Friday, September 16, 2016

The Girl With Sax Appeal


As it's been the case with many women instrumentalists from the early years of jazz, sadly, the name of singer and tenor saxophonist Betty Smith (1929-2011) doesn't mean much today. The cloud of forgetfulness has again cast its dark shadow.

Once dubbed as "the girl with sax appeal", Betty Smith started playing saxophone at the age of 9 and joined an all-girl touring saxophone septet when only 15. Things continued to succeed quickly: at 19 she was married to trumpetist Jack Peberdy; forming her own quintet at the age of 26 and expanding her touring activities to continental Europe and beyond until the 1980s when illness prevented her from further musical activities.

I don't care much about her singing, but her saxophone playing has that mainstream groove and sweet delivery. Case in point: a track from an RCA EP (picture above) featuring Betty Smith on tenor, Terry Walsh on guitar, Brian Lemon on piano, the husband Jack Peberdy on bass, and Stan Bourke on drums, recorded in London, 11 November 1957. It's called Who's Sorry Now?.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Tete suite: The Art of Tete Montoliu


A SUPERB ANTHOLOGY OF TETE MONTOLIU VIDEOS WITH GUEST STARS ART BLAKEY, SONNY STITT, HAROLD LAND, AND MANY MORE.

If what I've heard from a Spanish friend is true, then Tete Montoliu could be the only jazz musician who didn't need his ears. The story goes that this blind musician who was also an avid football fan, and listening to the live report of El Clásico had a religious significance for him, was often annoyed by the fact that he had to play gigs during the football match. He, rather ingeniously, came up with a solution: putting an earphone in one of his ears which was not visible to the audience and listening to the live report while playing his gig. But the story becomes very complicated when one considers that the Catalan pianist was also half-deaf!

Myth or fact, he was a pianist of outstanding virtuosity and impeccable technique, as seen on various videos of him from the 1970s and 1980s, some of which presented here.

These nice all-star sessions from Spanish National Television shows him in top form in his heydays with a remarkable array of American visitors. This is a superb homage to one of the most distinctive voices in European jazz.

Ron Carter (b), Art Blakey (d)
Barcelona, April 1981

Oleo

Wynton Marsalis (tp), Bobby Watson (as), Billy Pierce (ts), James Williams (p), Charles Fambrough (b), Art Blakey (d)
Barcelona, April 1981

Billie's Bounce
Brief interview

Thursday, August 18, 2016

R.I.P. Bobby Hutcherson (1941-2016): World Peace


Bobby Hutcherson, the crystal-sounding master vibraphonist, is dead at 75.

An obituary on The New York Times remembers him as the "vibraphonist with coloristic range of sound":

"Mr. Hutcherson's career took flight in the early 1960s, as jazz was slipping free of the complex harmonic and rhythmic designs of bebop. He was fluent in that language, but he was also one of the first to adapt his instrument to a freer postbop language, often playing chords with a pair of mallets in each hand."

Bobby Hutcherson was extensively recorded for the Blue Note, both as the leader on superb albums such as Dialogue (with Andrew Hill and Sam Rivers) and as a sideman (always bringing a new identity to leaders' sessions) on indisputable modern classics of the 1960s, among which Eric Dolphy's Out To Lunch! always passionately remembered by friend and foe.

After the end of his long tenure with the Blue Note, he went freelance, never stayed with any label for too long. However, one of his longest running projects since the late 1970s, was a touring all-star band, The Timeless All Stars, with Curtis Fuller (trombone), Harold Land (tenor saxophone), Cedar Walton (piano), Buster Williams (bass), and Billy Higgins (drums).

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

John McLaughlin Trio in Hamburg, Part II


Last year I unearthed a VHS tape of  John McLaughlin Trio in Hamburg, 1990, which I digitized and posted here, alas, the second half of the concert was missing

I'm glad to say that the second half, lasting for more than half an hour, and featuring the electric Jozy (even though played acoustically), was found on another tape of mine which I'm posting now. Aside form Jozy, there's an animated, highly exciting Indo-bop sort of scat, which is rather excellent.

Richard Cook and Brian Morton on this band:
"[McLaughlin] is punching out rows of notes which are almost as impressive for their accuracy as for their power. The themes are no longer as obviously visionary and Eastern-influenced and the guitarist seem content to re-run many of stylistic devices he had adopted from the days with Miles Davis through the ringing harmonies of Shakti and back out into a more obviously jazz-grounded idiom."

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Motif Records


Listening to Phil Schaap's podcast on Serge Chaloff (Feb 22, 2016), I came across a remark made by the renowned WKCR DJ who after playing a recording by Chaloff, called it a production of Motif Records, "a Boston obscure 78-era label".

The recording in question from April 16, 1949, entitled King Edward the Flatted Fifth, featured Boston-born Serge Chaloff (baritone sax), Charlie Mariano (alto sax), Gait Preddy (tp), Mert Goodspeed (tb), Ralph Burns (p), Frank Vaccar (b), Pete Derosa (d).

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Charlie Parker, The Boston Radio Interviews


Bird speaks! Posted online recently as an episode from the Birdmaniac Birdflight show on New York's WKCR, the jazz historian and DJ Phil Schaap presented one of the very few surviving Charlie Parker's interviews in good audio quality, accompanied by Mr. Schaap's commentary and a wealth of information about the historic interview.

At the time of the interview, Parker, fresh from a triumphant concert in Toronto's Massey Hall, was engaged at Boston's Hi-Hat Club. On June 13, 1953, after a prior discussion, he showed up at the Boston radio station to be interviewed by John Fitch who was known on air as John McLellan.

During the course of the interview, McLellan tried to encourage, even unsuccessfully provoke Parker to talk more. (Listen to McLellan's biting remark about Dixieland music to which Parker remains indifferent if not defensive.) No matter how much articulation and encouragement is poured into the interview on McLellan's end, Parker, 32 at the time, remains detached if amiable. He seems to be only interested in "good music", having issues with categorizations and ranking fellow artists:

"Oh, I'd like to differ, I beg to differ, in fact. There's always room for musicians, you know. There's no such thing as the middle of the road, it will be one thing or the other -- good music or otherwise, you know. And it doesn't make any difference which idiom it might be in -- swing, bebop, as you might want to call it, or Dixieland -- if it's good it will be heard."
Parker, maintaining his calm and friendly attitude throughout the course of an interview which doesn't always go in right direction, gives insight into his world by some typically short, poetic statements:

"Most people fail to realize that most of the things they hear coming out of a man's horn, ad lib, or else things that are written, original things, they're just experiences, the way he feels -- the beauty of the weather, the nice look of a mountain, or maybe a nice fresh cool breath of air, I mean all those things."
Parker's knowledge of jazz history and his pedagogic precision in emphasizing the dates -- even if they are not exactly correct -- and his reluctance to talk ill of his colleagues and contemporaries are touching.

Friday, July 29, 2016

The "Sacred" Revisited: A Duke Ellington Memorial

Duke Ellington with Anita Moore at the Rainbow Room, 1972, © Nancy Crampton
Featured here is a great filmed concert whose origins, exact date and the name of musicians are not known to me. Surprisingly, it's not listed either on Jazz on TV filmographies or the discography of the distinguished musicians involved.

This 30-minute-long video assembles songs from Duke Ellington's Sacred Concerts, performed in his memory by a superb band which is not Ellington's orchestra or what was left of it at that time. The date, I guess, must be May 1986, when issuing the first postal stamp in Ellington's honor called for ducal festivities and all-star performances of his compositions.

The place? Maybe St. Patrick's Cathedral? If you're familiar with New York City, please go to 16' 12'' for an exterior shot of a church which I assume is the location of the concert.

Also, If you happen to know any of the band members seen in the video, please leave a comment. Those who are more easily detectable are Frank Wess (as), Slide Hampton (tb), Cecil Payne (bs, playing solo on My Love), and Billy Taylor (p). It's quite a line-up!

Vocalists are Priscilla Baskerville, Ellington's brother-in-law McHenry Boatwright, and Anita Moore who was the singer with Ellington Orchestra during the last two years of Duke's life (1972-74) up until the 1980s.

From the repertoire, the songs that I knew are listed below. Two remain unidentified.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Moondog Live in Stuttgart

Cover of a Moondog 7" EP from 1953
The blind composer, street musician, Nordic mystic, and instrument inventor Moondog (born Louis Thomas Hardin in Marysville, Kansas) moved to Germany in 1974 and lived there until he died in 1999, age 83. (Read about his illustrious, fascinating life on this Wikipedia entry.)

Here, one of Moondog's musical performances is filmed in Stuttgart, 1992, featuring his new compositions which were later released as Sax Pax for a Sax, in collaboration with London Saxophonic. When the album was released 6 years later, it reached no 22 on Billboard chart.

On this video Moondog and London Saxophonic perform:

Dog Trot
Sandalwood
New Amsterdam

The band members are:

Friday, July 15, 2016

King of Jazz - Paul Whiteman's Picture at Last



For years, I was curious about King of Jazz, a two-strip technicolor film made in 1930, centered around the Paul Whiteman Orchestra with the leader serving as the master of ceremony in a revue musical.

Even though I had a VHS copy of the film in my possession, the awfully dim and faded colors, reduced to dirty browns and cheap watercolor reds, prevented me from watching it from beginning to end.

Now, thanks to a stunning and expensive restoration carried out by Universal, the film, which was a commercial flop at the time of its initial release, is back in circulation.