Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The Kool Jazz Festival

Air - Henry Threadgill (reeds, b. 1944), Fred Hopkins (bass, 1947-1999), and Steve McCall (drums, 1933-1989) [photo by Steve Bowie] Posted by Picasa

The more adventurous types of jazz don’t make it out to LA very often. Unfortunately, the city is more receptive to smooth jazz (or as I prefer to call it, "snooze jazz").

One of the most notable exceptions was the 1982 Kool Jazz Festival. Held at various venues through the city, it featured the World Saxophone Quartet, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Air, Lester Bowie’s Root to the Source, and Anthony Braxton. It didn’t sell a lot of tickets, so this was the last time we saw such an assemblage in Los Angeles.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Paul Gonsalves "in action" Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Duke Ellington and Paul Gonsalves

Ellington in Copenhagen, 1965 Posted by Picasa

For my birthday yesterday, I got a Duke Ellington [1899-1974] DVD entitled "Copenhagen Concert, Parts I and II." It just came out in June and I would highly recommend it.

It was filmed in 1965 and has a lot of the great stars of the Ellington band on hand. The shows were originally broadcast on Danish TV. It’s in a very crisp black and white with great sound. The camera work/direction is just OK since there are times when the correct soloist or sections aren’t in the frame.

About the music – what can you say? This was an Ellington band that still had Cat Anderson, Ray Nance, Johnny Hodges, et al.

One of the things Ellington was known for was his refusal to fire anyone. (Although there was one exception - a young Charles Mingus got fired for getting into a knife fight with valve trombonist Juan Tizol.) Ellington’s preferred method of discipline was to embarrass the offender.

This DVD captures such an incident. During the second number of the first set, "Ad Lib on Nippon", Paul Gonsalves [1920-1974] is sound asleep! (Maybe it was jetlag, too much cough syrup, etc.?)
The next three numbers called feature Gonsalves, but you would never know he was "impaired" as he proceeds to blow the stuffing out of the songs.

But by the time we get to the second set, Jimmy Hamilton quickly steps into Gonsalves’ usual solo spot on "Perdido." Why? Because Gonsalves is out cold, with his saxophone in his mouth!

Monday, August 08, 2005

The Fifty Greatest Jazz Pianists

Normally, I try to keep things positive here at Blog-O-Jazz, but sometime exceptions have to be made. Last week, I was browsing through the bookstore and saw a new book entitled “The Fifty Greatest Jazz Piano Players of All Time: Ranking, Analysis and Photos.” It’s by Gene Rizzo and published by Hal Leonard Publishing.

From the Hal Leonard website: “Spanning players from eighty years of history, this bold book steps forward and claims who are the greatest. Compiled from an extensive survey conducted with the best jazz minds in the education, publishing and entertainment worlds, noted jazz journalist Gene Rizzo summarized the chosen and presents a concise bio on the essence of these jazz giants.”

“Choices were made on the basis of chops, originality, creativity, and degree of influence. This book will either confirm some readers' opinions or open debate with others, but ultimately the book provides an impressive summary of the greatest jazz piano players of all time.”

If they had called the book “Gene Rizzo’s Favorite Piano Player’s of All Time” I wouldn’t have been perturbed. To purport to rank the ‘greatest’, in order, is an exercise in futility. But I’ve never seen a list this far off the mark:

1. Oscar Peterson
2. Bill Evans
3. Bud Powell
4. Art Tatum
5. Monty Alexander
6. Benny Green
7. Andre Previn
8. Tommy Flanagan
9. George Shearing
10. Red Garland
11. McCoy Tyner
12. Gene Harris
13. Kenny Drew
14. Hampton Hawes
15. Thelonious Monk
16. Ahmad Jamal
17. Billy Taylor
18. Horace Silver
19. Hank Jones
20. Chick Corea
21. Tete Montoliu
22. Phineas Newborn, Jr.
23. Teddy Wilson
24. Nat “King” Cole
25. Erroll Garner
26. Cedar Walton
27. Count Basie
28. Dave Brubeck
29. Cyrus Chestnut
30. Lennie Tristano
31. Fats Waller
32. Dick Hyman
33. Wynton Kelly
34. Dave McKenna
35. John Bunch
36. Kenny Barron
37. Bobby Timmons
38. Duke Ellington
39. Earl Hines
40. Jimmy Rowles
41. Ray Bryant
42. Herbie Hancock
43. Jelly Roll Morton
44. Al Haig
45. Derek Smith
46. Ralph Sharon
47. Mary Lou Williams
48. Willie “The Lion” Smith
49. Sir Roland Hanna
50. Keith Jarrett

Normally, there is room for debate in any list like this, but this one is flat-out WRONG! Imagine, Cecil Taylor isn’t even included! Cyrus Chestnut over Herbie Hancock ?! Andre Previn at NUMBER 7 ?!! Has he even recorded any jazz in the last 40 years????

Duke Ellington is #38 and John Bunch is 35 ??!! How does John Bunch even make the list? How does Earl Hines not make the Top Ten? Ralph Sharon BUT NO JAMES P. JOHNSON??? Where’s Herbie Nichols??? You get my point…………

Save yourself $20 that this book costs and spend it on an Art Tatum CD. I imagine that their book of the Top Fifty Reed Players of All Time would include Mezz Mezzrow and Kenny G in the Top Ten!!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Birth certificate of Ronald Theodore Krik aka Rahsaan Roland Kirk Posted by Picasa

As you’ve seen so far in this blog, Rahsaan Roland Kirk ranks high amongst my favorite musicians.

If he were alive, today he would have reached the biblical three score and ten (that’s 70 years). He died of a stroke at the age of 42 in 1977. There seems to be some controversy about when he was born, fueled by Kirk himself, since he claimed he was born in 1936. Even the recently published biography of Kirk uses the 1936 date. This is easily settled when one orders a copy of his birth certificate, like I did in 2000. (The same date was used on his Social Security card application below.) He was born Ronald Theodore Kirk. (Roland is an anagram of Ronald.) He added Rahsaan in 1970, claiming the name came to him in a dream.

When I ordered the birth certificate, coincidentally, it happened to be stamped on the 65th anniversary of his birth. Happy 70th Birthday, Rahsaan!

Rahsaan's Social Security Number Application

Rahsaan Roland Kirk's 1952 application for a Social Security number Posted by Picasa

Monday, August 01, 2005

Art Pepper

Art Pepper's autograph Posted by Picasa

Another entry from "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Jazz"…..

Up until about 1979, Art Pepper was someone I deliberately ignored. Why? Because I knew he played with Stan Kenton and have never (even today!) cared for Kenton’s music.

Fortunately for me, one of my friends, Laurence McFalls, educated me. Laurence also didn’t care for Kenton and explained to me what Pepper’s playing was all about. It didn’t fit into the mold that I had pre-conceived. His playing was swinging, interesting, full of surprises and continued to evolve through his life.

If you read his interviews or his autobiography "Straight Life," sometimes Pepper comes across as cocky. This is what I expected when I asked him for his autograph. But like many others, he was unfamiliar with the book and was flattered to find himself included in it. He wrote "My best, be cool and enjoy, Art Pepper."

In a music with many tragic figures, Art Pepper certainly stood out. Just when he had put addiction and prison behind him, with a successful career looming ahead, Art Pepper succumbed to a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 56 in 1982.