Thursday, May 14, 2020

Footage of Hank Mobley and Bobby Timmons

The video below is an excerpt from the ground-breaking documentary Monk (1968) by brothers Christian and Michael Blackwood. You may be familiar with that film, and its companion Monk in Europe (also 1968), given how much of them have appeared in subsequent works by other authors like Straight, No Chaser (1988), again about Monk, and the more recent The Jazz Baroness (2012) about Nica de Koenigswarter.

Both films are unparalleled in terms of vintage footage of jazz greats in action. Just on Monk you can see Wes Montgomery backstage at a festival produced in Atlanta by George Wein, also on screen, or producer Teo Macero and engineer Frank Laico at work with Monk at a Columbia Records studio (December 14 and 21, 1967, possibly studio A, at 799 Seventh Ave in Manhattan). In a scene similar to the one below, Roland Kirk can be seen in the kitchen at the Village Vanguard (around the 51' mark).

Do visit Michael Blackwood's website for more information on Monk and Monk in Europe here and here, respectively. They can we watched on Vimeo, here and here, respectively.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Paul Chambers plays the mambo (sort of)

Paul Chambers in 1958
 by Dennis Stock
Boxed multi-disk sets are wonderful, but they can be a challenge to assimilate. Case in point, the sensational Miles Davis - Gil Evans: The Complete Columbia Studio Recordings, released in 1996. It comprises six CDs full of music that gave us four albums, so you do the math: it contains a lot of music with a lot of repetition.

However, some attentive listening with the appropriate equipment—enough sound on all frequencies, particularly the bass—can unveil treasures such as Paul Chambers's bass line on take 5 of "New Rhumba".

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Django's magic

There is very little footage of Django Reinhardt playing (this, go to 2:28, is by far the best available), which makes it difficult to appreciate his dazzling technique. But we can somehow extrapolate.

Django's technique gets even more interesting, given that he only had two fully functioning fingers in his left hand, which was crippled in a fire when he was 19.

(Sources: left / right)

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Jazz pour tous! (1959-1969)

Jean-Marie Peterken and Nicolas Dor present Jazz pour Tous!

The wonders of European TV archives never cease. Besides the more recent footage which is being rescued weekly from the vaults of Spanish TV (see here), we have now a bunch of programmes from RTB (Belgian public broadcaster) show Jazz por tous!, "Jazz for everyone!", which was broadcast for ten years from 1959. The show had actually started as a radio programme by Belgian aficionados Nicolas Dor (correspondent for American rag Record Changer covering Belgium, France, and the Netherlands)  and Jean-Marie Peterken, and it had a spin-off in the short-lived festival in Comblain-la-Tour, where Cannonball Adderley recorded his LP Cannonball in Europe in 1962.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Chega de saudade, Joãozinho

Last Saturday João Gilberto passed away at age 88, of natural causes, at his home in Rio de Janeiro. Contrary to his reputation of being a recluse and despite his age, only four days earlier he had gone out for dinner with his partner and his attorney, a rather central figure in his life of late.

Since his passing, the outpour of love and recognition from all over the world for the singer and guitarist has been overwhelming. Part of it is due to João's public visibility thanks to his success in the USA in the early 1960s—I'm sure I'm not the only one to play Getz/Gilberto, a sensational record, from track #2 onwards, skipping “The Girl from Ipanema”.

But beyond fame—the one aspect Brazil's current president was able to acknowledge—what made João special? In jazz terms, he was to bossa nova what Charlie Parker was to bebop.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Robert Johnson and the electric guitar

What is it about Robert Johnson that invites speculation? From his (re)appearance in popular music in the 1960s, to his resurgence in the early 1990s, he must be the African-American musician about whom most drivel has been written and spoken.

Now that the biography by Bruce Conforth and Gayle Dean Wardlow is out—my review: essential reading—, speculation should diminish significantly. Never mind that, I now offer you a bit of guessing, at least to provide some context regarding Johnson and the electric guitar, an instrument with a tradition in blues and rock heavily influenced by Johnson, even though he never really played it himself.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Roy Eldridge's photographs: pulling a thread

Back in 2013, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the saga of trumpeter Roy Eldridge's earthly possessions came to light. All may have seem to be lost, but only a few days ago it was announced that the University of North Texas Music Library had "finished digitization and metadata for almost 700 photos, newspaper clippings, date books, and other documents in the Roy Eldridge Collection belonging to the Sherman (Texas) Jazz Museum." This collection can now be seen here.

As of today, the collection holds 527 photographs. Even with some damage, these are a treasure. like the numerous images of Eldridge's short-lived big band, the JATP tours with Norman Granz, or the December 7, 1945 gig by this group:
  • Coleman Hawkins, "Texas Tom" Archia: tenor saxes
  • Roy Eldridge: trumpet
  • Thelonious Monk: piano
  • Al McKibbon: bass
  • Denzil Best: drums
  • Helen Humes: vocals
Thelonious Monk, Helen Humes, Coleman Hawkins, Roy Eldridge
Let it be a reminder that there is lot of jazz beyond the records.