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As of Saturday, July 31, 139th Street in Harlem will be named after John Hicks, the Atlanta-born pianist who became one of New York’s most sought-after accompanists. He was quite a composer too. The ceremony will take place tomorrow at 1 PM at Frederick Douglas Blvd., and will feature Barry Harris, Stanley Crouch, and members of Hicks’s family.
In honor of the occasion, we’ve dug up this interview with Gary Walker from Februrary 2006, his final appearance on WBGO:
John Hicks was one of my favorite pianists, a true giant. I had the good fortune of both knowing him personally and I also worked on many projects with him. I love John's music. He was an artist you could go out and hear three or more nights in a row and not get bored. I am glad I had the experience to hear him play quite often.
Hosted by Clint and Dina Eastwood, the Gala will feature the presentation of the Jazz Legends Award to Mr. Wein and will also include a evening of cocktails, a sumptuous gourmet dinner and a special duo performance by the Monterey Jazz Festival's 2010 Artist-In-Residence, four-time Grammy®-winning vocalist, Dianne Reeves with pianist Peter Martin.
"With George appearing at this year's MJF it is a perfect opportunity to honor him with our Jazz Legends Award," said Tim Jackson, General Manager of the Monterey Jazz Festival. "He is truly 'The Godfather' of jazz festivals."
The Gala is $225 per person, with net proceeds supporting the Monterey Jazz Festival's Education Programs, considered to be some of the most highly regarded in the country.
The Jazz Legends Award was first presented to pianist Dave Brubeck in 2007, and to the composer, trumpeter and bandleader, Gerald Wilson, in 2008.
by Wendi Loomis in Vol. 17 / Iss. 01 on 07/27/2010 Share
When Freddy Cole sits down at the piano, he carries listeners away with the story of his song. Whether it’s one person on his piano bench or 3,000 listeners at a festival, he’s got a tale to spin with his smoky baritone voice and deft fingers. While he never had the pop stardom of his older brother Nat “King” Cole, he is nonetheless a master, sharing a repertoire of songs spun from a lifetime of jazz.
In June 1986, Sun Ra, a pianist and bandleader with an adopted name, who claimed Saturn as his birthplace but was really from Alabama, and who cloaked his unclassifiably swinging music in celestial references, inaugurated SummerStage, a concert series sponsored by New York's City Parks Foundation.
The next year, SummerStage's headliners included Olu Dara, another inventive musician with an invented name, who proudly claims his actual birthplace of Natchez, Miss., and whose eclectic songs feature earthy details—chickens in the backyard, a peach tree, the dust of unpaved roads. Mr. Dara, who will play a free SummerStage show at Queensbridge Park in Long Island City on Wednesday, has been elemental to the series, which this year celebrates its 25th season with more than 100 events, nearly all free, throughout the five boroughs. A nine-minute version of his "Your Lips," drawn from his 2004 appearance, appears on "Live From the Heart of the City" (Sunnyside), an album marking SummerStage's 20th anniversary.
Olu Dara, seen here performing in 2008, is scheduled to play a free concert in Queens on Wednesday.
For four decades, Mr. Dara—whose given name is Charles Jones III—has popped up throughout New York: Whether playing cornet or pocket trumpet (and, occasionally, wooden Aboriginal horn) or strumming his Gibson guitar as he sings, he radiates off-handed confidence. A darling of the 1970s avant-garde jazz loft scene, Mr. Dara, 69, has also composed music for August Wilson plays and worked extensively with choreographer Dianne McIntyre. Though his music touches on references ranging from early jazz to Afro-Latin rhythms, avant-garde improvisation to R&B, he is a bluesman at heart, spinning yarns about, say, his favorite vegetable, okra, or the nature of desire. (His slow stomp, "Rain Shower," describes a man who, sans umbrella, slides home to his woman.)
If Mr. Dara has marked New York's cultural scene, so has the city shaped him. "I always refer to Brooklyn as my second home," he says, "because it's where I really started my own world." While in the Navy, he met the Yoruba priest who gave him his adopted name (meaning "God is good"). After a final year of service in port at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, he stuck around, working a succession of jobs: delivery driver, nightclub manager, hospital attendant. He held on to his horns and his Gibson and began sitting in with bands. He played in drummer Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers for a year. His purposeful cornet tone soon grew prized, especially by the avant-garde jazz musicians he worked with in the '70s.
"Olu can play with one note what most people can only play in a whole solo," conductor Butch Morris once said.
"I never considered myself a jazz musician," says Mr. Dara. "But I had a jazz sensibility, which I didn't find out until I worked with Blakey." Still, such music-making felt more like work than honest expression, so he formed his own band. It swung hard, drew audiences into a deep blues feeling, and often incorporated theatrical elements: Once, women with washboards, soap and water scrubbed away to the band's rhythms onstage.
If mystery shrouds Mr. Dara's music, it's not just his shape-shifting aesthetic: It wasn't until 1998, at age 57, that he made his recorded debut as a leader with "In the World: From Natchez to New York" (Atlantic). A live album, "Neighborhoods," followed in 2001. "I was just never that interested in recordings," he says. "I've always been after the live thing."
Mr. Dara has inspired many musicians, especially younger ones who, like him, arrived in New York from other places. For singer Cassandra Wilson, who hails from Jackson, Miss., "Seeing someone who was as country as I was and who did not try to hide it was important. Olu never talked to me about what was technically driving the music. He talked about what was emotionally driving the music, what was the story inside."
And his influence extends to his eldest son, Nasir Jones, better known as Nas, the most successful rapper to emerge from the fertile hip-hop scene in the Queensbridge Houses project. On a 2004 single, "Bridging the Gap," which features his father, Nas raps: "Born in the game, discovered my father's music like Prince searchin' through boxes of Purple Rain." A bit later Mr. Dara sings, "Little Africa is where we lived, better known as Queensbridge."
"That's what the neighborhood elders called this place," says Mr. Dara, who now lives in Harlem. When he plays Queensbridge Park on Wednesday Mr. Dara will make a resonant homecoming: to a concert series he's helped shape and the place where he raised his sons, in the city where he found his muse.
—Mr. Blumenfeld writes about jazz for the Journal.
Olu Dara is a remarkable musician and a true Renaissance man. I have had the good fortune of both knowing Olu Dara and producing concerts and dances involving him during the 80s and early 90s. Mr. Dara's music incorporates elements of jazz, blues, Caribbean and West African musics. At his core Olu Dara is a storyteller. He can weave a story out of the most mundane daily experiences. I have heard him sing songs telling stories about walking through the mud or I should say sliding through the mud on the way home to see his girlfriend. I have seen him make up songs or lyrics that have arisen from situations that have occurred in a nightclub or dance club setting. I've seen him playing and start to talk to people in the audience and begin to weave them into the fabric of the songs he is performing. In fact one night at the old "Sweet Basil" jazz club in New York, now Sweet Rhythm Olu Dara wove me into a story that he was telling through song. Olu Dara's music relates to everyone. He knows how to reach people on a very basic, human level. He is a very funny and engaging man. Since his early days performing in New York City he has incorporated elements of theater and dance into his musical performances. He worked for years, in collaboration, with choreographer Dianne McIntyre's "Sounds In Motion Dance Company". Mr. Dara has the ability to spontaneously adjust to the movement of dancers while still maintaining a set pace and rhythm for them to work with. Olu Dara is interested in the simple things of life. I have heard him even create stories surrounding the purchase of a chicken sandwich. Olu Dara is an urban griot, a New York sophisticate with roots in the deep South. He worked as a social worker prior to his career as a musician and he brings that knowledge of people to his music.
Do not ever miss the chance to see Olu Dara perform. I have seen many artists perform in my life, from all genres of music, dance and theater. Olu Dara is unique among them. He has recorded two wonderful CDs, "In the World From Natchez to New York" and "Neighborhoods". They are both well worth your purchase.
TAIPEI -- A series of jazz concerts featuring world-renowned Latin jazz musicians from the United States and Cuba will be held Aug. 17-Sept. 10 at the National Concert Hall in Taipei.
This is the 8th year that the National Theater and Concert Hall (NTCH) is holding the event, and all the musicians involved play an important role in the development of jazz music worldwide, said one of the organizers.
Saxophonist Paquito D'Rivera, who has won nine Grammy awards, will lead his group, the Paquito D'Rivera Quintet, in the opening performance of the event.
“Sixty-two-year-old D'Rivera and 69-year-old Chucho Valdes are from Cuba. They brought Latin jazz to America and added important elements to American jazz,” Taiwanese musician Stacey Wei said Tuesday.
Wei, who has studied jazz in New York for several years, also said one of his teachers was a student of D'Rivera and described him as “not only the best saxophonist but also a prominent clarinetist in the modern jazz world.”
To put it politely, a few eyebrows must have arched skyward when a white boy, playing trumpet, sat in with B.B. King's band.
After all, this was Beale Street in Memphis, Tenn., in the 1940s. Social and musical segregation was still a reality in the southern United States.
"That's what they tell me, but I didn't bother about that. I just did what I liked," Mose Allison said during a recent interview. "Nobody said anything to me about segregation or anything."
Allison, of course, was that white trumpet player. He later returned to piano, which he had played since his childhood, and became a jazz and blues giant with cool, deadpan numbers like "Parchman Farm" and "Your Mind Is On Vacation". A generation of British rockers, including Pete Townshend, Van Morrison, Georgie Fame, Paul Jones and Ray Davies still sings Allison's praises. Rightly so, since it's not hard to find the Mississippi-born musician's touch in their music.
Allison is 82 now. He has an easy laugh and is as witty in conversation as you'd expect. He keeps fit by running on the beach a couple of times a week, as he has done for more than 40 years. Allison's new disc, The Way of the World, is his first in 12 years. Produced by Joe Henry, it's funny, loose and inspiring -- a wonderful addition to his oeuvre, which goes back to 1957. That year saw the release of his first album, Back Country Suite, recorded a year after he arrived in New York City. It was only with that move, he said, that he became conscious of race.
"Everybody was telling me that I couldn't do what I was doing because I was a white, Southern country boy who went to college. Nobody thought I could sing the blues," he said.
The 70-year-old Jazz star has been moved to another hospital in Marseille by helicopter and is expected to remain in the cardiology unit.
Jazz star Al Jarreau has been transferred by helicopter from a hospital in the French Alps to another in Marseille after he fell ill with breathing problems, which were aggravated by the altitude. The 70-year-old musician is expected to remain in the cardiology unit of La Timone hospital in Marseille for a week to undergo further testing.
The singer collapsed on Thursday, July 22 after fainting moments before he was due to perform at a music festival in Barcelonnette, in the southern French Alps. He is believed to have had trouble adjusting to the mountain altitude, according to the Associated Press.
Jarreau, who has been touring Europe and Japan, has canceled a further two shows in Germany and another in Azerbaijan. It was not immediately clear when Jarreau would sing again.
On any given night at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, programming director Todd Barkan introduces the band, thanks the audience (profusely) and issues his catch-phrase: "Take care of the music, and the music will take care of you."
On Monday, Jazz at Lincoln Center will announce a new way in which it is taking care of the future of the music: the Coca-Cola Generations in Jazz Festival, a five-week event, running from Sept. 6 to Oct. 10, that will aim to bring jazz musicians of all ages onstage together.
The Man Who Keeps the Jazz
Todd Barkan, the Program Director for Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola at Jazz at Lincoln Center, has been runnign jazz clubs since the seventies, when he owned the Keystone Korner in San Fraincisco. In addition to programming a mix of jazz musicians, he also finds time to produce original recordings. Pia Catton reports.
"We are reaching a critical stage in jazz music because we've lost a lot of people in the last few years," Mr. Barkan said. "Older artists teach a lot by example and the practice of jazz."
Mr. Barkan pointed specifically to the Kenny Barron Quintet, which will perform Oct. 6 to Oct. 11. "Kenny Barron was one of the kids working with Dizzy Gillespie. Dizzy helped mould Kenny Barron—now Barron is moulding some younger players," Mr. Barkan said.
Mr. Barron, a piano legend at 67, will be joined by 27-year-old trumpeter Brandon Lee and 34-year-old drummer Jonathan Blake.
Among the vocalists, Shelia Jordan, 81, and Karrin Allyson, 47, will sing together from Sept, 20 to Sept. 22. And the "Triumph of the Trumpets" program (Sept. 23 to 26) will include trumpeters spanning three generations: Jon Faddis, 57; Terell Stafford, 44; and Sean Jones, 28.
The most seasoned musician in the line up is Marian McPartland, 92, who will be joined on a program that introduces newer pianists (Oct. 4). The youngest musician is trumpeter Adam O'Farrill, 15, who, with his father, pianist Arturo O'Farrill, 50, and brother/drummer Zack, 18, will open the festival on Sept. 6.
Presenting the O'Farrill Family Band is especially important to Mr. Barkan: He worked for several years with Arturo's father, Chico O'Farrill, the renowned Cuban composer and big-band leader who died in 2001. "I produced his comeback album. For me, this represents working with three generations," he said.
If it all seems rather personal, well, it is. Mr. Barkan is more than a host or booker or just the guy who talks before the show. He's a jazz-world celebrity—one whose fame is largely based on making other people famous.
From 1972 to 1983, he ran a jazz club in San Francisco called the Keystone Korner that showcased the likes of Miles Davis, Dexter Gordon and Bill Evans. Wynton Marsalis, now artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, played there with Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers, and recorded two live albums in the club. Mary Lou Williams called it "the Birdland of the Seventies." Along the way, Mr. Barkan produced more than 800 recordings, earning dozens of Grammy nominations and many other awards. He also developed personal relationships that spanned decades: Grover Washington Jr. was the best man at is wedding; Rahsaan Roland Kirk was a musical mentor.
The depth and duration of those relationships shapes the programming at Dizzy's all year round, but especially so in this new festival. Among Mr. Barkan's ideas was the pairing of pianist Eldar, a "wunderkind" at 22 years old, and guitarist Pat Martino, a "grand master of jazz guitar" at 66. The two have played the Iridium together, and they will perform in the festival on Sept. 13. "They have a musical affinity. They are harmonically akin to each other," said their matchmaker.
There are also direct links to the past. "Bobby Watson & Horizon are the closest thing in our whole jazz culture to Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers. Bobby Watson embodies that tradition," said Mr. Barkan.
Mr. Watson, the 57-year-old alto saxophonist, served as musical director for Art Blakey. His performances (Sept. 29 to Oct. 3) will be followed by the Paris Wright Band playing an After Hours program title, in true Barkanian wit, "Our Father Who Art Blakey."
After Hours programs ($10) will follow all of the headliners—just as they do every week. On Thursdays, the deal is even sweeter: $5 cover charge, $5 drinks and a $5 menu. The pricing will continue after the festival, something that will also help to ensure the future of jazz: The artists scheduled for the After Hours slot—11 p.m. (Tuesday-Thursday) and 12:45 a.m. (Friday and Saturday)—are the up-and-comers.
"One of the most important things we do is After Hours," Mr. Barkan said. "I can hire a lot of younger artists. I am trying to integrate them into the whole fabric of the booking at Dizzy's. He added, however, that age has to be paired with talent. "The only thing that is going to keep people interested in the music is consistent quality."
The Jazz at Lincoln Center website (www.jalc.org) contains the full listing of the festival, times and prices.
Improvisation, a fundamental quality of jazz, is by nature a risky business. The act usually involves a confrontation between two perspectives — that of a composer and that of a performer or performers — with the goal of achieving a combination informed and enriched by both perspectives. At its idealistic peak, as in recent large-ensemble works by the composer and bandleader Anthony Braxton, improvisation can represent a vision of collaborative democracy.
Yet even when you approach improvisation with the purest of intentions and the sharpest of skills, you’re never entirely certain what will happen. So it was no surprise that in two concerts presented by the first Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute in the Miller Theater at Columbia University on Friday and Saturday evenings, a feeling of agendas in uncertain collusion extended beyond the music performed by the Wet Ink Ensemble and the American Composers Orchestra.
The institute, jointly presented by the orchestra and the university’s Center for Jazz Studies, brought together 34 jazz artists for a five-day crash course in writing for classical performers. Distinguished figures from the classical and jazz worlds — and some who flourish in both spheres, like the trombonist and composer George Lewis — led seminars dealing with instrumental techniques; modern repertory; practical concerns, like publishers and copyists; and, yes, improvisation.
For the American Composers Orchestra the institute was a new step in a process by which resources and performance opportunities are made available to an ever-broadening pool of composers, including those from outside the conventional classical world. Enlightened self-interest is involved: from this year’s institute participants, five will be selected to have works performed by the orchestra during next year’s event, scheduled for June.
Jazz and soul music legend Al Jarreau is in a stable condition in a Southern Frenchhospital. This after the performer was hospitalised in the small Alpine town of Gap after complaining of a rapid heartbeat. He was moved to Marseille from Gap and he is reported to have stabilised. He is reported to have thanked the staff at Gap hospital for saving his life.
Jarreau has won seven Grammy awards in his career for his pop, jazz and soul music offerings. He was in the alpine region for a series of performances when he took ill. He was initially admitted to the intensive care unit but has since improved drastically.
According to Reuters in the UK, Jarreau collapsed during a concert on Thursday night in Barcelonnette, France as a result of respiratory problems. While he was preparing to perform at the jazz festival, he experienced a dangerously fast heartbeat and received treatment at the concert venue for multiple hours. The “Boogie Down” singer was eventually transported to an intensive care unit via helicopter.
Deputy head of the Gap hospital, Maurice Marchetti, commented on Jarreau’s condition by saying, “He was rushed to the hospital ... his condition is critical. He’s in intensive care. He is still conscious but slightly drowsy because of the medication and the breathing apparatus.”
CNN has reported encouraging news courtesy of the singer’s publicist, who released a statement on Friday that reads, “He is now awake and his first question was to enquire about his wife, Susan, and his second question was to ask about his tour dates. He is always thinking about other people.”
Fortunately, Jarreau’s condition has been stabilized and he hopes to return to performing in the near future.