Thursday, January 29, 2015

Charles Mingus' Epitaph - Live in Berlin

poster of the 1991 Berlin Jazz Festival
This is a long excerpt (25 mins) from the Charles Mingus Epitaph concert in Berlin, as conducted by Gunther Schuller.

The concert was held during the Berlin Jazz Festival in October 1991, nearly two years after Epitaph's New York premiere.

I found this invaluable footage, an off-air recording, on one of my old VHS tapes. Alas, the first piece on this video, Better Git In Your Soul (which is obviously not the first piece from the actual concert) is incomplete and starts from the middle. Like Mr. Schuller, I'm beginning to believe this ambitious piece of orchestral jazz is jinxed:

"There were many times in the many-months-long preparation for the issuance of Epitaph when I felt that what many of us consider a jinx under which this great work has stood—the first expression of which was the disastrous attempt to record Epitaph in I962—was continuing to exercise its evil curse. Recording equipment breaking down, gremlins in computerized mixing consoles, tapes being inadvertently locked up in temporarily inaccessible offices, unavailability of mixing and editing studies when needed, enormous scheduling conflicts, and so on." 
I hope someone comes up with the complete video of Berlin concert. Until then, enjoy this great 25 minutes of Mingus' music. 
Gunther Schuller

Listening to Andrea Marcelli Trio


It's almost miraculous that the combination of a classic jazz trio (piano, bass, drums) and the American songbook can sustain its freshness and elements if surprise after decades of being practiced and rethought.

Maybe like that old standard, Say It Over And Over Again, the beauty of the classic trio reveals and definitely perfects itself in repetition and recurrence.

Whatever the case, if one adds to that magical combination a Roman sensitivity, which is evident through the musical career of Andrea Marcelli, then the result would be something like Sundance, a 9 year old record by Andrea Marcelli Trio which I discovered recently.

A Berlin-based group, the Trio features the leader on drums, Danish Thomas Clausen on piano and an Italian Davide Petrocca on bass.

The recording in question, is celebrating both the old and the new: there are standards (by Gillespie, Porter, Ellington), as well as originals by Andrea Marcelli and his contemporary Italian composers.

The reissue of the album in 2012 presents two bonus tracks, one of which, O Cessate di Piagarmi, can be heard here and I hope it gives a taste of the intensity and beauty of the group:

Friday, January 23, 2015

Peanuts Hucko: Tribute to Louis and Benny

Peanuts Hucko at Famous Door (New York, circa 1946-48. Photo by William Gottlieb.)

Peanuts Hucko was busy playing various Armstrong and Goodman pieces from the mid-80s onwards, as documented on a CD called Tribute to Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman, a title previously used for a Stuttgard-based TV show, ZDF Jazz Club.

This performance from the aforementioned show features Peanuts Hucko on clarinet, Johnny Varro on piano, Colin Green on bass, and Jake Hanna on drums. It was filmed on May 15, 1987.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Modern Jazz Quartet & Kammerorchester Arcata


Thanks to my good friend Neil who kindly accepted to digitize some rusty VHS tapes from my collection, there is a good supply of jazz videos for 2015, most of them never released before (except their original airing on German TV) and not even available online.

However, the one I'm about to play here, of a Modern Jazz Quartet concert in Germany, seems to be released on DVD by at least two different companies: TDK's jazz series and Arthaus Musik in Deutschland.

This concert, from (possibly) July, 1992, was held as a part of Jazzgipfel festival in Stuttgart. What makes this particular date different from other MJQ's 40th anniversary concerts is a) the absence of Connie Kay due to the ailment which led to Mickey Roker's involvement in the band. (Although the TV broadcaster of this show erroneously credits the drummer as Kay.) b) a chamber orchestra, Kammerorchester Arcata, backing the quartet with reasonably satisfactory results.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Bob Willoughby's Jazz Photography

Big Jay McNeely at the Olympic Auditorium, LA, 1953. © Bob Willoughby.

Have you visited photographer Bob Willoughby's website yet? If not, it's a must. A treasury of some of the most iconic black and white jazz photography is presented in online gallery which features, among many others, Coleman Hawkins, Shelly Manne, Duke Ellington, and Billie Holiday. Visit it here.

Nevertheless, Willoughby's film photography, taken of Hollywood stars and behind the scene situations, is equally amazing. (+)

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Friday, December 5, 2014

Cecil Taylor - The Poetry of Sound

Cecil Taylor illustration by Naiel Ibarrola
I've always been fascinated by the idea of how Body and one's physique can play a major role in creating art. The movement of Jackson Pollack's body, his sway, and an almost choreographed movement over canvas had a direct impact on the finished work. In John Cassavetes films, too, there is always a great deal of physical tension: running, escaping, fighting, strolling and colliding. In these films, being scarred by any extreme emotion, such as love, is manifested in being hurt, falling down and standing up again. I find the same qualities in the music of Cecil Taylor that to me is the perfect marriage of painting and cinema, of a two-dimensional representation of an actual idea sent into a three-dimensional space. Once even I screened Marcel L'Herbier's L'Inhumaine while playing Taylor's music on the images. The result was stunning. Taylor is like an iris shot in a silent film, starting from one single note and from there opening in all directions. The result is something like a dome of sound.

This 1986 audio file that I've shared here features Cecil Taylor in conversation with Marian McPartland on her famous jazz piano show, where Taylor explains some of the ideas behind his music. Two pianists are sitting side by side in the studio, having conversations about a wide range of subjects and playing some wonderful music.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The EFG London Jazz Festival Review

Photo by Roger Thomas
The EFG London Jazz Festival is now the biggest jazz event in the UK, bringing in acts ranging from the most prominent American musicians of the day, to British talents and voices from other parts of the world. Though the festival favours clear distinctions between traditional notions of jazz, big band and the avant-garde, there are always artists working in-between idioms, refusing to be easily categorised. Like most prominent cultural happenings in London, the festival is liable to be glossy, over-serious and sold-out—but it’s never exclusive or out of reach. The host venues are spread across the city, beyond the three major concert halls that welcome most of the “big names” (Queen Elizabeth Hall, Royal Festival Hall, and The Barbican), and are open to anyone. In the intimate space of the Vortex and other clubs similar in size, a no less extraordinary programme of music frequently awaits the avid listener. Indeed, as with any other festival, it is often in these venues where the standout sets are heard.

Read my review of acts such as John Surman, The Branford Marsalis Quartet, JD Allen, Randy Weston, Billy Harper, The Buck Clayton Legacy Band, Stefano Bollani, Tomasz Stanko, Dave Holland, and Kenny Barron here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

"Not Basiecally": Basie's Swedish Interview


Count Basie interviewed by Sven Lindahl during his first summer tour in Sweden, 1962.

Ellington Visits Finland


In February 1963, Duke Ellington And His Orchestra made their first trip to Finland. One year later, the jazz impresario Paavo Einiƶ brought the band back to Finland for a second time. The video above is from the first trip.