Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Just Hawk: Coleman Hawkins in Denmark

Someone opened that bloody book again this morning and Witney Balliett's words echoed in the room:

"Improvisation, the seat of jazz, is a remorseless art that demands of the performer no less than this: that, night after night, he spontaneously invent original music by balancing emotion and intelligence, form and content, and tone and attack, all of which must both charge and entertain the spirit of the listener. Improvisation comes in various hues and weights... Great improvisation is rare; bad improvisation, which is really not improvisation at all but a rerun or imitation of old ideas, is common. No art is more precarious or domineering. Thus, such consummate veteran improvisers as Armstrong, [Vic] Dickenson, Hawkins, Buck Clayton, and Monk are, in addition to be master craftsmen, remarkable endurance runners. One of the hardiest of these is Hawkins.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Cecil Payne-Ron Carter Duo

Cecil Payne Dossier#2 - An ongoing series of posts on one of the giants of baritone sax  

I just returned from Switzerland, but my heart is still there. I spent four wonderful days in Fribourg, attending FIFF, meeting friends and doing some side activities, including a couple of interviews I gave (on cinema) which in case you are a German reader and interested in Iranian cinema, could be accessed here.

Trying to re-live the memory of the place, nothing serves me better than the Cecil Payne-Ron Carter duo, doing their Lover Man in Bern, Switzerland, May 8, 1998.

The video is from my VHS collection. Still more to come as a part of the Payne dossier.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Cecil Payne-Benny Bailey Quintet

Cecil Payne Dossier#1 - An ongoing series of posts on one of the giants of baritone sax

The Cecil Payne-Benny Bailey Quintet       
Laren, Netherlands, April 3, 1980

Benny Bailey (t), Cecil Payne (barysax), Cees Slinger (p), John Clayton (b), John Engels (d).  
Blue 'n' Boogie

Notes on the rhythm section:

Cees Slinger (1929-2007): Influenced by Cedar Walton, Slinger was an important figure in Dutch modern jazz of the 1950s, both as the founder and leader of the hard bop combo "Diamond Five" and the accompanist of many visiting American jazz musicians. However, in post-Beatlemania Netherlands, he found it impossible to get gigs, so he gave up the idea of living as a musicians altogether and became a steel factory worker until 1974, when he was successfully persuaded by Philly Joe Jones to return to playing.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Oscar Peterson in Interview

image courtesy of Pablo Records

Much of his soloing is preoccupied with building pyramid-like structures, deftly reaching the top and then releasing the energy by gliding through a series of brilliantly raging notes which always sound light and afloat. Oscar Peterson is a giant of piano (this is known as "stating the obvious"), both metaphorically and figuratively. His physical dominance over the instrument and the brain which is capable of producing huge melodic units has given us one of the most extraordinary musicians ever.

Found in my collection of jazz interview tapes, this CBC interview (no date mentioned on the cassette) is very enjoyable to listen to and highly illuminating, especially towards the end, when the usual mask of the gentle giant falls off and some of his anger over what seems to be the Canadian issues of the time are revealed.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Last of the Trumpet Masters

This would be the final post from the Trumpet Masters' session in Switzerland, a concert whose footage is now fully presented on this blog.

"Handsome, dark chocolate, a ladies magnet," is Clark Terry's description of Harry "Sweets" Edison, the subject of the first video. Terry met Sweets first in the Basie band: "Svelte physique draped in expensive threads, dripping with accents of rich gold and pristine diamonds. The note that floated through his trumpet made you feel his statement of 'Cool Daddy. Laid-back.'"

Friday, March 7, 2014

Squeeze the Moten Swing

In today's exclusive video, Squeeze Me, the classic 1925 Fats Waller composition, is reinterpreted  by Joe Wilder and Snooky Young. The video continues with Clark Terry and Harry Sweets Edison doing a version of  the Moten Swing, originally the Bennie Moten and the Kansas City Orchestra's hit from 1932.

The rhythm section is Hank Jones, Jesper Lundgaard, Clarence Penn, respectively on piano, bass and drums.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Billie Holiday Through the Lens of Carl Van Vechten

In 1949, Carl Van Vechten, the American essayist, novelist and photographer who had a profound interest in music, literature and Afro-American culture (in 1926 he wrote Negro Blues Singers for Vanity Fair), as a part of his African Americans Portraits project photographed Billie Holiday.

It was Gerry Major who arranged the session and asked Billie to wear on a gown. Billie, ignoring the request, showed up in a grey dress and even greyer mood. Van Vechten talked her into a more intimate look and choice of clothes which she eventually accepted with changing to a silk gown and a Gauguinesque dress underneath.

They worked through the night and it didn't go well at all until Van Vechten, at the verge of giving up the whole idea, showed Billie his pictures of Bessie Smith. Lady Day, staring at the pictures of one of her idols, started to cry. That softened the mood drastically. They shot until dawn and then Lady left. That was the last time Van Vechten saw Billie Holiday.

These photographs are from that night in March 1949.

[Click to enlarge]