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.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

The electric Julian Lage

Photo by Nathan West

Julian Lage is one of the great guitar players of his generation. A child prodigy, as documented in Jules at Eight, he stopped being a promise a long time ago. Today, he regularly partakes in a wide variety of projects, but his own trio—with double bass and drums—is the unit where he shines the brightest.

When he last played London, in July 2018, at one point he asked what day it was, not so much because he'd lost track of the calendar—although that's the life of the touring musician—but in appreciation for the audience who'd packed Camden Town's Jazz Café on a Tuesday to hear, as he said, jazz.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Nat "King" Cole, pianist

In this week of jazz centennials (Mercer Ellington on the 11th, George Avakian on the 15th, Lennie Tristano on the 19th), today we celebrate Nat "King" Cole's. He was a great singer, especially given his limited resources and a popular entertainer. He was also a terribly influential pianist—Lennie Tristano and Hank Jones certainly listened to him—who helped establish the piano trio, albeit with a guitar instead of drums, the format Oscar Peterson, another Cole fan, maintained until mid-1959.

Cole recorded a lot with his trio, both for commercial release (for Decca, and later Capitol) and for radio broadcast (or transcriptions). Among the latter, there is a recording called "Miss Thing", effectively a reduction to the trio of the Count Basie Orchestra side "Miss Thing (Part II)", which shows a lesser known aspect of Cole's musicianship.

Basie's "Miss Thing (Part II)" (early 1939)

Cole's "Miss Thing" (late 1943)

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Jacob Rex Zimmerman

Jacob Rex Zimmerman

As his website explains, Jacob Zimmerman is a sax and clarinet player based in Seattle. He's 32, and he has two records out focusing on jazz as it was played in the 1940s. The earlier one, Recording Ban, refers to the stoppage to commercial recording imposed by union boss James Petrillo, starting in August 1, 1942 and ending in 1943-44 (depending on the record label). The title of his latest record, More of That, sounds like a reference to the previous one, delving as it does in music from around those years.

Revivalism in jazz in a tricky subject, open to all sorts of questions, starting with whether it should be done at all. For the epicurean listener who enjoys the records of that kind of music, the chance to hear it re-recorded or, better still, live, will always be welcome, despite the obvious risk for disappointment, proportional to the listener's familiarity with the originals on record.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Off jazz: 12 by Ordinarius

Ordinarius—a word-play after their musical director and arranger, Augusto Ordine—is the name of a vocal sextet faring from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Left to right: Maíra Martins, Augusto Ordine, Matias Corrêa, Fabiano Salek,
Beatriz Coimbra, Mateus Xavier, Rebeca Vieira.