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Ray Bryant Dies at 79

5 Jun

Pianist Ray Bryant, who had a career that lasted almost sixty years, passed away Thursday, June 2nd at the age of 79 after a long illness.

The great pianist, who backed some of the greatest jazz musicians ever (including Charlie Parker and Miles Davis, and Sonny Rollins), was perhaps best known for playing solo piano.

The uncle of Kevin and Robin Eubanks, Bryant was also a talented composer, with songs to his credit like Cubano Chant.

For more information, see the article in the New York Times.

Plenty of celebration on the 85th birthday of Miles Davis

26 May

Miles Davis would have been 85 years old today, and the birth of the legendary trumpeter is being celebrated in several ways and places around the country today.

LIFE.com just posted never-before-seen photos of Miles from 1958. According to LIFE.com:

When LIFE photographer Robert W. Kelley snapped a few rolls of film at an intimate jazz gig on May 14, 1958, neither he nor the magazine’s editors could have known the importance of what he had witnessed. Perhaps that’s why Kelley provided only scant notes — just the date and the city and the subject’s name, “Miles Davis” — scrawled on the small archival file of the images; perhaps that’s why the bulk of them, which capture trumpeter Davis, then just 31 years old, leading his band in an unnamed New York venue, never made it to print.

To see these great photos, head to LIFE.com.

East St. Louis, where Miles was raised from the age of one, is celebrating today. A free family event will include a “likeness”-adorned cake; jazz by Reginald Thomas and the 85th Birthday Jazz Ensemble; “Milestone: The Birth of an Ancestor,” a poetic elegy/multimodal exhibit by ESL poet laureate Eugene B. Redmond (and Soular Systems Ensemble); and reminiscences by Miles’ high school classmates and childhood friends, all at the East St. Louis Municipal Building.

And as you might expect, several tributes are happening at New York jazz venues between today and the end of the weekend. Smoke Jazz and Supper Club Lounge will be having a Miles Davis Birthday Celebration “feted by an all-star cast that includes two former sidemen and one of his most important proteges. This momentous lineup pairs trumpeter Eddie Henderson (whose music career Miles encouraged as early as his teens) with tenor saxophonist George Coleman (whose work with Miles resulted in the historic recordings “Seven Steps to Heaven”, “My Funny Valentine”, and “Four and More”) and pianist Harold Mabern (who in addition to working with nearly everyone else worked briefly with Miles in the early 1960’s.)”

Trumpeter Wallace Roney celebrates tonight with a tribute at Zinc Bar with three shows. Roney calls Miles his idol, greatest teacher, and biggest influence on his life.

Also, the Harlem Arts Salon is hosting an invitation-only event tonight called “Reflections on the Legacy of Miles Davis” with Kelvyn Bell, Quincy Troupe, SOUNDART, Christopher Janney, Anthony Barboza and more.

If you can’t find a local Miles celebration happening, go out and buy yourself a new Miles Davis compact disc that maybe you haven’t heard before, or dig up and old recording from your collection that you haven’t listened to in a while.

Below, enjoy live performances of So What and Tutu.

Saxophonist James Moody dies of pancreatic cancer

11 Dec

James Moody passed away on Thursday. Here is a remembrance posted in the Seattle Times.

Entertainment | Saxophonist James Moody dies of pancreatic cancer | Seattle Times Newspaper.

The Associated Press

SAN DIEGO —Jazz saxophonist James Moody is best known for his 1949 “Moody’s Mood for Love,” but when he recorded the hit that eventually was elected into the Grammy Awards’ Hall of Fame, he said, he was just “trying to find the right notes.” 

“People later said to me: ‘You must have been very inspired when you recorded that.’ And I said: ‘Yeah I was inspired to find the right notes!'” Moody told the San Diego Union-Tribune in February.

The song later was recorded by Aretha Franklin, Van Morrison, Amy Winehouse and others. Longtime fan and confidante Bill Cosby called it a “national anthem.”

Moody, who recorded more than 50 solo albums as well as songs with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie and B.B. King, died Thursday at San Diego Hospice after a 10-month battle with pancreatic cancer, his wife said. He was 85.

“James Moody had a sound, an imagination and heart as big as the moon. He was the quintessential saxophone player, and his ‘Moody’s Mood for Love’ will forever be remembered in jazz history side by side with Coleman Hawkins’ classic ‘Body and Soul,'” friend and collaborator Quincy Jones said in a statement Thursday. “Today we’ve lost not only one of the best sax players to ever finger the instrument, but a true national treasure.”

His last album, “Moody 4B,” was recorded in 2008 and released in 2010, receiving a Grammy nomination earlier this month for best jazz instrumental album.

Moody was nominated for several other Grammies. He received a 1998 National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters award and a 2007 Kennedy Center Living Jazz Legend award. He has also been inducted into the International Jazz Hall of Fame.

Moody was “a titan of our music” who was “just impeccable, his musicianship, his soul, his humor,” Wynton Marsalis said.

“Moody’s Mood for Love,” his interpretation of the 1935 ballad “I’m in the Mood for Love,” was recorded in Sweden, and it was elected into the Grammy Awards’ Hall of Fame in 2001.

Moody sang the song with Nancy Wilson on an episode of “The Cosby Show” in the 1980s. Cosby also featured the song in the 2004 movie “Fat Albert.”

“He has taught me integrity, how to express love for your fellow human beings, and how to combine and contain manhood and maturity,” Cosby told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Moody, born in Savannah, Ga., joined Dizzy Gillespie’s all-star big band in the 1940s. He was featured in the first episode of the PBS series “Legends of Jazz,” and walked an invisible dog in the 1997 film “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” when he was cast by longtime fan Clint Eastwood.

Moody performed on stages around the world, including the White House, Carnegie Hall, the Hollywood Bowl and London’s Royal Festival Hall. His last public performance was Jan. 28 at a Grammy-sponsored show in Seal Beach.

Moody’s talent wasn’t confined to jazz – he was a member of the Las Vegas Hilton Orchestra in the 1970s, sharing the spotlight with everyone from Glenn Campbell, Liberace and the Osmonds to Lou Rawls and Elvis Presley.

Many of those artists sang “Moody’s Mood for Love.”

“James Moody is one of the blueprints that you measure yourself up against,” said Laurie Ann Gibson, creative director for Interscope Records and choreographer for several Lady Gaga music videos.

A public funeral service is scheduled Dec. 18 at Greenwood Memorial Park, followed by a public celebration of his life at Faith Chapel in Spring Valley.

Moody is survived by Linda Moody, his third wife; daughter Michelle Bagdanove; sons Patrick, Regan and Danny McGowan; brother Lou Watters; four grandchildren and one great grandson.

Guitar Legend Les Paul Dead at 94

13 Aug

les paulLes Paul, who invented the solid-body electric guitar later wielded by a legion of rock ‘n’ roll greats, died Thursday of complications from pneumonia. He was 94.

I am sure that in addition to myself, my fellow radio dj’s locally and around the country will be sharing their favorite memories and recordings of the great Les Paul today.

I want to take this time to invite you to go through your collection and find your favorite Les Paul recording and/or memory and share it with us on Groove Notes.

Michael Jackson covered by Brazilian star Caetano Veloso

2 Jul

Well, everyone else is doing it, so I’ll put in my 2 cents on The King of Pop. I wasn’t a fan growing up. My sister had a copy of Thriller and played it over and over and over and after a few months, even through my door & her door and another wall between, those songs were permanently stuck in my head. Looking back, Michael Jackson wrote some great songs and those three albums produced by Quincy Jones – Off the Wall, Thriller, Bad – loom large in the American Pop canon.

The other day, a friend and I were trying to think of people who have covered Michael Jackson songs. They’re few and far between in my mind, but a few days later I was sent this link of Brazilian pop superstar Caetano Veloso’s version of “Billie Jean” and I was blown away. With a Brazilian intro & a Beatles coda, this version strips MJ’s version down to the sweet melody and reveals a beauty I hadn’t heard before.

Rest in peace, Michael Jackson. Thank you, Caetano Veloso.

~abe beeson

The 100th Anniversary of the Birth of Benny Goodman

30 May

goodmanToday marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of jazz legend Benny Goodman.

Goodman put jazz on the pop charts, commissioned classical composers like Bartok and Stravinsky to write music for him, brought the first jazz band to Carnegie Hall, and helped break the jazz color barrier.

Rather than offer my own thoughts and reviews, I want to direct you to a wonderful appreciation I heard this morning on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday, done by Tom Vitale.

The audio looks back over what brought Goodman from poverty to a superstar, and Tom discusses Goodman with clarinetist Anat Cohen, who is transcribing Goodman’s solos for his centennial celebration next month at the Village Vanguard.

Click here to hear and read Tom Vitale’s appreciation. Enjoy!

Remembering Duke Ellington on his 110th Birthday with Clark Terry

29 Apr

dukeWhen your name is Duke Ellington, it doesn’t really matter what anniversary of your birth it might be, or how long you’ve been dead, there always seems to be a stream of celebrations and remembrances every April 29th. On this, the 110th anniversary of Duke Ellington, one of the greatest musicians and composers in history, I chose to remember Duke in a different way.

Ellington died five years before I was born, so for me to “remember” him might be a little out of place. Instead, I invite you to click the link below and listen to a portion of my 2007 interview with legendary trumpeter Clark Terry.

Terry spent years touring and recording with Duke, and in the audio Terry remembers Duke, talks about his attitude towards compositions that just didn’t quite work, and compares Ellington to Count Basie.

To hear this audio blog, click here. Enjoy!

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