Monday, December 30, 2013

2013: Highlights of the "A" Train

© Ehsan Khoshbakht

The year 2013 marked a drastic rise in the number of visitors to this blog. For that, I must thank those readers who frequently returned to this venue and I hope what I've offered has been worthy of their time. Since it has become a contagious fad to list the best of this and the worst of that toward the end of the year, I simply provide links to more popular posts on this blog, in case you have missed them.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Image of the Day: Tubby Hayes + Charles Chaplin

Today I spotted the great British tenor saxophone player, Tubby Hayes, in a scene from Charles Chaplin's A King In New York, shot in Shepperton Studios in England, 1957. Other band members seen in this shot are Tony Crombie, playing the drums (while his cymbal is positioned exactly on Chaplin's head) and Jimmy Logan, bass. Does anyone know the trumpet player? [update: the trumpeter is probably Les Condon. See comments.]

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Soul Brothers: Ahmad Jamal Meets Yusef Lateef


Recorded live in Marciac, France, August 8, 2011.
Ahmad Jamal (piano), Yusef Lateef (tenor sax, flute), James Cammack (bass), Herlin Riley (drums), Manolo Badrena (percussion).

Set List:
Exatogi (?)
Brother Hold Your Light (vocal: Lateef)
Trouble In Mind (vocal: Lateef)

Call Me Lateef

"When the soul looks out of its body, it should see only beauty in its path. These are the sights we must hold in mind, in order to move to a higher place. Time after time in our hearts and soul we find love. No static, no pain – so pure, so happy to be alive. Waves of love consume us. We find no hatred – just love for all." -- Yusef Lateef
A couple of years ago, one of my friends from Iran, a lady of many talents and virtues, got married to an English gentleman. Later on, they decided to undertake their first trip to the country of birth of the bride, Iran. Now when a non-Muslim marries to a Muslim, for obtaining a spouse visa, in a wired ritual which of course is just pure formality, the non-Muslim needs to chose an Islamic name. It is an artificial religious conversion which has become part of the bureaucracy.

It was under these circumstances that the couple called me to get a suggestion for an Islamic name. Of course, I immediately said: Lateef! Then I tried to say why Lateef, and of course, I gave a lengthy lecture on Dr. Yusef Lateef and why I think, because of the man, it is the best name.

Some days later, I heard from the couple that the embassy staff hasn't accepted Lateef for a name (Lateef means gentle and it sounds more feminine than masculine) and when the couple have explained why they want to chose Lateef, the snooping staff suggests the name of Yusef instead of Lateef. My friends who see no other way to get the travel documents accept the given name. So James became Yusef.  In any case, Yusef is still half of Yusef Lateef.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

RIP Herb Geller (1928-2013)

The last two months of 2013 left us with heavy hearts as the news of the death of many jazz giants (as well as many cinema people), though not quite unexpectedly, reached us. Yesterday, in the recent chain of deaths among jazz greats, Doug Ramsey announced Herb Geller's passing in Hamburg at the age of 85:

"We have word from Herb Geller’s family that the venerable alto saxophonist died on Thursday in a Hamburg, Germany, hospital. He succumbed to pneumonia. Geller had been under treatment for the past twelve months for a form of lymphoma...Geller remained not merely active but energetic until fairly recently, performing in clubs and at festivals throughout Europe. He had lived in Hamburg since 1965. Until his mandatory retirement at age 65 he was a key soloist with the NDR Big Band, then spent much of the next 20 years touring and recording in a solo career."

Sunday, December 15, 2013

50 Years After Dinah Washington

DINAH Washington sessions with Junior Mance, Clark Terry, Charles Mingus, Milt Jackson, Clifford Brown, Max Roach, Harold Land, Maynard Ferguson, Lucky Thompson, etc.

Dinah Washington who once was given the title of "Queen of the Blues" and became a best-selling artist for labels such as Mercury and Roulette, died unexpectedly on December 14, 1963 at the age of 39. Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of her death while her musical heritage remains almost untouched.

Dinah Washington's death certificate

Friday, December 13, 2013

No Man's Band: For the 20th Anniversary of Diva

"The most dramatic, indeed thrilling, evidence of the emancipation of women in jazz is the big band Diva," wrote critic Nat Hentoff. "These girls can play — and I mean play," said another critic, Geoff Burdett, while confessing to "being very surprised by the sheer power and spirit of the band, quite apart from the very high level of musical ability on display."

The Diva Jazz Orchestra, formed by drummer Sherrie Maricle, started giving concerts in 1993 which makes this post a kind of their 20th anniversary celebration, as a part of ongoing series Women in Jazz.

According to Diva's leader, Sherrie Maricle, the band is nothing less than an international jazz institution for those women who can play. "The women in Diva are from all over the world," Maricle says, "[and] we are carrying on the tradition initiated by the legendary big bands of the past. We are dedicated to the cause of keeping big band music alive and swinging because we all have a passion for that music."

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

RIP Jim Hall (1930-2013)

Just half an hour ago the sad news reached us that Jim Hall has passed away. I will never forgive myself for missing the opportunity to meet this incredibly sharp, charming and exquisite man backstage the Queen Elizabeth Hall during his last performance in London in 2012.

Here is one of my favorite Jim Hall recordings from a Tokyo concert on October 28, 1976 with Don Thompson (bass) and Terry Clarke (drums). Mr. Hall's interpretation of Billie's Bounce (Charlie Parker) is first rate.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Diana Krall Trio: Frim Fram Sauce

I must confess I've never been a Diana Krall fan. I have no patience nor musical interest to listen to any of her songs through the end. It seems to me that her success, more than proving her talent, is a great lesson in using new means of gigantic publicity machines of big time companies, if it doesn't remind of the conformity among so called jazz critics. But as the theme of the month on this blog happens to be Women in Jazz, I try to see the whole width of the spectrum and with such intention a superstar like Krall cannot be ignored.

This is, again, from my old VHS tapes of the Bern Jazz Festival in Switzerland, 1997. Here, Krall is accompanied by great Georgian guitar man, Russell Malone who is the most rewarding player on this song. In addition to Malone, Neal Caine who was a remember of Elvin Jones band before joining this touring trio is on bass. Neal, after staying for one year, left for Betty Carter's band. Very wise indeed!

They perform Frim Fram Sauce.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Blues for an African Friend

In Memoriam: Nelson Mandela (1918-2003)

Tony Scott Quartet: Sung Heroes (Sunnyside SSC 1015)
Tony Scott (cl) Bill Evans (p) Scott LaFaro (b) Paul Motian (d)
NYC, October 28, 1959

Blues For An African Friend

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Pictorial Discography of Blues & Rhythm Classics

One of the most popular posts on this blog has been the discography of Blues & Rhythm Series of the defunct French label Classics (aka Chronological Classics). This is a follow-up to that post, while the information about the label and its discography still can be accessed here.

Going through these names, images and dates is like discovering a new continent in music. Although the focus of this blog has been mostly jazz, this collection is absolutely essential in understanding many developments in jazz since the 1950s. In addition to that, some of these artists later ventured into more straight jazz framework and produced a good body of work (Bill Doggett, Rusty Bryant, Tiny Grimes, etc.)

A detailed discography of these sessions would unveil even more prominent jazz names as the sidemen. My own introduction to the series was with Big Maybelle which completely blew me away. Still hardly a surprise as I learned that Hot Lips Page was among the musicians! Or for instance, if you've followed this blog, last month I mentioned another memorable collection from this label (by Joe Morris) on which one can listen to early Johnny Griffin, Elmo Hope, Percy Heath and Philly Joe Jones in one session. 

In brief, there are more great names hidden beneath the smiling and neatly dressed folks on the cover.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Illinois Jacquet Big Band feat. Clark Terry

This post features the third and last part of the Illinois Jacquet Big Band in Bern, Switzerland. The first two parts can be accessed here and here.

For the final number, One O'Clock Jump, Clark Terry joins the stage whose asociation with Jacquet goes back to the late 1940s. Later, in various occasions, they were also both hired by Norman Granz for the legendary jam session concerts. On record, they both play in Newport in New York 1972, and then two decades later as members of George Wein And The Newport All Stars. Finally, in 2004, when Jacquet passed away, CT paid his last tribute to the old time collaborator by playing in his memorial service.

Now the music:

One O'Clock Jump (soloists: Richard Wyands, Clark Terry, Wyands, Jacquet, trombone?, Arthur Daniels, Terry, Fred Hunter, Winston Byrd)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

LJF's Essentially Ellington

These two photographs, taken from last night's Essentially Ellington concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, show the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, directed by Tommy Smith, in their evening opening set. Played as a part of the London Jazz Festival (now EFG LFJ), SNJO's reproduction of the Ellington repertoire is based on their album In the Spirit of Duke. The festival booklet reads: "Director Tommy Smith sets out to give audiences as close to the real-deal Ellington experience as possible. The music spans most of Ellington's career, including Black and Tan Fantasy, Daybreak Express, Rockin' In Rhythm and a ravishing tenor-piano duet of The Single Petal of a Rose.  As well as movements from The Queen's Suite, it features extracts from Ellington and Billy Strayhorn's re-interpretation of Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite." 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Hawk Talks

Two interviews with Coleman Hawkins, posted on the occasion of his 109th birthday anniversary.

The English Interview:

Coleman Hawkins, in London (circa 1960), talks about tenor saxophone, Fletcher Henderson, Fats Waller (bringing him his 'breakfast' which was a glass full of scotch), Body & Soul (recorded in "just one take...Boom!!") and some other things.

Duke in the USSR

Jam Session in the U.S.S.R. Duke playing balalaika. source
The first time I saw Dr. Harvey G. Cohen was in one of his King’s College London lectures about Duke Ellington's America (politics of race), also the title of his Ellington book. Later, I contacted him about the State Department tour of 1963 which I mused about here and hopefully, I'm going to meet Mr. Cohen again to hear his take on this tour for which I'm making a short film.

However, today I mentioned Mr. Cohen for a slightly different reason, or for a different "trip". I just learned that he's authored a long essay on Ellington's second tour of the East which shares many of the socio-political contexts of the first one. Originally published on the journal of Popular Music as Visions of Freedom: Duke Ellington in the Soviet Union (2011), the essay explains the Ellington's second State Department sponsored tour. Mr. Cohen, in the abstract to the paper, writes:

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Style of Duke Ellington

In August 2013, when the Los Angeles Times published Mimi Melnick's obituary, I didn't catch that she was the same Mimi Clar I knew for her jazz writing, especially for her study of Ellington's style which was published in the Jazz Review journal of 1959.

In The Style of Duke Ellington Clar starts her argument by focusing on the problem of defining Ellington's style quoting André Previn who has said: "Stan Kenton can stand in front of a thousand fiddles and a thousand brass and make a dramatic gesture and every studio stranger can nod his head and say, 'Oh, yes, that's done like this, but Duke merely lifts his finger, three horns make a sound, and I don't know what it is!"

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Illinois Jacquet Big Band, Part II

This is the second part of the Illinois Jacquet Big Band video I posted in late October (here). I haven't been able to identify the members of the trombone section yet. In addition to that, the set is still incomplete and one last part which features a fantastic finale is on the way. The pieces performed are listed below with the name of those soloists I was aware of.

00:00  Doggin' Around (soloists: Joey "G-Clef" Cavaseno, Jacquet, James Zollar, Winston Byrd, Tom Olin, Richard Wyands, Cavaseno, Mike Grey?, 2nd trombone?, 3nd trombone?, Fred Hunter)
09:40  The Sunny Side of the Street (sax solo, vocal and dance: Jacquet)
16:46  Flying Home (soloists: Cavaseno, Jacquet)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Jazz Mirrors Iran#9: Persian Village

Postscript January 6, 2016: "Paul Bley, a jazz pianist whose thoughtful but intuitive commitment to advanced improvisation became widely influential, died of natural causes Sunday. He was 83."

What I hear in jazz takes on Persia, aka Iran, is like Montesquieu's Persian Letters in reverse. If Persian Letters was composed of letters exchanged between two imaginary Persian noblemen traveling in Europe, jazz pieces about Persia are like composers' and musicians' mind journeys in Persia. As Montesquieu would say, you might find in jazz compositions about Iran "a sort of romance, without having expected it."

In the Jazz Mirrors Iran series, several different musicians and pieces introduced and they were all connected together by a sort of a chain. The chain was Persia, a dream land where even the traffic can be (pictured) as harmonious. (see Gulda)

Back to Montesquieu's concept of an imaginary encounter between east (Iran) and west (Europe), the author talks about how the travelers (in this case, musicians) were struck with the marvellous and extraordinary, each in his own style. "Reasoning cannot be intermixed with the story," remarks Montesquieu, "because the personages not being brought together to reason." Therefore, Fats Waller's Persian Rug or Lloyd Miller's Pari Ruu are always "connected with a manifestation of surprise, or astonishment, and not with the idea of inquiry, much less with that of criticism." That is the Iran I hear and see in jazz.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Ad-Lib#5: Two Faces of Johnny Griffin

© photograph: Yukio Ichikawa
The line-up on some of the old 78 rpm records are truly amazing. For instance, teaming up Johnny Griffin, Elmo Hope, Percy Heath and Philly Joe Jones on one single record may sound like a fantasy modern group, but in reality it happened in the late 1940s, though the encounter is not as jazzy as one expects.

The name of Joe Morris (1922-58) hardly rings a bell today. However, those familiar with the big bands of Lionel Hampton, Buddy Rich and Dizzy Gillespie will recognize this trumpet player who after some busy years in big bands led his own usually loud combos, playing rhythm and blues charts. It is in one of these small combos that the little giant of tenor sax, Johnny Griffin, is presented at the age of 19.

Did Griffin pick up something from his demanded rough, bluesy, riff-based performance here for his future's distinctive style? It's hard to think he didn't.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Illinois Jacquet Big Band, Part I

© photography by William Ellis
Once again, I've used a birthday as the pretext to celebrate one's art. Today's Illinois Jacquet's day and the birthday present is a rare video of his big band in Bern, 1998.

Naturally, the concert in its entirety serves as an overview of his career and inclusion of each song in the repertoire reflects a stage of Illinois' career, starting from the smashing hit Flying Home with the Lionel Hampton Orchestra to the standards of the Count Basie songbook.

As for the man himself and his stimulating sound, he is praised as the primary example of the Texas sound, or as Richard Cook observes, permanently saddled "with the largely meaningless 'Texas tenor' tag," which is basically "big, blues tone, edged with a kind of desperate loneliness that somehow underlines Jacquet's permanent status a guest star." Still, a better definition is given by Brian Priestley:

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

We Remember Clifford

Clifford Brown was three years younger than Lee Konitz, two years Horace Silver's junior and one year Benny Golson's. All the mentioned musicians are alive, some if them still going strong, but it's painfully difficult to accept that one of the best musicians in jazz history has left us for nearly 6 decades.

As they say, The Good Die Young, but it is the time for celebration rather than mourning and lament. Today's Clifford Brown's birthday and Take the "A" Train commemorates the short and once blooming life of Clifford Brown by playing two tapes from David W. Niven's archives. Throughout the tapes, Niven injects personal observations and speculations, anecdotes, history and touching quotes which makes the tapes even more precious.


The Memorial Album happened to be one of my first (and due to conditions of life in Iran, one of the very few) acquired jazz CDs. The album contains two early sessions, one a quintet and the other a sextet, led by Brownie. However, Niven's tapes are not exactly track by track replica of the Blue Note release. In order to give a survey of Brownie's recording during the summer of 53, Niven has mixed takes from Brownie Speaks (Applause LP) and Memorial (LP edition).

Monday, October 28, 2013

Shirley Clarke + Teo Macero

Bridges-Go-Around (1958), made by one of the forerunner Jazz Film artists of all time, Shirley Clarke, is a short film, or more precisely two shorts in one. Composed of a series of shots from New York bridges, the film, in its first half, is edited and synced with the music of Teo Macero. For the second half, the very same images, as the first half, are repeated, but this time they are accompanied by the electronic music of Louis and Bebe Barron. So Bridges-Go-Around is a film which is played twice, but each projection, thanks to specific effects created by each musical genre, gives a distinctive impression and even the meaning of the images change and assiduously contrast/complete/comment on the other half. 

In fact, Bridges-Go-Around wasn't originally designed as a twice-played film with two soundtracks, but it was merely one four-minute-long film with Barrons' music. Clarke used the music of Barrons, but when the copyright issues arose, she asked Columbia records jazz producer and trumpet player Teo Macero to compose a replacement. Later, Clarke who liked the both versions started screening them back to back. Like a jazz musician, Clarke turned the spontaneity of moment into an extension of her art, a prudent experimentation which can be seen as a study of the relation between sound and image.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Ahmad Jamal '99

Photo © Daniel Sheehan. Source.
Let's start with an enlightening fact: do you know what ahmad jamal means? Obviously it is an Arabic name (long ago, in Pittsburgh, he was Fritz Russell Jones), but not just any name. Ahmad means highly praised "implying one who constantly thanks God" and jamal means beauty; In brief, Highly Praised Beauty. That is indeed the music of brother Ahmad Jamal.

You probably know that the new Ahmad Jamal album, Saturday Morning, is out. It's been described by Ahmad's website as an album "following on from Blue Moon...made up of the kind of ballads to which only he holds the key. Each one is a moment of grace, shining like a star in the sky of American Classical Music...with his light-fingered but rhythmic style, he sends us into a sensuous trance and leads us to a musical climax: a sound, which is pure groove." The album can be purchased here.

For this post, I have a 45 minute long video of an Ahmad Jamal concert to show you.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Wendell Marshall

Happy birthday to Wendell Marshall who like his first cousin, the legendary Jimmy Blanton, became the bassist of Duke Ellington Orchestra from September 1948 to January 1955.

Take the "A" Train feat. W. Marshall. Credits here.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Dizzy Gillespie at the Village Gate (1977)

© courtesy of Pablo Records.
"A lot of people call Dizzy old fashioned but so is the bible." -- Mickey Roker

Celebrating what would have been John Birks Gillespie's 96th birthday.

WBAI fundraiser "Dizzy Gillespie Day" held at the Village Gate in New York City on August 30, 1977. This recording contains part one of the event, an interview with Dizzy Gillespie's guitarist Rodney Jones and the music of jazz pianist Rio Clemente.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Earl Hines and Dizzy Gillespie on Duke Ellington

This scene comes from Love You Madly, one of the best Ellington documentaries which was originally made for TV in the west coast. The interviews are conducted by Ralph Gleason.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Four Trumpet Masters

I'm knee-deep into London Film Festival and an overdose in film has kept me away from this venue and blogging on jazz. For the sake of reassurance, and promsing that I would return to jazz life soon, I'm posting a recent VHS transfer of a fabulous trumpet summit in which the cream of Ellington and Basie trumpet alumni are on stage together: Joe Wilder, Snooky Young, Harry "Sweets" Edison and Clark Terry!

The event was originally presented as the Legendary Trumpet Masters at the Jazzfestival Bern '97 (May 1) in Switzerland. In addition to the trumpets, our favorite Hank Jones is on piano, Jesper Lundgard on bass and Clarence Penn on drums. The whole concert (also featuring Doc Cheatham), including its nine songs, intro and interviews was broadcast on Swiss and German TVs in 1997.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Duke in Dhaka

courtesy of DHAKA TRIBUNE

It has been an auspicious 50th anniversary of the 1963 for Ellington lovers in the Middle East and South Asia. In a series of local and international tributes to the roaring tour of Ellington and the Orchestra, sponsored by the US State Department, this is the latest addition which appeared on Dhaka Tribune, Sunday, October 6, 2013:

"Monday evening, October 28, 1963. Hundreds take their seats at the Race Course in Dhaka, excitement buzzing through the crowd.
On the stage stands an upright bass and a drum set, along with a piano brought over from the Goethe Institute. There is a slight dampness in the air, and a piano tuner has been asked to stand by. After an introduction, more than a dozen musicians from the U.S., mostly black men, take to the stage. The horn section brings along their well-loved trumpets, saxophones, and trombones. The silence of the night is broken by the melody of Billy Strayhorn’s composition, “Take the A Train,” familiar to some because it is the theme of the Voice of America’s Jazz Hour. It will be followed by other tunes like the wistful “Mood Indigo” and the swinging “Things Ain’t What They Used to Be.” For an hour and a half, the Duke Ellington Orchestra, with some of the world’s finest jazz musicians – including Paul Gonsalves and Sam Woodyard – will make the Dhaka air reverberate with the soulful and sizzling sounds of jazz."

The piece continues to give an anecdotal, as well as sociopolitical picture of Duke in Dhaka. The writer of the article is Mahmud Rahman whose knowledge of the Dhaka concert has benefited this blog on the post I did earlier this year. Mahmud is also the author of Killing the Water (Penguin India) and Black Ice (Harper Collins India).

Friday, September 20, 2013

When Duke Ellington Played Kabul

Today, BBC ran an article on the 50th anniversary of Duke Ellington's Kabul concert, a part of the tour of the US State Department which I've already covered here. (As a matter of fact, Monica Whitlock, the author of the BBC article, has put a link to my version of the story on the BBC website.)

Listen to the interview with Mr. Faiz Khairzada here. (click on the image below)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Crash Course on Bud Powell

"Bud was totally immersed in music -- his one constant reality. Even when there was no instrument available, he could hear the sounds. Once when a friend visited him in hospital, Bud sketched piano keys on the wall. 'Listen, what do you think of these chords,' he asked while he banged his fingers against the drawing."

This anecdote which is narrated by the deep voice of David W. Niven is the essence of Bud Powell, the subject of this new post. And also this post happens to be the 400th on Take the "A" Train, so in a sense you may call it a celebration too.

The plan is to study Bud Powell though the tapes of archivist David Niven. Please note that a few seconds of silence exists between the end of side A of each tape and the beginning of side B. The side reversal happens automatically for each tape.

I've already posted Bud-related materials here, including a note on a Danish film about the pianist, and a handful of interviews. For completion sake, be aware of the seminal Bud Powell book, Wail: The Life of Bud Powell by Peter Pullman which is described by its author as an "unsentimental biography—not hagiography—of a major jazz artist." Pullman continues: "It’s based as much on an exhaustive look at the public record and press on Powell, as it is on eyewitness accounts of his live performances and on personal opinions of his private life—in addition to subjective assessments of his studio recordings. The book treats all of these accounts as so many pathways to understanding the central paradox of the musically explosive yet emotionally impassive Powell: How could he have played with such rhythmic euphoria (and romantic feeling!) and, yet, seldom if ever have allowed anyone to see the physical and psychic pain that he was often enduring?"

For ordering the paper edition of Bud Powell book, email the author directly at pullman_peter[at]

This crash course features some 500 minutes of Powell's romantic agony (i.e. music), and as it has been the case with great art, his pain will be your incalculable pleasure.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Jazz Mirrors Iran#8: In a Persian Market

The whole color spectrum reflected in tasbihs, hanging from the shop windows. The smell of rosewater perfumes. Carpets and rugs piled inside doorless, windowless shops and a carney-like salesman shouting outside, encouraging curious pedestrians to go in and see the “best.” Kebab shops, sending the smell of rice and meat to the air, next to a fabric shop that no lady can resist stopping by and bargaining with the humorous, assured salesman. This is the daily scene in the bazaar of Mashhad (where I lived most of my life), Grand Bazaar of Tehran, or the dream-like Vakil Bazaar of Shiraz, a Persian market somewhere in Iran where its colors, noises, smells and movements are uniquely inspiring for any poet, musician, filmmaker and anyone interested in turning the sights and sounds of the daily street life into a piece of art. [above photo: ceiling of a bazaar in Iran. Photography by Reza Hakimi.]

Now, the jazz connection, or rather the story of a song: The story begins in England, where the Birmingham born son of an engraver, Albert Ketèlbey (1875-1959) wrote this week’s theme tune, In a Persian Market. In 1920, Ketèlbey, a busy composer in London’s West End music halls, probably without ever being to a Persian market, used his imagination to depict a busy day in a Persian bazaar. His compositions soon became a popular hit, recycled many times, and even found its way to the jazz songbook.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Earl Hines Documentary (1975)

This English documentary about the father (AKA Fatha) of jazz piano, Earl Hines, came to the online world some months ago. Beautifully shot by two-time Oscar winner DP of The Mission (Robert DeNiro, Jeremy Irons) and The Killing Fields (Sam Waterston), and directed by the Scottish TV documentary maker Charlie Nairn, it was filmed during Hines's rehearsals in the Blues Alley Club, Washington, DC.

Many thanks to the uploader Mark Bunker.

Recommended: Earl Hines with Benny Carter, another rare concert footage here.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Bud and Buddy: Two Beautiful

If you are a regular visitor, you've probably noticed that recently the sound archives of David W. Niven (no relation to the charming actor, nevertheless a charming collector) and the writings of Whitney Balliett have been the focus of this blog. I hope you're enjoying this feast as much as I do.

This week's edition presents a recording from my favorite format in jazz, "A Meets B", in this case, two ténor extraordinaire meeting gently, passionately and unforgettably: Bud Freeman and Buddy Tate.

This is a live date recorded at the New Orleans Jazzclub, Holland, on March 31, 1976. Released by RIFF and also Circle on vinyl.

The local rhythm section is consisted of pianist Chris Smildiger, bassist Koos van der Sluis and drummer Ted Easton.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Cootie, Rex and Hawk: Together

The year is 1957, and the session, one of the most enduring in jazz history. If you like cinema, an analogy can be made between this session and a film called RoGoPag, directed by Roberto Rossellini, Jean-Luc Godard and Piere Paolo Passolini. The session is simply called Together, alluding to the mere excitement of putting together the cream of Mainstream musicians under one roof and they blow with such versatility and ease. The Rosellini of the session is Coleman Hawkins, it's Godard, Cootie Williams, and Rex Stewart being its PPP.

For the list of other musicians supporting the Three Musketeers scroll down the page to see a scan of the liner notes, penned by no one but Monsieur André Hodeir (The LP came out in France.)

The audio file's from David W. Niven's vault, accompanied by his commentary (info mostly comes from the liner notes) between the tracks.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Oh Lady Was Good: 6 Favorite Marian McPartland Piano Interviews

Marian McPartland, the first English lady of jazz piano from Windsor, died earlier this week at 95.

In the 1970s she hosted a show for NPR called Piano Jazz for which she interviewed and played along many musicians (mostly pianists, but not always' dominantly jazz, but also some notable pop instrumentalists). The format of the programme was an hour-long chat and piano playing, whether as solo or duet, and reminiscing about the musical life of each interviewee. Needless to say, thanks to a Marian's long and fruitful career in the States, many of the subjects had prior professional encounters with her. So she knew what she was talking about.

Here is my six favorite moments from those shows.

Radio Hawkins#8: Cedar Walton Sideman Years [repost]

برنامۀ هشتم
سيدار والتُن
برنامه‌اي از آثار والتُنِ پيانيستِ همراهي كنندۀ گروه ها و موزيسين هايي از 1959 تا 1979
شامل: ابي لينكُلن، آرت بليكي، آرت فارمر، جان كُلترين، لي مورگان، لاكي تامسُن، ري براون و بسياري از اساتيد ساكسوفن و ترومپت سال‌هاي پنجاه و شصت ميلادي
براي شنيدن اين برنامه كمي معلومات جمع كردن دربارۀ موسيقي هاردباپ ضرري ندارد و در اين‌جا فراهم است و آمادۀ خوانده 

با كيفيت متناسب با سرعت اينترنت ايران و تكه شده به دو قسمت براي تسهيل دانلود

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Jazz Mirrors Iran#7: Jazz, the Samarkand Way

If you’re a jazz aficionado, you’ll immediately assume from the cool sound of contra-bass, clarinet-bass and brushed drums that the played track [here] is a west coast jazz from the mid 1950s. The carefully established musical textures and easy-going swing of the piece with some nice urban colorizations only make you more sure.

But take a look at the album cover and you’ll see every guess, except maybe the date, is wrong. Hard to believe, but what you’re listening to is a track by Aminollah Hussein, or André Hossein, the French-Iranian composer, famous enough in France for being the father to the French movie star and director, Robert Hossein.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

On Neil Young Journeys

In the last three years the number of films made with or about (and occasionally by) Neil Young has mounted up to the extent that is difficult to remember which song was in which film. Parallel to an overdose of NY album releases - marked by two recent, and rather disappointing, Crazy Horse sessions - camera seems to love this Canadian singer/songwriter, still, at 66, a restless rocker in search of a Woodstock dream. Also, the age, 66, resembles the golden number American popular music and the cross country highway of freedom in anything from Nat King Cole to Dennis Hopper.

The aforementioned filmic portrayals are: in 2009 Young was given his entry to the American Masters series in Don't Be Denied. Unlike Bob Dylan film from the same program, which had Martin Scorsese’s name in the credit, Don't Be Denied was denied soon after its initial broadcast and went into oblivion. On the same year, Jonathan Demme filmed the electric storm of a NY tour in the Trunk Show. In 2010 the electric solo album, Le Noise, with its murky, elegiac lyricism turned into a 40 minute-long YouTube video, shot in a beautiful L.A. mansion with a feeling of LSD all throughout the film. And now, Demme’s fourth film with NY (after Complex Sessions, 1994; Heart of Gold, 2006 and the Trunk Show) seems in better shape and Younger than all the recent efforts.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Al Haig, a Pianist of Vigilant Sensitivity

Al Haig

One of my relatives, recently turned 66, whose life is wholly dedicated to jazz (and I'm used to calling him "uncle") asked me for a groundbreaking favor, something that utterly defines his jazz canon: he asked me to reorganize his iPod, delete the unnecessary stuff, so he can only listen to the albums recorded by three musicians and no one else - all pianists. For him, the lucky 3 who have survived the test of time were, respectively, Count Basie, Al Haig and Ahmad Jamal.

While Basie holds a rank only next to God, and Ahmad is enjoying a belated recognition (in spite of being praised by Miles Davis and selling thousands of his Pershing album more than half a century ago), though mostly in Europe, Haig still remains the pianist in the dark, the doomed figure, nevertheless the most lyrical of all.

"In many respects,"Max Harrison declared, "Al Haig was  the most sympathetic pianist to record with Parker." The same writer quotes Stan Getz who calls Haig "the best in the business."

Williams' Jazz Review article (Volume 3, Number 5, June 1960) sheds more light on the career of the obscured giant:

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Jazz Mirrors Iran#6: Paraded Beauty

Women in Iran: a hot topic, no matter how you look at it, from European feminists studying the country to Iranian men sipping cups of “smuggled” Starbucks coffee while cruising up Tehran’s Jam Avenue. Whatever helps to glamorize these young ladies on the streets comes to their service: heavy make-up, flamboyant haircuts which under the veil turns the head into a piece of early Cubist art, bold colors that remind one of Gauguin in Martinique, tight dresses that generously exhibit the female figure, high heels and leather boots that make the infamous Betty Page look like a modest housewife - cigarette smokers, driving behind the wheel of expensive sport cars in northern Tehran, listening to loud music - patrons of Tehran’s reputation as the nose job capital of the world, as if all Persian girls rival themselves with Nicole Kidman in how properly whittled noses should look.
photo by Reza Hakimi

Art and culture aside, what impresses Western visitors in Iran are these apparent dichotomies of beauty and street fashion, all the more exotic to foreign eyes as defiance within the stringent rules of the Islamic Republic regime. “Women are so chic there,” Mark Cousins, an Irish filmmaker told me one time while making a documentary in Iran, “it’s like a European country, but a strange kind of Europe.”

Pari Ruu, Lloyd Miller and the Heliocentrics

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

In Memory of Paul Smith (1922-2013) + Intensive Care LP

Paul Smith
The jazz pianist Paul Smith, also a versatile composer and arranger and a prolific sideman, died at 91. To be honest, I didn't know he was still alive.

The Los Angeles Times reported his passing and added that the man had worked with "such greats as Bing Crosby, Nat 'King' Cole and Dizzy Gillespie...Smith began studying classical piano when he was 8 and joined a professional band in his teens. Over a long career, he recorded more than five dozen albums with his own groups and accompanied many performers, including Sammy Davis Jr., Ella Fitzgerald, Doris Day and the Andrews Sisters. Smith also arranged and performed TV and movie scores as a studio musician. He spent more than 25 years as pianist and music director for The Steve Allen Comedy Hour."

Nearly 60 years ago, Paul Smith who contrasted his size (six-foot-four, over two hundred pounds) with an "extremely deft and delicate touch at the piano," was introduced in the liner notes of one of his early recordings as "a brilliant young pianist who plays classics, 'pop' tunes, and modern jazz with equal facility, and as a result is one most sought after studio musicians in Hollywood. In past years he's been both performer and arranger with leading dance bands and musical groups throughout the country."