Sunday, December 23, 2012

Encore: BG and Sextette... unissued!

Auld, Goodman, Williams, Christian
(Photographer unknown)
Things that just happen: the previous blog was about Charlie Christian and his recordings with Benny Goodman, and this one too.

As everything else, social networking is as good as its end result. For me and whoever is reading this, it will allow us listening to 22 minutes from a radio programme recorded on February 19, 1941, at WNYC, where the announcer, Ralph Berton, requests tunes to Benny Goodman and his Sextet. Although there is a CD (Benny Goodman: A Tour de Force / The Small Groups, Live, Encore 7001) including two tracks from this broadcast ("Sheik of Araby", and "Gone with 'What' Wind"), the rest was unissued, so much so that some of it doesn't even appear on Leo Valdés's discography. The impromptu "Blues in Bb" may be the most interesting bit.

The programme can be listened to here, and the playlist is as follows:

     00:00  Rose Room (ending)
     00:52  Flying Home
     05:49  Blues in Bb
     10:42  The Sheik of Araby
     13:13  Body and Soul (George Auld + rhythm)
     17:38  Gone with "What" Wind
     20:40  Stompin' at the Savoy

Personnel is Goodman on clarinet, Christian on guitar, Cootie Williams on trumpet, George Auld on tenor sax, Johnny Guarnieri on piano, Artie Bernstein on bass, and Dave Tough on drums. Eternal thanks to Loren Schoenberg for the heads up.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Review: Charlie Christian Genius boxed set

(This is a translation of my review for Cuadernos de Jazz)

Charlie Christian: The Genius of the Electric Guitar
(4-CD set, Sony/Legacy 88697930352; released in 2012)

Charlie Christian (el-g) with, among others, Benny Goodman (cl), Lionel Hampton (vib), Cootie Williams (tp), George Auld, Lester Young (ts); Johnny Guarnieri, Count Basie (p); Artie Bernstein (b), Nick Fatool, Dave Tough, Jo Jones (d).

Recorded in New York and Hollywood, between 1939 and 1941.

When it comes to jazz, the recording industry, whatever's left of it, lives on reissues. These are cheap to produce, whether for the legal owners of the masters, or whoever chooses to shield themselves behind EU law. Poor little us are left, in the meantime, with a mess of sets to be checked for price, sound quality and track titles to avoid duplication or just hoarding more stuff. A true nightmare.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

ND - Michel Legrand: Legrand in Rio

[UPDATES: Go to the bottom of the post to see an update on the subject]

Every once in a while I'll publish small pieces of discographical research, or notes on discography (hence, ND). This one is about an old LP by Michel Legrand, who came to prominence in jazz with his Legrand Jazz, recorded in the summer of '58. That was a true all-star affaire (Miles, Coltrane, Bill Evans, Ben Webster...) commanded by a 26-year Frenchman just arrived in New York... Have times changed!

Legrand in Rio itself was recorded and published months before than Legrand Jazz, and musically it's closer to previous efforts such as I Love Paris than to the celebrated jazz album. In Rio is a well-crafted, well-executed collection of instrumentals, not bland and with a few competent jazz solos, but very much an easy-listening pop record. As in I Love Paris, there's some heavy tape-editing, with string sections fading in from (and fading out to) nowhere, as well as plenty of "Latin" percussion. The tunes are Brazilian, Spanish, Cuban, Mexican, and Argentinian classics, but even so the album came out as Legrand in Rio in the US and the UK.

Although by listening to the record it's clear that Legrand in Rio and Legrand Jazz are worlds apart, for some reason In Rio has been lumped together with Legrand Jazz (of which all dates and personnel are known) in discographies, probably as a wild guess. This is what both Lord and Bruyninckx gave the last time I looked:

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sinatra's world tour, 1962

Today Frank Sinatra would have been 97. I've been checking out videos here and there, and have found the one below from his 1962 tour, which he did accompanied by a sextet, based on Red Norvo's, with whom he had toured previously (Norvo was unavailable for this one), which gives a lighter, jazzier feel to the music.

But first, a couple of excerpts from Will Friedwald's indispensable tome The Song is You (Da Capo, New York, 1997).

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Musicians' quotes: Maestro Lecaros

"There has to be a piano at home, not a freezer or anything like that, just a piano... not even a telly, but there has to be a piano."

Maestro Roberto Lecaros,
(b. 1944) Chilean musician, in a recent interview.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Sinatra live in 1961

I've just come across some footage of a Frank Sinatra concert in Sydney (Australia) from 1961. That was a time when Sinatra was at the top of his game, the end of his glorious years with Capitol, before his problems with the Kennedys, before the Rat Pack, years before "Strangers in the Night".

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Peter Brötzmann and... Lionel Hampton

German saxophonist Peter Brötzmann (b. 1941), one of those guys who could make you a straight soprano sax by blowing on a curved one, is one of the stalwarts of European free improvisation. He came up at the end of the 1960s and, while he might be expected to have drawn inspiration for similarly-minded American players, this is what he says about the his seminal, groundbreaking, even violent Machine Gun (1968) and his unlikely model.
"I wanted to sound like four tenor saxophonists, that's the sound that I wanted... I got the idea from the Lionel Hampton band, the big band he had, with four really heavy saxophonists in the front line and they played unison. That's the sound I've been trying to get, that's what I was attempting with Machine Gun and that's what I'm still chasing"
Peter Brötzmann, interviewed in the November issue of Wire magazine.

Brötzmann will be, with his Chicago Tentet at London's Cafe Oto on November 9-10, as part of the London Jazz Festival.

Lionel Hampton: "Flying Home" (1967)

Peter Brötzmann: "Machine Gun" (1968)

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Blakey-Chambers duets

On Sunday, March 29, 1959, right between the two sessions that gave us Kind of Blue, the bassist on those, Paul Chambers (age: 23) and veteran drummer Art Blakey (age: 39) seemed to have got early to a recording session led by Sonny Clark.

According to Michael Cuscuna, who unearthed these tapes in the 1970s:
[...] another odd early find in the Blue Note vaults. I was systematically going through every reel of every unissued session. When I put on the first reel of an unissued March 29, 1959 Sonny Clark session, which was ultimately released as My Conception, there was not a piano note to be heard. The first two takes were spectacular performances of "I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm" and "What Is This Thing Called Love" by what could be none other than Paul Chambers and Art Blakey. I never did find out why these came about (perhaps the rest of the band was late), but I’m glad they did.

Glad indeed. If Chambers and Blakey always maintained a very high standard in all their recordings, here, with nowhere to hide, they both give a masterclass in what a rhythm section should be. Without horns, Blakey can afford to be more subtle, which only makes him swing more, not less, as you can hear in "What Is This Thing Called Love?". In this less-is-more vein, Blakey's tour de force is actually, at least to my ears, the slower but still brisk Irving Berlin tune. His versatility with the drum set, or even something so simple-sounding like his playing behind Chambers's opening solo, is mesmerizing.

Available on Mosaic Select: Paul Chambers, and on Art Blakey's Drums Around the Corner

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Brad Mehldau is 42 today

What is it with succesful jazz musicians that are so appealing for what Americans call "haters"? Whatever it is, Brad Mehldau has enjoyed some success, a lot of it in jazz terms, and some have enjoyed bad-mouthing him (and if the average jazz listener is really a white, middle-aged male, it's time to revise women's presumed superiority at bitching).

Today Mehldau is 42. Although this is sometimes forgotten in the English-speaking world, he recorded his first trio album in Barcelona for Fresh Sound New Talent in 1993, and two years later, at 25, he moved to Warner's (have things changed!) I discovered him in 1997, recommended by veteran producer and writer Ira Gitler, no less, at Jazzaldia, San Sebastián's Jazz Festival. Shortly afterwards I moved to London, and one of the first CDs I bought, in a street market was The Art of the Trio, Vol. 1. That was my last review for the local newspaper I used to write for back in Spain.

Music can be appreciated at several levels. For a music writer, there can be an understanding of the merits of a given piece, she or he can also like it as a fan, and in a few instances, it can reach deep inside of you and help keeping you sane. The piece above, "Elegy for William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg", has been a refuge through the years.

Thank you and happy birthday, Brad Mehldau.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The unforgettable Mr. Jones

Hank Jones's most famous gig
Today is Hank Jones's birthday. He was a wonderful pianist, elegance in person, whose career spanned over 60 years. Too mild for some, perhaps, but always honest to himself. He was also my first interview in English, back in 1996. He was patient, kind, and even thanked me for reminding him of the people he'd played with.

He passed away two years ago, but he's not forgotten.

These videos come from a 2004 master class, the first is an in-depth interview, the second has him playing. Also recommended is this article by Ethan Iverson.

The Very Thought of You.......01:43
Alone Together................06:41
Oh, Look at Me Now............11:15
Oh, What a Beautiful Morning..15:53
Six and Four..................21:07
Don't Blame Me................29:22
Polka Dots and Moonbeams......34:41
Monk's Mood...................44:31
Ain't Misbehavin'.............48:36

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Barenboim & Bird on improvisation

Improvisation is the highest form of art for me, because when you see a score for the first time [... T]he first reaction is gut, instinct [...] We only get to this possible stage of making music [as art] - possible - the moment we have digested all that and we achieve a kind of conscious naivete which allows us to improvise it, which allows us to play it at that moment as if it is on the spur of the moment. [...] It's a very blessed state in the life of a human being.
Daniel Barenboim in his 2006 Reith Lecture,
London, May 6th, 2006

First you learn the instrument, then you learn the music, then you forget all that and just play.
Charlie Parker quoted by Artie Shaw in Gene Lees's book
Meet Me at Jim and Andy's
(Oxford University Press, 1988)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Jazz according to Branford Marsalis (and Blakey)

... one time [Ben Sidran] interviewed Art Blakey, and he said "if you had to describe jazz in one word, what would it be?" And Art said the same word three times. He said: "Intensity. Intensity. Intensity. Even on the ballads"... So, even if you have people who won't know what we're doing, they'll feel what we're doing.
From the video below, as seen on Doug Ramsey's Rifftides blog.
Branford Marsalis Quartet's new album, Four MFs Playin' Tunes, is out now.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Mixtapes and old friends

I come from a small town in Northern Spain, in the Basque Country. Although we had a good jazz festival nearby, in San Sebastián, music-wise there was not much going on. A neighbour ran the only bookshop in town, and I spent many idle hours at the best of two tiny record shops. This was a time before the internet, before mp3, before recordable CDs. Any music sharing was made through borrowing of actual records, or dubbing on cassettes.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The "complete" John Coltrane on Spotify

Today it's the 45th anniversary of John Coltrane's passing. To commemorate this extraordinary musician, over the last few weeks I've been compiling a playlist of his recordings, both as leader and sideman, in chronological order, as available on Spotify. It comprises more than 800 tracks, or four days of straight listening.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

An unsigned artist in Gioia's The Jazz Standards

Ted Gioia has just published his latest book, The Jazz Standards - A Guide to the Repertoire (Oxford University Press). Gioia has a strong reputation as a writer on jazz, and this book, on a subject that deserves this kind of work, will widely read (at least as widely as this kind of book is normally read).

A nice surprise in the book is the inclusion of this version of "My One and Only Love", which is only available as a home recording on YouTube, made and uploaded by the artist herself:

Susana Raya is a singer-guitarist from Córdoba (Spain), and has just finished her jazz guitar degree in Amsterdam. For Spanish readers, this interview from 2009 seems to portray her well. She appears as a sensitive and sensible musician, who's been hooked to the guitar since she was a kid. She studied classical guitar back in Spain, did a degree in business, but then decided that music is her life. She moved to Amsterdam to study, and she lives there at the moment. 

Admittedly, Gioia's mention is short, setting Susana's take as an example of the possibilities that "My One and Only Love" still offers after so many years. In any case, she's now in a serious book, sharing a list with Charlie Ventura, Art Tatum & Ben Webster, John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman, Sonny Rollins, Chick Corea, McCoy Tyner, Michael Brecker, Cassandra Wilson, Joshua Redman, Sting, Mark Murphy and Kurt Elling. Not bad at all. 

The fact that such an "important" writer as Gioia has acknowledged a "nobody" like Susana in such a way, is a good example of honest musical criticism, independent from aspects such as fame, name, prestige, career, etc. Writers, including myself, and promoters too, should take good note of this in order to avoid distractions and trust our ears more.

Sonny's ten top tenors... on Spotify

A few days back Sonny Rollins chose his top ten tenor sax tracks for Jazz Times. You can see the list here and, if you have Spotify, you can listen to it here.

Talking about tenors and Spotify, Coltrane fans watch this space next Tuesday...

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Drums galore: Shaughnessy & Rich

In his memoirs, just published as an e-book, Ed Shaughnessy tells the story of the drum battle with his friend Buddy Rich on Johnny Carson's show. He first explains the little arrangement they made with band leader Doc Severinsen, and then he tells his little talk before and after the show:
... I said to him, "Now look, we're friends. Of course I want you to play good. I know you're going to play good, but don't get out there and start doing... that stuff that nobody can possibly do..."

He said, "Ah, don't worry. You have nothing to worry about... I wouldn't do that to you"...
[Watch out for Rich at 2:18]

... And I was laughing... instead of trying to compete with that - which no one could do - I just clicked the sticks high up...

I went back to the dressing room after the show and said to him, "Hey, old friend, whatever happened to our deal?...

He looked at me and said, with mock sincerity, "You know, I just got carried away".

Monday, July 2, 2012

Other quotes (IV): Xabi Alonso

Which jazz musicians do you enjoy?

I've seen bands playing here [in Madrid], at Populart or Café Central, but I've listened more to people  [my brother] Mikel introduced me to, the classics: Chet Baker, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong... When he became interested I'd also listen to whatever he played...

Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid, Spanish national team), interviewed by Íñigo Gurruchaga for JotDown magazine (special hard copy issue).

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Musicians' quotes: Max Roach on historical perspective

Some of the records were done 'under the table', because you were fined and thrown out of the union if you did record. It was always a hustle and a rush. Much of the music written by Charlie Parker was written in taxi cabs on the way to the studio [...] It was get in, get out immediately, because the union was always lurking around the corner. And it's amazing to me, when I remember how it was done, how today it is considered so profound.

Max Roach on the sessions recorded during the 1948 Musician's Union ban, which include Charlie Parker's "Parker's Mood", quoted on Geoffrey Haydon's Quintet of the Year (Aurum Press, 2002).

Monday, June 25, 2012

How to hook kids on jazz: a successful case study

Gerhard Mornhinweg
On my previous post, I introduced the Conchalí Big Band, a project that has now been working successfully for 18 years with kids from an unprivileged district in Santiago, Chile, rolling social work, group therapy, and, above all, music education, all into one, in such a context that this project could have easily been dismissed as unattainable; however, in 2002 they even did a European mini-tour.

The fact that this has happened at all, and quite succesfully too, is down to two factors: the kids' enthusiasm when they're given the chance to play music, and the drive and intelligence of their leader and founder of the orchestra, Gerhard Mornhinweg (pictured).

In the video below (only in Spanish), Mornhinweg, originally a classical French horn player, explains how the orchestra came about (when he was only 22, and at a time when there was no other big band in the country), after being provided with some violins and other assorted instruments, including a sousaphone, and how the municipality supported him, even though they originally wanted a marching band and he conned them into having a jazz big band. More importantly, he also tells how he had very little experience as a teacher and how, being just slightly older than his first students, he sought his own method and soon realized that
it's not about my teaching; it's about their learning
and that
if they're not interested, we cannot teach anything.
In that very first job as a teacher he had to deal with kids living in a home for children from broken families, their imbalance between their huge enthusiasm and very little technique. Shortly afterwards, he grabbed the chance to form a band as part of a public cultural programme in Conchalí. He grins widely when he explains how the big band became a music school and at the same time he became a fully qualified teacher along the way. He notes, though, that this fundamentals remain the same:
The only way to learn is practice. That's what makes us different. My first objective was for the student not to get bored...

We have a system where, first of all, we nudge them gently towards the right instrument for them... - that is very important. The very first lesson is with the instrument, and I don't even teach them anything. I just lay out the instruments and let them see, and experiment, and in about 20 minutes, at the most, one of them will ask 'how do you play this?' That's when we have the interest. Without interest, we cannot teach, we cannot guide a learning process... I don't do much in this job, I don't teach much, I don't planify much... I give them the instrument and as they evolve I give them tips, let's listen to what you're doing, are you interested in that?

In a first stage, these students learn how to read with the instrument, and after that they have their personal tutors, which they use if and when they need them... it's a self-regulatory process, each student makes their own path, and I couldn't care less which way they go, as long as it's a good way.

Originally, this was a project to take kids off the streets. Now, this also carries a series of benefits. First, to make music they have to develop the ability to concentrate deeply... They have to work as a team... They have to develop a strong character, because it's not easy being on stage in front of a lot of people... In spite of all this, some teachers complain that the musicians are the pupils who challenge them the most in class

What I always try is to give them the chance to become professional musicians if they want to; if they don't, I give them the chance to be good amateur musicians; and if they don't want to play, that's up to them, obviously. What we achieve is that when they're done with the Big Band, they have the ability to play, even to earn some money to help them with whatever higher education they choose to follow.
At the end of the video, Mornhinweg lends a trumpet to a man in the audience who's never played, with the expected results. After he tries, Mornhinweg explains,
Can you imagine, going from that to playing a solo? They do. Do you see why I do this job?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

On music education: Conchalí Big Band (I)

The recurring debate on how to take jazz out of intensive care — a figure of speech, mind you — seems to be especially prominent at the end of spring. I have my own ideas about that, and I expect to write the dreaded definitive take on it in the future, but in the meantime let me say that I don't care that much about jazz, as I do about music in general, especially when it comes to kids playing. 

If you're a regular reader, you'll have noticed that I mention Chilean musicians quite often. Besides happy coincidence ("happynstance"?) the reason is that I like what they do, and that I'm very intrigued by the embrace, as unlikely as it is enthusiastic, of a music that should be completely foreign to them, both in terms of geography and age. One of the explanations for this is phenomenon is the Conchalí Big Band. 

This is a youth orchestra, based in the not so well-off comuna of Conchalí, in Santiago de Chile. Some alumni you may have seen in this blog are Andrés Pérez, Cristian Gallardo, Marcelo Maldonado, Agustín Moya or Cristian Orellana, all of them great musicians who wouldn't be the same if they hadn't played in this big band. 

The video below — with subtitles in English — is a documentary from 2005 about life on the road, and it focuses mainly on three musicians in the band, Emilio Melo (tp), Juan Saavedra (tb), and Domingo Alicera (g). It makes compelling viewing, especially because it shows how good playing music can be for a kid, and because of the surprising maturity and sensitivity they show. Like so,

Saavedra (on music):
You expel what's inside you. You release all pressures. You take out what's within you, and that makes you free.
Alicera (on music):
It's always me, I think. I may play licks, but I feel where I have to place them. I imagine where they have to be placed, it's me who feels it, so... there's always a connection with oneself [...]

Sometimes there's so much logic 
[in music] that one misses the feeling, and feeling is the most important thing there is to it, to feel what you're playing.
Melo (about schooling):
Sometimes you have to pay and there are not enough resources to go to a private school. The only option is to go to a bad school. There's no hope for poor people.
More about the band, and their leader and teacher, Gerhard Mornhinweg (the Eddie Bert look-alike), in a few days.

Hope you enjoy it.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Other quotes (III): Ray Bradbury

Federico Fellini [...] said "Don't tell me what I'm doing, I don't want to know" 
I didn't know what I was doing, but I'm glad that it was done.

Ray Bradbury, on his disregard for the "secret motives" within his writing, in the introduction to the 50th anniversary edition of Fahrenheit 451
(HarperVoyager, 2008)

Monday, June 11, 2012

More Chilean jazz on video

The good people of DeReojo Producciones are uploading episodes of their series jazz_cl, on the history of jazz in Chile, and Tempo, on the current scene in Chile. Below are the links to the updated posts in this blog, as well as other newly available footage.
From jazz_cl, three episodes covering jazz in Chile today.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Free historic materials, plenty of videos, and some Satchmo news...

The Internet is like a huge highway with few reliable signposts. You can drive everywhere, but how can we know which places are worth a visit?

Not that I know the answer, but Franz Hoffmann and Mark Cantor have demonstrated along the years that their work is detailed, reliable and done with the utmost care. The fact that it has been used time and time again with a lot of researchers, writers, and other people interested in jazz, is the best proof we can have.

So, why are Hoffmann and Cantor known for? 

Franz Hoffmann, from Germany, has compiled several collection of adverts from several American newspapers—New York Age, Baltimore Afro-American, New York Amsterdam News, Chicago Defender, The New York Times, Pittsburgh Courier, and The (New York) Village Voice, 1901-1967—and made them into books and sell them (they're available on CD-ROM from Norbert Ruecker's Jazz Book Shop). The idea is simple, but by executing it he has made available a staggering  amount of precise information about gigs and other news, and he has also revealed a well-defined picture of the extraordinary musical life in America. He's also the author of bio-discographies of Henry 'Red' Allen and J.C. Higginbotham, as well as other assorted research, such as Art Ford's jazz TV programmes.

The good news is that now all that is available free, on line. The ads are here, and the Allen/Higginbotham, as well as other bits, are here. He also has his own channel on YouTube, where he has uploaded over 400 rare recordings, mostly accompanied by relevant images from his ad collections. The channel is Kanal von Hoffmannjazz.

As for Mark Cantor, when it comes to old music films, mainly jazz, but also other genres, he's just the man everybody calls. In brief, any serious work with old footage in it is likely to have Cantor on board. One of the things that distinguishes him is his knack for identifying everyone on screen and unveiling every possible tidbit of information. Mark's introduction to his website is here, and a healthy selection of his work can be found here

This, for instance, is a great example of what Mark does:

Jack Teagarden playing "Lover" was one of the highlights of a classic Louis Armstrong recording at Boston's Symphony Hall in 1947. That was the year that the rest of Satchmo's life began, so to speak, and it also marked the launch of the All-Stars in earnest. We also have the Town Hall concert from that same year, but the gig in Boston is my favourite, and the sort of record everyone should have at home (here it is on Spotify, MySpace, and iTunes).

The good news from the jazz grapevine is that Universal and the Louis Armstrong Museum in Queens are working on a complete edition of that concert, with previously unissued material. It will come out as a Hip-O Select set and it promises to be something else. 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Other quotes (II): Pío Baroja

Spanish writer Pío Baroja (1872-1956), asked by a journalist about literature, circa 1918, also talks about music: 
[Works that look old, too touched up] are the ones which provoke enthusiasm in audiences. It happens in literature as well as in music - generally, unless the listener recalls the melody they will not like the work. Summing up will always be successful, because its context is already there [...] This kind of summing-up works may have some new elements, but the fewer new elements in them, the better they're liked by the audience.
Soon after he places himself within the audience.
Waltzes have always been very suggestive to me. Even though they're so worn down, so overused, they still affect me.
Pío Baroja, Las Horas Solitarias
(Ediciones 98, Madrid 2011, pp. 330 y 333)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Musicians' quotes: Levon Helm on music

"We try and play to a tradition. Music is not a fad, and music ain't a style, and it ain't none of that stuff that it has to serve. Music ain't theater... you can make music do lots of things because music don't care."
Levon Helm, who would have been 72 today, interviewed in 1984.


Richard Manuel: piano and vocals
Rick Danko: bass and vocals
Garth Hudson: organ and keyboards
Robbie Robertson: guitar
Levon Helm: drums and vocals


 Snooky Young: trumpet
Earl McIntyre: trombone
JD Parran: alto sax
Joe Farrell: tenor sax
Howard Johnson: baritone sax

 At Academy of Music, New York,
New Years' Eve, 1971.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Celebrating Sun Ra...

Documentary: Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise (Robert Mugge, 1980)

Documentary: Sun Ra, Brother from Another Planet (Don Letts, 2005)

Film: Space is the Place (John Coney, 1974)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Satchmo on Sunday

There's always something special in duets between a vocalist and an instrumentalist. Neither has anywhere to hide, but they do have more space to stretch out and more flexibility to accommodate each other. 

Whatever your taste, Louis Armstrong, Oscar Peterson and Herb Ellis are phenomenal musicians. Hearing them in this setting is just a delight. Both duets come from the 1957 Verve album Louis Armstrong meets Oscar Peterson (Verve/Universal 0602498840283).

Louis Armstrong (vocals) & Oscar Peterson (piano): "What's New?" (on MySpace / on Spotify)

Louis Armstrong (vocals) & Herb Ellis (guitar): "There's No You" (on MySpace / on Spotify)

PS: Go here for a more thorough post on "There's No You" by wunderkind Satchmologist Ricky Riccardi, whose book on Louis Armstrong, What a Wonderful World, is out now on paperback.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Happy 99th, Woody Herman!

Woody Herman, born May 16, 1913, is my favourite big band leader, and his wonderful organisation (pace Symphony Sid) of 1944-1946, the orchestra that I listen to the most for kicks. Herman surely had an ability to nurture talent as very few people could. In this recording, made on September 19th, 1946 (parts I-III) and December 27th, 1947 (part IV) he gave carte blanche to his 24-year old Ralph Burns to compose "something symphonic", which he did during the summer of '46, while taking a break from the road at the house of bassman Chubby Jackson's mom.

Originally, this suite had only three movements, but a fourth was added as an afterthought in order to complete four sides for a two-record set. The whole piece deserves attentive listening, but some things I'd pay especial attention are: the arrangement in general (the bit starting on 4:30 with the different sections going in opposite directions), including the written-out parts for the rhythm section, the baritone sax solo at the beginning of movement II, the motive played by the piano during the transition from II to III (6:03), the blues explosion at the end of III (7:56), and the angelical eight bars by Stan Getz that close the whole affair, and which put the 20-year old (!) firmly on his way to stardom.

Personnel (from Mosaic Records): 

"Summer Sequence" (I, II, III)
LA, September 19, 1946

Sonny Berman, Cappy Lewis, Conrad Gozzo, Pete Candoli, Shorty Rogers (tp), Bill Harris, Ralph Pfeffner, Ed Kiefer, Neal Reid (tb), Woody Herman (cl, as, vcl), Sam Marowitz (as), John LaPorta (cl, as), Flip Phillips, Mickey Folus (ts), Sam Rubinwitch (fl, bari), Ralph Burns (p, arr), Chuck Wayne (g), Joe Mondragon (b), Don Lamond (d), Ralph Burns (arr). 

2044-1 Summer Sequence (Pt.1) Col 38365 
2045-1 Summer Sequence (Pt.2)   - 
2046-1 Summer Sequence (Pt.3) Col 38367 

"Summer Sequence" (IV)
Hollywood, December 27, 1947

Stan Fishelson, Bernie Glow, Marky Markowitz, Ernie Royal (tp), Shorty Rogers (tp, arr), Earl Swope, Ollie Wilson (tb), Bob Swift (bass tb), Woody Herman (cl, as, vcl), Sam Marowitz (as), Herbie Steward (as, ts), Stan Getz, Zoot Sims (ts), Serge Chaloff (bari), Ralph Burns (p, arr), Gene Sargent (g), Walt Yoder (b), Don Lamond (d). 

3062-1 Summer Sequence (Pt.4) Col 38367

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Musicians' quotes: on influences and honesty

You have to do what comes honestly to you. You're just a sum of your influences. You drink it in, then you spit it back out, and you have to be honest about what comes out.
Rich Hope interviewed on Spain's Radio 3 (39:48).