Friday, February 21, 2014

Random Dameronia

Tadd Dameron, c. 1946-48
(Bill Gottlieb/LoC)
Jazz has improvisation at its core, true, but ignoring composition and arranging would be a gross oversimplification and a mis-representation of the music. One of the great composers in its great tradition was Tadd Dameron, born on a day like this in 1917.

This is just a random sample of his compositions.

Monday, February 17, 2014

ND — Carlos Montoya: From St. Louis to Seville (and a book...)

Carlos Montoya: From St. Louis to Seville
(RCA/Victor LPM-1986)

This new entry in the infrequent series Notes on discography (ND) is about an early experiment in jazz-flamenco fusion. From St. Louis to Seville is an album by Carlos Montoya published in 1959, at a time when the recording business was booming partly thanks to the mass introduction of stereo and hi-fi, flamenco had began to be well known in the US, and jazz was going through a sweet spot in its history. The significance of this LP is more historical than musical, given the context of both flamenco (think Sabicas) or jazz at the time, or even the meeting of jazz and Spanish music arranged by Miles Davis and Gil Evans about a year later in their Sketches of Spain.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Video alert: Birdland (TV, 1992)

Birdland was a TV show aired in 1992, produced in the UK by BBC Lionheart, and also aired in the US on Bravo. The shows are about 30-minutes long and the music is interspersed with interviews carried out, off-camera, by well-known British critic John Fordham. In at least some of the shows, US and UK were paired and sometimes played together. This is not only quite a snapshot from over 20 years ago, but a nice chance to see some young, fresh faces.

Five of those shows have cropped up on YouTube in the last few days. The shows are, in no particular order,
  • Herbie Hancock (w/ Ira Coleman-b, Tony Williams-d)
    Wayne Shorter (Jason Rebello-kb, Tracy Wormworth-b, Terri Lynne Carrington-d)
  • Branford Marsalis (w/Kenny Kirkland-p, Bob Hurst-b, Jeff 'Tain' Watts-d)
    Julian Joseph (w/Alec Dankworth-b, Mark Mondesir-d)
  • Steve Coleman Five Elements (w/David Gilmore-g, James Weidman-kb, Reggie Washington-b, Tommy Campbell-d) /
    Steve Williamson (w/Tony Remy-g, Joe Bashorun-kb, Gary Crosby-b, Steve Washington-d)
  • Ornette Coleman & Prime Time (Ken Wessell-g, Chris Rosenberg-g, Dave Bryant-kb, Al McDowell-b, Denardo Coleman-d, Badal Roy-tabla)
    Cassandra Wilson-Cleveland Watkiss (w/Rod Williams-p, Kevin Bruce Harris-b, Mark Johnson-d)
  • Don Cherry & Multikulti (w/ Peter Apfelbaum-fl-ts-p, Bo Freeman-b, Hamid Drake-d-perc)

Monday, February 10, 2014

Jazz is... / Jazz is not...

That is the last paragraph of Martin Williams's review of the film I Want to Live (IMDB, Wiki), published on The Jazz Review (May 1959, p. 39).

This and other issues of The Jazz Review, a short-lived but groundbreaking magazine, can be read at the Jazz Studies Online website. You can download a PDF of the issue above, here.

Friday, February 7, 2014

A radio broadcast from Birdland 1952

Kai Winding pictured by Bill Gottlieb, c. January 1947

In his Past Daily website, Gordon Skene has recently uploaded a NBC broadcast from September 9, 1952, with two bands, a quartet led by Pete Brown, and a sextet with Kai Winding at the helm. Tracks and personnel are, as introduced by the MC, as follows:

Pete Brown (alto sax), Sir Reginald Ashley (piano), Leonard Gaskin (b), Hayward Jackson (d).

     00:34  How High the Moon
     03:36  Strike Up the Band
     07:13  Perdido

Kai Winding (trombone), Kenny Dorham (trumpet), Jackie McLean (alto sax), Horace Silver (piano), Gene Ramey (bass), Ed Shaughnessy (drums)

     12:37  Always
     19:50  Stardust
     23:06  Rifftide (How High the Moon)

The music in this broadcast may be a bit disappointing, or perhaps some of us forget that not everything from the past is a masterpiece. Even so, it's better than OK, despite the short sets, the rather conventional songlists and the striking youth of some future stars like Silver and McLean, 24 and 21 respectively. You can actually hear the MC asking their names during the announcements:
"... fellow at the piano is named Silver, right?
... Horace Silver, and the fellow on alto...
...Jackie McLean"
Because he's not so well known, Pete Brown's set is more interesting, especially since his own records place him closer to R&B than bebop.

This radio broadcast, a real blast from the past, can be heard here.

Past Daily is here, and also on Facebook and Twitter.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

A 60th birthday of rock guitar (possibly)

Fans of any kind of music just love a good discussion on pioneers, on who was the first to do something, and none more so than electric guitar fans. The heroic, macho player, not too different from characters in James Bond or Western movies (guitar slingers, guitar heroes...), lends itself to this kind of speculation.

One such discussion about the first guitar hero recently involved sailing upstream your typical "great man" narrative. Take, say, Eddie Van Halen. Hendrix. That kind of revered, popular guitarist. Jeff Beck. Clapton. Electric wizards with very heavy blues leanings. Creators of new sonic worlds on a fairly new equipment and its complements, of new techniques, new resources, uniquely able to stand in front of tens of thousands mesmerized people. Mike Bloomfield, co-conspirator of Bob Dylan's electrified and electrifying appearance in Newport. And then, circa 1960, the tracks seem to disappear. However, if I had to point to an early example of really outrageous guitar, combining a very early date of recording and release to the public, and ground-breaking playing, my vote would go for a tune recorded 60 years ago today. This one:

(Play as LOUD as possible)

Yep. That is "Space Guitar", a tune Johnny 'Guitar' Watson recorded, two days short of his 19th birthday, on February 1, 1954. It was released the following month as by "Young John Watson" on the Federal label as single #12175 (b/w "Half Pint A-Whiskey").