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).