Summer Vacation

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(Millau, France)

DTM, my twitter, FB, etc. is gonna go dark for a month, will return mid-August when the Billy Hart Quartet plays the Village Vanguard.

My fans and friends really like the interview led by Matthew Kassel for DownBeat.com. Thanks Matt!

Next week, after TBP plays Ronnie Scott’s for four nights, I’m going to join my old pal Martin Speake at the Vortex. (Old DTM: Martin’s guest post about John Taylor.) After that, Sarah and I will unplug completely and be grateful audience members at the St Endellion Music Festival in Cornwall. The goal is not to check phones or email for the duration….we’ll see if we succeed….From there I will move to the Vallekilde summer jazz workshop where my fellow faculty includes Ambrose Akinmusire, Mark Turner, Jen Shyu, Linda May Han Oh, and John Hollenbeck.

Looking further ahead, I’m somehow leading a trio with Ron Carter and Billy Hart at the Jazz Standard September 12. (Any requests?) Also on the way is the premiere of my own Concerto to Scale with the American Composers Orchestra on April 6, 2018. For more details about these and other future projects, sign up for Floyd Camembert Reports.

Doctor Who is in the news. When I was in fifth grade I took third prize in a convention costume contest dressed as Jon Pertwee (the judges included Mary Tamm). Like some other grumpy dinosaurs I don’t always like the reboot much (it’s too overblown and sentimental, plus the music is a drag, bring back Dudley Simpson’s atonal mystery!) but nonetheless I keep watching. Part of what keeps me interested is the overt identity politics. This seems to be the topic of our times, and basic entertainment like comic books and children’s sci-fi is where the rubber is meeting the road. In the end, the reboot of Doctor Who will be a fairly precise record of advances towards equality. At times this means there’s something of a hyper-banal “focus group” aspect to this progression. Still, that advance does need to happen, so: Bravo. Very much looking forward to the first female Doctor, Jodie Whittaker!

For light summer reading I have a very strong recommendation, Conclave by Robert Harris. I stayed up all night, it’s the most ruthlessly compelling thriller I’ve read in years. A good comparison might be The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis. Both use a byzantine closed system (papal politics or chess tournaments) to non-violent but incredibly exciting ends. In their way, both these books also mark political advances as well.

DTM this year so far:

Monk @ 100

The Breakthrough of Geri Allen

Interview with James Newton

Interview with Miranda Cuckson

“There is no ‘jazz harmony,’ only ‘harmony'”

Don’t forget the blues!

One man’s opinion about how to play for dance class

Lou Harrison at 100

Pop Musicology

Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou

A quick visit and video with Charles McPherson

Mary Ruefle and Claudia Rankine

David Sanborn on Phillip Wilson

Interview with Geoffrey Keezer

Interview with Robert Glasper (some great stuff in this one even though it was widely criticized)

A visit to Louis Armstrong’s house

Jazz mags from the 50s

RIP Colin Dexter

RIP Buck Hill

RIP Arthur Blythe

RIP Misha Mengelberg

RIP Nat Hentoff

The intersection of jazz and capitalism was of incredible value to the music in its heyday. No jazz cat got a grant until at least the ’70s. The players made music to be sold, and people bought the music because they had to have it.

Not that jazz and capitalism has always been a perfect match, either. Hyland Harris has sent along three items “featuring” Dewey Redman, John Coltrane, and Milt Buckner. Presented without further comment:

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Muse, High Note, Many Others

Just heard that jazz producer Joe Fields passed away. He was 88, so good innings, and certainly an important piece of the jazz puzzle in terms of the discography. I released two records with him, Billy Hart Quartet and Costumes Are Mandatory featuring Lee Konitz, and he was easy enough to work with. When talking with him it was apparent that he loved and understood the music, and he even had some good advice about the sequence of tracks and the liner notes to Mandatory.

These guys were a different breed. I don’t know who could write it, but a story of the producers, engineers, bookers, managers, club owners, misfits, flunkies, and hangers-on from the wilderness jazz years — say 1969 to 1985 — would be a hell of a fun gossipy document if done right.

Thanks for everything, Joe!

Self-Justifications of an Addict

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I can’t seem to stop buying LPs. At the stall in Casa Del Jazz two nights there was a gent offering a really outstanding selection of rarities at reasonable prices. And, after all, if you buy one, you’ve made that shape in your suitcase, so why not buy three? Indeed, three seems to be the right number for a little added bulk protection as the vinyl is tossed around by the meanest baggage handlers Europe can employ…

Illinois Jacquet in Swinging Sweden: Obviously worth it for the cover alone, but I suspect the music is great, too. I haven’t really heard Jacquet on record after his early period. Walter Perkins is fantastic but not nearly as frequently documented as some of his peers. Joe Newman is not always in a small group situation, either. Of course the wild card is Jimmy Rowles, I’m hoping to steal something that I could use the next time I play with someone like Houston Person.

Jimmy Rowles Isfahan is another duo with George Mraz.  I kind of collect Rowles records, when he is in top gear I always learn something beautiful. In this case I’m particularly curious to hear his changes for “How Deep is the Ocean,” a standard often called at jam sessions but one that I’m often at a loss to harmonize in a truly satisfying fashion.

Charlie Parker in France 1949 Live Bird is a deep dive I haven’t really done yet. In this case the fidelity is undoubtedly questionable but I am curious about how the all-stars are throwing down for the overseas crowd. There’s a desperate charm to the Bird bootlegs. For years this was the only way to get the information, and despite all manner of sonic hindrances the message of that blazing alto saxophone always comes through.

Dependence Day

The news is unremittingly depressing. While I’m not one to really bother with celebrating July 4 to begin with, in the current moment it feels like an act of personal treason to be outwardly patriotic.

As a kid growing up in Wisconsin, the television set was the most significant cultural item in our house. Every year the documentary of Woodstock was shown on PBS, and every year I watched it. (At the time I did not know that two jazz drummers I would study in-depth, Phillip Wilson and Paul Motian, were onstage for that festival.)

The performance in the documentary that meant the most was “The Star-Spangled Banner” by Jimi Hendrix. I’ve come to realize that much of my entire career is a pale reflection of that exquisite moment: Take a well-known tune and put it through a theatrical wringer.

The long view of history often proves that there are two steps in reverse after taking a single step forward. The late 1960s seemed so great and powerful for the people, yet the reactionary forces watched, waited, and took it all back with interest.

In the wake of Trump and the rest of this horrific Republican administration, our only hope is that the compassionate side of humanity gets two giant leaps forward.

Universal Remonster 8

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NEC faculty member Miguel Zenón offers a Huff post.

Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim writes on metronomes in the New York Times. (I am fairly opinionated about metronomes, I expect to write a “NEC missive” on this topic next year.)

Vijay Iyer’s curation of Ojai was covered in many places, for example Chris Barton’s fine review.  I’m now aware of Courtney Bryan, who has many fabulous pieces up on her website. The opening “Sanctum for Orchestra and Recorded Sound” is a compelling listen.

It seems like this circle of the avant-garde is having their day in the mainstream press, for just in the last week (!) there were further (indirectly) related articles:

Alex Ross on Tyshawn Sorey.

Adam Shatz on Craig Taborn.

Seth Colter Walls on Roscoe Mitchell.

Bobby Watson offers thoughts on peers and mentors in JazzTimes.

Kate Molleson on the reasons for diverse programming in Gramophone.

Katie Bain digs up “the jazz history of Eau Claire” (this link is for the hometown crowd).

RIP Paul Zukofsky, a crucial advocate of new music, especially violin repertoire. The Margalit Fox obit is excellent.

David Weininger profiles Stephen Drury.

Sam Newsome supports the soprano sax stylings of Keith Jarrett.

Peter Hum talks to Marc Copland.

Fred Kaplan listens to David Murray.

 

His Middle Name was Sphere

Tickets just went on sale for MONK@100: A Century of Genius, a series of concerts that I am co-curating with Aaron Greenwald to celebrate the centennial of one our very greatest composers.

It makes sense to hold the big party in Durham, for this is easily the closest performing arts hub to Rocky Mount, the birthplace of Thelonious Monk. (Rocky Mount to Durham is 62 miles as the crow flies.)

Overview:

Tue, Oct. 17 — JD Allen Trio (w. Gregg August and Rudy Royston) + Bill Frisell
Wed, Oct. 18 —  JD Allen Trio + Dave Douglas
Thu, Oct. 19 — JD Allen Trio + Kris Davis
Fri, Oct. 20 — Tyshawn Sorey & Jason Moran
Sat, Oct. 21 (afternoon) —  “Monk Songbook” — Chris Pattishall, Frank Kimbrough, Jeb Patton, Ethan Iverson, Orrin Evans
Sat, Oct. 21 (evening) — Gerald Clayton & Ben Wendel
Sun, Oct. 22 (afternoon) — “Monk Songbook” — Chris Pattishall, Frank Kimbrough, Jeb Patton, Ethan Iverson, Orrin Evans
Sun, Oct. 22 (evening) — The Como Mamas
Mon, Oct. 23 — Ethan Iverson Trio (w. David Williams and Victor Lewis) + Melissa Aldana
Tue, Oct. 24 — Ethan Iverson Trio + Chris Potter and Houston Person
Wed, Oct. 25 —  Ethan Iverson Trio + Joshua Redman
Thu, Oct. 26 — Ethan Iverson Trio + Ravi Coltrane

Like many avatars of American art, Thelonious Monk displayed esoteric and abstract qualities while simultaneously drawing on the most traditional and crowd-pleasing craft. His blend of avant-garde style and danceable swing connects to people from all backgrounds and interests. The 60 Monk tunes are all essentially in current circulation, something that cannot be said of any other jazz composer.

The JD Allen Trio, which includes Gregg August and Rudy Royston, offers a deep blues ethos and Monklike concision. Three major voices will guest: Bill Frisell has done the most to put Monk on the guitar, Kris Davis (replacing the late Geri Allen) is in the crucial lineage of swinging and surreal pianists, and Dave Douglas utilizes Monk-concepts for his own composition but can also find a casual vein of Monkish irony when needed.

The modernist side of Monk has traditionally been of interest to duos. Jason Moran, who was featured at the Duke Performances celebration of Monk a decade ago and created the project IN MY MIND under the auspices of Duke Performances, partners with the vital conceptualist and swinging drummer Tyshawn Sorey. Gerald Clayton, who created the well-received “Piedmont Blues” last year for Duke Performances, joins his brilliant associate Ben Wendel. All these musicians can seemingly play anything, so it will be interesting to hear how they approach Monk.

To make sure we play each one of Monk’s compositions at least once, five pianists will take turns essaying the complete songbook: Chris Pattishall, Frank Kimbrough, Jeb Patton, Orrin Evans, and myself. Pattishall, Kimbrough, and Patton are serious professionals with connections to Durham. Orrin Evans and I represent the future and the past of The Bad Plus, another group with connections to both Monk and Duke Performances.

Monk dropped out of high school to tour with an evangelist and eventually recorded a couple of spirituals. We are thrilled to host the stunning gospel trio the Como Mamas as part of our Monk celebration, to remind us of not just Monk’s roots, but also of the stunning tapestry of southern music that still exists today.

Monk would eventually settle on the tenor quartet as his preferred format, with a list of saxophonists that included some of the best: John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Johnny Griffin, Charlie Rouse, and, at the end of his career, Paul Jeffrey, who would go on to be so important for jazz studies at Duke University. To accompany a murderer’s row of modern tenor giants — Melissa Aldana, Ravi Coltrane, Houston Person, Chris Potter, and Joshua Redman — we are bringing down a classic New York rhythm section, David Williams and Victor Lewis, two veterans who have played with just about every significant jazz musician of the last forty years. Between the song list and the players, this is a foolproof set of gigs to celebrate the living repertoire of Thelonious Sphere Monk.

The venue is an evocative and unusual choice. Grayson Currin explains:

“All the performances will be at the Durham Fruit & Produce Company, a 15,000­ square­ foot, brick ­and­ timber warehouse that sits just east of the city’s center. Built nearly a century ago, the space long housed Durham’s produce wholesaler before becoming an eccentric arts space and outsider shopping center more than a decade ago. It is now the kind of wide­ open, flexible warehouse space that has grown increasingly rare in newly dense American downtowns.

“For ten days in October, Duke Performances will transform those 15,000 square feet into a sanctuary for the music and iconography of Thelonious Monk a week after his one­-hundredth birthday. A third of the building will be a 200 ­seat jazz club, the kind of dimly lit place Monk spent his life playing. There will be a listening room lined with record players, so attendees can hear every Monk LP available. A large, amorphous third room will host more concerts, art installations, and community events, all in service of Monk’s legacy. Raleigh artist and Duke Performances collaborator André Leon Gray has even designed and decorated the space with Monk’s forever cool aesthetic in mind.”

Sincere thanks to Aaron Greenwald and Duke Performances for the foresight in planning what will most likely be the largest celebration of Monk’s big birthday.

More general thanks to Aaron and his team for doing such interesting stuff at Duke for the past decade. What an inspired list!

Commissions
Jason Moran In My Mind: Monk @ Town Hall 1959
The Bad Plus On Sacred Ground: Stravinsky’s ‘Rite of Spring’
The Bad Plus Ornette Coleman’s ‘Science Fiction’
The Civilians School Project
Gerald Clayton & The Assembly feat. René Marie Piedmont Blues
Pam Tanowitz Dance & Simone Dinnerstein, Piano New Work for Goldberg Variations
John Supko & Bill Seaman THE_OPER&
Tift Merritt & Simone Dinnerstein Night
Donald Byrd | Spectrum Dance Theater of Needless Talents
William Tyler Corduroy Roads
Hiss Golden Messenger + William Gedney Heart Like a Levee
Jenny Scheinman + H. Lee Waters Kannapolis: A Moving Portrait
Hoi Polloi Republic
Glenn Kotche + John Luther Adams ILIMAQ
The Campbell Brothers John Coltrane’s ‘A Love Supreme’
Kronos Quartet + Steve Reich WTC 9/11
Kronos Quartet + Missy Mazzoli You Know Me From Here
Kronos Quartet + Maria Schneider String Quartet No. 1
Megafaun + Fight the Big Bull feat. Justin Vernon & Sharon Van Etten Sounds of the South
Brian Blade + Pastor Brady Blade + Daniel Lanois The Hallelujah Train
Imani Winds + Fisk Jubilee SIngers + Frederic Rzewski Sometimes
Bill Frisell + Bill Morrison The Great Flood
Billy Childs Jazz Chamber Ensemble feat. Dianne Reeves Enlightened Souls: Commemorating 50 Years of Black Students at Duke
Nick Sanborn + Amelia Meath + William Tyler + Chris Porterfield Lend Me Your Voice
Bombadil + Torry Bend Love’s Infrastructure
Joe Henry + Milk Carton Kids + Over the Rhine Wild Edges: A Collaboration
Ari Picker Lion & the Lamb
Lost in the Trees A Church That Fits Our Needs
DJ Spooky Video Soul: Wattstax to the Avant Garde
Development Residencies
Meredith Monk & The House Foundation On Behalf of Nature
Fiasco Theater Shakespeare’s ‘Measure for Measure’
Urban Bush Women Walking with ‘Trane
Rude Mechanicals Now Now Oh Now
Ronald K. Brown / Evidence Dance Company + Jason Moran & The Bandwagon The Subtle One
Malpaso Dance Company + Arturo O’Farrill & the Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble ‘Dreaming of Lions’
Alarm Will Sound 1969
Shen Wei Dance Arts Re- (Part 2 & 3)
Simon Shaheen & The Arab Orchestra + Ibrahim Azzam + Sonia M’barek + Khalil Abonula + Rima Khcheich Aswat: Celebrating the Golden Age of Arab Music
Lee Breuer & Mabou Mines The Glass Menagerie