Sunday, March 20, 2005
By LIZ HEITZMAN of the Tribune’s staff
Published Thursday, March 17, 2005
In some ways, it seems as if Wynton Marsalis was destined to have an exemplary career in music.
Jenna Isaacson photo
Wynton Marsalis, left, plays with bassist Reginald Veal at a 2002 appearance in Columbia. Marsalis returns to Columbia with a new band today.
He was born to a musical family that encouraged his first performance at age 8 at a Baptist church; parents who encouraged his brothers, including former "Tonight Show" bandleader Branford, to find their niches in music; and parents who would send young Wynton off to Juilliard in New York.
And yet Wynton Marsalis’ first big break into the jazz scene occurred when another musician saw potential in him. At age 19, while at Juilliard, he was tapped by the legendary bandleader Art Blakely to join the Jazz Messengers.
The gift of mentorship doesn’t seem to be lost on Marsalis, who is now 43. The nine-time Grammy winner has spent much of his career creating musical opportunities for young musicians through the jazz program he co-founded at Lincoln Center.
Fittingly, when Marsalis takes the stage tonight at The Blue Note, he will be joined by four up-and-coming musicians who range in age from 22 to 34.
"It’s a really beautiful thing to be a part of," said Dan Nimmer, Marsalis’ 22-year-old pianist. "Being able to learn from someone who knows all about the music - you’re getting experience with the best of the best. You can’t ask for anything more than that."
Nimmer, who grew up in Milwaukee, first met Marsalis while attending Northern Illinois University. The trumpeter was doing a clinic with the university’s band.
They would connect again a couple of years later when Nimmer moved to New York. Nimmer met saxophonist Wes Anderson, who worked with Marsalis at Lincoln Center.
Around New Year’s, Nimmer got a call from Marsalis’ office: Would he come to Wynton’s apartment and jam for a while?
It was the most important audition he had ever had.
Nimmer said they played some blues pieces and a couple of jazz standards. Soon, he heard that he had been selected for Marsalis’ quintet.
Since last Thursday, Nimmer has been touring the United States with Marsalis. He said they cruise the country in a luxury bus outfitted with bunks, a PlayStation and a DVD player.
After a performance, they often listen to a recording of the night’s show and scrutinize what was good and what could have been done better.
"I’m learning a lot about playing with Wynton and all the great musicians in the band," he said.
Saxophonist Walter Blanding, 34, has been playing with Marsalis the longest and has recorded with the Wynton Marsalis Septet.
Blanding first met Marsalis while attending LaGuardia High School for Music & Art in New York. Marsalis was putting together a young group of musicians to play music by Duke Ellington, and Blanding was selected.
Blanding said that as a bandleader, Marsalis is tough but also down-to-earth.
"When you play with someone of his caliber, you can’t help but be influenced by that," he said.
Blanding said the show tonight will likely feature a blend of original music from Marsalis’ current album, "The Magic Hour," and some bluesy numbers. The quintet also features drummer Ali Jackson and bassist Carlos Henriquez.
"Communication is what it’s all about," Blanding said. "Communication between Wynton and the band and the audience."
"You’ve got to touch them in some way," he said. "When you go to a concert and you’re up there onstage, if you’re not playing for the people, you might as well not be there."
Reach Liz Heitzman at (573) 815-1715 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wynton Marsalis Quintet
When: 8 p.m. today
Where: The Blue Note, 17 N. Ninth St.
How much: $28; standing room only
Thursday, March 17, 2005
In tune with jazz legend
It's weeks before his one-man show launches off-Broadway, and Rome Neal is forced to improvise.
"My computer's broken," he groans in his Fort Greene, Brooklyn, home. "Today is the deadline for ads for the Playbill, and my computer crashes. I can't even get Word [a writing program] to work. Fine time for all this."
Neal, 52, is putting the final touches on his role in "Monk," a play about legendary jazz pianist and composer Thelonious Monk. The piece was written by Laurence Holder, with music by Bill Lee.
The show, running March 15 through May 8 at the Abingdon Theatre Arts Complex, 312 W. 36th St., will mark about the 12th time Neal has played Monk since Holder wrote the piece for him five years ago. They debuted the show at the lower East Side's Nuyorican Cafe.
Monk has become the signature performance of Neal, who is better known as a director and playwright.
The great jazz drummer Max Roach, who played on several albums with Monk, caught a performance and told Neal it was like seeing the legend himself on stage.
"I took that as high praise, coming from him," Neal said. "I feel a lot of 'Monkisms' in me sometimes. When Monk was feeling his music, he would get up from the piano and dance. I love dancing and had to incorporate some of my dance movements into the play."
Like Monk, who died in 1982, Neal has experienced the financial ebbs and flows of the artistic life.
Growing up in Brooklyn - his family moved there from South Carolina when he was 2 - Neal caught the acting bug when he took a theater class at Baruch College.
"We did two plays, 'Our Town' and 'Lovers and Other Strangers,'" he recalled.
After graduating in 1976 with a retail and marketing degree, Neal got a job funded by the federal Comprehensive Employment and Training Act, running a recreational program in Tompkins Park in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.
He used the gig to form the Neal Ensemble Theatre Workshop and stage plays at the park.
"That's where I learned my craft, as a director and producer in the CETA program," he said. "We had a lot of professional people come through. The actor Laurence Fishburne auditioned for one of our productions. He didn't get the part, but I think it was because something else came up."
When CETA money dried up, Neal discovered Theatre for the New City and the Nuyorican Cafe, where he worked in his first play, Miguel Pinero's "Nuyorican Nights," directed by Miguel Algarin.
Neal has directed several award-winning plays at the Nuyorican, including a production of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" set in Africa.
He asked Holder to write "Monk" after the two met at the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, N.C. He has since performed the work at the Nuyorican as well as in several cities around the country.
"What I like about Monk is he's an artist, and an artist goes through trials and tribulations in this world to get their art across, and that is what he did," Neal said.
Classic Thelonious Monk compositions include "'Round Midnight," "52nd Street Theme" and "Straight, No Chaser."
Friday, March 11, 2005
George Scott, founding baritone of gospel vocal group the Blind Boys of Alabama, died Wednesday (March 9) at his home in Durham, N.C., according to a statement. He was 75.
"We're grateful to the Lord for letting us have George for as long as we did," said Blind Boys leader Clarence Fountain, who was one of the last people Scott spoke to before his death. "He and I grew up together and sang together from little boys to old men. George was a great singer, he could sing any part in a song. We loved him and he was one of the 'Boys.' He lived a life of service and now he's gone on to his reward."
Born George Lewis Scott in Notasulga, Ala., the artist met Fountain and Jimmy Carter in 1936 at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind. Three years later they formed the traditional gospel singing group, which Scott also accompanied on guitar.
In recent years, the group enjoyed a resurgence in popularity and recently won the Grammy for best traditional soul gospel album for "There Will Be a Light" (Virgin), recorded with singer-songwriter Ben Harper (news). The set featured Scott singing lead on the album's opening track, "Take My Hand."
Though Scott retired from touring last year, he continued to record with the group and will be heard on its new album, "Atom Bomb," due Tuesday (March 15) from Real World Records. No changes are planned in the Blind Boys' touring schedule, which picks up again with a March 18 showcase at the South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas.
Funeral services are scheduled for Tuesday (March 15) at Monumental Faith Church in Durham. His family has asked that mourners make donations to the American Diabetes Assn. (http://www.diabetes.org/home.jsp) or send flowers to the city's Holloway Funeral Home.
Scott is survived by his wife, Ludie Lewis Mann Scott; his mother, Hassie Lou Scott; and his sister, Benzie Jackson.
WE REMEMBER GEORGE SCOTT: Blind Boys of Alabama vocalist dies at 75.
*George Scott, a founding member of the Blind Boys of Alabama gospel group, died in his sleep Wednesday morning at his home in Durham, NC. He was 75.
Scott was the booming baritone of the group, which formed at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind in the late 1930s. While Scott retired from touring in 2004, he continued recording with the group and sang lead on several key tracks for the Blind Boys' forthcoming album 'Atom Bomb' (Real World Records).
Born George Lewis Scott in Notasulga, Alabama, on March 18, 1929, George met the other founding members of the Blind Boys, Clarence Fountain and Jimmy Carter, at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind in 1936. They formed a singing group in 1939, for which Scott also played guitar, their only instrumental accompaniment in those early days. The group became a gospel sensation in the 1940s and '50s, and spent more than 40 years working mostly in the traditional gospel circuit.
Just last month they won their fourth consecutive Grammy award in the Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album category for the CD they recorded with Ben Harper, entitled ?There Will Be a Light.? Scott sang the lead along with Harper on the opening track to that album, and later performed the song live with Harper and the Blind Boys on ?The Late Show with David Letterman.?
One of the last people George Scott spoke with before his death was the group's leader, Clarence Fountain.
"I spoke to him last night," Fountain said Wednesday, "and he was feeling fine. It just goes to show you never know when you may be talking to someone for the last time, so always be thankful for the people you have in your life. We're grateful to the Lord for letting us have George for as long as we did. He and I grew up together and sang together from little boys to old men. George was a great singer, he could sing any part in a song. We loved him and he was one of the 'Boys.' He lived a life of service and now he's gone on to his reward."
Scott is survived by his wife Ludie Lewis Mann Scott, his mother Hassie Lou Scott, and his sister Benzie Jackson. The funeral service will be held at 1pm on Tuesday, March 15 at Monumental Faith Church. The family has asked that mourners either make donations to the American Diabetes Association or send flowers to Holloway Funeral Home in Durham.
Jazz aficionado and Jazz at Lincoln Center Employee Ernest Gregory admiring Dizzy Gillespie trumpet at recent auction
NEW YORK, UNITED STATES: CHARLIE PARKER SAX HEADLINES HISTORIC JAZZ AUCTION: Ernie Gregory looks at Dizzy Gillespie's custom made Martin trumpet on display 17 February, 2005 in New York. The trumpet is one of the many items to be part of a jazz auction by Guernsey's scheduled for 20 February, 2005, at the "Jazz at Lincoln Center" performance hall in New York. The 430 lots include instruments, clothing and musical scores played, worn and written by some of the greatest names in jazz music, from Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald to John Coltrane and Stan Getz. AFP PHOTO/DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images) Copyright: 2005 AFP By/Title: DON EMMERT/Staff Date Created: 17 Feb 2005 12:00 AM City, State, Country: New York, NY, United States Credit: AFP/Getty Images Collection: AFP Source: AFP Date Submitted: 18 Feb 2005 08:31 AM
By Ollie Bivens
If Trane is the father, Pharoah: the sun, and Ayler: the holy ghost, Archie Shepp is the uncle that no one mentions. Shepp, an outspoken critic of jazz and an advocate of social revolution, has endured significant industry persecution for his awareness. And while the acerbic edge to his music has muted in recent years, his civic opinions have certainly not.
All About Jazz: What happened to the black audience for jazz?
Archie Shepp: I can understand why African-American audiences are not in tune with so-called jazz music. First of all, up until the '40s and '50s - let's say up until Coltrane - much of this music still had roots in the African-American community. Coleman Hawkins lived in Harlem. Dexter Gordon, all these people, they came from the African-American community. Today more and more of the so-called jazz musicians are fleeing into suburbia like all the other black middle class people. And so how can they expect we can relate to people whom we no longer associate with? There are no longer any references.
I'm not surprised at all that young black kids are listening to rap music. When I was a boy, to buy a saxophone, I could go to the pawn shop and maybe get a saxophone for a hundred dollars. Or as my grandmother did, she helped my buy a saxophone for five hundred. But today a saxophone costs five thousand dollars. What youngster in the ghetto is going to be able to buy a saxophone? Of course, they buy records and turntables and they created new instruments. They're making something out of nothing. I'm all for these young people. In fact, I think we have to come over to their side. We should begin to make connections with their lifestyle, their culture and their music. I would love to have heard Coltrane play with Digable Planets or James Brown. Those things just never happened because our people never saw the connection.
AAJ: What factors have contributed over the years to the low attendance?
AS: As I mentioned, in the '20s and '30s, many of those clubs were located right in the community. Connie's Inn was in Harlem. White people went to the Negro neighborhoods to hear this music. Now blacks have to go to Lincoln Center to hear this music, to hear players like Wynton Marsalis, who have now become the black bourgeoisie. This used to be a people's music. It is no longer.
AAJ: In Los Angeles, black people have to drive to the westside or Hollywood to hear the music.
AS: Absolutely. The music has actually been taken out of our community and awarded to middle class white communities, where now poor blacks are expected to go on buses and trains to hear their own music. And actually the music they're expected to hear is music that they never hear on the radio. The music they hear on the radio is popular music. They're not hearing Coltrane and Ellington on most of the popular stations. You have to tune in to so-called jazz stations for that. And really to listen to this music requires special training.
African American art music is serious music. It's just like classical music. You can't just come on in the middle of Coltrane playing “Impressions” or “Transition” and expect you're going to pat your feet. This is a very special music that has been created. It has evolved over a century or so into a rather complex music - a complex art music. Though Negroes are hard pressed to understand that for some reason.
AAJ: And the evolution of jazz music?
AS: I don't think it's evolved. I think it's become more and more controlled by white producers. There is not a single major nightclub in the United States owned by an African American. African Americans don't make saxophones. We don't produce trombones. We play them. We're not producers. We're basically consumers. We don't own anything and we don't control anything. And so it's no accident that Ella Fitzgerald is being replaced by some young white singer. Coltrane has become a white man.
AAJ: What do you mean?
AS: I mean that the media - don't you see it? At all the big, so-called jazz concerts, there are fewer and fewer African Americans performing - more and more white players who are being put in the place of those African Americans. I just did a documentary film in France. The young man was talking about great saxophone players. And I mentioned George Coleman. Of course, he was talking about Joe Lovano and the fact that Joe is now playing two instruments at once. Joe Lovano used to come to my gigs and sit in at Sweet Basil years ago. Now he's a big superstar. I love Joe. Nice guy. I happened to mention, “Well, haven't you guys ever heard of George Coleman or Gary Bartz?” And you know what they said? “Who are they?”
“I think our millionaires lack imagination. It is they who must come back to start a new entrepreneurism in the Negro community as regards culture.”
And so what I'm saying is that this is black art music. This is not black dance music, so called jazz music. Normally, this is music people listen to and not dance to. So we do have a black art music. We have not bothered to treasure that music. As a university teacher, I frequently spoke to my students and said, “Why don't you hold a national conference of black students to discuss African American music?” You don't have to accept the term “jazz.” Jazz used to mean fucking, pussy. Sidney Bechet and people like that told you that very clearly.
Why are we still supporting names that degrade our music, except for the fact that white people like those names? And they associate it with slavery. So at this point if we have no control over our music, fewer African Americans listening to it doesn't surprise me. Many of the young players today certainly don't come from the roots of the community. They come from Juilliard, conservatories. What relation do they have to the black community?
AAJ: But there aren't many places in the black community where jazz artists can perform.
AS: That's not the point. There aren't any places that are owned by black people. We take it for granted largely because it's called jazz. What does jazz mean? Can you define it? It has no real technical meaning.
AAJ: So you prefer the term “black art music?”
AS: That's what it is. It is a black art music. It's not a dance music. It's not a popular music. Furthermore, jazz was a term applied to this music shortly after the Spanish-American War, when for the first time the Marine band put many instruments on pawn in Louisiana and around the United States. For the first time poor black people, who had previously been playing in juke band on harps and wash tubs, could for the first time buy a contrabass or a trombone. And they bought them at cheap prices because the Army put them on sale at cheap prices. This is the beginning of so-called jazz music around the turn of the century. When blacks began to put their spirituals and blues and their folk melodies on Western instruments. The white man called it jazz. In fact, you didn't call it jazz, you called j-a-s-s. And it referred to the activities that took place in the places where this music was played. Not the music. In the original jass emporiums, the music was played on piano. And it was played behind a screen by people like Jelly Roll Morton and Tony Jackson, while light-skinned black women danced for white men. And when the white men wanted to see these women, they said they were looking for jass. And today we treasure that word jazz as though we created it. It's absurd.
AAJ: Has the music died?
AS: The music isn't dead. We've allowed it to die. When I taught school at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, frequently I would mention the name Sidney Bechet and not a single black student even knew who he was. We've lost our tradition. How can we expect to find it again overnight?
AAJ: Why was it lost?
AS: Maybe twenty percent of our young people are in jails. That's one of the reasons we've lost it. There's been a whole socio-economic decline - the breakup of the black family, the fact that the black middle class has fled in droves, including black musicians, to New Jersey and comfortable places outside the area of the scene of the action. I hear Bill Cosby and these people talking that nonsense about black kids reveling in their oppression, not really taking advantage of going to school, that the opportunities are there. But they never did. The same problems that exist today existed then.
I went to school with Bill. There were curfews frequently in Philadelphia because of gang violence and so on. The fact that we expect more of our children today than we expected before - we should expect more of ourselves, we adults who have arrived at the middle class. What are we giving back to the community?
No wonder they don't listen to that music. They have no reason to respect it. The music they hear is the music created by themselves. And I respect them for that. In fact, the Negro middle class has been aloof of its responsibility and now it comes to criticize the very people who have had to survive on their own. And so they don't listen to so-called jazz music. I don't blame them. I listen more and more to blues and folk music myself today, too. This music is becoming more and more a middle class white phenomena with very special handpicked blacks, usually young musicians under 40 or so who are being used to front this music as though it's still a black phenomenon. But it is no longer. It is a white middle class phenomena.
AAJ: How do we fix it?
AS: Well, ask not for whom the bell tolls, the bell tolls for thee. What can we do? For example, I'm trying to start my own record label. How can we come together? Look at people like Quincy Jones and Oprah Winfrey, all these wealthy Negroes. Why don't they start recording companies? They could make a billion dollars off it. You don't have to just produce jazz. If I had money I would be producing everything from rap to rock n' roll to George Coleman. I think our millionaires lack imagination. It is they who must come back to start a new entrepreneurism in the Negro community as regards culture.
Visit Archie Shepp on the web.
Ted Panken: In noting the profusion of musical information available on just a walk down the block, you're also saying that the world is smaller. But not just in a virtual sense. It's that way in real time. The world of improvisation now comprises a constant series of feedback loops from numerous sources, intersecting at all sorts of odd points, and the dialectic has taken us in many unexpected directions. How has this process affected you in recent years?
Anthony Braxton: When I made the decision to embrace music as a life's work, I understood, first of all, that I was very lucky to be able to make that decision, and that there's always something new to learn. Forty years later, I don't know where I'm at, but I have had many more experiences, and I still find myself thinking there's everything to do. The work of the last forty years has parlayed into a new set of propositions that should be able to go for another century. A new generation of young people have come up, and they're pushing things forward.
Your question is hard to respond to because it contains so many different aspects. For instance, I feel that the African-American community and the African-American leadership are going through complexities that mirror what happened when trans-ethnic psychologies were used to partition off the music in a way, to block this ongoing flow of world culture in the third millennium, and to reclassify the generic experiences and make them the It. I think that has been the defining gambit of the last 20 or 30 years, and from my perspective, that has been the profound mistake of the African-American nationalists and the post-Abernathy Antebellumists.
Ted Panken: I assume by "post-Abernathy" you're referring to the civil rights activist Ralph Abernathy, but how do you mean "Antebellumist"?
Anthony Braxton: "Antebellumist" in the sense that the Antebellum psychology says that you had better stay in your place. By staying in your place, with respect to our conversation, it's blues and swing.
Ted Panken: You've also referred to this as the "Southern Strategy," I believe.
Anthony Braxton: Yes. Southern Strategy in the sense that that's why Wynton Marsalis and the Neoclassic continuum is in power. They were put in power. This is a political decision that came about in the 1980s, when Dr. George Butler brought Wynton to New York. When the mature histories of this music are written, I hope that there will be a section on what I'll call the Great Purges of the 1980s. It involved kicking out anybody who had any originality or was unwilling to have the marketplace define their music, and bringing in a philosophical backdrop from Albert Murray consistent with what I'll call the "Christian gambit." That gambit states that Black people have this special rhythm, that the evolution of what we now call Jazz is just an African-American thing, that the proclivity spectra of African-Americans goes from hip-hop and blues and whatever, but not to a guy like me. Only a certain spectrum of black or of African-Americans can be accepted in this reseeded idea of blackness.
Ted Panken: But Mr. Braxton, you're a trained dialectician. It can't be that what happened in the '80s is merely because of a singular corporate or political decision. There have to have been factors in the zeitgeist that made it make sense for that to happen.
Anthony Braxton: My viewpoint is this. If the Lincoln Center, post-Murray, Neoclassic continuum had defined their right to do what they wanted to do, I would say great. But they said, "Jazz starts at Louis Armstrong; it stops in the middle '60s." That is very different. Defining it in that way is reductionist. When Stanley Crouch talks about Negro rhythms and what are the correct psychological and vibrational components to keep this Negro affinity in the position he wants it, he's really talking about something else. He's not talking about the African-American community as a composite spectra. He's talking of the African-American community as perceived through a Christian framework, as perceived through the Southern experiences, and how those experiences were defined among the intellectuals in the South. I love New Orleans, but I'm not from New Orleans. I'm glad I'm not from New Orleans. As far as I'm concerned, when King Oliver and Louis Armstrong came north, that's when Louis Armstrong discovered extended improvisation.
This idea of entertainment as the optimum state is another antebellum idea. And also, the idea that these people have established a perspective on the Atlantic slave experience that says they're the only people who have suffered. In America, when the railroads started expanding West, they brought in the Asian-Americans! Nobody has a monopoly on being a victim.
In my opinion, the dynamic implications of the exclusionary reverse racism that comes from the African-American community will put it in a much worse position in the next 10-20-30-40 years. I feel very sad about that. I think among the factors that have contributed to this are: (1) the purges of the 1980s; (2) a reductionist viewpoint of the Negro that corresponds with antebellum sentiments and with the trans-activist Christian agenda; and (3) the inability of the African-American community to accept the idea of total equality with all of our people. This racist exclusionary psychology is only possible because certain people were put in positions of power because they would espouse these viewpoints.
Ted Panken: I think it was a less passive process. I think that they positioned themselves to seize the moment, looked for their spots, and created an ideological climate where they would then be inserted into those spots.
Anthony Braxton: I disagree. By 1974, it was clear that, for instance, there were many groups of young people African-Americans, Asian-Americans, European-Americans, men and women begging to come together to be involved in a new universal music to push things forward. This was not able to happen. Who do I blame? I don't blame the conservatives. I blame the liberals. I blame Black Power. I blame the feminist movement. I blame the Left. I'm talking about identity politics, and I'm also talking of politics as reflected through the decisions that would define the '70s and '80s, in terms of who would have support, who would be suppressed, "all the news that's fit to print." You buy the Sunday "New York Times," and wow, they have an article on some guy who just got out of prison who can say "motherfucker" in four different vibrations who is set to get millions of dollars, but there's not one serious article on Cecil Taylor or Bill Dixon! I came up in a generation of young men and women who wanted to change the world, who wanted to go out and fight and build up the world, to reconnect with composite humanity. We were all shot down, man! And we were shot down Š well, one, by the liberals; two, by putting certain African-Americans Š It's Booker T. Washington all over again.
I think we're at one of the most complex periods in our history. A lot of components are being realigned in this time period, and I don't mean simply to heap the problems of modernity on the Neoclassic explosion. But if the subject is percussion, I wonder how many young African-Americans know about the great work of Andrew Cyrille. I wonder if Andrew is still considered Black enough where his work would be respected and talked about. In many spaces, his work would no longer conform to what used to be called black music.
The Coltrane Project Examines Legacy of Iconic Musician
By Emily Quinn
March 10, 2005
The jazz festival SF JAZZ presents the Coltrane Project, a series of concerts and programs exploring the legacy of composer and saxophonist John Coltrane, starting tonight and continuing through the spring at various San Francisco venues.At a “listening party” tonight at the Herbst Theatre, vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson and saxophonists Joshua Redman and Miguel Zenón will play and discuss Coltrane albums. The evening also includes a rare screening of footage of the John Coltrane Quartet.
The 40th anniversary of Coltrane’s masterpiece, A Love Supreme, will be celebrated with a concert by the Branford Marsalis Quartet and Ravi Coltrane, the saxophonist’s son, at the Nob Hill Masonic Center.
Other events include the SF JAZZ Collective performing new arrangements of classic Coltrane works; Orkestrova (which includes the Rova Saxophone Quartet, Nels Cline, Fred Fristh, Ikue Mori, and others) performing Ascension in honor of that work’s 40th anniversary; and a night of tunes from the album Crescent, featuring pianist McCoy Tyner (who played in the John Coltrane Quartet), saxophonist Joshua Redman, bassist Reginald Veal, and drummer Brian Blade playing together as a quartet.
Events run through June, throughout SF JAZZ’s spring season.
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
The New York Times
March 9, 2005
The Definition of 'Phat': Big Band With Young Fans
By MIREYA NAVARRO
LOS ANGELES, March 8 - Taylor Rasmussen, a Led Zeppelin fan, recently discovered another band that suits his 13-year-old taste. He describes it as having "a new cool sound" with funky bass lines, high-pitched notes and difficult solos.
That band is actually a big band, Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band, and its "new" sound is good old jazz. And at a recent concert at the gymnasium of the Lindero Canyon Middle School in Agoura Hills north of here, Taylor and an excited throng of students treated these jazz musicians like pop stars, screaming their approval and lining up to have CD's, T-shirts, posters and even casts autographed by Mr. Goodwin and his 17 musicians.
"Would you sign my back?" a giggling girl asked Mr. Goodwin.
"Could you write 'Happy Birthday, Kelley'?" another girl asked, handing him a poster she had just purchased.
The heyday of big band jazz may have been back in the last century, but contemporary groups like Big Phat Band have found a market among teenagers, particularly those in school and college music programs. Mr. Goodwin, a film and television soundtrack composer who formed his group in 1999, has aggressively courted this young audience. Jazz educators say students are a natural market for big bands because these are the most common type of ensemble in most schools.
"People would think that a lot of people supporting these jazz guys are older people, but a lot of them are high school and college kids who are exposed to the music," said Edward Protzman, band director at Central Bucks High School West, near Philadelphia.
But sales of jazz recordings have been stagnant at about 3 percent of the music market for years. And while there are dozens of professional jazz big bands working around the country, they have fewer opportunities to record and play than a trio or combo because, with more musicians to pay, they are more expensive to book and transport.
Some big bands have found that they can compete with rock and rap for the attention of a portion of the youth market. Maynard Ferguson, 75, the trumpeter whose career with Jimmy Dorsey, Stan Kenton and other jazz greats dates back to the 1940's, still tours for most of the year.
But these days, about 80 percent of his gigs with Big Bop Nouveau, his "small big band," as he calls it, are at high schools and colleges. "There's nothing more glamorous for these kids than when they get to meet a professional jazzman," he said.
Some school band directors said that students connect better with big bands than with jazz combos or trios because more of them could see their instrument played. Band leaders like Mr. Goodwin also publish their compositions, which means they are available for school bands to play.
"His music is so well known by kids that kids want to hear the band," said Jim Warrick, coordinator of jazz studies for New Trier Township High School in Winnetka, near Chicago, which invited the Big Phat Band to perform at its jazz festival for school bands last month.
The Big Phat Band has two CD's, which have earned five Grammy nominations for complex but upbeat, quirky tunes with catchy titles like "Hunting Wabbits." Mr. Goodwin, who tried twice to get a big band going in the 1980's and 1990's, said he initially put together the Big Phat Band to record his music. But after playing his first live gig at his alma mater, California State University at Northridge, other school engagements followed and now account for about half of the group's concerts.
Some school music directors said Mr. Goodwin had gone after the youth market more aggressively than others. In addition to assembling a group of top Los Angeles musicians, most of them friends he entices with promises of more lucrative work in movies and television, Mr. Goodwin said he had appealed to young people by recording with the latest technology, promoting the band through e-mail messages, a Web site (www.gordongoodwin.com) and music publishing, and doing what pop stars do: offering CD's and T-shirts for sale at concerts, for instance, and staying on with other band members afterward to sign autographs.
It also helps that Mr. Gordwin, a boyish-looking 50-year-old who has won three Emmys for music he composed for Warner Brothers animated films, works in Hollywood and can talk about his involvement in movies like "The Incredibles," "Coach Carter" and "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes!" He said he named his band "Phat" to make it distinctive, although he was momentarily stumped during an interview when trying to explain what "phat" meant.
"Phat is an acronym for hot, terrific ...," Mr. Goodwin said, before text messaging his 14-year-old son for help. (His son's reply: "Phat, adj., of a very high quality or standard.")
Mr. Goodwin said he fell in love with big band jazz when he discovered Count Basie as a seventh-grade music student. After his success as a commercial composer, he said, he wanted a more enduring vehicle for his music and to do his part creating new jazz fans and musicians.
School gigs alone cannot sustain a big band, but they are helping propel the Big Phat Band on to bigger and better things. The group signed with the William Morris Agency in late 2003 to try to expand its base to include major jazz festivals and concert tours. It is closing the Playboy Jazz Festival on June 12 at the Hollywood Bowl and traveling to Hong Kong for the opening of a Disneyland park in the fall, and working on a third CD scheduled to be released next year.
But young people remain the band's core audience.
"They're really appreciative," said Andy Martin, a trombone soloist with the band. "They stand up and yell and scream."
So voracious is their reaction, Mr. Goodwin agreed, that when the band plays to more subdued older audiences, "we wonder, are we getting across to these people?"
Monday, March 07, 2005
News: Sharpton Calling For Air Play Ban Video: Ja Rule - Caught Up Video: Ashanti - Only U (Dance Version) Audio: Young Gunz - Set It Off Audio: Memphis Bleek - Like That
Posted by Dave
Rap News Network Staff
3/4/2005 11:05:50 AM
Some Rapper's rhymes influence black teenagers to be sexually promiscuous and this puts the teens at a higher risk for contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. That is my position. I am not some high moral person but I must speak out as a black man and Health Educator who grew up in the hood. It is time to be concerned about the unquestionable sexual and violent images in some Hip-Hop music.
Ludacris is "a well rounded hedonist, who pursues a balanced lineup of vices and addictions," says Nathan Rabin in his review of the hip-hop star's new CC, The Red Light District. This CD is about as balanced as a seesaw with a fat kid on one side and a skinny one on the other. It is another variation on the same theme throughout much of hip-hop; sex and material wealth. Stanley Crouch, a well-known black writer calls this kind of hip-hop "cultural pollution". He said it is a " scurrilous product" that projects images of young black men "as thugs and young black women as sluts hot to trot and drop their drawers at the slightest provocation."
I was watching young black women shake their butts into the faces of young black men on BET's top ten music video show the other day. The men in the hip-hop videos responded with some hot simulated grinding with the young women. I never saw so many young black men grabbing their crouches. The sexual signals were so strong I thought the men and women would jump onto the floor and engage in an orgy any minute. I was surprised and that is something for me. I understood why Essence, the most popular black women's magazine in America, in this month issue, called for a movement to "take back the music".
In fairness, all rap artists do not create or use sexed up rhymes to sell music. I commend positive rappers for standing firm on a higher principle inspite of the powerful and almost irresistible attraction of hip-hop money. My concern as a Health Educator is the degree in which the sexually explicit lyrics of some rap artists influence young people to engage in unsafe sex.
There is no question that Hip-Hop has become a major part of American pop culture and it is so profitable most people are willing to excuse the violence and sex associated with it. It's influence touches people like Donald Trump and Ronald Perelman, the richest man in New York City as well as a generation of black and Latino youth in inner city ghettoes across America. Perelman said in a New York Magazine article on Hip-Hop that Russell Simmons, the founder and C.E.O. of Def Jam Records, is the 'man' and that rap and urban city dress is mainstream. I agree. There is much positive in the Hip-Hop culture. But Cynthia, a 12-year-old Harlemite gives mixed signals. She says Hip-Hop is hot!' She looks like a fan that listens to hip-hop music, watches the videos, and dresses like rappers. Looking like her hip-hop idol is where things get confused. She is wearing tight short pants that reveal the cheeks of her butt and a blouse that leaves nothing to the imagination about her breasts. Young boys are staring at her and calling out trying to get her attention. Remember that this is a twelve-year-old girl.
The question is 'does the sexually charged images' contribute to the increase of sexual activity among teens? I believe the role of violent entertainment to the violence in our society is informative. Rowell Husemann, the field's preeminent researcher says long term exposure to media violence among children 'boosts' violent behavior. Other researchers have found that sexually explicit material can have similar effects on the behavior of some youngsters. Based on those facts, I believe hip-hop videos depicting women, for example, as hos, bitches, and freaks encourage black youth to act like the images. These images are engaged in sexually provocative and promiscuous activities.
Does the increased sexual activity among our youth contribute to the spread of HIV/AIDS? It's impossible to say. However, in 1998, teenagers were the theme of the world AIDS day. Dr. Ronald Valdseuir, deputy director of the National Center for HIV, STD, and TB Prevention said half of all the new infections in the United States were among people under 25 years of age and a quarter of that number are in people between the ages of 13 and 21. Most of the youth are Black and Latino. It is time to speak out.
We can all do our part to slow the spread of HIV. P. Diddy, Russell Simmons, Jay Z, and many other rappers have long been involved in AIDS causes. Many of these same artists raise money for HIV Education and Prevention. Lately, some big name Hip Hop artists have put together a public service message encouraging young teens to wear condoms during sexual intercourse. Some of their work is seen as good. But to give money and assistance to stop the spread of HIV in our community on one hand and to promote sexual promiscuity among teens on the other hand is hypocritical. Rapper's must clean up the violent and sexually charged images many of them send to our youth. If the rappers won't police each other, we must organize to stop them from sending 'hateful' images to our teens. Indeed, We must not continue to embrace and promote entertainment degrading to black people. This is about our children at the end of the day. Popular TV talking head Bill O'Reilly told an interesting story to get people to see the negative impact of some hip hop music. He said on last years Halloween, a first grade teacher in Biloxi, Miss., held a costume party for her class. "One little boy came dressed as a pimp, complementing another little girl made up to be a whore." O'Reilly said, "Somewhere, the Devil is grinning." Peace out.
Dennis Levy is the former Executive Director of the Black And Latino AIDS Coalition, Inc. of New York City. He is also a free lance writer. He can be reached at Levicobx@aol.com
Saturday, March 05, 2005
Tribute to Ray Charles is impressive
Saturday, March 5, 2005
By BILL WHITE
SPECIAL TO THE POST-INTELLIGENCER
The genius of Ray Charles came across bright and clear Thursday night at Jazz Alley, when pianist Monty Alexander began a four-night stand paying tribute to the late musician. Combining country chord progressions with bluesy bass lines and gospel riffs, Alexander caught the essence of the Charles style.
MONTY ALEXANDER TRIO WITH RED HOLLOWAY
WHERE: Jazz Alley, 2033 Sixth Ave.
WHEN: Through tomorrow
TICKETS: $20.50-$22.55, 206-441-9729, www.jazzalley.com, Ticketmaster
"I want to offer some personal interpretations of one of the legends of American music," said Alexander, as his trio finished a spectacular version of "I Can't Stop Loving You."
"In Jamaica, back in the 1950s, we heard this music coming from a New Orleans radio station. It influenced everyone in Jamaica."
He followed with a sensitive version of "You Don't Know Me," with drummer Herlin Riley adding slashes of color and accent with his steady brush work. Riley's breaks were stimulating and inventive, giving a nice kick to the ballad.
The opening set began with "Renewal," an original composition from the 1985 release "Threesome." Part ballad and part bop, this lane-jumping fiesta of tempo and style provided a lively introduction to Alexander's versatility. Bassist Hassan Shakur had fun with the tune, managing to slip in the famous riff from Nancy Sinatra's "Boots" at a significant moment.
A more cohesive example of Alexander's original material was "Moonlight City," a reggae-influenced piece that evoked the exotic criminality of Jamaica's vice-riddled back alleys where tourists are not supposed to go. The drums sustained a musical tension with a threatening insinuation that sounded like the tapping of knives on the rail of a bar.
Tenor saxophonist Red Holloway joined the trio for the second half of the set, beginning with a fast and easy stroll through the changes of "Love for Sale." Holloway's tone is so sweet that there is romance in his sound even when he is only running scales.
"Night Time Is the Right Time," a lackluster blues from the early '50s, failed to ignite, but "Georgia on My Mind" gave the saxophonist room for his expressive style to take root.
"I'm gonna give you some lyrics, and I want you to sing," Holloway told the crowd, setting them up for the call and response of "Keep Your Hands Off Her." As a vocalist, Holloway tended toward good-natured clowning. When he put the horn back into his mouth, he was a fireball. Alexander nearly stole the song with a clever one-note solo.
The tribute to Charles continues, with two shows a night, through tomorrow.
Bill White is a Seattle-based arts and entertainment writer. He can be reached at Bwhi61@hotmail.com.
Friday, March 04, 2005
Link #75841 submitted by johnny2000 on Feb 24, 2005 04:28am. ( 155XP)
After contributing five decades of musical direction and genius, Randy Weston remains one of the world's foremost pianists and composers today, a true innovator and visionary. Encompassing the vast rhythmic heritage of Africa, his global creations musically continue to inform and inspire.
'Weston has the biggest sound of any jazz pianist since Ellington and Monk, as well as the richest most inventive beat,' states jazz critic Stanley Crouch, 'but his art is more than projection and time; it's the result of a studious and inspired intelligence...an intelligence that is creating a fresh synthesis of African elements with jazz technique'.
via great blogger dr.james benjamin's The Left End of the Dial