Sunday, May 31, 2015

RIP Peter Schmidlin (1947-2015)

Image courtesy of Dragan Tasic
Swiss jazz drummer Peter Schmidlin, who had played and recorded with Dexter Gordon, Lee Konitz, Dizzy Reece, Slide Hampton, and Don Byas, passed away last Monday, May 25, 2015. He was 68.

Known for his adaptability, perfect sense of timing, and a tasteful touch of swing, Schmidlin was one of the finest European drummers, as well as a producer responsible for issuing on record some of the best American jazz in Switzerland. It's a shame, though not entirely unpredictable, that his death remained unnoticed outside his homeland country.

"Peter Schmidlin was very popular with the US jazz musicians as a swinging drummer," writes Urs Blindenbacher in his obituary of this legend of Swiss Jazz. Blindenbacher also praises Schmildin for his role in connecting the separated worlds of French speaking Swiss jazz with that of the German speaking one.

Peter Schmidlin was born in 1947 in Riehen. He picked up the instrument at 14 and taught himself playing and mastering it. Only two years later, he was named as the best drummer at the Zürich Jazz Festival.

Young Peter with Buck Clayton and Sir Charles Thompson at Casa Bar Zürich
His professional career took off in 1965 and soon he found himself accompanying visiting American musicians, as well as jazz expats and exiles residing in western and northern Europe, a task which continued to the last months of his life.

In later years, he was a permanent member of three major jazz trios, respectively led by Tele Montoliu, Horace Parlan, and Jimmy Woode.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

McCoy Tyner Big Band

McCoy Tyner Big Band
JazzFest Berlin, Philharmonie
November 3, 1990  

Fly With the Wind (M. Tyner)

Trumpets: Virgil Jones, Kamau Adilifu, Earl Gardner; French Horn: John Clark; Trombones: Frank Lacy, Clark Gayton; Tuba: Howard Johnson; Saxes/Flute: Joe Ford, Doug Harris; Tenor Sax: John Stubblefield; Piano: McCoy Tyner; Bass: Avery Sharpe; Drums: Aaron Scott.

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Portrait Of Coleman Hawkins

During the formative years of jazz, when various attempts to infuse classical music and jazz fell through, the idea seemed abandoned for a while, until the string recordings became fashionable. Out of that, but more importantly thanks to serious studies in jazz, a new interest in such fusion revived in the 1960s, particularly when the Orchestra U.S.A. came to existence.

Formed by John Lewis, Gunther Schuller, and Harold Farberman, this classical jazz orchestra recorded a handful of albums in the first half of the 1960s, all pointing out possibilities of jazz for going Third Stream. One of the most curious of these recordings, Jazz Journey (Columbia), features, on its opening track, an extended piece of narrative music, a format often used in the history of jazz by composers from Duke Ellington to George Russell without necessarily meeting satisfactory results. This time, it works well.

Spoken by Skitch Henderson and written by Nat Hentoff , A Journey Into Jazz is a charming fable, "based on real events", something on which Wes Anderson could have made a fabulous film. (Speaking of films, this piece makes a great alternative to misrepresenting of jazz in Whiplash.)

The story of the piece is about a boy, Edward Jackson, who learns about jazz by discovering a bunch of musicians in a cellar next door, led by a mystified tenorman.

Friday, May 15, 2015

B.B. King (1925-2015)

"B. B. King, whose world-weary voice and wailing guitar lifted him from the cotton fields of Mississippi to a global stage and the apex of American blues, died Thursday in Las Vegas," wrote The New York Time, "He was 89."

The notes below, which seem like an appropriate way to remember the blues man, are written by Stanley Dance in 1967:

"The King of the Blues! That's what they call Riley B. King, otherwise known as the Boy from Beale Street, the Beale Street Blues Boy, Blues Boy King and B.B. King, a man "born on a plantation right out from Indianola, not too far from Itta Bena, in Mississippi."

Those who call him the King of the Blues are not really much interested in a pretty play on words. They know their man, and they believe that of all the blues singers he is the one entitled to wear the crown. To get a better idea of why they think this way, he should be seen in action at a theatre like the Apollo in Harlem, preferably on a bill with other great blues artists. Usually, B.B. King closes the show, and as the others come on one by one, exerting their spells by voice, guitar or harmonica, it is hard not to wonder how he will ever top them.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Duke Ellington & Orson Welles

Cab Calloway on the right, 1944.
The David Frost Show, circa June 1970.
The opening of The Blessed and the Damned at the Theatre Edouard VII in Paris. June 20, 1950.

Orson (composed by Billy Strayhorn-Duke Ellington)
Duke Ellington and His Orchestra
LA, April 7, 1953

Duke Ellington (p); Clark Terry, Willie Cook, Cat Anderson, Ray Nance (t); Quentin Jackson, Britt Woodman, Juan Tizol (tb); Russell Procope (as, cli); Rick Henderson (as); Paul Gonsalves (ts); Jimmy Hamilton (cl, ts); Harry Carney (bs); Wendell Marshall (b); Butch Ballard (d).

Further reading at the Place, Man.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Image of the Day: Chasin' the Bird

Charlie Parker unpacking his alto saxophone in Royal Roost, New York City. Probably March, 1949.