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JazzTimes June 2017 (1)

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JIMMY HEATH @90: A LIVING LEGEND TOURS HIS JAZZ HISTORY
DEFINING AN ERA
KAMASI
WASHINGTON
ORRIN EVANS
Joins the Bad Plus
NEA JAZZ MASTERS: THE LAST STAND?
SEXISM &
THE JAZZ AUDIENCE
A FEMALE CRITIC SOUNDS OFF
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Roxy Coss Bobby Watson
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inside
“I’m very fortunate to still
be on the planet at 9-0,” says
Jimmy Heath, who tells the
tales behind his finest albums
beginning on p. 40
JUNE 2017
VOLUME 47 | NUMBER 5
8
JT Notes Editor Evan Haga writes
about Joshua Redman to introduce
this sax-themed issue
10
Solo Inspired by a recent controversy,
Natalie Weiner takes stock of attitudes
toward women in jazz
12 OPENING CHORUS
12
Hearsay NEA Jazz Masters 2017,
Roxy Coss, Chasing Trane documentary,
David Weiss & Point of Departure,
Gerald Clayton, Orrin Evans joins the
Bad Plus, Braxton Cook, Nate Smith,
news and farewells
28
32
Before & After Steve Wilson
Overdue Ovation Don Braden
50 SOUND ADVICE
50
52
34 KAMASI WASHINGTON
Few jazz musicians in recent memory have generated as much
crossover excitement as this L.A.-born saxophonist. In conversation
with Brad Farberman, Washington goes inside the making of
his sublime new EP, Harmony of Difference (Young Turks), his first
release since 2015’s breakthrough triple-album, The Epic.
40 JIMMY HEATH
At 90, Heath is a talent and personality nonpareil—a saxophonist
whose lyrical, robust command of the tenor evinces jazz’s midcentury
golden age, and a storyteller with an endless supply of anecdotes
starring the music’s icons. Here, Mac Randall asks Heath to reflect
on several of his historic sessions.
46 JANE BUNNETT & MAQUEQUE
In 1982, the Canadian saxophonist traveled to Cuba on vacation,
happened upon a great band just outside her hotel, and has
been collaborating with the island nation’s artists ever since. In this
dialogue with Christopher Loudon, Bunnett details the progression
of her current Cuban ensemble, the all-female Maqueque.
54
AudioFiles Brent Butterworth’s guide to
the equipment, etiquette and ethics of
recording concerts
Chops Seamus Blake and Jimmy Greene
reveal the secrets to an effective
twin-tenor frontline
Gearhead The best new instruments,
accessories and jazz-education resources
56 REVIEWS
56
CD Reviews
71
72
Jazz Directory
Artist’s Choice Bobby Watson picks
cuts by unsung New York masters
outside
MP3s
AT J A Z Z T I M E S . C O M
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JazzTimes Spins & Riffs podcast, plus tracks by
Wess “Warmdaddy” Anderson, Curtis Brothers
Quartet, Joris Teepe/Don Braden and Mark Winkler
EXCLUSIVE CONTENT
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Free download: The outrageous, uncensored oral history of the legendary NYC club Seventh Avenue South,
plus video interviews, track premieres, photos, polls,
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Cover image by B+ for Mochilla.com. Table of Contents image by Joe Martinez/Courtesy of Jazz at Lincoln Center.
4
JAZZTIMES • JUNE 2017
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JAZZTIMES FOUNDER IRA SABIN
NORAH JONES
DAY BREAKS
JOSÉ JAMES
LOVE IN A TIME OF MADNESS
LOUIS HAYES
SERENADE FOR HORACE
The 9-time GRAMMY winner comes full circle
returning to her jazz roots on an album featuring
WAYNE SHORTER, DR. LONNIE SMITH, BRIAN
BLADE and others, proving her to be this era’s
quintessential American artist with a sound that
fuses elements of several bedrock styles of
American music.
The critically-acclaimed vocalist makes a
triumphant return, venturing deeper into modern
R&B while staying true to his Jazz and Soul roots.
Featuring vocalists MALI MUSIC and OLETA ADAMS,
this 12 track collection takes listeners on an
autobiographical exploration of the various
forms of love and the places it can go.
The legendary drummer makes his Blue Note
debut as a leader while paying tribute to the
great Horace Silver. The 11-track exploration of
Silver’s exquisite catalog features the standout,
“Song For My Father,” featuring GREGORY
PORTER. As a member of Silver’s Quintet
Hayes was a driving force on classic Blue Note
albums including 6 Pieces of Silver, Further
Explorations, The Stylings of Silver, and Finger
Poppin’.
TERENCE BLANCHARD
THE COMEDIAN SOUNDTRACK
GREGORY PORTER
TAKE ME TO THE ALLEY
TONY ALLEN
A TRIBUTE TO ART BLAKEY
Multiple GRAMMY- winning trumpeter and
composer TERENCE BLANCHARD composed a
sublime jazz score for the film The
Comedian, directed by Taylor Hackford and
starring Robert De Niro. The Trumpeter’s top
notch sextet features pianist KENNY BARRON
and tenor saxaphonist RAVI COLTRANE.
Winner of the 2017 GRAMMY Award
for Best Jazz Vocal Album, the acclaimed
vocalist solidifies his standing as his
generation’s most soulful jazz singer-songwriter by reasserting his core values
on the much-anticipated follow-up to his
internationally acclaimed million-selling
Blue Note debut Liquid Spirit.
The illustrious Nigerian drummer and Afrobeat
pioneer best known for his work with Fela Kuti
pays tribute to his longstanding idol and Blue
Note legend, jazz drummer Art Blakey. The EP
was recorded live in Paris over three days and
features a spectacular 7-piece band interpreting
Jazz Messenger classics like “Moanin’” and “A
Night In Tunisia” through an Afrobeat prism.
BlueNote.com
© Blue Note Records
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[JT]Notes
The Sax Dreams Are Made On
By Evan Haga
A special 1-Blu-ray / 3-CD box set featuring a
full-length documentary film and three discs of audio
covering all of Chick’s iconic bands, compositions
and artistic partnerships. Recorded live over the
course of one month at NYC’s Blue Note.
Joshua Redman
at Jazz at Lincoln
Center
unparalleled
to
ll l d technique
t h i
t evince
i historical
hi t i l styles
t l
with surreal accuracy, like seeing a silent film in
Technicolor. The lineup and repertoire—including
originals and tunes by Ornette Coleman, Charlie
Haden and the saxophonist’s late father, Dewey
Redman—certainly helped in savoring Redman’s
gifts. Miles made for a delightfully lyrical foil,
and the cozily perceptive group dynamic certainly lived up to the meta-tribute concept; Still
Dreaming pays homage to the elder Redman’s
Old and New Dreams, a collective that honored
Ornette. But really, the new band came off like a
paean to great small-group jazz and a love letter
to the saxophone. JT
LAWRENCE SUMULONG/JAZZ AT LINCOLN CENTER
them could surpass the display of saxophonic
brilliance I absorbed at Jazz at Lincoln Center
on April 1. Joshua Redman, performing that
weekend with his Still Dreaming quartet
of cornetist Ron Miles, bassist Scott Colley
and drummer Brian Blade, brought to bear
only the most enthralling facets of the jazz
tenor tradition, sometimes within the same
solo. There was an overwhelming sense of
harmonic surprise, in which improvisations
avoided cliché but also delivered the comfort
of resolution; the wide-ranging, rousing textural delights the tenor is capable of, from R&B
honks to out-jazz cries; and the ability of the
horn to carry a melody with all the pathos of
a peerless singer. Redman isn’t a singular personality so much as he’s an atypical virtuoso;
few living tenor players this side of Chris
Potter can make their godsent talents go down
so easy, and Redman specifically can use his
←
I
n publishing, marketing makes us do
funny things. For example, the edition
of JT you’re holding now is the annual
saxophone issue. A jazz rag running with a
sax theme is a bit like Forbes doing a We Like
Money annual or Playboy boasting about a
Special Sex Issue, but whatever works. Somehow, themes tend to expand and balance our
purview rather than limit it; we become less
beholden to trends and more willing to showcase musicians of various approaches and
statures who are devoted to the instrument
in question. So here you get jazz’s reigning
rock star, Kamasi Washington, revered elder
Jimmy Heath, up-and-comers Roxy Coss
and Braxton Cook, consummate mainstream
players like Don Braden, Bobby Watson and
Steve Wilson and more.
All of these artists present an unmistakable mastery, though I’m not sure any of
A beautiful and stunning take on classic Brazilian
songs featuring bassist Marcelo Mariano; guitarists
Marcus Teixeira and Conrado Goys; drummers
Edu Ribeiro and Celso de Almeida; and percussionists
Gustavo di Dalva and Marivaldo dos Santos.
THE HUMAN EYE
CA N ’ T D E T E CT E V E RY
IMPERFECTION.
GOOD THING WE
U S E X- R AY S .
I N V N T N G C R A F T S M A N S H I P F O R T H E 2 1 S T C E N T U R Y.
Solo
“How Did You Get Into Jazz?”
IN LIGHT OF A RECENT CONTROVERSY, A FEMALE JAZZ WRITER
TAKES STOCK OF THE GENRE’S ATTITUDES TOWARD WOMEN
By Natalie Weiner
“So you’re really into jazz?” says the man, aghast.
The man, and the context, are interchangeable. Old or young,
at a party or the Newport Jazz Festival, it’s the same. A positive response to this patronizing question is never evidence
enough; I will be vetted for my bona fides—regardless of his
credentials—until the man realizes that, given the fact I write
about music professionally, there’s a good chance I know more
than he does. The incredulity, though, remains: “How did
you get into jazz?” Because, you see, I’m a woman—someone
who at least approximately resembles, as Robert Glasper put
it in a recent interview on Ethan Iverson’s Do the Math blog,
a “young, fine, Euro chick.” That indelicate description was
prompted by a phrase that cuts right to the heart of the matter:
his idea of “women you would think never listen to jazz.”
I am, for better or worse, a woman you would think never
listens to jazz—a fact that’s followed me since first joining my
high school’s jazz band, where I fell in love with Sonny Rollins
and Ella Fitzgerald and Thelonious Monk. This is not because
some facet of my person presents as uniquely anti-jazz. No, it’s
10
JAZZTIMES • JUNE 2017
because all women are
Women are
women you would think
never listen to jazz—at
underrepresented
least if you’re a man.
in jazz not because
Why? Glasper proposed
an answer to Iverson:
they’re incompetent
“They don’t love a lot of
soloing.” For that reason,
or uninterested,
he explained, he focuses
on the groove, searching
but because they
for what he called a “mustill have to fight
sical clitoris.” “Something
is there in your music
for acceptance,
that gives them entrance
to jazz,” Glasper added.
legitimacy
“Otherwise they’d never
and agency.
cross paths with it.”
These statements are
generalizations, and as such are fundamentally, obviously
inaccurate. Even without dissecting the 19th-century assumptions Glasper is operating under—that women are oversexed
creatures incapable of higher thought—one should not need
evidence to know that there are both prolific women soloists
and fervent women jazz fans in 2017, and that these women
found the music all on their own. Nevertheless, the interview
prompted an online fracas, including over-offended men
listing women in jazz and under-offended men (including
Glasper and Iverson, among many other musicians) explaining that, well, there aren’t that many women who listen to
jazz, and Glasper actually meant what he said as a compliment to women’s intuition, and if you’re so offended by him
making sexy music and talking about clitorises, then why
don’t you see how you like what hip-hop artists are saying
these days? And with all the problems in the world, you want
to talk about a jazz interview!?
To that I say yes, but not because Glasper’s comments
are unprecedented, or because Iverson elected to publish
the interview without any sort of critical commentary. In a
perverse way, I’m happy they did what they did, as regrettable as it might seem now (both Iverson and Glasper have
since apologized). Now we’re talking openly about a question
that usually lingers on the fringes, discussed in all-women
panel sessions attended by audiences of all women: Why
aren’t there more women in jazz? All it takes is a glance at one
of the many Facebook threads spawned by the controversy
to see that the answer lies in the dialogue itself, a circus of
men and women shouting down those who raised concerns.
Those men and women made self-evident what every woman
who’s spent time in the jazz world already knows: Women are
underrepresented in jazz not because they’re incompetent or
uninterested, but because they still have to fight for acceptance,
legitimacy and agency.
It’s not just that comments like Glasper’s are insulting—
though they are, and the hordes rushing to his defense show
that he was simply saying aloud what many others in the
community think. It’s that in an art form that continually
struggles to find an audience, they reflect an attitude of exclusivity: Jazz is for us and it’s not for you. This tone ensures that
the genre will become, if not extinct, then at least hopelessly
static. Fresh ideas from people who haven’t traditionally
been welcomed make up rock’s vanguard—see Alabama
Shakes’ Brittany Howard, or St. Vincent—essentially saving
it from critical irrelevancy. Jazz is vital right now thanks to
geographical and stylistic diversity. Imagine the possibilities
if women were not just tolerated but encouraged, both as
performers and as listeners.
For too long, jazz has been functionally exempt from the
diversity mandates that permeate just about every other art
form. An obvious example is the fight required for the all-male
Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra to hold blind auditions long
after the practice was the industry standard. But as so many
other communities have proven, just putting women in the
room is all it really takes to prompt a sea change. In the
case of jazz, that means putting women onstage and in the
recording studio. It was shocking to realize, while watching
Geri Allen and Terri Lyne Carrington take a brief duet during their performance with David Murray at the 2015 NYC
Winter Jazzfest, that in a decade of attending jazz shows that
was the first time I’d seen a band of all women. As more male
bandleaders hire women (Darcy James Argue, Jon Irabagon,
Igmar Thomas), and more female instrumentalists/bandleaders get taken seriously (Mary Halvorson, Melissa Aldana,
Linda May Han Oh, Matana Roberts), things are changing,
albeit too slowly. More open conversation about the sexism
that pervades the scene will speed things up. We’re celebrating the centennial of the first jazz recording this year, and the
genre won’t break by being held accountable for excluding 50
percent of the population. Indeed, that will make jazz even
stronger and better than it is now. JT
Natalie Weiner is a staff writer at Bleacher Report; previously, she
covered jazz and other music as an associate editor at Billboard.
She has also contributed to NPR, Complex and the Guardian.
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JAZZTIMES.COM
11
OPENING
CHORUS
))
Stay in tune
)
Inside
)
12 Hearsay
NEA Jazz Masters 2017,
Roxy Coss, Chasing Trane
documentary, David Weiss
& Point of Departure,
Gerald Clayton, Orrin Evans
joins the Bad Plus,
Braxton Cook, Nate Smith,
news and farewells
28 Before & After
Steve Wilson
32
Overdue Ovation
Don Braden
←
The Song Is Ended?
DESPITE BEING THREATENED BY PRESIDENT TRUMP’S PROPOSED
BUDGET CUTS, THE NEA JAZZ MASTERS PROGRAM CELEBRATES
ITS CLASS OF 2017 WITH VERVE AND JOY
T
he interjection “Not to get
political, but…” became a
leitmotif in writer Gary Giddins’
speech honoring fellow critic Ira
Gitler at the 2017 Jazz Masters tribute
concert, held April 3 for a second year
at the Kennedy Center in Washington,
D.C. Not getting political was a difficult
undertaking at the 35th anniversary
celebration of the National Endowment for the Arts’ fellowship for jazz
musicians, the highest honor that the
U.S. government offers the music. The
Trump Administration’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2018 calls for the
12
JAZZTIMES • JUNE 2017
elimination of the NEA, among other
federal agencies.
Faced with its endangerment, this
year’s recipients of the Jazz Masters
fellowship used the ceremony as a rally
for its preservation—in Giddins’ words,
“that jazz advocacy of the hip, by the
hip and for the hip shall not perish
from the Earth.”
Organist Dr. Lonnie Smith accepted
the honor by first thanking the NEA
“for the oncoming contributions—oncoming and ongoing, it never stops.”
Without mentioning the agency again, he
described the importance of supporting
the arts: “Constantly, every day of our
life, we have to look for work,” Smith
said. “We cannot buy a house. We do
not have insurance. But we still do what
we love.”
Bassist Dave Holland mixed his endorsement of arts advocacy with other
timely politics. “I came to this country
almost 50 years ago,” he said to great applause. “And I came as an immigrant.”
Unsurprisingly, however, it was
vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater who was
the most outspoken on the subject.
“The NEA has provided the opportunity for artists to dream and to share
their dreams with people all around
the globe. That’s something to protect,”
Bridgewater said in her extemporaneous remarks. “I was proud to be a part
of the National Public Radio family for
the 13 years I hosted JazzSet; a lot of the
funding we had came from the NEA.
We must not allow this to go away.”
SHANNON FINNEY/COURTESY OF THE NEA
From left: Fitz Gitler (appearing on behalf of his father, critic Ira Gitler), Dick Hyman, Dave
Holland, Dr. Lonnie Smith and Dee Dee Bridgewater—the NEA Jazz Masters, class of 2017
OPENING CHORUS
Hearsay
←
These pleas were not one-sided. The
audience was loudly sympathetic: It
applauded, cheered and sometimes outright whooped at the appropriate points
in these statements. Indeed, during
opening remarks by pianist Jason Moran
(the Kennedy Center’s artistic director
for jazz), his very mention of “National
Endowment for the Arts” triggered an
extended ovation.
Each artist’s speech—which apparently had no time limit, pushing the
program more than an hour over its
90-minute billing—capped a tribute
to that individual, in music as well as
words. Gitler, the one honoree who was
not present (he was recuperating from
an illness; his son, Fitz, accepted on his
behalf), was saluted with a performance
by alto saxophonist Lee Konitz. He duetted with pianist Dan Tepfer on “All the
Things You Are,” though their improvisation was so elaborate that the written
14
JAZZTIMES • JUNE 2017
melody was barely present; Konitz offered a vocal scat that was raw and moving, a highlight of the evening. He was
also featured on “I Can’t Get Started,”
with Sherrie Maricle’s DIVA Orchestra,
which served as the evening’s house
band. Nonagenarian pianist Dick Hyman watched as Bill Charlap and Aaron
Diehl performed a high-polish medley
of his compositions on interlocked grand
pianos. Holland also received the medley
treatment: His tunes “Prime Directive”
and “Make Believe” were arranged by
Chris Potter and played by Holland’s
reunited Prime Directive quintet (Potter,
trombonist Robin Eubanks, vibraphonist Steve Nelson, drummer Nate Smith)
with James Genus standing in on bass.
Potter and Eubanks engaged in a joyful
counterpoint dialogue, another of the
concert’s peaks.
Smith was serenaded by Matthew
Whitaker—a 15-year-old blind pianist
and organist—who played “Mellow
Mood,” a Jimmy Smith composition that
is one of Dr. Lonnie’s favorites. Organ
legend Booker T. Jones then took over
the keys to perform a soulful rendition
of the honoree’s “It’s Changed” with
Genus, Nate Smith and guitarist Mike
Moreno. Finally, Dianne Reeves sang “I
Wish You Love” in tribute to Bridgewater
(with special lyrics in the bridge: “All of
your friends and I agree that you are jazz
royalty”). Bridgewater’s daughter, R&B
singer China Moses, concluded with
“Undecided,” accompanied by DIVA.
Politics unquestionably loomed
over the concert, with the understanding that it might be the last of its kind.
Still, the joy of the honorees, and of
the music, did much to cancel out the
specter. “There’s no room for arguments
and fights,” Smith said in his speech,
“because music is healing.”
MICHAEL J. WEST
IMAGES BY SHANNON FINNEY/COURTESY OF THE NEA
Clockwise from left: NEA Jazz
Master Lee Konitz (right) and pianist
Dan Tepfer honor Ira Gitler; Dianne
Reeves and bassist James Genus
pay tribute to Dee Dee Bridgewater;
Genus, Steve Nelson, Robin Eubanks,
Chris Potter and Nate Smith (from left)
celebrate Dave Holland
OPENING CHORUS
Hearsay
The Ballad of Roxy Coss
A
fter playing the
second tune at her
CD-release party
in early April, at
Smalls in the West Village,
Roxy Coss put her tenor
saxophone down. “I’m looking
for a microphone,” Coss told
the house, packed with 20- and
30-somethings, including
a high percentage of young
women. “My voice is very soft.”
She found the mic and
introduced her collaborators,
praising the contributions
of pianist Miki Yamanaka, a
brand-new bandmate, and
the personnel from her new
record, Chasing the Unicorn
(Posi-Tone): guitarist Alex
Wintz, bassist Rick Rosato and drummer Jimmy
Macbride, whose rumpled
informality contrasted the leader’s crisp black ensemble. Coss
stated the titles of the anthemic, metrically modulated “Unwavering Optimism” and the bright, Brazil-tinged “You’re There.”
She projected pungently on both selections, with a centered tone
and impeccable articulation, executing thematically cohesive
statements with clarity and presence.
Coss played “Oh! Darling,” from the Beatles’ Abbey Road,
which, she said, she memorized by ear—parts, keys and lyrics—
during her formative years in Seattle. Just 30, she proceeded
through a suave, urbane, seductive reading that deeply evoked a
veteran of the boudoir tenor tradition. She switched to soprano
sax for “Breaking Point,” a reflective straight-eighth piece from
her 2016 release, Restless Idealism, featuring Wintz, trumpeter
Jeremy Pelt, pianist Chris Pattishall, bassist Dezron Douglas
and drummer Willie Jones III. She remained on soprano for
“Chasing the Unicorn,” uncorking a Coltranean opening, then
“blowing snakes” on an intense solo. Returning to tenor for
“Happiness Is a Choice,” Coss again revealed her balladic gifts
with an aria-like statement. She ended the set with a burner, Joe
Henderson’s turbulent “A Shade of Jade,” on which she slalomed
decisively through the gnarly harmonic path.
The following day, over lunch at a Senegalese restaurant near her
Harlem apartment, Coss traced her affinity for ballads and swinging
to age 12, when she soaked up a Stanley Turrentine ballads record.
“My teacher said, ‘Oh, you like this big, old-school tenor sound,’”
she recalled. She then progressed through, among others, Dexter
Gordon (“very influential—I feel I can’t escape it”), Hank Mobley,
Jimmy Forrest (“we did a lot of Basie in high school”), Stan Getz,
Joshua Redman and Eric Alexander. Midway through high school,
she became “intrigued with Wayne Shorter’s mysteriousness and
John Coltrane’s prowess.” “Nobody ever said to me specifically—or
16
JAZZTIMES • JUNE 2017
maybe they did, and I didn’t
hear it—that I should try to
sound exactly like them in tone
and inflection,” Coss said. “For
me it was more about getting the
notes and time feel, but it was
in my ear. I definitely had a very
strong idea and aesthetic. I was
12, my peers would be shredding these licks, and it bored
me—like, ‘Why would I want to
play something that’s a pattern?’
I tried to understand the whole
theory of jazz. My teacher told
me that it was hard—and rare—
for someone so young to have
such a strong vision of what I
wanted to sound like, but that
eventually it would pay off.”
Payoff eventually began with
a full scholarship to William
Paterson University, gigs with
Clark Terry and Claudio Roditi
and, later, the second-tenor chair in the DIVA Jazz Orchestra.
A three-year Thursday-night stand at the Upper West Side club
Smoke led to a two-year run and two recordings with Pelt, whom
she impressed with her abiding professionalism and knowledge of
the canon. The weekend before our conversation, Coss had played
three nights with DIVA at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, followed by
the NEA Jazz Masters concert at the Kennedy Center. “In 2009, I
met Sharel Cassity on a gig with Claudio,” she said. “She liked that
I could read and solo, and recommended me to sub on a European
tour. It’s incredible to play with women musicians. Men come to
New York and find mentors who teach them how to be and what to
do. Women don’t have that opportunity—as soon as you try to do
that with a man, it becomes weird.
“You face little stuff all the way through. For example, I always
played the ballads in high school. Yeah, I was good at it, maybe
because I had a great tone and the boys didn’t. But it’s unfortunate
that it fits the gender roles. I think that getting put in that box
early on prevented me from working on other things, like,
‘Can you play a fast solo?’”
On her blog, Coss presents several well-written, pull-no-punches
essays that address the complexities female jazz musicians face. “For
a long time I was scared to say anything,” she said. “But at a certain
point I felt that honesty has always been very important to me—and
who am I trying to please here? I named Chasing the Unicorn not
only for reflecting the symbolism of female power, but also as breaking the mythical boundaries of reality. I think the ultimate challenge
for an artist is to find their best self rather than try to be something—
say, sounding like Coltrane or Wayne Shorter. Then, as I grow and get
better at music and life and career, those edges come into focus, and I
define my vision of ‘Who is Roxy going to be?’ Then it’s being able to
execute that at the fullest capacity.” TED PANKEN
ANNA YATSKEVICH
THE RISING SAXOPHONIST CONJURES UP OLD-SCHOOL TENOR ROMANCE AND GRIT
OPENING CHORUS
Hearsay
Love & Heart & Spirit
DIRECTOR JOHN SCHEINFELD GOES INSIDE
HIS LONG-ANTICIPATED NEW DOCUMENTARY, CHASING TRANE
E
arly in the new documentary Chasing Trane, Benny
Golson recalls his friendship with John Coltrane,
complaining that the iconic saxophonist made him do
all the talking. “He was quiet,” Golson recalls. “He never
talked—until he put that saxophone in his mouth.”
Director John Scheinfeld, never a diehard jazz fan before making Chasing Trane, discovered Coltrane’s penchant for silence the
hard way. Searching for footage to help tell Trane’s story, Scheinfeld
realized that TV interviews were non-existent and radio interviews
were scarce and of subpar sound quality. He solved the problem in
two ways: one, by having Oscar-winner Denzel Washington read
Trane’s own words; and two, by acknowledging what Golson and
countless other jazz fans have learned over the last half-century:
that Coltrane could speak volumes through his saxophone.
Though it outlines the saxophonist’s familiar biography, from
his birth in North Carolina through his apprenticeships with
Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis, his struggles with heroin addiction, his spiritual rebirth and his premature death, Chasing Trane
crucially keeps its subject’s music at the center of its story. While
the words recited by Washington offer insight into Coltrane’s
thoughts and feelings, Scheinfeld wisely lets the music—with
dozens of recordings at his disposal, from every phase of Trane’s
wide-ranging career—carry the narration.
←
Chasing Trane covers
the jazz icon’s familiar
biography but homes in
on his music
Through this process, combined with the usual talking heads
(including Sonny Rollins, Jimmy Heath, Wynton Marsalis,
Wayne Shorter, Carlos Santana, Kamasi Washington, Dr. Cornel West and writers Ben Ratliff and Ashley Kahn) and archival
footage, Scheinfeld manages to tell an oft-told story in a way
that seems fresh to even the most dedicated Trane-spotter.
Having directed similarly revealing docs about John Lennon
and Harry Nilsson, Scheinfeld offers a portrait that takes in the
socio-historical—especially in a sequence on “Alabama”—and
spiritual contexts in which Coltrane created his masterworks.
Not long before the film’s New York premiere, we caught up
with the director via phone. SHAUN BRADY
JAZZTIMES: YOU’VE PREVIOUSLY MADE FILMS ON ROCK
STARS AND HOLLYWOOD ACTORS. WHAT BROUGHT YOU
TO JOHN COLTRANE?
JOHN SCHEINFELD:
Like many people I was introduced to
Coltrane through “My Favorite Things,” when I was doing a radio
show at Oberlin College. I came across it in the record cabinet and
put it on and was just blown away by that track, but to be honest
I was not an obsessed fan. I respected him and knew he was an
iconic artist, but it was one of our producers, Spencer Proffer, who
asked me if I’d be interested in making a film about Coltrane.
The more I looked into his story, the more I thought it was
very unique and special. We all know about artists who came
from nowhere, exploded onto the scene, had great success, made
a lot of money, maybe abused some substances and died young.
That’s a bit of a cliché in the music business. But Coltrane is the
antithesis of that. Yes, Trane had his challenges, but it was once
he overcame them that he ascended and became the iconic
figure we know. This is a very uplifting and inspiring story,
and that’s what got me excited about making this picture.
THAT HAS TO BE A REFRESHING CHANGE, GIVEN THE
TRAGIC NARRATIVE ARC THAT SO MANY MUSIC
STORIES TAKE.
DON
N SCHLITTEN
N
Very much so. But there’s another aspect to Coltrane’s
story that makes it so unique, and that’s the spiritual journey he was on. I’ve interviewed a lot of rock-and-rollers,
and they’re not the least bit embarrassed to admit that the
reason they got into music was to get girls and score drugs. Coltrane
is different in that from the very beginning this blend of music and
spirituality was part of his life, and that was incorporated into his art.
YOU REALLY ALLOW HIS MUSIC TO TELL A SIGNIFICANT
AMOUNT OF THE STORY.
Because we had the participation of the Coltrane estate and the support of the three record labels that collectively own the lion’s share
of his catalog, we were able to include almost 50 recordings in this
film. In his extraordinary catalog I found every mood, every tone,
every color, every emotion that I needed to help tell his story. What
people will hear is an extremely broad range of Coltrane’s output,
and I think even those familiar with his music will be able to hear
and appreciate it in a new and exciting way.
HOW DID DENZEL WASHINGTON GET INVOLVED?
In his lifetime, Coltrane did no television interviews and only a
handful of radio interviews, and the sound wasn’t good enough
for me to use. But I did want him to have a vital presence in the
film, beyond just the performance clips. Happily, he had done a
number of print interviews during the height of his career, and I
was able to take extracts from those and pepper them throughout
the film to illuminate
what he might have
been thinking or
feeling at a particular
time.
Because I’m relentlessly optimistic and
I aim high, I wanted
a movie star to read
these words. The reason Denzel was first
on my list was not
only because he’s a
superb actor and one
of the biggest movie
stars in the business, but if you think about the characters that he’s
played onscreen, most of them embody a very quiet strength. A lot
of people who knew Coltrane told me that’s the way Coltrane was.
“To see the story
of someone who
followed their muse,
who did things the
right way… is very
much needed in
these times.”
THE FILM CAPTURES COLTRANE’S RESPONSE TO THE TUMULTUOUS TIMES HE WAS LIVING IN. WERE YOU THINKING ABOUT THE
WAYS THAT REFLECTS OUR CURRENT HISTORICAL MOMENT?
Yes and no. For me, to get at what makes an artist tick we have
to understand the cultural, political and social landscape against
which they grew up and lived. We started the picture long before
the election of 2016. The Republicans were still trying to fight the
Voting Rights Act of 1965 and other accomplishments of the civilrights era, so I suppose in some small way that impacted us, but I
feel that Chasing Trane is the right movie at the right time.
As I mentioned before, I see it as an uplifting and inspiring story,
and I feel this is very much needed in this strange time in which we’re
living, where a darkness has swept over the land. To see the story of
someone who followed their muse, who did things the right way, who
created an extraordinary body of work, all from a place of love and
heart and spirit, is very much needed in these times. JT
Visit coltranefilm.com for screening and release info
JAZZTIMES.COM
19
OPENING CHORUS
Hearsay
Departures & Arrivals
←
Weiss (front) with
Myron Walden, Matt
Clohesy, Ben Eunson,
Travis Reuter and Kush
Abadey (from left)
W
ith Point of Departure, a group exploring
charged and often lesser-known repertoire
from the late ’60s and early ’70s, trumpeter/
bandleader David Weiss has spent more than
10 years testing the youngest and rawest of New York talent
through trial-by-fire on the bandstand. Talk to virtually any
PoD member and they’ll offer some version of the sentiment
voiced by tenor saxophonist JD Allen: “I was new in town
and David was one of the only guys that gave me a shot in the
beginning. He gave me work.”
Maintaining a band is notoriously difficult, but for Weiss,
PoD has proved relatively simple: “If you have absolutely no
pressures, then you have all the time in the world to do whatever you want. You just let it all happen.” In practical terms this
means a hell-raising monthly gig at Fat Cat in New York’s West
Village, plus rehearsals-cum-auditions to keep a steady rotation of eager young subs in the wings. And when inspiration
strikes, you make a record: Wake Up Call (Ropeadope), PoD’s
newest release, is the first to feature the two-guitar concept that
Weiss and company have refined lately in the live setting. The
album follows Venture Inward (2013), Snuck Out (2011) and
Snuck In (2010).
Point of Departure’s music hovers between acoustic and
electric jazz, much as the Miles Davis “Lost Quintet” once did.
There’s a classic trumpet-tenor sax frontline with upright bass
20
JAZZTIMES • JUNE 2017
and drums. But where you’d expect
a piano there’s instead a solidbody
guitar—now two guitars, with
two distinct aesthetics and tonal
personalities. The band’s modernist, at times abstract harmony can
evoke the world of Andrew Hill (the
band gets its name from Hill’s 1965
magnum opus on Blue Note). And
while the repertoire includes items
from the Davis and Hill catalogs,
there are also numerous pieces by
the late Charles Moore, trumpeter
in the Detroit-based Contemporary
Jazz Quintet led by pianist Kenny
Cox. This oeuvre was unknown to
most of Weiss’ recruits when they
first heard it—even to Allen, a native Detroiter who as a teen had met
Moore and Cox in the flesh.
The CJQ represents a fascinating offshoot of the Miles Davis
sound, but with its own harmonic
and rhythmic signature. Weiss has
harnessed Moore’s complex metric
shifts and cueing systems to PoD’s
musical purposes. “Those guys still
basically swung through the solo
sections,” Weiss says of the CJQ. “We said, ‘Well, we’re going to
do anything.’ We’re going to groove it more, we’ll break it down,
we’ll open it up to any possibility. The music was just a framework. It took us a minute to work out all the things we could
do, but it was pretty liberating.”
Right from the start, around 2006, Fat Cat served as PoD’s
laboratory. A large billiard and game hall with plentiful beer
flowing for the college crowd, the club at first had a separate
music room with a partition that was ultimately declared illegal
by New York City authorities. There was just one guitarist, Nir
Felder, with a host of soloists and rhythm-section players passing through: saxophonists Mark Shim and Marcus Strickland,
bassist Luques Curtis, drummers Jamire Williams and Rudy
Royston. Weiss recalls a certain magic in that now-vanished
room: “It really was beautiful. It had freakishly good sound
too—you could find a sweet spot on the floor and your whole
body would resonate. We barely used amplification back then
because everything rang out so well.”
Now without the wall, bands play directly in the main room
and are ignored by 80 percent of the patrons. The remaining 20
percent are another story: They gather on comfortable couches
and chairs with a direct sightline to the players and become
utterly absorbed. The density of the drinking crowd serves as
soundproofing: At a gig in late March, the brash horns of Weiss
and tenor saxophonist Lawrence Clark (subbing for Myron
DENEKA PENISTON
TRUMPETER DAVID WEISS’ LATEST POINT OF DEPARTURE LINEUP
TAKES GUITAR-FUELED FUSION ENERGY TO ADVENTUROUS POSTBOP
Walden), the relentless bass and drums of Matt Clohesy and
Kush Abadey, and the cranked volcanic guitars of Ben Eunson
and Andrew Renfroe (subbing for Travis Reuter) sounded
warm, satisfying and perfectly in balance. “It’s very high-energy
from a rhythm-section point of view,” Clohesy says, “and the
soloing is very stretched out, so it’s really an endurance thing.
In the beginning I found it physically draining, but now I really
appreciate it. I love the energy.”
Continuous sets without pauses, in the manner of ’70s Miles
and the Tony Williams Lifetime (and the Contemporary Jazz
Quintet, for that matter), have been another chief aspect of PoD’s
method from the outset. Reuter remembers entire sets where
he never once took his hands off the guitar. “It’s easy t lay o t if
you’re comping behind a soloist,” he says, “but the gig was a lot
more fun if I was playing 100 percent the whole time.” Blending
with fellow guitarist Eunson was another welco e challenge.
For two-guitar precedents, one can point to iles Davis’ use
of two fuzzed-out keyboards circa 1970; or two guitars on Pangea and Agharta; or, as Eunson points out, Marc Johnson’s use
of John Scofield and Bill Frisell in his quartet Bass Desires. ut
there’s another influence entirely: the aitian compas music of
Tabou Combo, with whom Weiss used to play. “The thing [that
band] really did well is when the two guitarists played together
and did these interweaving lines,” the trumpeter recounts. “The
other thing is how they recorded horns: One would play a line
and then play it again, and they’d pan it left and right, creating
this weird stereo sound. It’s never perfectly in tune, so it gives
you this kind of wavy thing coming out of both speakers. That’s
the idea I had for the [PoD] guitars too.”
The rapport between Reuter and Eunson is very particular, as
Eunson notes: “My role is closer to a chordal approach, with a
little distortion that fills out the sound like a Rhodes. By contrast,
Travis has these wonderful atmospheric sounds, these soundscapes that complement what I do and vice versa. There’s a lot of
listening going on.” Weiss is happy with that. “Ben’s ridiculous,”
he declares. “He shreds, he does it all and it’s tasteful and melodic.
But Travis was really the secret weapon. e’s got a hole different
thing going on. And Ben and Travis got along well.”
Putting different incarnations of the band onto the same album,
Wake Up Call proceeds in three parts. First is a “Prologue,” an incendiary reading of Mahavishnu Orchestra’s “Sanctuary” featuring the
Eunson/Reuter matchup and Walden on tenor. Part II is “Unfinished
Business,” three valedictory tracks with the original PoD lineup of
Nir Felder and JD Allen. Part III is “New Beginning,” with a return
to the new personnel. The album’s repertoire ranges from Charles
Moore and Kenny Cox (the beautiful “Sojourn”) to Wayne Shorter,
Joe Henderson, Tony Williams and the Brazilian Grupo Um.
What unites all of this music, and all these players, is mastery
of the tradition, deep reverence for the material and an eagerness
and ability to connect to listeners in 2017. “I think that’s always
been the fight in this music,” Weiss says. “It’s always been this tug
of war. As long as we lay down a groove, we can still go through
these time changes and harmonies and do all the stuff that’s
interesting to us. You want to find this balance between reaching
people and hitting them over the head with a little extra.”
STEPHEN SCOTT CURTIS LUNDY LE IS NASH
ei
i
B BBY ATS N alto saxophone
STEPHEN SCOTT piano
CURTIS LUNDY bass
LEWIS NASH drums
STEVE DAVIS
STEVE
JIMMY
LARRY
PETER
LEWIS
WILSON
GREENE
WILLIS
WASHINGTON
NASH
Think Ahead
STEVE DAVIS trombone
STEVE WILSON saxophones & flute
JIMMY GREENE tenor saxophone
LARRY WILLIS piano
PETER WASHINGTON bass
LEWIS NASH drums
More Music Coming Soon!
PETER BERNSTEIN
HAROLD MABERN
VINCENT HERRING
EDDIE HENDERSON
www.SmokeSessionsRecords.com
www.Facebook.com/smokesessionsrecords
© 2017 Smoke Sessions Records
DAVID R. ADLER
JAZZTIMES.COM
21
OPENING CHORUS
COURTESY OF THE ARTIST
Hearsay
Rivers & Streams
PIANIST GERALD CLAYTON CONNECTS HIS PRESENT TO A LARGER CULTURAL PAST
A
t just 33, Gerald Clayton is no stranger to exploring the
roots of jazz. He was a toddler when he first accompanied
his father, bassist John Clayton, to gigs around Los Angeles, and later joined John and his brother, saxophonist Jeff,
as the pianist in the fiery hard-bop unit the Clayton Brothers. On
his new album as a leader, Tributary Tales (Motéma), Clayton aims
to connect his life experience—the places he’s traveled to, the people
he’s met—with his musical and cultural ancestry. Helping the pianist
along in this journey are saxophonists Logan Richardson, Ben Wendel and Dayna Stephens; bassist Joe Sanders; drummer Justin Brown;
percussionists Henry Cole and Gabriel Lugo; guest vocalist Sachal
Vasandani and poets Carl Hancock Rux and Aja Monet.
Clayton was also recently commissioned by Duke Performances
to compose “Piedmont Blues,” an ambitious interdisciplinary work
combining music, dance and film, all in service of paying tribute
to that culturally rich area comprising much of the Carolinas and
Virginia. The work has been staged at several major performing arts
centers and festivals, and it features an eight-piece band plus singer
René Marie, dancer Maurice Chestnut and a gospel choir. Clayton
spoke with JT publisher Lee Mergner about both projects; for the
conversation on “Piedmont Blues,” visit JazzTimes.com.
LEE MERGNER: YOUR NEW ALBUM, TRIBUTARY TALES, FOLLOWS
way of putting a magnifying glass on a process that we partake in all
the time—trying to strengthen our roots while exploring new terrain. It felt fitting with Tributary Tales, not just because of the river
idea of connectedness, with all the various facets of my life, but also
[the idea of] paying homage to the river of elders and to the music
that came before us. They’re definitely all connected.
AS IN “PIEDMONT BLUES,” THE ALBUM INTEGRATES SPOKEN
WORD WITH MUSIC.
I’ve been interested in [that] for a while. My last album, Life Forum, had
Carl Hancock Rux on one of the tracks. I really dig connecting with
various artistic expressions, and something about the spoken word feels
sort of like [it does] with a singer, where there’s a similarity and connection and a simpatico energy; we’re partaking in the same goal [and]
striving to express ourselves.
When you combine expressions, there’s a lot of potential there.
There’s a lot of room for taking the music to another level but also
for highlighting the words in a new way. I love exploring that and I
wanted to expand that concept on this album, not just with Carl but
also with a female voice. He introduced me to the work of Aja Monet
and I became a fan instantly. We got a chance to connect in the studio
and talk about life in a breaking-bread session, then press “Record,”
and we came up with some stuff.
A THEME OF RECOGNIZING AND EXPLORING CONNECTIONS TO
22
AMERICA’S CULTURAL PAST.
WERE THE WORDS WRITTEN SPECIFICALLY FOR YOUR MUSIC,
GERALD CLAYTON:
OR DID YOU COMPOSE MUSIC BASED ON THEIR WORDS?
I think projects like “Piedmont Blues” are a
JAZZTIMES • JUNE 2017
It was a bit of both. In corresponding with them before we got
together, I gave them an idea of what my narrative was for this
project. But I always want people to feel free to express themselves.
If you give ideas and topics or things that are broad enough, then
there’s a lot of room for them to go and take that. Aja and Carl
both came with some written stuff. I sent them the tracks that I
wanted them to flow over. But we also created something on the
spot. That’s the final track on the album, “Dimensions: Interwoven,”
where we took some of their written material but flowed off of one
another, and eventually Aja completely improvised and sang from
the heart. I think that moment at the end of “Dimensions: Interwoven”
is one of my favorites on the record. It gives me goosebumps when
I hear it. She testifies and says she’s yearning for freedom, which is
kind of a heavy moment. Ultimately it felt like a natural, free, jamsession type of experience.
3 Days | 10 Stages | 100+ Performances
THE LINE OF CARL’S THAT I REMEMBER WAS: “NOT AN ARRANGEMENT OF SONGS, BUT A TRANSCRIPTION OF TRUTH OR A STORY
Chris Botti
George Clinton
IN DIATONIC NOTES.” THAT’S AN APT DESCRIPTION OF GREAT
MUSIC OR GREAT ART.
Carl is to me a musical voice and a great thinker and a great writer and
poet. The way that he brings those images to life, and just the words
themselves, are very musical. Both he and Aja sound like musicians to
me. It’s really cool. They’re truly masters of spoken-word expression.
YOU WERE THE PRODUCER AS WELL. WAS IT A CHALLENGE TO
PRODUCE THE ALBUM AND MAKE SURE THE ELEMENTS BLENDED
TOGETHER?
This was the first project where I didn’t have someone else in an
official producer role. I enjoyed the freedom of being the captain
of the ship in that regard. But with all those guys, they’re all so
sensitive with what they bring to the music. I know they’re going to
approach the music with the right sensibility. Afterwards, you listen
back to what you’ve collected and then it’s a question of “Do I want
to add more?” or “Does it need some variation from this track to
that one?” or “What’s the arc of the whole record?” Another part
of the process for me, before I even recorded with the band, was
to just go into the studio for a few days and record solo piano and
record duos. Some of the stuff you hear as interludes I had recorded
even earlier. I had a lot of material to work with and a pretty wide
variety of sounds and feelings to go with. I suppose it is a challenge,
but it feels like the same challenge that I am always faced with when
putting together a 90-minute set of music or a record. It’s looking at
everything you have and finding the right balance and arc.
YOU’VE REALLY LIVED THE CONCEPT OF HAVING A CONNECTION
TO THE PAST THROUGH LIFE AND MUSIC, BECAUSE OF YOUR FATHER AND UNCLE. DID YOU REFLECT UPON THAT MORE PERSONAL
OR FAMILIAL ASPECT AS YOU WORKED ON THIS ALBUM?
CHRIS BOTTI
GEORGE CLINTON AND
PARLIAMENT FUNKADELIC
THE WHISPERS
ANGÉLIQUE KIDJO AND
PEDRITO MARTINEZ
JAVON JACKSON, GEORGE CABLES,
RANDY BRECKER, EDDIE GOMEZ
& JIMMY COBB
DR. LONNIE SMITH
ALLAN HARRIS QUARTET
EDDIE HENDERSON
TOMMY IGOE GROOVE CONSPIRACY
OSCAR HERNÁNDEZ AND ALMA LIBRE
PACIFIC MAMBO ORCHESTRA
Tickets and Hotel Deals
SUMMERFEST.SANJOSEJAZZ.ORG
Whether it’s the Clayton Brothers or Roy Hargrove or Charles Lloyd, I
feel like they’re always in my decisions on and off the bandstand. They
provide the content for your musical decisions. All those values and all
those lessons I learned from the masters really flow through you when
you put pen to paper or sit down to play. And everybody on the record
has their own set of influences, their own dues that they paid and the
apprenticeship they had with elders. It brings me back to the theme of
the record—that we’re all these different streams that are all connected
to that same source, an open ocean of creative improvised expression.
I do reflect on it a lot. JT
JAZZTIMES.COM
23
OPENING CHORUS
Minus One, Plus One
STARTING IN 2018, ORRIN EVANS
WILL REPLACE ETHAN IVERSON
IN THE GROUNDBREAKING TRIO THE BAD PLUS
O
n April 9, the Philadelphiabased pianist Orrin Evans
tweeted, “I have so much to
say but I’ll wait until tomorrow :)!!” What was he about to announce?
A new album? A teaching position? Turns
out it was something few in the jazz
community could have anticipated. The
following day, it was revealed that, starting
in 2018, Evans would be the new pianist
in the Bad Plus, the era-defining leftof-center jazz trio that has been kicking
since 2000. The Bad Plus as we know it,
beloved for its dramatic, emotive original
music and inspired rock and pop covers,
is scheduled for demolition. In search of
inspiration elsewhere, and due in part to
24
JAZZTIMES • JUNE 2017
well-hidden tensions within the ensemble, pianist Ethan Iverson will play his last
hit with drummer Dave King and bassist
Reid Anderson at the Village Vanguard
on New Year’s Eve.
Though any pianist switching in for
Iverson would at first seem like a strange
choice—the Bad Plus’ sound is so solidified at this point that removing any of the
three voices might render the group
unrecognizable—the decision to bring in
Evans, 42, shouldn’t be a shocker. For one
thing, he’d already played with members of
the group when the initial phone call came
earlier this year. Evans, whose playing is
soulful and robust, and Iverson, who skews
wry and postmodern, have performed as
a two-piano duo, and Evans and Anderson,
especially, have enjoyed a long relationship.
They first met when the bassist was attending college in Philadelphia and Evans hadn’t
yet graduated from high school. Anderson
later appeared on Evans’ 2000 album Listen
to the Band. “I really don’t feel like I’m walking into a strange or foreign environment,”
Evans says the day after the announcement.
“I’m just walking into a new one, because I
know these gentlemen, and they’re people I
can consider friends and family.”
No stranger to the jazz-piano trio—he
plays in Tarbaby, with bassist Eric Revis
and drummer Nasheet Waits, and dropped
an album in 2015 with bassist Christian
McBride and drummer Karriem Riggins—
Evans has something else in common with
the members of the Bad Plus: passion. “To
be in a band and have a band for two years
is some bad shit,” Evans says. “But to have a
band and be in a band for 17 years … man,
that’s amazing. That’s some real dedication.
So I’m looking forward to being a part of
that. Will I have 17 years? Man, I’m riding
the ride. Wherever this music takes us, and
this journey takes us, I’m down for the ride
right now.”
The trip will include some serious
research. Though a new album is already
in the works, and Evans is considering
composing for it, the group has pledged
to keep playing the compositions that led
them to jazz stardom in the first place.
“You can get the gig with Sonny Rollins
and you might not have to learn the book
from 40-something years ago,” Evans
says. “He can just say, ‘These are tunes I’m
playing in my band now.’ But when you
join a band that has followers and fans,
they don’t wanna just hear the new record.
There’s gonna be people there screaming
for shit from the first record, and I have to
be prepared for that. Does that mean I’m
gonna know all of those tunes? No. But I
need to be familiar with a 20-year history
of music in order to not be the one who
came along and destroyed all the fans’
favorite band [laughs].”
Evans is not the only one concerned
with the band’s audience. In fact, that’s
something he likes about Anderson and
King—how much they care about the
people on the receiving end of their music.
“How many jazz bands would announce
that a piano player is gonna change in six
months?” Evans wonders. “They’re like,
‘Look, we love you, fans! Just get ready!’”
BRAD FARBERMAN
JOHN ABBOTT
←
“Wherever this
music takes us ...
I‘m down,“
Evans says
Hearsay
Among Friends
SAXOPHONIST BRAXTON COOK ON COMING UP IN THE D.C. SCENE, BALANCING HIS
JAZZ AND R&B INFLUENCES AND WHY HIRING A-LIST PERSONNEL ISN’T NECESSARY
RONALD STEWART
I
n 2014, then 23-year-old Braxton Cook
released the Sketch EP: a 30-minute
debut featuring the kind of progressive
acoustic jazz one might expect to hear
from a recent Juilliard grad most recognized as the alto saxophonist in trumpeter
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah’s band. The
next year, however, he threw those expectations to the curb with Braxton Cook Meets
Butcher Brown, a collaboration with the
electrified funk-soul band from
Richmond, Va.
“I knew that having gone to
Juilliard and made Sketch, people
would be expecting more of a
straight-ahead modern album
next,” Cook says. “I really wanted
to make sure that I put out that
Butcher Brown album to show
my influences—my first loves
are Hank Crawford and Grover
Washington—and show the direction I’m going. It was kind of a
strategic thing, where I’m going to
play some modern stuff I like, and
some of that groove stuff I like,
and show off who I am.”
Cook’s new full-length album,
then, can be summarized by
its title, Somewhere in Between.
Indeed, the album combines the
harmonic and improvisatory trajectory of Sketch with the soulful
grooves of Butcher Brown—and
adds in smooth R&B vocals
by Cook himself, with accompaniment by Lauren Desberg. He wrote
the music and lyrics and produced the
album—again with a blend of both approaches. “There’s a sweetness to the horns
and to some of the vocals,” Cook says. “But
I used some of the same postproduction
techniques I’d used on Butcher Brown: a
lot of compression on the drums; a more
rugged, kinda distorted vibe.”
That’s quite an evolution for a kid who
grew up on bebop in the Washington, D.C.
area. Cook was raised in Silver Spring, Md.,
and listened to soul and gospel music as
well as jazz. But it was Paul Carr, a tenor
saxophonist and educator with a long
list of mentorships in D.C., who set the
15-year-old Cook on the path to becoming
a professional jazz musician. Under Carr’s
tutelage, he nailed an audition for the allcounty public-school band in Montgomery
County, then made Maryland’s all-state
band. From there he went national: the
2009 Grammy Jazz Ensemble, the Vail Jazz
Workshop. The following year, as a freshman at Georgetown University, he won the
silver medal at the YoungArts Foundation’s
arts competition.
Cook had applied to several music
schools, but went to Georgetown because it was tuition-free; his father was a
law professor there. It didn’t slow down
his musical education, however, as D.C.
was in the midst of a new golden age of
jazz. “It was really popping. U Street was
everything!” he recalls. “From Bohemian Caverns, to Café Nema, to Utopia,
all those clubs that were right there.
I couldn’t drink or get in, but I was
outside, checking out the Young Lions
[a D.C.-based piano trio], or the Jolley
Twins, and they would just let me play.
They let me sit in when I could. And you
couldn’t get that anywhere—you can’t get
that now, even in New York!”
In his junior year, on the advice of a friend,
bassist Joshua Crumbly, Cook transferred to
Juilliard in New York, and shortly thereafter,
Christian Scott heard him play. Scott set
him up with a gig for a local TV show, then
invited him to sit in with his band at the Blue
Note. “And then I started getting e-mails
from his manager, talkin’ ’bout, ‘Are you free
for November? We’re going to Europe!’ And
that’s really how it all started.”
“I told myself I’d never play
with another alto player, but upon
hearing [Braxton] the first time, I
knew I had to have his voice in our
sound,” Scott says. “I knew I was
going to have to adjust the music
for his voice. He is an incredibly
creative and acrobatic player.”
It was Scott who urged Cook
and his bandmates—including
drummer Corey Fonville, a founding member of Butcher Brown—
to find and to fight for their own
musical vision. He told them
stories of his own beginnings, and
not only encouraged them to follow suit but demanded it.
Soon enough, Cook had a solid
set of original compositions, and,
per Scott’s guidance, he simply
called up Fonville, keyboardist
Samora Pinderhughes and bassist
Chris Smith to record them. The
rest is history.
Pinderhughes appears on one
track on Somewhere in Between;
the remainder is filled out with Cook’s
Juilliard buddies: Crumbly, pianist Mathis
Picard, guitarist Andrew Renfroe and drummer Jonathan Pinson. It was very important
to Cook that he use his friends, even at the
sacrifice of the usual top-call New York
musicians. “I look around and—no shame on
anyone, but I look around and it’s the same
rhythm section on every band!” he says. “I
didn’t want to call the cats that everyone calls,
the baddest people that you don’t even know.
Just call your friends!
“I think there’s something special and
intrinsically unique in doing that, as opposed
to hiring people who are already set in their
ways. I wanted to build something unique.”
MICHAEL J. WEST
JAZZTIMES.COM
25
OPENING CHORUS
Hearsay
Family Band
NATE SMITH MELDS EDGY SOUL-JAZZ AND PERSONAL HISTORY
ON KINFOLK: POSTCARDS FROM EVERYWHERE
JAZZTIMES: YOUR DEBUT ALBUM ARRIVES WELL INTO AN
ESTABLISHED SIDEMAN CAREER. WHAT GOALS DID YOU
HAVE IN MIND WHEN YOU SET OUT TO CREATE KINFOLK?
26
JAZZTIMES • JUNE 2017
NATE SMITH: By the time they’re my age, most cats have
released 10 records, so I feel like I have a lot to catch up on. I
wanted to write music that wouldn’t sound like what anybody
else was doing. I reached into different networks of musicians
to see if I could put something together where everybody had
the space to do their thing, but they were each really unique. I
also wanted to use this project to tell a little backstory on me.
In making this record personal and telling my own story—as a
human being, as a man, as a black man, as a black American—
I hope that it can have a universal application. I hope people
hear it and say, “I hear a little bit of my story in there,” no matter who they are. There’s something here that I think is very
human, very personal.
THAT STORY STARTS WITH YOUR PARENTS, BOTH OF
WHOM MAKE APPEARANCES. BUT IT ALSO REACHES FURTHER BACK THROUGH THE STORIES THEY TELL.
I felt like it was important to have my parents’ voices on the
record. Everybody can relate to hearing your mom’s voice;
there’s a sweetness there, a feeling of home. Then my dad
passed during the course of making the record, so now I feel
like he’s still here because I can still hear his voice. When I was
doing the record, I remember thinking about my grandparents
and realized that I remember their voices but I’ll never hear
LAURA HANIFIN
T
here’s always been a serious sense of groove in Nate
Smith’s drumming. Whether navigating the heady
rhythms of Dave Holland’s bands, propelling the
electric explorations of Chris Potter’s Underground
or meshing jazz and R&B behind singer José James, Smith’s
playing fluidly intermingles the soulful and the intricate. On
his long-awaited leader debut, KINFOLK: Postcards From
Everywhere (Ropeadope), he adds a touch of the personal to
that tantalizing mixture.
Carving a distinctive path through 21st-century soul-jazz,
KINFOLK brings together a diverse roster from both worlds,
setting the likes of Holland, Potter, guitarist Lionel Loueke
and saxophonist Jaleel Shaw next to guitarist-producer Jeremy
Most and singer Amma Whatt to create a unique, eclectic
mash-up. As the name implies, the album takes inspiration
from an expanded notion of family, both blood (Smith’s parents can be heard telling the family’s narrative) and musical.
Over a mocktail in Philadelphia, not far from where he was
due to perform with James, the drummer, 42, chatted about his
album’s blend of jazz, R&B and history. SHAUN BRADY
them. I feel like I’m very lucky that I get to pursue my dream
because of the work they did. I wonder what my granddaddy
would have wanted to do that he wasn’t able to. If he’d had his
druthers and wasn’t crushed under this ceiling of segregation
and discrimination, what could he have done?
THE IDEA OF POSTCARDS FROM EVERYWHERE RELATES
TO THE TRANSITORY NATURE OF A WORKING MUSICIAN,
BUT THROUGH THOSE STORIES IT TAKES ON A MEANING
RELATED TO THE AFRICAN-AMERICAN EXPERIENCE AND
ITS VARIOUS MIGRATIONS.
We’re all still migrating, I think. For black folk now, in a
strange way it’s the best of times but also the toughest of
times. We have camera phones now, so we’re seeing a lot
of stuff that we didn’t see before. As you’re navigating your
life, you suddenly think, “That could be me—I could be
that guy or that woman assaulted by a police officer or
harassed on a subway train.”
It makes you feel a bit outside
of yourself, like you’re an alien
in your own skin. I wanted to
create something that could
give people a moment to take
a breath and not lament too
hard, but say, “This is where we
are. I’m tired of this, I’m sick of
it, but this is our life so we have
to deal with it.”
“IN MAKING
THIS RECORD
PERSONAL AND
TELLING MY
OWN STORY—
AS A HUMAN
BEING, AS A MAN,
AS A BLACK MAN,
AS A BLACK
AMERICAN—
I HOPE THAT IT
CAN HAVE A
UNIVERSAL
APPLICATION.”
HOW DID THOSE IDEAS SHAPE
THE MUSIC YOU WROTE FOR
THE ALBUM?
The music actually dictated the
narrative. The songs came first,
and then I started to ask myself,
“Why am I writing this?” And
that led me back home. It really
goes back to my dad’s record collection. He was way into instrumental R&B, the stuff that became
smooth jazz but before it became
smooth jazz, when it was actually
kind of killing. I’m remembering
the sounds of the house, so that
music is filtered through the songs
I’m writing now.
MAKING THE TRANSITION TO BEING A BANDLEADER,
WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM GUYS LIKE DAVE HOLLAND
AND CHRIS POTTER?
Both of them are really hardworking guys, and they’re always
thinking ahead. I’d be on the road with Chris and he’d be writing big-band arrangements for a concert six months down the
road, or tunes for his next project. Dave is the steadiest cat I’ve
ever met, so rock-solid—the way he plays is how he is. José as
well; he’s a cat who’s always thinking ahead. I’m lucky in that
I’m touring with guys who are always spinning wheels, and
that’s inspiring to be around. JT
Farewells
Guitarist Allan Holdsworth,
whose fast, fluid, Trane-influenced
technique set a new standard for
virtuosity during the fusion and
progressive-rock era, died of a
heart attack on April 15, at home
in Vista, Calif. He was 70.
Best known for his work with
Jean-Luc Ponty, Soft Machine, the
prog supergroup U.K. and the
New Tony Williams Lifetime as
well as numerous releases as a
leader, Holdsworth’s influence
ran deep among musicians and
especially guitarists of all stripes—
Eric Johnson, Rush’s Alex Lifeson,
Stanley Jordan and Eddie Van
Halen have all cited him as a
major influence.
Arthur Blythe, a powerful, freeinfluenced saxophonist who
worked with Mose Allison, Lester
Bowie, Jack DeJohnette, Gil
Evans, Chico Freeman, Chico
Hamilton, Julius Hemphill, McCoy
Tyner, James “Blood” Ulmer and
others, was a member of the
World Saxophone Quartet and
recorded more than 30 albums
as a leader, died at a retirement
home in Southern California on
March 27. He was 76. His alto
voice—sparkling yet sturdy with a
steady vibrato that nodded to the
past—was easily recognizable
yet accessible. He had battled
Parkinson’s disease for several
years and had other health issues.
News from JazzTimes.com
• Dates for keyboardist and composer Herbie Hancock’s first
full-band tour since 2011 have been announced. Hancock’s
band will feature guitarist Lionel Loueke, multi-instrumentalist
Terrace Martin, bassist James Genus and drummer Vinnie
Colaiuta, and the tour will begin in Ukraine in late June and
continue through to the Monterey Jazz Festival in September.
Performances will feature material from a forthcoming
album as well as songs spanning Hancock’s career. Visit
herbiehancock.com for the complete list of concerts.
• The Detroit Jazz Festival, scheduled for Labor Day weekend
(Sept. 1-4), has named saxophonist and composer Wayne
Shorter this year’s artist-in-residence. Shorter will appear in
concert three times during the weekend: an opening-night
performance with his quartet (pianist Danilo Pérez, bassist
John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade); a closing concert
featuring that same quartet with the Detroit Jazz Festival
Orchestra in the North American debut of his composition
“Emanon”; and a performance with his quintet featuring
pianist Geri Allen, keyboardist Leo Genovese, bassist
Esperanza Spalding and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington. For
more info, visit detroitjazzfest.com.
• The 60th annual Monterey Jazz Festival, taking place
Sept. 15-17, has announced its artist lineup and artists-inresidence. This year’s festival celebrates the centennials of
Thelonious Monk, Ella Fitzgerald and Dizzy Gillespie, and will
include additional tributes to Celia Cruz and Sonny Rollins.
Headlining artists include the Kenny Barron Trio, Regina
Carter, Roy Hargrove, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Dee Dee
Bridgewater, Leslie Odom Jr., Joe Lovano and Lewis Nash.
John Clayton, Jeff Hamilton and Gerald Clayton will serve
as artists-in-residence, with the Gerald Clayton Trio and
Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra debuting a new commission
work. Carter will be the Showcase artist, performing
with three projects over the weekend. For more info, visit
montereyjazzfestival.org.
JAZZTIMES.COM
27
Before & After
JOHN ABBOTT
OPENING CHORUS
STEVE WILSON
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF THE OLD SCHOOL
By Larry Appelbaum
M
ulti-instrumentalist Steve Wilson, best known as an alto
and soprano saxophonist, is busier than ever these days.
One look at his tour schedule can confirm that fact: a recent U.S. trek with the Maria Schneider Orchestra; a date
with Christian McBride’s big band and another alongside the bassist in
a one-off Weather Report tribute; duo sets with drummer Lewis Nash,
pianist Fred Hersch and others; East and West Coast performances
of an all-star salute to Stephen Sondheim. Wilson, 56, is also an indemand clinician, and teaches at Virginia Commonwealth University,
the City College of New York and the Juilliard School. His most recent
release as a leader is Live in New York: The Vanguard Sessions (Random
Act), and his next effort will be the vinyl-only release Sit Back, Relax
& Unwind (J.M.I.), due out later this year. In early March, we carved
out some listening time at the Watergate Hotel, prior to the Schneider
Orchestra’s soundcheck a stone’s throw away at the Kennedy Center.
1. Nate Smith
“Bounce: Parts I & II” (KINFOLK: Postcards From Everywhere, Ropeadope). Smith, drums; Jaleel Shaw, alto saxophone; Chris Potter, tenor
saxophone; Jeremy Most, guitar; Kris Bowers, Rhodes; Fima Ephron,
electric bass. Recorded in 2014.
BEFORE: [ten seconds in] I love it already. I know right away that’s
Chris Potter, tenor. He’s got a very distinctive sound. When the horn
is in his mouth, he’s always in that flow. I love the groove, man. I grew
up on funk and that was just very funky. The drum and bass groove
was really happening. There’s that dance factor, so it pulls you in. And
28
JAZZTIMES • JUNE 2017
even the line they constructed—it wasn’t as if they tried to superimpose
anything. They put it right in the fabric of the groove. Even if you’re doing
an asymmetrical rhythm, if it’s in the groove it’s gonna work. Interesting
about the second part, what you might call a lounge vibe. But I dug it. I also
like the length of the piece. They said what they needed to say, then let’s take
it out. I loved it. It resonated with me. Was it Dave Binney on alto?
AFTER: Oh, this is Nate’s record? I had a feeling it was Nate on drums. He
just played in my band a few weeks ago. Nate’s fantastic, a great musician.
Is this the one that just came out? He was just finishing this up when we
worked together. I have to get this. I love it. Yeah, Jaleel. That makes sense.
That groove is deep.
2. The Frank Wess Septet
“I Hear Ya Talkin’” (Opus de Blues, Savoy Jazz). Wess, alto saxophone;
Thad Jones, trumpet; Curtis Fuller, trombone; Charlie Fowlkes, baritone
saxophone; Hank Jones, piano; Eddie Jones, bass; Gus Johnson, drums.
Recorded in 1959.
BEFORE: Fantastic. First thing that comes to mind is it’s probably a 1960s
recording. I love the sound of the ’60s. Second, that’s still like the golden age:
Those guys were doing sessions all the time, so you had this proliferation of
great players, great writing. It was just the order of the day.
I’m not sure who these players are. I was going to say Jerry Dodgion,
but there’s a lot of [Johnny] Hodges in there. I think it sounds like Dodgion and his work with Oliver Nelson and [Thad Jones and Mel Lewis].
He’s one of my role models, one of my musical godfathers. A lot of what
I do as a lead alto comes straight from Jerry Dodgion. I love the sound
of those dates, the craftsmanship. It’s swingin’ and tippin’. I love it. I could
live by that all day long.
AFTER: Ah, Frank. Oh, man. This is great stuff. I used to tell Frank I want
to be like him when I grow up. He had such a long, distinguished career
and played with so many people. He was like money in the bank; you
knew if he was on the gig it was going to be great. Same with Joe Wilder,
with their consistency and identifiable sounds and total musicianship.
They didn’t set out to be stars. Of course, they’re exalted among their
peers and by me—that’s what really counts. I have to remind myself
of that, because I came through the Young Lions phase in the ’80s.
When I came to New York, I set out to find the Frank Wesses and the
Joe Wilders, to see how those guys conducted themselves. They were
respected by everyone who worked with them, and for good reason. No
frills, no gratuitous writing; it’s like, “Let’s just swing and have a good
time.” It doesn’t get any better than that.
3. The Vitral Saxophone Quartet
“Wapango” (Kites Over Havana, Sunnyside). Oscar Gongora, soprano;
Roman Filiu, alto and soprano; Alejandro Rios, alto and tenor; Raul
Cordies, baritone. Recorded in 2014.
BEFORE: That’s a fun little piece. I got a deeper appreciation for classical
saxophone a few years ago. I love the baritone sound and the soprano
player. For the alto and tenor, the prototypical classical sound is tricky—
particularly the alto, because the alto saxophone is the hardest to master.
Even when you play it in tune, it doesn’t have the same colors. So while
I think this is well played by the quartet, compositionally I thought they
could have skipped some of the middle because it kept going back. I liked
the composition; it was fun. It’s playful. It didn’t excite me but I liked it.
You chuckled at the end. Why?
It was the sharp-9 chord. I like the soprano part up in the altissimo
register. It’s hard to nail those pitches up there. I’ve only played one
classical piece in public, but you get so much from it in terms of knowing your instrument and becoming a better player. These guys sound
really good together.
AFTER: I’ve never heard of them. The baritone sound was so open,
but the sound of the alto was somewhat closed. That’s a very hard balance
to negotiate.
4. Steve Lacy/Elvin Jones
“Evidence” (That’s the Way I Feel Now, A&M). Lacy, soprano saxophone;
Jones, drums. Released in 1984.
BEFORE: Uh oh. What instrument is that? This is not a saxophone. Or
maybe it’s a soprano with the mic inside the bell? There’s some Elvin going on. I love the tone of the drums. Wow. That’s some serious altissimo.
It’s a bit nasal, and I wondered if it was [Joe] Lovano with his tarogato.
I was confused, because it’s “Evidence” but it sounded like they left the
form, and I assume they meant to do that. I’m more intrigued by the
sound of the saxophone than anything. It’s different. He’s got some
chops. That’s impressive. Drummer’s coming out of Elvin Jones.
AFTER: That’s Steve Lacy? Wow. The mic’ing is weird. The sound is
very narrow. I’ve never heard him sound that nasal. And he left the
form [laughs]. Elvin is crisp. Lacy is one of the great pioneers. I haven’t
listened to a ton of him—some of the things with Gil Evans. I saw him
live with Roswell Rudd. It was a fun gig. He’s not one of my favorite
soprano players, but I appreciate him greatly. It’s just a taste thing. I
have a great deal of respect for him.
5. Earl Bostic
“Up There in Orbit” (Dance Music From the Bostic Workshop, King).
Bostic, alto saxophone; Johnny Gray, Allan Seltzer, guitars; Claude
Jones, organ; Johnny Pate, bass; Isaac “Redd” Holt, drums; Frank Rullo,
percussion. Recorded in 1958.
BEFORE: I know this one: “Blues in Orbit.” Man, I use this piece in
the saxophone class at CCNY. Earl Bostic was one of the great technicians of the saxophone, and John Coltrane played in his band for
a minute. He’s one of the pioneers of R&B saxophone. So when guys
talk about the altissimo register, I say check this out. The first time I
heard this it sounded like a Dick Dale kind of thing. Jimmy Heath,
Frank Wess and Lou Donaldson all told me Earl Bostic could do
stuff on the saxophone that nobody else could. There was nobody
who could outplay him. He had range and amazing technique, and
[showcases those qualities on this piece in particular], because it
builds and builds and he goes up to a double high C, which is insane. We think of extended range as an octave above the F that’s on
the horn, and he goes another fifth above that. That’s fingering and
embouchure. And the higher you go, the more exacting you have to
be. You can’t just bite the reed or the mouthpiece. That takes years
and years to develop that. You try to do that now and you could
hurt yourself [laughs]. I love the look on [young musicians’ faces]
when I play this for them.
6. Bohemian Trio
“Tarde en la Lisa” (Okónkolo, Innova). Orlando Alonso, piano; Yosvany
Terry, saxophone, percussion; Yves Dharamraj, cello. Recorded in 2016.
BEFORE: I like that. It reminds me of some of the stuff I did with
Billy Childs, and I’d like to play more of this kind of thing. Nice piece,
exciting piece. To hear the cello and saxophone together is beautiful.
Great playing, everybody. It’s uplifting, energetic, bends your ear a little
bit, takes you places. I love the concept. I think we’re going to hear a lot
more music going this way. A lot of players coming through school are
studying both classical and jazz, and a lot of classical musicians want to
play more music with an improvisatory element. I love it.
AFTER: Yosvany! I’ve never heard his soprano playing. Wow. Oh, man,
when I see him I’m going to tell him I loved this. So that’s Yosvany’s
piece? I’m going to have to check this out some more.
7. Bernard Herrmann
“Theme From Taxi Driver” (Taxi Driver: Original Soundtrack Recording,
Arista). Tom Scott, alto saxophone; Uan Rasey, trumpet; unidentified
orchestra. Released in 1976.
BEFORE: That’s a beautiful alto sound. The first thing that came to
mind was Benny Carter. It’s a beautiful piece and the composition
sounds like Benny. The trumpet was ear-bending. It sounds like a movie
soundtrack. It has that film-noir kind of vibe, like a Mickey Spillane
detective story. I enjoyed it. I love that kind of alto playing.
AFTER: That’s Tom Scott? Whoa. I would have never guessed that in a
million years. This gives me another dimension to Tom Scott. I knew of
him from the L.A. Express and Joni Mitchell. He was front and center in
the ’70s and did [the soundtracks to] those television shows, like Baretta.
JAZZTIMES.COM
29
OPENING CHORUS
I love Baretta and I was digging that stuff back then, but I had no idea he
could play like this. Quite impressive.
8. Flute Force 4
“T.B.A.” (Flutistry, Black Saint). Pedro Eustache, Melecio Magdaluyo, James Newton,
Henry Threadgill, flutes. Recorded in 1990.
Before & After
take the last solo, and no matter what any of us had played, he would
come in and, with one note, wipe the slate clean. You were just pulled
in. He’s telling a story. I used to see him a lot at Bradley’s, and I’ve been
a fan of his for a long time.
He does a lot of sets where he just
segues from one tune to another and
you’re just captivated from when he starts
until he’s done. He takes you on a journey,
and all of his solos are like that; he has a
lyrical way of playing that’s also spiritual
and soulful and melodic—everything has
a purpose. There’s a sincerity and a depth
there, and you don’t think about how
much he knows about the saxophone. He
just has a sound, his personal sound. And
the reason he’s important for me [is that]
his musical vision has validated my own.
I first became aware of Bartz when I was
a teenager, listening to those Blue Note
records with Donald Byrd and the Mizell
Brothers stuff. I’d come home from school
and listen to it and I’d always hear the
saxophone solo and ask, “Who is that?”
And finally a friend gave me his record Love Affair, on Capitol, and
that totally changed my world. His version of “Giant Steps,” which I
still think is one of the most perfect solos ever recorded, I still have
the transcription I made of it in ’77 or ’78. From beginning to end,
you couldn’t compose a better solo than that.
“AT THE END OF THE
CONCERT I HAD THIS PAIN IN MY
BACK, AND IT JUST LOCKED UP
AND I COULD BARELY GET
INTO A TAXI. WHEN I GOT
HOME, I REALIZED
I HAD OVEREXERTED MYSELF
TRYING TO KEEP UP
WITH PHIL WOODS.”
BEFORE: Whoever is playing bass flute
is doing some heavy lifting. That’s hard.
I like the piece. What strikes me is at
least two of those players are probably
saxophonists who double. It’s something
in their articulation and attack. That’s not
a negative thing, it just gives it a more
percussive feel. Compositionally, it feels
like they’re kind of loose with it, more
organic. It could have been more exciting
with some dynamics, but I like the piece.
That’s a lot, playing flute like that over
five, six minutes, so I give a lot of credit
for keeping up the intensity for that long.
Occasionally I get together with some friends and we play flute duos
and trios, and it’s a lot of fun. But you have to do it for a long time to
build up the sound and the strength.
AFTER: Threadgill? I like that. James Newton, yeah. I haven’t been hip
to this record. I want to check this out. I like it. Nice vibe on it. A flute
quartet has the potential to be really corny, and it’s not a heavy texture. So
the writing has to be good or the playing has to be intriguing.
Who do you think are the exceptional flutists in jazz today?
Hubert [Laws], still. I saw him with Chick [Corea] not long ago. He’s still
got it. There’s a young player named Elena Pinderhughes; her sound is
really amazing. She’s been playing with Christian Scott. She sounds great.
I’ve been hearing a lot about Nicole Mitchell.
Have you ever told him that?
Oh yeah, many times. Too many people dismissed it at the time, because
it was done to a samba beat and it wasn’t the Coltrane version. But over
the years, a lot of saxophonists have come to appreciate that solo. I have
some of my students working on it. He’s all-inclusive; he doesn’t separate,
like, “Now I’m going to play funk,” or “Now I’m gonna play straightahead.” You listen to NTU Troop, it’s all there. It’s all part of the same
continuum. That’s his philosophy, not just musically but culturally. So for
me he’s been a really important voice.
What do you think of your own flute playing?
A work in progress [laughs]. I’ve been working on it more lately, with
Maria [Schneider], and I just recorded with Chick and he had me
playing a lot of flute. I love playing flute. I don’t play it much with my
own band because I haven’t written music for it, but I’ll probably start
playing it more now.
9. Heads of State
“Sippin’ at Bells” (Four in One, Smoke Sessions). Gary Bartz, alto saxophone; Larry Willis, piano; David Williams, bass; Al Foster, drums.
Recorded in 2016.
BEFORE: “Sippin’ at Bells.” Bartz? Yeah, I know Bartz’s sound very
well. He’s one of my favorites. He’s a storyteller, a musical griot. Back
in the ’90s, James Williams had a week at the Blue Note and he put
together a saxophone group with me, Bartz, Chris Potter and Eric
Alexander. Needless to say, Eric and Chris—whew! They can do anything on the saxophone—just unbelievable. But Bartz would generally
30
JAZZTIMES • JUNE 2017
10. Miguel Zenón
“Corteza” (Típico, Miel). Zenón, alto saxophone; Luis Perdomo, piano;
Hans Glawischnig, bass; Henry Cole, drums. Recorded in 2016.
BEFORE: [chuckles at ending] Great composition, great structure. Not
too long. They could have gone longer but they said what they needed
to say. The rhythms were difficult and intriguing but they didn’t
overdo it. Keeps you engaged and it sounds purposeful. I love the
solos; they take you somewhere. They’re agitating but it’s not forced.
It gets right on the edge at times, but that’s cool. I love the piano
solo; the saxophone solo is great too. Sounds like Jaleel, but I’m not
sure. Usually I can tell the age of someone from their sound, and this
band sounds like they’re all under 40 years old, or somewhere close.
It shows up in the phrasing of the lines, the grace notes, some of the
rhythms. It’s all under control. I really dig it.
AFTER: Miguel. That’s easier than some of the stuff he writes. One of my
students plays in his big band and showed me the charts. I said, “If you
ever need a sub, don’t call me [laughs].” I met him when he was a master’s student at Manhattan School. He’s a great musician. He can do the
traditional stuff and he can play in a big band. Amazing musician.
11. Phil Woods
“Medley 4” (The Solo Album: Phil Woods in Italy 2000, Philology).
Woods, alto saxophone. Recorded in 2000.
BEFORE: [immediately] Phil. Ain’t gonna get any better than that.
Phil Woods—we miss him. I got to play with him a couple of times
in his last years, and obviously what he had to deal with physically,
with the emphysema and all that … but still it was all there. He’s just
the quintessential alto player. Bill Charlap does the 92nd Street Y
[“Jazz in July”] series in New York, and [in 2011] he did a saxophone
night and we did something for Benny Carter. So we were playing
the charts from Further Definitions, and I was playing the second alto,
next to Phil. Toward the end of the concert Phil’s sound was huge. I
mean, he was struggling with emphysema and he’s in his ’70s, but he
was playing so loud I couldn’t hear myself. Think about that.
At the end of the concert I had this pain in my back, and it just
locked up and I could barely get into a taxi. When I got home, I realized I had overexerted myself trying to keep up with Phil Woods.
The last time I saw Phil I told him that story about throwing my
back out, and I told him I will consider it my rite of passage. The
honor of playing beside him after being a lifelong admirer was
priceless. He was no-nonsense—he just got right to the heart of the
matter. And you know his personality; he didn’t suffer fools, being
from that golden era and taking care of business on the bandstand.
Unfortunately, that era is gone now for young musicians. They don’t
have those opportunities to do those apprenticeships and learn from
the masters. As great as Phil was, he always spoke with such humility
about Johnny Hodges and Benny Carter and those guys. He never
let you forget where he came from. I just loved the way he played.
There was no wasted motion. He had this exuberance—could do any
song, any key, and he loved making music on the bandstand. From a
professional standpoint, he was what we all want to be.
Can you teach that?
You can’t teach it. You can relay the information. You can point them
in the right direction. But Phil often joked about jazz education. He’d
say, “Here’s what we should do: Put all these guys on a bus, have them
play a gig from 7 p.m. until midnight, put them back on the bus and
ride them around for 10 hours, and then see if they still want to do it
night after night.”
He also knew that this is an oral tradition and you learn it on the
bandstand. You have to learn the tunes, who the great players are and
go to the source. … There’s nothing that replaces being on the bandstand with Frank Wess and Jimmy Heath and Phil Woods. You learn
the etiquette, the culture, the history. And you learn about not taking
yourself so seriously, that this music was and still is a folk music. JT
DON BRADEN
AFTER A CLOSE CALL,
A TENOR GIANT IS INSPIRED ANEW
By Jeff Tamarkin
D
on Braden will never forget an exchange he had with a
surgeon a few years ago, because it was the most devastating news he’d ever received. In 2014 Braden noticed
a lump in his throat. He went from one specialist to another, but none of them could figure out what it was. Then, finally,
one did: It was a cyst, on the inside of his jaw. “If it’s cancerous,
we’re going to have to take out your whole jaw,” he was told.
“But I’m a saxophone player,” replied Braden, who had only recently turned 50. “If the biopsy proves positive, you’d better take up
the piano,” he recalls the doctor saying. “You’re gonna be done.”
Fortunately, the cyst was benign. Braden was forbidden from
playing for some time while in recovery from surgery, but he was
able to stay involved with music by leading the Harvard Jazz Band,
a gig he’d been offered a couple years earlier on an interim basis and
which ultimately lasted three years.
There was some irony to that. When Braden was 20 years
32
JAZZTIMES • JUNE 2017
Overdue Ovation
old, he found himself at a crossroads. He’d been a student at
Harvard for two years and had played in that same ensemble
while studying computers and working toward an engineering
degree. He’d also been practicing nonstop on the tenor saxophone since high school—in bands that covered everything
from soul standards to Grover Washington Jr. and Ronnie
Laws to the Stones—and could feel his skills expanding rapidly. “I got to the point where I said, ‘I’m going to have to choose
between the computer thing and music,’” he remembers. “So
in my junior year I said, ‘I’ll take the next semester off and go
to New York and check it out.’” He pauses and laughs. “My dad
said later, ‘I tried to talk you out of it, but you wouldn’t let me.
You wanted it that bad.’”
Once in New York, he got a small, cheap apartment and
a part-time computer job to pay the bills. He started to hit
the clubs at night, searching for gigs. Being young and brash,
he didn’t let the steep odds of making it as a musician daunt
him. “I got Wynton Marsalis’ phone number from somebody
and I just called him,” he remembers. “I said, ‘Mr. Marsalis,
my name is Don Braden and I want to play with you.’ This
was 1986 and Wynton was the most famous man in jazz.
We talked for about half an hour. He came to see me at my
first gig with Betty Carter, but I didn’t even know he was
there that night. That October, when Branford [Marsalis] left
[Wynton’s] band to join Sting, Wynton called me and said,
‘Come make some music with me.’ It’s a blessing that Wynton
was so patient with me and was supportive of me. I look back
on that today and I see that the universe was telling me that I
was obviously on the right path.”
Today, Braden has released 20 albums as a leader and has
performed with Tony Williams, Freddie Hubbard, J.J. Johnson,
Tom Harrell and Roy Haynes in addition to that two-year stint
with Marsalis. He is a respected, in-demand educator who has
given master classes, seminars and residencies at more than
a dozen colleges as well as at high, middle and elementary
schools and music camps. He has served as music director at
the Litchfield Jazz Camp in Connecticut for more than 18 years,
and for 15 years he ran the New Jersey Performing Arts Center’s
Wells Fargo Jazz for Teens program. He’s taught at the Jamey
Aebersold workshops in Louisville, Ky., where he grew up, and
is involved with the New York Comes to Groningen program at
the Prince Claus Conservatoire in Groningen, Netherlands.
Now, Braden is celebrating the release of Conversations, his
first post-surgery album. He’s a changed man since the health
scare, and following a regimen of good nutrition, exercise and
positive attitude. The music on Conversations, he says, also
reflects his personal philosophy, that of “being a good, strong
person every single day.” It features Braden on tenor saxophone and flute with a longtime collaborator, Dutch bassist
and composer Joris Teepe, in duets and in trios anchored by
drummers Gene Jackson and Matt Wilson. “The name Conversations came up because we listened to the music and said,
‘This is all conversational. We’re just bouncing off each other.’”
The album is due for release this spring and will be followed,
later in the year, by a wholly different project: Earth, Wind and
Wonder, as its title suggests a tribute to Earth, Wind and Fire
and Stevie Wonder, two of Braden’s earliest influences. “I grew
up in the ’70s and all my early music exposure was to R&B and
local bands with horns, stuff with sophisticated chord changes,”
CHRISTOPHER DRUKKER
OPENING CHORUS
Make Music. Make Friends.
Photo Norman DeShong
Join our Summer Programs!
Jazz and R&B Intensive
Students explore the creativity and vibrancy of
Latin, classic jazz and R&B at NJPAC.
June 27–30
Photos Ed Berger
he says. “As a teenager we played some of those tunes in the
bands I was in—the ones that we could pull off. My own early
compositional efforts were inspired by them as well, particularly by Stevie, just how he put a melody together. That was
from the early part of my life, when it goes deep into your
body and your brain.”
Moving between disparate projects has been a way of life
for Braden since he started playing. A musical omnivore with a
sound that is both contemporary and evocative of classic midcentury tenormen, he’s worked in small groups, organ trios and
big bands and accompanied vocalists—other recent recordings
find him teamed with singers Vanessa Rubin and Julie Michels.
He’s played funk and Brazilian music and paid album-length
homage to Billy Strayhorn. Luminosity, released in 2015 and
featuring guitarist Dave Stryker, organist Kyle Koehler and
drummer Cecil Brooks III, falls into a soul-jazz groove. Braden
has always strived for consistency in quality, even while mixing
it up stylistically. “My musical attitude is like Duke Ellington’s,”
he says. “There’s good music and bad music.”
Asked to single out a few personal highlights from his own
catalog, Braden will, if pressed, focus on a trio of albums he
released in the late ’90s to 2000: The Voice of the Saxophone, a
tribute to the influence of Coltrane, Benny Golson, Hank Mobley and others; The Fire Within, produced by Kenny Garrett
and featuring three different killer rhythm sections; and Don
Braden Presents the Contemporary Standards Ensemble, with
interpretations of songs by artists such as Steely Dan, Chaka
Khan and Pat Metheny.
But he’s equally enthusiastic about the film and television
scoring he’s done, including music for CBS and Nickelodeon.
“I’m interested in being stretched compositionally,” he says. “This
brings out the mathematician in me, the computer guy, the algorithmic guy. In jazz improvisation there’s always some amount of
calculation that goes on with harmony and rhythm, etc., but as
a composer who’s saying something for a picture, that requires
another kind of cleverness. And that spills over into my regular
jazz writing because you think of things a little differently.”
When he was still in college, trying to decide in which direction to steer his life, “I thought musicians did it on the side
and they all had jobs,” Braden says now, laughing. “Making a
living at it never occurred to me. I always thought I’d get a job
as an engineer somewhere. I was doing it locally and practicing and having a total blast.”
It’s still fun, and Braden continues to honor the lessons he’s
picked up along the way. “It doesn’t matter what you’re going
through: Bring 130 percent because that’s what the people paid
for,” he says. “Bring your full A-game all the time.”
He pauses, then adds one more. “And take maximum care
of yourself.” JT
All-Female Jazz Residency
Geri Allen, Artistic Director
Young women find inspiration and build
community in this one-week jazz
immersion program.
OVERNIGHT RESIDENCY AT
RUTGERS UNIVERSITY-NEWARK
July 9–15
Recommended Listening:
Conversations (Creative Perspective, 2017)
Sign Up Today
Luminosity (Creative Perspective, 2015)
njpac.org/summer
artseducation@njpac.org
973.353.7058
The Fire Within (RCA, 1999)
The Voice of the Saxophone (RCA, 1997)
NEW JERSEY PERFORMING ARTS CENTER
One Center Street, Newark, NJ
JAZZTIMES.COM
33
SÁNTA ISTVÁN CSABA
Kamasi
Washington
an
follows the runaway
success of The Epic
with a divine half-hour
of new music celebrating
cultural diversity
Opinionof
Difference
BY BRAD FARBERMAN
JAZZTIMES.COM
35
36
In
the Whitney Museum of
American Art’s 2017 Biennial show, on view in
New York through June
11, there is a small blue
room. Inside are three
small screens and one
large one. Five short jazz
JAZZTIMES • JUNE 2017
tracks play—tantalizing anecdotes that
touch on everything from postbop to
Brazilian music—while the screens show
video of paintings. The romantic piece
“Knowledge” is accompanied by red and
green squares with letters in them; the
warm “Desire” is accented by what look
like yellow chain-links. A sixth song,
FILMMAGIC
←
“Some of our most fun and amazing shows have been at places where we were definitely
the only jazz artists on the bill,” says Washington, seen here at last year’s Bonnaroo festival.
“But it was a challenge.”
the lengthy “Truth,” is matched with a
painting and a short film directed by
AG Rojas. While strong but sentimental
jazz takes hold of the room, and themes
heard in the earlier pieces return, museumgoers view scenes of a person with
lit candles in their mouth; a mother
and son cuddling; palm trees in the
night; and two boys practicing wrestling
moves while surrounded by flowers. The
room fills up during those 13 and a half
minutes, and achieves full emotional
tilt. Collectively, the music and videos
make up a project called Harmony of
Difference, by the tenor saxophonist and
composer Kamasi Washington.
Fans were likely not expecting Washington to succeed 2015’s The Epic with
a museum installation. But it makes
sense. That celebrated triple-album
made room for the L.A.-born artist
atop the jazz heap, as well as at festivals
like Bonnaroo and Coachella and in
outlets like Rolling Stone and Pitchfork.
Hearing Washington in a museum, or
anywhere other than a jazz club, sounds
about right. (It also helped that the
saxophonist’s name was attached to both
an important electronic/hip-hop label
and rapper. The Epic was issued by the
L.A.-based indie Brainfeeder, and Washington appeared on Kendrick Lamar’s
landmark 2015 LP To Pimp a Butterfly.
And he had a hand in “LUST.,” a track
off Lamar’s latest album, DAMN.)
Harmony of Difference will also act as
Washington’s first new release since The
Epic’s breakthrough. An EP comprising the music from the installation will
be out this summer on the British label
Young Turks, whose roster includes arty
R&B stars like FKA Twigs and Sampha.
“Even though we make music that would
definitely be put in different categories,
the ideas and spirit and the vibe is very
much compatible,” Washington says of
his new labelmates. “So it feels great, and
it pushes me into a different space.” An
argument could be made that, with a
museum show and backing from Young
Turks, Washington, 36, is drifting even
further away from his foundation. But
anyone making that point has not listened to Harmony of Difference. It’s a jazz
record through and through, without a
single compromised note to be found.
The harder Washington sticks to his
guns, it seems, the smoother he lands in
the consciousness at large.
IT’S BEEN A BIG COUPLE OF YEARS SINCE
THE EPIC. HAVE YOU HAD A BREAK FROM THE ROAD
SINCE THEN?
It’s the busiest two years I’ve ever had
in my life. [laughs] Even when I’ve had
breaks, I’ve been working on new music.
So when I had breaks, it’s not really a
break. I’ve been recording and writing,
working on different projects, stuff like
that. I don’t feel like I’ve had a break since
The Epic came out. [laughs] Just being
honest with you. Only break I had was
when I broke my ankle [in late 2015].
[laughs] I was laid up. That didn’t feel like
much of a break either.
←
Images of the
saxophonist’s
“Harmony of
Difference” video
installation at this
year’s Whitney
Biennial
INSTALLATION IMAGES BY BILL ORCUTT/COURTESY OF THE WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART
HOW DID THE WHITNEY INSTALLATION
COME ABOUT?
[Biennial co-curator] Christopher Lew
came to our show in New York for
Winter Jazzfest [last year], and that’s
where we met. And then a month later,
he came out to L.A. and we talked about
me doing something for the Whitney
Museum. From there it was just about
me kind of figuring out what I would
wanna do—he really left it wide open
for me. We talked about doing a live
show, talked about doing a lot of different things. I was kinda going in my head
over what I would want to do. I just kept
going back and forth, and then that was
right around the time that it started to
become a sad reality that Trump might
become nominated. [laughs] And then
he got nominated. It just felt like the
world was in this fork in the road—had
me in this fork as well. It felt like there
was this annoying elephant in the room.
And then it started to really get to
me, all the talk in the media. The idea
of diversity just became such a negative
thing. There was no celebration of it. It
was all just like, “How big of a problem
is it?” [laughs] And I always looked at
it as the reverse. Like, it’s not a problem
at all. It’s not a big problem or a small
problem. It’s a beautiful thing, all the
different people that are here and the
people that want to come here. That idea
is what made this country what it is—
this idea of people from different places
coming together. No one was really
talking about that.
So I was trying to think of a way to
[convey] that. I started thinking about
counterpoint: It’s like taking different melodies that have tensions and
releases and figuring out the balance
of their singularity and identities.
Counterpoint is usually derived from
a single melody, and then you have
countermelodies that go with it. So
I wanted to do something that had
a bit more equality to it. I wanted to
make it five songs, five real melodies,
or their own standalone melodies,
and have them intermingle and see
how much harmony I can make out
of it—how pretty I could make five
melodies playing together at the same
time. So it became a challenge, ’cause
it’s difficult. The natural thing that
happens is they start to clash [with]
each other. It was a fun challenge to
make it sound great.
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE IDEA BEHIND
THE “TRUTH” VIDEO?
The whole project is the video and then
my sister [Amani Washington] did a
series of paintings. So the music and
the paintings are an abstract metaphor
for something that I wanted the video
to bring to reality—to show [the beauty
you’d experience] if you were able to
have a zoom-out view of [Los Angeles, a
big city that’s] very representative of the
spirit of the United States. If you were to
zoom out and be able to see these different people experiencing these different
things simultaneously, how would it
feel? It felt exactly like the way I thought
it would. It feels beautiful. It feels warm.
It feels the way it feels to live in the city:
Walk past one house, and [take in the]
smells and the sounds and the sights,
and then you walk past another house
and it’s a whole ’nother set. So that whole
JAZZTIMES.COM
37
I wasn’t hesitant in that sense. I wanted
to make something that fit, that made
sense to be included. I didn’t want to
just do anything and have it in there. I
wanted to have a purpose. So I wasn’t
hesitant to do something, but I was
mindful of what I was going to do.
HOW DOES IT FEEL BEING A JAZZ ARTIST AT
FESTIVALS LIKE BONNAROO AND COACHELLA?
It feels cool. It feels like you’re breaking
new ground. The way people are looking
at you, you can see that they don’t have
a preconceived notion as to what they
think of you. And then you can see them
going on a journey with you, where
[they’re] like, “Oh, OK, this is a bit
foreign to me. Oh, I like it.” It’s like we
gel together at a certain point. It’s a fun
process to have. It feels kind of exhilarating, because you feel like you’re a fish
out of water but you have to still swim
on the ground or something, you know?
[laughs] It’s great.
Some of our most fun and amazing
shows have been at places where we were
definitely the only jazz artists on the bill.
EARLY ON YOU WORKED WITHBIG
NAMES LIKE KENDRICK LAMAR AND
SNOOP DOGG. HAVE THEY REACHED
OUT SINCE THE SUCCESS OF THEEPIC?
“It started to really
get to me, all the
talk in the media.
The idea of diversity
just became such
a negative thing.
It was all just like,
‘How big of a
problem is it?’
[laughs] It’s not
a problem at all.
It’s a beautiful thing.”
Yeah. I’ve seen Snoop a couple of times, and he definitely
gave me so much love—congratulated me and so on. I
worked with Kendrick on
this album that’s coming out in a couple of
hours [DAMN.], and he definitely gave me
a lot of love.
They both definitely reached out. A lot
of people that I’ve worked with, like Stanley
Washington
onstage at the
2016 Pitchfork
Music Festival
Clarke and Harvey
Mason, Chaka Khan,
Raphael Saadiq—most
of the people I’ve
worked with, actually,
have reached out and
really showed me a lot
of love. They appreciate the fact that I’ve
been able to get out
there on my own.
IS THERE ANYONE
YOU’D LIKE TO
COLLABORATE WITH?
Man, there’s lots of
people [laughs]. In
South Africa I met
Laura Mvula. That
would be dope. Her
show was amazing.
People like D’Angelo,
Herbie [Hancock],
Wayne Shorter. My
wish list is long. There’s
definitely a lot of
people I would love
to make music with.
Brian Blade, or Kenny Garrett. It was
really great working with the Metropole
Orkest; I’d love to work with them again,
do something more extensive.
WHO ARE SOME OF THE ARTISTS YOU’VE ENJOYED
SEEEING LIVE DURING THE PAST
COOUPLE OF YEARS?
W
When
we were in South Africa, we saw
th
his artist named Moreira Chonguica.
I’’m staring at my stack of CDs that I
got over here [laughs]. He’s a saxophone player [from Mozambique].
p
Amazing. He was great live, too.
A
V
Vince Staples was really amazing live.
We saw him a couple of times, and if
W
he’s somewhere we always make sure
h
to go see him. Ibeyi, they were really,
really dope live. Anderson .Paak was
always amazing live. Doing the circuits, you look at the lineup and you
see certain people and you’re like,
“Oh yeah, I gotta see him.” [laughs]
Snarky Puppy was really cool live.
Ran into Christian Scott a couple
of times, and he’s amazing live. His
band is always really dope, always
has interesting young players with
him. We’ve seen quite a bit on the
road this year.
JACKIE LEE YOUNG/COURTESY OF THE PITCHFORK MUSIC FESTIVAL
WHEN YOU WERE ASKED TO DO THE PIECE FOR THE
WHITNEY, WERE YOU AT ALL HESITANT? DID YOU
THINK, “DOES JAZZ BELONG IN A MUSEUM?”
But it was a challenge. We
took it as a moment to bring
the music to somewhere it
doesn’t get to go always, and
to dispel that idea that jazz
can only exist for a certain
group of people. It doesn’t.
It’s a very universal
music. It’s a very universal
idea—that sense of personal
expression and creating in
the moment. Those are very
universal ideas I think most
people can appreciate. As
you bring the music to these
different places, you can see
that, and see people vibe to
that energy.
←
idea of zooming out and having this view
of the people and their different ways.
←
“They learned from me and I’ve learned from them,” Washington says of his bandmates. “It’s joyful.” Patrice Quinn, Miles Mosley,
the saxophonist and Ryan Porter (from left) on the main stage at last year’s Newport Jazz Festival.
HOW HAVE YOU GROWN AS A MUSICIAN OVER
THE PAST TWO YEARS? AND AS A COMPOSER?
The biggest growth has been my comfort
with who I am musically. Most musicians
struggle with identity issues [laughs].
You know, just understanding who you
are and what your music is, and being
comfortable with who you are. Because
inherently you end up studying so much
music and you end up being a fan—I’m
a fan of such a wide, vast range of music.
But despite loving all these other people’s
music, you have to realize that all you
can really make is your own music. You
can love Miles Davis as much as you
want, but you can’t make Miles Davis’
music. Only Miles Davis can make his
music, and you have to try to make your
own music.
MAREK LAZARSKI
MEMBERS OF YOUR BAND, LIKE PIANIST CAMERON
GRAVESANDBASSISTMILESMOSLEY,ARERELEASING
MUSIC NOW AS LEADERS. DO YOU FEEL LIKE A
PROUD FATHER?
[laughs] More like a brother. It’s more
like your brother is going out there on
his own, and I’m really proud of them
and happy for them. Miles [Mosley] just
did his own tour in Europe; it was great.
Cameron had an amazing album release
show—Stanley Clarke sat in. [Drummer] Ronald Bruner Jr.’s album Triumph
is amazing, and he had a great release
show and is planning all his own tours.
[Keyboardist] Brandon Coleman is mixing his album now. It’s music that I believe in as much as I believe in my own
music. It’s a brotherhood. We taught
each other, basically. They taught me.
They learned from me and I’ve learned
from them. There’s a sense of ownership
we have of each other. It’s joyful.
YOU’VE MADE IT INTO THE MAINSTREAM LIKE
FEW OTHER JAZZ MUSICIANS TODAY.
HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN THE JUMP?
Well, I think it’s a couple things. One, I
think that people, they’re taking more
personal responsibility for the music
that they listen to, because information is so accessible. People’s typical
approach to music is they hear about
something, they go listen to it and
then they make their decision as to
how they feel about it. And I think
most people listen to music across
genres as well. So it used to be that
people were more, you know, if you’re
punk rock, you listen to punk rock—
you don’t go switch over and listen to
some world music. If you’re into world
music, you listen to world music. If
you’re into jazz, you listen to jazz. But
now most people have a pretty wide
range of music they listen to. They’re
almost more open.
So I feel, when my music came out, it
in itself is a wide range of music. There’s
a lot of different styles of music that
are embedded into what we’re doing.
So I think that it just fit where people
are right now: They’re curious and they
want to hear different music from different places and different styles.
And then I can’t really explain why,
how. It’s hard to say why someone likes
something. People just do or they don’t.
I think part of it is I’ve also played with
a lot of different people. My musical
background is very diverse. My net is
kinda wide. Where I come from and
what I do, my roots, it comes from a lot
of different places, and I think that that
just lends itself to a wide audience. JT
JAZZTIMES.COM
39
A Little Bird
Told Me
ONE OF JAZZ’S
GREATEST LIVING
TREASURES,
SAXOPHONIST,
COMPOSER AND
BANDLEADER
JIMMY HEATH,
90, LOOKS BACK
ON HIGHLIGHTS
FROM A BRILLIANT
CAREER THAT’S
STILL VERY MUCH
IN PROGRESS
40
JAZZTIMES • JUNE 2017
IF YOU WANTED TO PLAY “SIX DEGREES OF JIMMY
HEATH,” YOU COULD KEEP GOING FOR QUITE A WHILE.
Narrowing a 70-year catalog of recordHere’s just one way to start a round: In
ings down to a select few is a serious chal1948 Heath led a big band in Philadellenge—made even more complicated by
phia, for which he hired John Coltrane.
the fact that he’s still making records like
The two saxophonists joined Dizzy
his latest, 2013’s excellent big-band album,
Gillespie’s band the following year. Four
Togetherness—but the good-natured Heath
years after that, when Heath was playing
is happy to give it a go. Speaking from his
with Miles Davis in the Symphony Sid
apartment in Queens, his memories are
All-Stars, he introduced the trumpeter
overwhelmingly positive. But toward the
to his former employee. Within the last
end of the conversation, they take a melanthree sentences, jazz history has been
choly turn. “There’s a lot of people on these
made several times over.
records that are not here,” he says. “Cedar
That’s just one relatively short chain of
Walton shows up in my mind every day. I
events in Heath’s long career. His smart, innamed my autobiography I Walked With
viting playing—as a leader, a sideman and
Giants, and he was one of them. Along
a longtime member of the Heath Brothers
with Dizzy, Miles, Trane, Paul Gonsalves,
band, which he founded with his siblings
Art Farmer, J.J. Johnson…” He trails off,
Percy and Albert (a.k.a. “Tootie”)—is
exhales forcefully and lapses into silence.
enough on its own to make him a legend.
A few seconds later, he’s back with a
But he’s also added a formidable number
more chipper remark: “I’m very fortunate to
of compositions to the classic jazz canon,
still be on the planet at 9-0.” And still sharp
including “Gingerbread Boy,” “C.T.A.” and
“Project S.” And his skills as an orchestrator as an Yves Saint Laurent suit, if the following recollections are anything to go by.
are renowned: He was the closest thing to
a house arranger Orrin Keepnews had at
Riverside Records during a splendid run in
the late ’50s and early ’60s.
BY MAC RANDALL
←
ALAN NAHIGIAN
Heath honors
his friend and
Riverside Records
employer Orrin
Keepnews at
Dizzy’s Club
Coca-Cola in
September
JAZZTIMES.COM
41
“THE CAT WHO OWNED THE CLUB GAVE
US A CHECK THAT’S STILL BOUNCING,
AND WHEN WE WENT BACK OUT THERE
TO COMPLAIN, HE OPENED HIS COAT
AND SHOWED US HIS GUN. THAT’S
WHAT I REMEMBER MOST ABOUT
PLAYING WITH HOWARD MCGHEE.”
KENNY DORHAM QUINTET
Kenny Dorham Quintet (Debut, 1954)
Dorham, trumpet and vocal; Heath, tenor and baritone
saxophones; Walter Bishop, piano; Percy Heath, bass;
Kenny Clarke, drums
Kenny was one of my favorite
trumpet players and one of my favorite partners in music. I loved his
orchestrations and his compositions.
I look on him and Tadd Dameron as
the great romantic writers of the
bebop generation.
At that session with Howard McGhee in ’48, I played
baritone for a couple of tunes, and that was the first time
ever that I’d recorded on baritone. This album with Kenny
was one of the very few other times I played baritone on
record. He asked me to play it on “Be My Love.” Being
5-foot-3, it’s not too often that I’d be asked to play the
baritone saxophone; it was too big for me! I think I did
just three sessions with it. Three strikes and I’m out.
THE JIMMY HEATH ORCHESTRA
Really Big! (Riverside, 1960)
Heath, tenor saxophone; Nat Adderley, cornet; Clark Terry,
flugelhorn and trumpet; Tom McIntosh, trombone; Dick
Berg, French horn; Cannonball Adderley, alto saxophone;
Pat Patrick, baritone saxophone; Tommy Flanagan and Cedar Walton, piano; Percy Heath, bass; Albert Heath, drums
This wasn’t my first album as a leader,
but it was my first album leading a
larger group, a tentet, almost a big
band. I wanted to do a record with an
instrument that I really grew to love,
and that’s the French horn. I liked the
way it fit into the ensemble, and I’ve
used it on several albums since. Adding Dick Berg to the
lineup made four brass and three reeds, with Clark Terry
playing the lead. That was the time when Clark told me, “I’ll
play on any of your records for union scale.” He was already
a big-name artist, and that was very important to me, that
someone as large as he was would do that just because he
liked my music. His playing knocked me to my knees.
I got bogged down with the arrangements at one point,
42
JAZZTIMES • JUNE 2017
FRANCIS WOLFF/MOSAIC IMAGES
←
Heath in 1961,
a year after
releasing his first
large-ensemble
album, Really Big!
HOWARD MCGHEE/MILT JACKSON
Howard McGhee and Milt Jackson
(recorded 1948, released 1955 on Savoy)
McGhee, trumpet; Jackson, vibraphone; Heath, alto and
baritone saxophones; Will Davis, piano; Percy Heath, bass;
Joe Harris, drums
Bags [Jackson’s nickname] and I made a
lot of albums together, but this was the
first one. In those early days—I was
21—Howard was one of the most
important musicians I worked with, one
of the first who really had a rep. He was
the bebopper from California. Before
this recording, I’d worked some gigs with him at the Argyle
Show Lounge in Chicago. The cat who owned the club gave us
a check that’s still bouncing, and when we went back out there
to complain, he opened his coat and showed us his gun. That’s
what I remember most about playing with Howard McGhee.
Howard and Bags were the guys that started calling me
“Little Bird.” I was still playing alto, and I was trying my best
to play like the master, Charlie Parker. Of course everybody
was trying to play like him at that time, because Bird had
blown everybody’s mind, so Howard and Bags were showing me some respect by giving me that title. As far as I’m
concerned, though, I didn’t make out so well being “Little
Bird.” I had a couple of his licks, clichés that I’d learned, but
other than that I was just beginning to find my direction in
the bebop style. I don’t remember much else about this band,
but I do know that it didn’t last. The session was in February
’48, and I went to Paris with Howard in May of that year, but
Milt didn’t come with us.
←
TOM MARCELLO
so Tom McIntosh arranged Bobby Timmons’ tune “Dat
Dere” for me. He wasn’t just a great trombone player, he
was also a great composer and arranger. And Pat Patrick,
the father of [former Massachusetts governor] Deval
Patrick, played baritone. He told me at that session, “Man,
you know if you’ve been on the Earth a long time, you got
long gravity.” And eventually I named a song after what
Pat said, “Long Gravity,” which became the Heath Brothers’ theme song.
JIMMY HEATH QUINTET
On the Trail (Riverside, 1964)
Heath, tenor saxophone; Kenny Burrell, guitar; Wynton
Kelly, piano; Paul Chambers, bass; Albert Heath, drums
I played with Miles for a month or
two in 1959 after Trane left. That was
with Cannonball and Wynton and
Paul and Philly Joe Jones, and I said,
“Oh, my goodness.” A little later,
those guys convinced Orrin
Keepnews to sign me. They said,
“Coltrane’s with Blue Note now; you better get Jimmy
Heath for Riverside.” So when I started making my own
records for Riverside, I wanted to bring those guys in.
Especially Wynton, the way he plays those triplets. A
friend of mine in Philly said, and I agree, that he plays
teardrops in his solos. They’re just dripping down.
On the Trail has a ballad called “Vanity” on it. I played
that one because Sarah Vaughan had a hit with it, and
Trane and I both loved to listen to her doing those ballads. Later on, I met the cat who wrote that song, Bernie
Bierman. He lived to be over 100, and he said that my
recording of “Vanity” knocked him out.
I got hooked up with the song “On the Trail” by playing
with Donald Byrd. He had an arrangement of it and we
were supposed to record it for Alfred Lion at Blue Note.
Then Alfred and Donald got into a dispute, and Donald
walked out of the record date. I said, “Well, I’m gonna
record this arrangement.” Everybody thought it was mine,
but that was Donald’s arrangement, with a line that comes
from [Gabriel Fauré’s] Pavane. Kenny Burrell plays that
line on my recording. It wasn’t supposed to be played by a
guitar in Donald’s version, so that was probably my idea.
Heath
performs with
the Heath Brothers
at New York’s
Rockefeller Center
in June 1977
RAY BROWN/MILT JACKSON
Ray Brown/Milt Jackson (Verve, 1965)
Big-band session including Brown, bass; Jackson, vibraphone;
Heath, tenor saxophone; Clark Terry, trumpet and flugelhorn; Jimmy Cleveland, trombone; Ray Alonge, French horn;
Phil Woods, alto saxophone; Hank Jones, piano; Grady Tate,
drums; arranged and conducted by Heath and Oliver Nelson
I arranged one half of that record,
and Oliver Nelson arranged the other
half. For some reason, Oliver had a
whole big band and I only got a
tentet. When I found that out, I said,
“Oh shit, they cheated me!” And
Oliver insisted on using minor
seconds in his orchestration all the time, that crunchy
harmony, which was a pet peeve with Milt Jackson. Bags
had perfect pitch, so the minor seconds rubbed him
wrongly. He’d be like, “Are you playing E or F or what?”
JAZZTIMES.COM
43
Later he told me, “Look, Bermuda”—he called me that—
“I like your side of the record better than Oliver’s.”
One of my originals is on there, “Dew and Mud.” That
was written for Miles Dewey Davis and Muddy Waters,
because the lick that starts it off—bing-bong!—was one
of Muddy Waters’ licks that Miles used to play on the
trumpet. Clark does a solo on that one—oh yeah! That
was a nice record. I really liked Mr. Brown. I first met him
in Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1945, when I was with Nat Cole.
We were trying to get him to come with us then, but next
thing we knew he was with Dizzy, and that was the end of
that. Grady Tate’s on that record too. I called him Gravy
Taker because he was on all the gigs.
I’ll tell you something about Art Farmer: If he didn’t
get paid on a gig, he’d still pay the sidemen. He’d say, “The
club didn’t hire you, I hired you.” He was that kind of
person. He gave me a bunch of addresses in Europe, so
I could just write a letter and go over there and play for
three or four weeks with different rhythm sections and
make a nice taste. Good guy. And if you wrote an original
composition for Art Farmer, the first time he’d play it,
reading through the chord changes, would damn near be
the perfect solo. A lot of people, in my experience, would
have to run over it a few times before they got a solo they
liked. But Art could read chords like he read the notes. He
was exceptional.
ART FARMER QUINTET
The Time and the Place (Columbia, 1967)
Farmer, flugelhorn and trumpet; Heath, tenor saxophone; Cedar
Walton, piano; Walter Booker, bass; Mickey Roker, drums
We did part of that record in the
studio and part of it playing outside at
the Museum of Modern Art [in New
York]. I remember doing “Shadow of
Your Smile”—my mother used to like
that song, so I would play it a lot. And
my tune “One for Juan” is on there.
That was from a commercial that got to me, about [fictional
Colombian coffee farmer] Juan Valdez. “The finest coffee
beans in South America!” But actually it was something
else that I was talking about besides coffee beans [laughs].
JIMMY HEATH
Picture of Heath (Xanadu, 1975)
Heath, tenor and soprano saxophones; Barry Harris, piano;
Sam Jones, bass; Billy Higgins, drums
This was done just before the Heath
Brothers started. I love my brother
Percy’s playing, but he got so classically
oriented with John Lewis in the
Modern Jazz Quartet that he’d walk for
a few bars and say, “That’s enough.”
Whereas Sam Jones was one of the
walkin’-est bass players I’ve ever played with. He walked to
heaven, and he’s walkin’ there now. Homes, we called him.
Picture of Heath is one of the only records that I made
with a regular quartet, using piano instead of guitar. I
JAZZTIMES • JUNE 2017
ALAN NAHIGIAN
←
44
Heath with Clark Terry (left) and Wynton Marsalis at Red Rodney’s memorial in June 1994; Saint Peter's Church, New York City
“BEING 5-FOOT-3, IT’S NOT TOO
OFTEN THAT I’D BE ASKED TO
PLAY THE BARITONE SAXOPHONE;
IT WAS TOO BIG FOR ME! I THINK
I DID JUST THREE SESSIONS WITH IT.
THREE STRIKES AND I’M OUT.”
didn’t make more records like that because I love all the
instruments, not just the tenor. If the tenor takes the first
solo and the piano takes the second one every time, that’s
boring to me. I like the French horn, the cello. I like a
sax section; I like a brass choir. Why be so stuck on the
tenor? But that’s how a lot of people made their rep, in
the quartet: Dexter, Sonny, Coltrane. When Trane was in
my big band, he wrote an arrangement for “Lover Man.”
I said, “Man, I love this arrangement—why don’t you
write some more like this?” And he said, “Aw, Jim, I ain’t
got time for that. I’m too busy practicing.” So he had a
different outlook.
THE HEATH BROTHERS
Marchin’ On (Strata-East, 1975)
Heath, tenor and soprano saxophones, flute; Stanley
Cowell, piano and mbira; Percy Heath, bass and
“baby bass”; Albert Heath, drums, flute and African
double-reed instrument
That was the first Heath Brothers
album. Stanley Cowell had started
the Strata-East label with Charles
Tolliver, and they engaged us to do a
record. It was a family affair, and we
adopted Stanley because we thought
he was amazing. That was a different
type of record for us. We recorded it while we were on
tour in Oslo, Norway. We used to get on the train and
travel around Europe, and we’d be playing in these cabins
on the train. Percy played a bass with a cello body that
Ray Brown created, Tootie and I played flutes, and Stanley
played a chromatic African thumb piano. People would
stop and listen to us on these trains going from one
country to the next, and it was something that they liked.
It was like a chamber-music group. So we decided to
include that sound on the record.
The piece I wrote for Marchin’ On was “Smilin’ Billy
Suite,” which is dedicated to Billy Higgins, because he
smiled all the time and he made everybody else in the
room smile. Billy had a time feel that was immaculate. It
wasn’t loud, but he could make you feel what he was playing. One of the sections of that suite was sampled later by
Nas [for the 1994 track “One Love”], and that turned out
good because it kindled new interest in the group.
After Marchin’ On we moved to CBS, and that period
was very important. That was the first time we’d used
overdubbing. We brought my son Mtume in to play with
us, we got nominated for a Grammy, and every album
sold more than the one before. Then Expressions of Life
[1980] sold 40,000—the most of all—and they fired us!
But I understand. We were going up against Billy Joel
and Michael Jackson, who were selling millions, and we
couldn’t compete with that.
JIMMY HEATH
Little Man, Big Band (Verve, 1992)
Big-band session including Heath, tenor and soprano
saxophones; Lew Soloff, trumpet; Jerome Richardson,
alto saxophone; Billy Mitchell, tenor saxophone; Tony
Purrone, guitar; Roland Hanna, piano; Ben Brown, bass;
Lewis Nash, drums
Back in ’47, ’48, I loved the big-band
sound. This was my return to that
sound, but it was my first recording
with a big band under my own name.
I had a great saxophone section, with
Jerome playing lead alto and Billy
Mitchell, my buddy from way back.
Tony’s playing guitar on there too; we fell in love when he
joined the Heath Brothers. He’s another perfect-pitch guy
like Bags, who can play anything in any key that you want.
I really was proud of that record.
I love to dedicate my songs to people I really dig. On
Little Man, Big Band, there’s “Trane Connections” for
John, “Forever Sonny” for Sonny Rollins, “Without You,
No Me” for Dizzy, my mentor, and “The Voice of the
Saxophone” for Coleman Hawkins, who was the headliner
the first time I went on a tour to Paris, when I was with
Howard McGhee.
THE JIMMY HEATH BIG BAND
Turn Up the Heath (Planet Arts, 2006)
Big-band session including Heath, tenor saxophone; Terell
Stafford, trumpet; Slide Hampton, trombone; Lew Tabackin, flute; Antonio Hart, alto and soprano saxophones, flute;
Charles Davis, tenor saxophone; Gary Smulyan, baritone
saxophone; Jeb Patton, piano; Peter Washington, bass;
Lewis Nash, drums
Jeb Patton was my student at
Queens College, and he became the
Heath Brothers’ pianist for the last
16 years. We love him madly.
Antonio Hart was another student
of mine. As for Charles Davis, he
and I go back a long way. I used to
tell him, “When you take a solo and you hear the rest of
the band come back in, that’s your last chorus.” But
Charles would not stop. So I started calling him LPCD:
Long Playing Charles Davis.
I went back to an old tune of mine for this one,
“Gemini.” Lew Tabackin does the flute solo on it. I call
him Chew Tobacco, because when he plays tenor, he
looks like he’s chewin’ the reed. I got a name for everybody [laughs]. JT
JAZZTIMES.COM
45
21st
At the outset of a new era for female
jazz musicians and Cuban culture’s
global impact, JANE BUNNETT
and MAQUEQUE are thriving
CENTURY
WOMEN
IN JULY 2015, WHEN PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA OFFICIALLY
RE-ESTABLISHED DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS WITH CUBA, IT ENDED A
54-YEAR POLITICAL STALEMATE AND COMMENCED A NEW ERA OF
CULTURAL EXCHANGE BETWEEN THE ISLAND NATION AND THE U.S.
But more than three decades before
Obama’s historic rapprochement,
Canadian soprano saxophonist, flutist
and composer Jane Bunnett had begun
working tirelessly to promote Cuban
jazz worldwide, and to provide its
practitioners with performance opportunities far beyond their borders—
46
JAZZTIMES • JUNE 2017
including gigs in the States. Bunnett’s
Toronto home has also served as a hub
for several generations of Cuban players, many spending weeks or months in
her guest rooms.
Bunnett’s devotion to Cuban music
and musicians began unexpectedly in
1982, when she and her longtime partner,
trumpeter Larry Cramer, spotted an
ad for a cheap vacation in Santiago
de Cuba. Arriving at their hotel, the
couple encountered a band that featured trumpeter Inaudis Paisan Mallet.
Lugging their instruments, they took
front-row seats, eventually sat in,
ignited a deep friendship with Mallet
that continued until his death in 2014,
and were forever hooked on the AfroCuban sounds they’d discovered.
Now 60, Bunnett has recorded more
than a dozen albums featuring Cuban
artists, including 1992’s landmark
Spirits of Havana—a two-disc, 25thanniversary edition was released last
summer—and, subsequently, various
Spirits of Havana configurations. Her
latest Cuban project is Maqueque, an
all-female outfit whose eponymous
debut album, released in 2014, features
Bunnett alongside vocalist Daymé
Arocena, tres guitarist and bassist
Yusa, pianist Danae Olano, bassist Celia Jimenez, batá/conga player
Magdelys Savigne and drummer Yissy
García, with all members also contributing to vocal choruses. Last year’s
follow-up, Oddara (Linus), showcases
the same lineup—minus Yusa and plus
violinist Elizabeth Rodriguez—with
Arocena and fellow vocalist Melvis
Santa as featured guests.
Earlier this year, Bunnett sat down
with JazzTimes in her cozy living room,
peppered with Cuban artwork, instruments and handicrafts, to talk about
her passionate allegiance to the music,
with specific focus on Maqueque’s
development and evolution.
YOUR MOTIVATION WAS TO EMPOWER
YOUR REMARKABLE CUBAN ODYSSEY.
FEMALE CUBAN MUSICIANS WHO
LOOKING BACK, WHAT ARE YOUR
DON’T GET THE SAME OPPORTUNITIES
IMPRESSIONS OF THOSE THREE AND
AS THEIR MALE COUNTERPARTS.
A HALF DECADES?
Recently, things have gotten a tiny bit
better for female jazz musicians. But three
or four years ago, any musician had to
ask permission of the government to perform. So if you had a band and wanted
to play [at a club], you had to ask the
Cuban Institute of Music and go through
several levels of government approval.
Even if you simply wanted to play at the
café around the corner, you couldn’t do so
without the government’s OK. So, especially for jazz, performance opportunities
have been very limited for the guys and
even [more limited] for the women.
It’s also a very macho society. I’d be in
a jam session and I wouldn’t see one girl
JANE BUNNETT:
I think we were way
ahead of the curve at the time. From the
very beginning, we were connected with
the most respected musicians. They didn’t
want [Cuban] music to be misinterpreted.
But when we did break their rules, like
when we did Monk’s “Epistrophy,” we
were very clear that we were adjusting the
rules. By aligning ourselves with all the
best people, we got a lot of respect for our
collaborations, because people understood
our motivation and sincerity, and that
what we were doing went beyond friendship with another country to making
really great music together.
playing. Some of these girls [in Maqueque]
have completed 15 years of training and
are really, really good, but the guys take
what few gigs there are. With our Spirits of
Havana, we’ve had Pedrito Martinez come
through our group, and Dafnis Prieto and
Yosvany Terry—there’s a long list, probably 20 musicians who’ve gone on to great
careers, and they’re all guys! So that’s why I
decided to do this.
HOW DID YOU ASSEMBLE THE ORIGINAL
MAQUEQUE LINEUP?
Push came to shove when I was doing a
Jazz Safari [a musical expedition to Cuba
organized by Toronto’s
Women of
JAZZ.FM91] in 2013
Maqueque,
and I met Daymé in the
from left: Danae
lobby of the hotel. I was
Olano, Celia
organizing a jam session
Jimenez, Daymé
with a bunch of young
Arocena, Bun-
nett, Magdelys
Savigne and
Yissy García;
violinist and
vocalist Elizabeth
Rodriguez is
not pictured
EMMA-LEE PHOTOGRAPHY
IN CREATING MAQUEQUE, PART OF
MARKS THE 35TH ANNIVERSARY OF
←
JAZZTIMES: TWENTY-SEVENTEEN
JAZZTIMES.COM
47
EMMA-LEE PHOTOGRAPHY
they can do. They’re not only playing their
instruments intensely but singing with
incredible intensity too, which is such an
integral part of the Afro-Cuban culture,
with religious chants. We’ve taken those
chants and incorporated them into a jazz
context. So there’s still the institution of
knowing how to work those harmonies
in thirds and sixths to make them bounce
and sound full. They know where to
position their voices because they have
training in choral singing. So there’s this
great sort of lift. I always remember Steve
Lacy saying, “Lift the bandstand,” and
that’s what really happens with this group.
All the girls have one another’s backs, and
everyone feels supported and lifted.
←
musicians that I’d previously brought to
Toronto, about 10 of them, and said to
her, “We’re doing a session in the cigar bar
upstairs. Come and join us.” So she sang
with us and was very, very good. She has
an unbelievable voice.
Afterwards we traded contact information, and about a month later I was at
[Toronto’s] Jane Mallett Theatre doing a
fundraiser for Sistering, which is an organization for women at risk. There are usually
three or four singers on the program, and I
convinced them to include Daymé. She was
on the bill with Molly Johnson and Jackie
Richardson, and everybody was blown
away. She was 20, but her voice was so beyond the years. And that’s how it started. I
thought, “Maybe I should try and do a new
project with Daymé and put together an
all-female group.” It was a total leap of faith.
I went down there to check different people
out. They had to be a certain personality;
they had to have some sense of improvising;
they had to be down with their own Cuban
music, because some musicians aren’t that
interested in traditional Cuban sounds; and
they had to be really interested in being
open and creative.
HOW DID THE FIRST ALBUM COME
TOGETHER?
Daymé’s father runs a drag club called
[Cabaret] Las Vegas, and we rehearsed there
during the day—pitch-black, no electricity.
The lights would come on for 20 minutes
and we’d race to play. It was disastrous!
Then we went into one studio and started
recording. The piano broke, so we had to
48
JAZZTIMES • JUNE 2017
Savigne,
Olano, Bunnett, Jimenez,
Rodriguez and
García (from
left) at the
Kuumbwa Jazz
Center in Santa
Cruz, Calif.,
in August
find another space, but we managed to complete half a record. I had to go back to Havana to do the other half. I came home after
the two sessions and was really scratching
my head. I didn’t initially think it was a very
good record; I didn’t have any faith in it. I
knew it was a real departure from the other
Afro-Cuban records I’d done, in the sense
that I’d had long-term relationships with all
the guys who’d been on the other recordings,
and all were male-directed projects with me
in the mix doing my thing. Then I realized
there’s a different kind of energy about [the
Maqueque sessions]. When everything
started clicking it was extremely supportive,
and it had a different joyousness about it because it was such a new thing. [The women]
brought in this kind of excitement, knowing
they were doing something that hasn’t been
done before.
When you see the group onstage it really
is joyous. Sometimes when I walk off the
stage I feel really electrified, because there’s
an incredible energy that I’ve not felt with
male groups. When [Maqueque gets] on
the stage, they’re dying to show off what
IS WRITING FOR THIS GROUP DIFFERENT
FOR YOU?
Very. I could not do this same material with
Spirits of Havana; the outcome would be very
different. Ellington wrote for his band members, and that’s how I feel. We’ve done a fair
amount of touring now, and I really know the
personalities, and I know what they’re each
capable of and that they’re all capable of doing
more. We’ve spent a lot of time here in my
house—it’s like that high school thing: “Hey,
guys, let’s go down to the basement and jam!”
They come here to prepare for our tours, we
rehearse, then we eat and drink together, have
a few laughs, and it’s a family. Our Spirits of
Havana [ensembles] have always been like a
family, but this is different, perhaps because
of their ages—they’re all in their 20s. With
the second record, after the first one won the
Juno [Canada’s Grammy equivalent], everyone wanted to write, so we decided to pick
the best of everybody’s tunes.
DAYMÉ WAS A CENTERPIECE OF THE FIRST
ALBUM BUT ONLY DOES A GUEST SPOT
ON THE SECOND. WHY THE CHANGE?
[British DJ and label-owner] Gilles
Peterson [a partner in Havana Club
International’s global initiative, Havana
Cultura] came in and sort of gobbled her
up, and she’s just exploded. He’s got her
everywhere doing everything. She’ll probably make a Nina Simone album. I’m very
happy for her, because she comes from a
very poor family and she’s now the breadwinner. She’s bought a house and a car and
is playing places I haven’t played! But she
wanted to be on the second record and got
herself [to Toronto] to do it.
‘‘I always remember Steve Lacy
saying, ‘Lift the bandstand,’ and
that’s what really happens with
[Maqueque]. All the girls have one
another’s backs, and everyone
feels supported and lifted.’’
FOR THE SECOND ALBUM, YOU ADDED
HAVANA-BORN VIOLINIST AND VOCAL-
IMAGES BY TOM EHRLICH
IST ELIZABETH RODRIGUEZ.
That was interesting. It happened by
accident. I needed a singer. We were
booked for four nights at Jazz Showcase
in Chicago. Daymé couldn’t make it, so
I hired Melvis Santa. But she had some
commitment in Philadelphia for the
first night, and it was about three weeks
before the gig, so there was no time to
get a Cuban replacement. Elizabeth had
Facebooked me when she came to Toronto, said she’d been watching what I’d
been doing and would love to meet me.
I got in touch with her and asked if she
sang. She said she loved to sing, so I invited her over to hear the material. Then
she said, “I have a green card.” Well, that
was it! She came on the trip and was
spectacular, and the other girls loved
her. We have this thing. When we see
someone, we say, “They’re a Maqueque
character” or “They’re not a Maqueque
character.” Maqueque means the fiery
energy spirit of a little girl, so you’ve got
to have a lot of spunk. She’s a fireball
and amazing onstage, plays her ass off
on violin and is a dynamite singer.
YOU’RE NOT KNOWN FOR COVERING
POP TUNES, BUT OPTED TO INCLUDE
BILL WITHERS’ “AIN’T NO SUNSHINE”
ON THE FIRST MAQUEQUE ALBUM AND
LEON RUSSELL’S “A SONG FOR YOU”
ON THE SECOND.
I was thinking that I’d like to include
something that feels like an American
anthem and do it with batá drums,
[applying] the ingredients I was already
using on the record to something that
has a North American context. I think
it’s interesting for people to see that. It
takes it from “this is all foreign stuff ” to
“this is foreign instrumentation being
applied to [something familiar].” It
gives the listener a bit of a reference.
I had one more song to top up the
record, and I was listening to Holger
Petersen’s show [Saturday Night Blues
on CBC Radio and SiriusXM] and
“Ain’t No Sunshine” came on. I knew
that was it because I could hear how
the batá would fit just perfectly.
“A Song for You” is one of the ultimate
love songs. It is so beautiful. That was a
tricky one. We workshopped that one for
a long time and it wasn’t coming together;
it was just too pedestrian. Then we started
working with the concept of bringing
Afro-Cuban chant into it, and the whole
piece took off. When we perform both
those pieces in the U.S. there’s always a
collective sigh—[American audiences]
really cherish those pieces.
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE LOOK LIKE FOR
MAQUEQUE?
I’m hoping this group can grow into more
places, beyond Latin America to Africa,
Eastern Europe, maybe Turkey. I hope
to keep this collective together and have
special guests and collaborations.
IS MAQUEQUE A FEMINIST STATEMENT
OR PURELY A MUSICAL STATEMENT?
Can’t it be both? I think it can’t help
but be a feminist statement. The music
is not soft. It’s very strong, sometimes
even stronger than strong, almost
atomic. I think it has to send out a
feminist energy. JT
JAZZTIMES.COM
49
Sound
advice
AudioFiles
Recorda-They
THE EQUIPMENT, ETIQUETTE AND ETHICS
YOU NEED TO RECORD JAZZ SHOWS
By Brent Butterworth
M
ost jazz fans can think of at
least a couple dozen shows
they wish they could hear
again. Thanks to digital
recording, it’s practical to document the
jazz gigs you attend—but only if you
can navigate the complex and conflicting expectations of the performers, the
audience and the venue. “Taping” is
an established and often encouraged
practice in the jam-band scene, but the
ethics of recording a jazz performance
are more questionable.
Is it OK?
Recording most or all of a musical
performance without permission is
technically illegal, and distributing the
recording without permission is obviously illegal. But such prohibitions are
difficult to enforce. “It’s nearly impossible to prevent people from recording
the performance,” saxophonist and
composer Ken Vandermark tells me.
Still, Vandermark is willing to work
with fans who want to record his shows,
as long as they’re willing to work with
him. “I find it frustrating when audience
members feel it’s OK to record one of
my concerts without asking permission
first,” he says. “If, however, a listener
comes up to me beforehand and asks to
be allowed to record the concert, I’ll ask
them to send me a copy at equal resolution and let them document the show,
whether they record or film.”
Vandermark also thinks file sharing
is OK, with the artist’s permission.
“As long as this takes place without financial profit for the people involved,
I see the sharing of files as a way to
expand knowledge of the music and
allow more people to hear what’s happening,” he says.
50
JAZZTIMES • JUNE 2017
Steven Stone, an editor for The Absolute Sound and Audiophile Review, has
been recording live musical performances
for decades, and points out that it’s also
essential to get the permission of the
performance venue. Most large venues
prohibit recording, but many smaller
clubs don’t mind. “I usually contact the
group first, then tell the venue I have
clearance from them,” he says. He also
allows musicians to release his recordings
if they wish.
← Tascam DR-05
Getting the Right Gear
Even Stone, a devoted audiophile, recommends keeping any recording rig simple.
“I use whatever is lightest, smallest and
easiest to set up, that will also give me
excellent quality,” he says. In his case, that
means a multi-thousand-dollar system
using high-end microphones from Schoeps and a Korg MR-1000 digital recorder,
but excellent live recordings can be made
for far less.
You can do decent live recordings for
as little as $99—the
price of either a
Tascam DR-05 or
Zoom H1 digital recorder.
← Samson C02
← Zoom H1
Both are about 7 inches long and have
stereo microphones built in. They record
on memory cards most laptops can read.
The next step up is to use two proquality “pencil”-style cardioid condenser
mics, which you’ll mount on a microphone bar with clips to hold the mics
about 6 inches apart. Affordable options
include the $139/pair Samson C02 and
the $199/pair Røde M5.
To use these mics, you need a digital
recorder with phantom power and XLR
inputs, such as Tascam’s DR-40 ($169)
← Røde M5
KEN VANDERMARK IS WILLING TO WORK WITH FANS WHO WANT TO RECORD
HIS SHOWS, AS LONG AS THEY’RE WILLING TO WORK WITH HIM. “I FIND IT
FRUSTRATING WHEN AUDIENCE MEMBERS FEEL IT’S OK TO RECORD
ONE OF MY CONCERTS WITHOUT ASKING PERMISSION FIRST,” HE SAYS.
or Zoom’s H6 ($349). These models
can also record simultaneously from
multiple sources. The advantage here is
that if the musicians use a PA system,
you may be able to get permission from
the sound crew to
plug into the mixing
board’s recording
output. This way,
you can record two
super-clean tracks
straight off the
mixer and use your
mics to capture the
room sound, then
mix it all later. Of
course, you’ll need
to bring the right
cables to interface
with the mixer.
If you want a rig
you can carry in
your pocket, you
can get pretty good
← Zoom H6
ultracompact stereo mics that snap onto
an iPhone or iPad—for example, the Blue
Mikey Digital and Zoom iQ7, both $99.
No matter what you record with, bring
headphones to monitor the sound. Sony’s
MDR-7506 headphones
have been used to monitor
millions of radio shows
and video shoots, and
they’re only $89.
How to Do It
Both Vandermark and
Stone suggest using a
stand to hold your mics
or digital recorder in the
optimum place for the best
sound—as long as it doesn’t
spoil the experience for the
audience. As Vandermark
explains: “I would prefer
they have a simple mic
setup in a good location
to record the music, [a
setup] that doesn’t block
sightlines and interfere
with either the musicians
or the audience experience,
← Tascam rather than have them use a
DR-40
handheld device or record
a concert with a phone.
Those results are pretty bad and tend to be
a waste of everyone’s time.”
For the best mic placement, Stone
advises tapers to think of the musicians
and stage as a stereo system. “Previsualize if there were a stereo there,” he
says. “Figure out where the best
listening position would be, and
that’s roughly where you want
your mics. And always give
←
Blue Mikey
Digital
← Zoom iQ7
yourself more setup time than you think
you need.”
When the recording is done, you can
use Dropbox to send the files to the artist
and, with the artist’s permission, share
them with other fans. “In general, it’s all
about cooperation and respect, putting
the musicians and their work first,”
Vandermark says. JT
JAZZTIMES.COM
51
Sound
advice
Chops
The Good Fight
AS SEAMUS BLAKE AND JIMMY GREENE EXPLAIN, THE TWO-TENOR FRONTLINE
SUCCEEDS AT THE NEXUS BETWEEN COMPETITION AND COOPERATION
By Shaun Brady
O
ne tune that Jimmy
Greene always plays
for his sax students
is the title track to
Sonny Rollins’ 1956 classic Tenor
Madness—the famous tenor battle
between Newk and Trane. “Coltrane
plays the first solo,” Greene recounts,
obviously hearing the thrilling virtuosity in his head.
“He’s doing the things that he
was working on at the time: fitting
a lot of notes into each measure,
playing a lot over each chord;
there’s a lot of velocity to what he’s doing. Then Sonny comes in, and, although
he can play tempos as fast as anyone, he
plays one of the most lyrical tenor solos
ever recorded—nothing fast, just beautiful melody after beautiful melody. Then,
as if to say, ‘I can do that too,’ for the last
few measures he plays this breakneck
double-time line as an exclamation
point. Sonny isn’t trying to beat Coltrane
at his own game; he’s just being himself,
and it ends up being one of my favorite
moments on record.”
That single encounter is an object
lesson in the dynamics of the two-tenor
frontline, a relationship that is unique in
its combination of the competitive and
the complementary. It’s no mistake that
words like “battle” and “contest” come
up when you put two tenor players next
to one another, a situation not unlike
placing two Siamese fighting fish into
one bowl. Yet astounding music has
come from the pairing as well, from the
mythological meeting of Lester Young
and Coleman Hawkins to Gene Ammons
and Sonny Stitt, Johnny Griffin and Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Al Cohn and Zoot
Sims, Trane and Sonny and more.
The inherent competitiveness can be
a benefit if not carried to extremes, says
52
JAZZTIMES • JUNE 2017
←
Want to
hear effective,
inspired tenor
dialogue? Check
out these LPs
Greene, who has been playing in dualtenor frontlines since an early experience with Wayne Escoffery under Jackie
McLean’s leadership at the Hartt School.
Since then he’s led a band that included
fellow tenor Marcus Strickland and was
a member of Mario Pavone’s Orange
Double Tenor ensemble. “It’s a friendly
competition, or at least it should be,”
Greene says. “In the best of situations,
the musicians inspire one another to
even greater levels of focus and concentration than if there weren’t another
person on your instrument playing with
you. The most important thing is to put
the egos to the side as much as possible
and try to make music.”
Seamus Blake has found an ideal collaborator in Chris Cheek. The two tenormen co-lead the quintet Reeds Ramble,
which has released two albums to date.
“It’s like a relationship,” Blake says. “You
have to have things in common, but you
also have to have enough that’s unique
about each of you that attracts the other
person. When you’re in a band with
anyone, you have to have similar ideals
or similar things that you’re trying to
achieve; but with two saxophones, if you
play too similarly it might be too much
for the audience.”
An unabashed lover of the tenor
sound, Greene believes the two-tenor
band can shine a spotlight on the endless
potential of the instrument. “There are
so many different ways to approach the
saxophone, so many sounds that can be
made, so many approaches that stem
from someone’s personality and their
general musicianship,” he says. “Saxophonists that aspire to the highest levels
of playing inevitably have a very personal
approach and sound, so it’s nice to be
able to showcase that. Tenor is in a range
and timbre that blends easily, so two tenors playing together sounds really good.
The challenge is more how you’re going
to approach it philosophically.”
To avoid the “too much saxophone”
problem, Blake encourages players to
devise arrangements that feature the
different possibilities the lineup can offer.
“There’s an art to writing a two-horn
arrangement, because you only have one
note to harmonize with. You have to pick
spots to play unison, spots to have a bit of
“ONE POTENTIAL PITFALL
IS TRYING TO OUTDO THE
OTHER PERSON AT THEIR
OWN STRENGTHS,” GREENE
SAYS. “NO MATTER WHAT
THE OTHER PERSON DOES
OR DOESN’T DO, YOUR
VOICE IS YOUR VOICE.”
harmony and moments for countermelodies. Listen to vocal music and check out
how people arrange vocal duets: when to
harmonize, when to be in unison, when
to play alone or let someone else play
the melody. Those things help keep it
interesting.”
But the key to differentiating the two
tenors is the lesson that Rollins and
Coltrane obviously imbibed: forge and
maintain your individual voice. “One potential pitfall is trying to outdo the other
person at their own strengths,” Greene
says. “It’s very important to know who
you are and to have a level of confidence
that what you bring to the table is valuable and worth listening to. No matter
what the other person does or doesn’t do,
your voice is your voice. Just do what you
do and make sure you’re doing it at the
highest level possible.” JT
Yep.
That was you.
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It was a little of us too,
now that you mention it.)
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JAZZTIMES.COM
53
Sound
advice
GearHead
Yamaha 50th Anniversary
Custom Z Alto Saxophone
Yamaha celebrates a half-century of superior saxophones with this limitededition alto—only 50 will be manufactured—which boasts a special
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JodyJazz Super Jet Alto Mouthpiece
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Many if not most gigs a working saxophonist will encounter
today are not circa-1959 acoustic jazz. Enter JodyJazz’s new
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Phaeton PHTF-LV 2900
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One of several excellent recent instruments by Phaeton, the PHTF-LV 2900
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Reviews
JACO PASTORIUS
TRUTH, LIBERTY & SOUL: LIVE IN NYC—
THE COMPLETE 1982 NPR JAZZ ALIVE!
RECORDING (Resonance)
It’s curious that we don’t
more directly associate
electric jazz bass playing
with Latin rhythms, given
that the greatest practitioner on the instrument featured them so
centrally in his sound. This newly
unearthed document is a key sonic case
in point. Here we have Jaco Pastorius
with his Word of Mouth Big Band, live
at NYC’s Avery Fisher Hall in the
summer of 1982 for George Wein’s Kool
Jazz Festival, regaling listeners with 130
minutes of music in which his evervirtuosic bass work is neatly folded into
a larger group dynamic. (The set is
available as a three-LP box, two-CD
package and digital download,
including a 100-page book with
contributions by Metallica’s Robert
Trujillo, biographer Bill Milkowski
and others.)
That this was an NPR recording
56
JAZZTIMES • JUNE 2017
means the sound is impeccable, no
small detail in appreciating the full
tonal display of Pastorius’ lines. On
the opening “Invitation”—which functions as a musical epistle/beckoning
to a damn good time—his notes are
tightly clustered, like buzzy, motivic
spirals that serve as fillips for the
piece. Bob Mintzer’s tenor saxophone
provides a lot of the solo-based forward motion, but it’s the Latin inflection—courtesy of Othello Molineaux’s
steel drums—that makes this feel like
work born of tropical climes and the
jazz of New Orleans in all its wonderfully bonhomous hoodoo.
Pastorius never dominates, instead
serving as facilitator for an ensemble
of expert personnel like the bassist’s
fellow Weather Report alumni Peter
Erskine on drums and Don Alias on
percussion, saxophonists Mintzer,
Frank Wess and Howard Johnson and
trumpeters Randy Brecker, Lew Soloff
and Jon Faddis. Even when the leader
solos and his bass becomes guitar-like,
with a hint of trumpet and piano, he’s
ANTHONY BRAXTON
QUINTET (BASEL) 1977 (hatOLOGY)
With reissues it is all
about the package. This
package is deficient. The
verbal diarrhea of Art
Lange’s uninformative
liner essay fills three panels of the cover.
And the sound sucks.
Yet Lange is not wrong when he
says that this “temporary, even fleeting ensemble” was one of Anthony
Braxton’s strongest. On the evidence
of the first track alone, “Composition
69 J,” George Lewis is the best musician to ever play avant-garde jazz on
TOM COPI
• “Facilitator for an ensemble of expert personnel”: Jaco Pastorius
always in control, always economical.
If his notes were drops of water they’d
never overfill the bowl.
“Donna Lee” is a first-half highlight,
the kettledrums contrasting with a Sun
Ra-esque futuristic vibe in the refrains.
“Soul Intro/The Chicken” features a
fanfare straight from a 1980s late-night
talk show as its intro, before the titular
bird leaps into the fray to jitterbug. This
is one brassy strut, a proper comfortfood piece, with a high feel-good
quotient. Brecker plays his hindquarters off, ascending to Freddie Hubbard
heights of hard-bop glory, but with the
underpinning of a samba. Toots Thielemans turns up on harmonica on several
numbers, but his contributions have
mixed results. He’s more effective when
he accompanies rather than spars, for
this is Ellingtonian music—and a showcase for Pastorius the bandleader, the
shaper of a series of jazz tone poems
with symphonic qualities.
“Reza/Giants Steps” is akin to an
electric bass concerto, something like
those moments in Miles Davis’ Second
Great Quintet when Tony Williams
would simmer at his kit, keeping the
music below a boil, his mates exploring the space around him. So it goes
with Pastorius here, his fingers moving
so fast you wonder if anyone could
possibly transcribe this. It’s a bit like
wondering how to take the temperature
of a star. Better to just luxuriate in the
light. COLIN FLEMING
trombone. He is as fast (and fearless, and
reckless) as any trumpet badass. Drummer Charles “Bobo” Shaw and bassist
Mark Helias rarely worked with Braxton.
Shaw’s racket sometimes becomes static,
but Helias turbocharges this music.
The revelation here is Muhal Richard
Abrams. Few Braxton bands have had
a piano chair. The harmonic relativity of Braxton’s world almost precludes
pianists. Abrams opens new vistas upon
every Braxton song he touches—or,
rather, every Braxton song he drowns in
wild lyric onslaughts.
There are actual songs, even if their
rapid oscillations sometimes sound more
like the work of a mad scientist than
an artist. And the players do use these
forms for reference, even if, within the
contrapuntal ensemble frenzies, nuances
of interconnection are obscured by the
bad sound. Like all Braxton music, this
live concert recording is disorienting,
exhausting and uplifting. It is a rush of
release when a band this manic suddenly
discovers bebop, however atonal, and
swings, like on “Composition 69 N/G.”
Braxton’s priority is the group entity,
but there are some truly harrowing
solos here. Braxton’s shrill, compulsively
repetitive sopranino saxophone can wear
you out, until he finds beauty, blindingly
bright. Lewis’ mad dashes careen crazily
but never quite capsize. A Braxton concert is its own strange séance, not a show.
If it were a show, Abrams and his vast,
tumultuous, sublime piano would steal it.
THOMAS CONRAD
CHRIS BYARS
©JOHN ROGERS/ECM RECORDS
THE MUSIC OF FRANK STROZIER
(SteepleChase)
Alto saxophonist Frank
Strozier’s music is
dyed-in-the-wool hard
bop—how could late-’50s
jazz from blues-and-gospel Memphis be anything else? As such,
it’s a bit jarring to hear his compositions
juxtaposed with Chris Byars’ classically
informed arrangements. Trombone,
bass clarinet, oboe and guitar assail the
material on The Music of Frank Strozier,
along with Byars’ alto and flute.
But the hybrid works. Byars simultaneously softens the edges of Strozier’s
tunes, then sharpens them again. On
the opening “Extension 27,” Pasquale
Grasso’s guitar acts as a sedative, the
charming bed of chords sounding
much like a soft-touch piano against
Stefan Schatz’s brushwork and in Grasso’s delicately constructed solo. But
on top, Byars, with a salt-and-vinegar
sound in his alto, and trombonist John
Mosca attack with adrenaline, and
Stefano Doglioni applies a coarse edge
with his bass clarinet. James Byars’
oboe leavens “Remember Me” simply
by virtue of being an oboe—but then
Doglioni and Mosca pull the tune into
swing so determined it approaches
grimness. By the time of “Long Night”
and “Ollie,” these orchestral textures
sound like they were made to play the
BILL FRISELL/THOMAS MORGAN
SMALL TOWN (ECM)
Although he’s collaborated with dozens of diverse artists throughout
his career, guitarist Bill Frisell is still somewhat picky about whom
he chooses to work with. He requires a rapport that is both
simpatico and challenging—no sense playing with someone unless
they’re going to take him someplace new. He’s one of the most
adaptable, open-minded musicians around, at his most fertile when he’s plugged
directly into other sharp minds.
Thomas Morgan, the double bassist who shares this live-at-the-Village-Vanguard session with Frisell, is a good fit. He’s understated, never in the way and
savvy enough to serve as solid support to Frisell’s frugal precision. On the Carter
Family-associated “Wildwood Flower,” the two engage in a sprightly, good-humored dance, Morgan occasionally suggesting melodic alternatives that Frisell is
all too happy to take up. For Lee Konitz’s “Subconscious-Lee,” Morgan walks it as
Frisell talks it; they’re on parallel paths that intersect just often enough to remind
them that they’re headed in the same direction.
“It Should Have Happened a Long Time Ago,” the 11-minute opener, is an
homage to the late Paul Motian, with whom Frisell (along with saxophonist Joe
Lovano) played for decades. Morgan, too, was a longtime Motian associate, and
there’s a pronounced reverence in their delivery here—Frisell’s crystalline, pianistic tone bolstered by Morgan’s lucid, bold, nomadic contemplations. “Song for
Andrew No. 1” is an encore performance, having appeared on drummer Andrew
Cyrille’s 2016 ECM release The Declaration of Musical Independence, a quartet
recording on which Frisell is the featured guitarist. Here it’s softer and less trippy
but equally expressive.
They end on a fun note: the theme song from the 1964 James Bond film, Goldfinger. Unlike Shirley Bassey’s brassy vocal hit, the Frisell-Morgan take—which
would have made Frisell’s Guitar in the Space Age! album even cooler—jabs and
spars with the melody, exhorting and avoiding as much as stating definitively. It’s
quite the hoot. JEFF TAMARKIN
• “On parallel paths that intersect just often enough”: Bill Frisell (left) and Thomas Morgan
JAZZTIMES.COM
57
Reviews
BILLY CHILDS
REBIRTH (Mack Avenue)
On Rebirth, pianistcomposer Billy Childs’
first album of original
music in seven years,
everything simply clicks.
There’s no elaborate secret or twist to
it. Childs contributes gorgeous
writing that fosters intelligent and
imaginative improvisations, and
deploys a killing quartet (alto/soprano
saxophonist Steve Wilson, bassist
Hans Glawischnig, drummer Eric
Harland) and several guests that
MICHAËL ATTIAS QUARTET
NERVE DANCE (Clean Feed)
Saxophonist-composer Michaël Attias has studied and played
with two masters of structure and space, Anthony Braxton and
Paul Motian. To the extent he is a traditionalist, Attias reveres
Bird, Coltrane and Ornette not for their place in the firmament,
but for their willingness to take risks. On Nerve Dance, Attias has
assembled an ideal ensemble to wield these concepts of structure, space and
risk, and forges a potent, relentlessly unpredictable synergy.
The 11 original compositions play out like an Escher mandala. The opening
and closing tunes feature a 3/4 time signature: The first, “Dark Net,” has drummer Nasheet Waits delivering a tour de force on an Elvin Jones-inspired six-beat
phrase; the last, “Nasheet,” is a tribute to Waits by the ensemble’s bassist, John
Hébert. Another thematic echo occurs with three other songs. “Nerve & Limbo”
deploys aggressive and then atmospheric approaches to the same harmonic material. The “nerve” segment is reprised on “Le Pèse-Nerfs,” and the “limbo” segment
gets revisited on “Ombilique.” A final conjoining occurs when Attias plays solo on
alto and piano for “Boca de Luna,” which introduces the ensuing “Moonmouth,”
a delicacy made
sumptuous by
pianist Aruán Ortiz
despite hewing to
17/8 time.
All these interconnections are
submerged in a
glorious group enterprise. The Attias
Quartet performs
with the confident
understanding that
structure and space
are ultimately just
tools for risk. That
savvy ambition is
what makes this
Attias’ best disc
and most exciting
ensemble to date.
• “Structure, space and risk”: Michaël Attias
58
JAZZTIMES • JUNE 2017
BRITT ROBSON
execute his ideas in straight-ahead
postbop style. QED.
The music isn’t exactly basic. “Dance
of Shiva” is a jabber of a tune that
dares you to follow Wilson’s soprano
convolutions without getting lost; it
features a long Childs solo that can’t
go eight bars without metamorphosing. But it also has a commanding bass
hook and thrilling harmonic tensionand-release. The linear melody of the
hyperspeed “Rebirth” is less a shape
than a chain of long tones—Alicia
Olatuja’s wordless vocal, doubling
with either Wilson or trombonist Ido
Meshulam, gives it contour and moody
beauty. “Stay,” the album’s one tune
with lyrics, sung by Claudia Acuña, is
a tale of love lost that haunts the soul
even as it defies expectations in its
melody and chord changes.
Still, some of the pleasures of
Rebirth do cut to the core. “Backwards Bop” is another complex tune,
but a swinger whose gait and accents
demand listening with one’s feet. It
also boasts joyful solos, including
one from Glawischnig that memorably quotes “Four” and a Wilson alto
line that scrapes the gutbucket. “The
Starry Night” begins with a music-box
melody on piano and suddenly bursts
into full-band triumph, and a WilsonChilds duet on Horace Silver’s “Peace”
draws its strength from its delicacy.
Rebirth is one of the strongest releases
of 2017’s first half, without trying
to reinvent the wheel. It’s no Citizen
Kane, but it’s certainly a Casablanca.
MICHAEL J. WEST
ALEX CLINE’S
FLOWER GARDEN
ORCHESTRA
OCEANS OF VOWS (Cryptogramophone)
One cannot fully comprehend the depths of
Buddhist philosophy
through a quick read on
the subject. The collection
of Mahayana Buddhist scriptures often
referred to as the Flower Garland
Discourse usually numbers over 1,000
pages when it’s translated into English.
Casual reading it is not. In keeping with
that idea, Oceans of Vows, percussionist
Alex Cline’s lengthy composition, also
requires a focused listen in order to grasp
its nuances. To create Oceans of Vows, he
RUSS ROWLAND
blues. “Ollie,” a ballad, is really Byars’
alto feature, and he hits it hard. Still,
Grasso’s accompaniment reeks of bent
notes and bluesy substitutions, and
the horns squeeze together in soulful
pathos, Mosca especially shining.
As might be expected, the mellower
qualities do hold sway when Byars picks
up the flute. Yet he has a light prance of
an approach to the instrument, so that
even as he gives a softer side to “Neicy”
or the rhumba “For Chris,” Byars kicks
up the tune’s rhythmic side as well.
That’s an impressive balance, and a
masterful one. MICHAEL J. WEST
combined excerpts from the Flower
Garland Discourse with four poems
written by his Zen Buddhist teacher,
Thich Nhat Hanh. To bring the work to
life, Cline enlisted a 14-piece ensemble
including two electric guitarists (one, his
twin brother Nels), string instruments
from the West (violin, cello, bass) and
East (erhu, zhonghu, zheng, qin), flutes,
electric keyboards, samplers, percussion
and vocals. The 10-part piece spreads out
over two discs and lasts two hours.
From the opening track, it’s clear this
music will take its time on its journey.
An archival recording of a monastery
Great bell (a recurring theme throughout) tolls just three times but takes
nearly a minute to resonate and fade. An
ominous wave of gongs and electronics slowly make their way in afterward,
and for nearly half of this track, “The
Tree of Enlightenment,” the music feels
like it’s waking up before settling into an
undulating drone to accompany Areni
Agbabian’s voice. “A Flash of Lighting”
offers many styles in its 19 minutes.
Voices in the distance give way to guitars
that might evoke fusion if they weren’t so
murky. That part collapses into another
tranquil percussion section that could
have come from an Art Ensemble of
Chicago session. On “We Will Be Back
Again,” Brad Dutz’s vibes, Nels Cline’s
guitar and Miguel Atwood-Ferguson’s
electric five-string violin build to a climax that again brings in the Great bell.
On disc two, the work continues to
move from quasi-chamber music to
the power-chord riff that drives “The
Incalculable.” But the latter track exemplifies one of the album’s shortcomings:
Agbabian’s voice is often mixed on the
same volume level as the instruments.
This doesn’t matter as much during the
quieter moments, but the amplified setting of “The Incalculable,” and the way
Agbabian occasionally leans on syllables
operatically, makes the lyric booklet a
necessity. Much like it did on DIRTY
BABY, Nels Cline’s salute to visual artist
Ed Ruscha, the Cryptogramophone
imprint delivers Oceans of Vows with
ambitious packaging. In a time when
streaming overshadows tactile product,
this set includes a 20-page text with the
lyrics and a 44-page booklet of which 12
pages feature insights from the composer. It’s a deep read that brings clarity
to the music. MIKE SHANLEY
CURTIS BROTHERS
QUARTET
SYZYGY (Truth Revolution)
“Syzygy” is an astronomical term that describes an
alignment of three
celestial bodies. What
that has to do with the
Curtis Brothers Quartet’s new album
isn’t clear at all; it would make sense
for a Curtis Brothers Trio. Maybe
pianist Zaccai Curtis, bassist Luques
Curtis and their bandmates, drummer
Richie Barshay and percussionist
Reinaldo De Jesus, just liked the
sound of the word—which would be
fine, because everyone is going to like
the sound of this record.
It’s a fresh sound. Zaccai mostly
plays Fender Rhodes, and the 12 tunes
on Syzygy are tinged to varying degrees with Latin sounds. Sometimes,
as with Mongo Santamaria’s “Afro
Blue” and Horace Silver’s “Quick-
CUNEIFORM RECORDS
THE GREAT HARRY HILLMAN
www. cuneiformrecords.com
Tilt
“The Great Harry Hillman – the current
definition of what it means to be
a new young modern jazz band
in these times. Four very strong
individual musicians come together
to create an extremely personal style
of music that could only exist through
time invested band chemistry. From
fragile melodies, twisted grooves, to
massive band climaxes, they deliver
flawless and exciting music.”
– Jim Black
Before you buy, listen at cuneiformrecords.bandcamp.com
Buy these and thousands of other interesting releases at our online store: waysidemusic.com
JAZZTIMES.COM
59
Reviews
silver,” it’s forceful Latin jazz, with De
Jesus playing the congas with such
might they feel like the lead instrument.
Bud Powell’s “Hallucinations” retains
its bebop origins but gets a heavy dose
of conga, and “Hi-Heel Sneakers,” a
1964 uptempo blues hit for Tommy
Tucker, is turned into a piece of funky
Latin jazz that comes off like a cousin of
“Watermelon Man.” Elsewhere the Latin
effect is dialed back. The quartet’s take
of “What’s Going On” is as bluesy and
soulful as Marvin Gaye’s, with a shuffling rhythm to boot. Wayne Shorter’s
“Yes or No” is modal postbop with congas—not to mention a cracking drum
solo. “Betcha by Golly Wow,” the R&B
ballad made famous by the Stylistics,
is a showcase for Zaccai, who unearths
plenty of harmonic beauty, with the
percussion taking a backseat. And their
version of Cole Porter’s “All of You”
sounds more like ’70s AM radio, with a
ringing Rhodes so pretty it’ll make you
want to cry. STEVE GREENLEE
ERNEST DAWKINS’
NEW HORIZONS ENSEMBLE
FEATURING VIJAY IYER
TRANSIENT TAKES (Ernest Dawkins)
Nostalgists pining for the
days of “live-in-the-studio”
recordings will rejoice:
Saxophonist Ernest Dawkins
and his New Horizons
Ensemble (bassist Isaiah Spencer and
drummer Junius Paul), along with pianist
Vijay Iyer, recorded this set in Chicago
last year over the course of about four
hours. It features 10 selections, seven
improvised on the spot; three others are
Dawkins compositions that Iyer had
never recorded or rehearsed previously.
“Dawkness” opens the set with a salvo
that could also serve as a declaration of
purpose: Dawkins’ astringent, clarion-like
tone clears a space, and then he claims
it—planting his sonic flag of conquest and
breaking into scurries, engaging his bandmates in antic delight as they traverse this
newly liberated territory. Iyer hews somewhat closer to conventional tonalities than
Dawkins, but he remains jubilantly defiant
of Western scalar/harmonic norms. Spencer and Paul, meanwhile, lock so tightly
they seem to become a single instrument
with multiple voices, melding rhythmic,
sonic and even harmonic conceits into a
roiling, furious whole.
Dawkins’ sardonic humor is evident
throughout, as he ignites sparks and
scatters shards over the ruminations of
his colleagues, which often tend toward
the darkly meditative (although Paul’s
solos evince a trickster-like wit). Iyer’s
attack can be fierce, even violent, yet the
lines he unspools weave and flow, wresting optimism from aggression. At times,
as on Dawkins’ “South Side Breakdown,”
things verge on the conventional—the
On Public R dio SiriusXM & iTunes
piece swings breezily, and Dawkins’ playing is appropriately bluesy and roughedged. “Transient Sounds,” by contrast,
finds Dawkins at his most unfettered,
creating and then annihilating constructs
with every breath. DAVID WHITEIS
BRANDI DISTERHEFT
BLUE CANVAS (Justin Time)
Brandi Disterheft’s Blue
Canvas might simply have
been an extraordinarily
coalescent trio album. The
Canadian-born, Harlembased bassist is in stellar company, teaming
with pianist Harold Mabern and drummer
Joe Farnsworth for a studio session that
followed their performance at the 2015
Montreal International Jazz Festival. Six of
the 10 tracks focus squarely on the tight
brilliance of their union. Together they
travel from a rousingly jaunty “Dis Here”
through a double-dip into the Clifford
Brown songbook—a slinky, noirish
“Daahoud” and a breezily potent “George’s
Dilemma”—and on to a mellow “Willow
Weep for Me.” Along the way, Farnsworth
skillfully steers the buzzy whirlwind of
Mabern’s “Beehive,” while Tadd Dameron’s
“Our Delight” swings brightly.
But that’s only part of the story. Exercising her vocal and songwriting skills (and,
for the first time on record, alternating
between bass and cello), the dexterous
Disterheft adds extra layers of richness.
Three original compositions, two featuring her delicate yet pliant voice, include
the carefree title track and “When the
Mood Is Right,” a ruminative waltz for
cello. But the centerpiece is her two-part
“Crippling Thrill.” Disterheft sets the scene
with a solo bass “Prelude,” two minutes
of introspective anticipation. The lyric’s
hungry passion then unfolds, propelled by
a quickening heartbeat shaped by Mabern
and Farnsworth, the trio ultimately climbing beyond words to a rapturous climax.
CHRISTOPHER LOUDON
JOE FIEDLER
LIKE, STRANGE (Multiphonics)
After four albums with his
trio and a couple with his
Big Sackbut big band,
trombonist Joe Fiedler goes
the quintet route on Like,
Strange. The trio’s rhythm section of bassist
Rob Jost and drummer Michael Sarin is
joined by Jeff Lederer on tenor and
60
JAZZTIMES • JUNE 2017
soprano saxophones and guitarist Pete
McCann. The expansion naturally opens
up more harmonic and coloration vistas,
and Fiedler makes the most of the newly
available routes from the get-go on “Go
Get It,” the feisty, swinging, Jimmy
Giuffre-inspired opening track.
As a soloist Fiedler is a master at
exploring his instrument’s range—he
gets high notes out of it you’d swear were
coming from a lead trumpet—and he
seems to revel in the tag-team effects he
creates when jousting with Lederer and
McCann. The advantage, to the listener, is
greater texture and wider melodic variation—Fiedler is still the man in charge, no
doubt, but compared to his trio work, he’s
no longer restricted to milking all of the
direction from a sole horn.
Compositionally, Fiedler also spreads
out. The press notes state that the title
track is inspired by early John Scofield,
but it could just as easily be an homage
to Philadelphia International. “Maple
Avenue Tango” is exotic and mysterious.
“Tuna Fish Cans” is driven by Jost’s
bass, Sarin’s lockstep groove and the
huddled lead players, then veers off into
superior soloing territory. And “Yinz,”
the album’s closer, is jittery, scattered and
chattering at first, grows conversational,
breaks loose into tightly framed improvisations and meets up again on common
ground as it pulses to a clean stop.
earths a savvy, deceptively economical
solo on “Teen Town,” contrasted by decidedly more opulent three-way work
(piano, organ, Rhodes) on the fiercely
swinging “Sightseeing.” Glawischnig
adds a compelling dimension to the latter in a bowed counterpoint to Collins’
piano, and Gibbs does the performance
proud with a rare solo break of his own.
The bad news is that the quality of
Weather Report’s material emphasizes the shortcomings in Gibbs’ own.
Shorter and Zawinul balanced their
grooves with melody and hooks; on the
full-length “The Life Suite,” Gibbs merely
tempers his with vamps and just-thisside-of-dissonant shapes that never catch
hold (with some exceptions: the Latinspiced “Just Glad to Be Anywhere” has
wings, and “St. Marteen,” a kalimba jam,
is so infectious that its 30-second length
just infuriates). “The 70’s Song/aka
‘Patrice Rushen,’” for example, captures
its namesakes, but is so static it seems
designed as the loop in a hip-hop track.
“We Are So Free” has more direction but
JEFF TAMARKIN
GERRY GIBBS
& THRASHER PEOPLE
WEATHER OR NOT (Whaling City)
“It’s a bold move to cover
Weather Report in this day
and age,” assert the liner
notes to drummer Gerry
Gibbs’ double-disc Weather
or Not. “Risky” might be a better word
for the gambit, which places the covers
on disc one and a new suite of Gibbs
originals on the other. The risk doesn’t
really pay off, but it’s not because the trio
of Gibbs and the Thrasher People
(keyboardist Alex Collins and bassist
Hans Glawischnig) can’t do justice to the
Weather Report material.
On the contrary, Gibbs’ (mostly)
acoustic trio arrangements of “A Remark
You Made” and “Elegant People” have
beauty and power, while the high-speed
shuffle of “Birdland” demonstrates that
tune’s versatility. Meanwhile, Collins unJAZZTIMES.COM
61
Reviews
is too convoluted to have an impact,
and “It’s a Good Day” spins its cheery
wheels, finding both Glawischnig and
Collins doing the same in their solos.
Gibbs can do better. MICHAEL J. WEST
LISA HILTON
DAY & NIGHT (Ruby Slippers)
Throughout a 20-year
recording career, pianist
Lisa Hilton has demonstrated a well-honed knack
for choosing supportive
accompanists—for 2015’s Horizons, her
previous release, that meant first-call
players like Sean Jones (trumpet), JD
Allen (saxophone) and Rudy Royston
(drums). Going the solo route for Day &
Night, Hilton was well aware of the
empty spaces she’d be willfully confronting. It’s to her credit that she knows,
intuitively, when to try to fill them and
when to revel in the openness that the
absence of others creates.
Hilton has said that Day & Night
is inspired by Cole Porter’s melodicism—the album title is a play on his
composition “Night and Day,” and the
only non-original in the set is Porter’s
“Begin the Beguine,” taken at a leisurely,
meditative pace, its melody dipped in
melancholy. For all of the emphasis on
melody though, Hilton doesn’t skimp
on solid rhythmic grounding when it’s
called for: On the uptempo, boleroesque opener, “Caffeinated Culture,” her
left hand is hyper-busy, maintaining the
sprightly tempo while her right feels its
way around until the pianist finally lets
her fingers go where they’ve been aching to go all along.
The bulk of the songs, though, are
rather more tranquil and reflective,
affording Hilton abundant opportunity
to seek and search. Numbers such as
“Sunrise” and “So This Is Love” might,
on the surface, be heard as little more
than pretty tunes, but closer scrutiny
reveals nuanced choices and numerous
unforeseen turns. Hilton, even at her
quietest, often brings an emotionalism
to the simplest of ideas; layers of depth
appear when you least expect them.
Hilton self-produced this album, but
kudos must also go to veteran engineer
Al Schmitt, who recorded her piano
closely and sans effects. This is as unsullied as solo-piano recordings get.
JEFF TAMARKIN
62
JAZZTIMES • JUNE 2017
JULIA HÜLSMANN TRIO
SOONER AND LATER (ECM)
German pianist Julia
Hülsmann isn’t quite a
minimalist but neither is
she flamboyant—not even
close. For Sooner and Later,
she returns to the trio format of her
earliest ECM efforts, and she sounds
comfortable in this simple setting. No one
here is jockeying; it’s a band of equals.
Hülsmann, joined as she has been
on all her ECM releases by bassist Marc
Muellbauer and drummer Heinrich
Köbberling, is a lyrical player who favors
rolling out a theme tentatively. Sometimes, as on her back-to-back original
compositions “J.J.” and “Soon,” she goes
for a rhythmic approach, skipping her
way through the melody giddily and giving Muellbauer and Köbberling all of the
openings they could possibly ask for. On
the ballads—Köbberling’s “You & You”
and Muellbauer’s “The Poet (for Ali)” are
particularly sweet—they take their time,
establishing mood and tone prudently.
All three of these musicians are about
totality and serving the ensemble’s
purpose. On the seemingly obligatory
Radiohead cover, “All I Need,” they appropriate the original’s slow build; by
its conclusion they’ve reached a tempo
others might have taken as their starting
point. Hülsmann has a long history in her
homeland and released three duet albums
for ACT before signing with ECM.
Nearing 50, she is still fine-tuning her approach, and Sooner and Later is a bold, if
simultaneously incremental, step forward.
JEFF TAMARKIN
HOWARD JOHNSON
AND GRAVITY
TESTIMONY (Tuscarora)
For decades, Howard Johnson has played the tuba
with the kind of agility and
treble-strafing power
seldom associated with the
low-register ax. Testimony documents
the 75-year-old Johnson’s continuing
vitality as a player, and offers yet another
testament to his instrument’s viability in
modern jazz.
Gravity, Johnson’s choir of low-brass
horns, turns in appealingly rich and dark
textures, beginning with the title track,
the first of several on which the leader
shows off his chops as an improviser,
bouncing over the midtempo groove
provided by pianist Carlton Holmes,
bassist Melissa Slocum and drummer
Buddy Williams. Johnson handily takes
the lead of McCoy Tyner’s “Fly With the
Wind,” slipping into the (relative) stratosphere and soloing before again passing
the tuba baton to Dave Bargeron. Tyner’s
“High Priest” finds the leader switching
to his other main instrument, baritone
saxophone, for a quick solo turn.
For all the tuba-does-jazz celebrating,
the program is pleasantly varied, with the
ensemble cranking up the gospel-blues
textures and rhythms for Carole King’s
“A Natural Woman,” a showcase for the
mellifluous playing of Velvet Brown,
whose F tuba comes off as a trombone.
And Johnson takes to the penny whistle
on his “Little Black Lucille.”
Some of the disc’s richest, most sonorous tones can be heard on Bob Neloms’
“Evolution.” That cut opens with unaccompanied brass, in a passage somewhat
reminiscent of Gil Evans’ arrangements,
before shifting to the head and vigorous
solos by tubamen Johnson, Bargeron, Earl
McIntyre and Bob Stewart, and pianist
Holmes, who quotes “A Love Supreme”
in his spotlight. Wilton Felder’s “Way
Back Home” caps the set with a welcome
round of downhome funk and more tuba
acrobatics. The group modulates up a step
at the end, amping the feel-good nature of
a disc with plenty of inspired playing and
loads of low-end gravitas. PHILIP BOOTH
JEFF LORBER FUSION
PROTOTYPE (Shanachie)
Even if Prototype, the title
of Jeff Lorber Fusion’s
latest release, is meant to
be emblematic of contemporary jazz to come, don’t
expect a series of jarring breaks with the
past. Quite often the album’s appeal is
derived from the vintage blues, bop,
soul-jazz and R&B sounds that continue
to inform keyboardist Lorber’s fusion
perspective, albeit in vibrantly reconfigured fashion. When the bandleader and
prolific composer leans into his ’72
Fender Rhodes on “The Badness,” or
adroitly deploys saxophonist Andy
Snitzer’s piercing alto on the album’s title
track, or brings his Hammond B-3 to
bear on the Tower of Power-esque romp
“What’s the Deal,” Lorber sounds less
interested in exploring new ground than
in rekindling early passions without
repeating himself.
Of course, that’s no small challenge for
someone who’s been a highly influential
force in fusion and smooth-jazz for four
decades. Lorber’s gifts for composing
and arranging remain undiminished,
and much the same can be said for his
ability to recruit musicians who colorfully complement his band, which now
features Snitzer, bassist Jimmy Haslip
and drummer Gary Novak. The coupling
of Haslip and Novak here is especially
enjoyable, supple and polyrhythmic, while
the numerous guests, including bassist
Nathan East and guitarists Chuck Loeb,
Larry Koonse, Michael Thompson and
Paul Jackson Jr., leave their mark on performances shrewdly tailored to take full
advantage of the impressive lineup. Not to
be overlooked, saxophonist Dave Mann
deserves kudos for fashioning seven
horn arrangements that contribute to the
album’s luster and vitality. MIKE JOYCE
STILL ACTIVE
AS A PERFORMER
AND COMPOSER
My 90th birthday year
September 2015 Release
www.jimmyheathmusic.com
REBECCA MARTIN
& GUILLERMO KLEIN
THE UPSTATE PROJECT (Sunnyside)
Some tracks on The
Upstate Project are better
than others. Yes, there is a
conceptual unity to the
album: singer-songwriter
Rebecca Martin and pianist/composer/
vocalist Guillermo Klein wrote or
adapted 12 jazz compositions, outfitting
them in the process with (sometimes
bilingual) lyrics. They fit together
stylistically, too, an unlikely—and dark,
and somber—marriage of Martin and
Klein’s idiosyncratic visions. Nevertheless, where quality is an attribute,
consistency is not.
Admittedly, Martin’s world-weary
throatiness is an acquired taste. But
there’s no denying that at points on The
Upstate Project, it works well with the
darker vibe that Klein brings in. Foremost is “Freedom Run,” a reworking of
Kurt Rosenwinkel’s “Cycle 5”; ostensibly
about Israeli/Palestinian violence, Martin’s words mostly comprise repetition
of an enigmatic couplet (“In the serious
of midday/There’s an element of child
play”) and the title phrase. With it comes
a major-key warmth that Martin—and
Klein, in Spanish—accentuates. The English-Spanish dichotomy also succeeds on
the brief, sad “Like Every Other Day,” on
NATURAL
HISTORY
The new album from
Wess “Warmdaddy” Anderson
Longtime sideman of
Wynton Marsalis
featuring
Mark Rapp • Chris Burroughs
David Ellington
janglyrecords.com
JAZZTIMES.COM
63
Reviews
which Klein sings lyrics called “Llorando
Fuerte.” Klein and Martin’s co-written
“Outside It Rains for Them” is laced
with melancholy and hope, and on the
album-closing “To Up and Go,” Martin’s
lone writing and vocal achieve beautiful upward swoops that mesh with her
guitar, Klein’s piano, and bassist Larry
Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard.
Success is not a lock in this project,
however. The opening “Just as in Spring”
crosses over from darkness to dreariness,
with both the wear in Martin’s voice and
the low drone in Klein’s approaching
caricature. The structure of Martin’s lyrics for Klein’s “Thrones and Believers” is
awkward. And “In the Nick of Time” has
a superb melody and a serviceable lyric,
but it’s hobbled by the grating cliché of
marking the passage time y repeat-
HEADS OF STATE
FOUR IN ONE (Smoke Sessions)
Heads of State is saxophonist Gary Bartz, pianist Larry Willis,
bassist David Williams and drummer Al Foster, a golden-ager
postbop supergroup whose genesis dates back to the members’
participation in a 2014 McCoy Tyner tribute at the New York club
Smoke. This is the band’s second release.
A feeling of hard-earned, almost autumnal calm permeates this set. Even on
pieces that typically lend themselves to high-energy displays of virtuosity—the
Monk-penned title tune and Bird’s “Moose the Mooche,” among others—Bartz
utilizes a soft-edged, somewhat dry timbre that bespeaks unforced studiousness, making him sound more like an armchair philosopher than the questing
adventurer. (He finally navigates more sharply edged contours on Eddie Harris’
“Freedom Jazz Dance,” the set’s closer.) Willis chords lightly but emphatically,
and his single-note scatters are deft and impeccably thought-out, adding to the
overall feel of focus. Williams is a deep-pocketed swinger; even his solos, as freely
exploratory as they can be, adhere to the rhythmic themes he and Foster establish.
The drummer, propulsive and texturally complex, nonetheless goads through
understatement more than force.
The stretching out sounds more ambitious on the original compositions, one by
each of the principals. To cite two: Bartz’s “And He Called Himself a Messenger” is
edgily forward-driving; he rides the melody and rhythm with easygoing grace, letting the propulsive thrust carry him and laying swirls of color atop it. Willis’ ballad
“The Day You Said Goodbye” is lush yet emotionally stripped down, all the more
effective for its lack of sentimentality. As on the quartet’s reading of the Gershwin
standard “Someone to Watch Over Me,” pathos, not bathos, is accentuated.
DAVID WHITEIS
edly chanting “time.” Even co-authors
need good editors. MICHAEL J. WEST
CAROL MORGAN QUARTET
POST COOL, VOL. 1: THE NIGHT SHIFT
(Carol Morgan)
Wow—this self-released
album sounds like a classic
out of the early 1940s, right
down to its length (six
songs running 40 minutes).
It has the vibe of a live album from a
New York club date during bop’s heyday,
except recorded with more sophisticated
HTXLSPHQWWKHÀGHOLW\LVDVPXFKWKHVWDU
here as the superb quartet, led by
trumpeter Carol Morgan and featuring
tenor saxophonist Joel Frahm, bassist
Martin Wind and drummer Matt Wilson.
(Clearly Morgan thinks so too, because
the engineer, masterer and producer are
listed as equals alongside the musicians.)
First off: Who is Carol Morgan, and why
isn’t she better known? And why isn’t she
signed to a popular label? That’s the big
mystery here. Post Cool, Vol. 1 is a mature
ZRUNPDGHE\DPXVLFLDQZKRLVFRQÀGHQW
in her skills as a bandleader, arranger and
soloist. Ten-second bio: She’s a Juilliard
grad, itinerant sidewoman and jazz educator
who’s made six recordings as a leader.
Morgan chose the songs on this record
because they evoke the night. But what
they truly evoke is late night in a jazz club.
The performances by all four musicians are
urgent and raw. They play as though notes
are scarce, and both horn players bend and
slur their phrases instead of hopping up
and down scales. Morgan’s tone is soft and
velvety, somewhere between the detached
coolness of Miles Davis and the intimacy of
Chet Baker. It’s most striking on her original
ballad “Night,” but it’s there in the long,
melancholy “Autumn Leaves”—where she
and Frahm solo against each other, taking
turns with the lead like dancers—and on the
harder-swinging numbers “Strollin’” and “A
Night in Tunisia.” This is a beautiful, timeless record. STEVE GREENLEE
NATE NAJAR
• “A feeling of hard-earned calm”: Gary Bartz, Larry Willis, Al Foster and
David Williams (from left)
64
JAZZTIMES • JUNE 2017
Guitarist Nate Najar never
met the late jazz legend
Charlie Byrd, but there’s no
mistaking their strong
spiritual connection. It’s
almost palpable on Blues for Night People,
Najar’s 2012 trio tribute to Byrd, and it
JOHN ABBOTT
THIS IS NATE NAJAR (Candid)
remains evident throughout this more
colorfully expansive session featuring
trumpeter James Suggs, bassist John
Lamb and drummer Matt Home.
Even if Najar didn’t play a nylon-string
guitar, his touch and repertoire would
draw flattering comparisons. Like Byrd,
Najar is a sucker for blues, bossas and
well-crafted tunes that bridge a variety of
jazz, classical and pop tastes. Chick Corea
is represented here by three compositions: “500 Miles High,” trumpet-tinted
and rhythmically alluring; “Chick’s Tune,”
boppishly bright and swinging; and
“Crystal Silence,” at once intimate and
soulful. Likewise, Antonio Carlos Jobim
receives multiple salutes, beginning with
a haunting performance of “Insensatez”
(“How Insensitive”), which showcases a
pair of guests, cellist Ella Fredrickson and
drummer Mark Feinman.
In a sentimental mood, Najar turns
to a couple of enduring charmers.
Trumpeter Suggs, mute in hand, travels
alongside him on “Sidewalks of New
York,” a delightful jaunt uptown, while
Harry Edison’s “Centerpiece” is a stroll in
the dark, shaded in blues and punctuated
by Suggs’ moaning brass. Besides a little
Chopin, rounding out the album is a pair
of diverting original tunes. With its R&B
tilt, Najar’s “What Would Ola Mae Do?”
wouldn’t sound out of place on a Keb’
Mo’ album, while Suggs’ “But Oh, What
Love!” qualifies as an unabashedly oldfashioned rhapsody. MIKE JOYCE
“Mark Winkler is a a true original!
At last, in the jazzy tradition of Bobby Troup,
Hoagy Carmichael, Matt Dennis and
Dave Frishberg, a writer who sings
and a singer who swings!”—Rex Reed
MARK WINKLER
THE COMPANY I KEEP
The NEW CD with songs by
Prince, Donald Fagen, the Gershwins,
and Winkler originals!
Featuring duets with:
Cheryl Bentyne• Sara Gazarek
Claire Martin • Jackie Ryan
Steve Tyrell
JACQUI NAYLOR & ART KHU
Q&A (Ruby Star)
Vocalist Jacqui Naylor and
pianist/guitarist Art Khu
represent one of the most
compelling, if underappreciated, partnerships in jazz.
To date, however, Naylor and Khu have
typically performed and recorded as part
of a quartet, often alongside bassist Jon
Evans and drummer-percussionist Josh
Jones. At last, they deliver their first
album à deux. Nor is the quartet all
they’ve abandoned for Q&A: Also gone is
their trademark “acoustic smashing,” the
intricate layering of a pop or rock tune
atop a jazz standard.
Featuring:
John Beasley
David Benoit
John Clayton
Jeff Hamilton
Josh Nelson
Eric Reed
Jamieson Trotter
Available NOW at Amazon • CD Baby • iTunes
“The Making of THE COMPANY I KEEP” videos at:
www.markwinklermusic.com
TELLUSWHATYOUTHINK!
THE JAZZTIMES 2017 READER SURVEY
TAKE THE SURVEY NOW!
bit.ly/JT2017readersurvey
You will be
entered to win a
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GIFT CARD
JAZZTIMES.COM
65
Reviews
skills. Aptly, they add two originals that
celebrate togetherness: the bouncy “This
Is How It Starts,” tallying the joys of a new
relationship, and the misty “Here We Are
at Last,” reflecting on enduring unions.
CHRISTOPHER LOUDON
JUDY NIEMACK
WITH DAN TEPFER
LISTENING TO YOU (Sunnyside)
Marking the 40th
anniversary of her stellar, if
too slender, recording
career, Judy Niemack, 63,
remains one of the most
dynamic, inventive jazz singers around.
Blending the interpretive smarts of Mark
JAZZMEIA HORN
A SOCIAL CALL (Prestige)
It is fitting that the serendipitously named Jazzmeia Horn, winner of
the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition in 2013
and the Thelonious Monk Institute jazz competition in 2015, opens
her debut album with “Tight,” a Betty Carter signature. Just 25, the
Dallas-born Horn emerges as a fully realized stylist and a first-rate
scatter whose vivacity, imagination, gutsiness and sociopolitical savvy echo the
likes of Carter and Abbey Lincoln. Simply put, she is as exciting a discovery as
Cécile McLorin Salvant or Gregory Porter.
The recording and release of A Social Call was the cornerstone of Horn’s
Monk-competition prize, courtesy of Concord Music Group, which provided
her with top-tier bandmates. Augmenting a core trio of pianist Victor Gould,
bassist Ben Williams and drummer/percussionist Jerome Jennings, tenor saxophonist Stacy Dillard, trumpeter Josh Evans and trombonist Frank Lacy make
frequent guest appearances.
To shape the 10-track program, Horn draws upon jazz and soul classics: a
sprightly reading of the Gigi Gryce-Jon Hendricks title track; a rapid-fire “I
Remember You” and a tranquil float across Jimmy Rowles and Norma Winstone’s
“The Peacocks” alongside a swinging, Natalie
Cole-worthy treatment
of “I’m Going Down” and
a dazzlingly cacophonous “People Make the
World Go Round.” Two
medleys in particular are
standouts: an inspired
conjoining of “Lift Every
Voice and Sing” with
“Moanin’”; and, propelled by tribal chants,
jungle whoops and police
calls, a 13-minute amalgamation of “Afro Blue,”
“Wade in the Water” and
Horn’s own poem “Eye
See You.”
• “A fully realized stylist and a first-rate scatter”:
Jazzmeia Horn
66
JAZZTIMES • JUNE 2017
CHRISTOPHER LOUDON
Murphy and the cool snap of Anita
O’Day—with scat skills worthy of
either—plus the winsome sass of Blossom
Dearie, Niemack’s vocal brew is at once
intoxicating and vivifying. Over the years
she has worked with a spectrum of
outstanding players, Lee Konitz, Clark
Terry and Pat Metheny among them. But
she may have at last found her soulmate in
Parisian-born pianist Dan Tepfer, a fellow
Konitz acolyte.
Introduced via Konitz in Berlin, where
Niemack teaches at the Jazz Institut, the
duo subsequently united in Brooklyn in
2012 to record these nine tracks. Five
years on, the album is finally seeing
the light of day. The playlist is a rich
potpourri of standards and reimagined
jazz gems, extending from a stunningly
despondent “Body and Soul” and uninhibitedly rapturous “You’re My Thrill” to
the clever reworking of two Konitz classics, the title track and his Corea paean
“Chick Came Around,” both with astute
lyrics added by Niemack. And there’s one
original, “You’ve Taken Things Too Far,”
Niemack’s sadder-but-wiser reflection on
overly assertive romantic expectations.
If so consistently fine a session needs an
acme, it is their extemporaneous ramble
through Monk’s “Epistrophy,” glorious
testament to their individual ingenuity and to the radiance of their alliance.
CHRISTOPER LOUDON
ORGANISSIMO
B3TLES (Big O)
This isn’t the first jazz
tribute to the Beatles, and
it won’t be the last, but it is
one of the best. Organissimo—the trio of organist
Jim Alfredson, drummer Randy Marsh
and guitarist Lawrence Barris (replacing
original member Joe Gloss)—uses a
dozen Beatles songs as vehicles for
improvisation, and they succeed in two
areas where other Beatles tributes have
faltered: They take a different stylistic
approach with each song, and they make
their rearrangements of familiar
earworms sound natural.
Played by an organ trio, B3tles falls under the general umbrella of soul-jazz. But
there are fluctuations within. A samba
rhythm is laid beneath “And I Love Her,”
which opens with a sublime guitar solo
by the band’s newest member. “Taxman”
gets a sly 7/8 reworking, and you don’t
JACOB BLICKENSTAFF/CONCORD MUSIC GROUP
Clever as their genre-mashing concoctions are, it’s refreshing to hear Naylor and
Khu in the raw—just the cozy, intimate
pairing of her Amy Winehouse-meetsPearl Bailey sound and his elegantly
informed playing. To fill the album’s 13
tracks, they stick mostly to standards—a
gently ebullient “I’ve Never Been in Love
Before,” slinky “Charade,” dreamy “Once
Upon a Summertime,” tender “Secret
Love” and such. And though Naylor and
Khu do invade rock’s annals, they choose
from the balladic end of the spectrum,
covering the warmly romantic Extreme hit
“More Than Words.”
One thing that hasn’t changed—the
sharpness of Naylor and Khu’s songwriting
even realize it until you start counting
beats; the ingenious 5/4 changeup of “All
You Need Is Love” is more obvious, with
its jerky rhythm. “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” sounds like something out of
a noir thriller. “Dear Prudence” is darn
close to prog-rock; imagine Yes reimagining it. Then picture the Meters doing
“Come Together,” because that kind of
hot funk follows.
Alfredson’s work is sophisticated and
soulful—big and rich here, sparse and
laidback there. He doesn’t pull out any of
the clichés from the B-3 bag of tricks (the
two-key flutter, the two-handed glissando, the single note sustained for eight
bars). That’s not to say he won’t go full-on
’60s soul-jazz—he does exactly that on a
vigorous “Can’t Buy Me Love,” complete
with swirling Leslie. But he’s not always
on the Hammond, also playing Wurlitzer
electric piano and, on the mind-trip of a
closer, synth and effects pedals. “Within
You Without You” is radically spacey, like
something out of a sci-fi movie, with Bill
Vits aiding on percussion and Mike List
playing tabla. The Beatles would have
approved. STEVE GREENLEE
NICHOLAS PAYTON
DANA HALL
AFRO-CARIBBEAN MIXTAPE (Paytone)
Nicholas Payton burst onto
the scene in the early ’90s
as the Next Big Thing in
jazz trumpet, a man with a
horn defined by luminescent tone, technical virtuosity and a
demonstrable grounding in the jazz
tradition. In recent years, he’s also
effectively preached the gospel of what
he calls “Black American Music,” or
#BAM. And, at least since his post-Katrina midnight jams at Snug Harbor in
his hometown of New Orleans, Payton
has incorporated Fender Rhodes into
many of his performances, often playing
keys and trumpet simultaneously.
For the ambitious, two-disc Afro-Caribbean Mixtape, largely created by a band
that debuted at last year’s Jazz Fest, Payton
connects the dots globally, exploring (as he
explains in his extensive liner notes) how
the music he loves traveled from Africa to
the Caribbean and finally to New Orleans
and other American cities. It’s a sumptuous
sonic potpourri, incorporating electric and
acoustic jazz, funk, R&B, various sound
effects, spoken word, DJ scratching and
“found” audio. And there are several old-
school touches along the way, including
the sound of a tape being loaded onto a
reel-to-reel at the start of the first disc
and a needle dropping onto vinyl at the
beginning of disc two.
Daniel Sadownick’s unaccompanied
congas open the title track, and Payton,
keyboardist Kevin Hays, bassist Vicente
Archer and drummer Joe Dyson build
the piece into a sort of freewheeling,
chill-lounge jam, strafed with open-ended trumpet soloing and spoken snippets.
“#BAMboula,” built on the rhythm of the
same name, includes bits of interviews
with Dizzy Gillespie and Art Blakey,
while the voices of Miles, Max Roach
and Ellington figure into the heady stew
of “Jazz Is a Four-Letter Word.” Cuban
rhythms and textures center “La Guajira”; “El Guajiro” is spiked with DJ Lady
Fingaz’s turntable wizardry; and the
duo piece “Madmwazél Ayiti” features
Hays on piano, accompanied by Payton
on an upright bass belonging to his late
father, Walter Payton. Payton’s clavinet
playing fuels the trippy slow-burn funk
of “Kimathi (Main Theme).”
A string quartet undergirds Payton’s
THE JAZZ PASSENGERS
STILL LIFE WITH TROUBLE (Thirsty Ear)
The Jazz Passengers have proven to be one of the most enduring
bands to come out of the original Downtown New York scene. In
their 30-year history they’ve also been a remarkably versatile
outfit, blowing free one minute, revitalizing hard bop the next and
finally transforming into the classiest of lounge acts with no less
than Deborah Harry, Jimmy Scott or Bob Dorough in front of the microphone.
On top of all that, these guys project a wry, world-weary sense of humor that
elevates the music rather than detracting or distracting from it.
They revisit many of these characteristic shifts on Still Life With Trouble. After
invigorating Peaches & Herb’s steamy “Reunited” on their last album, they do
the same here to the Main Ingredient’s “Everybody Plays the Fool.” Drummers
E.J. Rodriguez and Ben Perowsky give it more of a calypso shuffle, while violinist
Sam Bardfeld retains the original’s trademark flute riff. Along with the group’s
largely unison vocals, saxophonist Roy Nathanson re-crafts the spoken intro
while keeping the advice, “Before you do anything rash/Dig this.” His laconic
delivery makes the tune seem like sage advice for these times.
Elsewhere, Nathanson gives us “We’re All Jews,” the title a reference to Lenny
Bruce and the music a mashup of Gypsy violin and saxophones that blend a cantor’s melody with Rahsaan
Roland Kirk’s two-horn
orations. Vibraphonist Bill
Ware’s “Friends” feels like
an uplifting tribute to comradery, though some of the
zany lyrics (“When the sun
comes in the morning and
you don’t…”) will inspire
a double take. The group
also transforms the blues,
concocting something
completely original out of
the form on two different
tracks. And co-founder
Curtis Fowlkes continues
to be a musical treasure,
capable of mean solos on
his horn and exquisitely
smooth vocals when he
• A Downtown institution: The Jazz Passengers,
puts the trombone down.
including co-founders Curtis Fowlkes and
Roy Nathanson (second and third from left)
MIKE SHANLEY
JAZZTIMES.COM
67
Reviews
haunting trumpet declarations on the
poignant “Jewel,” the second CD’s opening track, followed by the similarly tinted
“Junie’s Interlude” and leading into the
’70s funk- and disco-punched “Junie’s
Boogie.” Payton offers breathy vocals
on the ballad-to-swing tune “Othello”;
hip-hop fuels “The Egyptian Second
Line (Instrumental)”; and the bluesy
groove tune “Relaxification (Midnight at
Tyler’s)” was inspired by a now-defunct
but much beloved New Orleans club. Dr.
Johnnetta B. Cole’s spoken benediction
tops the start of closer “Call and Response,” its coda the sound of a tape flying loose from its reel, a story still being
told. Payton’s latest makes for a savory
chapter in that tale. PHILIP
HIL BOOTH
TOMASZ STANKO NEW YORK QUARTET
DECEMBER AVENUE (ECM)
Tomasz Stanko is the Miles Davis of Europe. He is synonymous
with soul. His discography is one of the permanent bodies of
trumpet work in jazz. He has gone his own way without looking
back. But unlike Davis, Stanko has not reinvented himself every few
years. He came of age in communist Poland, and his art has been a
sustained attempt to come to terms with the prevailing darkness of his time.
His bands of the 1990s and 2000s drew from the strongest players in Europe,
among them Bobo Stenson, Marcin Wasilewski and Anders Jormin. In 2013, on
Wisława, he introduced his New York Quartet. This new record keeps pianist David Virelles and drummer Gerald Cleaver from the 2013 version but adds Reuben
Rogers on bass. It is Stanko’s most unpredictable, most volatile ensemble. Virelles
is consistently stunning. He deepens Stanko’s clandestine auras but sometimes
blows them up, like on “Sound Space.”
To say that December Avenue is a ballads project is too simple. Stanko’s music
is such a spontaneous process of discovery, such a dynamic response to tides of
emotion, that it is always prone to sudden eruptions, his trumpet flaring across
a night sky or scraping like sand. The album is mostly an inward enveloping
atmosphere. Sound shadows loom within black silence. Stanko’s compositions are
like sighs. He is the most patient improviser in jazz. He withholds every idea until
its moment. And for all his haunting minor chords, for all the grit in his trumpet sound, Stanko is first a melodist. Pieces like “Cloud” and “Blue Cloud” and
“Bright Moon” are smears of provisional lyricism. They are pure essences of song
that Stanko flows from, and modifies, and returns to, and finally keeps.
It is not wise to designate one Stanko album as more beautiful than the others.
But December Avenue reaches layers within modern consciousness where even
Stanko has not been. THOMAS CONRAD
PHILIPPE BADEN POWELL
NOTES OVER POETRY (Far Out)
On Notes Over Poetry,
Philippe Baden Powell
shares two sides of
himself: able bandleader
and enthusiastic sideman.
The agile pianist—he picked a different
instrument than his father, guitarist
Baden Powell—leads a substantial
rhythm section through tracks that
showcase either himself or a guest, with
about equal time given to both
situations. By doing so, Powell provides
a stage on which there is never a dull
moment: Poetry is a lively read from
start to finish, with stanzas coming
from various directions and voices.
The strongest effort with a guest
comes early in the album via “Notes
Over the Poetry,” featuring Marlon
Moore on spoken word. Over a noble,
Roy Ayers-ish funk groove, Moore offers lofty lines like “My soul consists of
following the many intricacies of finding
oneself/Knowing that the ideal self will
eventually keep erupting inside, wanting
to proceed.” Another standout is “Recado
Pra Você,” featuring the restrained but
magnetic singing of Paula Tesser. And
the happy “Hues” is imbued with the
charming scat vocals of David Linx.
The cuts that push Powell to the
front are compelling, too. The sexy instrumental “Vamos Donatear?” includes
some alluring tenor saxophone. The
gentle piano-trio jam “For You to Know”
features a riff you couldn’t be blamed for
singing along to. And on “Chica” and
“Quem Sabe?,” the leader sings softly and
directly. If there’s one thing to be taken
away from Poetry, it’s that branching out
doesn’t weigh you down.
BRAD FARBERMAN
NOAH PREMINGER
• “A dynamic response to tides of emotion”: Tomasz Stanko
68
JAZZTIMES • JUNE 2017
Having immersed
himself in Delta blues on
his acclaimed 2016
album, Dark Was the
Night, Cold Was the
Ground, young tenor star Noah
Preminger makes a sideways move into
American protest music on his latest
conceptual effort, Meditations on
Freedom. Nearly 60 years after Sonny
Rollins recorded his celebrated
©JACEK POREMBA/UNIVERSAL MUSIC POLSKA
MEDITATIONS ON FREEDOM
(Dry Bridge)
Freedom Suite with Oscar Pettiford and
Max Roach, Preminger touches on
themes that are no less pressing and
relevant now than they were then.
Though he teams up with ace trumpeter Jason Palmer, who with his tight,
propulsive sound is perfectly matched
to the tenorist, Preminger strives with
his pianoless quartet for the strippeddown immediacy of Rollins’ trio. These
timely meditations on civil and human
rights, the women’s movement and
the endangered planet unfold in high
reflective mode. Part of their power
comes from the holding in of anger and
bitterness and the holding out of hope.
In addition to originals in the protest
tradition, including the bright, shuffling
“We Have a Dream” and the mournful
“Broken Treaties,” Meditations boasts
personal covers of iconic tunes. A funereal take on Bob Dylan’s “Only a Pawn in
Their Game,” which the singer performed
at the March on Washington in 1963,
features Preminger’s gutsy, moderntinged playing. Sam Cooke’s “A Change
Is Gonna Come” is rendered with soulful
delicacy. George Harrison’s “Give Me
Love” is given a jaunty reading highlighted by lively crossing patterns. Throughout, bassist Kim Cass and drummer Ian
Froman have an unusually fluid presence.
At times, the band recalls Old and New
Dreams, lifted by Froman’s melodic debt
to Ed Blackwell. LLOYD SACHS
MARILYN SCOTT
GULNARA KHAMATOVA
STANDARD BLUE (Prana)
Though there are many
solid jazz singers with a
paucity of recordings,
Marilyn Scott figures
among that breed’s finest
and most interesting. Across four
decades, Scott, 67, has released just 12
albums and earned a lone chart hit, for
her disco-era reading of Brian Wilson’s
“God Only Knows.” Her discography is
peppered with selections from the Great
American Songbook, but it wasn’t until
2008’s Every Time We Say Goodbye that
Scott served up a full platter of standards. It’s taken nine long years for
another, the wait well worth it.
Her alluring sound, formidable as
ever, combines the grit-dusted smarts of
Karrin Allyson with the seductive charm
and crisp articulation of Lena Horne,
accented with liberal hints of her blues-
funk roots. (Scott’s formative years included shared bills or collaboration with
the likes of Tower of Power, Etta James,
Bobby Womack and Yellowjackets.)
Here Scott is the impressive centerpiece
of a sterling ensemble: guitarist Michael
Landau, drummer Gary Novak and Yellowjackets Bob Mintzer (clarinet), Russell
Ferrante (keyboards) and Jimmy Haslip
(bass), plus guest trumpeter Ambrose
Akinmusire. This tight, imaginative unit
adds stunning depth, richness and interpretive percipience to all 10 tracks, ranging
from an impassioned “Never Let Me Go”
and a beclouded “Day Dream” to a delectably furtive “Speak Low.” Saving the best
for last, the septet closes with an achingly
torrid “I Got It Bad (and That Ain’t Good)”
and a sizzling romp through “The Joint Is
Jumpin’.” CHRISTOPHER LOUDON
IDREES SULIEMAN QUARTET
FEATURING OSCAR DENNARD
THE 4 AMERICAN JAZZ MEN IN TANGIER
(Groovin’ High)
It’s 1959: Kind of Blue,
Time Out, Giant Steps, The
Shape of Jazz to Come and
Mingus Ah Um are all
brand-new, in one of jazz’s
finest years ever. Not everyone who plays
the music will, of course, reach the level of
DAYNA STEPHENS
GRATITUDE (Contagious)
Dayna Stephens’ saxophone playing, and the music he makes on
Gratitude, is elemental. His big, warm lines are full of notes and
intent but also gusts of wind, bodies of water. And his arrangements, fleshed out by bassist Larry Grenadier, drummer Eric
Harland and either guitarist Julian Lage or pianist Brad Mehldau
in the chordal seat, are wide-open, enthusiastically anticipating the next
moment. Peering at what’s ahead, in fact, is especially important to Stephens at
this moment—Gratitude celebrates his victory over kidney disease.
Just as successful as this album’s main vibe are the one-off experiments peppered throughout. Lage’s “Woodside Waltz”—the leader brings just one original
to the proceedings—is a
country song that evokes
Bill Frisell and features both
the guitarist and Mehldau.
Pat Metheny’s “We Had a
Sister” finds Stephens on
EWI, lending an ethereal shade to the ballad.
And “Clouds” exhibits an
electronic-music influence
and ends with only unsettling washes of sound.
But perhaps the most
telling moment on Gratitude
is a brief look at “Isfahan,”
brought to life by just bass,
guitar and Stephens on
baritone saxophone. On the
notoriously brusque instrument, Stephens never leaves
his zone, offering subtlety and
peace. This is not evidence of
an unwillingness to change.
Just the opposite: Stephens
knows himself, and listeners
should be grateful.
BRAD FARBERMAN
• “Big, warm lines [like] gusts of wind”: Dayna Stephens
JAZZTIMES.COM
69
Reviews
A weekly
conversation
about the
music.
The JazzTimes Spins & Riffs
podcast brings a half-hour
of music and conversation
to jazz and music fans.
Each episode of Spins & Riffs
brings JazzTimes publisher
Lee Mergner together with
a different guest co-host—
a prominent musician, critic,
DJ or luminary in the
jazz world—to preview or
spin and discuss new music.
And then they discuss
or riff on an issue,
trend or topic inside
(or outside) the jazz world.
fame enjoyed by the cats who made those
records, but neither do they deserve
eternal obscurity. The Idrees Sulieman
Quartet, led by the American trumpeter
who had played on Monk’s first Blue
Note session and lent his chops to
Coleman Hawkins, Mary Lou Williams
and others, is a good example. The band,
also featuring pianist Oscar Dennard,
bassist Jamil Nasser and drummer Buster
Smith, stopped in Tangier during a
mostly European tour and cut some
tracks on subpar equipment in a radio
studio. No one heard them until a
Japanese company put them out in 1983.
It was thought to be Dennard’s only
session with a small group, as he died in
1960. Turns out it wasn’t.
This reissue makes available again
the Tangier studio session and adds a
second disc containing a live session
recorded by the same configuration at
a party in New York, prior to the tour.
There’s no denying that the sound quality is one notch above abysmal. Even so,
there’s no lack of joy here. Dennard is a
remarkably inventive pianist in this setting—his seven-minute improvisation is
numbingly good—and Sulieman’s blowing on tracks like “’Round Midnight”
and “These Foolish Things” is alternately
hot and sweet.
It’s still the Tangier session that makes
this worthy though, not only for its historical value but for the sublime music
this outfit created during its muchtoo-short lifetime. Well known or not,
this would’ve been some band to see.
Sulieman himself remained active into
the 1990s (he died in 2002), releasing
several leader albums and working with
an A-list of players if never quite becoming one himself. This invaluable set plugs
a hole in his discography as well as in
Dennard’s sadly tiny one.
JEFF TAMARKIN
AKI TAKASE/
DAVID MURRAY
CHERRY-SAKURA (Intakt)
RICHARD CONDE
Download FREE
on iTunes or Libsyn!
70
JAZZTIMES • JUNE 2017
Twenty-five years before
recording their new duo
album, almost to the day,
Aki Takase and David
Murray recorded Blue
Monk, on which they explore some of
the hidden dimensions of Thelonious
Monk via four of his tunes. On
Cherry-Sakura, they get back on that
bicycle built for two with an exuberant
take on Monk’s “Let’s Cool One.” While
Murray charismatically toys with the
melody on bass clarinet, Takase
vigorously connects Monk to early
piano masters, like her hero Fats Waller,
with her rolling stride patterns. It’s such
an infectious performance, you may
want to hit the repeat button in blissful
retreat from the outside world.
The rest of Cherry-Sakura consists
of originals by either Murray or the
Berlin-based Takase (who at this point in
her illustrious career deserves to be far
better known on these shores). Murray
has rarely been in more gorgeous, Ben
Webster-ish form on tenor saxophone
than he is on “To A.P. Kern,” dedicated
to the subject of a famous love poem by
Pushkin, and Takase’s “Nobuko,” a lovely
ballad, in memory of her mother, to
which she applies a spare classical touch.
Murray and Takase are established
masters of free jazz, but 25 years on, they
keep that side of their artistic makeup
largely under wraps in the interest of more
contained performances. As revealed on
Takase’s jumping and jiggling tune “A Very
Long Letter,” both the pianist, 69, and saxophonist, 62, can still step out in boisterous
fashion when the urge strikes. But even
in that vein, their playing has more lyrical
weight than it did when they last entered
the studio together—no surprise coming
from artists who have never stopped growing. LLOYD SACHS
MANUEL VALERA TRIO
THE SEASONS (Mavo)
Manuel Valera hasn’t gotten
as much attention as other
Cuban emigré pianists like
Gonzalo Rubalcaba and
David Virelles. He hit the
U.S. scene as a 23-year-old hotshot in 2004
with a flashy debut album, Forma Nueva.
The Seasons is his 13th recording as a
leader. Originals like “Opening” and “In
the Eye of the Beholder” prove that he is
still a champ. His chops enable him to
execute ornate designs at warp speed, while
generating ferocious rhythmic thrust. His
collaborators here, bassist Hans Glawischnig and drummer E. J. Strickland, are
major factors in that thrust.
Valera’s facility may sometimes be his
trap. He thinks in large concepts, but his
improvisations can be predictable. Often
he repeats similar processes of theme
statement/clever elaboration/relentless
acceleration. The album’s title sequence
is ambitious; fortunately it is not another
jazz version of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons.
It is Valera’s personal meditation on the
universal paradigms of spring’s fecundity,
summer’s passion, autumn’s harvest and
winter’s finality. He hints at Vivaldi’s
melodies but quickly overwhelms them
with new content and jazz energy. All
four movements of his suite contain
Valera’s typical gathering intensity. But
each keeps returning to its structure. The
combination of Baroque formality and
rampant spontaneity is interesting.
Unlike many of his contemporaries,
Valera is committed to interpretation
as well as composition. “Tres Palabras,”
by Osvaldo Farrés, is played relatively
straight and hypnotic, as only a bolero
can be. Valera is a percussive pianist who
is capable of being lilting and literal. He
makes the excellent decision to end his
album with “Hallelujah.” He spills a pro-
logue in free fall, then carefully marks
out Leonard Cohen’s greatest, strangest
incantation of love lost. Valera captures
the brave resignation in the song’s sadness. The best jazz piano interpretation
of “Hallelujah” is by Danilo Rea, on his
album Doctor 3. Valera’s version is a
close second. THOMAS CONRAD
COLIN VALLON
DANSE (ECM)
There is no dance music
on Swiss pianist Colin
Vallon’s Danse. At no
point while listening
would anyone really think,
“This is danceable.” Perhaps he should
have called it “Meditate.” The album,
which features Patrice Moret on bass
and Julian Sartorius on drums, contains
pristine minimalist storytelling—sounds
best suited for a moody afternoon or
late-night reflection. Touching on
everything from free jazz to pop music,
Danse is not about movement; it’s about
staying put and letting go.
The trio’s most exciting music is also its
weirdest. “Tinguely” begins in an avantgarde place, then becomes something a
bit straighter 90 seconds in but never loses
its edge. After three minutes, the leader
homes in on the lower register of the piano
and the music intensifies, eventually halting with an unexpected cue. The title track
starts with scattershot confusion and closes
with a tense but pretty groove. Composed
by all three members, “Oort” comprises
a waterfall of unnerving piano, foreboding bowed bass and a slow, chime-y beat.
And “L’Onde” boasts a number of moods:
nervous, hyperactive, subtle, trusting.
This group is versatile, also making
music that could surely be on the radio.
“Sisyphe” is nostalgic and catchy, and the
wistful “Reste” is perfect for that closing
scene in a movie when the two leads look
back on the good times but agree it’s best
to part ways. BRAD FARBERMAN
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71
ARTIST’S CHOICE
UNSUNG NEW YORK MASTERS
BY
These are all musicians I knew and worked with, and all of them were mentors who
were very inspirational to me. I didn’t know who any of them were until I got to
New York in 1976. They’re all gone now, but they opened me up and humbled me,
and gave me a new perspective on how people have sacrificed their lives for the
music. They weren’t small figures—everyone on the scene knew them—but their
influence hasn’t passed through to the average jazz student. Who knows why?
It’s the luck of the draw. That’s just the way life is.
←
Tommy Turrentine
“WEBB CITY”
Tommy Turrentine (Time, 1960)
I like his mastery of the postbop language and the sophistication of
how he handled chords; he was very ingenious on the trumpet. I ran
into him down at Barry Harris’ club on Eighth Avenue [the Jazz Cultural Theater]. A lot of the cats used to hang out down there. I heard
him play and talked to him and got a lot of wisdom from him.
Junior Cook
“CHICK’S TUNE”
Blue Mitchell’s The Thing to Do (Blue Note, 1965)
Junior was one of those cats who would hang in the shadows [at a
club], and then once he heard some good music he would appear
out of nowhere. On recordings, he and Joe Henderson have a lot
in common—I wonder who got what from whom. Junior Cook
was Horace Silver’s tenor player before Joe Henderson was, and
when I first heard “Chick’s Tune” I thought it was Joe. But Joe gets
his acknowledgement and Junior is still under the radar. It’s a great
tune by Chick Corea, written over the changes to “You Stepped
Out of a Dream.”
Carter Jefferson
“SEVENTH AVENUE”
Woody Shaw’s Stepping Stones: Live at the Village Vanguard
(Columbia, 1978)
Carter was someone I ran into early in my days in New York. I
didn’t understand his playing at that time, because he was much
more advanced than I was. I was still trying to navigate inside the
changes, whereas Carter had already developed his own voice. On
this particular track I think he’s playing soprano sax, but he was
mainly a tenor player. You can still get an idea of his concept, and
of why Woody liked him.
Sal Nistico
“ANTHROPOLOGY”
Neo/Nistico (Bee Hive, 1978)
Sal and I played together in the George Coleman Octet. He took
me under his wing and gave me a lot of information. He was
a virtuoso and a modernist as well as having the classic bebop
and swing sensibility; he had that blues in his playing. Sal had a
Wayne Shorter tone to his tenor playing as well. I picked “Anthropology” because it’s an example of his modernism over bebop. He
was always stretching forward.
72
JAZZTIMES • JUNE 2017
WAT S O N
Ronnie Mathews
“A MONK’S DREAM”
Johnny Griffin’s Return of the Griffin (Galaxy, 1979)
Ronnie was a very big Monk fan and put out a couple of books
where he did arrangements of Monk’s tunes. He was a quintessential New Yorker—he absorbed Monk and Bud Powell and came
from that seriously New York bebop language.
John Hicks
“ODE FOR AARON”
Bobby Watson Quartet’s Love Remains (Red, 1986)
This is my song, and Aaron is my son. John was a very powerful and dynamic and emotional player who always delivered an
unforgettable performance. The first time I came across John was
at Concerts by the Sea in Redondo Beach, Calif., with the Jazz Messengers. John was a former Jazz Messenger and Art Blakey had him
sit in, and I had never had anybody that powerful behind me on
piano. I did several records with him. This track is a good example
of his strength and his forward momentum. He came through with
McCoy Tyner but didn’t play like McCoy. He had his own thing.
Walter Davis Jr.
“BACKGAMMON”
Scorpio Rising (SteepleChase, 1989)
Walter was one of the first piano players I played with in the Jazz
Messengers. He used to hang out with Bird and Bud Powell. He
had a unique approach to the music theoretically; he was a very
deep thinker. We played “Backgammon” in the Jazz Messengers—
he was the musical director before I was. He was just a beautiful
spirit, and I wish more people knew about him. JT
[As told to Jeff Tamarkin]
A saxophonist, composer, arranger and educator,
Bobby Watson has served as the musical director
of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and performed
with Max Roach, Wynton Marsalis, Lou Rawls,
Louis Hayes, Betty Carter and others. His new
Smoke Sessions release, Made in America, highlights historic yet still overlooked black pioneers in
various fields, among them guitarist Grant Green,
actress Butterfly McQueen, champion track cyclist
Major Taylor and computer engineer Mark Dean.
FROM TOP: FRANCIS WOLFF/MOSAIC IMAGES, JOHN ABBOTT
Junior Cook in 1966
BOBBY
DC JAZZFESTIVAL
JUNE 9 – 18
2 017
DC JA Z ZFEST.ORG
An Evening with Pat Metheny w/Antonio Sanchez, Linda Oh & Gwilym Simcock
Gregory Porter / Robert Glasper Experiment / Lalah Hathaway
The Kenny Garrett Quintet / Black Violin / Roy Haynes Fountain of Youth Band
Ron Carter-Russell Malone Duo / Jacob Collier / Jane Bunnett and Maqueque
Odean Pope Saxophone Choir / Mary Halvorson Octet
Hiromi & Edmar Castañeda Duo / Kandace Springs / Chano Domínguez / Ola Onabulé / New Century Jazz Quintet
Sarah Elizabeth Charles & SCOPE / Princess Mhoon Dance Project / Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra
Lori Williams / The Trio of Bill Cole / Sun Ra Arkestra / Michael Thomas Quintet
Allyn Johnson UDC JAZZtet feat. Nasar Abadey / Youngjoo Song Septet / James King Band
Tommy Cecil/Billy Hart/Emmet Cohen / Herman Burney’s Ministerial Alliance / Kris Funn’s CornerStore
Amy Shook and the SR5tet / Trio Vera w/Victor Dvoskin / Cowboys and Frenchmen / Janelle Gill / Anthony Nelson Quartet
Miho Hazama with the Brad Linde Expanded Ensemble / Lena Seikaly / Alison Crockett / Irene Jalenti
Tim Whalen Septet / Cesar Orozco & Kamarata Jazz / Jeff Antoniuk & The Jazz Update / Marshall Keys & Soulful Path
Lennie Robinson & Mad Curious / Donato Soviero / John Lee Trio / Herb Scott Quartet / Reginald Cyntje Group
Leigh Pilzer & Friends / Elijah Balbed and The JoGo Project / Kendall Isadore / Pepe Gonzalez Ensemble
Warren Wolf/Kris Funn Duo / Slavic Soul Party: Duke Ellington’s Far East Suite / Donvonte McCoy Quartet
Charles Rahmat Woods Duo / Aaron Myers / Origem / David Schulman + Quiet Life Motel / Harlem Gospel Choir
Debora Petrina / Brian Settles / Brandee Younger / Christie Dashiell / Tiya Ade Ensemble / Freddie Dunn Ensemble
Hope Udobi Ensemble / 2017 DCJAZZPRIX FINALISTS & more!
For tickets, artists and a complete schedule, visit DCJAZZFEST.ORG
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The DC Jazz Festival®, a 501(c)(3) non-profit service organization, and its programs are made possible, in part, with major grants from
the Government of the District of Columbia, Muriel Bowser, Mayor; and, in part, by major grants from the Anne and Ronald Abramson
Family Foundation, The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, Gillon Family Charitable Fund, The Mayo Charitable Foundation,
CrossCurrents Foundation, Wells Fargo Foundation, The NEA Foundation, Venable Foundation, The Dallas Morse Coors Foundation
for the Performing Arts, The Max and Victoria Dreyfus Foundation, The Reva & David Logan Foundation, John Edward Fowler Memorial
Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; and with awards from the National Endowment for the Arts and the DC Commission on
the Arts and Humanities, an agency supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts. ©2017 DC Jazz Festival. All rights reserved.
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MOUTHPIECES FOR CLARINETS AND SAXOPHONES
SHANNON FINNEY/COURTESY OF THE NEA
DIGITAL
EXCLUSIVE
Vocalist China Moses and drummer Sherrie Maricle and the DIVA Jazz Orchestra pay tribute to Dee Dee Bridgewater, Moses’ mother
NEA JAZZ MASTERS CEREMONY & CONCERT
THE KENNEDY CENTER | WASHINGTON, D.C.
APRIL 3, 2017
NEA JAZZ MASTERS CEREMONY & CONCERT
Dee Dee Bridgewater
JAZZTIMES | JUNE 2017
IMAGES BY SHANNON FINNEY/COURTESY OF THE NEA
Dr. Lonnie Smith
Dave Holland
IMAGES BY SHANNON FINNEY/COURTESY OF THE NEA
Dick Hyman
JAZZTIMES | JUNE 2017
NEA JAZZ MASTERS CEREMONY & CONCERT
FROM TOP: SHANNON FINNEY, YASSINE EL MANSOURI; COURTESY OF THE NEA
Bill Charlap (left) and Aaron Diehl perform in honor of Dick Hyman
Clockwise from top left: 2017 NEA Jazz Master Dick Hyman; Fitz Gitler, representing Jazz Master Ira Gitler; NEA Chairman Jane Chu;
Kennedy Center Artistic Director for Jazz Jason Moran; Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter; 2017 Jazz Masters Dr. Lonnie Smith,
Dee Dee Bridgewater and Dave Holland; Mary Jo Gitler, representing Ira Gitler
JAZZTIMES | JUNE 2017
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