New at TT: Birthday thoughts for Gavin Bryars, Billy Harper, and Al Foster.
Birdland: Tonight through Saturday, two sets a night, the Billy Hart quartet with Mark Turner, Ben Street, and myself. Sets are at 7 and 9:30 tonight through Thursday, 8:30 and 10:30 on Friday-Saturday.
Just for fun, one of my better photos, of Mark and Billy somewhere in an ancient basement underneath a club in Sardinia, fall 2021:
On Monday, January 23, I’ll be co-hosting a Vinyl Listening Party with Aaron Diehl at the Jazz Gallery. Aaron is a friend, but I also intensely admire his knowledge of the music. His recent “Before and After” in JazzTimes is simply wonderful in every way. My contribution as DJ will include platters featuring music by Eubie Blake, Hank Jones, Oliver Lake, Stanley Turrentine, Geri Allen, Elvin Jones, and Louis Jordan.
I’ll be back at the Jazz Gallery on February 3 and 4. I’m turning 50 on February 11, and these gigs are my birthday celebration.
On Feb 3, I’ll be playing trio with Buster Williams and Billy Hart. (In other words, this night is a present to myself.)
On Feb 4, I have put together a septet of the jazz cats who play with me on the road with Mark Morris in either Pepperland or The Look of Love: Jonathan Finlayson, Sam Newsome, Jacob Garchik, Rob Schwimmer, Simón Willson, and Vinnie Sperrazza. The two sets will proceed something like this: premiere of new “Prelude and Fugue” for piano, “‘Round Midnight” with Rob on theremin, a hearty serving of Iverson themes arranged for this one-off septet, concluding with sensational dancer Reggie Parker starring in his Benny Golson ballet, “Along Came Betty.”
January 27, 2023 Richmond, VA The Look of Love Modlin Center for the Arts
February 7, 2023 Santa Fe, NM Pepperland Performance Santa Fe
February 11, 2023 Manassas, VA Pepperland Hylton Presents Series
February 17-19, 2023 Berkeley, CA The Look of Love Cal Performances
I just contributed to the fundraiser for the great drummer Victor Lewis, who is “suffering from a neurological issue that has lost him the use of his legs…We are hoping to see a recovery but it may take as long as one year.”
Lewis can play any genre of music with style and grace. More or less off the top my head, a few tracks and albums that made an impression over the years:
The hook-up with Kenny Barron is very strong. Barron is one of the most consistent workers in the history of the music, by definition all of his records are good, but Live at Fat Tuesdays has my vote as one of Barron’s very best, a scorching 1988 session with Eddie Henderson, John Stubblefield, Cecil McBee, and Victor Lewis. The opening “There Is No Greater Love” is a perfect example of the way this group of peers saw the tradition. Lewis is creative, interactive and impossibly swinging. I particularly dig Stubblefield’s gloss on a kind of Wayne Shorter smear. Later on that night, the uptempo “Lunacy” is pure modal burn, with fabulous Lewis throughout including a mesmerizing drum solo.
Lewis mastered this forthright style when powering various Woody Shaw groups in the ‘70s. Shaw’s Stepping Stones at the Village Vanguard is exactly a decade earlier than Barron at Fat Tuesdays and features long workouts on “Solar,” “Green Dolphin Street,” and several beautiful Shaw originals. New York City! One wonders just how many nights Lewis has lit up a Manhattan bandstand during the last 45 years…
Barron, Rufus Reid, and Lewis made a solid trio album, The Moment. Of particular note in terms of a drum performance is a cover of Sting’s “Fragile,” where Lewis gives a serious glow of pop elegance to a jazz trio. This is not easy to do! Most straight ahead masters are not that interested in “rock” or “pop” drumming but Victor Lewis loves it all. Indeed, Lewis played a lot of great eighth note beats for Carla Bley, including at least one famous track, “Lawns” from Sextet, where Lewis’s spare backbeat becomes the still center of a long rumination by Larry Willis. (Lewis gave me a nice quote about Bley for my article at the New Yorker Culture Desk.)
Lewis is less known as an avant-gardist, but he’s dealing in the style on Oliver Lake’s early album Heavy Spirits, check out the fractured groove of “Owshet.” The record I know better is Current Set by Mark Helias. This wonderful 1987 date collects an unlikely group of musicians: Tim Berne, Herb Robertson, Greg Osby, Robin Eubanks, even Naná Vasconcelos on one track. Helias is a truly gifted composer for ensemble, penning memorable tunes and vibrant counterpoint. Lewis is right in there, stoking the fires and nailing every corner of the difficult arrangements. Helias has put this classic album on his Bandcamp page, a worthy purchase indeed.
Another great composer associated with Lewis is George Cables. The George Cables Songbook is a relatively recent success (2016) with important participation by vocalist Sarah Elizabeth Charles. Lewis supplies beats from swing to funk to everything else. A bit earlier, Lewis joins Cables and Rufus Reid for the tribute disc Letter to Dexter. Try “Cheesecake” for the challenging “top of the middle” swing ride cymbal beat as well as it can be done.
Lewis didn’t record that much with Dexter Gordon (usually the great Eddie Gladden was there with Cables and Reid) except for the big band LP Sophisticated Giant, a good example of flawless modern jazz drumming in a large ensemble context. I’ve never been quite convinced that Sophisticated Giant was a truly classic record, though…a better contender for “old school tenor legend can still record a spectacular disc in the studio” is Stan Getz’s Voyage (1986) with Kenny Barron, George Mraz, and Victor Lewis. Red Sullivan pulled my coat to this LP relatively recently. There’s definitely a glow around Voyage that puts it in the pantheon, especially on the ballads, where Lewis’s brushwork whispers the time in a sensuous manner.
We are back to Kenny Barron again (“Voyage” is even a Barron tune), a reminder that Barron and Lewis recorded “Dexterity” duo on What If? This fierce elaboration of a Charlie Parker theme is must-hear for fans of either the drummer or the pianist.
Further listening includes music with Bobby Hutcherson, Charles McPherson, J.J. Johnson, Art Farmer, Cedar Walton (The Composer is a great album!) and many others including Lewis’s own stellar bands. I need to know Lewis’s records as a leader better but right now I’m checking out Three Way Conversations, a charismatic 1996 session with Terrell Stafford, Seamus Blake, and Steve Wilson interacting with Lewis and Ed Howard. With no piano in the mix, Lewis’s drums sit front and center. Lewis is also a valued composer: the charming modal steeplechase “Hey, It’s Me You’re Talkin’ To” appears on several non-Lewis albums including Mark Turner’s first Warner Bros. disc.
The whole jazz community loves Victor Lewis and prays for a speedy recovery.
Amusing digital art by Julio Blazquez Cea:
Next week, Thursday January 12 at 9 PM, I’ll be in Vinnie Sperrazza’s trio with Michael Formanek at Bar Lunatico.
On Monday the 16th I’ll be playing an hour for the NYC Jazz Piano Festival at Klavierhaus presented by Jim Luce. Quite an amazing line-up of musicians! I’m concluding the festival with the last set at 7:30, where I’m planning to offer the NYC premiere of my through-composed Piano Sonata (and plenty of other things).
Then the Billy Hart quartet with Mark Turner, Ben Street, and myself play Birdland January 17-21, five days, Tuesday through Saturday, two sets a night.
Substack! It’s happening. Shuja Haider on magic, including a major new NYT profile of Juan Tamariz. Wow!
Vinnie Sperrazza on Pete La Roca, Phillip Wilson, Freddie Waits, and Ralph Peterson. What!
Lewis Porter on John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Art Tatum. Unbelievable!
Just landed in Germany for a trio tour with Eva Klesse and Andreas Lang
Wednesday, January 4th: Fat-Jazz Urban-Exchange, Hamburg
Thursday: LOFT Köln
Friday: Jazzclub Unterfahrt, München
Saturday: Internationales Jazzfestival Münster
Last week in Orvieto was great! Sarah was along for the trip, which was an unusual treat.
With Dianne Reeves, Dan Weiss, and Peter Washington:
I learned a lot from the great Ms. Reeves and her long-term associate Romero Lubambo. Amazing!!!! Thanks also to Peter and Dan for nailing the music.
In addition to arrangements of the Bacharach music sung by Dianne, I wrote a pocket suite for big band, “Fanfare, Fable, and Fugue,” about 9 minutes in length. It’s not too hard and very fun to play. If anyone wants to consider programming it, drop a line and I’ll send the score (and audio when it arrives).
My scribblings from 2022 include these longer, edited essays:
All-Star Television: Charles Mingus, Cecil Taylor, Ralph Ellison, Martin Williams
Moritz Moszkowski (and de Schlözer)
A “New” (meaning “Old”) Approach to Jazz Education
50 ECM tracks for ECM at 50 (2018)
And the following quick pieces:
Get Carter by Mike Hodges, Ted Lewis, and Michael Caine
Various tweets from a decade of tweeting (4 parts)
Mick Herron and Charles Cumming at Mysterious
Roger Dickerson, New Orleans Concerto
George Russell’s First Three Records as a Leader
Steve Lacy and Don Cherry, “Evidence”
Max Roach, “Members Don’t Git Weary,” Gary Bartz, “Another Earth,” and Charles Tolliver, “Paper Man”
Vicissitudes: John Heard, Leroy Williams, and Grachan Moncur III RIP
The Second Piano Sonata of Poul Ruders
Andrew Hill: Shades and Strange Serenade
Lupu plays Brahms, Angelich plays Rachmaninoff
Ellen Raskin, Lee Server, Andrew Vachss
RIP Terry Teachout (with a guest contribution from Heather Sessler)
RIP Charles Brackeen and Mtume
Barry Altschul, You Can’t Name Your Own Tune
George Crumb, Ancient Voices of Children
Also! guest posts:
James P. Johnson Gets Dressed by Matthew Guerrieri
New Cecil and the Old Crew in ’70s NYC: A Remembrance by Richard Scheinin
Stanley Crouch on Classic Cinema by Paul Devlin
Dame Agatha as Seen by Rian Johnson
New article in the Nation: “The Butler Didn’t Do It!”
My examination of Knives Out and Glass Onion takes Agatha Christie as the starting point. Sincere thanks to my extraordinary editor, Sarah Deming.
“In a Thin Glass”
New essay about a favorite movie, Get Carter (RIP Michael Hodges).
This essay will not be cross-posted here on DTM, so sign-up for Transitional Technology if you don’t want to miss a word (sign-up is free).
What’s It All About?
New Transitional Technology, about my gigs next week, where I’ve arranged Burt Bacharach for Dianne Reeves and Umbria big band.
At this point my Substack is doing much better than this WordPress site in terms of views. (According to my stats, the recent Martha Argerich essay was looked at 5000 times on TT and 600 times on DTM.) So, no reason not to flip the emphasis. I’ll make sure the longer, more serious investigations are always archived here at DTM, but Transitional Technology is now the focus. Not everything will be cross-posted, so sign-up here if you don’t want to miss a word (sign up is free).
Argerich for Beethoven
It’s Beethoven’s birthday, so I thought I should listen a bit to the maestro. Ludwig van is great on his own terms and also as a sensational “gateway composer” for those new to the mysteries of European classical music.
Beethoven was prolific. There are 32 piano sonatas, all in the active repertoire, and all unique.
Haydn and Mozart also wrote dozens of sonatas, but there can be something a shade interchangeable in lesser efforts of those two masters. Even his slighter sonatas, Beethoven stamps each movement with a ruthless individuality. As part of his forthright “I am Beethoven!” style, he can turn corners caustically in a manner that perhaps recalls Thelonious Monk.
Several of the best Beethoven piano sonatas have evocative names: Pathétique, Moonlight, Appassionata, Tempest, Les Adieux. I hadn’t heard the Waldstein in a while, so I looked for a video. To my shock, I found an (audio only) bootleg of Martha Argerich playing the Waldstein in 1970.
In the 1990’s, when I immersed myself in European piano repertoire and performance, I collected the complete Argerich on CD — which wasn’t hard, for almost all of it was on DG and there just weren’t so many issues. However, in the age of plenty, now there are all sorts of previously unobtainable goodies on YouTube. As far as I know, Argerich has never recorded a Beethoven piano sonata for studio release, but there are at least two sonatas from live recitals online, the Waldstein and lo-fi video of Op. 10 no. 3 in D Major in 1977.
Argerich is universally considered to be one of the greatest pianists of all time. It is not just her unbelievable technique, but her gutsy and heartfelt way with a narrative. The performances never sound steely, fussy, or precious. She just goes.
Op. 10 no. 3
Presto. This is “late early” Ludwig van (he was 28), where many of the figurations are not far from a basic Cramer etude. The opening motto is almost foolish, and the fast passages are interrupted by hollow questions. I played this is a kid, and later on I looked for a really satisfactory recording. Of course, everyone I listened to was at least very good, but many seemed a bit too serious. Argerich’s fast tempo and nonchalant attitude is perfect. I actually burst into tears watching this first movement. (True story.)
Largo e mesto. A dark song, with florid passages that prefigure Chopin. Some pianists drag this one out, looking for more and more profundity, but Argerich simply follows the thread. While classical pianists are often praised for having a “delicate touch,” in reality long slow passages of soft sound require a lot of strength.
Menuetto: Allegro. Can you imagine when the only time you heard music was when you heard it performed in person? The smaller dance movements in major sonatas (from before the era of pre-recorded sound) were a way to keep the party going before closing time. Bach, Handel, and Scarlatti wrote their fast melodies for keyboard instruments with one dynamic and one articulation: “on” or “off.” Mozart and Haydn’s early pianos had more range. We don’t really know what Beethoven’s instrument was like, but it certainly didn’t sound like a modern Steinway. I’m sure the composer would be astounded and delighted by the range of color (meaning articulation, dynamics, and pedaling) unselfconsciously lavished this little dance tune (and trio section of forthright arpeggios) by Argerich.
Rondo: Allegro. A question — even a joke question — followed by an Italianate answer, before scurrying hither and thither. I suppose some “experts” might chastise Argerich for playing this “too fast,” but I love it. There’s no way to make this Rondo serious music, so why not delight in pure speed and precise articulation?
Allegro con brio. We are now in the thick of middle Beethoven, maybe my personal favorite era of the composer, where he expanded the language of Western music from top to bottom. The famous opening of the Waldstein may not seem like a big deal to 2022 ears, but at the time it was impossible. (Beethoven was 34.) The alternating of tonic major and tonic minor was also unconventional and — oh yes — the second theme of the C major sonata is in far-flung E major. Let’s go! Argerich is simply burning, of course, the aggressive left hand chords on A major have McCoy Tyner level of intensity. In the development section the sequences of arpeggios lash like a whip.
Introduzione: Adagio molto. In an era when there was no recorded sound, humans of all description tried to play their home piano. There was little hope an amateur practitioner would make it through the outer movements of the Waldstein, but the slow movement, a chromatically rich interlude, could be sight-read by just about anybody — at least until the transition, with all those 32nd notes… (I believe that Beethoven was the first composer to write so many 32nd notes.)
Rondo. Allegretto moderato — Prestissimo. At the time the finale would have been one of the hardest, flashiest piano pieces yet written. There is some debate about the octave glissandos late in the piece. Certainly Beethoven’s instrument had a lighter touch and therefore so they would have been a bit more playable. I saw Peter Serkin execute them perfectly after licking his thumbs first. In the comments on the YouTube, there is discussion about what Argerich does (and in the parallel place in the first Beethoven concerto). Then, there is the pedaling: the composer writes the rondo theme with the tonic and dominant under one pedal. Did he really mean this? How did it sound on Beethoven’s piano? (A related question exists with the famous Moonlight sonata.) Argerich, rarely shy with the pedal to begin with, keeps her foot down more than most. It’s gorgeous. In the interludes between rondo theme statements she absolutely rages and the coda — with its chain of impossible trills — is a burst of fearless sorcery.
As Long as There’s Music (Twitter Files 4)
Many of the more interesting things I’ve tweeted have ended up here on DTM or on my newsletter Transitional Technology. However, when I downloaded my Twitter archive, which covers more than a decade, I was surprised at how much I’d forgotten. This is the final installment of a four-part series. (Previously: one, two, three.)
Most of my tweets were about music. Taking the tweets out of Twitter and editing them into a highlight reel is bad for the content. Is it worth archiving the tweets in this more permanent form? Perhaps not for others, but it is valuable for myself. While paging through this diary, these are the snippets I don’t want to forget.
Almost 10 minutes of Mary Lou Williams on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood (1973)
classic record: Shura Cherkassky plays Richard Rodney Bennett (RIP) piano studies
there’s something really correct about Manfred Eicher’s question, “Who’s Jamey Aebersold?”
According to legend: “You Can Call Me Al” was inspired by Pierre Boulez. Boulez went to a big party at Paul Simon’s house. When he left, said to Simon, “Thank you for the nice party, Al.” Boulez also got the name of Simon’s wife wrong in same conversation, a conversation that concluded with Boulez inviting “Al” to come to Boulez’s place sometime. Simon did not correct Boulez, but instead used it as inspiration for his big hit
A perfect track: Ella Fitzgerald singing “Begin the Beguine”
Warne Marsh sounds better every day
Joe Henderson is great
Ahmad Jamal LIVE AT THE PERSHING is better than ever
Whenever I remind myself to listen to a bunch of classic Sonny Rollins, he always turns out to be even greater than I remember
Duke Ellington and Miles Davis are both underrated
Ndugu Chancler sure sounds good on “Billie Jean”
Played through some Beethoven this morning. What a great composer
Dexter Gordon always sounds good
Listened carefully to Dexter Gordon GO and A SWINGIN’ AFFAIR today. GO I’ve known well for years, but this was my first real engagement with AFFAIR, which is equally great. Same band, Sonny Clark, Butch Warren, Billy Higgins, two days apart. Just the best music
Paul Sanwald reminded me to listen to Dexter Gordon GENERATION again. Dex’s solo on opening “Milestones” with Walton, Buster, Higgins is just too good
Headline I can get behind: “Recently discovered supernova MINGUS could shed light on dark matter”
Dexter Gordon’s performance on Herbie Hancock’s first album, TAKIN’ OFF, is a pretty astonishing masterclass. “Watermelon Man” is the heart of the tenor blues. Unreal
As far as I know, Sonny Rollins’s “The Song is You” with a West Coast band is the fastest tempo on record. Vinnegar and Manne play cut time though. Hampton Hawes gets in there a bit
Once again, considering the astonishing breadth of American music: RIP Jef Lee Johnson and Butch Morris
Lee Konitz always said Roy Eldridge was one of the hottest players and I hear that on “Night and Day” with Art Tatum. Smoking
The John Williams score to CATCH ME IF YOU CAN is idiosyncratic, jazzy chamber music with “classical” alto sax and no drums. What!
Jane Ira Bloom and Fred Hersch had some important years together — just thinking about that a bit — MIGHTY LIGHTS is classic disc, I had the surreal duo AS ONE as well, there’s also two on Columbia. Be good to survey those sometime
some of the best Bill Evans is with Tony Bennett
Just taking a moment to thank all the drummers for putting up with the rest of us
Studying Busoni’s SONATINA SECONDA (one of his best pieces) tonight in anticipation of Marc-André Hamelin tomorrow at 92nd St Y.
Marc-André Hamelin slices and dices Mendelssohn in 2010 bootleg.
“All the Things You Are” anagrams as “Reheating a Holy Lust”
Tentacle Monroe; Create Melt Noon; Calmer Tone Note; Romance Let Note; Oracle Omen Tent; Locate Term Neon; Nectar Lemon Toe; Ornette Coleman
Birthday of Richard Davis….So many great Richard Davis records…tempted to just name just four collaborators instead: Elvin Jones, Mel Lewis, Andrew Hill, Eric Dolphy
Had side of LP on repeat yesterday: Cziffra plays Chopin (4 Impromptus, 2 Chopin-Liszt). Great music, astonishing piano playing.
I wouldn’t argue that Liszt’s “Rhapsodie Espagnole” is a good piece, exactly, but I would argue Cziffra playing it is authentic sublime
Marcelle Meyer playing Rameau in 1953 is favorite morning music
RIP Noel Harrison. The vocal performance of “The Windmills of Your Mind” on the soundtrack to THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR is just my kind of thing
From the American Clave series, a seriously swinging “Obatalá” led by Milton Cardona
I just caught up with Ben Wolfe’s FROM HERE I SEE, a groovy date of modern mainstream. Donald Edwards sounds great!
Just had a rehearsal with Houston Person, who at one point remarked, “Chord changes are overrated.” #MyKindOfRehearsal
My favorite part of CHASIN’ THE TRANE is when Coltrane repeatedly tries to make his first wife play the harp
Bobby Hutcherson TOTAL ECLIPSE: Everyone sounds great but this is truly Chick Corea at his best. “Herzog” must be one of the earliest examples of a modal burner with interjections of mixed meter (that stay during solo). Probably Victor Feldman’s “Joshua” was first?
Charlie Haden told me he thought Cannonball w Bill Evans KNOW WHAT I MEAN? was one of the greatest discs ever recorded. Charlie called it “symphonic”
RIP Junior Mance, one of the greatest Dizzy Gillespie accompanists; also a soulful trio stylist. HAPPY TIME (1962) w. Ron Carter and Mickey Roker is recommended
RIP Sammy Nestico….a classic American musician. *bows head*
Erroll Garner was once a star attraction in popular music, but few modern jazz players sound influenced by him…It was the Garner centennial today, I should have written something. An underrated Garner original from his early days is “Frantonality,” a lazy stride in Ab minor — offhand, the only example I can think of this key from this peer group. Garner’s striking compositional hook at the end of every A section is G triad to Ab minor, an unforgivably parallel progression that makes the song “pop.”
teaching today…topic of uptempo “Just One of These Things” was raised…dialed up Freddie’s version from HUB OF HUBBARD…surely one of the most chaotic tracks on a “straight ahead” record…I love it
The antipodes are Tchaikovsky and Brahms. Tchaikovsky was the better orchestrator and Brahms the better composer — although, of course, they were both great at both disciplines
RIP Martin Boykan, a student of Walter Piston, Aaron Copland, Paul Hindemith and Eduard Steuermann; one of the last masters of lyrical atonal composition in the mid-century American grain. The 2004 Violin Concerto is gorgeous
Dua Lipa is at the Grammys. I really like “Break My Heart,” partly because there’s an actual drummer, Chad Smith from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I like the video too
Spent a few hours listening to Max Roach/Clifford Brown recordings yesterday. I have always enjoyed them, but this time I was hearing different things: Max’s incredibly swinging ride cymbal beat, Brownie’s phrasing, Land’s purity, R. Powell’s pure goofiness. Great music
The Peter Erskine memoir NO BEETHOVEN has some fabulous things. At one point, Joe Zawinul says, “I have the greatest ears in the history of music, greater than Mozart’s.”
The opening hemiola from Jo Jones’s on Count Basie’s “Panassie Stomp” sounds like Billy Hart
By definition, any album with Philly Joe Jones is uplifted by his contribution, but what Philly Joe adds to MATING CALL with Dameron and Coltrane is really blowing my mind today
Is this Chick Corea or Keith Jarrett ECM piano improvs circa 1972? No, it’s Ned Rorem’s Barcarolles from 1949, played by Timo Andres
Just listened to Charles Lloyd “Forest Flower.” Damn, I never clocked how much McCoy Tyner there still was in Keith Jarrett’s playing at that early moment. He took most of that out of his aesthetic posthaste
For me the movie THE GODFATHER is a bit like Keith Jarrett’s THE KÖLN CONCERT. They are both undeniably great, but their vast influence — including so many bad imitations, a veritable echo chamber of banality — make it a bit challenging to appreciate the original beauty
Genius elderly composer Per Nørgaard plays two of his beautiful piano pieces in amateur video
Q: Which bebop pianist (played with Bird) was born in Duluth? A: Sadik Hakim. Fascinating interview from Anthony Flood.
Whoa. Always more to hear. Currently on 1983 session DREAMS AND STORIES by great guitarist Rodney Jones with notable rhythm section: Kenny Kirkland, Marc Johnson, Jeff Watts. Peak Kirkland action, he and Tain get into it every piano solo
Listening to CITIZEN TAIN (1999)…really great. Wynton’s trumpet solo on the opening “The Impaler” is smoking
I like J MOOD because it is very “pop.” Pretty, unforced, lyrical. Distinctive band language highlighting Tain’s busy drums. Incredible how much Marcus Roberts sounds like Keith Jarrett on the ballads
The Feast of St. Francis of Assisi is a good time to listen to the piano poem by Liszt. Kempff’s record is on the slow side, but is famous for possessing a spiritual quality
Listened again to Alicia de Larrocha playing Granados “Goyescas” — I always liked this piece, but it hit me in another way tonight. What a masterpiece, and de Larrocha really swings. (Also the work is technically impossible, a fact she doesn’t seem to notice)
Just listened to Wayne Shorter on “Gingerbread Boy” again (MILES SMILES) — truly amazing playing, so rooted and so searching at the same time
I practiced one thing in Pat Zimmerli’s music for an hour just now and lo and behold! I still can’t play it
Louis Armstrong really could do it all: “Skokiaan” (1954) has complex and impeccably phrased melodies over a vamp
Don Cherry b-day. A lesser-known track of truly brilliant Cherry is “Wibur’s Red Cross” on Wilbur Ware’s SUPER BASS with C. Jordan + Blackwell. Cherry is really playing something tuned in to the greater rhythms of the universe — yet still inside the rhythm changes form.
Nina Simone’s piano playing is at times amazingly avant-garde, especially when she busts out the counterpoint. Try first session w Jimmy Bond and Tootie Heath
A Bill Evans solo I never knew before, “Bye-Bye Blackbird” with Miles and Coltrane at Cafe Bohemia in ’58. Evans heard this later in 70’s and said: “I can’t find myself playing like this, in this groove, with this kind of structure and feeling, anyplace else…”
Phil Woods’ story about Zoot Sims: Phil was reading a newspaper headline: TWO KILLED ON INDIANA BRIDGE. Zoot was quiet for a few seconds, then, looking a bit unsettled, responded: “I didn’t even know there WAS a bridge in ‘Indiana’”
Dr. John! Thank you for the music. His appearance on SCTV may be the greatest live “special guest on regular comedy show” piano performance in history.
I’m in the canteen line at Moers. Ahead of me is Anthony Braxton (Jason Moran responded: “waaay ahead of you.”)
I love the 1958 recording of Russell Oberlin singing John Dowland with Joseph Iadone, lute
My first Charles Ives was Marni Nixon (RIP) recital with John McCabe. “General William Booth Enters into Heaven”
Wanda Landowska offers a bit of “improvised” variation in Mozart in K 333. Fun to hear
Stravinsky’s PULCINELLA is a masterclass in what modernist pitches you can get away with when quoting the elders
James Newton told me to check out Márton Illés. fabulous
A lot of my best experiences w rock and pop are in grocery stores. Just noticed hip low piano note in “Another One Bites the Dust”
Listening to Dussek Eb sonata played by Malcolm Bilson. Fantastic music and performance
I’ve only recently heard Horace Parlan’s superb US THREE with George Tucker and Al Harewood. Horace Parlan: A man who transcended obstacles!
Happy birthday Paul Gonsalves. Compare Jacquet to PG in “Robbin’s Nest” (both ’47). Gonsavles featured on extraordinary piece of ’51 bebop, “The Happening,” w. small group directed by Billy Strayhorn
Paul Motian’s sign-off “Drum Music” was notated in 5/4 because of Bill Evans’s sign-off “Five.”
I’d pay real money for a hi-res (frame-worthy) copy of the Ron Carter pic on back of SUPERTRIOS:
Somehow never heard Handel’s keyboard Suite in F major until this morning. What a lovely and idiosyncratic piece
RIP Maurice Hinson, who died last November. Hinson’s various GUIDES to piano repertoire taught me a lot. His was a life dedicated to a good cause
Thanks to Brian Priestley for letting me know about Jim Clarke’s “Fat Fanny Stomp” (1929). Incredible
Chris Potter told me the first time he played the Vanguard it was in 1990 or 1991. It was a celebration for Red Rodney and Dizzy Gillespie and James Moody were in the front row
“Thanks to the Internet there is a wealth of information about me. Some of it is accurate.”– email from George Walker
Ken Schaphorst told me about amazing piece of Ellingtonia: Rex Stewart and His Orchestra, “Menelik (The Lion of Judah)” featuring Sonny Greer
Happy birthday to Paul McCartney, who for all his fame may be underrated as a bassist
Happy birthday to Sting, who for all his fame may be underrated as a bassist
The Keith Richards improvisation in the middle of “Sympathy for the Devil” might be the best-known yet truly underwhelming guitar solo of all time
Nice find! A very young Jim Keltner large and in charge on studio date with Cal Tjader playing Bacharach “Moneypenny”
Charlie Rouse made quite a journey in this music. The records with Monk and Sphere are the most familiar but there’s so much there: Dameron, Julius Watkins, 70s’ electric features, later work with Mal Waldron and Wynton…all praise Charlie Rouse, who ALWAYS sounded great
Interesting that McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison, and Elvin Jones didn’t play (singly or together) at Coltrane’s funeral
According to Wikipedia, the legs on the cover of Sonny Clark’s COOL STRUTTIN’ belonged to Ruth Lion, Alfred’s wife. You learn something new every day…
Oliver Lake said, “Happy Birthday Lockjaw” and linked to this burning video of Eddie Lockjaw Davis playing “Take the A Train” in 1985 in Copenhagen
This made my day: the slow movement of Bach’s Italian Concerto played on the carillon by Richard de Waardt
Yelena Bekman-Shcherbina plays Scriabin’s Waltz opus 38. I don’t know what’s better, the piece or the playing
Stan Getz playing “But Beautiful” on the radio wow
Logged on and saw Amerie was trending, for “1 Thing,” certainly one of the great songs….fans of the beat need to give credit to Zigaboo Modeliste, who turned 71 two days ago: his extraordinary drumming was sampled for the hit
RIP the great musician and teacher Joseph Jarman. He once told my wife Sarah Deming, “You have already defeated all your enemies”
Friendly reminder that the John Lewis blues “Morpheus” for Miles Davis in 1951 is just the damndest thing
In the big box titled, “Things I could NEVER guess in blindfold test,” Joe Zawinul’s romantic piano style (heavy on the trills!) on “A Concerto Retitled,” the final track of oddball 1968 album The Rise and Fall of the Third Stream. It’s based on a concerto by William Walton and arranged by William S. Fischer. (Most of the album is written by African-American composer/saxophonist William S. Fischer, who Zawinul may have seen as his “opposite number.” I don’t know more about this intriguing figure but Fran Gonçalves informs me that Fischer arranged for Jimmy Scott and Roberta Flack.)
syncopated “jazz” in 1925 from William Walton: Portsmouth Point Overture (there’s even a version conducted by the composer)
Never seen this photo of Wilhelm Kempff and Duke Ellington before. Don’t know the photographer or anything else about the context, but what a photo!
OK COMPUTER, HOMOGENIC, and VOODOO…hit records from the ‘95-‘00 era…I sort of have an essay on them percolating…I need to find the right hook though
“Bo Brussels” is an underrated Mark Turner fantasia. With Kurt Rosenwinkel and two drummers, Jorge Rossy and Brian Blade. In the background of the composition is Messiaen’s third mode
I like “Strangers” by the Kinks
truly great jazz: Sonny Rollins and Kenny Dorham playing “Solid” in 1954. Art Blakey! (w no hi-hats)
Just remembered “Music Box Dancer” by Frank Mills. Yeah. The blazing heart of pure naïveté. God and sinners reconciled
Mark Stryker just hipped me to an outstanding “Have You Met Miss Jones” from Chet Baker, George Coleman, and a Detroit rhythm section of Kirk Lightsey, Herman Wright, and Roy Brooks
David Virelles has become the perfect kind of wild-card pianist for diverse situations — reminds me of Geri Allen’s role in the late 80s
tonight listening to Ralph Vaughan Williams, the Piano Concerto, which was reworked into a version for two pianos after performers complained. Striking music, complex rhythms, bitonal. At first blush the version for one pianist seems more instantly charismatic.
Jimmy Garrison #BOTD. The straight-ahead ’61 trio date with Walter Bishop Jr. and G.T. Hogan is nectar for fans of the great (and still underrated) bassist
Listening to Coltrane trio “Satellite” on repeat. Truly a dictionary of sax vocabulary, it’s got both Coltrane changes and a pedal point. Great track
Just noticed for the first time that Charlie Haden goofs the form *badly* about 4:30 minutes into Joe Henderson “Serenity” AN EVENING WITH Al Foster on Red Records. It can happen to us all…
Currently listening for the first time to Reggie Workman’s 1993 album SUMMIT CONFERENCE with Sam Rivers, Julian Priester, Andrew Hill, and Andrew Cyrille. Amazing record, really tuneful and beautiful. I’m schooled
His first solo album was simply called LYLE MAYS (RIP). I hadn’t heard it years… Mmm. Some cheesy things but undeniable brilliance as well. Jarrett’s “folk” language, + fusion, done by someone who was born to live in the studio
Not too long ago I discovered this outstanding early Herbie Hancock blues solo on Joe Henderson’s “Tetragon” with Woody Shaw, Paul Chambers, and Joe Chambers. Piano starts at 3:30. A superb mix of grits ‘n gravy and complex harmony
Steve Gadd is 77 today. I asked Vinnie Sperrazza to name a favorite Gadd track, and he suggested “Chuck E’s in Love” by Rickie Lee Jones (1979, same year as “Aja” with Steely Dan)
I am driving around Duluth listening to the Benny Goodman trios and quartets. Everyone sounds great, but I am going to start calling Teddy Wilson “Saint Teddy Wilson.” He’s just so damn perfect in each and every bar…I like listening to earlier jazz on the streaming services in the automobile. The fidelity isn’t as important and they were trying to make hit records
Illinois Jacquet on bassoon! w. Wynton K, Buster, Oliver Jackson
RIP Olly Wilson. “Voices” is a killer piece, conducted by Ozawa at the 1977 premiere
Dig Ulysses Kay, his “Fantasy Variations” have a classic Americana sound but with a salty edge
(both Olly Wilson and Ulysses Kay are African-American symphonic composers of a certain mid-century vintage)
Art Tatum plays “Song of the Vagabonds.” The beginning is merely pretty, but later on the piano is treated with a purifying fire
James P. Johnson plays the hell out of “Maple Leaf Rag”
RIP Edwin Hawkins. The Chuck Rainey bass performance on the Quincy Jones cover of “Oh Happy Day” is a personal touchstone
Kudos to Han Chen, who played a wonderful “Traced Overhead” by Thomas Adès in front of the composer today at a NEC masterclass
There a few sides of Count Basie and the “All-American Rhythm Section” w. Freddie Green, Walter Page, and Jo Jones from the early days. Sometimes I listen to “How Long Blues,” a “folk” 8-bar blues given the most urbane treatment
Mark Turner told me about a “There Will Never Be Another You” with Donald Byrd, Hank Mobley, Ronnie Ball, Doug Watkins, Kenny Clarke on Savoy, 1956. Good horn solos for students to transcribe. Ball was a Tristano-ite, and his abstract and searching solo is very cool as well. Watkins and Klook are highest level
A somewhat less familiar track, “Decepticon” from Buster Williams in 1989 with Wayne, Herbie, Al Foster, and Shunzo Ohno. Right away it’s cool to hear Wayne and Herbie playing something different from this era that they are not in charge of. Tenor solo is a monster, piano is great too. It’s recorded at Van Gelder’s of all places. Rudy’s thing was variable by this point, but the piano sounds like just the Blue Note Hancock piano of the ’60s! Wild. Yeah cats
Briefly met maestro Ahmad Jamal. I asked him about Vernel Fournier. Jamal praised all the New Orleans drummers, said Fournier was among the greatest. A fan came into club one night just to see if there was one or two drummers playing the “Poinciana” beat! Jamal rather grimly remarked that if Fournier could have trademarked the “Poinciana” beat, Fournier would have become a wealthy man.
RIP Guy Hamilton, best known for directing some of the better James Bond movies.
Hamilton was a jazz fan, went to see Thelonious Monk play in one of Monk’s last LA gigs. The director really liked the look of bassist, Putter Smith. A couple days later Hamilton’s secretary called Putter. Would Putter like to play a villain in new Bond move DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER?
Putter said, yes, of course.
The flamboyantly gay and wisecracking hit man duo Mr. Wint (Bruce Glover) and Mr. Kidd (Putter Smith) has gone on to be a camp classic. Putter dies “flaming.”
Putter Smith’s acting career didn’t really go places but he remained one of LA’s best jazz bassists.
The moral? “Always take the gig with Monk, because Guy Hamilton will see you and give you a part as a gay hitman in a Bond movie.”
(Putter’s older brother Carson Smith is on 50’s jazz records w. Mulligan/Baker etc. Putter called him, “The Paul Chambers of the West Coast.”)
I was followed by Scott Dikkers of immortal JIM’S JOURNAL fame! I love this comic so much; in high school JIM’S JOURNAL was a life-saver.
Two views of John Cage by Scott Dikkers. 1) inadvertent:
Two views of John Cage by Scott Dikkers. 2) intentional:
A bass student asked me to recommend five albums to listen to that he hadn’t heard yet. After some back and forth (of course he’s heard the most famous stuff) this was the final list:
Joe Henderson w Ron Carter, Power to the People
Old and New Dreams w Charlie Haden, Playing
Wynton Kelly w Paul Chambers, Kelly Blue
Lee Konitz w Jimmy Garrison Live at the Half Note
Johnny Griffin w Wilbur Ware, Sextet
Interviewer asked for 5 desert island LPs — Impossible, but this was “first thought, best thought”
Miles Davis, KIND OF BLUE
John Coltrane, A LOVE SUPREME
Thelonious Monk, TRIO (Prestige)
Ornette Coleman, SCIENCE FICTION
Glenn Gould, PLAYS WILLIAM BYRD AND ORLANDO GIBBONS
Top 10 Stravinsky pieces (in chronological order)
1. The Rite of Spring
2. Les Noces
4. Symphonies of Wind Instruments
6. Oedipus Rex
7. Symphony in Three Movements
8. The Rake’s Progress
10. Requiem Canticles
Top 10 Ligeti pieces (in chronological order)
2. String Quartet No. 2
3. Chamber Concerto
5. Le Grande Macabre
6. Trio for Violin, Horn and Piano
7. Piano Concerto
8. Violin Concerto
9. Sonata for Solo Viola
10. Piano Etudes (complete)
There were three moderately successful attempts to jump on the latest meme bandwagon.
1) Marvel’s Infinity War crossover
2) Four faces of Macron
3) “Girl explaining”
Branford Marsalis said of the last one, “That’s pretty good, bruh.”
Found a journal entry, “My favorite records,” probably from 8th or 9th grade. I didn’t have a CD player yet, these are all LPs.
“Thelonious” is spelled wrong! Dammit. Otherwise, not bad.
I have since written about many of the these albums for DTM.
Definitely my peak Dolphy years. I wore the t-shirt for the picture submitted to DownBeat “Auditions”
I asked Herbie Hancock if he used the metronome. He said, not really, just as a kid when he worked on classical music.
Lee Konitz asked John Coltrane if Coltrane used the metronome. Coltrane said no.
Billy Hart is against the metronome. Definitely. And Milford Graves said the metronome will give you a heart attack.
In a panel I led with Joanne Brackeen, Kenny Barron, and Harold Mabern, I asked if any of them used a metronome. All three said “no.” Barron included the comment, “It’s not how anyone actually plays.”
(BTW, I use the metronome when I practice LOL) There was time when I was pretty addicted to Metronomics by John Nastos. Mainly I’d set the app to play with a click for 8 bars, then *no click* for 8, then the click back in, etc…good stuff! Plenty of time to rush or drag. However, also think the people who have a really great feel in American music are less concerned with rushing or dragging than placing every articulation within a syncopated, clave-based phrase
The late James Primosch: “Loved your panel with Barron, Brackeen & Mabern. Your recommended albums by each of those masters?”
I mean, so many. As a leader, one from each off the top of my head:
Kenny Barron SCRATCH (surprisingly avant garde trio)
Joanne Brackeen FI-FI GOES TO HEAVEN (superb quintet writing)
Harold Mabern STRAIGHT STREET (rare trio session with Ron and Jack)
Wow. This is spectacular. The pianist is doing their very best Ethan Iverson impression!
Apparently that’s John Harner on high note trumpet. I just LOVE how Stan Kenton cannot play a quarter note triplet accurately even with a full horn section helpfully shading him in the background. Ah, the humanity! What a unique figure
there is only one thing I fault arranger Dave Barduhn for, and that is the ending. Really? An unresolved suspended V chord? For the tear to roll down the cheek — “Don’t bother, they’re here.” — the song *must* end in tonic major!
Every once in a while I remember that Bill Evans made a “mood” album, Plays the Theme from The V.I.P.s and Other Great Songs. Huge production with orchestra, chorus, and tasteless percussion. Bill banging out portentous octaves and big chords, “concerto” style. (sounds kinda like early TBP )
Those were the days:
Spent some time recently with early, Miroslav-era WR, and it’s not really my thing. (It’s never been my thing, the “everyone soloing together” style of SILENT WAY and MOUNTAIN IN THE CLOUDS etc.)
Best tracks for my own taste are on I SING THE BODY ELECTRIC, the “symphonic” Zawinul journeys of “Unknown Soldier” and, especially, “Second Sunday in August,” which has an Ivesian scope
Then, skipping ahead in the timeline, the WR I know best is HEAVY WEATHER, which is damn great. Perhaps the ultimate gateway jazz album. Of course, part of the disc’s charisma is young god Jaco Pastorius, who would eventually almost take over band’s aesthetic. Reducing to stereotype, the music after HEAVY WEATHER was more “fusion-y” than pre-HEAVY W.
What I want to re-listen to today on my pandemic lockdown walk are the four “funky” albums essentially between Miroslav Vitous and Jaco Pastorius: SWEETNIGHTER, MYSTERIOUS TRAVELLER, TALE SPINNIN’, and BLACK MARKET
SWEETNIGHTER begins very strong with “Boogie Woogie Waltz” which must be one of the grooviest 3/4 pieces recorded up until this point. Of course, Zawinul was Viennese, the land of the waltz. I can’t always tell the bassists apart but I think we hear more of Andrew White, who is better known to jazz heads as a tenor saxophonist and the ultimate transcriber of John Coltrane. It’s long but really works, great interlude and the final “trance” melody is unforgettable
Shorter’s “Manolete” is glorious European-styled composition, with the parts de-synchronized just the right amount over throbbing drums. If all of WR sounded like this they would be my favorite band
Zawinul’s “Adios” is a slight mood piece with Muruga’s “roller toy” providing texture
I’m less thrilled by “125th St. Congress” than the similar “Boogie Woogie Waltz.” The 4/4 groove is less distinctive and I could really use some proper soloing. For this I would prefer the Headhunters, where Herbie or Maupin would blow like the proper funky heroes they are
“Will” is one of Vitous’s last compositional credits. It’s nice but not a lot happens. The blend of Vitous’s bass and Shorter’s soprano on a slow melody does help define an era forevermore
The chorale melody of Shorter’s “Non-stop Home” seems to be placed freely against the up-and-down rock drums. Maybe the drums are too “straight” for the effect to work perfectly in this case
MYSTERIOUS TRAVELER Opens with “Nubian Sundance” and some rather egotistical crowd cheers. Of the long jams I prefer “Sundance” to “Congress” but still think “Boogie Woogie waltz” was the best. However some of the compositional details of “Sundance” are intriguing
“American Tango” is co-composed by Miroslav. Enjoyable melody, sounds like a symphony orchestra with Zawinul’s synthesizer. Wish Wayne played a longer solo, it’s beautiful when he does play
The major new voice was bassist Alfonso Johnson, a very funky player. “Cucumber Slumber” is credited to Zawinul and Johnson. Great feel in the rhythm section
However, more to my taste is Shorter’s “Mysterious Traveller,” a major composition. I’m sure a few people have covered this over the years, but I’m surprised it’s not played more often. Is it in A or F sharp? Only Wayne knows….Love Zawinul’s weird grand piano stabs later on in the track
Shorter’s “Blackthorn Rose” is simply the two leaders in convo. They should’ve done a whole album like this. The last time I listened to the Hancock/Shorter duo album 1+1 I found it to be unfocused and boring. Zawinul accompanies Wayne here and it’s beautiful
“Scarlet Woman” is evocative and powerful, one of the best WR tracks
“Jungle Book” is essentially Zawinul as a one-man band. Compare with Keith Jarrett’s “universal folk music” of same era. Zawinul has more Hermeto and Keith has more Joni Mitchell but the underpinning is the same
TALE SPINNIN’ opens with Zawinul’s “the man in the green shirt.” Wow the drumming by Ndugu Leon Chancler is really great!!! This is more like it! Impossible not to dance. Great composition too
Shorter’s “Lusitanos” works but lacks the profound melodic inspiration of some of his other ballads. At one point Zawinul plays some piano pentatonic flurries that are WAY too literal
A few years later they would call the beat on “Between the Thighs“ New Jack Swing. WR had trouble finding the right drummer, but maybe Ndugu should have been on all these records, he’s really special. The composition reminds me that Eddie Harris’s “Freedom Jazz Dance“ is crucial to this whole concept
i’m not sure if all the “ethnic” moments on these records really hold up to scrutiny. However Zawinul’s “Badia” is weird and gorgeous, with an unforgettable hook. A+
Shorter’s “Freezing Fire” is aggressive and creative. I sort of think this is what he was trying to do a lot of the time, and got to it here, partly thanks to the great bassist and drummer. Alfonzo and Ndugu should’ve been on all those later Wayne albums with synthesizers too
The written climax after a B+ synthesizer solo is awesome. Damn this is a good record
Another “duo,” “Five Short Stories,” by Zawinul is ok, but heavy production values obscure the immediacy that made “Blackthorn Rose” a highlight
The title song of BLACK MARKET is another big jam. Feels good and Zawinul is creative in his orchestration
Then Pastorius shows up on “Cannonball” and changes the world. A little bit of soprano sax solo is *very* far back in the mix at first, a nice effect
“Gibraltar” it’s another back beat jam. Nothing wrong with it but for me this record is less inspired in overall feel than TALE SPINNIN’
“Elegant People”… Wow, having Shorter’s full-force harmonic imagination show up after three Zawinul pieces is really kind of shocking. “Elegant People” is kind of like if Wayne wrote Manilow’s “Copacabana”
Dunno about “Three Clowns,” the Lyricon is meh and I don’t like the tick tock drumming
Jaco is loud and strong on his own funky “Barbary Coast.” Great. Love the piano doubling snaky sax lines oh yes, oh yes
Alfonso Johnson gets a proper send off with his odd-meter “Herandnu.” Nice piece and the end of this era: Jaco takes over for good on the next Weather Report masterwork, HEAVY WEATHER
Time for some Tadd Dameron, who is hidden in plain sight. The lockdown has let me dig into a few corners I’ve never explored properly. On my walk around Prospect Park I’ll dictate my listening notes.
The best-known Dameron recordings are probably with Fats Navarro in a small group from the ’40s. The slender collection of 3 CDs above seems to be most of what else issued on LP under his own name in his lifetime
Clifford Brown MEMORIAL is a collection of two dates. The first four tracks are overseas records with Quincy Jones. The rest of the LP is 1953’s A STUDY IN DAMERONIA w Benny Golson, Percy Heath and Philly Joe Jones
“Philly J J” is apparently how the drummer got his nickname. Way up tempo at first before settling into medium up for Clifford. II/V bliss
Perhaps doesn’t feel that different from “Woodyn’t You” or Bud Powell‘s “Oblivion.” But Dameron was all about beauty, trying to make those bop II/V’s as pretty as possible. Long chart with surprises
“Dial B for Beauty” is a walking ballad with Dameron leading the ensemble from the piano
The charts are quite long and non-repetitive. Good blindfold material. I’ve never heard any of this stuff and I didn’t expect it quite to be this impressive somehow. Crazy good
“Theme of No Repeat” is something I’ve heard before but not in this multi-horn arrangement. Attractive “unlikely” changes in head but the solos are on “rhythm.” Clifford takes a typically amazing solo. Tadd also blows at length. I guess Tadd himself didn’t consider himself a major pianist but I like it. Some bop, also some Teddy Wilson, maybe even some Monk. The double time section after the piano solo is almost too hard for the horns
“Chose Now” almost has a “birth of a cool” feel. Gorgeous. More Clifford. Whole date is taking on a “concerto for Clifford” cast
10 out of 10 for Dameron’s spiky comping throughout. Golson’s breathy tenor is already old-school, even though he was a young man
Next up is FOUNTAINBLEU. Title track begins with a “classical” fanfare with John Simmons on bowed bass. As track continues, it is a unusual form, perhaps through-composed. The dynamics are contained, but Shadow Wilson surely has the measure of the little big-band idiom
“Delirium” is faster jazz, rhythm changes, with an unsymmetrical melody and tenor breaks from someone I don’t know, Joe Alexander. Sounds good. Wow, Kenny Dorham sounds really good though. Alexander returns for some nice stuff, but more interesting are the R&B type backgrounds. “The Scene is Clean” is one of Dameron’s greatest compositions. Beautiful horn arrangement and then the pianist solos in a block-chord style
“Flossie Lou” is more mid-tempo goodness. These horn voicings are always perfect. Trombonist Harry Coker sounds good too. There’s an octatonic ending
“Bula-beige” is a blues with a striking unison head. Lots of major sevenths in this blues. Long solos from piano and everyone else. Kind of a “Prestige blowing date” vibe. . But KD doesn’t blow?! That seems wrong. Anyway, the ending is a surprise, the composer produces a bunch of brilliant new material
The last disc here is THE MAGIC TOUCH, with a full band and a collection of all stars kicking off with one of Tadd‘s best tunes, “On A Misty Night.” Wow, great tenor playing. Who is that?! Oh, it’s Johnny Griffin LOL
“Fountainbleu” again, very strong with two flutes as color. Bill Evans decorates the II/Vs underneath. Yeah, Bill
“Just Plain Talkin’” it’s a glorious F Blues. Of course I’m a super fan but Ron Carter instantly takes this to another level. Ron and Philly Joe, not so common but great
“If You Could See Me Now” is Tadds most famous ballad, sung here by Barbara Winfield. Nice. Never heard her but she is good. Beautiful arrangement
“Our Delight” is also more familiar. Some Ducal counterpoint in the trombone— oh, it’s the genuine Duke article Britt Woodman in the section, who also takes a great solo
“Dial B for Beauty” returns in noble form
“Look, Stop, and Listen” is a Philly Joe feature. Wow. One for the PJJ heads for sure: an extraordinary track Later the drummer would do what he could to keep the composer’s name alive with the repertory group Dameronia
The pretty swinger “Bevan’s Birthday” has more rich instrumental colors, my main man Julius Watkins is on French horn, Joe Wilder takes a puckish solo
Vocals return on “You’re a Joy,” which is a real work out in II/Vs. Romantic bop. The Billy Eckstine to Coltrane line. In this era Trane was starting to play Eckstine’s “ I Want to Talk About You“ in the clubs. The original big band chart for Eckstine was arranged by Dameron
The tracks conclude with insanely virtuosic “Swift as the Wind” with some brilliant Clark Terry. So nice to hear some of this music. I’ve heard a lot of jazz but there are so many masterpieces I don’t know…
(Buddy Rich’s first band, 1946, plays “Just You, Just Me” with superb Tadd Dameron arrangement)
Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, Jack DeJohnette, the early years. Time for a re-listen
STANDARDS VOL. 1 First tune is “Meaning of the Blues.” Miles Davis repertoire but even eighth note feel. Bill Evans harmony. Minor vamp outro is shocking and personal.
“All the Things You Are” virtuoso rhapsody in the tradition of Lennie Tristano and Paul Bley. Last chord is “classical” Ab flat triad
“It Never Entered My Mind” Miles Davis repertoire. Jack’s brushwork notably strong. Atonal cadenza and deceptive cadence to finish
“The Masquerade is Over” is the most straightahead performance, at times Keith is playing somewhere not far from Red Garland in his improvised line. They start with a bridge, a nice touch
“God Bless the Child” Levon Helm and Jack DeJohnette were buddies. Impressed with how loud Jack is in the mix here. I thought I wasn’t gonna like this much but it’s actually objectively killing. Perfect slice of “gateway jazz”
STANDARDS VOL. 2 “So Tender” Second album also starts even eighth. Never liked this Keith original that much, still don’t. What’s he doing playing the Girlfriend chord? Is he Chick Corea? The double time lines on the solo are impressive
“Moon and Sand” Keith was an early advocate of Alec Wilder on record. This must be one of the earliest recordings of this beautiful song. When I was a teenager I always skipped “So Tender” and began the CD here. Gary is up on his chops and sounds great. Incredible how much Jarrett plays during the bass “solos.” It works but I would’ve dialed the piano back in the mix another notch. Another wild “in the ancient heraldic style” outro on “Moon and Sand,” recalling the ending of “Meaning of the Blues.” Eventually this vibe became long “original compositions” in trio live sets
Obscure Jerome Kern masterwork “In Love in Vain” swings out. Fresh. I’ve studied so much bebop at this point that I miss something in Jarrett’s double-time flourishes during “In Love in Vain.” They are awfully literal and scalar
“Never Let Me Go” gorgeous. Jarrett is inside this one
“If I Should Lose You” wow at one point I was really into this, I can almost sing the piano solo. The solo builds and builds even though Keith plays few chords. Mostly a single line (which was often articulated with both hands). Something of the Tristano legacy, but with more drama and infinitely more sophisticated bass and drums
“I Fall in Love Too Easily” intro is classic Jarrett, he’s not playing such unique stuff but his sonority carries the day
STANDARDS LIVE “Stella by Starlight“ Jazz trio in a concert hall. Opening piano intro is long and striking. Starts “normal” Bill Evans but Copland or Shostakovich references creep in. Jarrett talked about “universal folk music.” Very good strut in the “Stella” swing, Keith Gary Jack, all loose, phrases coming out of every corner. Better than on previous studio session. Dark piano chords for the outro but then a triadic cadence
“The Wrong Blues” Alec wilder again; never heard anyone else play this. Great piece with unusual phrase lengths. Conversational trio swing. Impressive bass solos on this set
“Falling in Love with Love” just stunning Jack Dejohnette at this medium tempo. Jarrett’s lines start and stop in unexpected places
“Too young to Go Steady” repertoire from Coltrane. Jack works into a version of the Vernel Fournier beat from Poinciana. Classic track
For the first time I’m noticing how some of Jarrett’s triadic lines sound like Dewey Redman. Or really, the Ornette Coleman tradition but on piano and in jazz standards
“The Way You Look Tonight” when I used to worship this record as a teenager I hadn’t heard any Lennie Tristano yet. Now the Tristano influence is obvious, especially at this tempo. Keith wants to surprise himself in his improvisations
The duration of applause after “The way you look tonight“ is unacceptable
“The Old Country” Nancy Wilson/Cannonball repertoire. Great but Jarrett lines threaten to become too “classical” at times, a Bach etude in the middle of the swing.
STILL LIVE opens with “My Funny Valentine.” Ok this isn’t Red Garland w. Miles LOL. The material seems too banal at first but Jarrett borrows from someone like Samuel Barber (Jarrett performed the Barber piano concerto at the highest level) and develops motifs into a grand statement
“Autumn Leaves” was an important record for Jarrett with Charles Lloyd also featuring Jack DeJohnette. My fav part is the mesmerizing chordal fantasy after the single line stuff
“When I Fall in Love” is hushed and evocative, the first live ballad. Jack picks up sticks for bass solo, an idiosyncratic touch that works
“The Song is You” is a wild ride, the Kern melody exploding out of a classic long KJ vamp is an unforgettable moment. A half-time “breakdown“ in the bass/drums solo is equally memorable. The long outro was quite possibly influential on Mehldau
“Come Rain or Come Shine” yeah! Like “Stella” on previous date, this medium pocket is as swinging as I ever heard this trio. They swing partly because nothing feels gripped very tightly, it could go off the rails any sec (but it doesn’t)
“Late Lament” this Paul Desmond ballad is much more known thanks to Keith. Everyone does this now, but in 1985, the only pianist that would’ve played a rich “classical” intro like this was Keith
Next is a medley exemplifying best and worst of trio. “You and the Night and the Music/Extension/Someday My Prince Will come.” The trio sounds great blowing uptempo, but over the years I’ve come to conclude there’s a slightly hollow sound to Keith’s changes playing at speed. The word “clave” is probably important. Keith’s lines wander and there’s no left hand giving any foundation. Essentially KJ is in a Bud Powell tradition here and, and all the best post-Powell pianists deal with Clave and the left hand. Jarrett means more to me than Chick Corea, but in this idiom Chick has something about rhythmic organization that Keith doesn’t. KJ relies on Tristano/Bley “spontaneity” to carry the day. And it almost does! I never used to hear it this way but now I do
“Extension” is totally spontaneous, a group improvisation and remarkable in every way. In this genre, the trio is now aligned with other ECM stalwarts like Steve Reich and Arvo Part. It’s very fresh and dramatic, but as far as I know this is a peak. Soon the trio concerts would include obligatory long minor vamps of little import, usually dull affairs lacking the inspiration of “Extension”
“Someday my prince will come” is normal and satisfying
“Billie’s Bounce” includes the note in the CD tray, “Not on LP issue,” which certainly places this music in a historical time period. Good vibe, I love the drumming and the drum “solos” w piano injections
Concert ends with the encore of “I Remember Clifford.” Benny Golson was not a composer Jarrett needed to play. There is an inherent bebop gravitas to this work that doesn’t suit the pianist. Jarrett can sprinkle magic fairy dust on Alec wilder or Jerome Kern and create something new. That fairy dust bounces off Benny Golson
All the above music I know very well because I loved it as a teen. STANDARDS LIVE was one of the first CDs I ever got. The final collection here, TRIBUTE, must’ve purchased after I moved to New York. While listening I felt like I hadn’t heard most of the tracks before…
The best cut might be a truly burning “Just in Time.” It’s the only solo from all of these that I felt like I could learn something from transcribing. There’s also more left hand punctuation, as if Jarrett himself might’ve heard something missing on the previous dates
The trio “All the things you are” on TRIBUTE is also exciting, but the intro is sort of conventional. I remember a live version of this song at Carnegie Hall in about ‘93 where a ferocious piano intro made the whole audience stand up and scream afterwards.
Al Foster knows the language backwards and forwards but also has a signature “sound.” In the end this is my favorite kind of musician
I asked Al Foster how much live playing he had done with Barry Harris. He said not much, just a couple of times uptown, but that he played a lot of bebop language specifically for Barry on those gigs. Barry came up to him afterwards, asking for his number, saying, “I didn’t know you could play bebop!” (Probably predates Dexter BITIN’ THE APPLE session.)
Al also mentioned being very inspired by Art Taylor for the tradition, and by Joe Chambers for modernism. Everyone else was copping from the bigger names like Philly Joe, Blakey, Elvin, and Tony…so Al looked at Art Taylor and Joe Chambers. #secrets