Blues Everywhere


Houston Person is playing great. He’s one of the last of the old-school tenor sax masters. Houston and Chris Potter played Monk tunes together last year, and I wrote at the time about one of the most cinematic moments I’ve ever experienced on the bandstand:

“Houston took the first solo on ‘Ba-Lue Bolivar Ba-Lues Are.’ He was wearing his glasses in order to read the tricky melody, and began blowing with the eyewear still on. However, after a few perfect blues phrases, Houston paused. He slowly took off the glasses placed them in his breast pocket while the rhythm section ticked over. (The thought bubble over Houston’s head read, ‘I got this.’) Then he recommenced laying down the law.”

When we first played together a couple of years ago, I commented:

“Tenors before Coltrane had more leeway. There was lots of vibrato: it was even furry, burry, or murky. There was less emphasis on nailing complex changes, although there was actually more detail per note. Transcribing someone like that on a slow blues or ballad is essentially impossible compared to transcribing a post-Coltrane tenor.”

I don’t know Chris Smith (who is also known as Cee Smith) as well but he’s awesome. He’s frequently in the soul/R&B scene but when we did a session his ears and command of jazz were fabulous. (For example, he made up a counter-line to “Wee” that I’d never heard before.) When I told Houston I got him a R&B bassist, he replied, “Oh, I’ll like him, then.”

Set list possibilities:

Holy Land
Blues Everywhere
Lover Man
If you See Me Now
Once in a While
Out of Nowhere
I’ve Never Been in Love Before
Lester Leaps In’
Round Midnight (F – )
Blue Monk
After Hours
Don’t Get Around Much Anymore
There is no Greater Love
Stormy Weather
Strike Up the Band
If I Had You
In A Mellow Tone
Good Bait
Everything Happens to Me
These Foolish Things
If I were a Bell

Gigs and Panels

Do the Gig is proceeding apace, with new reviews of Dan Weiss (by Noah Berman), Theo Bleckmann (by Caroline Davis), and John Zorn (by Sean Gough).

I’m playing Wednesday night in the Nasser/Sperazza Quartet w. Michael Formanek, Vinnie Sperazza, and Kyle Nasser at Cornelia Street Cafe.

The first Jazz Congress is at JALC, where I’m participating in two panels.

Thursday at 9:30 AM:

Jazz and Race: A Conversation
We’ve all heard commentators and pundits through the years claim that what the United States needs is “an honest conversation about race.” Racial identity and issues, including segregation, integration, and appropriation, pervade the history of jazz. As a metaphor for democracy, and given the music’s core values of swing, improvisation, and the blues, what is the role of jazz in this important discussion?
Moderator: Rene Marie
Panelists: Ethan Iverson, Wynton Marsalis

Friday at 12:15 PM:

Legends of Piano Round Table
A lively conversation with a few masters of jazz piano.
Moderator: Ethan Iverson
Panelists: Kenny Barron, Joanne Brackeen, Harold Mabern

They are closed sessions, only open to attendees, but they will be webcast from JALC livestream and Facebook.

We Are Here

Just finished reading Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. I laughed, I cried. Highest recommendation.

There’s one bit about music:

Bob Mercer is almost nonverbal, looking at you with a dead stare and either not talking or offering only minimal response. He had a Steinway baby grand on his yacht; after inviting friends and colleagues on the boat, he would spend time playing the piano, wholly disengaged from his guests.

Two Choruses for Roswell Rudd

Sorry to hear of the passing of a great American musician, trombonist Roswell Rudd.

There’s a large discography. Some of the classics include sessions with Albert Ayler, the New York Art Quartet, Steve Lacy, Cecil Taylor, Archie Shepp, Carla Bley, Charlie Haden, Misha Mengelberg, Enrica Rava…

Probably Roswell could play just about anything, but what made him so good in all those situations was that he always sounded like a folk musician. (In fact he was also an ethnomusicologist who worked for Alan Lomax.)

For his first session, Everywhere, Rudd recorded “Yankee No-How,” a tip of the hat to Charles Ives. However the ultimate tribute to Ives from jazz musicians would be “Robes” from the disc Trickles co-led with Steve Lacy, Kent Carter, and Beaver Harris. Rudd takes the most amazing melodic solo accompanied by the sternest bluesy bass from Carter. What gives the track true Ivesian transcendence is a slow chimes part overdubbed by Rudd.

“Robes” definitely goes on the list of things I have stolen from time and time again in my own career.

The other item that had profound influence was Rudd’s extensive liner notes to the Mosaic collection of Herbie Nichols. Rudd knew Nichols, knew the music, and wrote what is unquestionably one of the greatest musician-penned essays about jazz. In high school I read those notes over and over. I suppose there’s an argument that without Rudd, there’s no DTM.

Fortunately I got to meet Rudd a couple of times and thank him for his outstanding contribution in person. He seemed like a lovely person as well. I am beating the bushes looking for more coverage about Roswell Rudd on DTM, he certainly deserves a salute from the very best brass band. (Update, 12/30: Mr. Jacob Garchik supplied the band.)