Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Essential Tracks: "Seven of Nine" - Album: "Cookin' with the Mighty Burner, Charles Earland

Essential tracks highlights tracks that arguably should be found somewhere in any serious jazz collector's library. This segment is also meant to inspire readers to seek out foundational tracks from the various sub-genres of this great music.

"Seven of Nine'", High Note Records release "Cookin' With The Mighty Burner", 1999


In any discussion on the great masters of the B3 organ, Charles Earland is not necessarily a name that will be readily offered up. It should be. Earland was as adventurous and innovative as they come. Owing his major organ influences to Jimmy Smith and Jimmy McGriff, Earland actually toured with McGriff for three years. At that time, he was a young tenor sax player. The sound of Smith and McGriff definitely left their mark, as Earland switched to the B3 in 1966.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Faces of Jazz: Craig Taborn - 2013 Monterey Jazz Festival

Craig Taborn has been on the scene for enough years to be called a veteran of the music. He has played with and/or recorded across a wide landscape of jazz, electronica, and free jazz. The list of bands and projects he's been involved with is impressive, to say the least.




Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Faces of Jazz: Charnett Moffett - 2013 Monterey Jazz Festival

Charnett Moffett has had a connection to the elite artists in jazz for a very long time. His father, Charles, was a drummer for Ornette Coleman in the 1960s, so he's more than accustomed to being around the legends of jazz.


This year, Saturday evening's performances on the Garden Stage featured the artists of the Motéma Records label. Moffett's fourth CD on Motéma , Spirit of Sound, was released on July 9th. Together with label founder Jana Herzen, Moffett hosted a showcase of Motéma artists, and anchored many of the ensembles on bass.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Essential Tracks: "Hummin'", Album: "Country Preacher - Live at Operation Breadbasket"

Essential tracks highlights tracks that arguably should be found somewhere in any serious jazz collector's library. This segment is also meant to inspire readers to seek out foundational tracks from the various sub-genres of this great music.

"Hummin'", Capitol Records Album "Country Preacher - Live at Operation Breadbasket", 1969


This Nat Adderley composition has been covered a number of times over the years. One of the most notable was Quincy Jones version that appears on "Gula Matari". That version is frequently erroneously credited to Toots Thielemans who supplies the vocal scat. This is the originally release version that has all the funk that can be associated with the Cannonball Adderley Quintet.

This incarnation of the quintet is the most recognized with Nat and Cannonball joined by Walter Booker on bass, Roy McCurdy on drums, and Joe Zawinul on keyboards. The set was recorded in front of a live audience, which was Cannon's preferred method at the time. You can hear the members of Operation Breadbasket partying in the background as Zawinul cuts loose on electric piano. Nat's vocal antics as usual were the high point, and something live audiences always looked forward to. Go back in time with this hidden gem and relive the party side of jazz performances.
#jazz

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Faces of Jazz: Saturday Afternoon on the Grounds at the Monterey Jazz Festival

You don't have to have a ticket for the shows in the Arena to have a great time at the Monterey Jazz Festival. Of course you have the many artisan vendors and the great food booths. There are also seven other performance venues. Six of them feature live performances from a large variety of artists. The seventh, the Jazz Theater, shows simulcasts from the main Arena performances. 


Several of the artists make an encore performance in one of the grounds venues. Both the festival's artist-in-residence and showcase artists perform in multiple ensemble formats, most of which are in the grounds venues.
Big Sam's Funky Nation on the Garden Stage



Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Essential Tracks: "Phase Dance", Album: "Pat Metheny Group" - Pat Metheny

Essential tracks highlights tracks that arguably should be found somewhere in any serious jazz collector's library. This segment is also meant to inspire readers to seek out foundational tracks from the various sub-genres of this great music.

"Phase Dance", ECM Records release "Pat Metheny Group", 1978

This track quietly catapulted Pat Metheny from a relative unknown to a profound presence on the jazz scene. Forget about "rising star"; he pretty much bypassed that whole period. At the time of a lot of emerging rock-flavored jazz releases, Metheny's new band split right between straight-ahead and fusion. This was a completely new and distinctive sound.

First of all, it's a seven minute track. It starts out gently, quickly comes to a simmer, and before you know it, they're cooking at a rapid boil pace. I remember first hearing it in a Berkeley, CA record (yes, record) store. It crept up on me and a dozen other people in the store at the time. It was as though we collectively had to know just who this was they were playing, at about 4 minutes into the track. The whole stream of us, without a word, walked over to the turntable, saw what was playing, then immediately went to the rack and grabbed a copy.

Almost everyone that has heard Pat Metheny and his music has latched on and continued to follow him. "Phase Dance" was the track that started that magnetic attraction.
#jazz




Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Faces of Jazz: The Relatives - 2013 Monterey Jazz Festival

The Relatives were formed in 1970 by veteran Dallas gospel singer Rev. Gean West and his brother Tommie. Their sound bridges the gap between traditional gospel, soul, and psychedelia. They've always been known for their powerful original songs and searing stage show, and released three singles to limited success. They also recorded a session that was never released. 

The group disbanded in 1980, but that was not to be the end. In 2009 an anthology comprised of the three singles and the previously unreleased session was released under the title "Don’t Let Me Fall". The release of the anthology brought The Relatives back together as a band, planting the seeds for their 2013 Yep Roc release, The Electric Word, which was recorded and produced by Jim Eno of Spoon.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Faces of Jazz: Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra - 2013 Monterey Jazz Festival

Even serious Jazz fans find themselves forgetting about big bands. That is, until they hear a good one. The is much more than that; this is a great big band. In 1985, drummer Jeff Hamilton joined bassist John Clayton and saxophonist Jeff Clayton to form the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. It's comprised of a group of Los Angeles based veteran musicians who bring a big, big sound. Make no mistake, these guys swing; hard.


The orchestra performed a special suite of music, commissioned by the Monterey Jazz Festival. In keeping with the festival theme, the commission piece was titled "Sweet Suite: The Brubeck Files".

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Essential Tracks: "Earth Tones" Album: "Mister Magic", Grover Washington, Jr.

Essential tracks highlights tracks that arguably should be found somewhere in any serious jazz collector's library. This segment is also meant to inspire readers to seek out foundational tracks from the various sub-genres of this great music.

"Earth Tones", Kudu Records release "Mister Magic", 1974




The title track of this 1974 release, Grover Washington Jr.'s fourth on Kudu records, is easily the most memorable of his career. The vast majority of the tracks on Washington's releases to date had been covers of popular songs and movie themes. They all had the distinctive style, edge, and funk that differentiated Kudu Records from Creed Taylor's prime label CTI records. The arrangements weren't as tight, controlled, and elegant on Kudu, making them very radio friendly to the stations that were bridging the gap between straight R&B and the more hard core jazz stations. The latter were fighting the ideological wars between straight ahead jazz and fusion.

"Earth Tones" opened the album in a direction almost no one was expecting. This Bob James composition and arrangement introduced the jazz world to a completely different side of Washington. Compared to his previous work, Washington wasn't simply coloring outside the lines, he was coloring the cover and the spine of the book. This complex piece with swelling harmonics and shifting time changes was adventurous in the direction of the many cursed "fusion" tracks of the day, but stayed well within the pocket and compelled you to just listen to see where is was going. Brilliant solo work by Washington, James, and a number of up and coming legends. The star studded personnel lineup for this release included Eric Gale on guitar, Randy Brecker on trumpet, Harvey Mason, Sr. on drums, and John Faddis on flugelhorn. Time to break out this Grover classic and listen to some of those "other" tracks on this masterpiece.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Faces of Jazz: Joe Lovano and the Berklee Global Jazz Ambassadors - 2013 Monterey Jazz Festival

Each year, the Monterey Jazz Festival's Artist-in-Residence is featured in a number of ensembles. One of those is typically a group of all-stars from the Berklee College of Music. The 2013 Artist-in-Residence, Joe Lovano, helped open Friday night on the Garden Stage with a group from Berklee dubbed the Global Jazz Ambassadors.

The Berklee Global Jazz Institute (BGJI) is a performance program designed to foster creativity and musicianship through various musical disciplines, with pianist and composer Danilo Pérez as its artistic director. The BGJI provides a comprehensive contemporary music environment where students are given opportunities to explore their creativity to the highest level possible, advance the power of music as a tool for the betterment of society, and connect musical creative thinking with the natural environment.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Faces of Jazz: Carmen Lundy - 2013 Monterey Jazz Festival

Granted, Carmen Lundy is not a name that surfaces early in the discussion of jazz vocalists. That especially interesting when you consider her career spans several decades, and she is a noted singer, composer, and actor. In addition to jazz, Carmen has always been open to the influences of R&B, pop, and folk music.


Lundy made her debut appearance at Monterey this year in the Night Club before a packed audience. Many were already familiar with her work, as she has had a rather prolific recording career which started in 1985. Her debut release was on Justin Time Records, entitled "Good Morning Kiss". Working with a very tight trio consisting of Kenny Davis on bass, Jamison Ross on drums, and the incomparable Patrice Rushen, Lundy delivered a scintillating set demonstrating both her seasoned vocal skills, and very broad repertoire.




#montereyjazz





Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Faces of Jazz: George Benson - 2013 Monterey Jazz Festival

It's been a number of years since George Benson last appeared on the Main Stage at Monterey. He was one of the headliners in the Saturday Afternoon set in the Arena. He also appeared on the Sunday afternoon panel discussion featuring recent NEA Jazz Masters honorees.






Benson's 90 minute set was had plenty for the fans of George Benson the singer, and George Benson the critically acclaimed bebop guitarist. He opened the set with two burning instrumentals before launching into crowd favorites and several songs from his latest release, "Inspiration: A Tribute to Nat King Cole". His closing with "On Broadway" brought fans from both sides of his career to their feet. All in all, a great way to cap off Saturday Afternoon.




Tuesday, September 24, 2013

56th Annual Monterey Jazz Festival - A pictorial review

There's nothing like the Monterey Jazz Festival. To begin with, it's truly a Jazz Festival. A few years ago, Branford Marsalis told the festival audience just how luck they were. As Marsalis put it, "...there is more jazz, than non-jazz, than any other festival in the world". Here, the legends of the music oar honored, the rising stars are recognized, and the emerging new artists are introduced to the jazz world at large.

Over the next couple weeks,the "Faces of Jazz" pieces will highlight the images from this year's festival, along with mini reviews of the performances.
Gregory Porter in his second appearance at the Monterey Jazz Festival, first time on the main stage.

Jeff Clayton - Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra


Carmen Lundy - Monterey Jazz Festival debut

Patrice Rushen w/Carmen Lunday



Thursday, August 22, 2013

Essential Tracks: "My Favorite Things" Album: "Out Here", Christian McBride Trio, 2013

Essential tracks highlights tracks that arguably should be found somewhere in any serious jazz collector's library. This segment is also meant to inspire readers to seek out foundational tracks from the various sub-genres of this great music.

"My Favorite Things", from the brand new Mack Avenue Records release "Out Here"


True, this segment normally features jewels from the treasure chest of Jazz. However, this track need not wait for the passage of time. I'll save the rest for the review of the CD, but, it's suffice to say you have to hear this track!
Okay, a teaser. For the first 30 seconds or so of the track (I wasn't watching the titles), I was set for another interesting version of "Take Five". When the first melody verse was the signature opening of "My Favorite Things", everything stopped to listen to where this was going. That's enough. Go find this track and listen to it.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Essential Tracks: "Young Rabbits" Album: "Looking Ahead", The Jazz Crusaders, 1962

Essential tracks highlights tracks that arguably should be found somewhere in any serious jazz collector's library. This segment is also meant to inspire readers to seek out foundational tracks from the various sub-genres of this great music.

"Young Rabbits", originally from the 1962 Pacific Jazz release, "Lookin' Ahead", most recently available on "Way Back Home"


Album cover from Way Back Home

This is easily one of the best known tracks from the early days of the Jazz Crusaders. At the time, the group consisted of Wayne Henderson on trombone, Stix Hooper on drums, Joe Sample on piano, Wilton Felder on sax, and Buster Williams on bass. It was also one of the most challenging compositions of it's time. Every jazz band in High School in the late 60's and early 70's was on a mission to master this tune. It was fast moving, intricate harmonies, and very tight melody and chorus lines. You really had to be on top of your game to play it. If you could master Young Rabbits as a band or on your instrument, it was a big deal.



Monday, August 12, 2013

CD Review - "People Music" - Christian McBride | Inside Straight

If there were such a thing as "comfort music" for jazz lovers, it would have to be the idiom(s) loosely known as straight ahead jazz, bop, hard bop, or post bop. Christian McBride is more than comfortable in all those formats. He stays busy as a sideman in constant demand, his big band, the “Situation”, and a number of other projects. 


This is his combo alignment, Inside Straight, and he serves up healthy portions of it on his latest release "People Music". The quintet features saxophonist Steve Wilson, vibraphonist Warren Wolf, pianist Peter Martin and drummer Carl Allen. Pianist Christian Sands and drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr., who have performed extensively with the band, also perform on selected tracks. That comfort feeling sets in from the opening track, "Listen To The Heroes Cry". On this sophomore release the band demonstrates just how well they connect with each other. Solo turns compliment and carry each tune on a joy ride. Yes, the leader plays bass, but don't expect him to be out front all the time, or carry most of the weight as soloist. Yes, he takes his moments, but by and large, it’s a showcase for the entire group. 

The tribute piece, "Ms. Angelou"' is a beautiful soft ballad featuring both piano and vibes. Then comes the fiery "The Moment Revisited". McBride cuts these young horses loose, each one taking turns at the lead, before drummer brings it all home to a photo finish. Through the eight tracks, there's an awful lot to like on what truly can be called People Music.
#jazz @mcbridesworld

Thursday, August 8, 2013

George Duke - Appreciation

Every jazz journalist knows they will eventually write about the passing of a great artist. Needless to say it is not something we look forward to. We also realize eventually that artist will be one of our own favorites.

I received the news in the modern day equivalent of the 4:30AM phone call. You know, the phone call telling you a family member had just died. The text message, from a friend who is never up that early, simply said, "Brother Duke has left the planet". Walking down the street, I was stopped in my tracks for more than a few minutes while the magnitude of the void sunk in. Next, the images flowed through my mind, then the music, back to the images, finally to the times shared with this gentle giant.





There was watching him perform at many of the outdoor shows when he came "home" to the Bay Area. His introduction of 15 year old superstar in the making, Sheila Escovedo", in his band at the long lost Circle Star Theater. Catching up with him every year at minimum at NAMM, hoping he was going to be playing somewhere with whoever dropped by the booth that was featuring him. Then there were the personal moments. Hanging out backstage at Yoshi's and Kimball's between sets sharing a glass of wine and swapping tasting notes, and the late night calls and emails discussing the merits of the vintage year and coordinating wine orders and shipments. The thought of all that and more had to be swept aside because I still had to get through the day; at least until I could get in front of a keyboard and pour it all out onto virtual paper.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Essential Tracks: "Blue Spirits" Album: "Blue Spirits", Freddie Hubbard, 1966

Essential tracks highlights tracks that arguably should be found somewhere in any serious jazz collector's library. This segment is also meant to inspire readers to seek out foundational tracks from the various sub-genres of this great music.

"Blue Spirits" title track from his 1966 Blue Note release




This was Hubbard's the last of a series releases on Blue Note from the early 60's. This has the feel and sound of what should have become a standard, but somehow didn't. The horn arrangement on the title track is particularly noteworthy for it's density and harmonics. Most recently, this track showed up on a Jazzanova release: "Blue Note Trip: Looking Back", a collection of standout tracks from the label that didn't necessarily make the mainstream.  

Personnel on "Blue Spirits" besides Hubbard: Hank Mobley - tenor, James Spaulding - alto and flute, McCoy Tyner - piano, Bob Cranshaw - bass, Pete LaRoca - drums, Kiane Zawadi - euphonium
#Jazz

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Faces of Jazz: Nancy Wilson, 2008 Monterey Jazz Festival



The afternoon "Conversation" segments of the Monterey Jazz Festival are a hidden gem in the festival's weekend program. The audience takes a rare, personal look at an artist as they reflect on various aspects and moments of their storied careers. This image was captured in one of those sessions with Nancy Wilson. Later that evening, Ms. Wilson would take the stage for the first time since the passing of her husband of 35 years, just weeks prior. She noted that how performing would be very different now. "Whenever U was onstage," she explained, "...no matter where I was in the world, I was always singing to him." She went on to say her signature song "Guess Who I Saw Today" had absolutely nothing to do with the Reverend Wiley Burton. 

All ticket options for the 2013 Monterey Jazz Festival are available now. Choose from single day grounds tickets to full weekend subscription packages for the Arena concerts. Go to the Monterey Jazz Festival Site for details and to purchase tickets.
#montereyjazz #jazz #photography

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Essential Tracks: "African Skies", Album: "Tales From The Hudson", Michael Brecker, 1996

Essential tracks highlights tracks that arguably should be found somewhere in any serious jazz collector's library. This segment is also meant to inspire readers to seek out foundational tracks from the various sub-genres of this great music.

"African Skies" from the Impulse Record release "Tales from the Hudson", 1996



You'd be hard pressed to find a track from Michael Brecker that wouldn't be considered an essential track. This release came after a year hiatus in recordings from Brecker, and was the beginning of a phenomenal run of outstanding recordings. Already an established, though probably under-appreciated giant of the saxophone, this released caused the jazz world to collectively take notice.

Personnel on "African Skies" besides Brecker: Pat Metheny on guitar, Jack DeJohnette on drums, Dave Holland on bass, MyCoy Tyner on piano, and Don Alias on percussion.
#Jazz

Friday, July 26, 2013

Essential Tracks: "Black Nile" ' Album "Night Dreamer", Wayne Shorter, 1964

Essential tracks highlights tracks that arguably should be found somewhere in any serious jazz collector's library. This segment is also meant to inspire readers to seek out foundational tracks from the various sub-genres of this great music.

"Black Nile" from the 1964 Blue Note release - "Night Dreamer"

Shorter had been on the jazz scene for quite a while before this debut album on Blue Note. He spent quite a bit of time in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, Lee Morgan and Miles Davis before Alfred Lyons opted to sign him to his own record deal.


The personnel on this album is a star-studded list for future legends. McCoy Tyner is on piano, Lee Morgan on trumpet, Reggie Workman on bass, and Elvin Jones on drums. On "Black Nile", everyone gets to stretch and jam out; typical of sessions of time. Despite it's age, this one will be easy to find online, and should also be available on CD. A worthy foundational selection.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Faces of Jazz: Wayne Shorter - 2013 Monterey Jazz Festival Commission Artist

Amongst jazz enthusiasts, any discussion on legendary saxophonists will eventually turn to Wayne Shorter. When it does, the tone of the voices speaking will become reverent in nature. This year, the 1998 NEA Jazz Master enters his 80th year. The Monterey Jazz Festival celebrates that milestone at their 7th Annual Jazz Legends Gala, Thursday evening, September 19th, where Wayne Shorter will be the guest of honor. He is also featured as the 2013 Commission Artist. Shorter and his long running quartet featuring Danilo Perez on piano, Brian Blade on drums, and bassist John Patitucci take the stage Sunday evening.

All ticket options are available now, from single day grounds tickets to full weekend subscription packages for the Arena concerts. Go to the Monterey Jazz Festival Site for details and to purchase tickets.
#montereyjazz 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Raul Midón - SFJAZZ, Thursday, July 25th

The sensational Raul Midón is the feature artist this Thursday, July 25th, 7:30PM. The SFJAZZ Center's Miner Theater is a perfect venue to enjoy this spectacular vocal talent.


Midón serves up a seductive mixture in influences from jazz, soul, flamenco, Latin and West African. This solo performance is one of the standouts from SFJAZZ's Great Americas Songbook II program.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Essential Tracks: "White Rabbit" - Album: "White Rabbit", George Benson, 1972

Essential tracks highlights tracks that arguably should be found somewhere in any serious jazz collector's library. This segment is also meant to inspire readers to seek out foundational tracks from the various sub-genres of this great music.

"White Rabbit", title track of this 1972 release on CTI records


There are a couple generations that only know George Benson for his vocals. He is still, arguably, the greatest bebop guitarist alive. This was the CD that catapulted his popularity and showcased massive guitar skills. The CTI label was hot, and George was one of it's brightest stars. His cover of the Jefferson Airplane hit "White Rabbit" showcased the strength of the CTI lineup, while taking the song into another galaxy. The star studded cast included Ron Carter on bass, Billy Cobham on drums, Hubert Laws on flute, Airto on percussion, and Herbie Hancock on piano. Orchestral arrangements by Don Sebesky.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Essential Tracks: "The Prisoner" - Album: "The Prisoner" Herbie Hancock, 1969

Essential tracks highlights tracks that arguably should be found somewhere in any serious jazz collector's library.


Fresh out of Miles Davis legendary quintet, The Prisoner was Hancock's final Blue Note release. The title track of this release was overshadowed by the classic "I Have A Dream", but is a standout in it's own right. Personnel on this album included future legends Joe Henderson on tenor, Buster Williams on bass, and Albert "Tootie" Heath on drums, in a fluid nonet format. "The Prisoner" is a perfect example of the many recordings of the time that were contemplative and reflective in nature.

Monday, July 15, 2013

CD Review - "Quartette Humaine", Bob James / David Sanborn

1984, twenty-nine years ago, two well established jazz stars coordinated their schedules so they could record together. The result was the highly successful "Double Vision" CD. This was before "smooth jazz" had earned such a negative connotation. These two are back with a new recording, their status now solidly established as two of the elder statesmen of the music. The younger, brash sound of these upstart musicians climbing the ladder of jazz notoriety is still present. 

It's rounded out now years of mastering their respective instruments. There is a touch and sensitivity to the ballads that puts the listener in an emotional and mental state of their own choosing. Rounding out the quartet (formed with intent to emulate the legendary Dave Brubeck quartets) are James Genus on bass, and Steve Gadd on drums. Genus anchors the groove, while Gadd provides just the right dynamics. The music is exciting, contemplative, adventurous, and reflective.

Monday, July 8, 2013

This week at SFJAZZ...

This week SFJAZZ features "The Soul of Africa". Prepare yourself for a weekend full of the infectious rhythms of the continent. Tickets for all SFJAZZ shows

Wednesday, July 10, 7:30PM, SFJAZZ Center, Miner Auditorium - Tickets
Christine Salem

Christine Salem is one of the few female voices of Maloya. Accompanied by a kayanm, her favourite instrument, she sings in Creole, Malagasy, Comorian or Swahili, blending in music from the Indian Ocean and African rhythms.

Thursday, July 11, 7:30PM, Davies Symphony Hall - Tickets
Amadou & Mariam


This Grammy Award-nominated musical duo from Mali, composed of the couple Amadou Bagayoko (guitar and vocals) and Mariam Doumbia (vocals), are known as "the blind couple from Mali". 

Friday, July 12, 7:30PM, SFJAZZ Center, Miner Auditorium - Tickets
Meklit Hadero


Meklit Hadero is making an encore appearance following her great Season 1 performance. The Ethiopian born singer-songwriter interweaves dance rhythms and melodic, floating harmonic pieces into a fascinating set.

Saturday, July 13, 7:30PM, SFJAZZ Center, Miner Auditorium - Tickets
Yemen Blues


Yemeni-born Israeli singer Ravid Kahalani leads a roaring group, of improvising brass, string and percussion players, making intoxicating music that merges West African rhythms and ancient Jewish Yemeni melodies, mambo and funk.