Contact Me By Email

Atlanta, GA Weather from Weather Underground

Jackie McLean

John H. Armwood Jazz History Lecture Nashville's Cheekwood Arts Center 1989

Thursday, December 30, 2010

VOA | Remembering Jazz 'Ambassador' Dr. Billy Taylor | USA | English

VOA | Remembering Jazz 'Ambassador' Dr. Billy Taylor | USA | English

Jazz pianist, composer, arranger, and educator Dr. Billy Taylor died of heart failure December 28 in New York City. He was 89. Dr. Taylor was also an author, lecturer, radio and television commentator, and an international ambassador of jazz.

When he wasn't presenting lectures or producing jazz programs on network television, Billy Taylor spent his free time composing and performing jazz. He appeared on more than 40 recordings, mostly with trios and quartets. He was 67 years old when he released his first album on his own label, Taylor-Made. 

Billy Taylor was born in Greenville, North Carolina on July 21, 1921. He began taking piano lessons from one of his uncles at age seven. Two of his greatest influences were jazz pianists Fats Waller and Art Tatum. But, Taylor once said it was a little-known musician who had the most impact on his music.
Duke Ellington, left, and jazz pianist Billy Taylor shake hands on New York's Jazzmobile during a visit by the Ellington Band to the city's Harlem section in the early 1970s
Duke Ellington, left, and jazz pianist Billy Taylor shake hands on New York's Jazzmobile during a visit by the Ellington Band to the city's Harlem section in the early 1970s
"There was a man named Henry Grant, who was a confidante of Duke Ellington, who was a wonderful pianist and composer who opened the door for me, in terms of understanding the similarities between the impressionistic school of music and some of the things that Duke Ellington and other jazz musicians were doing," Taylor said.

Billy Taylor earned a degree in music from Virginia State College in 1942. Two years later, he moved to New York City and landed a job with the house band at the famed Birdland nightclub. He played piano there until 1951 when he formed the Billy Taylor Trio. Members of his trio included bassists Charles Mingus and Oscar Pettiford, as well as drummer Billy Cobham. In 1969, he became the first African American band director for a network television series, "The David Frost Show."

In addition to his work as a composer and performer, Billy Taylor was one of jazz's most dedicated supporters. He founded Jazzmobile, an organization that produces inner-city jazz concerts. He also hosted a weekly jazz program on public radio called "Jazz Alive"; he produced stories on jazz for the television magazine news show "CBS Sunday Morning"; and he was the Artistic Advisor for Jazz at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Taylor explained that his love for jazz came from his expertise on the piano and from performing.

"Everything that I've done stems from those two things; the fact that I love to play the piano and I love to perform for people," he said. "I also like to write music which other people play."

Billy Taylor received "Down Beat" magazine's Lifetime Achievement Award, and he was inducted into the International Association of Jazz Educator's Hall of Fame. He won a Grammy Award, two Peabody Awards, and an Emmy Award for his "CBS Sunday Morning" segment on Quincy Jones. In 1996, he performed in an all-star jazz tribute to his close friend, VOA jazz host Willis Conover.
FILE - In this Nov. 5, 2007 file photo, musician Billy Taylor arrives for the 2007 Library Lions Benefit at the New York Public Library
FILE - In this Nov. 5, 2007 file photo, musician Billy Taylor arrives for the 2007 Library Lions Benefit at the New York Public Library
Billy's gift for teaching earned him a Doctorate in Music Education from the University of Massachusetts. Until his death, he was a visiting professor at numerous American universities. He took an active interest in teaching jazz to younger students. He once remarked that today's school children have fewer opportunities to learn music in the classroom.

They don't get an opportunity to have access to musical instruments as I did when I was in public school," he said. "They don't have enough music teachers because most communities don't realize that the aesthetic part of the human being, the ability to express oneself through the arts is a very important part of growing up."

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Post Mortem - Jazz great Billy Taylor, pianist, educator & media personality, dies at 89

Billy TaylorCover of Billy TaylorPost Mortem - Jazz great Billy Taylor, pianist, educator & media personality, dies at 89

Billy Taylor, one of the musical treasures of Washington and the world, died last night, Dec. 28, at a hospital in New York City. He was 89 and died of a heart attack.

Dr. Taylor, as he was known to one and all, was a first-rate jazz pianist who grew up in Washington and was a graduate of Dunbar High School. He moved to New York in the early 1940s and was present at the birth of bebop, the new vernacular of music that transformed jazz. He played alongside Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis and became a protege of the greatest jazz pianist ever, Art Tatum.

In the 1950s, Dr. Taylor began to branch out into broadcasting with a television series, "The Subject Is Jazz," and with radio programs. He appeared on CBS over the years, particuarly on "CBS Sunday Morning," interviewing and performing many of the great artists in jazz.

Dr. Taylor -- who earned a doctorate in education, by the way -- had been the artistic adviser for jazz programming at the Kennedy Center and was a constant presence at concerts at the center. He often performed with his own trio and other groups and helped make the Kennedy Center one of the most important venues for jazz in America. He launched the annual Women in Jazz Festival at the Kennedy Center and was instrumental in developing other concert series.

For several years, he was the host of an NPR series, "Billy Taylor's Jazz at the Kennedy Center," and many people considered him the foremost jazz educator of his -- or any -- time.

Dr. Taylor received every award there is in jazz and the arts, including the National Medal of Arts in 1992, and was designated a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1988.

I knew Dr. Taylor somewhat, and I treasure the memory of visiting him once at the Watergate hotel, interrupting him as he was practicing on an electric piano in his room. We sat and talked for more than an hour for background for a story you can find here

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Jazz to be honored with postage stamp in 2011 | | Local News

Jazz to be honored with postage stamp in 2011 | | Local News

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Postal Service has honored New Orleanians Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton and Mahalia Jackson with postage stamps in the past. Now, it will honor the music born in their hometown – jazz – with a postage stamp of its own in 2011.

The jazz stamp was among 25 new stamps unveiled Tuesday, to be offered for sale in 2011. No date was given for the jazz stamp’s release, however.

“With this stamp, the U.S. Postal Service is proud to pay tribute to jazz, America’s musical gift to the world, and to the musicians who play it in studios, clubs, or concert halls, and on festival stages,” postal authorities said in a news release, which properly mentions New Orleans as the birthplace of the music.

The stamp features the work of a California artist, Paul Rogers, and was designed by art director Howard Paine, postal officials said.
Author Mark Twain, whose time as a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi River and in New Orleans helped shape his writings, will also be honored with a 2011 postage stamp, which goes on sale in June.

Other commemorative stamps unveiled Tuesday include one honoring former President Ronald Reagan, actors Gregory Peck and Helen Hayes, legends of Latin music and the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500.
In addition, former U.S. Congresswoman from Texas Barbara Jordan is the 2011 Black Heritage stamp honoree. Stamps will also be issued to observe the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, the 50th anniversary of America’s first manned spaceflight and a celebration of Disney Pixar movie characters.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Jazz Articles: Trudy Pitts Dies at 78 — By Evan Haga — Jazz Articles

Trudy PittsCover of Trudy PittsJazz Articles: Trudy Pitts Dies at 78 — By Evan Haga — Jazz Articles

Trudy Pitts, a classically trained pianist who became a prominent jazz organist and an important music educator in Philadelphia, died there on Dec. 19. The cause of death was pancreatic cancer, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Pitts was 78.

Pitts was something of an anomaly in the organ-jazz tradition that found a natural home in Philadelphia in the middle of the 20th century. One of jazz’s most populist and accessible schools, organ jazz had much to do with machismo and intuition: Drenched in the blues and gospel, organ trios became the jazz equivalent of rock ’n’ roll bar bands with their danceable swing and rousing displays of chops. On paper, Pitts probably shouldn’t have excelled in the idiom like she did. As Chris Kelsey reported in his 2007 Overdue Ovation, Pitts started on piano at age 6, eventually studying to become a concert pianist at Juilliard. She hadn’t played much jazz or, for that matter, B3 organ when she was considered to replace Shirley Scott in a group led by drummer Bill “Mr. C” Carney, whom Pitts would marry in 1958, three years after they met. But by the time she signed with the Prestige label and issued a string of LPs in 1967 and ’68, her mastery of the Hammond B3 was indisputable, and her sound was a thing apart from other Philly-born or -based organ greats, among them Scott, Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff and Charles Earland.

Dust off Introducing the Fabulous Trudy Pitts and bear witness. With guitarist Pat Martino and Carney in tow, she cooks on Paul Desmond’s “Take Five” and a version of “It Was a Very Good Year” whose swing snowballs in urgency and intensity. On “Steppin’ in Minor,” also released as a 45, she simmers through one lyrically soulful chorus after another. Pitts’ flowing touch belied her classical training but didn’t impede the requisite blues sensibility in her playing, and, unlike so many of her peers, she didn’t overplay. For jazz-piano fans who think they don’t dig organ, she might be an excellent introduction. She tended not to overindulge in the Hammond’s idiomatic elements; in other words, static-chord squalling is thankfully less prevalent.

Introducing’s follow-up, These Blues of Mine, showcased Pitts as a player as well as a competent singer, taking her colorful vibrato to period pop like “Eleanor Rigby” and “The House of the Rising Sun.” But those covers aren’t the record’s highlight: An instrumental take on another pop staple, Burt Bacharach’s “What the World Needs Now Is Love,” flaunts a groove so buoyant and fun you can only imagine how many packed bars it brought alive. As a sideperson Pitts played on Martino’s 1967 debut as a leader, El Hombre (Prestige), now part of the jazz-guitar canon, and recorded with Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Pitts appeared on the saxophonist’s ambitiously arranged Other Folks’ Music, contributing a composition, “Anysha,” and playing acoustic and electric piano. And on his Warner Bros. debut, Return of the 5000 Lb. Man, Pitts (on organ) and Mr. C bolstered Kirk through Sammy Fain’s “I’ll Be Seeing You.” Extra material from Return was used on Kirk’s next release, Kirkatron, and Pitts played organ on an arrangement of Mel Tormé’s “The Christmas Song.”

Nick Ruechel
Trudy Pitts

Despite not recording for name labels after those Kirk dates in the mid-’70s, Pitts stayed active on organ and piano, and became a mentor figure in Philadelphia and an adjunct associate professor at the city’s University of the Arts, where she began teaching in 1991. She also performed regularly with her long-standing personal and musical partner, Mr. C, releasing a live trio recording from an SFJAZZ gig on the Doodlin’ label in 2007.

For the 2006 compilation Pianadelphia (Turtle), Pitts recorded a version of “Naima” on the 88s that is stunning in its rhapsodic, classically tinged gentility; laying it side-by-side with fellow Philadelphian McCoy Tyner’s typically clangorous version from 2009’s Solo (Half Note) makes for a stunning comparison.

Speaking on the phone earlier today from his home in Philadelphia, Pat Martino remembered Pitts as both player and person. When asked how Pitts’ conservatory training was evident in her technique, he recalled “her facility regarding time signatures, to be able to play in 7/4 or 9/4 or 11/8, or any of these odd time signatures, at a very early date.

“This was in the ’60s,” he continued, “[and] she was writing compositions of that nature.” (Pitts composed “Count Nine,” in 9/4, for 1967’s These Blues of Mine.)

The guitarist also commented on the profundity of the relationship Pitts and Carney shared, in their personal as well as musical lives. “When you ask a question like, ‘How was Trudy as a person?’” he said, “you’re asking, ‘How were both of them together?’ whether you know it or you don’t. Because they were always together, and I’m sure they still are, in many ways.”

And, referring to their enduring trio: “When they brought in a new member, that new member had to learn them.” Martino reflected that joining their group in the ’60s, when he was a competitive, ambitious young player, taught him an important lesson in selflessness and accommodation.

In 2006, Pitts became the first jazz artist to play the Dobson pipe organ at Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. To read more about that and Pitts’ life and work, check out Chris Kelsey’s Overdue Ovation. Also be sure and check out the recent tribute piece by JT contributor David R. Adler in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

According to the Inquirer, Pitts is survived by Carney and their son and daughter. In a digital biography produced by Slife Productions, Pitts recalled the difficulties of being a parent and a working musician simultaneously. “I was an old-fashioned mother and an artist, and that presented me with quite a few problems,” she said.

“But it was good because it helped me to be able to be multi-faceted. … I think I’ve been an extraordinary mother.”

Monday, December 20, 2010

Eight Jazz Composers Selected To Have Works Performed By Orchestra : A Blog Supreme : NPR

Eight Jazz Composers Selected To Have Works Performed By Orchestra : A Blog Supreme : NPR

Over the summer, Columbia University hosted the Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute, a collaborative effort between its Center for Jazz Studies and the American Composers Orchestra. Around 30 composers in the field of jazz were invited to participate in a week's worth of seminars and workshops to learn about orchestral techniques, as recently reported on Weekend Edition and in an earlier post.

Knowledge may be its own reward, but there was also a tasty carrot for those who attended: Eight of the composers would be selected to have their works performed in public readings by the ACO in June 2011. A Blog Supreme is honored to announce those winners:

Harris Eisenstadt
Adam Jenkins
Erica Lindsay
Nicole Mitchell
Rufus Reid
Jacob Sacks
Marianne Trudel
Volker Goetze and Joel Harrison were selected as alternates.

In order to be considered, each composer was required to submit a score with a short sample of his or her work-in-progress and a cover letter that served as a proposal. For example, Mitchell explained in her letter that Flights for Freedom, a multi-movement work inspired by Harriet Tubman, will "utilize concepts of improvisation within the orchestra through guided notation that gives non-improvising classical players a comfortable approach." Mitchell further elaborated that the musicians will be given phrases to play "at will and in their own tempo against the time that the conductor will be presenting," reflecting the kind of flexibility and spontaneity that were keys to Tubman's success.

Many of the eight will be grappling with that same issue: how to create new concepts and frameworks for improvisation in the score-bound symphony orchestra. What exactly the pieces will sound like remains to be seen, but, then again, that should always be true. If all goes according to plan, no two performances will ever be the same.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Don Cheadle Might Play Miles Davis - BlackBook

Miles DavisImage via WikipediaDon Cheadle Might Play Miles Davis - BlackBook

Don Cheadle is gunning for a role he seems all but destined to play in a long-planned biopic of the famed jazz musician Miles Davis. Last week, the actor attended a party atop the swank Thompson Beverly Hills hotel for the release of a 40th-anniversary edition of “Bitches Brew” as a guest of the Davis estate. “I was invited by the family,” Davis told us as he looked out over Los Angeles. “We’ve become friends over the years.”

Cheadle and screenwriter Steven Baigelman recently finished a script that seems designed for awards attention - once it’s actually made. “Davis was his own person and his own artist,” Cheadle, long producers’ top choice for the role of Davis, said with the kind of cool detachment the master musician would have approved of. “There were a lot of other musicians in that era who got stuck, but he never did.”
He went on to draw parallels between the craft of acting and Davis’ art, jazz. “You have to be aware of where you are at all times and be able to respond quickly,” he said of performing. “All his music is in heavy rotation in my house,” he said. “I have love for all music: jazz, Hip-Hop, funk, R&B. But Miles was the granddaddy.” So will we see Cheadle in the role anytime soon? That all depends on a studio stepping up and facing the proverbial music.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Don Cheadle: Time is right for Miles Davis Biopic | Reuters

Don Cheadle: Time is right for Miles Davis Biopic | Reuters

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Don Cheadle is hoping Hollywood jumps aboard the Miles Davis train.

The "Iron Man 2" actor helped shape the screenplay for a Davis biopic in which he would star as the legendary jazz trumpeter and musical innovator. Herbie Hancock has reportedly been tapped to score the film.

"We just turned in the script and we're going to find some money to make this thing," Cheadle told The Hollywood Reporter at a party to celebrate the 40th anniversary of "Bitches Brew," Davis' game-changing improvisational double album.

"Now is a good time, 10 years ago would have been a good time, and 10 years from now it will still be a good time to see a dynamic, entertaining movie that's wall-to-wall Miles Davis where the music will hopefully spark some desire to know more about the man."

Said screenwriter Steven Vegelman: "There would not be a screenplay without Don Cheadle. We've had our nose to the ground doing a lot of researching, talking, walking, watching and listening ... It's been an enlightening experience, to say the least."

Being so close to the project posed extra pressure for Cheadle, who's not just a friend to Davis' son Erin and the estate, but a diehard fan.

"We're trying to do what Miles Davis would have wanted us to do, which is approach it as artists with his life as the canvas," Cheadle said. "In being successful, some people say he sold out, but it's the opposite. You can stay in one place forever and try to make the same money from the same core fans, but saying to your audience, 'I'm going here now, come along or don't,' that's brave, risky and dangerous. That's what he did, and that's what we're trying to honor in this story -- that kind of spirit."

"Miles was at a juncture in his life where, if he didn't rediscover the art, he would die," added Vegelman. "And Don has this point of view about bringing in other hip-hop artists, to play with Miles Davis' music so the idea is for somebody to hear Jay-Z's version then turn to the original to learn more about Miles Davis."

That's a hypothetical Jay-Z, as the rapper has yet to be secured for the project, but Cheadle has plenty of artists in mind to play some sort of role in the biopic. "When Miles left this Earth (in 1991), he was already working with Prince, Snoop Dogg understands the music ... Miles always wanted to do what was happening now. If you said the word 'jazz' to him, he'd give you a smack -- social music, that's what it's called."

Promising a movie that's "on the edge and feels a little bit dangerous," the two are hoping studios both major and indie will appreciate the need to recognize the legendary musician with an atypical biopic. "I think audiences are really sophisticated now and can understand that this is the kind of story that flips the biography on its head."

Music Review: The Modern Jazz Quartet - Under the Jasmin Tree/Space (Original Recording Remastered)

Music Review: The Modern Jazz Quartet - Under the Jasmin Tree/Space (Original Recording Remastered)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Last updated 8:22 p.m. PT


The Modern Jazz Quartet had their origins in trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie's orchestra where vibraphonist Milt Jackson, pianist John Lewis, and drummer Kenny Clarke played together. Bassist Percy Heath completed the foursome in 1952 and then Clarke was replaced by Connie Kay in 1955. For a brief time, they were signed with the Beatles' label, Apple Records and recorded two albums Under the Jazmin Tree and Space, which have been remastered and are now available as digital downloads and together on a single CD.

The former is comprised of four tracks. A few seconds into "The Blue Necklace," the music sounds like the listener is descending slowly, bringing to mind Alice falling down the rabbit hole. The drums are joined by something being shaken that sounds like wooden wind chimes. The vibes deliver some high notes but then for me the whole thing falls apart at 1:48 when a bell is repeatedly struck, resulting grating high-pitched tones. It's unfortunate not only because there's some great interplay between the piano and vibes, but I all can think of is this tortuous bell is ringing out like the beating of a tell-tale heart. The damn thing finally stop at 4:21 but it's too late at that point, as I never want to hear this song again.

"Three Little Feeling (Part I, II, III)" really lets everyone shine over the course of 14 minutes in three movement running three, six, and five minutes. After the quartet plays for a few seconds, the vibes drop away and the drummer switches to brushes. The Bass stands out and then vibes return. The piano solos and someone humming can be faintly heard. Cymbals are the first to return; the bass joins in to help push the pace. Vibes then come in and dominate the arrangement. A crescendo builds and then falls away. After a moment of silence, the bell briefly returns but thankfully goes away after a few strikes and then they continue their interplay. Odd that the title refers to three feeling because many emotions flow through the track or maybe that's just my response.

"Exposure" follows in a similar vein as different members come to the forefront while the others offer support. "Jasmine Tree" hearkens back to "Blue Necklace" as the bell returns and is played incessantly. It's unfortunate because the piece has such joy from the handclap accompaniment but again all I can think of is when is this song going to be over so I don't have to hear that damn bell any longer. It's an excruciating 3:43 by the time it does, but the handclaps fall away as well. A slow fade out ends the song and that album.

The next five tracks are from Space, and opening track "Visitor From Venus" certainly has a spacey sound; the engineer augmenting it with effects and playing with tapes. At one point, the vibes have a high pitch reminiscent of a child's music box. The humming returns a little past the halfway point at 3:35. The piano has some nice runs, evoking a comet soaring across the expanse of space, while the vibes steps back.

I enjoyed that visitor but can't say the same for the "Visitor From Mars" because that cursed bell returns. At this point in the CD, I consider making my own mixtape removing all the tracks where that damn bell is played. Gadzooks, it's maddening, and I can't believe no one else in the group thought so as it nearly drives me mad. Thankfully, it falls away at 1:38 but felt like it had been running much longer.

The space theme stops there, and the band returns to a more traditional jazz sound of rhythm section playing under with the vibe and piano leads. They start with Van Heusen/Burke's ballad "Here's That Rainy Day from the musical Carnival Of Flanders, then play Miljenko Prohaska's "Dilemma" in the same manner, although the latter gets a little spacey in the closing seconds as the cymbals ring out underneath the echo-effected vibes.

The original album concluded with their interpretation of Spanish composer Joaquín Rodrigo's "Adagio From Concierto De Aranjuez," which was written for classical guitar and orchestra. It's an intriguing take as the familiar tune is presented through their perspective, though it doesn’t fit with the rest of the album. Would have been better paired with other classical covers.

Likely in deference to their label bosses at the time, they recorded a version of the Beatles' "Yesterday" during the Space sessions, which has preciously been unreleased. It reminds me of Vince Guaraldi.

While these are talented men, the choice and execution of the bell in some songs has me rejecting this collection, almost with an air of hostility due to how off-putting it is. But don't let that keep you from checking out other songs on Under the Jasmin Tree and Space.

Monday, December 13, 2010

MPU 039: Workflows with Paul Kent and Macworld 2011 « Mac Power Users

MPU 039: Workflows with Paul Kent and Macworld 2011 « Mac Power Users

Over the past week, news of Aretha Franklin's purported pancreatic cancer diagnosis has given her fans little hope that the Grammy Award-winning R&B singer will return to her reign as Queen of Soul.

But family members are letting the world know that the Grammy Award winning icon's return to the spotlight looks really promising.

"Aretha is doing better than expected. She has a long life in front of her and will be back in concert and on stage late spring or early summer," Franklin's cousin, Brenda Corbett, who has visited her frequently since her hospitalization, told the Detroit Free Press."This girl is doing great, and they need to stop it," she added, referring to the National Enquirer report that noted pancreatic cancer survival rates are a mere 5-10%.

Pancreatic cancer has claimed the lives of several famous people, including Patrick Swayze, Joan Crawford, Michael Landon, as well as Franklin's friend and famed tenor Luciano Pavarotti, whom she paid tribute to at a 1998 Grammy MusiCares benefit.

On Friday (Dec. 10), recent Grammy nominee and 2007 Kennedy Center Living Jazz Legend recipient James Moody died after just ten months of suffering from the deadly disease. According to his spokesperson, the jazz saxophonist and flutist, best known for his hit 'Moody's Mood for Love' was diagnosed in the Spring with the disease and died on Dec.9 at age 85.

Dr. H. Leon Pachter, Chairman of surgery at New York University Langone Medical Center, told CBS News, "It's a grim diagnosis. Overall, the five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer patients is 35 percent." Of last year's 43,000 new cases of pancreatic cancer in the United States, 37,000 people died from the disease, the National Cancer Institute reports.

Pachter did reveal that he's treated patients for the disease who have survived for more than a decade. According to reports, two survival success stories include Apple CEO Steve Jobs and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

Franklin was expected to be released from the hospital over the weekend just in time to spend her favorite holiday, Christmas, with loved ones.

Despite the medical statistics of pancreatic cancer, her family is putting on a united front and staying very positive about her condition.

"Aretha is doing absolutely wonderful," her sister-in-law, Earline Franklin said. "All the prayers and well wishes have supported her, and she's doing well."

The 68 year-old vocal powerhouse is requesting a desire for privacy, which was breached in a phone conversation the former R&B star Keith Washington made public. The 'Kissing You' crooner is currently employed as an on-air personality at Detroit's WDMK/105.9 Kiss FM, which is owned by black-owned media company Radio One.

Corbett confirmed that Franklin will make a statement when she decides to and not at the urging of media or anyone else, for that matter.

"It's her private business, and she's just not ready to talk about it. Give her time to heal. When people ask for their privacy, respect them for that," Corbett added.

As previously reported, Franklin underwent a surgery on Dec.2, which had not been publicly announced but made national headlines after city council members held a public vigil the night before the operation.

A medical surgery known as the whipple procedure, where the head of the pancreas, gall bladder and parts of the stomach and small intestine are removed, is the only way to cure the disease.

Through her current spokesperson, Tracey J. Jordan, Franklin issued a statement saying, "The surgery was highly successful. God is still in control. I had superb doctors and nurses whom were blessed by all the prayers of the city and the country. God bless you all for your prayers!"

Friday, December 10, 2010

James Moody, Jazz Saxophonist, Dies at 85 -

James Moody, Jazz Saxophonist, Dies at 85 -


James Moody, a jazz saxophonist and flutist celebrated for his virtuosity, his versatility and his onstage ebullience, died on Thursday in San Diego. He was 85 and lived in San Diego.

His death, at a hospice in San Diego, was confirmed by his wife, Linda.

In November 2010, Mr. Moody revealed that he had pancreatic cancer and had decided against receiving chemotherapy or radiation treatment. He underwent surgery in February to have his gall bladder and blockage in his digestive system removed.

Mr. Moody, who began his career with the trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie shortly after World War II and maintained it well into the 21st century, developed distinctive and equally fluent styles on both tenor and alto saxophone, a relatively rare accomplishment in jazz. He also played soprano saxophone, and in the mid-1950s he became one of the first significant jazz flutists, impressing the critics if not himself.

“I’m not a flute player,” he told one interviewer. “I’m a flute holder.”

The self-effacing humor of that comment was characteristic of Mr. Moody, who took his music more seriously than he took himself. His fellow musicians admired him for his dexterity, his unbridled imagination and his devotion to his craft, as did critics; reviewing a performance in 1980, Gary Giddins of The Village Voice praised Mr. Moody’s “unqualified directness of expression” and said his improvisations at their best were “mini-epics in which impassioned oracles, comic relief, suspense and song vie for chorus time.” But audiences were equally taken by his ability to entertain.

Defying the stereotype of the modern jazz musician as austere and humorless (and following the example of Gillespie, whom he considered his musical mentor and with whom he worked on and off for almost half a century), Mr. Moody told silly jokes; peppered his repertory with unlikely numbers like “Beer Barrel Polka” and the theme from “The Flintstones”; and often sang. His singing voice was unpolished but enthusiastic, and his noticeable lisp, a result of having been born partly deaf, added to the comic effect.

The song he sang most often had a memorable name and an unusual history. Based on the harmonic structure of “I’m in the Mood for Love,” it began life as an instrumental when Mr. Moody recorded it in Stockholm in 1949, improvising an entirely new melody on a borrowed alto saxophone. Released as “I’m in the Mood for Love” (and credited to that song’s writers) even though his rendition bore only the faintest resemblance to the original tune, it was a modest hit for Mr. Moody in 1951. It became a much bigger hit shortly afterward when the singer Eddie Jefferson wrote lyrics to Mr. Moody’s improvisation and another singer, King Pleasure, recorded it as “Moody’s Mood for Love.”

“Moody’s Mood for Love” (which begins with the memorable lyric “There I go, there I go, there I go, there I go ...”) became a jazz and pop standard, recorded by Aretha Franklin, George Benson and others, and a staple of Mr. Moody’s concert and nightclub performances as sung by Mr. Jefferson, who was a member of his band for many years. Mr. Jefferson was shot to death in 1979; when Mr. Moody, who was in the middle of a long hiatus from jazz at the time, resumed his career a few years later, he began singing the song himself. He never stopped.

James Moody — he was always Moody, never James, Jim or Jimmy, to his friends and colleagues — was born in Savannah, Ga., on March 26, 1925, and raised in Newark. Despite being hard of hearing, he gravitated toward music and began playing alto saxophone at 16, later switching to tenor. He played with an all-black Army Air Forces band during World War II. After being discharged in 1946, he auditioned for Gillespie, who led one of the first big bands to play the complex and challenging new form of jazz known as bebop. He failed that audition but passed a second one a few months later, and soon captured the attention of the jazz world with a brief but fiery solo on the band’s recording of the Gillespie composition “Emanon.”

Mr. Moody’s career was twice interrupted by alcoholism. The first time, in 1948, he moved to Paris to live with an uncle while he recovered. He returned to the United States in 1951 to capitalize on the success of “I’m in the Mood for Love,” forming a seven-piece band that mixed elements of modern jazz and rhythm and blues. After a fire at a Philadelphia nightclub destroyed the band’s equipment, uniforms and sheet music in 1958, he began drinking again and checked himself into Overbrook, a psychiatric hospital in Cedar Grove, N.J., for several months. He celebrated his recovery by writing and recording the up-tempo blues “Last Train From Overbrook,” which became one of his best-known compositions.

In 1963 he reunited with Gillespie, joining his popular quintet. He was extensively featured as both a soloist and the straight man for Gillespie’s between-songs banter, sharpening his musical and comedic skills at the same time. He left Gillespie in 1969 to again try his luck as a bandleader, but met with limited success; four years later he left jazz entirely to work in Las Vegas hotel orchestras, first at the Flamingo and later at the Hilton.

“The reason I went to Las Vegas,” he told Saxophone Journal in 1998, “was because I was married and had a daughter and I wanted to grow up with my kid. I was married before and I didn’t grow up with the kids. So I said, ‘I’m going to really be a father.’ I did much better with this one because at least I stayed until my daughter was 12 years old. And that’s why I worked Vegas, because I could stay in one spot.”

After seven years of pit-band anonymity, providing accompaniment for everyone from Milton Berle to Ike and Tina Turner to Liberace, Mr. Moody divorced his wife and returned to the East Coast to resume his jazz career. The final three decades of his life were active and productive, with frequent touring and recording (as the leader of his own small group and, on occasion, as a sideman with Gillespie, who died in 1993) and even a brief foray into acting, with a bit part in the 1997 Clint Eastwood film “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” set in Mr. Moody’s birthplace, Savannah.

The National Endowment for the Arts named him a Jazz Master in 1998. “Moody’s Mood for Love” was named to the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2001. His last album, “Moody 4B,” was recorded in 2008 and released in 2010 on the IPO label.

Mr. Moody, who was divorced twice, is survived by his wife of 21 years, Linda, and three sons, Patrick, Regan and Danny, all of California.

For all his accomplishments, Mr. Moody always saw his musical education as a work in progress. “I’ve always wanted to be around people who know more than me,” he told The Hartford Courant in 2006, “because that way I keep learning.”

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Jazz Articles: Jazz Saxophonist James Moody Dies — By Lee Mergner — Jazz Articles

James MoodyCover of James MoodyJazz Articles: Jazz Saxophonist James Moody Dies — By Lee Mergner — Jazz Articles

Saxophonist achieved fame as an associate of Dizzy Gillespie and co-composer of “Moody’s Mood for Love
By Lee Mergner

Saxophonist, flutist and composer James Moody died today at his home in the San Diego area. He was 85 years old. Moody had been suffering from pancreatic cancer and had recently chosen to decline treatment by radiation or chemotherapy.

Funeral services are scheduled for December 18 at Greenwood Memorial Park, 4300 Imperial Ave in San Diego with a morning viewing and graveside service at 12:30 and a celebration of his life at Faith Chapel on 9400 Campo Road in Spring Valley at 2 PM.

Dragan Tasic
James Moody

In February of this year, Moody was operated on have the tumor resected, but according to his wife Linda, it proved to be impossible without endangering his life. The doctors removed his gallbladder and did a double bypass of his digestive system to remove the blockage. He was in the ICU at UCSD Thornton Hospital for almost 8 weeks with life threatening infections and was finally able to come home in May. Since that time Moody rested at home under the care of his wife and a team of hospice care workers, his time spent watching TV, listening to music and playing occasionally.

Once the Moody’s announced about a month ago via his website that he was suffering from pancreatic cancer and awaiting his fate sans medical intervention, the jazz community flooded his site and his e-mail with their prayers and well-wishes. Above and beyond his impact as a jazz musician, Moody was a man who seemed to make friends everywhere he went.

"There's an old philosophy, and it's been said many times, but people don't heed it," Moody told JT’s Bill Milkowski in 2004. "And that is simply this: 'So a man thinketh, so it is.' I think I'm young. My wife says I'm 78 going on 18, and that's very true in a way. That's how I feel."

Moody, who preferred to be called by his last name, was born in Savannah, Georgia on March 26, 1925. It is little known that Moody was born partially deaf. As a result when he was young and unable to hear the teacher, he was labelled mentally deficient and ordered to attend a school for the mentally disabled. Shortly thereafter, his family moved to Newark, New Jersey, where he attended public school. Eventually, his hearing problem was diagnosed and he was sent to the Bruce Street School for the Deaf He later attended Arts High in Newark, N.J.

His uncle gave him an alto sax when he was 16. After hearing Buddy Tate and Don Byas perform with the Count Basie Band at the Adams Theater in Newark, New Jersey, Moody switched to the tenor saxophone. He was just 18 years old when he was drafted into the Air Force in 1943 during World War II. Unable to play with the white Air Force band, Moody played in an unofficial Negro Air Force band for three years. He was disturbed by the segregation that was prevalent in the military service at that time. Incredibly, he met Dizzy Gillespie while in the Air Force, as Gillespie came through for a performance on the base. After he got out of the service, in 1946, he joined the recently formed Dizzy Gillespie Big Band, one of the most important jazz groups at that time.

In a piece in the March 2004 issue of JazzTimes, Moody told writer Bill Milkowski that Dizzy Gillespie had an enormous impact on his life. "Diz influenced me from every standpoint. He was a friend, a father, a confidante, just everything to me. I'm 78 years old and I'm still realizing how much he affected me. And man, a lot of times I'll see something, and I'll remember what Diz told me and I'll go, 'Ah, that's what he meant!' Diz, boy-he was just a nice guy, a good man. And he was a child, too; he never grew up. But he was a child like a fox. I'm just thankful to him every day for giving me a chance because he knew-he must've seen something in me to let me be in the band for a minute." In turn, Gillespie once said of his frontline partner, "Playing with James Moody is like playing with a continuation of myself."

He stayed with Gillespie for two years and appeared on several key recordings from that period, including "O.W.," "Oop-Pop-a-Da" and "Two Bass Hit."

[Note: The rest of this article is excerpted from Bill Milkowski’s feature on Moody from 2004.]

In 1946, Moody was also a member of the Bebop Boys, an all-star group led by Ray Brown and featuring Dizzy and Dave Burns on trumpets, John Brown on alto sax, Moody on tenor, Hank Jones on piano, Milt Jackson on vibes and Joe Harris on drums. (Moody's first-ever recordings in the studio come from a September 25, 1946, session with the Bebop Boys, which also produced the blazing tenor feature "Moody Speaks").

In 1948, Moody made his recording debut as a leader for the Blue Note label-James Moody and His Modernists, featuring arranger Gil Fuller and Art Blakey on drums along with such regular Gillespie sidemen as Ernie Henry on alto sax, Cecil Payne on baritone sax, Dave Burns and Elmon Wright on trumpets, Chano Pozo on bongos and vocals, Nelson Boyd on bass, James Forman on piano and Teddy Stewart on drums.

In 1949 Moody moved to Europe, and in Sweden that year he recorded his tour de force of improvisation on the Jimmy McHugh Tin Pan Alley tune "I'm in the Mood for Love" (which can be heard on James Moody & His Swedish Crowns on the Dragon label). Back in the States, pioneering vocalese artist Eddie Jefferson penned lyrics to Moody's exact solo on that tune and dubbed it "Moody's Mood for Love."

Meanwhile, an unknown singer named Clarence Beeks-aka King Pleasure-heard Jefferson sing his vocalese version of Moody's masterpiece at the Cotton Club in Cincinnati. Beeks promptly committed the performance and song to memory-the lyrics, phrasing and all of the nuances. In November 1951, Beeks sang Jefferson's signature vocalese offering at the Apollo Theater Amateur Hour, winning first prize along with a contract to record the tune for Prestige. The 1952 release of King Pleasure's debut recording, "Moody's Mood for Love," became an instant hit, to the utter surprise of Moody, who found himself an "overnight sensation" when he returned to the States that same year.

"It was amazing!" he recalls, "because I had no idea what a hit it was. So when I went to play a gig somewhere I'd be shocked at how packed the place would be. Suddenly I was being treated like a star or something. I never will forget the record company guy calling me up and asking, 'You want a Cadillac? You want a Buick? Whatever you want, I'll buy it for you.' And when I told my mother that, she said, 'Son, people do not give you anything for nothing. Watch out!' And she was right. There were all kinds of come-ons in those days but my mother-God bless her, man-she hipped me to a lot of things."

Today, Moody still includes "Moody's Mood for Love" in every set he plays. "Yeah, and if I don't, I might as well not come to the gig," he laughs. "It's like Tony Bennett with 'I Left My Heart in San Francisco.' He still sings it and loves singing it, and I'm still singing 'Moody's Mood.'" (On a side note: After King Pleasure's version of "Moody's Mood for Love" became a smash hit, Jimmy McHugh sued for copyright infringement and won a partial victory in court, ultimately splitting proceeds with Moody on sales of any versions of the tune.)

Upon returning to the States in 1952, Moody worked with vocalist-hipster Babs Gonzales until they had a parting of the ways a year later. As Moody explains, "Babs was talking about 'I want more bread,' and I thought he was getting enough 'bread,' as he called it. So he said, 'Well, then I'm leaving.' And I said, 'Bye.' After Babs split we went to Cleveland and the word was out that I was looking for a singer to sing 'Moody's Mood for Love' with the band. And Eddie Jefferson came back and applied for the gig. I had no idea that he was the one who wrote the lyrics to 'Moody's Mood,' so when I found out I said, 'You got the job, man.' And it was cool from then on. Everywhere we would go we'd have to do that tune two or three times a night. I'd have to play it, and Eddie would have to sing it. And it was wonderful."

Jefferson remained a fixture in Moody's group through 1962. In 1963, Moody rejoined Gillespie and performed in the trumpeter's quintet for the remainder of the decade, but by the outset of the '70s he had lost his enthusiasm for the road. As he recalls, "My daughter was born, and I wanted to see her grow up. I didn't get to see my other children grow up since I was always away. So I finally just said, 'Aw, the heck with this.' That's when I went to Las Vegas, and I stayed there for seven and a half years."
Moody's tenor-playing pal Harold Land is the one who hipped him to the steady gig opportunities in Las Vegas. During that lucrative period, from 1971 to 1978, Moody worked at the Flamingo Hilton, where he played shows with Leslie Uggams and Sandler & Young, and also at the bigger Las Vegas Hilton, where he played with a host of big-name entertainers including Elvis Presley, Ann-Margret, Liberace, Milton Berle, Bill Cosby, the Rockettes, Lou Rawls, Ike and Tina Turner, Glen Campbell, Charlie Rich, Connie Stevens, the Everly Brothers, Steve and Eydie, Eddie Fisher and Bobbie Gentry.

He was back in New York by the early '80s, and Moody's career received a boost with a Grammy nomination in 1985 for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance for his playing on Manhattan Transfer's Vocalese. He then signed to RCA/Novus, and Moody's 1986 debut for the label was the straightahead quartet date Something Special featuring pianist Kenny Barron. His follow-up was Moving Forward, and in 1989 he was reunited with his friend and mentor Dizzy Gillespie on "Con Alma" and "Get the Booty" on Sweet and Lovely.

On March 26, 1995, a 70th birthday celebration for Moody, hosted by Bill Cosby, was held at New York's Blue Note club. Telarc recorded the show and released it as Moody's Party: Live at the Blue Note. He followed that up with two tribute recordings for Warner Bros.: 1996's Sinatra tribute Young at Heart and 1997's Moody Plays Mancini.

He made several recordings during the last decade of his life, including Homage, Moody 4A and Moody 4B, the latter two for IPO. Moody 4B was recently nominated for a Grammy award.

"I have a goal in life, and my goal is to play better tomorrow than I did today," Moody says. "I'm not in competition with other musicians because there's too much going on, you can't be into that. So I'm in competition with myself. I just want to be able to play better tomorrow than I did today. And I've got to hurry up and play better because it seems like when I practice and I think I got something, I go outside and everybody else has got it and gone. So I'm still working at it because I haven't found it yet. It's a never-ending search. It's the old thing of I'll never get it but it's worth trying."

Moody’s 2004 album for Savoy, Homage, featured tunes specially composed for the record by some of his friends. Here's what a few of the composers had to say about Moody, for the piece written by Bill.Milkowski.

Kenny Barron: "He's just an amazing person for so many reasons. Number one is just his boundless energy. Number two is his humility. He's just a great musician and a really great guy. We spent four years together with Dizzy and what used to amaze me is that he would eat these chord changes up and then come back and say, 'Man, does that sound OK?' And I'd say, 'Come on, Moody, are you kidding?' He's like the eternal student of music, and he keeps on getting better. The other thing I can say about Moody is I wanna be like him when I grow up. The piece I contributed was just a blues because that's something that Moody excels at, and he can put any kind of twist on it-it could be very modern, it could be gutbucket, whatever it is, whatever it calls for. He's just a real open-minded cat, and he brings so much to the music. He's open to what the younger guys are doing, interested in finding out what it is and how they're doing it. So I really take my hat off to him. And I really would like to be like that when I'm 78-always ready to learn."

Marc Copland: "I found working with Moody to be a humbling and humanizing experience. This is the kindest person I ever worked for, and he became the godfather of my son. Here's a man who played with the greats, yet he doesn't carry an attitude or rest on his laurels. All he talks about sometimes is how much he needs to practice, how far he still has to go in this music. As a human being, he's old enough to be my father, and over the years we've had a deep exchange of musical and personal ideas. He once said to me with a twinkle in his eye, 'Marc, sometimes I'm the father, and sometimes you're the father. I know!' My personal homage to Moody is this: Every time I play, every time I travel, I hope to play with the same spirit that he does and hope to treat other musicians with the same kindness and respect that he does."

Chick Corea: "James is a treasure of an artist and musician. He makes me smile every time I meet him and every time I hear him play. His work with Dizzy will remain unforgettable."

David Hazeltine: "What's amazing to me is that at his age, after all the music that Moody has performed and recorded, he remains a serious student of jazz, always looking for new ideas and interesting, innovative ways to articulate the chord changes."

Jazz show to celebrate Coltrane, Johnny Hartman |

Jazz show to celebrate Coltrane, Johnny Hartman |

The Jazz Renaissance concert series begun in Mobile in October promises to maintain its straight-ahead character with its latest show, which will feature tributes to jazz greats John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman.

The headliner for the Thursday evening show is saxophonist Azar Lawrence. St. Louis-based singer James Love will emulate the vocals of Hartman, with whom Coltrane recorded an album in the early 1960s.

Azar Lawrence promises music that is heavily influenced by John Coltrane, but says he's never had any interest in simply imitating the legendary saxophonist.
Saxophonist Coltrane is regarded as one of the titans of jazz, a trendsetting composer who set new standards both for technical command of his instrument and for working spirituality into his music. Show promoter Ron Bookman conceded that Hartman “is not as recognizable to most people,” but said his music also is well worth remembering.
Hartman gained a measure of posthumous attention in the mid-‘90s, courtesy of Clint Eastwood and his movie “The Bridges of Madison County.”
“In that movie he featured the vocal velvet baritone sound of Johnny Hartman,” Bookman said. “It brought him to a whole new audience.”
Coltrane fans may note the significance of show’s timing.
“We deliberately selected the concert date, Dec. 9, because that coincided with the original date of Dec. 9, 1964,” Bookman said. “That was the date Coltrane released his classic album ‘A Love Supreme.’”

The game plan for the show allows for at the Arthur R. Outlaw Mobile Convention Center allows for some variety, within the straight-ahead framework.
Pensacola-based vocalist Cynthia Domulot and the Guffman Trio will open with a special salute to vocalist Nina Simone.
Lawrence’s set will include a tribute to Coltrane and “A Love Supreme,” with Love appearing during a segment focusing on the Hartman-Coltrane collaboration.
Lawrence, speaking by phone from Los Angeles, said that listeners can expect a living tribute, not a flat effort to parrot music of the past.
Jazz Renaissance concert featuring Azar Lawrence and his Quartet plus vocalist James Love, with special guests Cynthia Domulot and the Guffman Trio, 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 9, Arthur R. Outlaw Mobile Convention Center at the foot of Government Street on the Mobile waterfront.

Tickets: $20, available at the Mobile Civic Center box office and other Ticketmaster outlets. To order by phone, call 800-745-3000; online orders can be placed at For more information call the Civic Center box office at 251-208-7381. Student, senior and group pricing is available; e-mail for details.

“There never has been a day I’ve taken my saxophone out and put a Coltrane record on and played along with it,” he said. “I’ve never done that.”
Lawrence said his career includes a broad range of popular music: He’s worked with rockers Frank Zappa and Eric Burdon, among many others, he said.
But his growth as a jazz player was strongly influenced by working with former Coltrane collaborators such as McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones.
In him, he said, they found someone whose outlook and musical vision were similar to Coltrane’s. In them, he found mentors who could guide him as he explored territory Coltrane had opened up.

“These individuals ... John Coltrane didn’t stand up and just play solo,” Lawrence said. “All these people helped shape that sound ... they all grew, and each part was a major component of that sound.”

“Some of the music he has given us I find is the best vehicle in which for me to carry some of my message over as well,” Lawrence said. “We’ll do some of the ‘Love Supreme’ suite, but you’re going to hear the ‘Love Supreme’ of today.”
“If John was there, he wouldn’t be playing the same thing over and over,” he said.
He does, however, share Coltrane’s sense that music has a spiritual component and can be more than just a night of entertainment. It’s a notion he’s explored in his original work, such as his recent album “Mystic Journey.”

“What we’re endeavoring to do ... is raising our vibrations, raising our spirit, which produces a healing,” he said.
But for those who really do want just a night of classic jazz entertainment, the music works perfectly well on that level, he said.
“I think they’ll be pleasantly surprised,” he said. “They will understand it’s nothing foreign to them and they’ll find a part of themselves in the music. It’ll be quite familiar.”

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Report: Aretha Franklin has Pancreatic Cancer | EURweb

Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin wipes a tear aft...Image via WikipediaReport: Aretha Franklin has Pancreatic Cancer | EURweb

*WJBK FOX 2 News in Detroit is confirming that Franklin is battling pancreatic cancer. A family insider told the station that she’s doing, “OK,” but they ask for the public’s prayers.

The National Enquirer reports that the cancer is incurable and she has less than a year to live.

In November, she canceled all concerts through May 2011 due to “medical reasons,” but never disclosed the illness. Last Thursday (Dec. 2), the Queen of Soul underwent surgery, which was labeled a success. She released the following statement after the mystery procedure:

“The surgery was highly successful. God is still in control. I had superb doctors and nurses whom were blessed by all the prayers of the city and the country. God bless you all for your prayers!

— The Queen of Soul, Ms. Aretha Franklin”

The Enquirer’s report lists pancreatic survival rates at 5-10%, and even lower for someone of Franklin’s age and weight.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Pianist Randy Weston Pays Homage to Africa - The Local – Fort-Greene Blog -

Randy Weston (X)Image by El Humilde Fotero del Pánico via FlickrPianist Randy Weston Pays Homage to Africa - The Local – Fort-Greene Blog -

When it comes to the work of Brooklyn-born jazz pianist and composer Randy Weston, the discussion is naturally about Africa, a continent that he has a long association with over a career of more than six decades.

In his travels dating back to the early 1960s, the musician has visited 18 African nations and lived in Morocco, where he founded a jazz club in Tangier.

“Africa is important because all of humanity began there,” Mr. Weston, 84, said in a recent phone interview. “This is the beginning of all of us. I don’t care where you are on the planet earth, we all got African blood — all of us.”

Mr. Weston, a Clinton Hill resident for nearly 50 years, recounts his musical explorations and travels in his recently-published memoir, “African Rhythms,” co-written with Willard Jenkins. Simultaneously, Mr. Weston has released a live album, “The Storyteller,” recorded with his African Rhythms Sextet at New York’s Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola last year.

“I thought it was necessary to document our history because African people, Africa and even African-American traditions are disappearing,” he said. “How can young people know what happened before? I was lucky to live in Africa and hang out with traditional people and just speak about what music can do and the places that it can take you, how it’s a spiritual force.”

Mr. Weston grew up in Bedford-Stuyvesant with a father who instilled a sense of African pride, and he recalled his encounters, as a young person, with Brooklyn’s jazz musicians and other artists.

“You had the black church, the blues, the comedians, the painters, the sculptors, the dancers — it was everything,” he explained. “You can go to the cinema and see a [short film] on Cab Calloway or Duke Ellington… Plus the musicians’ homes were always open, whether it was Max Roach, Ray Abrams, Duke Jordan or Cecil Payne. You just ring the bell and walk in. That’s how spiritual it was.”

Carol Friedman
In the book, Mr. Weston writes about one of his major influences, the legendary jazz pianist Thelonious Monk, whom he first saw play with saxophonist Coleman Hawkins on Manhattan’s 52nd Street. At first, Mr. Weston wasn’t impressed by Monk’s music, he said, but he later became an admirer.

“I heard the magic of Africa in his music,” Mr. Weston said. “I heard the sounds of ancient African civilization in my imagination when I heard his music — all the complex harmonies and melodies. There was a kind of magic that he puts into the piano.”

After returning to Brooklyn from serving in World War II, Mr. Weston saw that heroin was ravaging the community. To escape from that, he found work in the Berkshires, where he further developed as a musician. In 1954 he recorded his first album, “Cole Porter in a Modern Mood.”

Six years later, he recorded the album “Uhuru Afrika,” a four-song suite featuring musicians from Africa and Cuba as well as American jazz players. That same year, 17 African countries achieved their independence. Mr. Weston writes in his book that “Uhuru Afrika” was intended to show that “the African people are a global people.”

Last month, Mr. Weston performed “Uhuru Afrika” at the BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center to honor the work’s 50th anniversary.

“We realized that we all had the same foundation our ancestors passed [on], whether it’s the black church or the blues or whatever,” he said. “So I wanted this work of music to describe that, and at the same time to welcome the new nations of Africa.”

In 1961 Mr. Weston embarked on his first visit to Africa as part of a cultural exchange program with other musicians. He still remembers the feeling when the plane first landed in Nigeria, he said.

“My ancestors were taken from Africa in boats and chains,” he said. “Me — I’m on a plane coming back to Africa. When we arrived at 11 o’clock at night, and the plane door opened, we heard these drummers. We’re home. Our ancestral home. It was a very powerful and spiritual experience.”

Mr. Weston then settled in Morocco for a couple of years, where he became immersed with the music and culture of the Gnawa people. As a tribute to them, he wrote the composition “Blue Moses,” inspired by a Gnawa song. However, Mr. Weston writes in the book, he couldn’t perform “Blue Moses” in public because the Gnawa chief considered the song sacred. A year later, the chief changed his mind after some persuasion by the pianist.

“People in the world need to hear this music,” said Mr. Weston. But, he added, “If he had told me not to play that song, I would have not played it and left it alone. I have so much respect for those people.”

In the last five years, Mr. Weston has performed in Japan, Russia, Rwanda and Panama, where his father is from. He hopes to visit Africa again.

“When I travel to other countries,” he said, “I’m always amazed at how music does what it does. We play the music, but when it goes out, we don’t know what happens. We’re like the postmen: we deliver the mail, but we don’t know what’s inside the mail. Each person in that audience is on a separate trip. What a gift from the Creator.”

Randy Weston will take part in Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Listening Party event on Dec. 7 at 7 p.m.; free admission. Mr. Weston will also perform at the Brooklyn Museum on Dec. 12, from 3-5 p.m.; $15. For more information on Randy Weston, visit
Enhanced by Zemanta

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Review: Ahmad Jamal is ageless wonder at Yoshi's - San Jose Mercury News

Review: Ahmad Jamal is ageless wonder at Yoshi's - San Jose Mercury News

hmad Jamal turned 80 in July. One could be forgiven, however, for assuming he's 70. Or even 60.
He still looks great and his energy level is amazing. Then there's his handiwork on the piano, which -- in terms of most of the technical aspects, as well all of the artistic ones -- surpasses what the majority of players one-quarter his age could dream of delivering onstage.
Indeed, Jamal proved to be an ageless wonder on Friday, the first of three nights at Yoshi's at Jack London Square in Oakland. The jazz man -- best known for the '50s hit "Poinciana" and his influence on Miles Davis' music -- proved worthy of the title "living legend," though his set had less to do with nostalgia than it did with proving that
he still has plenty to offer.
The Pittsburgh native's focus was clearly on his new material, tracks from 2008's "It's Magic" and this year's "A Quiet Time." That was fine with the near-capacity crowd, since Jamal and his terrific quartet -- bassist James Cammack, drummer Herlin Riley and percussionist Manolo Badrena -- made nearly every new song sound like it was destined to be a classic.
Plus, it was undeniable treat to see Jamal -- one of the planet's most accomplished jazz artists -- play in a 300-capacity club. The last time he came through Northern California, mind you, it was to perform before thousands as a headliner at the Monterey Jazz Festival.
Enhanced by Zemanta