There’s not much reason to be on social media until after the election, so I’m going to take the rest of October off from DTM, Twitter, and FaceBook. We all pray for a smooth transfer of power to Biden and Harris.

My next record will be a release of the Umbria Jazz concert Bud Powell in the 21st Century with Ingrid Jensen, Dayna Stephens, Ben Street, Lewis Nash, and the Umbria big band.

Enzo Capua of Umbria asked several musicians to comment for the Italian magazine Musica Jazz, “about the situation in USA during these dramatic times.” I wrote back to Enzo:

2020 has certainly seen a reckoning. I feel lucky to be involved with jazz music, for there is always optimism around jazz. Most of the people involved playing, promoting, or listening to jazz do it simply out of love, for, as we all know, there is not much money or personal power to be found. In my profession as a pianist I have seen up close the high perch of classical music and the money machine of rock music; I am always happy to return to the comparatively soulful environs of jazz.  

COVID-19 is devastating blow for the scene, for the very livelihood for the musicians. My wife and I are about to move from an expensive apartment to a more reasonable one, and we both know that if the restrictions keep up, we will have to move in with my wife’s mother.

But at the same time, all the musicians are practicing and growing! Everyone is thinking about what kind of music is truly important to make. We are going to hear some incredible sounds when we start gigging again, and the audience will be so eager to discover our growth.

It was the summer of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter. While jazz does not have a perfect score, at least anyone in jazz looks up to heroes who are black. In this way we are further along than many citizens, although more could be done, perhaps especially in the field of institutional jazz education, which can be as banal and white as a Wall Street business office. I predict much good to come of the protests and the brave young people who are tired of the status quo.

And then there’s Donald Trump. It is very hard to contemplate this kind of evil sin. Trump seems to embody every terrible thing about American culture. I have nothing to say to Italians and other Europeans except, “I’m sorry. We are sorry.” It is truly a grave situation. Right now it does not feel like he will be re-elected. But if he does get re-elected — I say to my Italian friends, “You will see much more of me starting next year, for I am giving up on America and moving to Italy!” I am quite serious about this.

The year so far on DTM:

Art Hodes, Selections From the Gutter

Steve Reich’s Tehillim

The Sandbaggers and Michael Gilbert, Establishment Espionage

Charlie Parker Centennial with Steve Coleman, Charles McPherson, Mark Turner, Tom Harrell, John Scofield, and Bertha Hope

Boogie Backbone

Leon Fleisher plays Grieg and Schumann Piano Concertos

Rex Stout, Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin, Comfort Food

The Shadow of Johnny Mandel

Interview with John Cumming

Riffs about Jarrett, Bill Evans, 70’s jazz, Mary Lou Williams, Dicky Wells, Leroy Jenkins, Gershwin a.o. for my students

 Mel Powell Unfurnished

 The Best of Robert B. Parker

R.I.P. Lee, Ice Cream Konitz

Black Music Teachers in the Era of Segregation

RIP Jon Christensen

 Interview with Guy Klucevsek (by Anthony Creamer)

Interview with Bertha Hope

RIP Peter Serkin, In Real Time

RIP Jimmy Heath

Thomas Perry, The Professional

Genre-Specific, Kenny G

The most widely-read essay of the year was my NPR obit for Stanley Crouch. Many people have sent me fabulous clippings and other Crouch items in response. When I return I’ll have another post on Stanley showcasing these rare items….

The Chronology essays for JazzTimes:

  1. James Newton
  2. John Scofield, Steve Swallow, Adam Nussbaum
  3. Mary Lou Williams
  4. Don Cherry
  5. Charli Persip (RIP)
  6. Shirley Horn
  7. Harold Mabern, Larry Willis, and Richard Wyands
  8. Bertha Hope
  9. Gary Peacock (RIP)
  10. Jimmy Lyons
  11. Wynton Kelly at Left Bank
  12. Paul Desmond
  13. Old and New Dreams
  14. Larry Young and Woody Shaw

The next two are already written, Jacob Garchik + Andrew D’Angelo big bands then Meredith D’Ambrosio. For January I will look at Eubie Blake.

Steve Reich’s Tehillim

Steve Reich turned 84 the other day, and to celebrate his publisher Boosey & Hawkes put a scrolling-score video of Tehillim on YouTube.

This work has always impressed me as something utterly remarkable. Indeed, of all the pieces I’ve heard that might be termed “classic minimalism,” Tehillim stands alone in my personal pantheon.

I was introduced to Tehillim by my first wife Karen Goldfeder, whose teacher, Jay Clayton, is on the famous ECM recording (and heard on this scrolling score video). In time, my second wife Sarah Deming also turned out to have a close relationship to this piece. Both Karen and Sarah are Jewish, and — without wanting to be too essentialist here — Tehillim was not just music they liked, but also contemporary religious music with historical resonance. Given the instrumentation, especially the “medieval” types of percussion, it’s not a stretch to imagine something like the sounds of Tehillim being performed by Karen’s and Sarah’s direct ancestors on the sands of the desert a thousand years ago or more.

Steve Reich is now an icon, a rare living concert composer who is part of the basic texture of American music. (To some, he is even an old monument that needs to be torn down.) Famously, Reich literally put the pulse in Terry Riley’s groundbreaking In C, a handy metaphor for aspects of Reich’s influence. One of Reich’s legacies is simply a proper infusion of metronomic time into American conservatories, especially through countless college percussion ensembles working on the various “phase” pieces.

But time is more than a metronome, and Reich at his most inspired understands this better than most of his peers. Reich name-checks Kenny Clarke and John Coltrane in interviews, and Pat Metheny plays the third movement of Electric Counterpoint with outrageously swinging phrasing (something that the score does not try to reflect, which only has straight eighths).

The ringers on the ECM recording of Tehillim include not just Clayton but legendary world music percussionist Glen Velez. Reich himself plays basic percussion on this recording, and more power to him for that kind of real world, real rhythm participation. How many 20th-century composers of fully notated music actually helped the rhythms happen on record?

Kyle Gann understands the whole of Reich’s oeuvre much better than I do, most of which doesn’t resonate with me the way Tehillim does. Gann’s pages on Reich in American Music in the 20th Century are concise, critical, and believable.

Reich’s own liner notes to Tehillim are very intellectual and generally murky. However, Paul Griffith’s notes to the reissue of Tehillim in the The ECM Recordings are a joy to read.

Autumn Leaves

Burning Ambulance, the website, podcast, and general cultural perspective of Phil Freeman, is also now a record label. The first release is Eyes Shut, Ears Open, a compilation of tracks giving an overview of the current scene.

Burt Bacharach steps up for my home state, Wisconsin, which is a battleground state in the general. Yeah, Burt!

“Donate to join us for an exclusive concert with Burt Bacharach. It’s only going to be livestreamed once at 6pm CT on October 11th.

“The suggested donation is $100, but you can chip in any amount to join!

“Anything you donate will be used to ensure that Trump loses Wisconsin, and thereby the White House.”

RIP the legendary composer, performer, and teacher Jacques-Louis Monod. His works list is not extensive but it has amazing qualities that combine slow lyricism of a ancient, almost “Gregorian” nature with dodecaphony; he also participated in groundbreaking post-war recordings of Anton Webern. Several of my peers studied extensively with Monod including Ben Street and Patrick Zimmerli.

Why Radiohead are the Blackest white band of our times.” There’s some interesting stuff in this article (which is much better than the clickbait headline), but once again I’m struck by how music academics seem to rigorously avoid any discussion of rhythm.

Words not used in this article in regards to Radiohead: “feel” “groove” “syncopation” “time” “swing” “beat” “placement” “drums” “Phil Selway.” It seems to me that if you want to talk about black music and Radiohead, then at least a few of those words would be helpful…

The recent DTM interview with Charles McPherson and Steve Coleman mentions the lack of academic vocabulary in re: rhythm.

Driving around in a rental car I listened to some pop radio, and was kind of floored by Dua Lipa’s “Break My Heart.”

My favorite part of Chasin’ the Trane is when Coltrane repeatedly tries to make his first wife play the harp.


On Thursday, I’ll be talking with Dekel Bor for JazzTimes, streamable on the JazzTimes FaceBook page. ECM will be giving away a vinyl copy of Temporary Kings, my duo album with Mark Turner.

On Sunday, I’ll be giving a masterclass for Jazz Heaven, the educational site hosted by my old friend Falk Willis, who drummed on my first album School Work with Dewey Redman way back in 1993. It’s a paid webinar; the topic is “Fun Games With the Metronome.”

LP Diary (2)

New DTM page: Surely This is Going to Work Correctly Eventually, music that consciously combines jazz and classical techniques.

Included in the overview:

Friedrich Gulda, Music for 4 soloists and Band No. 1
Dedicated to Eric Dolphy
The American Jazz Ensemble New Dimensions
Noel DaCosta Ukom Memory Songs
Noel DaCosta Four Preludes, Jes’ Grew, and Five Verses with Vamps
The Modern Jazz Ensemble Little David’s Fugue
The Modern Jazz Quartet In Memoriam
Roland Hanna Child of Gemini
Freddie Hubbard and İlhan Mimaroğlu, Sing Me a Song of Songmy
Michael Mantler/Carla Bley ‎13 for Piano and Two Orchestras — 3/4 for Piano and Orchestra

LP Diary (1)

New DTM page: Valuable Jazz Anthologies. Included in the overview:

I Remember Bebop Al Haig, Duke Jordan, John Lewis, Sadik Hakim, Walter Bishop, Barry Harris, Tommy Flanagan, Jimmy Rowles
Cafe Society J.C. Heard, Mary Lou Williams, Edmond Hall, Maxine Sullivan
Chicago’s Boss Tenors Gene Ammons, Tom Archia, Claude McLin, and Johnny Griffin
Jazz Women: A Feminist Retrospective
The New Breed Cecil Taylor, Charles Tolliver, Grachan Moncur, Archie Shepp

Jazz Greats: Art Tatum: The Shout (curated by Brian Priestley)
Jazz Greats: Boogie Woogie: Roll ‘Em (curated by Brian Priestley and Tony Russell)

Now’s the Time

Highly recommended: Vinnie Sperrazza’s online course, History of North American Drumming, 1895-2020. STARTS TONIGHT.

Vinnie’s my man, I’ve learned a lot from him, and will be checking some of this out myself. Sign up here.