New from Lawrence Block

One of our greatest releases a book for his birthday: Dead Girl Blues.

Just left the following 5 star review on Amazon:

DEAD GIRL BLUES is a surprising late triumph: one of a kind, touched in equal parts with genius and sin. The author has been heading this way for a while — probably his whole life — but recent sensationalist tales like GETTING OFF (2011), THE GIRL WITH THE DEEP BLUE EYES (2015), RESUME SPEED (2016) and A TIME TO SCATTER STONES (2019) now seem like sketches for the real deal. Donald E. Westlake shared a lifelong friendship with Block. For me, the dark standalone THE AX is Westlake’s masterpiece; when the dust settles, I suspect I will give the same honor to DEAD GIRL BLUES. Not for the faint-hearted. If you have any trigger warnings around, put them on this book. Put ’em *all* on.

77 and 88

Happy 77th birthday to Kenny Barron, one of the last giants of jazz piano. Barron must be one of the most-recorded pianists of his generation; he’s also gigged constantly since hitting the scene in the ’60s. Not a year has gone my during my time in New York where I didn’t get to see Mr. Barron at least once.

Seven moments off the top of my head:

1) A casual performance at the Artist’s Quarter with a local rhythm section, maybe Tom Hubbard and Kenny Horst. One of the very first jazz gigs I ever saw! Very fast “Back Home Again in Indiana” and a solo version of Barron’s heartfelt tribute “Song for Abdullah.”

2) “Song for Abdullah” is on Scratch with Dave Holland and Daniel Humair. This set has some of the freest Barron I’ve heard, for example the wild blues solo on “And Then Again.”

3) More straight up is the lovely LP of duos with Ron Carter and Michael Moore, 1+1+1. The brisk “The Man I Love” is fabulous.

4) I ended up listening to Scratch and 1+1+1 a lot in my high school years, but the first Barron LP I ever got was the moody electric Innocence, with a long version of Barron’s “Sunshower” with a great Sonny Fortune solo. The final time I saw Fortune live was one tune at a gala event with Barron, Ray Drummond, and Billy Hart, where they played “Sunshower.” I myself played “Sunshower” with a Barron-worthy rhythm section, David Williams and Victor Lewis, that was memorable.

5) The first time I saw Barron in NYC he was with Joe Henderson, Rufus Reid, and Victor Lewis at Fat Tuesday’s. The piano’s high “C” was notably out of tune; Barron built a significant statement on “Body and Soul” that highlighted that “wrong” note.

6) The YouTube era has been kind to Barron fans. Bootleg audios of Sphere are phenomenal, while videos of Barron with Yusef Lateef’s ’70s quartet and Dizzy Gillespie’s 60’s band may argue more forcefully for those eras than the related LPs.

7) And this morning a true find surfaced, Kenny Barron at Boomer’s in 1976 with Bob Berg, Charles Fambrough, and Al Foster. Wow! Great to hear this muscular ’70s style captured “in the wild.” Perfect.

Right in There with Jimmy Cobb

RIP the great Jimmy Cobb. In his honor I practiced a solo that all pianists fool around with, Wynton Kelly on “Freddie Freeloader” from Kind of Blue.

Every solo on this classic album seems bathed in an ethereal light, and of course Cobb’s beat has everything to do with the magic.

Kelly blows for four choruses. In chorus three Cobb adds a side-stick on “2,” on the last chorus Cobb changes it to “4.”

WK FF 1WK FF 2

In the next Chronology column for JazzTimes, I give a careful listen to the three live dates of Wynton Kelly and Jimmy Cobb in Baltimore with varied tenors and bassists: Joe Henderson and Paul Chambers, George Coleman and Ron McClure, Hank Mobley and Cecil McBee. Stay tuned…

I’ve never heard a bad record with Jimmy Cobb! You can’t say that about every drummer, but when glancing through his discography, Cobb’s recorded legacy runs from great to genius.

One from back in the day that may have slipped through the cracks a bit is Bobby Timmons’s The Soul Man from 1966 with Wayne Shorter and Ron Carter.

A more recent session taking place at a very high level is Peter Bernstein’s 2009 Live at Smalls with Richard Wyands and John Webber.

The Jimmy Cobb interview conducted by Marc Myers offers some fascinating stories.

Great Material

20 years of “Oops, I did it Again” by Jeff Weiss. 

(When The Bad Plus recorded with Tchad Blake at Real World Studios, Tchad praised “Oops,” saying that Max Martin and the production team had created a track that wiped everything else off the radio.)

Revisionist History: Bernstein at the Berlin Wall by Olivia Giovetti.

(Giovetti begins by citing Jonathan Cott. I don’t know most of Cott’s work, but the slim volume Conversations with Glenn Gould made an unforgettable impact when I was very young, and I suppose must be a major influence on DTM.)

Matthew Guerrieri on Little Richard.

Brad Mehldau. Why does he like Bach? on the WTF Bach podcast.

Hangin’ with Hyland, a new series at the Louis Armstrong House.

“Fine and Dandy” played by Charlie Parker, transcribed and annotated by Kevin Sun.

 

 

Riffs (fourth set)

DTM “Riffs” are quick, unedited stuff for my NEC students who I’m teaching remotely.

Third Set  Modal jazz vs. bebop, includes Dexter Gordon, Woody Shaw, Kenny Wheeler, Keith Jarrett, Barry Harris, Sonny Stitt, Cedar Walton, Clifford Jordan, Stan Getz, a.o.

Second Set  Bill Evans, Richard Teitelbaum, Leroy Jenkins, Herbie Hancock a.o.

First set  Dicky Wells, Lester Young, George Gershwin, Duke Ellington, Mary Lou Williams, Wallace Roney, a.o.

Gary Burton and Keith Jarrett, Fortune Smiles, 1970

 

 

Keith Jarrett turns 75 today. For some he is the greatest living musician, the “Vladimir Horowitz of jazz.”

A tenet of my teaching is simply: There are no new ideas, just fresh ways to put together old ideas.

Jarrett ranks with Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans, McCoy Tyner, Art Tatum, and only a few others in terms of a readily identifiable sonority. Smoke and mirrors surround his characteristic “glow.” When I asked him directly about this, Jarrett fell back on the old saw, “You play what you hear.”

EI:  What about touch, and touching the piano?

KJ:  What about it?

EI:  You’re someone that gets a certain sound out of the piano. That’s your sound. No one else gets that sound, and I know it’s not the piano. It’s not like you have one special piano. You get that sound; it’s on your earliest records, on whatever instrument, I think even some uprights in some cases.

KJ:  Forgetting the musical content for a moment, if a musician is working on his or her voice, he or she is trying to match what he hears in his head with what he hears when he plays. The only explanation for that difference in sound coming out of the piano is that.

Sonority aside, Jarrett is just like anybody else, he found fresh ways to put together old ideas.

Gary Burton and Keith Jarrett is not a disc I return to often — honestly, for all his incandescent genius, the Jarrett discography has more than its fair share of duds — but there’s one track that is unique in the literature, “Fortune Smiles.”

The Real Book I grew up with included the chart of “Fortune Smiles,” which I suspect is totally accurate to the composer’s original sheet and supplied by Burton himself, part of the same care package containing other Burton pieces reproduced in the Fifth Edition.

fortune smiles.jpg

 

Jarrett plays and intro and outro based on the “B” section. This music — both the composition and the piano performance —  is a pianistic appropriation of the Woodstock era of folk rock/singer songwriter.

Jarrett recorded pieces by Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell with Paul Motian, who drummed for Arlo Guthrie at Woodstock. A large number of early Jarrett compositions are informed by this style, and he even dared to record a whole album singing and playing guitar, Restoration Ruin. (Talk about a dud…)  I joke that Jarrett’s famous Köln Concert is Joni Mitchell’s Blue played by a classical virtuoso. That isn’t the whole story, of course, but that joke contains a grain of truth.

The “A” section of “Fortune Smiles” is the latest style of modern jazz-rock circa 1970. It’s fairly middle-of -the-road. If I saw the chart of the “A” section of “Fortune Smiles” without knowing it before, I couldn’t guess if it was by Jarrett, Burton, Chick Corea, or somebody else writing that kind of thing at the time. (The bassist on the date, Steve Swallow, has written more durable music in this genre than most.)

Burton solos on the “A” and “B’ sections, which is fine, but things get notably more interesting in the piano solo, which jettisons the song for a free jazz freakout. WHAT! The first time I heard this, an electric current went straight through my body. (It is easy to draw a line from this moment to various tracks recorded by the Bad Plus.)

Jarrett plays at a high level during the free section of “Fortune Smiles” and the band (Swallow and Bill Goodwin) has good musicians, but Jarrett is most inspired at this kind of thing when joined by his American Quartet of Dewey Redman, Charlie Haden and Paul Motian.

“(If the) Misfits (Wear it)” from Fort Yawuh is what I’m talking about. Piano solo starts at 2’40”.

 

At it’s best, the American Quartet is some of the greatest music of the era. Pat Metheny suggested it was the group that took over the mantle of the John Coltrane quartet. I wouldn’t go that far, but it certainly informs of what I loosely think of my peer group, not just Bad Plus but Bill McHenry, Ben Street, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Mark Turner, Guillermo Klein, and so forth. We all love that band. If you are studying my peer group, the American Quartet will give you some of the references.

In my academic role, I would stress that all the members of the American quartet were interested in really old music as well as really new music. Dewey Redman was an old-school Texas tenor, an R ‘n B honker. Charlie Haden was a hillbilly country bassist. Paul Motian played clunky swing-era drums. (Tom Harrell told me he thought Motian sounded like Baby Dodds on Bop-be, the quartet’s jazziest record.)

Jarrett himself played Bach and Beethoven, of course, but Keith is also one of the few modern jazz pianists to write a novelty rag, something next door to Scott Joplin, Zez Confrey, and Earl Hines. (Jaki Byard and Roland Hanna are two others that are on this “modern stride” continuum with Jarrett.)

Keith, Dewey, Charlie, and Paul learned old music, they learned the latest music (notably Ornette Coleman’s approach — indeed, Ornette himself is unthinkable without Charlie, and Keith got a lot of that tradition from fellow pianist Paul Bley, who worked with Ornette) and then they put together stuff from all those sources in a relaxed and contemporary way. Sounds easy, no?