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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.
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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Henry Threadgill Zooid: This Brings Us To – Vol II – review | Music | The Guardian

Henry Threadgill - ZooidImage by volume12 via FlickrHenry Threadgill Zooid: This Brings Us To – Vol II – review | Music | The Guardian

Henry Threadgill, the Chicagoan saxophonist and composer, is by no means a jazz celeb, but he's a hero to many influential insiders for his adventurousness with structure and instrumentation, and for explorations of timbre that transform the jazz sound, while still leaving familiar clues from its roots. Threadgill's quintet Zooid has been his principle vehicle throughout the noughties, bringing rhythmically multilayered approaches to input from contemporary classical music, Latin jazz, free jazz, gamelan and the blues. The distinctive Liberty Ellman's guitar is sonorous and elegant on the moody Lying Eyes, before José Davila's trombone and the leader's airy flute lines strike a typical Threadgill contrast over a scurrying avant-funk pulse. On Polymorph, the composer's influence on both Tim Berne's conception and alto-sax sound are very clear. Sometimes Ellman sketches wraith-like lines around Stomu Takeishi's bass before Threadgill's imploring alto-sax swirls in; at others the leader fires atonal yelps across rhythm- patterns jointly established by tuba and drums. It's an economical and ascetic kind of music-making, but packed with the implications of its fast-shifting relationships, and warmer, more animated and accessible than you might expect.
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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Randy Weston Links 'African Rhythms' To American Jazz : NPR

Jazz pianist Randy WestonImage via Wikipedia
I have had the wonderful experiencing of knowing Mr. Weston since 1981.  He is one of my teachers.  He is truly a great man.
Randy Weston Links 'African Rhythms' To American Jazz : NPR

Pianist Randy Weston grew up surrounded by some of the greatest musicians in jazz. But it was his deep connection to Africa that inspired his personal style of music.
Weston recently sat down with NPR's Neal Conan to discuss the link between West African music and American jazz in his autobiography, African Rhythms. Traditional histories trace the history of American jazz to New Orleans, but not Weston.
"African people were taken from Africa, and taken to the States, and they came in contact with European culture and instruments," he says. Then, they "created a different kind of music" — jazz and blues.
Weston says he gives credit to his father for connecting him with music and the continent of Africa.
"He told me you have to study African civilization — when Africa was great," Weston says.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Lou Donaldson Quartet: Live At The Village Vanguard : NPR

Lou Donaldson checking out a soloImage via WikipediaLou Donaldson Quartet: Live At The Village Vanguard : NPR
By the time he started his latest weeklong run at the Village Vanguard, alto saxophonist Lou Donaldson was 84. He'd been based in New York for 60-odd years, during which time he became a jazz legend — the kind who made albums that are still remembered today, who recorded lines memorable enough to be sampled years later, who toured the country's back rooms back when a jazz musician could post up for two weeks at a time in, say, Dayton, Ohio. It bred in him a style that was solid, soulful and swinging, with a charismatically salty wit to match. It hasn't broke, and he hasn't felt the need to fix it.
When "Sweet Poppa Lou" descended into the basement and ascended to the stage, there were the japes, the blues singing, the exemplary straight-ahead jazz he's pursued for decades. ("No fusion, no con-fusion," he said — twice.) WBGO and NPR Music will be there to broadcast and webcast the first Nov. 3 set live; it will also be recorded and archived online on this page.
Since recording with organist Jimmy Smith in the late 1950s, Donaldson has often worked with a rhythm section of Hammond B-3 organ, guitar and drums. That instrumentation allows him to dish on funky, danceable grooves; not coincidentally, it was responsible for some of his most famous appearances on record. He reprised some of those greatest hits — "Blues Walk," "Alligator Bogaloo" — and called some favorites from the bebop and hard bop eras. He even sang some blues: his trademark "Whiskey Drinkin' Woman," with many embellishments by way of prologue. With him at the Vanguard was his current working band: Pat Bianchi on organ, Randy Johnston on guitar and Fukushi Tainaka on drums.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The Santa Barbara Independent Ornette Coleman Quartet Plays UCSB

The Santa Barbara Independent Ornette Coleman Quartet Plays UCSB

From its inception, jazz has been associated with musical innovation. Ever since the juke joint cutting contests of the early 20th century encouraged players to compete for audience approval with surprising and unexpected riffs and rhythms, the music has carried the burden of making it new with refreshing panache and style. But for saxophonist Ornette Coleman, the adventure of revising previous genres and experimenting with sound has taken on a greater importance than for nearly any comparably important figure in the history of the music. No one, not even his celebrated contemporary John Coltrane, has done more to expand the sonic vocabulary of jazz or to extol the value of innovative thinking in the service of immediacy and communication. It’s Coleman’s peculiar combination of relentless searching for new sounds and total dedication to the primary task of accessing emotion that gives his music its inimitable profile. It’s not just that Coleman doesn’t sound like anyone else—it’s that he does it in order to discover the truth of his experience through his own journey.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Nine Women In The Room: A Jazz Musicians’ Roundtable : The Record : NPR

Nine Women In The Room: A Jazz Musicians’ Roundtable : The Record : NPR
Over the summer, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington brought together some pretty high-profile musicians from all over the world to record The Mosaic Project: pianists Geri Allen, Helen Sung, and Patrice Rushen; bassists Esperanza Spalding and Mimi Jones; percussionist Sheila E.; woodwind players Anat Cohen and Tineke Postma; trumpeter Ingrid Jensen; violinist Chia-Yin Carol Ma; flutist Hailey Niswanger; and vocalists Dee Dee Bridgewater, Cassandra Wilson, Dianne Reeves, Carmen Lundy, Nona Hendryx, Patricia Romania, and Gretchen Parlato. Activist and author Angela Davis even contributes spoken word to one track.
You may have noticed they're all women. That was both the point of the session — and not the point.
After a full day of recording, eight of the musicians sat down with Lara Pellegrinelli for a conversation on the topic of women in jazz. They shared some of their own experiences and discussed the media, the music business, audience, mentors, and role models. But Carrington eventually broke in with a request: could they stop talking about gender issues and talk about the music?
The conversation illustrates some of the tensions in being a woman in jazz. At the same time that these players seem ready to celebrate the obstacles they've overcome, they say that the music itself comes first — it doesn't care if you're black or white, young or old, male or female. Could it be that this conviction, central to jazz, has made it difficult for women to speak up about the prejudice they've faced, as much as it has given them the faith that they will be heard?