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 Einiö 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.

Friday, October 24, 2014

David Redfern, Photographs

Stan Kenton in London; Price: £750 - £1000. Visit the website.

The jazz and rock photographer David Redfern died at the age of 78. The Telegraph obituary is online here. This gallery, assembled from various online sources, mostly Tumblr, shows some of Redfern's best photographic works. All rights belong to David Redfern. For further information, visit his website here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tricky F. (A Story About Art Tatum)

"The English pianist Alan Clare was once intrigued with a workman who was carrying out some remodeling inside his house. Clare was playing some recordings, and he began to notice that the workman was whistling along with whatever music he put on—Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, it didn't seem to matter. Even if he hadn't heard it before he had the natural musical ability to follow a melody closely and almost automatically.

Clark Terry: Further Years at the University of Ellingtonia (1955-56)

"Never think you are too hip, because two hips make an ass." — Clark Terry

Here is my second post on Clark Terry at the University of Ellingtonia, complemented by David W. Niven's audio archive and his selection of Terry's solos played and recorded over the course of two years.

This collection is particularly interesting because of introducing more flugelhorn solos into the Ellington repertoire.

I also quote passages from Clark Terry's autobiography, where he is giving astute descriptions of other members of Ellingtonia. The book, which aside from its invaluable insight into CT's life is a great piece of literature, can be purchased here.

This is how Mr Mumbles introduces his colleagues:

"Harold "Shorty" Baker got his nickname because of his height. Sometimes we'd call him "Shorty Boo," just to mess with him...He had a gorgeous sound on his trumpet and played beautiful and interesting solos."

"We called Ray Nance 'Little Dipper' in honor of Louis Armstrong, whose nickname was 'Big Dipper'. He was the sweetest cat in the world. Never harmed anyone. He smiled most of the time, and there was always a pleasant atmosphere around him. He played elegant trumpet solos and was an accomplished violinist, tap dance, and vocalist as well."

"Willie Cook came over from Dizzy's band. He was playing 'à la Birks,'...Very small but a powerful player with interesting solos. Dark-skinned with nice features—almost like a Native American. He wore a conk all the time."

"We called Johnny Hodges 'Rabbit' because with his long ears and small eyes, that’s what his face resembled. He was a marvelous lead alto player with a very mellow sound. Quiet and unassuming, but he could play his ass off."

"Russell Procope played alto. He was short and more portly than Rabbit. Kinda intellectually talkative at times. He was from the old John Kirby band. He was a dependable reader and had a beautiful sound."

"Jimmy Hamilton was a tenor player who was featured more on the clarinet. His old nickname was “Joe Trump” because he had played trumpet in Philadelphia years before. Everybody loved his playing. He was a little shorter than me, of average complexion and with a little moustache. Sort of slow of speech."

"Harry Carney had been with Duke for a long time—ever since he was seventeen. Ended up staying with Duke for forty-five years. An incredible musician. First cat in the band I saw doing circular breathing...Harry played clarinet, bass clarinet, and baritoneax. He was a big guy with intelligent conversations, and he was Duke’s favorite riding buddy. They rode together often in Harry’s Chrysler while we rode on the bus."

"Juan Tizol played valve trombone beautifully. A Cuban who spoke broken English. Olive complexion, and he wore glasses. He was a hell of a composer, too."

"Britt Woodman was a studio man who played slide trombone. Phenomenal chops, beautiful tone. And he could sight-read like nobody’s business. Such a delightful person to be around. Kinda short, with a light complexion. He was also sedentary, and would go to sleep on you in a New York minute."

"Quentin 'Butter' Jackson was a master with the slide trombone and the plunger. He filled a great void with his incredible plunger techniques after Tricky Sam left the band years before."

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Cecil Payne-Ron Carter Quintet: BWi

Cecil Payne Dossier#6 - An ongoing series on one of the giants of baritone sax 

The last video from the Cecil Payne-Ron Carter Quintet in Switzerland happens to feature the opening tune for the concert which also, in my VHS copy, misses the beginning. The tune is a Payne original, BWi.

Jazzfestival Bern, Switzerland, May 8, 1998
Eric Alexander(ts), Cecil Payne (bars), Stephen Scott (p), Ron Carter (b), Lewis Nash (d)

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Clark Terry: The Ellington Years And Beyond (1952-60)

Clark Terry. Photo courtesy of Riverside

"Nobody ever says a bad word about Clark Terry." -- Richard Cook

I just saw the documentary Keep On Keepin' On (2014), about Clark Terry and his messianic belief in jazz education, thus I'm in the mood for nothing but CT. (Hopefully, soon I will be writing a note on the film for this blog.) Here, what I've got to offer is a compilation of various solos CT played during his decade-long stint with Duke Ellington and His Orchestra.

"Duke was endowed with a supernatural magic," remembers Clark Terry, "he could cuss you out and rarely use a cuss word. He'd chastise you from the piano by hitting a discord and everybody knew what was going on. A frequent utterance of his was simply 'Aaaaaahhhhh!' It might mean something like, 'You're not paying attention! You're not listening!' Or it might mean that what you played was beautiful to him."

With exception of one track, everything you'll hear is recorded live in concert, mostly with non-professional tools and less than skillful engineers. As Clark Terry would say, these tracks are surveying a life on the road: "East coast to west coast and all in between - clubs, ballrooms, and theaters. The Beehive,  Blackhawk, Blue Note, DeLisa, Regal, Apollo, Trianon, Savoy, and many others."

There are various takes on How High the Moon which was Terry's solo feature throughout a good part of the 1950s. And then there is a surprisingly bop-ish arrangement of that tune from a Birdland session in November, 1952.

Perdido is another tune with which Terry was featured in Ellington's band. They are by far the most exciting takes of this old tune on Ellington's recorded catalog. It's like "magic" to see how Ellington manages to bring a new musical angle to the same song played over the course of the years. For that matter, one only has to go back, or forward, to compare other interpretation of the same song and see how the master tailor is re-fitting the old suit to Clark Terry's sound and musical (or even personal) character.

The voice heard on this tape is of course of Mr David W. Niven's, giving some useful information about Terry. He is responsible for this compilation. However, be aware that not all the dates and facts given are accurate. For a more reliable discography of the sessions see below.

All sessions are under Duke Ellington's leadership unless noted.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Cecil Payne-Ron Carter Quintet: Flying Fish

Cecil Payne [source]

Cecil Payne Dossier#5 - An ongoing series on one of the giants of baritone sax 

"One of the greatest needs of an artist is unified effort with himself to swing. Conceptions of rhythm patterns vary widely... individually. Therefore, it is very important to fill yourself with the spiritual causes of images so that you may paint a more colorful picture which will increase your natural musical development. Lester Young was one of the greatest of picture painters until Charlie Parker came with wide screen Vistavision painting. Now I love both of thefts." -- Cecil Payne

More from
The Cecil Payne-Ron Carter Quintet

Jazzfestival Bern, Switzerland, May 8, 1998
Eric Alexander(ts), Cecil Payne (bars), Stephen Scott (p), Ron Carter (b), Lewis Nash (d).

Flying Fish (Cecil Payne)

Cecil Payne was pretty much his own man which means most of the recordings in his not too extensive catalogue are done with him as the session leader. That leaves us with a big regret, as the combination of baritone sax in sessions with different musical approaches has always proved to be intriguing. (For that matter, check on Pepper Adams' illustrious career and recording as a session man, as well as a leader.) The tune played here, Flying Fish, was first recorded during a 1968 session, later released on Zodiac LP.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Best Docs Ever: The Jazz Picks

The Sound of Jazz
The leading English film journal Sight & Sound, known for its historical polls and decennial best-of lists selected by critics and filmmakers, recently conducted a new, slightly different poll: best documentaries of all time. The editor Nick James has explained the genesis of this poll here. The final result, searchable based on those who have voted and the films that have been voted for, can be accessed on this interactive page, but in case you're just curious about the final ten, these the are the films which have made it to the top:

1. Man with a Movie Camera
2. Shoah
3. Sans soleil
4. Night and Fog
5. The Thin Blue Line
6. Chronicle of a Summer
7. Nanook of the North
8. The Gleaners and I
=9. Dont Look Back
=9. Grey Gardens

I was one of the three hundred and something critics/filmmakers who participated in the poll. My top 10 and notes on my selection can be read here, but again, to make things easier for readers of this blog, these are the films which I saw, at that particular point, as the best documentaries ever made:

1 The Sound of Jazz (Jack Smight, 1957)
2 Quince Tree of the Sun (Victor Erice, 1992)
3 Shoah (Claude Lanzmann, 1985)
4 Histoire(s) du cinéma (Jean-Luc Godard, 1988)
5 The House Is Black (Forugh Farrokhzad, 1962)
6 Hôtel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie (Marcel Ophüls, 1988)
7 Robinson in Space (Patrick Keiller, 1997)
8 Lektionen in Finsternis (Werner Herzog, 1992)
9 P for Pelican (Parviz Kimiavi, 1972)
10 The Battle of Chile (Patricio Guzmán, 1976)

As you can see my first pick is a jazz film, made in 1957 for CBS as a live TV programme. (For further information on the film see the end of this post.) That made me curious to examine how many jazz docs have made it to the long list of the selected films. Among Top Ten, there are of course music documentaries such as Dont Look Back, but as far as jazz in concerned, these are the only jazz documentaries on the Sight & Sound poll, occasionally accompanied by short notes from voters:

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Stan Getz + Oscar Peterson Trio

Stan Getz and the Oscar Peterson Trio (Verve 8251)

Stan Getz (ts), Oscar Peterson (p), Herb Ellis (g), Ray Brown (b)
Capitol Studios, Los Angeles, CA, October 10, 1957

Friday, August 29, 2014

Charlie Parker at the Royal Roost, 1949

The Royal Roost was a jazz club located at 1580 Broadway in New York City. Opened in the Spring of 1948, it was designed to stage the more experimental jazz trends of the day. Thus, the cream of "experimental jazz musicians" in town became the club regulars, among which Charlie Parker had the most remembered (and recorded) residency throughout 1948 and 1949.

Paul Bacon describes the atmosphere of the club as something of "tremendous vitality and urgency." He portrays one typical night at the Roost as following: 
"The air inside is full of crackling expectancy, chaos... Some few tables in front of the stand are empty, awaiting the important hipster crows - theater, sports, radio people - who will fill those chairs in a late-arriving flurry. Much craning of necks, more greetings. Somebody - Max Roach, in fact - come out, leans over from the bandstand and has an animated conversation with an important-looking bearded man. Looking around, one's first impressions are reinforced; this is the center of the world!"
Many live recordings from the legendary Roost performances have surfaced ever since. This collection, found on the Internet Archive, presents some of them, featuring my favorite Roost line-up of Bird with Al Haig (on piano) and Max Roach (drums).

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Cecil Payne-Ron Carter Quintet: Cit Sac

Cecil Payne Dossier#4 - An ongoing series of posts on one of the giants of baritone sax

The Cecil Payne-Ron Carter Quintet

Jazzfestival Bern, Switzerland, May 8, 1998
Eric Alexander(ts), Cecil Payne (bars), Stephen Scott (p), Ron Carter (b), Lewis Nash (d).

Cit Sac (Cecil Payne)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Bird and Herd

In 1951, Charlie Parker was in trouble. He had been in trouble for long before and quite a while after that particular date, but 1951 saw a shift in the way drug scene was exposed in the press and also in the way it was handled by the FBI. Though Parker wasn't unfamiliar with the word "trouble", this time a nation-wide prosecution of celebrity drug addicts had made things tough for him. In the summer, Parker had played at Birdland with Machito, a gig which happened to be his last New York performance in nearly 15 months. Soon after, for some obscure drug charges, his "cabaret license" (license for performing music in the premises in which alcohol is served) was revoked. He was jobless.

Charlie Parker's saxophone case

His manager, trying to keep him busy, send Parker on the road, where he could still play without a license. Being on the road meant that he needed to be part of an already touring group. That's when Bird was united with Woody Herman's Big Band - the Third Herd edition.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Hank Jones on Al Haig

Henry "Hank" Jones (July 31, 1918 – May 16, 2010)

Hank Jones remembers his early Bop influences after leaving the Detroit area. He put a stress on the role of Al Haig in finding his own musical voice which was not a total departure from the Teddy Wilson tradition, but it was more a modern variation of that:

"When I first got to New York, one of the first groups I heard was the Dizzy Gillespie-Charlie Parker group. Al Haig was the pianist at the time: Now I understand that he and Bud Powell alternated with the group, as did Max Roach and Stan Levey on drums. But during the initial period when I first came to New York, Al Haig was the pianist.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Charles Mingus Quintet Meets Cat Anderson

In 1972, Charles Mingus undertook a European tour. It started in July, shortly after participating in Newport In New York Jazz Festival which put Mingus and Cat Anderson on the same stage together.

The Mingus Quintet for the first round of the European tour were Jon Faddis (tp) Charles McPherson (as) Bobby Jones (ts) John Foster (p) Charles Mingus (b) and Roy Brooks (d). They can be heard here, from a concert in the Netherlands.

The band in Nice, France, with guest star Dizzy Gillespie

After a series of concerts, which lasted until August, Jon Faddis and Charles McPherson left the band and Mingus had to form a new group for the second round of the European concerts, starting towards the end of the year in Germany, Poland and Spain. Gene Santoro (Myself when I am real: the life and music of Charles Mingus) reflects on Mingus's choices for his new quintet:

"He kept thinking about updating Harry Carney's baritone sound, the deep-toned Ellingtonian mix he'd always loved. A young baritone man recommended by Paul Jeffrey, Hamiet Bluiett, came down to the club and got the nod, along with trumpeter Joe Gardner. And Cat Anderson, Ellington's last high-note trumpeter, took a break from his intense schedule of studio work to hit the road. Bluiett doubled on clarinet, and could do the raucous, old-timey pieces Mingus always loved to play with loving parody, as living history tableaux. An avant-gardist with leanings toward blues and free form, Bluiett also felt the exuberant pull of traditional jazz from early New Orleans, like other free-jazz artists. Mingus was their avatar, overtly straddling jazz history from before Duke to after himself."

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Herbie Hancock on Flexi Disc

It's as thin as a piece of paper and they call the Flexi Disc, also known as a Phonosheet or Soundsheet. According to Wikipedia it is "a phonograph record made of a thin, flexible vinyl sheet with a molded-in spiral stylus groove, and is designed to be playable on a normal phonograph turntable...It is used as a means to include sound with printed material such as magazines and music instruction books...and [it] was very popular among kids and teenagers and mass-produced by the state publisher in the Soviet government."

Found on the November 8, 1973 issue of Down Beat, Herbie Hancock Demonstrates The Rhodes Piano is a flexi disc (7") featured with the journal. A track from the disc can be heard here:

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Count Basie at the Organ

I think it was John Hammond who once complained about one of the most stylish jazz pianists of all time being too shy to play piano. Of course, he was talking about Count Basie, the master of minimal (dubbed as economical) piano in the big band era. Still, I must say, comparing to Basie's organ recordings - which is the subject of this post- his piano work can be considered superabundant. Basie and organ is a beautiful but rare pairing.

Here, I'm trying to showcase his mastery at the organ from six 1952 sessions.

Before anything, I must return to some facts: Basie learned organ from Fats Waller and had a short career as the silent film accompanist. His first known recording at the organ dates back to 1939, when he accompanied Jimmy Rushing on Nobody Knows.

"Basie economized Fats' style," argues Geoff Alexander, "[he] had a sparse and 'jumping' feel to his playing, and I think influenced later organ players such as Wild Bill Davis, Milt Buckner, and Jackie Davis as much with the sound of his band as his playing."

From the early 1950s, when due to financial issues, the size of Basie orchestra drastically shrank, the small group became a favorite format. For these small group recordings, thanks to Norman Granz, Basie revisited organ almost a decade before it turned into a best-selling instrument. (In that regard think of Jimmy Smith, Jack McDuff and many others who came to prominence in the 60s.)

In 1952, Basie took the organ seat on various occasions, some under his own name as leader, and with Oscar Peterson appointed as the piano man, and at least one session under Illinois Jacquet's name, when Basie was simply minding his own (glorious) business on the organ.

These sessions, at some point released by Verve as Basie at the Organ, are examples of Basie's "cool rage", if one borrows from the Jacquet's tune that Basie plays on the side B of the LP. By "cool rage" I mean, tense but flowing; conveying a wide range of emotions but always remaining in absolute control of itself.

The eleven tracks reissued on the VLP 9074 can be heard here:

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Duke Ellington's Second Sacred

this picture is  from another performance of the second sacred concert

I think what I've gathered here, from various sources, is the closest thing to the original broadcast of the Second Sacred Concert in Sweden, unless one of you readers know more about the different versions of this legendary concert.

The concert was performed at the Gustaf Vasa Church of Stockholm, Sweden, on November 6, 1969. The original broadcast (presented here) opens with Meditation, follows by Almighty God Has Those Angels (feat. Alice Babs and Russell Procope), Shepherd Who Watches Over The Night Flock (feat. Cootie Williams), Heaven (feat. Babs and Johnny Hodges), and last but not least Freedom (feat. Babs and Tony Watkins).

It is in Freedom that Ellington shares Billy Strayhorn's principles of freedom with the audience, the principles his deceased collaborator lived with all through his short life. These four principles could be the essence of Ellington's Sacred Concerts, or at least the most "sacred" parts of them:

"Freedom from hate, unconditionally. Freedom from self-pity. Freedom from fear of possibly doing something that may help someone else more than it will him. Freedom from the kind of pride that could make a man feel he’s better than his brother."

Update: Alice Babs passed away on February 11, 2014. R.I.P.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Image of the Day: Duke Ellington and Hazel Scott

Hazel Scott and Duke Ellington. This is the picture in which the Duke's infamous scar, result of a razor cut by a jealous woman, is the most visible.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Songs For Our Fathers

This playlist contains a bunch of songs played on my latest jazz radio programme for Iran [October 23, 2011], dedicated to our fathers. The theme of "father" will be explored throughout the history of jazz, from Cozy Cole to George Coleman.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Teddy Wilson Plays Duke Ellington

Recently surfaced on the Internet, here is Teddy Wilson performing a couple of Ellington/Strayhorn compositions on July 1975 (the location is probably France).

Early in his career as a solo artist, Wilson recorded some Earl Hines for whom he had high regards, but he never put any Ellington on disc. Towards the end of the 30s, he was better off recording his own compositions as unaccompanied piano pieces. In the late 50s, tired of playing the same standards for the millionth time, he discovered or rediscovered Ellington. However, in retrospect, his casual recordings of Ellington materials feels more like a case of repertoire expansion rather than treasuring the Duke, as on the same period he tried some bop tunes on the record.

Here he plays Take the "A" Train (once recorded in Wilson's 1967 Easy Living LP on Black Lion), followed by It Don't Mean a Thing. The rhythm section is Harley White (bass) and Eddie Graham (drums).

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Earl Hines and Charles Mingus: A Brief Encounter

The music presented here is resulted from, by all means, a surprise session. An ad-hoc band with a line up that even a wild imagination can not conceive. First and most, it features the father of jazz piano Earl Hines and the most revolutionary figure of modern jazz, Charles Mingus. Still, there is more to this 67 years old wine.

Toward the end of the 40s, the size and the success of Earl Hines Orchestra, like most other big bands of that era, drastically shrank, and in 1947, when these sides were cut, it broke up for good. Shortly after, Hines joined Louis Armstrong All Stars and probably earned more money as a "sideman" than what he was gaining as the leader of the most adventures big band of the 40s.

In a cold day in Chicago, on December 31, 1947, Hines borrowed a "cast" from Lionel Hampton's big band that happened to be in town for a national tour and whose second bass player happened to be Mr Charlie Mingus. During the date, Hines and the Hampton men recorded four sides on 78rpm records.

For a rather predictable version of The Sheik of Araby, which opens with Hines on piano, Morris Lane was shortly yet brilliantly featured. Lane had a huge sound, like a crossover between Ben Webster and Coleman Hawkins, and readers of this blog probably know him better for being a member of Bebop Boys, a recording group of Savoy artists, including Sonny Stitt, Fats Navarro, Bud Powell and Kenny Clarke.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Swinging with Clarinet and Harpsichord

It sounds strange and the effect is unfamiliar and archaic. It takes time to get used to one of the most unusual
combos of the swing era -- a sextet with a harpsichord.

While evidently harpsichord has some capacity for swinging, it also delivers a melancholic feeling as one can hear on the sides recorded in September 3, 1940 in Los Angeles by Artie Shaw and His Gramercy Five. This rather experimental sextet is composed of clarinet, harpsichord, trumpet and the rhythm section.

As far as the history of this Renaissance and Baroque instrument in jazz goes, this session was the first to bring it to jazz. Later, from the same family of instruments, Oscar Peterson recorded with clavichord for Pablo Records.

Johnny Guarnieri, one of the unsung heroes of jazz in swing era, is playing the harpsichord which might explain my repetitious listening of these four sides.

"Guarnieri was all music" wrote Richard Cook about the man who started playing classical piano from the age of ten, but hearing Art Tatum changes his life. Cook also pointed out how Guarnieri could play in almost any style whilst "his basic one was a light, at times frolicsome variation on stride." 

On this session, he strides it out with harpsichord.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Actors Sing!

When movie stars get bored or feel they need to reveal more talent than what’s already been exposed by cameras, they might venture into other art forms, and occasionally different professions.

The first, and the most popular "expansion" of talents is directing films (Cornel Wilde, Mel Gibson) which could be the toughest too. Some might try painting (Kim Novak) and some might become equally famous for gardening or cooking (Vincent Price). In boredom, one feels the urge to write poetry (James Stewart). Some have acted in a slightly different field such as politics (Ronald Reagan, Sergiu Nicolaescu). And of course many famous stars have become singers.

The list I've compiled here is featuring some of the “better” actor-singers who have tried singing not in response to necessities of a certain cinematic role but simply because they wanted to sing. It was something of the heart if you like. This is a case for "singer, not the song."

The result in many cases is disappointing, yet it strikes me as interesting because one could see the recorded music as an extension of the artist's screen persona. As for the music goes, the degree of success varies, but what most of the actors-turned-singers have in common is using the popular format of the day and diving into deep waters of romanticism with little success.

With exception of a few, the rest of these actors didn't give singing a second try so these are probably the most whimsical recordings in popular music.

As for the rules of the selection, I have excluded actor/singers such as Doris Day, Bing Crosby, Yves Montand, Frank Sinatra who were singers first. And also ignored names like Jeff Bridges and Clint Eastwood whose interest in music wasn't whimsical at all and it had deeper roots in their past, or even their present.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Cecil Payne-Ron Carter Quintet: Slide's Blues

Cecil Payne Dossier#3 - An ongoing series of posts on one of the giants of baritone sax

The Cecil Payne-Ron Carter Quintet
Jazzfestival Bern, Switzerland, May 8, 1998
Slide's Blues

Eric Alexander(ts), Cecil Payne (bars), Stephen Scott (p), Ron Carter (b), Lewis Nash (d).

Cassavetes, Hadi and Mingus

John Cassavetes and Shafi Hadi
Cinephilia and Beyond has published a story on recording the soundtrack of John Cassavettes' debut film Shadows with Charles Mingus and Shafi Hadi. Read it here.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Just Hawk: Coleman Hawkins in Denmark

Someone opened that bloody book again this morning and Witney Balliett's words echoed in the room:

"Improvisation, the seat of jazz, is a remorseless art that demands of the performer no less than this: that, night after night, he spontaneously invent original music by balancing emotion and intelligence, form and content, and tone and attack, all of which must both charge and entertain the spirit of the listener. Improvisation comes in various hues and weights... Great improvisation is rare; bad improvisation, which is really not improvisation at all but a rerun or imitation of old ideas, is common. No art is more precarious or domineering. Thus, such consummate veteran improvisers as Armstrong, [Vic] Dickenson, Hawkins, Buck Clayton, and Monk are, in addition to be master craftsmen, remarkable endurance runners. One of the hardiest of these is Hawkins.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Cecil Payne-Ron Carter Duo

Cecil Payne Dossier#2 - An ongoing series of posts on one of the giants of baritone sax  

I just returned from Switzerland, but my heart is still there. I spent four wonderful days in Fribourg, attending FIFF, meeting friends and doing some side activities, including a couple of interviews I gave (on cinema) which in case you are a German reader and interested in Iranian cinema, could be accessed here.

Trying to re-live the memory of the place, nothing serves me better than the Cecil Payne-Ron Carter duo, doing their Lover Man in Bern, Switzerland, May 8, 1998.

The video is from my VHS collection. Still more to come as a part of the Payne dossier.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Cecil Payne-Benny Bailey Quintet

Cecil Payne Dossier#1 - An ongoing series of posts on one of the giants of baritone sax

The Cecil Payne-Benny Bailey Quintet       
Laren, Netherlands, April 3, 1980

Benny Bailey (t), Cecil Payne (barysax), Cees Slinger (p), John Clayton (b), John Engels (d).  
Blue 'n' Boogie

Notes on the rhythm section:

Cees Slinger (1929-2007): Influenced by Cedar Walton, Slinger was an important figure in Dutch modern jazz of the 1950s, both as the founder and leader of the hard bop combo "Diamond Five" and the accompanist of many visiting American jazz musicians. However, in post-Beatlemania Netherlands, he found it impossible to get gigs, so he gave up the idea of living as a musicians altogether and became a steel factory worker until 1974, when he was successfully persuaded by Philly Joe Jones to return to playing.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Oscar Peterson in Interview

image courtesy of Pablo Records

Much of his soloing is preoccupied with building pyramid-like structures, deftly reaching the top and then releasing the energy by gliding through a series of brilliantly raging notes which always sound light and afloat. Oscar Peterson is a giant of piano (this is known as "stating the obvious"), both metaphorically and figuratively. His physical dominance over the instrument and the brain which is capable of producing huge melodic units has given us one of the most extraordinary musicians ever.

Found in my collection of jazz interview tapes, this CBC interview (no date mentioned on the cassette) is very enjoyable to listen to and highly illuminating, especially towards the end, when the usual mask of the gentle giant falls off and some of his anger over what seems to be the Canadian issues of the time are revealed.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Last of the Trumpet Masters

This would be the final post from the Trumpet Masters' session in Switzerland, a concert whose footage is now fully presented on this blog.

"Handsome, dark chocolate, a ladies magnet," is Clark Terry's description of Harry "Sweets" Edison, the subject of the first video. Terry met Sweets first in the Basie band: "Svelte physique draped in expensive threads, dripping with accents of rich gold and pristine diamonds. The note that floated through his trumpet made you feel his statement of 'Cool Daddy. Laid-back.'"

Friday, March 7, 2014

Squeeze the Moten Swing

In today's exclusive video, Squeeze Me, the classic 1925 Fats Waller composition, is reinterpreted  by Joe Wilder and Snooky Young. The video continues with Clark Terry and Harry Sweets Edison doing a version of  the Moten Swing, originally the Bennie Moten and the Kansas City Orchestra's hit from 1932.

The rhythm section is Hank Jones, Jesper Lundgaard, Clarence Penn, respectively on piano, bass and drums.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Billie Holiday Through the Lens of Carl Van Vechten

In 1949, Carl Van Vechten, the American essayist, novelist and photographer who had a profound interest in music, literature and Afro-American culture (in 1926 he wrote Negro Blues Singers for Vanity Fair), as a part of his African Americans Portraits project photographed Billie Holiday.

It was Gerry Major who arranged the session and asked Billie to wear on a gown. Billie, ignoring the request, showed up in a grey dress and even greyer mood. Van Vechten talked her into a more intimate look and choice of clothes which she eventually accepted with changing to a silk gown and a Gauguinesque dress underneath.

They worked through the night and it didn't go well at all until Van Vechten, at the verge of giving up the whole idea, showed Billie his pictures of Bessie Smith. Lady Day, staring at the pictures of one of her idols, started to cry. That softened the mood drastically. They shot until dawn and then Lady left. That was the last time Van Vechten saw Billie Holiday.

These photographs are from that night in March 1949.

[Click to enlarge]

Rahsaan Roland Kirk Documentary

The Case of the Three Sided Dream, a new documentary on the blind multi-instrumentalist Rahsaan Roland Kirk is due to premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin on March 11, 2014. It's been directed by Adam Kahan. I couldn't find more information on the official website of the film and for now this rather straightforward trailer is all we can get.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Strays On

 "I referred to him like a lot of the cats did, as 'Strays,'" says Clark Terry of Billy Strayhorn in his autobiography, Clark, which has a lot to say about Ellington years and the people of that tribe.

In a short chapter of the book, dedicated to "Strays," there is nothing but admiration and deep respect for the man and his music both as a composer/arranger and piano player. "Strays was like a breath of fresh air," says Mr Terry, "he had an almost spiritual touch in his writing. Deep undertones that would draw emotion and dig into the psyche." So true.

There are some stories in Clark about the relationship between Duke and Strays, whether artistically, emotionally ("he had a way of calming Duke") or even financially for which CT remembers:

"Strays was a man who lived the most unique life style of anybody. He had no bills: no hotel bills, no apartment bills, no food bills, no clothes or tax bills. No nothing. He didn't have a salary, either. He just signed a tab. Duke paid for everything."