Interviews

Pamela York – Lay Down This World

Pamela offers the listener an exciting journey with Lay Down This World: Hymns and Spirituals, a beautiful collection of sacred music which precedes the 20th century. Each melody has been reharmonized and reinvented into a modern context. Whether playing the ancient Celtic melody of “Be Thou My Vision,” Martin Luther’s famous Reformation hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” or the moving spiritual, “Deep River,” Pamela creates an atmosphere that is sometimes reflective, sometimes rousing, but always breathtaking. Using her tradition as a jazz pianist she tackles these traditional songs with imagination and conviction, proving her salt as a skilled arranger who can inventively breathe new life into these timeless traditionals.

While other jazz artists may boast similar accomplishments—a degree from the prestigious Berklee College of Music, being a finalist in the Mary Lou Williams Jazz Piano Competition in 2006 and 2007, or winning the Great American Jazz Piano Competition in Jacksonville, Florida, in 2007—few musicians can craft album statements as complete as Pamela. She accurately describes her style as “one foot in the tradition and one in the future.” As a recent Jazzreview.com interview praised, “While playing tunes made famous by some of the legendary masters, Pamela York makes her own statement without being a pretender.” In Pamela, both newcomers and jazz aficionados will discover an exceptional talent whose future is well worth continuing to watch on her journey of ascent. As she tours throughout the United States and Canada hoping to reach new audiences through her music, Pamela York looks forward to sharing her jazzful heart with you at a live performance and through her latest offering, Lay Down This World: Hymns and Spirituals.

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.”

An Interview with Dave Binney

An Interview with
Dave Binney
by Fred Jung

With so many records being released each year, a small, indie jazz label’s release is not even going to make a ripple. So it’s a noble, often unrewarding task to operate one. I was curious as to why a person would venture into such an uphill battle, and so I asked Dave Binney, a multi-reed virtuoso, who has recently started up Mythology Records (mythologyrecords.com). And he spoke quite candidly about his label, his record, “Free to Dream,” and the state of the music today, all unedited and in his own words.

FJ: Where did it all start?

DB: I grew up in California, in Southern California and played in Ventura and Santa Barbara. When I graduated high school I moved to New York and I’ve been here ever since. I guess I’ve just been pursuing playing interesting music since I’ve been here, either people that I love to play with or music that I love, also and, or my own. That’s pretty much what I’ve been doing. I recently started my own little company to promote music that I like and my own music also.

FJ: Let’s be realistic, Southern California is not really conducive to jazz, how was it you were able to push toward this music?

DB: The only thing that I can ever come up with is that my parents were big jazz fans. They didn’t play but I heard it all of my life. I remember hearing Coltrane and Miles and everybody, including some other people that I loved like Hendrix and all those people that weren’t really jazz musicians. I was exposed to good music all the time and I think it just kind of sunk in and then I somehow got involved in it. What few people were playing it around Ventura and Santa Barbara, I sort of hooked up with and then realized that as soon as I could I needed to get out of there because the scene wasn’t really happening for what I wanted to do, but it was here in New York.

FJ: Must have been rough, moving to New York at such a young age.

<> It definitely was. I think that I had, I had been here as a kid, just to see it, so I knew, sort of, what it was like, I hadn’t spent more than a week here, but my father grew up in the Bronx so I heard about it all my and I had an idea of some things. I came here by myself and I didn’t know one person, so it was definitely a hard time the first couple of years. I was really homesick for a lot of things, and just learning how to deal with people here was different. Everybody on the street where I grew up said “hi” when you walked past them, if you knew them or not. Here, people, sort of, run the other way, or they did. I just learned how to deal with that. It was definitely shellshock, but I like the fact that I’ve had two lives in a way at two opposite ends of the country and two different lifestyles. I think it breeds something that is important in creating music, at least for myself. Knowing two sides of something.

FJ: Does that duality help in your understanding of the continuum?

DB: I don’t know if it’s better, but for me it works because I think that some of my inspiration is still in what I grew up with. It provides inspiration for writing and all of that so I think that it definitely plays a part in what I do still. I know, my friends who were born and raised here, they’re great and creative in their own way but there’s something that they don’t have because they lack the experience of growing up in a different place. I think that I notice in the musicians that are here from California, and there is a hell of a lot of them, they have a little extra thing that I enjoy, that I like, and I understand. I recognize.

FJ: Talk about your studies with Phil Woods and Dave Liebman.

DB: Well, surprisingly enough, I really, I only took a few lessons from Dave Liebman when I first moved here and I only took, I believe it was only one lesson with Phil Woods, but he gave me so much stuff on one sheet of paper and than he said, “If you learn this, you don’t really have to come back. Just learn this and you’ll be fine.” And it was true. He showed me, Phil Woods especially, showed me technically some things that I needed to know, some harmonic things and it was a lot of work. I could, with that one sheet of paper, work on stuff for a year. I really gained a lot, so I didn’t really have to go back. I feel like I studied with him, or at least got more out of one lesson with him than I could have gotten with probably a lot of people in years of study. Liebman was more, just a conceptualist. He talks more about the reasons we play music and everything, the technical aspect of it, which is also something that I realize when I teach I do that. Everybody gets technical information when they study and they rarely get what music should be, the aesthetic of playing music. So I try to provide that when I teach. That’s what Liebman provided for me. So really, I didn’t study for a long time, but I got a lot out of both of them, studying with both of them.

FJ: Continuing with Liebman’s lesson, what is the reason that you play the music?

DB: Well, I don’t know if I can narrow it down that much, but I don’t know if I know. I just know that I really enjoy it. I think the reason that I do certain things within music is clear to me. There’s a reason that I stay clear of doing something that is specifically designed to sell or that sort of thing. I have to be honest about the way I feel about music. Not everybody’s like that and I understand that that’s not, a lot of people are prone to be true to themselves in a way and a lot of other people just play music to make money. It’s just a job for them and they don’t have that deep appreciation for it that a lot of people do, but for me it’s just a passion that I wan to, what I do I want to keep pure in it’s spirit and in it’s purpose. I just try and instill that into students a little bit. If they don’t have that, sometimes it doesn’t last that long for me, because I lose interest in teaching if somebody doesn’t really have that interest in playing music. For me, it’s not about making money or being commercial in any way. I would like to, but I would like to do that doing what I do.

FJ: Does that purity exist anymore in jazz?

DB: The business side of it, I guess it’s sort of an oxymoron. The thing that’s happened in music and this is very clear to me is that there was a time when musicians made the decisions about what happens in music, especially with their music and that day is still there, but it’s not the people that are being recorded for the most part. Now, the business decides what music people are going to play, and that manifests itself by either literally, they’re being told to play a certain kind of thing or they’re influenced to do a certain thing because they want to get a record deal and not starve. Even if they’re not being told, they’re doing something to try to get something sold to Verve or whoever is setting the standard at the time. There’s plenty of people though, at least here that are playing creative music and playing for the love of music. I’m very optimistic. I think it’s sort of winning out anyway. A lot of the people who are gaining in the business are being pretty pure. The big name people that you see on these labels, a lot of the younger guys that are signed really aren’t doing anything and they’re really just about business, but they won’t be around very long. I guess that’s my optimism. I see the people that are lasting a little bit are people that are actually doing something interesting.

FJ: You have a unique perspective on the process because you own and operate a label, you’re a musician, a composer, and a producer, who are some of the artists that are making waves but are not getting their share of the pie?

DB: A lot of the people that I personally know and play with all the time. Scott Colley, I think he’s doing his fourth CD in the last year. He’s doing that in the next couple of weeks. I’m talking mostly players now, because a lot of people aren’t making their own records yet, but Kenny Wollesen, who I play with a lot and Jeff Hirshfield, a lot of people that I play with. There is a lot more that I could say, a lot of other people that are doing it to that I just see, that I don’t even really know. I sat in the other night with Greg Osby down at the Knitting Factory and I think Osby is doing what he really wants to do, and is doing it also on Blue Note, which is sort of unusual. He’s really just playing what he likes to play and that’s really nice to hear. There are plenty of people who are being honest with music.

FJ: How did Mythology Records come about?

DB: I had a record that was recorded for another label. They decided not to release it because they decided not to put out anymore jazz and it just so happened that my record was just about to be released. Then they held it for a long time and I just finally got it back from them and decided that it was an opportunity to start a label. I had this CD and I wanted it to come out. I tried to sell it to some people, you know, people were, “Oh, it’s a great record.” But they didn’t want to put it out. That’s what my first intention was, to try and sell it to, the one person that did want to put it out, eventually went out of business. They didn’t put it out anyway, but most people say, “It’s a great record, but we don’t know what to do with it.” So I figured, it was frustrating. Everybody loves this record, that I played on it. I played it for people that I know. I said, “I’ve got to put it out there myself.” That instigated the whole thing and then we did this “Lan Xang” record. Ed Simon, who is one of my favorite musicians, there’s a guy who is doing what he wants to do on his own. He’s played with Terence Blanchard, but on his own, he’s really doing his own thing. Those are the three records I have so far.

FJ: Has distribution been tough for you?

DB: That’s the hardest thing. Everything else seemed pretty easy because the records were good and so I’ve gotten a lot of press over them, and all good press. That wasn’t really hard. It seems like radio stations are pretty open, at least college radio, and they are pretty open to playing stuff, but the distribution is a whole other thing. Those people really, it’s hard, so I just have minor distribution here. I just have Cadence North Country and I have distribution in Canada. Now I’m just working on Europe, which is a couple things that seem like they may go. It’s really a hard thing to get them into the stores I have to say. I’m trying to get better distribution in the States. Right now, I’m also concentrating on the internet and just even having them on Amazon.com on the internet so that people can get them from anywhere. It’s really the best way to do it right now.

FJ: How have you taken advantage of the internet?

DB: It definitely makes it easier to get known, at least to people that own computers and they’re on the internet, which this country is loaded with them. The rest of the world is catching up. In Europe, where a lot of my records would do really well is still, most of the people don’t have computers, so it’s a little bit harder. It’s definitely helped. It’s hard to get people to order from the internet, I’ve realized. It’s still much better to sell out of the store. I think that’s all changing fast, rapidly and it’s going to even be a faster change in the next coming years because I think it’s an obvious thing. Also, they sell the things cheaper on the internet. Like Amazon.com sells my record for $ 12.98 and in Tower it’s probably sixteen bucks. I think it’s the wave of the future, but right now, it’s sort of hard to sell on there too. I’d really like to get the records into a lot more stores. But there are things in the works that maybe that will be the case soon.

FJ: Let’s talk about “Lan Xang” on Mythology.

DB: Kenny Wollesen is the drummer in that band now. That’s a great band. I really love playing with that band. We came together in Scott Colley’s apartment really. He lived, at that time, right across the street from me and he had a place to play and we would just play every week, maybe sometimes twice a week and we just wrote a lot of music and just played and it sort of became this thing. We decided to do a record on our own and so we just went into the studio and recorded it and then when I started this label, we put it out on the label. Actually, it was the first release on the label. Since then, Jeff has, he left the band for a few different reasons, but everything is totally cool. I played with Jeff last night in my band. Kenny Wollesen is now the drummer in that band. We were out in California last year. It was really great to play in Los Angeles and have a lot of people there, people that really love the music because that’s really open music. Live it’s also a lot different than on the CD, not a lot different, but it’s very open and we get into a lot of stuff spontaneously. It was very well received. It was a good concert. That’s a really fun band. I like that band. I think that band will do well. We’re doing another record in August for another label, Naxos. They get those things out there. Donny McCaslin had a record for them and we just hooked up. We’re going to do that in August, so we’re doing a new record too.

FJ: Does the music that you play typecast you from certain clubs?

DB: If it does, I’m really not aware of it. I haven’t even approached those bigger clubs or anything at this point because I just assumed it’s not going to happen. I assume that mainly because of popularity, not because of the music. If anything is popular it could play anywhere. Bill Frisell is at the Village Vanguard all week, and for years has been playing there, but at one time seeing him at the Knitting Factory when he wasn’t doing much, thinking that he would ever be leading his own band at the Village Vanguard was, I don’t think anybody thought that would be possible, yet now he is. I think it’s just about becoming popular and having clubs want you in there. I don’t know if it’s about categories, which I don’t like either. I noticed categories with being more of a problem with distribution and with record labels than I do with venues to play at. My music, I do a lot of different things and live, I think it’s a lot different than it is on the records. The records at least are pretty accessible, because I think really melodically a lot of the time. I don’t know how avant-garde they would even be considered.

If anything, I’ve noticed a rejection from people that are considered avant-garde of my CD, because it’s more melodic. I don’t think I could play some festivals in Europe where they have featured John Zorn or all those people, if I gave them my CD. They would hear it as being too melodic. Even if they saw me live, I might completely freak out. I play hard a lot of times live. I concentrate, at least on my last couple of records more on the writing aspect of it. That’s important to me. I want people to listen to the record and to make them feel something also. I think it’s a different experience than seeing music live.

FJ: Capturing the energy of a live setting is difficult to translate on record.

DB: I think the live setting, first of all, you’re probably more relaxed because it’s just a gig, whereas in the studio you’re all ready set up to be, not nervous, but the environment is so that there’s nobody watching you and you’re not playing for anybody. You’re worried about a lot of other things, the sound, what’s being recorded, there’s a lot of other things going on in your head that probably get in the way of being able to completely stretch out like you do live, but with that being said, I don’t see that, that can’t be done. I feel like I’ve played well on records where I’ve just been able to blow more. Recording live records is an important thing for jazz. The new Greg Osby record (“Banned in New York”) was recorded at Sweet Basil, where they just did it on a little shitty recorder. they really captured some amazing playing because I don’t think Osby even told the band that he was recording anything.

FJ: Right.

DB: So it comes across to me. I hear that record and I think, “Wow, that’s one of the few records that I’ve heard in a long time that really has that spirit of older jazz, while at the same time still being very fresh. In New York, I hear gigs like that all the time. I played last night with my band. It was completely, it was great. We just got into so much stuff. Every time, and this happens at least once a week, I think, “God, I wish I had that on tape.” There’s some many great things happening, but most of the time it’s not recorded.

FJ: Influences?

DB: Well, definitely all the usual suspects, especially Coltrane. I would say Wayne Shorter was probably my favorite all around guy as far as playing and writing. He encompasses all of that as good as anyone has ever done it. Cannonball Adderley and I have some favorites that are kind of unusual for a lot of people. I went to this Brian Blade gig and Christian McBride was sitting at the piano playing these tunes on an electric piano after the gig, just by himself. I was talking to somebody and I just kept hearing these tunes and I said, “Wow, this is all the stuff that I really loved, that I didn’t think anyone knew about.” So I went over and talked to him, and I had actually never even met him before, but we started talking and I realized he was the only guy that I had ever met that actually had some of the same favorites. Those would be a lot of obscure Bobby Hutcherson stuff. Bobby Hutcherson, I think is just an absolute genius and he made a lot of great records, some that aren’t even in print now and I don’t know if Blue Note has any intention of putting them out again. I also happen to like Bennie Maupin’s solo records a lot. I think he did, his first thing on ECM (“The Jewel in the Lotus”), I though was really interesting and I think I still think of that sound sometimes on my own thing. They used a lot of woodwinds and all that. Herbie Hancock from the ’70s, a lot of stuff from the ’70s, that’s always been put down, like Joe Henderson from the ’70s on Milestone. I think that was, for me, his best period and yet a lot of people think those were his worst records.

FJ: Then they didn’t get a chance to hear his “Porgy and Bess” on Verve.

DB: (Laughing) Yes, exactly. Maybe because he used some electronics or whatever, but I think they were at the height of his playing and I think they’re really great records. I was talking to Christian McBride, who knew all these tunes and could play them on the piano and he knew those records inside out, could even play the solos from anything I was mentioning and I was just thrilled that somebody knew that. I would say those were some of the people that I really enjoyed that are sort of unusual, Bobby Hutcherson, Bennie Maupin, Freddie Hubbard’s ’70s stuff.

FJ: Does that perception come from the fact that the traditionalists refuse to recognize the electronic material with any significance?

DB: Yes, I think with those records especially, those records in the ’70s, that’s almost completely the reason that people think that. There’s some electronics on it. I just go this record that I’ve been looking for, for years, this Joe Henderson record. Well, there’s one they released called “Canyon Lady,” that I’ve really always loved and they finally released that. Then there’s this other one called “Black Miracle” that they released on the box set, but I didn’t have the box set, and it’s like a hundred and sixty dollars, but Chris Potter had it and so I taped that CD from him. I really like it, some of the tune on it, but it has George Duke all over it, who is another guy who I’ve always really, really loved. I know he’s done a lot of stuff in the last few years that isn’t so great. It’s middle of the road, whatever they call it, that easy listening jazz. He’s really a talented guy and he did a lot of great stuff in the ’70s and he plays on that Joe Henderson thing and he plays synthesizer and electric piano. He plays great.

He plays it like, he makes music with it, real music with synth solos, which is very unusual in a way, but I think that’s why the records were panned, and yet it’s a great record. It has a lot of nice tunes on it and some great playing by Joe. Conceptually, I liked it. I liked it. They were sort of strong. They influenced me a lot as a kid. I’ve always had that sound in my head.

FJ: Describe Dave Binney?

DB: I would hope that somebody else might describe me as, like I said, as being honest about what I’m doing. When somebody hears my music or my playing, to know that I mean it and that it’s pure. I’m trying to be honest.

Matt Marshak – This Time Around

Matt MarshakMatt Marshak
This Time Around
(Nuance Music Group – 2004)
by Val Vaccaro

Currently, Long-Island native guitarist, vocalist, composer and producer Matt Marshak is one of the best-kept secrets in smooth jazz and in the music world – but not for long. Matt Marshak was named “Best New Smooth Jazz Artist in New York” when he won the original artist contest conducted by smooth jazz radio station CD101.9 FM and Absolut Vodka last summer. The radio station also interviewed Matt and has aired some of his tunes. Matt Marshak and his band opened for the CD101.9 FM “Guitars & Saxes” concert with Jeff Golub, Peter White, Richard Elliot and Steve Cole at Bryant Park in New York City last July. This June, guitarist Matt Marshak and his band (featuring Chris Marshak on drums, Kenny Harris on bass, and special guest Bill Heller from The Rippingtons on keyboards) was one of the opening acts for headliner Spyro Gyra at the Hilltop Jazz & Blues Fest at the Brookhaven Amphitheater in Long Island.

Matt Marshak’s sophomoric CD This Time Around (released in March) is outstanding – one of the best, freshest, most exciting and creative smooth jazz CDs from a new artist in many years!! This Time Around includes 14 songs that include mainly instrumentals and some vocal tunes featuring upbeat, pop-rock contemporary jazz, funky pop/jazz with background vocals, beautiful smooth jazz ballads, R & B-influenced vocal tunes, and new-age pop songs with sweet scatting.

The production is top-notch and the CD includes many wonderful players: Matt Marshak on electric guitar, acoustic guitar, vocals and scatting; on drums, the multi-talented Chris Marshak; on bass: Bakithi Kumalo (Paul Simon, Chris Botti) and Kenny Harris; on saxophones: David Mann (Chuck Loeb, Wayman Tisdale, Tower of Power), Mario Cruz (Jaco Pastorius) and Mark Gatz; on keyboards and programming: Rob Meeks (Kool and The Gang); also on keys: Dean Kraus and Tim Regusis; on flute: Dwayne Kerr (Erykah Badu); on vocals: Tanya Michelle (lead), Anastasia Rene (lead and background vocals), Arty White on wah-wah guitar (Alicia Keys) and a number of other great musicians.

This Time Around features an enjoyable variety of catchy, memorable original compositions (11 composed by Matt Marshak and 3 are co-written by him), as well as one cover tune. The CD kicks off in high spirits with “Good Evening” – a sure bet for a smooth-jazz radio hit co-produced by Matt Marshak and Robert Meeks. The exuberantly energetic “Good Evening” features Matt’s warm electric guitar tone and some vocals. The song has melodic pop hooks and funky rhythms (programmed by Meeks) that get the audience up and groovin’ to the music, as well as some pretty flute lines by Dwayne Kerr. “Good Evening” has an easy-breezy feel – reminiscent of smooth jazz guitarists such as Chuck Loeb and Joyce Cooling.

On “Tell Me Why” Matt delivers funky rhythms with an urban flair that creatively combine with expansive Wes-Montgomery-inspired chords on electric and rhythm guitar. Robert Meeks co-produced the track with dance-club music production special effects on keyboards, drum loops and bass programming. “Autumn Breeze” is another pretty, funky, soulful track with vocals in the chorus by Matt and features some unusual melodic twists. Matt plays lead guitar and rhythm acoustic guitar riffs that drive the tune, and is backed by Bakithi Kumalo on bass, with drum loops by Robert Meeks.There’s also the sole cover tune, Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight” adeptly produced by David Mann who plays saxophones, keys and did the drum and bass programming. “Wonderful Tonight” is a moving version, with sweet notes that bend and float in the air, an intensified bridge, and upbeat, funky guitar/saxophone interplay.

Several uptempo tracks on This Time Around also have the potential to be popular smooth jazz radio hits and are great fun at concerts. “Shake It Again” was produced and co-written with guitarist/composer Carl Burnett (who has worked with artists such as Larry Carlton, Boney James and Paul Brown). “Shake It Again” is a catchy, upbeat tune with latin-influenced keyboards, and exciting guitar and tenor saxophone lines. “I Will Be With You” and “New Kid,” are accompanied by finger-tapping, hand-clapping, danceable grooves. “I Will Be With You” has upbeat, memorable guitar and saxophone riffs (with Mario Cruz on tenor sax), with guitar sounds inspired by Larry Carlton and The Crusaders. “New Kid” – a tune co-written by Matt and Danny Powers – has received airplay on CD101.9. The song has a bluesy feel, with extended enthusiastic improvisational lines that feature Matt stretching out on guitar, supported by Tim Regusis on soulful organ and keys, Chris Marshak on drums, Bakithi Kumalo on bass, Mario Cruz on tenor sax and flute, and Fred Walcott on percussion.

“Your Name” is a fun, hard-driving, tune – a blast from the past with a modern twist. Matt is on electric guitar and lead vocals in the chorus. There is a catchy, sexy riff played partly with guitar and saxophone in unison. Mark Gatz is on tenor sax and plays a great, dark and mysterious solo. “Your Name” is driven by an exciting, brassy beat with Chris Marshak on drums, and has Robert Meeks on organ. In contrast, “Quietly” is a beautiful, dreamy, melodic instrumental tune that should also be a popular pick for smooth jazz radio with Matt on electric guitar; the song has gorgeous soprano sax solos from Mario Cruz, and includes Dean Kraus on keyboards and Chris Marshak on drums.

There are also two R & B/pop tunes with lead vocals. “Seduction,” has Matt on lead and rhythm guitars and features Tanya Michelle on vocals with David Mann on a pretty soprano sax solo. “Into Darkness” features Anastasia Rene on lead vocals, and has Matt on guitars, Dean Kraus on keys, Bakithi Kumalo on bass and Chris Marshak on drums. (These two tunes are reminiscent of Jeff Golub’s soulful cover with a female lead vocalist on “If I Ever Lose This Heaven” – the Average White Band tune). “Never Let You Go” is a winning smooth jazz tune with Matt on guitar, background vocals by Anastasia Rene, keyboards by Dean Kraus, Kenny Harris on bass and Rodney Harris on drums.

“Smile” and “Nu Day” have cross-cultural appeal, with Matt fusing flowing electric riffs and pop/new-age/world music acoustic sounds with his own sweet, soulful scatting. “Smile” has a pure, innocent, spiritual kind of quality that will touch the child in every listener’s heart. “Nu Day” is similar in nature, but with a more upbeat tempo that is fresh, uplifting and inspirational. Both tunes have Robert Meeks on keys and Chris Marshak on brushes. “Nu Day” also includes Bakithi Kumalo on bass and Arty White on wah wah guitar. These tunes, along with the R& B-flavored songs featuring female vocalists are an indication that Matt Marshak’s music has the potential to crossover into pop, R&B, and world music realms and have universal appeal (perhaps like artists such as Norah Jones). Matt Marshak’s music deserves to be heard by wider audiences who are likely to become enthusiastic new fans around the world.

Without a doubt, guitarist/vocalist/composer Matt Marshak’s new CD This Time Around is a great find to add to your smooth jazz and pop music collection that will bring you listening pleasure for a long time!

The CD is available at www.CDbaby.com/mattmarshak;
Get music clips and information on www.MattMarshak.com.

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 Kirk Whalum

Talking With
Kirk Whalum
by Mark Ruffin

Kirk Whalum The titles of both of Kirk Whalum’s new albums, Unconditional and The Staff, say a lot about the make up of the 42 year-old musician. The popular saxophonist is currently touring the country in a package with bassist Waymon Tisdale and the group Kombo.

“I bear witness to Jesus and I honor my wife, Ruby, Whalum said by phone after a performance in Indianapolis. “I am very vocal in both those areas.”

Back when he was 12, Whalum met his wife at a Memphis church where his father was assistant pastor. That same year, at that same church, is where he gave his first public performance, appropriately choosing Amazing Grace for his debut.

Religion and the strong love of both family and music have been constants in the life of the exciting horn player. So it should come as no surprise that at the height of his popularity in the secular contemporary jazz world, Whalum is diving headfirst into mixing gospel and jazz.

Whalum wants to reinvigorate the jazz/gospel scene that had it’s momentum stalled in the late 80’s. He thinks there’s a wide untapped market for spiritually influenced jazz.

“Just like in smooth jazz, or anything else, it takes somebody to plan and identify the audience,” he said emphatically, “someone to tap people on the shoulder and say, ‘you like this, don’t you?’

“People would just need to know the music is anointed, that it comes from the heart of God and a person who has Christ living on the inside.

“From a spiritual standpoint, it’s a beautiful thing,” he continued. “I’m talking about inspirational music that’s supposed to touch a person’s heart with the power of the gospel. Jazz is the perfect venue for that.”

An examination into the making of Whalum’s three gospel albums conjures up the cliché that God does indeed work in mysterious ways.

As a player, the be-bop of the 40’s and 50’s, and contemporary players Ronnie Laws and Wilton Felder heavily influenced him, as did the musical gumbo of his Tennessee hometown. Whalum eventually, quite by chance, went to the same college Laws and Felder attended, Texas Southern University.

He became a top session player in Houston before being discovered by the legendary keyboardist, Bob James. His subsequent deal with Columbia records lasted nine years from 1985, and produced five albums.

“When I got kicked to the curb by Columbia in 1996, my wife and I decided that it was a God thing,” he remembered. “We looked at it as a step forward, as opposed to losing a job.”

One of Whalum’s frustrations with Columbia was their inflexibility in allowing him to step outside of the contemporary jazz world. He said the mega-corporation would only let one sax player experiment with crossing boundaries and that was former Columbia executive Branford Marsalis.

“When I finally got out of there, it was like here’s my chance to play what I want, and I wanted to do a live gospel record and I did.”

That was in 1998, when Whalum made The Gospel According To Jazz. Warner Brothers picked up the album, which included performances from George Duke and Paul Jackson Jr., after he signed with them in 1996.

“I made sure that in my Warner contract, that I had the right to do gospel records on the side, and to pursue a gospel direction, with them getting the first right of refusal. But they turned down the second album three times.”

Sales on Whalum’s secular albums soared, with the release For You spending two years in the top ten of the national jazz sales charts, which is where Unconditional is currently sitting. Despite that, the company balked at the sax man’s second gospel album, leaving him with a huge studio bill.

The album, Hymns: In The Garden, became his first all acoustic record, and with his own money, he started a company and put it out himself. The label is called Top Drawer Records, and the name is derived from the scripture that says ‘if I be lifted up, I’ll draw all men onto me.’

“I put that record out basically on the Internet, and out of the trunk. It eventually got nominated for a Grammy,” he said with a beam. “That is God, because his timing is perfect.”

Warner Brothers did eventually come around and will be releasing Hymns: In The Garden later this year. In the meantime, that album and The Staff are available at kirkwhalum.com

“I really enjoy the freedom I have with gospel jazz because basically I can play whatever I want to play,” Whalum said. “There’s no radio guidelines because we’re creating on the fly, so improvisation takes on a whole new meaning.

“It’s like what (John) Coltrane was getting at,” he concluded. “He went deeper and deeper and got more complex. “He was right in that sense. It’s like a scientist studying science that can’t get to the end, because God created it and it’s infinite. The same thing applies with music.”

Eric Person Interview

The Making of Big Sur and More
Talking with Eric Person
by Paula Edelstein

Eric Person and Meta Four have recorded an astounding set played at the 7th Annual Big Sur Jazz Festival in 2002. The scenic venue not only is one of the most beautiful settings on earth but the music emanating from this outstanding ensemble is just as great. So kick back and relax. This is a laid-back set that just takes you there…just in case you weren’t. We caught up with Eric Person as he prepared for his CD release party at the Blue Note in New York and here’s what he had to say…so listen up!

PE: Hi Eric. Good luck with the new release.

EP: Hi Paula, thank you.

PE: What was the most important aspect of playing at the 7th Annual Big Sur Jazz Festival for you? It’s history, the locale, the creative aesthetic, etc?

EP: Big Sur is really such a fascinating place, spiritual and even mystical. When I found out that we would have the opportunity to record both of our performances at the festival, I had a feeling that we were going to make some special music, and with that, a special recording. And I was ready to document this band in LIVE performance, cause to me that’s where the music really happens.

PE: What are some of the technical difficulties associated with recording “live” at a jazz festival as opposed to recording in a studio session?

EP: The studio is a controlled, sterile environment. A LIVE performance is held under a variety of conditions, so it can be hard to control the situation. Unwanted noise, feedback, and improper miking, could have stopped us in our tracks, so to speak. Thank goodness the weather conditions were perfect. We did get good sounds on all of the instruments despite the short setup time. I tried to be Zen about the whole recording experience, so I could be relaxed to make great music.

PE: As a saxophonist, playing outdoors must be quite an experience especially since you must contend with the natural sound effects as well as those you’re making on stage. Does playing in such a natural setting as Big Sur, California create an added dimension with respect to ambience and inspiration or is it just one of those dimensions you’ve grown accustomed to since you’ve played so many outdoor venues?

EP: Playing at Big Sur ranked as one of my most special performances, period! The fresh air, the sun peeking through the trees to warm my horn, a bird call that becomes a fifth instrument, the hills around us. That’s just too special to take for granted, it’s pure inspiration.

PE: Pure joy…Eric, you’re loved around the world and have performed in such great venues as North Sea Jazz in The Netherlands to sets in Portugal. From the USA to Mexico. You’re on the cover of CADENCE magazine, in Ben Harper’s new video, PLEASURE+PAIN our ARTIST OF THE MONTH at Sounds of Timeless Jazz.com. How do you deal with fame?

EP: Oh believe me, I’m far from famous. But I think when people hear this music, they become fans. It’s a challenge for any creative musician to “stay in the game” and produce his music against the odds. I’m building my solo career, one victory at a time, cause I’m in it for the long haul. >

PE: Humility…hmmm! A good thing in my book! How did this particular incarnation of Meta-Four come to be?

EP: This really is a dream band. I feel it’s “pound for pound” my best ensemble. These players really understand the Meta-Four concepts. John Esposito, our pianist has been with the band since 1994, Kenny Davis our bassist, off and on since 1992, and Peter O’Brien on drums since February 2001. Having steady personnel really helps the music grow from gig to gig.

PE: You’ve released the new CD LIVE AT BIG SUR at a CD release party at the Blue Note in NYC. Will you be performing at other Blue Note venues…such as Las Vegas, Japan, Tokyo, etc.?

EP: I can only hope. We are really hyped on this new CD, and the reaction has been great. We have much work to do to get this music heard far and wide, but we believe in what we are doing and it’s fun. It has to be a joy or what’s the point.

PE: Truer words were never spoken. It’s gotta be fun. I understand there’s a little Person in your life experience now! Is there a song on the new CD that relates to him?

EP: Yes! The CD is dedicated to my newborn son, Kadin. And I would say “Special Someone” is also for him.

PE: Very cool. Where can your fans find upcoming concert information and news about your latest recording LIVE AT BIG SUR?

EP: Anyone wanting more info on the CD, me, Meta-Four, performance info and news can go to: www.ericperson.com

PE: Eric, again, thanks for the interview and good luck with the new CD and all future endeavors.


Reprinted with permission of…

An Interview with Patti Austin

Patti AustinA Moment With
Patti Austin
by Mark Ruffin

“It is such an interesting time for anybody making a record who is 18 or part of boy group,” vocalist Patti Austin deadpanned when discussing ageism in the record business.

Surprisingly, Warner Brothers, one of the worst corporate offenders of ageism in jazz and pop music, has released Austin’s new album, “On The Way To Love.” That bucks the trend of artists who’ve gotten the ax from the AOL/Time-Warner subsidiary that reads like an all-star concert, Al Jarreau, George Benson, Frankie Beverly & Maze, Chaka Khan, Prince, Joe Sample, James Ingram and others.

“The dropping of older artists has been happening for a while,” the very loquacious artist said on the subject, “but the first time the dropping happened was not on the age tip, the first dropping was very much on the racist tip.

“I was at a celebrity party about eight years ago, Earth, Wind and Fire was there, Deniece Williams, Chaka Khan, and everybody had been dropped,” Austin continued, backing up her comment. “The ones who weren’t dropped were talking about the ones who’ve been dropped who weren’t there. It was obvious that all the Black artists who had had pop hits were dropped, which was very interesting to all of us.. Everybody was freaked out at that point.”

Austin didn’t break the age barrier because some Warner exec saw the error of their corporate ways. Not hardly. It happened because one major Warner shareholder, Quincy Jones, also happens to be the singer’s godfather.

By the time Austin was born, her father, Gordon Austin, was preparing to change profession from full-time trombone player to professional therapist. He had worked with many big bands in the 30’s and 40’s, including Earl “Fatha” Hines, Fletcher Henderson and Billy Eckstine. He never severed ties with his many musician friends, two of whom served as his daughter’s godparents; Jones and Dinah Washington.

“When my dad passed away, Q hopped right in on godfather shoes and really helped a lot with getting me through that emotionally,” Austin remembered. “Then one thing led to another and he said ‘you should come back to (the Jones/Warner co-op label) Qwest.’ . “He said he was going to step in and make sure the company happen, and I was like ‘yeah, right, you’re going to be sidetracked by some project,’ and, of course, he was.

Jones was disappointed when he proposed that Austin do a big band jazz record and his corporate partners rejected it outright. The legendary producer kept fighting for the singer while Austin and her producer took matters into their own hands and began funding a smooth jazz recording for her.

Other execs at the company got wind of the sessions, which were produced by Paul Brown, who also did recent albums by Al Jarreau, Boney James, Rick Braun and others.

“People at Warners heard the record and they were flipping out,” Austin remembered. “They absolutely loved it and said, ‘we want your ass over here.'”

The 12-track disc is unabashedly pop and funk oriented, and features three compositions co-written by Austin, and one song has James co-starring on saxophone. Her crystal clear voice is never overshadowed by Brown’s lavish production, in fact, Austin considers “On The Way To Love,” her 15th album, her best. Ironically, she attributes that to age.

“That’s what. 50 is for, to give your best” Austin exclaimed. “I know it ain’t for anything else, and that’s the good news for anybody who’s not there yet. By 50, you’ve got some seasoning, you’re marinated and it shows.”

Austin is currently touring with three different groups. She’s alternating between her own group, Lee Ritenour’s “Twist of Marley,” band and a group co-led by James and Braun. In January, she will be premiering her one-woman show, first at the Sacramento Theatre Company and then at L.A.’s famed Mark Taper Theatre.

“I’ve got so much swirling right now,” Austin said. “And the thing is that I’m having fun, and at 50, discovering that I can still grow and that I can still get better, and there’s always more to learn.”

And that big band jazz project, a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, is scheduled for release next year. It won’t be on Warner Brothers.

Jazz loses Zachary Breaux and Tony Williams

Jazz Loses Two Great Artists
By Antoine Marx

Two jazz musicians, who both found themselves in the middle of revolutions within the genre, past away due to cardiac arrest almost within a week of each other. The ironies and similarities abound in both the lives and deaths of master drummer Tony Williams and guitarist Zachary Breaux.

Williams, of course, was the most well known of the two. His heart failed as he was recuperating from a gall bladder operation in a Daly City, California hospital on February 21st. He was 51.

The great drummer was born in Chicago, but grew up in musician rich Boston. But he was able to separate himself from the pack of players. After catching the ear of Beantown sax and flute legend, Sam Rivers, he joined Miles Davis at the ripe old age of 17 in 1963.

Miles was going through one of his many transitions when Williams joined the band along with Ron Carter, Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock That group stayed together for over six years, serving as a historical bridge between Miles’ be-bop and modal periods and the fusion years. Williams anchored the rising storm of the change from acoustic to electric. As the subtitle of Miles’ classic album In A Silent Way-New Directions in Music, suggest, times were a-changing. Williams managed to work with all the space that Miles allowed and created some revolutionary rhythms for jazz’ wild ride in the 70’s.

That Williams was the main drum influence in the 60’s can’t be debated, but history seems to have slighted his contribution to the fusion era. Williams was the first of Davis’ famous sidemen to start a fusion band, Lifetime, which was also the title of his very first solo album on Blue Note years earlier. Lifetime never achieved the fusion success of other Miles’ alumni; Chick Corea’s Return To Forever, Joe Zawinul’s Weather Report, John McLaughlin’s Mahavisnu Orchestra or Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters. But, it is to Williams’ credit, that two Lifetime members, Allan Holdsworth and Alan Pasqua, are among the very few musicians today creating challenging electronic jazz music.

Zachary Breaux didn’t have the jazz role models Williams had. In fact, his Texas hometown is famous because of the one musician from there who did make it big.

“They’ve built shrines to Janis Jopin in Port Arthur,” Breaux told this writer in a 1994 interview. “Before my career is over, I want them to build me a shrine.”

Unfortunately, his rising star was snuffed by his bravery and his huge heart. The guitarist’s heart gave out after trying to save 66 year old Eugenia Poleyeff of Brooklyn, New York from an Atlantic Ocean riptide. He was vacationing with his family on the beaches Miami on the 13th of February when he rushed to aid the woman. While on tour of Italy with vibraphonist Roy Ayers nearly ten years earlier, Breaux did successfully save a man from drowning. This time however both swimmers died. Breaux was 36.

His recording career happened almost by accident.

He was touring England as Ayers guitarist when the group played the famous Ronnie Scott Jazz House. Among the uniqueness of that club is that they have their own recording label. Towards the end of the date, Scott had to convince Breaux to try recording a live record. Using Ayers rhythm section, of drummer Dennis Davis, keyboardist Rex Rideout and bassist Donald Nicks, Breaux got together a few originals and unique modern arrangements of jazz standard.

“I was just doing my thing, man. I had no idea I would get caught up in all these movements.”

It was the revolutionary, albeit quite controversial fragments of early 90’s electric jazz that combined to push Zachary Breaux’ debut album Groovin near the top of Billboard’s jazz charts. Call it crossover within crossover, if you will, but the lovers of acid jazz, smooth jazz, ambient jazz ,steppers and quiet storm music all know who Zachary Breaux is.

The swell started in England where acid jazz began. The preferred track was the remake of Roy Ayers’ Red Black & Green with the vibraphonist joining in. But Where Is The Love was also getting airplay. That is what some visiting American, outside the business, heard and brought it back home to New York City, where he convinced the New York smooth jazz station to play it.

Someone in the business had also heard Breaux in England. This person happened upon Mike Manieri, who was producing a guitar tribute to the Beatles, and convinced him his project needed Breaux. Within days, Manieri, owner of NYC Records, found out that the guitar version of that old Roberta Flack song was the same guy.

He found Breaux, recorded a hip-hop ladened funk version of Elanor Rigby on Come Together, Guitar Tribute To The Beatles, and the guitarists acid jazz status was solidified in the states. Manieiri then licensed the Groovin’ album in the states. Smooth jazz stations everywhere started playing Coming Home Baby in heavy rotation in addition to Where Is The Love. The latter song also attracted steppers as did the track Lagos.

But what caught all observers by surprise was when the eclectic new age bunch dubbed the minimalist rhythms of Breaux version of John Coltrane Impressions ambient. Syndicated shows all over America, that played ambient music such as Frank Forest’s Musical Starstreams played the song with regularity.

Breaux’ follow up album Laidback didn’t do as well as the first, but it did crack the Billboard charts.

The new album Uptown Groove on Ricky Shultz’ resurrected Zebra label was doing phenomenal however at the time of his death. Vaulted by his killer version of Café Reggio’s from the film Shaft, it was number fourteen on the contemporary jazz charts.

That’s the final irony in the dual obituary. Williams also had a new album on a new label owned by another record biz rebel. Wilderness features Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Pat Metheny and an orchestra. The label, Ark 21 is owned by Stewart Copeland, co-founder of The Police and I.R.S. Records.

Zachary Breaux

Partial Discography…

Laidback – (NYC) 1994
Groovin’ – (NYC) 1992

Tony Williams

Partial Discography…

The Story Of Neptune – (Blue Note) 1992
Native Heart – (Blue Note) 1990
Angel Street – (Blue Note) 1989
Civilization – (Blue Note) 1987
Foreign Intrigue – (Blue Note) 1986
The Joy Of Flying – (Columbia) 1979
Million Dollar Legs – (Columbia) 1976
Believe It – (Columbia) 1975
The Old Bum’s Rush – (Polydor) 1972
Ego – (Polydor) 1971
Turn It Over – (Polydor) 1970
Emergency – (Polydor) 1969
Spring – (Blue Note) 1966
Lifetime – (Blue Note) 1965

Phil Woods – A Life In E Flat – DVD

Phil Woods
A Life In E Flat – DVD
JazzedMedia – 2005
Ricky Miller

Phil Woods amazing career has spanned over 50 years, during which he has established himself as one of the leading jazz alto saxophone players in the bebop music idiom. Joined by his “Little Big Band” (Brian Lynch, Bill Charlap, Steve Gilmore and Bill Goodwin) Woods is shown in the studio recording several songs for the CD “This is How I Feel About Quincy”. 

Produced in 2005, this 86 minute includes extensive interviews with the man who tells his story from the beginning in a way that reveals anonther side of his talented personality… the storyteller. Between the storyline and the shots and scenes of Woods at work we are offered an amazing opportunity to see Phil’s incredible artistry up close, the creative process of making a jazz recording at work before our eyes.


BACKGROUND
Phil Woods joined the jazz music scene in New York during the late 1940’s when bebop was gaining popularity as the new direction of American jazz. After graduating from Juilliard Music School Phil quickly gained fame by joining the Birdland All Stars Tour of 1956, and then the Dizzy Gillespie State Department Tour throughout the Middle East. During the late 1950’s Phil worked with jazz luminaries including Quincy Jones and Thelonious Monk. Phil’s partnership with Gene Quill in the late 1950’s established Phil as a major jazz star and led to many exciting recordings during the 1960’s. After moving to Europe in 1968 Phil formed the “European Rhythm Machine” which kept Phil busy during the challenging period for jazz in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Phil returned to the United States in the early 1970’s and had one of the first major “crossover” hits in the popular field by recording the now legendary solo in Billy Joel’s top selling song “Just the Way You Are”. Phil received several Grammy nominations and awards during the 1970’s and formed a 30 year working relationship with Quintet members Bill Goodwin and Steve Gilmore. Phil currently resides in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania and tours the world sharing his gifted interpretations of the Great American Songbook, while continuing to carry the torch of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie in the bebop music idiom.
– Graham Carter, Producer

DVD includes: tunes from the recording session, interviews with the musicians and Phil, and historic photos of Phil’s career.

Bonus material includes: additional interviews with Phil and a Phil Woods CD-ROM Discography (viewable on your computer) courtesy of JAZZ IMPROV MAGAZINE.

TIMES
Documentary 64:24
Additional Interviews 22:17
TOTAL VIEWING TIME 86:41


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.”

An Interview with Avishai Cohen – 2000

Avishai CohenColors: Hearing is Believing
A Talk with Avishai Cohen
by Paula Edelstein

The aesthetic association between sound and color was first rationalized by the philosopher John Locke in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding sometime in the 1600s and the color hearing of Avishai Cohen on his latest Stretch Records release asserts its authenticity. He unites our individualized and special senses in a myriad of listening opportunities on COLORS, his third release for Chick Corea’s label. Avishai Cohen knows how his bass playing fits into today’s musical world and COLORS offers you all the musical styles inherited from his heritage and through his participation in the study and realization of music that fills his soul and yours. In my humble opinion, the young genius possesses perfect pitch and as a result is able to realize the dual sense of sound and color.

Avishai Cohen wrote thirteen songs that put the 30-year old genius at the forefront of his extremely expressive acoustic and electric bass, piano, Fender Rhodes and vocal instruments. He occupies a very important place because of his experimentation with and arrangements of Latin, Middle Eastern, Russian, and Eastern European rhythms that construct his repertoire on COLORS. From romantic songs inspired by Russian composer Rachmaninoff to technical resources utilized from his transcription of Bach’s cello suites, each bass line is a different color. Cohen also presents Latin bass lines, bass lines in a funk/fusion style, electric bass chops and a rhythmic improvisational language that his listeners have come to know and love. The musical opportunities presented on COLORS for his listeners, as well as for his ensemble are priceless.

COLORS is celebrated by Avishai’s sextet that consists of Jason Lindner on piano, Jimmy Greene on tenor and soprano saxophones and flute, Amos Hoffman on guitar and oud, Avi Lebovich and Steve Davis on trombones, and Jeff Ballard on drums and percussion. Guest vocalist, Claudia Acuña, Yagil Baras on acoustic bass, Antonio Sanchez on drums and a string quartet of Fred Sherry on cello, Tom Chin and Jesse Mills on violin, and Kenji Bunch on viola provide excellent accompaniment for Cohen’s compositions. COLORS has a significant place on the concert stage as well as an enduring work for sextet and will become one of the most celebrated works by Avishai Cohen in this century. With that in mind, I talked to Avishai during a recent break while appearing with the great Chick Corea.

JazzUSA: Hello Avishai. Congratulations on your new release COLORS. It ranks very high among your many virtuoso works and is beautifully combined with the emotional expression of the music from your world travels. I found it very visual and it has made an indelible impression on our musical senses.

AC: Thank you very much.

JazzUSA: You’re welcome. It’s great to hear you leading the ensemble featuring Jeff, Jason, Amos, Jimmy, Steve, and Avi. It’s my understanding that you composed most of the tunes for COLORS after an inspiring week at Sweet Basil in Manhattan and while on the road with Chick Corea’s Origin, but actually formed a piano trio to develop most of the music while you were in Israel. That’s an interesting story in itself. Is there something that you can share with our readers about how this piano trio came about?

AC: Yes, except that story is not totally correct, as you understand it! The order of things is… music is always written and developed as the days go by. So it might be with Chick on the road or my band on the road or me being anywhere that I write. But there was a period of time in Israel that I had like a month and a half that I had to be there. I made the choice to, well I played piano and wrote as always, but I called two friends that were there that are actually in New York now…Israeli players that are great players. We tried my tunes in a piano trio format because there was a little place in Jerusalem that accepted us every night. They didn’t pay us, but we ate some soup. A bunch of people came every night and it developed into a …the music lived and transferred and got the people’s energy and that developed this record. I then took, to New York, the written parts to the band, the band that I’ve been working with. We rehearsed. Then we had a week at Sweet Basil. Then we had the recording. Everything was planned so that we would do all this playing before the recording. So one thing led to the other and by the time we recorded it, I had the whole vision of it pretty much and everybody was comfortable to the point where we could make a record like COLORS — which is an exceptional record.

JazzUSA: It certainly is. Thank you Avishai for correcting me. I appreciate it. In your 30th year, you’ve written 13 selections for COLORS, arranged them, provided vocals, played electric and acoustic bass, and piano. You have really ‘stretched’ out on your third release for the Stretch label. It gives new meaning to the quote – “the third time is a charm.” Did you relate the mystical qualities of the number 3 in this release in much the same way that you relate notes to colors?

AC: No, not at all.

JazzUSA: I mean, it’s your 30th year, there are 13 selections, it’s your 3rd release for Stretch!

AC: That’s your vision. I must say that’s beautiful, but I did not think about it that way at all. And it’s even more beautiful because I discovered it like that because if I’d said… “OK 13 …3…and ….” If I’d planned it, it wouldn’t have the “realness” that it has when someone else picks it out of the fact. So that’s cool, but it wasn’t intentional. The “colors” thing too is something that I do feel and live and one of my spectrums and dimensions that I have in my life, but it’s not something that I think about too much. It’s just a creative thought that I wanted to put on paper to make the colors as realistic as they could be in relation to music.

JazzUSA: Chords, rhythms and entire compositions entail a major part of the aesthetic associations and metaphors used on COLORS. Has an aura surrounding any of your compositions ever caused you to leave it out because it may not exude the unity of senses or feelings that you are trying to convey? I mean, do you just tuck those away somewhere for another project?

AC: I’m not really, exactly sure about the question.

JazzUSA: Well I mean, you basically said that you feel certain colors when they emanate from certain chord progressions, and rhythms, such as a G major chord, for instance, appearing as light green or E minor could be dark red and F major would be light blue.

AC: Oh, of course. But that’s after the thought. These thoughts are fun thoughts after the matter…after the deed. After the music is done, which is the magic of whether it speaks to me or not, that’s the first thing. If it speaks to me then I leave it on tape and that’s what I want. Then I can say, “Yes this resembles this.” Or it’s there always but it’s not something that comes before anything concrete like the music itself.

JazzUSA: I am a true believer that color hearing is a purely subjective impression, similar to color perception by sensitive people…I must say that I’m there. “Shay Ke” is great.

AC: Shay Ke is a good friend in New York. He wrote this…I don’t know if you remember DEVOTION, but I had a poem written on the liner notes by a friend and that friend is Shay Ke. He writes a lot of beautiful songs. He wrote this song and I started writing a melody to it. That is the melody to Shay Ke. I just wanted to credit his spirit in the song. And what’s better than to just call the song by his name!

JazzUSA: You compose a lot of songs for the oud to play with the bass and have mentioned several times that Amos Hoffman’s playing has a one-of-a-kind, Funk-Middle Eastern flavor. On “Shay Ke” the section for his solo is framed by a warm, slow vamp, and background vocals from Claudia Acuña. Does the oud have certain COLORS after the fact for you Avishai?

AC: Yeah. Well, what the oud does to the bass is that it creates this “desert-colored yellow brown” line that I see.

JazzUSA: And then of course, your acoustic bass has all the COLORS of the rainbow. (Smiles)

AC: (Smiles)

JazzUSA: The song “Colors” is orchestrated for string quartet, two trombones and soprano saxophone and plays more from a Eastern European vibe or perspective than from the New York vibe of Smalls and Sweet Basil. The addition of the string quartet is new for this release as opposed to your previous two records, ADAMA and DEVOTION.

AC: Not exactly. Listen well to DEVOTION. There is a bigger and more involved string quartet on DEVOTION. But that’s ok. This is the second time I deal with string quartet, which I love. And what’s true about what you’ve said is that it does have an Eastern European vibe to it because for me it comes from the Russian type of melodic sense that I’ve gotten in me through Israeli songs that are taken from Russian melodies. So that’s definitely there. The music is inspired by people like Rachmaninoff and many other Russian composers.

JazzUSA: I must say that “Emotions” is really touching. Your duo with Avi Lebovich on trombone personifying his trombone voice is amazing. Along with your vocals, those of Claudia Acuña and Jimmy Greene’s flute, this song feels really complete. Was there a special time in your life that inspired this creative process? “Emotions” is a powerful statement in itself.

AC: I’ll tell you why. In the Fall of a year and half ago, we were in England doing some stuff with Chick and I was in a hotel. I was involved in the breakup with a woman I’d been with for a long time and I was in those days when the break up was in the head a lot… and in the feelings. And the head…more the head than the feelings. I was in my room and playing the bass and I came up with this bass line and started singing that top melody on it. I mean, I remember taping it with the tape and trying to sing over it…orchestrating a little studio in my room and coming up with a feeling that was very emotional. It was an emotional moment, so I called it “Emotions.”

JazzUSA: Avishai, your 30th year is stellar and the creative works that you’ve shared on Chick Corea’s Origin, Claudia Acuña’s WIND FROM THE SOUTH, Jason Lindner’s PREMONITION, Tim Garland’s MADE BY WALKING, Steve Davis’ PORTRAIT IN SOUND and now with COLORS is absolutely astonishing. Your aural colors are extremely vivid and especially brilliant! Is this your creative renaissance…I mean you’re playing, producing, arranging, composing in so many styles. Latin, Middle Eastern, Eastern European, Russian, American and it’s all masterful. There’s no cut corners, nothing half-done or unfulfilling. Any “down time” or time for master classes or clinics on this year’s schedule?

AC: There are down times in many ways in life. A lot more than people think about people. But when it comes to music for me, you know, any time with music is precious time, but when you’re talking about recorded music that is for the benefit of a lot of listening ears in the world forever, it is a very precious time. And being that music is so important for me…I don’t know. I always want to be in that place where it’s as high as it can be. Hopefully, from what I hear from you and other people that like the music, it’s what’s happening. It delivers a very strong statement. I don’t want for anything less. It’s a very sad reality for me when it’s anything less than a strong statement.

JazzUSA: Oh, that could NEVER be, Avishai. It’s just you and it’s strong as it can be. That’s from the heart.

AC: Thank you very much for that.

JazzUSA: You’re welcome. It’s true. As a master bass player, you’ve mastered many techniques on the acoustic and electric bass. What do you feel are the best exercises for mastering the finger-crossing techniques or two-hand techniques for acoustic bass?

AC: I can’t say that there is one thing that would work for everybody; it’s a personal thing. But I can say that a very important thing to do, for anybody, is to play the scales…from bottom to end, slow and in time and as perfect as possible. Work on the intonation. Work on anything slow and really hear what you’re playing.

JazzUSA: Thank you. What new projects are approaching fulfillment from your great musical mind?

AC: In the last 2 and one half years, I’ve been…little by little, going to little studios in Jerusalem…going with my mom and recording Sephardic Jewish songs that are very deep to me or it seems to a lot of people. The songs include, piano, guitar, bass and percussion that I’ve dealt with some friends and oud with Amos. It became eleven tunes, a half-hour of pretty, pretty songs that we put on a CD and it’s not…it’s just ours. That’s a very precious piece of work that I’ve been working on and I’m very happy with it. It’s very deep music and she sings great.

JazzUSA: I can imagine…something that we would cherish.

AC: Thank you. That’s one of the things. I’m also going to do some composing for a little classical group…for two pieces for some young classical music composers in Israel and that’s going to include my mom also. We’re also doing a trio record with Chick…and he’s kicking my butt with the bass lines!

JazzUSA: I can’t wait to hear those. Of all the songs you’ve written, do you have a favorite?

AC: I really believe in this record, not that I didn’t with all the others. But I really like “Voices,” the last track on COLORS.

JazzUSA: Will you be touring soon and if so, who is in the working group this time?

AC: With my sextet, yes. I’m going to Columbia for a clinic and a concert with my band. That’s not anywhere near anyone that wants to see the concert! But then I’m playing in New York for a week at Sweet Basil from November 7th to November 12th; later at Blues Alley in Washington, D.C and we might have something in Boston too. Hopefully some West Coast dates also.

JazzUSA: We certainly hope so Avishai. Who’s in the working group?

AC: Jimmy, Jason, Jeff, Amos, myself and either Avi Lebovich or Steve Davis.

JazzUSA: That’s great. Thank you so much for this interview Avishai, and again, congratulations on COLORS, your new release on Stretch Records. We wish you tremendous success. It’s great! Love and peace, Avishai.

AC: Thank you, Paula. So long, love and peace.

For tour and related information, keep in touch
with Avishai Cohen at http://www.jazzcorner.com/cohen
and http://www.concordrecords.com/bios/cohen.html
Visit the web site to hear audio samples.

Wayne Shorter – An Interview

Wayne Shorter A Conversation With
Wayne Shorter
by S. H. Watkins, Sr.

JazzUSA: Hi Wayne, how are you?

WS: Ok how you doing?

JazzUSA: Great, and congratulations on the CD ‘Footprints Live‘, I understand this is your first live recording ever?

WS: Yeah… well, the only other live recording I was involved in was when we Wayne Shorterhad Weather Report, that was called 8:30. You know as a group, that was the only other live, marketed album that I was involved with. The only thing that was still floating around was this video of us with Miles, we had tuxedos on. It’s Tony Williams and Herbie and Ron, and I think it was Miles in Sweden, or something. But I don’t know it that was a saleable item, it was just floating around so much it might as well have been for sale.

JazzUSA: I also notice that this is your first recording as a band leader in some years.

WS: Yes

JazzUSA: So why did you take three prominent band leaders with you?

WS: Actually they chose to do this. We refer to ourselves as “The Family”. It’s not “Wayne Shorter this and that” it’s just the family. Like Crazy Eddy used to say in his commercials “for union members and their faaaaamilies.”

JazzUSA: This CD seems to be a throwback to the days of “Real Jazz” we were listening to 10-15 years ago. Now days some of the jazz folks seem to be trying very hard to incorporate the ‘new’ sounds into the music, abandoning the roots, sort of. What do you think of this ‘new sound’?

WS: I think that the spirit of jazz is almost like the real diamond and the Zircon, you take your monocle and you see … “Uh oh, this is trying to pass AS……. I’m trying to stay away from the word fake because I think everything has some value, even if the value is dormant, and the value depends on the human being handling the merchandise or the sound. I would say that modern music in America is sorely needed…. Everything stopped with the modern music. Some people say ‘pure this or pure that’ but I say modern music needs the spirit of jazz, that word jazz means to me ‘no category’, but you know when you hear the real thing in whatever… Copeland, Gershwin, Charlie Parker and all the guys we know, Bud Powell, all the guys… Bill Evans from my state, New Joisey. I surprised some people when I was going to N.Y.U., I said ‘Beethoven, Motzart had the spirit of jazz, even though the word wasn’t born yet.’ They had that jazz spirit, or that going on… Stravinsky had it, certain people all over the place… Mali. That’s not advertised worldwide, wherever that spirit appears.

JazzUSA: What else is coming up?

WS: We’re going to do something May the 20th with the Monk Institute in Washington D.C.. It’s going to be a concert and I don’t know how many people but it’s gonna be Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and people like that. And were going to be playing for the Members of Congress, and Members of the Supreme Court!

JazzUSA: Wow…

WS: Not to get up there and start carrying posters, but it’s actually kind of been spearheaded by the Monk Institute jointly with Orrin Hatch and some of his comrades in government. Orrin Hatch is a songwriter, you know. I met Colin Powell again recently at the State Department and he said to me “Surprisingly, some Republicans DO have rhythm”… (laughing.) So the spirit which the Monk Institute, Tom Carter President and Thelonious Monk, Jr., we’re all together, Herbie, we’re in concert trying to keep this spirit of jazz moving forward, past the Ken Burns thing. (Laughing)

JazzUSA: What’s your opinion of that? Was it beneficial for Jazz?

WS: Yeah, yeah… we ran into Aaron Spelling and some other people at a farewell speech Al Gore was doing in Bel Air. Herbie and I walked into this magnificent house, Aaron Spelling and some other guys zoomed in on us and asked “What do you think about the Ken Burns Thing?” I’m thinking in my head “What about you guys not putting that stuff on TV.” During the conversation, they arrived at the conclusion that the upside was that the Burns thing exposed jazz to generations that thought Jazz was maybe, ‘march music’ (doing a Miles Davis Voice). I know some felicity has been thought of as ‘when it’s simple, you can communicate’ and all that, but life is not simple! I think the complexity of life is a great adventure. With the right attitude toward it you can be like a magnet to the benefits of life.

JazzUSA: We live in a world where N’Sync sells more copies of one CD in a year than all the combined jazz sales, don’t we need to think about targeting the youngsters?

WS: There is hope! We just came back from playing in Minnesota at the Mann theater. There were four groups in town. Wynton Marsalis, and a couple of other groups that were there for spring break, and N’Sync was in town as well. Years ago they would have cancelled some of the jazz groups when a major act hit town, but nothing was cancelled! We went, we played, the place was sold out! They ranged from 15-16 to the 40’s and 50’s and up. Somebody yelled ‘it’s filled to the rafters!

JazzUSA: What do you think people should know about Wayne Shorter?

WS: I think that music, or a song, in a very real sense … a piece of music can never actually be finished. Getting to the thing about beginnings and all that, for instance I hardly ever buy short stories. That’s a marketing thing and life itself…well we use the words ‘beginning’ and ‘end’ to comprehend, to keep our sanity. And in actually the notion that there is a borning and a growth and an expansion and a decay and then a continuation of this borning thing, the notion that space is not only continuous but space can born. Stephen Hawking talked about the fact that the universe moves in time and creates space.

JazzUSA: I recall reading about that in his book “In the Matter of Time and Space”

WS: The other one I have of his is the new one, “Universe in a Nutshell”. It’s a nice big one, large size with a lot of pictures and illustrations, goes right to the meat of the theories.

JazzUSA: Speaking of science, I understand you also have some type of tie to another artistic genre, fantasy comics…

WS: I like science fiction and all that, but I also like biographies and autobiographies. I did create a comic book in 1949, 56 pages, science fiction entitled “other Worlds”. I had two copies made and had one fully laminated. I was about 15 years old at the time.

JazzUSA: Maybe we’ll see that in print some day..

WS: (Laughing……)

JazzUSA: Well congratulations again on your new CD and thanks for the time out.

WS: No problem.

Head’s Up International

Seeing is Believing
multi-media zone #1
Heads Up International, Ltd.

Upon loading this CD, my first thought was that this was going to be another boring promotional multimedia CD. I was almost right..It was promotional, but definitely not boring. In addition to the usual marketing hype, this CD demonstrates a new and exciting medium for delivering music, one which I believe will be taking off in the near future…enhanced CD’s.

So, for those of you that like to keep it simple I present to you the Hype and the Hoopla

The Hype
One of the enticecments (and menu items) associated with this CD is a free gift. But…to get the free gift, you have to enter a password. To get the password, you must first visit the Heads Up website and enter your name, address, etc. into their database, no doubt to become part of their mailing list.

The letter from the C.E.O of Heads Up is a nice touch, but the letter was presented using a scroll box. It would have been a better idea to put a multimedia message from the C.E.O. on this multimedia CD. The scroll box looks like an afterthought in comparison with the richness of the other musical and artistic renderings.

I popped the CD in a PC with no sound card and it sent the hard drive into overdrive! Because the CD is constantly shuffling between the seven song clips, the program kept trying to go to the next song immediately after trying to load the current one which (of course) didn’t play. I guess no one ever expected some dummy to put a multimedia CD into a PC with no sound card, but it happens…

There is also a link to the Heads-Up website and, of course, the ever present on-line catalog.

The Hoopla
With it’s avant-garde design, simple-to-navigate interface and rich, full sound erupting from the multimedia speakers, this enhanced CD sampler is a feast for the eyes and ears. With a single click you can sample new releases from Gerald Veasley, Joe McBride, The Caribbean Jazz Project, Eric “Scortch” Scortia, Roberto Perera, Kenny Blake and Joyce Cooling. And all of the samples are rich and full. You are also given a screen of individual information about the sample that is selected.

This is a nice way to get to hear samples of artists you may never haave heard before. But, more importantly it sets the stage for the next generation of Music CD offerings…enhanced CD’s. With enhanced CD’s you get a CD filled with regular audio music as well as a multimedia track that contains other content like interviews, videos, MIDI files and song lyrics. All on one CD!

In the introduction to this CD sampler, Heads Up commits itself to being in the forefront of the multimedia revolution in the music industry, and promises to come out with enhanced CD offerings from some of it’s artists in the future. If this CD sampler is any indication of things to come, the music consumer will be getting a better product and recording artists will have new avenues of expression available to explore. The consumer wins both ways.

Overall Rating:

For More Information Contact

Heads Up International

13th annual St. Lucia Jazz Festival

St. Lucia jazzBET Jazz Presents the
13th annual St. Lucia Jazz Festival
May 7th -16th, 2004

Kenny ‘Babyface’ Edmonds, Kenny G, Ashanti, Joe, Billy Taylor, James Carter, Maynard Ferguson, Marlena Shaw, Floetry and Others Scheduled to Perform.

BET Jazz, The Jazz Channel and the St. Lucia Tourist Board will present a stellar and diversified lineup for the 13th annual St. Lucia Jazz Festival scheduled for May 7th -16th, 2004. Considered one of the premier music festivals in the Caribbean, St. Lucia Jazz features more than a dozen acts in a variety of venues around the island known as the ‘Helen of the West Indies’ for its natural beauty.

St. Lucia Jazz features multiple shows daily, including acoustical, new age and straight-ahead jazz, soul, fusion and R&B. Unlike other Caribbean music festivals, St. Lucia Jazz features ‘fringe’ events, which are held in a variety of small villages all across the island. The ‘fringe’ activities provide the opportunity for travelers to experience the entire island and its people, as well as the fine music. ‘Fringe’ events take place in small village parks, casual open-air venues, and charming retail complexes.

The confirmed lineup to date for St. Lucia Jazz 2004 includes: R&B artists Kenny ‘Babyface’ Edmonds, Ashanti, and Joe, jazz greats Kenny G, Billy Taylor, James Carter, Maynard Ferguson, Marlena Shaw and newcomer Floetry. Also performing will be Cuban band Charanga Habanera, Blue Mango and The Yellowjackets.

Peter Hilary Modeste, the St. Lucia Tourist Board¹s director of tourism, hopes to take the festival to new heights this year. ‘We now need to look to more mainstream performers as a source of headliners for St. Lucia Jazz fest,’ says Modeste. By booking more internationally known acts, the St. Lucia Tourist Board hopes to broaden its audience and in the process expose St. Lucia to new and more diversified travelers.

For more information and tickets, visit the official St. Lucia Jazz Web site at www.stluciajazz.org, or contact the St. Lucia Tourist Board toll-free (888) 4-ST-LUCIA. Information on St. Lucia is also available online at www.stlucia.org, the official site of the St. Lucia Tourist Board.

About St. Lucia Jazz Since its establishment in 1992, the St. Lucia Jazz Festival has grown in magnitude and stature to become one of the preeminent Jazz Festivals in the world. World-class artists such as R&B legends Smokey Robinson, Gladys Knight, Santana, Patti Labelle and jazz greats Wynton Marsalis, Branford Marsalis, Herbie Hancock, Stanley Jordan, Roy Hargrove and George Benson have all played before an audience of St. Lucian locals and international tourists. For more information about the St. Lucia Jazz Festival, please visit http://www.stluciajazz.org.

BET Jazz: The 24 Hour Jazz Channel, a subsidiary of BET and Viacom, Inc. (NYSE: VIA and VIA.B), is the principle location for the fulfillment of all jazz interests. The network is the first and only 24-hour television programming service dedicated exclusively to jazz music and culture. BET Jazz features many of the finest names in jazz through in-studio performances, festivals, concert coverage, and celebrity interviews. Many of the shows feature original programming as well as historic footage unavailable on any other television network.

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 Dave Holland

An Interview with
Dave Holland
By Fred Jung

4 cornersHaling from England, Dave Holland has become one of the premier bassists of our time. Having worked as the replacement to Ron Carter in Miles Davis’s group (Holland recorded Bitches Brew with Davis), Holland has a liberal pliability to his music and his playing, seemingly able to fit comfortably in any setting. Recording for ECM for almost three decades, Holland releases his eleventh studio recording for the European label entitled Points of View, a quintet session featuring trombonist Robin Eubanks, saxophonist Steve Wilson, vibraphonist Steve Nelson, and drummer Billy Kilson. I had an opportunity to sit down with Holland on one of his few days off to talk about his new release, his life, and his music.

JazzUSA: What drew you to play jazz music?

DH: I came to jazz through popular music. I grew up in the Midlands area of England in a town called Wolverhampton. I started learning music by accompanying things I heard on the radio. I played a little bit of piano, string instruments, ukulele and guitar. I moved to electric bass when I was thirteen and we started a band, myself and a few other musicians, and played bass guitar in that when I was thirteen and turned professional when I was fifteen. During that period, I started listening to all kinds of different music. My ears were opening up. I guess the turning point for me was when I noticed in Downbeat, that Ray Brown was the number one bass player in its poll. I went out and bought a couple Ray Brown records. At the same time, I found a couple of records with the great Leroy Vinnegar on them too, and these four records I took home, and within a week I went out and bought myself an acoustic and started playing it because I was just completely inspired by what I heard. The sound that these gentlemen made and the music that they got out of the instrument. I have been influenced by lots of people, not just bass players. In my teenage years I investigated lots of different players and learned as much as I could from everybody that I came across. Obviously, I listened to some of the innovators on the instrument like Mingus, Jimmy Garrison, Scott LaFaro, Ron Carter with the Miles Davis group, I was listening to them. All these people I listened to as a bass player, but I was helped and influenced by the people I got to work with too. In London, I got to work with Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, and Joe Henderson, and other great players, as well as some great English musicians. I lived in London for four years and moved to the States and joined Miles Davis in 1968 and Miles had a great influence on me in terms of understanding the process of making music and different approaches that can be used to create a musical environment, within which great improvisers can work.

JazzUSA: Tell me about how you met Miles Davis.

DH: I was living in London in 1968 and I had been living there for about four years and working in all kinds of different areas on the music scene in London, particularly a lot of work playing jazz and that was my music of choice and what I found myself getting more and more involved in emotionally and I had planned that year to come to America in the fall probably, buy a ticket and just come to New York. I had met a number of people in New York and they encouraged me to come. In late July of that year, I was working at the Ronnie Scott Club in London and I was in the support band which featured a vocalist and a rhythm trio of piano, bass, drums, and we were the support band for the Bill Evans Trio, with Bill Evans on piano, Jack DeJohnette on drums, and Eddie Gomez on bass. During that engagement, Miles came to London and one night came into the club. I knew he was in the club, but I didn’t think very much of it, except I was honored that he would come to the club and thrilled that he was there, but I didn’t expect him to be listening to me very much. I thought he’d come to see Bill. I just got on with the job and as I was going on for my last set of the night, Philly Joe Jones, the drummer, who was living in London at the time, came up to the bandstand and said, ‘Dave, come over here. I have something to tell you. Miles wants you to join his band.’ Of course, I was quite, well, first of all, incredulous because I thought Philly was pulling my leg. I realized he was serious and so that’s how I got offered the job. I got a call about three weeks later from Miles’s agent saying if I could be in New York in three days and start working with Miles.

JazzUSA: What is your personal assessment of Miles Davis?

DH: I would say that Miles is a person of great focus and courage, who was not afraid to change and develop his music. He was always looking for new ways of expressing himself. He was a great leader in the sense that he led in a way of creating an environment and a vehicle for the musicians that he chose to be in his group to work in. At the same time, leading them in certain directions, and also gave them a lot of freedom to express themselves. So it was a leadership that was something where he enabled people to rise to the best that they could do. He was also very generous as a musician. The band was not about Miles only. It was his group and his concept, but you never had the feeling that he ever played a note that was purely for effect. It always had a musical purpose. He was very direct in his musical statement. He was happy to play his part and then step back and let everybody else in the group have a chance to develop their ideas. It was tremendously inspiring and an opportunity giving concert situation.

JazzUSA: You spoke of how Miles developed and changed his music, is it important at this stage in your career to explore new avenues?

DH: I would say it was important, but it is more just a matter of how I perceive with what I do. I think anybody that’s involved in something in the way that we’re involved with music, it’s a continuing kind of discovery that’s going on for yourself as well, and that process is one of the things that keeps it interesting and inspiring to the musician after many years of doing it. It’s one of the things that I saw with Miles. He always had this enthusiasm and he always had something on his mind, listening to it. It might not be jazz, it could be any kind of music that he heard that was interesting. This kind of openness and interest that he had is what fed his music and what kept it vital and relevant, not just to the music and the history of music, but to himself personally. To me, I don’t think of it as concentrating on just developing it. It just becomes a way of how you approach your music. That each day is a day of discovery. That you try to move a little further along then the day before and develop the ideas that you had worked on and try to move them along. The thing that I remember hearing that sort of stuck with me was Coltrane in an interview once said that he would be happy if he could play one new thing a day, or have a new idea each day, and after a year he would have 365 new ideas, which would really help and develop his music. I think of incremental development, not just large, huge leaps. I don’t think it works that way for most people. Even in Miles’s music, you see the records as they appear. They represent also between the records, a period of development, and having spent some time in the band, and anybody that worked with Miles would probably say the same thing. That every night was a constant picking up from the night before and moving the music along, and as that happens, consequently over time, you have these changes. But, if you sit at home trying to think, ‘Well, my goodness, how can I make change happen in my music?’ You will get swamped by the big picture. It’s really about just investigating, day by day, working on the music, developing it.

JazzUSA: Let’s talk about your new ECM release, Points of View.

DH: I’ll start with Robin Eubanks. Robin and I have probably known each other for the longest time out of all the people in the group. Robin was in a group of mine in 1987, a quintet, and we worked together for a period of time then. We’ve done a few things on and off in the subsequent years and when I put this new group together in the summer of ’97. I wanted to move on from the quartet project that I had done prior to this and I wanted to go back and have the opportunity to write for two horns and develop that aspect of the composition, as well as increase the dialogue and the interaction that happens when you have two horns in a band. Robin is a great player. He has got a wonderful, wonderful sound on the trombone, big and has many different colors that he can draw on. But, he’s also a musician whose battled a wide range of music, from funk to jazz and a lot of other points in between. And he brings also a great tone in composition so we were able to feature one of his songs on the recent album.

Steve Wilson, the alto player, is somebody that I met a few years ago and I had heard him play in a number of situations. We actually recorded an album with Billy Childs, the piano player together. Billy did a very nice album. Steve appeared on it. It’s called a child within. I really love Steve’s sound and his musicianship and his abilities and again, his range. Something I look for in musicians is a broad range of expression, so we can explore a lot of different areas in music. And I think at the root of it all has a lot to do with the jazz traditions, so I’m looking for musicians who have that as a sort of foundation.

Steve Nelson, who was in my last group, great vibraphone player. He has an economist style which is very nice because it keeps the harmonic aspects of the music. He gets a great sound, is a very powerful player, but at the same time very thoughtful and he’s a great thinker in the music. He comes up with some great thoughts and ways to deal with compositions and things which is always interesting. And the instrument itself, the vibraphone, I like very much for its texture and the percussion quality of the vibraphone. The way it can interact in the rhythm section and the sparseness of its harmonic voicing because the limitations of mallets. So you never have a harmonic voicing of more than four notes, so it keeps a very open sounding harmonic basis for the music.

Finally, Billy Kilson, that I met about ten years ago in Boston, in the big band project that I was doing up there. I always loved Billy’s playing. He’s another musician who has a very wide range of sound and dynamics. He always keeps things cooking when he’s playing too, which is great. There’s always motion happening. He keeps moving the music along. I’ve really gotten to love playing with Billy. He’s really fun to play with and a great musical personality.

That’s the kind of band I’m looking for. We now have Chris Potter in the band, who has now taken over for Steve Wilson. Chris is a tenor player, who plays also alto and soprano, so we now have a tenor voice in the group as well, which is giving us some new opportunities.

That’s the group I will be touring with on the West Coast.

JazzUSA: Being of English decent, you have a unique perspective to the music that is being generated outside of the States. Describe to me the difference that you see in the jazz scene domestically and overseas.

DH: I would say the audience itself does not change very much other than some slight cultural variations and how they express themselves at concerts. I think that the fans, the people that love this music, who have truly been moved by this music are very similar wherever you go. The audiences in Japan respond differently than audiences in Italy in terms of the ways of showing their enjoyment. But there is something fundamentally, I feel it is the same. It is one of the reassuring things that you have traveling around. You come to realize that in essence all people have similar emotional ways of expressing and are looking for the same thing, in a sense from our music, which is a sense of being transported into something. Something which takes them on a journey. Something that takes them outside of themselves and to another world. So, I find in a lot of ways those things are similar. Now what is different is the business and the cultural way of relating to it in terms of the institutions. I would say there is more support coming from the governments and municipal authorities in Europe and different places, I think than you find in America. It’s very much competing in the marketplace in America. There’s not as much support, not just in jazz, but for the arts in general coming from public money. And that’s rather unfortunate in many ways because it means that only certain areas of the country get the music. It is not taken to the people. We find ourselves in Italy sometimes in a very small town playing to practically the whole town, old people, young people coming to hear the music and this is sponsored by the town. It’s something they have pride in doing. They feel that they’re doing the community a service, bringing the music there. I would like to see a little bit more of it moving in that direction in America. The other thing I would say is the educational aspect. I think we really need to think about what musical education will be in the country. I think there is a lot of good teachers. I think there are people really trying hard to make the best of what they have to work with. As I heard one musician say, that we talk about it as musical appreciation when you go to school and take music, but you don’t talk about math appreciation or English appreciation. In other words, we need an active music involvement from people, not to necessarily make them into professional musicians, but to have them share in the experience of making music.

JazzUSA: If there were something else you could do to help get the music to the people, what would that contribution be?

DH: I would like to see centers in cities that are created as a meeting place for musicians to get together with their ideas. That would be my sort of idea because I know how much of a difference one place makes in a community where that can happen. Where there’s a place, a safe place where you could go to work out your ideas and share them with other people and to pull the resources. So much comes out of that when that happens. You see in the history of this music, time and time again, when there’s been a place that have focused the musicians and focused the music and that’s when we find these extraordinary things.

JazzUSA: What can audiences expect from Dave Holland in the future?

DH: More work with my group at this point. I have really made a priority of it at this time. It’s something that I am very enthusiastic about this particular group. I want to take whatever opportunities I have to work with it and at the moment we seem to be getting quite a few. We’re going to China right after the tour finishes for four concerts in mainland China, which is a very exciting prospect. We have more touring in the States and in Europe next year. I have a couple of other projects that I’m doing, one is with an Arabic musician from Tunisa and another English musician. We have a trio that recorded a record on ECM. I’m getting ready to leave Wednesday for a ten-day tour of Europe with that group. So that’s a very interesting project for me because it leads me to some other areas of music. They are both fantastic musicians. That’s a very special project that I would like to make some time for.

JazzUSA: Are you interested in doing a world music project or a classical music project?

DH: I’m interested in it as much as there’s a meeting place for it to happen. I’m not so interested in situations where there is a way of forcing these things together. The genres are being put together in a way that neither one really fulfills its promise. On the other hand, at the moment, I am working on a project that will involve a commission that’s been given to Billy Childs to write a piece for bass and chamber orchestra, to celebrate the chamber orchestra. So I’m hoping to do something like that, but that involves Billy’s writing which is very expressional. He has a way of uniting the traditional orchestral setting with an improvisational spirit and setting for a jazz musician to work in. I am very concentrated on doing work with my group. One of things about being a composer/improviser is that you find an interaction happening between your writing and your playing, which is very stimulating. You try to write compositions which will take your playing into certain areas that you try to develop. As you develop those areas, then new ideas come up, which you can then write into new compositions. So there is a symbiotic relationship between those two things which I find very interesting.

JazzUSA: What inspires you?

DH: Humanity, I think most of all, I don’t mean to sound glib, but I think in the grand scale of things, the things that inspire me is the nobleness of the human spirit and nature and the continuity of that. I look for inspiration, obviously from musical sources, but I think as I get older, more and more I see music and life being connected. In the end, as I was told by senior musicians when I was a young musician, music needs to tell a story of some kind. You need to have a story to tell. You need experiences in your life which you can bring forth in the music. That whole process is one that I think most creative artists draw from in the long term.

JazzUSA: What would you like audiences to take away from your music?

DH: I would like them to have fun because I think music is entirely about that. I want their experience to be emotional as well as cerebral. I would like to have music that could be in jazz on many different levels, so that the novice listener could come in and enjoy it, enjoy the melodies and the rhythm. And the more sophisticated and experienced listener, perhaps a musician can enjoy it also for the interest of the workings of the music and the way the language is developed. My example I take inspiration from is for that is Duke Ellington. Duke’s music always had those elements going on simultaneously, complexity and simplicity. And that’s why it reached so many people and moved so many people. So if I could do just a fraction of that, I would be very happy.

Visit the Dave Holland Website

A Word With David Benoit – The Benoit/Freeman Project

David BenoitInside the Benoit/Freeman Project
A Word With David Benoit
by Paula Edelstein

P.E.: Congratulations and best wishes on The Benoit Freeman Project 2 and your signing with Peak Records! You and Russ Freeman have a lot of history together – most notably you’re great friends, you were a charter member of The Rippingtons, and your reunion on the 1994 hit, The Benoit/Freeman Project. Now ten years later, you’re at it again and it seems logical that your debut for Peak would be collaborating with Russ. Was your signing with the label the impetus for this second collaboration?

D.B.: It was just the other way around! (Smiles) Russ approached me and said he wanted to do another Benoit/Freeman Project and he had a budget and was ready to go wanted to do it on his label. I didn’t know much about his label but I knew a lot about Concord, which does their distribution so I was like… “Yeah sure!” I had just completed my contract with GRP records and I was like a “free agent” so I was able to do that. I was talking to several labels at the time that were interested in having me as an artist and Russ made his pitch at the same time so I said… “Well, let’s see how this goes.”

Benoit / Freeman Project 2The Benoit Freeman Project 2 is a beautiful, stylistically diverse recording written primarily by David Benoit and Russ Freeman. These two architects of the smooth jazz genre take a “live” in the studio approach to this great music and the results are creative and captivating. Guest accompaniment from the Nashville String Machine, Vince Gill, David Pack, Chris Botti add further lusture to these brilliant compositions. With a core unit of Benoit on piano, Fender Rhodes and Yamaha Motif 8, Russ Freeman on acoustic, classical and electric guitars, synth and guitar synth, Vinnie Colaiuta and Peter Erskine on drums, Luis Conte on percussion, Dave Carpenter and Byron House on acoustic basses, listeners are in for a real treat on such songs as “Moon Through The Window” “Montecito,” “Club Havana,” and “Waiting For The Stars To Fall.” Although all of the songs have ‘hit’ potential, these songs linger in your mind long after the songs are over because of their diverse musical interests and appeal.

“Our fans had been wanting a follow-up for years, and we finally found some opportune openings in our schedule, which allowed for incredible bursts of energy when we got together to write,” says Freeman. “The idea was to do anything but our typical music. We wrote a lot of songs together from scratch, which added to the organic nature of the sessions. The first BENOIT/FREEMAN PROJECT was very anthemic, with big production values, but here, we’re going deeper and creating a real intimacy,” he adds.

That intimacy, instinct, and introspection is truly an integral part of this great recording. From the sizzling Latinesque feel on “Club Havana” and the straight-ahead segments on “Struttin'” to the classical artistry on “Waiting For The Stars To Fall,” David Benoit and Russ Freeman have proven their great musicianship once more. They have come full circle as a musical team and fortunately for their listeners, they’re together again at the height of their creative powers. We caught up with David Benoit preparing for their upcoming concert tour across the USA.

So I really liked the experience and had a great experience making the record. Then when I had the big meeting at Concord, all the staff was there and that was it. I really felt like that of all the people I had talked to, Peak was motivated and creative. They are kind of what the old GRP Records used to be…they have that kind of artist driven excitement about working with an artist. I’m happy!

P.E.: Fabulous! Dave, this second project has a more laid-back romantic feeling that really sets a mood that you can groove to, explore deeper aspects of the music or just kick back and relax to. David Pack adds a nice vocalese to “Montecito,” while Chris Botti’s sizzling Latin trumpeting on “Club Havana,” and his muted blue funk on “Struttin'” take listeners on another type of musical journey. What was the ambience like in the studio when you were recording “Club Havana?”

D.B.: It was very relaxed. We had Vinnie Colaiuta, Alex Al, Chris Botti, and Luis Conte and recorded it “live.” The approach to this record was “Let’s try to do as much as we can “live” with all the players here so that listeners can experience that “live” feeling.

P.E.: Sort of like actually being in a “Club Havana,” (laughs)…

D.B.: (Laughs) Yes, except we weren’t smoking Cuban cigars!!

P.E.: (Laughs) “Moon Through The Window” is such a beautiful song. Russ’ lyrical answers to your melodic statements are truly romantic. Did you write it at a full moon…or what was the true inspiration for this lovely song?

D.B.: Yes! As a matter of fact, the inspiration came during the time my wife and I were building our dream home! One of the many surprises after it was finished was seeing the moon set right over the ocean. The house has a lot of windows and that picture stuck in my head…the moon glimmering over the ocean. I’d never seen anything like it before…. I’d seen sunsets but never a moon set at about 3:00 in the morning! The first time, it woke me out of bed because the moon was so bright and I had to write a song about it.

P.E.: I can imagine the beauty of it all. In addition to the sizzle of “Club Havana,” the CD takes a different direction with stunning arrangements, classical feelings as well as spontaneous smooth jazz energy on several more songs. You’ve mentioned that writing for strings comes very easy for you and you’ve done a marvelous job with the Nashville String Machine on “Via Nueve,” “Two Survivors,” “Moon Through The Window,” and “Waiting For The Stars To Fall.” Had you worked with the Nashville String Machine previously?

D.B.: Yes, on several occasions. They’re great guys. We recorded the strings in Nashville and overdubbed to the tracks that were done in Los Angeles.

P.E.: Your string orchestration is euphonious in its colorful harmony! Vince Gill does a great job with the symbolism inherent in “Two Survivors.” Do you have any suggestions for novices embarking on a new musical career and how to avoid some of the obstacles that seem to present themselves at the most inopportune moments?

D.B.: Well, there is no way to avoid all of them but the main thing is to stay fresh and try new things. I don’t think it’s a good idea to get stuck in one format especially if that format isn’t popular anymore.

P.E.: Dave, you’ve mastered many musical genres including smooth jazz, straight-ahead jazz recordings, television and film scoring, have written a Broadway musical, classical compositions, and have conducted such eminent orchestras as the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the symphonies of London, Nuremberg, San Francisco, Atlanta, San Antonio, and San Jose! Right now you’re the musical director for the Asia America Symphony in Palos Verdes, California. What genius! With such a vast array of musical styles and genres in your repertoire, is there a favorite at this juncture of your career?

D.B.: Wow, let me think about that. Recently I was conducting Mendelssohn’s Italian (no.4 op. 90) and then later on playing Dave Brubeck.

P.E.: That’s quite a contrast!

D.B.: It’s so funny because sometimes I’ll sit down a play a groove on the piano and just get real funky, and then at other times when conducting the Fourth Movement of Mendelssohn’s Italian and keeping the strings in a mental forte with the brass…. It’s like thinking classical and getting the same kind of emotional high from hearing that incredible music and having a great orchestra play for you, it’s really hard to say … of that which is more comfortable. I’m probably more comfortable in smooth jazz since I’ve been doing that for so long, but with all the other things, I get such a thrill out of it. That is what I like most about my career, the variety of it all!

P.E.: Variety, dedicated genius, possessing music in its purest form, whatever you want to call it, Dave you have it all and we appreciate you! Will there be a tour to support the new CD and if so, where can your fans find the concert schedule?

D.B.: Yes there will be and they can find the concert schedule on my website at http://www.benoit.com. I think it’s also on Russ’ website at http://www.rippingtons.com/tour.shtml.

P.E.: Great! Thank you so much for the interview and here’s wishing you and Russ the best of luck with The Benoit Freeman Project 2! It’s awesome!

D.B.: Thanks Paula.


Reprinted with permission of…

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.

An Interview with Kirk Whalum – Dancing to a Different Drummer

The ‘Unconditional’ Essence of
Kirk Whalum
by Paula Edelstein

The world fell in love with Kirk Whalum when he wailed his trademark saxophone stylings on Whitney Houston’s smash hit, “I Will Always Love You,” and his legions of fans still hold their breath when he picks up his Guardala and takes center stage. The heartfelt UNCONDITIONAL love of Kirk Whalum is the highest ideal for his beloved fans and this Autumn, his young and not so young fans will experience some of his most inspired works. Whalum’s brand new release on Warner Brothers is a collection of ten great songs that present the essence of Kirk Whalum in an UNCONDITIONAL elevation of his musical spirit.

The tenor sax master kicks off his set with a performance of the passionate “Now ‘Til Forever,” followed by a tribute to one of America’s jazz treasures, Grover Washington, Jr. As composer, arranger, saxophonist and producer, Kirk Whalum presents seven original compositions that the Grammy-nominated artist collaborated on with Paul Brown. Combining funk grooves and powerful jazz chops, the duo is the same team that produced the slammin’ hit FOR YOU, the smash success that topped the charts for nearly two years! The genre-spanning compositions include great alto saxophone improvisations from Kirk on “Real Love,” a sax voice Whalum set aside after his GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JAZZ, in addition to his excellent tenor’s emotional range. Whalum is a man that is playing stronger and the listening gets better and better. Great arrangements, superior tonality, and excellent compositional integrity make this one a winner for the comprehensive smooth saxman.

Kirk Whalum is joined by Paul Jackson, Jr. and Tony Maiden on guitar, Luis Conte and Lenny Castro on percussion, Alex Al on bass, new label mate John Stoddart on backing vocals and Wendy Moten on the sizzler, “Real Love.” We were fortunate to attend a session for the press and talked about UNCONDITIONAL with the gifted sax innovator:

JazzUSA: Hello Kirk! Congratulations on your brand new release for Warner Brothers UNCONDITIONAL!

KW: Thank you very much!

JazzUSA: The loving, spiritual and fun sides of your musical relationships all unfold on UNCONDITIONAL, a brilliant collection of original compositions crafted to reveal the feelings and essence of Kirk Whalum. This is certainly a new way to enjoy your masterful work and there’s nearly always a story behind a story! What’s the story behind the story with respect to the period of woodshedding that you did after the smash success FOR YOU? Why you chose to primarily focus on your duties as a writer, producer, and arranger?

KW: For me, it was kind of a step back to the past. When I first got signed as a recording artist, I had already been performing on the local level in Houston, Texas. I’m originally from Memphis, Tennessee but went to Texas Southern University and right away got involved in the music scene. For almost three years I had been performing with my own band and 90% original music…songs that I was writing and arranging. For me, that was my comfort zone. Then, all of a sudden, I was in the recording world where it’s like a different ballgame. So, for me to go back to a record that is centered around my own compositions really is putting back on the hat that just fits so well.

JazzUSA: The very first song just melted me! I mean, opening with “Now ‘Til Forever,” has an immediate emotional impact and really sets the mood for a great program. Did you sequence the UNCONDITIONAL this way so that your listeners could re-discover this side of the Whalum essence first…that is, so that the love and inspired beauty comes shining through from the very first song?

KW: Well thank you! I really have to say for that part of things, I totally take my hat off to Paul Brown, who produced this record. It was primarily his sequencing that seemed to work. He has so many great instincts along these lines that I am just very much grateful for that connection. He and Matt Pierson were the driving forces behind FOR YOU, which for me was an incredible serendipity…as they say, never thinking that it would go to the heights that it did. Now, it’s hard to find yourself rebounding off something that was that successful. But yet, again it’s great to be working with Paul, especially for the reasons that you mentioned…where you know exactly what song to open with and what song to close with and those are instincts that I certainly appreciate from him.

JazzUSA: Your respect for Grover Washington, Jr. is also included on UNCONDITIONAL, through your original composition, “Grover Worked & Underpaid.” For us, it has three very profound elements in it — sometimes sad, mostly magical, but always funky! How did this song come to be written?

KW: Always funky! That was right behind an experience where I played at a tribute to him in Philadelphia alongside Gerald Albright, Najee and some other really fine musicians paying tribute to the master of this particular genre. Definitely when I got home, I was inspired to do something to capture the spirit of that “go-go DC” groove type thing that “Mister Magic” was. By the way, when I was a senior in high school, I competed for the “Mr. Melrose” crown, at Melrose High School in Memphis, Tennessee. I won the contest and the song that I played was “Mr. Magic!” The cute thing is that I went to my son’s talent show, he’s a bass player at the Nashville School of the Arts, and what song did they play…”Mr. Magic!” I thought that was so cute. But definitely, I have elements, at least the essence of “Mister Magic” in that song, “Grover Worked and Underpaid.”

JazzUSA: You’ve also included a great song for saxophonist David Sanborn…”Waltz for David,” and one about your son with “Song For Evan.” This says a lot about your inspirations and how you can take that inspiration to another level of musical personification. Do you have a basic ritual that you go through before sitting down to compose or were these songs just there, “floating on the wind” and came right to you?

KW: Yeah and just grab one out! Well my ritual is simple. I pray and I ask God to give me the kind of songs that will affect people. Songs that speak of Him and not me, you know in a sense that melody is something that really…in the real, deep, corners of this thing called music; it really all comes from Him. It has to be something that He inspires. When I sit down, many times what I start working on right away doesn’t amount to much of anything! But having prayed that prayer, ultimately I get around to something, like some kind of idea will come out the song that I was working on. That idea is its own little seed…kind of like how a seed falls out of a tree, it’s already gone. But that little seed forms its own tree and many times that tree gives birth and overtakes the other tree. That happens to me a lot.

JazzUSA: What a great metaphor Kirk! Even though you’ve included three covers on UNCONDITIONAL, your brand new approach to the influential music of respected contemporary composers, Paul Brown, Shai, Evan Rogers, and Carl Sturken on such hits as “Can’t Stop The Rain,” N’Sync’s hit, “God Must Have Spent A Little More Time on You,” and Macy Gray’s award-winner, “I Try,” is great! Your spiritual side really comes through on “God Must Have Spent A Little More Time On You,” because your saxophone is speaking in a pure, immaculate voice of its own. Did you feel really close to these songs for any particular reason?

KW: Definitely. For me it was a real blessing for me to interpret those melodies. I think of Miles Davis and I think of other artists who take melodies from another world. In other words, jazz is one world and definitely Alanis Morrisette is another world, you know. But there are melodies that can be shared if you interpret them in the right way you can bring a whole different light to them. So “God Must Have Spent A Little More Time” and “I Try” really seemed to work and there is a very commercial side of that. When you play songs that people already know, they appreciate your doing that. They say, “Oh that’s my favorite song. I just appreciate your doing that!” That’s something that works. FOR YOU was just that…us playing songs that people love.

JazzUSA: And we certainly did love that Kirk. It’s still wonderful. The title track, “Unconditional,” is also beautiful, rich and resonant. Your sax voice clearly explores and brings to life the roots of true love…love that is unconditional and from the source that started it all. Would you say this was a direct delivery to your heart also?

KW: Oh, absolutely!

JazzUSA: “Real Love,” is great and is so funky with Wendy Moten’s vocals. Together you express a fun and loving side of this urban sizzler through your melodic lyricism, soulful sounds and emotional power that has become your trademark. In fact, you set your musical senses free on this one. Is there one key that truly affects you more so than any other in order to get that great harmony, melody and rhythm all working just right?

KW: No, actually but given a context, there are keys that work better in a given context. I think this song is in C and I guess this worked for that particular context. Another thing is that I am playing alto on that song and I very seldom play alto saxophone. This is the first CD besides THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JAZZ, where I played any alto at all.

JazzUSA: Well that explains why I heard it in a different key. Kirk, what is your preferred saxophone and do you have a favorite reed that helps to deliver just the right signature sound your fans have come to know and love?

KW: The tenor is my favorite instrument. I play Guardala and Keilwerth saxophones, and play Rico Reeds with Guardala mouthpieces.

JazzUSA: I must say, our online universe comes out of cyberspace from time to time to witness your great shows in person! (Smile) Will you be appearing in concert live anytime soon and if so, where can we see you?

KW: (Laughs) Yes as a matter of fact. On the 23rd we’ll be at the Seattle Center in Seattle, Washington; on September 24th we’ll be playing the San Diego Jazz Festival in San Diego, CA; on September 29th we’ll be at the Hyatt Newporter in Newport Beach, CA; October 6th we’re playing the Millennium Theatre in Robinsonville, Mississippi and on October 22nd, we’ll be appearing at the Catalina Jazz Festival on Catalina Island, CA!

JazzUSA: We can’t wait! Well folks, there you have it. The great Kirk Whalum. Congratulations on your great new release UNCONDITIONAL and we’re looking forward to seeing you in concert. Thank you so much for this interview. Keep in touch.

KW: Thank you Paula. I really appreciate it.

JazzUSA: Our pleasure! Keep in touch with Kirk Whalum’s happenings at http://www.kirkwhalum.com and http://www.wbjazz.com

An Interview with Eric Reed

Eric ReedA Conversation with
Eric Reed

by Fred Jung

If Mulgrew Miller is one of the walk-ons in jazz, Eric Reed is one of the blue chippers. But whereas Miller’s playing is legendary among his peers, Reed has had more than his share of bumps in his road of life. He spoke candidly with me about his shortcomings as a young musician, his development since then, and his outlook on his future, which seems bright indeed. It is a very telling portrait painted by the artist himself of what it takes to be a musician these days, all unedited and in his own words.

FJ: Let’s start from the beginning.

ER: I first started hearing jazz when I was about six years old. I heard three records by Horace Silver, Dave Brubeck, and Ramsey Lewis. And I was immediately bitten by the jazz bug and I knew that that’s what I wanted to play. I moved to Los Angeles from Philadelphia with my family and I gained access to more jazz recordings through a public library and I hooked up with John Clayton and Gerald Wilson, all when I was about sixteen or seventeen years old, fifteen actually, fifteen or sixteen. I had met Wynton around that time as well. So my name was getting put out there quite a bit and that was it. I was on the jazz scene officially.

FJ: At such a young age, did you feel the pressure to exceed people’s expectations?

ER: Oh, no. At that age, being as impetuous and cocky as I was, I thought that’s exactly where I should be. I figured I was ready to tackle it and if anything, I felt those people should be overwhelmed by me (laughing). Again, that’s what being that young is really about. People allow that room for that type of pretentiousness, for a while anyway and then when you hit twenty-five, it’s no longer really all that cool.

FJ: Reality bites then.

ER: Well, it’s time to really prove yourself. And then you do prove yourself and then you get to the point where you no longer have to prove yourself. It’s just a bunch of stages really.

FJ: What stage are you at now?

ER: The stage I am at right now is a very content and very comfortable stage. I’ve gotten past the point that I feel I have to prove anything. I’m very comfortable in terms of the type of environment in which I find myself playing live. I like where my musical conception is going. It’s constantly growing. It’s becoming more and more open everyday. I’m learning new things everyday. I’ve gotten a lot of young musicians around me that keep me in touch with things that are going on in their age group and in their generation, the things that they’re listening to. I’m pretty cool where I am.

FJ: I’m sure that most people have seen you on TV with Wynton, you guys are both big TV stars now, how did you come to meet Wynton and how have you seen your relationship mature over the years?

ER: I first met Wynton when I was about sixteen. I joined his group when I was nineteen. I was there for about three years. I left his group and I joined Freddie Hubbard and I played with Joe Henderson and those were all wonderful experiences for some reason or another. There was always something very, very different and very wonderful about what I was doing at the time. I was always able to find the most positive thing. From playing with Wynton, I really got a good sense of the importance of traveling frequently with a band. It’s very important. It’s very important to be on the road with musicians in order to really try to execute your musical vision. If there is no venue for which you can do this, then it just makes what you do that much harder. You can’t really do it at home in jam sessions. You have to be up there in the thick of it, traveling a lot.

FJ: Is that a necessary learning experience?

ER: Absolutely. I’ve known quite a few musicians who are traveling with bands and they’ve seen some pretty decent fortunes and have been very, very successful traveling with different bands and traveling in different situations. Most musicians that I know are working.

FJ: How long did you work with Joe?

ER: I worked with Joe for a year.

FJ: Joe is a musician who languished in relative obscurity early on in his musical career, but in his latter years he has had great commercial success.

ER: Well, it’s kind of like a bunch of different pieces in a puzzle. Joe Henderson has had the good fortune of getting older. A lot of jazz musicians have not really had that good fortune, but Joe is one of the few that has been fortunate, or is one of, actually, quite a handful of great jazz musicians who have been able to reach the age of fifty. What happens in this industry is either you are too old or you’re too young. If you get caught in that fatal middle age for about ten or fifteen years, then they don’t want to hear about you. But if you’re under 25 or if you’re over fifty, they’re ready to write about you a lot. But you get forty-five and the press doesn’t really pay a whole lot of attention to you. That’s really kind of sad for the industry because that leaves a whole middle period of musicians who have then had to fend for themselves. While all of these musical changes are taking place, they are at the center of the innovation, but again, it’s being overlooked because the press and just whatever, the powers that be or that shouldn’t be rather, are the ones that are dictating what’s going on.

FJ: And you would think that this music is above such petty forms of age discrimination.

ER: I really, honestly, do think that that’s just the way of the world. As far as the star, if the cats under twenty-five, or under thirty, or forty, or whatever, it’s like out with the old and in with the new. And then you hit fifty and the it’s like, “They maybe have twenty years left, maybe, so we better start paying attention to them before they drop dead.”

FJ: How much of an adverse effect do you think that that will have on the music?

ER: That’s always a negative thing because you cancel out a whole mid-section of the music, of the people who are responsible for making change in the music when they were twenty-five and thirty. So that’s only a negative effect. That can only be negative. That can’t be positive.

FJ: I was at the Vanguard for your performance with your large ensemble and one thing I took away from that set was how much your leadership skills have improved on the bandstand.

ER: Oh, thank you very much, Fred.

FJ: But so have your marketing skills, isn’t that essential for an artist in a commercial society to be able to market themselves effectively?

ER: Absolutely. It’s the only way that you can have a career these days. Obviously it wasn’t like that back in 1945, although, Dizzy Gillespie was certainly one of my predecessors when it comes to that whole thing about personality and being on stage and being lively and having accessibility and having appeal and all that kind of stuff. Louis Armstrong was the same way. You have to be, you’ve got to have aspects of an entertainer as well because you are asking a lot to expect people to just sit and listen to a performance for two hours like a lot of musicians have their audiences do and you don’t say anything or you just announce songs and then there’s really no life. I’m not saying that those people are bad for doing that, but all I’m saying is that it wouldn’t hurt to develop those skills as well as being able to stand up behind the trumpet or behind a saxophone and sit down at the piano and play. You look at somebody like Duke Ellington. He was just personality personified and of course I said Dizzy Gillespie and Louis Armstrong and then there was Fats Waller. It’s all about having a look and having a certain type of sophistication and being somewhat verbose on the microphone and really engaging your audience. Let them feel as though you’re glad that they’re there, which I really am. You see, Fred, the thing is, it also has to be genuine. That’s the most important thing. It has to be genuine. You can’t have people think that you are just up there trying to sell records. It has to be genuine and the thing that I can definitely say about me unabashedly is that I’m a genuine person and when I’m on stage, I’m genuinely glad to be there. I am thanking God for every second that I am on stage being able to perform music live and with such wonderful musicians that I had at the Vanguard. I mean, those guys are monsters, every last one of them. I was very fortunate and blessed to have them on the bandstand with me.

FJ: There is a unmistakable loyalty amongst former members of Wynton’s band, Marcus Printup, Wycliffe Gordon, and yourself, where does that devotion to one another stem from?

ER: That comes directly from my family structure. My family is very, very tight. I have a brother and two sisters. One of my sisters has three daughters and another one of my sisters has one daughter. My three nieces, well, two of my nieces also have children. They have their own families and husbands and everything. Every last one of us is very tight. We’re very close. We talk on the phone every other day. We write and visit each other. That’s where I come from. I know Wycliffe comes from that as well. So I think if anything, I was a stoke of luck for Wynton that he could get musicians like that in his band that were already coming from that type of loyalty, that type of code and that type of environment. That didn’t come from being in his band. Marcus Printup, most of us, Victor Goines, all of us have very, very strong ties to our family. We have a sense of loyalty all our own. To see us around town with other people, it’s never even a question of loyalty more than the musicality of each one of these musicians. That’s the most important thing. Wycliffe could be my best friend in the whole wide world but if he couldn’t play worth a damn, he wouldn’t be on my bandstand. That’s basically it. Carl Allen, Carl Allen is not out of the Wynton Marsalis group at all, but we play together a lot. He calls me for his gigs. I call him for my gigs. We’ll play together with other people. There’s quite a few musicians that I’ve gotten this camaraderie with and we’ll just, you’ll see us around town hanging out with each other. That’s just simply how I was brought up.

FJ: Let’s talk about your last two recordings, “Pure Imagination” and “Manhattan Melodies.”

ER: I’m very proud of both of those records, specifically with “Pure Imagination” because what they did was they helped to solidify my place among the piano trios. With “Pure Imagination,” I was able to gain a certain level of exposure to a wider jazz audience and a wider listening audience in general and that’s very important as you’re trying to build a career. That’s what “Pure Imagination” did and then with “Manhattan Melodies,” I think that pretty much just made it definite. It’s like, “OK, this record is letting us know exactly who Eric Reed is and who he has been, actually, all of this time. We’re just paying more attention.” With this “Manhattan Melodies,” it just gives more insight into my writing and my arranging and my playing skills. That’s really what each record is supposed to do. As far as I’m concerned, each record is supposed to document some type of progress in one’s development, if that makes sense.

FJ: And how is Eric Reed progressing so far?

ER: I think I’m progressing nicely. I think there were some moments where there were lulls and I kind of wasted some time simply for reasons of laziness or again, back to the old youthful impetuousness. The more I work with my own group, the more I will strengthen the sound of my identity.

FJ: Give a recap of your trio.

ER: Barak Mori is my bass player and my drummer is Rodney Green. I’ve worked with Rodney a year and a half and with Barak, over a year, no wait, has it been a whole year? No, it hasn’t been a whole year.

FJ: Do you feel you three are jelling together well?

ER: Oh, absolutely. The difference is they like playing with each other and I like playing with them. This is definitely the best combination that I’ve had, ever.

FJ: Are you going to record them?

ER: Absolutely, they’re going to be on the next record for sure.

FJ: You are one of the best interpreters of the music of Gershwin and Rodgers and Hammerstein, what is it about their melodies that lends itself to your playing and approach?

ER: Well, first of all, thank you for saying that, Fred. I appreciate that. That’s a real honor. I think the thing with Rodgers and Hammerstein and Gershwin and Cole Porter, they come from that whole tin-pan alley school and that style of writing, even though they were all uniquely individual, there is still a spirit of tin-pan alley. That whole style of writing is very attractive and it’s very appealing. It makes my job of arranging easier, but it also teaches me about writing in the process. When you take something like “Love for Sale” (playing the intro to “Love for Sale” on the piano), that’s just one section and that was like, just that little progression that I played by Cole Porter, that’s like, it’s just a stroke of genius. He didn’t voice those chords that way, but they leave themselves open for a great deal of interpretation. As the music progressed and time moved on, so did harmony. From them taking the basic chords of Cole Porter’s music, if you use your imagination, then anything can happen. What I can do is I can make up my own arrangement or even my own song based on a small portion of the progression that I just played. You can listen to somebody like Art Tatum and he would do something like this (playing the intro to “Love for Sale” on the piano, this time with a Tatum twist). Again, the possibilities are endless. They’re really endless. So that gives me a great deal more to go on then even some jazz compositions. Jazz compositions are self-contained. It’s already jazz to begin with, but these pop songs, they’re pop songs. And they were never meant, at least I don’t think, they were really never meant to be interpreted by jazz musicians. From what I understand, I read somewhere that Jerome Kerns hated jazz and he hated jazz interpretations of his music. I’m sure, even Ahmad Jamal told me, he said that, nowhere in the back of these composers minds was it ever possible that jazz musicians would do what they did with it. He said it really went beyond the composer’s wildest dreams.

FJ: How’s your writing chops?

ER: It’s coming along just fine. I’ve always, always worked on that. I’ve become more involved with this whole electronics things, with keyboards, and MIDI, and computers and all that kind of stuff. Now, it’s easier because I’m able to hear all of these voices without the luxury of a band, without the luxury of having horn player sitting in my living room because you don’t always have that luxury. Even being on the road, I can’t just say, “Well guys, let’s have a quick rehearsal because I want to try out some new music.” I can’t do that, but if I’ve got a keyboard or some type of thing that produces sound, some type of tone generator, then I can hear all the voices. It’s hard to play most things on the piano. It’s hard to play that stuff that you heard at the Vanguard, stuff that’s real fast, it’s impossible to play all four of those parts from the horns on the keyboard. I can get the keyboard to play it back for me at whatever tempo I choose. It’s really great. It’s really just supposed to be an assistance tool. It’s not supposed to replace actual music. That’s what I use it for anyway. It’s really just to help me out in terms of trying to hear things. I can hear things in my head, but it’s a lot easier to hear it actually being put out.

FJ: What is essential for something to be swinging?

ER: It’s got to feel good. It’s got to feel good. If your music doesn’t make people feel good, and they don’t really have that type of connection to it, you see, Fred, people have to connect to music because their only appreciation for it is something aesthetic and that’s basically the appreciation of the beauty in art. That’s where people come in, people who are not musicians I’m saying. They have to have some kind of connection that is indirectly related to their world or their environment or something that they’ve experienced. If you are playing something that’s super-cerebral or super-intellectual, then you know, how do you really expect people to enjoy it. I’m not saying that they can’t, but more often then not, they won’t. I know what works for me. There is no formula. There is no correct or incorrect answer, but when I see people clapping their hands, bobbing their heads, or patting their feet, then I know that I’m doing something right. If they are not doing that, then I’m getting a little nervous. I’m wondering if I’m playing in a cemetery or what? Am I at a funeral and nobody told me?

FJ: And the future?

ER: I’m pretty much moving beyond just trios. I’m really starting to develop my writing for more pieces.

An Interview with Miriam Makeba

Miriam Makeba A Conversation With
Miriam Makeba
by Struan Douglas

This month one of the great women, songstresses and mothers of Africa – Miriam Makeba releases her first album in many years – Homelands.

Like a snake evoking the passion of the ancestors, like a spiritual guru possessed with the beauty of her own voice – the launch begins with the dramatic and rhythmical breathing ‘ha ha haa – shhh ha’ – those subtle sounds that portray such a vivid expression to the depth and meaning of African culture, those wild sounds that represent the anger and beauty of Mama Africa in the seventies.

HomelandBut, time has moved on and so too has Miriam. Where Homelands may have lost that raw and emotive imagery, or that fresh African articulation, it has gained a universal sound – a sound that Miriam through a life of change learning and experience has incorporated, and a sound that may appeal to a far greater audience.

“You find a strand of love in this album – love for ones country in Masekane, love for ones country in Homeland – how I miss my home how happy I am to be back,” she sings. “Love for ones continent for the song Africa is where it lies, love for ones great grandson in the song Lindelani and in the song In Time – I feel like I am talking about myself. “In time you get older, in time you get married, I never once change my mind about the things I wanted in my life. I’ve been through changes like everybody else – my heart has been broken, but now the light shines on, the wounded heart will heal in time – god always answers ones prayer no matter how hard you will fall,” she sings in a beautifully sincere and quietly expressive tone. A tone that takes her mind rushing back into the nostalgia of a life lived fast, free and courageously – a life that suffered all the frustrations and heartbreaks and took on much responsibility, importance and influence in raising awareness for what was essentially right.

Miriam Makeba In 1958 Miriam contributed two songs to the anti-apartheid film ‘Come Back Africa’. Later that decade she travelled abroad with the famous and fabulous King Kong opera and then to the awards ceremony at the Venice film festival. When she arrived at the airport to come back home, her citizenship had been revoked, and she had become an exile.

What was a major disappointment and inconvenience quickly turned into the formative years of her career – as she landed amongst many amazing and influential people. In ’62 she performed at JFK’s birthday on the same bill as Marilyn Monroe, in ’65 she won a Grammy Award for ‘An evening with Harry Belafonte’ and in ’67 Pata Pata became a top 10 world-wide hit.

Yet, throughout this blossoming fame and fortune – it wasn’t who Miriam Makeba was – as she writes in her autobiography – “my life, my career, every song I sing and every appearance I make, are bound up with my people.”

In ’63 she approached the UN suggesting they impose heavy sanctions on Pretoria, she approached them again in ’70 and again in the eighties but to no immediate avail, instead her records were heavily banned in South Africa. And as a result the music developed a strong symbolism and through underground means like Radio Freedom and record sales they found a strong audience. Caught listening to this or caught listening to any such music was a jail sentence and hence even more people were united in the struggle merely through listening to these records.

Miriam Makeba After her marriage to American Black Panther Stokey Carmichael in the mid-sixties, America presented a very racist side too – so they left and went to Guinea where Miriam enjoyed honouree citizenship from president Sekou Toure, and continued a very active life of performing all over the world.

“There was one leader that told me – you should never refuse to go any where in Africa because when you sing your song, you sing to people all people and maybe you can change a lot of peoples way of thinking – just by your song. When you are invited, go and sing. So I have been to many many different countries – in fact there are only six countries I have never been to.”

She left Guinea in ’86 after the death of her daughter. That same year she was awarded the Dag Hammarskild peace prize and the following year participated in the controversial Graceland Tour and published her autobiography – Makeba: My Story. Then in 1991 after 31 years abroad she, with the other exiles, returned.

“I had mixed feelings – I was happy I was sad, I didn’t know what to expect. I usually sleep on the plane but I never slept – I was scared – it was a long time. But, as soon as I got out of the airport and saw all of the people who were there, all the artists and my family – I felt quite at home. I just jumped into the rhythm right there. It was like I never left.”

“I always say I was away physically but mentally and otherwise I have always been home. I never forgot the languages – I could just still picture home the whole time.”

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Paul Taylor Interview

Paul TaylorA Word With
Paul Taylor
by Paula Edelstein

I first heard Paul Taylor play at the Old Pasadena Jazz Festival some years ago on a hot summer day when his debut for Peak Records was ruling the charts. He played a very smooth set and had the audience in the palm of his hands. At first glance, Paul Taylor seemed rather shy and unassuming, not nearly the image you’d have of a chart-topping smooth sax star! But when he started playing his soprano and alto saxophones, that image soon disappeared. Today, after clearly establishing himself as a force to be reckoned because of his latest contemporary hit titled STEPPIN’ OUT, Paul Taylor is still putting his instrumental and composing skills to good use in a major way. This is one smooth saxman. With 10 new songs that just take you there such as “On The Move,” “Steppin’ Out” “Night Rider,” and “Enchanted Garden” to name a few, Paul Taylor, Rex Rideout and Barry Eastmond have definitely pulled off one great set.

Born in Denver, Paul Taylor was first given major recognition when Keiko Matsui asked him to join her band. After 2 years with them, he “stepped out” out as a leader and hasn’t looked back since. The sexy star plays soprano and alto saxophones, writes, arranges and if you put it out in the world properly, makes people very happy! We spoke to Paul about STEPPIN’ OUT and some of his other interests and here’s what he had to say!

P.E.: Hi Paul, what a great way to speak to your fans…through the most universal of all languages – music! How did you develop an interest in the saxophone and why did you choose the soprano and alto saxophones to express your musical thoughts?

Paul: It goes back a long way. I got into music a long time ago when I was 7. My parents got me and my younger brother into music just to kind of keep us off the street and out of trouble. That turned into marching bands, concert bands in junior high school and high school – garage bands and that kinda got me into jazz.

P.E.: On STEPPIN’ OUT you’ve teamed up with Rex Rideout and Barry Eastmond to give your listeners one very smooth set. Can you share a few of the highlights from the studio sessions with your readers?

Paul: Wow! When I worked with Rex Rideout, we were in Los Angeles and Barry Eastmond was in New York so I did a bi-coastal thing for a second there and that was cool. But when I was in L.A., one of the top moments for me was working with Luis Conte. He’s a really great guy, great to hang out with…just a really great guy. So I would say that was one of the better moments for me. When I was in New York, I worked with Barry Eastmond. He has this great backyard with deer, swans and stuff…ground hogs! That was really cool.

P.E.: Sounds like a great ambience. You know that many of your fans didn’t realize that you had worked as a very successful sideman with The Rippingtons and others before being ‘discovered’ by Keiko Matsui at the Catalina Jazz Festival. Do you have any plans for a reunion with either of them?

Paul: Well it’s been about six months since I played with The Rippingtons but it’s been a little longer since playing with Keiko. We get together every now and then so it kind of takes care of itself. I definitely would like to do a song with her in the studio.

P.E.: You are both artistically sincere and commercially viable …and that’s definitely a duality that is uncommon among some musicians. How much of your artistic integrity do you attribute to your training and mentorship?

Paul: I’d say a lot of it. Because I just like to do the stuff I like to feel. If it sounds good to me and I’m digging it, hopefully it will sound good to someone else.

P.E.: For you, who are some of the important voices in contemporary jazz?

Paul: When I was first getting started it was Grover Washington, Jr., Ronnie Laws, David Sanborn. Later it was Michael Brecker, John Coltrane. Nowadays, it’s Seal. I just like the vibe.

P.E.: Do you plan to collaborate with other artists outside the smooth style of jazz such as straight-ahead jazz legends, jazzbeat poets, jazz choreographers, etc?

Paul: You know, it never crossed my mind but something like that would be great.

P.E.: After months of being on the road, what are some of your other interests that allow you to just get away from it all?

Paul: Just creating a nice little comfort zone at home, kicking back and relaxing. Making it comfortable with my wife of 15 years. She’s the stable side of the relationship. In the early days, she kinda pulled me along and so now it’s nice to be able to give back to her.

P.E.: Have you returned to Denver since breaking outside its boundaries as a smooth sax star? Is there a contemporary jazz scene in Denver?

Paul: Oh yes, almost every year. I get to spend a couple of days at home in Denver. They have a couple of smooth jazz stations there so there is somewhat of a scene.

P.E.: Can you share any sneak previews about what’s next for Paul Taylor?

Paul: My labelmate Cassandra Reed is guesting on my West Coast dates, and now we have a few more dates around the USA.

P.E.: That’s great for both of you. Thanks so much for the interview and once again, congratulations on STEPPIN’OUT! Keep in touch with Paul Taylor at www.paultaylorsax.com.


Reprinted with permission of…

David Liebman – The Elements: Water

The Elements: WaterDavid Liebman
The Elements: Water
by J. Barrett

It’s an old idea with new ambition. In 1973, Joe Henderson made an album called THE ELEMENTS. With a varied palette and impressive density, Henderson took 40 minutes to paint the sounds of earth, air, fire, and water. A quarter century later, Dave Liebman has the same idea, only his story is told in 4 CDs! This is the first in this long-term endeavor, showing water in all its faces (“Storm Surge”, “Reflecting Pool”, “Baptismal Font”), with detail Henderson didn’t have time to explore. And the sound is different: Liebman’s group is a quartet, with Pat Metheny bringing variety on his many guitars. The sound crashes, boils, and flies, but it also flows – and this is very fitting for what Liebman calls “The Giver of Life.”

The whole suite is based on the opening theme, stated by Metheny. It’s a simple ascending line, with gentle strums and a hint of dissonance – and the source of all which follows. Liebman now restates the theme, and Metheny joins Cecil McBee in some tangy comping. Billy Hart shines the cymbals; maybe it’s spray hitting the rocks. Liebman wails a bit at the end, which is a sign of the storm to come.

McBee opens “White Caps” with some ominous sliding, which keeps getting faster. Metheny, on guitar-synth, keeps the riff going with a nasty tone. Liebman rushes in with a honking tenor, screaming it up as the dirty-toned synth gets louder and harder. At times Metheny becomes a second horn, shouting in unison with Liebman. The tone subsides, and we’re in a fusion vein for “Heaven’s Gift”, a feature for Metheny’s clean electric. Liebman is slightly raucous when he comes in; he’s celebrating the gift. A hint of the “Water Theme” comes in a great unison bit at the end.

A pensive bass solo suddenly gets an edge; McBee runs up the stairs and looks around corners before the calm returns. This sets stage for the deep bliss of “Reflecting Pool”. Hart rings bells, Metheny strums a 48-string guitar (sounds like an autoharp) while Liebman plays wooden flute with a touch of Japan. Metheny then makes like a koto, and the echo makes ripples in the pool. Liebman’s soprano makes a different impression; it’s light and hopeful as guitar tinkles behind him.

A good-natured Liebman starts “Storm Surge” alone. Hart gets soft and intense (a little of that Elvin Jones feeling), and the theme comes high and cheerful. Not the storm you expected; Metheny is subdued in what is Liebman’s show. Hart gets a long solo; when the cymbals arrive, there is thunderation!

Metheny begins a gentle theme turning into “Baptismal Font”, and here Liebman gains muscle. Taking the tenor, going full-bore, Liebman shouts to the sky as Metheny rings pretty. “Ebb and Flow” is the loudest, with wailing and skronking, Metheny again on the synth. Most of the way it’s a two-horn section part, McBee putting vigorous strum on the bottom. The bass/drums duet works better for me than the two stars – their part is too noisy. The “Water Theme” returns, helped by much echo – making it warmer. This is my favorite version: perhaps this should been the opener. There’s also an interview with Dave, talking about the creation of this piece. It’s a neat tidbit to have, but not essential to your enjoyment.

Rating: *** ¼. It meanders in points, but it’s an enjoyable mood piece. Metheny is at his best when gentle, as in “Reflecting Pool”; Liebman shines when he’s forceful, as in “Baptismal Font.” The scope is ambitious, and the tunes do a good job of showing the aspects of water. I’m looking forward to the others.

Songs: Water: Giver of Life; White Caps; Heaven’s Gift; Bass Interlude; Reflecting Pool; Storm Surge; Guitar Interlude; Baptismal Font; Ebb and Flow; Water Theme (reprise); Dave Liebman’s Reflections on “Water”.

Musicians: David Liebman (soprano and tenor saxes, wood flute); Pat Metheny (guitars); Cecil McBee (bass); Billy Hart (drums).

 

For more info visit the David Liebman home page at Arkadia Records.

Norman Connors – Eternity

Eternity
Norman Conners
(Right Stuff – 2000)
by Stephen H. Watkins, Sr.

I’m a Norman Connors fan from way-back, and producer/drummer Connors has not had an album since his 1996 ‘Easy Livin’, so it was with some excitement that I put this CD on. Happily, this is a strong comeback featuring an all-star cast including Peabo Bryson, Angela Bofill, Gerald Albright, Norman Brown, Bobby Lyle, Ray Parker, Jr., Paul Jackson, Jr., Michael Henderson, Gary Bartz, Marion Meadows and Lisa Fischer. Whew… an all star cast indeed!.

Norman has always tread back and forth across the R&B/Jazz line, often trampling it down entirely and this time is no different. There are a couple of R&B remakes, the Delfonics “Didn’t I Blow Your Mind”, Connors’ own “You are my Starship” and the Donny Hathaway Classic “We’re Stil Friends”. “Didn’t I” is slated to be the first single released, and rightly so!. It is beautifully done with Fischer’s strong vocals carrying the tune. “Still Friends” is as emotional as ever, with newcomer Donald Tavie standing in for Donny with strength and feeling, backed by the guitar solos of Paul Jackson, Jr.

“Starship” is pretty (anything Peabo sings usually is) but it did not touch me like the first version. Connors states that he “couldn’t think of anyone else who could sing it”, before he chose Peabo. No offense Norman, but why not have Michael do it again? Be that as it may, this is a great Jazz/R&B release. I also would like to give special mention to “Can’t Say No” which features the vocals of newcomer Denise Stewart, a classic ballad in the Norman Connors tradition.

He may have fallen a little short on his remake of “Starship”, but the new tunes on this CD are to today what Starship was to those days. I thoroughly enjoyed the CD and recommend it to anyone that is a fan of any of the artists named above.

  • Be sure to check out the Norman Connors Interview from last month’s JazzUSA.
  • 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.

    An Interview with Ben Allison

    Fred Jung Interviews
    Ben Allison

    I am always humbled by the courage of musicians in our music. The sheer amount of energy they put into practicing and mastering their respective instruments has me in awe on most days. So it is always a personal honor for me to be a spectator as they fight valiantly in their arena. The words Robert Kennedy shared, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly,” come to mind. Ben Allison is one of many musicians that fit this description to a tee. From his home in New York, we spoke of his band Medicine Wheel, the Jazz Composers Collective, an organization that he helped found, and his new Palmetto record, as always, unedited and in his own words.

    JazzUSA: Let’s start from the beginning. When did you first begin to take music seriously?

    BA: In high school. I started on guitar and conga drums, actually, is mostly what I played in high school. Got into jazz because I was looking for something a little different, I actually was searching for some different sounds. Hadn’t been exposed to much as a kid. I was raised mostly on European classical music and folk music. Mostly folk music, actually. That’s what my parents listened to. Then I took up the bass in, I guess it was my senior year. Played in mostly salsa bands around New Haven, because that’s pretty much was happening. That’s where I grew up, in New Haven. Then I came to New York, NYU. Studied there with a lot of different people. I think that my main inspiration probably comes from my mom, who was an amateur singer. She sang renaissance music, mostly, some late Gregorian chant-style stuff and early Renaissance.

    JazzUSA: As an educator, what is the most important lesson for a young student to grasp?

    BA: There are a couple of things that I usually stress. First of all, I feel like, a lot of times, especially in the jazz education tradition, they’re trying to, in education, what they do is, they try to compartmentalize groups of knowledge and break them down into little packets that. When you start to make jazz into an academic art form, you run the risk of losing its vitality. So, I think sometimes, musician students get far away from the basic concepts of musicality. In other words, they get too concerned with specifics about what note to play with what scale, and all this kind of stuff. One of the things that I deal with is getting back to the fundamental musical concepts that you can apply to any particular style that students would understand. A more basic thing is, the most important thing to do as a musician, I think, is to find your individual voice. And if you look at the greatest, the great musical pioneers, some of the things that made them great were their ability to take their influences and disguise them. In other words, somehow obscuring the path. I mean, everybody has people that have influenced them. And they, to a certain extent, copy the work of their idols. And I think the key in coming up with an original sound is to somehow obscure those influences, make a particular mixture that doesn’t sound derivative. You know what I mean? I mean, I think that’s the big difference between musicians that are, what we call traditionalists, and musicians that are forward thinking, or non-traditionalist. And that is that the non-traditionalists just cover their tracks better.

    We’ve all listened to a lot of different types of music, we’re all influenced by a lot of different types of music, and not to get to Biblical, but there’s nothing new under the sun. In that respect, it just comes down to someone’s individual way of putting together all those pieces. Taking what’s inspired them and coming up with something that has a particular flavor that is only theirs. So that’s like the road that a lot of musicians have to travel down, in making marks for themselves, finding their individual voice. And being conscious of that, I think it’s important. That’s where kind of I’m coming out of, and that’s what I try to work on. In the process of learning jazz, there’s a huge tradition there. There’s a huge lexicon, a huge bunch of information that you have to know. You don’t really have to know everything, but in other words, you’re force fed a lot of stuff, and you’re told who’s the great guy to listen to, and you go to transcribe this solo, and you got to transcribe this solo, and that’s part of the process. But, often lost in the process is, how are you not going to sound like that? How are you not going to sound like Coltrane when you graduated from college? You know? You’re not going to sound like him, but how are you not going to sound like you’re trying to sound like him? So, those are the two biggest things I focus on.

    JazzUSA: Do you find that young musicians are not doing that?

    BA: Well, I came up in the eighties, when the New York traditionalist movement was in full swing. By that I mean, people were trying to not only recapture a certain flavor of classic jazz, but trying to almost define what jazz was. The word had gotten so broad in its definition. You had anything from Jeff Lorber and Miles was kind of one of the people that started this, but the whole idea of fusion and branching off into other things. And the word became so broad, the definition became so broad that I think there was a backlash where people tried to define it. Spearheaded by institutions. Jazz education, Wynton Marsalis’ Jazz at Lincoln Center, things like that. Whether he admits that or not, I think that that’s a part of what went down in the eighties. So a lot of the stuff that I and my contemporaries were reacting to was that. And lost in that was the idea, was the original intent, in my opinion, of a lot of the jazz musicians they were emulating. And that was to really develop individual sounds. In order to do that, you have to be constantly expanding the language. And that, to me, right there is the definition of jazz. More so than, even than the lexicon, even than the things people actually played. I think it has more to do with an evolution than a particular period in time, the spirit of that. That’s another thing that I try to instill in students and myself on a daily basis, is that spirit of adventure, discovery. And one of the best ways to get to that is to find like-minded musicians and play with them. That’s one of the inspirations behind the Collective.

    JazzUSA: Let’s talk about the Jazz Composers Collective.

    BA: The Jazz Composers Collective is a musician run, non-profit organization that’s dedicated towards presenting original music by forward thinking composers. We have an annual concert series that we present and a newsletter that we publish and a web site that we maintain.

    JazzUSA: And the web site address?

    BA: www.jazzcollective.com It’s basically a, well, there’s a bunch of reasons why we started it. I think as I was saying before, I was feeling a little disillusioned with the scene in the eighties. I was feeling a little disconnected with the industry, quote, unquote. In other words, with what we were hearing on the radio, what we were hearing that was being produced on records and CD, what we were hearing in clubs. We felt a little disconnected. A lot of the music we were writing at that point, we didn’t feel worked in clubs for example. We were writing music with extreme dynamic range and that doesn’t work in a lot of jazz club settings. And just this feeling that we were a little disconnected and rather than gripe and moan about it, which is what I did for the first few years that I got out of school, was to take that energy and direct it, and to really just create a framework for us to direct our energy in, and that’s what the Collective became. It is what we make it, so whatever project we want to do, we have a framework in which to do it.

    Whatever kind of music we come up with, and people like to pigeonhole you and should, but the beauty of the collective is that hopefully, we can create our own pigeonhole. We can create our own hole and define what it is. It’s just a name that we call ourselves on occasion to describe what we’re doing. A lot of musicians are involved. We’ve probably presented over seventy concerts since our formation in ninety-two, and premièred over three hundred compositions. There been, probably, a hundred and twenty-five plus musicians involved and close to forty composers. It’s really grown to be a New York creative arena. We’re currently in residence at the New School, so we do our concerts there. It’s basically what it’s come down to. Now, we all have, I mean, there’s five composers in residence, what we call composers in residence. They’re just central figures that help to define what the Collective is, in terms of the Board and the officers of the corporation. Each concert is dedicated to one of the composers in residence. We keep a core group of guys developing projects over the long term, and each concert has someone who has never done a concert with us before. We’re constantly broadening it and inviting new people into the fold.

    JazzUSA: Does New York have a distinctive sound?

    BA: Well, I don’t know that there is a New York sound. There’s certainly sounds that I would associate with New York. Some of my contemporaries are, kind of, seem to be feeding off of each other’s energy. Michael Blake, Steven Bernstein in Sex Mob, Matt Wilson, these guys, we kind of have a similar approach. We share a lot of things in common, in terms of our sensibilities. That’s one, kind of, New York school, if you want to call it. There’s other ones to. There’s obviously a large klezmer-type downtown scene or whatever. There’s a lot of other scenes too. I don’t know too much about the Chicago music scene. The only thing that I have had more exposure to is European musicians. We go over there and play a lot. I would say that there’s a certain European sound. This is a very broad generalization, of course. There’s a certain thing about Europe, in my opinion, they tend less, in general, of course, they tend to be less groove oriented. They have a certain, what I hear to be, kind of, reminiscent of a nineteen sixties avant-garde sound. That’s something that goes over real well there. When you play like that people flip. Whereas in New York, if I heard that music, it would seem nostalgic. There they feel like it’s cutting edge. Here, to me something very modern would be somebody playing a free-form groove oriented version of a Carpenters tune. That would have a modern feel to me, by taking music that you would never associate with jazz and doing things like that with it, and certain kinds of techniques we do, like needle-drop techniques, where we suddenly change into a completely different texture, working with a lot of different textures that have recognizable sounds. You can’t put your finger on exactly what it is, but there’s something organic about it. I don’t know how to describe too much of what we’re doing, but that’s some of the things that we’re trying to approach. I don’t hear that in Europe. I hear a more, what to me, feels like a traditional avant-garde sound. Avant-garde music is close to, it’s thirty-five years old, or older. A lot of that stuff was before I was born, so it’s old style music. I hear that a lot in Europe. It’s still very popular.

    JazzUSA: What fostered your interest in the music of Herbie Nichols?

    BA: Well, Frank Kimbrough, one of the composers in the Collective, a great pianist and composer, introduced to his music for the first time, probably about six years ago, towards the beginning of the Collective’s run. I was immediately intrigued by the music because it has a quirkiness and a really individual, original sound that I hadn’t heard in a lot of other composers of his period. He really only made a few records and at that time, they were all out of print. The only thing that I had ever heard was the flip side to this Thelonious Monk record. It’s actually a record, I believe, it’s by a bass player, but in the eighties, it’s on Savoy, they had credited it to Herbie, because I guess he’s the only one on that session who is at all famous. For some reason, they credited the session to Herbie. It was cheesy music and so I never really thought much about him. Kimbrough brought in some tunes that he had transcribed and it flipped me out. It was just great, great stuff. It just became, kind of, the more I got into it, the more I realized what a wealth of material there was there. Kimbrough was way into it at the time and between the two of us and one of the founding members of the Collective, who has since moved out West, we started transcribing all of his music. The more we transcribed, the more we were amazed at the depth and originality of what he had left. It felt as the Collective was defining itself.

    One of the things that we were concerned with is the idea of presenting original, new music as being one of our missions, defining character. Herbie’s music, to do a concert of his music seemed a little strange, but at the same time, the music was undiscovered, so to me, it felt new. I had never heard it before. Most of the people that I knew had heard of him but had never heard his music before. It had that feeling of being new music. We, certainly, were immersing ourselves in it to the point where we felt like we could bring something new to it. For instance, all of his recording were made in a trio context and when we started flushing it out, flushing them out with horns, a lot of the hidden character of the tunes started to emerge. So that was the first step and since then we’ve undergone many and really done a lot more with it. It was that thrill of discovery, of finding somebody new and a bunch of material that was interesting and struck a chord, no pun intended, with all of us.

    JazzUSA: Let’s touch on your group collaboration, Medicine Wheel.

    BA: There’s a core group of musicians, a quintet. That’s the original concept of the group, which actually doesn’t include Frank. It’s Ted Nash on saxophones, Michael Blake on saxophones, Tomas Ulrich on cello, and at that time, it was Jeff Ballard on drums and myself on bass. The first record I did with that group, which was self-titled, “Medicine Wheel,” used Frank on a couple of tunes, Ron Horton, the trumpeter on a couple of tunes, but the main focus of the thing was supposed to be the quintet that I mentioned before. It’s been broadened and shortened and I currently play with a trio version of the group. It is logistically easier to move around. We play every week at this club done in the East Village. The music itself came from, originally was something that I was commission to write through the Collective from an organization called the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust. They’re a great organization in New York that funds non-profits and we’ve gotten great support for them over the years. The basic premise for me, well, I used it as a chance, as an excuse to do some things that I’ve always wanted to do but never felt comfortable doing. They’d give me some money so I could clear my calendar and sit down and try some wacky stuff. One of the ideas was to take sounds that are traditionally associated with totally out, avant-garde music or twentieth century classical music, like prepared piano and multi-phonics on saxophones and prepared bass and put them in a context of tunes that were in some way accessible, quirky, yet accessible.

    By that, I mean, melodies that, hopefully, are evocative and maybe you can remember or think you can remember. I’m really intrigued by composers who can write very simple, but beautiful melodies, Neil Young and Paul McCartney, these guys can write melodies that, when you analyze them are extremely simple, but somehow, there’s something about them, for lack of a better word, are catchy. It’s something that I felt a little bit about jazz through the years, is sometimes it can be a little esoteric and complex. I saw a lot of musicians who were creating sounds that, in my opinion, were needlessly complex. They were trying to, what they thought they were doing was adding interest to a tune by making it more complex. In my opinion, that’s not what happens when you make something more complex. It’s just becomes more complex. It doesn’t become more interesting. I like the idea of creating melodies and working with those grooves. I love grooves. I love interesting rhythms and putting it all together, and yet having that flavor of extended techniques for instruments. That was roughly the concept in my mind when I started writing for the band and started creating the idea, having the cello adds a certain orchestral element to it. Having it be non-chordal with no piano, added a certain bow to the avant-garde set, the avant-garde, Ornette type of thing, no piano, no chordal instruments, working in three part harmony or four part. Jeff Ballard was instrumental in that. He’s an extremely creative musician and a lot of the music came out of us just getting together and getting a little recording device and pressing record and just playing for four hours, all kinds of stuff, whatever we could think of. Then we came back to my house and picked out things that came up well and used them as nuggets to start from, little building blocks. That was the original part of the band. It was a suite entitled “Medicine Wheel” that turned into the band called Medicine Wheel. We premiered that music in ’95, at a Collective concert, and since then I’ve gotten another grant to record the work and that recording turned into the first Medicine Wheel record. Other grants turned into the music for the second Medicine Wheel album, which is “Third Eye.”

    JazzUSA: Does utilizing grants help fund your music?

    BA: Well, I don’t have to use grants to get my music out there, but it sure helps. It’s not difficult. It makes things much easier to have access to funding. There’s certain projects, for instance, as an example, Ted Nash recently completed a project he calls “The Double Quartet Plus One,” and that’s a standard jazz quartet, what we would call piano, bass, drums, and saxophone, he plays saxophone, and a string quartet, two violins, a viola, cello, plus one, which in this case is a vibraphone player/percussion player. He was commissioned to write this music and got a recording grant. We had every intention of recording it for a label, it’s just that with their funds, it augments the budget, to the point where we can go into the right studio. We can get the right engineer and really take it to another level sound-wise and production-wise. I design all of our CD covers, artwork and stuff like that on the computer. It’s something that I do on the side. The look of it was always cool. It was just making sure that the recording quality was up to snuff and that’s a lot of money. For new, for emerging artists like ourselves, there’s lots of opportunities to do things in a quick, low budget way, but I think that we all feel, at this point in our careers, that it’s important to, it’s not a question of volume, it’s a question of putting out records that hopefully have a certain amount of integrity and at least has been the result of hard work and forethought.

    There’s something about a grant that coalesces the project in your mind because it relieves one of the major stumbling blocks. As I said before, if I get a commissioned grant, I just clear my calendar, for however long it takes, maybe it’s a month or two, I don’t even have to think about doing anything else. And maybe I do, maybe I don’t, but at least I don’t have to hunt down stuff or feel like I have to take a gig that I don’t want to take and expend energy in that direction. I can really focus and someone is waiting for something. There’s a Board of Directors over there and at the Collective and these foundations that are waiting for a project, and a final report, and a CD, and a financial statement, and everything like that. There’s nothing like having deadline. That’s really what the Collective is, is the framework, as I’ve said before, to organize, and to inspire, and to kind of kick your ass in gear. It’s been very beneficial to have that.

    JazzUSA: Does the music that your play, lend well to a major label?

    BA: I have no question. It’s not even about the music with a lot of major labels. They’re more concerned with marketability. If for some reason, as we prod away and we develop fan basis and if our music turned into the kind of thing where there’s a bunch of screaming Dead-Heads at our concerts, you better believe that Atlantic would be calling us. That’s not even the issue, they have David Ware, that’s not really it. It comes down to marketability. In my opinion, this funny to say, but I’m not really interested in larger labels. I love working with medium size labels, not labels that have no resources, but the beauty of Palmetto is that when I call their office, I talk to the president. We talk directly about what’s going on. I know exactly where my CD is being played on the radio. When I go into a town to do a gig, and I ask them to set up a radio interview, it’s set up. It’s very easy for somebody on a big label to be swept under the carpet and unless they’re in the top one percent of stars. I know a lot of guys that are contemporaries of mine, my same age, great musicians surely, but on larger labels. Their number one complaint is that they feel ignored. They feel disconnected.

    The fact of the matter is, is jazz is a very small percentile of the market. We’re all quibbling about a really, really small amount of money in the big picture of things. What’s important to me is that jazz, I think a lot of music and hopefully some of the music that we’re doing now has the potential to reach a larger audience and the only way it’s going to do that with the sheer amount of music that’s being pumped out every day, way too much information and entertainment in this country and in the world. The only way anything’s going to emerge significantly is if musicians and labels really work together in a grassroots sort of way by enlisting fans one at a time. I think with a small label, you stand a much better chance of doing that. There’s the Diana Kralls and then there’s everybody else. For the rest of us, I feel like I’d rather have “A”, control over the rest of my career, and “B”, a certain sense of everybody working together towards a common goal like the Collective. I like being with the people at Palmetto. I would hate to be in a situation where I’m calling somebody at a label and they’re not even calling me back. I have so many friends that are on major labels and that’s exactly how they, they’re like, they got fifty thousand dollar budgets to do their records, but I’ll be sitting here and I’ll get a call from Palmetto, “We took out an ad here,” and my friends are like, “Wow, they do that kind of stuff for you?” I like the small stuff. I like keeping it personal.

    Lester Bowie Retrospective

    Lester Bowie
    A Retrospective
    [ Based on an Interview conducted in New York, 1988 ]
    by Phyllis A. Lodge

    Trumpeter/composer Lester Bowie was born in Frederick, Maryland on October 11, 1941, and was raised in St. Louis, Missouri. Bowie was five years old when he discovered the trumpet. Bowie very firmly informed me that: “I was influenced by a lot of people; you have to understand that. A lot of people did different things.”

    First was his father who played trumpet and was a high school band and choral director. Bowie also studied under Mr. Carionne who was a specialist in European classics. Another one of his teachers, Mr. Marshall Penn, was a brass instructor at Lincoln University.


    Bowie includes among his trumpet influences Louis Armstrong, Clyde McCoy, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and Freddie Hubbard. It was Kenny Dorham, however, who became pivotal in Bowie’s decision to make music his life’s work. In Bowie’s words: “When I heard Kenny Dorham, it turned me out. I listened to him a few times, and that’s when I decided.”

    There were several groups that inspired Bowie, simply because he liked the way they sounded. The classic groups led by Art Blakey, Horace Silver and Miles Davis largely influenced much of the way Bowie heard music.

    Bowie developed his charming and sometimes uproariously humorous musical style by listening to artists like pianists Art Tatum and Cecil Taylor, as well as saxophonists Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane. Johnny Coles and Marcus Belgrave were personal influences who were there to help him and support his efforts. Ultimately, Coles, Belgrave and Bowie made up the trumpet section in a number of rhythm and blues groups during Bowie’s early music days in St. Louis. Trumpeter Bobby Danzie, another St. Louis musician whose style was much like Miles Davis’, also encouraged and helped the younger Bowie when he was still learning his instrument.

    Lester Bowie had a hand in initiating a number of musical groups in St. Louis, Chicago and New York and his educational experience is primarily a culmination of these experiences. While still in St. Louis, Bowie assumed the role of musical director for vocalist, Fontella Bass. Bowie also helped to form BAG (Black Artists Group), as well as the Great Black Music Orchestra.

    After relocating to Chicago in 1965, Delbert Hill took Bowie to what he described as an “experimental band” run by pianist/innovator Muhal Richard Abrams. Bowie liked the group because it enabled him to become involved in many of the forms involving different types of musics. This began Lester Bowie’s affiliation with the internationally acclaimed Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). It was through the AACM that Bowie met Malachi Favors, Chico Freeman, Joseph Jarman, Roscoe Mitchell. Bowie subsequently met percussionist Famoudou Don Moye a few years later during a European tour of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, comprised of Favors, Freeman, Jarman and Mitchell, which Bowie launched while working with AACM. Bowie considered Sound (1966) with the Art Ensemble his recording debut as a leader, although he considers each of the musicians involved with that recording to be leaders in their own right.

    Upon relocating to New York, Bowie had the opportunity to meet and learn from Kenny Dorham and Blue Mitchell. Dorham and Mitchell provided Bowie with support when he first arrived in the “Apple”, sometimes by just hanging out with the younger newcomer to the city. “They were ‘just nice guys…” Bowie recalled in acknowledgment of his indebtedness to the two musicians.

    In 1984, Bowie was extended an invitation by a German Festival to put together a group of his choice to perform for that one particular event. It was during this time that Brass Fantasy, one of Bowie’s favorite brainchildren, was born. Bowie had always had a fantasy envisioning an entire brass ensemble, so he seized upon this opportunity to bring the vision to life. Brass Fantasy, the result of that vision, was a tremendous success at that time; and that music continues to delight listeners to this day.

    The group of musicians Bowie assembled for Brass Fantasy literally sparkled with creativity and enthusiasm. Stanton Davis, Gerald Brezel & E.J. Allen joined Bowie in the trumpet section; Vincent Chancey was on french horn; Steve Turre and Frank Lacy were on trombone; Bob Stewart on tuba; Famoudou Don Moye on percussion; and Phillip Wilson on drums. At the time of this interview, Brass Fantasy had recorded three albums: Avant Pop and I Only Have Eyes for You, both on the ECM label, and later Twillight Dreams, was recorded on the Virgin/Ventura label. [NOTE: I went out and discovered a much later Brass Fantasy release that retained Chancey on french horn and Bob Stewart on tuba. It was entitled The Odyssey of Funk & Popular Music, and Bowie goes all out to indulge his creative fantasies by including the music of Puccini, Cole Porter, the Spice Girls, Notorious B.I.B. and Marilyn Manson. Odyssey… was released in 1998. Other personnel included Joseph “Mac” Gollehon, Ravi Best and Gerald Brazel joining Bowie on trumpet; Luis Bonilla, Joshua Roseman and Gary Valente on trombone; Vince Johnson on drums and Victor See Yuen on percussion. He even includes vocals by Dean Bowman and Joseph Bowie. There was also a variation in trumpet personnel from Avant Pop. Along with Stanton Davis there was Malachi Thompson and Rasul Siddik.]

    In 1967, Bowie recorded Numbers One and Two. Bowie also mentioned several of what he referred to as “Italian records”, under the Black Saint and Horo labels between the mid-to-late 1970’s. Much of this material was done with a quartet. One of them was entitled 5th Power (1978), and includes Arthur Blythe on alto saxophone, Amina Claudine Myers on piano and vocals, Malachi Favors on bass, and Phillip Wilson on drums. Other Bowie recordings include Fast Last and Rope-A-Dope (Muse, 1974); All the Magic, a double album set, and an ECM release, Great Pretender (1979).

    In addition to his work with Brass Fantasy, Bowie recorded and toured with the LEADERS composed of alto saxophonist, Arthur Blythe, tenor saxophonist, bass clarinetist and producer, Chico Freeman, pianist Kirk Lightsey, bassist Cecil McBee, and percussionist Famoudou Don Moye. At the time of this writing, the LEADERS had released two recordings: Mudfoot which is a particular favorite of mine, (Blackhawk, 1986) and Out There Like This (Polygram, 1988).

    Bowie truly enjoyed working with the LEADERS, because he enjoyed the musicians and the musicianship equally. In the trumpeter’s own words: “It (the work with the LEADERS) is involved with traditional jazz. “It’s fun and challenging to produce the sound, and the energy.” Having fun while in the pursuit and practice of his music is essential for Lester Bowie. The trumpeter would otherwise simply have tired of it. A highly innovative leader, Lester Bowie, felt that it was necessary to maintain an interest in the music, which he accomplished “…by consistently playing with interesting musicians and completely different sounds.”

    The wild, zany and miraculous sounds Lester Bowie could “push through a horn” could be hilarious while maintaining a highly virtuoso quality. Every time I have ever heard Bowie perform, whether live or recorded, his music was enlightening, highly individualistic and filled with delightful surprises. Like one of my other favorite musicians, Thelonious Monk, Bowie could bend rules and play in the “free” style without losing the integrity of a number (or his listener) because he knew the rules so well. I picked up Avant Pop to create a spirit of his music around this piece. My expectations of his work were met and surpassed by the wit and beauty he brought to this project. Each and every selection on Avant Pop will have the listener laughing out loud on one hand, and voicing absolute awe for the genius of Bowie’s music.

    The arrangements on each and every number are mesmerizing. I can see the pomp and even the robe of the Emperor in that number. In Saving All My Love for You, Bowie does his famous singing horn. I could barely contain my excitement over his interpretation. (I know the folks on the train where I was listening to the CD thought I was ‘crackin-up’. Did I care?) And B Funk will simply lay you out! Blueberry Hill was brimming with the power of that old New Orleans Funeral music. And I can see Willie Nelson with tears in his eyes listening to Brass Fantasy’s interpretation of Crazy. Steve Turre is one of my very favorite performer/trombonists and composers, and his composition Macho would do Machito proud. The next number on the CD, another hilarious Bowie parody on whatever it is he’s laughing at is No Shit. (Ain’t it the truth!) The ensemble winds the CD up with Oh, What A Night and brings the house down, wherever you happen to be listening to it at the time. Avant Pop is an experience that will do you good. It is also a typical example of how Bowie encouraged ‘leadership’ in all his musical associations, and this quality is crystal clear in Avant Pop. The other quality that is perfectly clear is that Lester Bowie was simply a beautiful cat!

    Among Lester Bowie’s numerous awards: he was a three time winner of the Downbeat Critics Poll; Downbeat Talent Deserving Wider recognition; various polls in countries such as Japan, Austria and Poland. And Bowie also was a recipient of the Deutschgrammohpon Award and the Grand Prix du Disque.

    It is obvious that Lester Bowie also gave back in numerous ways. Aside from the leadership-oriented groups he initiated, Bowie also lectured periodically at Harvard, Yale and Dartmouth Universities.

    Up through the end of his brief stay on this planet (in November of 1999 at age 58), Bowie continually generated joy and beauty through his music. He left enough of that joy with us to the degree that if we listen to his music enough, we should never be sad again – at least not for long. And when at the time of this interview he was asked to share an insight with his reader on the music as a serious pursuit, he simply responded:

    All’s fair in love and war; and music is BOTH.

    Enjoy life a little more – become a collector of Lester Bowie’s music.

    Mercy, Mercy, Me

    Razz radio host Yugen Rashad's topics and insights tend to be controversial, entertaining, and to the point... so caveat emptor! - edMercy, Mercy, Me
    The Art, Loves and Demons of Marvin Gaye
    – Michael Eric Dyson (Basic Civitas Books)

    by Yugen Fardan Rashad

    He left behind a legion of fans. An adoring public. A family to mourn the loss. Questions about his personal demons and spiritual life linger to this day. Self destructive drug use and philandering ways with women. A dichotomous body of music that shifted from secular decadence to spiritual reconciliation. And it was the music of Marvin Pentz Gaye, Jr. that captures the episodic and, sonic vacillations of one of soul music’s most virulent artists. A body of sustained melody that also validates his humanity during his too short sojourn among us that ended tragically on April 1st, 1984.

    A number of books that range from well to poorly written chronicle aspects of his life, love, and loathsome artistic odyssey that took Gaye to the top of the R&B and pop charts, with Motown Records in tow. He paid a tremendous price to be crowned Prince of Motown; Battles with record executives, family, and drugs; all handled with candor, and outright grandiloquence, that marked Gaye‘s private and professional life.

    Three of the books are: Ben Edmonds – What‘s Going On? Marvin Gaye And The Last Days Of The Motown Sound; Frankie Gays w/Fred E. Basten – Marvin Gaye, My Brother, and Michael Eric Dyson – Mercy, Mercy Me – The Art, Loves & Demons of Marvin Gaye. The latter provides a witness account of Gaye’s life.

    Mr. Dyson uses interviews, anecdote, and the scholarship he’s known for to configure the life and times of an artist that came and went to abruptly. Dyson’s intellect guides the reader down the alleys of Gaye’s descent, to the heights of his greatest triumphs, and ultimately to that fateful day when tempers flared between father and son: “…Father, father, father – there’s far to many of us dying…” (A lyric from his greatest single that sadly became a self-fulfilling prophecy).

    Fans will love reading juxtaposition between recording dates and anecdote, during the creative process in the studio for albums like What’s Going On, Let’s Get It On, and I Want You. Here you get the artist at his absolute rawest, and surreal moments when the line blurs between the personal and the musician. For example, how the recording session of Let’s Get It On became a public courtship that found him singing to his future bride, Janice Hunter. This was a time when Gaye’s eroticism took center stage in contrast to the more political, social prose of What‘s Going On. “Let’s Get It On” also marked a return to the stage image groomed of him by Motown as sex god. In addition, Dyson‘s book snapshots Gaye’s roller coaster ride marriage to his first wife, Anna Gordy.

    This episode is adroitly captured by Gaye’s most intimate and salient recording, Here, My Dear. An album he reluctantly made as alimony payment in his divorce from Anna Gaye-Gordy, sister of Motown mogul Berry Gordy, Jr.

    There are a number of dark secrets, and surprises, too. The two other books also provide pieces of the puzzle that was Marvin Gaye. However, from Dyson’s perch, we obtain historical relevance and depth he’s known to produce with his writings.

    But not to give too much away, be encouraged to buy the book MERCY, MERCY ME, by Michael Eric Dyson, available online at amazon.com or in the Portland, Oregon area at Talking Drum Coffee Shop and Book Store (Call Gloria at 503 288-4070.)

    Terry Callier – Reluctant Musician

    By Mark Ruffin, Jazz Editor

    Five years ago, in the U.S., you couldn’t find an album by Terry Callier on vinyl, let alone cd and that was fine with Terry Callier, he could take it or leave it. Since that time there’s been two import releases and an unearthed concert from the early 80’s. And next month Verve Record releases TimePeace, the first album of new material from Terry Callier in almost 20 years, and Terry Callier could take it or leave it.

    Call him the reluctant musician, but success in the entertainment business is not a high priority even though the singer/songwriter is on the verge of a major breakthrough. He feels he had his shot in the 70’s when he had a number of national and regional hits on the Elektra and Chess labels . Stardom didn’t happen and his daughter needed him, so the man retired in 1983. The problem was the record companies kept calling. Club owners in Philadelphia, Detroit, Washington D.C. and his hometown of Chicago kept trying to coax him out, sometimes successfully.

    Reticence be damned, whatever force it is that works to shape a musician’s career literally continued on without him. He was sampled on a huge pop hit in England. The English label This Is Acid Jazz, unearthed a rare Callier single and legally sold tens of thousands of copies. A specialty European label was brought down by a huge American corporation when it illegally released old Terry Callier masters. Then English club owners started trying to coax him to perform. When he accepted, a v.p. of a major American record label was in the audience the night of his performance. That label, Verve, signed him, only to fight with him because Callier still had other priorities in life.

    Like Chicagoan Chuck Mitchell, the Verve v.p. who saw him in London, this writer grew up knowing all about Terry Callier. To us, it was nothing to see his name on Lincoln Park bills with Pete Seeger, downtown gigs with Gil Scott-Heron and on the south side working with soul crooner Jerry Butler. He wrote The Love We Had Stays On My Mind, one of the biggest hits by the Dells. He was a celebrity at every folk club in town and you’ve never heard Duke Ellington’s Satin Doll until you hear his mid ’70’s version. He also was very popular in other cities as Terry’s other new album “T.C. in D.C.” on Premonition Records attests to.

    Without lifting a finger to help his cause, Terry Callier, or that force, has engineered an amazing comeback from an amazingly diverse musician. That comeback culminates with a new album that features the rhythms of folk, r&b, rock, even county and of course jazz. The legendary sax man Pharoah Sanders joins Caller on one track..

    Interestingly, this interview was recorded earlier this year when Terry really didn’t know if he was going to have an album on Verve. The contract was signed, tunes recorded. The two just didn’t see eye to eye and Terry, frankly didn’t care..

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: What do you think of the current unique situation you find yourself in, being on the verge of the kind of music comebacks that most acts from the 70’s would die to have.

    TC: It’s a gift from God, I never really had to scuffle in the classical sense. I went from living at home to playing in New York, then had to come back home and home was there. I got myself together, got into music full-time. I did that for maybe 12 or 15 years. All I did was music. When I got custody of my daughter, I had to switch gears again. And it wasn’t a problem because there were things that she needed, support that she needed from me. She may have gotten it anywhere but she really needed it from me. So it was no problem to step out of music for a minute and it wasn’t the first time. The first time I saw Coltrane live, the next day I went out and started looking for a job, because number one, that quartet scared me with John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones and Jimmy Garrison. I had never seen people literally hurl themselves into music that way. It was an emotional experience. I knew that I didn’t tend to do what they were doing but I knew that even in relative stuff, I wasn’t into my music like they were into their’s. I also realized that if you weren’t that much into it, then you were just threading water, not wasting time but just threading water. When my daughter told me that she wanted to go to school in Chicago, the first thing I did was go to Control Data Institute, which had a computer programming course. I went through that and thought that I would be able to find a programmer position but I was just a little bit too late, a day late and a dollar short. This was in ’83. If I had gone to Control Data in maybe ’79 or ’80, I could have stepped right from that instruction program into a pretty decent position. But in ’83, things were tightening up. By then almost all the companies wanted their people to have some kind of degree. So I managed to get a position at the University of Chicago as a temporary employee in January of ’84 and I worked there for a year.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: What was the job you held at U of C?

    TC: It was called data coding. I thought it was going to be kind of an automated position. Later on it was but initially it was working with paper and pencil, correcting surveys conducted by the National Pen And Research Center which was an still is part of the University of Chicago. Then they asked me if I would accept a staff position in February 1985 and I said yes because that meant benefits, paid vacations and certain other advantages. So I took the position and I’ve been there ever since.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: You said your daughter chose Chicago, did she have a choice?

    TC: Yeah, she was living with her mom in San Diego. We separated when she was about five. I was really way off into music at that time and I thought that letting her stay with her mother was a good thing because that would allow me to work on the music while she had a safe and sound shelter.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: It is really against our editorial policy to pry into an artist personal life, but even you can see how your daughter is part of this story. How old was she when you got custody?

    TC: She was 12, just going in to high school and she had been in Chicago all that summer. Then as the summer ended, she started moping around until she finally came up to me and said ‘Daddy I don’t want to go back to San Diego.’ I told her she didn’t have to.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: And her mom was cool with that?

    TC: I never did press her on that. She said she didn’t want to go back and I didn’t want to press her on that. She and her mom have a very cool relationship I know, and they had a good relationship then. It’s just that something wasn’t right for her.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: Or maybe something was right with her father.

    TC: That could be too.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: What did her mother do for a living at the time?

    TC: A teacher. She’s from D.C. but I met her in Chicago.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: How did you let the world know you quit the music business and how did you do it? As passionate as you are, how could you just walk away?

    TC: I didn’t, because there was no way to say goodbye. I believe that everything happens for a reason and at the time the most important thing for me was to make sure was that my daughter got through her adolescent years in reasonable shape because a lot of people run aground emotionally and physically and psychologically during that time. It’s a very sensitive time. It was a different kind of music. I look at sending her through life as kind of a symphony. I don’t know if it wasn’t for my own good, because a lot of musicians run aground when they’re at the stage where I was, where you’re almost making it. So that may have been God’s way of moving me out of harm’s way. It might have been a test. At that point, not only do you have to take the bitter with the sweet, but you have to be wise enough to know where your priorities really are. Like me being out of music wasn’t important as me taking care of this child.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: What’s her name?

    TC: Sundiata. She’s 25 and doing student teaching now.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: So when you walked away, did musicians call?

    TC: For a while. That may have lasted about six months. But after it kept being no, people eventually stopped calling.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: Did any record companies call?

    TC: Warner Brothers called about two or three times, but they had already shot me some grease so I really wasn’t interested.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: Did Warner call or did Elektra call?.

    TC: I did two two albums for Elektra, but this was someone else from within Warners.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: And you ignore them.

    TC: Big time.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: Tell me if any of this is wrong; You chilled from the business, in the meantime that unscrupulous record company in England called Charley start bootlegging all the Chess/Cadet stuff.

    TC: That’s a little bit out of sequence. What happened was that towards the end of 1989, I got a call from a guy named Eddie Pilar and he asked me if I had the rights and the master tapes to the stuff I did just before I backed out. I had done a twelve inch for a little company in Indiana ran by Jim Porter called Erect Records. Not much happened with it except I sold ten or twelve copies and I got a little airplay in Chicago, but nothing happened that made me change my mind when I wanted to get out. So Eddie Pilar calls from England and says he owned a label called This Is Acid Jazz and that I had a composition that they’ve been playing on the dance circuit and that people really like it and that he would like to use it.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine:What was the name of it?

    TC: One side was I Can’t See Myself Without You and the other side was If I Could Make You Change Your Mind. So I told him I didn’t know where Jim Porter was and I still don’t. So they submitted their contract and there wasn’t any up front money but it was decent enough. They seemed to have and outlet for distribution, so I said oh fine. So they released this thing in the spring of 1990 and it jumped off like gangbusters in England. So by the time I around February of ’91 they were calling me asking me if I wanted to come over and do some gigs. So I said that sounds nice, but I have to bring my daughter with me. So we went over to England and we played at a place called the Jazz 100 Club. We played at a huge outdoor festival and a few other things. The response was incredible. My daughter didn’t want to leave. But it wasn’t set up for us to stay there, so we came back home to the States and Sunni kept going to school and I kept going to NPRC everyday. Then I guess in 1992, I started getting calls from other people in England about coming over to do gigs and other things. So my daughter and I have been over there about four or five times in the last four years and they set up a band over there and these guys know the music and play like demons. We were just there this past August but I never tried to actively get back into it.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: Did all that activity in England excite you?

    TC: It’s hard to describe. Music has a place in my heart, but it’s not the supreme thing. If things had happened a bit different maybe I’d feel different.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: So what’s the thing about Charly Records.

    TC: Okay, so I guess in 1992, the other tune began to pick up so much airplay that people started looking around for other stuff. So about the third time that I went over the U.K., people were telling me they had rumors that some of the Chess stuff was going to be re-released. Charly music is a company over there that specialized in older music and anthologies. But, from what I understand, they ran a little afoul with this one because MCA actually owns those tapes, so they sued them and made it kind of unpleasant for Charly Records. Plus for me they owe me writer’s royalties and I’m still trying to collect that. It was out almost a whole year before I knew it. The next time I went over there, some friends said they had copies and sure enough, there it was Terry Callier On Cadet. I was just as surprised, as my friends were when it came out. They had it out on the market for two years before MCA sued them.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine:Did you try any legal action?

    TC: No,(laughing) I didn’t care.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: Did you get royalties from This Is Acid Jazz?

    TC: Oh yeah, they were totally straight. As a matter of fact I thought we were going to do something over here because the tune did so well and they gave me so much money, not millions, but relatively speaking. I had submitted a budget and they just let it drop. So did I. I didn’t care. I thought for sure we had an understanding, but when they stopped calling, so did I.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: Again not to get personal, but was it in the tens or hundreds of thousands.

    TC: I’ll tell you. It was about ten (laughing) I figured if they gave me ten, they owed me forty. I didn’t get too deep off into it, because I thought we were going to do some more work together. Then when it turned out that that wasn’t what they were interested in, I just let it go.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: What was your motivation to do more work with them, were you just going to milk that cow for as much as you can get? Or were you actually excited about doing it?

    TC: At that time, I was about as excited as I get over the music industry. I had some new things in mind and I had some things I wanted to do and I thought we could have put together a very interesting package of new material and a couple of other things I wanted to do.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: So what did the British acid-jazz label Talkin’ Loud have to do with any of this?

    TC: Now that’s a whole other issue. The time before last when we went over to England, we had been talking to Chuck Mitchell at Verve Records. As a youngster in Chicago, he used to come by this club called the Barbarossa when I was just playing with a percussionist and he remembered a lot of the stuff that I used to do. He’s v.p. and a ceo over at Verve. He came over because the people at Talkin’ Loud were interested in doing something. So Chuck Mitchell came over to a place called the Brand where the band was playing. He caught a pretty fair show. We didn’t have our usual saxophone/flute man. We had a sax player who was good, and a flute player who was good. But the reed player that we usually use is outstanding. When Chuck saw us he said, look, you’re an American artist and you should be signed to an American record company. That’s how I happened to sign with Verve. Now the original deal was that Verve was going to handle the release and distribution in North and South America, and Talkin’ Loud was going to do Europe and the rest of the world. But then he said that there had been a lot of disagreements about what music is going to be on the album. What type of tunes it was going to be and the general philosophy of the tune.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: Do you mean between you and them or between Talkin’ Loud and Verve?

    TC: I mean between me and them, between them and Talkin’ Loud and between me and Talkin’ Loud and Verve. I did a four song demo for them before I signed the contract and they said well we want to hear some more material so I didn’t see too much wrong with that. So I used the musicians that I normally use in Chicago. We recorded nine or ten things.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine:Who paid for it?

    TC: Verve. No I take that back. I paid for the first one because at that time it was just a speculation. But they paid for a pretty decent ten song demo. Then they started going into the commercial versus artistic merit bag. One of the guys from Talkin’ Loud objected to one of the songs because he said it was too country. Well it was a country song. In addition to that, there’s a couple of things that were fairly straight to the point. (laughs)

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: I know how you can be.

    TC: So Chuck Mitchell wasn’t very happy with those songs. So out of the thirteen songs that we’d done for them, he decided eight of them were worth doing. I figured if he got the call on eight, I should get the call on the other four or five. For a while he didn’t call me back and it was okay too. In the meantime, I was getting more closely associated with the Chicago musicians. I went by the bass player’s house one day and he had something for me to listen to. He put it into the cassette and I said it sounded familiar. It turned out that this was a concert that we did back in 1983 and I was amazed on two counts. One that I had no idea that he saving this kind of stuff, because he had never mentioned it. And then two, I was amazed at how tight we were as a group. There’s just three of us, the bassist Eric Hochberg and Penn McGhee doing percussion and vocals. I was floored by the intensity and the communication and the freedom of the thing. He told me that he was going to try to get it released and I told him to go ahead. I was just marking time with Verve, I didn’t know what was on their mind. I thought they were trying to wait me out, and it might have worked had I not had a job. But by the same token, if my daughter’s next tuition payment, or my next rent payment was dependent on my signing with Verve, I’d would have been back at Verve quickly. That why I say God is in all this because I didn’t have to jump when they wanted me to.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: If the contract was signed with Verve, weren’t you worry about legal action with that release?

    TC: No, because it came out in 83 and I didn’t sign anything. That album is a presentation of the bass player’s production company. I’d listened to it, but I didn’t add anything to it. I could have if we wanted to play it that way. We could have made it sound really good. We could have done some cheating if that’s what we really wanted to do. But I’m not into that because I believe that even though people don’t play straight with you, you should still be straight.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: How do you view all of this, as a comeback? Are you officially out of retirement?

    TC: Since I walked out of the music business, I have not been knocking on too many doors trying to get back in. So it’s as much a surprise to me as it is to anybody, except that if God has planned something for you, you can run from that thing for a long as you have breath and in the end it will still be there for you.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: Well why do you keep running from it?

    TC: I’m not running from it. I’m just not running towards it. I’m through with that.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: Isn’t ironic that it seems to be running towards you now?

    TC: That’s what it says in the Koran and a lot of scriptures. If God intends something good for you, nobody can keep it from you, and if God intends for you not to have something, there’s nothing you can do to get it. That’s the way I look at music. If God has intended this for me, it doesn’t matter what I do, it’s going to be what it’s going to be. There are things I can do to inhibit it, like going around spitting on people, that might impede it a bit.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: How has Terry Callier’s music evolved since the last time you made an album in the U.S.?

    TC: One of the songs on the demo called Changing Of The Guard is one of the ones that Chuck doesn’t particularly favor. (EDITOR NOTE:It didn’t make the album) and the chorus goes Lord ain’t it hard at the changing of the guard when you realize something isn’t quite right but you throw it out your mind because you just don’t have the time and it gets you and hits you like a bullet in the night. And there’s another song that goes. And there’s another song called Step Into The Night (ditto) that’s about a friend of mine. I’ve never done an album about people. I take that back, I guess Occasional Rain was as much about people I knew as this new stuff is. The problem I have with writing is I just can’t sit down and say, okay I’m going to right a song. It’s going to be about this. This is going to be the title. This is going to be the chorus. This stuff just comes to me out of the air and I have to wait on it. That’s one of the signs that something’s about happen. When it starts falling on me pretty regularly, I know that something’s up. Sure enough when this last batch of things fell on me, it wasn’t but a minute after that, that I signed with Verve.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: Does your music still have political overtones?

    TC: (He laughs) Some of it I think is more than Verve thinks is necessary.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: Again here Terry, stop me if I’m wrong. You were part of the great Don Mizell purge at Elektra in the 70’s and you were at the tail end, being there when Patrice Rushen got cut and Lenny White got cut. It was right when things were about to happen for the jazz department at that company.

    TC: You’re right, except Patrice was the last to get cut. I was the first.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: Did that piss you off? I mean you still had some hope then.

    TC: I did after a fashion because what happened was we did Fire On Ice and they thought it was too political. They even thought that Holding On (To Your Love) was too political. That album also had African Violet and Martin St. Martin on it and it was just strong medicine. So when time came to work on Turn You To Love, Don Mizell said “it would be if you could give us something for radio.” And I said yes that’s true. I thought that some of the things on Fire On Ice were good enough for radio. He said “We played it for some fm disc jockeys and they said that it was too political. Too strong.” And I said why didn’t you play it for some black fm disc jockeys? And he said it was black fm disc jockeys that said that. So I said, okay cool. That didn’t dim my focus, but it let me know if I was on the right track. So we started recording Turn You To Love. My partner Larry Wade and I had been working on a song call A Sign Of The Times. We did the best job we thought we could with it and they through it out there and it entered the Billboard charts at number 75, and I thought yes Lord here we go. Frankie Crocker was using it as a theme song in New York and it was the first time in a long time I heard myself on the radio, even in my hometown of Chicago.. I thought that that was going to be the start of something big and I don’t know if they were going to drop Don Mizell’s people regardless of the potential they had, they didn’t do any promotion.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine:Did that you make you mad?

    TC: No, because I could tell that things there were kind of winding down. That was like the last hurrah, the bright flash before things go dim.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: Did it help in the decision to get out of the music business?

    TC:, No, because if it had jumped off strong enough, I’d probably would have tried to make other arrangements for my daughter. Now this was 79 or 80 and I didn’t get custody of my daughter until ’83. If it had jumped off, that would have made that decision harder for me to make.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: You were also at Chess when that corporation went wacky, at it’s last hurrah.

    TC: That’s true, but that was a little less painful because I was working with Charles Stepney. He was a very creative, very supportive, very technically accomplished pianist, and of course the world knows about him and Earth Wind and Fire.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: So not only are you having political battles with Verve, you have to worry about them trying to market you. Back in the Elektra years you were a folk singer, an r&b ballad singer, a progressive jazz singer, people didn’t know where to put Terry Callier.

    TC: That’s still part of the problem because Verve’s idea is that I should be doing the smoother more ballad type things. And sure that is part of it but I sure couldn’t make that a big focus. Like Miles Davis use to say, ‘that ain’t none of me.’

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: Wouldn’t hitting the big time be nice?

    TC: It wouldn’t be anywhere near as important as if my mom was still alive. She passed in January of this year. It would be nice because I could do more for my daughter. If it broke as big as the Beatles tomorrow, it still wouldn’t mean as much because my mom’s not here.

     

      Terry Callier Discography  The New Folk Sound-Prestige 1969  Occasional Rain-Cadet 1971  What Color Is Love-Cadet 1972  I Just Can't Help Myself-Cadet 1974  Fire On Ice-Elektra 1978  Turn Me To Love-Elektra 1979  I Don't Wanna See Myself Without You/If I Can Just Change Your Mind-Erect 1983  This Is Acid Jazz 1991  On Cadet-Charly 1992  T.C. In D.C.-Premonition 1997  Time Peace-Verve January 1998

     

     

    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
    See
    our review from the April 1999 JazzUSA.

    An Interview with David Samuels

    David Samuels
    Talks about Caribbean Jazz Project
    by Mark Ruffin
    David Samuels

    Mallet player David Samuels has settled comfortably into life after Spyro-Gyra. He’s released sterling solo albums and formed the group Caribbean Jazz Project. The fourth album from the group, Paraiso, is easily their best, according to JazzUSA’s Mark Ruffin, who sat down with Samuels for a jazzy conversation.

    JazzUSA: Why did you quit Spyro-Gyra?

    DS: It was time to move on. Twelve years on the road and all those records, it was time for me to move on. It was time for me to re-connect with things I’d done, way before working with Spryo, and start new connections with new players and new kinds of music. I had kind of run up against a wall.

    JazzUSA: Kind of like the band itself, huh? When you did quit did you envision starting something like the Caribbean Jazz Project, or did you quit to relax and do all of what you just said?

    DS: My leaving to relax was never an alternative. I had actually started the original version of the Caribbean Jazz Project in ’93 and I quit in ’94. The way things kind of worked out was a seamless working transition from working with Spyro to working with the Caribbean Jazz Project. In a matter of six months after leaving Spyro, we were working like crazy, and we did that for about two or three years and then the personnel changed. I waited for a year and did that Cal Tjader tribute records, and eventually put it back together, and sort of re-formulated it in its current state, and then recorded for Concord and now here’s the second record. It was pretty much of a seamless transition for me. The Caribbean Jazz Project was an idea and I thought it was going to be a fun and challenging group to play in with totally different players and totally different mentalities, different kind of tunes, a different kind of genre. It was a lot of interest at that time. It was just at the explosion of interest in Latin music. We were kind of the first thing out there, and by the time that group came to an end, the market was flooded.

    JazzUSA: When the band was first put together, it seemed to be such a cool paring…

    DS: You know, when you have ideas, sometimes they click, sometimes they don’t, sometimes, it’s in the middle. For this one, everything just kind of lined up at the right time and clicked. I think it was surprising to all of us that we were able to get as much opportunity as we did to go out and perform.

    JazzUSA: How many albums did the original group do?

    DS: Two. The first one was called The Caribbean Jazz Project and the second one, Island Stories.

    JazzUSA: Wasn’t it more of a co-op between you, Pacquito D’Rivera and Andy Narell?

    DS: Yes, the three names are up front, just like they are in this band. I was the one who put this thing together originally, but it was always meant as a Three Musketeers kind of thing.

    JazzUSA: So, you were definitely the impetus?

    DS: Yeah, I was the one that actually got the first opportunity to put a special project together. There was a promoter in New York, who has a series at the Central Park Zoo. He called me and said, “look, I have a budget, how would you like to put a band together?” I had met Pacquito, but I had never worked with him. I just called him out of the blue, and called Andy, who I had worked with. We got a rhythm section together, rehearsed for a day and a half and then we went in a played the gig for the people and the seals. It was pretty wild. There was like the pond for seals right in front of the stage. Then we met about six months after that. We enjoyed the process, of not only playing the music, but of learning the music, and playing someone else’s music and also getting to know each other on a personal level. Then we did another gig in Louisville, Kentucky about six months later, and after that we decided that maybe we should seriously look for some kind of recording deal and an agent. We got that lined up and by August of ’94, we were at the Blue Note in Japan, and then started to roll after that.

    JazzUSA: Why did the first group dissolve?

    DS: Well, one of the reasons was that we were working so much that Pacquito felt that he needed more time himself to pursue his other interest which are numerous. And so he kind of wanted to put the brakes on. That was one of the issues. The other issue was that we found that as other bands started to arrive in this genre, that our position of being kind of anointed was lost. The amount of work that was available started to change, the whole complexions started to change. Then Andy decided he wanted to go back to his solo career, and the natural progression of things just slowed down to where the three of us were no longer committed to playing with each other. Everybody kind of went his own way. Since I had originally put the thing together, I kind of retained ownership of the name. I then did the Cal Tjader record and then went on tour with that band for a year, and decided after making that record to see if there was some was of re-formulating another group that had no relationship whatsoever to what the original band was, except the name alone, different sound, different instrumentation, different musical orientation, and that’s how this new group got together.

    JazzUSA: Tell me a bit about that Cal Tjader tribute record, Tjader-ized,

    DS: It was with Eddie Palmieri and a whole lot of people who actually worked with Cal played on the record or contributed. Eddie had worked with Cal, and Ray Barretto. A piano player named Michael Wolff, who had worked with Cal in the 70’s was on it, and Carl Perazza, who had worked with Cal was on it.

    JazzUSA: Was Cal, your main influence?

    DS: No, but he is an influence. I think he’s an influence more in terms of the direction that he took and the instrumentation that he used at the time, more than him as a player.

    JazzUSA: Who are some of your other influences?

    DS: You know there are not very many of us. I think if one becomes a student of this instrument, and that’s not just the vibes, but the marimba as well, there is not a long roster that you can choose from. I certainly listened to all the players that I have been able to find records of. Some of them you probably know, some you probably don’t know. It’s only been within the last few years that we lost one of the original players of vibes, and Lionel Hampton is still alive, so it’s a relatively young instrument, in terms of it’s history. You know, we lost Milt(Jackson) last year. We lost Tito (Puente). I guess I can say, with all these guys, in one sense of another, have impacted me, some very specifically , in terms of stuff that they’ve done. Others, in terms of the fact, of the style of music that they play in, and others because of their composition, others in terms of relationships I had with other vibes players, you know, playing together. It varies from individuals to individuals. I tried to connect myself somehow.

    JazzUSA: It’s an instrument that I just love and admire, and my all time favorite player is Bobby Hutcherson, and you were talking about those specific things you’re influenced by, you are the only one, other that Bobby that I like to hear play marimba. Is that something you picked up from him, because I don’t know anyone who plays it as frequently as you and him?

    DS: Well, I don’t know if I got it specifically from him. He’s the only one besides another guy, who is a partner of mine. We’ve had a vibes and marimba duo for over 25 years, and that’s David Friedman. That’s where I really started playing marimba, which was back in 1972, which is….

    JazzUSA: Yeah, Double Image.

    DS: Yeah, that’s right. We’re still playing today. So that’s where I really started to hear marimba. And Bobby, who at that time, I don’t think started playing marimba until a little bit later than that. He is the only other guy that actually been out there doing it. David, myself and Bobby. The irony of it is that the two original vibes players, Red Norvo and Lionel Hampton, both played xylophone, because that was the instrument that was available, until vibes were invented.

    JazzUSA: You know, with one note, I know you, Bobby, Milt, Gary Burton, everybody is so individualistic on the instrument, except the younger crop. I can hardly tell Steve Nelson from Bobby. And when Stefon Harris isn’t sounding like Bobby, he slips into his Milt mode. Although, I’m starting to hear him better, but Steve Nelson is like a Bobby Hutcherson clone.

    DS: I think part of the problem is, truly in the case of Stefon, I think it takes time to develop a style. It takes time creating your own voice. I think, in his particular case, the image was created before there was a voice. It’s just kind of the way the cards fell. I’m sure that he’s going to have a long and fruitful recording career, and a strong voice will appear. But it hasn’t happened yet. Everybody comes to it in their own way. I think it’s the record companies and other elements in our society that’s fighting against that.

    JazzUSA: Paraiso, isn’t the first album with this new group, right?

    DS: The first one was called New Horizons.

    JazzUSA: The one thread that I hear in this group that I heard in the first group is Dizzy Gillespie.

    DS: Right.

    JazzUSA: Was he an influence on you, or this particular group in someway?

    DS: I don’t think you can talk, play or be involved in Latin jazz, Afro-Cuban jazz, whatever umbrella you want to put it under, without his influence. At the same time, I don’t think you can talk about Afro-Cuban music or Latin jazz in a small ensemble without horns, without talking about Cal Tjader. One of his strongest influences on me was his creating small Latin jazz ensembles without horns. They weren’t dance bands. It had this kind of hybrid percussion section with no drum set, but two percussionists, and had piano, vibes and flute. He brought that sound to the small ensemble and exposed a whole bunch of people to music that they had never heard before. Dizzy did it with the big band initially, and then Cal did it with the small group. I think both those elements are strong on this record.

    JazzUSA: How did you pick these two guys, Steve Khan and Dave Valentin? I know you’ve been friends with them for a long time, but why them?

    DS: I guess there were a couple of things. One, I knew, just from a sonic standpoint, that I wanted to get away from what we had done. I didn’t want a traditional rhythm section, and I certainly didn’t want to look for another saxophone player who played clarinet. And I couldn’t even begin to look for another pan player. I’d only end up with bad imitations. That wasn’t even a thought.

    JazzUSA: Yeah, you couldn’t get better clarinet playing or steel pan playing.

    DS: Right, and I wanted to try something completely different. I had known Valentin for like years and years and years. He also played on the Cal tribute record and I knew that that combination was great, flute and vibes, absolutely killer. Steve Khan, played on that record too, and he actually played another one of my solo records in the early 90’s called Ten Degrees North. And I knew he work with Eye Witness. Jimmy Haslip, bass player from the group Yellowjackets, told me once, “you want to do some Latin music, you ‘ve got to get in touch with Steve Khan. He is deep into this music.” I had known Steve. I hadn’t seen him in a few years, but I didn’t know that. So I called up Steve and we started talking and it turned out that he was a huge Cal Tjader fan. Not only Cal, but he was heavy into (Tjader’s pianist and arranger) Clare Fischer, not just his music, but him as a person. He knows him. So he’s kind of pushed me in the direction of a different kind of rhythm section, one not having drums. It turned out that when we got together and played, that sonically it was something really open. The music had this intensity with two percussionists, but it wasn’t so thick sounding. There was a lot of space. Whether people like this group or not, they’re not going to confuse it with anything.

    Denise Jordan Walker – Candid Jazz and Conversations

    Denise Jordan WalkerDenise Jordan Walker
    Candid Jazz and Conversations

    Recently we had a chance to speak with former Smooth Jazz radio announcer from WNUA radio in Chicago Denise Jordan Walker. Denise has launched a new national jazz entertainment series called “Candid Jazz and Conversations with Denise Jordan Walker”. We tracked her down and got her to sit still and give us an inside look at her very hip series.

    JazzUSA: Denise, what is Candid Jazz and Conversations?

    DJW: Well, Candid Jazz and Conversations is a promotional entertainment series for national jazz artists. This series is designed to help publicize the artist and move their product.

    JazzUSA: Is this on television?

    DJW: No not yet.

    JazzUSA: How does it work?

    DJW: Our format is similar to the Bravo Channels “The Actors Studio” TV show. This series is designed to bring jazz fans up close and personal with jazz stars of today and yesterday in an intimate setting. Through this guest list only series, group discussions are facilitated on a one on one basis providing “VIP” pass interaction with these Jazz artist. At each event we keep our audience base to 100-150 attendees.

    JazzUSA: How do Jazz Fans get on your guest list?

    DJW: We publicize each event, which is another plus for the artist. People have to call or email us to have their names added to the guest list.

    JazzUSA: So, is this a free event for Jazz fans?

    DJW: Yes it is!

    JazzUSA: The record labels and their artists must be thrilled with your Entertainment Series?

    DJW: yes they are, especially since we’re based in Chicago an important market to any Jazz artist. When an artist agrees to be our special guest. We do a full marketing campaign, promoting the artist and their upcoming appearance at the event. We arrange TV, print and radio interviews prior to their arrival. Plus we market through our target email database of Jazz lovers. Over 7,000 names in Chicago alone. And now that JAZZUSA.COM is our partner on the web, our marketing base has increased 10 fold.

    JazzUSA: And we believe in the series, it’s such a winning concept, what made you create it?

    DJW: When I left WNUA, I became an entertainment publicist for lots of celebrities and motion picture companies. Some of my clients included: comedian Bernie Mac, Billy Dee Williams, Paramount Pictures, Showtime, The Food Network and artist like TLC, The Temptations, and Kool and the Gang. But I missed my Jazz, Then one day I was recommended to Blue Note Records and received a phone call from Tom Everette The general manager of Blue Note. They wanted to hire me to promote jazz legend Ronnie Laws. I did and it was a huge success. I began to receive other referrals from Labels, artists etc and I’ve been a Jazz Publicist since.

    So as a Jazz radio host turned Jazz publicist, I saw the need for more promotional opportunities for jazz artist. Oh, I had no problem getting PR for my other entertainment clients on the big shows, Letterman, The View, Good Morning America etc. Just try to book a jazz artist and see what they tell you! I created this series from a selfish standpoint, to promote my National artist, but it has since become a great marketing tool to promote all Jazz artist.

    JazzUSA: WOW!… Who are you representing in smooth jazz now?

    DJW: I’m Publicist for Smooth Jazz Guitarists Paul Jackson Jr, and Nick Colionne. I also represent Bass player Mike Manson.

    JazzUSA: How should labels and managers reach you to book their artist on your series?

    DJW: They can email their request to djw@candidjazz.com, or they can phone my office at 708-798-4652.

    JazzUSA: What future guests do you have on the Horizon?

    DJW: Well, February it’s Nick Colionne, March it’s Paul Jackson Jr, and a tentative Herbie Hancock, April it’s Mike Manson and a Tentative Will Downing. These Are confirmed guests… We’re still booking artist as we speak!

    JazzUSA: Thank you Denise, and we wish you much success with Candid Jazz and Conversations.

    DJW: Thank you, and I look forward to our partnership with this series as well.

    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….

    MH: BILLIE HOLIDAY!

    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.

    Kirk Whalum Interview – 08-2007

    Kirk Whalum
    Roundtrip, Family and The Future
    by S.H. Watkins, Sr.

    We caught up with Kirk while he was on tour and got him to talk about his great new CD “Roundtrip”, his musical history, the Whalum family and the future. Have a Listen as Kirk Whalum talks.

    Realmedia Windows Media

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    An Interview with Ernie Watts

    Poncho SanchezA Conversation with
    Ernie Watts
    Fred Jung

    I first met Ernie Watts at the House of Blues during the ’97 Verve Jazzfest tour. He was playing with Charlie Haden’s Quartet West, of which Watts has been a part of since the mid-’80s. Through the years, I have had the privilege of seeing Watts in a variety of contexts, from working with Mark Isham, to his time with the Tenor Trio, to his own quartet. The one constant has been Watts, who often was criticized unfairly for his “commercial projects” (whatever that means). One of the true gentlemen in jazz, Watts sat down with me to speak about his beginnings, his musical goals, and his new album on JVC “Classic Moods”.

    JazzUSA: How is it that you started playing the tenor saxophone?

    EW: I started playing the saxophone when I was thirteen, in grade seven, and it just, sort of, started as a fluke. I was with a friend of mine. He knew he wanted to play the saxophone. The music department at the school had instruments to lend for kids to start on, so he knew he wanted to play the saxophone. I didn’t really know, so I was just hanging out with him. So I figured, well, maybe I’ll try the trombone because it looked like it was an interesting instrument and I think I might have seen “The Glen Miller Story” or Tommy Dorsey or something like that on TV or a movie, so I had the trombone in my mind. We went to the music department at the school and my friend got his saxophone. They were all out of trombones in the school music department so I got a baritone saxophone, that was what they had left. I was given a baritone saxophone because I was tall for my age and the teacher figured that I’d be able to carry in marching band. That’s really how I started. It was, like, one of those kind of things you really can’t explain. We have a lot of those as we go through our lives, one of those little things. I liked it. I practiced.

    JazzUSA: At that early stage in your development, how crucial was practicing to you and did your parents play an important role in your direction?

    EW: I’ve always been self-motivated as a person. My parents never had to force me to practice. My parents were very, very supportive of me doing what I wanted to do, but they were no musically oriented people, so they didn’t really know how to direct my energy. They listened to whatever was on AM radio. But, they were very supportive, as far as, my practicing, not complaining about the noise and that general kind of thing.

    JazzUSA: Did you formally take lessons?

    EW: Well, Fred, I was studying in the school with the school music teacher. This is early. This is when I was about fourteen, and practicing at home and learning how to play. I wanted to hear people playing the saxophone so I could get an idea of the sound. And there wasn’t a lot of saxophone players on the radio at the time. I think one of the few saxophone players during that period of time that had hit records was a guy named Earl Bostic (alto saxophonist with Lionel Hampton) and I would hear him now and then on the radio. But mainly, there wasn’t any, so I started listening and looking around and found that my neighbor, my next door neighbor had this wonderful jazz collection. He started to lend me records and I remember the first saxophone player that heard that influenced me, that was a positive influence was Paul Desmond, who played with Dave Brubeck and they were very popular at the time. They had, you know, “Take Five” and “Blue Rondo A La Turk,” and they had a lot of successful albums during that period of time. This was the late fifties, I think. I think I started playing around 1958, maybe I was thirteen around then.

    So I heard Paul Desmond and that encouraged me. I could hear what he was playing because he played so clearly. He played very melodically and very simply. I could hear what he was playing and I could play some of those things as I practiced. So it was very encouraging to me. It was like, ‘Well, maybe I can do this jazz thing.’ I’m thinking to myself, because I can hear some of these things and I can play them on my horn. So that was very encouraging and I went on from there. My neighbor kept lending me different players so I got a chance to hear Sonny Rollins, Charlie Parker, Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, all of these great musicians, my neighbor was introducing me to, through these records. So, after I’d been doing that for about a year or so, studying in school. I always took lessons. I always studied, so at the same time I was learning how to improvise, I was also learning how to read music and studying music and playing in bands. So it has always been a combination of the study of, the science of music, and the study and the practice of the art of music too. It’s always been together for me, all of it at the same time.

    JazzUSA: But there must have been a turning point, where the music evolved?

    EW: Well, after I’d been playing for about a year or so, a couple of different things happened. The school got an alto saxophone and so I switched from baritone to alto. Also, I started studying privately. I started studying the classical saxophone repertoire privately because there were no jazz programs in my school system at the time. So I started studying with a classical teacher. Also, my mother bought me a little record player because she realized that I was fairly serious about this music and borrowing portable record players and listening to records from my neighbor, so she bought me a little record player from Sears and she joined the Columbia Record Club. I think it’s pretty much the same, when you join one of these record clubs, the first one is free and then you get into the program and you order from there. She joined the Columbia Record Club and she ordered the free-be and the free- be at that time, because like I was saying, Fred, this was 1958, ’59. The free record at that time was a Miles Davis album called “Kind of Blue”, because it had just come out. That was, sort of, the turning point for me because I had been listening to all of the different saxophone player’s records that me neighbor had been lending me and then I heard Charlie Parker. I really liked Charlie Parker. I got this “Kind of Blue” album and I heard Cannonball Adderley. He was on this and Miles, of course, Jimmy Cobb played drums, and Paul Chambers played bass, and it was Wynton Kelly on piano and Bill Evans too. The tenor player on this album was John Coltrane. I heard Coltrane play and it just totally captivated me. I had never heard anything like that before and it blew my mind. So, from that point on I was just really focused on Coltrane.

    There was something about the way he played that really connected with me. I’ve sort of been a student and aspiring to that level of playing all my life, since then. As far as sounds on the saxophone go, I really loved the way Coltrane played tenor and I really loved the sound that Cannonball got on alto, so as I continued to play alto through the school system, studying and learning, and playing with different bands. I was listening to a lot of Cannonball for sound, the sound quality of the horn. And I was listening to a lot of Coltrane because of what he was doing melodically and harmonically. I was a young kid, so I really didn’t understand what he was doing on a technical level until later, but there was something about what he was doing melodically that really captured me. So that’s how I really got interested in jazz, was through that music, through the bands of some small groups, through the bands of Miles Davis especially, later on, John Coltrane’s quartet. Miles had several great bands, so his band in the ’60s, I was very, very attached to, too. The band with Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock and Tony Williams, who was just about my age, so it was very inspiring to me at the time to hear an eighteen year old kid playing so incredibly with Miles. So all of that kind of stuff, kind of, inspired me along the way. That was the beginning, beginning, beginning.

    JazzUSA: Why do you feel the groups of John Coltrane and Miles Davis have had such a continued impact through the years?

    EW: I think mainly with the intent of the music, at that particular time, I would say that both of those groups, Miles’s group in the ’50s and the ’60’s, Coltrane with Miles in the ’50s, and then Coltrane with his group in the ’60s, the intent of that music was to create music. The intent of that music was to create a particular, or a special, or an elevated level of music. And so, I think musicians are attracted to that music because it is unpretentious music. It’s pure music. When these guys got up and played, there was no posturing. It was music. They were there and they were doing music. It was music for music and that’s why it was so beautiful. That’s why it’s so clear. That’s why it was so strong and that’s why it effected us the way it effected us, because it was the energy of the music. That’s the way I feel about it.

    JazzUSA: Is that attitude lacking in musicians today?

    EW: Well, young musicians are young musicians. The implications of that are in the word young, so, I mean, when Miles Davis was eighteen or nineteen- years-old, he was dealing with his ego and dealing with various things, and learning how to play music, and being competitive. I’m sure that when everybody is nineteen or twenty or twenty-two-years-old or whatever, they’re still dealing with themselves. They’re still trying to work out who they are, so no matter how well they play the instrument, no matter how many notes they can play, or how proficient they are on an instrument, they still have to get through certain aspects of growing up, of maturing emotionally, of going through life. So it takes a certain amount of time for a person to get to the point where he’s really involved in doing this music, and some people as you know, Fred, never get through their egos. Those specific bands were very special because of that. They got through a lot of ego shit. Miles always had his stuff. Miles had his Miles mystic, but in those particular bands, when the music was going on, the music was really what it was about. It takes a while to get to that. Young performers have to get through all their personal stuff. They’re still young people. Now a days, there a lot of young, incredible instrumentalists. I call it like, the way I think of myself is, I’m a really good saxophone player, aspiring to be a really good musician. It’s one thing to be a really good instrumentalist. It’s one thing to play a horn. It’s another thing to be a musician. You can play all the notes in the world, but what you bring to it, and what you hear when you play, and the substance of what you play, and the substance of what you write, that’s what makes a musician. You can be a horn player or you can be a musician.

    JazzUSA: Give me an example of a musician?

    EW: Now, Wayne Shorter is a prime example of just a wonderful, wonderful, evolved musician, because everything he plays is unique. It’s personally him. It’s on a very high level technically and it’s on a very high level musical substance wise. He’s one of the best composers in this music and has been for thirty years. That’s a musician. It takes a while to get to that.

    JazzUSA: Is the current environment in music, the marketing and the hype, allowing young “players” to develop into “musicians”?

    EW: No one allows or no one disallows anyone to learn anything. That’s up to them. That’s up to their personal consciousness. That’s up to their personal energy. That’s up to their personal aspirations. All of the information is there. I think there are a lot of great, young musicians that are growing and learning and all of the information is there, so nobody is holding the information back from us. It’s just a matter of when we are individually ready to assimilate the information and that happens for different people at different times. It’s not a matter of anybody allowing it or not allowing it, because if it was that, there wouldn’t be any jazz. Jazz has never been allowed.

    JazzUSA: Reflecting back on your musical education, what are your feelings towards the jazz education that is being presented to young students today in school?

    EW: There are a lot more opportunities, but there’s not enough music programs. I don’t know if it’s a government responsibility or it’s a personal responsibility of families. It used to be a part of our culture that part of a child growing up and learning about math and science and that kind of stuff in school, their parents had them in some sort of music program, so it didn’t really matter if the school had a music program or not. These kids studied music or there was a piano in the house. All the kids took some kind of piano lessons or something. In our culture, at one time, that was thought of, music education and music training was thought of as part of a well rounded, cultural education. So, I mean, that’s just, kind of, drained out of our culture, probably, mainly because of economics. So, I don’t know if it’s our responsibility. I don’t know if we can put personal responsibilities onto the government.

    JazzUSA: You honed a great deal of your playing “chops” in big bands, Gerald Wilson, Buddy Rich, and Oliver Nelson, how did the larger ensemble setting aid in your development?

    EW: I think, mainly, the craft of music, learning to play my instrument consistently well. With Buddy, we were working every night. With Oliver Nelson, we did tours and we worked every day. It’s very important to be consistent and I think playing in big bands, playing in ensembles puts that importance on consistency of performances and that’s very good for a young player. It’s a discipline. Every time you play, it’s a discipline. Whether it’s a small band and whether it’s a large band, every time you play, it’s a discipline. It’s another opportunity to get better. They were very good bands. All the musicians were very good and the music was good. The writing was good. Oliver Nelson was an incredible composer and arranger. So listening to his music, playing his music, being in the ensemble and hearing how his harmony worked did a lot for me as far as learning about chords and learning about harmony. The same thing with playing with Gerald Wilson, because he’s such a wonderful writer. And then playing with Buddy Rich, we played very good arrangements and so it was a matter of that day to day consistency of performing your best or aspiring to perform your best every time you pick up your instrument. That sets up patterns for your whole life. There’s a lot of discipline and there’s a lot of things you learn in discipline to, sort of, follow through in other aspects of your life too.

    JazzUSA: How important is discipline to becoming a good musician?

    EW: I think it’s personal. I think it’s really personal, because I know musicians that are incredible musicians and they’re not disciplined people. It doesn’t really necessarily have a lot to do with that. I think what we have to find out for ourselves, individually is who are, and what we want, and how it works. For me, I’m not a naturally talented, gifted, out-of-the-egg musician. I didn’t wake up with all of this music coming out of me. I wasn’t born with all this music jumping out of me. I’m a person that heard music, that loved music, and loved the things I heard, loved particular aspects of the things that I heard, then I learned about it. I studied it and I disciplined it. So, for me personally, I’m a product of discipline. I’m a product of will, aspiration. I’ve always wanted to do this, so I’ve always worked at it. For me, that’s the way it worked for me, but for somebody else, I know people that can just get up and they can play anything they hear. The only reason that they have to practice is to just have the physical endurance on their instrument to play the things they hear. So, everybody is coming from a different place. It’s a matter of figuring out, I know I have to practice so I do. That’s the difference. It’s not like I know that I have this magic stuff and I don’t have to do anything but let it come through. I know I have to practice in order to do the things that I want to do. Then the magic happens too and it all works together.

    JazzUSA: You have been a member of Charlie Haden’s Quartet West for quite some time now, how instrumental has that time been to your development as a musician?

    EW: We’re getting ready to record again in February. There’s a few things that we’ve done, that I’m never sure when they’re going to come out, especially the way record companies come and go and get bought and sold (Verve, the label of Haden’s Quartet West has been sold as part of the Seagrams/Universal/Polygram mega-deal and is being combined with Impulse/GRP as one unit called The Verve Group) and everything. For me, with Charlie, and Lawrence Marable, and Alan Broadbent, we all have the same values as far as music goes. We have a similar picture. We have similar aspirations, so when we play together it’s very, very natural. We don’t have to talk about what we’re going to do because we already have an inner picture. That’s the mark of a band that really works together, you know, and I think Charlie had that vision when he put together the group. He had played with all of us and he could hear that we’re all coming from the same place, and because of that, the music really flows. It’s a very beautiful concept and it really works. It’s not like a lot of all-star bands where it’s, like, four band leaders on the stage slugging it out. It’s a band.

    JazzUSA: Let’s talk about your new album on JVC “Classic Moods”.

    EW: The players are people that I’ve always respected and Jimmy Cobb, the drummer, was the drummer for that incredible quintet in the ’50s with Miles Davis and Coltrane. He replaced Philly Joe Jones, so I grew up listening to Cobb, so it was part of my concept of time, it’s really related to the way that he played with Miles on those records. When I was learning about what jazz is and when I was learning how to play, he was the drummer. It was just a real big honor and treat to have Jimmy Cobb on the project. George Mraz, we went to Berklee at the same time, and so did Alan Broadbent and I. Alan Broadbent and I were at Berklee at the same time, in Boston, so we’ve known each other forever. Getting back to George Mraz, we did a tour a couple of years ago with Charlie and the band. We did this Verve jazz tour (’97 Verve Jazzfest). It was Charlie’s band, and it was Joe Henderson’s trio, and it was the big band made up of musicians that had played on that movie “Kansas City” (Robert Altman film). I heard George play every night with Joe Henderson and he just sounded so great. We, kind of, renewed our relationship again and he’s a good friend, a good person.

    So when I did this project I wanted George to be on it because he’s such a beautiful player. The other player on it is Mulgrew Miller. Mulgrew has played on a couple of my other projects too (“Reaching Up”). He’s a wonderful player, a great player. He’s, I think, for me, one of the most natural players for me to play with because we have the same values. We grew up listening to same people. We grew up with those same aspirations and you can hear that in people’s music, and we all get along well personally too. That’s a big part of it, if you get along, and you can be relaxed, and you can enjoy each other’s company. And really, the concept of the record was classic tunes that I’ve always loved that I grew listening to that I’ve never really got a chance to play. They’re really beautiful tunes and as we put it together and started doing the music, it’s basically a ballad project, which I hadn’t really thought about it when I started putting it together, really it was tunes that I wanted to play because it was tunes that I had grown up listening to like “On Green Dolphin Street.” Miles, I grew up listening to Miles play that. I grew up listening to Miles play “‘Round Midnight” and a lot of these tunes. Coltrane with the “Lush Life” album, it was a trio thing on most of that particular album, and then this particular tune was a quartet on that album “Lush Life.” I grew up listening to all that stuff on Prestige, with Miles on Prestige and Coltrane on Prestige. It was, sort of like, getting in touch with my background and tunes that I’ve always wanted to play and never really had a chance to. I’m very happy with it. It’s a beautiful, beautiful CD.

    JazzUSA: You seem to have an affinity towards ballads, is there a strings album in the near future for you?

    EW: I don’t really know. We’ve been talking about a lot of things, I mean, I wouldn’t mind doing a string album, but I don’t think string albums are magic or anything. I used to until I started working with orchestras. Now I’ve played with a lot of orchestras, with a lot of string ensembles and it’s a beautiful sound, but I think musically you can do just as much with a really great piano player too or a guitar player. So really for me, the format, the surroundings, the environment that I’m in doesn’t really matter as much as the substance of music that I bring to the situation. So I am very involved in practicing. I’m very involved in studying harmony and hearing things, so that whenever I play, if it’s just with two people or it’s with a symphony orchestra or whatever, there is substance in what I do, that I just don’t play some kind of silly shit because I’ve got a lot of chops. That’s what I’m getting very involved in now is that everything I play has some substance and is of melodic content. You know? And then whatever situation that I’m in, it doesn’t really make a whole lot of difference because you bring the knowledge and the substance with you. So that’s what I’m, sort of, dealing with right now, is getting deeper into myself.

    JazzUSA: Are you comfortable with where you are at musically, now?

    EW: It’s an on going process, Fred. You never really look back. You’re always going forward because you’re always aspiring to something, just like we were talking about, Fred, more substance, more knowledge, more clarity, and you’re always going forward, so looking back, I don’t really know.

    JazzUSA: If Ernie Watts had a mission statement, what would that be?

    EW: Just to create something beautiful. To bring something beautiful to the world. To help people feel a little better than they normally do. To elevate people’s consciousness a bit. I would say that’s about it.

    JazzUSA: From a musician’s perspective, is jazz music in the United States declining or growing?

    EW: I really don’t know because I’m really not in touch with the scene. I’m in and out of town. I travel a lot. I do my own projects. I play with Charlie, so I’m not really here all the time to pick up a gig here, or pick up a gig there, or hear the general comments of the musicians that are here all the time. I’m, sort of, in my own little orbit (laughing), so I really don’t know. I would say off hand though it’s like any place else. There’s always musicians that are working on the music, so the music will always be because it’s stimulating and because it keeps musicians alive. The music will always be. Clubs come and clubs go and all of those kinds of situations, sort of, ebb and flow. Things pick up and things slow down, but basically the music will always be. The music will be in all of its forms, even back to Dixieland. There’s guys playing that. There’s guys playing everything from traditional music to whatever you want to call it these days. I don’t know if acid jazz is an old term now because terminology, and fashions, and fads come and go, so people change the names of things, but still it’s the same basic concepts. It’s the same basic essence. The music always goes on. That’s a part of what we are.

    JazzUSA: What can we expect from Ernie Watts in the future?

    EW: Probably more focused, more intense music. Probably more and more music that is higher and higher evolved as I learn more about music and continue to study. I see, I see myself as continuing to go on, to continue to grow, because that’s the way I’m made up. That’s my nature. My nature is to learn and to grow, so I try to learn something, well, I do, I try to learn something every day.

    JazzUSA: At the close of your career, what would you like your legacy to be?

    EW: Looking back, I would hope there was some substance in what I’ve done and it had touched some people’s lives, and it had brought some beauty into some people’s lives, and it had brought some joy to some people’s lives. I would say that would be it.

    An Interview with Moses Molelekwa

    An Interview with Moses Molelekwa Moses Molelekwa – An Interview
    by Struan Douglas

    South African music is hot. It’s always been hot. And yet where are the compilation albums that capture the passion and depth of contemporary South african sounds in an honest, authentic and representative way? Right now there is a wealth of brilliant South African music avilable. And afribeat.com has put together an album, focusing on jazz, acousti c and world music styles, that captures the intensity, diversity and power of this creative pulse.

    Moses Molelekwa is one of South Africa’s most innovative and progressive jazz musicians, a visionary who’s revitalising the genre, mixing in the old with the new, respecting the traditional sounds, yet taking risks and pushing jazz into a contemporary and refreshing space. As with any great and passionate musician, he composes furiously and prolifically, dynamic and reflexive in an ever changing society, developing his sound into something that is retrospective and progressive, eclectic and representative, rhythmical and harmonic, sensitive and tolerant – a step in the direction of a universal sound.

    Moses has recorded two albums on the Melt label and has taken his beautiful sounds to numerous national and international festivals. Rosskilder with TKZee and most recently the North Sea Jazz Festival in Den Haige.

    “It was one of the best festivals I’ve ever played at, it was like a new beginning. I grew up listening to and playing Herbie Hancok’s music – he is one of my greatest inspirations. When we hooked up, we didn’t swap chords or talk music, we ended up meditating for an hour. It was just an amazing beautiful connection.”

    A meeting of heightened awareness and harmony between two musical greats, combining various movements of jazz – past, present and progressive – into a spiritual connection of sharing and developing. Their vision is musical – eclectic, diverse and unselfish- revelling in the unity of sound and rhythm. “I love all music, and all the similarities. I think there’s just something special about music, and you got to appreciate that.” And its this passion for the inclusivity of sound and commitment to expanding his music, combined with his instinctive desire for discovering the voice of harmony, that has fine-tuned his ear to the little details, the beauty of jazz and its great embrace.

    His latest album transcends the jazz idiom. He mixes in straight ahead jazz, beautiful piano melodies and reggae or contemporary drum and base beats, into an album that is a visual journey through the landscape of his youth, the colour and diversity of his influences and his deep spirituality.


    Interview with Moses Molelekwa
    North Sea Jazz festival Den Haige
    16 July 2000, shortly after midnight – Moses is relaxed and sociable after a fabulous performance the night before and a day at the festival catching some of the big acts, we drink a couple of beers together high up in his hotel room.

    SD: Playing at the North Sea Jazz festival amongst a line up of the greatest of stars, how do you feel?

    MM: It is inspiring and exciting because South Africa is another world. Though jazz is loved there, the North Sea Cape Town earlier this year was the first of its kind to attract so many people, so to come to the North Sea here and see that every year you have serious jazz appreciators is great. The jazz market in Europe is so huge – it is inspiring to be among such great musicians. It gives me time and space to reflect on what I’m going to do next, and encouragement that I am definitely on the right track.

    SD: There’s a lot of variety, funk, r&b, hip-hop. Do you find it is pulling you in different directions?

    MM: I’m naturally like that – I listen to everything. That is sort of manifested in the way I play as well – all those different styles. It’s exciting to see a jazz festival with so much variety, which shows that jazz is so huge. One’s role in this is to confirm South African jazz to this market.

    SD: Being an ambassador for South African music, there are only three African acts at this festival – how do you feel you guys can go about showing these people that there is a wealth of music in Africa?

    MM: By our performances, the feeling we put in our music – that is what it is at the end of the day. It is an eye opener as well watching American musicians. There is a certain culture that already exists. The South African market is still taking baby steps compared to the States who are way ahead of us in terms of the structuring of the music business. Watching them represent their musical heritage inspires us as well to want to do more. We represent South African music and the now generation of music. We have all these different influences from the South African music scene and we bring out each and every one of them.

    SD: Having recently travelled West Africa, I feel that African music has a lot more to say than international music – do you feel that African music is richer in expression?

    MM: Not really, everywhere in the world there are those musicians who will express at a certain level – especially when you are doing something original. The music you play is also a medium in which you can express yourself best – like a language that is developed and that is growing and changing. So each artist when they start composing there own music and they play it – the way they feel it and it is real to them and then they can touch other people and perform it with a real spirit. In South Africa now it is an exciting time and also a testing time where we are reconfirming the root we have chosen. The richness comes from within and also opening your ears to other peoples music. And that’s why it is always changing. We (South Africans) are new and bringing in other musical elements, styles and feelings into the feelings of the world, but it happens everywhere with all musicians. Music is the most powerful force in providing the thing that will unite the world. It is a connecting force that can come from every country.

    SD: Talking about all these influences and similarities, having collaborated with kwaito group Tkzee and recently classical pianist Johanne Mcgregor, where are you going now with your sound?

    MM: It was exciting working with TKZee, it was a great experience and even today we are still continuing to collaborate. I have been in the studio with Tokolo on his album. There are things that I hear in kwaito and there are things that I have written that bring out the African element and the jazzy element more stronger in kwaito. As far as my musical career is concerned, at the moment I see a lot of possibilities. I think that for the next album it is going to be big. I can feel it because now I am aware of the importance of being global. I have always had those influences and that kind of perception but now I have experienced it and seen how it happens and how it can affect. I see possibilities of doing concerts with orchestras, I would like to develop my band. It can almost be like a school but also a band which allows young people to come and grow in it and be free to leave when they need to move on – a constantly developing ensemble. But at the end of the day, my next album will be all these influences put together, to present a new style, a new approach to music which is my personal approach. I have been listening to a lot of music – there is a lot of great music in the world which is not being heard as often as it should be – but in bringing all those elements together, I will be able to do that. Now it is a period of reflections and I like what I see so far, but I can see where it can go as well. I need time to put it together and take it into the world.

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    An Interview with Philip Bailey

    A Conversation With
    Philip Bailey
    by Mark Ruffin

    Thirty years ago, when the Ramsey Lewis Trio was one of the hottest jazz acts in the country, the drummer gave Lewis the news that he was leaving. “He told me he was going to start a band with his brother that mixed magic and inspirational messages with jazz r&b and rock,” Lewis said laughing at the memory. “I told him to take two aspirin, lie down and call me in the morning.”

    The drummer, Maurice White, went on to form Earth, Wind & Fire; one of the largest selling musical acts of the 70’s, and arguably, “the” most influential black band of all time.

    Three decades later, Phillip Bailey, EW&F’s most recognizable voice and one of three members left from the celebrated group’s heyday, the others are drummer/vocalist Ralph Johnson, and the only original member, Verdine White, has comes full circle with his very first solo jazz album,”Dreams.”

    Bailey recorded his first solo album, “Continuation,” back in 1982. He followed that with two more pop albums and the worldwide hit duet with Phil Collins “Easy Lover,” plus four gospel albums including 1986’s “Triumph,” which earned him a Grammy award that sits with the six others, four American Music awards and 50 gold and platinum albums earned with Earth, Wind & Fire.

    While EW&F has always done very jazzy tunes, Bailey didn’t start getting notice singing jazz until earlier this decade when he was part of two one-shot groups that exquisitely displayed what his four-octave voice can do with the great American song. The first group, Pride of Lions, was assembled in Chicago in ’92 by James Mack, head of the music department at that city’s Harold Washington College.

    The group included, among others, trumpeter Roy Hargrove, the late drummer Tony Williams, pianist Billy Childs, saxophonist Bobby Watson, Chicago guitarist Fareed Haque and their self-titled album is still available on Sony. However, the other group, Night On The Town, only toured, but the group was just as formidable featuring Chicago superstar Chaka Khan, South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela, Japanese keyboardist Keiko Matsui and smooth jazz sax star Gerald Albright.

    “Dreams” is decidedly more in the direction of smooth jazz than either of those specially assembled groups were, to wit, Bailey makes no apologies. The list of musicians who absolutely, positively overnighted Bailey music for his album include jazz stars Grover Washington Jr., Pat Metheny, George Duke, Peter White, Kirk Whalum and many others.

    Bailey was on tour with Earth, Wind & Fire in Las Vegas when we talked last month. Bailey, an avid golfer was watching the U.S. Open and was easily distracted at first. But eventually, he settled in for a nice chat that proved the man’s positive and bright on-stage demeanor is no act.

    JazzUSA: When I heard you had a jazz record coming out, all I could think of was this band that I saw that you were in…

    PB: With Keiko Matsui and all of them?

    JazzUSA: Yes, it was Keiko,

    PB: Keiko, Chaka (Khan), Hugh Masekela and Gerald Albright. It was called Night On The Town.

    JazzUSA: That’s right. It was incredible.

    PB: Yeah, that was a nice thing.

    JazzUSA: Yeah, and I was already hip to the James Mack recording with you singing “The Nearness Of You,” to hear you do it live was just awesome. Had you aspired to be a jazz singer before Earth, Wind & Fire happened?

    PB: That was my first love. Jazz…ooh, nice putt…. Jazz was the very first love, really. That’s been the real inspiration for all the stuff that I do musically. The fact that there’s those people that went before me that I still look up to.

    JazzUSA: But you have such a unique voice, I can’t hear who has influenced you as a jazz singer.

    PB: Miles Davis and Coltrane and Sarah Vaughan, Nancy Wilson and really people do not know what an influence Dionne Warwick was on me. Just her vibrato, just her phrasing had me into Dionne Warwick like a champ when I was a kid. But basically, I think of my voice as a vehicle by which the creator does whatever he wants to do and then I just try to stay yielded in that way. And that way I don’t put a limit on what can happen. I’m always exploring and discovering new things about my voice.

    JazzUSA: Are you still discovering new things about your voice?

    PB: Heck yes. I’m forevermore discovering something new.

    JazzUSA: Why do a jazz album now?

    PB: Because that’s the supreme expression of freedom and fluidity and flexibility. That’s where it all comes together and you begin to fly. As a singer and an instrumentalist, you’re not thinking about what you’re doing. It’s just free flow, like astral traveling.

    JazzUSA: Actually Earth, Wind & Fire has performed jazz from the beginning.

    PB: That’s our inspiration. That’s always been our inspiration, and while we’ve talked about it for a while now, I still look forward to the day when Earth, Wind & Fire does a jazz record. A record where you don’t have to deal with commerciality at all. It can be whatever it is.

    JazzUSA: Phillip, you guys have threatened to do that for years now, and man what great jazz tunes you’ve done already, “Zanzibar,” “Power,” “Sun Goddess,” the Milton Nascimento Brazilian stuff.

    PB: Oh yeah, we go there, but doing a whole record of it would be a different thing.

    JazzUSA: This new record, “Dreams,” I mean “Head To The Sky” is a jazzy as this record, but it’s interesting that you’re competing with yourself on a couple of tracks like re-doing “Make It With You.” It’s very cool how you did it, and you re-invented the first time you did it, and now you’ve kind of re-invented it again…Was that hard to do?

    PB: No that was one take, and actually I had forgotten that we had done that song before.

    JazzUSA: (big laugh)

    PB: I did, until you said it right now. Which record did we sing that on?

    JazzUSA: Are you kidding? “Last Days And Times.”

    PB: Damn, I forgot. I knew that song felt close to me some kind of way, but I forgot that we did it before.

    JazzUSA: And you re-invented it last time, do you recall it now?

    PB: Yeah, now I do.

    JazzUSA: So my question is null and void, that’s the answer, you didn’t even think about the old version.

    PB: (laughs) Right, I didn’t even think about it.

    JazzUSA: What about “Sail Away?”

    PB: “Sail Away,” I thought we were going to do a stripped down acoustic version of it and then when Erik sent it to me, it was a hip-hop version with the chords changes changed up, with a slight twist on the melody. So I just sang it and sent it back to him. This record was put together very interestingly.

    JazzUSA: You know, I noticed that.

    PB: It was all FedEx and Adats. Ohhh..get out.

    JazzUSA: You’re watching the U.S. Open aren’t you?

    PB: Yeah man, Tiger just hit a shot out of the sand and the ball went up and then came back into the sand. I thought that was only me.

    JazzUSA: Are you a golfer?

    PB: Yes.

    JazzUSA: I noticed on the record, it was like whomever you wanted you sent a tape to them. You can tell by looking at the studio credits, all of those personalized studios listed. Is that what you did, went after people for specific sounds?

    PB: Yep, it was like, okay, who would be cool on this or that, and just send them a tape, (laughs) and then they put their stuff on there and send it back. (laughs) I didn’t even see anybody. I haven’t even seen Erik Huber. I’ve never met him.

    JazzUSA: You never met him?

    PB: Nope. We did the vocals at my house, at my studio. The only person I saw was Robert Brookins.

    JazzUSA: What about Grover Washington?

    PB: I didn’t see anybody.

    JazzUSA: Man, on “Make It With You,” you and Grover sound like you’re right there.

    PB: I haven’t seen ne’er a soul, which is really cool, because it so crazy, so on par with today and technology and everything.

    JazzUSA: Right, including the album coming with a video.

    PB: (big laugh) Yeah, right, plus it comes with a video.

    JazzUSA: Yeah, technology has come a long way since you guys were in Earth, Wind & Fire almost 30 years ago.

    PB: Yeah, all this stuff could have never been thought of. We were never able to do something like this.

    JazzUSA: The Pat Metheny tune, “Something To Remind Me,” did you call Pat, because you wanted Pat on a tune.

    PB: Yeah I told him about the project and he said, ‘listen to this song, because I was inspired to write it by you guys.’ And I talked to my son and he wrote the lyrics.

    JazzUSA: Did he say specifically what Earth, Wind & Fire tune, or what era, or what about Earth, Wind & Fire inspired him?

    PB: No, he didn’t elaborate, he just said that he and Lyle Mays were inspired to write it by us.

    JazzUSA: How old is your son, Sir Bailey?

    PB: 27.

    JazzUSA: Does he play? Does he sing like you?

    PB: He writes. He’s a really, really good lyricist. He works for a television company, for Carsey & Werner, on “Third Rock From The Sun.” His aspiration is to direct and to write and produce on TV. He’s got quite the mind. So he can just take the stuff and just hook me up.

    JazzUSA: You’re already so hooked up.

    PB: But the thing about it is you’ve got to know your limitation. And I know, kind of what I want to say, but then, it’s important to say stuff the way it should be said for today. I think people get in trouble when they don’t acknowledge it’s a different day and find out what their contribution should be now, for today. They get too stuck in yesterday. So while they’re not trying to move on, they actually get left behind. (laugh)

    JazzUSA: You guys are currently touring, did you think, when you guys were in the glory days, that you’d still be doing it 20 years later.

    PB: You really don’t think about it, because you’re in motion. So you’re not really thinking about it. Plus your whole aim when you first start out is to build a career. You’re looking at Miles Davis. You’re looking at the fact that when you go into a record store, you’ve got three rows of records, of music history. You’re looking at that and you’re going, ‘I’m not there yet.’ You’re just marching. And then you look back 20 years and you go, ‘wow, I’m still marching.’ So the journey’s not over until it’s over. And you let other people credit you for whatever you leave behind. But you’ve got to stay in motion, that’s my philosophy.

    JazzUSA: Why not just opt for a solo career? Why keep the band and the solo career all this time? Now you’ve been doing the solo thing for getting close to 20 years. Why keep in motion with both of them?

    PB: I want to have something to bring back to Earth, Wind & Fire, and I want to have a reason to have a solo career. (laughs) It all makes sense.

    JazzUSA: Yes, and you put it very succinctly, like you’ve really thought about it.

    PB: (laughs) Of course. Look with Earth, Wind & Fire, before Maurice (White) left, I’m a role player. I knew what my responsibilities were and all of that, but it didn’t encapsulate all the potential in everything I could do. So I had to have a solo career to have an outlet to continue to grow. But then as I grow and come back to Earth, Wind & Fire, I’m more of an asset. So, it’s one hand washes the other.

    JazzUSA: Now who’s in the band? Verdine White is still in the band?

    PB: The originals are myself, Ralph (Johnson) and Verdine.

    JazzUSA: Is Sonny Emory still with you guys?

    PB: Sonny’s doing his solo stuff. Gordon Campbell’s playing now. He used to play with Mary J. Blige.

    JazzUSA: Doesn’t Robert Brookins have something to do with the band?

    PB: Robert is like my son. (laughs) He lived with me when he was a kid and of course you know he’s in the industry. Robert is a really good producer, songwriter. He plays with us now and he was totally the man on my record. He produced all the vocals for me and the new show that we’re doing now; he’s largely responsible for.

    JazzUSA: Who is this Erik Huber guy who produced “Dreams?”

    PB: He’s the producer and I’ve never seen him.

    JazzUSA: So why pick him to trust with something so valuable.

    PB: The music speaks for itself. You send me some stuff and it’s happening, it’s happening.

    JazzUSA: And it is a happening record. No doubt, you didn’t even think about the fact that you could lose some audience by doing a jazzier record?

    PB: (laughs)

    JazzUSA: Some people worry about that and you laugh.

    PB: (laughs harder) whoa, man.

    JazzUSA: Why is it funny?

    PB: Heck no, I don’t think about that. That never would enter into my mind. I’m honest and true about what I do and why I’m doing it. You can’t go through life second-guessing yourself thinking about what if somebody doesn’t like stuff. You’ll never arrive at your destiny that way.

    JazzUSA: What about a new Earth, Wind & Fire recording?

    PB: We’re doing that with Wyclef, and Eric Benet and Dee-Lite in between touring this year, we’re going into the studio and doing those.

    JazzUSA: Is there a record deal? PN: Yeah, we’re on Wyclef’s label. We’re signed to him. We’re going to do this record with release for 2000.

    JazzUSA: Which is the 30th anniversary of the release of the very first Earth, Wind & Fire album. Now, you weren’t with the band yet, now correct me if I’m wrong, even before “Last Days & Times,” the band third record, but your first, you had known the band before.

    PB: Yeah, I knew the band. Actually, we used to perform their songs.

    JazzUSA: What songs?

    PB: Earth, Wind & Fire songs in my band.

    JazzUSA: No kidding. You mean early Earth, Wind & Fire songs.

    PB: Yes. We did “I Think About Loving You,” and (starts to sing) “where you’re gonna run, starts to get higher, better come down…

    JazzUSA: Gonna be a fire. Right. That’s “Moment Of Truth,”

    PB: Yeah, we did all that stuff.

    JazzUSA: So how did you meet?

    PB: Well their band did a promotional show in Colorado and our band opened the show and that’s how we met. Obviously, we didn’t play their songs when we saw them. But, I caught their attention, me and (keyboardist) Larry Dunn; we were in the other band. That’s how it happened.

    JazzUSA: So they just swept you out of Denver?

    PB: That next year, a mutual friend of both bands moved out to Los Angeles to work for Warner Brothers, (the record company Earth, Wind & Fire was originally signed to.) And he brought me out there and then when they started to reform, that’s how I got into the band.

    JazzUSA: Did you ever feel like it was fate, after you had been in the band for a while?

    PB: Oh definitely, there were no accidents. It was just totally the way God wanted to do something.

    JazzUSA: My favorite solo record of yours is “The Wonders Of His Love,” Although it’s a gospel album, you and George Duke are just kicking throughout that album. How is your gospel career going? Are you going to continue that?

    PB: I’ve gotta find a writer/producer to help me out, the right person.

    JazzUSA: But it’s something you definitely want to do?

    PB: I’m definitely am going to do it.

    Matt Savage – Welcome Home

    Matt Savage
    Welcome Home
    2010 – Savage Records

    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.”


    Al Jarreau – Accentuate The Positive

    Al JarreauAl Jarreau
    Accentuate The Positive
    (GRP – 2004)
    by Carmen Miller

    Al says that this CD “is quite different than any other that I have recorded.” After listening to Accentuate the Positive I think that you’ll agree that this is a fresh CD by the old vocal master. All of the songs were recorded in the studio (live) with a quartet. There are no string arrangements, no background arrangements, background vocals or overdue. There were “only two solo’s by harmonica and tenor sax were added after the original sessions where

    Listen to Cold Duck using RealAudio.

    I sang along with the quartet.” With Accentuate The Positive Jarreau has mixed some classic standards, some jazz standards and added two original pieces to create an simple but effective CD.

    You’ll hear the effort on tracks like the snazzy Cold Duck. Dedicated to the memory and music of the late Eddie Harris, Jarreau took the famous instrumental and added lyrics… and some WICKED guitar work by Anthony Wilson, son of jazz pioneer Gerald Wilson. The title track is light and full of humor, much like Johnny Mercer, the writer. Betty is delivered in a soft and gentle vein, testament to jazz diva Betty Carter. Groovin’ High starts out with the trademark Jarreau scatting with the percussion … Dizzy would jump to hear it. Scootcha-Booty is another gem, full of Jarreau style and piano riffing, and there’s an interesting background behind the name. Check back next issue and see our Al Jarreau interview to hear the story.

    For more information visit the Al Jarreau Web Site.

    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.

    An Interview with Benny Golson

    An Interview with Benny Golson A Conversation with the Great
    Benny Golson
    by Paula Edelstein

    One of the most successful talents on the Arkadia Jazz label is without doubt the phenomenal Dr. Benny Golson. The tenor saxophonist, composer, lyricist, arranger, educator and jazz icon, holds the distinction of being the only living jazz legend to have written eight standards for jazz repertoire! “Killer Joe,” “Along Came Betty,” “Whisper Not” “Step Lightly,” “I Remember Clifford,” “Stablemates” “Blues March,” and “Out of the Past” are among his major contributions to the world of jazz standards. The multi-talented legend has performed throughout the world with such noted musicians as Benny Goodman, Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton, Earl Bostic and Art Blakey. His CD on Arkadia Jazz, THAT’S FUNKY! topped the jazz charts in 2000 and with the release of ONE DAY, FOREVER, his many fans around the world will now have one more chance to experience the greatness of Golson.

    With over 300 compositions to his credit, two symphonies, countless scores to feature films and television series, the artistic depth and breadth of Dr. Benny Golson is immeasurable. He has received the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship, the American Jazz Master Awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Grammy nominations and two honorary doctorates from the prestigious Berklee School of Music in Boston. To commemorate his 50-year career, Dr. Golson will be honored on March 1st and 3rd at the Lincoln Center in New York City with a jazz extravaganza of his compositions. Entitled THE MAGIC OF BENNY GOLSON, these concerts will serve as a retrospective of Benny’s brilliant career as a composer and jazz performer. He has written a commissioned work for the occasion and will perform in a small format and with a jazz orchestra.

    During a recent appearance at The Jazz Bakery in Los Angeles, CA, I met with Dr. Golson to discuss a few subjects that interest his fans around the world. Ladies and Gentlemen, the great Dr. Benny Golson!

    JazzUSA: When envisioning the music for your CDs, what are the decisive factors that influence your selections? That is do musicians send you demos or do you meet with producers to decide which songs make the cut?

    Benny: Sometimes I hear things that are sent to me by other people. Sometimes they are musicians and sometimes they are not. But mainly I decide on the things that appeal to me and obviously some of those things are my own. The producer might have something in mind also and of course my mind is always working, trying to come up with melodies that I like first of all, and with the hope that others like it too.

    JazzUSA: How would you describe yourself as a composer of jazz standards?

    Benny: Well, I like melodies. That’s one thing that appeals to me. Ditties are okay. Thelonius Monk wrote many fine ditties. But I like melodies in the vein of Chopin and Brahms. I’m not writing those kinds of things, but strong melodic content…songs that one can remember and hum or whistle at some other time.

    JazzUSA: Whom have you most enjoyed working with throughout your career?

    Benny: There have been many but strangely enough, the first two that I think of are singers! One is Diana Ross who is a consummate professional and the other is Peggy Lee. Diana Ross is remarkable. She is the same woman today that I met 30 years ago.

    JazzUSA: Do you have any plans for a new CD?

    Benny: There’s one in the works as we speak. It’s titled, ONE DAY, FOREVER. We started on it about 3 years ago! The reason it has taken so long is that we got the material from “live” concerts that I did at various places throughout Europe. But what we’ve added is a couple of songs that I composed and happened to write the lyrics to also, that Shirley Horn agreed to record. Also, there is a classical piano piece that I wrote about a year ago that Lara Downes, a classical artist, recorded. That’s also going to be on the new CD. What gives us license to do that is this CD will be a reflective kind of thing …looking back over 50 years of my career. Besides writing jazz standards, I’ve written classical compositions. I’ve written a symphony, (“The Breath of Life”) that we premiered at Lincoln Center back in 1994. I’ve done a violin piece with Itzhak Perlman and currently I’m working on my third symphony. No jazz, just a straight classical approach that I hope to finish in 2001.

    JazzUSA: Fantastic! We are surely looking forward to ONE DAY, FOREVER, and of course the new symphony Dr. Golson. As you know, contemporary gospel music has stepped out of the shadows and onto the global jazz scene. What are your thoughts on this new gospel jazz popularity since you’ve survived so many musical trends that often make or break a jazz musician’s career?

    Benny: You know, the musical tastes of people go through phases. Just like television; dramas are popular sometimes, mysteries, love triangles, etc. Music is no different. Right now, hip hop is very popular and gospel music is popular. Sometimes gospel is so close to some of the rhythm and blues things that the only thing that is different are the words! And although I don’t pursue that style, I know what it is because I grew up in the Baptist church where we’d have the visiting quartets and groups like that. However, I like some of the things that I hear coming from that element.

    JazzUSA: You have stayed in vogue all over the world while constantly updating your music for over 50 years! Wow! Dr. Golson, how do you control what some artists call “creative restlessness” and avoid negative controversy with your music?

    Benny: Creative restlessness? Well if you can fulfill that creative urge that you have and it turns out to be consequential – which means that there are some things that you aren’t going to use. You don’t use everything that you’ve ever thought of in the world. Some things you reject, even though they’re your own. So, that in itself gives you a certain control over what you do. And as far as what you play, it’s a matter of choice. You either play what you like or don’t play what you don’t like.

    JazzUSA: Well, “funk” has maintained a strong influence on your jazz style. Is there another style that you would play if you had to do it all over again?

    Benny: Actually I do play other styles. Funk is a smaller part of it…believe it or not! I’m sort of a straight-ahead jazzman. I’m an old bebopper I guess! I don’t play the hip hop, and I don’t play rhythm & blues even though I used to early in my career before I became a straight-out jazz saxophonist. But I prefer to play the jazz repertoire.

    JazzUSA: What types of moments lead you to write a romantic ballad? A visit to a romantic city, a tune from a gondolier, etc…that type of inspiration so to speak.

    Benny: There are many things. It can be a beautiful sunset; it can be a beautiful scene with beautiful trees and mountains and a lake or things like that! But I think that 50% of what I write is inspired by just looking at, being with, and loving my wife, Bobbi.

    JazzUSA: That’s great. Absolutely fantastic! The softer side of your music is often fused with the funky edge on many of your songs. Is there one song that you feel exemplifies a “funky love” ballad? (Smile)

    Benny: Yes, there is one! There’s one and no one has heard it yet because I think I wrote it about a year and a half or two ago, called “I Love You.” There is an old standard already out called “I Love You,” (you can’t copyright titles) and it’s this “funky” kind of love ballad that you’re talking about with my lyrics which tells a story. It’s not just Moon in June or anything like that. It’s something that I plan to give to Luther Vandross and Al Jarreau and other vocalists and you’ll hear my one ‘funky’ love ballad! (Smile)

    JazzUSA: Well thank you. We’re looking forward to it! As with your music, you have exercised great care in your selection of musicians that accompany you. Which producer would you say reflects the “Golson Sound” more?

    Benny: Well, actually none of them…per se reflect the Golson sound. The Golson sound emanates from Golson…and that’s the way it should be. But there is a certain direction that they give in the studio and I feel that is necessary when I’m recording. When they’re on the other side of the window there in the recording booth, sometimes they can hear things that I can’t since I’m so close to it. They give suggestions here and there and many times they are right. And that makes for a successful marriage.

    JazzUSA: What would you describe as the brightest ray of light in your musical career?

    Benny: I’d have to say that would be Art Blakey. Art Blakey was a teacher. He was didactic. He was a teacher and didn’t know that he was a teacher. Just by the things that he said, the things that he did, and the way that he played the drums. Just by being with him for just about a year was like being enrolled in a college of higher education. He taught us all things because he had vast experience. He had such a penchant for swinging. He didn’t know how not to swing and that really left a mark on me. So much so, that when I left him, I found I had great difficulty in playing with other drummers for a while.

    JazzUSA: I would imagine so. Your musical journeys have crossed the Atlantic to Europe where an alliance of European jazz masters have entrenched you as an icon of jazz. How do European audiences differ from American audiences in their appreciation of your style?

    Benny: There seems to be more of an appreciation of American artists and that is easy to explain… the audiences there seem to have a greater appreciation. I think the Americans seem to be more blasé about it because it’s always been here in America.

    JazzUSA: These trans-Atlantic alliances are well established. Have you given any thought to doing an electronica version of some of your standards in order to give a new generation a dose of your great sax melodies?

    Benny: Actually, I used a synthesizer a few times…not many times. But I didn’t use it electronically. I used it as a synthesizer to synthesize the sound of other instruments. I remember on one session I had the synthesizer sounding like three trombones. Another time, it was like extra trumpets in a trumpet section. It was cheaper too! (Smile) But yes, I thought about electronic music but soon after, I forgot about it! (Smiles)

    JazzUSA: Your walk of fame has taken you all over the world. By last count, how many performances have you done?

    Benny: Paula, no has ever asked me that question. But I would venture to say, thousands! It goes back 50 years or so!

    JazzUSA: WOW! What an honor the world has been privy to. Congratulations Dr. Golson. We certainly appreciate this great interview and wish you continued success in all of your endeavors. The world is a better place because of you and the great musical visions you’ve shared throughout the world.

    Benny: Thank you.

    For more great listening, check out these great CDs by Benny Golson: “That’s Funky” “Tenor Legacy” and “Up Jumped Benny” and stay in touch with the great Benny Golson at http://www.bennygolson.com.

    Ari Brown – Live At The Green Mill – DVD

    Ari Brown
    Live At The Green Mill – DVD
    Delmark – 2007

    In reviews of Ari’s first two Delmark albums, Ultimate Frontier and Venus, writers often used phrases like “overwhelming emotional immediacy” (Down Beat), “rare depth of feeling” (Jazziz) and “raw emotion and ferocity” (JazzTimes).

    Chicago based saxophonist and composer Ari Brown performs here at the legendary Green Mill. Accompanied by Kirk Brown on piano, Yosef Ben Israel on bass, and Avreeyal Ra on drums, the quartet produces a modern sound that merges a variety of jazz styles. Ari has performed with some of the all time greats and here’s a chance to catch him on his own terms.

    Ari  melds the Chicago tenor sax and the AACM traditions into his own voice and no matter how far out he takes the music it still remains accessible and enjoyable.

    Live at The Green Mill features the same rhythm section Ari’s been working with for over ten years: brother Kirk Brown, piano; Yosef Ben Israel, bass; Avreeayl Ra, drums.

    Also featured on a few tracks are Pharez Whitted, trumpet and Dr. Cuz, percussion.

    The DVD also features commentary/interview track. .

     

     

     


    How to Draw a Bunny

    How to Draw a BunnyHow to Draw a Bunny
    The Ray Johnson Story

    (Boston Museum of Fine Arts – April 2, 2004)
    by Matthew Robinson

    The late Ray Johnson has been hailed as New York’s most famous unknown artist. A friend and colleague of Andy Warhol, John Cage, Jasper Johns, and many others, Johnson died mysteriously, both in form and function. Despite his years of “correspondence” with hundreds of willing and unsuspecting cohorts, Johnson died as distant from and unknown to many as he ends up being to those who view this intricate and mystifying film.

    Directed by John Walter and produced by John Malkovich’s company, Mr. Mudd, this film is as enigmatic and benignly unsettling as its creators. Propelled by the intermittent snare slaps of Max Roach (who is also never fully revealed throughout the film), this mysterious tale of a subversive subterranean hero moves along at a quick-cut clip of intertwined interviews and portraits of an artist as a young and not-so-young man. And though the interview subjects range from long-time lovers to the local postman, nobody seems able to put their finger on this prolific performer.

    Nor do they seem able to advise how to create the titular character that, for reasons unexplained, became Johnson’s signature and creative calling card. Making a great deal out of Johnson’s “Nothing” and posing more questions than it answers, “How to Draw a Bunny” is an intriguing and provocative perspective on one man’s confluence of communication, commerce, correspondence, and confusion.

    www.mfa.org
    © 2004, M. S. Robinson, ARR

    Mercy, Mercy, Me – The Art, Loves and Demons of Marvin Gaye

    Mercy, Mercy, Me
    The Art, Loves and Demons of Marvin Gaye
    Michael Eric Dyson – (Basic Civitas Books)
    Yugen Fardan Rashad

    He left behind a legion of fans. An adoring public. A family to mourn the loss. Questions about his personal demons and spiritual life linger to this day. Self destructive drug use and philandering ways with women. A dichotomous body of music that shifted from secular decadence to spiritual reconciliation. And it was the music of Marvin Pentz Gaye, Jr. that captures the episodic and, sonic vacillations of one of soul music’s most virulent artists. A body of sustained melody that also validates his humanity during his too short sojourn among us that ended tragically on April 1st, 1984.

    A number of books that range from well to poorly written chronicle aspects of his life, love, and loathsome artistic odyssey that took Gaye to the top of the R&B and pop charts, with Motown Records in tow. He paid a tremendous price to be crowned Prince of Motown; Battles with record executives, family, and drugs; all handled with candor, and outright grandiloquence, that marked Gaye’s private and professional life.

    Three of the books are: Ben Edmonds – What’s Going On? Marvin Gaye And The Last Days Of The Motown Sound; Frankie Gays w/Fred E. Basten – Marvin Gaye, My Brother, and Michael Eric Dyson – Mercy, Mercy Me – The Art, Loves & Demons of Marvin Gaye. The latter provides a witness account of Gaye’s life.

    Mr. Dyson uses interviews, anecdote, and the scholarship he’s known for to configure the life and times of an artist that came and went to abruptly. Dyson’s intellect guides the reader down the alleys of Gaye’s descent, to the heights of his greatest triumphs, and ultimately to that fateful day when tempers flared between father and son: “…Father, father, father – there’s far to many of us dying…” (A lyric from his greatest single that sadly became a self-fulfilling prophecy).

    Fans will love reading juxtaposition between recording dates and anecdote, during the creative process in the studio for albums like What’s Going On, Let’s Get It On, and I Want You. Here you get the artist at his absolute rawest, and surreal moments when the line blurs between the personal and the musician. For example, how the recording session of Let’s Get It On became a public courtship that found him singing to his future bride, Janice Hunter. This was a time when Gaye’s eroticism took center stage in contrast to the more political, social prose of What’s Going On. “Let’s Get It On” also marked a return to the stage image groomed of him by Motown as sex god. In addition, Dyson’s book snapshots Gaye’s roller coaster ride marriage to his first wife, Anna Gordy.

    This episode is adroitly captured by Gaye’s most intimate and salient recording, Here, My Dear. An album he reluctantly made as alimony payment in his divorce from Anna Gaye-Gordy, sister of Motown mogul Berry Gordy, Jr.

    There are a number of dark secrets, and surprises, too. The two other books also provide pieces of the puzzle that was Marvin Gaye. However, from Dyson’s perch, we obtain historical relevance and depth he’s known to produce with his writings.

    But not to give too much away, be encouraged to buy the book MERCY, MERCY ME, by Michael Eric Dyson, available online at amazon.com or in the Portland, Oregon area at Talking Drum Coffee Shop and Book Store (Call Gloria at 503 288-4070.)

    Kirk Whalum Interview 2002

    From smooth jazz to bebop
    Kickin’ it with Kirk Whalum
    by Mark Ruffin

    There are certain smooth jazz musicians who’ve never thought about playing straight ahead jazz, or what is also known as bebop. Then there are some smooth jazzers like guitarist Norman Brown, saxophonist Kirk Whalum and trumpeter Rick Braun, who, at the start of their careers thought they were going to be be-bop players.

    “The three of us really came out of the be-bop thing,” said Whalum, who, with the aforementioned artists, have a new album called Groovin’ under the name BWB.

    Brown/Whalum/Braun“In terms of our education and where we saw ourselves when we got started, we were definitely be-bop players.

    “I was trying to learn Sonny Rollins and James Moody solos, ” he continued listing the influences of the newly formed smooth jazz super group. “Norman was trying to learn (George) Benson and Wes Montgomery while Rick was working on his Freddie Hubbard.”

    Purists from both the bebop and smooth jazz camps are going to be a bit surprised at BWB’s debut album. The quality and quantity of the improvisation contained on Groovin’ is certainly as step-up from the individual solo albums by the trio. The group is backed up by bassist Christian McBride and drummer Gregory Hutchinson, two musicians who are very well known in the bebop world.

    The associate producer of the album is keyboard wizard Ricky Peterson, whose musical family is to Minneapolis what the Freeman, Heath and Marsalis families are to Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans respectively. His long list of credits includes George Benson, David Sanborn and Prince.

    Producing is Matt Pierson who is also the vice-president of jazz at Warner Brothers Records.

    “The way this record came about,” the sax man explained, “was when we were backstage, on more than three occasions, especially at the Montreux festival when we were doing nothing but bebopping, cause quiet as its kept, we don’t get to do that on our gigs.”

    At the Montreux Jazz Festival of 1999, Warner Brothers had its whole jazz roster there, including this trio, plus George Duke, Bob James, Boney James and many others. The next year, the company put that performance of smooth jazz stars blowing hard bebop oriented contemporary jazz out on an excellent record called Casino Lights ’99.

    Whalum said that is the kind of album that record companies call “documentation records.” It’s the kind of album where a normally very commercial artist makes a highly artistic record to show his peers and the record buying public that that musician can make a heavier or meatier album than what he/she normally does.

    “Because of the economy, record companies are scared to death and feel like they have to cover their behinds,” exclaimed the 43 year-old musician.. “They feel like they really don’t have the time for us to be making documentation records to be prove that we can really play.

    “But, after Montreux, I went to Matt, and I’m sure other musicians did too, and said ‘man we have to do something to preserve the spontaneity of (the Casino Lights record.)”

    What the producer did was try to make progressive electric jazz music that was throwback to the late 70’s and early 80’s where fusion was dying and smooth jazz wasn’t around yet. The company that best exemplifies this period was called CTI, a company that made stars out of George Benson, Deodato, Bob James Freddie Hubbard, Stanley Turrentine, and a then unknown named Grover Washington Jr.

    “We all revere the whole CTI school of recording and Groovin’ is not a subtle tribute to that,” Whalum said. “We were trying to get back to that space.

    “CTI was on to something and where the music was heading was very cool. But then the smooth jazz thing happened and I think smooth jazz is more like a bastard child of that music.”

    More musicians like Whalum, Braun and Brown have been reacting to what many see as a stagnation in smooth jazz, mostly because of broadcasting consultants who are telling smooth jazz stations to play more pop and restrict their play lists. He feels that stations and record companies are underestimating the intelligence and musical acumen of the audience.

    “What BWB can do potentially is perhaps facilitate this environment where people are wanting to hear musicians play again,” he emphasized. “Just really play.

    “This is a very smart record and I feel like this is an opportunity to get the public attention with songs they all know. But we really anticipate stretching this into other directions, but still keeping it in a way that people can put it on at a party. That’s really the vibe and general idea of BWB.”

    The ten songs on Groovin are all very well known cover tunes by D’Angelo, Donald Fagen, Booker T. & the M.G.’s, Alicia Keys, Cannonball Adderley, the Isley Brothers, Parliament-Funkadelic, Freddie Hubbard, the Staple Singers (with sultry Dee Dee Bridgewater as Mavis Staples) and the title Young Rascals chestnut.

    It was Whalum who came up with the title of the band. He said he thought of AWB and their very creative graphic logo and the irony of their initials, plus they could be thought of as the Black White Band. He said he never thought about the coincidence that this band records for the WB.

    “Warner Brothers wanted to call the band Triple Threat, and I was like ‘a threat to do what?’

    “If they wanted a threat, they could get Kenny Garrett, Wallace Roney and Mark Whitfield, and that would be a threat,” he said of the three highly regarded bebop musicians who play the same instruments as BWB.

    “There’s already enough weirdness and enmity between these two camps of musicians,” Whalum concluded. ‘Plus this music is beautiful, it shouldn’t be a threat.”

    An Interview with David Liebman

    In His Own Words… A conversation with
    David Liebman
    by Fred Jung

    I always lament about the fact that society as a whole is so prone to labeling and categorizing everything and everyone. And jazz is not exempt from such things. So it has been a wonderful journey to walk alongside one of the heavies of this music, Dave Liebman, through his musical progression. Liebman, who has shunned the glamour and glitz for a more modest goal, pursuing his music. I sat down with Liebman during his most recent tour through California. We spoke about views on recording, his time with Miles Davis, his love of Coltrane, his tenor playing, and his current and future projects. It is Liebman, uncut and in his own words.

    David LiebmanJazzUSA: Let’s start from the beginning.

    DL: I grew up in Brooklyn, New York. I started music in general at about nine years old playing classical piano with a neighborhood teacher. At about eleven, twelve years old, I always wanted to play the saxophone and my first inspiration really came from rock and roll music in the fifties, where the saxophone was a very dominant instrument. Slowly, I studied at a local neighborhood school and learned how to play dance music. So I was already working gigs at resorts, weddings, and so forth by the time I was fourteen years old. Of course, I started to meet other musicians who were young guys in high school who were into jazz and then began going to the clubs. For me, it was a subway ride to go to Birdland, and the Half Note, and the Village Vanguard. I guess the turning point was hearing Coltrane many times live during those years, the sixties, and just really getting turned on to, I didn’t have any idea what it was, but getting turned on to that energy and that power in the music. That remained with me and I went to school, New York University, majored in history. I thought I would be interested in doing music on the side. And when I got out, I worked my way, eventually, to Elvin Jones and Miles Davis, for a four year period between the two of them. Then I began as a leader in 1974. My first band was called Lookout Farms. Since that time, it’s been a career as a bandleader and recording with other people and so forth.

    JazzUSA: Is Coltrane your main influence?

    DL: It was always Coltrane and Sonny Rollins. That’s the major contributors. I have a lot of Sonny Rollins influence in my playing and right under that wing, Wayne Shorter and Joe Henderson, the four main voices of the sixties and they were my main saxophone influences. There were other influences, Miles, Bill Evans, of course, the pianist, and again Elvin, who was a drummer, Tony Williams, McCoy, and Herbie. The saxophone was definitely Coltrane and Sonny Rollins. And they do represent the two major ways of approaching playing the saxophone for last fifty years.

    JazzUSA: And your experience with Miles and Elvin?

    DL: Well, it’s interesting, Fred. Today, I was at Half Moon Bay in the morning. We played there yesterday with Pete Douglas. I stayed in his beach house. We woke up in the morning and we had some time to talk and I was talking to him about it. The main thing that I got out of them, outside of the specifics, in Miles’s case there was certainly some specific musical things about phrasing and space and using the band, how to get a rhythm section going and timing and things like that. And of course with Elvin, time itself, rhythm. But outside of that, more important, which supersedes that really, is the intensity of which they did their job. It was very much like what I found about Coltrane. The group on the stage is one thing. I saw Coltrane. But it’s another thing to be in the storm itself, especially in my case, to be with Elvin after having seen him and after having him be the main inspiration, the partner of the main inspiring act that made me want to play, being on the stage with him was just incredible. Then of course with Miles, you knew who he was. The music was different, a different stage of band development and so on, but when they got on the stage, when they closed their eyes and started playing, it was a job to do and they did it. It was like the intensity that you would see, they would address the issue of playing, which I had never felt because I was a kid. I was in my twenties and I certainly had played with good guys, who now some of them are well known, of course, but we were all young. To be with a master, who you know has a legacy because it’s been on tape and record. You’ve heard it, seen it, and then to be right next to them and feel that energy, it’s something you can’t learn any other way. That really made me see that it was a much more serious business than I thought it was to play this music, to try and excel in it, and to try to improve. It’s a very serious affair, at least for those fifty minutes that you are on the stage.

    JazzUSA: Do you recall your first Coltrane experience?

    DL: Absolutely, Fred. It was Birdland. I was fifteen. It was 1961. I was taking a date for a big night. It was a Saturday night. I had really no idea who was playing. I knew Birdland because I would go out with some of the older guys from the high school. We got in and it was Bill Evans Trio and John Coltrane. I really didn’t know much about any of them. I remember it was pretty crowded and if you were under age at that time, Birdland allowed you to sit in what was called a Peanut Gallery, like at the last row. There was about four, five tables there and whoever got there first could stay all night. So we were back there and the Bill Evans Trio, well, I remember it was very noisy and you couldn’t really hear. The piano player had his head down and it looked like he was playing in his home, very introverted music so it didn’t leave much of an impression. And then, Coltrane came on and it was with Eric Dolphy. It ended up being that it’s the tapes from the Vanguard, the Village Vanguard sessions. It was that, I don’t know if it was that specific night, but it was period in the fall of ’61. It was incredible. They started playing a tune and she said it was “My Favorite Things” and I said, “Naw, it couldn’t be. How would he play something like that?” And of course, it was “My Favorite Things.” From then on, every time he played in New York, which was at least two or three times a year for a week or two at a time, I was there. It became something that was like a thing that I had to go to. And I would go to see him every Friday and Saturday night of the week that he was there and I wasn’t in school. I would take the subway and go with a friend of mine and sit from nine until three and watch him. It was unbelievable, the energy they played with, long tunes, sometimes an hour and a half, two hour tunes. Coltrane and Elvin could play a duet for forty-five minutes or over an hour, just the two of them. It was hypnotic and I kept saying, “Look, I play saxophone and that’s a saxophone and whatever that is, I’ve got to find it.” I was just completely turned on and it remains with me today.

    JazzUSA: What was it about Coltrane’s playing?

    DL: It was the, certainty, it wasn’t purely a musical thing because at that point, I wasn’t sophisticated enough to know about it. I’m still trying to understand it. It was the intensity, the energy, and just the complete devotion and concentration and sincerity of which this group, four guys, Elvin, McCoy, and Jimmy Garrison, and Trane, played that was just compelling. It was so mysterious. It was so strong. It was so powerful and it was so understated in a certain way. There was no show about it. There was no talking. There was no announcements. It was just four guys who just got up to the bandstand like waking up in the morning and brushing their teeth. They were just doing it like it was commonplace, which it was for them because they worked a lot. I was just impressed by that, that whole imagine was getting me. The way they played, the power and the energy, which you can hear now of course on record and in videos and so forth, a little bit was so much more live that it was unbelievable. You really could sit very close, comparatively, so you could really, almost, physically feel it.

    JazzUSA: The intensity that you refer to is very evident when you play live.

    DL: That happens most of the time (laughing).

    JazzUSA: The buzz among members of the media is that you are not nearly as proficient on record as you are live, is there an album in your discography that reaches that plateau of powerful playing?

    DL: I wouldn’t say, there’s some live stuff and there’s some stuff in Europe. It’s a different thing for recording. I look at that as another laboratory. Live is one laboratory and recording is another one. I’ve learned how to record. I think pretty well. Recording is a different, it’s a real art to record. That kind of intensity can’t be captured on tape. It wasn’t captured either with Coltrane, although it’s amazingly intense, when you hear various recordings. It’s only a glimpse of what it was like. It’s a different medium. It’s a different field. You’re in there in a different way and trying to make a different kind of impression, let’s put it that way. When you’re playing live, the whole idea is to get the musicians completely engulfed and involved in it. Hopefully, the audience comes along. Whether or not they do is not really my, I don’t really care about that. My job is to get the guys into it and that’s what I do. Recording is a different thing. Off hand, there are some records, probably more in the free jazz aspect of my recording, of which there are some things. In Europe, there’s a little trio that I have and it’s on a label called Label Blue from France. It’s a French bass player and an Austrian drummer. That’s a little more in the freer vain. I don’t think a recording as something that I’ve really thought about too much.

    JazzUSA: Your recording legacy is mostly devoted to the soprano saxophone, and yet you’re no slouch on tenor.

    DL: Well, I’ve gotten back on it. I gave it up for fifteen years.

    JazzUSA: Why put it down in the first place?

    DL: I had to go through a little bit of thinking about it. I’m enjoying it. One of the reasons that I stopped it was I just felt that the Coltrane influence was so strong and I had absorbed so much of it, thankfully, that’s what I wanted, that it was impossible for me to get away from it and I didn’t want to be forever identified, not so much by outside critics or something because I don’t really care what they think, but by myself. My mind was always chasing that Trane and that’s why I went to soprano because I thought there was more room to be individual on it. I felt I had something on it, naturally. It seemed to just fall right for me. I never really practiced it the way I practiced tenor. It wasn’t my instrument of development. It was a chance to do something, I thought, if I just put my energies into one. So that happened. Then around the mid-nineties, I was getting fifty years old in ’96 and I was using that year a couple of different ways, redoing one of my books, doing a solo record, etc., and one of things I was thinking about was it’s time to get back to the roots. Face this issue that I have not solved. I had just put it on a back shelf, which was what to do about the tenor and also bring it back into the repertoire, in the sense that the power of the tenor, you can’t get it on soprano. There’s no way you can. I’ve enjoyed it, having taken it upon myself and using it in this particular group on certain kinds of tunes. I think I’ll forever be, I’ll feel that the soprano is my real true voice as far as an identity goes and as far as what I believe in the music, whatever I believe. It’s legacy will be on the soprano and the tenor will be a different thing. Also, the field is so much more crowded on tenor. There’s so many great players and there have been. On soprano, there are more and more, but it’s not quite like that.

    JazzUSA: Let’s touch on your two latest albums on Arkadia, “John Coltrane’s Meditations” and “Elements: Water.”

    DL: First of all, I have always felt that the late period of Coltrane was a neglected period, from the standpoint of listener and musicians alike. It was a little off putting, that music, when you saw it live. It definitely was not easy to listen to live, in those last two years of his life and the critics, everybody, have just related to Coltrane’s “Impressions” and “A Love Supreme” and earlier with Miles. That music was so powerful that it was almost too much. There was some faults in it, I think, organizational and so forth. There were a lot of other people playing that weren’t on that level, I felt sometimes. And there was a lot playing around because it was a discovery kind of thing, but the tribal atmosphere, the ritualistic atmosphere and spiritual thing that Trane himself was after was just so evident. On top of that, the way he played the saxophone was even further advanced than it was up to ’65. For that reason, I’ve always admired the late music, and free jazz was a part of my life. In fact, when I came into playing, I started after Coltrane died in ’67, it was really the way I played. I wanted to play free energy jazz and that was really what we did in New York in the late sixties. I had a loft and we would play five saxophones together. Eight people were playing everything free, just no talking about what to play, no time, no tune, no changes, nothing like that. It remained with me. We all got conservative. We all did our things and so forth over the years, but it was something that I felt I wanted to get back to and address the issue. Now “Meditations” itself, of all the late Coltrane records, it’s the first one of the free jazz period, ’65. It’s just a really great record. It falls together fantastically. It has wonderful melodies and very free playing. So I was always attracted to it and then in ’86, ’87 there was something in France where they invited me to do something. Would I do something Coltrane? And I decided to do that. My wife is a oboist/composer and she’s got a great ear and she took off the whole record. I have the whole music transcribed. She took off all the melodies, or what I considered to be the melodies, I’m not even sure. Then I did a little bit of work on it in the sense that I wasn’t going to just play it the way Coltrane played it, I couldn’t. Very much like I’ve handled standards over the years, I tried to put my own spin on it. For better or worse. People might feel put off by it, like for example, using guitar and synthesizer on “Meditations,” but on the other hand I think I gave it a little bit of a spin that makes it contemporary and individual. Also, I added some harmonies to the melodies, which he did not do. Those definitely were not on the record. It was an adaptation, yet in the spirit. Now, that particular recording was a live version. I didn’t know it would come out. I taped it on my own and eventually, when I got together with Arkadia, we got it out. It was during that year, ’95, I played it all over the world and using musicians in whatever city I would go to, students of mine or whomever. They always enlarged the group. One time, we did it with twenty saxophones in France on his birthday in ’97. So every five years I would do it, ’87, ’92, ’97, and ’95 because that was exactly thirty years from its original recording. That was the event that we did that became the recording. I’m happy with the results. My tenor playing wasn’t like it is now, I was just getting back into it. The sound is not great because I had to be budget conscience at that time. We only did eight tracks, but the spirit is there and I’m very proud of it in that respect. With “Water,” I had talked to Pat (Metheny) over the years and he always enjoyed me and he’s one of my fans. He’s always had very kind words to say about me. He likes my books about harmonies. He thinks it’s a milestone and so forth. We’ve always had a very respectful relationship and I’ve played a little bit with him during the eighties in various settings. So with Arkadia, I knew there would be an opportunity to do something like this and do all the elements eventually, water, fire, earth, and air. And although I’m not with the label anymore, we had a little falling out, this project had come off. I wrote very specifically for Pat, with his guitars in mind, with him in mind. Billy (Hart) and Cecil (McBee) were a team that I had had on another record I had done on Soul Note, a pretty free recording called “The Seasons,” based on summer, winter, fall, and so forth. And I liked that kind of way of trying to paint pictures, especially nature. These days, it’s kind of what I’ve been doing. It was pretty composed, tunes all based on one major melody that you hear in the beginning and I’m very happy with the results. Pat is very well known. He’s one of the most famous jazz musicians around in a certain way. For me to have him was an honor and of course a plus in a lot of ways. It was a challenge and I think, well, I know he really enjoyed it. I feel it was a pretty artistic record. It puts him in a situation that he’s never in. I want him to do things that he didn’t do on other people’s records, with Joshua Redman, or Michael Brecker, or whomever he’s played with, especially saxophonists. I thought about it and that was kind of how I painted the picture.

    JazzUSA: But you were one of the first artist signed to the Arkadia label.

    DL: Business is business and what happens is unfortunately, in this day and age more than ever, mom and pop operations, a one man type of show, are pretty much impossible to pull off anymore. And he, this guy who runs it, and who was producing it, doing everything, had big eyes and big ears and was very enthusiastic and things looked very, very promising, but unfortunately, he tried to do too much, so things start happening. You don’t get paid on time, and this and that and this. And with any new label, and I’ve been with a lot of new labels, because a lot of guys like me and they say, “Let’s record.” I’ve never been really signed to anybody, so I’ve been there before. It often happens that in the beginning, there’s an organizational period, there’s a little bit of a leeway for a year or two, but then if things don’t settle down, you can see the writing on the wall. Things didn’t work out. We have another record in the can that will come out next year, which is a, I’m not sure what the name will be, but probably “The Puccini Project.” What I did was I took about eleven arias from various Puccini operas and played them in various settings, with strings, with this and that. Phil Woods is on a few tracks, you know, oboe, blah-blah-blah. It’s a very beautiful record with, obviously, very beautiful melodies that I’m not responsible for, but I put them in various settings, synthesizers with different instrumentation. I changed the chords a little bit. So he has one more record that will come out. But I also have a new record coming out on Double Time within a few months of Monk tunes, with Eddie Gomez and Adam Nussbaum, Monk with a trio, no piano, no guitar. I’m back in a situation where I’ve always been, which is going from label to label and just whatever you can do here. The plight of many of us, it’s not, I do better than a lot of people. It would be nice to be signed to a company that takes care of business and that supports you and has a long range plan, which is what I thought Arkadia would, but we’re pretty much being on our own, getting our day work as we have to, which is what recording’s about.

    JazzUSA: Puccini. Madama Butterfly and La Boheme with improvised changes sounds intriguing.

    DL: It’s different, huh, Fred (laughing). It’s a lot of quiet stuff, obviously. You can’t do that and go too crazy.

    JazzUSA: Which Puccini arias did you select?

    DL: “Un bel di” (Madama Butterfly, Act II), “Nessun dorma” (Turandot, Act III) of course, “O mio babbino caro” (Gianni Schicchi), there’s a beautiful one, this is art, “Vissi D’Arte” (Tosca, Act II), with a tenor a cello. That’s a gorgeous one. Oh, it was gorgeous. It ends the record. I did one with synthesizer and Phil Woods playing clarinet as the second voice. It’s a great hodgepodge. There’s some straight-ahead jazz. There’s some nice, beautiful tunes. I used the acoustic guitar and percussion, synthesizer. It was really a production. I’m very proud of it. I haven’t listened to it in a couple of months, but I’m sure it will definitely create some interest among people because it’s an unlikely thing to be doing. And the way I handled it is pretty musical and artistic. I’m proud of it.

    JazzUSA: Many artists don’t have that kind of brass.

    DL: I know (laughing). I try to do things, that’s what I meant about recording earlier. I’m not oblivious to trying to sell a record. I mean, I do my best to make what I do somehow appealing to, I can’t say the casualist, I have to say the jazz listener. I don’t try to turn anybody off. That’s why I don’t play the way I play live because that is hard to take. On record, it’s even harder when you don’t have the physical presence. So taking “Beauty and the Beast,” because I like it and I could do it and I found a setting and so forth, and the same with the Puccini, I mean, it’s a long story but it came about, actually, through Miles and seeing him have the score to Tosca on the piano when I was with him. When I talked to him about it, he said I’m going to do it with Gil (Evans) someday and they never did. Staying in my mind, one day actually hearing an opera, watching something from the Met with Placido Domingo, I saw Tosca and said, “Man, those are beautiful melodies.” And I don’t know anything about opera. But there I was saying, “God, there’s some great melodies in here.” And remembering this incident from fifteen years earlier when I spoke to Miles, and it made me curious about Puccini and I went to somebody who was an expert on it and he gave me all the scores and all the records. I spent a few months listening, picking those melodies that I thought were good. Some, now I see, end up being some pretty popular tunes, “Nessun dorma” (from the opera Turandot) and things like that. But then I had done this with West Side Story in 1990 on a French label. I took it and took the score and changed it around and made it adapted to my style, so it was something I liked doing. I do like to take repertoires, to me that’s a recording that I call repertoire, meaning Coltrane, or I do a Miles record, or this Monk record. I like to do something that’s repertoire and adapt it to my own style and then the next record or two can be original music. That I think makes an interesting slate. I think it’s hard for people to get into because I change a lot and I’m not easy to categorize, which companies don’t like and which is not easy for the listener or the critics to understand. One critic will like one thing I do and the next critic will say that I don’t like what he does and then the next guy will say, “It’s great to have Dave play some real jazz.” But I have to satisfy myself.

    JazzUSA: Does that type of inconsistency offend you?

    DL: It’s because I’m not a big, well-known item. If Chick Corea does it or Herbie Hancock does it, it’s accepted. They have made it acceptable. In the seventies, it was just beginning to be eclectic and that was the beginning of that period when you had artists like Herbie and Chick, John McLaughlin and The Mahavishnu Orchestra. That was something that came out of the sixties. We are products of the sixties and that was the period when you heard a lot of kinds of music in the same day. You could be listening to Bartok and then James Brown and then Coltrane. It was all part of the big mix and that was what we were exposed to. We are expressing, I am expressing my influences of music and jazz is the vehicle I use and the language I use, but that doesn’t limit me in style or in genre. I’ve done classical music and string quartets and orchestra, and then I’ll do free jazz or bebop. I try not to do too much, of course, because you can stretch yourself thin, but I’m interested in a lot of different things. I think the common thread through all this is going to be me. I play, it’s pretty much going to be the way I play no matter whether it’s a jazz quartet or a string quartet. So that can be a little bit confusing to the listener. Those that like you and then suddenly their confronted with Dave Liebman playing Monk tunes. Those who do know me, now expect that. You build your audience one by one when you’re somebody like myself. A lot of people like me. Lee Konitz has liked me. Anthony Braxton’s liked me, Paul Bley. You build your audience over twenty, thirty, forty years, who say, “I like this guy’s scope. I like what his tastes are.” Then they turn on one other person. That’s how it works. You’re never going to get much more than that really.

    JazzUSA: And the Monk album on Double Time?

    DL: The Monk record, we just did in January. I’ve always wanted to play Monk in a trio situation, meaning without piano or guitar. Once you put the chords in there, you are confronting Monk head on. You’ve got to be careful. It would be very dependent on the player, I mean, Chick Corea’s done it and so forth. You have to be careful. I like the openness of the Monk tunes. The harmony is rather ordinary bebop harmony, but what make Monk’s characteristic is his melodies and the rhythms of the melodies and that kind of suggests a certain way of improvising. An influence would be like a Sonny Rollins type of influence coming right out of there. It seems to me there would be a direct line, although Coltrane, of course, played with Monk. I get more of a Sonny, kind of humorous, broken, up and down, curvy way of playing. It’s not as smooth. And being able to get Gomez was a coup because he’s so amazing. It was through his technical facility that I was really able get out of the melodies, a lot of fullness. He didn’t just play a bass line. I had him play tenths, sevenths, and thirds, and fifths and things to try and fill it up and give it a twist. I didn’t change the tunes at all. I did put some different feels behind some of the tunes. I did some tunes that are not the most well known Monk tunes. It’s a nice, swinging record. We did about ten Monk tunes. Hearing me play that, I think, is interesting, especially when you have Steve Lacy, who is also a big Monk guy, and me with the soprano. I think people are going to like it. It’s appealing. Of course, Gomez and Adam do a great job.

    JazzUSA: Are you shopping around for another label?

    DL: I have a couple of things, people interested. I have a solo record coming out. I did this really incredible record on Enja that’s coming out towards the end of the year, beginning of next year, done in a studio in Germany with an engineer. It’s an amazing, full saxophone, sounds like orchestra. It’s an incredible thing. I have live stuff from Birdland and the Blue Note with the band that a label is interested in doing next year. There are things. I’m very active mostly in Europe. I’m associated with two groups. One is with Jon Christensen and Bobo Stenson and we’ve been doing that for about fifteen years now. We do one or two tours a year. It’s that Nordic sound. It’s a great band. Lars Danielsson is the bass player. It’s a wonderful band. It’s getting quite a reputation. Then there’s this trio that I was referring to with bassist Jean-Paul Slea. And that’s more coming out of the free thing and that’s French based. We have two records out in France. We’re doing quite well there. I do things with orchestras, with the WDR in Cologne, and various chamber groups and so forth, with music that’s written for me. Some of it is my music that has been arranged and some of it’s original music. So Europe is very active and of course with the teaching and the association that I am a head of, an international association of schools that I began ten years ago. We have thirty-five countries represented, which I’m the founder and artistic director of. I’m very connected to the European scene, much more so than the American scene.

    JazzUSA: Why is that?

    DL: First of all, there’s much more support in Europe from the government. It changes the nature of the music because it’s much less commercially oriented. The European musicians are definitely not tied to bebop, the tradition. It doesn’t mean anything to them. They have respect for it. Some of them do it better than others, but it’s not something that’s part of their repertoire by necessity, which here, of course, it is. So they have much more original music, much more combinations using the new, well, not new, but classical, avant-garde techniques, and of course, folk music because they have so much, the European countries are in Africa and in Asia. There’s a lot of populations that live in these countries. When you go to Berlin or Paris, you get people from all over the world. So there’s a lot more mixture going on there and in my eyes, much more risk taking and adventurous music than you would hear with the standard thing in America. America, you get pretty much up and down the line. It’s wonderful jazz playing but not that creative to my mind. Europe is a great scene. There’s a lot of great musicians there who have a particular way of playing that is unique. There are differences, even between France and Germany and Italy. I go once a month or twice a month.

    JazzUSA: And David Liedman’s musical goal?

    DL: I’m doing it. I have no end all. I think I’m lucky and I’m glad that I’m one of the fortunate few who can really say, outside the travails of the business, which is another thing and sometimes the difficulties of traveling, which is a necessity, but those are not so bad. I’m doing what I want, which is that when I play I give off what I believe is particular to me, a certain kind of energy, and a certain kind of freedom, spontaneity, looseness, and dedication.

    For more information on David Liebman’s new album
    The Elements: Water
    David Liebman - The Elements ; Water
    See
    our review from the April 1999 JazzUSA.

    Phil Freeman – New York is Now! The New Wave of Free Jazz

    New York is Now! The New Wave of Free Jazz.
    Phil Freeman
    (The Telegraph Company – 2001)
    by John Barrett

    Phil Freeman has a mission, one he thinks could change – even save – jazz as we know it. He was a fan of punk rock who took a liking to free-jazz – he heard in it the same power, the same defiance, that drew him to punk. He went to free-jazz shows, offered reviews to punk and heavy-metal magazines – the reviews were accepted, in outlets that never covered jazz. Other signs are visible: punk labels issuing jazz records, a younger audience going to the shows, rock clubs booking the occasional jazz act. Most of this activity has missed the attention of the jazz press, or is misinterpreted when it gets covered. As Freeman sees it, the newest school of free-jazz is different from its forebears, has attracted new fans, and could bring in many more … if only they knew what the music was really about. Phil hopes to achieve that with his book; I’d say he’s already partly there.

    Freeman writes compellingly: he describes the sound in visual terms, with rapt, excited phrases – not the voice of a historian, but a fan. In describing the fathers of free-jazz – Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane – Freeman feels they were dealt a disservice by ideological critics. Too often, the musicians were called angry (the term “anti-jazz” was coined to describe Coltrane) or political radicals bent on revolution. Those terms never described the entire free-jazz community, no then and not now. (As an example, Charles Gayle is pro-life, a stance that has cost him many jobs.) In a series of essay-length profiles – of musicians and groups – Freeman shows the different approaches, the different philosophies, which make this music different from all others.

    Freeman is best when he describes the players: he follows Matthew Shipp as he visits a record store, he hears the band Test on a subway platform, he watches wrestling on TV with David S. Ware before a recording session. He doesn’t interview them per se; we read the musicians’ comments, and then Freeman’s analysis of their music, with his joyous, unbridled verbiage. The chapter about Gayle (“Trembling Before God”) is especially passionate (“a music that sounds like it could rip holes in the sky and earth”),a writing whose energy matches that of Gayle. Matthew Shipp comes off as warm, friendly, and pragmatic – far from the “aloof intellectual” stereotype given to some jazzmen. (“…I’m building my career at a very slow pace with a very organic logic, and I’m very happy to be doing it that way…”)

    The best section is called “Chasing the Future”, where David S. Ware records the album which would be called Corridors & Parallels. The tunes were untitled when Freeman wrote this; so vivid his description that it is obvious which tunes he speaks of. Reading this chapter while hearing the music will enhance your appreciation of both. “It was going to be a good record, and more than that, it was going to surprise everyone who hears it.” That much is true, and more.

    Admittedly, the book has its own axes to grind. Freeman has little patience for most jazz critics, whom he accuses of attacking free-jazz without knowing it adequately. He has many uncomplimentary things to say of John Zorn, whom he sees as attention-grabbing; I find that a little harsh. And he has several problems with Ken Burns’ Jazz series: free-jazz was the only genre criticized on the program, with Cecil Taylor dismissing a Cecil Taylor statement as “self-indulgent”. (A little later, we are told that The Art Ensemble of Chicago appeals to “white college students in France” – is the group being criticized for the race of its audience?) Phil believes that the music should speak for itself, because when it does, it wins people over. His statements about the potential audience for free-jazz are at the moment speculation. But as always, jazz evolves in unexpected ways, and some movements take years to make their impact. It’s been felt by Phil Freeman, and he closes the book with an invitation to the reader. “There will always be more records, more performances, more music. Enjoy it all.”

    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.

    Euge Groove Interview

    Groovin’ with Euge Groove
    by Baldwin “Smitty” Smith

    Alright, what can I say about this cat? He’s one of the best in your face sax players in the business, formerly of the Mighty Horns of Tower Power. Great new album out, I’m talking about Narada Jazz recording artist Mr. Euge Groove.

    Euge: Wow what an introduction. You’ve got me blushing. (laughing)

    Smitty: (laughing) Hey what can I say? So how are you doing man? It’s great to talk to you.

    Euge: All’s well. It’s nice to be staying put for a moment. We’re back in California and it feels good.

    Smitty: Cool. You recently finished your tour with Joe Cocker. That must have been nice.

    Euge: Yeah, it was a very cool experience actually. We’ve been traveled to all parts of the country. The first tour I did with Joe was back in 1994 and this is the first time I got to open for him. It was a completely different audience. These are die hard rockers, and some of them don’t want anything to do with the jazz stuff at first. I can usually win them over in the end, but I’ve seen some really interesting hand gestures after only playing a few notes.

    Smitty: I bet.

    Euge: It’s been interesting. (Both laughing)

    Smitty: I can just imagine.

    Euge: But it’s been all good though. If it was always easy all the time, you don’t appreciate it. I kind of knew it going into it though. Someone that went to Woodstock in the 60’s might not be your typical smooth jazz fan.

    Smitty: Exactly, yeah.

    Euge: I knew it was going to be tough in some parts of the country, in some arenas. But as a whole it was really good.

    Smitty: Think of yourself as a smooth jazz ambassador.

    Euge: There ya go, putting in good will.

    Smitty: Isn’t it cool though, to win them over?

    Euge: Yeah you know I’ve got about 25 minutes to get to that point. It takes quite a lot of energy. And you probably thought I was kidding with some of the hand gestures but it’s true. While performing in one east coast city, I don’t think I’d been on stage for 30 seconds and there were three guys on front row in tie died t-shirts. One guy threw his hands up at me. So I immediately jumped off stage and just started playing in his face in front of 4,000 people.

    Smitty: That’s the “in your face” Euge I know. (laughing)

    Euge: It’s kind of like you have to take it by the horns. And his buddies just cracked up about it. For some reason, just the term smooth jazz infuses some bad connotations in some people. I don’t know what that’s about but it’s definitely the case. There’s an ad out now for some power drink that says real men don’t listen to smooth jazz.

    Smitty: Really?

    Euge: And it’s a negative ad based upon smooth jazz.

    Smitty: Wow, I hadn’t heard that.

    Euge: Yeah, I mean there’s a billboard in Hollywood about it and they’ve been running radio spots on it in LA. And that’s the kind of stuff that we’re up against. I think it’s the term, smooth jazz. It has a negative vibe to it and I don’t really know where that came from. They’re using it as a negative ad campaign, that means there’s something wrong with that word, and I don’t know what that is.

    Smitty: Perhaps it is unfamiliarity. And when that happens, some people form their own opinions. But it’s cool to introduce the music so that people can get a clear vibe of what it is and make their choice. And I think it’s great what you’re doing. I take my hat off to you because you’re actually spreading the word and doing your own thing at the same time.

    Euge: You know, an inch at a time, whatever it takes. (laughing)

    Smitty: Exactly! Let’s talk about Euge Groove. You were playing the piano at a very young age, and then you skipped to the sax. Why did you make that transition?

    Euge: Fortunately I was able to do that and my best friend played sax and I figured if I learned to play sax too, we’d be able to hang out more. So that was really the ulterior motive for the saxophone.

    Smitty: And just look how it turned out.

    Euge: Yeah. I mean I wish I could say I heard some great jazz sax master and that’s what made me want to play. But I was nine years old and you’re not really thinking about that then.

    Smitty: We all come from different directions, and I think that’s a cool thing that you had that intention and that you stayed with it.

    Euge: I immediately fell in love with it (Sax). I was really blessed with some great teachers that really motivated me and got me into playing the horn.

    Smitty: Yes. Teachers are very important at an early age. It sort of forms that nucleus of what it takes to continue in the later years would you say?

    Euge: For me yes. I’ve heard players that had so very little formal training but they are absolutely incredible. But for me I think it was great. I had a really good first teaching background. I studied strictly classical music on the sax up until college. There was no jazz or rock and roll or any of that, it was strictly a classical background. It left me with two things, one was a good foundation but the other thing is I really didn’t know where to go with it. I really wanted to be a music professional to some degree from the time I was ten years old, but I had no idea what that entailed.

    Smitty: That’s interesting; you said you knew that you wanted to be a music professional at ten years old.

    Euge: Immediately!

    Smitty: Wow! So did you have a vision then? Or did you just know this was what you wanted to do?

    Euge: I knew that I wanted to be playing in a band with my friends for the rest of my life. I thought “this is cool, I get to play music and I’m with my friends and everyone is all smiling and happy, this is what I want to do.” But I didn’t realize that high school band doesn’t pay anything.

    Smitty: That’s for sure.

    Euge: Seriously. That was what I wanted. Then it was, I’ll go to New York and play in a pit orchestra. I had no idea where I was going. Then I got into college and was exposed to all these different styles of music and I had some great teachers there, some great music business teachers there. And that’s when I figured out the direction that I wanted to go with music.

    Smitty: When you got into the University of Miami a school with so much jazz history, and there you are with all of your classical history that had to be sort of a different feel.

    Euge: I was certainly the outcast.

    Smitty: How’d you feel your way through that?

    Euge: Well I kept my head down and kept to my studies. What I was suppose to do and absorbed everything. And extracted what I liked about it and quite frankly what I didn’t like about jazz, because there were things that I didn’t like. When I heard David Sandborn, he was for me the missing link. For me he had a really classical background but he was playing this contemporary style and this big bright vibrant tone and perfect intonation and technique and all of these things that were a little more foreign to me. That made me think “oh this can be jazz too, I like this.”

    Smitty: You’ve got that reputation of that big horn sound and that in your face vibe. Would you say that came from your classical background or your Tower of Power days? How did you develop that style?

    Euge: I think again it was a combination of things. My personality is like that, it’s hard for me to tone it down, just personally speaking. It’s a combination of things. I got hooked on the Texas Tenors and that kind of sound. And Junior Walker, I loved him, King Curtis, Fathead Newman. These were guys that I loved. They all had these sounds that were kind of in your face. So those were the kind of people I was learning from. Gato Barbieri was another one; in the late 70’s I got hooked in his stuff and that was right in your face. So these were some of the early people that influenced me when I switched over to tenor because I was an alto player. I have a really diverse background too, I think that helped me.

    Smitty: Richard Elliot also plays with a style like yours. He’s paid some very nice compliments to your style of music. Talk about your association to Richard Elliot.

    Euge: (laughing) Well see now that’s really funny, because I listened so much to him. I mean, I’ll be honest, I stole a lot from him. Especially when I got into Tower, I was replacing him when he left to do his solo group full time. I replaced him at Tower of Power. I used listened to so many live board tapes of him and really get into how he did the gig, because he was really brilliant at that gig.

    Smitty: Yeah, great minds think alike.

    Euge: And I never felt as adequate at that gig as I thought he was. My whole tenure, four or five years I was with that band and so I learned a ton from him.

    Smitty: You held your own there I’ll tell you. And you can go back and listen to that and you can hear that rich sound when you’re playing on that album. It’s a really nice sound.

    Euge: Well I appreciate that.

    Smitty: So talk about your latest record. Talk about your concept for your latest record.

    Euge: Livin’ Large!

    Smitty: Livin’ Large, where did that come from?

    Euge: I think the concept for every record for me, this being my third one, is to make a better record than the one before. You know you’re kind of sitting down and you have a blank piece of paper or a blank computer screen or a blank cd in the burner and there’s just nothing on it, it’s a scary moment. You have to come up with 10 songs or 50 minutes of music or something like that. It’s a scary moment. You’re just not sure which direction to go in. This time there were a couple of songs that, I sat down and wrote a few things and played it for Paul Brown. He had a couple of tracks that he played for me. It kind of just came together right. The one that really stuck out in my mind was the track Livin’ Large itself. And I said, “this is where I want to go”. It’s got that great 70’s feel good vibe to it and it’s a song that if there was nothing else but myself and piano I could sit down and play that song. And that was kind of the basis for doing it. I wanted to do stuff that was still groove oriented, but it had more song content to it.

    Smitty: It’s funny that you mentioned starting with a blank cd or the blank chart, because I’ve adopted the saying that says; “Music is a picture that’s painted on a background of silence.”

    Euge: (laughing) Well that’s true, absolutely. It’s a scary time starting a new cd. You don’t know which direction it’s going to come. It’s like birthing a child, they’re all beautiful but we don’t know where they’re going to end up.

    Smitty: I remember at some point when you were doing this record, you said that you had this really great feel. Were you telling us that you were livin’ large at the time?

    Euge: Yes. Livin’ Large became a running joke and then a mantra. (laughing) The song Livin’ Large; we hadn’t had a name for the album or that song and again Paul Brown, the producer on it was joking that we should call it Livin’ Large. “You’re Euge”, but a lot of people call me huge, that’s close to sounding like Euge, huge meaning large, and it just became this play on words thing. I went home to my wife and told her that we were going to call the album Livin’ Large and she just cracked up. “Oh yeah, we’re really living large” (laughing)

    Smitty: (laughing)

    Euge: “You’re out of your lucrative side man thing that you were doing that was paying all of our bills and now you’re this starving jazz musician! Now we’re really living large”. Then we realized that livin’ large was more about the choices that you make, about enjoying life and not being caught up in all the things that you don’t have. It was more about how life goes on, regardless. So you can stress about it or you can enjoy the moment and we chose to enjoy the moment. We made a conscious effort to do that and change a lot of things in our lives. I mean just a ton of things in our lives as far as our outlook, our relationship, our proximity and things that we wanted to do but were too afraid to do before. We just kind of said screw it it’s going to be alright no matter what we do. Let’s just choose to do the things we really want to do. And that’s really when everything came together for us as a family and everything got better.

    Smitty: So as far as your music and your career, your wife is a direct influence on that?

    Euge: Oh yeah, absolutely! Every step of the way. She’s probably one of few that’s really honest with me about the music. Not everyone will tell you the truth and she does. Thank God.

    Smitty: You’ve got to love that. Switching gears, you’re part of an incredible line-up for the All Star Smooth Jazz Cruise out of Galveston, Texas in November. Talk to me a little about that, because you have performed on cruises before.

    Euge: Yes, I’ve done the last two Warren Hill Smooth Jazz Cruises and I had a great time doing it. Then we got a call about this one and I just love doing it, I love the whole concept of being stranded on a boat with the formats most passioned fans. And then also the great players. It inspires me to push harder at the live performances and it’s a great place to learn from the other musicians. It’s a real joy.

    Smitty: How is it different from doing a regular gig at an indoor venue or an outdoor festival?

    Euge: You don’t really get to feel the fans; you don’t get to absorb as much energy from the people that come out to listen to the music. You don’t get to feel it as much when you’re in a venue that the people are only there for two or three hours. And if it’s a festival, schedule permitting, I’ll probably have to split and I don’t get to see the other performers. When you’re on a cruise however, that’s not the case. I get to watch the other musicians and again, get to learn from them. It kind of builds this whole energy. And again, with the fans, you see them everyday, at the pool, when you’re eating, you see them having cocktails in the evening and you get to hear a lot of their (the fans) stories which are inspiring.

    Smitty: Yes I agree. When you say that you get this different vibe about yourself, is it more of a loose atmosphere as far as improvisation? Or is it still, I’m going to do things the usual way? Is it more improvisational with that kind of atmosphere on a ship?

    Euge: Yes, there are definitely song structures for me that I rigidly adhere to. With the form of the songs, I do a lot of stuff with computer. I take a pretty extensive computer rig along with me for the extra sounds. So form wise I’m pretty adhered down to that. But I find that when I get inspired, I go for different notes and different melodies during the solos when I get so inspired. So it’s always fun to be pushed to a new place.

    Smitty: Oh yeah! Now that you have finished your tour with Joe Cocker, what’s coming up for Euge Groove?

    Euge: Euge Groove is finishing up album number four.

    Smitty: Alright!

    Euge: And I’m absolutely thrilled to death about this. It finally feels right to me. You know we were talking about sitting down with blank music or a blank screen, and I started to write for the record after the Guitars and Saxes tour last October. That’s when I sat down and really started composing the songs for this new album. And maybe in six or eight weeks I’d written every song by myself. I’ve never done that before, and I don’t think I started out that way but everything just started coming out right. It was just an interesting experience; I did a lot of research into music that I really liked. I went back and dug out a lot of recordings that I really liked, and listened to it, tried to get into it and tried to analyze what I really liked about it. So that’s where this record is coming from. I’m excited. TJN: Nice. So we can look forward to that later this year?

    Euge: Yes the end of the summer. TJN: Great. You’re with Narada now? How’s that going?

    Euge: They’re great. A very artist friendly label. They’ve been supportive of every whim that I’ve had and very different from past labels. All in a very good way. Everything is better, sales wise I think they’ve done a superlative job. So I’m looking forward to a long relationship with these guys. TJN: Yeah they’ve got a great crew. I love those guys over at Narada.

    Euge: Yes they do.

    Smitty: Well Euge it’s always great to talk to you, and have you on as our guest. I certainly look forward to seeing you in November on the All Star Smooth Jazz Cruise. Finish that record because we want to hear it! EG: We’ll be hitting it right away, I have another months worth of work to polish the record off and I’ll be delivering on time for an end of summer release.

    Smitty: Sounds great, we’re looking forward to it. We’ve been talking with Narada jazz recording artist, Euge Groove. His latest record is called Livin’ Large, and he’s got a new record coming out at the end of the summer. Got to look out for that one. And we certainly look forward to seeing him on the All Star Smooth Jazz Cruise out of Texas. Euge, big ups and keep it real.

    Euge: Thanks Smitty, all the best.

    Visit the Euge Groove Web Site

    An Interview with Al DiMeola

    Al DiMeola The Grande Passion of
    Al DiMeola
    by Paula Edelstein

    Sit back and relax with the gloriously lush music of Al Di Meola and his acoustic group, World Sinfonia. The guitarist extraordinaire offers an event with the ring of history-in-the-making on THE GRANDE PASSION and it is perfect. Accompanied by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Fabrizio Festa, Al Di Meola is compelling on nine brilliant songs produced and arranged by the master guitarist. The six originals written by Al Di Meola and three compositions by the late Argentine tango genius, Astor Piazzolla, comprise some of the most beautiful illuminations of Di Meola’s talent in this period of his musical life. He is magnificent, pulling from his guitar everything it is capable of, balancing poetic and dramatic orchestral strings and woodwinds, all the while fully engaging the listener in a multi-hued program of beautiful tone colors, world rhythms and his GRANDE PASSION.

    World Sinfonia, comprised of Hernan Romero on acoustic guitar, Gumbi Ortiz and Gilad on percussion and Mario Parmisano on acoustic piano, provide remarkable agreement for Al Di Meola. Their Argentine, Cuban and Middle Eastern musical influences, inflections of phrasings, and their rhythmic diversity all emerge in a beautiful array of stylistic grace that will enamor your musical senses from the moment you first experience their glow. Their impressive techniques and creative abandon is there and at first listen you’ll understand why Al Di Meola has described them as his “best group by far in my career.” Having said that, we were fortunate to speak to the great Al Di Meola as he prepared for his world tour with World Sinfonia.

    JazzUSA: Congratulations on THE GRANDE PASSION! It is absolutely stunning and provides a thoughtful and comprehensive representation of both your individual guitar genius and compositional integrity in a symphonic setting that defies conventional categories. A few preoccupations came to mind and I’d appreciate if you’d discuss a few of them for your many, many, online fans!

    Al DiMeolaAD: Thank you. Certainly.

    JazzUSA: All musicians worth hearing during and beyond their time keep experimenting and growing as their music deepens its hold on the listener. Did you arrive at most of your compositions for THE GRANDE PASSION through this kind of experimentation and growth as opposed to sudden inspiration?

    AD: It’s a continuation of World Sinfonia type format, where it’s a combination of my own music in an acoustic setting with also my own versions of some Piazzolla work. Since my association with Astor back in the 80s, it added a lot of dimension to my compositional skills and my outlook for music. I think the emotional side of music is more appealing to me now than the technical side was in the 70s. But at the same time, I have to say that both elements are equally as important for an instrumentalist…especially my direction right now. I want to be moved. I want to feel it in the heart as well as I want the music to be intelligent. That’s what I look for when I’m writing.

    JazzUSA: It’s absolutely beautiful. Your career has spanned a wide range of emotions and includes many styles that embody your world travels and influences. The essence of tango comes to mind at once on the WORLD SINFONIA debut and HEART OF THE IMMIGRANTS and now, you’ve continued your appreciation of Astor Piazzola by including three of his songs on THE GRANDE PASSION. Do you feel that using a symphonic approach to the Tango has broadened its appeal around the world?

    AD: Well, I don’t know….As a composer, it’s so much more “deep” to have the symphony re-create the instruments that I originally wrote. When I write, I re-create what the symphony is going to play, before it comes out. Then we re-create it with the symphony later and it definitely added a much deeper layer.

    JazzUSA: Your acceptance as both prolific composer and virtuoso performer continues to be demonstrated by the many prestigious guitar awards you’ve received including holding the distinction of having more awards from Guitar Player Magazine than any other guitarist in the world! Of all the approaches you’ve used, i.e. that is solo, guitar trios, Brazilian rhythms, symphonies, etc., which approach has been the most fulfilling personally?

    AD: I think this approach! I think the acoustic format, playing my own music. Especially at this level right now because I’m thinking more like a composer. There are a lot of elements, color wise in the music, as compared to years ago when we didn’t have that many colors to deal with. And also, to write for the symphony was quite a challenge, it was a dream of mine for a long time. So, in that regard, it’s definitely a new turn.

    JazzUSA: It seems like there’s a trend among many artists of more thoroughly composed songs, and the addition of symphonies as a backdrop, as opposed to the traditional head-solo format. In addition to your work with World Sinfonia, I’m thinking of composers like Vince Mendoza with The Netherlands Metropole Orchestra, and Jeff Beal with the Berkeley Symphony, among others. Do you see a pattern here?

    AD: I actually do because, I think a lot of us have exhausted a lot of the sounds that you might get from keyboards, you know, and we’re looking for something deeper, more meaningful to give our music more meaning and depth and the orchestra definitely provides that. Plus, a lot of orchestras are also getting a little bit tired of playing the same classical format and really do look for something new to play. Especially in a “live” situation. And that leads us to what I’ll be doing next year. I’ll be doing a lot of these shows with symphony orchestras. In fact, the first round will happen at the end of October 2000. I have three shows re-creating this music with orchestra and poem. (For exact dates, go to http://www.telarc.com)

    JazzUSA: That’s going to be great! Fantastic!

    AD: Yes, it’s going to be nice.

    JazzUSA: I can imagine it will. You’ve described World Sinfonia 2000 as the “best group by far in your career.” Had you been writing these compositions for THE GRANDE PASSION and Sinfonia in mind even though you were experiencing remarkable success with Paco de Lucia and John McLaughlin on FRIDAY NIGHT IN SAN FRANCISCO and later with Jean-Luc Ponty and Stanley Clarke on RITE OF STRINGS in a trio format?

    AD: Well the trio format, I wrote specifically with them in mind. With this music, it’s specifically for Sinfonia. Definitely.

    JazzUSA: Who are some of the contemporary artists you like in the tradition of guitar trio now?

    AD: I like the work of Gismonti, a lot. We are talking about doing something together.

    JazzUSA: That would be great! On THE GRANDE PASSION, you also cover the music of Astor Piazzolla. Please discuss how you chose those three particular songs?

    AD: “Double Concerto,” was a piece that doesn’t really appear on any of his records, except for maybe one. There was “live” recording…a debut recording of that piece in a “live” setting. But, out of all of his records, where you might normally find that piece, it wasn’t part of his repertoire. I wanted to give it a different slant, rhythmically. So we came up with this version and added symphonic parts to it that weren’t originally written. Then you have “Soledad,” which is a very popular piece in his repertoire. It’s just one that I found to be very emotional. I just had to do…had to do my own version of it. “Libertango” is one of his hits in the Tango world and it’s just a fun one to play! In fact, it’s a great opener for the set.

    JazzUSA: Absolutely. How do you feel you’ve improved as a composer for World Sinfonia since your first and second records?

    AD: Well, my vision has gotten a lot wider and deeper with the inclusion of writing for the symphony and with that in mind, I’m thinking more orchestral.

    JazzUSA: “The Grande Passion” has sprung forth. It’s so romantic, sensuous, and beautiful. I can’t describe it. It’s absolutely gorgeous. The magnificent crescendos, the lush sweeping strings underneath.

    AD: Yes, it really has. If the melodies can move you and touch you, it says a lot. But, if what’s underneath all of that, harmonically and rhythmically, is interesting, then you’re saying a lot. A lot of who you’re about. You, know what I mean?

    JazzUSA: Absolutely! Absolutely!

    AD: Music speaks a lot deeper than words can ever speak.

    JazzUSA: It certainly does.

    AD: When you can reach that level, then you have artistic satisfaction to the max!

    JazzUSA: You certainly have reached through because THE GRANDE PASSION is absolutely gorgeous!

    AD: Thank you so much.

    JazzUSA: What’s your last word on practicing, composition and performance? We just want to pass that on to some aspiring children and students that don’t want to do their homework!

    AD: Practicing. I think there’s contentment when you practice. When you can get away from everything and just have your instrument and just experiment, or practice the scales or whatever, I find that to be calming. I love that! I love to get away from everybody and just do that. Composition is the most satisfying thing you can do. To see something grow from a seed and hear in the end, something that somehow resembles your personality or who you really are…if that can come out in that composition, your feelings coming out in that composition, and have other people feel it, then it’s the ultimate satisfaction. Not all of us get there. There’s a process in order to get there too. I’m getting closer to it and this record is definitely a step.

    JazzUSA: Certainly. As far as performing now, do you feel more fulfilled from the ovations received from your audiences now?

    AD: I’m feeling it deeper for sure. It’s definitely more of a “fine arts” type of acceptance (laughs) than the hysteria of the past. The extreme volumes and that kind of pace don’t have the same appeal.

    JazzUSA: I must admit I used to be in those hysterical audiences…but can assure you that we’ve mellowed for sure! I imagine that’s its from the artistic growth and sense of satisfaction that you’ve achieved at a different level. We understand and many of us that have listened to your music throughout the years and watched and listened to you grow and expand, we’re so very appreciative and we certainly appreciate the great, great music and friendship that you’re shared with the world.

    AD: Thanks Paula. I appreciate your support.

    JazzUSA: It is our pleasure. Thank you for the interview and once again, congratulations on THE GRANDE PASSION, one of the most astonishingly beautiful listening experiences ever. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Al Di Meola. For tour and related information on the great Al Di Meola and World Sinfonia, you are invited to visit http://www.telarc.com

    Philip Bailey – An Interview

    Philip Bailey A Conversation With
    Philip Bailey
    by Mark Ruffin

    Earth, Wind and Fire front man Phillip Bailey has been making solo albums since the early 80’s. Of course, the most successful, was the classic rock oriented “Chinese Wall,” featuring the Top 10 duet with Phil Collins, “Easy Lover.” But Bailey also has recorded solo r&b efforts, and a gospel records, including a great George Duke produced disc titled, “Wonders Of His Love.” Only those who weren’t fans of EW&F were surprised in 1999 when Bailey released his first jazz album, “Dreams.” His follow-up “Soul On Jazz,” is a very adapt title, because this time out Bailey definitely put his own stamp on tunes by Thelonious Monk, Freddie Hubbard, Chick Corea, Joe Zawinul and others. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee took a few minutes from his Southern California home to talk with JazzUSA.com’s Senior Editor, Mark Ruffin about his foray into jazz.

    JazzUSA: Hey Phil. I’m surprised you’re at home.

    PB: Don’t worry, I’m leaving. (laughs) I’m leaving in a few days. I’ve actually been home a while and actually slept in my own bed for more than a few nights.

    JazzUSA: But you are touring with Earth, Wind & Fire, right?

    PB: We’re really not on tour, as it were. We’re just working all the time. We were on tour with Chaka Khan, last year. But we’re not on tour right now. We’re just doing our normal thing. We work all the time. In the summer there’s always lot of festivals. We do casinos and stuff that’s popped up everywhere. We do a lot of corporate dates, which are private companies. That’s our normal work, when we’re not on proper tour. We were on that tour that Viagra sponsored last year, Chaka, Rufus and us. It was like 30 cities.

    JazzUSA: Have you been introducing some of this new jazz stuff into Earth, Wind & Fire shows?

    PB: No, I just finished and just got the record out. We did it in less than a month. We did all the tracking in a couple days. It was one of those periods, like now, where I’ve been home nearly ten days. It was one of those times where I had two, nearly three weeks.: We planned. I went to New Jersey. We tracked in two days, did the overdubs the rest of the week. The next week, we did background and leads. We took a week off, came to Los Angeles and mixed. Bing-bing, it’s over.

    JazzUSA: So, are you happy with it?

    PB: It’s a wonderful thing.

    JazzUSA: When is the public going to see and hear you do some of this?

    PB: I went to Japan and performed some of it. And I’m doing some dates in July in the States, on this project. We’re going to be doing New York. We’re going to be doing a week at the Blue Note there for a week. We’re doing some place else in Virginia, Connecticut. We’re trying to pick the right venues to do it.

    JazzUSA: What kind of band will be with you?

    PB: Myron McKinley, who plays with (EWF) and is one of the producers (of “Eyes On Jazz) put the band together. It’s a bunch of really, really fine musicians. We’re having a good time with this thing. It’s a lot of fun. I’m so thankful that I got an opportunity to do it. It’s such a blessing to be able to do something else besides Earth, Wind & Fire. Not to say anything bad about Earth, Wind & Fire. I love it and I love everything about it. Just as an artist, it’s good to be able to do some other stuff that you actually have to think about.

    JazzUSA: Let’s talk about the songs on the album. There’s one called “My Indiscretions.” It’s a Joe Zawinul song?

    PB: Yeah. It’s a Weather Report tune, but I don/t remember which album. The original title was “Indiscretions.”

    JazzUSA: “Dear Ruby,” is so different, Monk’s ghost may have stopped in the studio to see who was playing with his tune. (“Ruby My Dear)

    PB: (laughs) Well, we were listening to the lyrics and everything, and I was telling Myron, because of the lyrics, we could make this song more of a contemporary r&b track, like a Wll Downing, slash, Anita Baker kind of tune. He did a good job.

    JazzUSA: It’s an incredible arrangement that I think would catch even the most hard core Monk fan off guard and marvel at it. I think Monk would be proud. Instead of someone just re-doing his tune, you almost refurbish it.

    PB: Yeah, he put a whole different spin on it.

    JazzUSA: Some of the originals stand out too, like “Bop-Skip-Doodle,” and “Unrestrained.”

    PB: Those were written by my son Sir, and Myron. Sir has really got a gift, in terms of being conscious, but being very current. For me, now, I don’t even have the want to write lyrics, unless I’m like really inspired. So, I just give it Sir, and go ‘here.” Then he comes back and goes, ‘okay, this is the way it goes.’ (laughs) “Unrestrained,” he wrote the day he got there.

    JazzUSA: How old is he?

    PB: 30

    JazzUSA: So he has your gift of lyricism?

    PB: He definitely does. I wouldn’t give him props if he didn’t. He really does have a flair for good lyrics, but then he’s very conscious. It’s almost like Earth, Wind and Fire, second generation, for real. I’m trying to talk him into doing his own project, because he’s a really gifted producer, in terms of knowing what he wants.

    JazzUSA: What about as a singer?

    PB: No, he’s not a singer.

    JazzUSA: There are lyrics to three specific songs on the album, “Tell Me A Bedtime Story,: “Red Clay,” and “Sometime Ago,” all of which were created at a time when you were just getting into Earth, Wind and Fire and had to be extremely focused. Were these tunes you knew back then, or are you just discovering them recently ?

    PB: I was very steeped in jazz all of my life, and that’s what a lot of people don’t know about me as an artist. A lot of people don’t know that as a musician, because I’m a drummer first, that my whole background is jazz. I did the trio thing to make ends meet, as a kid, before I got in Earth, Wind and Fire. I did that whole after hour thing. A lot of those songs, I’ve played. I’ve played lots of standards, and I’ve always kept up.

    JazzUSA: Something else that a lot of people didn’t realize about Earth, Wind and Fire, even today, and that is how much Brazilian musicians influenced you guys. I mean you recorded an Edu Lobo song as early as the “Head To The Sky,” album, and the Earth, Wind and Fire version of Milton Nascimento’s “Ponte De Aeira” is brilliant. All that being said, I was really surprised that there weren’t any Brazilian grooves on your new album.

    PB: I just think that we couldn’t do everything in one record, not that we would want to, because I want to do some more. (laughs) I would definitely want to do that. I would like to do some Brazilian things and some Latin things. I think that could make a great next project, a few Cuban kinds of things with some Brazilian tunes on.

    JazzUSA: About a year ago, we were talking about the song “Make It With You,” the Bread tune that you put on your last album, and I was talking about the Earth, Wind and Fire version on “Last Days And Times,” and you couldn’t remember it.

    PB: (laughs) Right, right, and I was like ‘I did that. No wonder I knew those lyrics so well.’ (laughs)

    JazzUSA:: Exactly. So, what was it like this time totally re-arranging such a well known Earth, Wind and Fire song like “Keep Your Head To The Sky?”

    PB: We had been doing it after 9/11 on the stage and just giving an inspirational message from the stage. And I had decided to do one Earth, Wind and Fire song on each record. But my whole concept was to do a song off the beaten path, like on the last album, I did “Sail Away.” But because of the current situation we’re in worldwide, Myron said let me give you an arrangement for “Keep Your Head To The Sky.” That’s the reason we did that.

    JazzUSA: So there will be another Phillip Bailey jazz record?

    PB: Most definitely if I live and breath. I try to do projects to just keep me inspired, because I really considered myself blessed to be able to do what I do, and to have the gift and to love it. I remember the first time I ever did a gig and they gave me a few dollars. I was like, ‘wow, you get paid for this too.’ You want to keep that kind of passion for music. The record industry can zap you of all of that. If you just constantly have to try to figure out how to beat the system, it can zap you of that pure love for it. So the way I combat that is I do different things, like when I did the Phil Collins project. It was solely out of trying to find the feeling again. Because I had been through a lot of b.s. with record companies, and I was like, man, let me just go do something else. People didn’t know that coming from Denver, I had rock bands in Denver, because that’s the capital of the hippie movement. So to do the thing with Phil Collins wasn’t really a stretch for me, but it was a situation where people were able to see another side of me. With this, people are able to see yet a whole other side of myself. I will continue to do this in music. Thankfully, because of Earth, Wind and Fire, I don’t have to actually live or die by my solo stuff. I can take risky chances, that maybe I wouldn’t be able to do if I really had to depend on just this to make a living.

    JazzUSA: Phil, man, I’ve been hearing about this new Earth, Wind and Fire record for, well, a long time. You guys are getting like Steely Dan.

    PB: Well, we’re almost finished. It’s been a long arduous process. There is light at the end of the tunnel. And hopefully, we’ll have it out sometime this year.

    JazzUSA: Do you have a record deal?

    PB: Yeah, Uh…well.. it’s a little sketchy to speak on.

    JazzUSA: Well, you know man, it seems Sony, Warners, and not so much Universal, but it seems to me that most majors, and especially Sony and Warners, the only labels Earth, Wind and Fire have ever recorded for, practice a blatant form of ageism. When black artists get to 40, or around there, they drop them. The list of black artists that don’t have deals is incredible….

    PB: Oh, for sure. More don’t than do.

    JazzUSA: So, with all the history and power of Earth, Wind and Fire, do you guys deal with that?

    PB: Oh, heck yeah. Most definitely. We’re not exempt from that. Fortunately, the situation that we’re working on right now, could be a win-win situation for us. I don’t really want to speak on it, because it’s too premature. But there will be a new Earth, Wind and Fire record soon..

    Dave Grusin – West Side Story

    Dave
    Grusin
    Presents

    West Side Story

    Jonathan Butler, Gloria Estefan & Jon Secada Are Among Special Guest Stars on this Phil Ramone Production. Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Landmark Show Box-Office smash West Side Story

    Academy and Grammy award winning musician/ composer/ arranger Dave Grusin and Grammy and Emmy Award winning producer Phil Ramone have collaborated for the release of Dave Grusin Presents West Side Story.

    Grusin’s rendition of the Leonard Bernstein masterpiece is in conjunction with the shows’ 40th anniversary and features a stellar cast of musicians with special guest vocalists Jonathan Butler, Gloria Estefan and Jon Secada.

    Dave Grusin Presents West Side Story will be the first audio recording ever to be released in DVD format as well as CD. The DVD will feature original footage produced for the project, which was cast by Jodi Collins Casting, and visuals synched to the music. In addition, it contains a documentary of the “making of,” including interviews with the artists.

    “My idea to revisit Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story was born of an old respect for his unique approach to what we have come to know as show music,” states Grusin. “It has been a labor of love to revise and recreate this music for an extended concert jazz band, and to let these kinds of musicians have a chance to work with marvelous material.”

    Phil Ramone further states, “It was wonderful to work with Dave and witness the great imagination in which he approached Leonard Bernstein’s unforgettable score. It is our hope that the artistic and creative vision, coupled with the advances and use of new technology, will captivate a whole new generation of music aficionados to this American classic!”

    In commenting Jon Secada noted: “Performing ‘Somewhere’ on Dave Grusin’s rendition of West Side Story was a very rewarding experience. Not only did I get to work with Dave and Phil Ramone, I was given the opportunity to sing the legendary music and lyrics written by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim – What a Thrill!”.

    The vocal performances of Leonard Bernstein’s music and Stephen Sondheim’s Iyrics by Jonathan Butler’s “Maria,” Gloria Estefan on “Tonight,” and Jon Secada’s “Somewhere” prove once again that material of this caliber is timeless. However, it was by using today’s latest technology that Gloria Estefan was able to record her vocal performance in “real time” from a studio in Florida, while tracks were being played in New York, via use of a fiber optics system, a technique which Phil Ramone first pioneered for Frank Sinatra’s Duets I & II.

    With its premiere at New York’s Winter Garden Theatre on September 26, 1957, West Side Story revolutionized American musical theater with its unprecedented fusion of jazz, Latin and classical music sources. For this 1997 inspired jazz version, Grusin has assembled an extended concert band of some of today’s greatest musicians including such notables as Michael Brecker, Bill Evans, John Patitucci, Lee Ritenour, Arturo Sandoval, Dave Valentin and Dave Weckl, among many others.

    With many of these talented artists at hand, he will premiere this rendition at this years Monterey Jazz Festival, Friday, September 19, which also marks the 40th anniversary of this prestigious jazz event. In addition, a second concert has been added at New York’s Carnegie Hall, Thursday, November 13.

    In quoting Dave Grusin: “Hopefully, the spirit of this recording will keep alive the unique qualities and intent of the original. It is amazing that forty years means nothing when dealing with something that is timeless in this way. It was hip in 1957… it is hip now!”

    Ubuyile – Jazz comes home

    Ubuyile
    Jazz comes home

    By Gwen Ansell

    “Jazz music will never die,” affirms trumpeter Johnny Mekoa, “because it’s the people’s music and you can’t keep it down.”

    Perhaps only in the US and South Africa has jazz ever had that popular character. It was one of the common strands inspiring the 8-part radio series “Ubuyile/Jazz Coming Home”, that ABC Ulwazi commissioned me to script and produce.

    ABC Ulwazi trains community radio broadcasters and produces a wide variety of educational and developmental radio programmes, which it distributes to community radio stations. As part of this programme it is building up a Living History sound archive of the diverse memories and experiences of the older generation of South Africans. It had long wanted to add a history of South African jazz, with its musical memories, to the Archive. The Ford Foundation was particularly interested in exploring the cultural common ground between New World jazz and the music of Africa.”

    So the project came together: a hundred years of musical and social history, starting with the arrival of African music on American shores in the slave ships and ending with the fall of apartheid. It was to run in eight 20-miute episodes and be distributed on CD for the stations to flight.

    At that stage, back in March, I and interviewer/ narrator colleague Peter Makurube, didn’t realise what a huge mouthful we’d bitten off. Our first programme, for example, covered the tail-end of the Nineteenth Century. Where was our live audio to come from? That programme went through three versions as we moved from academic description to voiced excerpts from the historical record, laced with traditional music from Burkina Faso and Mali. We knew, even before the ethnomusicologists told us, that we could never re-create the authentic sounds of New Orleans’ Congo Square; we settled, rather, for painting a sound-mood that reflected what the historical record described. And the imagination of some of our interviewees produced other inspired re-creations. Hugh Masekela, for example, crediting Louis Armstrong the cultural moderniser. “Hey, I’ll always say if it wasn’t for Satch we’d still be walking round in powdered wigs and stuff, talking like ‘I say theah old chap’!”

    Serendipity was a great force in the programme. Entrepreneur Lucky Michaels reminisced about the political role his Pelican Nightclub had played as a meeting place during the Soweto uprising. In separate interview three months later, saxophonist Khaya Mahlangu revealed that he’d been rehearsing in that very club on the afternoon of June 16 and had had to drive family members across town in the wake of the terrible shootings. Such detail wasn’t in the published biographies of these figures, but time and again it provided our sound links.

    But making the programme had its sad moments too. The jazz life is hard: many older-generation musicians we’d have loved to talk to were already dead. One, Mike Makhalemele, passed away the week before we were scheduled to interview him. And those who’d lived through the harsh years of apartheid when their talent was exploited and their cultural identity suppressed often found the interview process painful, as old memories boiled to the surface. It reminded us, too, of how a fickle public quickly forgets its artists. General Duze, the best guitarist of his generation, now sits in an old people’s home in Soweto with, as he wryly reflects “nothing to do but watch the birds fly and the ants getting ready for winter.”

    For me, the biggest historical discovery was of how direct the link was between today’s South African jazz renaissance and the period of the Cultural Boycott against apartheid declared in 1982. Artist after artist – even those who had disagreed with the politics of the boycott – told us: it wasn’t comfortable, but it made us look inwards at the music we had here and treasure it. Most credited their own current originality to that introspection.

    In the end, we talked to 57 artists and other cultural figures. We had our programmes – but we also realised how many other narratives our eight episodes had not told. In particular, the rich stories of the jazz centres outside Johannesburg: Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban and the great “little jazz city” of Queenstown, needed far more time than our broad outline survey could provide. So there will be more research and – we hope – more programmes. And we hope that other researchers will use the sound archive. Not only for what it has to say about music, for it also reflects on fashion, movies and a whole range of other cultural concerns.

    For us, the nicest surprise is the interest the series has sparked outside community radio. Almost everyone who’s encountered it has said they’d like to own a copy. That holds out the hope that broader publication could fund expanded work on the cultural aspects of the Living History project. That’s still in the future. For today, we have 160 minutes of sound that honour the part jazz artists played in building our new society – and introduce listeners to some damn fine music along the way.

    To find out more about Ubuyile – Jazz coming home, email Gwen Ansell sisgwen@iafrica.com

    Africa Beats is brought to you each month courtesy of the Afri-Beat Web Site.

    Visit the Afri-Beat Web Site and enter the world of African music.
    AfriBeat
    http://www.afribeat.com

    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.

    An Interview with Steve Turre

    Lotus FlowerSteve Turre
    Talks about Lotus Flower and more…
    by Fred Jung

    It’s funny that in all the conversations, chit-chats, fireside talks, and the like, I’ve never spoken at length with a trombonist outside of Ray Anderson, so when the opportunity arose to converse with Steve Turre, I couldn’t believe my good fortune. I had seen Steve play live a handful of times and on Saturday evenings, who can miss the bone man playing with the Saturday Night Live Band. Steve sat down with me from his home in New Jersey to talk about his fourteen year stint with the Saturday Night Live Band, his time with Art Blakey, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, and Woody Shaw, his conch shells, and his latest on Verve, “Lotus Flower.” It is a candid discussion with one of the heavies in jazz, unedited and in his own words.

    JazzUSA: Let’s start from the beginning.

    Steve Turre ST: I started playing trombone in the fourth grade, in the school band. I started on the trombone and I’ve been with it all the time. I played in the grade school band and then in junior high, they had a jazz band and I started doing my first professional work about thirteen in junior high. My brother and I had a band and we used to play for dances and parties and stuff. Then in high school, I continued and played in the All-state California Band and then this jazz band and a concert band and I also played electric bass in a funk band in order to make some money on the side. I ended up working professionally. My first big gig was with the Ray Charles Band in 1972. And after a year with Ray, I came back to the Bay Area, San Francisco Bay Area, where I’m from and I sat in with Art Blakey and he asked me to join The Messengers and brought me to New York. In the spring of ’73, I came to New York with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers and I’ve been there ever since.

    JazzUSA: Do you miss the Bay Area?

    ST: Well, it’s a beautiful place to live, but it doesn’t have the music that New York has. No place does.

    JazzUSA: And your influences at that time?

    ST: Early on, my first jazz experience in junior high was New Orleans traditional. The father of that was Kid Ory, but when I was in high school, somebody gave me a J. J. Johnson record and of course, that turned me around. I wanted to play like that. And then, later, when I was about eighteen, I sat in and played with Rahsaan Roland Kirk and he turned me on to the guys after Kid Ory, but before J. J. Johnson. People like Vic Dickenson (Dixieland trombonist), Trummy Young (Dixieland trombonist), and Jack Teagarden, and J. C. Higginbotham (Swing trombonist), you know, those cats from that area, the Ellingtonians, the cats from Basie, Al Grey. Then I had the full lineage, but I was also, before coming to New York, I was also influenced a lot by other instrumentalists besides trombone players. I was influenced by saxophonists and trumpets, somewhat pianos too.

    JazzUSA: Let’s touch on your relationships with Art Blakey, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Dizzy Gillespie, and Woody Shaw.

    ST: You know, Fred, interestingly, Dizzy was, Dizzy was like, it was finishing school. It was graduate school. But actually, in terms of playing with trumpet players, it was much more pivotal in my development and in my career playing with Woody Shaw. I did twelve albums with Woody Shaw. I did four years in a quintet with Woody were the only horns was trumpet and trombone. And at that point with Woody was where I developed my own voice and gained the maturity, at that point. Dizzy was the icing on the cake, but the cake was Woody. Dizzy is the father that we all come from, but in terms of my personal development, Woody was more important.

    JazzUSA: And Roland Kirk?

    ST: Well, he was my first mentor as a teenager. Whenever he would come to the Bay Area, he would call me to work with him in a local club. I wouldn’t tour with the band. He taught me about the legacy, the history, the lineage of the music, that how far back that you go will determine how far forward you can go. We used to play the whole history of the music in the course of one night, not emulating, but being yourself within the given stylistic approaches of the different eras. Playing true to the feeling of New Orleans, or the feeling of Ellington, or the feeling of Bird, or the feeling of Trane. You don’t play something else when you’re playing Coltrane. It just won’t work. You’ve got to know the history of the music.

    JazzUSA: And Blakey?

    ST: Art was, that was university there. Woody turned me on to Art and Art brought me to New York. Art would teach you how to tell a story. He’d teach you how to build a solo and to play with the rhythm section, and how to have the confidence to project yourself, and to be a man or a woman, or what the case may be, because he had some women in his band too. I remember Joanne Brackeen played piano with him among others. It was really, boy, Art was deep. There’s so many things he told me that I’m still thinking about today.

    JazzUSA: You are also a member of McCoy Tyner’s Afro-Cuban Band, you have a brand new record out with that band.

    ST: It’s coming out in March, right?

    JazzUSA: Right, on Telarc.

    ST: Yes.

    JazzUSA: What’s your experience been with that ensemble?

    ST: It’s really inspirational. He’s so powerful and so deep that he picks you up and brings you to places that you didn’t know existed. It’s a real privilege to play with McCoy.

    JazzUSA: The majority of the music on your albums are originals, what is your approach to standards?

    ST: If I do other people’s songs, I, kind of, arrange them my own way. It’s about being yourself.

    JazzUSA: Is it difficult for the younger musicians today to be themselves because there are no opportunities to learn from a Art Blakey or Woody Shaw type leader?

    ST: They ain’t had the opportunity to play with people like Art Blakey, or Dizzy, or Woody. The sad part about it is the record companies are putting them out there and buying them gigs and making stars out of them, before they’ve had a chance to learn their own voices, and play with the older musicians to be a part of the continuum. So as a consequence, the only thing they know is what they’ve heard on records or learned in school, but the real school is on the bandstand.

    JazzUSA: What adverse effects in the long term do you think that will have on the quality of the music?

    ST: It’s just changing the parameters of the lineage.

    JazzUSA: What is the story behind the conch shells?

    ST: Well, you produce the tone the same way, with the lips. Shells are the roots of the brass instruments. The shells were being played before there was ever metal to make a trombone, trumpet, horn, or whatever, and the animal horn too, the ram’s horn, or the tusk horn in Africa, or whatever. They were played with the lips, producing the sound in the same manner as brass instruments, but before brass instruments. These instruments are the roots of brass. I first heard the shells when I worked for Roland Kirk in San Francisco. He let me blow on the shells that he had and I really liked the sound so I got one and that was 1970. So I’ve been doing it since then.

    JazzUSA: Do you find that the shells are still maligned as a gimmick of sorts by traditionalists, even though you have been winning polls for playing them?

    ST: Yes, that true, but you know, Fred, I also just won a “Downbeat” poll for trombone, and trombone is my main instrument. I know that the record company, Verve, was primarily interested in the shells because they thought it was a gimmick that would sell. I was really surprised by that shallow an outlook in my artistry, being that the trombone has been part of the music since before the saxophone. If you look at the history in jazz and record jazz music, the trombone, in fact, in the past has been million sellers, not to say that I’m a million seller, but they haven’t even tried to promote trombone in recent times. Let’s face it, Fred, they can sell anything they want to if they put it out there a certain way. I know Glenn Miller, and Tommy Dorsey and all of them. They all had big hits on the pop scale! So it’s not the instrument won’t sell, it’s the fact they’re not selling it. You know what I mean, Fred?

    JazzUSA: Yes.

    ST: Since the years that I’ve been with Verve, they put together these little all-star groups and stuff and make records and try to keep the artists out there. They have McBride (Christian McBride), the guitar player, Whitfield (Mark Whitfield, unfortunately is no longer with Verve and has been one of first of what’s sure to be many casualties of the Verve/Impulse! mega-merger), and Hargrove (Roy Hargrove), or Nicholas (Nicholas Payton) did, Nicholas, they played the music of Herbie Hancock, or they’ll do a Christmas album with various artists, but they’ve never had the trombone included in that stuff. But I’ll tell you this, Fred, when I go out and play on a gig or play opposite these people, the people appreciate what I’m doing just as much as the other instruments. I consider it lack of insight, personally. I’m tired of them telling me about what the trombone won’t do when they’re not doing nothing for it.

    JazzUSA: Do you feel as though members of the media consider the trombone a second rate instrument?

    ST: Not second rate, just not so popular. How could it be second rate? It was there from the beginning! The first two most important bands in the beginning of New Orleans was King Oliver and Kid Ory. You’ve got to realize this, Fred. This is a fact. It’s part of history. In the beginning, the trombone was there before the saxophone. There was no saxophone to speak of. Then the big bands came along after New Orleans traditional, the next big event was the big band sound. It was a popular dance music. I mean, my mom and daddy met at a Count Basie dance. How about that! That’s a fact. It was dance music, Ellington, Basie, you know, Lionel Hampton, Fletcher Henderson, all of them. And the saxophone came into prominence, Coleman Hawkins’ “Body and Soul,” boom, Prez (Lester Young), Johnny Hodges. Each big band had three sections, the trumpet, the trombone, and the saxophone. Each section had stars and soloists that were revered by the public. Now, what’s the next big thing that happened? Bird (Charlie Parker) and Diz, Max (Max Roach), Monk (Thelonious Monk), bebop, and all of that music was so technically challenging, all the trombone players bit the dust, except one. And you know who that was, Fred.

    JazzUSA: J. J. Johnson.

    ST: Right. J. J. did for the trombone what Charlie Parker did for the saxophone. In subsequent generations, others have followed his lead, Curtis Fuller and Slide Hampton, Julian Priester, Frank Rosolino, and they’ve caught up with the other instruments, trumpet, saxophone, but by that time, all you hear, ninety percent of the jazz that you hear in the clubs is saxophone and trumpet, saxophone, saxophone and trumpet, you know what I mean? And that’s just not the way it is, but that’s what they’re selling. I remember George Wein (producer of the Newport, New York’s JVC, and Playboy Jazz festivals) telling me one time, I played with the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, and I’m saying these things, not to sound like sour grapes because that’s not the case at all. I want to make people aware of the facts, so that maybe if they asked for the trombone, ask for the trombone. There’s guys out here playing beautiful. Young cats too, as well as some of the older masters, still killing. Slide Hampton is incredible! Curtis Fuller is still doing it. He’s a legend. He’s the only trombone player to ever play with Coltrane. I remember George Wein, I was with the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, I’ve been with them since the beginning, every concert they had, between two and three, and four, somewhere between two and four guest soloists, you know what I mean, come out and do a tune or two with the band, and they had not once had a trombone. It’s mostly saxophone and trumpets, and sometimes the piano or a singer or whatever. I asked, I remember about four years into the series, I asked George Wein, one day I played a solo, I’m in the band though, I’m wasn’t a guest soloist and I played a solo with the plunger and he really liked it because he likes the older styles. He told me, “Oh, Steve, that’s one of the most beautiful plunger solos that I’ve ever heard. I didn’t know you did that.” So I said to George, I said, “You know, the people really seem to like it.” He said, “Oh, yes, they loved it.” I said, “Well, why don’t you have some trombones be guest soloists with the band.” He said, “What people want to see is two trumpets get up there or two saxophones get up there and battle.” (Sighing) When he said that I didn’t even, what’s the point? You see what I’m saying, Fred.

    JazzUSA: Yes.

    ST: And then we got to deal with what they call smooth jazz and that is created for the purpose of making money. That’s not created as a cultural thing. What they really ought to call it is instrumental pop. If they called it instrumental pop, I wouldn’t have a problem with it, because when I was coming up in high school, they had instrumental pop and they called it that and they marketed it as that. Now, they want to use the word jazz with instrumental pop. You know what I mean, but that’s what it is.

    JazzUSA: Let’s touch on your new album on Verve, “Lotus Flower” and how it differs from your last project, the self-titled recording, also on Verve.

    ST: It (referring to “Steve Turre”) was burnout. It was really. It (“Lotus Flower”) was a sextet. We played together. We gigged together. Everybody had been working together. It’s a working band. We just went into the studio and hit. Everybody knows all the people on the record (Regina Carter, violin; Akua Dixon, cello; Mulgrew Miller, piano; Buster Williams, bass; Lewis Nash, drums). They’re all leaders in their own right. They all got records out in their own right. We took our time. We did it in two days, just back to back two days. We just went in and played.

    JazzUSA: Any touring plans?

    ST: Absolutely. Absolutely. We’re supposed to go to Europe this summer. I’ve had an offer to go to Los Angeles, but I don’t want to just go out there for one thing. I want to make a whole sweep of it, the whole coast, or the whole Mid-West too. We’ve had stuff come up but I want it all to be in one, because if you go out just for a one shot thing, the transportation eats everything up. Why should the airlines get most of the money? If you put all the gigs together in a row, then everybody does better. I’ve gone to Los Angeles consistently over the years, but not every six months or nothing like that. Los Angeles is not really the cultural center of the country. It’s Hollywood. It’s not about creative jazz or nothing, but there’s people there that love and appreciate the music. There’s some great musicians there and it’s cool. I’ve got friends there. I’ve got a lot of wonderful people there. We’re going to play the music live that we played on the record, except the fact that it’s live, we’re going to stretch out more and it’s going to be more energy when you hear it live.

    JazzUSA: And the Saturday Night Live gig?

    ST: It’s fun. I’ve been there fourteen years. Can you imagine? Twenty shows a year, fourteen years, how many people have been through there. There’s been a lot of them.

    JazzUSA: And how are those gigs different from your gigs on the bandstand?

    ST: It’s real. It’s not a reproduction, but it’s going to be the same textures and the same vibe. When you hear music live, I think it’s the ultimate way to enjoy our music. I’ve played with some pop groups and I won’t mention any names, but they’re big name pop groups and they memorize the stuff and practice the solos so we can play it verbatim each performance, even to the solos. The drummer, they want the drummer to play the same fills and exactly like the record, or whatever. Our music’s not like that. Each offering is different and unique and reflects the moment. It’s a unique experience to be there and savor it, because it’s never going to be like that again.

    JazzUSA: Describe what jazz means to you?

    ST: It’s a music that brings people together. There is racism in the marketplace, but in its inception, it’s world music. It combines African improvisation, you know, all that rhythm with European harmonies and so on and so forth. There it is. It’s the beginning of world music.

    JazzUSA: If you weren’t a ‘bone man, what other instrument interests you?

    ST: Well, I’ve already worked and recorded playing bass. I did two albums with Chico Hamilton, but I, even though I never developed as a professional, I love the piano. And I love rhythm. I love the drums too. I would definitely be in music some kind of way. But I love the trombone.

    JazzUSA: And lastly?

    ST: (Laughing) It’s not over yet.

    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…

    The 1997 JazzTimes Convention



    Jazz Summit: November 5 – 8

    The 1997 JazzTimes Convention, Hosted by JazzTimes Magazine at the New Jersey Meadowlands, focuses on the State of today’s Jazz Industry.

    Virtually every aspect of the jazz world will be addressed, evaluated and debated at the 1997 JazzTimes Convention, November 5 – 8, which takes place at the ITT Sheraton Hotel Meadowlands in New Jersey. The world-renowned and respected gathering will feature over 800 participants from around the globe, representing all facets of the jazz “industry”. This is the place to keep up with the latest developments in jazz music, a vital and ever-evolving art form.

    Over 30 informative and entertaining panels and workshops on a wide range of industry topics offer a unique overview of the state of the jazz business by those who are making the important decisions. Topics include:”Selling Jazz in the New Millennium”; “The Future of Jazz Radio”; “Real World Perspectives on Jazz and the Internet”; “Retailers Roundtable”; “Tourism, Cities & Jazz Festivals”; “Anatomy of a Record Contract”; “Legends of Jazz Radio”; “Jazz & the Alternative Audience”; “Secrets of Guerrilla Fundraising”; “Jazz in the Mainstream Media” and more. A complete schedule follows.

    The Convention’s Guest of Honor is pianist Marian McPartland, the well known pianist, educator and producer/host of the acclaimed National Public Radio program “Piano Jazz”. The England-born McPartland came to America shortly after World War II, making a name for herself in the New York jazz scene. She hasn’t stopped since, performing and recording with the best musicians on over 50 recordings. She’s won numerous honors, including the Peabody Award and the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award. Additionally she hold honorary doctorates from Ithaca, Bates and Union colleges. Marian McPartland is up to date and always ready for something new and innovative.

    The legendary Max Roach will be this year’s Keynote Speaker. Max’s career in jazz spans over 50 years of innovation and influence. From his early days on 52nd Street to recent explorations with his own quartet, the percussion ensemble M’Boom and a host of multi-disciplinary collaborations, Max continues to be on the cutting edge of the jazz scene. Recipient of the coveted MacArthur grant, he has always been one of the music’s most outspoken and heroic voices, and is certain to provide an inspirational presentation.

    Welcoming the attendees will be U.S. Congressman John Conyers, Jr., who 10 years ago introduced House Resolution 57, which declared jazz a “National Treasure”. Long known as the “Jazz Congressman”, Conyers is sure to talk about how far jazz has come and where it’s going.

    There will be plenty of live music events with showcase performances held at the ITT Sheraton, sponsored by Blue Note, Telarc, Justin Time, Warner Brothers, Concord, RCA Victor and MAMA. Among the artists already confirmed to appear this year are Dave Brubeck & Sons; Pat Martino; The Concord/ Stretch Records All-Star Band featuring Randy Brecker, Bob Berg & John Patitucci; Tom Harrell; D.D.Jackson & Jeri Brown; and the B-Sharp Jazz Quartet. In addition there is the JazzTimes NightTimes program; paid registrants with a Convention badge get free or discounted admission into selected shows at several of Manhattan’s finest nightclubs.

    To inquire about press credentials, information about and/or interviews with 1997 JazzTimes Convention participants contact Michael Bloom Media Relations at the numbers below. San Francisco: Tel: (415)-647-4931 Fax: -4932 New York: Tel: (212)-332-0247 E-mail: embee@sirius.com
    A complete schedule of events and participants follows. 1997 JazzTimes Convention Schedule of Events

      Wednesday, November 5    11:00 AM - 7:00 PM	Registration    1:00 PM - 2:15 PM	Panel Session - "Selling Jazz in the New Millennium"  A look at the changing world of marketing and distribution.  Ricky Schultz (Zebra) - moderator; Mike Charlasch (Verve); Len Cosimano  (Borders); Eric Fiedner (N2K/Music Boulevard; Other panelists TBA.    3:00 PM - 4:15 PM	Panel Session - "One Man's Lifetime"  		A look at Tony Williams' contributions to the jazz legacy from   		the perspective  of fellow jazz drummers.  Bill Milkowski (JazzTimes) - moderator; Carl Allen; Other panelists TBA.    4:30 PM - 6:30 PM	Jazz Casino Royale  Sponsored by Columbia Jazz    6:30 PM - 10:00 PM Showcase Performances  		 Pat Martino 	Sponsored by Blue Note  		 Artist TBA    10:30 PM - 2:00 AM Late Nite Jazz Jam (in Hotel Lobby) with  		 the Steve Million/Matt Wilson band.    Thursday, November 6    9:30 - 10:45 AM	Panel Session - "Eyes on the Prize"  		A discussion of the various movements to promote jazz through   		umbrell organizations and awards shows.  Neil Tesser - moderator; Tom Carter (Thelonious Monk Institute); Michael  Dorf (Knitting Factory); Suzan Jenkins (Jazz Heritage Program/Smithsonian);  Holly Rosum (NARM); Brad Stone (KSJS)      11:30 AM - 12:45 PM Welcoming Address by John Conyers  		   Keynote Address by Max Roach    2:30 - 4:30 PM	 Workshops (4)  		"Can The Truth Be Sold?" Retailers roundtable.  Mitch Satalof (Hired Gun Marketing) - moderator; Jim Freeman (HMV); Steve  Harmon (Tower); Joe Horowitz (J&R); Jessica Sendra (Borders); Other  panelists TBA.    		"No Station Is An Island" The potential for collaborations for jazz   		radio  stations in the community, nation and world.  Evelynn Hawkins (WDUQ) - moderator; Cephas Bowles (WBGO); Scott Willis  (KLON); Linda Yohn (WEMU); Other panelists TBA.    		"The 60 Minute Manager" A primer on artist management.  Gail Boyd (Gail Boyd Artist Management) - moderator; Karen Kennedy (24/7  Mgt.);Ed Gerard (Dream Street Mgt.); Dollie McLean (Artists Collective);  Benny Golson.    		"Those Who Can, Teach and Play" A guide to getting work   		as a clinician or  artist-in-residence at colleges and high schools.  SPONSORED BY IAJE  Bill McFarlin (IAJE) - moderator; John Fedchock; Jon Faddis; Rufus Reid;  Jane Ira Bloom.    4:30 - 6:45 PM	Workshops (4)  		"It's Not Old, It's Classic!"  		Effective strategies for selling catalog and reissue product.  Joe Micallef (Allegro) - moderator; Michael Lang (Verve); Jerry Gordon  (Evidence); Other panelists TBA.    		"Tourism, Cities & Jazz Festivals"  		How to better match jazz festivals and events with tourism.  Frank Malfitano (Syracuse Jazz Fest) - moderator; Ramona Oliver (PECO  Energy Festival/PCVB); Caroline Jamet (Montreal Jazz Festival); Other  panelists TBA.    		"Anatomy of a Record Contract"  		The effect of the marketing and distribution of recordings   		upon the modern recording contract.  Alan Bergman - moderator; Ed Arrendell (IMG); Art Weiner; Other panelists  TBA.    		"High Frequency"  		A conversation with some of the legends of jazz radio.   Steve Schwartz (WGBH) - moderator; Joel Dorn; Nat Hentoff; Sam Jackson;  Bob Porter.    6:30 - 10:00 PM	Showcase Performances  		Dave Brubeck & Sons 	Sponsored by Telarc  		D.D. Jackson & Jeri Brown     Sponsored by Justin Time    10:30 PM 	Late Nite Special Event in Manhattan  		T.S. Monk at Birdland, sponsored by N2K/Encoded Music.  		Seating limited - first come, first serve. RSVP 212-378-6171      10:30 PM - 2:00 AM	Late Nite Jazz Jam  (in  hotel lobby) with  		the Steve Million/Matt Wilson band.    Friday, November 7    9:30 - 10:45 AM     	Panel Session - "Jazz in the Mainstream"  		A discussion of coverage of jazz in non-jazz media, including   		print, radio and television.  Don Lucoff (DL Media) - moderator; Alexis George (CBS Sunday Morning);  David Hajdu (Entertainment Weekly); Leanne Hanson (NPR); Daniel Okrent  (Time, Inc.); Other panelists TBA.    10:00 AM - 12 Noon Meeting of National Jazz Network Presenters  		 (closed session)    11:30 AM - 12:45 PM Tribute to the Guest of Honor Marian McPartland  Dan Morgenstern - moderator; Bill Crow; Murray Horwitz (NPR); Other  panelists TBA.    2:30 - 4:30 PM	Workshops  (3)  		"The Founding Fathers of the Jazz Business"  		A discussion with some of the senior members of the jazz   		industry fraternity.  Al Pryor - moderator; George Avakian; Joe Fields; Bruce Lundvall (Blue  Note); Other panelists TBA.    		"Playing Local, Thinking Global"  		Viable strategies for regional artists  Willard Jenkins (Open Sky) - moderator; Stephanie Ancona (New England  Foundation of the Arts); Russ Gershon (Accurate); Janis Lane-Ewart; Brad  Borg (Igmod).    		"Jazz in Holland"  		An overview of the jazz scene in the Netherlands.  Co De Kloet (NPS- Dutch Radio) - moderator; Paul Dankmeyer (North Sea Jazz  Festival); Anne de Jong (Challenge); Other panelists TBA.    3:00 - 5:00 PM	Meeting of WESTAF Jazz Presenters  		(Open session between 4:00 and 5:00 PM)    4:30 - 6:45 PM	Workshops (4)  		"Real World Perspectives for Jazz on the Internet"  		DIY web sites & home pages geared to the small   		organization or individual artist.  Lee Cohen (JazzNet) - moderator; Seth Abramson (Chriss & Co.); Lois Gilbert  (Jazz Corner); Sibyl Golden (Postcards); Mel Martin; Michael Dorf (Knitting  Factory).    		"Generation X Is Calling"  		Jazz & the Alternative Audience.  Joe Pignato (BMG Classics) - moderator; Tom Evered (Blue Note); Other  panelists TBA    		"Hip Hype"  		Publicity strategies for festivals and events.  Helene Greece (Third Floor Media) - moderator; Susie Arons (Susan Arons &  Associates); Paul Fingerote (Monterey Jazz Festival); Caroline Jamet  (Montreal Jazz Festival).    		"The Glass Ceiling Shatters"  		Women in the business of jazz share ideas and strategies ....   		and men are welcome too!  Deb Moore (WCLK) - moderator; Panelists TBA.    6:30 - 10:00 PM	Showcase Performances  		Wallace Roney Quintet     Sponsored by Warner Brothers  		All Star Band featuring Bob Berg, Randy Brecker &  		John Patitucci     Sponsored by Concord Jazz    10:30 PM - 2:00 AM	Late Nite Jazz Jam (in hotel lobby)with  		the Steve Million/Matt Wilson band    Saturday, November 8    9:30 - 10:45 AM      	Panel Session  - "Secrets of Guerrilla Fundraising"  		A primer on some innovative approaches to fundraising   		for artists and presenters.  Dmitri Matheny (Matheny Music) - moderator; Jim Sullivan (Sullivan  Entertainment Services); Other panelists TBA.    10:00 AM - 12 Noon Meeting of the Jazz Journalists Association  		 (Open session between 11:30 AM and 12 Noon)    11:30 AM - 12:45 PM Panel Session - "The Future of Jazz Radio"  		  A look at changing trends in jazz radio and what   		  it needs to do to survive.  Tom Terrell - moderator; Thurston Briscoe (WBGO); Bud Harner (Verve); Ellen  Washington (WJAB); Other panelists TBA.    1:00 PM - 2:30 PM	N2K Encoded Music Reception  		Demonstration of online delivery of music.    2:15 - 4:30 PM	Workshops (5)  		"Look Who's Talking"  		Jazz critics sound off.  Jeff Levenson (Columbia Jazz) - moderator; Panelists TBA.    		"Radioactive Readings"  		The Music Directors' Before & After Test - International Style.  Ross Porter (CBC) - moderator; Dick Conte (KCSM); Other panelists TBA.    		"The Left Comes Center"  		Overcoming the challenges of marketing creative,   		improvisational and avant garde jazz.  Frank Tafuri (Sphere Marketing) - moderator; Tim Berne (Screwgun); Ann  Braithwaite (Braithwaite & Katz); Jodi Howard (Arabesque); Lee Knuth  (Allegro); Bill Shoemaker.    		"Not So Easy Rider"  		A presenters' guide to negotiating performance contracts.  Yvonne Ervin (WESTAF) - moderator; John Gilbreath (Earshot Jazz); Cliff  Hunte (Capital Jazz); Julie Lokin (New Audiences); Bill Royston (Mt. Hood  Jazz Festival).    		"Vocalists are from Venus, Instrumentalists are from Mars"  		Improving the relationship between vocal and instrumental musicians.  Rosanna Vitro - moderator; Gary Bartz; Nnenna Freelon; David Hazeltine;  Mark Murphy.    4:30 - 6:45 PM	Workshops (5)  		"Give Yourself a Record Deal"  		Artist-owned labels share the secrets to their DIY   		successes (and failures).  Bret Primack (JazzTimes) - moderator; Mark Elf (Jen Bay); Ralph Simon  (Postcards); Other panelists TBA.    		"Jammin' in Havana"  		The growing market for jazz from Cuba.  Al Pryor (Blue Jackel) - moderator; Panelists TBA.    		"Learning From Smooth Jazz"  		A discussion of the unique marketing success of the Smooth   		Jazz format and how mainstream jazz can learn from it.  Neal Sapper (New World n Jazz) - moderator; Kent Anderson (N2K Encoded  Music); Frank Cody (Broadcast Architecture); Ricky Schultz (Zebra); Steve  Williams (WQCD); Other panelist TBA.    		"Building Homes for Jazz"  		The evolution of the jazz performing arts center.  Alexa Birdsong (Birdsong Productions) - moderator; Marty Ashby (Manchester  Craftsmens Guild); Pete Douglas (Bach Dynamite & Dancing Society); Helen  Haynes (Clef Club); Tim Jackson (Kuumbwa Jazz Center).    		"Caging the Singing Bird"  		Vocalists and the production and marketing of records.  Ron Gill (WGBH) - moderator; Bob Belden (Blue Note); Rebecca Parris; Nick  Phillips (Concord Jazz); Francois Zalacain (Sunnyside).    6:30 - 10:00 PM	Showcase Performances  		B Sharp Jazz Quartet             Sponsored by MAMA  		Tom Harrell    	Sponsored by RCA Victor    10:30 PM - 2:00 AM	Late Nite Jazz Jam (in hotel lobby) with  		the Steve Million/Matt Wilson band.    

  • Schedule subject to change.
  • All panelists, moderators and performers were confirmed at press time.
  • Concert Production by Jan Davis Entertainment

    Public Relations by Michael Bloom Media Relations

  • Earl Klugh – The Spice of Life

    Earl Klugh
    The Spice of Life
    Koch – 2008

    In a recording career of over three decades, master guitarist EARL KLUGH has been lauded first as a prodigy and groundbreaker, then a defining figure, and ultimately, as one of the true statesmen of contemporary jazz. With THE SPICE OF LIFE, his second album for the independent Koch label, Klugh follows his Grammy�-nominated Naked Guitar (his eleventh nomination) with a statement every bit as compelling.

    After breaking a six-year recording hiatus with the universally-hailed solo album of 2005, Klugh steps back from Naked Guitar’s intimate focus on the unaccompanied guitar to capture the biggest picture possible, and an equally personal one: THE SPICE OF LIFE is a far-reaching account of all his music, marking Klugh’s return to full-scale album production after a nine-year break, with a special guest appearance by flautist Hubert Laws, and with the arrangements of two legendary orchestrators, Don Sebesky and Eddie Horst. It effortlessly segues from jazz to Latin to pop modes through a compositional approach that recalls his Grammy� Award-winning work with Bob James (One on One), spiced with all the lyric flourishes that established Klugh’s distinctive signature all those years ago.

    Not surprisingly, the adult-aimed radio stations that have followed Klugh’s music through 22 Top Ten Billboard Jazz Chart albums (four of them No. 1), and 11 Grammy� nominations, have rushed to embrace THE SPICE OF LIFE, with the first focus track Driftin’ immediately gathering most-added honors in the format upon its release – a loyalty that bespeaks the sustained personal stature, high standards, and restless creative passion of this guitarist’s career.

    Imprinted in the album’s many further highlights – whether newly composed or classics re-imagined, performed solo or with his band, acoustic or electronic – listeners can hear the inspirations and enthusiasms of a lifetime. “The orchestrated trio pieces with Don Sebesky were the ones that got me started in the studio,” Klugh notes. “We took the Thelonious Monk song Bye Ya, and changed it to a sort of mutated bossa nova. Ocean Blue is a tribute to Wes Montgomery, and the albums Don Sebesky recorded with him. I love the way Wes wrote original tunes, because they had such immediate melodies, with unexpected chord changes.”

    Musical and personal reflections of Klugh’s boyhood and adolescence also underlie the album’s new songs and lovingly-chosen standards. In My Foolish Heart, Klugh says, “there are rhythmic concepts from Ahmad Jamal’s Poinciana. When I was 17, I spent time with him at the jazz club in Detroit; and you never forget that, when somebody that great takes time to ask about you and talk about your music. For Canadian Sunset, we took the original piano arrangement by the composer, Eddie Heywood, and elaborated. I love the way Sebesky used the vibes on this tune – combined with the strings and flutes, it creates such chemistry to have that many things working together.” “Venezuelan Nights and The Toy Guitar are my own compositions,” says Klugh, “but they were inspired by the beautiful waltzes written by Venezuelan guitarist/composer Antonio Lauro and the Latin-influenced music I grew up on. These songs are in 6/8 [time], which you don’t hear much in pop records today.”

    “This was one of the few times I didn’t pre-plan the sound or direction of the record,” Klugh sums up: “I decided to pick songs, instead of picking the style. I called the album The Spice of Life because the record went in a number of directions, but the elements came together so well once we put all the music together.” Bearing all of Klugh’s classic signatures, the album is imbued with the moving, revelatory and always contagious joy of music. Klugh says that his own experience of music-making as something eternally and essentially new is at the center of THE SPICE OF LIFE: “I feel it is important to not only do what you do best, but also try to stretch that range and examine where you can take it.”

    In recent times, with the passing of his beloved mother and a subsequent relocation from his hometown Detroit to Atlanta, Klugh had eased up the hectic recording schedule that produced 33 albums in just under 25 years. Even so, he says, “I was touring the entire time, because I love playing and traveling with the band. Then, the solo album (Naked Guitar) was received so well, I got started again in the studio.”

    The organic and relaxed, yet typically expressive and adventurous vibe of THE SPICE OF LIFE stems from Klugh’s continued love of composing music, combined with the circle of musicians that he describes as a “safety net and comfort zone.” Klugh notes: “I always use the great players in my touring band. Lenny Price on saxophone and wind synthesizer; David Lee ..boards, who was with Parliament-Funkadelic; Al Turner and Ron Otis, who you hear on the two hit albums by Kem. It’s a varied group. The trio ensemble portion, with Yonrico Scott and Jeff Cox, comprises almost half the record.” He adds: “I really enjoy playing solo, but with all the ‘alone’ time spent practicing, I really have a good time working with the band. You gain so much through collaboration.”

    THE SPICE OF LIFE is the reflection of a lifetime’s discovery, growth and collaboration in music. First studying piano at age 3, and then guitar at 10, Earl was barely a teen when he was thunderstruck by watching Chet Atkins play guitar on Perry Como’s television variety show. “Chet’s playing cast a long shadow on my whole life,” he says, with obvious respect and fondness. “He was the first person I saw playing the melody on guitar, without singing. I had never heard the guitar being played like that.” Immediately, the then 13-year old Klugh immersed himself in Atkins’ innovative fingering style, studying Atkins’ playing on dozens of albums. In honing his technique, a complex, beautiful and melodic style emerged, and a talent that was uniquely Klugh’s.

    Working in a local music shop and haunting the Detroit jazz landmark Baker’s Keyboard Lounge accompanied by his mother, Klugh found encouragement from the giants of jazz as a young man: “George Benson was my first and foremost mentor; I worked in his band for a year, at 17. He spent a lot of time with me, and was key in helping me sign my first record deal,” which resulted in the debut album Earl Klugh (Blue Note, 1976). In Detroit, Earl also met pianist Bill Evans, a central songwriting influence; the great saxophonist and flautist Yusef Lateef, later playing on two of his albums; and Chick Corea, whom he briefly joined in Return to Forever’s earliest incarnation. Klugh declined an invitation to join Stevie Wonder on tour to concentrate on his own career, but this too remained a cherished vote of confidence.

    Earl absorbed a world of influences in his youth, from Wes Montgomery to Sergio Mendes, to the jazz and classical guitar music of Brazil, Argentina and Spain, the pop songs of Burt Bacharach and the Beatles, and the pop-folk eruption of the early Sixties and Motown’s legendary studio-session band, The Funk Brothers. “Music for me has always been a driving force in my life,” he says. “I love the emotion music evokes, and the stories it tells. No matter the genre, or style, I can always find something to enjoy. Music has no boundaries.” Klugh’s lifelong appreciation of contemporary popular music resulted not in a pastiche of styles, but in a philosophical positioning of his music for the broadest audience of music lovers. As a composer and recording artist, he was counted among the lynchpin figures of a new contemporary jazz, and rightly credited for the extension of his instrument’s artistic scope.

    Years after inspiring Earl so crucially — and by then a longtime friend and collaborator — Chet Atkins zeroed right in on Klugh’s forte in Guitar Player magazine, noting Klugh’s use of a profound talent and artistic daring to create a mainstream music. “Earl can wail with the best,” said Atkins, “but he prefers to touch people emotionally. He reaches your heart with that romantic special something.” Klugh’s closeness to his listeners has been a constant of his career and his life: “I’m always amazed that fans are so loyal. So many have shared stories and memories of what my music has meant to them. It’s the most wonderful compliment I could ever receive.”

    In recent years, Klugh has toured on nearly every continent, carrying the banner for jazz music, its legendary musicians, and for global social awareness. Joining such legends as George Duke, Stanley Clarke, Al Jarreau, Bob James, Patti Austin and Ravi Coltrane, Klugh has twice traveled on goodwill tours to India, jointly sponsored by the U.S. State Department and The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. Klugh also spearheaded the return of jazz to a legendary swing era venue, Colorado Springs’ Broadmoor Resort, where for five years, his Weekend of Jazz at the Broadmoor has hosted such greats as Joe Sample, Roberta Flack, Arturo Sandoval, Patti Austin, Chris Botti, Michael Franks, and, in April 2008’s event, Ramsey Lewis, Boney James, Mindi Abair and KOCH labelmate Sophie Milman.

    Earl Klugh has recorded over 30 albums in a multi-million-selling career including 22 Top Ten charting records – four of them No. 1 – on Billboard’s Jazz Album chart. He has been nominated eleven times for the Grammy, in jazz fusion, best arrangement and pop instrumental categories, winning the 1980 Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Performance for the million-selling album One on One with Bob James. He won the 1987 Edison Award for Life Stories (Europe’s Grammy Equivalent). Klugh’s first Koch album, Naked Guitar, was nominated for Best Pop Instrumental Album. Collaboration, his 1987 album with George Benson, was certified Gold by the RIAA.

    As a composer and songwriter, Earl Klugh’s credit appears on recordings by Aretha Franklin, Jamie Foxx, Roberta Flack, Mary J. Blige, Kenny Loggins, Al Jarreau, and many others. He has been invited to play as a guest artist by such diverse peers and admirers as Jimmy Buffett, Kenny Loggins, Brenda Russell, Stevie Wonder, Miles Davis, and McCoy Tyner. In film, Klugh’s guitar is heard in the soundtrack scores of How to Beat the High Cost of Living, Marvin and Tige, and Just Between Friends. He has performed on such television institutions as The Tonight Show, Late Night featuring David Letterman, The Today Show, and Good Morning America.

    “The essential excitement of music-making is renewed in every studio and stage performance,” Klugh says. “Once I get into the actual song, I try to go back to what made me write the song or decide to perform it. I try to keep myself in an open mind, so I don’t reproduce the record (but instead) create a live performance at that moment. I play it for myself as if it’s the first time I’m doing it. Most of my band members have been with me ten-plus years, like Al Duncan (keyboards, horns). We’re very comfortable with each other. If one of us plays differently than the night before, it sparks a different reaction. Going into something unexpected is great, because the music takes on a life of its own. After all these years, that’s what we try to do.”

    Even with the many accomplishments of a long career, Earl Klugh doesn’t necessarily believe there is a peak level to playing guitar. In a 2005 interview with Modern Guitars, Klugh reflected, “My enjoyment is searching out new things to play every day, and ways to play them. There’s so much more I want to do. If there were nothing else to learn and do there’d be no reason to play.”

    Presenting THE SPICE OF LIFE, Klugh continues to show us just how much he has learned, and makes us hope that his reasons to play will exist for many years to come.

     


    An Interview with Will Downing

    Will Downing An Interview with
    Will Downing
    By Mark Ruffin

    Will Downing’s mother had just learned she was pregnant with him in Brooklyn on March 7, 1963 when the late Chicago vocalist Johnny Hartman and legendary saxophonist John Coltrane stepped into a New Jersey studio to produce one of the classic and most romantic albums in jazz history.

    Today, it is Hartman’s name that first rolls off the deep-baritone tongue of Downing’s when asked to name his influences. In fact, it is the classic “Johnny Hartman & John Coltrane” album that inspired the singer’s new album with sax man Gerald Albright. It titled “Pleasures Of The Night” and it just recently knocked Kenny G off a long run at number one on Billboard’s contemporary jazz charts.

    “This album is really a tribute to those who laid it down before us,” Downing said while on a recent promotional tour. “It’s also a tribute to the love of this kind of music that Gerald and I both share. I hope that this record solidifies us both as being very versatile and forces to be reckoned with in any style.

    “I’m not holding up the flag for the tradition or that style of music,” continued the vocalist who also lists Nat Cole, Donny Hathaway, Luther Vandross and Stevie Wonder as influences. “I’m doing what pleases me artistically. I’m doing what I do because I like doing it and because I can.”

    Downing’s self-assuredness stems partially from the fact that no matter where the huge Polygram music conglomerate plugs him in, he delivers. His new record is on Verve, his last record was on Mercury, his next one will be on Motown, while his first three were on Island. They’re all Polygram subsidiaries.

    “Among other things, Gerald and I had been talking about forming a company,” Downing said. “Like all musicians we would see each other and say ‘hey we got to get together and work.’ He played on my record and vice versa and our personalities blended.”

    Downing, who comes off as smart, funny and confident, but not cocky, doesn’t remember how he and Albright met, but both insists that the initial meeting must’ve been at the beginning of this decade. Since that time, they not only recorded together, but have toured extensively in partnership. To further their union, Downing had to use his corporate clout.

    “I went upstairs and talked to the president of my company and told him I wanted to make a duet record with Gerald Albright slightly reminiscent of the Hartman/Coltrane record. They were ecstatic and made all the necessary calls to Gerald’s record label and took care of all the business and here we are.”

    Part of the deal states that if there is a sequel, it will be on Atlantic, the label Albright records for.

    Downing and Albright have similar backgrounds, while growing up on different coasts. Both went to arts-related high schools and segued into busy working studio musicians. Both benefited heavily from the contemporary jazz radio format in the late 80’s that spawned the much more open format of urban adult radio in the 90’s.. And Downing and Albright have racked up impressive record sales while building their careers on successfully choosing the right songs to cover.

    Except for the title track and an original instrumental, all of the songs on “Pleasures Of The Night” are over 20 years old. They include old chestnuts that Hartman had a chance to cover in his lifetime life like “The Nearness Of You” and “Here’s That Rainy Day” to modern pop standards like “Stop Look & Listen” and Stevie Wonder’s “Girl Blue,”

    The difference in their careers is that Downing’s first success came in England. His first two records each initially sold about 35,000 copies in the U.S., while clearing half a million in Europe. The other difference is the overwhelmingly female audience that Downing attracts.

    “I hear them screaming when I do shows,” Downing said with a deep rattling laugh, “and I get letters.

    “A lot of times women are more prone to listen to what you’re saying, more so than the bass player, or Gerald smoking on sax like the guys do,” he continued trying to explain the phenomenon. “Women kind of think ‘hey he’s talking about things that are pertinent to my life and things that I can relate to.”

    But, what about the deep baritone voice and those timeless tunes?

    “Oh it’s that too. It’s a culmination of things,” he said in exasperation. “Look, we’ll never understand women. I’m just going on what I heard.”

    A generation ago, it was Johnny Hartman & John Coltrane that many couples put on for a bit of aural foreplay. Downing is hoping to capture that same romantic feeling and facilitate more love with “Pleasures Of The Night.”

    “Glad I can help,” Downing concluded laughing.

    An Interview with David S. Ware

    David S. WareAn Interview With
    David S. Ware
    by Fred Jung

    Who is David S. Ware? Some would say he’s the undisputed “King of Free Jazz”. Some would say he’s pound for pound the finest tenor in jazz. And still others may not even categorize what Ware plays as jazz. Whatever your opinions of Ware’s music are, there is no denying the sheer strength of his skills. Ware has game. I wanted to shed some light on whom I believe is one of the heavyweights of the avant-garde revolution. This is the candid conversation that I had with Ware, in his own words. It is my hope that this gives people an opportunity to get some rare insight into the man and his music.

    JazzUSA: Let’s start from the beginning.

    DSW: Basically, I was born and raised in a household that I heard the music. I heard a lot of rhythm and blues, and blues, and Motown, and stuff at a very early age. So then, comes fifth grade instrumentation demonstration and I come home and tell my father that I want to play the drums. He say, “Well, why don’t you try the saxophone?” He just loved the saxophone. He wasn’t a musician himself, but he just loved the sound of the saxophone, and particularly the tenor. I took up the alto. I went right to the alto and then to the baritone, because they needed a baritone player and I was involved with all the school activities, dance band, concert band, orchestra, marching band, all-state regional band, here in New Jersey, and private lessons. On my own, it was several years into my studies, then I got a tenor. I studied the tenor on my own. I didn’t play tenor in the school system at all, never did. And I just went through a very intense period of listening, going to take you back to the early ’60s now, mid-’60s. And I developed my jazz concept, basically on my own through listening and playing in my own musical environment. And by the time I was seventeen, I think it’s fair to say that I had developed a fairly high level of competence. I knew my direction. I had strong direction. I had a strong approach. I had a significant technique. You know, that was it. I went away to music school and I met other musicians that I could develop my sound with, my concept with and that was it. As far as music school, I found myself in conflict with, basically, their philosophy of what music was all about, basically. You’ve got to remember that I’m seventeen years old, seventeen, eighteen years old, and that’s a rebellious time anyway. I just couldn’t come to any meeting ground with these people. So, basically, they asked me not to come back to music school. And so the story goes one from there. Moving into New York and the loft scene days, and all that, Cecil Taylor, and Andrew Cyrille, you know, all those people.

    JazzUSA: What were those loft scene days like?

    DSW: It was a very creative time. I came into it in 1973, from Boston, we moved to Manhattan in New York City. What people have to understand is that, for example, we had the whole building, OK, down on, downtown New York City, close to Chinatown, the whole building. We had four levels above that for living space for five fifty a month, the whole building. So this is what allowed, basically, that scene to take place. Economics at that time were affordable and cats could rent out spaces, could have spaces, and so forth and so on. There were a lot of loft spaces like that. They were sprinkled all over town. You could put on a concert and cats would come in from all over. A lot of cats came from California. A lot of cats came from Chicago, St. Louis. Cats would come in from all over for this scene, at that time. There was Sam Rivers’ place. There was the Environ. There were just so many places, a lot of places that I never even played, never even went to. They were all over. It was a good time. It was a good time. There were a lot of cats doing a lot of different things. Sam Rivers, at that time, started an alternative summer festival. It was a musician’s festival that he had down there at that time, running, basically, opposite of what was going on uptown. It was just a good time. It was a rich time.

    JazzUSA: Was it creatively stimulating for you?

    DSW: Yes, of course. I was doing what I wanted to do. We had developed this sound, Cooper-Moore (pianist), Marc Edwards (drummer), and myself. That was the loft scene days.

    JazzUSA: Who were your influences at that time?

    DSW: I had many. Everybody knows Sonny Rollins and Coltrane. Archie Shepp was a very heavy influence. Pharoah Sanders. All those guys. Albert (Ayler), a little later on, moving into the late ’60s, when I got out of high school, around 1970, and then I think Albert became a little bit more of an influence. He died, I think in 1970, actually (November 5, 1970). I only saw him, actually, I only saw him for a few minutes. I never saw a full concert of Albert Ayler live. I saw him only for a very few minutes. In those days, I think he was using an organ.

    JazzUSA: Did you get a chance to see ‘Trane?

    DSW: Yes, Fred, I did. I saw ‘Trane a couple of times. One really unbelievable concert, it was Coltrane and Coleman (Ornette Coleman) in 1966, in the East Village Theatre. That theatre had turned into a space capsule, and just traveled through time. That was the first concert that I had ever heard Pharoah Sanders. He had a whole lot of percussionists. It was a big, big, massive sound. That’s a concert that I will never forget. I’ll never forget. You’ve got to remember, Fred, I’m sixteen years old. That’s something that stays with you the rest of your life. Not long after that, I saw him again, for this recording “Live at the Village Vanguard Again!” I was there and I spoke to him very briefly. I asked him, what did he think about Sonny Rollins, because Sonny Rollins was my first hero. He was my original hero. He just shook his head in the affirmative, and that was it.

    JazzUSA: What impressed you about Sonny?

    DSW: Just the originality. Just his identity. He had his whole, when you’re listening to him, you know it’s original. You know it’s absolutely original. That’s his. This is his evolution. This is his sound, his aura, his spirituality. At that time, in the ’60s period, man, Sonny was out there. I’ll just put it like that. In a friendly way, he was out there. I had an opportunity to hang out with him as a teenager, sixteen years old, I was hanging out with Sonny Rollins, and driving down the street with him, and spending time in his apartment, learning circular breathing and stuff, five in the morning and stuff. I got a chance to see him up close, live and in person. At that time, he would be driving and he would go into a yoga pose. He’s driving and he’s doing a yoga pose at the same time. I mean, this cat was, he was in his own world, at that time. He was really into some heavy stuff. He would be back, in between sets at the Village Vanguard, standing on his head. This cat was into it. He was just into it. There was just nothing more beautiful than to see this cat. He was an inspiration. He was a big part of the reason, he was a model for me. I looked at him like cats today look at Michael Jordan. I was looking at Sonny Rollins in the 1960s. I was saying that I wanted to be like this cat. I wanted to continue what he was doing. Whatever it was that he was doing, one day, I wanted to take it up. I want to keep it going, whatever that is. That’s the way it was.

    JazzUSA: What recordings of Rollins were you listening to?

    DSW: “Our Man In Jazz,” “The Bridge,” and that standards record, the record full of standard tunes that came out on, I think, RCA.

    JazzUSA: “The Standard Sonny Rollins.”

    DSW: Yes, right, Fred. I couldn’t get my hands on enough of his records. I would walk five miles up the road to the record store to get a new record. And in a couple of days I was looking for another one, and there wasn’t going to be another one for another nine months or whatever it was. I couldn’t get my hands on enough of his new stuff. The stuff on Impulse, of course, he wasn’t making enough as far as I was concerned. I couldn’t find enough of him. The Village Vanguard, when I was sixteen years old, my parents, basically, let me go. They let me go to New York and I could even spend a weekend with my friends over there, hanging out at the Village Vanguard with Sonny. So the Vanguard became my main hangout on the weekends. If Rollins was there I was there. And he would invite us on his tab. He would tell us, because at that time, guys would be there for weeks at a time, or weekends, for a month or three or four weeks, and so he’d tell us the next weekend you guys come back on my tab. Just tell the guy to let you in on my tab next weekend and we’d be there. Me and my two buddies would be there. We’d hang out with him back in the kitchen, in between sets, and we’d go home with him. At the end, five in the morning, because at that time, you had two bands, Sonny Rollins and Coleman Hawkins at the Village Vanguard. Sonny and Hawk would be working. You’d have Sonny and Monk would be working. I’ve seen all them bands together like that. So they wouldn’t get finished until four or five in the morning. It’s not like now. Now it’s, like, half of that time. At that time, you didn’t get out of the club until four or five in the morning. We went home with him, this one time and he taught me circular breathing, when I was sixteen. He taught my other two buddies too, but I was the only one that ever got it. I’ll never forget those days. How can you forget that?

    JazzUSA: Give me your impressions of these two Coltrane recordings, “A Love Supreme” and “Meditations.”

    DSW: “A Love Supreme.” Oh man, I think that it exuded spirituality. I believe it was in ’64 wasn’t it?

    JazzUSA: Yes, December 9, 1964.

    DSW: For some reason or another, that record exuded spirituality. It exuded spirituality. There were many like that, but that particular one captured it in a certain kind of way. There’s just certain things about certain records, that you don’t know why, it just works. This was like that. It just came out like that, for that moment and time. It got captured like that. It was masterful. Had it been a day later or a day earlier, it might have been different, but at that moment in time, it went down like that. And that is forever.

    “Meditations.” I can’t recall when I first heard it. I know I have it. That’s more an extension of, they’re extending the form. He’s had time to work with that and it’s more an extension of the form. It’s a little bit more blown up. It’s searching. It’s searching for the next level.

    JazzUSA: You played with both Andrew Cyrille and Cecil Taylor. What was that time like?

    DSW: You see, Fred, I have always been very aware of rhythm. Andrew was so very, very sensitive to you rhythmically and it was very easy to play with him, his rhythmic acuteness and sensitivity. We were basically dealing with a blues concept in the later years that I played with him. In the earlier years, it was more expanded. It was more of an expanded form. It was such a joy playing with Andrew. Andrew knows how to counterpoint with you. He knows how to counterpoint.

    With Cecil, what I learned was about composition. How to deal with composition. Having a much more finer sense of composition and how to move through a composition. How to appreciate that. Now, when I give my musicians, I want them to deal with it. At the time that I was with him, I was young and I wasn’t really dealing with his compositions the way I could have. It wasn’t that I didn’t have the ability to, my concept, I was approaching it from a different concept. I learned that you must be able to deal with the form and structure in front of you. Otherwise, don’t have it there.

    JazzUSA: There are factions in the media that refer to David S. Ware as the “King of Free Jazz,” are you the king?

    DSW: (Laughing) Well, all that is good, Fred, you know? This is very good. It means something when they say that, I guess. This is something you have to earn, this recognition, this creative mantel, this torch, you have to earn this. I’m willing to try to go for it. I’m willing to try to go for it. I think that I may be able to achieve it if I can have the longevity. If I can stay in good health and have the longevity, I don’t think it will be any problem. This life is so very stressful. Even when you are trying to do everything right, life is still stressful and it takes its toll.

    JazzUSA: What do you need to do to achieve this longevity?

    DSW: You need to be a saint, that’s what you need to be. You need to become a saint, really. You need to take advantage of all the alternative minded paths. You need to be health conscience. You need to know how to take care of yourself. You need to know about meditation. You need to know about different forms of exercise. You need to know about stress management. You need to know about self-healing. You need to know about astrology. You need to know so many things. You need to take advantage of all of it. You need to know about the correct nutrients to put in your body in order to keep yourself strong. You need to know about juicing, about fresh juices and stuff, and about herbs. You need to be a saint, really, literally, I mean, almost. That’s the way it is. What people have to understand is that, when you make a commitment, when you make a heavy-duty commitment to go for something, you’re going to have resistance. It’s not going to be all free flow. There are going to be forces that mount against you. The opposing forces will mount against you, in order for you not to reach your different points. That’s a fact. That’s a fact. To study spirituality is a must. It’s an absolute must. It’s an absolute must because in there is knowledge of how to move through and have the correct perspective on living. Otherwise, you’ll freak out. You’ll burn out.

    JazzUSA: What has helped you keep your focus?

    DSW: I’ve know what it is that I’ve wanted to do since I was twelve. That hasn’t changed, so that’s one thing. Another things is that spirituality has always run parallel to my music and my musical activities, whether I was listening or whether I was playing, spirituality has always been the underlying reality for me. I never lost sight of what it was I wanted to achieve. Through all these years, of playing with other cats, driving a cab for fourteen years, busting my behind driving a cab for fourteen years, so I wouldn’t have to freelance around and do things musically that I didn’t want to do, and be unhappy in other musical situations. I always tell my folks, I never lost it. I knew that the time would be right some year, some decade, for the field to be fertile. And now, it’s getting fertile. Now, for whatever reasons, it’s getting fertile. Now, the time is right. Things just came together. Sonny told me years ago, “Life is like a flower. It just blooms and blossoms out.” And things just came together. I met people that helped me in certain areas. It all started back, about ten years ago, we met a man that helped us tremendously with becoming aware of radio promotion. That’s how it started, this last sector, going back ten years ago, it started with that. And then Silkheart, getting the Silkheart records made and get them some airplay. Then DIW came and that gave us a boost, then the Homestead records, and a couple of them were happening at the same time, if not one, than the other. A lot of work was done with the radio promotion. We made ourselves known through the radio play. We built that up, built that up. Little things started happening in Europe. We got a little tour in Europe. At first, it was, like, only one a year. I’m going back less than ten years now. It was only one a year and then I met a lady over there who offered to start working for us. She was hooked up to a theater, and I hadn’t worked in France in fifteen years, and we did a concert over there in ’94, I think, and I met this lady and she started working for us and has been working for us ever since. We were able to get a foothold in France. As a result, we work more in France than anywhere else. It just kept growing and growing. And then, three years ago, the summer of ’95, Branford Marsalis heard the band in France. He called me in the summer of ’97, two years later he called me and said he was becoming the Creative Director at Columbia Jazz and that he wanted to record the band.

    JazzUSA: Let’s talk about your radio play.

    DSW: College radio, we have gotten tremendous airplay. Our records have been number one, almost all of our past records have been number one, have reached number one on the college charts. All of our records have reached number one.

    JazzUSA: Is that because college radio stations are more open to new, more advanced forms of music?

    DSW: Yes, basically, I guess that’s what it is. They seem to be more open. We’re trying to penetrate on up the music world, on into the different epsilons of the music world, but the college level is doing good. We need more work at colleges, but that’s just a matter of the odds and ends, the details.

    JazzUSA: I was sure when I found out that you were signed to Columbia, that you would be doing a ballad album or one with strings, how were you able to keep your concept in tacked?

    DSW: Let me tell you how it went down. I was told by Branford that they didn’t want us to do something contrived or something like that, something watered down, or something that we didn’t do. One on one, he told me this. They wanted what we did, what he had heard and he heard it live in concert, and he said, “That’s what I want. I don’t want anything else, but what you’ve been doing.” That was it. So I was free. I was totally free. As a matter of fact, Fred, people don’t believe this, and I wouldn’t believe it myself. I had more freedom on this last record than on any of my other records, DIW, and Silkheart, even those cats were in the studio. This record, we were totally on our own. There was nobody from the company. Branford came by for about fifteen to twenty minutes, he came by and that was it. He came in for a few minutes and that was it for the two or three day, whatever we had to record it. I was totally free. I’m cool with strings, but it won’t be any kind of contrived sound with strings. It will be something that I’m involved with if it is strings. There’s no guarantees in this thing, Fred. You just have to take it as it comes. You have a lot to think about. It’s not only the recording, you have to think about the tour that’s going to support the recording. You have got to think about the work involved, and the pay involved, and all that. You can’t see too far down the line. There’s certain doors that we are trying to open now with this Columbia deal. We’re trying to take full advantage of it. It takes a long time, Fred. Doors are still not opening. But, at least the possibility is there, where it wasn’t before, still there’s resistance. It’s like, you’re chipping away at a brick wall, but now you have a hammer. You’re tool is a little bit bigger. It’s chipping away a little bit easier, but the wall’s not getting any smaller.

    JazzUSA: Have you ever played in Los Angeles?

    DSW: Not since ’76 with Cecil. I did a concert at UCLA. That’s the only thing I’ve done out there.

    JazzUSA: So you have not played in Los Angeles since Jimmy Carter was last in the Oval Office?

    DSW: That’s right. That’s right.

    JazzUSA: One of the sheer tragedies.

    DSW: Yes.

    JazzUSA: But you would like to play in Los Angeles?

    DSW: Oh, of course! Yes. Our next project, we’re trying to get out to the West Coast there. We haven’t done that. We’re trying to get out there. We’re working on it.

    JazzUSA: How have you been able to keep your Quartet together for so long?

    DSW: This is what I want to do. I want to have a steady band, and I’ve always done it like this. That comes from my power of projection. Another thing is to always have a certain amount of work, that always helps. This is my idea. I was just thinking about it yesterday, I guess this band is somewhat of an institution now. I hope to try to continue it on, in one form or another, I hope to try to continue it on, to where cats can come through. Cats come through the band. Right now, we have got a hundred compositions, a hundred pieces, and so I think that’s lacking, where cats come through bands. Years ago, you could come to New York to play. They were coming to New York to get a gig with Blakey, or Lee Morgan, or Coltrane, or Sonny Rollins, or somebody, Miles, or Mingus. It’s a legacy. You’re leaving something. You have to leave something. You have to contribute something and leave it, and have that access so everybody can access it. It’s like a school. It’s a school of thought, a school of music that is steadily evolving.

    JazzUSA: And in the future?

    DSW: More searching music, that’s for sure. More searching music, I’ll do it as long as I can stay healthy enough to do it, I’ll do it. More searching, more intense, more open-ended music, in whatever form, and let it be that.

    JazzUSA: Any studio dates?

    DSW: Yes, we expect to go back into the studio. It should happen this year. I can’t say exactly when, but it should happen before too long.

    Stanley Clark and Friends – Night School – DVD

    Stanley Clark and Friends
    Night School – DVD
    Koch – 2005
    Sounds of Timeless Jazz

    This totally hip DVD documents the 3rd Annual Concert for The Scholarship Fund at the Musician’s Institute in Los Angeles, CA. Recorded in October 2002, bassist Stanley Clarke shares the stage with some of the world’s best known musicians in performances you’re sure to remember for several years forward. In addition to these full-length performances, viewers should enjoy the interviews, bonus features and comedy offered here.

    Now recording for Heads Up International, Clarke’s label debut offers viewers a chance to actually witness Clarke performing with such luminaries as Marcus Miller, Lenny White, Stevie Wonder, Bela Fleck, Karen Briggs, Stewart Copeland, Flea, Wayman Tisdale, Ndugu Chancler, Sheila E. and so many more all on one night! With Sinbad as M.C., superior technical support and sound standards, this set rocks with excitement.

    Top spotlights are the “The Floor,” “Song To John,” and most of all “School Days” where several bass players strut their strats on one of Clarke’s biggest hits. Night School may never be the same! Check it out.

    Reprinted with permission of…
    sotjlogo


    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.

    An Interview with Kurt Elling

    Kurt Elling Kurt Elling
    At The Crossroads
    by Mark Ruffin

    Honesty is a word Kurt Elling uses a lot when trying to describe his success. The 30 year-old singer feels that as his mid-five figures records sales have progressed with each release since his 1995 debut Close Your Eyes, so has his level of sincerity in the recorded performance. That’s part of the logic that deduced the decision in recording his fourth album live at the Chicago night club, the Green Mill. The recordings took place over five days in this past June and will be released in early 2000..

    “When I write a lyric or sing a song, I’m bound to be as up front with what that song as I can be,” Elling says. “When I’m on stage, the song has a life of it’s own and it’s not for me to put any boundaries around it. That’s what honesty in performance means.”

    Elling is also pretty candid in admitting his record sales aren’t what his record company, Blue Note Records, had hoped after three albums. That’s why Elling, his manager Bill Traut and Blue Note president Bruce Lundvall met in New York earlier this spring trying to figure out how to get a national audience to embrace the singer the way Chicago and the National Academy of Arts & Sciences (NARAS) have.

    While he has yet to win, the organization that hands out the Grammy award has honored the singer with a nomination for each of his three albums and he continuously impress his hometown with a wide variety of worthy artistic endeavors. But Elling has yet to expand the kind of local fanaticism, including middle-aged groupies into a consistent national base.

    “We were just brain-storming, because I am sort of at a cross-road,” Elling says of that meeting while sitting in his spacious Chicago Hyde Park apartment. “All these hare-brained and nutty ideas for my next record came out, including some fun projects. Lundvall said ‘we still haven’t made the nut with sales but nobody does what you do, so let’s just go again.

    “At the end of the meeting, we all realized I’ve gotten recognition and a chance to perform all over the world doing what I believe in. Any (new record) that isn’t as real and honest as what we’ve made before is just going to be weird. I’m going to hate it, my people are going to hate it and scratch their heads, and it’ll be just like commerce, and I didn’t get into it for commerce. I got into it so I could do the job, so I could have a fulfilling creative life. Bread is cool. I’m not going to shun it. I’m going to work really hard to figure out some way to have my music effect enough people so a lot of people want to buy my music and have it in their lives.

    “Commerce is cool,” he continued, ” but I really have something that I need to say and I have a group of people who I believe in who surround me. We just sort of all threw up our hand and said, well we’ve sold not as many records as we’ve want to, but they’re all been really great and everybody at this table have really loved every one of the projects, so lets just go again. I still believe that what we have can get over to a larger audience. The problem is not that we’re making stuff that’s out of people grasp, but that the kids that are coming up now haven’t had music in school. I can’t dumb down my thing, It would be wrong if I did, because if anything, I don’t know what the answer is. I believe that what we do can be felt viscerally, and that’s why I think that people who don’t have an acquaintance with jazz or don’t usually like jazz, cause it’s too esoteric or because it’s too challenging or because it feels too forbidden to them. I try to make everybody feel at home in my show. If you make them feel like they’re welcomed to be there and then you can give them a whole lot of information that they never thought up before and maybe they’ll dig it.

    “I feel like This Time It’s Love” is the most honest record I’ve made,” the former University of Chicago divinity student continues mentioning his most recent album. “I dealt with the theme of love in a way that’s a lot more multi-phonic and multi-dimensional than most people deal with it.”

    The reason for that honest is that Elling is basically still a newlywed. His wife of a two years is dancer and artist Jennifer Carney-Elling.

    She is featured on the cover of the album and the songs and sonnets contain within are unabashed exclamations of love. Because many of the tunes feature the art of vocalese -putting wordy lyrics to the often very busy solos of jazz musicians- Elling’s prose throughout explores more depth to their relationship than most couples are willing to make public.

    On a Freddie Hubbard solo that Elling re-titled Freddie’s Yen For Jen,” he sings “I dig her kisses, they’re never fictitious and always lubricious, kisses that’ll make you holler loudly that you’re glad enough to be a man.” On She’s Funny That Way, Elling comes close to sap with the line “and now raindrops are diamonds falling out of Jennifer’s pockets, every kiss is July Four rockets.”

    In his living room surrounded by his wife’s artwork including paper sculptures, laminated collages and painted furniture, Elling blushes when admitting that he is totally smitten with her. He further admits to worrying about how to continue to tap what’s in his heart for his material while on the other hand keeping an increasingly curious public and the media at bay when concerning his privacy. It was a thought that filled his head mid-song during a small University of Chicago gathering.

    “The famous theologian Marty Marty was there,” he remembers, “a t.v. broadcaster, the conductor of the Lyric Opera, just some very smart people, and we were in a small room like this and it really came home to me. I was doing the Lester Young solo on She’s Funny That Way and I was a little embarrassed because I was telling these people about my life.

    “It’s strange because when I write a lyric or a song then I’m bound to be as up front with what that song wants to be as I can be. I can’t hold anything back and it wouldn’t be right. I would be unhappy with the lyric if I did. But when I’m not on stage, I’m trying to be wary of where that line is, because it’s a different line. If I’m singing something, then it has a life of its own and it’s not for me to put any boundaries around it in any case. But away from the stage, the world is a real strange place and every once in a while a newspaper will call and they will want to send a photographer to my house , no. this is my house I’m not going to be doing Entertainment Tonight kind of specials at my house. That’s an invasion of what it takes for me to feel at home, if everybody knows. I don’t know how much information people deserve. I feel like I’m so up front and I’m so honest in my work, that there’s plenty of information that’s available there. And whatever else that I don’t include in that is nobody’s business.”

    Since the release of This Time It’s Love early last year, Elling has flexed his expanding artistic muscle with a number of high-profile concerts in Chicago in a variety of musical formats. His wife attended and was introduced at many of these affairs including the first jazz concert ever performed at that city’s Museum of Science & Industry last summer. Other performances included a Hyde Park Christmas concert with star trumpeter Nicholas Payton, and suburban audiences have seen Elling perform with a big band and with a string section.

    His most ambitious projects have been the two shows he wrote and directed for the Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s Traffic series. The first was a multimedia tribute to Allen Ginsberg featuring visual artist Ed Paschke reading poetry and a host of musicians. This past February he presented a program titled The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing co-starring the Tyego Dance Project featuring Jennifer Carney-Elling. She also dances with the Joel Hall Dancers and spent five years with the national touring company of Phantom Of The Opera.

    ” If you need room the only way to have a lot of room in a marriage is to have the other person also need a lot of space, otherwise they’re always tapping you on the shoulder,” Elling says through a laugh after being asked if acquiring a creative spouse was a priority. “I need to have someone else who can be similarly focused on their objective, so that we don’t get in each other’s hair.”

    The couple met through a mutual friend at a now closed Hyde Park coffee shop that was owned by Jennifer’s mother. According to Elling, he was in “full jazz guy” mode- having a good time and playing the field. Though considered a sex symbol by some, including his manager, the singer says he is really a shy awkward guy when it comes to the opposite sex. He can just turn on the charm on stage, but even before he was married, he says he couldn’t keep sustained eye contact with flirtatious audience members afterwards.

    “But this hook was in with Jennifer and it happened pretty fast,” Elling says. ” She just had a lot of self-respect and she wouldn’t let me push her around. Self-respect and creativity were the key things.”

    Elling’s Los Angeles based manager admitted to some worry as to the speed of the relationship. When he heard they were to be married, all he could think of was the domineering wife of jazz legend Sonny Rollins.

    “Lucille Rollins runs everything in his life like a dictator,” Traut, a veteran lawyer and former Chicagoan who has also handled acts as varied as the R&b group the Ohio Players and local jazz singer Judy Roberts. “That’s an old manager’s joke that you’re getting the wife to manage instead of the husband and I was worried if Jennifer would be one of those people that’s very difficult to manage along with a husband.

    “But the instant I talked to her, I knew I would have no problem,” continued Traut. “By the time they got married, she had become an asset to me because she helps me explain things to him and Kurt is the world’s worse bookkeeper. He needed a wife”

    It was after spending a week in Paris together that Elling popped the question. He thought she expected him to ask during their very romantic time in the City of Lights, but he waited till the following week at home “in the kitchen over tuna fish sandwiches.”

    Surprisingly, Elling also points out, it was not his idea to record the song April In Paris on his ’97 album The Messenger. That was a request from Lundvall and his staff at Blue Note to add another standard to a highly original collection of songs. Both Elling and Traut praise Blue Note unwavering faith in the singer, citing among other unusual facts, that the first album was really the singer’s demo tape and that they’ve never been ordered to higher outside producers.

    Among the reasons why the three men came to an agreement as to the concept of his next album are because live albums are relatively easy to do and it frees Elling up to contemplate his next move.

    “We want to get Kurt relieved of the pressure of making another record for a while,” Traut explains. “It’s in our plans to get Kurt in a position where he can take the time to develop a one-man show that we can take off-Broadway. It is in our plans to have the whole country see Kurt Elling the way Chicago does. But instead of a Steppenwolf tribute to Allen Ginsberg or a show with his wife’s dance team, we want to develop a Kurt show that will have multimedia, lighting, stage effects and scenery doing all the things that Kurt does.”

    “The thing about Steppenwolf is their reputation and connections,” concludes Elling. “Now that I’ve been a director, I feel like I’m getting my production chops together and my confidence. Now, I’m just trying to create situations for myself.”

    For more information visit the Kurt Elling Web Site

    David ‘Fathead’ Newman – An Interview

    David 'Fathead' Newman “Fathead” Newman Keeps Growing
    by Matthew S. Robinson

    Named good-naturedly by a high school music teacher who realized that the music-memorizing Newman had been “reading” his sheet music upside down, David “Fathead” Newman began his career in Texas with the legendary Buster Smith before being discovered by the equally legendary Ray Charles. Over the course of over 30 albums, Newman has also played with Blues ruler B.B. King and such great ladies of Jazz as Aretha Franklin and Natalie Cole. At 69, Newman is now celebrating the release of his latest album, Davey Blue (High Note) and continuing to work with legends old and new in an endless road of music and memories.

    JazzUSA: Aside from music, one of your other interests as a youngster was religion. Does that still hold true and, if so, how has it affected your music?

    DN: It has been helpful. It has been a part of my spiritual well being. I have learned a lot from studying religions. I don’t think it has affected my musical choices. It may happen from time to time that I play something with a spiritual feel, but it is not something I concentrate on.

    JazzUSA: How did you first meet Ray Charles and what was it like to be asked to go on tour with him?

    DN: We first played in LA in 1954. That was my big chance- it was my first consistent big band gig. I had met Ray in 1951 when we were featured with bands that were on the same shows. We became friends right away and he mentioned to me that he was going to start his own band pretty soonŠand sure enough he did! It was a high point to start with, but I had played before with Buster Smith, the famous alto sax player from Dallss, which is where I grew up. Buster was my main influence. I got to portray him in [the Robert Altman film] “Kansas City” which was a great feeling that I enjoyed very much. Buster was a big part of that scene.

    JazzUSA: Your son Cadino has been in the music biz for a while now. Did you encourage that?

    DN: He’s more or less finding his own way, but I encouraged him and gave him my support. Occasionally, we perform together. He is in Dallas now, but we get together every so often. I support him in any way I can.

    JazzUSA: What do you think about the new generation of Jazz artists? Are they carrying on the tradition appropriately?

    DN: I think that the new generation is very interesting. It’s wonderful to have these young artists keep this tradition alive. Over all, they are doing a great job. They bring discipline and loyalty to the forefront. I think that the younger musicians are expected to and will take the music to greater heights and new ideas and that it will be good for the music It’s a transitional situation

    JazzUSA: What do you consider your favorite places to play?

    DN: That’s hard to say because there are so many great venues to play. I like the smoke-free rooms, especially at this point in my life, but I am not sure if I can pinpoint a room in particular. I have played Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center and in wonderful halls in Europe, but I also like to do the festivals.

    JazzUSA: What about audiences? Do you prefer to play for the cognoscenti or to introduce people to Jazz?

    DN: I enjoy performing before the experts, and I also like to introduce people to the music.

    JazzUSA: What is your new album, Davey Blue (High Note), about?

    DN: It’s some of my favorite songs that I always wanted to record and some standards as well. There is also some original music. I wrote a tribute to Stanley Turrentine and there is also new music from Cedar Walton. There is also “A Child is Born” by Thad Jones and other standards, so it is a good mixture. A lot of artists may be tempted to perform and record material for themselves. At this stage, I am starting to consider and think more about my listening audience and what they prefer, so that’s more guiding how I choose my material.

    JazzUSA: By “at this stage,” do you mean to say that you are still just warming up?

    DN: I want to play until I can’t play anymore. There is no retiring from this.

    Alexander Zonjic Interview

    A Conversation With
    Alexander Zonjic
    by Baldwin “Smitty” Smith

    Alexander Zonjic is an incredible flautist, and he’s certainly one of the more industrious musicians in the format. He has a great new CD that came out a couple of months ago and he’s recording for Heads Up records.

    Smitty: Hey Alex how are you my man?

    A.Z.: I’m doing wonderful, how come you don’t have like, an applause track when you do that, you know when you introduce me there’s like this tumultuous applause?

    Smitty: (Laughing) You know, you are the second person to ask that question, Steve Cole ask the same thing.

    A.Z: You feel lonely, you introduce me and no one says anything (both laughing).

    Smitty: Believe me, they are cheering man.

    A.Z: Good, good. It is a pleasure to be with you Smitty, thank you.

    Smitty: Same here. You’re doing 100 shows per year, you’re doing a radio show, a great new project, and you’ve collaborated with some of the best in the business. When do you find time to sleep? And I want the name of the vitamins you’re taking.

    A.Z: Hey you left out my new jazz supper club.

    Smitty: Oh man, you’re right, how could I forget that………..

    A.Z: C’mon now.

    Smitty: Yes, “Seldom Blues”.

    A.Z: Right. You know, I’ve always Smitty, had a very, very proactive, extremely diverse career and people have always ask me the same questions that you ask. And my feelings have always been that, the amount of energy that you have and the amount energy that you are capable of having is directly related to whether or not you love all of the things you are doing. There’s essentially nothing that I do that I don’t enjoy. Your capacity to do all of that is directly related to the fact that it’s just all great, fun stuff. Do I get tired sometimes? Of course I do. And do I think sometimes that I’m biting off more than I can chew, that I’m wearing too many hats? Yes definitely, there’s no doubt about it, but for the most part I love every aspect of my career and I’ve been doing this for a long time and doing under a really comfortable level for a long time. Maybe it’s because I’m a flute player, I have no idea.

    Smitty: Maybe that could have something to do with it. Anyone ever tell you that your voice sounds a lot like Howard Stern?

    A.Z: Well we’re both in radio and he makes a lot more money than I do, and I couldn’t get away with anything he says on the radio. You know for a while there we were both with the same company, we were both with CBS and Viacom, and now of course he’s gone off to GREENER pastures for what I understand.

    Smitty: Much greener (laughing).

    A.Z: I guess that’s a compliment?

    Smitty: Ah yea.

    A.Z: Mind you, Howard can’t play the flute worth a darn.

    Smitty: Oh no no, no. You got him on that one that’s for sure (both laughing). Let me ask you, I heard through this little grapevine that you’re quite a guitar player?

    A.Z: I do play guitar and we’ll have to back up here in a while and find out who’s was in the grapevine. I started out Smitty as a rock n roll guitar, so my roots musically, really are rock n roll. And that being the case, obviously a little bit of blues. And I played, I wouldn’t call it jazz guitar necessarily but it was my first love and I started very young. Interestingly enough you bring it up…recently I’m playing guitar on the show again. I actually brought the guitar with me on a jazz cruise last year and got such a kick out of the look on everybody’s face. Whether it was chielli Menucci or Kirk Whalum, when during the middle of one of their solos, I just went grab the guitar. It’s funny because I’m not playing great yet, but I’m on the road back.

    Smitty: Well it’s like riding a bike, you don’t completely lose that. It will come back to you.

    A.Z: I didn’t completely lose it, I do enjoy it. I think the thing that’s so humorous is the fact that when I do play guitar, being a flute player and having this kind of studied career where I went back to the university and graduated and studied classical music….I actually have three classical albums that I’ve recorded as well, people expect that when I pick up the guitar that it’s going to be somewhat of a refined style. But when I pick up the guitar I still play rock n roll, and it’s a totally different personality. So it’s funny you bring that up, and it really is a real passion of mine. And you know my friend Jeff Lorber also plays guitar.

    Smitty: Oh yea, and Jeff’s not bad.

    A.Z: Not bad at all, and it’s very funny because when he first came to Detroit to play with my band as my guest, he said “I’m going to bring my guitar” and he had no idea that I played guitar at all. So we got on a big festival and when he started playing the guitar, I walked off the stage and came back on and played the guitar. (Both laughing) It was really quite a comedy to see the piano player and the flute player both playing rock n roll.

    Smitty: That had to be cool…spiced up the show! So you started playing this rock n roll and of course you grew up in Windsor, Ontario so there’s some British roots there musically…

    A.Z: Yes, I would say so, but for those that don’t know, Windsor’s right across from Detroit. So Detroit was always a huge influence musically speaking, in all of it’s different flavors…Yes, I mean obviously they have an amazing R&B tradition and Motown, and Jazz, and Rock n Roll. If you consider everybody from Kenny Burrell, to Earl Klugh, to Eminem, to Aretha Franklin, to Kid Rock, that’s quite a stretch.

    Smitty: Yes it is.

    A.Z: So Detroit’s a great city. I think Detroit was a big influence, but the early British invasion was an influence for sure.

    Smitty: So there you were, laying down you chops with the guitar, and it’s a funny story as to how you came upon the flute, but please relate the story as to how you were first introduced to the flute.

    A.Z: The flute was a complete and total fluke as opposed to flute. I was playing in a band in Toronto, a band that I thought was relatively successful at the time, I was making a living and I came back to Windsor to visit my parents. By this point I’m twenty years old, and I’m walking down the street and, in much the same way that people walk up to you in Manhattan and in downtown Detroit, or any other big city and try to sell you a watch or a TV or a stereo, some guy literally…who knew by the way, that I was a musician, walked up to me and said…. “Do you want to buy a flute? It kind of took me back and I said “I don’t know, I suppose, how much do you want for it”? He said “Fifty bucks”. I said “I’ve only have nine dollars”. He said “I’ll take it”. And that’s literally how it started. I like the way it looked in the case, I had no real aptitude for it, and just found this amazing desire and passion to not play it. Because it’s not like I had any natural attributes. I did develop this very unnatural at the time; obsession to learning how to play it, and it was all-consuming. I mean I worked a little bit on the guitar, there’s no doubt, but not to the degree that I did on the flute. The flute really, really kind of took over my entire curiosity and I wanted to learn how to play it so badly. And eight months later I auditioned for the University of Windsor music program and somehow was accepted, and that started formal studies on the instrument. And I studied classically for quite a while and continued my studies after I graduated with Ervin Monroe who was the principal flute player in the Detroit Symphony. Ervin and I went on to have a very successful career together where we recorded three classical records and a million recitals together. So it really was a bit of a serendipity there and I always joke that if it wouldn’t of been for that guy with the flute….that he somehow got in the way of an amazingly a lucrative rock n roll career.

    Smitty: Yes he did, little does he know. But you still play the guitar.

    A.Z: When I graduated from the university, which would have been the late 70’s when I started putting little bands together; it started moving into instrumental pop, jazz, I was already being influenced the Herbie Mann’s and in particular, certainly Hubert Laws. I was TOTALLY infatuated with the music of Bob James because of the roots that were in their music. If you listen to those early records, Bob James One and Bob James Two, you heard this wonderful hybrid of jazz and classical, and Hubert Laws of course played on a lot of those CTI records. So it was right around that time and when I got into the early 80’s and I had already recorded my Elegant Evening album, and I had already made a classical album…Again another very fluke thing happen. I was playing at Baker’s Keyboard Lounge which is a very famous jazz club here in Detroit and Bob James was in town performing at the Royal Oak Music Theatre. Somebody convinced him to go down to the Baker’s and hear this flute guy and he came in and only heard a couple of songs. He heard me play a couple of his tunes actually…Where The Wind Blows Free and…

    Smitty: Yea baby!

    A.Z: And Earl Klugh was in the house that night and Earl got up and we did Taxi together, and Bob (James) just came up me and said “Hey I’ve been hearing about you and we’re getting ready to go to Japan and we have a concert coming up at Carnegie Hall, would you be interested in joining the band?” Needless to say, it took me all of five seconds…..it was a huge quantum career leap at the time, and of course we’ve been friends ever since. Bob’s one of my dearest friends and one of my biggest influences, and as frightening as it sounds, we have known one another now for 22 years because it was 1982 when I met him. So you can see the direction that it took. Once I started touring with Bob James Smitty, the guitar took a backseat, because he had people like Eric Gale, Hiram Bullock, and Dean Brown, you know people like that playing guitar. And he hired me to play the flute, that what he wanted in the band. When you really think about what an initiative that was…I’ve explained this, how lucky I was; you know everybody needs a sax player, a guitar player, a bass player, but if you really think about it, he created a position for me. No one needs somebody who plays the solo flute, even in that genre if you really think about it. I took up the space of another band member and it takes someone like Bob with the vision that he had, and what he thought I brought to the table. It’s very flattering when I think back to…why would you spend the money to have this guy who just plays the flute. Because he already had a horn section, when I joined the band, Mark Colby and Mike Lawrence were still in the band. He had a sax player and a trumpet. So it really was a very big break for me and I was very lucky, and that relationship with Bob, it lead to so much for me.

    Smitty: Yes and you as well as many other musicians have a lot to thank Bob for. However, given what you said, it does add credence to the fact that the flute has its unique place in jazz.

    A.Z: There’s no doubt, it has a great tradition. There’s no question, it’s challenged these days. Without getting into all the nuts and bolts…remember I’m someone who is in the radio business, I do the morning show on the smooth jazz radio here. I’m in the concert business; I’m the Artistic Director for seven major festivals in this market. I have a jazz supper club, I make records, I perform live dates. I’m well versed in aspect of this business, and to the point where I’m confused as to why the flute is not a bigger more prominent instrument. I mean no one’s asking anyone to even have a level playing field; where there are as many flute players as there are sax players or guitar players. But it is amazing how in this entire genre at this point, that there is really only a few of us. I mean there is Nestor Torres and myself, Hubert’s not doing a whole lot these days, I haven’t even talk to Dave Valentin in years. I’d love to see the instrument…in the right hands, it’s every bit as powerful and compelling as any other instrument.

    Smitty: Yes it is. And you have a great young lady (Jazz Flautist) in your neck of the woods; Althea Rene’.

    A.Z: She’s great.

    Smitty: Yes, and like you said, there’s some players out there that are capable of making some serious noise, if given the opportunity. Talk about the club man, because I love it when a musician has a club or got some ownership because you know they know how to do it you know.

    A.Z: Well this is a unique partnership because I’m not a food and beverage guy. There used to be a club in Detroit from the 80’s and 90’s called Alexander’s, which was actually named after me. It was a cool club but I never owned it or ran it. But I always had it in the back of my mind that if the right combination of people ever came along, and there’s two very good friends of mind that make Seldom Blues work. Let me explain something, Seldom Blues is a 17,000 square foot, 350 seat five star dinning room that is a stunning architectural place with 130 people on staff. You can’t do that on your own. My one partner is Frank Taylor who has a lot of roots in Texas; he came from San Antonio and ran hotels in the area for years and when he came to the Detroit area we were friends right away. Because he has a great love of music, he’s a very good friend of Kirk Whalum. So we hit it off right away, and I did a lot of shows for him through the years. Our other partner is a just recently retired Detroit Lion; Robert Porcher. Robert loves the city of Detroit and is a major player in this market; he was with the Detroit Lions for 12 years, a pro bowler 3 years in a row, all-time sacks record for the Lions, really an amazing guy. So this is the partnership we have. This is a very exciting project. W e’ve had Kirk Whalum there, Bob’s been there, all kinds of people. It’s not necessarily a 7 day a week national act place because it’s not just the music that drives Seldom Blues. It’s also the amazing food, the amazing views (It’s right on the water) it really is the total package.

    Smitty: Well best of everything man, it’s a beautiful place.

    A.Z: I’m just trying to avoid a real job Smitty (both laughing).

    Smitty: Hey, you’ve got a real job trust me. Let’s talk about this record man, Seldom Blues. Obviously I know where the title came from. But let’s talk about some of the players on this record and the concept of the record.

    A.Z: Well you know, every record is a birth of sorts. I’ve gotten to the point in my career where I really enjoy the whole process of making the record. When I think back to some of my earlier project, I really didn’t get the enjoyment of making them that I get now. Back then you made them with a lot of pressure, you always felt this amazing anxiety “I hope it’s going to work”. Whereas now I make records for the pure pleasure of making them, and I make the music that’s on them to basically satisfy #1, me and the artists that are on it, knowing that if I do that, I’m going to satisfy my fan base and my listeners. And that’s a very liberating point to get to in your career where you can really do that. Because in all fairness, I want my records to sell 20 million copies, but I’m happy if it sells 10 because I’ll be happy with the record. That’s an easy thing to say if you are making some sort of living. If you are relying on the record and the record sales, I can see how there is some pressure. This is my second record for Heads Up. I love the relationship with the record company, I think Dave Love and the whole company is really coming from the right place. So for me, it’s rounding up the usual suspects combined with rounding up my newest friends. If you look at the line-up on this record…People that I have worked with for years, Bob James, Kirk Whalum, people who are relatively new but not completely new, like Jeff Lorber, Angela Bofil, I been working with both of them for a number of years. And there are newer friends like James Lloyd and Peter White, and Kem who I think really nailed Bob’s tune. And Earl Klugh, I can’t leave him out, we got back a long way and he’s on the record. So it’s a fun project, a lot of great tunes, by design, a lot more upbeat than any other record I’ve made in a little while. There’s a lot of original material, a lot of stuff that’s great to play live. In fact I’m in rehearsals as we speak these days preparing for a couple of big shows, we got the album release concert on the 28th of November. We’ve got Bob James coming in, Kirk Whalum, Kevin Whalum, and James Lloyd, so we’re going to have a lot of fun.

    Smitty: I love the record Al, great production, and all of the musicians on it.

    A.Z: Thank you. It appears that the first track Leave It With Me is going to be the first single. That’s the one with Earl Klugh on it that James Lloyd wrote.

    Smitty: Well you’ve had all the fun making it and now it’s in other hands.

    A.Z: Cross your fingers (laughing).

    Smitty: The release date is November 23rd.

    A.Z: Yes November 23rd and we have a lot of things planned around it here in town. And as we get into the New Year we’re going to wonder out a little bit. We’ve got a few dates booked, I have a Vegas thing I’m doing in January. And maybe in 2005, I’d like to get out and introduce this different sound to a wider audience.

    Smitty: Cool. We’re always looking for something fresh and new.

    A.Z: Houston’s a great place to come, I’ll have to figure out how to get there.

    Smitty: We’ll have to work something out. We’ll talk about that after this. And you have a website.

    A.Z: Of course, anyone who’s had a mailing list since 1978 has a website…it’s www.zonjic.com and you can go to www.seldomblues.com as well and see some pictures of the restaurant.

    Smitty: Al I can’t say enough about this great record, and certainly appreciate you coming on and talking about your great career, sharing your vibe with us and the world for that matter, and I’m looking forward to catching up to you when you start your tour.

    A.Z: My pleasure, absolutely. I’m going to do my very best to get into Texas. I have great memories of Texas. When ever I think of Houston I think of Kirk Whalum, I think of all of those concerts that we talked about at Rokerfellers, The Arena, The Majesic Theatre in San Antonio, and in Dallas the club that’s gone now, Caravan Of Dreams, those are great memories. That part of the country has always embraced this music; I certainly appreciate it and can’t wait to get back there. And imagine, Houston is where my biggest influence is from; that’s where Hubert Laws is from.

    Smitty: Yes, Hubert and Ronnie, they are Houston natives.

    A.Z: The Houston guys and that whole Crusaders thing that started.

    Smitty: Exactly, Felder, Joe Sample, and that whole group.

    A.Z: Yes you a quite a tradition.

    Smitty: Al, thank you once again for this great time ma man. We’ve been talking with Heads up recording artist Alexander Zonjic with a great new project Seldom Blues, I highly recommend this record, and if you’re in the Detroit stop by his restaurant. Al, all the best with this project and the tour in 2005.

    A.Z: Thank you Smitty and see you in Houston!

    An Interview with Phil Upchurch

    Phil UpchurchTelling the Truth…
    Phil Upchurch
    by Mark Ruffin

    When Phil Upchurch was 20 years-old, he had a top 40 hit titled, “You Can’t Sit Down,” but he says he wasn’t secure enough when he first toured under his name. 40 years later, the guitarist has released his 21st album, “Tell The Truth,” and is widely known as a world-class guitarist, yet he can’t get promoters interested in booking him.

    “Life is funny,” the 61 year-old said by phone from his Southern California home. “Back then, I wasn’t ready to tour by myself. Since then, I’ve been waiting my entire life to tour with my own band.

    “But no,” he continued laughing, “I’m still the glorified sideman.”

    The Upchurch legacy will always be that of one of the most celebrated sidemen in music history. He’s one of the very few back-up musicians with a prestigious Pioneer Award from the Rhythm & Blues Foundation.

    He’s probably most famous for backing George Benson on the multi-platinum Breezin’ album. However, the guitarist and noted humorist has played on many other historic recordings, including Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall, Grover Washington’s Mister Magic, Quincy Jones’ Body Heat, Curtis Mayfield’s 1970 eponymous debut album, and dozens of others.

    Even without mentioning all the artists Upchurch accompanied at the legendary record companies, Chess and Vee-Jay, the list of sessions seems endless. He’s recorded blues with Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, and John Lee Hooker, and the list of r&b, rock and jazz stars is just as impressive, including everyone from Aretha Franklin and Natalie Cole, to Cat Stevens and Sheena Easton.

    “I’m not your typical jazz musician,” said Upchurch, who is currently touring with the legendary jazz organist Jimmy Smith. Most jazz musicians are always posturing and showing off their chops and saying look how fast and how many notes I can play, I’m not really about that.

    “My strong point as a guitarist is my ability to lay back when it’s time to lay back,” Upchurch continued, “then I know when to step forward when it’s time to step forward.”

    He laughed again, when asked to describe the music on “Tell The Truth,” saying he plays music “for women who hates jazz.”

    Because he mixes his jazz with pop and soul, and because the groove is so important to Upchurch, he insisted that a great number of people, particularly females, praise his music, but don’t necessarily like jazz.

    “I didn’t come from that hardcore jazz school in the first place,” Upchurch commented. “My first inspiration was the blues. I rather get people up on the floor dancing than in their seats being quiet.”

    Three songs on the album serve as examples of tunes that aren’t associated with jazz Mixed in among the originals and jazz standards on the 13-track cd are Natalie Cole’s “La Costa,” Jeffery Osborne & LTD’s “Back In Love Again,” and Steely Dan’s “Jack Of Speed.”

    “That’s why I call this record, “Tell The Truth,” Upchurch explained. “This (music) is what I’ve been doing lately. It’s what I’ve been wanting to do, but never have been able to do it, because of different producers.”

    There’s more truthfulness to his new release in the fact that the combo backing the guitarist is his working band. He said to hear what he’s been doing lately and he had to use the guys he’s been using lately.

    Among the musicians in his band is drummer Vince Wilburn. His mother is the sister of Miles Davis, and Wilburn will go down in jazz history as the person who spurred Miles out of retirement in the 80’s.

    The great trumpeter used Wilburn and a host of his friends, including Robert Irving III, to rehearse and tour for the albums “The Man With The Horn,” “Decoy,” and “You’re Under Arrest,” but some of the musicians, including Wilburn, were excluded from playing on the recordings. It’s called being bumped, and it is a lament of sidemen everywhere.

    Upchurch is going through it now with his current bread-and-butter employer, Smith. He’s performed with the organist on and off for 20 years, yet, this year marked the first time in nearly a decade that he’s on a new album by Smith.

    Producers have been using younger guitarists like Russell Malone and Mark Whitfield, and the end result is now promoters are asking Smith to bring the younger six-slingers instead of Upchurch. Whereas he used to do most of Smith’s dates, now he does a third.

    “Of course that bothers me,” he exclaimed. “It’s an ego thing.

    “But I did the same things to guys on my way up, it’s just the way of the world. I’m starting to get into that age category where if I don’t play my ass off, I can hang it up.”

    Truthfully, he’s not ready.

    Charles Earland – Hitting a new peak


    Charles Earland
    Hitting a new peak
    By Sidney Bechet-Mandela

    Organist Charles Earland recently played a lively set with his band at a high school. Afterwards there was a question and answer period and a student, who Earland had noticed showed a lot of enthusiasm during the set, praised the music, but then asked, “when are you going to play some jazz?”

    “I don’t like to call names, but it’s what they hear on those stations that they call jazz,” Earland said in a JazzUSA ‘Zine exclusive interview and preview of his new projects. “They’re not really getting jazz. They’re getting r&b with improvisation. These kids, that’s all they’re being fed, so that’s all they know.

    “But there’s some new blood interjected into organ music, and kids are calling it a brand new instrument because it’s something they’ve never heard before.”

    The Hammond B-3 organ sound is rapidly on the rise again, and no one seems more poised to take advantage of it than Earland. He has a new album out on Hightone titled “Blowing The Blues Away,’ He has another album coming out next month tentatively titled “The DuSable Museum Organ Summit” featuring Earland, Jimmy McGriff, Dr. Lonnie Smith, and in his last public performance before his death, Johnny “Hammond” Smith. If that was not enough, Earland just signed a contract with Cannonball Records, an aggressive new company out of Minneapolis.

    “I would definitely say this is a peak,” Earland said from behind the mixer in the basement of his spacious suburban Chicago home. He was looking for the tape of the new Eric Alexander album he’s just produced for Highnote. “It’s been a real long road but things are beginning to happen for me again. It’s starting to boil over from what’s happening in Europe.”

    What’s happening in Europe and Asia is acid jazz. Earland says the insatiable appetite of foreigners, who sample any jazz from the seventies, and the staunch jazz lovers overseas have intersected at the organ music genre. The result has been the re-release of most of Charles Earland ample catalog. The list of labels is impressive; Prestige, Milestone, Columbia, Muse, Mercury, and High Note.

    “It’s because of Europe that organ music is coming back here,” Earland claims. “Record companies are starting to recognize that they’ve got something here. They said, ‘hey man, we’ve got a whole bunch of this stuff.’ Record companies are starting to reach back into the mothballs for releases, and in all of those countries they want more.

    “You see,” he continues, “they stopped playing us on the radio here in the States, but they never stopped playing us in Europe. People are raving so much about (acid jazz) and they’re claiming it, and it’s beginning to boil over. People who go abroad, they see people digging music from the 70’s. All my old albums are big records over there in Europe.

    “It’s a funny thing, but when I go abroad I’m treated like a superstar. When I get off the plane in Japan, little Japanese girls meet me with flowers and the red carpet rolled out. When I’m in London, I play to standing room only audiences with lines around the block trying to get in to see me. Then when I come home to the States, I can’t even get arrested.”

    Had that enthusiastic American school kid who asked Earland to play smooth jazz been around in 1969, he may have instantly recognized the sound of the man some call the Mighty Burner. Even though the first Hammond B-3 craze of the 60’s was fading by the time Earland recorded his classic “Black Talk” album, there’s no doubt he had the biggest success in the idiom. The song “More Today Than Yesterday” was responsible for landing the album on the Billboard pop charts. No other organist holds that distinction. But it’s also been kind of an albatross because Earland always record covers of pop tunes, and we all know jazz critics hate pop music.

    “I like all kinds of music,” Earland excitedly exclaims. It doesn’t matter whether it’s country and western, or gospel, blues or r&b. Some of my favorite musicians of all times are George Clinton, John Coltrane and Jimi Hendrix. I’m like this, when I’m eating, give me a little bit of this, give me a little bit of that, I just can’t eat fried chicken by itself. I’ve got to have some potatoes and dessert. It’s the same thing with my music..”

    If you check Earland’s discography, you will find some interesting choices of cover tunes including a version of Clinton’s P-Funk classic “(Not Just) Knee Deep” on his album “Ready And Able.” On his latest album he shows his love for Anita Baker and the Isley Brothers with covers or their respective songs “Sweet Love” and “For The Love Of You.”

    “I love the Isley Brothers, Ronnie and the way he sings those melodies knocks my socks off and there’s no way I can tell you how much I love Anita Baker. I’ve always wanted to do something with that song and what I do with songs the best is swing them.”

    It’s ironic that Earland has also recorded “Songbird” by Kenny G. Ironic because Kenny G, the number one instrumentalist of all time, probably could never have happened without Grover Washington Jr. And Washington got his very first chance to record because of Charles Earland.

    Earland, like Washington came to musical maturation in Philadelphia. Earland was a sax player playing in organ groups when he noticed that the leaders were having all the fun while he waited between playing the head and a solo. He made the switch to the organ and was a natural. He worked on the East Coast giving young players like Washington breaks before he got his with his very first album as a leader.

    “Black Talk” propelled Earland to the upper echelon of what he called the “chicken circuit” during the 70’s.

    “We called it the chicken circuit because most of those clubs had an old lady in the back frying chicken and as soon as you hit the club you could smell the chicken frying in the back,” Earland says laughing at the memory. “But these clubs kept us working for a long time.”

    “There were two of them in Newark. That was a town known for it’s organ loving people. On this one corner, on Halsey and Williams, they had two clubs. The Cadillac Club on one side of the street and The Key Club on the other side of the street. I would be playing at the Key Club and across the street, they would have Jack McDuff. And around the corner, not too far from away, there was a club with Jimmy McGriff. So within a four block span you could hear some great B-3 playing. And every week they would have a different organ player. You could hear them all, Larry Young, Trudy Pitts, Jimmy Smith, Shirley Scott”

    Those days are gone for Earland, but today he says, the organ is definitely on the way back and he is beginning to get the kind of reception in America that he was accustomed to 20 years ago. Only his lifestyle is radically different than it was in his youth. Behind the mixing board in his big spacious suburban Chicago house is a mini-gym, and on the board rests a bible, two symbols of how much his personal life has changed since his days as a chart-topping jazz artist.

    “I had a heart attack about seven years ago, ” Earland reflects. “It changed my life a lot. It made me think that no day is ever promised to you. It also brought me closer to God.” Just like he backs up his talk about his love of pop music by recording them, being ordained a Baptist minister and his continuing studies at Chicago’s prestigious Moody Bible School has legitimized his devotion.

    “You’ve got to live that love walk. If you want God to bless you, you’ve got to be a blessing to somebody. It’s been a real long road, but I guess I have God to thank for everything.”

      Charles Earland Selected Discography  Blowing The Blues Away-High Note  Ready And Able-Muse  Infant Eyes-Muse  Black Talk-Prestige  Black Drops-Prestige  Leaving This Planet-Prestige  Charles III-Prestige  Live At The Lighthouse-Prestige  Intensity-Prestige  Odyssey-Mercury  

    Other Charles Earland Resources

  • Music Central
  • Fantasy Jazz
  • Jazz Times
  • Moses Khumalo

    Moses KhumaloAn Interview With
    Moses Khumalo
    by Iain Harris

    Moses is the brilliant young sax player whose flair and voice made him a fixture in the late Moses Molelekwa’s band. I first met Moses when he was fifteen. The Institute for the Advancement of Journalism was hosting an innovative radio documentary course, and had invited Finnish Radio’s Harry Huhtamaki to lead it. It was a course essentially on making audio films, and a whole bunch of musicians had been invited to work with a team of directors and technicians to score what would be a one hour documentary. Saxophonist McCoy Mrubatha (Sheer Sound artist with two albums) was in the mix, so was bassist Concord Nkabinde (Family Factory and regular session muso with, amongst others, Paul Hanmer and Ernie Smith). Moses was still at school and studying music at FUBA.

    Already at fifteen he had a sound that perked the ears of McCoy, at that point a quickly rising star on the scene. It’s a massive statement on his skill that as a very young and completely unknown professional on the competitive scene Moses was invited to play in Moses Molelewa’s band, one that would become one of the most popular, progressive and brilliantly innovative groups in the country.

    Since the death of Moses Molelekwa, Moses has quickly forged an innovative identity as an artist in his own right, lighting the Joburg scene with his energy and commitment to expression and exploration. He’s due to record an album with Sheer Sound next year. Look out for all the information and updates here on afribeat. And see below for a recent interview with Moses.

    An interview with Moses Khumalo, Melville, September 2001

    Growing up…

    “I was born in Meadowlands. My family is a singing family. We sang church songs. When I was 8 I started checking the piano, but there were too many people playing piano so I switched to saxophone.”

    Making a break…

    “I heard a lot of jazz. I joined the ‘Soweto Jazz orchestra’, which toured locally and internationally and we even did a gig in West Africa. But when that disbanded I started jamming at a club next door to our school. Whilst I was at school I met Moses (Molelekwa) at Kippies and we jammed Mannenberg. He phoned me that week for a gig and I started playing with him regularly.”

    Moses Molelekwa…

    “Moses believed in every type of music. All his songs were different. They were never the same. We have to be versatile. I am still questioning about his death. He was a very spiritual person. He had a free and gentle spirit. I am really crying for his beautiful soul. I spend some sad times and ask why, what went wrong? It is still a shock to me, I really wish I was there. He was at the peak of his life. He had just opened up a company for the artists.”

    The difficulties of the industry…

    “It is frustrating in this industry. Promoters can really sadden your heart. Critics can really sadden your heart. People don’t appreciate what the next person is doing. We are not together. No proper unions. We need to better the whole industry. People don’t get happy in the community when you succeed. They look at you as the person you are not. And the media only concedes a person once they are dead. If someone has a project we should all push it. There are so many musos out there who don’t have jobs. The jam sessions are there for them. It is about the community, we are developing something for the community. When I turn on the radio could I hear at least 50% of our own music?”

    Jazz for today?…

    “I am seeing development in our music to a certain style that can accommodate youth. It’s getting to a point where everyone is enjoying jazz. I just see people trying to express themselves, to explain what they feel. Jazz is food for life it sells forever. We are still listening to stuff that was composed 100 years ago. Kwaito is gone in one month. This is something that must change. People should start respecting and realising the importance of the music. Our history is very important. I try and check out the history of our people.”

    A new era, with or without distraction?…

    “I really practice a lot, music is my career. I refrain from those things and spend time on the music. And it is for me to pass that information onto the youngsters. And I must make them feel important. We have to care and be one and try and better this industry. Assist each other, like in the olden days. It is about time for us as young artists to change the whole industry. Building the persons spirit – not destroying it by criticising. Respect.”
    Africa Beats is brought to you each month courtesy of the Afri-Beat Web Site.

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    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.

    An Interview with Steve Turre 2001

    Steve TurreSpeaking of Rahsaan with
    Steve Turre
    by Mark Ruffin

    At about the same time that Steve Turre began a series of concerts this year celebrating the music of the late Rahsaan Roland Kirk, the good people at Label M re-issued Here Comes The Whistleman. That 1965 recording was Kirk’s debut for Atlantic Records and is available on cd for the first time.

    Three years after that recording, in San Francisco, Kirk met Turre, then a teen-age trombone player, and took him under his wing, and helped him to develop his own wings. With his Rahsaan Roland Kirk tribute band, Turre is repaying the favor to the great saxophonist, who died in 1977, by playing his music to a new generation of jazz lovers. Mark Ruffin caught up with Steve before an engagement in Chicago.

    JazzUSA: Can you tell us a bit about the Rahsaan Roland Kirk tribute concerts that you’re doing?

    ST: Well, the players first. The rhythm section is Buster Williams, Mulgrew Miller and Lewis Nash. The front line- of course, we have to have three horns, because Rahsaan played three horns at once, so we have three guys up there doing the work of one man. (laughs) We have Gary Bartz on alto and soprano saxophones, James Carter on tenor saxophone, clarinet and flute, and myself, Steve Turre on trombone and shells.

    JazzUSA: That’s a hell of a band.

    ST: And we’re just playing the music of Rahsaan Roland Kirk. We’re going to play his compositions. So, it’s kind of a tribute that I’ve put together. I did the arranging, but it’s all his compositions. It’s not my music. It’s a tribute to Rahsaan and the wonderful music he left here for us.

    JazzUSA: Is this a one-shot deal?

    ST: No, we’ve played in Europe and we’re heading to the west coast later this summer.

    JazzUSA: Are you recording this band?

    ST: I’m going to record it, but I just did a record with a quintet, trombone and tenor saxophone. That’s coming out first, but I am going to record this band.

    JazzUSA: You know man, a lot of folks don’t know that Rahsaan was a great lyricist, and that he wrote the words to Stanley Turrentine’s Sugar and Charlie Mingus’ Goodbye Porkpie Hat?

    The WhistlemanST: Oh man, he could do it all, lyrics, music, orchestrations. Of course, he couldn’t write it down. He did this piece for strings and big bands and everything, and he got together with my wife (cellist Akua Dixon) and told her what to write down, every note, and she wrote it down on paper and they performed it at Town Hall. This was back in the 70’s. It was beautiful.

    JazzUSA: Have you and Miss Dixon been married that long.?

    ST: 23 years.

    JazzUSA: That’s great. How did you meet Rahsaan ?

    ST: The first time I heard him play was fall of 1966. I graduated from high school in the spring of ’66, and then that fall I went to college at Sacramento State in California, and I had heard that Rahsaan was going to be in San Francisco at the Jazz Workshop. So I drove down there on a Saturday, and to the Saturday night performance at the club. Actually, you were supposed to be 21. I was 18. But I put on a fake mustache, came in early, paid my money, sat in the back and ordered a Coca-Cola, and they let me slide. They knew, but they let me slide. And Rahsaan blew my mind, so I stayed for the second show, and after the second show, he said, ‘thank you ladies and gentlemen for coming out. Remember, tomorrow afternoon, we’ve got the two o’clock session, bring the kids.’ So I went up to him afterwards. I just wanted to shake his hands and tell him how much I appreciated and loved what he did. We talked for a minute, then I said, ‘you’re having a session on Sunday.’ Then he said, ‘it’s not really a session. What it is, is a matinee, and they don’t serve alcohol and people can bring their children, so they can listen to the music. Why, do you play?’ I said, ‘well, yes, I play trombone.’ He said, ‘it’s not really a jam session, but if you want to play, come on down and bring your horn, and you can play music for the kids.’ So, I went down and sat in with him, and it clicked.

    There are two people in my life where the first time we played together it just clicked. We phrased the same way. We breathe in the same place, without discussing it or nothing, we just knew. One was Woody Shaw and the other was Rahsaan, and I went on to work with both of them. So after I played that afternoon, he invited me to stay over and play that night, for the Sunday evening performance. And I stayed and played that night too. After that, every time he’d come through the Bay Area, which was at least a couple of times a year, he’d call me, and I go work with the group in a local club with him. Until later on, in ’73, I moved to New York. I came with Art Blakey. I sat in with Art in San Francisco, at the Keystone Korner, and he asked me to join the band. He brought me to New York in the spring of ’73. In ’72, I toured with Ray Charles, that’s when I first met Ray. Then, I came back to the Bay Area, and I hooked up with Woody, and Woody introduced me to Art, and that took me to New York. Then I ended up working with Rahsaan again, until he passed.

    JazzUSA: Once you got to New York, you started working with Rahsaan regularly?

    ST: No, I stayed with Art for a while. Then I went with Thad Jones/Mel Lewis, for a while. Then I went with Chico Hamilton for a while. Then, I went with Rahsaan. That was about, early ’75, I think.

    JazzUSA: When did you start playing trombone?

    ST: Oh, in the fourth grade.

    JazzUSA: Did the instrument speak to you instantly?

    ST: I knew I liked it. I think when I was in junior high, I knew music was going to be my calling. I always liked music. From the beginning, it was fun. It felt fun. I had a knack for it and I enjoyed it. And I played it as much as I could, because it was fun. I think in junior high, I knew that this is what I wanted to do, play the trombone.

    JazzUSA: Coming up, what kind of music did you listen to?

    ST: All kinds of stuff. My mom and dad met at a Count Basie dance. So they were big band fans. That was the pop music of their day. They danced to that. Before I was ten years old, I had heard the real Duke Ellington Orchestra, not the ghost band. Of course, Duke was there, and the whole saxophone section with Johnny Hodges and Harry Carney. I remember Harry Carney doing Sophisticated Lady and holding that note. Clark Terry was in Duke’s band at that time. Britt Woodman. Ella Fitzgerald was the guest vocalist and Coleman Hawkins was the guest soloist.

    JazzUSA: Damn.

    ST: Before I was ten years old, I saw that. And I heard the Basie band later that year. I think it was ’57 or ’58, somewhere in there. Basie had Al Grey, Benny Powell and Snooky Young and Thad Jones and Marshall Royal. I mean, it was one of the great bands. I also heard Woody Herman’s band, when Bill Chase was with him and Phil Wilson and Sal Nestico. That was a great band. I heard a lot of real music, big band wise. Also, my folks liked New Orleans traditional. We had a lot of Louis Armstrong records. I actually started improvising in the New Orleans traditional style. You know, they would listen to orchestral music too, and of course Latin music and Mexican music. Then when I was in high school, somebody gave me a J.J. Johnson record. At that point, it was all over. I said, ‘wow, what is this? I want to get with this. I didn’t even know you could play a trombone like that.’ I was blown away, so I started getting everything of his that I could find, and try to learn it, and see how you can apply that. Of course, back then, there weren’t any books of transcriptions, or no Real Book, or anything. I just used to get the records and wear them out, play along with the record. And it was really better that way, as far as I’m concerned, because you learn the music from the ear. You learn the nuances and the phrasing and the feel of where you place the rhythm and everything, rather than just looking at notes on a paper.

    JazzUSA: Man, one day, last year, I was in New Orleans walking through the French Quarter, and I heard two screaming trombones. It was you and Al Grey. I could hear you guys a block away.

    ST: Really?

    JazzUSA: I felt like one of those kids in The Pied Piper, I just followed the sound.

    ST: Man, you know he’s gone now. That is such a loss. I knew Al wasn’t well, but I didn’t expect him to leave us like that. And Britt Woodman left us this year too.

    JazzUSA: Were those guys very influential on you?

    ST: Definitely, but not like J.J. I just think J.J. is the father of the modern style, but Britt recorded with me. He’s on two of my records.

    JazzUSA: Yes, he’s on that great shell choir record….

    ST: The Rhythm Within?

    JazzUSA: No, the self-titled one from just a few years ago.

    ST: Yes, Britt’s on both the Steve Turre and The Rhythm Within. On The Rhythm Within, which is another shell choir record, with Herbie (Hancock) and Pharoah (Sanders) and Jon Faddis. There’s one tune on there that’s just a duet between the two of us. You see I love Lawrence Brown too, and Britt is the direct descendant of Lawrence Brown. He took Lawrence’s place in Duke’s band. I appreciate that approach. But I like all the different approaches. (laughs)

    JazzUSA: How did you learn how to play shells? Where did that come from?

    ST: Self-taught. You don’t learn that in school.

    JazzUSA: So what did you do, just one day walk on the beach pick one up and blow?

    ST: No, no, no, no. That was Rahsaan. You know how I said, whenever Rahsaan would come through town a couple times a year and I’d work the local club with him.

    JazzUSA: Uh-huh.

    ST: Every time he’d come to town, he’d have something a little different. He’d have a few different tunes. He’d bring a different instrument. Sometimes, he’d make them himself. One time he had the nose flute. Another time he had the black mystery pipe, which was a piece of black garden hose that he’d taped a funnel to the end of it, and put a saxophone mouthpiece at the other end of it. Then he’d cut some finger holes, and he played it something like a snake charmer instrument. That was the black mystery pipe. Another time he came, he had a shell and a gong. He would just hit this one note on the shell and circular breathe, because he was the man for that. Remember that b.s. they had on television about Kenny G holding the note for the Guinness Book of World Records. That was bullshit.

    JazzUSA: Absolutely.

    ST: (laughing) Purity bull, and he knows it too. Rahsaan, up there, where ever he is, knows it too. Rahsaan was the champ.

    JazzUSA: He’s proven that on live recordings.

    ST: I know. Prepare Thyself To Deal With A Miracle. Anyway, Rahsaan would hold this note on the shell, and then would intermittently hit the shell on the gong. It would be like a meditation. And it would cast this vibration over the room, and all of a sudden, the whole room was just still. And out of that, he would put the tenor in his mouth and come out with a real pretty ballad, you know, real whoosy, like Ben Webster. And it was really hip. But the sound of the shells just touched me. So after the gig I asked if I could play it. So I blew it, and I said, ‘aw man.” A couple of months later, I found one. At first, I played just the one note into it too. Then I found that if I put my hand in it, I could change the note and I realized that if I really wanted to play melodies, with some arranged pieces, I would have to get more shells. Then it was just a matter of trial, error and evolution. And as I evolved as a musician, I was able to hear how to make music out of the instrument.

    Of course, I’m not going to play a Charlie Parker or a Coltrane tune, Donna Lee, Giant Steps, or nothing like that. I can’t play that on the shell. And I’ve had some people say, well it’s not a legitimate instrument because you can’t play Donna Lee on the shell. Well, I never heard Tricky Sam (Nanton) play Donna Lee on the plunger, but nobody says that about him. At first, I was very shy about bringing the shell out, because people used to accuse Rahsaan of being a gimmick. I was with him and we were very close friends, and I could see that it hurt him very deeply when people would accuse him of being a gimmick. He was sincere. He was real. That wasn’t no bull, it was beautiful music.

    So I became sensitized to that issue, and I didn’t want to be called a gimmick with that. So I was, at first, very shy about bringing it out. Then I had an experience in the late 70’s. I went to Mexico with Woody Shaw. We played a concert in Mexico City, and a lot of my family came out. I invited them and they came to the concert. That night, Woody called a tune where I played the shells, and the people really responded and everything. After the concert, my relatives, we got together and had coffee and cake and stuff. We were talking and they said, ‘you know, your ancestors use the shells.’ I said, ‘what?’ They said, ‘you go to the museum.’ So I went to Mexico City where they’ve got a big archeological museum. They’ve got all the artifacts from the Mayan Aztecs and everything. And they had shell instruments, just like what I was playing. I was blown away. I said, ‘golly, no wonder I’m attracted to them.’ I decided then that I was drawn to this for a reason and I was supposed to do it, and I don’t care what people think, I’m gonna do it.

    JazzUSA: So it has to be especially gratifying when you started placing high up in miscellaneous instrument categories in polls.

    ST: Well, I appreciate what I’m doing. Sure, it’s good to be appreciated. But what really makes me feel I’m on the right track is not what any magazine says. I mean, that’s an honor and it’s good for business and I appreciate it. But what lets me know that I was on the right track was that Dizzy liked it. Dizzy not only featured me on the shells when I was with the United Nations Jazz Orchestra, but he also played on my record with the shells. And J.J. asked me to record with him, just playing the shells. Verve is still sitting on that. It’s still in the can.

    JazzUSA: What kind of guy was Rahsaan?

    ST: That’s a hard question because he had so many sides. He was so brilliant and such a mind that you just can’t put him in a bag. You couldn’t define him. He was beyond being defined. He could sit down and talk to you about Louis Armstrong or Sidney Bechet, and the next day have a deep conversation about Charlie Parker, then about Ellington. He’s the one who really turned me on to how bad Ellington really was. Then he might be talking about Cecil Taylor another day. He could play out. Remember that Mingus record Live At Avery Fisher, Rahsaan was on it, Jon Faddis and George Adams, where George Adams tried to go outside on Rahsaan. Rahsaan wiped the floor with him. He took that shit so far out, it was just incredible.

    JazzUSA: He also liked pop music too.

    ST: He liked music, if it was good music. He played some pop tunes, but he didn’t play any jive tunes. He played good tunes. He liked anything that was happening.

    JazzUSA: As a person, was he jovial, sad, intense, always nice?

    ST: He was unpredictable. Not only on, but off the bandstand. Sometimes, we would go into his house and we would rehearse and then we’d get to the gig and he wouldn’t play anything that we’d rehearsed. (laughs) He didn’t know what he was doing. He just let the spirit lead him. He didn’t have any preconceptions. He just went with the feelings. Another thing. He wouldn’t bit his tongue. He would tell it like it is. And that didn’t make him popular with the powers that be with the record companies and the television kind of people. In terms of the business establishment promoting him, they didn’t give him a lot of hype, because he told it like it is. During the 60’s and into the 70’s, there was a lot of protests going on, and he would tell it like it is. He had zero tolerance for racism. He was open to all people, if the spirit was right. Obviously, he was blind; he couldn’t see what color you were. But he could tell be the tone of your voice, where your spirit was coming from. He didn’t tolerate racism of any kind. He would speak out about it swiftly and set it straight. He was outspoken, but he loved to have fun too. He was a practical joker. He was a great teacher. He was so wonderful to me.

    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…

    The Life and Music of Jean Luc Ponty

    Jean Luc PontyAn Interview:
    The Life and Music of Jean Luc Ponty
    by Paula Edelstein

    Jean Luc Ponty is a pioneer and undisputed master of violin in the arena of jazz and rock. He is widely regarded as an innovator who has applied his unique visionary spin that has expanded the vocabulary of modern music. Ponty was born in a family of classical musicians on September 29, 1942 in Avranches, France. His father taught violin, his mother taught piano. At sixteen, he was admitted to the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris, graduating two years later with the institution’s highest award, Premier Prix. In turn, he was immediately hired by one of the major symphony orchestras, Concerts Lamoureux, where he played for three years. While still a member of the orchestra in Paris, Ponty picked up a side gig playing clarinet (which his father had taught him) for a college jazz band that regularly performed at local parties. It proved a life-changing jumping-off point. A growing interest in the jazz sounds of Miles Davis and John Coltrane compelled him to take up the tenor saxophone. Fueled by an all-encompassing creative passion, Jean-Luc soon felt the need to express his jazz voice through his main instrument, the violin.

    Ponty’s notoriety grew with remarkable leaps and by 1964, at age 22, he released his debut solo album for Philips, Jazz Long Playing. A 1966 live album called Violin Summit united Ponty on stage in Basel, Switzerland with such notable string talents as Svend Asmussen, Stéphane Grappelli and Stuff Smith. In 1967, John Lewis of The Modern Jazz Quartet invited Ponty to perform at the Monterey Jazz Festival. Jean-Luc’s first-ever American appearance garnered thunderous applause and led to a U.S. recording contract with the World Pacific label (Electric Connection with the Gerald Wilson Big Band, Jean-Luc Ponty Experience with the George Duke Trio). Through the late-60s and early 70s, Ponty achieved mounting critical praise and popularity across Europe. In turn, the violinist soon found his signature talents in demand by top recording artists the world over. In 1995 Ponty, Al DiMeola and Stanley Clarke formed the RITE OF STRINGS and recorded an album under the same name. The tour was met with astounding success and once again in 2004, a new generation of fans are privileged to hear and see the original Rite of Strings concert at venues across the USA. In addition to the Rite of Strings concert tour, Jean Luc Ponty has released a DVD and CD titled IN CONCERT to coincide with the Rite of Strings tour.

    As one of the most innovative electric violinists to ever grace a bandstand, Jean Luc Ponty electrifies his fans during this awesome “live” recording in Warsaw, Poland on October 23, 1999. Simply titled IN CONCERT, Ponty is joined by his touring band of William Lecomte on keyboards, Guy Nsangue Akwa on bass, Thierry Arpino on drums and Moustapha Cisse on percussion and together they deliver a powerful musical journey that will have listeners feeling as though they have been accompany the great man on this exemplary voyage. With the release of the audio CD and DVD of the same name, the two-volume set provides a fascinating insight into Ponty’s diverse repertoire, which remains unparalleled by many of his electric violin contemporaries. With its West African rhythms, French classicism, electric jazz and a superlative command of the many ranges of the violin, Jean Luc Ponty captures the many flavors of music in this exciting MUST HAVE event. We had the extraordinary privilege of speaking to the great Jean Luc Ponty about IN CONCERT, his life and his music.

    P.E.: Jean Luc, thank you so much for the interview. Congratulations on the re-emergence of the Rite of Strings collaboration with Stanley Clarke and Al DiMeola in addition to the release of your latest recording and DVD titled JEAN LUC-PONTY IN CONCERT. What a remarkable job of providing both a historical overview of your development with Stanley and Al plus giving a new generation of fans a chance to see and hear some of your best concert performances from around the world. What are your thoughts on the Rite of Strings at this point of your career?

    J.L.P.: The experience, to me, is better than ten years ago because it grew on us and we know each other better than we did when we first got together. We have a better grasp of the music – each of us have brought original compositions – we have thought about what we need to do to improve our more improvised direction.

    P.E.: I’d like to give our readers some insight into your musical career. So let’s start with your major influences and why you chose to play the violin as opposed to another musical instrument and how you go into jazz?

    J.L.P.: My father was a violin teacher and my mother was a piano teacher. It was an influence but I guess the vocation and the talent has to be there personally and you either have it or not. But since my parents were professional musicians, they knew how to direct me so that I would learn my instrument in the best way possible. They just started me out.

    P.E.: Were you trained formally and with whom?

    J.L.P.: Once I decided to become a professional, they sent me to the best school in Paris, France – Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris. I graduated from that school at age 17 and was going to become a classical musician. In fact, my vocation was to become a classical conductor – I love conducting. But before I could get into that, I got into jazz because I also played piano in the background. I chose violin as my main instrument when I was eleven and I stopped studying piano somehow. But whatever I do on the keyboards was extremely helpful when I wanted to start writing my own music later on. So to answer the question of how, I got into jazz… I also had learned to play the clarinet but it was more like a hobby cause I really love the wind instruments as well. So that’s how I got into jazz because there was a jazz band in Paris made of students. They were not professionals but they were playing at the university and they were looking for a clarinet player. They taught me what jazz was about; I had a good ear and could improvise the art. In the late 60s, I discovered Miles Davis, John Coltrane and the whole bebop and hard bop school of jazz and I became very passionate about the music and decided to switch to the violin because I had a lot more technical ability. However, I did not know that my instrument was very rarely used in that style of jazz and more so in modern jazz. So I started with some prejudice against me because many in jazz thought the violin was to be used to play the older styles of jazz like swing, but certainly not modern jazz.

    P.E.: Combining the violin, guitar and acoustic bass as the core of the band was a daring move at that time. Now, that your fans have come to know that this combination of strings, professionalism, and personal interaction is timeless and continues to excite another generation, what advice can you give to aspiring trios that are contemplating the use of this particular string format?

    J.L.P.: Well the format – that particular one – was initially Al DiMeola’s idea. The three of us had come from the same background of music in that Era – jazz/rock fusion in the 70s and we had crossed paths but had never played together. I had played with Stanley on two occasions in France but had not played with Al. So Al’s idea was to have us play acoustically because he knew of Stanley’s sensational playing of the double bass and that he had done arrangements as an acoustic bass player, and was also well known around the world as an electric bassist. In fact he started on a classical instrument as a young man and he also wanted to become an electric guitar player. So at first, I wasn’t sure because in jazz even though I play electric violin and had studied classical music. But very quickly in jazz, I improvised myself so that I could find the right volume to play with the drums and jazz rhythm section and that led me to a whole other sound. It was kind of a challenge for me at first, but then we realized that we had come up with original instrumentation. Sometimes you have to follow your inner voice. For the younger generation, I would say be less conforming. The whole thing is to dare, to not be afraid to be adventurous and explore new formats.

    P.E.: Your compositions have such exquisite arrangements and you write with an easy grace, energy, warmth and experimentation. What are some of the technical difficulties associated with playing the electric violin such as playing in a venue that may not be suitable for the acoustics?

    J.L.P.: I must say of all the instruments I play, the violin is the most difficult technically. I have to keep practicing every day if I want to stay sharp. I don’t think there is any difference as far as the venues go. I think it’s better playing in a concert hall.

    P.E.: What equipment do you use?

    J.L.P.: My main instrument is a 5-string electric violin (with a low C string) made for me in 1993 by Zeta Music Systems. It is available for sale as the “Jean Luc Ponty Signature Model”. I also play the Zeta violin through a MIDI controller, model VC-225, also by Zeta. I also use a 5-string Barcus-Berry made in 1980 with natural wood finish, which I use when I want a more acoustic sound but still needs amplification. I use my Barcus-Berry through a small EQ box called PARA ACOUSTIC D.I. made by L.R. Baggs. They also make a great bridge with incorporated pickup for acoustic violin. On occasion, I might also use a 6-string electric violin (with low C and F strings) called the Violectra. This is not to be confused with the violectra by Barcus-Berry which I played from the late 60s to the mid-80s, which is a regular 4-string violin with special strings tuned one octave lower. This new 6-string “Violectra” was invented by David Bruce Johnson in the 90s. My favorite violin bow is a “Spiccato” made by Benoit Rolland, a very talented bow maker from France recently established in the U.S.A. – this bow is made of composite material and has a unique system to adjust the tension and balance of the stick according to the personal needs of the player. All of the violins are equipped with Helicore strings by D’Addario.

    P.E.: The material on IN CONCERT covers much of your versatile career and includes some of your best work with “Enigmatic Ocean,” “Open Mind,” and “Pastoral Harmony.” What is your favorite composition and why?

    J.L.P.: No favorites, they are all like my children. I have written at least 200-300 compositions and obviously the ones that I keep playing, like the ones on the IN CONCERT DVD and the recording, or the ones with The Rite of Strings go all the way back to the 70s. So there are some contrasts right there.

    P.E.: I understand that you will be making personal appearances with your daughter Clara at the Border’s Book Stores very soon. Is she still a protégé?

    J.L.P.: She was. She is no longer. She began playing at a very young age and started composing at a very young age. She studied classical technique and has since started composing on her own. The Borders tour is not a concert, but Clara will be playing the piano and I’ll be doing mostly a meet and greet!

    P.E.: We’re looking forward to that. Finally, Jean Luc, you’ve explored many facets of the jazz idiom and have opened the doors for many of today’s contemporary jazz violinists such as Regina Carter, Karen Briggs, etc. What are your thoughts of the state of the violin in jazz today?

    J.L.P.: I think they are doing a very good job. I know Regina personally and I’ve heard Karen. They are very talented. There are a few wonderful violinists around the world…I heard a young man in Moscow, Russia and he was swinging! I didn’t’ expect to hear such great jazz in Russia! There is another young man from Denmark – Mads Vinding. He is sensational. There are also a few up and coming jazz violinists in France. For a very long time, I was thinking what I had started was at a dead end. But I am very pleased that the younger generation has picked up on the idea and it makes me very happy!

    P.E.: Thank you so much Jean Luc. We really appreciate everything you have contributed to the music world and especially your influence on modern day jazz violinists. Where can your fans visit you to learn more about upcoming concerts and tours?

    J.L.P.: Thank you Paula. My fans can visit me at http://www.ponty.com for tour and concert information.


    Reprinted with permission of…

    An Interview with John Pizzarelli

    John Pizzarelli“LET THERE BE LOVE” says
    John Pizzarelli
    By Paula Edelstein

    The young and gifted Sinatra-style singer and guitarist showcases his golden tenor on 15 great songs collected for LET THERE BE LOVE. As with our generation, John Pizzarelli grew up hearing plenty of great pop songs, great jazz, Tin Pan Alley and Great American Songbook standards that stayed in his memory. The son of great jazz guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli – John embarked on a music career with a style owed to his dad, Wes Montgomery, Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald. His voice works perfectly for the 15 songs on his latest release for Telarc Jazz, LET THERE BE LOVE, a soft, romantic gentle CD that sounds great anytime. With favorites like “Let There Be Love,” “Our Love Rolls On” and “Everything I Have Is Yours,” any hopeless romantic will be forever enamored with the beauty of this collection. John wrote four originals and the songs selected span 70 years of songwriting which reflect the universality of love over time. LET THERE BE LOVE —our sentiments exactly! We caught up with John between concerts and talked about his great new record.

    JazzUSA: Hello John! Congratulations on your new release for Telarc Jazz, LET THERE BE LOVE. You’ve stepped away from the trio format on this one and brought together a really great ensemble for the CD that includes your dad, the great guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, your brother Martin Pizzarelli on bass, Ray Kennedy on piano, Tony Tedesco along with Ken Peplowski on tenor saxophone, among others. They really show their appreciation for your spontaneous expression of love! How did you get these guys all together in one place?

    JP: Tony Tedesco is our drummer when we do Pop’s gigs, like with symphonies and big bands and he has played on our records before. Kenny Peplowski plays clarinet and Harry Allen on tenor sax have been old friends of ours…so if you can get them in town all at the same time, then we have our problems solved. Adding the drums was more of a business decision; because there’s something about the drums that has that added shine to it that sounds better on the radio. I wanted the sound of brushes on the tracks…the intimate sound of a guy playing brushes as if you’re just sitting around the living room!

    JazzUSA: That intimate sound is definitely coming across on the CD. You continue to please your audiences with your great interpretations of the Great American Songbooks, wit and great original compositions. LET THERE BE LOVE spans 70 years of songwriting from some of the greatest writers in music history! How involved is paring down a list of that magnitude to get to the great 15 songs you included?

    John PizzarelliJP: I’ve been very lucky (as I knock wood) that there’s an editor that plays a crucial role in that. All the songs just come out the right way. The ones that aren’t supposed to be on the record usually don’t make it. I was just happy that this ended up being the right songs at the right time. You just know. It just always works out right. These decisions just seem to work out right!

    JazzUSA: Besides singing and playing such great love standards as “These Foolish Things,” “As Time Goes By” and “Our Love Rolls On” you’ve collaborated with your wife, Jessica Molasky and Ray Kennedy to write “Lucky Charm” and “It’s Our Little Secret.” “All I Saw Was You” is yours alone. Can you give your readers and listeners an inside tip on the inspiration and influence for these three songs?

    JP: You know it’s funny, the way Jess and I write. On “Lucky Charm,” I had this melody in my head, and I think I may have come up with the title. So whenever we write, I say something like, “we have to write a song like this.” And she is able to take that dumb idea that I come up with and write some really interesting, funny and intelligent lyrics! So that just happens. We had half of “Lucky Charm” written, went to dinner and then wrote the rest of it while waiting for the waiter to bring our dinner. So there we were, coming up with all different “arm” rhymes…farm, shoes on the table, Don Knotts and Clark Gable…(laughs). And with the “Our Little Secret,” Ray Kennedy had this instrumental melody that I was listening to. But I was thinking, “you know what, the way this record is turning out, I don’t think an instrumental is going to work on this record.” Literally, I was waiting for a ham sandwich to come, was home alone and I thought, well let me sit down and see if I can come up with a lyric for this. So in about one hour, I had the lyric worked out. On “All I Saw Was You,” which is my song… I wrote that song on a train between Washington, D.C. to New York, and I was just trying to think of song titles. I thought of an old Harry Warren song and thought, “what other way can I say that?” So because there were hardly any people in that particular train car, I was able to take out my guitar and write this song’s melody.

    JazzUSA: You’ve stated that the concept for LET THERE BE LOVE is “songs which reflect the universality of love over time.” One of my favorite songs is “Everything I Have Is Yours” and you sing it with such great nuance and phrasing, it’s so romantic. Had this song been in your repertoire for some time or did you select it especially for this CD?

    JP: I actually had awakened about 5:00 a.m. one day and couldn’t sleep. So I was going through this songbook of the 40s and stumbled upon this song. I had met Burton Lane who had written that song years ago so I started to play it. I thought, “This is really good.” I’d never been through the whole song before.

    JazzUSA: The tribute to Les Paul “Just One More Chance,” is ripe. Why did you choose this particular song to dedicate to Les Paul?

    John PizzarelliJP: That song was a hit for Les Paul and Mary Ford in the early 50s and my dad had been subbing for Les Paul at the Iridium a couple of nights when Les was sick. So he had been playing it with their group and told me he loved this song called “Just One More Chance.” So I found a lead sheet of it and the music to it and went over it. I thought it would be great to get my dad to play on it, so I kind of beat him to the punch! That’s probably the oldest one on the CD, circa 1931. Arthur Johnston wrote that song and he is one of the co-writers of “Pennies From Heaven.” So just a little trivia for you!

    JazzUSA: Great trivia…thank you so much! Your legendary father, Bucky Pizzarelli joins you on another tribute to seven-string guitar pioneer George van Eps on “I Don’t Know Why (I Love You Like I Do).” Was George one of the reasons you began playing a seven-string guitar?

    JP: Indirectly. My father had always been a great admirer of George from hearing him on record and meeting him. In the 60s, George had a seven-string guitar mass-produced by Gretsch guitars. My father bought one and played it all the time. So when I started playing the guitar and playing with my father, he said, “why don’t you play the seven-string? It’s a good accompaniment instrument and I can use my seven string to accompany you and you can accompany me.” So I stumbled upon it because of my dad and he because of George van Eps.

    JazzUSA: Funny how those things happen! Will you be appearing in concert soon?

    JP: We have a long tour coming up with Maureen McGovern in 2001. Check out our tour information at www.johnpizzarelli.com and www.telarc.com We’ll be playing some great cities, so look for one near you!

    JazzUSA: Thank you so much, John for this great interview. We really wish you a lot of success with LET THERE BE LOVE. Our sentiments exactly!

    An Interview with Yulara

    An Interview with
    Yulara
    by Paula Edelstein

    “What we have in mind with FUTURE TRIBE is to go to the one place that everybody carries within themselves. We believe that the whole external universe is also found within us all. There’s one planet, and this one planet is called Yulara. On this one planet is this peaceful, easy, partying tribe, and it’s the future tribe. Everybody can connect to the Future Tribe within.” Groove, soul, heart, Yulara.

    Now I can really get behind the concept of Yulara’s (Annie Hilsberg and Robert Matt) latest CD entitled FUTURE TRIBE on the Higher Octave Label. Songs like “Om Namah Shivaya,” “Future Tribe” and “Children of the Pleaides” really prepare a place for you in a very peaceful universe. The 12 great songs relay their jazz, world, ambient, and trance dance grooves in such a way as to really pull you into their musical realizations. African vocalist Angelique Kidjo (who co-wrote the title song), the very talented guitarist Brian Hughes and Cusco join the talented duo, on this great musical excursion. I caught up with Annie for a really nice chat about her latest CD. Let’s hear what she had to say!

    JazzUSA: Hello Annie! Congratulations on your latest release FUTURE TRIBE. It’s really a great way to bring the world together! I really like the concept and with all the ruckus in the world, we can always use a great planet like Yulara! Many with the Venus vibe could use some more help! Are the songs a variation on the themes of COSMIC TREE and ALL IS ONE?

    Yulara: Hello Paula. Yes, basically that’s right. The idea behind Yulara is that we wanted to create songs as huts in a cyber village. In this village, live people of all different cultures with music being the connecting factor. Yulara is an experience to explore this purely universal language which is music! Music knows no boundaries, needs no laws, is totally free to enter any heart at any time and has the ability to heal us human beings, to recognize our divine nature! On this CD, we added 12 new huts for the “future tribe” and found out that Yulara is actually a planet within – Annieways – that’s the idea.

    JazzUSA: Bringing people together through the power of music is always a great idea. I imagine you’re gaining an even bigger audience with FUTURE TRIBE with the addition of such great guest stars as Angelique Kidjo, Brian Hughes and Cusco?

    Yulara: It was an honor for us to work with these musicians and sure, we hope that this work will broaden the audience of Yulara.

    JazzUSA: Annie, when you and Matt were deciding which songs to include on FUTURE TRIBE, did you have Angelique in mind to co-write the title track or was it a spontaneous happening in the studio?

    Yulara: It was the idea of Patrick Conseil at Warner Chappell in New York and thanks to him, we were able to send tracks back and forth between Berlin (Germany) and New York (USA) with the vocals recorded on to the playback. Jean, Angelique’s husband did the vocal recording in his studio in New York and Robert included them in the song arrangement in Berlin. It was a meeting in musical cyberspace! The song turned out so well and the name says the whole thing about the vibe of the CD that it’s the title track now!

    JazzUSA: Annie, Wow!! FUTURE TRIBE spotlights Yulara’s increasingly jazzy, up tempo direction which is another stage in your musical evolution. Why have you chosen to include more jazz elements in your music?

    Yulara: To us, it is simply an evolutio of the Yulara Sound. It’s just fun, to play these kind of tunes and rhythms and they do contain jazz. We also love many great saxophone players as well as other instrumentalists in jazz history. But jazz is evolving all the time…in all directions and so on FUTURE TRIBE, there are also influences of World music and definitely Ambient or as we call it Trance Dance in it.

    JazzUSA: Annie, you are one of three really special female saxophone players that I respect and admire; the other two being Candi Dulfer and Suzanne Grzanna. Why did you choose the saxophone to express your musical talent?

    Yulara: I started to play flute when I was 12 and then picked up the saxophone only when I was 19, so that was pretty late. But that’s when I also wanted to be able to express the “yang” side in me – the more male energy; to scream out what I had to say…and the saxophone is the closest instrument to the human voice and what I love I that you can tell stories with it. To me, what makes it very attractive is that you can express all kinds of emotions with it. But, I also love the flute and especially the alto flute which I play a lot on all three CDs. It has a very deep, healing sound quality and a mystic element to it.

    JazzUSA: You really expressed what a lot of us feel. I really enjoy both instruments – saxophone and flute for those same reasons. Which saxophone do you play and which reed gets the best sound for you?

    Yulara: I play a silver Selmer Super Action Series 2 and Guardala Super R&B mouthpiece! I tried many times to get different mouthpieces, but none of them worked as goo as this one so I stick to it!! I play Bari Plastic reeds. It’s a very loud set up but I love playing “live” with this set up. It’s fun and has a lot of power. My soprano saxophone is a curved Yanagisawa with two metal platings and I play is with a Bari mouthpiece and Vandoren reeds. It’s my baby! I bought it after playing about five notes on it. I fell in love with it right away!!

    JazzUSA: Those are really beautiful horns and you sound great Annie. The great Indian rhythms, World grooves and multi-cultural jazz experience that we are hearing on FUTURE TRIBE is often categorized as New Age in the USA. Is there such a category on German radio?

    Yulara: Only to a very small degree. In Germany, we didn’t have a New Age movement like in the USA. Some tracks are surely known here but probably more in the “esoteric” field or in Ambient music like “Café del mar” or the whole Ibiza – chill out groove. These different scenes haven’t met the broad radio audiences so far.

    JazzUSA: Well you’re really making an impact with FUTURE TRIBE on our shores. Is there a tour in the works and if so, are you coming to the USA?

    Yulara: We really want to – and we’re ready to come to the USA anytime. We’re trying to find a good management company for the USA right now. So if anybody wants to help us, please write to Yulara@23rdspirit.de!

    JazzUSA: Annie you’re so talented, that shouldn’t take very long. But I know what you mean when you want to express yourself just right…and with the right people backing you. Thank you so much for this interview. I really like FUTURE TRIBE. Tell Robert thanks and say hello to Angelique, Brian and Cusco. Stay in touch!

    Yulara: Paula, thank you so much.

    JazzUSA: Annie, I had a great time and you’re so welcome. Stay in touch with YULARA (Annie Hilsberg and Robert Matt) and check out their latest CD, FUTURE TRIBE on Higher Octave Music. Visit their website at http://www.yulara.com

    An Interview with Dee Dee Bridgewater


    An Interview with
    Dee Dee Bridgewater
    October 1997
    By Mark Ruffin

    The first time I had ever heard of D.D. Bridgewater was as a young musician back in the very early 70’s while I was still in high school in suburban Chicago. The word among high school jazz bands was that the University of Illinois had the best jazz band in the state. Even after I chose Southern Illinois University, the legend of that band grew even as the star students D.D. Bridgewater, Cecil Bridgewater and Donald Smith moved onto become red hot professionals with Roy Ayers’ Ubiquity, Horace Silver and Lonnie Liston Smith (Don’s brother) respectively.

    It was on the Ayers soundtrack album “Coffy” where I actually first heard Bridgewater sing. The next time was on Stanley Clarke’s classic debut album “Children Of Forever” and I was hooked. I followed her career from her great 1978 Clarke produced debut album on Elektra “Just Family,” to her cameos with jazz acts ranging from Norman Connors to the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Big Band. Her next album “Bad For Me” came out the next year and was produced by George Duke. But by that time she had established herself as an actress with a Toni award for her role as Glenda The Good Witch in the Broadway production of “The Wiz.” She reprised that role in the movie version with Michael Jackson and Diana Ross and other movie roles followed including the basketball film “The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh” and John Sayles’ cult classic “The Brother From Another Planet.”

    The first time I met D.D.Bridgewater was Thursday afternoon, April 7th 1994. The date is so etched in my mind because the night before I witnessed an unbelievable Carnegie Hall concert and party where actress/singer Vanessa Williams and over 50 of the top jazz musicians alive jived and jammed until the wee hours and no one could ever forget that. The public part of that event, “Carnegie Hall Salutes The Jazz Masters” became a Verve album, Polygram Video and PBS television special. On it, Bridgewater paid tribute to Ella Fitzgerald with a brilliant version of “Shiny Stockings.” Little did she know that three years later, she would record “Dear Ella,” a whole album full of Ella Fitzgerald tunes.

    By this time, Bridgewater had completely re-invented herself. Gone was any of the pop trappings of her first two albums. She had also been gone to France. The French adopted her just as they had Josephine Baker over half a century earlier. She was a huge star and at the time rarely came home. Why should she, when she and Ray Charles had one of the biggest hits of the 80’s in Europe and couldn’t even get the song released in the States. Overseas, she was playing nothing but concerts at big halls and being treated like royalty, where in the States, her former record company MCA had treated her like an afterthought. But the opportunity to build her career at home came when she signed with Polygram/France, because in America her records would be on the prestigious jazz label Verve

    Today, even the casual jazz listener knows about her serious jazz singing and her ebullient joyous nature, but on this day “Love And Peace” hadn’t been nominated for a Grammy and topped every jazz sales and critic chart. She was just beginning to charm America and was very anxious to sit with a journalist she had heard was a big fan. We met at Verve’s Manhattan office, but could only find solitude in a storeroom. Needless to say, the music on the walls led to a wide varied discussion about jazz, her life and career and surprisingly my life. We became friends quickly. Not the kind of personal friends where I fly to Paris to see her (I wish) or where she even thinks about calling me. But whenever she’s comes to my hometown somehow we manage to always see each other and hug and laugh, if only for a few minutes.

    The following interview was at least our fifth meeting. The number of times I have seen her since that day three years ago is surprising considering where she lives. But then again the frequency is a direct result of America finally recognizing her unique talent.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: All of the songs on your new album are songs that Ella Fitzgerald sung in her lifetime, except the title track. Tell us a little about that.

    D.D. Bridgewater: Kenny Burrell composed and wrote the lyrics to this song and he had written it in 1995 for Ella and he never did have the opportunity to get it to her, to play it for her, just to have her hear it before she died in ’96. I had contacted him about doing a number or two on the album to represent the years she had worked with Joe Pass. He said, well you know I’ve written this song. And he told me about “Dear Ella. He sent me the cd and the lyrics and I really liked it. So I said well, why don’t we do that as the duet piece, so that’s how it happened.

    But he didn’t want it to be a duet piece, but that’s one of the wonderful things that I get to enjoy as a producer, exercising producer decisions. I told him I’d have Ray Brown and Lou Levy and Andre Ceccarelli, who’s my drummer in France for 12 years in the studio, so that if it didn’t go well as a duo, we could work it into a quartet piece. Of course, I scheduled their arrival for two hours later than our studio time. So he was waiting and I was like well Kenny let’s just do it you and I and let’s see how it goes, so I’m very pleased about that. It worked out very well. I love it. There’s a version that he plays a solo on that’s not on the album because it’s nine minutes long if I left everything in. So, this is an edited version.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: When I first heard that you were doing a tribute album, I had mixed emotions because there’s a current glut. You know how record companies are, if there’s one success, they all hop on the train, and right now the hot thing in jazz right now is tribute albums.

    D.D. Bridgewater: I didn’t know that.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: Well your record “Love And Peace” really kind of set the current standard. After that more just followed. I thought well, I know D.D. is going to do a great job, and I didn’t know who the tribute was going to be to. When I found out it was Ella, I was surprised because I wanted to know the motivation. I thought, wouldn’t D.D. do a Sarah Vaughan tribute? Isn’t she your main influence?

    D.D. Bridgewater: No, I wouldn’t say Sarah was my main influence. I would say my main influences are Sarah, Ella and Billie Holiday. I would say the most influential singer for me in terms of how I approach my music is Betty Carter. And then in terms of image, it’s Nancy Wilson. But in the beginning of my career I was always associated with Sarah mostly, Ella for scat and Billie for ballads. But my sound is closest to Sarah Vaughan. I would say the timbre of my voice is closer to Sassy. I was going to do a tribute to Sarah Vaughan with Frank Foster with the Count Basie Orchestra, because I thought, ooh, that would be fun and that kind of fell apart.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: Well tell me about the motivation for “Dear Ella.”

    D.D. Bridgewater: To be very honest, when Ella passed, I was surprisingly shocked. Even for me, I was devastated. There’s no other word, I was devastated, and it was very difficult for me to even speak about her for four months without crying. I think it was just that she was someone who I just took for granted. I mean, she was like always there. She’s always been there and I thought that she would always be there. I knew that she had been very very ill, but I didn’t know that it was that serious. After she had her first amputation, that’s when I realized it was serious, but they kept it so hushed, that it was a shock.

    So I thought that this woman, to me, was the jazz singer who is responsible for making jazz singing so popular all over the world, Ella Fitzgerald is, among all the jazz singers, the most singularly popular jazz singer who is known all over the world, and who is a household name. And in this country, she is a legend. She is part of American music period without us saying a jazz singer. I mean, she was a jazz singer but she’s also part of the American music legacy. So for me I just felt she warranted a tribute and no one did anything so I realized that in October. She died in June and in October I was like there’s nobody doing anything. This is crazy. So by the end of October, I said to the record company, well maybe I’ll do,,,, Maybe I’ll try…And they all jumped on it.

    In France, Jean Phillipe-Allard, who runs Polygram Classics & Jazz, he thought this was the best idea since I don’t know what. So the next thing I knew, I’m calling him back two days later saying I’ve changed my mind. I don’t think I should do this. This is too risky. I don’t want to be labeled as the tribute singer. He said, it’s too late because I’ve done like a survey all over and everybody wants you to do this, and I’m like oh wow. Then it became a task of really getting down to the nitty-gritty and doing it, so the first person I called was Ray Brown.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: So it wasn’t a record company decision at all. It was just by chance that you happened to be in flow with the times and they jumped at it.

    D.D. Bridgewater: Yeah, usually what I do for my albums, I will decide what I want to do and I’d call them up and I’d say okay gentlemen, this is my next project. It’s going to be this, and they don’t hear anything until I come back with the finished product.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: I notice the album is broken up into four different parts; orchestra, big band, combo, trio and duet. And I noticed that you did all the work hiring the contractors, booking the studio and everything yourself. Did you have fun doing that?

    D.D. Bridgewater: (laughing) I can’t say it was fun doing it. But, when the end result is what you had in your mind, then that’s when the fun begins. When you have the finished product in your hand and it’s come out the way you had hoped it would come out, then that’s when I’m happy and I see that what I wanted to do as a producer actually worked. I think the role of a producer is to delegate the responsibilities and to put together the right creative team to make the product that it is that you’re trying to achieve for the artist. So, since I am the artist and I am the producer, as the artist, what I was trying to achieve with this was a kind of retrospective of all of the various aspects of Ella’s career.

    In my opinion, one couldn’t do a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald and not try and touch on all the different bases. You know, the songbook period, which was mostly with orchestras, all of the big band things she did with Count Basie and Duke Ellington and the different big bands that she worked with. She did do some stuff in combo, but the combo stuff was really for me because I wanted a piece with Milt Jackson to tell you the honest to god truth.(laughing) I had to have Bags.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: Along with Milt, you have a host of folks on the album including Antonio Hart on alto, Lou Levy on piano, Grady Tate on drums, Slide Hampton on trombone, your first husband, Cecil Bridgewater on trumpet, and Ella Fitzgerald’s first husband, Ray Brown, the first person you called, on bass. Why was he the first person you called?

    D.D. Bridgewater: First I called Ray just to find out if he thought it was a good idea that I do the tribute. He felt that it was and he really felt that if anyone was going to do it that it should be me. Then I thought it would add credibility to it if he was actually on the album. So he’s like the conduit. I also wanted to have a pianist that had worked with Ella and Oscar(Peterson) was not well at the time. It was too risky. Hank (Jones) wasn’t free. I couldn’t get a hold of Tommy Flanagan and again Jean Phillipe-Allard suggested Lou Levy. Grady Tate worked with her on a lot of the big band sessions she did. A lot of the musicians that I have on the album, without me knowing worked with Ella.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: As you were putting this together how did you deal with those great Nelson Riddle arrangements? Did you just have to throw those out the window?

    D.D. Bridgewater: I didn’t think about that at all. What I was trying to do with the album was to give more play to underrated arrangers and to give more play to musicians who I think are being passed over by the record companies.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: Did you know Ella yourself?

    D.D. Bridgewater: I met Ella, yes. I met her in 1983, the first time and I met her again in ’84 briefly, then I spent some time with her in ’89 in Paris after she had been awarded the French Medal of Arts & Letters.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: You were born and raised in America, but are you now a citizen of France?

    D.D. Bridgewater: I am not a citizen of France. No, no, no, no. I’ve been living in France for 12 years. My husband is French. I don’t see where it matters anymore where one lives. I think that as an artist, I’ve found a place that works for me, where I feel comfortable artistically and also as a human being. Which is not to say that I don’t feel comfortable when I come home. I feel very good when I’m at home. But artistically and in order for my jazz to live, I found that France was a better country, and the European continent is much more receptive to jazz music and treats jazz more as a classical music. I do only theatre and concert work, and I’m considered in France, just to be a star.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: And one indication of that is that you sung for the Pope.

    D.D. Bridgewater: I’m surprised you knew that. Yes I did.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: And you’re well known as an actress in Europe, although you did win a Tony on Broadway here for “The Wiz” and a lot of people know you as the Good Witch Glenda. And I hear you’re going back to theatre in North America. Is that true?

    D.D. Bridgewater: Maybe. I would like to maybe do a limited run of “Lady Day,” the musical that I did. Well it wasn’t really a musical, it’s a play with music about Billie Holiday that I did in Paris and in London. So I’m doing in Montreal, a limited run of the musical “Ain’t Misbehavin,” and I’m gonna do the Nell Carter role. But that’s just for two weeks, and I’m using that as an opportunity to get producers out to see me on stage again so I can speak about doing “Lady Day.”

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: In England, you were nominated for the Laurence Oliver Award for Best Actress for “Lady Day.” That had to be quite an honor.

    D.D. Bridgewater: Yes it was. First of all, in England, they don’t like to nominate foriegners. And the British theatre, for me, really is the seat of theatre. Theatre originated there and Shakespeare and all of that, so that was a very big honor to be nominated.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: And you’ve been nominated for a Grammy award three times, with “Love And Peace” being the last time.

    D.D. Bridgewater: That year I was told by a lot of the NARAS people is that they decided in the end to give the Grammy that year to Lena Horne because she’s been ill. I don’t get it, instead of giving her a Lifetime Achievement award. It’s all politics. For me, my goal isn’t to try and win a Grammy award when I do an album. My goal isn’t even to get a nomination. My goal is to honor whoever it is I selected or to do whatever it is I’ve decided to do on that project to the best of my abilities. So for me Ella Fitzgerald is the first lady of jazz. We wouldn’t be here, we jazz singers today, if it hadn’t been, a lot, for Ella Fitzgerald. And this is my way of paying my last respects to somebody I think is great.

    Other Dee Dee Bridgewater Resources

  • Verve Press Release
  • European Jazz Network
  • NetCetera
  • Patrice Rushen: A Modern Day Renaissance Woman

    Patrice RushenSpeaking With Patrice Rushen:
    A Modern Day Renaissance Woman
    by Paula Edelstein

    With great songs such as “Forget Me Not,” “I Do,” “My Heart, Your Heart” among her solid repertoire of original compositions, Patrice Rushen is “Anything But Ordinary.” You need only to give one special listen to her exceptional collaborations with some of the world’s best jazz, pop, and R&B artists to know what I’m talking about! A world-renown virtuoso, bandleader and side musician, Patrice is truly a modern-day renaissance woman. She has been on the music scene as a composer, a music supervisor for motion pictures and television shows, as a pianist/keyboardist, as a vocalist and still is one of the most intelligent ladies you’ll ever meet. A child prodigy, Ms. Rushen began her musical studies at age 3 and is still going strong. Her songs are all over the airwaves, motion picture soundtracks and can be heard on a plethora of television shows. So when it came to interviewing her about her musical lifestyle, you better believe she had a lot to say! So Listen Up and believe me when she tells you “There Are Two Sides To Every Story!”

    PE: Patrice, thanks so much for the interview, it’s truly an honor! First of all, I just want to say, that a lot of your earlier hits still make my day! Songs like “Forget Me Not,” “My Heart, Your Heart,” “You Love Me Only” really have kept their artistic value over time. Now that my gushing is out of the way, how are you? (Smile)

    Patrice: Well thank you Paula!

    PE: I’d like to talk about some of your musical accomplishments – as a composer, what is the most cherished song in your repertoire at this point of your career?

    Patrice: Oooh, that’s a hard one. I don’t know if I can tell you what the most cherished is because songs are …I kind of liken them to children, you know. That’s like asking, “Which child is your favorite?” But I guess I have a special place in my heart for “Forget Me Not” because it was not only one the most successful of my “commercial” repertoire but because that was when I learned an important life lesson that the record industry taught me. When that record was about to be released, the record company didn’t like it at all. In fact, they didn’t like the whole album! And they told me so. Of course I was devastated but I had gotten a lot of feedback.

    But rather than roll over and roll up, my co-producer at the time and I said, “well since we know up front that they don’t like it and don’t believe in it, and know that they aren’t going to promote it, we want to give it a fair shot and get it in front of an audience.” I had a very successful run with the song and it’s still on the air. Several other contacts used it. It was in the movie BIG, in the trampoline scene and later Will Smith used it in MEN IN BLACK. So the life lesson I learned was that if you believe in yourself and know what you’re about, you’ve got to be willing to take the chances that no one else will.

    PE: That’s for sure and thanks for not rolling up and going away Patrice! You’ve collaborated with the crème de la crème of pop, rock, jazz, hip-hop and as you mentioned worked as a music supervisor for movies and television. Do you plan to score other films and television series in the near future?

    Patrice: Yes, I have been. Over the past few years, my emphasis has really been as a composer for film and television as well as over the past four years, focusing on the symphonic stage. Those are some of the things that have allowed me to branch out and do some of the things that I want to do.

    PE: Is writing a score for a film or television show more difficult than writing a complete 12-track recording for release as an audio CD?

    Patrice: No. But it calls on some of the same skills but they’re two very different entities. On a CD recording the music is the star of the show. With film music, it’s more of a collaborative effort and the music’s primary goal is to enhance the story and is a creative, manipulative tool. One that calls for a lot of skill and technical technique so that the viewer is unaware that they are being manipulated when they are watching the film or television show.

    PE: Your collaborations with such noted musicians as Stanley Clarke, Ndugu Chancler, George Duke and so many others has obviously given you the experience and staying power that is necessary to be successful in this business. But have you ever considered doing an all-female project?

    Patrice: I have and would enjoy working with someone of the stature as Geri Allen, Teri Lynn Carrington, and Sheila Escovedo among others. They are great musicians and have worked with some of everybody and the fact that they are women is secondary to their talent.

    PE: Who were some of your earlier influences with respect to becoming a musician?

    Patrice: My mom and dad for sure. There were also primary teachers who recommended that they put me in an experimental program at USC because she recognized my musical talent at an early age. I received a lot of encouragement in those prep classes for many years and then went on to study classical piano at USC. One of the best memories is the fact that I was encouraged to appreciate all genres of music…not just jazz or classical or pop. But by the time I was in high school, I had enough musical vocabulary to make my decisions about what I wanted to do professionally. The music of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Oscar Peterson, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, The Beatles, Rolling Stones, even Perry Como were some of the musical influences.

    PE: You’re appearing at the 25th Annual Playboy Jazz Festival this month with the L.A. Home Grown All Stars. …I know you’ve performed with Ndugu, Ernie and Paul previously but have you performed with Tom Scott before?

    Patrice: Oh yes. We’ve all worked with each other and for each other often! On any particular day, any one of us would have been a leader and called the other to come work together. We also grew up with one another…and besides the principals that you mentioned, this band is made up of seven other members that all have a connection to Los Angeles. We have all recognized that you have to do more than one thing in order to survive as a musician. We do film, television, are bandleaders, are studio musicians, work nightclubs and we have to be well versed in a lot of musical styles. That is what this band is celebrating…a sort of patchwork quilt kind of career that we’ve sewn together in order to be successful and to survive in an atmosphere where there are so many talented people.

    PE: Yes indeed, you are truly a modern-day renaissance woman and here’s to your continued success. Thank you so much for taking the time from your busy schedule to talk to SOTJ. We look forward to hearing more of your great recordings and we’ll see you at the Hollywood Bowl.

    Patrice: Thank you.


    Reprinted with permission of…

    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

    An Interview With Lee Ritenour


    An Interview With Lee Ritenour
    June 28, 1997
    i.e. Music Studio
    by Mark Ruffin

    [Click Here To Jump To The Story Continuation Point]

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: How’s the little one?
    RIT: Little Wes is fantastic. He’s on his way to New York. He’s been in Brazil with my wife. Carmen is down there working on a project.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: How old is he now?
    RIT: He’s gonna be four this month. He loves music. He’s got it in the blood.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: Is your wife a musician too?
    RIT: Not really. But being Brazilian, I think it’s also in the blood. They all play a little percussion and they all sing do music. When I’m down in Brazil, I’m always amazed just how much music is in the air down there.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: Have you ever met Antonio Carlos Jobim?
    RIT: Of course. My wife, curiously enough, went to high school with Tom Jobim’s wife Anna Jobim and they are the closest friends. So whenever Carmen goes to Brazil and go to Rio she usually stays at Anna house. I only met Jobim a couple times. I can certainly describe my first meeting with Brazil because it was very influential. I was 20 years old. I was at a party at Sergio Mendes house. Sergio had a recording studio in the back of his house and there was a lot of people there that night, and there was a jam session towards the end of the evening. Jobim was there and Dave Grusin was there and I’m not absolutely sure if that was the first time I met Dave, but I didn’t know Dave very well at that point either. I was doing some recording for Sergio Mendes so that’s why I was there, just starting into my career. Jobim was there and sat there and played a new composition that night that turned out to be Children’s Game that’s on the current Twist Of Jobim record.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: It’s on Portrait too, right?
    RIT: Yes, I’ve covered that tune twice.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: And Jobim played some piano….
    RIT: Yeah, and I played some guitar and Dave played a little Fender Rhodes and Oscar Castro-Neves was playing some acoustic guitar and I think there was a drummer there Claudio Sloane. We had just a good old jam session, but mostly Jobim would sit there and play tunes for us and we all would just go gosh, that great.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: Did you play with him that night?
    RIT: Sure. I forget what tunes we played. We all did a little jamming. It was something I’ve never forgot. I’ve met him once or twice since then at shows and different things but nothing like that first time.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: We know how you feel about him now. How did you feel about him then?
    RIT: Very much the same. I grew up in the 60’s as a teen-ager and of course that was the first huge influence of Brazilian music in America with that infamous Stan Getz, Astrud & Joao Gilberto, Tom Jobim recording,. So the year I’m talking about was sometime in the early 70’s. By that time they had already hit the big wave of the bossa nova in the late 60’s, So to me the guy was already an idol because I already knew most of these great tunes that he had written. I had fallen in love with Brazilian music in general and his music as a teen-ager. I went to Brazil when I was 19, apparently it was in the blood pretty early on and later I married a Brazilian and a lot of my records have had a Brazilian feeling.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: When you went down there when you were 19, was that to tour?
    RIT: No, that was just because I had fallen so much in love with the music and I had met some Brazilian musicians, Oscar Castro-Neves being one of them. He was the guitarist in Sergio’s band at the time and I decided, with a friend, to go down to Rio for a little vacation and that ended up being a very interesting trip as well because I bought my guitar, I ended up doing a little recording with Oscar Castro-Neves down there. I spent New Years Eve on the beach down there and going to several major Brazilian musicians houses. The Brazilians love to jam so in those days you jammed. It was an invitation that I couldn’t resist at the time to go down and it really wasn’t for anything specific, it was just a little holiday. I guess it was something I was really drawn to. It was great.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: Why did you start a record company?
    RIT: (laughter)

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: Why throw caution, not to mention money to the wind?
    RIT: Yeah, what a crazy idea.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: Yes. Did you think because Dave Grusin got $40 million dollars you could get it too?
    RIT: (Big laugh) I did it more from a musical point a view. I tend to be a little bit of a control freak. It’s interesting, as time goes on, I want more avenues for my music and the different things that I do in a musical capacity and I had two partners that sort of showed up on my doorstep that had been friends for many years, that it seemed to make sense. One of them was Mark Wexler who ran GRP Records for 11 years for Dave Grusin and Larry Rosen, and from an artist point of view, he was the one that was the work-aholic, I mean Dave and Larry of course were too, but Mark was really the essence of how the day to day things got done at that company. And all the artists really appreciated him and he became a buddy. When he left GRP, we sort of just glanced off and said maybe we should do something ourselves one of these days. At the same time, Michael Faigen, another friend of ours who owns Jazziz magazine, started talking to Mark and the three of us put our heads together. What’s nice is the synergy in the areas that we cover.. I’m the music guy. Mark is the business guy, Michael is the multi-media and promotion type man. Between the three entities, we had an interesting synergy. At that point we looked for a partner and Polygram really opened up their doors and they’ve got a wonderful jazz staff over at Verve. So far it has turned out to be a terrific joint venture. It’s a tremendous amount of work. We’ve already come out with two albums and it’s not nearly enough.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: What kind of work? Is it different from anything you thought it would be?
    RIT: Probably not. In a Utopian sense, because I have such good business partners, I thought that I would mostly be involved with the music, but of course I’m involved in everything and that’s probably, ultimately, the way I wanted it anyway. I was also from a musical point of view looking to do two things. One I wanted to do more producing, but I didn’t want to do producing just for the sake of it, because a lot of people have asked me throughout the years and I’ve kind of shied away from it because I wanted to make sure I kept my artistry in tact and also my guitar playing. On the other hand, I felt myself drifting a little more towards production but I thought that if it was something on my own label, that there was a little extra emphasis and a extra degree of help I could lend. Also if I didn’t have time or I didn’t feel I was the right producer, I have the expertise to maybe suggest the right producer, go find the producer, find the right studio, find the right engineer, find the right combination of musicians or band. So you don’t have to be totally involved in every project, but you can be involved in the point that you help. I found this very intriguing. Also I wanted to develop some new artists. I think that’s very exciting, to get somebody from the ground up and then of course, work with some established people. On a personal front, it was very challenging and very desirable to eventually bring my recording career over to i.e. and make my own records there and have a little more control over as to what happens after the record is made.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: I remember a few years ago when we were talking and you were saying how when you first went to GRP, everything was basically done on a handshake. There was no contract until the company was bought, and then you had a contract.
    RIT: Right.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: I heard that once you started i.e., that you were still under contract to GRP and that you couldn’t put your name on A Twist Of Jobim as the artist. Is that true?
    RIT: It’s definitely been complicated. The situation with Tommy LiPuma and GRP…. Tommy is a wonderful person and he has been very understanding that I wanted to go do this with my own label and at Polygram. At the same time, I’m still a GRP recording artist. I have a live album coming out. I’m very happy about that project, because that was Tommy’s idea. He loves live albums, he’s been involved with many of them as a producer and he encouraged it and I found the right band and the right combination of material I think to put on that album. At the same time we worked it out that the next studio album is going to be on i.e. and then the arrangement is for me to go back to GRP and do another project for them as well. Right now, I’m definitely splitting my personality and sharing between the two labels. It is a little complicated at times, contractually. The jazz business is very funny because everyone just in any business is competitive. Meanwhile we’re rooting for my live record at GRP and I’m rooting for Dave Grusin’s Mancini album, meanwhile Twist of Jobim is killing over here at i.e. There’s sort of a competition of course naturally, but there’s a very nice relationship, because I totally respect Tommy and he totally respects me and he and Mark Wexler had become very good friends and he’s very good friends with Michael Faigen, so the jazz business is too small a business to have too many enemies. (Laughs) What’s nice is that we have a bunch of good friends and I couldn’t ask for a nicer guy in Tommy LiPuma.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: So it’s very amenable for you?
    RIT: I think that if GRP had their druthers, I’m sure they’d been happier if I’d just stuck there. But they understand that I had a chance to grow and I wasn’t going to have my own record company within GRP, that structure wasn’t there, and the Polygram people offered the situation and it worked out well. It even gets more complicated, I belong to this group called Fourplay which is at Warner Brothers.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: Yeah, man, you’re sort of like George Clinton at his height, a contract at every major label.
    RIT: (Laughs) I didn’t mean for that to happen. Someone said to me the other day, ‘Lee, you’re on three labels, isn’t that a conflict of interest?

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: Well, wouldn’t it had been easy just to get some live tracks together and just give it to GRP to satisfy the deal?
    RIT: I don’t think the record sounds like that. I certainly didn’t do that and would never do that. First of all, it was Tommy’s suggestion to do the live record and I thought it was a good one because there’s one interesting fact about this album is that I have 25 solo albums, I’ve never done a live record. That’s why Tommy is such a great producer. He came up with the idea for Dave Grusin to do the Mancini tribute. I think that was a very clever idea because Dave was very influenced by Henry Mancini. They’re both great film composers. Dave is very close to Mancini’s wife Jenny and I think Dave has a great infinity for Mancini’s music and knew how to handle it and I think Tommy saw that. So, I think that was a very nice idea. Likewise, there’s a lot of live albums out there and people come and go with live project and for some reason, there’s some kind of misnomer in the industry that people put out live albums when they’re sort of in-between their regular projects. That’s not the way it used to be with live albums. Live albums used to be a very serious endeavor for an artist in their career, because it shows a whole other side of the artist. So I’ve never gotten to show that so I put a lot of work and effort into this album and sonically, it’s recorded almost like a studio record, and I picked a very interesting combination of musicians in Bill Evans, Alan Pasqua, and Sonny Emory. There’s a great blend of what I like in contemporary jazz and straight ahead jazz together.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: I’m really surprised you got Dave Grusin to tour. How long is this tour you’re about to embark on?
    RIT: The tour for me stretches quite a bit because we’re going to Europe for three and half weeks, but the U.S. tour is just about 14 shows, in all the major cities, and Dave is doing almost all of those. It’s a pleasure to get him back out on the road because we really, other than these one off specialty shows that occasionally we do, he’s never really gone on a tour since about 1985, when we had Harlequin out.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: How’d you get him to do it?
    RIT: We’re buddies and he loved playing on A Twist Of Jobim and I think he felt proud about his Mancini project and the schedule is really not too hard and he had a little bit of time in June so I caught him at the right moment. In general, he doesn’t like to go on the road too much. There was one European tour we did one year where, the European tours are always so difficult because you do 20 one-nighters in 20 different countries, and that one practically killed him. (Laughs) That was pretty much the end of it. I promised him that this wasn’t going to be like that.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: There’s a lot of real positive things to talk to you about in the making of A Twist Of Jobim, but there’s one real sad note, and that was it was the last recording of Art Porter.
    RIT: It was actually Mark Wexler who suggested him because Art was on Verve/Forecast and when I was looking for a soprano player to accompany El DeBarge on that tune, I was actually thinking soprano or maybe alto, and Mark said what about Art Porter. I said that’s interesting, but I don’t really know him that well. I’ve met him, he’s opened for me on a show or two. He said he would be great on that tune. So, we arranged it and we flew him out here and he was so nervous, and he’s such a sweet guy. He was nervous because it was the first time he had worked with me in the studio and he wanted it to be right. It was so right. Like the first take was good enough. I think we did two more and it took all of a half-hour and he had such a sweet sound. And it turned out to be his last recording. It was so shocking that he had that accident, but he left a small legacy and it’s here and there’s such beautiful playing on that track.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: Who else kind of nailed things for you and made the album easier?
    RIT: There was so many different kinds of people that did the project. Oleta Adams came in and just nailed her stuff very easily. Almost all the musicians, you know the Christian McBride’s , the Ernie Watts’ the Alan Pasqua’s, the Harvey Mason’s they nailed the stuff very easily. But some people like to take more time, Dave is like in the middle. He likes to get inside the thing and work it a little bit, take his time, but not too much. Al Jarreau on the other hand, he works late at night. He only warms up about three in the morning. You’ve got to hang with Al. We’ve got to hang, talk, just get into the music and just vibe it out and around four o’clock in the morning is when the good stuff comes out with him and I’m not quite the night bird anymore so it was like okay, but he’s another great artist. Everybody was totally different. Art Porter nailed it in a few minutes and Oleta the same way. Other people took more time. But I’m used to giving that time because I can definitely take my time to do it too. Sometimes, I’ll get things on the first take but sometimes I find myself still tweaking something hours later.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: Are you going to have vocalists on the tour?
    RIT: We did get El DeBarge for the West Coast, El was not available for that mid-west swing. Vesta Williams is singing with us because Oleata Adams was in the studio doing a record so she was not available, so Vesta is singing. And then we have a new Brazilian artist that we’re signing to i.e., a young lady who’s a very interesting artist named Badi Assad. She’s a Brazilian artist. I actually didn’t even know she was Brazilian when I first heard her, bur she’s an incredible classical guitar player with incredible classical guitar chops. She sings like a bird, she looks beautiful and she plays very different. She’ll do things where she’ll play the guitar rhythm with her left hand from a very unusual rhythm. She’ll start playing the body of the guitar as a percussion instrument with her right hand or playing her face or playing her body as a percussion instrument, and at the same time, singing a melody. Sometimes, she’ll play a percussion instrument with her right hand and play the guitar with her left hand and sing a third melody. Some of it is actually kind of avant-garde. It’s very different. She’s going to be on the tour opening up and also joining us in the middle of the show.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: Speaking of folks on i.e., I know you have Eric Marienthal, anything else in the future?
    RIT: We’re talking to Miss Vesta, it’s not a done deal yet, but we’re talking. You know she did a song on Eric Marienthal’s new record. A great version of Until You Come Back To Me.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: What about Fourplay?
    RIT: This is a Lee Ritenour year for recordings because I’ve got them coming out all over the place. Fourplay coming out right around the corner with a best of album with two new tracks. One of the new tracks is with Take Six and it’s the Stevie tune Higher Ground. Harvey Mason, our drummer, did most of the production on it and then there’s a new tune of mine that’s also on the recording. It seems a little early for a best of after only three albums but again, that group has a problem getting together and a lot of it these days has to do with my schedule. (laughs) Hopefully, we’ll get together early next year for a new recording.

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: You know one of my favorite solos of yours was on a early Patrice Rushen album called Before The Dawn. I can think of countless others, after all of these sessions, is it over 2,000 or something…
    RIT: You know there was this Japanese fan about six years ago, a Japanese fan came up to me in Tokyo one day and he said I’d like to give you something Mr. Ritenour and I said ok. I figured it was a tape or a photo I was going to sign and he pulled out this book almost and it was pages after pages of everything I’ve ever recorded and it added up to almost 3,000 sessions. I looked at it and I don’t think he missed anything. I think it was all there. I had my dad put it in a scrapbook.(laughs)

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: Any memorable sessions in any of those?
    RIT: I love to tell this story to my friends, I’ve never told it in an interview. One night we were recording George Benson’s album Give Me The Night and Quincy was producing. This was many years ago and the cast of characters in that room was George playing guitar, I was playing rhythm guitar. We had Harvey Mason. We had Louis Johnson on bass. We had Greg Phillanganes and we also had Ray Parker Jr. So there was a bunch of guitar players and Herbie (Hancock) was playing piano that night. It was quite a cast of people. I forget which song we recorded that night, but Quincy said, Stevie Wonder is coming down later. He wrote a song for George and he’s coming down around midnight. So we’ll finish this song and we’ll have some dinner and wait for Stevie. Okay, great. So we all wait. We wait, we wait. Now it’s two o’clock in the morning, then three. They get a call,’Stevie’s coming, just wait.’ Now Quincy’s real nervous because he’s got all these expensive musicians who are on the clock here and we’re all just hanging out doing nothing. Finally, Stevie Wonder shows up. He shows up with this huge entourage, so then you got to hang out for an hour. Now it’s four o’clock in the morning and Quincy finally get Stevie over to the piano. ‘Stevie come on, show the guys your song. Let’s do your song.’ And so Stevie walks over to the piano and everyone’s anxious to here the song and Stevie sits down. He starts to play the song. He starts the intro and man it sounds great. He stops after the intro and he says ‘Q, what do you think man?’ And Q says ‘aw man that’s beautiful Stevie, go on.’ And Stevie says ‘well give me a few more minutes and I’ll finish the tune.’ (big laughter) You should have seen the look on Quincy’s face. We were on the floor man. .

    JazzUSA ‘Zine: Well as a producer, I hope you’re never faced with anything like that.
    RIT: (laughter) Maybe Q could afford it, but I can’t. That was the end of that session.

    End

    An Interview with Bob Dorough

    An Interview with
    Bob Dorough
    by Matthew S. Robinson

    In the 1970’s, millions of sugar-wired American kids were joined every Saturday morning by friends like Mother Invention, Conjunction Junction and a hopeful piece of legislation simply known as Bill. In three-minute animated predecessors to the modern music video, these colorful characters instructed their young fans about grammar, math, science and history through catchy, memorable songs that are still popular today.

    And who brought all these educated pals to our televisions each week? Jazz pianist and songwriter Bob Dorough. Though he is also the only man to sing on a Miles Davis album*, Dorough is best known for his musical multiplication tables and harmonized history lessons. Since those days, however, Dorough has returned to the world of club gig jazz and has recently released Too Much Coffee Man, his second album on the Blue Note label.

    So what does the man who made three a magic number think about his own legacy? We recently had a moment to catch up with the casually caffeinated composer to see what becomes a septuagenarian legend most.

    JazzUSA: Is the new album new for you or is it part of your career life trajectory?

    BD: (Laughs) Well, you know, I wrote some new songs and I did some old songs so it’s a mixed bag, But I planned it in 1999. It took a while to get it all down. So it’s new in every way.

    JazzUSA: How about the timing of the album and your relationship with Blue Note. Would you have liked that to have come along earlier in your career or is it fine the way it is?

    BD: That would have been nice, but I’m glad that they finally searched me out and signed me up even late in my career. It’s kind of a boot, in fact, you know, when you think you’re struggling along on the outside. I was wondering if I should start recording on the ‘net or that kind of thing when you’re selling on the web. And suddenly, they called em and now I’m on Blue Note Records. It’s awesome!

    JazzUSA: Has your career made you cynical at all about the recording indsutry?

    BD: No, not at all, but there is a certain amount of cynicism among musicians which I picked up and joined in on. You know, a lot of them are such cheats, taking advatntage of the great talent they have. But I’m not bitter. Why be bitter?

    JazzUSA: What has the School House stuff meant to you?

    BD: Well, it’s so wonderful because young people who were watching cartoons when I was already out of it grow up and hear me at a jazz club and the recognize my voice or my style or something and so I get a lot of fans that ordinarily a jazz man might not pick up- fans of that age.

    JazzUSA: Do you see yourself as sort of a bridge or introduction to jazz for these people?

    BD: I do. I take advantage of the fact that they are struck by School House Rock. I did some concerts a while back called “School House RockŠAnd All That Jazz” which mixed a little jazz set in with the other stuff which let them hear something they might otherwise not have heard. So I’m a bridge of some kind. Even the School House Rock was a little bit jazzy. Let’s face it. It’s not real pure rock and roll. It’s got a lot of varieties in the beats and all that.

    JazzUSA: Is it still as gratifying and fun to play?

    BD: Oh it is. Oh yeah!

    JazzUSA: What do you hope your new support and exposure will allow you to do?

    BD: Maybe play in slightly larger venues than I have been playing in and maybe with a bigger band. I’ll go with anything from a duo to a quartet or quintet.

    JazzUSA: You play with some pretty strong names. Is there anyone else you’d like to play with?

    BD: I have some stars on my CD and it’s hard to book them because they’re doing their own thing. You need more money to be able to play with someone like Joe Lovano or Christian McBride. But I’d like to play with Tim Hagins. He’s a trumpet player who is also on Blue Note. I think he’s great. I’d like to play with Russell Malone. He’s a great guitarist. But he’s a big star now, so that may not happen. I’m happy to go out with people hardly anyone knows, just to get it out there. Everybody plays good these days.

    * “Nothing Like You” on Sorcerer

    © 2001 M. S. Robinson, ARR

    An Interview with Al Jarreau

    Conversation with
    Al Jarreau
    by Mark Ruffin.

    In his long career, the style of singer Al Jarreau has usually defied description. He has scaled the top of the pop charts, been celebrated as an original jazz stylist, and has even won a Grammy in the R&B category.

    “You could add schizophrenic to that,” the singer said with a hearty laugh during a national promtional tour last month. “I’m all that and maybe still some different things tomorrow. I don’t know who I’m going to be.”

    After a period of stagnation, Jarreau does know that his career has a jumpstart thanks to the his red-hot new album, Tomorrow Today. The eleven-song disc is his debut for GRP Records, after 20 years and 15 recordings for Warner Brothers, and it is easily his best album in over a decade.

    While the 60 year-old Milwaukee native is receiving praise for the record from old fans, radio stations and critics he calls ‘the analytical folks,” Jarreau is deflecting the compliments towards his producer, Paul Brown. Through diligent research and a knowledge of modern rhythms, Brown has pushed the right buttons and delivered music that also finds the singer attracting new fans.

    “Paul has an especially sensitive musical acumen and awareness that allows them to do two things very well,” Jarreau explained. “He can find out the detail in his artist that they may not even recognize and see themselves. He then gives them a reflection of it in a little bit different way, so that they can see things with a new pair of eyes and let that effect what they do on the music.

    “He also has his pulse on the finger of the music that is happening today, and knows how to give his artist that contemporary canvas,” the singer continued. “That’s what great sensitive producers do today. they help to make your sound one that is comfortable for a listener who listen to (Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs) Puffy. Not that all Puffy people are going to listen to Tomorrow Today and be comfortable, but they’re some people there listening to the hip-hop urban sound of today, who can pick up some pieces on this Jarreau album and go right there and be comfortable. Paul made that happen.”

    Hard core fans of Jarreau will no doubt marvel at how so much of the old classic sound of Jarreau comes through the slick 21st century production on Tomorrow Today. Above all, that seems to be what the producer was aiming for.

    Brown, best known for his work his saxophonist Boney James, who plays on one song with Jarreau, studied the singer’s rich history. Then by experimenting and using gentle persuasion, he was able to extract nuances from Jarreau that other producers have overlooked on his other recent recordings.

    For instance, one day, in his unique a cappella style, Jarreau was explaining to Brown his concept of a vocal version of the Crusaders classic, Put It Where You Want It. But instead of calling in the band, Brown turned on the tape recorder.

    “He said, ‘why don’t you do it just like that. That is so raw and it is so you and the way you perform in a live situation. It’s something you don’t typically do in a studio situation, so let your audience have that moment because it’s so personal.’ And he was so right.”

    That song, re-titled Puddit, is one of the songs on the album that go back a number of years with the singer, and was overlooked by his previous producers. Others include a duet with Vanessa Williams called God’s Gift To The World and Something That You Said, a lyric to an old Weather Report tune that Jarreau had been sitting on since 1978.

    Most surprising though is the genesis of the hit single and opening track from the album, “Just To Be Loved By You.”

    “That song came to me more than twelve or thirteen years ago and has been sitting on the back burner waiting for just this moment,” Jarreau explained. With every album I made, I pulled it out and listened to the song with (past producers) Narada Michael Walden, Marcus Miller, and even as far back as Jay Graydon. But it was only Paul who went ‘wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute.’

    “It was written all those years ago as a Brazilian samba but I was too close to the song. It took Paul to make it contemporary and it took other people to tell me that it should be the single. The analytical folks tell me that that song sounds real today, but sound as if it could have come from my old days. They say it sounds like an Al Jarreau that we know and recognize and could have come from before.

    “That’s Paul,” the singer concluded, “from really studying me and knowing the varied sides of me, he gave me a glance at that reflected in a mirror that he held and said, ‘look at this Al, and look at this Al, let’s let that shine through.”

    An Interview with Poncho Sanchez

    Poncho SanchezA Conversation with
    Poncho Sanchez
    Mark Ruffin

    Fate has been very kind to percussionist Pancho Sanchez, especially in January. It was New Year’s Eve, 1974 when he made his big-time professional musician with legendary vibraphonist Cal Tjader. It was in January 1979 when Sanchez made his first recording under his own name. And this January, Poncho Sanchez is the featured interview in this month’s JazzUSA. Sanchez’ new album, his 18th, is titled “Afro-Cuban Fantasy” and features the exquisite vocal work of Diane Reeves. According to our Mark Ruffin, the gregarious musician is a loquacious as he is talented. It’s no surprise to us as to how funny he can be, after all the liner notes on his last album “Freedom Sound” was done by Bill Cosby.

    JazzUSA: Tell us about the incident in the bar where you were jamming that kind of started your career.

    PS: There was this guy there who saw me playing and he said he knew Cal Tjader and he was going to tell Cal about me. I looked at him and said ‘yeah, right.’ He said ‘you want a drink?’ Yeah sure, I said. I took a drink and said, ‘yeah, I’m going to tell Cal about you.’ ‘Sure you are, buddy, thanks for the drink.’ I remember I came home and I told my wife I talked to some guy who said he’s a friend of Cal Tjader and he’s going to tell him about me. She goes ‘yeah, sure.’ About a week went by and Cal Tjader was in town at Concert By The Sea in Rodondo Beach and I always went to see Cal. I went downstairs and as I’m going downstairs to get our tickets and I’m walking in the club, sure enough this guy was standing right there talking to Cal Tjader. His name was Ernie, and I went ‘whoa.’ I told my wife, ‘remember that guy I told you was jiving, there he is talking to Cal.’ It’s funny, he was talking to Cal Tjader at the time about me. I walked in, he goes, ‘hey Cal, there he is. That’s the guy.’ I was like, is this really happening? He then introduced me to Cal and Cal goes, ‘you know, Ernie is not the only guy who has mentioned your name to me when I come to L.A. He goes on to say people have told him about my conga playing and we talked and he suddenly goes, hey man you want to sit in. I was floored man, I couldn’t believe it. He said ‘I’ll call you up in the middle of the set. We set down and we went to go watch the show and the next thing you know, I was the show. I got up and set in and I ended up playing like four tunes with him that set. And he took me in the back and asked me for my phone number and address and what not and said maybe I’ll give you a call. Even when I left that night I was pumped up. I thought that was the highlight of my life right there, I sat in with Cal Tjader. And I thought ‘he ain’t going to call me, he’s just being a nice guy, right?’ Sure enough, about two weeks went by and he gave me a call and asked if I could work with him a whole week while he’s down south(-ern California), and I need a conga drummer.’ I said, ‘are you kidding?’ I ended up playing with Cal Tjader New Year’s Eve at the Coconut Grove at the Ambassador Hotel opposite of Carmen McCrae, New Year’s Eve 1974-75.

    JazzUSA: That’s a great story.

    PS: And he had just hired me for that week only. And I played the first set the first night and he came back stage and said hey man, the gig’s yours. ‘The gig’s mine, what do you mean, the gig? You mean to play with you permanently.’ He said, ‘yeah, man. It’s your gig, if you want it.’ I couldn’t believe it man. And at the time I was laid off from a factory job. I working in a foundry. I was laid off already five months and getting towards the end of my unemployment. I told him he didn’t know what kind of blessing this is. Anyway I was with Cal Tjader for seven and a half years until his death in Manila. I was right next to him. We were all right next to him when he died of a heart attack in Manila. I toured the world with him and that’s how I got my start and my name known and from there on in, I had to do my own thing.

    JazzUSA: And he used to feature you prominently too.

    PS: Oh, yes, I was the featured soloist of the band.

    JazzUSA: I never got the chance to see Cal Tjader, but I’ve heard many live recordings and it sounds like you guys were having so much fun.

    PS: Cal man was a great guy to work for and a wonderful musician. Cal Tjader could play. He knew all the standards. He could play good man. Of course he was a great jazz vibraphonist and had a great feel for Latin music. He played great timbales too. He’d take a vibes solo and when it was the piano player’s turn he’d switch right over to timbales.

    JazzUSA: You know a lot of folks are always surprised to find out that there wasn’t a Latin bone in his body.

    PS: (laughs) no, he’s Swedish. Incredible.

    JazzUSA: It was Dizzy who said the musics of the world would come together one day, and Cal Tjader was kind of an embodiment of that statement.

    PS: Absolutely, and he could dance good too. Cal was a tap dancer as a young boy and his mother and father used to have a vaudeville show. His mother and father used to have a talent school where they would teach people to dance, act and what not, and get them ready for different shows. So he not only knew how to play music , but how to play piano well and dance. He used to dance the mambo and cha-cha-cha. He used to say ‘the authentic way, like the way they do it in New York City.’ (laughs) Cal was really a wonderful guy, a wonderful human being. I miss him still today, because he was just such a good guy to be around.

    JazzUSA: Again, I can only get this from the live records, that it sounds live he was into putting on a show, not just throwing a band out there to jam.

    PS: Oh yeah. He had a nice presentation and he always had killer soloist. Before I was in the band, he had Mongo Santamaria, Willie Bobo, Armando Peraza, all these great soloists, great musicians. Tons of great piano players, Lonnie Hewitt, Vince Guaraldi, Chick Corea.

    JazzUSA: Were you intimidated by that legacy when you first joined the band?

    PS: Well yeah. First of all, I grew up with those records and all that too, so I was like, I was blown away when he asked me to sit in. And of course, from the moment I got the gig, I was serious for about the first three years in the band. He even used to tell me that I was too serious. I wanted to give him everything I had. I wanted to try to be as good as Mongo Santamaria. I wanted to try to fill that chair as good as Mongo did. To me, I could never do it, because Mongo was one of my heroes in life. So, to me you’re never as good as your hero.

    JazzUSA: Claire Fischer was a big part of your formative years too, right?

    PS: Absolutely. Clare, is a harmonic genius. He’s of German descent, but he speaks very fluent and very correct Spanish. He even corrects my Spanish. He did help me a great deal with arrangements and writing tunes. We wrote many tunes together in the earlier years. Clare was an important part in the growth of my band and my thing.

    JazzUSA: So you were this hot conga player in L.A. How did you learn music?

    PS: I’m self-taught. I’m the youngest of eleven kids, with no other musicians in my family. All my brothers and sisters loved to mambo and cha-cha-cha. As a little boy growing up…. We’re from Texas; Loredo, Texas. My mother and father are from Mexico. So really, traditionally, this is not my music. My music is Tex-Mex polkas. I’ve done that too. But my brothers and sisters got into the mambo and cha-cha-cha when I was a little boy. So every morning, every day, every night, my brothers and sisters would listen to Tito Puente, Machito, Tito Rodriguez, Cal Tjader, Mongo, all that stuff. So as a little boy, I heard it in my house every day. To me, it was no big thing. It was my music that I heard at home. Then I started going down the street and there was a couple of people playing guitar and they taught me how to play rhythm and blues tunes and pop tunes. At that time, it was more into a soul bag. So I learned all that and I also did that. I played in bands that played rhythm and blues, soul blues.

    JazzUSA: And you played guitar?

    PS: Yes, the guitar was my first instrument. This was like when I was in junior high. And then I went to go join a neighborhood band and when I went to go audition, they already had four guitar players in the band already. And they all played better than me. I thought, well I guess I’m not going to get into this band. And they said, you know, we don’t need a guitar player, but we need a singer. And they said, why don’t you try singing the song. And I said, well I don’t really sing. I kind of sing to myself when I play. They said, hey man, why don’t you try it. I got up and I sang a tune. It was a pop tune from the 60’s, I don’t even remember what it was. But I got up and sang the tune with the microphone and after the song was over, the guys in the man, said ‘wow man, you sing great.’ And I was the lead vocalist with that band for about six years. That night, they sent me home with a stack of 45’s records. In those days they were 45’s. From that moment on, I started checking out James Brown very heavily, all the Motown people- the way they approached the crowd, and the way they spoke, the way they danced on stage. So I got into that. So from the guitar, I was the lead vocalist, and then I learned how to play the trap set drums. And I played drums in a couple of groups including a Latin jazz group in high school. I started playing congas towards the end of high school.

    JazzUSA: What was the inspiration for you learning trap drums?

    PS: Because, that’s what was available at the time, growing up as a teen-ager, everybody’s got guitars and drums, and I was into James Brown a lot. I started playing drums because I knew a drummer down the street, so I went over there and started messing with the drums and started to learn to play pretty good. No matter what instrument I played in whatever band I got in, I also happened to be the lead vocalist as the same time. Then I just started watching Mongo play at the old Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach, and see Cal Tjader’s band come through town. It was all self-taught-just watching and listening to those records everyday, and practice.

    JazzUSA: Was a Latin jazz band, your first real experience playing congas?

    PS: Yes. Actually, my father bought me a conga and I bought the other. It was two congas in a pawn shop. And I just kept putting on those Cal Tjader and Tito Puente records everyday in the garage and try to tap out the rhythms and figure out the way they were doing it. And then if I couldn’t figure it out, I’d go see Mongo play and watch his hands. And then go home and try it. I’d do it for hours and hours, days would go by.

    JazzUSA: Poncho, you’ve always managed to put out good quality records, but there’s been something magical about the last four or five, like you’re trying to up the ante with each release.

    PS: That’s what we try to do. It’s hard to keep on raising the bar. You can reach a certain plateau and that’s alright. As long as you hit a good plateau, a certain spot and stay with it. But it’s true, David Torres, my musical director and pianist, we work and plan these things out pretty good. We’ve been working on them and getting them together. And I’ve been also adding Scott Martin, he’s been over-dubbing baritone on a couple of these recordings, to have a little bit brighter, a little bit more fuller sound. Also everyone in the band gets better at just what it takes to make a record. With each record that goes by, everyone in the band learns more about which way we’re going and how we want to go about getting there. Experience, you know what I mean?

    JazzUSA: And it’s been the same band for a number of years now, right?

    PS: Right. I have three original members. I’ve had the band almost nineteen years now. And everybody else has been in the band for at least ten years. The new guy has been in the band for about a year. A new trombone player Francisco Torres.

    JazzUSA: The name of your new album is Afro-Cuban Fantasy. Over the last few years there’s been this large influx of Afro-Cuban music, but it’s nothing new to you.

    PS: I remember when Afro-Cuban music, or Latin music, or Salsa music was not cool. When I first started this band…. I mean, there was a Latin jazz craze in the 50’s and then in the late 60’s, the Santana thing started happening and people got into that rock/Latin sound and that stuck around for a long time and the Latin jazz thing was not in. To me, it’s always been great. I’ve always loved it. But I remember, guys who have Latin jazz bands today, back then were telling me, ‘hey Poncho man, that shit you’re doing with the be-bop lines and the Latin tunes with the Latin grooves and the jazz influence. That ain’t hip man.’ They told me fusion and funk was happening. Now some of those guys who were musicians here in L.A. telling me what I was doing wasn’t cool have Latin jazz bands today. That’s how much I love and respect this music. I remember when Latin jazz wasn’t hip. We’re not faking. We are Latin jazz.

    JazzUSA: And because you stuck with it, you can tour the world now.

    PS: Yes, we have capitalized on it and I know for a fact that the Pancho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band has a very important part in the growth of Latin jazz all over the world. Because I take this music all over the world. JazzUSA : The popularity that has been going on the last couple of years, have you noticed it in your audiences or in record sales?

    PS: It’s definitely on the up and up, because we’ve been touring for years already and the crowds were always pretty good. There were some times when we were traveling and the crowds were kind of small and you do get kind of discouraged, and you feel bad with the money and it’s a tight scene. But now days the crowds are much bigger and we’re playing in places that we never dreamed of. One of the last tours we did, we played in Iowa, in Wisconsin, places that I never dreamed of wanting Latin jazz, and we were backed by popular demand in some of those places.

    JazzUSA: Even in the big cities, instead of playing funky little clubs, you’re playing big concert halls.

    PS: Yeah, but I still like to play those small clubs too. If I was on a tour in the mid-west and I got a club date, I don’t have a problem with that. You’ll do those because you’re on the road, you’re on the way, so I’ll stop over a night to play a small little club and get enough money to play for the room and pay the wages for the band and then you move on to the next night in a big university or concert hall and then you can charge money. It’s part of the road.

    JazzUSA: How old are you?

    PS: I’m 47.

    JazzUSA: And Afro-Cuban Fantasy is your 18th album.

    PS: It’s my 17th for Concord and I have another one on Discovery Records which I did before I signed with Concord, making a total of 18.

    JazzUSA: There’s another late legend you obviously got to know and that was Discovery Records founder Albert Marx.

    PS: Yes, he was the first one to give me a start on record. It was Clare Fischer who told me about him. I guess he was looking for a new young artist at the time and he asked Clare if he knew somebody. Clare told him he knew this young conga player in the Cal Tjader band. Clare told me he told him that I carried myself very well and was the featured soloist in the band. He asked where we were playing next. He lived in Hollywood and Clare told him our next gig was in Tucson, Arizona. Marx goes, ‘you know what, I’ve got family out there. I’m gonna fly out there and visit them, and take him in and see you guys play that night.’ Sure enough, I remember he told me, ‘Albert Marx is gonna be here tonight, he might want to sign you.’ Of course I did my very best that night, of course I always did with Cal’s band, and the next thing I knew, I signed a contract with Discovery Records. I was about, I don’t know 26 years old. I did my first record with them. It was called Poncho. Actually, it’s right here, I had it because I was thinking about making a t-shirt of the cover. Let me check the date. January 10, 1979. That’s when I did my first recording.

    JazzUSA: So this month was your 20th anniversary in the record business?

    PS: That’s right. I already look at the anniversary of the band. But that’s right I recorded that 20 years ago this month.

    JazzUSA: You know, Poncho, a lot of folks are probably really surprised that you’re not from the islands?

    PS: I get that all the time, yeah. Even drummers, the Cuban guys and the Puerto Rican guys. They come up to me and they start talking to me right away. You know, I speak Spanish, but they start talking to me in their style and saying ‘yeah, Poncho man, you’re from over there, Cuba, right? (laughs) And I tell them no, no, no, I’m Chicano. They look at me ‘Chicano, what are you talking about?’ ‘No man, my mother and father are from Mexico, I was born in Texas.’ And they go, ‘wow, how do you know how to play this music, man?’ (laughs) A lot of hard work man. I studied it real hard for a long time. And at the time I was learning to play this music, it wasn’t like nowadays. I do clinics all over the world and they have many videotapes out there about this music and how to play this music. They’ve got cd’s, play along cd’s, many other people like me do clinics, Giovanni (Hildalgo), you name them, all those percussionists, they go out and do clinics all over the place. When I grew up, there was no such thing. I didn’t have anybody to show me. As a matter of fact, when I finally got enough guts and courage to go up to Mongo one time here in town, he was sitting at a bar, I went up to him and told him I had a question, ‘am I playing this pattern right?’ I’d play a pattern on a stool or something, and in those days, the Cuban conga players wouldn’t tell you too much. It was more like a secret or something or whatever. He’d look at me and he’d tell me ‘mas or manos’ which means more or less. That’s it. That’s all he’d tell me and he’d walk away. That’s the way it was in those days. He wasn’t being mean to me. It’s just that it was different in those days. Nowadays, I tray to take time when a kid comes to me. If they ask me something and I’ve got time, I’d stand there and answer questions.

    JazzUSA: Are you and Mongo tight now?

    PS: Oh yeah man. I talk to him about once a month. He’s been a featured soloist in our band and I’ve been featured in his band. Although, he really doesn’t have a band anymore. He’s just doing guest shots.

    JazzUSA: So do you remind him of those days when you were a young buck?

    PS: (laughs) Yeah, we talk about it all the time. It even goes deeper than that. I named my oldest son after him. His name is Xavier Mongo Sanchez. My son just graduated from University of California-Berkeley. He got a degree in astro-physics. He’s heavy. He just started in the job he’s always wanted, for the government, working on computers that guide nuclear warheads. As a young kid, he was playing bongos with me, and then suddenly he said, I don’t want to do that, and he got into astronomy. That was his call.

    JazzUSA: And playing bongos was your call.

    PS: Exactly, and that’s what he does and he carries Mongo’s name, and Mongo knows that, and Mongo tells people about when me and my wife would go see Mongo play when Mongito was still in her stomach. I used to go up to Mongo and go ‘Mongo, if it’s a boy we’re going to name it Mongo.’ So, he used to get all happy and I’d say come on and touch her stomach so we’ll have good luck. Sure enough, we had a boy and we name him Mongo. I named a boy after him, so we’re family.

    JazzUSA: It sounds like you’re family. How long have you been married?

    PS: We celebrated our 26th anniversary last July. I have two boys. Mongito, and the other one is 16 years old, they’re ten years apart, he’s playing saxophone in the school band. His name is Julian Tito Sanchez. Same story, Tito Purente is one of my good friends, and you know I have to be a fan if I named my sons after them. Now I play with both of them, so hey man, my dreams have come through.

    Visit the Poncho Sanchez Website

    Dianne Reeves –

    Dianne ReevesDianne Reeves
    Christmas Time Is Here
    (Blue Note – 2004)
    by D. Kevin McNeir

    Some musicians who haven’t come up with a new recording in a while have been known to slap something onto vinyl or compact disc given the new changes in technology, just before the Christmas season begins. Perhaps they figure that with the wealth of popular holiday tunes from which they can choose, that their fans won’t notice that their effort was lackluster at best.

    Whenever jazz legend Dianne Reeves steps up to the microphone you can bet she will bring all of the goods. And once again the “grand dame” delivers with her latest recording, Christmas Time Is Here, recorded on the Blue Note label.

    One cannot help but be impressed by the vocal histrionics by which Reeves has come to be known—she can doo wop, modulate, bend notes and scat with the best of them—from Carmen McRae and Ella Fitzgerald to Sarah Vaughn. And with a multi-octave range and several back-to-back Grammy Awards to her credit, Reeves certainly has earned her way to the top and to her inclusion on the list of all-time female vocalists from the jazz genre.

    While her Christmas Time Is Here is certainly pleasing to the ear, those who are used to her interpretive skills may find that this recording lacks some of the mind-blowing vocal work that one has come to expect from someone of Reeves’ caliber. In fact, that is perhaps the real problem with this CD. The recording starts with a bang as Reeves literally nails “The Little Drummer Boy” with her own unique style. The musical accompaniment is reminiscent of a Jamaican calypso band with a lot of ear-pleasing percussion that is not over the top. And the beat is a cross between modern jazz and reggae.

    However, Reeves’ voice stands out as she delivers with expressive phrasing and well-placed vibrato. At the end of the tune she gets a little funky—it’s almost a beckoning to get up on your feet and dance.

    Another selection that merits your attention is “Carol of the Bells.” This writer recalls wonderful memories of practicing and performing this piece at every December concert as a member of the high school symphonic orchestra—every band and choir had this one in their repertoire.

    Reeves cooks up something wonderful here with the wailing of the saxophone and keyboards extraordinaire. “Carol of the Bells” is clearly a jazz interpretation of a classic Christmas tune, and it’s done very tastefully.

    The title tune, “Christmas Time Is Here,” was made popular by the Peanuts holiday classic television show that airs every December. It has been recorded as a vocal selection as well as an instrumental piece. Here, Reeves treats the piece like a quiet conversation among friends and family. In fact, one can almost imagine playing this selection as the children race for the Christmas tree to open their gifts.

    Some critics have argued that this third selection on the CD doesn’t equal her performance on the first two songs. But as Reeves has remarked in several printed interviews, she more than anyone, has worked very hard to know her instrument—her God-given voice. Sometimes less is better.

    “You try to pace yourself, make sure you’re connecting with what you’re singing,” she says in an interview with Tim Pulice. “When I first started out, I used my voice all over the place because I was really into my voice.

    I really wasn’t into the lyrics and wanted to stretch out, be and do all of these different things. It wasn’t until after I worked with Harry Belafonte that this started to change. The world music we were performing sometimes has a dual message that had to be shared in the lyric. Through that situation, I found that less is more, that storytelling is best.”

    Among the remainder of the selections, be sure to listen to “A Child Is Born,” a tune that is not often recorded but is certainly a perfect choice for one with the vocal abilities of Reeves. And given her desire to find songs that “tell a story,” this is one that may earn its way onto the list of Christmas jazz classics.

    Also, check out “Let It Snow” if you’re looking for Reeves scatting her way in the Fitzgerald tradition. She lets go on this one and securely tackles the multiple octaves that are required in the vocal arrangement. The final piece begins with the strumming of a classic folk guitar—a fitting instrument for the tune “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Reeves’ voice is almost haunting as she converses in an intimate conversation with the guitarist while the overall performance is a good teaching tool for those interested in showcasing what can happen when a well-rehearsed jazz ensemble gets into a groove—feeling it each as they improvise. And while it may not go down in the annals of jazz history as one of the greatest interpretations of this popular piece, this writer enjoyed it.

    Reeves is good, but not great, on this CD. Still, it will certainly make your Christmas “bright” if you add this one to your collection and can pop it into the CD player as you relax by a cozy fire and make a toast to the new year and all of its possibilities.

    Kora Awards 2001

    If there was a defining moment at this year’s Kora awards it was when Coumba Gowlo raised her kora award above her shoulders and sang in her textured, high pitched, soaring and elegant voice – ‘Senegal, Senegal – oh Senegal.” A moving moment for nationalism, Pan-Africanism and beauty – and that surely is what the kora All African music awards ought to be about?

    If there was a fabulous moment it was when South Africa’s fragile celebrity Brenda Fassie ran up onto stage dressed in pigtails and a grey and particularly revealing schoolgirls dress, grabbed her award, did the splits, blew a kiss to the favoured guests Nelson Mandela and Graca Machel, and sang the words – ‘I stay like this’. And that’s what Brenda is all about – that crazy streak, that incredible flare, attitude and individuality. And that’s what the Kora All African music awards really ought to be about – exposing our celebrities and their dynamite.

    If there was a vulgar moment it was when South African R&B newcomer Ernie Smith was crowned ‘Most promising male artist on the continent.’ I have no doubt that Ernie Smith will sell and sell well all over the world – but that’s because he’s playing derivative and commercial R&B. He sounds more American than the ball clutching duo KC and Jojo – and he probably wants to as well. All over this continent we see beautiful bands and performers that just exude music, pride and integrity. All over this continent we hear the vivid strains of expressive and original music. And surely that is what the Kora awards ought to be about?

    And if that wasn’t enough American R&B singer – Bebe Weiner – left with a kora too. Where in Africa is this guy from? ‘Detroit Michigan’, he answered. Oh the African Diaspora! Sure music may have originated from Africa and affected all the strains and strands in the rest of the world, but surely this big ego platinum pop is again diluting the musicality on this continent?

    I hope I am not sounding too precious. I recognise Africa needs to establish itself in a global context, Africa needs to enjoy and benefit from international influences and I recognise the desire in sucking up to the dollar as much as possible – but I think we need to be doing it on our own terms. And our own terms are not by promoting the wannabee cock-pop, or even the cock-pop itself. Our own terms is our own voice – that soft and subtle sound that you wont catch on prime time television.

    While I am here I might as well labour the point. American R&B is one thing at an All African music award ceremony, but sportsman is another altogether. Yannick Noah may be a little better looking then the South African rugby boys – but he doesn’t sing any better and Senegal’s racing car driver Demba Dia is merely an imitation of the Ferari’s he would like to drive. And there were other crazy decisions. Can you see any comparison between Werrason and Miriam Makeba? Of course not – there are none except the Kora has them up against each other for best arrangement? You could never compare the musicality in Pata Pata to the mindless bum-groove Congolese zouk. But, you could compare Pata Pata to some of the original music on this continent. And you could compare Pata Pata to the incredible musicality of Rokia Traore. These are our musicians.

    “I don’t think we have made any incredible progress from the last edition. I think there will be incredible changes next year. You will see much more of the continent, much more categories. This year is largely about pop music and that is not what Africa is all about,” said chairman of the judging committee Wally Badarou.

    The Kora is bouncing rather uncertainly between these two camps – the big balls and budget pop music and the real and beautiful music. There are a variety of reasons for this, financial insecurity, the fear of collaboration, fearfully close relations with big labels and the definite xenophobia of the South African recording industry. And these may never change, however the kora has shown some direction. And that is exciting.

    Last year the event was politicised and boring – this year the event was a hoot – it was entertaining, organised, invigorating and it did have those momentary flashes of beauty. And that is where the longevity of this event lies.

    Please send us all your opinions and any suggestions for next year.

    Read An Interview with St Michael Zulu, Zambia’s first nominee and winner. He was voted by audience vote best African artist for 2001.

    Africa Beats is brought to you each month courtesy of the Afri-Beat Web Site.

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    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 o