Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Freddie Hubbard 1938-2008

Over the years, I've been privileged to see many greats perform in concert. However, I've only had the honor of actually playing with one of those artists. That would be the great Freddie Hubbard who, sadly, left us earlier this week. I posted my account of that evening early on in my blog here.
Here's an mp3 of one of the songs we played that night, Blues for NKWE. Besides Freddie, the featured players are Frank Silva (tenor sax), Steve Bowie (baritone sax), Alex Iles (trombone) and Washington Rucker (drums).

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Bugle Jazz

It's been proven by example that you can play jazz on just about any instrument. But as far as I know, there has only been one person who played jazz on the bugle. That's right, "an Army regulation bugle." He was known as "Buglin' Sam" Dukemel. He was born Mathew Antoine Desire' Dekemel on January 15, 1903 in New Orleans. Dekemel used his bugle to hawk waffles from a cart on the streets on NOLA. He died on January 6, 1967.

[....mmmm, street waffles...]

In essence, a bugle is a trumpet without the valves, so it's got an extremely limited note pallet:
In converting some of my LPs to mp3s via my USB turntable, I came across an album I had forgotten about; a recording of a 1954 Dixieland Jubilee. In addition to Dekemel, it features musicians like Johnny St. Cyr, a member of Louis Armstrong's early ensembles.
Here's Dekemel's introduction to his feature.
And here's Bugle Call Rag.
By bending the series of available notes, especially the E natural (flatted 3rd in the key of C), Dekemel is able to expand beyond the obvious.
It's amazing what you can find in your own collection!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Friday, September 26, 2008

Grand Avenue Festival

This Sunday, downtown Los Angeles will host the annual Grand Avenue Festival. It's all about the arts- it will feature dance, flutes, guitars, and saxophones, etc.

At 3:15, the sax ensemble will be presenting what is called an "open rehearsal." We will be performing a variety of musical styles. (Yours truly did a basic arrangement of "In the Mood" for the group.) Look for me; I'll be the guy with the semi-curved soprano sax.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Monterey Jazz Festival

The 51st annual Monterey Jazz Festival was held this past weekend. Once again, I was unable to attend. The last time I went was documented by the souvenir on the left. Time flies! The only acts I can recall right now are Billy Eckstine and Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, but even that might not be correct.

At least recordings from the past few decades are being released. The latest batch showcases:

The Giants of Jazz, 1972 (Roy Eldridge(!), Clark Terry, Thelonious Monk, Al McKibbon & Art Blakey)

Jimmy Witherspoon, 1972, backed by the Robben Ford band

Cal Tjader, (The Best of, various years)

Tito Puente, 1977

Dave Brubeck, 1958-2007

Shirley Horn, 1994

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Where in the world is....

......Eddie Henderson? England!

At least he was at the time of this recording. One of the banes of a musician's existence is the constant travel necessary to make a living. But it does give their fans in far away places a chance to see their favorite artists. I recently got a CD by a UK quintet called Ambulance (it's led by bassist Arnie Somogyi.) It was a pleasant surprise to see that California musician Eddie Henderson was a special guest, augmenting them into a sextet. I don't have as much Eddie Henderson as I should, so this was a pleasant surprise. [If you haven't had a chance, check out his work with Pharoah Sanders (Journey to the One) and Billy Hart (Enchance).] The Ambulance CD is entitled Accident and Insurgency (Linn Records ). The program is all original material and the group is tight. The two front line reedists double extensively, so there are a lot of variety in the textures. One of the things I like about the group is that they bring something back to jazz that isn't present too much anymore - a sense of humor!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Happy Birthday, Prez!

On this date in 1909, Lester Young was born. If not for a few unfortunate lifestyle choices, he would have been 99 years old. (This isn’t extremely far-fetched, his brother Lee Young, a drummer, passed away earlier this month at the age of 94.)

Hopefully, there are some Lester Young centennial tributes in the works!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Guitar Heroics vs. Bass Reality

Whenever I go into one of the big chain electronics stores, there’s always a bunch of kids vying to take turns at the Guitar Hero game. This whole phenomena makes me ill. It’s such a perfect illustration of instant gratification; why take lessons or practice scales and chords? When I see these kids, I think of Quick Draw McGraw’s alter ego, El Kabong. (If you don’t know what El Kabong did with his guitar, find a baby boomer and ask them.)

On August 10th, the New York Times ran a story about a 17 year old who is poised to make Tony Hawk-like deals (i.e., lucrative) due to his prowess on his “guitar.” The next day, the Los Angeles Times ran the story of a 39 year bass player's struggles as a talented and versatile musician. The title speaks volumes – When Music Barely Pays the Bills.

When you compare the rewards of pantomiming music against the realities of a skilled musician, there’s only one thing to say: KABONG!!!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Vinyl Edition

A couple of weeks ago, one of the participants in the Anthony Braxton online group bought a double album and he was certain that it was a mislabeled product. He told us that one album had side 1 and 4, while the other one had sides 2 and 4. It was rather amusing to watch the replies explain to the (obviously) young man that he didn’t possess a misprint, the layout was very deliberate. Even more fun was him trying to grasp the concept of the automatic record changer and stacking albums. Youth isn’t always an advantage…
They’re still making LPs and best all, they're not just for audiophiles. The Concord Music Group’s Collector’s Corner has vinyl! I have new pressings of John Coltrane (Soultrane), John Coltrane & Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans (Waltz for Debbie), Sonny Rollins (Saxophone Colossus), & Yusef Lateef (Eastern Sounds). I imagine that the original pressings of these albums would fetch quite a sum on eBay. But now, here they are again. There is really quite a difference in the sonic presence you get from the vinyl albums that’s missing from CDs. Another advantage – full sized text and photos for us baby boomers! ;>) Since I have a couple of these sessions in both formats, the comparison was not hard to make. Sadly, I only have one place to listen to albums (thinking about it, that’s always been true). With digital music, I can hear my music pretty much anywhere. Still, it’s worthwhile to treat yourself to a dedicated listening session with some first class vinyl sounds!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Johnny Griffin

Another of the great ones has left us....

Johnny Griffin passed away this weekend at the age of 80. He had been living in Europe for quite a while. His obituary mentioned that he didn't make it back here to the US too often. I only had the pleasure of seeing him play once. It was about 1983 at Hop Singh's, a now-defunct jazz club in Los Angeles' Marina del Rey area. He played the pads off of his sax!
Pictured: the autograph I obtained that night.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Free Jazz

Free Jazz, in this case, is not the classic Ornette Coleman album or the style pioneered in the 60s. I wanted to blog about the jazz that was free, as in no cost. Specifically, podcasts.

As a commuter (146 miles round trip), myiPod has been indispensable to my sanity. It helps drown out the mixture of traffic noise, conversation and snoring one gets in a vanpool setting. In addition to the songs I've condensed from my CDs, LPs and iTunes (18,415 and counting), there is a large variety of FREE podcasts available.
On previous blog entries, I mentioned the Sonny Rollins Podcast and the John Coltrane Traneumentary. Additionally, NPR has been running a series entitled Jazz Profiles. Hosted by singer Nancy Wilson, it's featured artists like Charles Mingus, Willie "The Lion" Smith, Gil Evans, Bessie Smith and Count Basie. It's both informative and entertaining.

Marian McPartland's long running Piano Jazz is another source of great music. Guests like Stephane Grappelli, Oscar Peterson and Bill Evans are featured.

Last, but certainly not least, Riverside records founder Orrin Keepnews is the focus of Orrin Keepnews, Producer. He recorded folks like Thelonious Monk, Cannonball Adderley and Wes Montgomery back in the 50s.

Although it doesn't fall into the free category (but certainly highly recommended none the less), the latest of some landmark Keepnews-produced recordings have been released as part of the Concord Music Group's continuing reissue of his distinguished oeuvre. The new series highlights Coleman Hawkins - The Hawk Flies High, Sonny Rollins - Freedom Suite, Wes Montgomery - Incredible Jazz Guitar, Nat Adderley - Work Song, and McCoy Tyner - Fly With The Wind. After a half-century plus career, fortunately, Mr. Keepnews is still very much with us. I belong to the Thelonious Monk Yahoo! group and he is also a member and a very active participant. His emails to the group are very much in keeping with the personality he shows on the podcasts. Happy commuting!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Money Jungle

I recently found out that the U.S. territories and the District of Columbia will be included in the 2009 continuation of the state quarter program. The people of Washington, D.C. chose native son Edward Kennedy Ellington for their design!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Cult of Rahsaan Roland Kirk

This month’s issue of Jazz Times has a cover story on Rahsaan Roland Kirk with the title shown above. ‘Cult’ has such a negative connotation that I’m surprised with that choice. How about ‘Legacy’? But otherwise, it’s a nice article that helps perpetuate his memory. Another thing that helps is more available video of his performances; today’s audiences are much more visually oriented. Fortunately, Jazz Icons has a release planned for September!

I didn’t get a chance to write about it at the time, but the January 2008 issue of Down Beat magazine featured a transcription of Rahsaan’s dual horn improvisation on Moon Ray. (It’s from Roy Haynes’ Out of the Afternoon album.) The transcription was done by yours truly. There was an error in the chord progression that was caught by no less than the author of Yardbird Suite: A Compendium of the Music and Life of Charlie Parker, Lawrence Koch: "The basic progression in the A-section should be: Em C#m7b5 / F#m7b5 B7b9 /. Leaving out the b5 designation completely destroys the minortonality and confuses anyone trying to study the transcription analytically. Further, the bridge prorgession moves basically like this: Bm7b5 / Bm7b5/ E7 / E7 / C#m7b5 / F#7 / B7b9 / B7b9 /. Again, forgetting the b5chords obliterates the minor key." Oops!!

Monday, June 02, 2008


1918 was quite a year: the "war to end all wars" came to a close. It also saw one of the great disease outbreaks of modern times - influenza.

On a jazz note, it saw the birth of two giants who are still very much with us and very active - Gerald Wilson and Hank Jones. They're celebrating together at the Hollywood Bowl on Wednesday, July 30th.

On the personal side, on this date 90 years ago, John Weary and Beulah Buckhalter Weary gave birth to their third child, a daughter they named Amanda Artilean. That's her on her mother's lap and also pictured as a young woman. She's my grandmother. Happy 90th! (The party's on Saturday!)

Monday, May 26, 2008

Not the "usual suspects"......

The Duke Ellington Society has adopted the term "usual suspects" to describe the more common of Ellington songs ("Mood Indigo", "Take the 'A' Train", "Solitude", etc.) used in the various covers and tributes that have taken place over the years. Fortunately, there are those that venture beyond the obvious.
Tenor saxophonist Scott Hamilton's new release is entitled Across the Tracks. His Ellingtonian connection on this disk is "Cop Out", a minor-keyed theme that featured the great Paul Gonsalves. The remainder of the program consists of Hamilton's mainstream stylings on standards like "Memories of You," "Intermission Riff," and "Blue Turning Grey Over You." Swinging stuff!

French multi-reedist Frederic Couderc is inspired by Duke and Rahsaan Roland Kirk. On his latest album, Kirkophonie, he plays "Black and Tan Fantasy" as a simultaneous reed duet. He also plays the rarely covered "Oclupaca" (from the "Latin American Suite") on the rarely used bass sax.

On a future entry, I'll go into the Kirk aspects of this recording and other Kirk related news...

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The President

With Presidential politics in the air, let's talk about one of the greatest to ever hold the office - Lester Young. (OK, so he was President... of the Saxophone.)

My favorite record label, Mosaic, has released a 4 CD set of the most influential segment of his work - his days with Count Basie. Like most Mosaic sets, these are limited editions. I ordered fairly early and got set #760 out of 5000. When they're gone, they're gone! Then your only option is to pay 3 times the price (or more) on eBay.