Monday, March 17, 2008

Chicago Bound...Oh, and Indy too!

Three new CD's are on the docket, vocalist Joanie Pallatto, pianist Dave Gordon and new ternor sax man Gust Spanos. Spanos, out of Indianapolis is one of those 'weekend warriors'. His new disc, 'Swing Theory' (Swing Theory,LLC), gets credit for having one of the most imaginative covers of recent years. Check this out...he's poised in front of a classroom, sax held high as if he's wailin' some teaching sounds and seated are a roomful of geniuses in Einstein, Sinatra, Basie, Ellington, Ella and others...what balls! It took even greater balls to assemble abunch of world class musicians, Wycliffe Gordon, Eric Shneider, Everette Greene, et al and then have a sax sound that...clearly is that of...well, not of the calibre of musicians he's paid. And I'm sure he paid em cause Spanos works as a neurologist...He better not quit his day job. But he can add this to his resume..'how I worked as a jazz musician and got away with it'. 2 Stars.
Chicagoan Joanie Pallatto has been singing around town for a lot of years now. And while not strickly a 'jazz' singer per-se she and husband/producer Bradley Parker-Sparrow have made their indelible mark on Chicago jazz. Her newest, "It's Not Easy" (Southport), is geared for a wider market outside of jazz but keeps its 'jazzy' element. The coolest thing about this recording is that it features the original music and lyrics of herself and her husband. Plus there is a great cut, 'Tickle, Tickle' culled from Southport's archives with the late bassist Eldee Young. That alone is worth the price of admission. 3 Stars.
Pianist Dave Gordon too has been around Chicago alot of years as well. I remember some of his great hard bop groups of the early 80s. "Constantly Evolving' (ATR), is a step in that evolution of the piano stylings of Gordon. Recorded in his home this is a 'personal' affair of duo, solo and trio playing with friends. He even gets blues man Corky Siegel in the fray. Yet I need more meat on the bones. I know Gordon's got just that and I have no doubt he'll have a feast on the next recording. 2 Stars.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Charles Lloyd-Rabo de Nube-ECM

What manner of jazz player would use the Tarogato? Let alone know what the darn thing is. A double reed instrument akin in sound sphere to the soprano sax and clarinet dating back to 15th century Hungary Charles Lloyd could pull it off with relative ease. Play it as though it where just another day of breathing in and breathing out.
Charles Lloyd ultimately has come to terms with his past.
And this new 'live' recording, Rabo de Nube bears witness as another savory chapter of his path to even greater depths of theopathic enlightenment. His life as is his music is one of realized holism - focused and divinated. His recordings since joining the ECM label in the early 90s document this clearly.
His classic quartet of 1967 Keith Jarret, Cecil McBee and Jack Dejohnette prompted his cause de celebre vaulting his critical acclaim into a nether world betwixt flower power pop and hard core jazz clamour. A musical limbo that would pummel Lloyd headlong into the vapid abyss of mass record label's nebulous labyrinth.
Then comes the mid 70s and then...silence...off the landscape radar only to resurface in the mid 80s as part of a series of labels with all star aggregations and guest appearances.
In search of inner peace Lloyd was said to have hidden himself away, donning the sequestered life of a monk in contemplation. It was no secret he sheltered himself from public scrutiny to purge himself of the human condition, human frailties. Lloyd would retreat from the razor laden avenues of the music industry in order to submerge himself, wash his soul inside out in universal philosophical principles and practices. In the early 90s with ECM Charles Lloyd would not re-invent himself but to the contrary be reborn.
Captured in front of a 'live' audience 'Rabo de Nube find Lloyd and his youthful charges pianist Jason Moran, bassist Ruben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland at the very height of their prowess. Rogers and Harland have been with the master for some five years now and Moran is the newcomer to the group, bringing a festive Pullenesque unrestraint, scaffolding the music plateau that is Charles Lloyd. His performance is nothing less than incredible. Rogers is the second coming of McBee. Lloyd's program of originals each tell stories of love, heartbreak and the souls very existence.
As for Lloyd the soloist himself we are entreated to his signature soothing flutters of seering soul, his endearing and penetrating cry, not only carrying the heroic mantle of Coltrane but furthering the very essence of God music itself. Charles Lloyd is our era's musical father. A cleric, a vicar an evangelist of jazz. This music is a gift to the world.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Memories of the Tenor Conclave -Von Freeman,Teddy Edwards and Buck Hill

"Tenor Conclave" (Timeless) was one of those recordings that somehow got past me. I recently copped a 'used' copy while down at the Jazz Record Mart. Imagine the three tenor tandem of Von Freeman, Buck Hill and Teddy Edwards blowing up a breeze in front of a 'live' audience. In the vaunted tradition of the old jam session tenor sax battle they come out guns blazin'. European pianist supreme Rein De Graaf's brainstorm for this session, each man being from the midwest, east coast and west coast of America was stroke of pure genius. Each man from the same generation of gutsy, gritty urban tenor saxophone playing.
Plus my own personal ties to each man was piqued. I'd follow Von Freeman around Chicago from 1971 to the present day. His floating jam sessions are the stuff of legend (In fact I'm near completion of a chapter on Von Freeman to be included in my hopefully soon to published book on Chicago jazz. As of yet I've not decided on a title). Von was always willing to be quite candid with me whenever we talked. He was 'hard core' jazz deep in his bloodlines.The epitome of the word 'jazz'.
Teddy Edwards I met some years before he died. He was to be a guest with an All star band that included Barry Harris at Joe Segal's Jazz Showcase celebrating Charlie Parker Month - August of every year since Bird's untimely demise in 1955. Edwards however came up quite ill and had to recuperate at an area hospital the day of the gig. While tuning into a radio program hosted by Bill King (of WBEE once an all jazz AM station), let it slip that Edwards was convalescing at Mercy Hospital on Chicago's near south side. I made a beeline straight to the hospital to visit Edwards who I had never met before. Walked into his single bed room and there seated beside him was none other than Barry Harris. The Master Harris and I had a warm friendship over the years because he enjoyed my enthusiasm for jazz (and he once wrote me a nice letter that I will always cherise). He introduced me to Mr. Edwards and we sat and had a wonderful chat. Mr. Edwards would go on to recoup and head back to California.
About two years ago I was sent Buck Hill's newest CD of the time by his record label. I had always admired his playing and history as one of the unsung saxists in America and wanted to get him on my radio show for a talk about his life. I did get in touch with him and we scheduled a time to talk 'live'. Well it didn't go too well for Mr. Hill is a man of few words. I damn near had to coax every sentence outta him. Best put he lets his saxophone do the talking. While I was rather embarrassed that he didn't seem comfortable talking he was genuinely very nice and I could feel his warmth regardless.
And on this CD, Tenor Conclave these true giants of their profession more than ably meet the task. The session is from the word 'go' fun. They mix it up with the usual standards - Perdido/Wahoo, How High the Moom/Ornithology, Red Top plus each get to solo on a trio of ballads. One has to believe there is more material in the vaults to share.
As I sit and listen to this session all the joy and honesty of these commited men to their art form brings back fond memories and gives us a valued moment of jazz history. They've made their mark. I'm just grateful to have met and to have been touched by them all.

Jazz Bassist Dennis Irwin Dead

I met bassist Dennis Irwin in the late 70s when he came to town on his first tour with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. He was always very amiable and had a pleasant continance. Great to be around. Plus he had a deeply resonant sound on the bass fiddle...


March 12, 2008
Dennis Irwin, 56, Bassist Popular in New York Jazz, Is Dead
By BEN RATLIFF
Dennis Irwin, who for more than 30 years was a much-in-demand New York jazz bassist and whose recent illness became a rallying point for jazz musicians without medical insurance, died on Monday in Manhattan. He was 56.
The cause was liver failure as a result of cancer, said his son, Michael Irwin.
He died the same day as a benefit concert was presented in his honor, staged by Jazz at Lincoln Center and including performances by Wynton Marsalis, Tony Bennett, Jon Hendricks, Mose Allison, Joe Lovano, Bill Frisell, John Scofield, and many others. Part of the concert’s proceeds will go toward Mr. Irwin’s medical expenses. The rest, in line with his stated wishes, will go to other musicians in need, through the Jazz Foundation of America, which has helped many uninsured musicians — including Mr. Irwin — pay for healthcare.
Two New York City jazz-club benefits in February, one at Smalls and one at the Village Vanguard, also raised money for Mr. Irwin’s living expenses and for alternative cancer treatment.
Mr. Irwin’s swing was deep and dependable, and he played on more than 500 albums. Since the early 1980s, he had performed almost every Monday night with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra at the Village Vanguard.
Born in Birmingham, Ala., Mr. Irwin attended North Texas State University (now University of North Texas) as a classical musician studying the clarinet, switching to jazz and the bass during college. In 1973, while still in school, he got a job as a bassist playing with the pianist Red Garland; he moved to New York in 1974 without graduating and quickly found work with Ted Curson, Betty Carter and Mr. Allison, among others. In 1977 he began a three-year stint in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers.
In more recent years, he played in bands led by Johnny Griffin, Mr. Lovano, Mr. Scofield and Matt Wilson.
His case has already brought help to uninsured musicians. Michael Pietrowicz, vice president for planning and program development at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center in Englewood, N.J., said in an interview on Tuesday that the hospital, in conjunction with the Jazz Foundation of America, would create the Dennis Irwin Memorial Fund, making free cancer screenings available to veteran jazz and blues musicians who are uninsured. (Mr. Irwin was initially evaluated and treated for cancer at the hospital late last year.) And Adrian Ellis, executive director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, said Tuesday that the organization would produce an annual concert to benefit jazz musicians in need.
Besides his son, Michael, of Manhattan, Mr. Irwin is survived by his companion, Aria Hendricks; his brother, David Irwin, and his mother, Daisy Godbold, both of St. Petersburg, Fla.; and his father, David E. Irwin of Monticello, Ga.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Radio Show Program 3/16/2008

"What is this Thing Called Jazz: Adventures in Modern Music", continues with its time tested series of interviews and music. Coming Sunday, March 16, 2008 guests include D.C. area saxist Paul Carr, on the heels of his dedication to saxophone great Joe Henderson, "Musically Yours"; also Freddie Hubbard protege Richard Boulger talks about his mentor and his fine sophmore disc, "Blues Twilight"; and we'll highlight the new visionary jazz of trombonist Nick Vayenas.
Broadcasting 10 AM til Noon Central on WHPK-FM, University of Chicago. We are streaming http://www.whpk.org/stream

Sunday, March 9, 2008

More CD Goodies Week of 3/8/2008

1. Dave Stryker-Strike Up The Band-Steeplechase: The most solid session ever from the veteran guitarist. Great tunes and playing. Billy Jabali Hart stars.
2.Willie Williams Trio-Comet Ride-Miles High: Where has Willie Williams been all these years? His swinging trio makes up for time lost.
3. Carmen Lundy-Come Home-Afrasia: Madame Lundy is one of this generations great singer/songwriters. Heed her voice.
4. Jason Kao Hwang & Edge-Stories Before Within-Innova: The wizard of the violin and his groundbreaking group Edge push the envelope with some challenging music.
5. Virgina Mayhew-A Simple Thank You-Renma: Multi-reedist Ms. Mayhew outdoes herself with some bright moments musically.
6. Richard Boulger-Blues Twilight-B-1 Music: Student of Freddie Hubbard. Don't sound like him though. Boulger is his own man. Great session of modal hard bop.
7. Gloria Coleman-Sweet Missy-Doolin: I love it when long forgotten and obscure musicians come out of the woodwork. She's wonderful!
8. Christian Winther-Soul House-Steeplechase: Up and comer Winther is a voice of the future.
9. Richard Underhill-Moment in Time-Stubby: North of the border Canadian alto man can play his ass off. And with a good group of proven cats.
10. Matana Roberts-The Chicago Project-Central Control: AACM altoist making a name and searching out new terrain. Included are duets with Fred Anderson plus small group interplay.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

3 Keys to a Great CD Session

Here are some tangible guidelines to discovering the brilliance of music through listening. While not comprehensive by any means enjoying great music oft times can be a discernable endeavor.
Many discs cross my desk on a weekly basis - some good, some not so good. Yet all share these 3 qualities...
A. The Tunes: A selective program of standards or originals carries the heaviest weight of any session. The choice of compositions are paramount in any recorded session.
B. The Arrangements: How many sessions seem lackluster and without excitement? Just how are those tunes arranged within the parameters of the players musical abilities? Good solid arrangement add a flavor that last a lifetime.
C. The Players: Finally the session ultimately comes down to and depends on the musicians and music they interpret. Even an A Team line-up can just 'go through the motions' and offer up a dull uneven recording. But a B or even C Team can produce a thing of beauty given they adhere to the first two keys outlined here.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Vince Seneri-The Prince's Groove-CD Review

As much as I love the renewed interest in the promence of the jazz organ, particularly the Hammond B3 I'd have to admit that organ recordings are running a dime-a-dozen these days. Just like piano trios there is a virtual glut of pedestrian session sprouting all over the place.
Don't get me wrong. with each new jazz recording I am in deep anticipation awaiting to hear something new and fresh.
I've got some favorites....give me a new Bill Heid disc, or a Radam Schwartz, Trudy Pitts and I certainly dug Sam Yahel's adventurous musings. Guys that make the few and far between recordings challenging and don't choke at the opportunity.
For a few year now I've come across the recordings of Vince Seneri and I've yet to be impressed. I've asked, what does he bring to the wide table of jazz organ history?
This is no slam nor put down for he is a fine organist. His newest release, 'The Prince's Groove' (PVR), leaves one wanting and the biggest hook are the heavyweight crew on board with him including Dave Valentine, Randy Brecker and Houston Person. And who can't have a jazz organ record without Houston Person?!!
Truth be told, this date suffers from a 'mass consumptive appeal syndrome', a malady of which strain burst forth from the infectious master himself Charles Earland. This is not a bad thing. Quite the contrary. It's just that its not remarkable nor distinctive and quite forgettable. Just because in these time of jazz organ enthusiatic groups and fan clubs blossoming all over the internet does that mean that every jazz organ recording is greeted a something special. Not here. Value is in the ear of the behearer.

Killer Jazz

In the late 70s I used to head out to a jazz haunt over on the west side. a place called, 'Kitty-O's on west North avenue. A non-discript run-of-the-mill tavern that hosted drummer Gerald Ried's quartet jam session every Sunday nite. Reid, whom I called one of the laziest drummers in the world could muster some great groups around him. He'd have the protean tenor saxist Chuck Woodfolk and bop master pianist Warren Dennis most of the time. And a young violinist/alto sax player right out of high school Tony Eaton was a regular. The AIDs virus would claim Eaton before he hit 30 years old.
Any number of saxophonists would sauter in the place including the wild pair of Alan Johnson and the incredible Floyd Lloyd Jackson. But none more fascinated than a rather diminutive fellow who went by the muslim name of Jamaljah Aliwoli. An alto sax man Aliwoli would have this crazy eyed glaze whenever playing his Bird-like phraseology. He'd often speak to me and never smiled. He seemed to after time drift off the jazz scene. And I'd often wondered what happened to him. This article provides a clue...

Monday, Apr. 11, 1988
American Notes CHICAGO
In the tough Englewood neighborhood of Chicago's South Side, Anne Claxton stands out for her bravery. The 44-year-old mother was returning to her home from a medical clinic when ex-Con Jamaljah Aliwoli opened fire on two rookie patrolmen who had stopped him for a traffic violation. Patrolman Daniel Duffy fell wounded, and Aliwoli shot wildly at the other officer, Gregory Matura. After wounding Matura, Aliwoli turned and began hunting for Duffy with his .357 Magnum. But Claxton dashed between them, hiding Duffy as the gunman went past. The gunman stared at her before heading straight toward a police ambush a few blocks away. The young housewife has taken the accolades in stride. Says she: "There is nothing heroic about saving the life of another human being when we are all human beings."


Find this article at:
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,967142,00.html

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Best Jazz CD's NOW!!!

Here is a partial listing of my favorite discs of recent weeks. I'll update each list in the next couple of days and they fall in no particular order...
1. Adam Shulman-On Second Thought-Kaboucha/ Infectious tunes with the soulful, tender tenor of Dayna Stephens. A great recording!
2. Ben Jansson-Sweetie Pie-PKO/ Newcomer out of Ann Arbor, Mich. is a bonified heavyweight player and writer. He will make an impact on the jazz world.
3. Nick Vayenas-Synesthesia-World Culture Music/ A recording with plenty of surprises. From Miles, to Zawinul to straight ahead.
4. Salim Washington & The Harlem Art Ensmble-Harlem Homecoming- Ujam Records/ Raucous little big band that is quirky and packs a kick.
5. Billy Bang-Above and Beyond-Justine Time/Recorded 'live' in Canada might be the final recording of tenorist Frank Lowe.
6. Ari Brown-Live at the Green Mill-Delmark/ Chicago tenorman makes a giant step with this recording.
More tommorrow....

Nightmare on Hubbard Street

It's been a while since I'd been down to Andy's jazz pub. It's always been a nice, congenial jazz room with not a bad seat in the house. In fact, I used to live just two blocks west at 109 west Hubbard from 1979 to 1981 at which time I operated a jazz loft, Aziza Artist Space. I was a regular at Andy's then.
I have not been to Andy's in some years when I went down to check out reedist Juli Wood and legendary organist Mel Rhyne back in 2002. So I was excited when new tenor sax star Ben Jansson invited me down two weeks ago. It was his Chicago debut and he was a guest on my radio program a week prior.
Much to my chagrin I was rudely turned away upon arriving at Andy's front door. The person at the door, acting much the storm trooper dominatrix told me there were no guests on the list! I politely insisted even with my Chicago police media issued ID clearly visible. No soap.
Perhaps Andy's does have a 'no guest policy' I certainly wasn't going to argue with the lady.
Let me take that back she wasn't no 'lady'.
In fact she completely ignored me once two other patrons entered the lobby. So I just slinked away from her 'top of the mountain' presence, banished never to return again.
And now that I think about it...I can't see me going back to Andy's again. And this upcoming week I'll let my listeners know. Watch out for the guardians at the jazz door of Andy's.