Saturday, May 23, 2015

McCoy Tyner Big Band

McCoy Tyner Big Band
JazzFest Berlin, Philharmonie
November 3, 1990  

Fly With the Wind (M. Tyner)

Trumpets: Virgil Jones, Kamau Adilifu, Earl Gardner; French Horn: John Clark; Trombones: Frank Lacy, Clark Gayton; Tuba: Howard Johnson; Saxes/Flute: Joe Ford, Doug Harris; Tenor Sax: John Stubblefield; Piano: McCoy Tyner; Bass: Avery Sharpe; Drums: Aaron Scott.

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Portrait Of Coleman Hawkins

During the formative years of jazz, when various attempts to infuse classical music and jazz fell through, the idea seemed abandoned for a while, until the string recordings became fashionable. Out of that, but more importantly thanks to serious studies in jazz, a new interest in such fusion revived in the 1960s, particularly when the Orchestra U.S.A. came to existence.

Formed by John Lewis, Gunther Schuller, and Harold Farberman, this classical jazz orchestra recorded a handful of albums in the first half of the 1960s, all pointing out possibilities of jazz for going Third Stream. One of the most curious of these recordings, Jazz Journey (Columbia), features, on its opening track, an extended piece of narrative music, a format often used in the history of jazz by composers from Duke Ellington to George Russell without necessarily meeting satisfactory results. This time, it works well.

Spoken by Skitch Henderson and written by Nat Hentoff , A Journey Into Jazz is a charming fable, "based on real events", something on which Wes Anderson could have made a fabulous film. (Speaking of films, this piece makes a great alternative to misrepresenting of jazz in Whiplash.)

The story of the piece is about a boy, Edward Jackson, who learns about jazz by discovering a bunch of musicians in a cellar next door, led by a mystified tenorman.

Friday, May 15, 2015

B.B. King (1925-2015)

"B. B. King, whose world-weary voice and wailing guitar lifted him from the cotton fields of Mississippi to a global stage and the apex of American blues, died Thursday in Las Vegas," wrote The New York Time, "He was 89."

The notes below, which seem like an appropriate way to remember the blues man, are written by Stanley Dance in 1967:

"The King of the Blues! That's what they call Riley B. King, otherwise known as the Boy from Beale Street, the Beale Street Blues Boy, Blues Boy King and B.B. King, a man "born on a plantation right out from Indianola, not too far from Itta Bena, in Mississippi."

Those who call him the King of the Blues are not really much interested in a pretty play on words. They know their man, and they believe that of all the blues singers he is the one entitled to wear the crown. To get a better idea of why they think this way, he should be seen in action at a theatre like the Apollo in Harlem, preferably on a bill with other great blues artists. Usually, B.B. King closes the show, and as the others come on one by one, exerting their spells by voice, guitar or harmonica, it is hard not to wonder how he will ever top them.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Duke Ellington & Orson Welles

Cab Calloway on the right, 1944.
The David Frost Show, circa June 1970.
The opening of The Blessed and the Damned at the Theatre Edouard VII in Paris. June 20, 1950.

Orson (composed by Billy Strayhorn-Duke Ellington)
Duke Ellington and His Orchestra
LA, April 7, 1953

Duke Ellington (p); Clark Terry, Willie Cook, Cat Anderson, Ray Nance (t); Quentin Jackson, Britt Woodman, Juan Tizol (tb); Russell Procope (as, cli); Rick Henderson (as); Paul Gonsalves (ts); Jimmy Hamilton (cl, ts); Harry Carney (bs); Wendell Marshall (b); Butch Ballard (d).

Further reading at the Place, Man.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Image of the Day: Chasin' the Bird

Charlie Parker unpacking his alto saxophone in Royal Roost, New York City. Probably March, 1949.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Duke Ellington TV

Happy Birthday Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington (April 29, 1899 – May 24, 1974)

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Duke Ellington's Unreleased German Recording

According to JazzTimes, Grönland Records in Germany will release a previously unissued Duke Ellington session on July 10.

Produced in 1970 by Conny Plank who is mostly known for his work with Kraftwerk and Eurythmics, the session has been recorded at Rhenus Studio in Cologne from which you can listen to a take, Afrique, here:

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Art of Bob Crozier

If one looks carefully at the iconic LP artworks of the ABC Paramount's 1950s jazz series (as well as some of its non-jazz releases from the same period) two names sharing the credits continue to appear on every single cover. These two, who have created some of the most sophisticated, handsomely designed jazz cover arts in history of this music, are Alan Fontaine and Bob Crozier.

Whereas Alan Fontaine was in charge of photographing the musicians for ABC Paramount, Bob Crozier was the graphic artist and responsible for the final product. Fontaine, who also worked for the Esquire and photographed many Hollywood stars (among them Myrna Loy and Joan Crawford), could deliver a straightforward work, capturing all musicians, regardless of their style, in the same kind of docile, smiling pose. He wasn't a William Claxton or a Herman Leonard but he was good enough and more importantly, his work was jazz the beginning of the design process and not the end.

However, what really transformed the ABC Paramount cover designs was the work of Bob Crozier whose innovative, fresh, and intelligent ways of combining graphic art with photography gave a very distinctive look to the label's releases between 1955 and 1957.

Crozier joined the label as graphic artist shortly after ABC Paramount started operating in New York City. The label was releasing a catalogue as diverse as pop to jazz and children music to WWII songs. And what really gave a unified look to these diverse musical genres was their design.

Among stylistic motives in Crozier's artworks are his unique handwritten typefaces, and also a bold use of vivid colors against a backdrop of bright or white surfaces. He was isolating (photographed) figure from the background and by adding abstract elements to the composition, his design was actually complementing the existing photograph.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Pete Townshend on Wes Montgomery

The Montgomery Brothers
"In 1962, in my second year of Art College in London, I remember giving my saxophonist father some earphones to listen to the first stereo record I'd ever purchased. It was by Wes Montgomery. It was a strange feeling, sitting in the bedroom I'd shared with my little brother for six years, watching my father being transported by a decent (though lashed-together) Hi-Fi sound for the first time. It made me feel as though my father was junior to me rather than senior; I felt I was giving him something that, as we were both musicians, he should have given to me.

He listened to one whole side of the record, and took off the earphones. "What do you think?" I asked. "It's
good isn't it?" He nodded. "This guitar player is wonderful," he said first. "I knew of him, of course, but his playing here is superb." He handed me back the earphones. "It's intriguing," he added. "You can hear how the players' timing drifts apart, you are almost in the band. It's like being in the middle of the band, in fact." My father had spent his life in the middle of many bands big and small, so he knew what he was talking about.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

3 Duke Ellington Films Restored

A Bundle of Blues (1933) [all images courtesy of Cohen Film Collection]
Duke Ellington was one of the Silver Screen's favorite personalities since the sound was introduced to cinema. The Duke's life on celluloid started with 1929 Black and Tan Fantasy and continued until the last days of his life. Among a wealth of visual material left behind after Duke's passing, the early films, for their presentation of best musicians in their glory days, are most precious, but also because of their age, less satisfactory in terms of sound and image quality.

In that regard, probably the best gift one could give to the members of Ellingtonia all around the world is the restoration and re-release of three Duke Ellington films, undertaken by Cohen Film Collection in the US whose new prints look like a Rembrandt picture being cleaned and removed from elements of dust and dirt by National Gallery. Now, you can see Black and Tan Fantasy, Symphony in Black and Bundle of Blues in very good to excellent qualities.

The digital restoration of the films was carried out by Cohen Film Collection at Modern Videofilm in Los Angeles, California. Originally produced by Paramount Pictures, U.M.&M. TV Corporation acquired the rights in 1954-55 along with approximately 1,600 other shorts from Paramount catalogue. The company removed the Paramount logo card from the original 35mm nitrate negatives and replaced them with the U.M.&M. TV title card. The original opening title card is not known to exist. [pic below]