One hundred years ago today, Lester Willis Young was born in Woodville, Missisippi. Happy Birthday, Prez!
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Recently, 1959 The Year Everything Changed arrived at our bookstore. Things like the Cuban revolution, a couple of new states, amongst many others, make up the thesis of this book. From a jazz standpoint, the author covers the changes that occurred in jazz with albums like Miles' Kind of Blue, Coltrane's Giant Steps, Brubeck's Time Out, Mingus' Ah Um and Ornette's The Shape of Jazz to Come.
Friday, August 14, 2009
At least there is a sort of perverted meritocracy to the world of sports. If you make the statistics and help win games, you get the big contract. Winners sell more tickets, which makes the owners more money. Terrell Owens and now Michael Vick have shown that much can be overlooked in the pursuit of the gold. And how many lifetime bans did the late Steve Howe get in baseball?
Tuesday, August 04, 2009
If you're looking for some great Satchmo recordings, try the new Mosaic Records box set. I got it last month and have been listening to it like crazy!
By the way, if you look at the 1910 census, it implies that someone in the household knew young Louis' true age! (Click on the image to make it larger; Louis is on the last line.) As a side note, the Mosaic set contains three takes of a Armstrong composition called Old Man Mose, the tale of someone who's checking to see if the title subject is living or dead. Maybe Louis was inspired to write the tale based on his neighbor, Mose Smith (enumerated just ahead of Satchmo's household.)
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Well, a few months later, I happened to see The Benny Goodman Story on one of those television Saturday matinees. Wow, all those horns! Sing, Sing, Sing! Maybe clarinet wouldn't be so bad after all. With that, I joined the beginner's class mid-year. (To catch up on the fingering, I wrote a number system under every note. Unfortunately, it became a crutch for me and I didn't stop until my 7th grade band director saw it and gave me grief for it.)
My grandmother had some big band records. In addition to Benny Goodman, she had Artie Shaw, Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller, to name a few. I would listen to these like crazy and I also listened to the radio to get more of this music. Besides the FM jazz station, KFI 640 used to play big band music. (The host was Chuck Cecil, who is still at it, although now on KJAZ 88.1. )
Eventually, I was able to discover so many other artists after the initial discovery of Benny Goodman. You can see where the ensuing 40 years have led me from the entries in this blog. Occasionally, I still like to remind my mother that she said I'd never stick with the horn!
I never got to see Benny in person. He didn't play in LA much, but I remember he played at the Hollywood Bowl at the 1979 Playboy Jazz Festival. As a college student, it didn't work out dough-wise.
Benny Goodman was born 100 years ago today. Thanks for everything, Benny!
Sunday, May 17, 2009
File this under things that jazz musicians had to do to survive during the rock and roll era. Those sleeves!!!
I had identified most of the personnel in the above video. A reader [Idiom59] left a comment that added the full list. His illuminating comment has been moved to the post:
"Great Sleeves. The personnel is:
Cootie Williams, Mercer Ellington, Willie Cook, Cat Anderson tpts.
Booty Wood, Chuck Connors, Julian Preister tmbs
Paul Gonsalves, Harold Asby, Norris Turney, Johnny Hodges, Russell Procope saxes
[Wild Bill Davis - organ] Victor Gaskin e-bass Joe Benjamin bass Tiny Grimes guitar Rufus Jones drums
Harry Carney was present for the pre-recordings on the 22/2/70 but his Father died on that day so he was missing for the actual telecast on the 23rd.What we see is Russell Procope miming Harry's part! I think that this was also Johnny Hodges final TV appearance as he died the following May. "
Thursday, May 14, 2009
(Many of the Bechet songs that I recorded off the radio years ago were recently reissued on CD by Mosaic.)
Sidney Bechet was born on May 14, 1897 in New Orleans. He died on May 14, 1959 in France, 50 years ago today.
This video of Bechet features Teddy Buckner on trumpet. For many years, Buckner led the trad jazz band that played at Disneyland's New Orleans Square. Every time we'd go, it was always fun to listen to his group. (Also, the drummer on this is Roy Eldridge, usually heard on trumpet. He was definitely no slouch on la batterie, either!)
Tuesday, May 05, 2009
Jazz singer and songwriter Nancy Harrow has teamed up with the Culture Project, to present a jazz puppet show based on the Newbery Award-winning book, The Cat Who Went To Heaven, by Elizabeth Coatsworth. Harrow is best known for recording jazz albums inspired by literary subjects; her album The Lost Lady was dubbed one of the best jazz albums of the year by both the Village Voice and Boston Globe. In this live production of her children’s book-inspired album, she tells the story through 26 contemporary jazz tracks and the traditional Japanese art of Bunraku puppetry. The all-star ensemble includes Nancy Harrow, notable instrumentalists Clark Terry, Kenny Barron, Frank Wess, George Mraz and the voice of Grady Tate.
Suggested donation is $10. For more information, go to www.cultureproject.org or www.harlemschoolofthearts.org. Reservations can be made at 212-479-0829. The six performances will take place at The Harlem School of the Arts Theater, 647 St. Nicholas Avenue between West 145th and 141st Streets, New York, NY 10030 as follows:
· Wednesday, May 13 at 7 p.m.
· Saturday, May 16 at 11a.m.
· Wednesday, May 20 at 7 p.m.
· Wednesday, May 27 at 7 p.m.
· Saturday, May 30 at 5 p.m.
· Wednesday, June 3 at 7 p.m.
If you're in the area, check it out!
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
On this date, 110 years ago, Edward Kennedy Ellington was born in Washington, DC.
La Plus Belle Africaine is a mid-60s composition Duke Ellington wrote in commemoration of "the First Annual Festival of Negro Arts, after writing African music for 35 years."
Playing along with recordings is good ear training and can be both fun and frustrating. In working on this particular piece, I discovered something that (to my knowledge, at least) no one has written about before. It appears that Duke was trying to use only the black keys to form the main motif of the piece and tie into the title of the work. (He didn't quite succeed - two notes, E natural and F natural were used. )
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
He was featured on a US postage stamp in 1995. Now, the place of his birth is looking to finally honor their native son:
Nogales finally gets around to honoring jazz great Mingus
by Richard Ruelas - Apr. 17, 2009 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic
Charles Mingus, lauded as one of the most influential and best American jazz composers, was an Arizonan, born in the border town of Nogales, a city that until recently wasn't very aware of its most famous son.
"I have lived all my life here in Nogales, and I didn't know anything about him," said Olivia Ainza-Kramer, president of the city's Chamber of Commerce.
Ainza-Kramer is the vice-chairwoman of the Mingus Project, a group that organizes a music festival in Mingus' honor and is looking to mark the place of his birth. The second annual Mingus festival is being held this weekend.
The city already has become a pilgrimage for Mingus fans, said Ken Tittlebaugh, president of the non-profit Mingus Project. "People come from all over the world knowing he was born here and (they) say, 'There's nothing here.' There's not a street named after him. There's not a plaque. And that's what we're trying to correct."
Mingus didn't stay in his hometown very long. He was 18 months old when his family moved to the Watts section of Los Angeles, where he grew up.
But Tittlebaugh, a retired music teacher, doesn't dwell on the short duration of Mingus' stay.
"He was born here," Tittlebaugh said, laughing, "so we're claiming him."
Mingus' father, Charles Sr., was stationed at Camp Stephen Little in Nogales as part of a Buffalo Soldier unit sent to monitor the Mexican border during that country's revolution. Mingus' mother lived in the camp as well.
There was no hospital, Tittlebaugh said, so Mingus was born on the campgrounds in April 1922.
The grounds now are a park called Camp Little, but there's nothing left of the Army structures. Tittlebaugh said he wants to put a marker at the park to acknowledge Mingus' birthplace.
It's not clear how much of a connection Mingus had with Nogales after he left. Rumor has it that Mingus occasionally played in Nogales, Sonora, the twin city on the other side of "the line," Tittlebaugh said.
Mingus did title one of his albums "Tijuana Moods," but that wasn't out of a yearning for a return to the borderlands of his infancy. Instead, according to a review in Planet Jazz, it came from some debauchery-filled days that Mingus and his drummer spent in Tijuana, Baja California.
Mingus died in 1979 in Cuernavaca, Mexico, where he had visited a healer in a futile attempt to cure his Lou Gehrig's disease.
Coincidentally, Mingus' last concert was in Phoenix in 1977. A few days later, his wife wrote in her book, "Tonight at Noon," he was diagnosed with the degenerative muscular disease that made him unable to hold his upright bass and eventually took his life.
Nogales had a Mingus festival in 1993, Tittlebaugh said.
"From then on, there were sporadic little things done," he said, but nothing permanent.
Tittlebaugh has committed himself to the Mingus Foundation, aimed at putting on the cross-border festival.Tittlebaugh said he's not sure why Nogales took so long to honor Mingus.
"Some things just get lost," he said. "And the community isn't heavy on jazz."
Thursday, April 02, 2009
Friday, March 27, 2009
UCLA Jazz Student Combos play Ellingtonia, directed by Kenny Burrell, George Bohanon, Clayton Cameron, Charles Owens, Michele Weir, and Charley Harrison.
UCLA Philharmonia Orchestra, Neal Stulberg, conductor. Performing specially selected Ellington extended works. Special guest: renowned vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater. Jens Lindemann,t rumpeter and director of a new student brass ensemble, playing Ellington compositions. Ellington’s Music for String Quartet arranged by Paul Chihara. Solo guest artists: pianist Tom Ranier, vocalist Bill Henderson, percussionist Clayton Cameron, and guitarist and Jazz Studies Director, Kenny Burrell.
Ellington's folk opera Queenie Pie (excerpts), (Southern California Premiere), featuring some of UCLA’s finest vocalists and instrumentalists, conducted by Marc Bolin.
Ellington's Sacred Music Concert(excerpts). Featuring Dwight Trible and Chester Whitmore, with Kalil Wilson, Lauren Michelle, and Joseph Buchanan, conducted by Charles Owens.
UCLA Jazz Orchestra directed by Charley Harrison, UCLA Contemporary Jazz Orchestra directed by Kenny Burrell and James Newton, UCLA Latin Jazz Ensemble directed by Bobby Rodriguez. UCLA Jazz Faculty soloists with Kenny Burrell, Charles Owens, Barbara Morrison, Clayton Cameron, Roberto Miranda, and others. Special guests: Dee Dee Bridgewater, Ernie Andrews, Dwight Trible, Herb Jeffries, Chester Whitmore, and Gerald Wilson.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Tomorrow on this date in 1959, Lester Young died just a few months short of his 50th birthday. Like the rockers, Pres’ passing was memorialized in song, most notably Goodbye Porkpie Hat by Charles Mingus and Wayne Shorter’s Lester Left Town.
Pres is/was a highly influential voice on the saxophone. Amongst just a few of the many, you could name saxophonists like Dexter Gordon, John Coltrane, Art Pepper, Wardell Gray, Stan Getz, Paul Desmond, Paul Quinichette, Al Cohn and Zoot Sims.
A few months before the UCLA Freddie Hubbard concert, I had picked up a used copy of the double LP Complete Savoy Recordings of Lester Young. In the song Crazy Over J-Z, the band uses a riff based on the standard Louise. Since I was playing the album to death at that time, that phrase became the opening of my baritone sax solo.
Even though Paul Gonsalves was primarily influenced by Ben Webster, he was able to dig Pres, too. In his famous 1956 Newport Jazz Festival solo on Diminuendo In Blue and Crescendo In Blue, he starts chorus 13 with a quote from Lester Young’s Up ‘n’ Adam:
Gone, but not forgotten. Where’s that Lester Young postage stamp?