Sunday, November 20, 2016

The John McLaughlin Trio, 1989

This fine John McLaughlin Trio concert was recently unearthed amongst my VHS tapes. Even if the tape contained absolutely no information, either on it or on the filmed concerts, as TV stations usually do (adding a logo, a date, end credit), it's not hard to guess it's coming from the 1989 European tour whose London wing (November 27, 1989) was recorded as Live at the Royal Festival Hall.

My second guess is that the concert is filmed at Continental Europe, most likely Germany. (If it's actually from 1989, then its Stuttgart gig can be viewed here.) Furthermore, the footage is from only the first set of the concert and even this first set is incomplete, missing the first song which is Blue in Green by Miles Davis.

There is a tight, often exciting interplay between the players whose performances are interlocked in more than oe way: John McLaughlin on acoustic guitar, Kai Eckhardt-Karpeh on electric bass, and Trilok Gurtu on percussions. Even for someone who is not so keen on acoustic guitar/electric bass combination in a jazz context, in which case I'm one of them, Gurtu is adding enough textures to make the music completely worthwhile. Surprisingly, the music is more leaned towards composition rather than the improvisatory traditions McLaughlin had previously demonstrated in his live concerts.

Thursday, November 3, 2016


Underline is a new quarterly journal of arts published by British Council. I'm the editor and glad to say that Underline is available for free download in both Persian and English editions. The first issue, dedicated to the 1960s, contains one music-related piece, giving an insightful overview of the British Invasion and Beatlemania in Iran of the 1960. Download here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

McCoy Tyner & Freddie Hubbard Live in Stuttgart + Interview

McCoy Tyner and Freddie Hubbard in 1961
A torrent of notes on keyboard and flugelhorn. Three decades after the photograph above was taken, pianist McCoy Tyner and trumpeter Freddie Hubbard are back together, this time in Stuttgart, Germany.

Freshly digitized from a nearly disintegrating VHS tape (while the image remains amazingly intact, reminding us about the virtues of analogue formats that at least allow for some sort of extraction), this exciting concert is the complete TV broadcast of McCoy Tyner Trio featuring Freddie Hubbard and Ralph Moore.

Jazztage '90
Stuttgart, Germany
July 13, 1990

Freddie Hubbard (t, flugelhorn), Ralph Moore (ts, ss), McCoy Tyner (p), Avery Sharpe (b), Aaron Scott (d)

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


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


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 Stuttgart, 1992, Part I

I had posted this concert previously as a Hamburg date whereas it's actually from Stuttgart, and performed two years later than the given date.

This features the electric Jozy (even though played acoustically) and an animated 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
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.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Bobby Hutcherson: Never Let Me Go

"Eschewing both the prettiness of the vibes and the conventionally bluesy delivery of Milt Jackson, [Bobby] Hutcherson's music had an abstract side which only Walt Dickerson approached," Richard Cook sums up the master vibraphonist's style in his Encyclopedia of Jazz, "yet he kept hold of the slow vibrato that Jackson espoused."

Case in study: Never Let Me Go, performed with the Timeless All Stars at the Subway jazz club in Cologne (Köln), Germany, 1986, accompanied by Cedar Walton (piano), Buster Williams (bass), and Billy Higgins (drums).

Is hypnotic the right word for it?

Monday, May 23, 2016

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Albert Mangelsdorff Plays Cappriccio Funky

Rockish and funky, this is a good example of the virtusity and multifaceted technique of German trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff.

Filmed live during a festival engagement in Germany, 1992, the Albert Mangelsdorff-Wolfgang Dauner Quartet plays an extended version of Cappriccio Funky. (Dauner, born in 1935, was the pianist of United Jazz and Rock Ensemble.)

Monday, May 16, 2016

Philip Larkin Picks His Favorite Jazz Albums of the Year (1960s)

Philip Larkin
During the 1960s, the English poet Philip Larkin, who also wrote jazz criticism of high caliber for Daily Telegraph, particpitaed in the game of picking the best records of the year.

For someone who thought Charlie Parker was the beginning of the end for jazz, and everything worth saying (and playing) was already exhausted by Louis Armstrong, the 60s must have been a difficult time to go to a record shop and come out satisfied.

Yet, Larkin, never hiding his conservative taste in jazz, comes out with a few delightful surprises (Miles, Mingus, and God forbid, Ornette!)

His annual entry for Telegraph mainly features a longer list of reissues than brief mentioning of what's new. I've only mentioned the "new" albums. But even the "new" ones indicate how sluggishly jazz records were distributed in the UK. There is usually a year or two time gap between the initial US release and the arrival of the record in British market.

There are two remarkable anthologies edited from his jazz criticism both of which highly recommended: All What Jazz and Reference Back. (The full list of his favorite records of the year can be found as the penultimate chapter of the latter book.) These two books feature some of the most memorable, beautiful use of metaphor and poetic language in jazz after Whitney Balliett.

Without further due, these are the albums that excited Philip Larkin:

Sunday, May 15, 2016

RIP Joe Temperley (1929-2016)

Repost of Junior Mance and Joe Temperley Play Duke Ellington, in momery of Joe Temperley who passed away on May 11th 2016.

Some days ago, on October 10, Junior Mance entered his 85th, more than 7 decades of which lived as a jazz pianist of high caliber. Mance's notion and execution of blues, a happy and swinging one, has always been a source of endless fascination and joy for me. It is easy to be hooked to the sound of his trios, though in larger formats, like the video presented here, most of the relaxed playing and wonderful interaction remain intact.

In April 1994 Mance formed a long-lasting trio with bassist Keter Betts and drummer Jackie Williams, the former being his collaborator since the 1950s, when they both played for Dinah Washington.

This group enjoyed various gigs and hosted several guests at various occasions who were  mostly tenor-saxophonists with whom the band toured and recorded materials by Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk. One of these guests was the Scottish multi-instrumentalist Joe Temperley who was only one year younger than Mance and a resident of the US since 1965. Aside from a live recording on-board a cruise ship, issued by Chiaroscuro, this video, recently digitized by me, is a vivid example of the quartet in action, filmed during the Bern jazz festival in 1997.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Dizzy Gillespie Playing Mouth Harp to It Don't Mean a Thing

So much pleasure in such simple moments: The place is Nice in southeast France, the occasion, a jazz festival. The tap dancer Bunny Briggs appears on a stage where tenormen Eddie Lockjaw Davis and Guy Lafitte (accompanied by Jimmy Rowles, George Duvivier, and Oliver Jackson) are performing, dragging with him on stage Dizzy Gillespie who sits down and plays mouth harp to It Don't Mean a Thing. Briggs responds with his impeccable sense of rhythm. However, it is Dizz who draws his last and gives it a big surprise by doing his tap dance before leaving the stage.

This beautiful, five-minute long video, courtesy of French television, comes from the admirable YouTube channel of Hoffmannjazz whose collection of jazz videos is a must for anyone interested in this music.

In the meantime, don't miss this one:

Monday, April 11, 2016

Lionel Hampton Big Band in Nice, 1978

Lionel Hampton [photo source: MTV]
For years I've regretted losing my VHS tape of the complete Lionel Hampton birthday party concert at North Sea Jazz Festival in Hague, a big band event of highest caliber which introduced me to some the best instrumentalists in jazz, people such as Pepper Adams, Arnett Cobb (playing with crutches under his arms), and Harry Sweets Edison.

Now, thanks to Hoffmannjazz YouTube channel, I am able to see a filmed footage of the orchestra in Nice, France, playing M Squad Theme a week before they took the North Sea stage.

This is an absolutely stellar line-up with solos given to Ray Bryant, Joe Newman (A few choruses are off-mike), Kai Winding, Charles MacPherson, Pepper Adams, Cobb, Cat Anderson, and Billy Mackel.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Shape Of Plastics in Jazz

The cover of one Hawksworth's albums
The Shape Of Plastics (1962), directed by industrail documentary specialist Alan Pendry, features a good jazz score by Johnny Hawksworth (1924-2009). Originally shown at Berlin Film Festival, Moscow Film Festival and a festival in Bilbao, the film offers an enjoyable (and sometimes rhythmic) account of how a material as crude as oil is turned into fantastic plastic shapes.

The director Alan Pendry, if now largely forgotten, had worked with Iranian Ebrahim Golestan on a classic documentary Wave, Coral, and Rock (1958-61), about oil industry in southwest Iran. The Shape Of Plastics is one of the few Pendry's documentaries which still can be accessed and seen these days.

As for soundtrack, the Johnny Hawksworth score features Ronnie Verrell and Jock Cummings (percussion), Roy Willox (flute alto), David Snell (harp), Derek Warne (vibes), Brian Dee (piano), and Johnny Hawksworth (bass).

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Benny Carter-Earl Hines Quartet

The Spanish National TV, has generously made online a considerable number of its invaluable jazz programmes, including this treasure from 1976, set in Barcelona, with two giants, Benny Carter and Earl Hines, swinging at ease and delightfully performing classics and standards of the old days.

The majestic Palau de la Música Catalana, designed by architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner, perfectly suits the elegance of two maestros on stage and their charming combination of the old and the new.

The rhythm section is composed of Hines' team of 76 with Harley White Jr. on bass and Eddie Graham on drums.

It was in the same year that Carter played along with Ray Bryant, Milt Hinton and Grady Tate at Michael's Pub in New York, where the imminent Whitney Balliett caught him live and mused: "His saxophone solos gave the effect of skywriting: each hung complete in the air before being blown away by the succeeding soloist...he was a handsome man, with intelligent, questing eyes and hundred-watt teeth."

Jacques Derrida Interviews Ornette Coleman

"Repetition [in music] is as natural as the fact that the earth rotates." -- Ornette Coleman

In 1997, Ornette Coleman was in Paris for a concert when French deconstructionist philosopher Jacques Derrida invited him to an interview. They met and tackled on subjects as diverse as language, improvisation, repetition, and Afro-American life. There were even some biographical anecdotes, shared by Coleman, for instance, the one about his ill-fated Town Hall concert whose spate of mishaps seems as extraordinary as the music:

"When I arrived in New York, I was more or less treated like someone from the South who didn't know music, who couldn't read or write, but I never tried to protest that. Then I decided that I was going to try to develop my own conception, without anybody's help. I rented the Town Hall on 21 December 1962, that cost me $600,I hired a rhythm and blues group, a classical group and a trio. The evening of the concert there was a snowstorm, a newspaper strike, a doctors' strike and a subway strike, and the only people who came were those who had to leave their hotel and come to the city hall. I had asked someone to record my concert and he committed suicide, but someone else recorded it, founded his record company with it, and I never saw him again."
Speaking to someone who's intensely into sign processes and making-meaning, Coleman has his semi-semiotic stories to tell:

Friday, March 4, 2016

London Flat, London Sharp: Best of American Jazz Recorded in London

(A detail of ) London Jazz Festival poster, designed by Damien Frost

There are hundreds of live and studio recordings made by visiting or resident American jazz musicians in London. This list, a new installment in the series I started with Paris and jazz, picks those London albums that I've liked most. 

Since 1939, when Fats Waller paid a visit and composed a suite celebrating London's neighborhoods and monuments, most of the jazz greats have appeared in and around the city. The crippling union regulations stopped many musicians from performing in the clubs until the 1960s, and the life expenses and poor weather drove many of them towards the Continent for permanent or semi-permanent stays. Yet, thought the past century, London with its passionate jazz buffs and a good deal of jazz literature remained an unmissable temporary stop for the musicians, as well as musical ideas, travelling from the United States to Europe.

The 15 albums below, obviously emphasising a certain attitude or taste which might not be everybody's, are some personal favourites from the most vital decades of jazz in Britain. Be sure, there are still hundred or more to name. (While picking your favourite albums be aware that there are famous records - Basie in London, for one - which were never recorded in London!)

Here is the list of 15 favourite jazz albums recorded by visiting Americans in London:

details as above

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

In Memoriam: Michael Clifton (1956-2015)

Text, music, and photographs © Ekkehard Wölk. Can not be reproduced without the permission of the author.

By Ekkehard Wölk

The Berlin music scene mourns over the recent death of one of its best-known, musically distinguished jazz drummers of the past three decades: Mr. Michael Clifton who passed away on the 11th of December, 2015.

Born in Denver, Colorado in 1956, Michael left his home country in the late 1970s and settled in Berlin at the time when the city was still divided. He loved Berlin and to him Berlin was "home".

From the time of his arrival in Berlin for so many years to follow, Michael, always incredibly energetic, was an undeniable presence in Berlin's music scene who enriched countless recording sessions, concerts and entertainment shows with his inimitable powerful style of drumming that was firmly rooted in the great tradition of jazz playing by such giants like Art Blakey, Kenny Clarke and Max Roach.