Friday, January 23, 2015

Peanuts Hucko: Tribute to Louis and Benny

Peanuts Hucko at Famous Door (New York, circa 1946-48. Photo by William Gottlieb.)

Peanuts Hucko was busy playing various Armstrong and Goodman pieces from the mid-80s onwards, as documented on a CD called Tribute to Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman, a title previously used for a Stuttgard-based TV show, ZDF Jazz Club.

This performance from the aforementioned show features Peanuts Hucko on clarinet, Johnny Varro on piano, Colin Green on bass, and Jake Hanna on drums. It was filmed on May 15, 1987.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Modern Jazz Quartet & Kammerorchester Arcata

Thanks to my good friend Neil who kindly accepted to digitize some rusty VHS tapes from my collection, there is a good supply of jazz videos for 2015, most of them never released before (except their original airing on German TV) and not even available online.

However, the one I'm about to play here, of a Modern Jazz Quartet concert in Germany, seems to be released on DVD by at least two different companies: TDK's jazz series and Arthaus Musik in Deutschland.

This concert, from (possibly) July, 1992, was held as a part of Jazzgipfel festival in Stuttgart. What makes this particular date different from other MJQ's 40th anniversary concerts is a) the absence of Connie Kay due to the ailment which led to Mickey Roker's involvement in the band. (Although the TV broadcaster of this show erroneously credits the drummer as Kay.) b) a chamber orchestra, Kammerorchester Arcata, backing the quartet with reasonably satisfactory results.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Bob Willoughby's Jazz Photography

Big Jay McNeely at the Olympic Auditorium, LA, 1953. © Bob Willoughby.

Have you visited photographer Bob Willoughby's website yet? If not, it's a must. A treasury of some of the most iconic black and white jazz photography is presented in online gallery which features, among many others, Coleman Hawkins, Shelly Manne, Duke Ellington, and Billie Holiday. Visit it here.

Nevertheless, Willoughby's film photography, taken of Hollywood stars and behind the scene situations, is equally amazing. (+)

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Friday, December 5, 2014

Cecil Taylor - The Poetry of Sound

Cecil Taylor illustration by Naiel Ibarrola
I've always been fascinated by the idea of how Body and one's physique can play a major role in creating art. The movement of Jackson Pollack's body, his sway, and an almost choreographed movement over canvas had a direct impact on the finished work. In John Cassavetes films, too, there is always a great deal of physical tension: running, escaping, fighting, strolling and colliding. In these films, being scarred by any extreme emotion, such as love, is manifested in being hurt, falling down and standing up again. I find the same qualities in the music of Cecil Taylor that to me is the perfect marriage of painting and cinema, of a two-dimensional representation of an actual idea sent into a three-dimensional space. Once even I screened Marcel L'Herbier's L'Inhumaine while playing Taylor's music on the images. The result was stunning. Taylor is like an iris shot in a silent film, starting from one single note and from there opening in all directions. The result is something like a dome of sound.

This 1986 audio file that I've shared here features Cecil Taylor in conversation with Marian McPartland on her famous jazz piano show, where Taylor explains some of the ideas behind his music. Two pianists are sitting side by side in the studio, having conversations about a wide range of subjects and playing some wonderful music.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The EFG London Jazz Festival Review

Photo by Roger Thomas
The EFG London Jazz Festival is now the biggest jazz event in the UK, bringing in acts ranging from the most prominent American musicians of the day, to British talents and voices from other parts of the world. Though the festival favours clear distinctions between traditional notions of jazz, big band and the avant-garde, there are always artists working in-between idioms, refusing to be easily categorised. Like most prominent cultural happenings in London, the festival is liable to be glossy, over-serious and sold-out—but it’s never exclusive or out of reach. The host venues are spread across the city, beyond the three major concert halls that welcome most of the “big names” (Queen Elizabeth Hall, Royal Festival Hall, and The Barbican), and are open to anyone. In the intimate space of the Vortex and other clubs similar in size, a no less extraordinary programme of music frequently awaits the avid listener. Indeed, as with any other festival, it is often in these venues where the standout sets are heard.

Read my review of acts such as John Surman, The Branford Marsalis Quartet, JD Allen, Randy Weston, Billy Harper, The Buck Clayton Legacy Band, Stefano Bollani, Tomasz Stanko, Dave Holland, and Kenny Barron here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

"Not Basiecally": Basie's Swedish Interview

Count Basie interviewed by Sven Lindahl during his first summer tour in Sweden, 1962.

Ellington Visits Finland

In February 1963, Duke Ellington And His Orchestra made their first trip to Finland. One year later, the jazz impresario Paavo Einiƶ brought the band back to Finland for a second time. The video above is from the first trip.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Martin Williams on Herbie Nichols

"Nichols is original. He may remind us of Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk, and of Fats Waller and Teddy Wilson, but it is also obvious that he plays with a jazz style that is thoroughly Nichols. The things he can do with time and the fact that his rhythms and harmonies are interrelated, indeed inseparable, are exceptional. He is not at all interested in currently "hip" tempos, mannerisms, or finger dexterities, and on the piece he calls S'Crazy Pad, he shows he is not at all afraid of a steady "four" rhythm, of a modernized version of a simple '30s "riff tune" conception, of swing bass and that he can bring such things off.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Revival of Fatha: Earl Hines Returns to NYC

These recordings document Earl Hines' return to the top after a decade of obscurity in the West Coast. Here, on a March 7, 1964 date from the Little Theater in New York City, Hines teams up with bassist Ahmed Abdul-Malik and drummer Oliver Jackson for a triumphant return to form. For three numbers, his band member from the 1940s, Budd Johnson, sits in.

I'll play a tape from David W. Niven's collection, featuring some of tunes The Earl Hines Trio (and Quartet) played during this particularly significant engagement, but before that, I invite you to read the passionate notes written by the co-organizer of the event, David Himmelstein, and passages of the New Yorker review of the concert by Whitney Balliett, both as exquisite as the recordings:

"I'm a band pianist, you know. I've never given a concert like this before," said Earl 'Fatha' Hines shortly after his arrival in New York City during the first week in March 1964. The news of this historic "first" was only the beginning of a series of surprises that Hines, after a give year absence from the New York scene, was to unveil at the three weekend concerts that were part of the Jazz On Broadway series at the Little Theatre, produced by Down Beat’s New York editor, critic Dan Morgenstern and myself [David Himmelstein]. The astonishing fact that Hines - the man who can safely be said to have singlehandedly made the piano a significant solo voice in the jazz band and whose instrumental style directly influenced the course of jazz through Bud Powell - had never given a piano recital is no less remarkable than the semi-obscurity into which he had slipped during the 1950s.