Tag Archives: Abe Beeson

The Jazz 100 (Part 3 – Thoughts from Robin Lloyd and Abe Beeson)

19 Feb

So now you’ve seen the list, and you’ve got some introductory analysis on the Jazz 100.

I felt that it was appropriate for the next step to be getting some thoughts from a fresh pair of eyes…and who better than two of the best in the business, KPLU’s Midday Jazz host Robin Lloyd and Evening Jazz host Abe Beeson?

Thoughts on The Jazz 100

By Robin Lloyd

Taking the list for what it is, entertainment content, a super-subjective popular-vote collection:  it’s not bad!

Do I have strong objections to anything on the list?

Yes: “What a Wonderful World” and “At Last”—neither of these say JAZZ to me, though they’re great in their own way.

Would I re-order the list?  Absolutely.  “Take Five” is wonderful, and it served as an introduction to jazz for an entire generation, but my preference would have something by Dizzy Gillespie in the #1 spot.

Would I object to sitting down and listening to this list in its current state?  No, not at all.

I see it like the growth rings in a tree trunk—it shows a cross-section of styles and eras of mainstream jazz.  The branches of the tree (avant-garde, fusion, etc) just aren’t, well, quintessential enough.

The Top 100 Quintessential Jazz Songs – Wrong Again.

By Abe Beeson

Have you ever sat down to make a list of the “best” of something? It sure is fun, but don’t expect anyone else to agree with you. “Best of” lists are always wrong. Music is just too personal, it touches people in different ways, and music carries baggage and memories that belong only to the one brain between those two ears. But despite the inherent incorrectness of such lists, they do wonders to spark passions and invite heated discussion – and what’s wrong with feeling passionate about music?

What I’ve found most interesting about KPLU/Jazz 24’s Top 100 Quintessential Jazz Songs list is the passion it has provoked in listeners and the comments they’re leaving at this website. It’s a jazz fan’s opportunity to show their passion, to explain why they love a particular song, maybe complain a bit about missing songs or artists (No Sarah Vaughan??) and to thrill at the obvious passion of fellow fans. Here are a few of my favorite posts:

“No one can question the trumpet or vocal marvels of Louis Armstrong, but come on, does this Holy List really need ‘What a Wonderful World’?”

“If you’ve never heard the song ‘Inside Straight’ by Cannonball Adderley, do yourself a favor. It’s probably the sweetest groove I’ve ever heard.”

“Unfair that the whole Kind of Blue album is there, while only the first track of A Love Supreme – which is supposed to be a suite, complete in itself and undivisible – is featured.”

“100 is not enough space for the TOP one hundred – maybe we need a bigger crowd.”

“This is not a list of the greatest jazz songs, this is a list of what people think are the greatest jazz recordings.”

Exactly. And for my part, you can see my picks for the Top 100 here: http://
groovenotes.org/2011/01/04/abe-beesons-top-100-jazz-songs/

Thanks again for your comments, and if you haven’t – show us your passion! Most of all, enjoy the list – even if your favorite isn’t here, there’s a lot of fun to be had in listening. And if I may… maybe the next list will be Top Jazz Artists of the 21st Century?

Tomorrow, I’ll do my best to respond to some of your questions and comments about the Jazz 100.

The Jazz 100 (Part 2 – An Audio Discussion with KPLU’s Kirsten Kendrick)

The Jazz 100 (Part 1 – The List)

Portland Jazz Festival Escape – 2009 Review

19 Feb

Our 5th Annual trip to the Portland Jazz Festival – the KPLU Portland Jazz Festival Escape – was a big success. KPLU’s Promotions Director Brenda Goldstein and myself made the trip on the Amtrak Cascades with more than 70 KPLU listeners and had a wonderful time. Before I go into the details – if you haven’t taken the Escape with us before, do it!

The train to Portland featured a kindly Russian immigrant who kept us laughing with his intercom reminders about everything from Amtrak etiquette (don’t jump off the train when it’s moving) to important legal requirements (you can drink wine, you can bring wine, but you can’t drink the wine you bring – much funnier with a Russian accent).

We had a terrific time talking with listeners at our pre-dinner reception atop the Hilton in Portland – what a view! I’m always happy to see familiar faces, about half of our travelers seemed to be return visitors, and thrilled to see such a wide variety of KPLU’s listenership in attendance. It’s not just about Seattle or Tacoma or the Major Donors when we “Take the Abe Train.” Many of the listeners were from Canada or Bellingham or Olympia and even one fan from Colorado – and ranging in age from 20’s to 70’s. Most aren’t what we might term “jazz geeks”, they’re just along for a good time, some great jazz, great company and tax-free shopping in beautiful Portland.

The first show was, I think, the highlight of the first weekend. Dianne Reeves sang with her trio and the Oregon Symphony. What I feared would be schmaltzy was swinging and super cool. Dianne is one of the top 2 or 3 singers in jazz today and she’s on top of her game (catch her at the upcoming Bellevue Jazz Festival in May!). She even SANG some band introductions and scatted her way elegantly off stage, without microphone, after her encore. Her love of Sarah Vaughan was in full effect and kept all of us in a romantic Valentine’s Day mood.

A couple listeners chose to get tickets to see guitarist John Scofield’s show later that night and their reviews were expectedly positive. He’s a groovy guy and easily likeable, playing in a trio with Matt Penman on bass and Bill Stewart drumming. They were joined on a few songs by saxophonist Joe Lovano, who played several times over the weekend. A handful of listeners chose the free show at the Art Bar featuring legendary pianist Dave Frishberg in a trio that didn’t feature his iconic vocals, to more positive reviews.

Sunday had us gathered back at the lovely Arlene Schnitzer Auditorium for a pair of shows. We saw the amazingly talented clarinet and sax player Don Byron with his Ivey Divey Trio – piano & drums – and while some songs were a bit on the avant garde side of jazz, his humor and pure chops had us all impressed.

After a short intermission, headlining pianist McCoy Tyner brought a quartet to the stage, including the sax great Joe Lovano plus bass & drums. There were some technical difficulties – the piano seemed too quiet and Lovano’s sax mic didn’t even seem to be working for the first 3 or 4 songs – but because of our great seats we could at least hear what was happening on stage. Unfortunately, Tyner’s drummer couldn’t hold a candle to the other drummers we’d seen. He seemed to think volume made up for lack of talent – too loud, man! I’d have hated to be his parents while he was learning drums as a kid. Eventually, the sound improved and we were treated to some outstanding playing, including Tyner’s piano quoting from a pair of Coltrane classics in the encore song.

Listeners had a wide range of options if they wanted to catch more jazz Sunday night. Many from our crown caught Portland drummer Ron Steen’s jam at Clyde’s Steak House, where a number of local and touring musicians stopped in to play – review: great jazz by some “new” faces in a great atmosphere. Others went to see guitarist Lionel Loueke’s show in the Hilton Ballroom. The overwhelming response from our gang was that the opening singer, Joe Lovano’s wife Judy Silvano, was hard to listen to – some of the audience walked out! – but that Loueke’s set was beautiful, if not strictly jazz. Finally, a few from our crew joined the youth crowd at the Greyboy All-Stars show that night at the amazing Crystal Ballroom. The dance floor is built on tires, making for a perfect spot to hear this modern soul-jazz group.

The weather was great for Portland in February, just a touch of rain Sunday morning with partly sunny skies and around 50 degrees the rest of our stay. The Hilton in Portland was a great hotel, the train was terrific, and the listeners priceless. I had so many conversations with people so obviously enamoured with what we do at KPLU, it gives me renewed energy to keep bringing great radio to all of our listeners around the Northwest and the world. It’s a wonderful opportunity to connect face to face with so many KPLU listeners and hear about their compliments and concerns, building a closer relationship with people who consider our station a vital part of their lives.

For the final weekend of the festival (www.pdxjazz.com) singer Cassandra Wilson’s show was canceled, but stellar musicians like pianist/singer Patricia Barber, pianist Aaron Parks, saxophonist Lou Donaldson, vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, guitarist Pat Martino and singer Kurt Elling – doing a Coltrane/Hartman tribute with Ernie Watts! – close out this year’s festivities in fine style.

The Portland Jazz Festival almost didn’t happen this year, Alaska Airlines stepped in with critical sponsorship support at the last minute, so I’m hopeful they keep it going so we can be there again next year!

Your purser & baggage handler,

Abe Beeson (KPLU Evening Jazz/Jazz 24 host)

http://www.pdxjazz.com

diannereeves1

Dianne Reeves' latest album When You Know

Listeners from B.C. Jane Whiteley & Hugh Jones on the Jazz Train

Listeners from B.C. Jane Whiteley & Hugh Jones on the Jazz Train

(L to R) Jeff & Gretchen Coulter, Kevin Nielsen & Cathy McDonald talking jazz in Portland

(L to R) Jeff and Gretchen Coulter, Kevin Nielsen and Cathy McDonald - talking jazz in Portland

Audio Blog: Jazz Perspectives with KPLU’s Weekday Jazz Hosts

16 Feb

KPLU’s four weekday jazz hosts, Dick Stein, Robin Lloyd, Abe Beeson, and myself, individually sat down and recorded thoughts on a variety of topics related to jazz.

With all of us coming from different backgrounds and upbringings, you will hear very different and interesting perspectives on topics ranging from what the first jazz we remember ever hearing, what music was playing when we were growing up, what how we got hooked on jazz, what live jazz performance blew our mind, what jazz musicians we think are doing great things today, and, if we could pick anyone to see play one song in concert, alive or dead, who would it be.

Enjoy the first Groove Notes Audio Blog by clicking here.

Watch Teddy Wilson, Benny Goodman, and Lionel Hampton play Moonglow, as picked by Dick Stein:

Watch Thelonious Monk play ‘Round Midnight, as picked by Abe Beeson:

Watch Michael Brecker, as picked by Kevin Kniestedt:

Watch Dizzy Gillespie play Manteca, as picked by Robin Lloyd:

Audio Blog: Jazz Perspectives with KPLU's Weekday Jazz Hosts

16 Feb

KPLU’s four weekday jazz hosts, Dick Stein, Robin Lloyd, Abe Beeson, and myself, individually sat down and recorded thoughts on a variety of topics related to jazz.

With all of us coming from different backgrounds and upbringings, you will hear very different and interesting perspectives on topics ranging from what the first jazz we remember ever hearing, what music was playing when we were growing up, what how we got hooked on jazz, what live jazz performance blew our mind, what jazz musicians we think are doing great things today, and, if we could pick anyone to see play one song in concert, alive or dead, who would it be.

Enjoy the first Groove Notes Audio Blog by clicking here.

Watch Teddy Wilson, Benny Goodman, and Lionel Hampton play Moonglow, as picked by Dick Stein:

Watch Thelonious Monk play ‘Round Midnight, as picked by Abe Beeson:

Watch Michael Brecker, as picked by Kevin Kniestedt:

Watch Dizzy Gillespie play Manteca, as picked by Robin Lloyd:

Big Screen, Great Jazz – movie review by Abe Beeson

14 Dec

Since the success of biographical musician films like Ray (Ray Charles) and Walk the Line (Johnny Cash), I’ve been longing to see on film the fascinating lives of jazz musicians like Chet Baker, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis and others, only to be disappointed. So, (as the song goes) until the real thing comes along, I’m going to be watching and re-watching some of the jazz films that have already been made. I hope to continue this online series of reviews, hoping to spark the interest of, at least, movie goers to the wealth of fascinating jazz lives that have made great films.

kansascity

Kansas City (dir. by Robert Altman, 1996)

Robert Altman’s Kansas City, starring Jennifer Jason Leigh as a young woman who kidnaps the wife (Miranda Richardson) of a Kansas City political bigwig with the hopes of getting help to free her small-time hood husband (Dermot Mulroney) from the clutches of K.C.’s biggest crook, Seldom Seen (Harry Belafonte). The treat for jazz fans comes in the soundtrack, recorded “live at the Hey Hey Club” with some of today’s brightest stars playing the loose, swinging jazz of the 30’s.

This was a time, during the Great Depression, when Kansas City was the center of the jazz world. As the hub for dozens of Territory Bands who’d travel through the hinterlands playing the hits of the day, the greatest musicians of the swing era spent a good deal of time in Kansas City. Charlie Parker himself grew up in Kansas City around this time and a young actor plays a bit part as a young “Yardbird” hanging out at the club and silently marveling at his heroes, alto sax slung around his neck.

But it’s the jazz pros providing the soundtrack that got my attention in the first place. Though they weren’t given any lines, the professional musicians at the Hey Hey Club stole every scene they had. There’s David “Fathead” Newman taking a rare turn on alto sax, Geri Allen showing her boogie woogie piano chops, joyous trumpet work from Nicholas Payton & Olu Dara, and Kevin Mahogany sings a bit of blues from behind the bar (as a female patron lounges beside the pints and highballs). Early in their careers, the cool guitar work featured both Mark Whitfield and Russell Malone, and I spotted Lewis Nash and bass giants Ron Carter and Christian McBride almost fading into the background at the back of the bandstand.

A few of the musicians played the parts of real-life legends, though again without any lines. A very young James Carter nails his short solos in the role of the great tenor Ben Webster, and the musical highlight is the tenor sax battle between Joshua Redman (as Lester Young) and Craig Handy (as Coleman Hawkins). As their fellow musicians do, they play energetically in the swing style of the day, but they don’t strictly imitate the giants they portray. Director Altman says he told the band to feel the looseness and energy of this exciting time when the great soloists began to break out of the collaborative sound of the big bands.

Sadly, excepting the two minutes of tenor battle, the music segments are rather short. As a jazz nerd, I still found it fascinating to see the big names of today playing in the context of the legends that came before them.

The film itself is called by Altman one of his personal favorites, and the DVD commentary track features some interesting insights into the director’s childhood in 1930’s Kansas City. However, I found the story too thin to support the hard work of a talented cast. Harry Belafonte’s Seldom Seen monologues are an interesting insight into race relations of the time, but the message gets through in half the time taken. The sets are impressive, Altman spent much of the budget refurbishing a section of his beloved Kansas City train station, the acting is sharp, particularly the drug-addled politician’s wife played by Miranda Richardson, but my heart belonged to the live jazz scenes.

Altman famously recorded the band live while they filmed and the sound track is well worth picking up, with much more detailed info on the technical difficulties of recording the music while making the film. I’ll give this movie 3 stars out of 5, an extra star if you’re a big fan of the director, but I prefer his films The Player and Gosford Park. Jazz geeks like me will thrill to the music and a look at today’s big jazz stars just cutting their teeth.

Click Here to listen to Yeah Man! from the Kansas City original motion picture soundtrack.

UPDATE: listener Kandie (in comments) also recommends Altman’s “Jazz ’34” Rememberances of Kansas City Swing from Rhapsody Films (including complete versions of the jazz snippets in the film) and 3 related CDs: Kansas City: Orig. Motion Picture Soundtrack (noted in the above review), Kansas City Band: More Music from Robert Altman’s Kansas City, and The Real Kansas City of the 20’s 30’s and 40’s. thanks, Kandie!!

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