Thursday, April 30, 2015

Recent Listening: Jazz Appreciation Month

Well, today is International Jazz Day. While I haven't been quite as busy as Kevin Sun over at A Horizontal Search, I have enjoyed posting more than usual. Here’s a brief rundown of some of the sounds that have been bouncing around the apartment during Jazz Appreciation Month. Perhaps next year I will keep track as I go and make a more complete listening list. I made a point to check out some artists I’m not that familiar with, as well as albums I haven't listened to for a while and a few favourites too.

Charlie Parker
For some reason "Marmaduke” got stuck in my head one afternoon as I was out running errands, so I spent some time this month working on the melody. And as I worked on this post from my old practice notebook, “Billie’s Bounce” came into the picture too. Multiple takes of both songs have had plenty of plays this month.

Tchicai has flown under my radar, and after hearing this I'm keen to hear more. Recorded in 1977 this album features one track each on alto, soprano and flute. The last track is an alto/trombone duet with Albert Mangelsdorff. I'm digging Tchicai's rich tone on alto and his particularly distinctive soprano tone. I'm looking forward to finding more of his soprano playing especially. A bunch of FMP albums are available at Destination Out's BandCamp store.

The Waiting Game
 I was listening to this a lot during March and it leeched over into April. This engaging duo recording with Marty Ehrlich is one of my favourite Nock recordings. The program mixes original compositions, free improvisations, standards and folk songs. Ehrlich moves between alto & soprano sax and clarinet & bass clarinet. Whenever I listen to this album I always think, "Man, I need to check out more Marty Ehrlich" - but that hasn't happened just yet. Nothing particularly earth shattering about this album, just really good jazz played by two artists with a great rapport. 

Live in New York
It's never quite the same, but it is nice to have a souvenir from a gig you attended. In some ways, I remember the atmosphere more than the music - it was great catching up with fellow sax-traveller Bastian Duncker and there was a definite buzz in the crowd. The music was very enjoyable and this disc (compiled from the two sets that night) is an excellent reminder. This was my second chance to hear Bennink (on snare drum, floor, body, music stand, floor etc) and Moore (as/clari/b.clari) with the remaining third taken by the accordion of Holshouser (who was new to me). I’m pretty sure I made notes on this gig but I haven't found them yet. If I do, it will be nice to revisit that moment back in 2009 along with the recording. Fans of Clusone Trio will want to check this out.

John Carter & Bobby Bradford 
Like Tchicai, here’s another reed player that has been under my radar. Mark Weber put me on to them and I've finally got around to having a listen. Carter alternates between, tenor & alto sax, clarinet and flute and forms a great front line with Bradford's trumpet. So far I'm liking what I hear. Anyone interested in Ornette Coleman's recordings from the 1960's will want to check out this group. Seeking led me to pick up Flight for Four, recorded by the same group a couple of weeks earlier in 1969 (which I haven't listened to just yet). Mark has been compiling a Bobby Bradford Timeline - lots of great info and photos too.

Ornette Coleman 
Live recording from Italy in 1974. 
Not the greatest fidelity but interesting nonetheless. I have only skimmed through Ornette's output from the 1970s, so maybe this will be the trigger to dig a little further. Alongside Coleman are Sirone (b) Billy Higgins (d) and James Blood Ulmer (g). I haven't listened to much of Ulmer's work and his playing grabbed my attention - it's nice to hear some comping behind Ornette and Ulmer's solo voice is very distinctive too.

Mal Waldron
Blues for Lady Day
Aside from some albums with Lacy (which led me to this one), I don't have much Waldron in my collection. This is a solid solo piano outing from 1972 featuring standards associated with Billie Holidays. The last two tracks are live recordings (also 1972) from a trio with Henk Haverhoek (b) & Pierre Courbois (d) playing a couple of Waldron originals. While this album didn't blow me a way I'm keen to hear more from Waldron. Any recommendations are appreciated.

Earl Coleman“Yardbird Suite" This recording from 1948 features Coleman singing the lyrics Bird wrote for his tune less commonly referred to as “What Price Love?” That alone makes it worthy of a listen. On top of that, Fats Navarro is at his relaxed, swinging and melodic best during his muted solo and Don Lanphere also contributes a fine tenor solo.

I’ve been hanging out to hear this album, and I finally picked it up this month. It was the presence of alto saxophonist Christian Weidner that grabbed my attention - along with the instrumentation (Harp/ Sax/Bass). The compositions are split between Pechlof & Weidner (as well as one from Debussy). The playing is unhurried and spacious - it demands your attention as it's not smacking you in the face. A very nice album and I’ll probably right some more on it. Don't sleep on Weidner - he's got a beautiful tone and wonderfully melodic approach. 

Miles Davis 
In A Silent Way
I hadn't listened to this album in years. I'm not sure what made me pick it up again, but I’m glad I did. The last time I heard this album I don't think I even owned a soprano saxophone, so this time around my ear has been drawn to Wayne Shorter's playing. There's a floating quality to Shorter's entrance on "Shhh/Peaceful" (around the 9 minute) that gave me a kick the first time I heard it (probably the first time I had heard him on soprano too), that brought a smile to my face this time around too. 

Lyle Ritz
How About Uke?
This was a chance purchase while doing some in store browsing at Dusty Groove. I was completely unfamiliar with Ritz, saw it and thought, "Ukulele.... why not?" It's a really nice sounding recording and captures the uke tone really well. I particularly enjoyed the chordal playing from Ritz. Throughout the album he teams up with Red Mitchell (b) and Gene Estes (d) and Don Shelton (flute) joins them for five tracks. The album has a feel-good vibe to it.

Rahsaan Roland Kirk
I Talk With The Spirits
I was listening to Kirk’s 1964 all-flute outing during March but it also got some air during April (I was playing along with the melody of the title tune for a while too). Kirk's flute playing is not quite as rambunctious as his sax work. On second though....perhaps it is! Either way his personal approach still leaps out on flute. I have just been reunited with The Inflated Tear (after somehow leaving it in NZ) so that will definitely be getting some airtime soon.

Charlie Mariano 
Helen 12 Trees
I'm not sure how I ended up here, but sometimes you just feel like something a bit different... world-jazz-rock-fusion anyone? I guess Charlie Mariano must have been on my mind. Interesting line-up - violin, electric/acoustic piano/synth, electric bass, drums, percussion with Mariano splitting time between alto & soprano sax and, on one track each, flute and nagaswaram. This album has accompanied me as I cooked dinner a few times this month and it has left me wanting to check out more from Mariano on soprano. Mariano's discography contains plenty of variety (and I've only scratched the surface) and this album is very solid - anyone into 70s fusion would be missing out if they haven't given this album a listen. 

Ran Blake & Jeanne Lee
The Newest Sound Around
As I posted about it here, I'll keep things brief - highly recommended, fresh sounding vocal/piano duo. 

Steve Lacy & Mal Waldron
Live at Dreher, Paris 1981
It can be hard to play favourites, but this is one of my favourite Steve Lacy recordings. When I first heard this set it was Lacy's tone that really stood out (and it still does) - so much depth - they managed to capture it well. Lacy seems to be a pretty consistent player but on this set he is really on form. I focussed on the first (and a bit of the second) disc of this 4 CD set. The duo play tunes by Lacy & Waldron as well as Thelonious Monk. Once again, playing favourites is tricky, but I can't think of a many recordings of "'Round Midnight" that can top the three superb versions included here. If you are into Lacy, this set is a must. For more casual fans you might be better off picking four discs that give a broader sampling of his work.... and then get this.

New Zealand Month is right around the corner. Each week during May I will try to write a little on some albums from New Zealand artists. I'm looking forward to getting back into some albums I haven't heard in a while plus hearing some new ones too. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

John Tchicai - Down Beat Cover Story 1966

The February 10, 1966 issue of Down Beat featured Dan Morgenstern's cover story John Tchicai: A Calm Member Of The Avant-Garde. When I came across this article I realised that Tchicai is a player that has very much slipped under my radar. Outside of his playing on Coltrane's Ascension and his solo album on FMP, I am not all that familiar with his work (the solo album - which also contains a duo with Albert Mangelsdorff -  is playing as I prepare this post).

Click on the image to view PDF of the full article (the 1966 microfilm roll was not in the best conditions any articles I upload from that year will more than likely contain an annoying line on the left side of the page) . More vintage magazine articles can be found here.
Dan Morgenstern Down Beat Magazine

Dave Brubeck "Time Out": Ira Gitler Review - Down Beat 1960

55 years ago Ira Gitler's review of Time Out appeared in Down Beat magazine. For an album that many today hold up as a classic, Gitler's two-star review may be a shock. It's the kind of review that is rare to see in jazz magazines these days. He's particularly scathing (of Brubeck in particular) and I'm surprised that he even awarded it two stars. This was an album I listened to a lot towards the end of high school (and I learned Paul Desmond's "Take Five" solo) but I can't remember the last time I listened to it. It might be fun to revisit it with Gitler's review in mind.
Click on the image to view PDF of the full article. More vintage magazine articles can be found here.

Down Beat Magazine

Monday, April 27, 2015

Jimmy Giuffre: Search for Freedom - Down Beat 1961

A nice long piece on Jimmy Giuffre (April 26, 1921) from the December 7, 1961 issue of Down Beat.  Giuffre is a favourite of mine and I have a few more articles on him to post in the future. Click in the image to view PDF of full article.
More vintage magazine articles can be found here.

Down Beat Magazine

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Charles Mingus: Blindfold Tests 1960

Here are two Blindfold Tests from the April 28, 1960 and May 12, 1960 issues of Down Beat Magazine. Charles Mingus shares his thoughts on recordings by, among others, Clifford Brown, Manny Albam, George Shearing, Johnny Hodges, Sonny Stitt and Mahalia Jackson. I'll have to hunt down the earlier test mentioned in the introduction. Click on the image to view PDF of both Blindfold Tests. Here's a list of links to previous vintage articles.

leonard feather down beat magazine

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Notebook 3: Yusef Bergonzi

A couple of weeks ago I was flicking through my old practice notebook. I came across a couple of pages of notes on rhythm exercises from a time when Yusef Lateef's Repository of Scales and Melodic Patterns found a regular slot in my practice time. Although there is quite a bit of rhythmic variety throughout the book, I took some of the lines and started applying them to rhythms from Jerry Bergonzi's Inside Improvisation Volume 4: Melodic Rhythms.

I have notated some examples below, although when I worked on this I did not write out anything - I just internalised the rhythms and applied them to the original lines. I worked on this with and without using a metronome. You may want to use a play-a-long recording.

It's a simple idea really - take a rhythm and apply it to melodic material. It can be a nice way to break up practicing everything in streams of 8th notes or triplets. The same melodic material can sound very different when it is changed rhythmically. Although the examples of the melodic & rhythmic material below come from books, feel free to create your own.

Here are a few examples:
Excerpt from Repository of Scales and Melodic Patterns (page 3) - "Major Triads in Cycle of Down a Major Third and Up a Perfect Fourth"

Two of the "22 Rhythms" from Inside Improvisation Volume 4: Melodic Rhythms (page 16).
22 Rhythms
Combing the first line of melodic material with the first rhythm:

Jazz Improvisation Exercise
Combing the second line of melodic material with the second rhythm:
Jazz Improvisation Exercise
Once you feel comfortable playing the lines with two or three different rhythms, start alternating between the different rhythms.

The next example uses a hemiola rhythm from Jerry Bergonzi's Melodic Rhythms (page 67)
The hemiola applied to the Yusef Lateef excerpt.
Jazz Rhythm Exercise Hemiola
A little later on, I did the same with Volume 5 in the Bergonzi series: Thesaurus of Intervallic Melodies.

I also combined melodic material with the rhythms of melodies. Here the line(s) above are combined with the melodic rhythm of Charlie Parker's "Billie's Bounce." I'm using the rhythm as it appears in the Charlie Parker Tune Book by Fred Parcells (which you can download for free on his website). "Relaxin' At Camarillo" would be a nice one too - use any melody which appeals to you rhythmically.
jazz rhythm exercise
Here, the Bergonzi intervallic lines are applied to melodic rhythm of "Billie's Bounce." Before jumping in make sure you have a solid grasp of the melodic rhythm - you may even start by playing it on one note (from memory, Steve Lacy mentions this in Findings).
billie's bounce intervallic melody
Start off slow and build into it. Once you feel comfortable applying predetermined notes to the rhythms, start improvising your note choices with the fixed rhythm(s). As you can image, the rhythmic variations on a line are endless.

I used the free music notation software Muse Score to create the examples above.
Previous posts from my notebook can be found here: Old Music - New Music & One Free Note.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Ran Blake's Third Stream - Down Beat 1980

Today is Ran Blake's 80th birthday (b. April 20, 1935). As I mentioned earlier this month, The Newest Sound Around has been getting some airplay of late. I'm looking forward to hearing his latest album - Ghost Tones: A Tribute To George Russell. But for now, I'm reading Art Lange's feature article on Blake from the February 1980 issue of Down Beat.
Click on the image to view PDF of the full article. More vintage magazine articles can be found here.

Down Beat February 1980 Art Lange

Thursday, April 16, 2015

James Falzone at Chicago Cultural Center

Chicago Cultural CenterMonday lunchtime I was at the Chicago Cultural Centre for James Falzone's solo concert "Sighs Too Deep For Words." 

I only managed to snap one picture before the battery died and it doesn't do the room justice. It's a very cool space that's suited to solo woodwinds.

Falzone doesn't rely on pyrotechnic displays of virtuosity to carry the concert (that's not to say he isn't a fine instrumentalist) but he always keeps the listener engaged. One way he does that is by providing plenty of sonic variety. Falzone spent most of his time on Bb Clarinet, but he also played Eb sopranino clarinet as well as bells, singing bowls, shurti box, launeddas (a reed instrument from Sardinia) and another (unidentified) wooden flute/whistle.

I thought it was a well constructed program. He could have easily stretched out "Sighs" for the entire set but instead played four works that offered plenty of variety yet managed to hang together pretty well. Steve Reich's "New York Counterpoint" was performed along with Falzone's recording of the work (it's a piece for multiple clarinets). And, in addition to the solo pieces, Bassist/Vocalist Katie Ernst joined in for two pieces - "There Is No Such Thing As Nostalgia" (inspired by the work of Archibald Motley - currently on show at the Cultural Center) and Duke Ellington's "Come Sunday."

It was my second time hearing Falzone play solo and it was a very nice way to spend a Monday lunchtime. If you have the chance to hear him play (solo or otherwise) - take it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

John LaPorta Feature - Down Beat 1958

Reading this feature on John LaPorta from the October 16, 1958 issue of Down Beat led me to listening to his album Conceptions. There's some interesting music on it and I know a couple of people in particular that will really get into the playing and writing. The article delves a little into his background, education, some of his musical philosophy and his own teaching.
Click on image to view PDF of full article. More vintage magazine articles can be found here.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Ran Blake & Jeanne Lee: Newest Sound Around & Down Beat Feature

Last year, Ran Blake & Jeanne Lee's Free Standards - Stockholm 1966 (see this post) grabbed my attention so kept I my eyes peeled for their first album together - The Newest Sound Around. I finally picked it up, and it's been getting some airtime around the apartment.

Recorded in 1961, the CD reissue (Phoenix Records) adds four tracks to the 11 on the original LP release. It was a very strong debut album and has held up well over the decades.

Aside from a track recorded at the Lenox School of Jazz in 1959, this is the earliest recording I have heard from Blake, and his personal style is already well in place. Although he doesn't really have that much solo space, the album showcases Blake's creative accompaniment. His harmonic sense and tasty use of dissonance and space blends well with Lee's deep, rich vocals. At times, Blake creates a dense sound (his accompaniment on "Love Isn't Everything"). At other times, his approach is more minimal (his first solo chorus on "Evil Blues").

There is a solo piano feature along with two solo vocal works. On two tracks the duo is joined by George Duvivier - who's solid bass playing adds some colour to the overall dark, brooding character of the album.

The album expresses a feeling that removes the need for any pyrotechnics, and leaves the impression that Jeanne Lee is very much underrated.

I consider this album essential listening for those interested in jazz vocals.

To finish things off, I thought I would share a couple of articles featuring the duo. The first is from Down Beat in 1962 (I lost my notes regarding what month it is from). The second are notes from a European tour (Down Beat May 7, 1964).
Bill Coss Down Beat Magazine 1962

Down Beat May 1964 Martin Williams

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Gerry Mulligan: Blindfold Test Down Beat 1960

Leonard Feather tests Gerry Mulligan (b. April 6, 1927) with tracks from Cannonball Adderley, Thelonious Monk, Mercer Ellington, Gil Evans and Gene Krupa's band playing one of Mulligan's arrangements. I have a couple of other articles on Mulligan so stay tuned.
Click on image to view PDF of full article. More vintage magazine articles can be found here.
Leonard Feather Down Beat Magazine

Monday, April 06, 2015

Recent Listening: Clayton/Granelli & Spontaneous Music Ensemble

Spontaneous Music Ensemble Olive and FamilieJay Clayton & Jerry Granelli Sound Songs (Winter & Winter)
This album has been on the "to get" list for a little while after being highly recommended by my friend Cheryl. Vocal and Drum/Percussion duets are fairly rare and that alone makes it worth checking out. But I won't stop there - the music is superb.

The majority of the album is made up of what I safely assume are free improvisations. There is an improvised(?) setting of Emily Dickenson's "I'm Nobody" and the duo's take on "Goodbye Porkpie Hat" is one of the best I can recall hearing.

Initially, I was struck by the use space and dynamics from both players and this remained on repeated listens. There is an unhurried feel to the album and the dialogue between the two throughout the album is top shelf. They keep things interesting with changes in timbre, textures, feeling etc. Fascinating listening and one of the best vocal albums I've heard for a while.

This is a straight reissue of the material found on the LP release by JMT Productions from 1985 and the 43 minute length sits well with me. It's a nice length for focussed listening. A highly recommended album that I'm already adding to my 2015 Round-Up.

Spontaneous Music Ensemble Oliv & Familie (Emanem)
Reissued last year, this release features a couple of sessions from 1968 and 1969. Three of the four pieces are by 9 & 11 piece groups and one by a quartet. There are plenty of familiar names - John Stevens (d) Evan Parker (ss) Norma Winstone (v) Trevor Watts (as/piccolo) Dave Holland (b) Derek  Bailey (g) and Kenny Wheeler (flugel horn). I was pleasantly surprised to see New Zealander Brian Smith on flute - I had no idea he was involved with this group of players (from SME to Moonlight Sax..... quite a leap).

I've gave this disc a few spins before jotting down some notes during one of the listens. Here they are.... slightly edited so they make some kind of sense.

"Familie" Opens up with a droning pedal tone (which underpins most of the piece). I enjoy the blend and there is a haunting, floating quality with the piano, guitar and drums gradually becoming more prominent. The sustained notes remain as players interject with runs, stabs and flurries of notes.  There is no "soloist" as such - it's a collective effort and a unified one at that. By the middle of the piece the sustained notes have all but disappeared, the improvising is more line orientated with the bass and drums up tempo - the overall feel is busier/denser. Things settle down for the final few minutes and the sustained notes return.

The second version is 8mins shorter (sounds like there could be a fade-in at the start). Things seem to move faster with the density rising quicker and remains for the majority of the track before the droning sound returns to takes things out.

"Oliv" first take features a 9 piece ensemble
Kicks off with vocals, percussion and saxophone. Wheeler has a soloist roll with drone from the three vocalists and Watts with accompaniment from Bailey. Eventually the bass kicks in and is joined by piano and drums with the time feel broken up (before settling into a mid tempo swing). Wheeler blows before the piano takes over and the drone continues beneath. Three quarters of the way through things are quite dense and energy levels high with Wheeler, Bailey and Peter Lever collectively improvising before things drop up down as the end fairly sparsely.

The second take is stripped back to the quartet of Maggie Nichols (v) Trevor Watts (as) Johnny Dyani (b) and John Stevens (d). As you would expect the sound is less dense and I find there is more clarity for the listener - Watts and Nichols work around the drone - shaping, breaking and rejoining it while Dyani plays rich pizzicato lines and Stevens' toms keep the piece driving. Again there is not really a soloist and accompaniment - the quartet collectively improvises (by the middle of the piece the drone has been left behind altogether) and the playing in general is busier. The drone comes back in around the11 minute mark and now this is a more soloistic approach from the bass. The ending is a treat (I won't spoil it for you).

A few things stood out to me on this disc - the composed structures, the presence of the vocalists and hearing Parker and Bailey very much in the background on both takes of "Familie." Another enjoyable disc that is well worth giving a listen or three. I'm looking forward to checking out more early recordings from SME.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Gary Smulyan Interview - Cadence Magazine 1992

I came across this interview with Gary Smulyan and immediately thought of a baritone playing friend back in New Zealand. Whenever I saw him a record of Smulyan was never far away. This one is for you John. Click on image to view PDF of full interview. More vintage magazine articles can be found here.
Baritone Saxophone