Archive | December, 2009

Groove Notes Poll: Who will win the jazz Grammy Awards this year?

12 Dec

The nominations are out for the 2009 Grammy awards. And whether you agree with them or not, we’d like to know who you think will win. Below are all of the categories involving jazz artists. Let your vote be heard!

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1,000 Jazz Albums You Should Hear Before You Die (361-380)

12 Dec

Here is another 20 to add to the list.

Remember that there is no ranking system here, and if you don’t see your favorite jazz album yet, it doesn’t mean it won’t show up.

Every week I will offer up twenty more, in no particular order and with no ranking system or common theme (other than jazz of course).

Hopefully these lists will inspire you to seek some of these albums out that perhaps you haven’t heard before, or revisit an old favorite. And as always, we want your thoughts on any or all of these albums. Either way, let’s get started with this week, and in no particular order, albums 361 through 380.

361. This Bud’s For You – Bud Shank (32 Jazz, 1984)

362. What If? – Kenny Barron (Enja, 1986)

363. No Room for Argument – Wallace Roney (Concord Jazz, 2000)

364. The Adventures of Astral Pirates – Lenny White (Elektra, 1978)

365. Blues for Myself – Cedar Walton (RED Distribution, 1986)

366. On the Trail – Jimmy Heath (Riverside/OJC, 1964)

367. Midnight Blue – Kenny Burrell (Blue Note, 1963)

368. Let it Go – Stanley Turrentine (Impulse!, 1966)

369. I’ve Got a Woman – Jimmy McGriff (Collectables Records, 1962)

370. Agharta – Miles Davis (Columbia, 1975)

371. Jumpin’ In – Dave Holland (ECM Records, 1983)

372. Keep Swingin’ – Julian Priester (Riverside/OJC, 1960)

373. J.J. Inc. – J.J. Johnson (Columbia/Legacy, 1960)

374. Blowing In From Chicago – Clifford Jordan and John Gilmore (Blue Note, 1957)

375. Live at Montreux and Northsea – Art Blakey (Absord, 1980)

376. The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born – Branford Marsalis (Columbia, 1991)

377. Coltrane Plays the Blues – John Coltrane (Rhino, 1960)

378. Brussels Fair ’58 – Sidney Bechet (Lone Hill Jazz, 1958)

379. The Color Five – Jacqui Naylor (Ruby Star Records, 2006)

380. Soul on Soul – Dave Douglas (RCA Victor, 2000)

1,000 Jazz Albums You Should Hear Before You Die (341-360) The Holiday Edition

1,000 Jazz Albums You Should Hear Before You Die (321-340)

1,000 Jazz Albums You Should Hear Before You Die (301-320)

A Fly on the Studio Wall

7 Dec

One of the great things about being in my job is having the opportunity to interview world-class musicians, or introduce them on stage at concerts. Of course the chance to hear them play live right in front of me, or learn interesting things about them during an interview is amazing, but for me the most entertaining part is the discussions that happen before the tape is rolling or before the show begins.

This is the time where, even if it is only a sentence or two, I feel you can really get the coolest story of the event.

I have yet to run into sax man Joshua Redman in a bad mood backstage. He remembers names, asks about other people at the radio station by name and tells me to say hello to them for him.

While walking on stage to introduce Wynton Marsalis, one of his band members told me to wait a second because he wanted to know where the best place to eat after the show was.

The late Michael Brecker made it clear to me multiple times in one interview, after complimenting his recordings, that if I really wanted to enjoy his music, “you need to hear that **** live.”

And the great Clark Terry, after a wonderful interview and performance, was kind enough to join some of the staff and listeners for a sandwich. God bless him, as he fell asleep while I was in the middle of a sentence. In his defense, most people start falling asleep when I talk too much.

Thinking about this made me start wondering about all of the great conversations and interactions that took place “off-mic” in recording sessions that we never got to hear.

For example, to be a fly on the wall, Christmas Eve, 1954. Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk are in a recording session that reportedly almost came to blows because Miles didn’t want Monk playing during his solos. Give their recording of The Man I Love a listen, and you can almost hear the animosity. I would have loved to hear that conversation take place.

Or perhaps some studio sessions with slightly less violent interactions. How about Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington (or any recording session with either of those two guys)? I can only imagine the conversations that took place when the tape wasn’t rolling.

Certainly there are many sessions that would have been great to be a fly on the wall for, and no doubt that with all of the ones that are racing through my mind right now, I am probably forgetting some that would have been the best.

I invite you to share who you would have liked to overhear in the studio when the microphones were off.

1,000 Jazz Albums You Should Hear Before You Die (341-360) The Holiday Edition

5 Dec

With the holidays approaching, I’ve decided this week that the twenty albums we add to the list will be made up entirely of holiday jazz albums.

I am not a huge fan of a lot of Christmas jazz, but there are some well done albums that are worthy of being part of this list. A note: Duke Ellington’s Three Suites featuring the wonderful Nutcracker Suite would certainly be included on this list of holiday albums, but I already have it posted earlier in the “1,000” series, so no sense in posting it twice. That being said…

Here is another 20 to add to the list.

Remember that there is no ranking system here, and if you don’t see your favorite jazz album yet, it doesn’t mean it won’t show up.

Every week I will offer up twenty more, in no particular order and with no ranking system or common theme (other than jazz of course).

Hopefully these lists will inspire you to seek some of these albums out that perhaps you haven’t heard before, or revisit an old favorite. And as always, we want your thoughts on any or all of these albums. Either way, let’s get started with this week, and in no particular order, albums 341 through 360.

341. A Charlie Brown Christmas – Vince Guaraldi (Fantasy, 1965)

342. Crescent City Christmas Card – Wynton Marsalis (Sony Music Distribution, 1990)

343. Django Bells – The Gypsy Hombres (Memphis International, 2002)

344. Ella Wishes You A Swinging Christmas – Ella Fitzgerald (Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab, 1960)

345. Jingle Bell Jazz (Compilation) – Various Artists (Columbia, 1990)

346. Smashed For The Holidays – Jacqui Naylor (Ruby Records, 2007)

347. Sound of Christmas – Ramsey Lewis (Chess, 1961)

348. Christmas Jazz Jam – Wynton Marsalis (Somerset Entertainment, 2009)

349. Have Yourself a Soulful Little Christmas – Kenny Burrell (Verve, 1966)

350. 20th Century Masters – The Christmas Collection: The Best of Louis Armstrong – Louis Armstrong (Hip-O Records, 2003)

351. Christmas Time is Here – Dianne Reeves (Blue Note Records, 2004)

352. Christmas ’64 – Jimmy Smith (Verve, 1964)

353. A Merry Christmas! – Stan Kenton (Capitol Jazz, 1963)

354. The Spirit of Christmas – Ray Charles (Rhino, 1985)

355. Christmas Songs with the Ray Brown Trio – Ray Brown (Telarc Distribution, 1999)

356. Jazz For Joy (Compilation) – Various Artists (Polygram, 1996)

357. A Swingin’ Christmas – Tony Bennett with the Count Basie Big Band (RPM, 2008)

358. Christmas with Jimmy McGriff – Jimmy McGriff (Collectible Records, 1964)

359. Christmas Songs – Diana Krall (Verve, 2005)

360. Merry Christmas From Doc Severinsen and The Tonight Show Orchestra – Doc Severinsen (Amherst Records, 1991)

1,000 Jazz Albums You Should Hear Before You Die (321-340)

1,000 Jazz Albums You Should Hear Before You Die (301-320)

Jaki Byard Calls BS – A jazz reminiscence by Dick Stein

3 Dec

Jazz host Dick Stein, one of my colleagues at KPLU, was kind enough to submit this posting. Dick is an excellent storyteller, so I am sure you will enjoy the following post. You can hear his program, Midday Jazz, weekdays from 9 AM to noon PST on 88.5 KPLU if you are in the Seattle/Tacoma broadcast area, or online at www.kplu.org.

Jaki Byard Calls BS

A jazz reminiscence by Dick Stein

One night in New York City a long time ago I was in search of a last gasp of civilization before a taking up a year’s exile at an Air Force radar site in the Bering Sea. I found it – and more — at The Dom, an East Village Jazz joint where pianist Jaki Byard’s quartet was playing.

I’d known of and admired Jaki Byard from his time with the Maynard Ferguson orchestra in the early ‘60s.  That night at The Dom his group was playing hard-driving, straight ahead jazz and I was soaking it up right by the bandstand.  Good as it was, the evening’s real entertainment didn’t begin until Byard called the break.

Jaki Byard

While Jaki leaned against the bar his sax player Clarence “C” Sharp took the spare chair at my table.  As we chatted a drum and clarinet duo stepped up to play.  Then as now there were many bad clarinet players, myself among them, working their mischief in this world.  Even so, this abuser was a contender for Most Squeakalacious. The sounds he was producing bore no relationship to music as understood by Earthlings.

I could only speculate at what the audience thought about the sonic assault but judging from their carefully held rapt expressions and knowing nods, cynical old me thought it must have been “This is so sophisticated that it sounds like noise to me.  I’ll pretend I understand it so I won’t look like a square.”

Sharp, a first rate alto player was of course not taken in. He and I were having a fine time rolling our eyes and grimacing in mock agony when Byard’s bellow blasted from the bar.

“WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?” He’d been drinking a little.

“Uh-oh” grinned Sharp, all but rubbing his hands together.  “Here we go.”  The duo’s drummer, not one for confrontations, slipped out from behind his Silvertone snare and quietly made his way to the back of the room. Clarinet Guy looked surprised.  He’d probably been getting away with this stuff just fine elsewhere.  What the hell was this, indeed?

“Hey man, I’m just tryin’ to play my music…”

“Music!” sneered Byard. “That’s not music.  That’s crap!”

A collective gasp went up from the audience. Clarence gleefully elbowed my ribs. Clarinet Guy toughed it out. “Just ’cause you can’t understand these kinds of advanced musical concepts, man…”

He really shouldn’t have said that.

I’d heard that Jaki Byard had studied with the legendary Madame Chaloff in Boston.  He would go on to become Professor Byard at the New England Conservatory and Manhattan School of Music among others.  He could play all styles of jazz and to say the least knew advanced musical concepts very well indeed.  He also knew advanced musical baloney when he heard it.

“‘Advanced’ my ass!” he sneered.  “You can’t play that thing at all.  Hell, I bet you couldn’t blow a simple 12-bar blues.  Here — I’ll even comp you.”  He charged to the bandstand, sat down at the piano and began chording a blues.

Seconds into this Trial by Byard it became apparent to even the most determined would-be hipsters that Clarinet Guy had no musical ability at all.  He was, in fact, a kind of melodic black hole from which no music could escape.  Next to him even I, the world’s 2nd worst clarinet player would have sounded like Artie Shaw.

Clarinet Guy’s agony was brief. The previously deferential crowd now turned mean, adding their laughter and boos to Byard’s hilariously profane running critique.  CG bolted from the bandstand and fled into the East Village night, his humiliated exit both cringe-worthy and deeply satisfying all at the same time.  Clarence and the rhythm returned to the bandstand.  Byard took a little noblesse oblige bow, counted off “Jordu” and wham — the evening rocked on.

I never heard of or saw Clarinet Guy again after that night but it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that he’d given up music for a career in politics.

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Postscript: Pianist, saxophonist, trumpeter, composer, arranger, bandleader and teacher John “Jaki” Byard was found dead of a gunshot wound in his New York apartment in 1999.   The circumstances surrounding his death have never been determined.

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