So you’re tired of your local smooth jazz station applying the same old aural wallpaper? Well, according to saxophonist Marion Meadows, so are most contemporary jazz musicians. After four albums on RCA, Marion Meadows has signed with Discovery records and comes forth with his new album Pleasure. In a sweeping interview with JazzUSA’s Mark Ruffin, Meadows talks about why he’s finding new ways to get around being ignored by smooth jazz radio, cycling, his surprising avant-garde background and hanging out in Grand Central Station after midnight.

    JazzUSA: So you moved to Arizona, right?

    MM: Yeah, my wife and I come out here during the winter. The last couple of years we’ve come out here and built a house. My thing is cycling. I’ve gotten heavily into it the last few years, so I came out here to work on my “Body Rhythm,” and I found this a cool place to cycle year round.

    JazzUSA: So have you left Connecticut totally?

    MM: No we go back and forth.

    JazzUSA: So what’s up with Phoenix, is there a scene happening there and are you concerned with that?

    MM: For sure. There’s an up and coming scene here. They have an excellent jazz series put on by the Coyote, the jazz station out here. They have a lot of artists coming through here and the town is growing like crazy.

    JazzUSA: Are you establishing yourself there?

    MM: We’re just testing the water out here. We’re having a good time. It’s not a permanent situation.

    JazzUSA: Is there anybody else out there?

    MM: Well Waymon Tisdale was here when he was with the (NBA Phoenix) Suns. He and I know each other. We have a musical association, as a matter of fact, he’s on my new album. He was my neighbor. He lived right down the street from me. There are a lot of (musicians) people here and I met a lot of really neat people and it seems like everybody is always eventually coming through Phoenix.

    JazzUSA: Is Waymon Tisdale still playing ball?

    MM: He took a year off. He calls himself retiring, but I think he’ll be back.

    JazzUSA: Yeah, how can you give that up when you’re young and got the talent?

    MM: Exactly, and with that kind of money. He’s just enjoying this year off and making music. He signed a new record deal with Atlantic. He’s just having a good time. I just told him the other day, it must be nice being a millionaire bass playing ball player. (laughing) I said, as a matter of fact, I’m not even speaking to you anymore.

    JazzUSA: Not to offend you or anything, but I must tell you your new record, “Pleasure,” is head and shoulders above your other albums?

    MM: Other people have pretty much said the same thing. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that I picked one producer and he and I really concentrated on this record. We put a lot into it as opposed to a lot of people going out and getting this producer and that producer.

    JazzUSA: Did your other records have multiple producers?

    Marion MeadowsMM: Look, I’m not blaming the producers. But there’s such a thing as being too eclectic. I’m not saying that I’m guilty of that, it’s just that I’ve grown and I certainly can go back and fix some of my favorites from records like “Forbidden Fruit” and “Keep It Right There” but as a collective and one record that I think is my favorite as a whole, it would be this one.

    JazzUSA: You said you’ve grown, in what ways?

    MM: I think I’ve grown in the combination of what I feel is a maturity in my music, my playing, and also a maturity in understanding what my audience is vibing off of. And they have kind of been my barometer as to the kind of music that I feel they like to hear. Also I’m an advocate of keeping the music scene lively and happening and interesting as opposed to becoming schmaltzy, clone-ish and uninteresting. With the wave of smooth jazz, they have to be very careful, the musicians themselves, they’re all great musicians but they tend to want to make these guys get into this smooth jazz format and all that schmaltzy crap. People don’t want to hear that stuff. After a while, they’re going what is that stuff? It’s the same old sound. Everybody wants to sound like David Sanborn or Kenny G. You just can’t treat the music like that because people are not that dumb. Musically people want more, and radio stations and the people who design that stuff, they might want you to think that, but that’s not the case at all. The listeners that I talk to are up in arms with some of the smooth jazz stations in their cities to get off that cloned computerized approach to what is otherwise a new form of jazz. These straight ahead cats are losing their radio homes because of this kind of format. That’s just the sign of the times, you can’t argue with that point, but still you’ve got a lot of great musicians who could offer a lot more musically than just the same old formula. Somebody at radio has to step up to the plate and say look we’ve got to go two or three (tracks) deep into these records and search for the vibrant stuff.

    JazzUSA: Hearing you say that, and after hearing your record, while it is undeniably a NAC (New Adult Contemporary or smooth jazz) record, it is definitely a touch above the normal stuff you hear on NAC stations. Don’t you wonder if they’re going to be attracted to it?

    MM: That is my mild protest. I’m saying, this is my music and this is what you get. I have a history at NAC radio. I’m a true artist. If you guys feel like you need to penalize me because of the music I play, my fans are going to buy my record anyway. So if I sell a hundred thousand less records, I’m going to carry the banner and I’m one of the people who’s going to step up to the plate and speak out against this bull. I was on the phone with (saxophonist) Warren Hill for two hours a couple of days ago talking about this very thing. And everybody says the same stuff, Chieli (Minucci), Chuck Loeb, all the musicians have the same complaints.

    JazzUSA: Anyway once you’re an established NAC artist, like you said your fans are going to buy your records, and as long as you’re performing you’re going to be all right and anything NAC does for you will be a bonus.

    Marion MeadowsMM: Right, and I don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket anyway. In as much as sometimes I sit around and think that I need those guys, then I find more creative ways not to need them. Now, I’m not speaking from a racist point of view, but it’s hard to be a black artist and to compromise what I do as a black writer. I came from the Stevie Wonder school, I came from the Temptations school, I came from the John Coltrane school- we’re black and we’re funky. Forget all that other stuff. The California guys that do that stuff and they do the California sound, I dig it, but that’s why they’re different from us, than the guys who come from New York. Those guys came up listening to Paul Desmond, we came up listening to John Coltrane.

    JazzUSA: What’s unusual about you is not only do you have the be-bop chops, and the NAC success but you dabble in new age music too.

    MM: Oh yeah. I think that’s a very important part of it too. That’s a style of music that has evolved. It was John Klemmer who really started that style of horn playing.

    JazzUSA: Some folks say it was Paul Winter.

    MM: Well, Paul Winter and Paul Horn would be the ultimate.

    JazzUSA: Now you’re from the east coast, and went to Berklee. You also had an early association with Norman Connors and Jean Carne, right?

    MM: Norman was really the guy who discovered me as an artist, the man who gave me my shot. I met Norman when he was playing with Pharoah Sanders. That was when I was at Berklee, and then after I got out of school and I was looking for a gig, I knew a guy who was playing with Norman and he said ‘oh yeah, I remember you, you set in with us when you were at school.’ And my buddy said ‘you know he’s gotta couple of songs.” I gave Norman a couple of songs that I had written and recorded. They ended up being on his “Invitation” album, and a few months after that he invited me to join his band. That was really the start of my career. After that I met Jean Carne, Phyliss Hyman. I wrote for Glenn Jones, you know, that whole Norman Connors family. I also worked with Angela Bofill, in fact Angie and I are doing some shows together right now with Ollie Woodson and Norman as well. That was a nice graduate school, sort of speak.

    JazzUSA: What’s the Jay Chattaway connection?

    MM: Jay Chattaway is the guy who brought me over to Bob James. I met Jay Chattaway in Grand Central Station one night. I lived in Connecticut. I was in New York working with a bass player at the time. I was working with an avant-garde band with Rashid Ali and we had just played Avery Fisher Hall and I was waiting for the train late at night. That’s when Grand Central used to be open late and there was hardly anybody in the station, and that big domed ceiling in there, so?. I took my horn out and I started blowing, and this guy comes running up to me and says ‘man, that was beautiful.’ I thought the guy was like security. (laughing) It ended up being Jay Chattaway on his way back home to Connecticut. He took my number and said I’ll give you a call. About a month later, he called me and said Bob James wanted to meet me. We got together and did some recording. Bob had Tappan Zee Records at the time. And we were going to put a record together but his record company didn’t make it. It folded up. But that was the start of a whole other wonderful friendship which lasted through the years.

    JazzUSA: So, there was another album before you signed with RCA.

    MM: Yeah, that one, but it never came out. It was after that that I did sign with RCA and went on to do the four records with them.

    JazzUSA: What’s the connection with the avant-garde band, the Aboriginal Music Society.

    MM: That’s the group I was working with that night in Grand Central. That group was where I met a sax player at a train station up in White Plains. He was walking had his horn and we got to talking, and he said, I play with a group out of Brooklyn. It’s kind of a free group, avant-garde. The guitar player was James “Blood” Ulmer. Cats like David Murray had been through this band, Oliver Lake too. And I was very hip to the World Saxophone Quartet and I said I definitely want to check this out. It ended up being one of the heaviest bands I ever joined. The music is way over most people heads, but it was some of the hardest music I’ve ever played and some of the most enjoyable musical experiences I’ve ever had. I used to go to Brooklyn and jam with these guys. They play drums for two or three hours and play the most amazing music. These cats were deep.

    View the Marion Meadows Pleasure press release for more information.

    Marilyn Scott Interview 2004

    Marilyn ScottA Nightcap Conversation
    With Marilyn Scott
    by S.H. Watkins, Sr.

    Marilyn Scott is a classic song stylist with a deep love for jazz, blues, soul, timeless melodies and lyrics. Over the course of seven previous recordings Marilyn Scott has established herself as one of contemporary music’s premiere singer/songwriters. She’s carried on this tradition with her new release. We got a chance to speak with Marilyn one afternoon in November…

    JazzUSA: What is it like working with George Duke?

    Marilyn: He makes the opportunity of creating new music a complete adventure. Just fun and he gets so excited. It’s just so sweet to work with him. He brings out the very best in you. I remember when I went to him the first time and asked him if he would take on a couple of tunes as part of a CD project that I was doing. I totally expected him to say look I don’t have the time, but maybe I can suggest a few people. This would have been nice of him as well. But he didn’t, I couldn’t get it through my head that he accepted working with me.

    As soon as he said “oh yeah Maril come on that would be great.” He has his desk right next to his wife, who has a desk. Corinne does all the business, calls all the players, and interviews for George and coordinates the business with him. So when you walk in that room, it’s like walking into a little den in their house. Because it is in there house everybody looks at each and says yeah come will have a good time. Everyone’s trying to create a party in a way. But very dignified at the same time, and very classy he is.

    JazzUSA: Did he have any say so in the selection of the songs on NightCap or is that all you?

    Marilyn: I did go to him with a list of things that I definitely had been thinking about. If I could every get this opportunity in my career where I thought it would be a good thing to do. Then these are some of the songs that I wanted to do. We ended up doing those things, but also what he wanted to do is to make sure that each song sort of laid into the next one. So that the project didn’t jump from one to the other. A lot of the albums that people make including myself sometimes we make the mistake of making things a little bit to eclectic and it doesn’t fit so well and it doesn’t flow. So he was suggesting what about this or what about that, but they were all tunes that he’s done as well.

    He was very interested in seeing what we could do about making them different. Cause when you want to do “Smile”, all the people that have done Smile before. We wanted to be able to lay something a little bit different on it. So we made some interesting intro, and when getting out of the tune, he did the arrangement so that there would be a horn thing. I could grab on to the horn thing and write a little bit to it. He had a great deal to say about what we should do and what we shouldn’t do.

    JazzUSA: The musicians on the album, you’ve got Vinny on there, Brian Bromberg from A-440, Ray Fuller and a few other people. Once again who decided who the musicians would be.

    Marilyn: We did it together and he said to me who do you want to play. First of all we both play with Ray Fuller a lot, a lot of my sound is a lot of what Ray plays. I like incorporating some of that too. And I got George to play which I thought would be the hardest hurdle. Because often he says, on some of the other tunes that he’s produced that he’s gotten someone else to play. He said I’ll put a little sweetening on it or something like that. But this time he agreed to play, and I hadn’t played with anyone upright before, upright bass playing. I said that I had wanted to work with Brian before, and he does play upright. So we checked him out and it worked out great.

    Vinny, I’ve worked with Vinny for years and years. Well it was George who said what do you guys think about Vinny. Which I thought was a great idea but I thought well straight ahead. Vinny is so like ‘up’ some times. I mean he can do the wall jazz crazy thing or he can do the Blues thing or the R&B thing is so good. The quiet type of vibe thing he wouldn’t have to come to mind right away for me. But George was right on about it and Vinny put this little hitting the cymbals a certain way just going around the set in a certain way. It was really exciting and very nicely done.

    JazzUSA: It sure can out nice. You mentioned Russell Ferrante?, you should tell us a little bit about your history with the Yellow Jackets.

    Marilyn: I met Russell in the San Francisco Bay Area back in the 70’s. That’s where he was raised he and Robin Ford I met up there. He moved to Los Angeles, I moved back to Los Angeles and Robin came to LA. That’s how I met Jimmy was through Russell and their first Yellow Jacket record. We had already started our writing experience together by that time, so that was 79-80. I think I met Jimmy about 80-81, and their like my family. Anything that I have asked of them or bring an idea, was always really embraced and thought about how to make it different. We’ve always written about a lot of issues things, like life and in the times that surround us all. About hate, difficult things, when you feel the worst in your life how to do you hold yourself up. We’ve always been heavy issue people, the wilderness and stuff like that.

    JazzUSA: It’s a nice album for what it’s worth, I like it but no one cares what I like.

    Marilyn: Thank you, I appreciate that.

    JazzUSA: Are you touring ?

    Marilyn: Not at this moment, we’re looking to grab onto the train somehow, that’s what we’re doing. We’re looking to do just that.

    JazzUSA: You are performing down in California.

    Marilyn: Oh Yeah we play here.

    JazzUSA: They can go to your website and find out where you’ll be.

    Marilyn: Definitely, thank you .

    JazzUSA: What’s next?

    Marilyn: Hopefully getting out there and playing.

    JazzUSA: No, I mean your next album. Have you thought that far down the road yet.

    Marilyn: Yes I did. Hopefully I’d like to work with George again. There are a lot of things that I’ve written that I would like to put on the new projects.

    JazzUSA: That was my next question, what about some original compositions?

    Marilyn: I definitely will be going back to that.

    JazzUSA: I know that you have a well documented history with Tower of Power. Are they in your future anywhere, musically I mean.

    Marilyn: Yeah, wouldn’t it be great, but you know it hasn’t gotten to that place again. It seems like my section has gotten smaller and smaller and smaller. When we use horns on this project, we used jazz players. So we didn’t get to do the funk thing or the R&B type of vibe or the Blues thing. That would have been great on “The Last Thing I Do” that would have been great to have some horns. We just didn’t have the money power to pass around. They are always in mind about working again. We do a Christmas show too, that the horn section comes and plays on. So one way or the other I get some jones with them. I see Greg Adams all the time too.

    JazzUSA: Are you doing a Christmas show this year.

    Marilyn: Yes I think so.

    JazzUSA: Do you know where?

    Marilyn: No, I don’t it’s between a couple of clubs.

    JazzUSA: When you know make sure you let us know, so that we can put a little blurb in there. To get some people out there for you. I want them to be able to find you.

    Marilyn: Thank you so much.

    JazzUSA: Is there anything that you want people to know about Marilyn Scott. Obviously you have the Piranha Institute, which I will mention at the end of this interview.

    Marilyn: Well the success of any artist one way or the other really helps any kind of charity or anything that is part of your soul. That you want others to be interested in or try to considered. The best thing that I can do for myself is what I can turn around and give to other people. I only hope that my music and the people that I play with and are involved with, will be enough of an interest where they would want to buy the music. Or come to a gig and that will only enable me to do some things for children, on behalf of the homeless and others. All types of things that I would really love to be involved with even on a deeper scale.

    JazzUSA: Maybe we can get you more hits out there, more million selling albums.

    Marilyn: Yeah, you know.

    JazzUSA: Well Marilyn it’s been great talking to you, and keep making good music.

    Marilyn: Thanks for helping bring it to the people, I appreciate it. And I’ll let you guys know when I tour.

    Marilyn Scott Sings The Stories Behind The Songs / Nightcap

    Marilyn ScottSinging The Stories Behind The Songs
    Marilyn Scott speaks about ‘Nightcap’
    by Paula Edelstein

    P.E.: Congratulations on NIGHTCAP Marilyn! What a stellar celebration of the Great American Songbook. Marilyn, when did you first fall in love with these unforgettable songs?

    Match a classic song stylist with a deep love for jazz, blues, soul, timeless melodies and lyrics and a magical, genre-defying transcendence can’t help but blossom. Over the course of seven previous recording Marilyn Scott has established herself as one of contemporary music’s premier singer/songwriters. Over the years, she has carried on a quiet but steady love affair with the Great American Songbook and has worked with a variety of well-known producers including the incomparable George Duke. Marilyn’s rendition of “The Look of Love” from her 1998 recording titled Avenues Of Love, earned George Duke a Grammy nomination and with Nightcap, Marilyn and George team up again to offer her fans eight stunning versions of songs that traverse the musical spectrum.

    With the support of Vinnie Colaiuta on drums, Brian Bromberg on acoustic bass, Ray Fuller, Dean Parks, and Dori Caymmi on guitar, Brandon Fields on sax, Dan Higgins on flute and sax, Rick Baptist on trumpet and Lenny Castro on percussion, Nightcap offers listeners an enjoyable musical experience. Whether kicking back and taking in the insightful lyrics of “Here’s To Life,” or enjoying the updated bossa beat on “I Wished On A Moon,” Marilyn Scott sings the story behind the song with passion, soul and purpose.

    Marilyn: I think I appreciate the writing of what we call “standards” today — that is music from as far back as the 30s to the present time. There are so many categories of “standards” so I really tried to choose from the 40s-50s era. I tried to pick things that are not overdone and at the same time reach for those that I connected to so that I could give them my own interpretation. I like a lot of songs but I can’t sing them as well as some can so I really try to reach for those that I can connect to.

    P.E.: On Nightcap, you give your listeners the full range of moods – be it a song about frustration – “Yesterdays,” “Here’s That Rainy Day,” or songs about positive hope such as “Here’s To Life,” “Isn’t This A Lovely Day” or “Smile.” What is the most important aspect of a song for you – its melody, its ability to tell a story, its ability to withstand the test of time, or its ability to be reinterpreted in various musical styles?

    Marilyn: Its message and the intermingling of the emotion from the chords that make that message hit your heart in a certain way so that it makes it something special for the listeners. That’s another reason that these songs are good for me because musically and lyrically they hit at the same time something that is true for me in my life. I think that is what draws us to any artist or any music that we like. When people like the music we make, we realize that it really can make a difference. With each new recording, I am able to further connect with old fans and make new ones and that’s a blessing. When I was recording Nightcap, I was sharing a part of my life through my favorite songs. While listening to my CD, I hope everyone can make it a part of themselves.

    P.E.: Who were some of your early jazz vocal influences? Teachers?

    Marilyn: Definitely Betty Carter, Sarah Vaughan, Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald, Joe Williams, Andy Bey. There were a lot of people that sang other styles of music and of course when you listen to their music, it undeniably has an effect on you.

    P.E.: On Nightcap, you’re reunited with George Duke who earned a Grammy nod for his arrangement of “The Look of Love” a song on your AVENUES OF LOVE CD. But this marks the first time that Duke has produced and arranged an entire recording for you. What was is like working with him again?

    Marilyn: Oh, I always enjoy working with him. I think he works so well with vocalists. He can just walk right through it and he brings out the best of your qualities. No matter who it is – whether it’s the percussionist or myself – he gets their input and he loves making music that way.

    P.E.: He definitely has a chemistry with the artists he produces. There’s Brian Bromberg, Vinnie Colaiuta, and of course Ray Fuller. How did you recruit them for the Nightcap project?

    Marilyn: Well, it’s not hard especially living in Los Angeles – knowing everybody, working with everybody, and living a musical life. So when you think of certain kind of projects that you want to put together, I know for myself, you think of those players you’ve worked with before.

    P.E.: Marilyn, you’re well known on the session vocalist scene but as a leader, there is much more responsibility. What do you enjoy most about being a leader of your own ensembles?

    Marilyn: I will always consider my friendship with the members of Tower of Power to be the most influential, as they helped teach me how to work in the studio and how to be a session vocalist. Now, as a leader, I’m thankful that I’m still around to be able to garner the likes of the people that I can play with and to make good music. I really can attribute it to the fact that I’m lucky and blessed to be in that position. I’m at wonder every time I have to pick up the phone and invite and everybody’s always gratefully saying, “let’s go.” So I think it’s a good time for making music now with so much bad luck that has hit the recording business over the last few year, I figure in a way, think they’re interested in reuniting people to make quality music and forgetting about making it the most expensive project ever. I think if you get quality people involved, it’s going to sound terrific and the musicianship is going to be able to shine because of it.

    P.E.: Is there any one format that you enjoy most – producing, performing, writing?

    Marilyn: With every project, it leads you to the next thing and with this one, it’s been almost like taking a step back. It reunites me with my some of my love of blues, R&B and great writing. It can be considered pop writing, jazz writing, etc. So it makes me want to do more of those things and write in those ways.

    P.E.: You’ve an extensive background in musical theatre and motion picture soundtracks. Do you intend to return to the musical theatre or singing on film scores?

    Marilyn: I’ve met incredible people in those fields and I had a great experience. I do a lot of poetry and a lot of writing of all types of songs. When you’re in this field, it really does embrace every aspect of it. So we all pick up the same brush, we all have some poetry skills or acting skills or whatever. I guess it’s whatever opportunity that walks your way or whatever time envelope that you put yourself into, that you find yourself artistically.

    P.E.: Please give us some insight into the PRANA Foundation. I know that it teaches young people about racial tolerance and other aspects of living in a multi-cultural world.

    Marilyn: It’s a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide funding for anti-bias education for children. Earlier this year, we partnered with the Anti-Defamation League in Los Angeles to help launch a program with the L.A. Unified School District called the Miller Early Childhood Initiative, which provides anti-bias training for teachers, caregivers and parents of pre-school children 3-5.

    P.E.: Thank you so much for the interview and here’s to continued success with your career, the Prana Foundation and of course, Nightcap.

    Marilyn: Thank you, Paula.

    Reprinted with permission of…

    Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz – With Steely Dan

    Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz
    With Steely Dan

    (Concord – 2004)
    by Matthew Robinson

    Having played with everyone from Louis Armstrong to Tal Farlow, Marian McPartland takes another turn to the contemporary hip on the latest recording of her weekly radio show “Piano Jazz” with the help of “the masters of irony and erudition” ­ Steely Dan. From lesser known Ellington tunes to Rockand Roll Hall of Fame-worthy original compositions, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker take McPartland from their musical influences to their own influential catalog.

    From “Mood Indigo” to “Black Friday,” McPartland and “Dan” trade colorful stories and brilliant songs and find common ground that spans the generations. Along the way, they explain how they came to their long-standing partnership and how each contributes to one of the most enduring and erudite duos in modern musical history.

    © 2005, M. S. Robinson, ARR

    Marian McPartland – Grand Dame of Jazz

    marian McPartlandMarian McPartland
    Grand Dame of Jazz
    by S.H. Watkins, Sr.
    When you think of women in jazz most people start out with “Ella”, “Sarah” and “Billie”. Although these were wonderful performers, their combined contribution to the jazz world and the participation of women in that world pales in comparison to one little lady from England. This lady has been hosting her own live radio program (Piano Jazz) on National Public Radio since 1978. Even before that she started her own record company (Halcyon), married another famous jazz musician and had her own trio that ran for years and years at New York’s Hickory House in the 50’s. Yes… I said the 50’s, before women’s lib and burned bras. Before Hillary and Courtney and Cher, there was Marian McPartland.

    Once quoted as saying “no matter when you do Duke Ellington, it’s the right time” this multifaceted pianist was present and pictured in the famous Harlem 1958 jazz portrait, which her husband Jimmy missed because he “didn’t want to get up yet.” In addition to being a published author Marian continues to play and release albums. Her “Piano Jazz” radio series has won a number of awards including the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award for excellence in broadcasting, a “Gracie” — the Gracie Allen Award given annually by American Women in Radio and Television — and the National Music Council’s American Eagle Award.

    Find out more about this jazz pioneer at the Marian McPartland Web Site at

    Marcus Miller Interview

    The Ozell Tapes and More
    A Conversation with Marcus Miller
    by Paula Edelstein

    Marcus Miller needs no introduction. The world-class bassist is just about known to everyone who’s into bass players and their music. If they aren’t then they should be! Miller’s amazing bass playing technique is being copied by legions of excited protégé’s and who knows, someone’s son or daughter just might be among the many fans that he has captivated since he burst onto the music scene. As a Who’s Who In Jazz, Marcus Miller is all that. His latest release proves it. The current tour band consists of Dean Brown on guitar, Poogie Bell on drums, Bruce Flowers on keyboards, Roger Byam on saxophones, and Michael “Patches” Stewart on trumpet. Their sound engineer recorded the tour “live” on a mini-tape and after hearing it, put it out so that we could re-live the excitement first hand. And exciting it is. So Listen UP and hear what Marcus had to say about the making of Marcus Miller Live: The Ozell Tapes.

    PE: First of all, thanks so much for the interview. What a dynamic “live” recording Marcus Miller Live: The Ozell Tapes turned out to be…especially since it’s such a “pure” set. I’ve definitely got to have one of those Sharp Model 702 Mini-Disc recorders!

    MM: You’re right…that is a nice recorder. We’d previously used it just to playback the concerts for the musicians to allow them to hear what had worked well or what they needed to work on. But when my engineer played them for me, I told him, “We need to let this music out as it is.”

    PE: Was there any one concert on that Spring 2002 tour that you consider your most special?

    MM: We had a few of them. Paris was great but for the most part, the band stepped up and did a great job throughout the tour.

    PE: Marcus, you have dedicated your high standards to the full range of the jazz, electronica and funk genres with some of the best musicians on the music scene today – the current band included. On this recording, you play your Fender Marcus Miller Signature Bass and 4 different bass guitars. For those novices or non-musician listeners that want to know the whys and hows of choosing the right bass to play, please explain why you’ve chosen to play a particular bass on certain songs?

    MM: On some songs, such as a ballad, I play a fretless bass to give the song a more melodic, lyrical feel. But other than that, I try not to jump around too much because I want my sound to come through as a signature sound that people will remember.

    PE: There are still some of your listeners who don’t realize that your musical versatility extends beyond the bass guitars to the bass clarinet, soprano saxophone and keyboards. Why did you add these particular woodwind instruments and the keyboards to your range of instruments instead of say, other basses such as the double or piccolo?

    MM: I started out playing the clarinet and woodwinds in school but later switched to the bass. However, at times when rehearsing or composing, I found myself automatically assuming the fingering positions for the clarinet and saxophone and realized that I still had a lot of the horn player in me.

    PE: Many of your previous recordings spotlight your amazing skills with several jazz icons including the great Miles Davis. Once again you pay tribute to him in a major way with the 19-minute “Miles/Marcus Medley” of “Hannibal,” “Amandla,” and “Tutu.” What did that original collaboration with Miles Davis back in the 80s represent for you with respect to the mechanics of interplay between a jazz legend and new producer/accompanist?

    MM: It was a beautiful friendship. I called Miles one day and told him that I had some music that I wanted him to hear. I played a lot of the demos on the horn so that he’d know what it would sound like. He encouraged me to keep writing and he basically kept inspiring me throughout our collaborations.

    PE: What are some of your other interests outside of music?

    MM: For a while, I was racing cars, but with four children…that didn’t make much sense! I like basketball and I also read a lot.

    PE: Marcus, in no uncertain terms, you travel a lot. When on the road, or when in other countries, do you ever have to deal with issues that transcend music such as cultural diversity?

    MM: Yes, we all have certain issues and I found that out right away when we played in Italy. When they ask for an encore, you really don’t have a choice whether to play or not. I made the mistake of not coming back and they started throwing bottles and cans at the roadies! So now I know about the cultural requirements of most places where I am scheduled to perform. But most of all, there is an avid appreciation of our music everywhere we go.

    PE: Will you be in concert this Spring or Summer? If so, how and where and when?

    MM: Yes, we’ll be in Europe, Japan and also have some dates in Australia.

    PE: Thanks so much for the interview Marcus. Here’s wishing you the best of luck with the new CD.

    For more about Marcus Miller visit his web site at http://marcusmiller.com.

    Reprinted with permission of…

    An Interview with Marcus Miller

    Marcus MillerSpeaking on M2 and More with
    Marcus Miller
    by Mark Ruffin

    Without the benefit of hardly any air play, “M-Squared,” the new album by bassist Marcus Miller is currently riding high at the top of the jazz sales chart. The 42 year-old musician will be playing selections from the release, with a crack band, on a North American tour that runs through the end of this month.

    “If you make the music good enough, it can overcome all those names that people need to put on music,” Miller said by phone from his Los Angeles studio. “We’ve played smooth jazz festivals where people have trouble eating their cheese, and we’ve played traditional jazz festivals where we’re the only electric band there. There’s so much to do in the middle.

    “We want to play music that they have to feel, before they can put names on it,” Miller continued. “That’s one of the reasons I’m not on the air.”

    It’s not just in your hometown where Miller isn’t on the radio. All across the country, Miller’s music is too jazzy for adult urban radio, too funky for the smooth stations, and he’s too electric for the mainstream jazz frequencies. Yet, only Brain Culbertson has a more popular contemporary jazz album in the country, according to national sales charts..

    “It depends on the day,” Miller dead panned, when asked how he describes his music. “Sometimes I call it soul-jazz, but funk-jazz usually hits close enough. But there’s not really a name to describe it, because it ‘s a combination of stuff. It’s like we’re in our own space.”

    “The problem is that I’ve been involved in making music for Miles Davis, and been involved with making music with Luther Vandross on the R&B tip, and all the stops in between, so my music is a reflection of where I’ve been. It’s just good music.”

    Marcus MillerObviously, all Miller has to do is put out a record and jazz and funk consumers will come. The same can be said for the best musicians in the world. If Marcus calls, they will come running.

    “That comes from making music that people feel and doing it the old fashion way,” the bassist said “The music is strong enough and that has helped me build an audience over the years.”

    The 14 track cd features performances by Herbie Hancock, Branford Marsalis, Chaka Khan, Paul Jackson Jr, Wayne Shorter, Kenny Garrett, Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker of James Brown fame, and other stars.

    Starting at the age of 15, the Brooklyn-born musician began a long career of backing big names on stage and in the studio. He started with flautist Bobbi Humprhey and quickly moved up to Bob James, Aretha Franklin and Grover Washington, including the G-Man’s classic “Winelight” album.

    But it was his prowess as a composer and producer that earned him a massive international following. During the 80’s and early 90’s, Miller produced some of the most important albums of our time, and wrote some of the most memorable tunes of that era.

    In a period of about 12 years, he was music director for Luther Vandross, David Sanborn and Miles Davis, and wrote big hits for them all. Respectively, among the hits he wrote for those superstars are “The Power of Love,” “Maputo,” and “Tutu.” The bassist, who also plays bass clarinet, called the trio his teachers, and said he learned something from each one of them.

    “The main thing I got from Luther was to stick to your guns,” said the man who produced eight of Vandross’ platinum albums.

    “When Luther started in the early 80’s, record companies were interested in groups. They told him he needed a group or a gimmick. Luther told them his gimmick was that he stands there and sings.

    “I saw Miles go through the same thing,” the bassist continued. “People were criticizing him and telling him what he should be doing. I learned from Miles that you can only really do what you really feel.”

    What impressed Miller about Sanborn was his ability to create his own marketplace. He pointed out how Sanborn was very popular before smooth jazz radio came along, but when it did, the sax man became a staple of the format.

    “David and I were on records that some people say invented smooth jazz,” Miller said, pointing to the Sanborn albums he played on, specifically Backstreet and Double Vision.

    “My song “Maputo,” could be called the first smooth jazz standard. But that’s just one flavor of what I do.

    “I just want to make music and have people find it, and maybe make a new category,” Miller concluded.

    Marcus Goldhaber – Live in Kavehaz, NY – February 27, 2006

    Marcus GoldhaberMarcus Goldhaber
    Live in Kavehaz, NY
    February 27, 2006
    by Matthew Robinson

    Sneaking up on “I Remember You” by way of a little-used verse, actor/voice-over talent Marcus Goldhaber revealed the third part of his talented triple threat by way of a set of smooth and rich standards. Backed by a well-spaced and jam-ready quartet, Goldhaber swung and swept from the fleet Flamenco fills of “It Might As Well Be Spring” to a Baker-esque hush through “That Old Feeling” to a high and bright “Sunny Sight of the Street” to an accelerated “I’m Beginning to See the Light.”

    In between his musical offerings, Goldhaber convened with his bandmates and offered informative intermezzos with an air of Swing era casual cool. From a Ragtime draft of “Sit Write Down and Write Myself a Letter” to a laughing twist of “Mean to Me,” Goldhaber offered old songs in new ways, reviving “Do You Know What It Means (To Miss New Orleans)” with a heartfelt pledge to support his fellow musicians in that recovering city.

    Closing on an up note with a Darrin-esque and suddenly shifting swing through “Lulu’s Back in Town,” Goldhaber put the (night) cap on a memorable set from a hot new (York) talent. ©2006 M. S. Robinson, ARR

    An Interview with Marcelo Zarvos

    Marcelo ZarvosA Self-Portrait of the Young Master
    A Moment with Marcelo Zarvos
    by Paula Edelstein

    Marcelo Zarvos possesses many traits but he is best known for the beautiful music he creates, plays and arranges. The fact that he is young, gifted and smart comes as no surprise to those that have collaborated with Marcelo or to those that have been seated in his audiences. He’s deep. The Brazilian prodigy has played and studied with some of the best musicians and educators in the world and no doubt has begun to realize that the depth of his talent is the one quality in his art that attracts and keeps his audiences returning for more. Marcelo’s seemingly mystical ability to raise a collection of life experiences and transfigure them, give them beauty and set them to music is a wonderful discovery for those that love music. He shares those brilliant talents on MUSIC JOURNAL, his second release for the M-A Recordings label and highly anticipated follow-up to the brilliant LABYRINTHS. As some of the most beautiful music we’ve heard in this decade, JAZZUSA.COM was elated to speak to the young master as he prepared for his Autumn Concert Series throughout the United States:

    Marcelo ZarvosJazzUSA: Congratulations Marcelo on MUSIC JOURNAL. It is absolutely brilliant! If I were stranded on a desert island and asked to record a project, I must say that I would use some of your concepts…with your permission of course! I understand that you set your mind back to record these musical events. How far back are you taking us with the concept for MUSIC JOURNAL?

    MZ: First of all thank you for your continuing support of my music. As far as the events that inspired MUSIC JOURNAL I would say that they go as far as back as my early childhood in Brazil, or further if you want to get spiritual about it.

    JazzUSA: While envisioning the music for your journal, what were the decisive factors that influenced your selections, i.e., are you referencing chronological experiences, most creative inspirations, most symbolic experience, etc.?

    MZ: The decisive factors were purely intuitive and what defined by how vivid those memories were in my imagination. I strongly believe that for really significant events and/or places in a person’s life, a quick glimpse is enough to remember it forever. It’s a lot like painting from memory, actually.

    JazzUSA: Unlike LABYRINTHS, you are playing the accordion on “In A Doorway.” Was there a time when you previously played the accordion or is this a new instrument you’ve learned recently?

    MZ: I started playing the accordion about three or four years ago. It’s interesting, though, that some of my earliest memories of any musical instrument are from the accordion music from the Forró groups I heard as a child in Brazil. The way I used it in MUSIC JOURNAL is very different however, and it tends to act as one more melodic voice to complement the sax and cello rather than as a rhythmical or harmonic source.

    JazzUSA: “Gallop” is a brilliant rendition of the Brazilian galope rhythm and for me suggests a majestic romp mounted on a beautiful stallion along a beautiful coastline. What was your vision and imagery for this beautiful piece?

    MZ: You got that right! You know, I try to be careful not to impose my vision on the listener, but have to admit that this particular piece was really all about the image of galloping horses: first at distance where they almost seem to be moving in slow motion and gradually closer as we move towards the end of the piece with the music getting faster and louder.

    JazzUSA: Marcelo, you continue to impress your audiences with your compositional integrity for chamber music or a mixed ensemble of classical and non-classical musicians. I’ve noticed that MUSIC JOURNAL includes the brilliant artistry of Chris Dahlgren on double bass. Please discuss the inclusion of sections for double bass on the very beautiful and spiritual “While She Sleeps.”

    MZ: The melody in “While She Sleeps” is another type of chorale-like writing that I started exploring in my previous album LABYRINTHS particularly in “Lu’s Rag.” Due to the simplicity of the line and its very diatonic character, it can work both as a high melodic line or lower, in the bass register. In addition, Chris Dahlgren’s beautiful and rich tone in this instrument was too much to resist and it remains one of my favorite pieces in the album.

    JazzUSA: “Avenida Paulista” suggests a rousing remembrance of Brazilian folklore with both samba and bebop stylings. What is the special symbolism that inspired the “Avenida Paulista” piece?

    MZ: I always joke that “Avenida Paulista” is a cross of Fifth Avenue and Wall Street, in the heart of my native city of São Paulo, Brazil. It is also a kind of symbol of the fast and frenetic pace that big cities such as São Paulo and New York can have. Towards the middle of the piece, there is a slower and somewhat darker section that is meant to portray Avenida Paulista at night, when the streets are empty and quiet.

    JazzUSA: “One More Year” is one of the most beautiful works I’ve heard in some time. It is so full of the imagery from the different places and events you’ve experienced and is the perfect culmination for MUSIC JOURNAL. We would like to extend our deepest gratitude to your stellar sextet and Ms. Lawson for her brilliant work on violoncello. Absolutely stunning!

    MZ: Thank you! Actually “One More Year” is dedicated to Dorothy Lawson. I wrote it on the occasion of her fortieth birthday as a gift and token of my admiration for her artistry.

    JazzUSA: Will you be appearing in Summer and Fall Concert Series in 2000?

    MZ: We will be performing in the Caviarteria in New York City on October 15th at 8 PM. For updates on live performances by Zarvos & Group I suggest that listeners check out my website at http://www.zarvos.com.

    JazzUSA: Thank you so much for this interview and again, our heartiest congratulations to you with respect to MUSIC JOURNAL. It’s so beautiful. Keep in touch with the brilliant pianist Marcelo Zarvos and you’ll discover music you haven’t heard anywhere before!

    Marc Copland – Softly

    Marc Copland

    SoftlyPianist Marc Copland’s trio (including bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Bill Stewart) is joined by three of the finest horn players today: Michael Brecker, Tim Hagans, and Joe Lovano on this refreshing release.

    The players are guided in their improvisations by Copland’s unique sense of touch, as well as his love of and respect for group interplay and spontaneity. The leader’s thoughtful arrangements leave plenty of room for on-the-spot input from the players. The results of this approach can be heard throughout the album, as for example in the full-group chorus on “Softly,” the tags to “Blue” and “What’s Going On”, and the trio selections (which, like the choice of the trio tunes themselves, were executed on the spur of the moment).

    My long association with the players on this album was the key,” says Copland. “I prefer to have players with their own sound, with the ability to listen as well as play, and who can leave their egos at the door so that they are able to contribute unselfishly to the group feel. What tends to happen in that kind of atmosphere is that each player gets a chance to play and to interact with the others freely, so that the players support one another and everybody gets to make a strong, individual contribution. Mutual respect will do that.”

    Mutual respect and strong individual contributions from the players, as well as a unique sense of touch, harmony, and rhythm from the leader, are indeed the hallmark of this exciting new release.

    Marc Cohn – At OMSI ­ July 2005

    Marc Cohn Live
    at O.M.S.I.

    Portland, OR – July, 2005
    by Oscar R. Hicks

    Marc Cohn’s performance at the OMSI** Zoo presentation of ‘Jazz at the Zoo’ was awesome to say the least. This was by far one of the best outdoor performance I have experience in a long time. Every song was well-crafted, and Cohn’s sing-along choruses, introspective lyrics, and vocal style revealed his ’60s soul and ’70s singer/songwriter influences. Cohn’s voice is rich, but has a roughness that adds emotion when reaching the upper notes and yet blends smoothly to the lower notes of his songs.

    Marc Cohn has a great ear for melody and a keen eye for detail that immediately grabs your attention and reward the listener with repeated plays. He drew the crowd into every song with emotion and flare. What was really impressive was Marc Cohn’s ability to tell modern day stories with a smooth upbeat chorus. It always seems to me that songs composed on piano seem to sound better than those written on a guitar; however, the concert performance was surprisingly consistent, even for a mini-performance.

    Listening to so many stories unfold across the ninety minute engagement also solidified the props Cohn has received in the media and elsewhere. It should be noted that any concert by Marc Cohn is a must attend. In the end, it was this reality and Marc Cohn’s generally magnetic personality that made the long drive and hot weather not only bearable, but also pretty enjoyable and well worth it.

    **Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

    Ranee Lee – Maple Groove

    Maple GrooveMaple Groove
    Ranee Lee
    (Justin Time – 2004)
    by Barry Johnson

    On Maple Groove veteran jazz singer Ranee Lee celebrates the Great Canadian Songbook with her session of songs by some of Canada’s most noted composers and lyricists. Although songs like If You Could Read My Mind are familiar to the whole world world, Lee takes them and interprets them with a sensitive ear, giving them her own flavor. A native of Brooklyn, Ranee has spent the last thirty-five years living and performing in and around Montreal, becoming one of Canada’s most popular jazz vocalists.

    Ballads, such as Maybe September, reveal her strongest quality… her ability to prance through our hearts with expression that comes from somewhere deep within her soul. When she sings Oscar Peterson’s Hymn to Freedom a cappella, with a talented vocal ensemble from McGill University, she is absolutely convincing! The emotion and depth she delivers on It Looks Like Rain is reminiscent of some of Billie’s smoother days. Her understanding of the material and genuine reflections carry us home every time.

    Tradition takes a slight right turn on Spinning Wheel as Lee introduces her grandson Darrell Henegan, Jr., with his amplified rap vocal conclusion to the song. Not altogether bad thing, I think his finale makes a better rendition of the classic rock tune than Lee’s because her voice lacks the vibrancy required to really capture David Clayton-Thomas’s original favor.

    This is a collection of cover songs and as such I’d recommend it to those that are into the songs that Ranee presents on this release. If you like the songs, you’ll love the CD because Ranee Lee does a fine job of delivering them to you. 3.5 stars.

    Erik Truffaz – Mantis

    Erik TruffazErik Truffaz

    (Blue Note – 2001)
    by Ricky Miller

    Trumpeter Erik Truffaz was introduced to the general public in 1998 as a major European jazz artist thanks to The Dawn, an astonishing experimental mix of jazz, Drum’n’Bass and hip-hop. His mind-bending performances have revealed that the drum n’ bass and ambient perspective is as viable and exciting on acoustic instruments, as it is on samplers and drum machines. Although I found The Mask to be a more enjoyable work overall, Mantis shows growth for the trumpeter, much like the career of the man he seems to pattern himself after, Miles Davis.

    With fresh material organically developed over the past year, his latest record, Mantis, features Erik and his Ladyland Quartet sailing between electric underground and the smarter side of groove jazz. This record, like the man it’s named after, is about feeling and freedom. Winding between grooves that border on Hip-Hop (Saisir) and Middle Eastern (Magrouni, Nina Valeria) Truffaz continues to expand his boundaries, and yours.

    Kurt Elling – Man In The Air

    Kurt EllingKurt Elling
    Man In The Air
    (Blue Note – 2003)
    by John Thompson

    Here is a guy that is loaded with chops as a vocalist. After hearing him sing once, you will always recognize his unforgettable voice, similar to Bill Withers, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday. On this release, Elling displays his usual talents of extraordinary voice and pitch control, as well as great music support.

    The musicians backing Elling are Laurence Hobgood(p/Rhodes), Rob Amster(b), Frank Parker Jr.(d/perc), Stefon Harris(v), Jim Gailloreto(ss), Paul Wertico(d), and Brad Wheeler(ssax). The music here contains several styles, tempos, and arrangements, plus some surprises. For example, the track “In The Winelight” is a sultry, finger- poppin’ version of the Grover Washington Jr. hit “Let It Flow(for Dr.J).” The music played on “The More I Have You” is Miles Davis’ “All Blues,” performed in 4/4 time, with a groove.

    The title tune, “Man In The Air” has a mellow fusion feel, especially with the presence of Hobgood’s Rhodes electric piano. “A Secret I”, beautifully peformed with a tasteful solo by Harris and superb vocals by Elling, and Coltrane’s Resolution” are the more straight jazz songs. The most interesting song for me is “Minuano,” which starts out sounding like “Ave Maria,” then going into a 6/8 serious jazz feel with cool solos.

    Tracks like “The Uncertainty Of The Poet” and “Higher Vibe” threw my groove for a loop. There is really good music, really good Elling, and something for all Jazz fans and maybe even classical music enthusiasts. 4 stars

    Delandria Mills – Manifestation

    Delandria Mills
    DemiMusic – 2009
    Eunice Moseley – EURweb

    Jazz flautist Delandria Mills releases a Gospel/Inspirational album on Tehillah Entertainment titled “Manifestation.” The thirteen track CD also includes the vocals of this talented musician/songwriter.

    “I didn’t intend to be a jazz artist, but a Christian artist,” Delandria said about crossing over from Jazz to Gospel. “I grew up in the church…For years I wanted to play with a lot of different artists. I don’t play with nothing that doesn’t have a message or uplifting message.”

    Mills is also a member of Tye Tribbett’s backing band, Soundcheck. A native of Houston, Texas Delandria holds a bachelors of arts from  Prairie View A&M University and a masters in music at the Peabody Conservatory of Music. Her studies and her music have taken her all over the country.

    “Tye heard me play in church,” Mills said about how you became a member of the band for one of today’s hottest Contemporary Gospel artists. “He remembered me.”

    Delandria said that when she plays, she is always trying to please God in how she plays. Just listening to “Manifestation” I know God would be very proud . The emotional, joyous, and praise and worship album is a testament to her ability to make a instrumental song sound like Gospel.

    “You’re thinking about the chords…staying true to the song, whatever the title is,”  Delandria explains about the makings of a Gospel instrumental.

    The message of God’s Gospel is delievered when their instruments sing and uplift the notes. Amongst the 13 tracks include my favorites on the CD “Forever and Ever,” with its James Bond type delivery and feel; “Almighty God,” that gives me the mental image of  leaves flying on the winds of God, “Rauha (Peace),” and “Love Song,” which includes the unbelievable vocals of this flute player.

    “As an instrumentalist I don’t have to do things over. (Using my) Vocals I work harder,”  Delandria laughed a bit when discribing the difference in blowing her flute and singing.

     For more on Delandria Mills or the “Manifestation” CD log onto www.DelandriaMills.com or www.TehillahEnterprisesPR.com

    Yuko Ito – Mania De Voce

    Yuko Ito
    Mania De Voce
    Funny Baby Face – 2010

    Yuko Ito’s new CD Mania De Voc� represents her profound respect and love for Brazilian music with renditions of classic works of Antonio Carlos Jobim, Djavan, Luiz Gonzaga, Rita Lee, Carlinhos Brown and Baden Powell. A native of Tokyo, Japan, she has been performing publicly in wide range of styles: pop, rock, R&B, jazz funk, gospel, free jazz and various forms of Brazilian music since high school. 

    Her early musical career began when she founded the girl’s rock band Sissy Boy, which produced two CDs: Marcy’s Factory, with Vaan Media, and Kick Off Boy’s, with Crown Records Japan. Even with her early success in Japan, Yuko’s musical vision was broad and she chose to move to New York in 1994.  A vocal coach soon encouraged her to explore jazz and eventually this led to her receiving B.F.A degree from City College of New York in music (Jazz Vocal Performance). 

    After a jam session Yuko attended while still in school, she was invited by jazz artist Sabir Mateen to perform with him.  This encouraged her to continue to draw deeply from the jazz tradition in her work. She has performed with the Harlem Gospel Choir and appeared at Blue Note (New York), She has also performed with the Harlem Gospel Choir in Times Square on Good Morning America (ABC) and “New Yorker”( NHK BS1).

    Having been lured by positive lyrics, unique beats and passionate movement, Yuko grew with her rebellious rock attitude into a mature songstress and it shows on her new album Mania De Voc� . Yuko Ito, originally from Japan, has evolved into a born again Brazilian New Yorker.

    A Chat with Tim Hauser of the Manhattan Transfer

    Manhattan TransferA Chat with Tim Hauser
    of the Manhattan Transfer
    by Paula Edelstein

    It’s been more than thirty years since Tim Hauser worked as a marketing executive and New York cabby with dreams of creating a vocal group. One night in 1972, Hauser’s taxi fare was an aspiring singer named Laurel Masse, who was familiar with Jukin’ an album Hauser had made with an earlier Manhattan Transfer combo. A few weeks later Hauser met Janis Siegel at a party. Although Siegel was then performing with a folk group called Laurel Canyon, Hauser convinced her and Masse to be part of his nascent group. At the same time, Alan Paul was stirring hearts on Broadway, appearing in the original production of Grease. When he met with Hauser, Siegel, and Masse, the groundwork was laid for The Manhattan Transfer, which was officially “born” on October 1, 1972. Not many groups survive the hills and valleys of the music business but for the past 30 years, the group has enjoyed tremendous success worldwide. Whether winning Grammy Awards for their exciting vocalese, arranging and composing, contributing their talents to charitable organizations, or just kicking back with their favorite pastimes, you can be sure that THE MANHATTAN TRANSFER COULDN’T BE HOTTER! I caught up with Tim during The Manhattan Transfer’s world tour and here’s what he had to say about the group’s debut for Telarc Jazz. So Listen UP!

    PE:Congratulations on COULDN’T BE HOTTER – your sterling debut for Telarc Jazz! It’s my understanding that The Manhattan Transfer now record exclusively for Telarc and that there are two new studio recordings in the works. Would those recordings be solo endeavors by you or Alan Paul by any chance?

    TH: No, the forthcoming studio CD on Telarc will be The Manhattan Transfer.

    PE:In addition to Janis Siegel’s two Telarc recordings, Friday Night Special (2002) and I Wish You Love (2003), and Cheryl Bentyne’s first Telarc release, Talk of the Town, that is due in January 2004, are there any future plans to release solo recordings by either Alan or yourself?

    TH: Alan has released a solo CD titled ANOTHER PLACE AND TIME. I am currently working on a solo CD. It will be my first. I never elaborate on projects that are at the point of inception, because at that point, they are still very prone to change.

    PE: Good thinking! Tim, for over 30 years, Manhattan Transfer has combined their voices into an incomparable four-part harmony that has consistently set new standards for vocal music. Why did the group delay making another “live” recording especially since you’re so popular worldwide and your “Man-Tora! Live In Tokyo” did so well in 1996?

    TH: I can’t really answer that question. Probably it’s because we never thought about it, i.e., a “live” CD, that is. We generally think in studio terms, when considering a new project. The “live” Telarc CD was recorded in Japan, and came about as a result of our playing Orchard Hall in Tokyo, which is a wonderful, and acoustically friendly venue. We just thought it would be a nice idea if we recorded the two nights. So, we rented three D-88 racks. Each rack has 8 tracks, so we took 24 tracks and ran them through our soundboard. We were very happy with how the whole thing came out sonically, and performance-wise.

    PE:We had the great fortune of hearing Janis Siegel sing “Stars Fell On Alabama” with several great vocalists in a great tribute to Ella Fitzgerald this past summer at the Hollywood Bowl in California. When choosing songs for this “live” recording, what criteria did you use?

    TH: I was at that Hollywood Bowl gig. Wasn’t it a wonderful evening? Hey, I got a free ticket. I know someone in the band. Actually, an old friend of mine, Mike Wimberly was in the trombone section, and I hadn’t seen him in years. Running into Mike was an added plus. To answer your question, the criteria included songs we recorded that had not appeared on any previously issued “live” album. The crux of the CD were songs from our last two CD’s, SWING, and SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS. We also included “Don’t Let Go,” from our 2nd album, and “Twilight Zone/Twilight Tone” from our 5th album, EXTENSIONS. (I call them albums, since they are pre-digital). The last song, “My Foolish Heart” appears for the first time.

    PE:The Manhattan Transfer has been compared to such respected groups as Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, among others. Who were some of your early jazz vocal influences?

    TH: My early jazz vocal influences include Al Hibbler – I got into him when I was 14. I got into Eddie Jefferson when I was 17, and Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross when I was 18. Before that, I was listening to Crosby, Sinatra, Nat Cole, Ella, Sarah, and Dinah.

    PE:Why did the group eventually focus on the 1930’s and 1940’s Swing style of jazz rather than straight-ahead jazz vocals, pop, country, blues or even R&B?

    TH: We never eventually focused on that stuff. If you look at the songs on our very first album, you will see vocalese (“You Can Depend On Me,” & “Tuxedo Junction”), big band ballads (“Candy,” & “Blue Champagne”), doo wop (“Gloria,” & “Hearts Desire”), and R&B (“Operator,”& “Acapella”).

    PE:The group has won Grammy awards in both the jazz and pop categories but continues to defy categorization to this day. What do you attribute your success to?

    TH: Because we were the first vocal group to come along that did not hang its hat on one particular style. The four of us are very independent, and in order to stay together, we had to accommodate each other’s tastes. In many areas they overlapped, but nevertheless…. We never could understand why we couldn’t do different styles- so we did, and were the first vocal group to pull it off. It still amazes me, after all these years that we succeeded in that endeavor. When we first began, Janis and I were both studying theory with the same teacher, Bob Bianco. He also had Eddie Palmieri, Johnny Colon, and Michael Brecker as students during that time. He told me to avoid labeling the group at all costs. He said that most people do not like to think- it’s too difficult for them. So, they like to put labels on things, so they can be easily discarded. That’s their out, so to speak. But if you don’t label yourself, they will pursue you constantly because they will obsess on finding a label. It made sense to us, so we made a conscious decision to avoid giving ourselves a label. You should have seen some the descriptions in the beginning. My favorite was “a nostalgia group”- “the group that sings nostalgia music,” as if nostalgia is a generic thing, and only “indigenous to the 1930’s and 40’s.” If you were born either before or after that time, you had no right to feel nostalgic about anything- just the 30’s and 40’s. These people proved that what Bob Bianco said was true.

    PE:From boogie-woogie to bop to vocalese, COULDN’T BE HOTTER spotlights The Manhattan Transfer’s dynamic, big band harmonies in a “live” setting. You must constantly rehearse, right?

    TH: Well, we really don’t adhere to a rehearsal schedule. We go over stuff at sound-check, if something is not working right. All of us, at times, fall into bad habits with arrangements. Parts get changed a bit, or certain notes get “greased” and the perpetrator gets “busted”. And, oh yes, have you ever heard of the Pitch Police? The Pitch Police lurk backstage, and behind the curtains. If you hit a clam, they beat you with rubber hoses after the show. Avoid the Pitch Police at all costs.

    PE:(Big laughs!) I’ll remember those folks with the rubber hoses lurking in the wings! Seriously though, how difficult is it for the group to learn all these different musical tempos and yet stay true to the original stylistic forms?

    TH: Regarding the adherence to musical form, etc, it’s not hard, because we only do stuff that lies within our “zone.” That’s the place we love. Everyone has a place like that, no matter what they do. As long as you work within that space, no matter how large or small, you’re cool. If you move outside of the zone, and delve into music that is not really a part of your fabric, then you are asking for trouble. You can’t tell the truth outside of the zone- very scary out there. It’s kind of like going to a jam session, where you don’t know the players, and wind up on stage with Dick Cheney on bass, and John Ashcroft on drums. Now, that’s scary!

    PE:Tim, thank you for the interview. It was a real pleasure speaking to you and here’s to continued success with the new recording and your new home at Telarc Jazz.

    Reprinted with permission of…

    Manhattan Transfer

    Manhattan Transfer Spirit of St. Louis
    Talking with Manhattan Transfer
    by Mark Ruffin

    The Manhattan Transfer was conspicuously quiet during the international celebration of Duke Ellington’s centennial two years ago. The venerable vocal quartet is currently on the road performing music from their new Louis Armstrong tribute album The Spirit of St. Louis.

    “While everyone else was doing Duke, we thought we’d get a head start on Louis,” said Transfer vocalist Janis Siegel. “In a way, I think Louis Armstrong was more interesting to us. “He was one of the greatest vocal improvisers, almost the beginning of jazz vocals.

    “Certainly there was his playing, which was phenomenal,” she continued. “Then there was this whole body of vocal work that had never been interpreted. “That attracted us.”

    Throughout their nearly 30 years together, unpredictability has been the standard by which Manhattan Transfer operates. Over the years they have tackled different styles of group-harmony vocals. From 40’s be-bop to 50’s doo-wop, from Brazilian music to even 70’s disco and 90’s hip-hop. The group thrives on doing something completely different.

    “We’re just confusing, period,” Siegel said laughing.

    The singer said that they were inspired by Ellington in a “very obtuse way,” on their 1991 album, The Offbeat of Avenues. The other female vocalist, Cheryl Bentyne, and Siegel both listened to music from the great composer’s jungle music period for a creative source. As with that album, and most of their releases, including The Spirit of St. Louis, each member did massive research before coming into the recording studio.

    “The research was very enlightening for me, in particular,” Siegel said. ” “I had never really gone bank and listen to early Armstrong stuff. Plus, I read a biography of his, so at the same time that I was listening to the music, I was reading about what was happening in his life.”

    Because the breadth of Armstrong’s work is so massive, Siegel agreed that it is nearly impossible to listen to everything he recorded. She also pointed out that each member seemed to gravitate towards different periods in the trumpeter’s long career.

    Tim Hauser picked a lot of early Armstrong like the ageless classic Struttin’ With Some Bar-Be-Que, while Alan Paul went more with the big band music that he could write long lyric lines to. Siegel went more towards the small groups and the Armstrong duets with Ella Fitzgerald.

    “But none of us went directly to any of the tunes that Armstrong is famous for,” Siegel pointed out. “If you asked the man or woman on the street to name three Louis Armstrong tunes, I’m afraid they would say Hello Dolly, Mack The Knife and What A Wonderful World.

    Needless to say, the Transfer didn’t go for the obvious on their new recording.

    “The record company probably would’ve creamed in their pants to get a nostalgia record,” she said with her frequent slight giggle. “But that’s what we wanted to do.”

    The Spirit of St. Louis is not some frolicking star-studded big band jazz trip with some Crescent City neo-classic trumpet stud playing the role of Armstrong. Instead, the versatile quartet, with the help of rising producing star, Craig Street, weaves a modern, yet traditional New Orleans tapestry. The songs are associated with the trailblazing jazz man, but the music has more to do with the latter 20th century and comes off as a tribute to the city known as the Big Easy,

    “It really is,” the singer concurred. “That was a little bit of a surprise, but it is so fitting. “There’s some zydeco, some Louis Prima, who came from New Orleans and was totally influenced by Armstrong. The closest thing to our sound are the songs New Orleans and When You Wish Upon A Star.

    “Every cut didn’t have a lot of four-part harmony. We did a lot of different kind of voicings and vocal arrangement.”

    The album even has some of that country flavored r&b doo-wop that Allen Toussaint was practicing in New Orleans with the Neville Brothers in the 60’s, but it’s draped over very modern arrangements. There are traditional strings instruments like the banjo and the dobro, but there are also electronic guitar loops.

    “We were actually anxious to get the musical rug pulled out from under us,” Siegel said. “What’s the good in doing the same thing over and over. If it gets stale for you, then the audience will feel it.

    “We feel there’s a certain style to this record and a kind of respect for the past. Plus, it was really fun to mix and match different styles with the Armstrong influence.”

    Frank Butrey – Malicious Delicious

    Frank Butrey
    Malicious Delicious
    2009 – Frank Butrey

    Philadelphia based guitarist Frank Butrey offers a wide array of techniques, colors and unpredictability on his offering, Malicious Delicious. From stirring sensitivity to romping in-your-face explorations, Butrey is a compelling guitarist and a distinctive composer. Butrey’s tone is certainly all his own, the closest description would be; mix the fiery speed and agility of Pat Martino, the harmonic complexities of Chick Corea, the exploration of sounds and raw bite of Hendrix and the grooving abilities of Carlos Santana and you can start to imagine Frank Butrey, but be prepared – he is certainly all that and more.

    Joined by a stellar line-up of players lending their interactive support, the group expertly executes Butrey’s motivic ideas. Tony “Stickman” Wyatt on drums and Clifton Kellem on acoustic and electric bass are a solid rhythm section for Butrey to expound his ideas upon. Butrey is also joined by percussionists Tom Lowery (tracks 3 & 5), Doug “Pablo” Edwards (track 6), Joe Ruscitto (track 3), Leonard “Hub” Hubbard on electric bass formerly of The Roots (track 8), long time collaborator Warren Oree on acoustic bass (track 6), Umar Raheem on soprano sax (track 6) and Greg “Ju Ju” Jones on drums (track 6). Malicious Delicious is a burning CD, one guaranteed to satisfy any guitar aficionado and beyond.

    Making Spirits Bright – November 2001

    Making Spirits Brightmaking spirits bright
    A Smooth Jazz Christmas
    (Verve – 2001)
    by Ray Redmond

    Verve’s addition to this year’s Xmas music crush is also one of the best of the bunch. A mellow assortment of holiday grooves produced by compilation master Lee Ritenour, the CD features a stellar cast of players including Al Jarreau, Joyce Cooling, Will Downing, Richard Elliot, Jeff Lorber, Gerald Albright, Marc Antoine, Diana Krall, David Benoit, Joe Sample, Dave Grusin and Jeff Golub.

    Whew…. The sheer mass of talent present here ensures that this will be one this year’s top christmas CD’s. The diversity of artist styles comes together well, but there is also no doubt that this is a Lee Ritenour production. The Brazilian-tinged “Silent Night” featuring singer Al Jarreau was definitely cut around the same time as Ritenour’s ‘Twist of Jobim’ material, but’s that not necessarily a bad thing.

    Richard Elliot and Jeff Lorber team up on a pretty funky “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and Gerald Albright turns in a lively rendition of “This Christmas” that also has a strong Ritenour flavor to it. Mention must also be made of Joe Sample’s sweet solo piano rendition of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”. All in all this CD lives up to it’s billing as a Smooth Jazz Christmas. There are 10 copies of this CD in this month’s subscriber giveaway, courtesy of the folks at Verve Records!

    Maggie Scott Presents – Live at Scullers

    Live at Scullers
    Maggie Scott PresentsA Tribute to the Vintage Singers of the Past by Singers of the Present

    (Boston – September 26, 2006)
    by Matthew Robinson

    Many a great idea has been thought up on a train. The Gettysburg Address stands out as one. But now there is at least one more- A star-studded Jazz concert of contemporary singers paying tribute to legends of the past.

    Only at a place like the award-winning Scullers with Entertainment Director Fre Taylor at the helm could come up with something like this and only with a partner in crime like Boston piano queen Maggie Scott.

    From Peggy Lee to Joe Williams, this super show featured songs from some of Jazz’s greatest vocalists, all baked by Scott and her talented rhythm section of bassist John Lockwood and drummer Gary Johnson (a local legacy in his own right as the son of bandleader Dick Johnson).

    After Scott and the boys opened up with an uptempo and clearly not-tearful “Willow Weep for Me,” Paul Broadnax took to the keys and mic for a three-song set of strutty clutches and clever reworkings of personal favorites. Though his body and voice had slimmed down a bit, Broadnax was able to keep the crowd smiling and snapping with an uncharacteristically peppy “Everyday I Get the Blues,” a sleepier “I Had a Dream” and an accelerated swing through “Pretty Baby” that lost the lyrics in the rear view mirror.

    Starting with a cool and tight “Perdido,” Eula Lawrence paid homage to Sarah (the audience filled in the last name). After a rendition of “Misty” that was pleasantly so, Lawrence closed with a cheerful clap-along of “World on a String” that let Maggie and the boys play.

    Next, it was time for the Chairman of the Boston board, Steve Marvin, to do his thing. Despite his desire to fete Frank, “Witchcraft” let plenty of Steve shine through, and when he honored a request by Taylor for “Little Girl Blue, it was presented with personal care. With so many songs to choose from, Marvin settled (though not in a bad way) on a hip “Under My Skin” that was backed by Jumbo-sized resonance and propelled by subtly inventive bass and stop on a dime trap work.

    After “Frank,” Donna Byrne took the stage looking very much like a young Nancy Sinatrabut singing with much more power and control. Thankful to be a tribute-er, Byrne burned up the stage with a trio of Peggy Lee songs including a slinky, scatty, and sexy “Do Right (Gimme Some Money Too),” a touching private tribute “He Needs Me” amd a Horne-y pump through “Lover” that ended the set with bravado.

    After Byrne’s big set, it wa time for Big Bopper-esuqe Swing man Jim Porcella (aka, “Bombay Jim”) to offer a dead-on set of Golden Fog chestnuts, including a warm and sparkling rendition of that famous Torme tune that mentions the roasting filberts themselves. His “Lullabye of Birdland” was fun, but closing with “Lulu’s Back in Town” got the audience up and amped.

    Fortunately, diva/drama queen Rebecca Parris was ready to take on the challenge. Putting down her walking stick, Parris took up the gauntlet that had been laid down by her talented friends and went further, honoring her inspiration Ella and her accompanist and idol Maggie with a combination of Swing and Bossa that kept the band on their toes and brought the audience to their feet. From an encompassing “All of You” to a superb “Lady Be Good” to a back-and-forth scat through “Old Devil Moon,” Parris and the band mixed it up and kept it going before bringing the entire cast for a “front and centah” encore of “I Love Being Here with You” that, despite requiring some lyric assistance, got everyone jamming and laughing and the crowd hoping and hollering and begging for more- a more that Taylor promised when he entitled this first foray “Volume One.” “ ©2006 M. S. Robinson, ARR

    An Interview with Maggie Brown

    Vocalizing with Maggie Brown
    by Mark Ruffin
    Maggie BrownIn the chemical reaction created during an explosion, the sound it makes is the last thing to occur. Such is the state of the career of Chicago vocalist Maggie Brown- she’s already blown up; we just haven’t heard the boom. The big bang will probably happen after the release of the live album she recorded with her legendary father, Oscar Brown Jr. The live taping was last month at the Chicago nightclub, the Hot House.

    “I took the leap of faith about two years ago,” Brown said pinpointing when she lit the fuse to jumpstart her career. “I told myself that I had to jump off the diving board. I had been standing on the edge bouncing with my little nine to five paycheck every week.”

    That’s when she decided to become a full-time musician.

    Brown was like so many other very talented musicians who struggled with their art while working a full time day gig. She said she got frustrated at small number of jazz clubs and the scandalous lack of money being paid to musicians.

    When she did get gigs, she said they were in smoke-filled rooms or clubs that she said featured, “music to be ignored by.” In 1995, she even invested in the recording of an album, “From My Window,” that was eventually ignored by both the jazz press and broadcasting outlets.

    “Back when I was trying to get club gigs, I wasn’t getting any play,” Brown exclaimed. “It didn’t make sense, because I had a good tape and what is required for a good package, plus I thought I had some family reputation that would be of merit.”

    Her 73 year-old father is still a sprightly, not to mention busy, man. He has worn many hats including singer, writer, politician, broadcaster, playwright, family man, actor and whimsical raconteur.

    The nearly 40 year-old lyrics that he wrote for Miles Davis’ “All Blues,” Nat Adderley’s “Work Song,” and Bobby Timmons “Dat Dere” are still jazz standards, and are considered early examples in the art of jazz lyric writing called vocalese. He’s also famous for his song “The Lone Ranger,” where he immortalized the question asked by Tonto “what do you me we, White man?”

    His son, Oscar “Bobo” Brown III, had a promising career as a bassist and poet wiped out when he was killed a few years ago by a drunk driver. His work lives on through the popular poetry/hip-hop & jazz group he co-created, the Funky Wordsmiths, who are currently recording their second album.

    At the Hot House performance, father and daughter saluted the art of vocalese. They also performed the lyrics of other great practitioners of the art, as well as premiered overlooked work from the elder Brown, including words to the Charlie Parker tunes “Billie’s Bounce,” “Ornithology” and “Chasing The Bird.”

    “I’m almost embarrassed by the lack of documentation that we have on Daddy’s work,” Brown exclaimed before running off a considerable list of unpublished plays, poems and songs. “I’m only recently working on putting it all together and being aggressive with publishing and getting people to perform his plays.

    “There’s a lot to do,” she understated, “and I feel a great responsibility to shed light on his material.”

    Promoting her father is just one aspect of her career that she turned the heat up on when she walked away from her full-time job as an administrative assistant. She also got very serious about her one woman show titled “Legacy: Our Wealth of Music.”

    “Legacy”is edutainment about the history and evolution of African-American music, presented through narration, demonstration and lecture. In the multi-media presentation, she covers the history of Black music from field hollers to work songs, from slaves up to present day rappers.

    “I had to go out and make organizations and educational institutions aware of Legacy, and it has helped me survive.

    “It certainly is popular during Black History Month,” she added sheepishly.

    Brown insisted that she has always had the get-up-and-go that you need to make a living in the music business. The singer says that now her focus is much more intense, and she’s much more business-like.

    “I knew I was well overdue for a second album, but I also knew that if I waited until I had the budget to go into a studio or for some producer to find me, I’d be an old lady.

    “So I put on my own producer’s hat and rationalized that a live recording was the answer,” she said.

    Brown figured now was not the time to wonder how, or on what label the record was to be released on. She knows the history of some of the great hits that were recorded live in Chicago like Stevie Wonder’s “Fingertips,” Cannonball Adderley’s “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” and Ahmad Jamal’s “Poinciana,” and in her heart feels her time to make some noise is now.

    Taj Mahal – Maestro

    Taj MahalMaestro
    Heads Up – 2008

    Taj Mahal Celebrates Four Decades of Blues, Roots, Reggae and Beyond on his new Album Maestro; featuring Guest Appearances By: Ben Harper, Jack Johnson, Angelique Kidjo, Los Lobos, Ziggy Marley and more

    The mythology of American blues is filled with images of the lone musician standing at the crossroads, caught in that gray area between light and shadow, cutting impossible deals with dark forces, offering up nothing less than his soul as collateral.

    Composer and multi-instrumentalist Taj Mahal, a two-time GRAMMY� winner and one of the most influential American blues and roots artists of the past half-century, has made no Faustian deals in his long and distinguished career, but he stands at an important crossroads nonetheless. In his never-ending exploration of the complex origins and underpinnings of American music, he has forged a four-decade career by gathering and distilling countless musical traditions from a range of geographical and cultural sources: the Mississippi Delta, the Appalachian backwoods, the African continent, the Hawaiian islands, Europe, the Caribbean and so much more. Taj Mahal doesn’t just stand at the crossroads. He is the crossroads.

    This twelve-track set – his first U.S. release in five years – marks the fortieth anniversary of Taj’s rich and varied recording career by mixing original material with chestnuts from vintage sources and newcomers alike. Guests on this anniversary gala include Ben Harper, Jack Johnson, Angelique Kidjo, Los Lobos, Ziggy Marley and others – many of whom have been directly influenced by Taj’s music and guidance.

    But Maestro is much more than just a tribute to past glories. It captures the same level of intensity and depth that has characterized every one of Taj’s recordings since his self-titled debut album in 1968. Simply put, four decades have done nothing to dilute his energy quotient. “The one thing I’ve always demanded of the records I’ve made is that they be danceable,” he says. “This record is danceable, it’s listenable, it has lots of different rhythms, it’s accessible, it’s all right in front of you. It’s a lot of fun, and it represents where I am at this particular moment in my life.”

    Ben Harper joins in on the vocals on “Dust Me Down.” Written by Harper, this jagged and gritty tune is the latest chapter in a longstanding association between these two musicians hailing from separate and distinct generations. Harper’s grandparents, proprietors of the Folk Music Center and Museum in Claremont, California, were fans of Taj who booked him to play numerous gigs at the center many years ago. “Later on, I met their grandson,” says Taj. “I coached him with his guitar playing when he was a teenager. He really had a sensitivity to the music, and over the years we’ve done some performing and recording together.”

    Jack Johnson steps in to share vocals on Taj’s well-known “Further On Down the Road.” Taj’s banjo and harmonica juxtaposed against the horn riffs provided by the Phantom Blues band give the song a vibe that’s equal parts down home blues and vintage Stax.

    In “Black Man, Brown Man,” Taj takes a trip to the islands with the help of Ziggy Marley and his six-piece band. “It was a tune that came to me back in the ’70s, when we were in the midst of recording a lot of that Caribbean, African and Latin music,” Taj explains. “I thought it would be a good song for Ziggy and I to do. It not only has a nice reggae vibe, but it addresses a timely topic.” The collaboration on this track represents the third generation of Marleys with whom Taj has now been associated. Reggae icon Bob Marley, along with Jamaican bassist/keyboardist/producer Aston “Family Man” Barrett, helped record and mix Taj’s 1974 album, Mo’ Roots (Family Man also played piano on the Mo’ Roots track, “Slave Driver”). Two decades later, Taj enlisted Bob Marley’s mother, Cedella Marley-Booker – Ziggy’s grandmother – to record an album of African children’s songs on Music for Little People in the early ’90s.

    The set closes with Taj and the Phantom Blues Band serving up a swaggering, roadhouse rendition of the Willie Dixon/Bo Diddley classic “Diddy Wah Diddy.” In the end, as in the beginning, it’s always about the blues, always about making people move.

    “With his record, as with all my records, I want people to roll back the rug and go for it,” says Taj. “This record is just the beginning of another chapter, one that’s going to be open to more music and more ideas. Even at the end of forty years, in many ways my music is just getting started.”


    • 1. Scratch My Back
    • 2. Never Let You Go
    • 3. Dust Me Down
    • 4. Further On Down The Road
    • 5. Black Man, Brown Man
    • 6. Zanzibar
    • 7. TV Mama
    • 8. I Can Make You Happy
    • 9. Slow Drag
    • 10. Hello Josephine
    • 11. Strong Man Holler
    • 12. Diddy Wah Diddy


    Ravi Coltrane – Mad 6

    Ravi ColtraneRavi Coltrane
    Mad 6
    (Sony – 2003)
    by John Thompson

    While listening to this CD, I had an associate stop over. After approximately 10 seconds he asked, with a frown, “What the hell are you listening to?” He prefers his sax players’ last names to begin with G. This cat’s last name begins with Coltrane.

    Ravi Coltrane. Yes, his dad is John. I don’t think they sound alike, but on this release there are familiarities of energetic output. “Mad 6.” Six dudes attacking music with pure aggression. With a group consisting of Coltrane(s) George Colligan(p) James Genus(b) Darryl Hall(b) Andy Milne(p) and Steve Hass(d), they perform songs written by the likes of Coltranes, Jimmy Heath, Monk, and Mingus. This is a group of young lions that play hungry. “‘Round Midnight” is performed at WARP SPEED. “26-2,” and “Between the Lines” are rhythmic adventures.

    “Ginger Bread Boy” is night club funky. Two songs, “Self Portrait In Three Colors” (nice piano solo by Colligan) and “Ask Me Now” are the mellow ones. The hard bop “Fifth House” is pure TNT as drummer Hass shows himself a force, as does .This music could be a glimpse into the future of Jazz. Ravi can certainly play and the group has a great focus for the music. Tons of creativity and abstractness. If you are ready for a Jazz challenge, add this to your collection. 3 ½ stars.

    An Interview with Maceo Parker

    Maceo Parker Dial Maceo Parker
    Interview with a legend
    by Paula Edelstein

    JazzUSA.Com had the chance to DIAL M-A-C-E-O and did just that! He answered and here’s the scoop!! Enjoy this funkshun…because you and your computer are just about to add the “funky function” key for the one and only Maceo Parker. He needs no introduction!

    JazzUSA: DIAL M-A-C-E-O is a funky piece of work! With seven original tracks and eight covers of some of the best funk and jazz out there, you perform an overwhelming amount of material on one great funkshun! When did the roots for this great project produce the creative jazz we’re hearing?

    MP: From day one! Well, I hear everything. It seems that you just hear more as you get into it. I could hear a lot…from day one. I was very interested from the time I spent listening to big bands or small bands or whatever and even from my days with James Brown, George Clinton and Bootsy Collins. I remembered these things so it was very, very easy for me to land into a funkier kind of groove and into jazz. I enjoy doing the ballads and being in this situation where I can do just about anything I want to is really great. But the material on DIAL M-A-C-E-O was something that came about when someone said, “Hey, maybe we’d better think about going into the studio.” So I just said, “Oh yeah? Well OK, I’d better come up with something.” And this is it!

    Dial M-A-C-E-OJazzUSA: This sure is IT! You’ve invited several well-known artists including Prince, Ani DeFranco, Sheryl Crow, and James Taylor to join you on this great musical journey. How well is the CD doing?

    MP: I don’t really know how well the CD is doing but the last I heard, it was right around 100,000 in Europe! We just ended a 3-week show there a few weeks ago but unless someone tells me how well it’s doing, I don’t really inquire about how it’s doing. I don’t think I’ve heard any of the cuts that much in the USA but I can tell you that after playing one of the venues on Martha’s Vineyard, I went in for shopping and one of the guys there told me, “Oh wow! I just heard you on the radio!” If I had been a couple of minutes sooner, I could have heard it then…but I haven’t heard it that much in the USA. JAZZUSA: Well, we sure have! I just heard “The Greatest Romance Ever Sold” on the radio in Los Angeles, and heard you working such a funky sax and flute on Prince’s video of that track on Black Entertainment Television. And those are just a few of the reasons we just had to have this interview!!

    MP: Thanks, Paula!

    JazzUSA: Is it more exciting for you to go out on the road with new material or would you rather re-create the funky sounds that you know have propelled your career so far?

    MP: It’s a little bit of both…. You’ve got to satisfy those who want to hear “Pass The Peas,” “Cold Sweat” and all that good James Brown stuff. “Got To Get You” and “Shake Everything You’ve Got,” but it’s also equally rewarding to come out with new stuff, like the stuff we’ve done on DIAL. So it’s all good. We played a place outside of Buffalo, New York …in Williamsville, at Runways and those people were so excited! The first thing I said was, “Why is this the first time we’ve ever played here? Is this a hidden thing or something?” (Laughs) It was fun, fun, fun and party, party, party. We had so much fun.

    JazzUSA: I bet it was! I wish I’d been there! Well Maceo, this is the first time in ten years that you’ve been worked to the smooth jazz radio format, with Prince’s “The Greatest Romance Ever Sold” and to Triple A radio with “Coin Toss” which features Ani DeFranco. Even though this CD has much of your trademark funk, and you are working it, do you think adding the smooth jazz format to your core audience will create a few more question marks behind the range of attitudes toward funk at jazz radio stations? Dial M-A-C-E-O

    MP: Probably. Yeah. Anytime you delve into something outside of the realm of what you normally do, you’re going to turn some heads. Like who’s that?

    JazzUSA: Well that’s what I said? (Laughs) It was fantastic!

    MP: We get that a lot, especially on college campuses where we’ve been and the talk goes from here to here to here to here. It’s sort of like we’ve become a tradition! They go, “If you ever hear Maceo Parker, etc! Man, it’s great!” They are really into us and just love us and ask us, “Where have you guys been?” But it’s all good. So when I think about my decision to become an entertainer, to travel and to do all the things you have to do in order to do the job, it’s all worthwhile….

    JazzUSA: You are jamming on alto saxophone, flute and vocals and really stretching out. There are ballads that work it – especially your rendition of “My Love.” Your tone is so smooth, so loving. In choosing the 12 songs, what were you ultimately looking for?

    MP: Well, I just knew I had to do something and here it is! (Laughs) This is where my head is at the moment. But the thing with “My Love” is …I always like to play something sort of away from the funky stuff that I’m setting up. I had been using “My Love,” but I do “If A Picture Paints A Thousand Words,” by Bread or sometimes I do “Rainbow” and then go right into something funky. But when going into the studio, I thought, maybe I’d do something serious on “My Love” and that is what we did. I changed the arrangements two or three times.

    JazzUSA: It’s beautiful. Corey Parker raps a message every lady wants to hear on “Black Widow” and it’s so right! With your flute rapping its own message, many of your new fans will realize that your work on the sax is not the only great sounds you’ve played for generation after generation. Is DIAL M-A-C-E-O the first CD you and your son has recorded together?

    Funk OverloadMP: Nooooooo! He was on FUNKOVERLOAD. Before he did the rap stuff…we called it “Maceo’s Groove.” He was a college student at that time, an Engineering major. So after he heard it, his words started coming and he let me hear it. At that time, he wasn’t sure whether he wanted to become an Engineer. So he got the chance to stand near the stage once during one of my shows and I called him on. It was like, ABSOLUTE LOVE at first performance! I mean he loves the stage! It was like, “Wow. This is so exciting.”

    JazzUSA: (Thrilled) Well who wouldn’t love standing there next to the great Maceo Parker?

    MP: So then it was like he just discovered that this is probably what he should have been about for the first part of his life anyway.

    JazzUSA: I liked him on “Let’s Get It On” too…that’s another great cut on FUNKOVERLOAD. So he’s in the right pea patch! (Laughs) Speaking of a pea patch, you’re really laying on the funk on that cut “Rabbits In The Pea Patch.” We really like “My Baby Loves You” and “Homeboy” also, and especially enjoyed your fingering work on these gems for the saxophone. What ideas were you reaching for when putting those songs together?

    MP: Well it’s just funky! Most of the time, I’ll say, let’s get something that sounds like this, or let’s get something that sounds like that one. Or maybe let’s get one just a little bit slower than that…and I just go in and fill in the blanks! Pretty soon, all the bases are covered. Basically it’s, “Let’s get something a little jazzy. Now we got to have a ballad. And maybe Corey you can do something.” His thing will be either slow, fast, moderate or whatever. You know? And that’s it. So after covering all that, there should be enough material for an album!

    JazzUSA: Get down Maceo! Only a master showman can get it all together just like that! Also, as a master saxophonist, you have brought the greatest R&B, funk and rhythmic skills to the world along with one of the best funky horn sections in music…ever! Now that you’ve had huge success in jazz, does your legacy create any more pressure to live up to everything that you’ve previously done or a freedom to work at the pace you want to?

    Funk OverloadMP: You sort of set a height…subconsciously as you go. And if you come up with something that for some reason doesn’t measure up to that height or the saxophone is not sounding right or your ability to do it is not quite right…then you say, “No, that’s not quite it” and you go in and make the adjustments. But as I get older, I know in my mind how I want it to sound, but at the same time, I’m keeping my eyes open for slowing down just a little bit. So all that’s in there when I stop to think about it.

    JazzUSA: What do you consider to be the “definitive” Maceo Parker masterwork?

    MP: I kind of like the one we just finished, I suppose. The one with “Children’s World” on it and the one with Ray Charles’ “Them That Got.” I even like FUNKOVERLOAD, believe it or not!

    JazzUSA: I do too. Your personal relationship with the saxophone extends far beyond jazz and I’m sure you must own and play many different ones. Which saxes are you playing these days and why?

    MP: I’m playing a Selmer sax and basically started after my high school band days. But really started playing them after hearing Ray Charles and his band… his sax players. They were all playing Selmer saxophones…. Hank Crawford and David Newman…. I just stayed there. James Brown suggested that I play alto and I started doing that.

    JazzUSA: So there you have it! This gives new meaning to being online!! Man oh man! Thank you so much for this fantastic interview. I had so much fun. We wish you even greater success with DIAL M-A-C-E-O. It’s so funky!

    MP: Thank you! Stay in touch with the great Maceo Parker. For tickets, tour and CDs, check in at www.war.com and check out with DIAL M-A-C-E-O and FUNKOVERLOAD.

    Manfredo Fest

    Manfredo Fest

    By Andrew Gilbert

    Each new album by Brazilian veteran Manfredo Fest is a special event for lovers of bossa nova. With Amazonas, Fest further refines his joyous, sensual Brazilan jazz sound, drawing unique elements from both traditions in creating a music as emotionally stirring as it is beautiful.

    More than 30 years ago, Fest helped create the beloved Brazilian musical movement that quickly swept the world. Bossa nova is still at the heart of the pianist’s music, but over the years he has continued to add elements of jazz, establishing a reputation as one of the most versatile and creative musicians to hail from South America.

    Born in Porto Alegre, the capital of Brazil’s southernmost state, Fest was raised in an intensely musical household. His father was a concert pianist and conductor in Germany who studied with a student of Hungarian piano virtuoso and composer Franz Lizst. He immigrated to Brazil in the mid-20’s and as Manfredo was growing up, his father chaired the University of Porto Alegre’s music department. Born legally blind, Manfredo learned to read music by Braille. Though he studied classical music throughout college, graduating from the University of Rio Grande do Sul with a music degree, his ear was turning toward samba and jazz.

    “Early on, I heard Bill Evans and Oscar Peterson, but the great influence in my earlier years was George Shearing’s quintet,” Fest says, “the combination of sounds he had with piano, vibes, guitar, bass and drums.”

    Fest began immersing himself in Brazilian popular music and jazz while still in college, a direction that didn’t win quick approval from his father. “He was very conservative, so he didn’t dig it too much,” Fest recalls with a laugh. “Later on when I graduated and moved to Sao Paulo, the biggest city in Brazil, he got to realize that I was serious about what I was doing.”

    In Sao Paulo, Fest joined a loose group of musicians who were revolutionizing Brazilian popular music. Along with Joao Gilberto, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Luis Bonfa, Dorival Caymmi and a number of other innovators, Fest help refine the musical form known as bossa nova. “It was a team of Brazilian musicians who were really attuned to and admired jazz,” Fest explains. “We started incorporating those ideas into Brazilian rhythms, so bossa nova can be defined as the modern version of the samba, with jazz elements and improvisation and with the Brazilian grooves and syncopation.”

    Fest made a series of classic trio recordings in Sao Paulo between 1961 and 1966 that demonstrated how flexible and inventive the bossa nova form could be. Drawn to the United States by his passion for jazz, Fest immigrated to Minneapolis in 1967, his path paved by disc jockey Herb Schoenbohm. “I always had the dream to come here and have the opportunity to learn more about jazz and if possible to develop a career here,” Fest says.

    After a year in Minneapolis, Fest moved to Los Angeles where he joined Sergio Mendes in his popular band Brazill 66. Fest also served as keyboardist and arranger for the group Bossa Rio, which opened concerts for Mendes. Between the two groups, Fest toured the world spreading the bossa nova gospel. But after two years on the road, he decided to spend more time with his family and moved back to Minneapolis, working regularly in local clubs. In 1973, Fest relocated to Chicago, and became a fixture on the vibrant Windy City music scene. Eventually, the Fest family settled in Palm Harbor on Florida’s west coast where there’s a huge audience for Latin American jazz and a climate similar to Brazil’s.

    Fest has always taken disparate tunes and made them his own with his highly personal synthesis of jazz harmonies and improvisation and the rhythms and lilting melodic sensibility of his native Brazil. Whether playing jazz standards, or Brazilian classics, Fest embraces and transforms the music with his unique sound. “I try to balance between Brazilian flavor, but I try to keep the integrity of the tunes as much as possible,” Fest explains. Amozonas may be the best example of Manfredo Fest’s music.

    Marcus Miller – M2

    Marcus Miller - M2M2
    Marcus Miller
    (Telarc – 2001)
      by Ray Redmond

    Marcus Miller, who has been dubbed the Superman of Soul, has assembled quite a collection of superheroes for his new release… Hubert Laws, Lenny White, Chaka Khan, Maceo and Fred, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Paul Jackson Jr., Bernard Wright, Branford Marsalis, Raphael Saddiq and a few more even! Sometime you can get a lot of good musicians together and produce average results, sometime it clicks. This Clicked, and that alone is good enough reason to buy it.

    The Coltrane tune “Lonnie’s Lament” comes our funkily-modern (this is MY favorite). I found the remake of Talking Heads “Burning Down The House” to be a bit flat… technically well done but no GROOVE. “Amazing Grace” (featuring Chaka’s expressive scat-vocals) and “Goodbye Porkpie Hat” are also smooth and heavily -Marcus-flavored covers. “It’s me again” is a soulful strut that features solos showing off Miller’s expertise and skill with the bass.

    “Nikki’s Groove” is more reminiscent of his R&B album releases, combining a catchy melody with some POPPIN bass licks. A nice tune, but a little commercial for my tastes. Although “Cousin John” is neither the funkiest nor the smoothest track on this release, is the most interesting and least commercial of the lot (excluding perhaps the interludes). Wayne Shorter’s expressiveness compliments the Miller bass runs in an avant-garde sort of way. Once again Marcus Miller has put together a solid release. It may not be Grammy material, but it’s belongs in your trophy case.

    Claudia Acuña – Player’s Club

    Claudia Acuña TrioClaudia Acuña
    (MaxJazz – 2004)
    by Paula Edelstein

    This Brilliant label debut features both Spanish and English songs and bonus video. Luna is Claudia Acuna’s debut recording for the MaxJazz Vocal Series and features 11 songs written by several writers including originals from Acuna, Jason Lindner, Djavan and Kim Smith. The songs that Claudia Acuna offers on LUNA will affect you in many ways. Her sensitive, heartfelt, melodic delivery is sung in two languages – Spanish and English – and lingers in your heart and soul long after the CD ends. Joined by a new band that includes her longtime co-producer and pianist Jason Lindner, saxophonist Jimmy Greene (from their days with Avishai Cohen’s band), John Benitez on electric and acoustic bass, Gene Jackson on drums and Lusito Quintero on percussion, Ms. Acuna sings a beautiful set that entices your imagination to soar.

    Top picks are “Meditation On Two Chords” a great song written by Kim Smith that reminds you of a song Flora Purim would choose to sing. “Beauty can be found deep within…” this inspired song and Acuna should make this the cornerstone of her concert appearances. “Yesterday, You and I” is also a keeper. It is also in English and features Acuna’s classic vocals purified with her elongated phrasings and soothing tones. Whether English or Spanish, her lovely music is definitely restorative and healing…so check it out. You’ll love Luna.

    Reprinted with permission of…

    George Shearing and Brian Torff – Lullaby of Birdland

    George Shearing and Brian Torff George Shearing and Brian Torff
    Lullaby of Birdland
    (Concord Jazz – 2000)
    by Paula Edelstein

    With a career spanning over 60 years, George Shearing is known throughout the world as a great jazz pianist, composer, and arranger. The 2-CD set, LULLABY OF BIRDLAND on Concord Jazz, serves up a “live” session of 18 songs that flawlessly swing and are beautifully executed by the pianist and bassist Brian Torff. Their BLUES ALLEY JAZZ and ON A CLEAR DAY make up this great double showcase of talent and jazz. The previously released collection features such great rhythmic numbers as Billy Taylor’s “One For The Woofer,” a great note-for-note piece for the piano/bass duo and Shearing’s rhythmic approach to “The Masquerade Is Over.”

    His up-tempo take on “Soon It’s Gonna Rain,” is a delight in expression, nuance and communication between bassist Brian Torff and himself. This special two-disc collection also features the beautiful “For Every Man There’s A Woman” and the rousing “live” version of the Shearing bebop standard, “Lullaby of Birdland.” Set aside from the usual quintet setting, these songs find an exceptional mix of jazz sophistication and syncopation in the duet setting. With their fluid arrangement of skills on display the live recordings originally released in 1980 provide what it means to be a complete jazz musician. George Shearing and Brian Torff are the complete jazz musicians on LULLABY OF BIRDLAND.

    Rosario Giuliani

    Rosario GiulianiLuggage
    Rosario Giuliani
    (Dreyfus – 2001)
    by Dick Bogle

    The reputation of Italian saxophonist Rosario Giuliani is growing in Europe, and this, his fifth Dreyfus release, should propel that recognition to even greater heights. He pretty much stays in attack mode, cutting loose with long flurries of notes at a rapid pace. His tone, while reminiscent of altoist Jackie McLean, is not as sharp — as opposed to flat — as McLean’s.

    But, McLean’s penchant for delivering a strident attack is present even on ballads like “Love For My Mother” and his own composition, “Thinking of You.” One of the highlights is “The Awakening of the Creature,” a modal swinger that works in part because of pianist Pietro Lussu, bassist Pietro Ciancaglini and drummer Lorenzo Tucci.

    If I ever again go to Italy, hearing Giuliani would top the list of things to do, see and hear. But at the same time, one could wish he would learn to caress a ballad rather smother them with fierce execution.

    Reprinted with kind permission of The Skanner.

    Kenny Burrell

    Kenny BurrellLucky So-And-So
    Kenny Burrell
    (Concord – 2001)
    by Dick Bogle

    Kenny Burrell is an acknowledged master of his instrument, the guitar. And, this release, the latest of hundreds, proves his career is ongoing in fine style. Working with Onaje Allan Gumbs on keyboards, bassist Rufus Reid and drummer Akira Tana, Burrell lends his mastery to six very familiar tunes and four others deserving wider listening. He delights with his vocal on Ira Gershwin’s and Kurt Weill’s “My Ship.”

    “Tenderly” begins as one might expect, gentle and slow, but when his bandmates kick in, there is a significant time change and Burrell is off to the races. Some of the other tunes are: “I’m Glad There Is You,” “Lucky So And So,” “The Feeling of Jazz,” ” Squeeze Me,” and “In A Sentimental Mood.”

    Reprinted with kind permission of The Skanner.

    Victor Bailey – Low Blow

    Low Blow Victor Bailey
    Low Blow
    by John Barrett

    The musician who says a lot often demands a lot from himself. A prime example is Victor Bailey, long-time partner of Joe Zawinul (with the Syndicate and Weather Report.) That alone proves him a fine musician, but he hasn’t led a record date in ten years. The reasons are many, for his goals are ambitious. He wants to transcend his instrument; “The main thing I’m trying to show … is that I’m not a bass player. I don’t play the bass. I play music.” Change the instrument and it’s what Artie Shaw said 50 years before. He wants to show his prowess as a composer, his variety of tones, his ability to organize. So much is done well it’s hard to say what he does best. “… I really wanted to show the music that I have inside me.” That he does.

    Think of an airplane: the takeoff is slow, and leads to ever loftier heights. “Lowblow” is smooth sailing, Victor scatting in step with his wiry bass. Around him are restful clouds: Henry Hey’s synth, light bursts of guitar. The bridge breaks free – an open shout in an airy expanse. When Victor starts sliding, you hit a peak. And as it turns out, a foothill compared to what follows.

    “Sweet Tooth” is a different taste: a mood like “Lowblow”, with added aggression. The bassline makes little steps lower. Kenny Garrett trills delirious, a Coltrane soprano with the soul of an oboe. The halves are splendid; the whole is uneven. “City Living” serves ladles of funk, strutting righteous next to the old Fender Rhodes. The sax is Bill Evans: lighter than Garrett, he pops happy lines that resemble a dance. Guitarist Krantz twangs a nice moment, and the Rhodes chimes some old soul. Lots of that good ‘Seventies feeling, which brings us to the next subject.

    “I can’t even say that I wrote it … it just came through me.” Written the week of Jaco’s death, “Do You Know Who” adds a lyric to “Continuum”, mentioning other Pastorius songs on the way. As Victor plays the theme, he sings, voice an octave or two above the bass. What words, stuffed with internal rhymes and a lot of love: “Take your place and/ See the bassman… Get outta here, don’t even try it/ That isn’t a bass/ If it is then I guess he just/ Took it to another place.” On so many levels this works: glowing mood, facile words, one of the best vocalese efforts I’ve heard, a tribute to a legend by a successor to his chair – I’m impressed. As Victor is of Jaco.

    From here it keeps getting better. “Knee-Jerk” weaves a spunky guitar on a boiling rhythm. Krantz seizes the spotlight, Jim Beard spins that Wurlitzer (lighter touch than the Fender; how it helps) and don’t forget the bass. “She Left Me” is a song of joy – it appears “she” is not missed. Victor walks through the park; the synth is him whistling. Evans has his best moment, Omar taps a pretty brush – and Victor climbs the stairs on his solo, so happy and lighter than air. A “smooch” ballad with an unlikely title … unless he’s already found his new love.

    Next is another tribute – Larry Graham is best known for pop (“One in a Million You”) but his Graham Central Station was a hotbed of funk. (Before that, he was in Sly and the Family Stone.) “Graham Cracker” snaps a nasty groove, perfect for Krantz’ wail and the struttin’ keys. The definitive Big Bad Riff – there’s nothing like it. “E-flat major something”, he says at the end; you have to chuckle. “Babytalk” is you, your special one, and a Wurlitzer late at night. Not a waltz, but it feels like one; the brushes are intimate and the bassline caresses. Victor’s solo is almost a keyboard, with its soft wavering hum. And “Brain Teaser” gets us back on the floor; the drums pack thunder, and the bass is all motion. Check the beat – it’s a samba, though very fast. Victor rips through what is practically a guitar solo, then Krantz has an angular turn, his best. The heat is immense, with joy – the satisfaction of a job well done.

    Rating: ****. Everything from “Do You Know Who” to the end is superb, and the others ain’t bad. Victor is rarely the main voice, but always a factor – his writing is marvelous. “Do You Know Who” deserves to be a standard, and this album deserves the attention of your ears.

    Songs: Lowblow; Sweet Tooth; City Living; Do You Know Who/Continuum; Knee-Jerk Reaction; She Left Me; Graham Cracker; Babytalk; Feels Like a Hug; Brain Teaser.

    Musicians: Victor Bailey (bass, vocals, keyboards); Kenny Garrett or Bill Evans (soprano sax); Michael Bearden, Jim Beard, or Henry Hey (keyboards); Wayne Krantz (guitar); Omar Hakim or Dennis Chambers (drums).

    For more info visit the Zebra Records Website.

    Eddie Gip Noble – Love T.K.O.

    Eddie Gip Noble
    Love T.K.O.
    (Sonido Noble’ Records – 2006)
    by Ray Redmond

    Pianist and keyboardist Eddie Gip Noble has been a veteran of both the jazz and rhythm n blues scenes for the past three decades. His debut album, Love T.K.O. is titled after the huge hit he wrote for a Teddy Pendergrass Platinum album. This CD will definitely appeal to smooth jazz enthusiasts with its unique blending of R&B / funk rhythms with acoustic and electric jazz piano soloing.

    A fan of Herbie Hancock’s keyboard work, Noble attempted to capture that historic jazz-funk fusion sound, although updated with his own contemporary embellishments. Noble’s own version of the mega-hit Love T.K.O. is mostly instrumental and gives you a slightly different feel on the familiar theme. Noble wrote a half-dozen other tunes for this recording including the opening jammer Noble Cause , smooth and sleek vocal-infusedNite Song, the goodtimey Carousel and the urban tinged Gip Hop.

    Noble does a seven-minute-plus version of Burt Bacharach s Trains & Boats & Planes (made famous by Dionne Warwick) full of piano soloing, and a smooth jazz version of the Christopher Cross hit Sailing. This is a great infusion of good old fashioned soul into the Smooth Jazz cartridge. A refreshing and enjoyable release.

    Pieces of a Dream – Love’s Silhouette

    Pieces of a Dream
    Love’s Silhouette

    (Peak – 2002)
    by Carmen Miller

    Pieces of a Dream has been a staple in contemporary jazz for over 25 years now. On this new release, the groups co-founders, keyboardist James Lloyd and drummer Curtis Harmon are joined by a group of top-flight sidemen including bassist Gerald Veasley and saxophonist Eddie Baccus, Jr.. The groove is in full effect here on the Urban AC/flavored “Turning it up”, “Mission Possible”, “Savoir Faire” and “Mystical Perception”. “I Feel Like Singin” is a sweet, upbeat love song with a cameo background appearance by Joe McBride.

    The Gospel flavored “Remembrance (9/11/01)” is a eloquent and poetic tribute to that fateful day. “Peaceful Dreams” is aptly named, rolling along on Lloyd’s keyboards this is my favorite track on the CD. The horns are well placed and the melody is very appealing. The remake of the classic “My Funny Valentine” is ambitious, and successful with it’s smoky feel, sweet vocals and strong bass work from Gerald Veasley. At this rate Pieces of a Dream should be around for another 25 years.

    Cassandra Wilson – Loverly

    Cassandra Wilson
    Blue Note – 2008
    Sounds of Timeless Jazz

    LOVERLY is Cassandra Wilson’s exceptional new CD on Blue Note. She dusts off 11 great standards and captures the relaxed nature of the recording sessions via her sultry, smoky vocals and the in-the-pocket playing of her world class ensemble that includes her longtime bassist and musical director Lonnie Plaxico, Jason Moran on piano, Herlin Riley on drums, Marvin Sewell on guitar, and Lekan Babalola on percussion. “Arere,” an original penned by Wilson and her band members and inspired by the Yoruban deity of iron and willpower, is led by the arousing African beats of percussionist Lekan Bablola.

    Wilson sings in a West African dialect and does an amazing job on this rhythmic gem. The song brilliantly connects Wilson to the African drumming patterns so often heard in the Jazz, World and Blues genres. “Dust My Broom,” a Robert Johnson original made famous by such guitarists as Elmore James and Eric Clapton, is like an old friend who has come to visit – glad to see them and even happier when you find that the same grit and rhythmic intensity you knew back when is still smoldering deep within. T

    hat is how Cassandra Wilson sings and Marvin Sewell plays this song – with scorching intensity and the bluesy, grit inherent in the sakara rhythm heard in this song.  “The Very Thought of You,” is a duet with bassist Reginald Veal and it works well. Wilson’s stark, simple take on this great love song feels very intimate and personal because of her sexy, relaxed phrasings and tone.

    The ideas presented on this CD will delight you, entertain you and definitely endear you to the remarkable voice of Cassandra Wilson.

    Reprinted with permission of…

    Ernestine Anderson – Love Makes The Changes

    Love Makes The ChangesLove Makes The Changes
    Ernestine Anderson
    (HighNote – 2003)
    by Carmen Miller

    Wine, cheese, cognac, Ernestine Anderson … some things just get better with age. With the release of her new CD she demonstrates once again that her special jazz-blues style has an enormous appeal. From the opening Wonder Why you can see that she’s still got her chops. Anderson cruises through standards like Nightlife and It’s Easy To Remember but the real treat is yet to come… On The Sunny Side Of The Street is simply a dream. Her take on this classic is lively and soulful and the band makes it all the better.

    But remember that Ernestine’s motto is “Jazz and blues with a touch of class”, so there’s going to be a blues element somewhere. Well… she gets down and dirty with So Long and Bargain Day, both performances done in a masterful and gutty style. The title song Love Makes The Changes would make composer Michel LeGrande proud as she pours her heart and soul out to you about life and lost love. This woman has been singing since the 50’s and she’s never been in better form.

    Send a Love Letter to Luther

    Click this picture to Visit the Luther Vandross web siteVerve and the American Diabetes Association
    Kick off the Send a love letter to Luther
    National Fundraising Campaign

    On August 3, 2004, in association with the American Diabetes VerveAssociation, The Verve Music Group initiated an unprecedented fundraising and awareness campaign: “Send a Love Letter To Luther”. Like the music of Luther Vandross, the plan is about the joy and beauty of the unselfish act of sharing/giving: to invite Luther’s millions of fans to write him encouraging letters accompanied by a contribution to the American Diabetes Association.

    American Diabetes AssociationThis love letter campaign is launched in conjunction with the CD release of Forever, For Always, For Luther on Verve’s GRP imprint. On Forever, For Always For Luther a blockbuster lineup of smooth jazz and soul stars celebrate the music of Luther Vandross, playing ten of his greatest hits. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) has set up a special mail box and dedicated webs page where Luther fans and supporters can send their ” love letters” and contributions to benefit the ADA’s mission of diabetes care, cure, an research.

    The Verve Music Group will also spread the word via CD packaging, advertising, online marketing, and point-of-purchase materials at retail, while the ADA will alert their members and constituency via mailings, at all fundraising events, and online. On October 22, 2004, a major radio-sponsored gala event to benefit the ADA featuring the artists from Forever, For Always, For Luther, along with special guests from the R&B world, will take place in New York City. At the concert the ADA will present the love letters to Luther’s family and announce the up-to-date results of the fundraising campaign.

    On April 16, 2003, Luther Vandross suffered a diabetes-induced stroke that put him in a coma for several weeks. Since he regained consciousness, the universally beloved vocalist has been on a long, arduous yet successful journey towards full rehabilitation. In February of this year, four Grammy Awards lifted Luther¹s spirits. On July 27th, Verve released the all-star tribute to his humanity and artistry, Forever, For Always, For Luther, co-produced by Luther’s longtime producer and friend Rex Rideout with Bud Harner.

    Forever, For Always, For LutherForever, For Always, For Luther features some of the brightest singers and players in smooth jazz (Kirk Whalum, Paul Jackson, Jr., Boney James, Lalah Hathaway, Mindi Abair, Dave Koz, Brian Culbertson, Ledisi, Richard Elliot, George Benson, and Rick Braun) performing ten of his most cherished songs. “I really enjoy and appreciate this wonderful jazz tribute to my son and his musical legacy”, says his mother, Mary Ida Vandross.

    Supporters can send their love letters to Luther along with their contributions to the American Diabetes Association, who will forward all letters to Mr. Vandross and his family.

    Please join Luther and The Verve Music Group in sending a contribution to the:

    American Diabetes Association
    Forever, For Always, For Luther Fund
    1701 North Beauregard
    Alexandria, VA 22311

    No donation is too small to make a difference.
    All donations are tax deductible.
    For more information call 1-800-DIABETES or visit www.diabetes.org.

    More than 18 million Americans many of who are not even aware are affected by diabetes. The unprecedented “Send a Love Letter To Luther” campaign and the subsequent concert will go a long way towards raising both national awareness of diabetes and the odds of finding a cure for this debilitating disease. By celebrating Luther Vandross, we all can save lives.

    Gato Barbieri – Tenor Saxman with the Big Sound as Amor

    Gato BarbieriTenor Saxman with the Big Sound of Amor
    Love Letter for Gato Barbieri 
    by Vallynda Voz 

    In 1976, I heard the amazing sounds of “Europa” on the radio (probably on WRVR FM – a jazz/R&B station inNew York City at that time) from a tenor saxophonist named Gato Barbieri. Barbieri’s album (vinyl back then) Caliente! (“HOT” in Spanish for those who don’t know) had the debonaire saxophone hero in a dramatic stance wearing his trademark black fedora hat, with multi-colored flames in the background of the cover art (on Herb Alpert’s A & M label). The album became a favorite of mine, with many joyful latin-jazz pop tunes, from “Fiesta” to “I Want You.” That music still sounds as powerful and as fresh today as it did almost three decades ago. It is music that nourishes the soul, is emotionally-sustaining and life-affirming – in other words timeless.

    Caliente! became a classic, best-selling recording pre-dating the smooth jazz radio genre. The tune “Europa (Earth’s Cry, Heaven’s Smile” (written by Carlos Santana) would become Gato Barbieri’s ultimate “theme” – an anthem that his adoring fans would expect to hear at every show – and he wouldn’t disappoint them. Gato’s intense, passionate and warm playing was partly my inspiration to learn to play saxophone. I learned from his biography that we had in common starting out on clarinet in our pre-teen years. Gato also played alto saxophone, until he switched to tenor, where he found his unique, passionate, growling tone.

    At that time, little did I realize, that Gato Barbieri had a long career before his popularity beginning in the 1970s. Gato,(born Leandro Barbieri in Argentina), had played as a young adult in Lalo Schifrin’s orchestra in the 1950s. He started out playing traditional Latin music, and then went on to become a renowned avant-garde player of free jazz in the 1960s, performing with Don Cherry in Paris, as well as with Mike Mantler’s Jazz Composers’ Orchestra. In early 1970s, Gato returned to playing music influenced by Latin American melodies and rhythms and received recognition from the jazz world and with college audiences around the United States. Most traditional jazz critics view Gato’s earlier work as powerful contributions to jazz. In 1972, Gato achieved unexpected widespread acclaim for his playing on the soundtrack to the controversial Bernardo Bertolucci Last Tango in Paris film. Gato then toured at festivals around the world. He also became a successful composer for numerous international films in Europe, South America and the United States.

    The first time I saw Gato play live was in April 1984 at S.O.B.’s (Sounds of Brazil) – a club that is still around today in Manhattan. It was a very special time – it was my birthday and I went to see Gato with my saxophone teacher, Fred Reiter (who in the early 80s had played with guitarist Stanley Jordan in college, and currently tours the world with a ska-jazz band called The Toasters). The funny thing was, I remember seeing all of these Gato look-alikes wearing the Gato-style hat and suave suits, waiting in a long line around the corner from the S.O.B.’s venue.

    Twelve years later, in 1996 I saw Gato play at the legendary Blue Note club in NYC. I was thrilled to see him, but I sensed a deep sadness – something was wrong. Not long after, I heard that his beloved first wife, the Italian-born Michelle, who had been instrumental in his life and his career, had passed on, and then Gato had triple-bypass heart surgery.

    The next year, in 1997, I heard this incredible tune “Into the Sunrise” from Gato’s new CD Que Pasa on the radio on CD101.9FM – the smooth jazz station in the New York City area. The big Gato sound, the passion – was back! It was Gato’s comeback! I was thrilled that Gato returned to his music and his audience in top form. I was also happy to hear that Gato had found new love in his life with his second wife Laura and then had a new baby son Christian.

    The intensity of emotional playing of the beautiful songs on Gato’s Que Pasa CD, represented hope and made me realize that new love and a new start in life are possible anytime, if one looks deep within one’s soul and has faith. I’m sure Gato’s music has been inspirational to many fans. I’m just one that happens to be a jazz journalist and a musician who’s had the privilege to have Gato’s music play an important role in my life.

    In 1997, the year that Que Pasa was released, Gato returned to play at the Blue Note. I saw him perform at least two nights that week. One memorable evening John Travolta and his entourage sat at the table behind me, dancing by his seat, and digging the music. Gato’s big sound enveloped the room and was wonderful; his piano player Bill O’Connell (who finally released his own solo CD recently), and the other members in Gato’s band were terrific. I had the pleasure and honor to talk with Gato backstage at the Blue Note, and tried to explain to him in English and in Spanish what his music meant to me. That same year, I also had a Gato “sighting” in the audience at Bea Smith’s Café in NYC at a Philippe Saisse show (the smooth jazz pianist who had a radio hit with “Moanin'”). Saisse had produced Que Pasa (on Columbia Records), which became the fourth highest selling Contemporary Jazz album that year.

    Fast forward and it’s now 2004. Gato Barbieri’s current CD is called The Shadow of the Cat, (his debut on Peak/Concord Records and his 50th album). Last year, The Shadow of the Cat won Billboard’s award for “Best Latin Jazz Album.” Barbieri dedicated The Shadow of the Cat to his beloved mother, who passed away in 1991. In his liner notes, Gato wrote, “If not for you and the spark you lit in me, I would not be who I am today. There would be no [The] Shadow of the Cat.” Barbieri grew up poor in Rosario, Argentina, but felt enriched by his mother’s teachings about life, love and music. “She understood me and encouraged my musical dreams…She was an incredible woman.”

    The CD continues Gato Barbieri’s legacy by combining soulful Latin sensibilities with a seductive, contemporary jazz flavor. The first tune,”El Chico” is a festive, percussive Latin swing tune with a boisterous brass section. The title track is a beautiful, Latin romantic tune with the trademark Gato sound, that has the sweet, melodious complement of Peter White on acoustic guitar and Sheila E. on percussion. “Para Todos (For Everyone),” is a groove-oriented samba. “Tierra Del Fuego” (Land of Fire)” is a funky tune with rock and gospel influences that features Russ Freeman’s powerful electric guitar. There’s also the laid back, mellow finesse of “Blue Habanera” as well as a mid-tempo, neo-soul version of Barbieri’s classic hit song “Last Tango.” The CD finishes with a Spanish language rendering of “If I Was Your Woman” called “Si Tu Me Quisieras.”

    The Shadow of the Cat was produced by Grammy winning Jason Miles. Jason Miles has worked with jazz and pop legends from Miles Davis to Luther Vandross and recently produced a tribute CD to the late Grover Washington Jr. Other special guest artists on Gato Barbieri’s new CD include vocalist Cassandra Reed, bassist Mark Egan, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, pianist Oscar Hernandez, drummer Richie Morales, percussionist Marc Quinones, bassist Will Lee and guitarist Romero Lumambo. The best surprise guest is the legendary trumpeter Herb Alpert, who plays on three songs.

    In the next few months, Gato is doing some touring in select cities

    I always look forward to seeing and hearing Gato Barbieri with the big, unique tone on the tenor saxophone and those special vocal chants – emotional exclamations of simple words such as “Hey” that punctuate between his gorgeous melodic lines on the horn. Gato Barbieri’s music is simply the sound of Amor. To me, Gato, your music is the epitome of the beauty of love and the precious gift of how wonderful life can be. Your music will always have a special place in my heart.

    Gato recently said: “It’s exciting that people are still moved when I play, and I consider myself blessed to have had fans that have listened to me for such a long time. They still do, and I’m still having fun. When I start recording, I am playing for me, but when I play a concert, I play for me and them. It is not a “show”, but it is a musical message. They understand where I am coming from.”

    Yes Gato, we do understand. So to Gato Barbieri the legendary one-of-a-kind saxophonist with the glorious sound – still the cool cat in the hat – best wishes for a healthy, Happy 72th Birthday this November 28th!! Muchas gracias, for bringing your wonderful music with such joy to jazz fans throughout the world.

    Roy Haynes – Love Letters

    Ben and Leo Sidran

    Roy Haynes
    Love Letters
    (???? – 2003)
    by John Thompson

    Roy Haynes, drummer extraordinaire. Been there, done that. From the birth of Bop to the present, Haynes is getting it done. One hell of a lineup featuring Kenny Barron(p) Dave Holland(b), Christian McBride(b), Joshua Redmond(ts), John Scofield(g), and David Kikoski(p).

    This release opens with “The Best Thing For You”, a bop tune, with nice solos from McBride, Barron and Redmond. Track two, “That Old Feeling”, contrasts the bass sounds of McBride (track one, in attack mode) and veteran Holland(artfully treating his solo), while Haynes presents nice brush work. “Afro Blue” is performed as a trio, with Holland and Scofield, as Haynes’ solo demonstrates a nice use of cymbals and other drum techniques. Horace Silver’s “Que Pasa” is present, with showcases by Redmond, Barron and McBride(kicking some serious butt) and Haynes tossing around rhythmic emphasis.

    “My Shining Hour” is a nice bop-swing tune, as McBride kicks again. Benny Goodman’s “Stompin’ At The Savoy” is performed with a respectful swing, as Haynes pushes the groove and Barron shows why he has persevered for over 30 years in the Jazz field. “Shades Of Senegal 2 is a brilliant solo performance by Haynes, who produces some wonderful texture, at times sounding like Billy Cobham on a smaller trap set.

    While there are no major fireworks present, this is a well done CD. 31/2 stars.

    Gerald Veasley- Love Letters

    Love Letters Gerald Veasley
    Love Letters

    Gerald Veasley delivers a winner with the release of Love Letters, described by the artist as “urban progressive.” This release should firmly establish the Philadelphia-born musician as an innovator who brings a contemporary voice to the bass as a lead instrument.

    Like his 1997 release Soul Control, Love Letters showcases Veasley’s talents as musician, composer/arranger and producer in a melding of styles. Playing his distinctive six-string bass as well as keyboards, he’s joined on the project by saxophonists Grover Washington, Jr. and Eric Marienthal, plus guitarist Chieli Minucci.

    Veasley shares producing and arranging credits on Love Letters with Richard Waller III (who also plays or programs drums on several of the tracks). Seven of the album’s ten songs were penned by the versatile bassist, including the easy-grooving title track and the disc’s spacious and majestic opener, “Facing West.” “Be Sweet” was co-written and recorded with saxophonist Chris Farr and keyboardist Bill Jolly, while Chieli Minucci’s sultry “Hypnotize” and a funk-laden rendition of Donny Hathaway’s “Valdez In the Country” round out the set.

    Among the many other musicians heard on Love Letters are keyboardists Mark Knox and Michael Aharon, percussionist Leonard “Doc” Gibbs, and flutist Leslie Burrs.

    For more info, contact: Heads-Up Records

    Jackie Allen – Love Is Blue

    Jackie AllenJackie Allen
    Love Is Blue
    (A440 – 2004)
    by Paula Edelstein

    Blue is a color of many sentiments. Hundreds of songwriters and musicians have been inspired by its various shades and have included it in their musical repertoires and titles. Some that instantly come to mind are Coltrane’s Blue Train, Miles Davis’ “Blue In Green,” Wynton Marsalis’ Soul Gestures In Southern Blue, Fats Waller‘s “Black and Blue,” Thelonious Monk’s “Blue Monk,” “Blue Moon,” Karrin Allyson’s In Blue and a host of others.

    Jackie Allen’s take on blue is familiar – one that advocates that Love Is Blue. Her low-keyed, somber songs on this stellar interpretation of life’s most misunderstood emotion will have your finger on rewind so as not to miss her resonant, heartfelt interpretations. She covers the title track – one that went to Number 1 in the 60s and is closely associated with French composer/bandleader Paul Mauriat- in English with passion and with the full range of love-gone-wrong sentiments.

    Allen’s unforgettable voice has more resonance, pitch and nuance than many of those from her generation. You can be sure that Love Is Blue is a marvelous disc and Allen’s colorful “blue” notes will tantalize your senses.

    Reprinted with permission of…

    Chet Baker – Love For Sale

    Chet Baker
    Love For Sale

    (Just a Memory/Justin Time – 2005)
    by Matthew S. Robinson

    Though recorded during the ‘back nine’ of Chet Baker’s tragic career, this hazy club date recording captures glints of the singing trumpeter’s former brilliance. Swinging from a bebop cover of Miles Davis’ “Milestones” to a punchy and adventurous exploration of Cole Porter’s “Love for Sale,” Baker pushes valiantly to regain his former chops. When he finds himself unable, Baker graciously yields to pianist Phil Markowitz and his talented group of supporters (which includes saxophonist Roger Rosenberg, bassist Jon Burr, and drummer Jeff Brillinger) or parts his award-winning lips to release his unmistakably sad and tremulously inviting voice.

    Listen To Milestones

    Reworked favorites “Oh,You Crazy Moon” and “There Will Never Be Another You” may be a fitting pair of vocal expressions for this distinctive artist who rose and fell with such velocity that even today, his legacy is shrouded in mystery. In any case, this live fits as well in the record label’s “collector’s classic” series as it does in any Baker fan or Jazz fan’s library.

    c. 2005, M. S. Robinson, ARR

    Bellevue Cadillac – Love Allways

    Bellevue Cadillac
    Love Allways
    (Half Seas Over Music – 2007)
    by Matthew Robinson

    Though the Swing revival may be waning to say the least, that does not mean that those who embraced it most fully and authentically have to fade away. Especially when they are such talented songwriters to begin with!

    Such is the case with Bellevue Cadillac front man and driving force Doug Bell.

    Having ridden the zoot-suited wave around the world and back, Bell and his boys have now come home to focus inside. Though songs like “Must be Love,” “Can’t Win for Losing,” and “Ships” stick to the Swing set, Bell also uses different styles such as the sultry Samba seduction of “Havana Moon,” the Bluesy “You Just Know,” the noiry “I Know She Knows,” and the Polynesian pop of “Ja Ja Opobo” (not to mention a Bluegrassy bonus track) to look at different sides of the most common songwriting fodder ever invented.

    So whether you like Big Band or slack key, jump swing or island sway, the Cadillac still has a seat for you!

    ©2007 Matthew S. Robinson, arr.

    Branford Marsalis – Love Supreme – Live in Amsterdam

    Branford Marsalis
    Love Supreme – Live in Amsterdam
    Marsalis Music – 2004

    For Marsalis Music’s second DVD release, label founder Branford Marsalis and his quartet have been captured in a complete performance of John Coltrane’s 1964 masterpiece A Love Supreme. This legendary suite, which tenor saxophonist Marsalis included on his label’s premier release, Footsteps of Our Fathers, was performed at Amsterdam’s Bimhuis during a European tour in March 2003.

    “We felt that we were pretty much done with A Love Supreme when we went to Europe, but my manager wasn’t done with it,” Marsalis recalls wryly. “After hearing us perform the suite at the Bottom Line, she insisted that we had to film it so she approached Pierre about the project and he agreed.” Pierre Lamoureux, a filmmaker known for his expertise in musical subjects, directed the recent Emmy-winning PBS special “Only You in Concert” by Harry Connick, Jr. “Pierre cares about how his films sound as well as how they look,” Branford emphasizes, “and the combination of Pierre and the Bimhuis was too good to pass up.”

    Branford is unsparing in his enthusiasm for the Amsterdam club, which has been a center for jazz in Europe since it opened in 1973. “I only played there once before, with Art Blakey in 1981, and I’ve wanted to bring my own band into the Bimhuis ever since,” he admits. “It’s simply one of the two or three best jazz clubs in the world, because the room is intimate and the focus is on presenting the music instead of selling food and drinks. There is a bar outside of the performance space, and people do go there to hang, but once they walk into the club itself, it’s all about the music.”

    Marsalis’ acclaimed quartet – with pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis and drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts – was all about the music as well, as they delivered a performance both musically and visually riveting. As a bonus to the live performance, all four members of the quartet, together with Branford’s fellow saxophonists Michael Brecker, Ned Goold, David S�nchez and Miguel Zen�n, discuss the inspiration and the challenges presented by Coltrane’s composition. In addition, Alice Coltrane, John Coltrane’s widow and the pianist in his last band, is seen in a 30-minute conversation with Branford. An audio-only disc of the Bimhuis performance is also included, and is available only in the DVD package.

    A Love Supreme is considered by many to be the ultimate expression of the classic John Coltrane quartet, and remains Coltrane’s most popular album. Where Coltrane only performed the suite live on one occasion, Marsalis and band had several opportunities to play individual sections of the piece as well as A Love Supreme in its entirety before hooking up with Lamoureux for video documentation. “We definitely grew into the piece as we played it, which is why I’m so pleased that Pierre caught us when we really understood it,” Marsalis reports. “One thing about A Love Supreme, it takes tremendous concentration and focus from every member of the band. The first time we played the whole thing live, all we could do afterward was sit in the dressing room for 20 minutes, totally exhausted. You don’t see this band in that shape too often. By the time we got to the Bimhuis, though, we were up to the challenge.”

    What has resulted – a scintillating live performance, plus informed musical commentary and a rare visit with Alice Coltrane – makes A Love Supreme Live in Amsterdam a must for all fans of Coltrane’s and Marsalis’ music.

    Warren Hill – Love Songs

    Warren Hill
    Love Songs
    (Narada Jazz – 2002)
    by Raymond Redmond

    Personally, I like Warren Hill because he could be one of the best sax players to come around in a long time. I say could, because to do so he’d probably have to undergo a divorce or some such other traumatic event, then put out the album of his life. He has the skills to do it, but he’s just too happy in life. Consequently, he puts out songs that we love to hear and play, but not reaching the depths of emotion that I think he’s capable of.

    That said, this is one of his better releases in a while. I particularly like his upbeat take on Fallen (the Pretty Woman song), this version could become a smooth jazz classic. On Because of You Hill stretches out, singing on the smooth ballad, and delivers a rather strong performance. It shows promise for his vocal future, and the sax lines are sparse but meant to accentuate. He jazzes up the R&B classic Oh Girl by the Chi-Lights carrying the already sweet melody with harmony and feeling. Nice cover.

    Warren sings again on My Funny Valentine, breathy and slow his effort comes off well, although he’s no Frank Sinatra. There’s also an instrumental version of the tune on the CD which is very smooth in it’s own right. The soulful You Are So Beautiful gives Hill a chance to show his chops, sometimes emotional and other times silky-strong in his delivery, this is a solid tune. Also take a listen to his cover of the McCartney classic My Love, where Hill again shines at what he does best – smoking with his sax.

    An Interview with Joe Lovano

    An Interview with
    Joe Lovano
    by Fred Jung

    Joe LovanoNever comfortable with standing still or retreating backwards, reedman Joe Lovano has been in constant pursuit to develop and perfect his own voice and his own music, to give the audience variety and to avoid stereotypes and conventional categories. He has become the tenor saxophonist of our time and has proven to be a success both critically and commercially, while still maintaining his high standards of integrity. I had a chance to sit down with this innovator to discuss his music, his life, and his future…

    JazzUSA: How did you come to play jazz?

    JL: My dad was a saxophone player. He grew up in the bebop generation and heard Charlie Parker play live and heard Lester Young, and was a beautiful musician in his own right, around the Cleveland, Ohio area. I’ve just seen hi laying my whole life. I hard the music from the very beginning. By the time I was a teenager, I was able to go to rehearsals with him and hear his group play, and before I knew it, I was starting to learn the same tunes I was hearing them play, and was able to start to sit in and I gained experience playing with musicians from his generation. That’s who really taught me how to play.

    JazzUSA: You have worked with John Scofield. How much of an influence was he on your career and how did playing with him aid in you development?

    JL: John and I are the same generation and we kind of grew up together. We first met in Boston at the Berklee School of Music in the early seventies. We started playing together, back then, experiencing music at the same time. Through the years, we both really have grown in concepts and different directions. It was a beautiful meeting when we got back together in the late eighties. Through the years, from the early seventies, we’ve played a lot together in different musical situations. When we came together in John’s quartet, I mean, John had had such vast experiences playing with Miles [Davis] and others and I’ve had a lot of experience playing with Charlie Haden and Paul Motian, in freer concepts, and our concept really fused together so to speak, and the quartet really had a direction.

    JazzUSA: You have been such a prolific performer and recorder in the nineties, and yet you have maintained a very high level of consistency. What do you attribute to that?

    JL: I think from early on it was a real conceptual development about learning how to play with freedom and expression, and trying to be the kind of musician that comes from an egoless place and try to shape music with who you play with at the moment. Whatever situation you’re in. That’s what improvisation really is. If you can come from that place, then the challenge is to relax and focus. I try. The thing for me that’s always been the kind of music that I had inspiration from hearing others play and putting myself in situations that were creative, not stifling. A lot of bands that you play in you just have to play your part and go home. I’ve never played in too many bands like that. I’ve been very fortunate to go for the kinds of gigs that were open, to be creative, and to try to develop my own sound and voice. Learning from the masters on the stand is a lot different than learning from the masters off a record. I’ve had a chance to play with really the greatest players in history and it’s really taught me a lot about empathy and concepts.

    JazzUSA: How do you feel about the critical acclaim and recognition you have been receiving?

    JL: Proud that the people are taking notice of some creative music and gives me a lot of confidence for the future.

    JazzUSA: You are an advocate of developing and playing original music. It actually seems to have rubbed off on former students of yours, like Dave Douglas. How important is composing to you at this stage of your career?

    JL: Dave came to my studio and studied for a short time. We both studied together. I feel that I’m a student myself and it’s about sharing ideas. At the time when Dave came, he was going to NYU, it was in the mid-eighties, like eight- four, eighty-five, and he was the first non-saxophone player to come to my pad for lessons I was giving at NYU. His very first day there, he was very deep into the music and into the trumpet and we had beautiful communication right from the start. So I treat each student or each encounter with someone like that as a special time and try to nurture what you already have and explore the future. Dave’s a really beautiful musician and very expressive and a lot of direction and we’ve studied in a lot of directions when we’re together.

    JazzUSA: Influences?

    JL: Of course, my dad was my first major influence, because of his sound and I heard him playing in the house. He shook the walls when he took his horn out. He was playing in a lot of clubs around Cleveland, some of the same clubs where Sonny Stitt would come or James Moody, Roland Kirk, Jimmy Smith, Dizzy Gillespie. I had a chance to go and hear all of them while I was still in high school. I would say they were my major influences that I heard live. Sonny Stitt. Moody, the way he played alto and flute. Rashaan, switching horns, just the whole presentation was just incredible. I would say they were my first major influences live. Of ocurse, I loved [John] Coltrane’s music and Sonny Rollins, Ornette Coleman’s music, before I ever heard them. I never got a chance to hear Coltrane, but my dad heard him though.

    JazzUSA: What is your musical philosophy?

    JL: To be relaxed and free to explore material and to try to be creative with the personnel, who I’m playing with. The other day I played with Ron Carter and Billy Higgins on a recording of Cyrus Chestnut’s next record, and I mean the rhythm section was so beautiful and magical in a certain way, in a certain direction that you have to be into. Now, if Jack DeJohnette was on drums with Ron, that same tune, the same session would have been a whole other attitude. I would have had a totally different approach to the same tune because of who’s playing. I’m trying to live in that world, so each time I play with specific, different personnel, I can shape the music in a free way that is special to moment.

    lovanorubalcaba.gif (7413 bytes)JazzUSA: Let’s talk about your latest release on Blue Note, a duo album with Gonzalo Rubalcaba entitled “Flying Colors.” Perfect case in point about being creative when playing the music together, not so much what to play, but more how to play.

    JL: Gonzalo and I first met when I went to Havana with Charlie Haden and the Liberation Music Orchestra, back in eighty-six or eighty-seven. That’s when I first met Gonzalo and through the years I have been hearing him, he’s been recording on Blue Note Records as well. We were both nominated for a Grammy, his for I think “Rapsodia,” and mine for “Tenor Legacy.” We were hanging out together out in California and started talking about playing a quartet. Something that would be special to both of us and we decided the duet situation would be great, and we played four nights at Yoshi’s club in California and that kind of sparked the music for us. We start touring in April.

    JazzUSA: You play a straight tenor saxophone on the album. For those who are not familiar with the new instrument, describe the sound and the difference from a regular tenor saxophone

    JL: I am helping design the new instrument. It’s a new instrument and without the bell, without the curved bell, there’s no resistance in the horn, so it takes all the air you can put through it. Sound just pours out of all the keys. There’s a lot of power and a real different tonal color. it’s not as bright and edgy as a regular curved tenor. It has a thick sound and it’s in new stages. It’s just developing now. I’m having a lot of fun with it. I’ve been recording on it a little bit. I did record all the tenor tracks on “Flying Colors” with a straight tenor.

    JazzUSA: As an educator, what is the most important aspect or value you try and instill on your students?

    JL: I was on the faculty at NYU and William Patterson College, eighty-three and ninety, ninety-one, and since then I have mainly been doing master classes. I think the most important think for all musicians, whatever instrument you play, is to try and tackle and master it. To really explore all of the other instruments around you. As a saxophone player, please study piano players, bass players, study drummers, study trumpet players. It’s how I learned how to fit in with all those musicians, whatever instrument they’re on, to study musicians on other instruments so they could know how to play with somebody. You just don’t play by yourself. Too many cats today practice out of pattern books and they just play by themselves, and then all of a sudden then they’re trying to play with other people when they get in a group and all they’re doing is repeating what they practiced, but you have to really get inside all these other sounds around you and get into the music. You have to know what the drummer’s playing. You got to know which piano player, just by hearing a sound.

    JazzUSA: What would you like audiences to take away from your music?

    JL: I would like them to come into the music with an open mind and to be able to come into a concert wanting to experience something, instead of just being played at. I would like for them to come into the music with a real free attitude saying, “Yeah. Play for us! Let me hear something I haven’t heard before.” Then I would like them to walk away, hopefully with a reaction of joy. A joyous feeling. I know when I go hear cats play that really turn me on, I’m inspired to go and practice, groove, and go outside and dig the vibe. I can only speak about what music does to me when I hear jazz, and what turns me on.

    JazzUSA: How much of an asset is it being married to a musician, your wife, vocalist Judi Silvano?

    JL: With her in particular, she is like an incredible musician and really deeply into so many kinds of music, it’s great. It ‘s really inspiring ’cause we’re turning each other on to all kinds of different concepts in music all the time. Plus, we’re playing together in some situations and actually exploring music together. It’s beautiful. It’s a rare thing to be able to come together like that with your mate and be creative in a creative role, not just in a commercial role.

    JazzUSA: What do you do to wind down?

    JL: I love to go for walks. I’m really into nature and I love being outdoors. I play golf. I love the ocean and lakes. You’ve got to get out there. The music is a gift and a release of all the inspiration that comes from nature.

    JazzUSA: At this stage in your career, do you prefer playing in intimate clubs or in larger concert venues?

    JL: I just like to play. Every venue has its own attributes. Every venue has its own sound and feeling so I want to try to not walk into a room and say, “I don’t like this. I don’t want to play here.” I want to play the music that we’re playing wherever we are. My favorite places to play are opera houses in Italy or in France or in Spain.

    JazzUSA: Why an opera house?

    JL: Because it’s the most amazing sound. You walk on that stage, and the way the balconies are and the whole feeling of an opera house style room, like Carnegie Hall, is except it’s a little bigger. Some opera houses are maybe seven hundred or eight hundred seaters.

    JazzUSA: Are there any musicians that you would like to work with?

    JL: I would like to play with cats I’ve played with, more. Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette, Elvin Jones. I just did a trio record with Dave and Elvin, actually, that’s coming out in September, my next record. I’d love to play something with Steve Lacy sometime. I’d like to play with Keith Jarrett.

    JazzUSA: What’s next for you?

    JL: The trio album with Dave and Elvin. That’s going to be coming out. I’ll be doing trio concerts this fall, and into next year, hopefully with them a couple of special nights. This year, I’ve done a couple of real interesting things. One little tour with the String Trio of New York with James Emery on guitar, John Lindberg on bass. I’m going to tour in Japan with Ray Brown as a guest with his trio in the fall. I going be touring with Gonzalo. I want to explore the music I’ve been recording and try to develop on it more, instead of just making a record and moving on to the next. I’ve been really trying to present the music from my recordings. I have an ensemble that features Judi and Erik Friedlander on cello. We’re touring, we have some gigs coming up. I have a quartet with Kenny Werner on piano, Dennis Irwin on bass, and Yoron Israel on drums. We’ve been playing a lot too. We’re doing quartet gigs. I have a couple different groups with different repertoire that I’m focusing on. It’s beautiful.

    JazzUSA: If you were not playing jazz, what would you be doing?

    JL: Landscaping.

    JazzUSA: If you were not playing woodwind instruments, what would you like to play?

    JL: Probably the drums. I would focus totally on the drums. I’ve been playing drums all my life. I feel a total connection with playing the drums.

    JazzUSA: Favorite standards?

    JL: “How High Is the Moon.” “Body and Soul.” “Stella By Starlight.” “What Is This Thing Called Love.”

    JazzUSA: How is the state of jazz to you today?

    JL: In the educational world, it’s at the highest level it’s ever been. It’s an open, international scene today for performance. Jazz today is the total of the history of jazz. We live today among our peers. We play on the scene with our peers. We live with the whole history of the music. Especially today, with all the reissues that are coming out, the box sets, the classic recordings of Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young, John Coltrane, Jackie McLean, everybody that’s recorded and had a voice that was in the history of jazz. New releases are coming out today of all the masters right along with us. I think that’s kind of a bizarre, wild period right now. We’re not dealing with our peers the way they only dealt with their peers. They didn’t have to deal with all these reissues coming back. We not only have to deal with all of our peers on the level of everyone today, but we have to deal the history and the classic music of the past. There’s a lot of challenge there to find your own music and on your own, stand tall among all this history of jazz. It’s a very big, challenging point here for these young artists.

    Visit the ! Web Site.

    Los Hombres Calientes

    Los Hombres Calientes
    by Mark Ruffin

    When the eponymous debut album from the group Los Hombres Calientes scaled Billboard’s jazz charts earlier this year, the only person who wasn’t surprised was percussionist and co-leader Bill Summers. It was the nose of the veteran musician that alerted him that he had something special with Los Hombres Calientes.

    “I could smell success from the first gig,” said Summers who won an Emmy with Quincy Jones for his work on the soundtrack to the historic television mini-series “Roots,” and he played the memorable African percussion and voice parts at the beginning of Herbie Hancock & the Headhunters 70’s mega-hit, “Watermelon Man.”

    “My first whiff was with Herbie,” the 51 year-old musician continued. “No one knew that album was going to be the largest selling jazz album of all time. “Then when Quincy called and as I worked with him on “Roots” I noticed it was a similar odor between that and the Headhunters thing. It’s like a meal, when you smell it, you recognize it And after working on “The Color Purple,” and “The Wiz,” I began to see and became able to identify the odor of success.

    “Now Los Hombres Calientes comes along and of all of those dishes that I ate, none of them smell as good as this one.. None of them have anywhere near the same kind of vibe.”

    The group, which hails from New Orleans and features Wynton’s youngest brother Jason Marsalis on drums, has just released their second album appropriately titled “Volume 2.” It is more of the unique Latin jazz based music of Los Hombres Calientes that can best be described as a Crescent City culinary staple- their music is a gumbo.

    With no exaggeration, the new record features a Brazilian blues number, a reggae tune with r&b overtones, a pop-jazz cover with a Latin beat, a New Orleans tango, an Afro-Cuban classical-tinged-suite, and a boogie-woogie tune.. And just for good measure the cd ends with some good old 70’s funk courtesy of a medley of Herbie Hancock’s “Chameleon,” and the P-Funk anthem “We Want The Funk.”

    “If we do a gig in front of a thousand people, 200 will by the cd on the spot,” Summers said assuredly “As far as the way people react to Los Hombres Calientes, I’ve never seen anything like it. On our very first gig, we were offered two record contracts..

    From the time he was six, when he and he brother started their ten year stay at the Detroit Conservatory of Music , Summers has had a long history of making groups happen. As a young pianist and percussionist, he grew up at a time when many great jazz stars such as Kenny Burrell and Tommy Flanagan were just leaving the Motor City and the Motown sound was just taking over.

    “I don’t think I missed much as far as the exodus was concerned,” he said. “Musically, there was still a lot happening. Yusef Lateef was still there and Donald Byrd lived on my block so I played in many of his groups.

    “In Detroit, at that time, the clubs would open up weekend jam sessions to minors,” Summers continued. “Any minor could walk into any jazz club in Detroit and play. That’s how musicians in Detroit, who wanted to learn jazz learned. There weren’t any schools that taught it. Plus every Saturday and Sunday afternoon we had first entrée to all the Motown acts playing at either the Fox Theatre or the 20 Grand Lanes.”

    Summers left the then fertile Michigan music scene to attend college at the University of California at Berkley, the epicenter of the turbulent 60’s and home to, arguably, the most creative pop music scene of that decade. Out of that area at that time the local bands were Sly & the Family Stone, Santana, Tower of Power, the Grateful Dead, the Pointer Sisters and many other groups. It was a radical hotbed of politics and music and a white man named David Rubinson managed and produced many of the artists including Hancock.

    “I learned 85% of what I know now about the music business from David Rubinson,” Summers said. “I know him like I know the back of my hand. I was the only member of Herbie’s band all up in David’s face learning what made things go”

    However, it would be incorrect to call Rubinson Summers’ mentor. The knowledge he gained, he took it by observation, Rubinson didn’t give it by instruction. In fact when after five years of being in Hancock’s band, Summers announced he wanted to start a solo career, Rubinson laughed.

    “I mean literally busted out in hysteria,” Summers remembered. “You know like ‘here’s the nigger of the music industry, the bongo player, talking about going solo.” That’s what the percussion player is. We’re the last one hired and the first one fired. The way he viewed me was not with the respect that should’ve been there. I’ll never forget him laughing at me for as long as I live.”

    The young percussionist took the negative energy and turned it positive by eventually landing a major record deal and enjoying success with his late 70’s group Summer’s Heat.

    Summers spent most of the 80’s producing music and working as a first-call Los Angeles percussion player. He re-united with Hancock in 1994 co-producing the keyboard whiz’ album “Dis Is Da Drum.” By that time Summers had fulfilled a lifelong dream by moving to New Orleans.

    “As I grew up, all I heard my parents talk about was ‘back home,’ so obviously I wasn’t at home where I was,” Summers said laughing. “After hearing that for over 20 years, I said, it’s time to go home.”

    On a big tract of Louisiana land left to him by his grandparents, Summers is building the Summers Multi-Ethnic Institute of the Arts. Open for a few years now, the school immediately began attracting New Orleans top musicians including Jason Marsalis who signed up to further his knowledge of Afro-Cuban rhythms.

    “The institute is more like a university,” Summers said. “Every Saturday night, I have an open drum forum where we play traditional music of Africa and African derived stuff from the Diaspora. Jason started coming by and after a while he brought over the piano player who is now in the band, Victor Atkins. Then (trumpeter) Irvin Mayfield started coming a couple of months later. Virtually every member of the band, at some point, started coming by for these classes. Eventually, we came to the conclusion that we should put a band together and that’s how Los Hombres Calientes started.”

    Jeff Lorber – Midnight

    Jeff Lorber

    From The Dawn to Midnight
    By Mark Ruffin

    Ramsey LewisIf Jeff Lorber was a professional athlete, he’d be one of those who’d have a career year every time he signed a new contract. The keyboardist rose to fame from JazzUSA’s hometown, Portland, Oregon, but he grew up in Philadelphia where his father was a team doctor for the Philadelphia 76’ers. Maybe hanging with the pros in his early days rubbed off because his debut with his fifth record company is his best outing since his debut for his fourth record company, maybe his best album since before he departed the Arista team and their coach, Clive Davis back in 1985. In fact the last album Jeff Lorber has recorded that was completely well rounded as Midnight would be “It’s A Fact” in 1982.

    Lorber was one of the original second-generation stars of the fusion period in the late 70’s just as the genre was starting to die out. With everything 70’s becoming vogue once again, it was very wise for the keyboard artist to reach back to that time to take advantage of it as he does on “Midnight,” his 13th album.

    Back in 1979 when Lorber landed the single “Toad’s Place” (named for an old Portland nightclub) on the Billboard pop charts, his albums were known for exciting crisp funk rhythm with his signature wizardry jazz keyboard style dominating over a stand out sax player. None of his albums on Verve, or Warner Brothers really had that original Jeff Lorber Fusion style. Those records featured more of his compositional and production style rather than his playing and any thing that sounded like a group having fun and jamming. What “Midnight” doesn’t have from that early sound is a killer sax player.

    None of that is to take away from the incredible musical energy Lorber and the late Art Porter created in the earlier part of this decade, but frankly, Lorber left all the energy, all the funk, the great solos and every ounce of his production skills for the catchy tunes Porter wrote for his first two albums on Verve. With his impressive record sales and NAC radio in his pocket, Porter’s success led the way for his producer’s entry onto Verve and smooth jazz stations across America.

    I saw Lorber live with Art Porter twice and Gary Meek once during this period and there was no doubt that Lorber, despite not touring in close to a decade had improved as both a soloist and had not lost his ability in directing a band over a this tight groove. While this can’t be said for Porter’s records, none of Lorber’s recorded Verve output matched the sound and energy of these two playing live.

    1993’s “Worth Waiting For” was Lorber’s first album in seven years and was only aptly titled in that it was refreshing to hear new compositions planted firmly in his early style, while combining all he learned from modern technology when he was a studio rat in the years between releases. What “Worth Waiting For” didn’t have that fans of Lorber have come to expect, was some exciting new young star. Instead sax players Gary Meek, Dave Koz and Porter, along with guitarist Lee Ritenour helped make that record listenable.

    What “Worth Waiting For” also did was established Lorber’s radio sound for the 90’s. Indeed, it was probably the first time he ever tailor-made a whole record for a radio format. The subsequent albums “West Side Stories” and the dismal “State Of Grace” played it even safer for NAC radio programmers who learn jazz in elevators and over oatmeal breakfast.

    Lorber was stagnant at Verve. It follows a pattern. Moving into the new millenium, the folks at Zebra obviously have the keyboardist at a creative zenith, and by relying on what he did in the 70’s with “Midnight” should keep him peaking for a couple of more releases.

    It was 1977 when Irv Kraatka gave Lorber his first chance to record on the now defunct Inner City Record label. Lorber was the darling of the Pacific Northwest music scene. In retrospect, it’s still hard to tell if Portland and Seattle in the late 70’s were behind the time as fusion was dying or ahead of it’s time nurturing smooth jazz radio stars years before the format took off. The list of acts playing then, now staples on contemporary jazz radio is impressive including Lorber, Kenny G, Dan Siegel, Patrick O’Hearn, Oregon, Skywalk, and others.

    Lorber didn’t let Kraatka down with the releases “Jeff LorberFusion and Soft Space. Lorber wrote every tune on the albums and featured guest stars flute player Joe Farrell and exciting mini-moog synthesizer duet with Chick Corea. Record sales were so impressive that the then relatively new Arista Records company picked him up. That first album went through the roof with six-figure record sales and guest stars Freddie Hubbard on the classic Rain Dance– which was just sampled on a huge rap hit by Lil’ Kim- and Dennis Springer from the Portland funk group Pleasure, whose soprano sax style dominated the aforementioned hit single and foreshadowed that quasi-circular breathing technique that Kenny G is now famous for.

    Kenny G was introduced to the world on Lorber’s subsequent album, 1980’s Wizard Island, another classic that continued to defy disco and the death of fusion with hefty record sales.

    I had the rare opportunity to hang with Lorber and see the band three times at three different venues in a ten day span during this period. To say they were loose would be an understatement, and I’m very grateful for this period because, although you wouldn’t know it from the last ten years, I know for a fact that Kenny G. can really play that thing he puts in his mouth.

    Up until he started touring extensively, it was his compositions and production skills that put Lorber over on the jazz public. Not that his records didn’t have well crafted soloing, it’s just that even then after seeing him live, you knew he was holding back in the studio. And that was a problem with each subsequent Arista record in the 80’s as his music became predictable and dominated by drum machines.

    Despite the help of bassist Stanley Clarke, “Galaxian” in 1981 was the first bad record Lorber made, but he bounced right back with “It’s A Fact.” That record was the first to give Lorber some success with straight r&b and a vocal tune, the title track, and it was the first album not to bear the band name Jeff Lorber Fusion. It seemed for the rest of his tenure at Arista, Lorber unsuccessfully grasped at ways to equal his previous record sales without concentrating on his art and the sound that got him there. His only record for Warner Brothers is memorable only for introducing Karyn White to the world.

    When NAC and smooth jazz radio debuted in the late 80’s and grew in the early 90’s, Lorber’s only contribution was just some of his old stuff that featured the artists he is credited with discovering including White, Eric Benet and of course Kenny G. Predictably, NAC only stayed with the safe ballads and/or cover tunes from his catalog. “Worth Waiting For” was his first record in the smooth jazz era, and he became trapped by it quickly.

    It was a shame too, because what Lorber was doing in between those years was infinitely more interesting than any music he made at Verve or in his late Arista days. When Manhattan Transfer won the Best Pop Album Grammy in 1987, they should’ve shared it with Lorber, because along with the South Americans, his sound design on their album “Brasil” was as integral a contribution as any other they had on the album. His production work was brilliant. The cover tune is a decent rendition of the Beatles “Dear Prudence” with Lorber returning to the Fender Rhodes electric piano. Like the rest of the album, it profits from not only Lorber’s back to his roots approach, but from the obvious fact that the man has been on the road away from studios and machines and has interjected a much more human feel. It’s obvious from his spirited piano solo on the tune Perugia, dedicated to the great Italian jazz festival, that Lorber has enjoyed live playing more.

    Ironically, other than the vocalist, there are no major contributions from others. Lorber plays more keyboards on this album than he has in years. But not programmed machines, but the piano, organ, electric piano, and some synth programmed to get that old mini-moog sound, And it’s nice to have him back in the groove. We had to wait til “Midnight” to get it but this is the Jeff Lorber album that was worth waiting for.

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    An Interview with Jeff Lorber

    An Interview With
    Jeff Lorber
    by S. H. Watkins, Sr.

    Jeff Lorber Jeff Lorber is unquestionably one of the architects of the jazz-fusion sound. His bands spawned such future stars as saxman Kenny G. and songstress Karyn White. The directions taken by Lorber and his music influenced the fusion jazz movement; at a time when jazz music was primed for change, Lorber lit that fuse and the rest is history.

    Since Jeff started out his career playing the Portland and Seattle jazz scene (with an ocassional foray down into the San Francisco scene), we couldn’t do a series on Northwest Jazz artists without talking to Jeff. We caught up with him in his California home one afternoon last month for a short talk.

    JazzUSA: Let’s start with a topic that’s dear to our heart… Northwest jazz. Is there such a thing?

    JL: Well… (laughing) Sure! It’s the musicians and the scene… I don’t know if it’s necessarily a completely different kind of sound than something else, I think it describes a certain scene and style, an experience.

    JazzUSA: Would you say that N.W. jazz had a great influence on the development of the new age sound?

    JL: To be honest with you, I think that everybody really listens to the same stuff all over the country and, to some extent, all over the world. So, it’s really hard to say. It’s not like we’re living in a little village in Nairobi somewhere where it’s completely cut off. Everybody is listening to more or less the same stuff in popular culture, popular music. I think when I first moved to Portland from Boston there was definitely a scene, a style that was pretty heavily influenced by R&B, by blues, by a lot of the really exciting stuff that was going on with fusion music, Weather Report, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock. There was a little bit of cross-pollination with the San Francisco scene. I remember when I used to play at the Helm in the late 70’s, people like Jim Pepper, Wes Ferrante and other ‘Frisco musicians would come up and play in Portland. The Portland Jazz scene was definitely influenced by the San Francisco vibe, and some Portland musicians like Tom Grant would play with Joe Henderson, who was living in San Francisco at the time. Then there was the influence of Tower of Power and some of the funky stuff coming out of Oakland was a pretty big influence in Portland back in those days.

    JazzUSA: So Northwest Jazz is more the result of a kind of synergy than anything else?

    JL: I think it’s that and, well to me Portland and Seattle are really different; at least they were back in those days. There was just a more lively music scene in Portland, at least from what I could tell, more was happening on the jazz tip; although there were also some good Seattle musicians. Portland always had more of a soulful, bluesy kind of thing going on. Also, there were a lot of places to play. There was a lot of support from the hometown both from the standpoint of the club owners and the people coming out and supporting local talent. When you think about Northwest Jazz that’s the real key element, even though it’s a city that’s really small, it’s got a lot of talent for the size. It’s got a lot of opportunity for that talent to grow and develop.

    That’s the value of it as compared to a place like L.A., you can’t really, bands here if they want to play somewhere, usually they play for practically no money. It’s just a very different kind of scene, like studio musicians that want to play in clubs, play basically for free because of the love of it. It’s not a live music environment, it’s more about the industry. This is like a company town, it’s all about the recording industry, the film industry and people are making music in recording studios for films, movies and records and it’s just a different dynamic. I mean there’s tons of talent here, its fantastic that way.

    JazzUSA: Let me ask you about the old days for a minute, I remember back in the days when you were down here, I can’t remember the name of the place, it use to be on Glisan right by the 405, they’ve changed the name a few times. You actually made a song about it, you named one of your songs after it.

    JL: Delevan’s?

    JazzUSA: Yeah, back in those days.

    JL: Yeah!

    JazzUSA: I was wondering about your early beginnings in Portland…

    JL: Basically, I played with Thera (Memory) and his band. No, actually there was another band that Thera was in, there was this trombone player named “Jim McKirscher”. And Thera just kind of did his thing some of time, but… I started my group, but I didn’t want to be a bandleader. I never wanted to do that. I did it because I was working with other people, and saw that there were some really great opportunities, and nobody was taking advantages of it. The first incarnation of the band consisted of Lester McFarland on bass, Dennis Bradford on drums and there was this guy named Ron Young that played congas, and the reason he was in the band was because he had a van and we needed transportation. That was a major selling point, right there (laughing). Eventually I had to fire Lester because he would show up late, one time he had pawned his bass, eventually he wasn’t making it to gigs. And then I hired Danny Wilson, and there were a couple of different sax players. There was a guy named Benny Goodfew that was from Seattle, there was… I can’t even remember all the guys that I played with.

    JazzUSA: So where did Kenny G. come in?

    JL: Yeah… after I went through a few different sax players, including… well… Dennis Springer played with us quite a bit and he was wonderful. Unfortunately ‘Pleasure’ was kind of doing there thing at the same time and I guess at some point Springer had to sort of decide whether he was going to play with me or stick with Pleasure. He had been with Pleasure for sort of a long time so he went that way. So I was looking for a sax player and Michael Hepburn from Pleasure, who was living in Seattle back in those days recommended Kenny. Kenny came down and he auditioned, he was actually in town because he was doing a lot of contracting. You know, things that would come through town and needed a woodwind player, somehow even though he was so young he got in there to be a contractor. So he played things like the ice show or anything that needed union musicians to fill out an orchestra for some production.

    Like Barry White, I guess he played for him in that kind of capacity. He actually happened to be coming to Portland to do a Liberace show when I called him. And the thing about Kenny when I first met him was he really had a great attitude. He was enthusiastic and he immediately, sort of knew that this was a good opportunity for him, whereas a lot of the musicians in town… they just weren’t that interested, they didn’t care. They were good players but they weren’t motivated or they weren’t that ambitious, and Kenny was ambitious and motivated with a real positive attitude. So that’s how it happened. He auditioned, and I kind of hired him on the spot.

    JazzUSA: In your band, right?

    JL: Yes. We worked together for four or five years.

    JazzUSA: Did you ever play in Mel brown’s band in Portland?

    JL: Mel played around town, and he would sometimes hire me. I don’t think I was particularly in his band, I think he played with a lot of different guys like we all did in those days. I sort of remember one time that we played a place called Parchment Farm, where Kenny and I sat in with Mel because Kenny was in town.

    JazzUSA: I’m sure you’re aware that you had a lot to do with the direction that fusion music took, if you look back at turning points in music history you guys were right there creating change.

    JL: The musical community in Portland at that time was really nurturing and inspiring and wonderful for me as a musician. Before I moved to Portland I had decided not to be a musician…

    JazzUSA: Oh really?

    JL: Yeah. After two years at music school I moved to Portland and had given up my whole idea of being a musician. I was at Clark College in my third year, going for a degree in chemistry. The only reason why I got back into music was that I went down to some jam sessions and started playing with some musicians in Portland and I got a lot of encouragement from those musicians, people like Thera (Memory), people like Mel Brown, people like Ron Steen, and like hearing Tom Grant and his band and being excited by that. Thinking ‘This guys great and his band’s great and the scene’s great’ and all of a sudden there was a lot going on… There were good players, there were places to play. I kind of really took the bull by the horns and put the band together, and basically took the guys that were in Jim McKirscher’s band or Thera, you know back then the gigs were so sporadic it wasn’t like anybody had like a band, it was just sort of get whatever gig you could get with whatever musicians you could get at the time. It wasn’t anything that well organized. Although I gotta say Tom had a pretty solid gig, at the Helm. The big gig to get was the Helm. You could play like five nights a week for a month or three weeks. That was a chance to really tighten up the band and rehearse.

    JazzUSA: Jeff, what are you doing now? What can we expect from Jeff Lorber?

    JL: Well I’m working on a new album and I’m talking with a couple of different labels. Arista is putting out a ‘Best Of’ this month that will include a lot of the old stuff. I’m working with Herb Alpert, I produced one of his albums and I’m working on some new stuff with him. I’m working with Maurice White, I’m producing a track on the new Earth, Wind and Fire album with him, and I might do some more work with him. I was the musical director for the ‘Smooth Jazz awards’ in Texas. I’ve got some gigs, gonna do some touring of Southeast Asia. Producing different artists…I produced three tracks on the Dave Koz album which has been #1 on the radio charts for the last two or three months in a row.

    JazzUSA: So, you’re staying out there.

    JL: I’m trying to stay in it. (Laughing) You know, I love making music and I’ve got a studio in my house and it’s pretty state of the art. I really enjoy all the technical stuff, arranging and recording and engineering, which I do.

    JazzUSA: Any timeframes for the new album?

    JL: I’m hoping it’ll come out in spring or summer.

    JazzUSA: Any of the personnel lined up yet?

    JL: Well, I work a lot with a guy named Gary Meek, who plays saxophone, that’s been featured on my last four records. I’ll probably use a lot of the usual suspects, like John Robinson on drums and Mike Landau and Paul Jackson, Paul Pesco, and I’m playing some more guitar these days.

    JazzUSA: Is thete anybody you idolized, looked up to coming up?

    JL: I really studied the history of jazz piano, especially Horace Silver, McCoy, Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea were influential. Joe Zawinul, Bill Evans… I think Herbie’s probably my biggest influence because he’s so funky and so musical and his whole concept of chord voicings and rhythm and soloing is so incredible, you know. I was very, very influenced by him. I really love the music of Miles Davis and Coltrane. That’s kind of where I’m really at. I listen to the more substantial kind of jazz stuff for inspiration. All this new smooth-jazz stuff, you know, some of it’s good but it doesn’t have the same emotion…

    JazzUSA: What do you listen to when you’re just laying around the house?

    JL: I listen to a really wide variety of things. I listen to the radio, and MTV and BET and try to stay current, and try to, you know, learn, hear new ideas that are exciting that I can incorporate into what I’m doing. Generally I’m listening to stuff I’m working on and often some of those old records that I really love. Not just old jazz, but old rock and roll and pop.

    JazzUSA: I appreciate your time and we’ll be keeping track of your upcoming projects.

    JL: Ok Thanks.

    Russell Malone – Look Who’s Here

    BumpLook Who’s Here
    Russell Malone
    (Verve – 2000)
    by Sidney Bechet-Mandela

    Malone is Mr. Fluidity on guitar. If his hands were faucets, his strings would be water. This is a guitarist who not only writes exciting angular lines, but can wrap his hands around a ballad so tightly that the melody, let alone the solos, drip with emotion. And boy, those solos. There’s aren’t many improvisers out there who can instantaneously whip out a solo with enough hooks to write pop tunes. But that is the case with this Georgia peach of a guitarist.

    After years of toiling, and often stealing the show, from jazz superstars Jimmy Smith, Harry Connick Jr. and Diana Krall, Malone’s career is bound to reach another level with this release that is framed by the steady hand of legendary producer Tommy LiPuma.

    “Look Who’s Here” opens with two upbeat original smokers from the guitarist, including the title composition, which more than any tune demonstrate Malone debt to the great ringing style that owes as much debt to southern twangers like Chet Atkins as it does to lyrical be-boppers like Kenny Burrell.

    Malone also continues his love affair with Burt Bacharach-Hal David tunes that Wes Montgomery loved, adding “Alfie,” to the list of songs of theirs both he and Montgomery have recorded. It is a modern updating of the movie classic, that is just one of a few standards that gets an invigorating re-working on this album, including a percussive reading of Cole Porter’s “Get Out of Town,” and a version of “An Affair To Remember,” done with such a biting back beat, it could land Malone on (gasp) smooth jazz radio. An if that doesn’t, his contribution to the new standards lexicon, Stevie Wonder’s “You Will Know,” from the movie Jungle Fever,” just might.

    Speaking of new standards, both Malone and British guitar wiz, Martin Taylor, have version of Neil Hefti’s 70’s television theme, “The Odd Couple,” on their new albums. In the hands of Malone, this surprisingly hip number is done in a quicker, more straight-forward style than Taylor’s, as if it was Wes Montgomery and Wynton Kelly doing it. Whereas Taylor’s version is done slower, as if it was Eric Gale and Grover Washington, with the melody so disguised, the listener is still trying to think what the tune is by the time the head leads into the solos.

    Malone lets you know right away what the tune is, he wants you to listen to what he can do with it.

    Barring the almost embarrassing closing vocal track, this is almost a perfect album for both those who know and adore Malone, and those who are just getting to know him. It is definitely his best record since he left Columbia Records in the mid-90’s’

    George Cables – Looking For The Light

    George CablesGeorge Cables
    Looking For The Light
    (Muse Fx – 2004)
    by Paula Edelstein

    Pianist George Cables is in top form on eight of his latest compositions. Recorded with Gary Bartz, Peter White and Victor Lewis, Looking For The Light sums up several of Cables’ recent musical inspirations – both positive and negative. The idea to create a classic jazz quartet works quite well and this mix of up-tempo post bop and gorgeous ballads provides the consummate vehicle for Cables’ piano finesse.

    Gary Bartz offers several great solos that provide additional weight to Cables’ compositions and his art as a jazz improviser is captured here with spirit. Cable’s seemingly effortless cascades of notes across the keyboards and imagination that is as fast as his fingers is worth several listens – especially on “Klimo,” and “Tasshi‘s Night Out.”

    Reprinted with permission of…

    Bill Moody – Looking For Chet Baker – An Evan Horne Mystery

    Looking For Chet Baker
    An Evan Horne Mystery by Bill Moody

    (Walker and Company – 2002)
    by S.H. Watkins, Sr.

    Pianist and part-time detective Evan Horne finds himself in Amsterdam gigging with the famous Fletcher Paige. Things are going smoothly… he’s finally gotten away from his ex-girl, the crimes, investigations and everything to just play jazz and enjoy life. Then the meeting with old friend Ace Buffington goes awry, leaving Evan with a missing friend and a portfolio full of materials. Materials on the late trumpeter Chet Baker who allegedly died 13 years earlier falling from a window at the same hotel Evan is staying in. The mystery leads him from jazz joints to nefarious drug lords in search of clues to a 13 year old mystery.

    Bill Moody intersperses anecdotes of reality with good crime drama to put together an interesting story that is a good read from start to finish. The musical references from Moody’s real-life musical experiences and introspections by the characters lend to the overall air of authenticity. Moody managed to thread his way through the story without becoming complicated, yet giving enough depth to feel the story. This was my first experience with Moody’s writing, but I’m going to get the previous four Evan Horne novels and give them a read, because this one held my attention very well.

    Joe McBride – Lookin For A Change

    Joe McBride
    Lookin For A Change
    Heads Up – 2009

    In the digitally-driven 21st century, the landscape of American popular music exists in a constant state of metamorphosis. At any given moment, the lines between jazz, R&B, soul, funk, pop, hip-hop and countless other styles can become indistinguishable, and sometimes disappear altogether. Singer/pianist Joe McBride, an innovator since his first recordings in the early ’90s, understands this phenomenon on a first-hand level.

    A longtime stalwart of the contemporary jazz scene, McBride takes a detour from his usual path for an intriguing new recording that reinterprets a dozen contemporary pop songs via straightahead jazz arrangements. Like any versatile artist who’s in it for the long haul, he’s learned to not only roll with the changes, but actively seek them out and explore their maximum artistic potential.

    Fleshed out with the help of a live trio – guitarist Dan Wilson, bassist Roger Hines and drummer Elijah Gilmore – Lookin’ For A Change is a collection of songs originally written and recorded by a range of pop luminaries, including Gnarls Barkley, Coldplay, John Mayer, Seal, Jill Scott and several others. These reinterpretations, along with three original compositions from McBride’s own inspirational well, make for an engaging juxtaposition of the best elements of contemporary pop and traditional jazz.

    “The majority of my releases in the past have been primarily electronic,” says McBride, “with an acoustic piano playing over the top of arrangements that were primarily put together with drum machines and other technology. I’ve loved contemporary jazz. It’s been a lot of fun playing that kind of music. But I wanted to move forward a little bit, demonstrate a little growth, try something new.”

    The set opens with a buoyant take on Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy,” wherein McBride augments his energetic piano work with a vocal line reminiscent of Al Jarreau. The followup track, a syncopated reading of Vanessa Carlton’s yearning “1000 Miles,” is a bit more down to earth and pensive. “I like how easily the Vanessa Carlton tune translated to jazz,” says McBride. “It swings very easily. It was very easy to put into a straightahead bag.”

    Further into the set, McBride injects Corrine Bailey Rae’s “Like a Star” with a Latin groove that’s full of energy without being overbearing. “I like the samba feel on that track,” says McBride. “There’s a really great acoustic guitar solo in there by Dan Wilson.”

    In the home stretch, McBride’s rendition of Seal’s “Kiss From a Rose” puts a gentler jazz spin on this passionate ode without sacrificing any of the emotional impact of the source material.

    The set closes with the infectiously rhythmic title track, an appeal for greater tolerance and understanding in a rapidly evolving society. Written by McBride, the song is laced with subtle but unmistakable hints of R&B and funk amid the predominantly jazz-flavored arrangement. This is McBride at his best – sending a clear and positive message without delivering a heavy-handed sermon.

    More than just pure musical entertainment, McBride sees Lookin’ for a Change as a learning experience for listeners from different generations – himself included. As is so often the case, creating something new required a reacquaintance with the old stuff.

    “As the project came together, the process became very educational – for me as much as anyone else who heard some of the early tracks,” says McBride. “I had forgotten some of the jazz roots of my youth, the straightahead stuff that I had learned back in high school and college – the Miles and the Coltrane and the Charlie Parker. So this project kind of took me back a little bit too. I had to really do my homework on some of the theory in this music.”

    But McBride has no reservations about digging in and doing the hard work for the sake of his craft. “I wouldn’t trade now for any of the other years of my life,” he says. “I feel very good about this record. I feel like I’m in a fresh spot. I’m ready to broaden my horizons, and maybe broaden the horizons of some of my listeners as well. It’s all about the love for the music, and the willingness to try something new. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m trying something new every day.”

    An Interview with Lonnie Plaxico

    Lonnie PlaxicoAbout Melange and More
    Lonnie Plaxico
    by Mark Ruffin

    If someone were to write a book about the evolution of the bass in contemporary jazz over the last quarter a century, there would have to be a chapter totally devoted to Chicago. A few pages would be devoted to Lonnie Plaxico who has a brand new album on Blue Note titled “Melange.”

    Just listing the name of bassists from the Windy City who played with Miles Davis can take up some space- Felton Crews, Angus Thomas, Richard Patterson and Darryl ‘Munch’ Jones, who went on to considerable stardom with Sting and presently the Rolling Stones. Others include Plaxico, Steve Rodby, Larry Kimpel, Kenny Davis, Chuck Webb and others. Because of the supportive nature of their chosen instruments, these names aren’t very well known. However, check the back of a good many contemporary jazz albums, and there they are.

    Plaxico is best known for his work with two of the biggest names in jazz history, drummer Art Blakey and vocalist Cassandra Wilson. He made 12 albums with the former and the latter is one of his old friends, who he has seen first hand rise from a woman who “used to wait for me after sets to borrow money,” to one of the most important female vocalist ever to sing jazz.

    At 41, the bassist doesn’t hide or deny that being music director for Wilson, one of the most commercially successful artists on Blue Note Records, helped him get a deal with the storied company.

    “Without question, my association with Cassandra is the main reason I got a deal,” Plaxico admitted.

    :”Most jazz record companies are looking to discover somebody,” Plaxico said, pointing out his age and that he has released five albums on a smaller jazz label. “I’ve been around a while and played with everybody.

    “That can work against you sometimes,” he continued. “(Record companies) want younger musicians who are less exposed.”

    Both Plaxico and Wilson rose to prominence in jazz through a group of New York based musicians who created a form of music in the mid-80’s called M-Base. The music was a hip-hop and rock influenced kind of avant-garde jazz. It was created out east, but many practitioners were actually from Chicago, including M-Base founder, Steve Coleman.

    He first heard of Plaxico in the 70’s, back in Chicago. Then the bassist was one of two bass players from Fenger High School making lots of noise on the local scene, Richard Patterson was the other.

    By his senior year, Plaxico had already been playing in jam sessions with the legendary Chicago sax man Von Freeman when Coleman, somewhat of a musical intellectual, gave the young musician a call.

    “I was in my last year of high school and he was already in college, which back then seemed like a huge gap, ” Plaxico remembered, “and since a lot of black guys weren’t into Charlie Parker and stuff like that, he wanted to give me a test.”

    Coleman found in Plaxico a well-studied musician, who not only knew jazz and r&b history, but was also raised in the warmth of a family where music was learned by osmosis.

    At 12, he was enlisted into the family band, the Bilalian Express, a pop/funk band, which gained a degree of popularity on Chicago’s south side three decades ago. In 1976, when he was 16, the group that included his brother Douglas, who played drum and sung and his vocalist sister Paula, released a single.

    By then, Plaxico was already abandoning the r&b of B.T. Express and Kool & the Gang for the jazz-fusion of Return to Forever and Weather Report. After he saw RTF’s great bassist, Stanley Clarke, play an acoustic version of the instrument, he did an exhaustive trip backwards through the history of jazz.

    College at Northeastern Illinois was a disappointment for Plaxico, despite the number of celebrated classmates, including the late saxophonist Art Porter, Chicago drummer Greg Rockingham, and bassist Kenny Davis, who would later join Plaxico into the New York M-Base group.

    “For me that college was just an extension of my high school,” Plaxico explained why he left the school early. “I was already playing with Von Freeman, and he gave me more of the education I needed to know. I didn’t feel like I could learn anything there.”

    It was Wynton Marsalis that first called Plaxico to New York to work in 1980. He joined the legendary saxophonist Dexter Gordon in ’82 and the historic Jazz Messengers the following year. All the while his roommate, Coleman, was developing the unique M-Base sound.

    “M-Base hadn’t even started when I met Cassandra,” Plaxico said when asked how he met the diva. “It was at a jam session in New York, and I remember we were playing “A Foggy Day, and I became suspicious of this lady with this deep voice, because around that time there were some transvestites hanging in New York.”

    With his suspicion alleviated, he developed a lasting friendship with the singer. When Coleman came home raving about a deep-throated singer he had heard, the bassist informed him that he knew all about her.

    “It was Steve Coleman who heavily influenced all of us on being original, including Cassandra, and I’ve been so happy for her as she has become so big.”

    However, Plaxico feels his seven-year tenure with Wilson will soon becoming to an end. It’s an ironic result of the release of “Melange.” “Once you start playing your own music, it’s pretty hard to go back to a supporting role,” Plaxico reasoned, “especially on the instrument that I play where I usually don’t even get a chance to show what I can do.”

    Lynette Washington – Long, Long Ago

    Long, Long Ago
    Lynette Washington
    (GuavaJamm – 1999)
    by Paula Edelstein

    Lynette Washington has been active on the New York Jazz and R&B scene for many years. She has sung with New Voices of Freedom, The Mark of Aries and a slew of jazz artists from Tommy Campbell to George Coleman. This is her debut album for GuavaJamm. Gerry Niewood and Darryl Pelegrini both played with Chuck Mangione while Cameron Brown has worked with just about everyone in the jazz field.

    Dennis Bell is a world renowned producer and pianist having played and produced everyone from rapper Doug E Fresh to Rockers U2 to Jazz flautist Dave Valentin. He has performed with Dave Grusin, Tom Browne, Steve Jordan, Eddie Jones, Nick Brignola, Sal Salvador, Buddy Morrow, Marcus Miller, Buddy Williams and many others. Check them out… Lynette Washington (Vocals), Gerry Niewood (Saxophones), Darryl Pelegrini (Drums), Cameron Brown (Bass) & Dennis Bell (Piano).

    1. Always Christmas (D. Bell, W. Nesbit)
    2. Long, Long Ago (D. Bell)
    3. Eight Bright Candles (D. Bell, D. Washington)
    4. What’s Become of Christmas? (D. Bell, C. Washington, L. Washington)
    5. A Visit From St Nicholas (Jazz Suite) (D. Bell, C. Moore) 6. Kwanza- (D. Bell)

    Reprinted with permission of…

    Allan Harris – Long Live the King

    Allan Harris
    Long Live the King
    (Love Productions – 2007)
    by Narvy James

    On his new CD “Long LIve The King” Allan Harris pays tribute to the quintessential jazz crooner, Nat King Cole. If you want an idea of how this up and comer in the jazz vocal arena sounds, imagine cooking up a mix of Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra in a stew pot and you have an idea of the (Phenomenal) Allan Harris.

    Recorded live at the Kennedy Center in New York, Harris covers classics like “Mona Lisa”, “The Very Thought of You” and “Paper Moon” with a smooth assuredness that has righteously garnered him rave reviews from the likes of the Miami Herald, the New York Post and, of course, ME.

    Harris has brought back that great smooth, silky style of crooning that has been missing since The great Nat King Cole. Allan Harris has a warm, relaxing kind of voice that soothes you, helps you unwind after a long day, I highly recommend this CD to everyone.

    Marty Williams – Long Time Commin

    Marty Williams
    Long Time Commin
    2010 – In Moon Bay Records

    Bay Area jazz pianist and vocalist, Marty Williams, was called “The Catalyst” by San Francisco Chronicle critic Phil Elwood. Anna deLeon of Anna’s Jazz Island recently said: “Marty Williams is one of the Bay Area’s treasures. His piano playing and singing are passionate, humorous, and unique. Think Oscar Brown Jr. plus Mose Allison plus Monk with just a dash of Redd Foxx! Yes, unique!”

    Marty’s formal training came well after he received his “calling” — he tells the story of a snowy night in Milwaukee listening to Ahmad Jamal’s album “Voices” as a turning point for him. Listening to that album and pondering the questions a young man faces in his life, Marty knew his destiny was to play the piano. As with so many great jazz pianists, Marty’s spirit taught him to play the music he felt.

    Through his career Marty has played at numerous venues and with many other notable musicians in the US and abroad. He has been part of the San Francisco jazz scene well over 25 years and plays regularly with world-class musicians, guitarist Eric Swinderman, bassist, Ruth Davies and drummer, Ranzel Merritt. His most significant influences include Hampton Hawes, Les McCann, Ahmad Jamal, Thelonious Monk, Ramsey Lewis, Herbie Hancock, Shirley Horn, Miles Davis and Junior Mance, just to name a few…

    In addition to his work as a performing artist, Marty’s writing, arranging, composing and producing abilities are enhanced by his certification as an Apple Certified Logic Pro.

    A Conversation With LONNIE LISTON SMITH

    A Conversation With
    by Sidney Bechet-Mandela

    With the debut release from his new record label called Loveland, Lonnie Liston Smith joins the growing list of jazz musicians who have started their own record company. The new album from the legendary keyboardist is called “Transformation,” His brother, Donald, the flautist and vocalist from Smith’s 70;s jazz group, the Cosmic Echoes, is featured.

    From the 40’s with Charles Mingus and Dizzy Gillespie and their respective companies, Debut Records and Dee Gee Records, up to the present with Lee Ritenour’s i.e. music and Herbie Hancock’s brand new self-titled imprint, control has been the dominating reason why jazz musicians get into the record business.

    . “With a lot of record labels, you have to do a record and then take it to them to see if they like it, Smith said by phone from his Richmond, Virginia home. “I thought instead of going through all of that, just put out a good record. I know my music, and I know what I want.

    “Most of the music today is over produced,” Smith continued, ” but back in the beginning when the music was really happening in the 70’s, we went right in the studio and a lot of time we’d write right in the studio. That’s the way we did “Expansions,” and it just took off.”

    Even before Lonnie Liston Smith became one of the few jazzmen from the 70’s to earn a gold album with the 1975 classic “Expansions,” he was part of some historical jazz recordings. His years with Miles Davis are documented on the albums “On The Corner” and “Big Fun,” and he came to national attention when he played in the late 60’s bands of saxophonist Pharoah Sanders. Smith was the pianist on Sanders’ classic “The Creator Has A Master Plan,” and he wrote the hit song Astral Traveling on the Sanders album “Thembi,”

    ” “Astral Traveling” is a good example,” Smith said railing on about the record companies of today. “That was the first time I’d ever touch a Fender Rhodes electric piano. I saw this thing in the studio and I didn’t even know what it was. I just went over there messing around, and everybody ran over there and said ‘man what are you doing?’ I said, ‘I’m just making up this song. They said man, we’ve got to do that. At that time, I was studying astral projection, so I called it “Astral Traveling”.

    “And look at some of the other jazz hits from those days,” said Smith, ” Grover Washington’s “Mister Magic,” Ramsey Lewis’ “Sun Goddess,” and Roy Ayers’ “Everybody Loves The Sunshine,” there were no big time producers that were assigned to them, people just went in the studio and did what was coming from the heart.”

    Airplay, or the lack of it, is another reason Smith wanted to have his own record company. Like many contemporary jazz stars of the 70’s, Smith still tours the world extensively, partly because touring is the only chance to introduce new music to different markets. What passes as jazz radio today woefully ignores the electric pioneers from the 70’s.

    While some of Smith’s Columbia Records recordings from the 80’s are in light rotation on some smooth jazz stations around the country, his two albums from the 90’s “Love Goddess” (featuring one of the last recorded performances of the late Phyliss Hyman) and Magic Lady, are ignored.

    “This time out, a radio consultant was hired,” Smith said. “In smooth jazz radio, there are a lot of consultants who program stations. I thought that was the program director job, but they’re like the middle man.”

    On “Transformation,” the consultant had Smith go back into the studio and shortened the length of his tunes to improve his chances of getting on-air. He also re-recorded two of his popular songs for this album, “Quiet Moments,” and “A Chance For Peace(Give Peace A Chance.)”

    The spacey, ethereal and spiritual quality that has always been a part of Lonnie Liston Smith’s music is still quite evident. He finds it ludicrous that there are people who doubted his sincerity in some of the messages in his music. The veteran musician said a good diet and clean life along with a healthy body and mind has always added up to the positive spiritual life that he leads today and always have.

    “That’s another reason I started my own company, ” Smith concluded. “I talked to some rappers who sampled my music, and they said ,’we do clean rap and then we take it to the record companies and they say, no that’s too clean.’ No one can say that to me now. I will always keep that spiritual message in the music. That’s what’s going to save this whole world and everybody in it.”

    For more information visit the official Lonnie Liston Smith Web Site at  Loveland Records.

    Liz Story – 17 Seconds…

    Liz Story
    17 Seconds to Anywhere

    lizstory.jpg (7785 bytes)17 Seconds to Anywhere,

    Liz Story’s new ~ Windham Hill album of solo piano compositions, was born in a rehearsal room at Northern Arizona University, not far from the Grand Canyon. Above her grand piano hung grave portraits of Beethoven, Schumann, Schubert, Liszt and other musical titans, staring down at her as she worked through the late night hours. Under their watchful eyes, Liz created her first album of all-original material in over five years…one that would not only please the masters of the past, but one that will also thrill Liz’s many fans around the world.

    Because of a recent move to Flagstaff, Arizona, Liz had to scramble to find a suitable setting for composing. Her husband, world-renowned jazz bassist Job DiBartolo, had recently been named head of the Jazz Department at NAU and Liz found the rehearsal room at the University a promising place to work. Given her intense study of harmony over the last few years -evidenced by two recent collections of jazz standards- Liz had figured her new pieces would likely reflect those complexities…

    “I thought all the work I’d done in harmony would have a huge impact on what I would write,” she says, “but when I sat down, there I was in F major again! There’s simply a kind of clarity and simplicity that’s part of my musical nature.” Clarity and simplicity aptly describe 17 Seconds to Anywhere, a collection of eleven elegant short works, each in its way a most eloquent utterance.

    Typical of Liz, the album title embodies a universe or two of intricate ideas. “It stems from the thinking and reading I do in the realm of physics,” she says. “I like: learning about modern physicists and what their problems are. 17 Seconds to Anywhere is a neurosemantic device, a quantum idea, to assist the expression of the imagination, to dislodge dis-spiritedness. Instead of four years of therapy, how about seventeen seconds to get over it?”

    It would take much longer than that to get over the liveliness of this new CD. “Captain April,” with its arpeggiated chords, joyous melody, and bright tonal colors, begins the album, followed by “Rumors of IDiscipline,” a spirited march not unlike one of the Lyric pieces by Grieg. “Beginner’s Mind,” with its finely wrought melodic development, was named for the Zen concept of approaching any task or opportunity as an absolute beginner, so as to see with fresh vision, or the idea that F-major is always new!

    The soulful “Voices” is followed by the hymn-like “Out of  Tlme” and the mournful, classically-influenced title track; the lushly melodic “Easy Access” contrasts the gently propulsive “The Promise” (the album’s most jazz- influenced piece). The stately “ShorT Fur Coat” is followed by an unabashedly romantic piece, “Foxglove.” 17 Seconds to Anywhere closes with sounds of children playing in the short, gentle “Remember Me This Way.”

    Surprisingly, for so gifted a musician, Liz did not originally have a burning desire to compose. She was equally fascinated by language and philosophy. Though she had studied piano throughout her life, she anticipated a career as a music librarian or some other modest goal, but that was before she heard the music of improvisational jazz piano legend Bill Evans. “I knew then I had to learn harmony” she recalls. So she enrolled in the Dick Grove School of Music. To pay the rent, she took a job as a pianist in a little bistro near Paramount Studios. “I arrived the first night with a pile of music,” she recalls, “but because the piano had no front casing, there was no place to put it.” She was forced to put Chopin aside and begin improvising herself.

    “That’s how I started writing music,” says Liz. “I always figured if I were to become a composer, I’d be some weird combination of Cecil Taylor and Alban Berg. My true musical voice surprises me to this day.” That “voice” led to a string of top-selling albums which helped establish Liz Story as one of the era’s most inventive adult contemporary instrumental artists and composers.

    For a woman of such ferocious intellect, it is a gift to be simple, as her music amply proves. “When I sit at the piano,” she says, “complexity dissolves. I want the music to somehow move me, simple and stripped down as it may be. I wonder at the possibility that a melody of three notes can turn the heart.”

    Perhaps seventeen seconds of Liz Story’s new album: provides the answer.

    Euge Groove – Livin’ Large

    Euge GrooveEuge Groove
    Livin’ Large
    (Narada – 2004)
    by Ray Redmond

    Euge Groove (A.K.A. Steve Grove) is kind of like a talented Kenny G. without all the fruity stuff. Euge lays down some good solid sax with a flair for the smooth and an ear for the hooks. His first single “Vinyl” was the longest charting single on the R&R NAC/Smooth Jazz chart with 27 weeks and it ranked number 24 for 2001, which was the highest debut single ever. Euge was picked the number one “Breakout” artist of 2001 as well. Now signed with Narada, Groove is at it again with Livin’ Large. His cover of Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight is sweet and lovely, a good choice for the first track. Sly Stones Higher is infused with a gut level funk and that certain Euge groove… if you don’t know what that is you really should quit missin’ and take a listen, you too could be Livin’ Large.

    His take on annother Sly track Thank You darts into rap/jazz featuring hip-hop vocalist JBS, but the rest of the CD stays pretty much in the smooth jazz vein, and quite deliciously I might add. Or should I say Caboliciously? Cabolicious is my favorite on this fabulous CD which was produced by one of the best in the business… Paul Brown. There’s also some nice guitar work on the CD by another smooth jazz guitar vet, Paul Jackson, Jr. as well as good contributions from percussionist Luis Conté.

    Visit the Euge Groove web site.

    Diana Krall – Live in Paris

    Diana KrallLive in Paris
    Diana Krall
    (Verve – 2002)
    by Carmen Miller

    For all of her grammy winning and record sales, the best Diana Krall is the Live Diana Krall, and remarkably this is her first live release. Recorded in November 2001 at the historic Music Hall L’Olympia in Paris, Krall is backed by her regular crew… bassist John Clayton, guitarist John Pisano and drummer Jeff Hamilton… as she swings her way through an assortment of her studio recordings, some standards and her stock-in-trade, the ballad. Diana’s sweet contralto is accompanied by the Orchestre Symphonique Europeen on an uptempo version of “Let’s Fall In Love” and a lush rendition of “Under My Skin”.

    “The Look of Love” is delivered in her husky, mellow style while Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon” comes across as peppy and stepping. The release also features Diana’s first recorded version of the Joni-Mitchell composition “A Case Of You,” a story-song in the Mitchell tradition. There’s also a bonus track featuring tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker and bassist Christian McBride joining Krall on a very pretty performance of Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are”, from the upcoming soundtrack to the film “The Guru”. The sound quality is even and clear throughout this album and Diana delivers the even, quality performance she’s known for. For Diana Krall fans that have never been to a live show this is a real treat.

    Dee Dee Bridgewater – Live at Yoshi’s

    Dee Dee Bridgewater - Live at Yoshi'sLive at Yoshi’s
    Dee Dee Bridgewater
    by Carmen Miller

    Recorded ‘Live’ in 1998 in California, Live at Yoshi’s is an example of a fine jazz singer singing fine jazz. Now that Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington, Carmen McRae and Betty Carter are gone, Dee Dee has become the universal incarnation of the jazz singer. This recording is evidence of that fact as she alternately works the room with humor and class, then overwhelms them with her natural talent and polished skills. Ably accompanied by Thierry Eliez (piano and organ), Thomas Bramerie (bass) and Ali Jackson (drums), Dee Dee covers some scat and bop as well as mainstream jazz, a few ballads and even a bit of Funk.

    She opens with the decidedly scat-ish “undecided,” slipping smoothly in the Jazzy “Slow boat to China” and then the lovely “Stairway To The Stars”. She goes on to sing “What a Little Moonlight Can Do,” “Cotton Tail,” Midnight Sun” and the hard-bop “Cherokee”. The highlight of the CD has got to be Dee Dee’s 14-minute rendition of “Love For Sale”. The instrumentation is deliciously reminiscent of Herbie Hancock in his Headhunters days. Once again Dee Dee talks to the crowd and sets up “Love For Sale” with a humorous patter that leads into the actual song, delivered with her unique blend of gentle intonation and strong accentuation.

    Another enjoyable moment is Dee Dee’s short trip into James-Brown-Land when she performs the Godfather of Soul’s Hit Get up, I feel like being a Sex Machine. First she preaches it like James Brown might have done it, then does it in her best little Ella Fitzgerald voice… only Dee Dee could pull that one off.

    There are a lot of fine new female vocalists on the scene, but we should all feel blessed to still have one of the masters still around performing for us in the person of Dee Dee Bridgewater.

    Oregon – Live at Yoshi’s

    Live at Yoshi’s
    (Intuition – 2002)
    by Shaun Dale

    Since their emergence as an offshoot of the Paul Winter Consort in the early 70s, Oregon has created a distinctive body of music, a brand of jazz infused with classical and world elements. Paul McCandless has broadened the instrumental range of jazz with contributions on instruments like oboe, bass clarinet, pennywhistles and sopranino and soprano saxophones. Over time, Ralph Towner has added piano and synthesizers to his guitar contributions. Bassist Glen Moore is a master of both plucked and arco styles. The fourth original member of the band was Colin Walcott, whose work on tabla and sitar added another exotic element to the group. Since his death in 1984, the group has used a variety of replacements or played as a trio. Today, drummer Mark Walker has become a regular member of the group, and his contribution enhances the swing elements of their sound.

    The music on Live At Yoshi’s, the group’s first live album in 22 years, was culled from four nights at the Oakland, CA, jazz landmark. Among the ten tracks are five previously unrecorded Towner compositions, four tracks from the group’s catalog and a group improvisation that demonstrates their remarkable musical sympathy, and is, perhaps, the best reason to add this album to your collection. Players with such a depth of experience in collaborative effort can, and in this instance do, cut to the very essence of jazz. There’s plenty of creative improvisation on the composed tracks as well, of course, and the job of selecting highlights has already been done by the track selection from the four night run. If you haven’t had the good fortune to hear Oregon in peformance, this disc is a fine demonstration of their live skills. If you have seen them, you already know that you want this one.

    Benny green / Russell Malone – Jazz at the Bistro

    Benny green / Russell Malone

    Jazz at the Bistro
    Benny green / Russell Malone
    (Telarc – 2003)
    by Ray Redmond

    Jazz at the Bistro is a live performance release, recorded live over a four-night stand at the St. Louis club. Tracks include Thelonius Monk’s Ask Me Now, Benny Carter’s When Lights Are Low, Cannonball Adderley’s Wabash, Billy Strayhorn’s The Intimacy of the Blues and John Coltrane’s Moment’s Notice/Lazy Bird. These two young jazz lions combine a world of talent and experience to deliver these classic tunes with fresh improvisations and deft performances.

    Produced by Elaine Martone, Jazz at the Bistro also spotlights a pair of original compositions, Green’s Quiet Girl and Malone’s Hand-Told Stories. Although Benny Green and Russell Malone may not look like seasoned jazz veterans, their obvious talents have already earned them many kudos in the jazz arena. Jazz at the Bistro confirms that they have a great deal more to say.

    Billie Holiday – Live at Storyville

    Billie Holiday

    Live at Storyville
    Billie Holiday
    (1201 Music – 1999)
    by Matt Robinson

    Though born in Baltimore, Billie Holiday had strong ties to Massachusetts throughout her career. Her final performance, in fact, took place in Lowell, cradle of the industrial revolution. Long before that tragic set, however, Holiday recorded a series of shows at George Wein’s legendary Boston club Storyville. Though separated by two years, these discreet recordings capture “Lady Day” in prime emotive voice. From the first of Carl Drunkard’s watery piano drops which open “I Cover The Waterfront” to Sten Getz’s peppy sax supports in the abbreviated closer “You’re Driving Me Crazy,” Holiday evokes a wide palette of feels and feelings. “Ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do” depicts an eerily realistic abusive relationship with disturbingly defiant laissez faire.

    Gershwin’s true classic “I Love You, Porgy,” on the other hand, places Holiday in the position of a lover afraid of losing the one man who treats her right. Along the way, Holiday also cries, creaks and slurs her way through such signatures as “I Only Have Eyes For You,” Johnny Mercer’s “Too Marvelous For Words” and her self-penned “Billie’s Blues.” Despite 24-bit remastering, the recordings retain the production value of their original platters. Even so, the CD is a pleasant and historic record.

    ©2002, M. S. Robinson, ARR

    John Lee Hooker – Live at Newport

    John Lee HookerJohn Lee Hooker
    Live at Newport

    (Vanguard – 1960/63-2002)
    by John Barrett

    For its short lifespan, the ’60s folk revival accomplished a lot. Besides making stars of Dylan and Joan Baez, the boom revived the careers of many old-times, including a spate of bluesmen. (In fact, the genre became known as “folk blues” for a short time.) Taking the stage at 1960’s Newport Folk Festival, John Lee Hooker faced maybe the largest audience he’d ever played for … without diluting his sound in the slightest. He starts “Hobo Blues” with the fast-flying notes of an acoustic guitar; they ring loud and sound sad. It is a rich sound, like that of Lightnin’ Hopkins – add to this his mellow voice, cooing one moment and leering the next. Entering softly is the bassist Bill Lee, Spike’s father; his strum subtly follows Hooker’s, walking off like the hobo he describes.

    “Maudie” has a tough, steady walk, a sound of desperation as the voice calls for love. A lot of echo pours from his mike – this one is lonesome, until the applause comes. “Tupelo” begins with a slow crawling figure, augmented by John’s stomping foot … the voice whispers, and the menace grows. He hums, the story rolls on, the low strings buzz, and it slowly fades away. “I can’t forget it … and you won’t either.” I agree – this man is unforgettable.

    The other tracks come from the ’63 Folk Festival; Hooker was now signed to Vee-Jay Records and had switched to electric guitar. “Thank you so much for the sound of your hands ringing in my ears” … and then he starts battin’ a rhythm, similar to “What I’d Say”. Restless and wild, “Stop Now Baby” has a “mean woman” lyric and a worried voice – you won’t want him to stop. “You Make Me Feel So Bad” has the impact of a hammer: one note is struck, Hooker laments in short phrases, and the note returns.

    “Bus Station Blues” has a sweet melody (perhaps his best), a basic “got to ramble” story, and that persistent, haunting rhythm. “Let’s Make It”, with a vamp like “Stop Now Baby”, is a plea for love at its most basic; Lee has a good walking part near the end. “Boom Boom”, first recorded in 1962, marked Hooker’s only entry on the pop chart; this version is loose, with a great churning middle and a wicked leer in his voice. Some unreleased tracks round out the disc, including the vengeful “You’re Gonna Need Another Favor” and another stab at “Boom Boom”. As he says near the end, “We are trying to bring you the message of the blues.” That he does, and how.

    Bob Mintzer Big Band – Live at MCG with Special Guest Kurt Elling

    Live at MCG with Special Guest Kurt EllingLive at MCG
    with Special Guest Kurt Elling

    Bob Mintzer Big Band
    (Telarc – 2004)
    by Paula Edelstein

    Big bands in the 21st Century have taken on a different character than their Swing Era predecessors. Today’s Big Bands still feature the great wind, brass and rhythm sections of that bygone era and most notably a great vocalist fronting the band at very special moments. But many of them stray from the model set by such great bandleaders as The Dorsey Brothers, Goodman, Basie, Ellington, Herman, Kenton, or James. But Tenor saxophonist and bandleader Bob Mintzer taps into the rhythmic vitality of this great genre with a bop-oriented big band and is still keeping the 40’s-type flame alive with LIVE AT MCG. This great collection of standards features special guest vocalist Kurt Elling singing “My Foolish Heart,” “All Is Quiet,” and Herbie Hancock’s “Eye of The Hurricane” in addition to the bop and swing numbers “One O’Clock Jump,” and several originals he’s written.

    Elling’s vocalese on “Eye of The Hurricane,” brings hard bop scatting to a new level and he does it with a great degree of success and innovation. This section is definitely a centerpiece of the recording. Bob Mintzer’s big band charts are not immediately identifiable but for all his virtues, his role as bandleader indicates that he should hold on to these players for years. They bring an excitement to “Gently,” “Timeless” and “Who’s Walkin’ Who” that all lovers of big band music can easily get into. Check it out. You’ll be glad you dig!

    Reprinted with permission of…

    Ivan Lins – Live at MCG

    Jango - DreamtownIvan Lins
    Live at MCG
    by J. Barrett

    In the States, Ivan Lins is better known for his songs than his singing. Ella Fitzgerald got the ball rolling, recording his “Madalena” in 1972. Others followed, including Sarah Vaughan, Terence Blanchard, and George Benson. Lins’ own records began to appear in the U.S. This, his first American live album, is a special event: a youth-jazz benefit, held in Pittsburgh at the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild. Lins loved the cause (he wants a similar center in Brazil) and it shows: this is a tender breeze that charms the crowd and stirs the passions.

    The entrance is grand: an insistent piano leading to thick synthesizer. The drums start pounding, and it builds to an early head. Lins enters, and all is calm: a wistful voice with a bit of urgency. The band joins him on the happy chorus, and I feel like singing along. It gets stronger, Ivan starts scatting, and the big crowd responds. “Thank you” he says, surprised. I’m not.

    The show is centered on slow ballads; on these his voice glows. Marco Brito lays a thick bed of keyboards; with Lins’ piano the decoration on top. It’s a little loud; at times the guitar is felt more than heard. Resting in the center is a male vocal unlike most. On “Comecar de Novo” he is vulnerable and sincere, a voice in doubt. “Love Dance”, from his 1989 album, is the only tune sung in English. With warm keys and a warmer heart, Ivan puts a ton of emotion in the Paul Williams lyrics. “Turn up the quiet – love wants to dance”. It’s a keeper; the crowd agrees. “Anjo de Mim” is the same mood, a tender thought rising among the synthetic strings. He gets quite passionate at the end, saying “Who loves you?” on the powerful chorus. The fadeout is strong, and the applause no less.

    The ballads are his strength, but when it goes up-tempo Lins has fun. The voice gets busy on “E de Deus”; percussion boils as everyone yells out the chorus. The guitar steps forward on “Aquele Abraco”, an aggressive shout with raucous backing. Ivan is never more forceful, and I love it. A medley of Noel Rosa tunes gets a fast pace and a smiling voice. The piano fills are lovely and Jose Carlos Santos tries some Montgomery octaves. And everything stops for the xote, a rhythm that lopes as the guitar rings. The voice is bold, the synth many things: a harmonica here, muted trumpet there. This sucker moves, and so will you. “That’s the xote!” he laughs as the crowd whoops it up.

    And after a break (the gentle “Henrysville”, dedicated to Mancini) the exuberance returns. A long medley begins introducing the band, percussive piano leading to insistent vocal. The strings take off, the big bass resumes. Lins is all over, from tender to intense as the music keeps pushing. He calls; the band responds – next a spot of chanting with enveloping drums. Santos strikes a Morse code guitar and a new tune begins, a swelling strength with mellow group vocals. Now the synth is a French horn, and Ivan goes deeper than normal. The tension builds at the end, and the release is wonderful – a thunder of cymbals, a funky organ vamp, the shout “Thank you, Pittsburgh!”, and applause that never ends. If you can hear one tune from this, make it this one.

    Rating: *** ½. Highlights are dotted throughout: “Love Dance”, “E de Deus”, the torrid romance of “Aparecida”, and many more. The medleys are fun, and you gotta love the xote!

    Songs: Somos Todos Iguis Nesta Noite; Comecar de Novo; E de Deus/Aquele Abracao; Love Dance; Feitio de Oracao; Quem Ri Malhor/Onde Esta a Honestidade; Anjo de Mim; Aparecida; Noturna; E Ouro Em Po (Xote); Henrysville; Menino/Cala a Boca Menino/Attention Please/Lua Soberana.

    Musicians: Ivan Lins (lead vocals, keyboards); Marco Brito (keyboards, vocals); Jose Carlos Santos (guitar, vocals); Dimerval “Bororo” Silva (bass, vocals); Teo Lima (drums, vocals); Jaguaraci Machado (percussion).

    For more info, contact Heads Up Records

    Mel Brown

    Mel Brown

    Live at Jimmky Mak’s

    Mel Brown is one of the most versatile and skilled drummers in the world. With a resume that includes tours with the likes of The Supremes, The Temptations, Diana Ross and Teddy Edwards; recordings with the likes of The Beatles; Marvin Gaye, and Leroy Vinnegar; Brown continues to work 6 nights a week in Portland. Brown leads such diverse bands as a hard?bop sextet on Tuesday nights to live D.J. acid jazz on Wednesdays.

    With the quintet, Mel has made Thursday nights at Jimmy Mak’s one of the most exciting atmospheres in the northwest. The c.d. is over 70 minutes (a typical set on Thursdays) and completely captures the high?octane energy and power that this “motown?hammond B?3” influenced band showcases. Northwest music fans have been waiting for this for a long time.
    PLAYERS Mel Brown-Drums
    Thara Memory-Trumpet
    Renato Caranto-Saxophone
    Dan Faehnley-Guitar
    Louis Pain-Organ

    The Paul Broadnax Quintet – Live at Indian Hill Music

    The Paul Broadnax Quintet – Live at Indian Hill Music The Paul Broadnax Quintet
    Live at Indian Hill Music
    (Broadnax – 2007)
    by Matt Robinson

    Combining the swing savvy of Joe Williams with the gentlemanly demeanor and humor of Bobby Short, Boston’s own Paul Broadnax and his talented tune team use this well-produced and diverse live performance to stretch out in the suburban venue/music center known as Littleton, MA’s Indian Hill Music. From sax man Fred Haas’ “Blues with a Twist” instrumental introduction to Broadnax’s adopted blues declaration “I Had a Dream” (during which he gives both the band and the audience time to laugh and react to his thoughtful storytelling) to an inventively scatted take on the Gershwin’s “Strike Up the Band,” Broadnax and co. make hits old and new their own without losing anything or anyone in the process.

    Though Broadnax is front and center for nearly every tune, he does not neglect his talented teammates. Ellington’s “In a Mellow Tone” emerges from a rhythmic duet with bassist Peter Knontrimas and drummer Les Harris, Jr. to a spare but silky solo by Haas that is subtly supported by Dave Trefethen’s gentle strums. Similarly, Broadnax’s tender reading of Burt Bacharach’s “House is Not a Home” stars with just “a chair” (i.e., his piano bench), but reveals itself in gentle steps that bring the rest of the musicians in just as the lonely lover in the song reaches out to others.

    Not one to keep things “in a mellow tone” however, Broadnax immediately kicks things back into high with a strutting and strafing take on “Roll ‘em Pete” that wishes death on a lost love but then apologizes through a finale of “After You’ve Gone” that, though introduced by Trefethen’s glistening strings, eventually snaps the entire ensemble back together for one last fun and fast run. In the end, Broadnax has deomonstrated not only his own talent and those of his band but also what can be done with any song in the right hands and vocal cords.

    C. 2007 M. S. Robinson ARR

    The Rippingtons – Live Across America

    The Rippingtons
    Live Across America

    (Peak – 2002)
    by Ricky Miller

    Like the venerated rock group Steely Dan, The Rippingtons is not really a band, it’s just Russ Freeman and the company he’s keeping at the time. When it comes to smooth jazz, Rippingtons has put out it’s share of everlasting tracks including Welcome To The St. James Club and the classic She Likes To Watch from Moonlighting, the very first Rippingtons album. On this release there are a selection of tracks recorded on their 1999 ‘Topaz’ and 2000 ‘Life In The Tropics’ tours.

    Because of the dual tours, there are two different versions of the Rippington’s band on this CD. One features Eric Marienthal on sax, while the other showcases the sax talents of Paul Taylor. Either way the music is vivacious and energetic, a great compliment to spring break and summer madness as we swing into the season of outdoor concerts and beach-side bar-b-que’s.

    In my review of Life In The Tropics, I noted that Russ had taken a decidedly Latin bent, a great idea to help keep the band’s sound fresh. This trend is reflected in the inclusion of the burning Latin pieces Avenida Del Mar and South Beach Mambo. They say that practice makes perfect, and it would seem that Russ Freeman’s long-ongoing touring schedule has been just the thing to bring the Rippington’s live performances up to the par set by the studio releases.

    Live Performance Reviews – June 1999 – Jazz Is Dead

    Jazz is Dead
    Live, April 28th, 1999
    Crystal Ballroom, Portland Oregon
    by Bill Simpson

    When this assignment came along I was saying to myself “Oh no, not another takeoff band on the Grateful Dead!” I must, however, report that I was more than just pleasantly surprised at the outcome of this group’s appearance. It is the psychedelic sounds of the Grateful Dead, the Electric Prunes, and Buffalo Springfield that evoke the memories upon entering the Crystal, and this night was amongst the strongest flashbacks I’ve had.

    Some 2000 deadhead and jazz lovers packed into the Ballroom with their funky jeans and tie-died apparel, in preparation for an evening of good time Jazz ‘n’ roll. Although alcohol and smoking was allowed, there were no reported incidents of violence as the crowd bunched together and gyrated as this dynamic group warmed up and started in with the groovy jazzed-up sounds of The Grateful Dead.

    These four remarkable musicians transformed the Crystal Ballroom into a déjà vu experience reminiscent of the old Autzen Stadium performances of the past Dead concerts. T. Lavitz, co-founder of the legendary and six-time Grammy-nominated band Dixie Dregs, brought in some exhilarating chord changes that gripped the soul of all that attended. Veteran drummer Rod Morgenstein, having played with Miles Davis, the Brecker Brothers, John Abercrombi, and the Grateful Dead injected an incredible sense of timing and rhythm. Jimmy Herring ‘s guitar solos were mesmerizing. Bassist Alphonso Johnson has accumulated so many performing, recording, producing, and composing credits during his illustrious career, they read like a “Who’s Who” of jazz. They all lived up to their respective reputations this night.

    For Jazz aficionados and Grateful Deadheads alike the evening slipped away too fast as Jazz is Dead delivered stunning renditions of classic Garcia’s tunes. I highly recommend that their CD title “Blue Light Rain” be included in your collection! Catch them in concert if you can; the incredible magic this group brings to stage is worth every penny and ounce of effort .

    Bebo Valdes and Javier Colina – Live at the Village Vanguard

    Bebo Valdes and Javier Colina
    Live at the Village Vanguard
    Sony Bmg – 2008

    According to the Dictionary of Latin Jazz written by Nat Chediak and edited by Fernando Trueba, Bebo Vald�s was born on 9th October 1918 in Quivic�n (Cuba) and is “the key figure in the golden age of Cuban music”. It is a golden age that has been preserved in time because, on September 30th, on the verge of his 89th birthday, the genial pianist releases the album Live at the Village Vanguard, recorded live in November 2005 at the New York cathedral of jazz, and accompanied by the double bassist Javier Colina. Produced by Nat Chediak and Fernando Trueba, the album is a compendium of the mastery of Bebo Vald�s, of his ability to distill the most essential elements of Cuban music and jazz, with the sole accompaniment of another great, Javier Colina, who according to the pianist is “one of the best bass players I have played with in my entire life, and certainly the most accomplished”.

    On 10th November 2005, the prestigious critic Ben Ratliff wrote a review of the performance at the Village Vanguard for The New York Times: “Bebo, accompanied solely by the bassist Javier Colina, played with an easy grace, as if he were playing for a group of friends. His playing contained an older man’s sense of sleek propriety; he left no chord unresolved, and never hit hard for the sake of hitting hard”. The comments about Javier Colina were no less full of praise: “Javier Colina was the perfect compliment to the music of Bebo Vaid�s” (Ben Ratliff). “Colina showed he is a sensitive accompanist who benefits from the subtle ingenuity of the pianist” (Larry Blumenfeld in Village Voice). The fervour and rapture of the crowd’s reaction make themselves known on the album – extending to singing on some songs – and are worth mentioning because the Village Vanguard is not just any stage. Since its opening in 1935, the mythical venue on Seventh Avenue in New York has attracted all the jazz greats. Amongst many other legends, the following have recorded incredible live albums here: John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, Keith Jarrett, McCoy Tyner, Gerry Mulligan, Stan Getz and Bill Evans, who Bebo Vald�s remembers on this album.

    Live at the Village Vanguard contains 14 songs. From compositions written by Bebo Vald�s (Con poco coca, Ritmando el cha-cha-cha, Bebo’s Blues) to classics by Ernesto Lecuona (Andalucla, Siboney), via ageless boleros or bolero-tinged songs (Sabor a ml, Aquellos ojos verdes, Tres palabras, Rosa mustia, Si te con tara), a composition of Jerome Kern (Yesterdays) and a few popular classics (Bilongo, El manisero), without forgetting such monuments as Waltz for Debby, originally recorded in 1961 by its composer Bill Evans on the same stage at the Village Vanguard Live at the Village Vanguard is the latest album from Bebo Vald�s. It is an album which joins some illustrious company in the form of Bebo Vald�s’s discography of the last few years; albums that have won the pianist a number of awards, the highlights of which were seven Grammy awards for the albums Bebo, Bebo de Cuba, El arte del sabor, La’grimas negras and the DVD Blanco y Negro: Bebo & Cigala en directo; an Ondas Award, four Premios de a M�sica and four Amigo Awards for L�grimas negras; and two Premios de Ia Misica and the Jazz Journalist Award for Bebo de Cuba. It is without doubt an unparalleled record for one of the greatest pianists of our time.

    “The further he got into the set, the greater grew his vision of music, beyond the place and time that formed him”, said Ben Ratliff of Bebo Vald�s’s performance at the Village Vanguard. A concert which is now released on an album which serves as a unique document, a reflection of the purity and serenity which comes with experience and knowledge of playing. Almost a century of wonderful music condensed into one exceptional album.

    Dave Brubeck – Live at the Monterey Jazz Festival 1958-2007 –

    Dave Brubeck
    Live at the Monterey Jazz Festival 1958-2007
    MJF – 2008

    Monterey Jazz Festival Records/Concord Music Group has released a new series of never-before-heard concert performances by jazz icons: Art Blakey, Dave Brubeck, Shirley Horn, Tito Puente, Cal Tjader and classic blues singer Jimmy Witherspoon.

    The new series features the following 6 releases, available on CD and digitally:

    • Art Blakey and the Giants of Jazz – Live at the Monterey 1972 Jazz Festival
    • Dave Brubeck – 50 Years of Dave Brubeck: Live at the Monterey Jazz Festival 1958-2007
    • Shirley Horn – Live atthe 1994 MontereyJazz Festival
    • Tito Puerile & His Orchestra – Live at the 1977 Monterey Jazz Festival
    • Cal Tjader – The Best of Cal Tjader: Live at the Monterey Jazz Festival, 1958-1 980
    • Jimmy Witherspoon featuring Robben Ford – Live at the 1972 Monterey Jazz Festival

    The MJF record label was founded in 2007 in celebration of the 50th anniversary the Monterey Jazz Festival. It made its debut with a remarkable series of historic Live-at-Monterey CDs, rolled out shortly before the September festival, including recordings of legendary artists such as Louis Armstrong & His All Stars (recorded in ’58), Miles Davis Quintet (’63) and Thelonious Monk Quartet (’64), with all proceeds from recordings going to Monterey Jazz Festival-supported jazz education programs.

    “We’re not going to be stuck in a jazz time warp. We’re excited to deliver
    important historical music, as well as assemble special projects and all-star to debut at the festival each year.” – Label general manger Jason Olaine

    Cal Tjader – Live at the Monterey Jazz Festival 1958-1980 –

    Cal Tjader
    Live at the Monterey Jazz Festival 1958-1980
    MJF – 2008

    Monterey Jazz Festival Records/Concord Music Group has released a new series of never-before-heard concert performances by jazz icons: Art Blakey, Dave Brubeck, Shirley Horn, Tito Puente, Cal Tjader and classic blues singer Jimmy Witherspoon.

    The new series features the following 6 releases, available on CD and digitally:

    • Art Blakey and the Giants of Jazz – Live at the Monterey 1972 Jazz Festival
    • Dave Brubeck – 50 Years of Dave Brubeck: Live at the Monterey Jazz Festival 1958-2007
    • Shirley Horn – Live at the 1994 Monterey Jazz Festival
    • Tito Puerile & His Orchestra – Live at the 1977 Monterey Jazz Festival
    • Cal Tjader – The Best of Cal Tjader: Live at the Monterey Jazz Festival, 1958-1 980
    • Jimmy Witherspoon featuring Robben Ford – Live at the 1972 Monterey Jazz Festival

    The MJF record label was founded in 2007 in celebration of the 50th anniversary the Monterey Jazz Festival. It made its debut with a remarkable series of historic Live-at-Monterey CDs, rolled out shortly before the September festival, including recordings of legendary artists such as Louis Armstrong & His All Stars (recorded in ’58), Miles Davis Quintet (’63) and Thelonious Monk Quartet (’64), with all proceeds from recordings going to Monterey Jazz Festival-supported jazz education programs.

    “We’re not going to be stuck in a jazz time warp. We’re excited to deliver
    important historical music, as well as assemble special projects and all-star to debut at the festival each year.” – Label general manger Jason Olaine