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Friday, January 28, 2011

Review: Bobby Hutcherson celebrates 70th at Yoshi's - San Jose Mercury News




Review: Bobby Hutcherson celebrates 70th at Yoshi's - San Jose Mercury News

By Jim Harrington
Oakland Tribune
Posted: 01/28/2011 12:40:54 AM PST
Updated: 01/28/2011 12:40:55 AM PST

Bobby Hutcherson is the greatest living Bay Area jazz musician.
And there really isn't a close second -- at least not if one of the qualifications is that the musician must still reside in the Bay Area, which would eliminate such local-born players as Dave Brubeck and Pete Escovedo.

The Montara resident, who has lived in the same home on the San Mateo County coast since 1972, is without compare on the local scene when it comes to many significant categories, including strength of songbook, longevity at the top of the jazz scene and influence on the genre. He's also one of the top practitioners on his chosen instrument -- the vibraphone -- to have ever lived.

Take his residence out of the equation -- and just consider him as part of the world's jazz community -- and he still would stand tall among the genre's greatest names.
"McCoy Tyner called him the world's greatest improviser," remarks Yoshi's Oakland artistic director Peter Williams, recalling a statement made by the legendary pianist. "And I'd have to agree. There are very few people with a lineage like him left in jazz."
All of that factored into Hutcherson's concert on Thursday -- the first half of a two-night stand -- at the East Bay club. It was more than just a regular show — it was a celebration of a lifetime of tremendous music. For this Thursday show marked Hutcherson's 70th birthday.
The set began with the crowd singing an impromptu version of "Happy
Birthday," and ended with Williams delivering a chocolate birthday cake to the vibraphonist onstage. In between, Hutcherson and his splendid band played eight songs that illustrated why the bandleader is such a treasure.

Hutcherson, granted, isn't the force that he once was. His battle with emphysema — which requires him to be hooked up to oxygen while onstage — has severely affected his energy level, limiting both his hand speed and the length of his solos. Still, Hutcherson — even at far less than 100 percent — remains several times the musician as just about any other vibraphonist on the planet. He's still possesses impeccable timing and a sense of "touch" that most can only dream about.
Plus, he was smart enough to stock his band with agile players -- guitarist Anthony Wilson, pianist Joe Gilman, bassist Glenn Richman and drummer Eddie Marshall -- so that no one left Yoshi's in want of fireworks.

Hutcherson, who remains best known for the boundary-stretching jazz he recorded as part of the Blue Note roster in the '60s, opened the show with a fairly new composition, the up-tempo "Teddy." He followed with "Ode to Angela," allowing Wilson to take the spotlight as Hutcherson beamed with that big, beautiful smile of his.
Not surprisingly, given his medical condition, Hutcherson did most of his best work on the slow tunes. In particular, he delivered an exquisitely soft run at the start of the ballad "(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons," the title track from his 2007 album, while Marshall provided deft accompaniment with his brushes on the drums.
The one exception to that rule came during the standard "Old Devil Moon," when Hutcherson emptied the tanks and energetically walloped his vibraphone with his two mallets in a fashion that left everybody in the house breathless.

The music made, however, is only one part of the Bobby Hutcherson story. He's equally cherished -- and, boy, this is refreshing -- for being one of the nicest players in the music business. Indeed, Randall Kline, executive director of SFJAZZ, once called Hutcherson the "classiest act in jazz."
"The first concert that we did with Bobby was, I think, 1986," Kline said. "He's a brilliant artist, an absolute master on his instrument, and just a really sweet person, which comes across on the bandstand."

After closing the set with an up-tempo version of "Pomponio," Hutcherson seemed truly touched as Williams brought out his birthday cake. Even though the Cake had far less than 70 candles on it, Hutcherson still needed Williams' help to blow out them all out. He then looked out at the crowd -- in full standing ovation -- and commented on the occasion.

"When I was a young whippersnapper, I didn't think I would make it to 40," he said. "I'm going to slow down (playing music), so I can get my health together."
We wish you the best, Bobby, and look forward to celebrating more birthdays with you in the years to come.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Wynton Marsalis, Eric Clapton to perform together in New York | NOLA.com

Wynton Marsalis at the Oskar Schindler Perform...Image via WikipediaWynton Marsalis, Eric Clapton to perform together in New York | NOLA.com

Wynton Marsalis is teaming up with Eric Clapton to "Play the Blues" at two concerts in New York this spring.

New Orleans-born, New York-based trumpeter Wynton Marsalis will play the blues with Eric Clapton in April.
The New Orleans-born jazz trumpeter and the British guitar god are scheduled to perform together April 8-9 at Rose Theater, a 1,200-capacity venue within the Jazz at Lincoln Center complex. Taj Mahal is also on the bill.

Marsalis and Clapton will perform music from the catalogs of early New Orleans jazz cornetist King Oliver, blues shouter Howlin’ Wolf, jazz pianist and entertainer Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong and 1920s blues singer Ma Rainey (incorrectly identified in some articles posted today as “Moe Rainey).
Marsalis is the artistic director at Jazz at Lincoln Center. A presale began today for MasterCard holders and continues through Feb. 11. A public onsale for any remaining tickets has not been announced.

Go to the Jazz at Lincoln Center Web site for more info.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Ahem: Stray Thoughts On Coughing During A Keith Jarrett Concert : A Blog Supreme : NPR

Keith JarrettImage by Olivier Bruchez via FlickrAhem: Stray Thoughts On Coughing During A Keith Jarrett Concert : A Blog Supreme : NPR

The pianist Keith Jarrett recently played a solo show at Carnegie Hall. People coughed and took photographs; Jarrett stopped the show in objection and walked off. Jon Pareles wrote about it, but he's certainly not the only one to document this phenomenon in recent years.

In cases like these, I find myself thinking: Gah, stop doing that! Don't have a crippling pet peeve for expectorating and mechanical clicks if you're going to be a public performer. Don't chastise your paying audience for generally accepted conditions of being a performing artist in any genre. Human life is, often involuntarily, loud. Is your music really dependent on an absolutely silent house of several thousand, in contrast to virtually every other musician in human history?

It is weird, of course, to be telling an artist what to do. I don't particularly think it's in my place to seriously do so. It's also obvious that Jarrett couldn't care less about what I think. And he also has a point: If you're concentrating on listening nearly as hard as he's concentrating on playing, you'd be conscious of your emissions and his requests that you control them.

So I predict that the immoveable objects that are Keith Jarrett concerts will continue to meet the unstoppable forces that are audiences coughing during winter. What, then, is to be done? Three further thoughts:

A huge part of the magic of live music is unpredictability. That is irreplaceable, especially in jazz, where the spontaneous creation of something new is paramount. It also opens the door to fits of pique; one phenomenon allows for another. But as far as I can tell, enough people want the magical part that they're willing to sit through a tantrum or an awkward vibe.

It's also wholly reasonable that you wouldn't enjoy Jarrett's music enough to deal with the other stuff, not to mention the considerable price tag. So if you're going to be too put off by Jarrett's antics to enjoy his art, especially considering the money you've put down, don't go. Cost-benefit analysis.
Enough people seem to be consistently voting for #1 rather than #2 such that concert halls like Carnegie are still willing to put on Keith Jarrett concerts. By this point, the hissy fits seem like a well-documented phenomenon; if they were an insurmountable hassle, audiences (and by extension, venues) would be voting by withholding their dollars. Demand for Keith Jarrett concerts still seems high for how much attention "cough-gate" has received.
So what if you're on the fence? Say, what if you're debating plunking down $75 (or however much it costs) to see Keith Jarrett, who you love, but aren't comfortable with the possibility of him stomping off in a huff? My advice is to go for it, mostly because most of us don't see enough live music, and "you only live once," and even if you don't feel like you got your money's worth, it'll at least be a thought-provoking adventure.

However, I might also recommend you look at the opportunity cost and the substitutes. If you live in a big enough city or are attending a big enough festival with the financial resources to host Keith Jarrett, there's probably a lot of other unique improvised music going on, not to mention other entertainment options. With that money and those two hours, you could be getting about as much or more satisfaction seeing something else for significantly less expense.

You wouldn't get the specific brand of satisfaction Keith Jarrett can give you, though. And regardless of how much or how little monetary value the market demands for it, that factor is why any of us care about all this.

UPDATE: Some additional thoughts, after the thorough discussion in the comments:

I generally like Keith Jarrett's music. This discussion isn't really about his music, though.
No, I wasn't at the concert on Sunday.

Anecdotal evidence from those who were suggests that the coughing was in fact quite loud for a massive room and an unamplified piano.
It strikes me that neither Jarrett nor the audience have any clearly-defined "rights" here. Jarrett has a contractual obligation to perform; he has every "right" to execute that performance as he will. The audience, for its money, has every "right" to behave as it desires within the venue's policy.

The reason some folks react to Jarrett's stage mannerisms ("antics," as I previously described them, was a poor word choice) negatively is thus a matter of palatability, not legal or moral right. Nobody is obligating Jarrett to be a nice guy. Nobody is obligating audiences to pay attention.

Performances generally go off without a significant hitch because audiences and performers respect each other enough to honor requests and commonly-accepted standards of behavior. Performers generally behave with surplus gratefulness for their audiences, and learn to tolerate less-than-ideal conditions; audiences usually pay close attention and honor artists' requests to be reasonably quiet.

It seems like when these debacles happen, neither side is trying hard enough to meet each other. Jarrett's generosity of spirit and tolerance for crowd noise seem unusually low, to an outside observer; so do his audiences' abilities to stifle a cough or not take photos or what-have-you.

Sean Gough points out this was five minutes within a three-hour concert. That's important to keep in mind. But five minutes can sour a mood for three hours too.
Finally, the issue of artists like Jarrett grunting should have no bearing on this issue whatsoever.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Big Maybelle - Heaven Will Welcome You Dr King




From The Root


The Best Martin Luther King Jr. Anthem Ever


Today she's largely forgotten. But no one sang a better, more searing tribute to the slain civil rights leader than R&B-and-jazz singer Big Maybelle.


By: Paul Devlin



Posted: January 17, 2011 at 12:08 AM
Today she's largely forgotten. But no one sang a better, more searing tribute to the slain civil rights leader than R&B-and-jazz singer Big Maybelle.

Shortly after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, songwriter Dick Holler penned a beautiful tribute, "Abraham, Martin and John," a meditative, poetic eulogy that also had a verse dedicated to Robert Kennedy. First recorded by Dion, it was famously covered by Marvin Gaye and has been covered many times by others. "Abraham, Martin and John" is mellow, sad, polished, catchy and built for AM-gold glory. But the rhetoric of the song ("Has anybody here seen my old friend Martin?" and so on) is a little too smooth.

A better candidate for the best-ever MLK tribute title: Big Maybelle's visceral, angst-ridden dirge, "Heaven Will Welcome You, Dr. King," a searing shriek from the depths of the soul. Unlike "Abraham, Martin and John," "Heaven Will Welcome You, Dr. King" was not designed for AM radio. The lyrics (by Jack Taylor) are very simple. They don't rely on poetic devices. They appear to have been straightforwardly written and recorded while the pain of the moment was still overwhelming.

The song seems to have lain dormant for years. It was released on iTunes and Amazon.com in 2009 on a two-song "album," along with her cover of "Eleanor Rigby" (which certainly deserves to be known by Beatles fans far and wide). "Heaven Will Welcome You, Dr. King" doesn't even sound as if it was fully produced, and that feels appropriate; the rawness of the sound mirrors the rawness of the emotion. It is less pristine, clear-sounding, marketable, music-business commodity than intensely and authentically felt horror and anguish. The anger and sadness in her voice is matched by the playing of the musicians. It adds up to a mighty lament, an expression of darkest funerary gloom, unimpeded by any sweetness or light, evoking the emotions of what that April 1968 morning must have been like.

And such renditions were not Big Maybelle's style, further highlighting its power. Largely forgotten today, she was a rocking and rolling superstar who could belt out a tune like few others. Born Mabel Louise Smith in Jackson, Tenn., in 1924, she died in 1972 at only 47 because of complications from diabetes, after a remarkable career that undoubtedly was held back by bigoted forces of the day, from weight discrimination to racial discrimination.

Music writer David Ritz has called her "the most underrated singer of this entire epoch." Without a doubt, she had one of the most distinctively energetic styles and exciting voices in rhythm and blues. Listen to how she says the word "I" in the lyric "I feel blue" throughout her stunning "Black Is Black." Oh, my! (Sorry, I know, I'm not able to listen to anything else now, either.)

Many people may know her from the documentary Jazz on a Summer's Day (1959), which featured her extraordinary performance of "I Ain't Mad At You" at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1958, where she performed alongside Count Basie Orchestra alums -- the jazz legends Buck Clayton, Papa Jo Jones and Buddy Tate, among others.

Her overall place in the history of jazz has probably been underreported. John Coltrane played with her band for years, from the late 1940s through 1954, before he joined Miles Davis. Prior to Coltrane's fame as a soloist, Big Maybelle is said to have called him her "favorite musician." Her 1956 hit, "Candy," reached new audiences after being featured in a 1986 episode of The Cosby Show. She could also do gospel with an R&B slant (or vice versa), as "Do Lord" shows.

Big Maybelle's obituary in Jet is quite ironic, since it is bifurcated by a story about Coretta Scott King giving an award to and throwing a party for Motown executive Junius Griffin. While that is all well and good, Big Maybelle was one of the few artists at the time who paid tribute to King on vinyl, and certainly the only one who did so with such depth of feeling. Big Maybelle, as you said of Dr. King, "those of us who are lucky gonna see you again one day."

Paul Devlin is a graduate student at SUNY Stony Brook.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

CBC News - Music - Marsalis family named Jazz Masters

CBC News - Music - Marsalis family named Jazz Masters

Jazz pianist Ellis Marsalis Jr. and four of his accomplished musician sons — Wynton, Branford, Delfeayo and Jason — have received the highest jazz honour in the U.S.

The National Endowment for the Arts honoured the family of New Orleans musicians as Jazz Masters at a ceremony Tuesday night in New York, at the Jazz at Lincoln Center's Rose Theater.

The group honour was the first such award presented by the NEA since it launched the award program in 1982.

Also receiving the musical distinction were flutist Hubert Laws, saxophonist David Liebman, composer-arranger Johnny Mandel, and producer and writer Orrin Keepnews.

In the early 1980s, patriarch Marsalis served on the panel that helped choose the first recipients of the award.

"I did get to vote for some of those who became Jazz Masters never really thinking that I would be voted at any time to be one of them," said the 76-year-old champion of modern jazz.

Each Jazz Master will receive a one-time $25,000 fellowship. NEA chair Rocco Landesman also announced a $250,000 US grant to more than a dozen arts organizations in order to stage concerts featured this year's honourees.

The ceremony, which was broadcast live by satellite radio, U.S. public broadcaster NPR and via webcast, included performances by several of the 2011 artists.


Charles Fambrough - R.I.P.

After a long bout battling liver disease and many years of suffering, the great jazz bassist Charles Fambrough passed away on Saturday, January 1, 2011. Fambrough had apparently been awaiting a transplant match. Several musical tributes were held in Philadelphia over the last several years to help Fambrough and his family pay the bassist's outrageous medical expenses.

Philadelphia resident Charles Fambrough was born on August 25, 1950. Fambrough studied classical piano throughout his elementary and high-school years. He gravitated to bass at the age of 13, attempting to imitate Paul Chambers, the first jazz bassist he ever heard. He began studying classical bass in the seventh grade but gave it up in 1968 to begin working in the pit bands for such theatrical productions as You Can't Take it With You and By e-Bye Birdie and, by day, playing on The Mike Douglas Show.

In 1969, Charles began working with a cover band called Andy Aaron's Mean Machine that also featured a young saxophonist by the name of Grover Washington, Jr. A year later, Charles joined Grover Washington's road band, staying with the saxophonist during his popular CTI years. In 1975, Fambrough joined Airto Moreira's band, where he stayed for two years until joining legendary pianist McCoy Tyner's group, playing on Tyner's Focal Point (1977), The Greeting (1978) and Horizon (1979), as well as Rahsaan Roland Kirk's Boogie Woogie String Along For Real (1977)—his earliest known recordings.

Upon leaving Tyner's group, Fambrough hooked up with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers at about the same time Wynton Marsalis was part of the group, recording with the great jazz drummer from 1980 until 1982 and featuring on the pivotal Album of the Year (1981). Fambrough once said “McCoy showed me how to play with endurance. Art gave me refinement.”

He continued, “With McCoy, the gig is about speed and strength. He plays so much stuff that you're lucky if you're heard, so you struggle to keep up with him. But with Art it was a lot different. He heard every note you played and if there was anything raggedy, he immediately let you know about it. He really taught you how to play behind a horn player, how to develop in a rhythm section.”

Surprisingly, Charles Fambrough made his own solo recording debut on Creed Taylor's famed CTI Records in 1991 with The Proper Angle, an excellent, star-studded affair featuring Wynton Marsalis (who featured Fambrough in his first band in 1982) and Roy Hargrove on trumpet, Branford Marsalis and Joe Ford (who first met Fambrough on a McCoy Tyner gig 13 years earlier) on sax, the late, lamented Kenny Kirkland on piano, Jeff “Tain” Watts on drums (both Kirkland and Watts featured with Fambrough in a trio at the time dubbed “Jazz From Keystone”) and Steve Barrios, Mino Cinelu and Jerry Gonzalez on percussion. The record is the first bassist-led date on CTI Records since the legendary Ron Carter in 1976 and it's clear that Fambrough, like Carter, was a bassist who could lead an interesting jazz record of his own. It also ranks among the very best the label issued during its 1989-98 resurgence.

The Proper Angle was not only one of CTI's only straight-ahead albums of the time, it also showcased some of jazz's best young lions at the top of their game. It surely proved that Fambrough was a tremendously capable leader adept at helming a band of great improvisers who worked beautifully well together and it introduced the bassist's amazing facility for interesting composition (”The Dreamer,” “Sand Jewels,” “Broski,” the bassist's nickname from his Jazz Messenger days, “Dolores Carla Maria,” named for Fambrough's wife and widow, a singer of great renown in her own right, “Earthlings,” “The Proper Angle,” “One for Honor,” originally written for McCoy Tyner's Horizon, and the beautifully titled “Our Father Who Art Blakey,” named for the drummer who had passed away the year before).

Fambrough issued two more records on CTI, The Charmer (1992), featuring Roy Hargrove on trumpet, Kenny Garrett on alto sax, pianists Bill O'Connell, Kenny Kirkland and Abdullah Ibrahim (!), drummers Jeff “Tain” Watts, Billy Drummond and Yoron Israel (!) on drums and a reunion on three tracks with Grover Washington, Jr., and the splendiferously excellent live album Blues at Bradley's (1993) featuring Donald Harrison, Steve Turre, Joe Ford, Bill O'Connell, Bobby Broom, Ricky Sebastian and Steve Berrios. These records remain the undisputed highpoint of CTI in the nineties.

Several other discs under Charles Fambrough's name also appeared, including Keep of the Spirit (AudioQuest, 1995), City Tribes (Evidence, 1995), Upright Citizen (NuGroove, 1997) and Charles Fambrough Live @ Zanzibar Blue (Random Chance, 2002). The bassist also continued to appear on a wide array of discs by others, including Pharoah Sanders (Crescent with Love), Bill O'Connell (including the pianist's great CTI album Lost Voices), Ernie Watts (Reaching Up), Kevin Mahogany (My Romance) and the jazz-rock cover bands Beatlejazz and Stonejazz.

In recent years, health problems prevented Charles Fambrough from participating as much as he once had on the recording scene. But he continued playing around his hometown as much as possible and was one of the bassists featured on drummer/composer Lenny White's 2010 album Anomoly (Abstract Logix).

A fellow musician and Fambrough friend, pianist, composer and educator George Colligan, said on his jazztruth blog today that “Charles had health issues for many of his last years, but it never seemed to deter him from his passion for music. He talked about his condition like it was a minor nuisance. He seemed determined to press on despite his health.”

There was something undeniably special about the sound Charles Fambrough made. While you never got the sense that his bass was leading the music's charge, you often stopped to wonder exactly what drove the music he was port of to be as magnificently magnetic as it was. Simple consideration reveals just how emphatic and empathic his role in the music was.

Fellow bassist Ron Carter has stated that he doesn't like his playing to be considered an anchor, something that holds a vessel from moving. Bassists hear that kind of thing all the time, and it's no wonder Carter resents it.

When listening to Charles Fambrough, it's clear that a good bassist propels the music where it needs to go. It's a shame that the music will no longer be propelled by Charles Fambrough, an inventive and imaginative bassist and one of the finest of “the young lions” who emerged in jazz's new traditionalism of the early 1980s.

The Associated Press: Marsalis Family among 2011 NEA Jazz Masters

Ellis Marsalis with one of his famous sons, Br...Image via WikipediaThe Associated Press: Marsalis Family among 2011 NEA Jazz Masters

NEW YORK (AP) — America's first family of jazz — patriarch Ellis Marsalis Jr. and four of his sons — were presented the nation's highest jazz honor Tuesday night at the 2011 National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Awards Ceremony.
It marked the first time the NEA had ever presented a group award since it launched its Jazz Masters program in 1982. The other 2011 Jazz Masters honored in the concert at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Rose Theater were flutist Hubert Laws, saxophonist and educator David Liebman, composer-arranger Johnny Mandel, and record producer and author Orrin Keepnews.

Pianist Ellis Marsalis, 76, who championed modern jazz in his native New Orleans and as an educator mentored not only his sons but such future stars as Harry Connick Jr. and Terence Blanchard, said the award had special meaning to him because he was a member of the NEA jazz panel that chose some of the first Jazz Masters in the '80s.
"I did get to vote for some of those who became Jazz Masters never really thinking that I would be voted at any time to be one of them," said Marsalis.
Then turning toward the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra — with its leader, his son Wynton, seated in the trumpet section — a proud Marsalis said New Orleans might be the "birthplace" of jazz, "but we don't have this in New Orleans."
The elder Marsalis was then joined by his sons, Wynton (trumpet), Branford (saxophone), Delfeayo (trombone) and the youngest Jason (drums), to play Jason's composition "At The House, In Da Pocket."

Earlier in the program, Wynton's warm trumpet sound was featured in a performance of Mandel's Oscar-winning song "The Shadow of Your Smile," with the composer conducting the JALC Orchestra.

Mandel, 85, who went from playing trumpet and trombone and arranging for jazz big bands to become one of Hollywood's leading film composers, said that since 2005 he has been leading his own big band for the first time.
"I never wanted to lead a band at any time and I discovered I'm having the time of my life," Mandel told the audience.
Saxophonist Benny Golson, a fellow Jazz Master, introduced Mandel as "a man who writes not only with his pen but with his heart."
"I fantasize sometimes and I think that if everybody in the world knew Johnny Mandel's music, there wouldn't be any more wars," Golson said. "Who could fight after listening to beautiful music like that."

Liebman, 64, said he felt "privileged to be here" with fellow Jazz Masters who "were my inspirations, my teachers and in some cases people I've worked with." The soprano saxophonist paid tribute to his former bandleader Miles Davis by performing a medley of "Summertime" and "There's A Boat Dat's Leavin' Soon For New York" in honor of Davis and arranger Gil Evans' 1958 "Porgy and Bess" album.

Laws, 71, decided that rather than "babbling on" in an acceptance speech, he would speak through his music by playing the standard ballad "Stella By Starlight" in a duet with Jazz Master and pianist Kenny Barron, in which the flutist drew on his classical as well as jazz background.
Tenor saxophonist and Jazz Master Jimmy Heath, who recorded his first albums as a leader for Keepnews' Riverside record label which also released LPs by Sonny Rollins, Thelonious Monk and Bill Evans, introduced the 87-year-old as a producer who "allowed the musicians artistic freedom." The JALC Orchestra performed "Re: Person I Knew" from a 1974 Bill Evans album produced by Keepnews.

Heath also accompanied Italian singer Roberta Gambarini in a special performance of "Angel Face," a tune composed by pianist Hank Jones with lyrics by singer Abbey Lincoln. That was part of a poignant tribute honoring four Jazz Masters who died last year — Jones, Lincoln, saxophonist James Moody, and pianist and educator Billy Taylor.
The awards ceremony was broadcast live by Sirius XM Satellite Radio, WBGO radio and NPR Music, which brought this year's concert its biggest audience ever, said NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman. He also announced a $250,000 grant to 15 arts organizations to present concerts featuring Jazz Masters — each of whom also receives a one-time $25,000 fellowship.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Monster Meets Miles, Again - NYTimes.com

Author: I found in an old box some of my past ...Image via WikipediaMonster Meets Miles, Again - NYTimes.com

Monster Meets Miles, Again

By STEPHEN WILLIAMS
The “Head Monster” was decidedly restrained at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. And that might be a first.

Noel Lee, the head of Monster Cable who is well known for his glitzy parties during the annual electronics extravaganza and his fondness for celebrity, was chairman of an uncharacteristically low-key news conference, where he shared the stage with the ghost of a legendary, and long gone, jazz musician.

The “Miles Davis Trumpet” headphones led the news announcements from Mr. Lee, who claimed that Monster has “exploded” the headphone category and is now “the leader” in it. Just three month ago, Monster unveiled a slew of new headphone products and a speaker dock.

The new $350 “Trumpet” earbuds are the second product of an alliance between Monster and the estate of Mr. Davis, who died in 1991. The first were the $500 “Miles Davis Tribute” headphones, which were released about a year ago and, as Mr. Lee conceded, may have been a bit too rich for most tastes. The new model, to go on sale next month, is rather stunning, with blue-and-gold accents and an inline control pod that mimics the look of a trumpet’s piston valves.

Monster has been aggressive in the past about licensing personalities for its products — rapper Dr. Dre, Lady Gaga, well-known producer Jimmy Iovine are among them. At the news conference, there was a cutout the N.B.A. star Yao Ming, a reference to a line of “Yao Monster” goodies, ranging from home theater and gaming gear to headphones. They are made for the Chinese market, where Mr. Ming is revered.

At last year’s C.E.S., Mr. Lee was joined by Dr. Dre, Ms. Gaga and hosted a concert featuring John Legend and Stevie Wonder. That was a typical Monster event.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The Root Interview: Judith Jamison on Leaving Alvin Ailey

Dancer Clifton Brown in a promotional poster f...Image via WikipediaThe Root Interview: Judith Jamison on Leaving Alvin Ailey

By: Valerie Gladstone
Posted: January 5, 2011 at 12:39 AM
After 21 years with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, renowned director Judith Jamison is saying farewell. She spoke to The Root about some of her greatest moments, challenges and accomplishments.

Judith Jamison has an awful lot of which to be proud. Under her leadership, begun in 1989 after the death of choreographer Alvin Ailey, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has become one of the most popular and distinguished dance companies in the world. It has performed for more than 23 million people in 48 states and in 71 countries on six continents, including two historic residencies in South Africa. In 2003 it opened the $50 million Joan Weill Center for Dance, the nation's largest building dedicated to dance. She has been awarded the National Medal of Honor, named to Time magazine's 2009 list of the world's 100 most influential people and received the 2010 Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's prestigious Phoenix Award, among many other honors.

In July she steps down as artistic director, handing the reins to choreographer Robert Battle, whom she selected as her successor. But she will not disappear quietly. On Jan. 2 the company held a joyous farewell program for her, with more than 10 works performed by current and past members. And in the next months, she will accompany the troupe on a 24-city tour, starting with a stint at the Kennedy Center from Feb. 1 to 6, to introduce Battle to audiences around the country.

The Root caught up with Jamison on New Year's Day, a day before the farewell program, as she recuperated from a cold.

The Root: What have been your greatest moments as director?

Judith Jamison: Watching my dancers grow. I felt it was my whole purpose to help them develop as artists. It thrilled me to see them change and become incredible performers before my very eyes. It fills my heart to see them transformed onstage. They work so long and hard to achieve that. It's a very intimate experience to witness, like watching your child grow up.

TR: What did it feel like to take on this responsibility after Alvin passed?

JJ: There wasn't any time to think, really. There was so much to do. I just put my head down and went.

TR: What helped you through?

JJ: Although I wasn't aware of it then, I think my training as a dancer. Somehow it was innate in me. Running the company didn't seem foreign. Part of that again had to do with people around me, the staff and dancers. And some of it had to do with Alvin. He was so grounded -- things flowed naturally from him. We flowed from that. And then, of course, my faith.

TR: What do you consider your greatest accomplishments?

JJ: Getting our building up. The Ailey camps for inner cities all over the country, which I want to proliferate. The B.F.A. program with Fordham University, which allows Ailey students to get their degrees from Fordham. But I have to say they were not my accomplishments alone -- they wouldn't have been possible without my incredible staff. They often had the ideas and just ran them by me for approval.


TR: In relation to the dancers, what are you proud of?

JJ: Bringing in choreographers to challenge them, choreographers like Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Ronald K. Brown, Mauro Bigonzetti, Rennie Harris, Maurice Béjart, John Butler and, of course, Robert Battle. By working with such a diverse group of artists, they've learned all different kinds of styles, and became more flexible as a result. They can literally do anything.

TR: What has been most challenging about leading the company?

JJ: To keep pace with the growth of the organization. It was small when I took over. It's blossomed into a huge artistic endeavor.

TR: What do you plan to do after you step down?

JJ: I'll have a desk at the company for at least a year and check into the classes and rehearsals, coach and keep up with things. One way or another, I'll continue to educate and entertain -- that's my mantra.

TR: Are you excited about going on tour?

JJ: I love being with the dancers in different theaters, hearing the audiences' reactions, catching up with old friends. And it's wonderful to see everything come together, the crew, the wardrobe, all of it creating one beautiful package. But the logistics -- the madness of preparation, the airports, the buses, staying in hotels -- not at all. I wish I could get there by osmosis. That they could beam me into cities so I didn't have to do the traveling. Remember, I started on the road as a dancer in 1964. It's been a long time.

Valerie Gladstone, who writes about the arts for many publications, including the New York Times, recently co-authored a children's book with Jose Ivey, A Young Dancer: The Life of an Ailey Student.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

John McLaughlin: On Coltrane And Spirituality In Music : NPR


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John McLaughlin performing at the Crossroads G...Image via WikipediaJohn McLaughlin: On Coltrane And Spirituality In Music : NPR

Guitarist John McLaughlin never saw saxophonist John Coltrane perform. The jazz icon died in 1967, before McLaughlin had the chance. But Coltrane's historic 1965 album A Love Supreme has inspired every twist and turn of McLaughlin's career since he first heard it.

"It took me, actually, a year of listening to that record almost every day to finally hear what [Coltrane] was doing musically," McLaughlin says. "The least I can say is that he was very advanced, as a human being and a musician.

"The second thing, and perhaps the more significant, was the poem on the back of the album — the LP, in those days," McLaughlin says. "This record arrived in my hands at a very significant time in my life, when I was starting to ask myself these fundamental questions about life and death, existence — you know, the big questions we all address to ourselves sooner or later. This poem had such a wonderful effect on me. It was so inspiring and encouraging to me as a young seeker at that time, that I knew the music was really, in a more elegant and eloquent way, speaking about what he wrote about. But I couldn't hear it."


Music video for John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension's "The Fine Line."
Source: YouTube
In an interview with Weekend Edition host Liane Hansen, McLaughlin says that the great achievement of A Love Supreme was to integrate a spiritual dimension into the world of jazz music. Now, the guitarist has recorded an album inspired by his passion for Coltrane's masterwork. It's called To the One, and it was recently nominated for a Grammy in the Best Contemporary Jazz Album category.

McLaughlin says he didn't intend to make a Coltrane tribute. But once the music on To the One had been written, he says, it reminded him of his discovery of A Love Supreme in 1965.

"About two months following [the composition of the album], I woke up in the middle of the night with the liner notes in my mind, and all the titles of the pieces," McLaughlin says. "I just woke up [with it] all in my mind — very peculiar experience. I woke up and they'd been dictated to me. If you can explain it, I would be very happy to hear it."