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 Einiö brought the band back to Finland for a second time. The video above is from the first trip.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Martin Williams on Herbie Nichols

"Nichols is original. He may remind us of Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk, and of Fats Waller and Teddy Wilson, but it is also obvious that he plays with a jazz style that is thoroughly Nichols. The things he can do with time and the fact that his rhythms and harmonies are interrelated, indeed inseparable, are exceptional. He is not at all interested in currently "hip" tempos, mannerisms, or finger dexterities, and on the piece he calls S'Crazy Pad, he shows he is not at all afraid of a steady "four" rhythm, of a modernized version of a simple '30s "riff tune" conception, of swing bass and that he can bring such things off.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Revival of Fatha: Earl Hines Returns to NYC

These recordings document Earl Hines' return to the top after a decade of obscurity in the West Coast. Here, on a March 7, 1964 date from the Little Theater in New York City, Hines teams up with bassist Ahmed Abdul-Malik and drummer Oliver Jackson for a triumphant return to form. For three numbers, his band member from the 1940s, Budd Johnson, sits in.

I'll play a tape from David W. Niven's collection, featuring some of tunes The Earl Hines Trio (and Quartet) played during this particularly significant engagement, but before that, I invite you to read the passionate notes written by the co-organizer of the event, David Himmelstein, and passages of the New Yorker review of the concert by Whitney Balliett, both as exquisite as the recordings:

"I'm a band pianist, you know. I've never given a concert like this before," said Earl 'Fatha' Hines shortly after his arrival in New York City during the first week in March 1964. The news of this historic "first" was only the beginning of a series of surprises that Hines, after a give year absence from the New York scene, was to unveil at the three weekend concerts that were part of the Jazz On Broadway series at the Little Theatre, produced by Down Beat’s New York editor, critic Dan Morgenstern and myself [David Himmelstein]. The astonishing fact that Hines - the man who can safely be said to have singlehandedly made the piano a significant solo voice in the jazz band and whose instrumental style directly influenced the course of jazz through Bud Powell - had never given a piano recital is no less remarkable than the semi-obscurity into which he had slipped during the 1950s.

Friday, October 24, 2014

David Redfern, Photographs

Stan Kenton in London; Price: £750 - £1000. Visit the website.

The jazz and rock photographer David Redfern died at the age of 78. The Telegraph obituary is online here. This gallery, assembled from various online sources, mostly Tumblr, shows some of Redfern's best photographic works. All rights belong to David Redfern. For further information, visit his website here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tricky F. (A Story About Art Tatum)

"The English pianist Alan Clare was once intrigued with a workman who was carrying out some remodeling inside his house. Clare was playing some recordings, and he began to notice that the workman was whistling along with whatever music he put on—Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, it didn't seem to matter. Even if he hadn't heard it before he had the natural musical ability to follow a melody closely and almost automatically.

Clark Terry: Further Years at the University of Ellingtonia (1955-56)

"Never think you are too hip, because two hips make an ass." — Clark Terry

Here is my second post on Clark Terry at the University of Ellingtonia, complemented by David W. Niven's audio archive and his selection of Terry's solos played and recorded over the course of two years.

This collection is particularly interesting because of introducing more flugelhorn solos into the Ellington repertoire.

I also quote passages from Clark Terry's autobiography, where he is giving astute descriptions of other members of Ellingtonia. The book, which aside from its invaluable insight into CT's life is a great piece of literature, can be purchased here.

This is how Mr Mumbles introduces his colleagues:

"Harold "Shorty" Baker got his nickname because of his height. Sometimes we'd call him "Shorty Boo," just to mess with him...He had a gorgeous sound on his trumpet and played beautiful and interesting solos."

"We called Ray Nance 'Little Dipper' in honor of Louis Armstrong, whose nickname was 'Big Dipper'. He was the sweetest cat in the world. Never harmed anyone. He smiled most of the time, and there was always a pleasant atmosphere around him. He played elegant trumpet solos and was an accomplished violinist, tap dance, and vocalist as well."

"Willie Cook came over from Dizzy's band. He was playing '√† la Birks,'...Very small but a powerful player with interesting solos. Dark-skinned with nice features—almost like a Native American. He wore a conk all the time."

"We called Johnny Hodges 'Rabbit' because with his long ears and small eyes, that’s what his face resembled. He was a marvelous lead alto player with a very mellow sound. Quiet and unassuming, but he could play his ass off."

"Russell Procope played alto. He was short and more portly than Rabbit. Kinda intellectually talkative at times. He was from the old John Kirby band. He was a dependable reader and had a beautiful sound."

"Jimmy Hamilton was a tenor player who was featured more on the clarinet. His old nickname was “Joe Trump” because he had played trumpet in Philadelphia years before. Everybody loved his playing. He was a little shorter than me, of average complexion and with a little moustache. Sort of slow of speech."

"Harry Carney had been with Duke for a long time—ever since he was seventeen. Ended up staying with Duke for forty-five years. An incredible musician. First cat in the band I saw doing circular breathing...Harry played clarinet, bass clarinet, and baritoneax. He was a big guy with intelligent conversations, and he was Duke’s favorite riding buddy. They rode together often in Harry’s Chrysler while we rode on the bus."

"Juan Tizol played valve trombone beautifully. A Cuban who spoke broken English. Olive complexion, and he wore glasses. He was a hell of a composer, too."

"Britt Woodman was a studio man who played slide trombone. Phenomenal chops, beautiful tone. And he could sight-read like nobody’s business. Such a delightful person to be around. Kinda short, with a light complexion. He was also sedentary, and would go to sleep on you in a New York minute."

"Quentin 'Butter' Jackson was a master with the slide trombone and the plunger. He filled a great void with his incredible plunger techniques after Tricky Sam left the band years before."