Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Top Recordings - 2012

A ton of fine music came out in 2012, like most years, making these year-end lists very difficult. A lot we don’t get to hear. So that limits some. For example, I’ve not yet heard the 2012 disks of Jack DeJohnette, Christian Scott or John McLaughlin and the Fourth Dimension. Having seen each of them live in 2012, it’s easy to know their disks must be superb. Their concerts were fabulous. Also, Top 10? Not happening. It’s a smattering. I did whittle some worthy recordings away. And separated out a Vocalist section. Let’s get to it. No particular order:

Jazz Soul Seven, “Impressions of Curtis Mayfield“ (BFM Jazz). thought this might be over-funked, formulaic jazz before I slapped it in the machine. Wrong from the get go. It grooves like hell, but it swings too. All the players are outstanding, creative and improvisational, without too much “look at me.” Terri Lynne Carrington’s grooves are sweet, but by no means simple. And Wallace Roney and Erie Watts blare their horns with jazz pride. Phil Upchurch is tasty as hell, as is Russ Ferrante on piano. Let’s not forget the ever-hip music of Mayfield, a master in his field.

[Wallace Roney at the North Sea Jazz Festival, 2912. © R.J. DeLuke]

John Daversa, “Artful Joy” (BFM Jazz). Daversa has a real knack for writing, arranging and getting a band to play their asses off. Easier said than done. His tunes are a marvel of modern hip, slightly genre-bending, and just plain exuberant. He travels a lot of musical ground without losing interest. And the playing is hot shit. (see previous blog).

Marshall Gilkes, “Sound Stories” (Alternate Side Records). Another album where the leader shines with the pen, as well as his instrument, trombone. Gilkes is a monster on the ‘bone and is matched on the front line by Donny McCaslin, who’s a bitch on this record. The rhythm section makes each twist and turn easily. Great melodies too. The many compositional colors here really shed the light on Gilkes as a cat who is a superlative musician. This is hot shit.

[Marshall Gilkes at the Newport Jazz festival, 2012. © R.J. DeLuke]

Branford Marsalis, “Four MFs Playin’ Tunes” (Marsalis Music). Band that’s been cookin’ for a long time. Different textures, different feels. All directed through Marsalis’ vision and his powerful horn. Calderazzo remains one of the unsung excellent pianists. The record can groove you and scorch you. It‘s soft side is delectable.

Jonathan Blake, “The Eleventh Hour” (Sunnyside Records). A great debut by this young drummer who enlightens the music of many a hot bands on the scene today. For his first album, he brings in strong players like Ben Street on bass and pianists Robert Glasper and Kevin Hays. Saxes are Jaleel Shaw and Mark Turner. But they are there to serve Blake’s vision, which is sharp. Real engaging stuff, driven by outstanding drum work, of course.

Adam Cruz, “Milestone” (Sunnyside). Another debut from a drummer, this disk shows the veteran Cruz holding court to carry out his own compositions. The music is outstanding start to end, carried out by BYC cats that Cruz has played with and known for a while--Chris Potter, Steve Cardenas, Ed Simon, Steve Wilson, Ben Street and Miguel Zenon. They’re all on their game, and Cruz propels them with his intricate percussive statements. Cruz should get more opportunities to be a front man, as this disk shows.

Luis Perdomo , “Universal Mind” (RKM Music). Perdomo is a monstrous pianist and this trio date is remarkable. It was also the fruition of his dream to one day play with Jack DeJohnette, who is killin’ throughout the recording. As is Perdomo. The music is written by Perdomo to allow the group to take off, without worrying too much about arrangements, and they do. Exceptional.

[Luis Perdomo at Freihofer's Saratoga Jazz Festival, 2010. © R.J. DeLuke]

David Gilmore, “Numerology; Live at the Jazz Standard” (Evolutionary Music). This music kicks ass. The music is enthralling, exotic, played by a group of real heavyweights who bring Gillmore’s amazing music to brilliant life. Everyone is in top form (Christian McBride, Miguel Zenon, Tain Watts, Mino Cinelu among them) Claudia Acuna adds occasional ethereal vocals. Luis Perdomo (see above) is absolutely fiendish on the piano. Gilmore’s guitar, surprisingly, doesn’t really take center stage but wails with delight. It’s a group effort, but Gilmore’s the cat behind it all.

Michael Pedicin, “Live @ The Loft” (Jazz Hutt) Granted I fell in love with his ballads album last year, which caused my ears to turn toward this disk. But it holds up just as fine. Pedicin comes through the tradition of the greats, Dexter, Sonny, et. al, with a beautiful warm tone and great creativity. This time a it’s a live disk with a varied program and his band is up to the task. Pedicin is a joy.

Ehud Asherie, with Harry Allen, Upper West Side (Posi-Tone). This is all about Harry Allen. His sumptuous sound, way with classic melodies, his harmonic interweaving, his creativity. Warmth. Like Pedicin, a joy as he strolls thru great songs.

[Harry Allen, Newport Jazz Festival, 2010. © R.J. DeLuke]

Philip Dizack, “End of an Era” (Truth Revolution Records) Great craftsmanship in the writing of the mostly original compositions, augmented beautifully by string sections. Some of the fine New York cats add a lot, including Kendrick Scott’s drums, Aaron Parks piano. Dizack’s trumpet dances delightfully throughout.

Duduka Da Fonseca, “Samba Jazz - Jazz Samba” (Anzic). This band plays this kind of music so beautifully. Pianist Helio Alves and Da Fonseca are long time colleagues and it shows. Anat Cohen, always wonderful, digs into the material with fire. Strong from start to end. Great spirit.

Andrea Brachfeld, “Lady of the Island” (Zoho). This woman can bop and groove and plays the hell out of the various flutes. Great tone and harmonic-melodic sensibilities. She’s less percussive than some flautists, which probably makes her a more complete, natural player. Bill O’Connell on piano is outstanding and there are guest spots by Wallace Roney and Wycliffe Gordon. Mostly cover material. There’s a beautiful Latin feel to Herbie’s “Eye of the Hurricane.” She also tackles Freddie Hubbard and Duke.

Brubeck Brothers, “Lifetimes” (Blue Forest Records). Maybe the best recording of this outstanding, longstanding, and somehow underrated band. It jumped on my list when I first heard it in June. Crisply executed by four superior musicians. It’s a record with a definite nod to Dave. It might be held in a different light now, due to the recent passing of the icon, but it stands as a great testament. The tunes associated with the Great Father Who Made Them All have really outstanding arrangements and bring a bright new slant to the material. There is other material there too, equally strong. The playing is excellent. (By the by, Dave heard it all and loved what the cats did with his stuff).

[Brubeck Brothers, Freihofer's Saratoga Jazz Festival, 2008. © R.J. DeLuke]

Erena Terakubo with Legends, “New York Attitude” (King Records) It’s the American debit of a young Japanese alto saxophonist who plays with flare, technique and feeling. When it swings, it’s like mad, and in between it’s first-rate stuff. It definitely helps that Kenny Barron and Ron Carter play their asses off in the band. But it’s a real fine album, and Terakubo is very strong, whether fast or slow. She holds court admirably. There’s sure to more from her.

Riccardo Fassi, “Sitting in a Song” (Alice Recordings) A varied collection of compositions by pianist Fassi with first-rate New York cats; trumpeter Alex Sipiagin, sax men Gary Smulyan and Dave Binney, drummer Antonio Sanchez, bassist Essiet Essiet and trombonist Andy Hunter. Glides along terrifically, fast or slow. Solos are hot. Great feel to this disk.


Denise Donatelli, “Soul Shadows,” (Savant Records) She has hooked up with excellent pianist Geoffrey Keezer before. Great musical pair. Geoffrey provides just the right landscapes--intricate, intelligent, but something the bones can feel. And Denise steps in with class and style and makes it a full painting. Great selection of seldom heard tunes, save “Too Late Now,” which is also a treat because it’s an exquisite duet between Donatelli’s rich voice and Keezer’s luscious piano sound. Grammy should go here, but she’s least known of those nominated.

Gregory Porter, “Be Good” (Motema). A most dynamic vocalist out there. A stellar recording, writing and performing. He’s an extraordinary live performer. This studio disk is similar. Passion, timing, phrasing, on-the-spot twists and turns. Rich sound. Headed for stardom. A lot of young new thing” singers will flare out while Porter will still be standing. The title song will be in his “classic” category when he’s got 15-20 years under his belt. It might be one that he won’t be able to leave out of a set even when he’s 70.

[Gregory Porter, North Sea Jazz fest at Curacao, 2012. © R.J. DeLuke]

Akula Allrich, “Live! Uniquely Standard” (Self produced) I listen to a lot of singers. Many are pedestrian. This was a great surprise. A soulful singer that has jazz I her bones. Great emotion and uplifting. A fine array of covers, with tunes like “Don’t Let Me be Misunderstood.” Also Miriam Makeba and Billy Strayhorn. The blues drips from “Black Coffee.” Nina Simone’s “Sinnerman” grabs you. This a helluva disk. More, please. (Does the world know yet that Kris Funn is a stone cold motherfucker on bass? Ask Christian Scott).

Michael Occhipinti & Shine On, “The Universe of John Lennon” (True North Records). This may be a love or hate thing for Lennon fans, who don’t like to see works altered too much. Occhipinti brings these important, poignant Lennon works out front in fine fashion, with gorgeous arrangements with greater rhythm richness, good jazz horns, and fine instrumentation all around. Lennon couldn’t sing worth a shit, and that certain raggedness was part of the allure. Like Dylan, the importance lay in the lyrics and simplicity of structure, not in being pristine. Nothing ragged here. Rather, there is a true beauty brought to each tune. But it fits fine, because it’s good music to begin with. And it’s good to hear these songs again, especially “Working Class Hero.”

Honorable… (some of these could interchange with the above. Tough choices):

Medeski, Martin & Wood, “Free Magic” (Indirecto Records)

Anat Cohen, “Claroscuro” (Anzic)

Joe Locke/Geoffrey Keezer Group, “Signing” (Motema)

Mort Weiss, “I’ll Be Seeing You” (SMS Jazz)

Jeff Coffin & the Mu’Tet, “Into the Air” (Ear Up Records)

Native Soul, “One Mind” (American Showplace Music)

Sean Wayland, “Click Track Jazz: Slave to the Machine” (Seed Music Records)

Amanda Ruzza, “This Is What Happened” (Pimienta Records)

Adrian Cunningham, “Walkabout” (New Market Music)

Chad Wackerman, “Dreams Nightmares and Improvisations” (self produced)

Bill Cantrall & Axiom, “Live at Kitano” (Upswing) And kudos to some fine cats in my neck o’ the woods (upstate NY)who put out some fine disks (Scroll down for more specifics in previous blog)

Mike Benedict and Bopitude, “Five in One” (Planet Arts)

Brian Patneaude, “All Around Us” (WEPA Records)

Keith Pray, “Confluence” (Artist Recording Collective)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Golfing With Branford

Saxophonist Marsalis Expounds on the State of Jazz While Walking the Links

It’s not often one gets to chat seriously about music with a top-flight musician who is making his comments in between shots on the golf course. Unusual to say the least. Such was the case recently with Branford Marsalis.

Wait. Marsalis? One of the hard-liners from the 1980s? You’re fucking with me.

Nope. The conversation took place via telephone as Marsalis, wearing an earphone, strode Treyburn Country Club in Durham, NC, where he lives. I offered to postpone. He handled it all in stride.

“We’re breaking the mold. You can (write), ‘Wait a minute. He hit his ball 20 yards to the left, and then cursed.’ And go on from there.”

[Photo: Branford and Joey Calderazzo at Newport Jazz Fest, 2009. © R.J. DeLuke]

The conversation covered many bases, disrupted on occasion by the swing of his own club, or by ball-busting comments to the rest of the foursome, which included the pianist of the Branford Marsalis Quartet, Joey Calderazzo. It was the basis for a story at the All About Jazz website. Marsalis, now 52, has mellowed, even by his own admission. Things in the music business that he can’t control roll off his back. Even if they still irk him. That said, he’s as forthright as ever on topics that come up and his knife is still sharp when he looks at the world of jazz and what he sees as its blemishes. His take is different and merits some attention.

As a youngster, he was one of the Young Lions. He and his brother Wynton, tried to play it all. They flexed their chops and burned ahead. Young exuberance. It’s different now. There’s a mellowness. Not in his playing. His playing over the years is more of a distillation. Putting that aggression through a filter and finding the better stuff on the other side. He still forges ahead as one of the finer saxophonists of his generation. But he tries not to get too much ahead of the audience, he says. He claims too many people in jazz music are doing that nowadays.

There‘s a lot of cussing going on. Part of golf. Good natured stuff. “I curse before I swing. I do more cursing than swinging,” I reveal about my own golf game. “No,” he tries to correct, “It’s swing. Then curse. It’s not curse, then swing. It’s swing, then curse.” I never did have that down pat.

His 2012 CD, Four MFs Playin’ Tunes (Marsalis Music) is as advertised, the band, spurred on by relatively new drummer Justin Faulkner (“Tain” Watts had been with Branford forever), weaves and bobs. They burn and play beautiful ballads. The leader says the group tries to kill it each night. Might not quite grab it each time. But they’re reaching. And they’re mindful that the stuff doesn’t rocket past the audience.

“I’m not disavowing the complexity. The shit we play is complex. Listen to the record. But at the end of the day, when you hear people talking about why jazz is not popular, they have a million reasons. Radio, they’re playing pop music. They blame all this bullshit. People who listen to music listen to really simple things. The song has to have a good beat and the song has to have a melody they can relate to. When you listen to modern jazz, they have neither. They have guys who don’t know how to play swing, who are playing ostinato grooves that aren’t funky at all. So they lose the groove part. Then the melodies aren’t singable.”

“At the end of the day, yeah, there’s all this complex shit that needs to go on. Much like the thing that supposedly got me in trouble for saying about Cecil Taylor -- It ain’t the audience’s job to grasp that. That’s our job. We’re supposed to learn all that shit … you learn all this shit, then you communicate it to people in a way they can understand it.”

His swing and strike of the ball is audible. “Uh-oh. Uh-oh.“ Ball’s in the air. “Cut please. Cut for me. No? … Fuck.” Part of the game. “OK,” he resigns himself as he heads toward the frustrating little white orb which wasn‘t quite where it was supposed to go.

“When you listen to a jazz radio station, it’s a style of music where all the shit sounds the same. Which is kind of like the pop music is, ironically. Except (in jazz) the solos might be more complex … They have that same formulated nature. I am not interested in participating in shit like that. I’m just not. Guys do a song. They have a bass vamp they start the song with. Eight bars of vamp, then the melody comes in. The trumpet player plays, the saxophone player plays, the piano player plays. The bass player will probably play. The drummer takes a solo then the head comes out. Then when the song is over, the song ends twice.

“Even with Blakey’s band they would just go, [he hums an ending … da-da DET, dah dah dah, dah-da deh-da] and the song ends. Now they do [repeats: da-da DET, dah dah dah, dah-da deh-da, then he hums a faster tempo--a mish mash where the line is blurred and tails off in a different direction]. Then they hit a chord--Bang. So the song has two endings. It’s just little things. You already played a long-ass solo. Do you really need to solo some more at the end of the song? The structure of the song and the function of the song and the purpose of the song is just pushed aside for this ideology of: Listen to how great I sound. I don’t buy it.”

He’s honest. But not upset. Hell, he’s enjoying his day on the links.

“It used to bother me. Joey and I often talk and complain about shit we hear. We complain about it, but talking about them is not going to make us better. If their goal is to get better, then they’ll hear the shit we’re talking about. If they don’t hear it, OK. They hear it or they don’t.”

“I’m doing a fucking interview,” he says to the group … “It’s a 5. I double clicked, otherwise it wouldn’t have been. I’m going to leave y’all to it. I’m going to go over here so Joey doesn’t have an excuse to piss and moan,” he busts, laughing.

“After 11 years of playing with Branford, I’m still nervous to play with him,” Calderazzo said to me about a year ago. I’m comfortable, but … and I had the same thing with Mike (Brecker). Mike kept you on the top of your game … He played every performance like it was going to be his last. Branford’s attitude is not that. It’s a funny thing. My take on it is: no matter where it is, it’s just another performance. The two of them are polar opposites, but it works for each one of them. It very interesting. I’ve learned from both of them. Branford is very nonchalant” Also, said the pianist, “Branford is undoubtedly my best friend.”

Says Marsalis between golf shots, “Somebody asked me about European jazz and I used to have this long explanation. It was such a dishonest conversation and I don’t speak the language. But then I find out (European) writers were writing that when it was brought up, I began to get agitated and angry. Which isn’t true. Sometimes when I talk I get agitated, but it’s as I get excited. So now, I just say, ‘That shit’s great.’ As long as I don’t sound like that, they are awesome. That‘s how I feel about a lot of this shit. If people think it’s great--there’s no evidence of record sales or ticket sales that the shit is great--but if that’s what they think is great, more power to them.

“I’m hittin’ ‘em OK. I’m playing bogey golf so far. I had two good shots, one bad shot and two putts.”

“I just did a gig, a small gig, in Atlanta, for a golf tournament. The guy’s a friend of mine and good golfer. Said he wanted me to play a tune. I said, ‘I don’t play by myself.’ He said he would get a bunch of local guys. So I meet this guy. At the beginning of it, Mac Davis played. He wrote songs for Elvis. He wrote ‘In the Ghetto’ and all this stuff. So Mac’s playing and the people are screaming and hollering. So already I get it. The audience is not a jazz audience. I’m keenly aware of that. In my thinking, this should inform the decision about the song you play.

“So it’s our turn to play, and this guy plays ‘Well You Needn’t’ as fast as a motherfucker. It takes the audience about 45 seconds to start talking (among themselves). How can you be that unaware of the surroundings? We should have played ‘Cheek to Cheek’ and they would have liked it. And all of Thelonious Monk’s songs, the slower they are the better they sound. … That’s what I mean when I say there’s a disengaged understanding of the showbiz elements of music.

“I want to play jazz. I have an informed opinion on it now. I’m not 22 anymore. I have a sense of what works and what doesn’t work. There’s slight adjustments you can make and you can fuck around and accidentally have a 50-year career. Or you can choose not to do that.”

Dig or not, there’s a commitment there. A design. His band is always busy. Road tested. Ready to wail. Agree or disagree--Fine either way. Marsalis is one to stand up and be counted. The chips will fall where they may, and for he and the quartet, they’ve fallen in the right spot.

My only advice? Head down. Follow through … Cuss away.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Farewell Dave Brubeck

Iconic Pianist/Composer Is American Legend, Icon, Music Master, Worldwide Legend

Dave Brubeck would have been 92 today. Instead, the world mourns the loss of his passing yesterday at the age of 91. A master of music, particularly that which we call jazz. He knew and composed much more music than that. He did so much in his storied career that the lengthy obits in major newspapers and the tributes that will come through jazz websites and periodicals can do little more than scratch the surface.

[Photos are all mine, taken at the Newport Jazz festival in recent years. © R.J. DeLuke]

I won't even attempt to survey his career. His Washington Post obit is here.

He and Miles Davis are the two most recognizable figures to the general public in jazz history. Despite the woeful stature of jazz in America, around the glove it's hard to find anyone who doesn't know those two, even if they know nothing about their mighty musical deeds.

By all standards, Dave Brubeck was a great man. His musical accomplishments are incredibly vast. he was also, by all accounts, a gentleman, generous of spirit. He was a family man. It shows in his children, who are the same. I have never met Dave. I know Dan and Chris. They are tremendous musicians and great guys. The apples falling near the tree.

The last time I saw Dave perform was in 2011 with a band called Triple Play that includes Chris Brubeck. One wouldn't expect a 90-year-old man to come running out on stage, and he didn't. It was a slow, gingerly approach. But the man still played some important piano and he beamed like a child on Christmas. Not all the dexterity was there on the keyboards. But he played the RIGHT stuff and knew how to deliver meaningful music. It might have been his last public performance

The world has lost a fine spirit and a tremendous musician who made a vast, deep imprint on world culture, not just American culture. Buy the albums, go to YouTube. Experience Dave Brubeck. The music is intricate, intelligent, varied...and joyful.

Glad I got to see him going back to the '70s, playing with Two Generations of Brubeck, a band that included sons Darius, Dan and Chris. Glad I saw the Dave Brubeck Quartet many times through the decades. Glad I saw him over the last few years play at Newport with Tony Bennett and Wynton Marsalis. Glad we had a Dave Brubeck.

Consolences to all the Brubecks --Wife Iola; sons Dan, Chris, Darius and Matt; daughter Cathy; and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren, among others.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

John Daversa is Putting Out Great Music

Trumpeter/Composer Arranger Scores Again

I knew virtually nothing about John Daversa last year when I heard his Progressive Big Band’s album Junk Wagon (BFM Jazz). I had to listen again … and again and again … not to find something good but to re-enforce that my first feeling was right. All this great music coming from a west coast cat whom I was ignorant of. It constantly moved in great directions.

Hip, modern, moving…fucking fun. Rock elements, but never dumbed down. Hip hop used in great fashion. It jumped to my “Best of 2011” list.

Along comes Artful Joy (BFM Jazz) this year, done with a smaller group but, as the superb drummer Peter Erskine says in his album liner notes, having a huge sound. It comes with the same celestial energy, remarkable compositions and take-no-prisoners execution.

Rock elements are present, but the music is invigorating and fresh with plenty of jazz and improv. There are slick grooves with arrangements that make the groove sparkle as well as move the feet. Forget waiting until December: This one is on the 2012 list, no problem. Again, it’s an album that can be listened to over and over. That shit isn’t all that easy today. I’ve been digging this one for weeks.

The music is alive, with vibrant rhythms from Jerry Watts on bass and Gene Coye on drums, along with subtle and effective work by Zane Carney that helps add texture it all. It jumps in hot right from the get-go with some burning trumpet from Daversa on the brief “Seven Grand.” He’s a fine player as well as arranger/bandleader.

The playing of Robby Marshall on tenor sax combines the best qualities of the tenor heritage. Great sound, phrasing. He’s soulful and smooth as silk with a great tone and excellent taste in the stories he tells from soft to cookin’. He's a great voice for this music and one of the major components of the overall feel of this record. He is sweet as hell throughout this disk.

“No Frets No Worries” is a stately ballad led by Daversa’s crisp, strong trumpet voice in combo with Marshall’s horn. The song has a big funky sound, but far from simple. Great solos. “Some Happy S’#t” seamlessly moves from serene to hot and exhilarating.

Going through each song serves no purpose. It’s universally outstanding. But I personally dig “Flirty Girl,” which is a slow vamp -- about as slow as you’ll hear a band play. Gearing down the tempo is not that easy. But bass and drums lock in with funky beats that are verrry hip. Simplified for great effect. Sprinkle in great Electric Valve Instrument (EVI) solo work by Daversa, soulful trumpet, tricky sprinkles of decorative keyboard work, slurpy tenor sax, and it’s a stone cold kick-ass, fun tune. It reminds me of how musicians nowadays use the Miles vehicle “Jean Pierre,” based on a simple riff, and play scorching stuff on top, putting the simplicity to such good use. (Herbie, Marcus Miller, Wayne, Wallace Roney, Robben Ford and others have all done this).

Daversa, who’s been leading his big band for more than 15 years and teaching out on the west coast, is from a musical family and it has served him well. As a player, leader and composer/arranger, this cat is killer.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Belated Cheers to Buddy Guy

Buddy Guy is Best of the Blues

A bit late on the draw, but one of the great blues man of all time has been named a recipient in the next round of Kennedy Center Honors, a prestigious national award in the field of the arts. Sonny Rollins is a recent recipient.

Buddy Guy is one of the finest -- Mount Rushmore finest -- of any who ever played the blues, the root music for jazz and rock. He’s been at the pinnacle for many, many years, despite jazz critics automatically penciling in B.B. King’s name when they choose a name for the Blues category in annual polls. He played the most outlandish, meanest, dirtiest, down-home-bluesiest guitar there was. No disrespect for B.B., whose stature is unquestioned (also Mount Rushmore), but he lost his fastball a long time ago.

Those who genuflect to Guy as a guitar slinger include drawing admiration from just about all corners of the rock and blues world, from Jimi Hendrix to Eric Clapton to Stevie Ray Vaughan and beyond. He can scorch the ground and play whispers. Sweet licks and wild shit. All packed with emotion.

He will never say he was better than other blues monsters. He holds them in high esteem. “I wish I could shake my wrist like B.B. King,” he said in a conversation we had nearly a decade ago, I think. He was referring to the sweet vibrato King would get playing one strong note on Lucille.

One striking night, however, was watching him play a set of acoustic blues after his Buddy Guy, Blues Singer album came out, an acoustic take on blues tunes, some dating waaaaaay back. His voice was wrought with emotion and the sounds that came from that guitar were sharp, piercing. Don’t know what gauge strings he had but he pulled them sometimes like Robin Hood about to fell a deer. And the sound! Geezus.

The idea came from his record company, who approached him and asked if he remembered the Muddy Waters album, made 1963, that he played on, called Muddy Waters, Folk Singer on the renowned blues label Chess. He was 27 at the time. Chess) featuring a 27-year-old Buddy Guy, which inspired Guy’s latest CD.

“And I said, ‘Man, I don’t think I forgot anything that I did with Muddy.’ They suggested that I go down and take a chance with some of those Son House tunes and a few older ones,” he recounted in our conversation.

It was in those days at Chess that he was already developing his signature electric sound that went in wild, gut-wrenching directions as he preached on his instrument. Before so many other, including Hendrix. (Not that Hendrix didn’t take things even farther in his own individual direction, and wonderfully so. He did). But he knows his stature ion the blues world, even though he’s humbled. And he respects and admires many of the jazz musicians from back in the day, in awe of what they can do as instrumentalists.

He also points out plainly that he was playing shit like no one else, but the people at Chess didn’t get it. Until they saw other people, including some from the British Invasion, making money at it.

Here’s the tale Buddy related the day of our conversation:

“Actually I was doing it when I did sessions with Muddy, Howlin’ Wolf and Little Walter and them. Before the session would start, I would turn my guitar up and let them hear that, and they would kick me out. About six months before (Chess executive Leonard Chess) died, he had heard about Hendrix had left New York and went into London, and Cream had come out and I think it was the Yardbirds and who else was playing it. He called me and said, ‘Motherfucker, that shit you’ve been trying to show us is hot as hell and selling records and we was too fucking dumb to know. Now, we’re going to let you record.’ I was kind of pissed at him. I never did get a chance to do it (with Chess). He died shortly after that.”

His guitar style, though, comes from “a Louisiana gumbo” cooked with ingredients of cats he loved to hear.

“The first Strat I saw was the late Guitar Slim who made a famous record, ‘Things I Used to Do.‘ And I got to see B.B. King, and those were the two guys coming out then with the hot sound on what they call the chitlin circuit. And I saw Guitar Slim. He was such a wild man on the stage. I said to myself, if I ever learn how to play guitar, I want to act like him. Then I started picking up from Muddy (Waters) and T-Bone (Walker) and everybody. I didn’t get hooked on one of them. I just loved them all so well I wanted to get a little piece of everything.”

Well, he’s a little longer in the tooth, but still wailing as he did at the White House recently when President Obama held a blues tribute that included the next (already) great blues slinger, Derek Trucks.

Long Live Buddy Guy.

And just one more quote from that day’s exchange, because it’s cool and says something about the man. “The world is mad.” (Editorial note: It still the fuck is) “So when I go to the stage and see my guitar playing or whatever I do makes somebody smile, I feel like I’m the richest guy in the world because if you got any kind of problem or difficulty, I made you forget them for a minute, because I saw you smiling.”

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Fabulous Cohen Brothers ... Plus Sister

3 Cohens Kick Ass at Newport

Early this year in a conversation with Anat Cohen, she expressed the joy she feels when she performs with her two equally talented siblings, brothers Yuval (older) and Avishai (younger) on sax and trumpet, respectively.

She said she had been watching Albert and Jimmy Heath and marveled at the vibe between them. (As also existed when Percy heath was still alive).

“That’s how I want to be,” she said. “I want to be in our 80s and go with Yuval and Avishai and travel the world. It would be so cool. Like the Heath Brothers. They’re so cool. It’s incredible. I’d love to be playing music with my brothers as much as I can. I love them. I respect them as people, as musicians. it’s something I hope we can pursue more.”

Amen to that, based on their performance at the Newport Jazz Festival last weekend. It was sizzling. Of course it helped they had one of the scenes fine drummer, Rudy Royston, as well as the Very talented Aaron Goldberg on piano and the superb Ruben Rogers on bass. They stokes the flames beneath the three horns in wonderful fashion.

Talk about being on fire. The 3 Cohens, as they are billed, blew the crowd away. The line for CDs went on for a lonnnnng time.

Out of the gate they jumped on Yuval’s composition “Blues For Dandi's Orange Bull Chasing An Orange Sack,” and took no prisoners. It started in a slow bluesy fashion, featuring Goldberg’s sweet piano, but then built into a storm. Up-tempo. Swingin’! Each Cohen was strong, vibrant and full of joy. Anat wears her heart on her sleeve when on stage--smiling, gesturing, dancing when listening to other soloists or the band as a whole. She’s filled with the spirit of the music and it spreads. A pure delight.

The family is from Tel Aviv in Israel. Yuval noted they were all honored to be playing at a festival that had so much tradition; so many historic moments. Newport, he quipped, was “Jazz-rusalem.”

Like most siblings, there’s a certain connection. It comes through. Each is a fantastic soloist with great stories to tell. Infused with strength and feeling. It was a great pleasure to hear Anat roar on tenor sax, summoning greats like Coltrane and Sonny in her attack. She’s so known as a great clarinet player (rightly so), that sax can go under the radar. It shouldn’t. Avishai is one of the bright voices among young trumpet players, and Yuval was great on soprano sax.

[Photos: Top, Anat; Middle, Avishai; Bottom, Yuval. © R.J. DeLuke]

Avishai’s “With The Soul Of The Greatest Of Them All” was another standout selection. And they covered a couple standards with style. Such energy. And joy.

They released a record last year: Family, on the Anzic label. Hope they keep it up, and hope to see more of this fine group.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Freihofer's Saratoga Jazz Fest Always Features Some of the Best

At 35 years old, Festival retains its quality

The 35th annual Freihofer's Jazz Festival is always a gas. It's had nearly every major jazz player appear since 1978 and it has seen plenty of very young and then-unknown people gain some notoriety here in upstate New York and go on to great things.

The picnic/party is well know. That's not to say noisy and rocky. laid back. Relaxing as all hell. Family. Friends meet old friends. Meet new friends.

And high-quality music is always there. This year has the potential to stack very high.
On Saturday, the great bassist -- great musician -- Christian McBride is there. The great, great ensemble The Mingus Big band comes upstate. Must see stuff. Esperanza Spalding... her quick rise toward the top of the music world is well deserved not hype. She's a fine bassist, a singer whose talent is growing. And she has s great presence; surrounds herself with great musicians. Jeremy Pelt, one of the finer trumpet players brings his band in. Michel Camilo, a virtuoso pianist is there.

[Pictures: Top, Roberta Gambarini at the gazebo stage in 2001. Bottom: Hilary Kole at the same stage in 2011. © R.J. DeLuke]

This is all Saturday! And add young very fine players like Mario Abney on trumpet and Haily Niswanger on sax. Singer Catherine Russell is also an on-the-rise vocalist with a strong soulful voice. Shee-it. For fans of less-dense jazz (that was diplomatic) ... There's Chris Botti and Maceo Parker.

Sunday features more greats. The trio of Oz showcases the stunning drumming of Omar Hakeem and the piano fo Rachel Z. They mesh so well and they're exciting. Hiromi is another piano virtuoso of the highest order and she's a delight to watch. The Yellowjackets will please fusion fans and it will be worth checking out that the band now includes Felix Pastorious on bass--son of icon Jaco Pastorious. Their sax player, Bob Mintzer, says he's great and could even go beyond his dad in what he will one day accomplish. Yikes. And you've never seen the harp ... string harp like the angles play, not blues harp ... played like Edmar Castenada plays it. Sounds like three guitarists at the same time. hip vocalist Sachal Vasandani is always a pleasure and the big band duties fall to Arturo O'Farrill's Latin Jazz Orchestra. They can blow the roof off the place.

Toss in the bluesy rock of Brian Mitchell and you've got a fine, fine day.

Then out comes Diana Krall, who needs no hype. And Trombone Shorty who just might have everyone in Saratoga Springs dancing with his high-energy show that is entertainment, funk, fun, New Orleans all mixed. And fine musicianship as well.

People can walk into the festival and enjoy the great lawn party. So it's never to late to say "Let's Go."

Just get there.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Capital District Jazz Musicians Hitting Hard with 2012 Recordings

Trio of disks shines at the halfway mark of the year

The Capital District of New York state -- (Albany, Schenectady, Troy, Saratoga region) has always been rich in jazz talent and has a surprising amount of venues where jazz can be seen and heard. Many of them are small, but there are large venue too where all the heavy hitters come and perform. But weekend to weekend these folks who write, play and teach in this area provide many a memorable night of music.

This year is at about the halfway mark and three recordings jump to the top of the list.

The latest is Confluence (Artist Recording Collective), by alto saxophonist Keith pray, a mainstay of the jazz scene up here. It’s done with a cool band -- Chuck D'Aloia, guitar; Peter Tomlinson, piano; Lou Pappas, bass; and Jeff "Siege" Siegel on drums -- that swings effortlessly through a set largely written by Pray. Tossed in are songs by Jimmy Heath, Trane and a D’Aloia original.

Prays playing is always on the money. He floats and skates around the melodies with the right dash of verve and grit. His light tone is captivating and his ideas solid. A ballad tells a lot about a person’s playing and Song for Katie shows Pray’s ability to convey emotion and melt hearts. As a writer, the tunes are sweet. The arrangement of Heath’s Gingerbread Boy runs of the path a bit, but delightfully so. Trane’s Africa adds da funk to da disk. Engaging. Everyone is up to the task of the varied themes. Seigel is always a tasty, tasty muthafucka on the drums.

A special addition is that of D’Aloia, a scorching guitarist who’s resume includes the late Capital District jazz icon Nick Brignola, as well as Kenny Werner, Randy Brecker, Pat LaBarbara, Claudio Roditi, Jimmy Cobb and a bunch of others. He’s not usually found in clubs with Pray (I believe he has moved away from the area), but adds a great texture to the sounds with his tone and dexterity. Love his solo on Africa. These are fine musicians.

Out for a while now is a hot disk led by drummer Michal Benedict & Bopitude, Five and One (Planet Arts) . It’s a different animal, in that it has three horns out front, including the remarkable Gary Smulyan on baritone sax. Brian Patneaude, a local monster, plays the tenor and Chris Pasin handle the trumpet work. The delectable Bruce Barth plays the shit out of the piano and Mike Lawrence is on bass. It’s the second recording for this lineup, and as their name suggests, it’s heavy on bop.

The band kicks ass and takes names forging thru a variety of warhorse tunes by Sonny Stitt, Thad Jones, J.J. Johnson, Hank Mobley, Kenny Dorham and others. It’s pretty typical head-solos-head stuff you’d have heard in a club in the early 1950s. That’s OK. They knock the shit out of this stuff. The solos are sparkling. Barth is always creative and interesting with chops to spare. Smulyan comes in with the big reputation and doesn’t disappoint, charging through with the big tone and the fleet fingers. Patneaude’s is superb throughout, evoking elements of some of the great tenors along the lineage. On Stitt’s Eternal Triangle, he burns like the author himself would, something Brian keeps a bit hidden in some of his own stuff. don’t go to sleep on him tho.

No faking here. They go for it on these memorable tunes. The leader’s drums are a key, keeping up the rhythmic clouds for the soloists to walk on. Solid work. This band is doing some touring, so check em out. Not usually with Smulyan, but sometimes, including a date in Schenectady, NY, in the fall. This is a great disk for people who like their mainstream jazz served up with the joy and skill it was intended for.

Mentioned in a past blog (scroll down), is Patneaude’s All Around Us. I won’t repeat too much, except that he’s one of the gems of the region’s musicians. Never disappoints, and his disk are consistently outstanding. I raved about his writing in the last blog. His playing always a joy; thoughtful and purposeful as he negotiates his fine constructions. He’s also intense with a tone that is his own; strong and expressive.

The guys on this disk are solid as shit. They know each other, having been partners in crime for some time now. I notice bass player Mike Delprete’s strengths more and more every time I see him. Pianist David Caldwell-Mason is the newest Patneaude addition for me, and adds intrigue. The Brooklynite’s lines aren’t just grabbed from the jazz bag. He has his way and comes up with ideas that are different. Worth hearing more of.

These albums stand up to stuff on any level and they’re getting deserved notoriety. Good for those folks and here’s hoping there’s a lot more from them.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Jazz Music/World Music

International Jazz Day concert at the United Nations Provides Uplifting Moments
The first--of many we trust--International Jazz Day shined brightly with a concert at the United Nations in New York City. There were other concerts the world over. But in New York, a star-studded event also included poignant and uplifting words about the music from Quincy Jones, T.S. Monk, Herbie Hancock and others.

In the United Nations building, it did in a couple hours what the organization was supposed to do. Jazz is the shining example of freedom, brotherhood, communication, experimentation, exhilaration all in one. It’s has everything. Heart. Emotion. Guts. As Jones noted: Left Brain, Right Brain. Emotion and Intellect.

It’s known the world over, of course, and often better known overseas than here. Which has always been a shame. That aside, the proceedings in New York showed what jazz is and can be.

It’s here. HIGHLY recommended viewing: (Cut and paste in browser till this thing is fixed)

It reached into the blues with Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks and Robert Cray wailing a Howlin’ Wolf tune, accompanied by Christian McBride and George Duke. Ron Carter, Hancock, Jack DeJohnette and Wayne Shorter revived their former boss’s classic “Milestones” in a tribute to Miles. Thelonious Monk was acknowledged with a sharp version of “Think of One,” the group led by Danilo Perez, with Joe Lovano scorching the room with his tenor sax.

Jazz -- out of the blues -- has influenced all of the music that came after, including pop and rock. The concert featured many flavors showing that. Hugh Masekela and Angelique Kidjo showed the direct African influence. Stevie Wonder was there, jamming on harmonica with Masekela, McBride, Jimmy Heath on “Grazing in the Grass.” The music stretched across a broad plain, performed with joie de vivre at every step.

Jazz has been an international language for decades and probably the strongest ambassador that’s ever been for the U.S. Dave Brubeck, Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington and so many more took music to every corner of the world before any others, traveling in places that were forbidden to the average American. So many greats were lionized overseas.

There is sooooo much talent out there today, young, eager. Open to new ideas and making jazz contemporary. And jazz has always been contemporary. Miles showed that.

Christian Scott, Ambrose Akinmusire, Esperanza Spalding, Myron Walden, Marcus Strickland, Eric Harland, Kendrick Scott, Chris Potter, Jason Moran. Shit. Waaaaaay too many names to include. Young cats that are going to carry on the art form.

Here’s hoping in some way they are lionized. And here at home.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Every Month is Jazz Month; Every Day is Jazz Day

Officially Tho, April is Designated as Jazz Appreciation Month in the USA

I guess it’s good to have a Jazz Appreciation Month designated. Symbolic gestures are generally confusing to me. The point may be one thing, but what actual purpose is ultimately served when all is tallied up eludes me. Too often it’s sound and fury, signifying nothing. I don’t tie a yellow ribbon around a tree, nor hold hands with people in a human chain to fight world hunger. Recently, an organization in my town was shaving people’s heads to raise awareness of childhood cancer. I’m still sporting my ponytail. Losing it would have accomplished what?

That aside, if there is a month where people play more jazz, or try to put jazz in more of a public eye, then I’m OK with it. I have consistently said exposure is jazz music’s biggest problem and I do believe it’s one that could be vastly improved upon and it shouldn’t be that hard. For me, Jazz Day is Every Day. And my lobbying for it doesn’t cease -- As it is for practically every jazz journalist and member of the “jazz community” that I know. A good lot, they are.

The music is in my head every day.

In the interest of Jazz Month, I’m bringing to bear thoughts from musicians who weren’t born here, for whom jazz became so important that it became their way of life. Their happy salvation.

[PHOTO: Christian Scott Band plays JAZZ, baby, at the Lake George Jazz Festival in 2010. © R.J. DeLuke]

There’s been a lot of talk recently, sparked by one excellent trumpet player’s thoughts on the word “jazz,” as to what the music is and isn’t, what the word means or doesn‘t mean. Most people already know in their bones the answer to that, even if it isn’t describable. Wherever the word came from, it has meant this music, this American art form, and NOTHING more, for many, many decades. So please stop whining that it came from bordellos. No one cares. No one remembers. Like many other words in many languages, there is sometimes evolution. Jazz has evolved to one thing. America’s art music. Send me to a jazz festival any day of the week.


Those from outside America don’t seem hung up on the word. Like the majority of jazz musicians here, they embrace it. We all should. Words for any music genre don’t encompass its totality. Words are inadequate for that. But you take what’s there - Jazz - and kind of know what it stands for and appreciate it. Sonny Rollins said recently, “There are so many other battles to fight …I think I would agree if you could wave a magic wand and we could change it into American music, or something like that, overnight with a wand. Yeah. But how could that happen? So I accepted it.”

“When I have to speak about jazz, I can go on forever.”

That’s how trumpeter Enrico Rava of Italy closed a lengthy conversation with me in 2005. Brought into the fold after experiencing Miles Davis play live in 1957 (“He has so much charisma. You would look at him all the time. Even when he wasn’t playing everybody kept looking at Miles. I was fascinated. It’s like the first time I saw a movie with Marlon Brando, ‘On the Waterfront.’ I didn’t look at anybody else on the screen. With Miles it was the same thing.”), Rava jumped into music and never looked back. “Jazz gave me some of the most beautiful moments, as a listener and as a player. Also it gave me a good life. The music kind of saved my life, in a way.,” he said. ”I consider my first job is to be a jazz fan. Then I play. I’m a jazz fan that decided to play.”

“It’s a music of immigrants, because this is a country of immigrants,” said Paquito D’Rivera in 2010. “The contribution of everybody here, and every ability, special to jazz, makes it unique. I love the state of jazz in general. All the styles. I am existing in a very creative environment. There are creative people and very ingenious people around in the jazz community.”

D’Rivera risked his life escaping from Cuba, where playing jazz was a privilege, but had to be hidden from the government by being blended with other forms, and using different names. “Even the name Irakere is an African name used to hide the jazz element in our playing,” he said of the renowned Cuban band that made international waves in the 1970s.

“I am a musician in general. But jazz is my main type. I like all different new scenes around, but jazz, in my mind, is like my black beans and rice,” said the NEA Jazz Master. “Jazz is very special to me. Pretty close to my heart.”

“The feeling of what you do when you can improvise,” is the flame that draws trumpeter Diego Urcola of Argentina to jazz, he told me in 2011. “It’s a feeling you wanted … it’s really hard to leave. When you play other kinds of music, you like it because maybe some great writers or composers. But that thing about improvisation is so, so strong. The interaction with other musicians that are improvising with you at the same time. That’s jazz. That conversation. That interaction. It’s not about swing or Latin or whatever type of rhythm or elements. It’s a concept of improvisation and interaction. Spontaneous interaction. That’s what really attracts me.”

For Siggi Loch, owner of the Germany-based ACT record label, who heard jazz as a child in Europe in the 1940s, the origin of the word had no relevance. It was American music with a special quality that reached beyond pop. Loch went on to be a producer and promoter, eventually starting ACT in 1992, which produces a lot of quality jazz. He’s now in his 70s. “What fascinated me more than anything was this idea of individual freedom in a group of equals. That was a fascinating thought for a young boy like myself after World War II. It was very fascinating from a political aspect, not just from a musical aspect. I guess that was fascinating not just me but a lot of my young people of my generation at the time.

He added, “Some people argue about the artist mixing (jazz) with world music. But jazz was world music by definition when it was founded in New Orleans. It was nothing but the result of the music from a melting pot, music from different parts of the world. The key element was the individual, who expressed himself by the way of improvising. That’s what makes jazz. That’s exactly what is still is today. Some people feel after free jazz there’s no more jazz. I’m not interested in that kind of discussion. It doesn’t matter.”

For saxophonist Will Vinson of the United Kingdom, improvisation and lightning-fast communication is his what fascinated him and caused him to mover to the Big Apple. “In New York the level of musicianship is so high, the level of listening is so high. People listen to each other and they really do, on a good day, create things that haven’t happened before. That’s amazing. That’s really a unique thing to jazz. Not that we’ve created what hasn’t happened before, but that we do so just by getting together and taking out our instruments and playing. I think that’s an amazing quality of jazz. That’s what makes it interesting to go and see it. That’s why it’s interesting to go and see a band you’ve already seen before. It’s not going to be the same, even if they’re playing the same music. That’s why it’s interesting to be on the road and to play the same music every night, but, if you’re in the right company, to have something new and different and amazing happen to it every night.

‘If you’re playing music that isn’t improvised every night, it doesn’t matter how good the music is in the first place, it might change a little bit, but it’s basically going to be the same every night. In jazz you can have wildly different things happen every night on the same music. Which is just endless joy and an endless source of inspiration.”

“I love jazz,” saxophonist Tineke Postma of Holland summed up for me last year. “The improv part of it and of course we live in a time with many challenges and this effects the jazz world as well. Art is very important to keep people inspired, critical and in touch with spiritual and social parts of life. Jazz can make people grow and develop creative thinking, it touches all those aspects. Jazz is life!”


Get some Jazz! It will enrich your life!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Brian Patneaude Adds to Quality Discog with 'All Around Us'

Compositions, as well as the performance, shine again for saxophonist

The Capital District region of New York state is pretty rich in musical talent and has a strong jazz scene, even if it’s one that suffers the same trials and tribulations as the national scene. One of it’s attributes is saxophonist/composer Brian Patneaude, a fine player and arguably the face of the local jazz scene whether he humbly eschews that (and he does) or not. Annuals polls by Metroland and the Albany Times Union newspapers bear that out.

As Brian is quick to point out, there are many talented folks around Albany, NY. (the answer to ‘Where is the Capital of New York?’ for those who might be reading from outside the region and think NYC is the capital -- or all that New York state consists of.) True. And people all have their favorites. That’s good. But the area is fortunate in that most weekends Patneaude and those of his ilk can be found playing somewhere.

Another good thing is that Patneaude has released his fifth CD as a leader, "All Around Us," celebrated with a CD release concert on March 3 at the College of St. Rose in Albany. It’s another very strong outing, adding top a discography that is remarkable in its consistency -- high-quality consistency. Not a clunker in the bunch and each has shit that can bring you back for repeated listens. All very satisfying.

That’s not as common as one might think.

Reviewing CDs isn’t something I normally do. (Generally, too much pontification that is pretty much masturbation in that genre). But there may be somewhat more along those lines in this blog over time. (To paraphrase Buddy Rich’s response to a fan’s song request: ‘I’ll write what I want. It’s my blog.’) But this really springs out of the release concert, where Patneaude played all eight selections from the recording, of which six are originals.

The show was sweet, the saxophonist is fine form and his band in synch. Bassist Mike Delprete is a solid sumbitch, strong sound, on the money. engaging soloist. Drummer Danny Whelchel has been with Patneaude about 15 years and is very simpatico. Good time and colors the music. Doesn’t think he’s Tony Williams. What you get is what’s needed, tastefully laid out. Pianist David Caldwell-mason’s style, which plays a lot with the harmonics of the structures, is well-suited. Good stuff. As with all live jazz, the show in the college’s really nice, cozy Massry Center brought the tunes even more to life. A wonderful evening of jazz.

Highlights included the funky “Bluocele,” that was delightfully greasier than the recorded version; the song written for his fiancĂ©, Melissa, “Aimless Antithesis,” and “Too Vast for Malice.” Hell, it was all good, take your pick. Same with the CD. The show was robust. Patneaude’s playing is outstanding, a sound that stays away from being harsh. It can have elements of John Klemmer when Patneaude goes into his delightfully softer, melodic moments. And he can burn, of course. But his solos have a logic, as well as the aspect of improv.

So does his writing, which seems to impress me more and more. Patneaude writes great songs. He has from the beginning. It’s never “this is what I learned at Berklee” excess.

Where a lot of musicians come out of the gate recording standards, so people get to know their playing, Patneaude never has. Getting away from the safety net of standards might have been somewhat of a gamble. His first CD, “Variations,” (all five are on WEPA Records) included originals and compositions from his mates. Since then, his compositions dominate and they should. They’re interesting, catchy, sophisticated. Some have a great simplicity that his bands build on to great result. And there’s no particular sameness that can lead to mundane. His composing is a great deal better than many “names” I could name. They should be played by people like Joe Lovano and that ilk. (Maybe they yet will). That’s no shit. All the recordings are that way. “Distance,” from 2005, is one I go back to. Don‘t really know why, because they’re all worthy.

The day is gone when albums would sit on your turntable for while, getting repeated playing. Hell, iPods have curtailed CDs sitting in the players for a while. So for any composer, the chance for a song to spread and have longevity is compromised somewhat. That’s just part of how technology has changed the way people listen. Off the top of my head, I thought music John Scofield wrote for “This Against That” might spread. But it hasn’t. Just another example.

But Patneaude’s writing is first-rate and should be -- hopefully will be -- not just for fans but musicians. Grab the new one. Listen to the aforementioned recordings, as well as “Riverview” and “As We Know It.” Different ones may become your favorite. You can’t go far wrong. For performance and for composition.

Consistency is a good thing. Consistency of quality even better. Brian gets high marks for both.

Albany jazz fans can continue to enjoy Patneaude’s live gigs. And anyone, anywhere can dig this new disk regardless of where you live. Go here, here or here.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

At Last, the Miles Davis Stamp

U.S., France to honor Prince of Cool

Word is finally out now that the U.S. Postal Service, in some kind of conjunction with France (Don't ask me what. Do we ever know what France is up to? They are music lovers tho, and have proven over decades to be jazz lovers), is issuing a Miles Davis postage stamp this year.

The likes of Bird, Trane, Billie, Ella, Duke, and Pops have received the honored. Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson. This year the general Jazz Appreciation stamp was issued. Very cool. He and Edith Piaf, an iconic French singer, will have their stamps issued at the same time. Perhaps that's the French connection.

No word yet on when it will be available.

Of course, reams of material has been written about Miles, the man who changed music four or five times, and put an indelible stamp (no pun intended) on trumpet style. And the sound. The beautiful SOUND.("The Sound is Silenced" said the New York Post headline when Miles died).

No repetition here of all the reasons why Miles is Miles and his incredible impact on music. An impact that remains to this day and likely for as long as humans organize and emit musical sounds.

I did find a picture of what the stamp will be. I think it's a great choice -- the photo that can be found on "Tribute to jack Johnson" (Columbia, 1971), an album that actually solidified the body of work that got Miles elected to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. It's a great image. Miles Workin'. Cookin'. Steamin' Not relaxin'. Miles doin' it.

Nice that these greats are honored periodically. Who will be next? My vote would be Sarah Vaughan. Yours?

On a related Miles front, there are now two movies headed for production about Miles.

Don Cheadle, a good actor, is involved in the project first suggested a few decades ago. Weird things being said about it. It won't be a typical "bio pic", but will try to capture Miles somehow. (a DIFFICULT task).

Another has surfaced based on a book by his son Gregory, "Dark Magus." problem is, the book isn't very good.

Who knows when these will surface. I'm prepared for them to miss the mark, as Hollywood so often does, and pretty much suck. But I'll be there to view them, hoping I'm wrong. I'm as willing to bet on the sucking part tho, as strongly as I'm willing to bet the New York Giants beat the New England Patriots this weekend in the Super Bowl. By alot.

The best books on Miles are the autobiography, the bios penned by Ian Carr and John Szwed, and the one on his electric period by Paul Tingen. There are some other worthy ones. "The Man in the Green Shirt" is great for photos and has decent commentary.

So -- Miles lives on. As ever.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

In Praise of DeJohnette

Recent NEA Jazz Master is among best drummers ever

It was nice to see the recent National Endowment for the Arts annual Jazz Masters awards ceremony and concert broadcast online recently from the Jazz at Lincoln Center. All the honorees were fitting, and all--the ones present--eloquent. Particularly trumpeter Jimmy Owens speaking about the needs of aging musicians (and the lack of support from jazz club owners in that regard), and the good works of the Jazz Foundation of America.

Among this year’s class, that includes Von Freeman, Owens, Sheila Jordan and Charlie Haden, the one that stands out for me is drummer Jack DeJohnette. And what prompts these reflective remarks is listening to a CD received today by the excellent pianist Luis Perdomo, titled Universal Mind,(RKM Music) a trio outing with Drew Gress on bass and DeJohnette on drums. DeJohnette is enlightening on the drums. As always.

And it reminds me of what I have been telling people for some time. DeJohnette is the best drummer on the planet. In spite of how unreasonable it is to use such a term “best” in any endeavor, particularly art. There are sooooo many fine drummers out there, and superb young guys coming up like Kendrick Scott, Eric Harland, Marcus Gilmore, Johnathan Blake, Rudy Royston, Jamire Williams, Justin Faulkner and on and on and on. But listen to DeJohnette albums, or those of the Keith Jarrett Trio, or whomever. Miles at the Isle of Wight. Or see Jack with any of his fine formations.

See Jack Play.

[Photos: Above, Jack DeJohnette at Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival, 2011. Below, Luis Perdomo and Drew Gress playing with Ravi Coltrane’s quarter at the Newport Jazz Festival, 2011. © R.J. DeLuke]

Sheee-it. It’s mesmerizing. And always so musical, even at his most volcanic.

The Perdomo disk, which will be released on Valentine’s Day, is a helluva recording. Check it out when possible. DeJohnette’s playing is so compelling, matching neatly with Perdomo, who is also consistently terrific. It’s always thus.

At Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival in 2007, with Trio Beyond -- guitarist John Scofield and organist Larry Goldings joining Jack -- it was hard to keep one’s eyes off the drummer and the waves of sound (not to be confused with sound waves) that came from his drum kit. Last year’s Saratoga fest featured DeJohnette’s group with sax fiend Rudresh Mahanthappa, kicked ass, propelled, of course by the force of Jack. The Force of Nature. The Natural.

And nothing is more natural than DeJohnette’s playing, even when frantic.

He’s a total musician, having been trained as a classical pianist during his upbringing in Chicago. At a concert with guitarist John Abercrombie and bassist Ron McClure in 1977, in a small auditorium on the campus of Utica College of Syracuse University, DeJohnette spontaneously left his chair behind the drums, walked over to a piano that was pushed aside for the trio -- not part of the show -- and started wailing. It was impressive.

Everything about Jack is impressive. (Check out John Kelman’s excellent story on DeJohnette at All About Jazz). Pick up any album. And by all means see him and his bands.

“I consider myself a world musician,” he told me in a 2007 interview. “No matter what the instrument is, you’re a musician. You’re playing music on the instrument. I consider myself a world musician or world drummer. It’s not set in stone. It’s always pliable. It’s always changing.” Regarding his being held in high esteem by the next generation of drummers: “It’s nice to be respected and appreciated that way. It inspires me to keep doing more of what I’m doing. More experimenting, keep challenging myself and just doing the best every time I’m playing the music.”

He sure does.

At the NEA ceremony, DeJohnette was also impressive expressing his thoughts. He spoke of music being a vital part of the “emotional and spiritual development of people.” He spoke of an artist’s responsibility to always address that. He noted that times have changed since his musical growing up in the turbulent 1960s and 1970s, but “one thing that we should never lose is a commitment to the highest level artistry and integrity an individual can add to the collective voice … In a mediocre world this is more important than ever.”


And DeJohnette is Always holding up his end of the bargain.