In February 2021, a notice was posted on 1509 N 33rd St. that the building will be demolished on or after March 10, 2021. The property shares a party wall with the John Coltrane House which is listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places. The Department of Licenses & Inspections (L&I) has long known … Continue reading John Coltrane Lives!→
In February 2021, a notice was posted on 1509 N 33rd St. that the building will be demolished on or after March 10, 2021.
The property shares a party wall with the John Coltrane House which is listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places. The Department of Licenses & Inspections (L&I) has long known about the deteriorating condition of 1509 N 33rd St. The National Historic Landmark was included on 2020 Preservation At Risk, in part, due to the condition of the adjacent property. We did not know what, if any, measures the demolition contractor had taken to protect the John Coltrane House.
L&I played Sergeant Schultz.
The Philadelphia Historical Commission did the “Philly Shrug.” They said they do not have the authority to require the owner to stabilize or brace the historic building. In essence, a faceless LLC that is here today and gone tomorrow can whack away at the John Coltrane House and let the bricks fall where they may. With no one holding the owner accountable, I did what I do. I made some noise.
Fast forward to June 17, 2021, City Council passed Bill No. 210389 which would amend the Philadelphia Building Construction and Occupancy Code and provide safeguards for “work impacting historic structures.” The contractor must provide notice to the adjacent property owner, document the existing condition of all adjacent buildings, and submit a construction plan to L&I.
Mayor Jim Kenney signed the bill on July 15, 2021. The provisions go into effect on January 1, 2023. John Coltrane’s legacy will live on in the historic buildings and structures that will be protected from construction activity taking place next door. It’s wonderful!
‘Tis the season, and New York Jazz Workshop is here to offer super Holiday Jazz selections to have your holidays cool and swinging for 2020! Arguably the most famous Christmas jazz piece of all time, pianist Vince Guaraldi’s “Christmas Time” is here exposed several generations to creative improvised music and planted the seed for jazz lovers that continues to endure. In a sense, Guaraldi took the kind of innovations made by Bill Evans and made […]
‘Tis the season, and New York Jazz Workshop is here to offer super Holiday Jazz selections to have your holidays cool and swinging for 2020!
Arguably the most famous Christmas jazz piece of all time, pianist Vince Guaraldi’s “Christmas Time” is here exposed several generations to creative improvised music and planted the seed for jazz lovers that continues to endure. In a sense, Guaraldi took the kind of innovations made by Bill Evans and made them accessible for the general public, and like with Dave Brubeck a decade earlier, jazz piano was once more in the forefront.
Miles Davis‘ collaborations with Gil Evans extended into 1962, where two selections were captured featuring the late vocalist Bob Dorough, of Schoolhouse Rock fame. Not only does this performance capture the first encounter between Miles and Wayne Shorter before the tenor saxophonist joined the Davis quintet in September of 1964 for Miles In Berlin but the absurdist sense of humor critiquing the commercialism of the Christmas holiday that Dorough injects makes this one of the most memorable Christmas tracks put to wax.
The suave, debonnair version of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” tenor titan Dexter Gordon cut in the midst of his second American comeback period was cut on November 4, 1980 with his quartet featuring Kirk Lightsey on piano, bassist David Eubanks, and drummer Eddie Gladden. The tenor saxophonist imbues the track with his signature sense of practically singing lyrics through the horn and the deep throated Lestorian tone. A shorter version was cut and released on a Blue Note Christmas compilation Yule Be Struttin.
Louis Armstrong recorded many Christmas songs, but the big band arrangement ‘”Zat You Santa Claus” captures his warm, jovial, impish spirit perfectly.
Jimmy Smith’s Verve years made the pioneering organist a star and household name. Occasionally on these recordings he’d scale back into his classic trio configuration, and Organ Grinder Swing recorded on June 14, 1965 at Rudy Van Gelder’s Englewood Cliffs, NJ studio is a stone classic. “Greensleeves” the classic English folk melody which John Coltrane tackled four years earlier is given a delirious burning treatment by Smith that finds the organist entering Trane and Larry Young territory. Most of this session was done in one take, but this track required four takes to get right and this is the take. In September of 1966 Smith would recapture the Christmas spirit and record “Baby It’s Cold Outside” as part of his only studio meetings with Wes Montgomery.
The jazz world mourns the passing of legendary drummer Jimmy Cobb. 2020, with the horrendous pandemic sweeping globally will go down as one of the worst years in history, if not the worst ever. The jazz world this year has lost some of the greatest musicians including pianist Mike Longo, trumpeter Wallace Roney, and alto saxophonist Lee Konitz as a result of the pandemic. Perhaps the biggest and most heartbreaking loss this year is the […]
The jazz world mourns the passing of legendary drummer Jimmy Cobb. 2020, with the horrendous pandemic sweeping globally will go down as one of the worst years in history, if not the worst ever. The jazz world this year has lost some of the greatest musicians including pianist Mike Longo, trumpeter Wallace Roney, and alto saxophonist Lee Konitz as a result of the pandemic. Perhaps the biggest and most heartbreaking loss this year is the loss of drummer Jimmy Cobb, the lone surviving member of Miles Davis’ legendary Kind of Blue session recorded over two dates in 1959. Cobb, whose resume includes Earl Bostic, Dinah Washington, Wes Montgomery, Wayne Shorter and Miles, and as well as leading his own bands for many years remained a strong player till the end, was known for his insuperable ride cymbal beat, incredible sensitivity to dynamics, fantastic brushwork and peerless ability to swing. Cobb passed away at his Manhattan home at 91 on May 24th.
Wilbur James Cobb was born in Washington, DC on January 20, 1929. Entirely self taught, the drummer was inspired to take up drumming from watching an older boy in his neighborhood, and by the age of 21, was already on the road with legendary R&B tenor saxophonist Earl Bostic. The drummer met Bostic through bassist Keter Betts, and began touring with the saxophonist after meeting him on 125th Street and St. Nicholas in Harlem and began touring one nighters with the saxophonist. Bostic, incidentally was a huge influence on John Coltrane, and the saxophonist along with others like Jay McNeely, through their use of extended techniques were tremendous influences on the avant garde movement that would occur in the 60’s. After the tenure with Bostic, the drummer later joined Dinah Washington, and her pianist was one, Wynton Kelly whom Cobb would play with until the pianist’s untimely death in 1971 with Paul Chambers, the drummer’s rhythm section mate with Miles Davis, and Wes Montgomery. Cobb had also spent one week playing with Charlie Parker as part of disc jockey Symphony Sid’s All Stars, a group that included a young Miles Davis, vibraphonist Milt Jackson, and the recently arrived Belgian sensation Toots Thielemans, then still on guitar before he picked up the instrument for which he is most known– harmonica.
1959 was a pivotal year in jazz. The music was rapidly changing, with directions moving from chord changes to modal based jazz, John Coltrane stretching harmony to the breaking point, Dave Brubeck introducing new time signatures into the form, and Ornette Coleman was discarding traditional melody, and harmony, into a unique blend he called harmolodics. Cobb had joined Miles Davis’ group formally in 1958, having been taped at the Newport Jazz Festival for Columbia in July, and having replaced Philly Joe Jones for half the sessions that produced Porgy and Bess when Jones had failed to show up. The trumpeter called Cobb one evening, and explained that Jones had left the group, and would he be interested in making the gig? Cobb said yes, according to an interview with NYU’s Jazz Department director David Shroeder and explained that Davis had called him at 6 PM, and the gig was at 9 PM! The drummer hurriedly packed a bag, his drums, and took a plane, a shuttle that went from NY to Boston in 55 minutes and arrived when the band had just been playing “Round Midnight” and entered following the iconic interlude section. Cobb was on Kind of Blue and recalled no one had anticipated the kind of success it had. His cymbal crash beginning the round of solos on “So What” is a perfect example of the kind of drive and swing he brought to the band, and his brush work on “Blue and Green” “All Blues” and “Flamenco Sketches” are all textbook examples of supreme sensitivity, and the uplift he brought two years later to the recording of “Someday My Prince Will Come” with his brush to stick transition is absolutely magisterial.
After leaving Davis, the Kelly-Chambers-Cobb rhythm section went on to join guitarist Wes Montgomery. Though Cobb had participated in the 1963 session that produced Boss Guitar (Riverside) with organist Melvin Rhyne, the Kelly-Chambers-Cobb unit really found it’s stride the previous year when they taped Full House with the guitarist the previous year, featuring guest, tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin. Cobb’s driving pulse and relentless ride is behind Montgomery’s famous version of “No Blues” from Smokin At The Half Note (Verve, 1965) a half live, half studio album which influenced a whole new generation of guitarists. Cobb remained active, teaching, and being an incubator of young talent including those who have gone onto stardom like Brad Mehldau and tenorist Eric Alexander, releasing the albums The Original Mob (2014) and his final album Dis I Dig Of You earlier this year on Smoke Sessions, the label run by Smoke Jazz and Supper Club, Cobb’s strong pocket will never been forgotten and live on forever.
The New York Jazz Workshop’s CJ Shearn offers a reflection on the passing of jazz piano legend McCoy Tyner. Below are Shearn’s words. The legends who have made significant contributions to this music within the linear historical narrative are leaving the earthly realm one by one. March 6th saw the passing of an absolute giant: McCoy Tyner. The groundbreaking piano titan passed away at home peacefully, leaving a legacy as vast as it was […]
The New York Jazz Workshop’s CJ Shearn offers a reflection on the passing of jazz piano legend McCoy Tyner. Below are Shearn’s words.
The legends who have made significant contributions to this music within the linear historical narrative are leaving the earthly realm one by one. March 6th saw the passing of an absolute giant: McCoy Tyner. The groundbreaking piano titan passed away at home peacefully, leaving a legacy as vast as it was influential. My initial entry to Tyner’s work was at five or six years of age when my aunt got me the album Milestone Jazzstars In Concert (1978) my first exposure as well, to Sonny Rollins. I always loved this particular double album because I felt the group dynamic was very strong and it introduced me to Tyner’s inimitable walloping, but also subtle playing.
Tyner was born in Philadelphia on December 11, 1938. The house where he grew up was downstairs from his mother’s beauty salon and it was there from the age of 13 that the pianist developed his craft. In a heartwarming way, in a 1999 interview with Owen McNally that appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Mr. Tyner described a typical scenario at his mother’s salon:
“My mother’s customers would be patting their feet right next to my band’s baritone saxophone player, never missing a beat,” Tyner recalls, speaking by phone from his Manhattan apartment.
“My mother would walk into her shop–we lived over the parlor on the second floor–and say, ‘Wow, McCoy! You got a big band there! Go ahead and play!’ ” From early on, the environment he grew up in was conducive to honing his chops; studying both classical and jazz. Richie Powell, Bud Powell’s younger brother who was tragically killed in the same car wreck as Clifford Brown, lived around the corner, and Bud would frequently play at the family’s home.
In 1959, he joined Benny Golson’s Jazztet, and at a matinee bill he shared with Cal Massey, the legendary Philadelphia trumpeter and composer a chance meeting would be something that would define his career.:a chance meeting with John Coltrane. For five years from 1961-1965 in the classic John Coltrane Quartet, Tyner aided in the redefinition of what a jazz quartet was and could be. The quartet, first with Art Davis on bass, Reggie Workman and crystallizing with Jimmy Garrison, was a unit of indescribable energy, but also capable of wonderful subtlety as Plays The Blues, Ballads and the recent finds Both Directions At Once and Blue World demonstrated. It was Coltrane’s stripping down of “My Favorite Things” to find Eastern sonorities, that really showcased Tyner’s innovations. Though the use of perfect fourths and fifths had been in use prior to Tyner, the application in his playing was game changing. In his fingers, the fourth voicing achieved a pillowy character that was somehow massive, and the sudden slamming of fifths, also in the left hand just freed up the harmony in a unique way. His skittering diminished lines in the right hand suggested something other than a piano– something more like a guitar, harp or zither. Tyner’s application of this style of playing added so much to albums such as Juju by Wayne Shorter, Tom Cat by Lee Morgan, and Matador by Grant Green just to name a few. It would be foolish here to list a traditional career narrative here, but compositions such as “Passion Dance” from the landmark The Real McCoy (1967) are so fascinating for the mileage he gets from the F Mixolydian scale and the use of an Fsus4 chord underneath, nothing ever gets tired in his solo from the use of that one scale. The solo version on the Milestone album of the same name, recorded live in Japan makes intriguing comparative listening to how he approaches the melody, and alters the harmony.
As with a lot of his Milestone recordings, the pianist sought to increase the sound palette, as with his final Blue Note albums of 1968-1970. These albums, Cosmos, Expansions, Extensions, and Asante (unreleased until 1973) found Tyner using diverse instrumentation such as Wayne Shorter on tenor, (and his first instrument, clarinet), Gary Bartz’ alto, Herbie Lewis’ bass augmented by Ron Carter’s cello, Hubert Laws’ flute, and a string quartet among others. Tyner expanded the harmonic palette by employing these various colors, and taking cues from Indian and African music with some of the tunes. One of the most memorable aspects of the track “Vision” is the balance between the tonal and atonal, particularly on the bridge. Herbie Lewis holds down a vamp, while Carter goes on some surreal micro tonal flights. While this contrast may seem jarring to listeners only familiar with his work with Coltrane, the early Shorter Blue Notes, and vice versa, it showed how he moved forward to create new ground from the experiences that shaped John Coltrane’s music. From the Milestone period, Tyner carved his stake in the burgeoning so called “spiritual jazz” movement, the albums taking on Afrocentric ideals, and the sing song melodies of many pieces, like “Ebony Queen” and “Fly Like The Wind” were canvases for stirring modal improvisation. Tyner experimented further with instrumentation, such as his appearances on flute, koto and celeste, never quite approaching jazz-rock or jazz-funk, but recordings like the seminal Enlightenment (1973) and Atlantis (1975) bristle with an overwhelmingly intense rockish energy. “Valley Of Life”, from Sahara, his 1972 Milestone debut found him overdubbing koto, percussion and flute in his own idiosyncratic way, a meditative reflection long before “new age” was a category. To be fair, as a piece it is far more interesting than a lot of what comes out of that genre.
As a solo pianist, Tyner was simply superb. His sense of dynamics were incredible, like Cecil Taylor, truly treating the piano as a percussion instrument, yet at the same time demonstrating thorough grasp of the entire piano lineage from Earl “Fatha” Hines to the present. Milestone recordings as well as later period Blue Note, Impulse and Telarc offerings captured the massive dynamic range of his solo performances in a way his classic Blue Note albums do not, with their square mid range piano. As the pianist entered his later years, he pared down the frenetic energy of his right hand runs mixing in some chordal passages, never losing sight of the powerful fourths and fifths in the left hand.
The legacy of McCoy Tyner is one that will live on through the multitudes of pianists that followed in his footsteps. The Poetic Language of Jazz Improvisation taught by Marc Mommaas, at New York Jazz Workshop can give greater into Tyner’s innovations.
Most Duke Ellington tribute concerts and recordings rely on just a handful of his compositions (Mood Indigo, Satin Doll, In A Sentimental Mood, etc.). The Duke Ellington Society refers to these songs as “the usual suspects.” While they are worthy … Continue reading →
Most Duke Ellington tribute concerts and recordings rely on just a handful of his compositions (MoodIndigo, Satin Doll, In A Sentimental Mood, etc.). The Duke Ellington Society refers to these songs as “the usual suspects.” While they are worthy of their status as standards, Ellington wrote thousands of compositions; there is plenty of his oeuvre that is ripe for exploration!
Despite having a major new work to promote (Such Sweet Thunder), in this 1957 television appearance Ellington has to take time away from it in order to play a greatest hits medley (aka “The Usual Suspects”).
The recordings heard on this podcast episode:
All Too Soon (CD: “Highlights of the Great 1940-1942” Avid EMSC1143)
Recorded 22 July 1940, New York City
Wallace Jones, Cootie Williams, Rex Stewart – trumpet; Lawrence Brown, Joe Nanton, Juan Tizol – trombone; Barney Bigard, Johnny Hodges, Otto Hardwicke, Ben Webster, Harry Carney – reeds; Duke Ellington – piano; Fred Guy – guitar; Jimmie Blanton – bass; Sonny Greer – drums.
All Too Soon (CD: “Jazz Royalty: Earl Hines Plays Duke Ellington” Soul Note SN 1170)
Recorded 18 March 1974, New York City
Earl Hines – piano.
Cotton Club Stomp (CD: Early Ellington (1927 – 1934), Bluebird 6852-2-RB)
Recorded 3 May 1929, New York City
Arthur Whetsel, Cootie Williams, Freddie Jenkins – trumpet; Joe Nanton – trombone; Barney Bigard, Otto Hardwicke, Harry Carney – reeds; Duke Ellington – piano; Fred Guy – banjo; Wellman Braud – bass; Sonny Greer – drums.
Cotton Club Stomp (CD: “Bug Music” Nonesuch 79438-2)
Recorded May 1996 in New York City
Charles Lewis, James Zollar, Steve Bernstein –trumpet; Craig Harris – trombone; Don Byron, Steve Wilson, Robert DeBellis – reeds; Paul Meyers – banjo; Kenny Davis – bass; Pheeroan akLaff – drums.
Take the Coltrane (CD: “Duke Ellington & John Coltrane” MCA MCAD-39103)
Recorded 26 September 1962, New York City
John Coltrane – tenor sax; Duke Ellington – piano; Jimmy Garrison – bass; Elvin Jones – drums.
Take the Coltrane (CD: “The Hill” MCA MCAD-39103)
Recorded 29 November 1986, New York City
David Murray – tenor sax; Richard Davis – bass; Joe Chambers – drums.
Paris Blues (CD: “Midnight in Paris” Sony Music COL4684032)
Recorded 30 January 1962, New York City
Bill Berry, Harold “Shorty” Baker, Cat Anderson, Ray Nance – trumpet; Lawrence Brown, Leon Cox, Chuck Connors – trombone; Jimmy Hamilton, Russell Procope, Johnny Hodges, Paul Gonsalves, Harry Carney – reeds; Duke Ellington – piano; Aaron Bell – bass; Sam Woodyard – drums.
Paris Blues (CD: “Paris Blues” Sunnyside Records SSC 3505,)
Recorded 30 November/1 December 1987, Paris
Steve Lacy – soprano sax; Gil Evans – electric piano.
Acht O’Clock Rock (CD: “Duke Ellington, The Centennial Edition” RCA Victor – 09026-63386-2)
Recorded 15 November 1967, San Francisco
Cootie Williams, Cat Anderson, Herbie Jones, Mercer Ellington – trumpet; Lawrence Brown, Buster Cooper, Chuck Connors – trombone; Jimmy Hamilton, Russell Procope, Johnny Hodges, Paul Gonsalves, Harry Carney – reeds; Duke Ellington – piano; Jeff Castleman – bass; Sam Woodyard – drums.
Acht O’Clock Rock (CD: “Red Hot + Indigo” Kinetic Records RHO-13IND)
Steven Bernstein – trumpet; Don Byron – clarinet; Art Baron – trombone; John Medeski – piano; Chris Wood – bass; Billy Martin – drums.
Jingle Bells (CD: “Jingle Bell Jazz” Columbia CK 40166)
Recorded 21 June 1962, New York City
Bill Berry, Roy Burrowes, Cat Anderson, Ray Nance – trumpet; Lawrence Brown, Britt Woodman, Chuck Connors – trombone; Jimmy Hamilton, Russell Procope, Johnny Hodges, Paul Gonsalves, Harry Carney – reeds; Duke Ellington – piano; Aaron Bell – bass; Sam Woodyard – drums.
Auld Lang Syne (CD: “Recollections of the Big Band Era” Atlantic Jazz 7 90043-2)
Recorded 29 December 1962, New York City
Cootie Williams, Roy Burrowes, Cat Anderson, Ray Nance – trumpet; Lawrence Brown, Britt Woodman, Chuck Connors – trombone; Jimmy Hamilton, Russell Procope, Johnny Hodges, Paul Gonsalves, Harry Carney – reeds; Duke Ellington – piano; Ernie Shepard – bass; Sam Woodyard – drums.
CurtJazz gives his take on the 2019 Best Jazz Instrumental Album nominees; along with a few disappointing snubs and unscientific predictions
BEST JAZZ INSTRUMENTAL ALBUM
In the second of the two biggest jazz categories, we have a race between a great saxophonist who is finally earning a little recognition; two of the finest pianists working today; a respected veteran who is still getting it done and a true legend, admired and respected by all.
The crackle from the moment her alto enters…twenty seconds into the first tune (“In the Trenches”), I had that feeling that this album was going to be a great one. Ms. Tia Fuller has been on the scene for over a decade. She has paid the bills for a while, working with Beyonce’s road band, but whenever she steps into the studio under her own name, she is an unapologetic jazz player. She hadn’t released a project in six years, prior to Diamond Cut. She has been missed. This project is different in many ways, from her previous four albums; for one thing, it is produced by the amazing Terri Lyne Carrington. For another, there’s no piano. Guitarist Adam Rogers handles the chordal duties. And, there are two different bass/drum duos, splitting the work; James Genus and Bill Stewart are one set and the other two, you may have heard of: Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette. As for Ms. Fuller’s sound, clearly, the Berklee professor was ready to take everyone to school. She masters what she needs to be in that moment; she is at turns, gritty, soulful and even a bit on the outside. Diamond Cut is a very strong album and Ms. Fuller deserves her first Grammy nomination for it. However, this category also features someone who has been making great music since before Tia was born. Most likely, it will be his night.
This Fred Hersch album has been nominated for two Grammys. The odds of Hersch winning either are fairly long, despite the fact that it is another excellent disc, from one of the finest pianists of our time. What is the problem? Part of it may be timing; Mr. Hersch seems to often run up against a hot project that has caught the attention of the jazz public and media. When this happens, other master musicians, like Hersch, get lost in the noise. Another issue may be his steady excellence. Hersch is not flashy. Even though he wrote an interesting and well received autobiography in 2017, and he has had some fascinating life issues over the past few years, he still generally, flies under the radar. Fred Hersch is so uniformly good, that he is taken for granted. He has been nominated for 14 Grammys. Hopefully, the voters will wise up soon. This year, I don’t think it will be in this category.
The story behind this album’s title, is as interesting as it should be. Apparently, Mr. Mehldau has a dream, in which the late, Oscar winning actor, Seymour Phillip Hoffman, was reading the U.S. Constitution. The tune that Mehldau heard, accompanying Hoffman’s voice, became the inspiration for the title track. Despite the odd title, Seymour Reads the Constitution!, is the most accessible album that I’ve heard from Brad Mehldau, in quite a while. The trio swings hard through a collection of originals, standards, minor jazz classics and Beach Boys tunes (yes, you heard right), with gusto and without condescension. Like Hersch, Mehldau is double nominated for this album (his 9th, without a win, so far). It’s fine work but he’s likely to run into a “Shorter” wall here. In the Best Instrumental Solo category, however, he’s got a good shot.
I can’t believe that the saxophone wunderkind of the 90’s, Joshua Redman, has just turned 50. I can believe that he is still evolving and getting stronger at his craft, more than 25 years after he first floored us jazzheads with his debut album. Though he is the son of a famed avant-gardist, his early years were deeply in the tradition (as I’m sure Warner Bros. wanted it). On this latest album, which garnered his seventh nomination, he pays tribute to his dad, Dewey, and Old and New Dreams, a group that Dewey played in, from the mid 70’s through the mid 80’s. That group, which also included legends Charlie Haden and Don Cherry, itself paid homage to their mentor, the patron saint of avant-garde jazz, Ornette Coleman. Still Dreaming is excellent, start to finish – terrific compositions and it stretches the boundaries of form, without completely breaking them. It is similar to Christian McBride’s New Jawn album, also from last year. I confess that I only gave this album a passing listen upon its release, but now that I’ve returned to it, I truly dig it, a lot. Perhaps it should have been on my Best of 2018 list. However, we are talking Grammy here, folks. Redman has never won one. He is a respected veteran and his star has stretched outside of the insular jazz world at times, over the past quarter century. But, due to the presence of our next nominee, I’m afraid that his wait is likely to extend beyond this weekend.
Wayne Shorter is a true musical legend. He one of the greatest jazz saxophonists and composers of our time. In addition to his work as a leader, he has been an integral part of three of the greatest groups in jazz history. He has created transcendent musical art in every decade since the early 1960s. He has been nominated for a Grammy 21 times and has, so far, won 10, including a Lifetime Achievement Award, in 2015. He is also now 85 years old. So no one would blame Wayne Shorter, if he were to simply sit back, at this point and collect all of the accolades that are due to him, no one would be upset. So what does he do? He creates a symphonic masterpiece and releases it, in an epic three CD (God only knows how many LP) set, that includes a graphic novel. These new and challenging compositions are performed by a symphony orchestra and then live, by his current working quartet! Emanon is a brilliant work of musical art (I confess that I have not yet seen the graphic novel). I hope that Mr. Shorter has more in him and keeps sharing it with us, for at least another 20 years. If, as some have said, this is his final work, then it is a towering valedictory. Will he win this Grammy? Ummm, Yeah.
We take an honest look at each of the nominees for the 2019 Best Improvised Jazz Solo, Grammy. We also predict a winner and list a few tunes that should have been nominated.
We’re about a week out from the 2019 Grammys, which will be held on Sunday February 10. As is now customary, the jazz awards will be presented during the Premiere Ceremony, which is streamed live before the televised show.
As is also now relatively customary, I like to take a look at each of the jazz category nominees and make my comments and totally unscientific (but usually accurate) predictions.
Lets start with the category that is closest to Record of the Year, for jazz. “Best Improvised Jazz Solo”
First off, the fact that the album that this track comes from, Karrin Allyson’s Some of That Sunshine, is not nominated for the Jazz Vocal Album Grammy, is a crime, in itself. Nevertheless, I’m happy to see it get some recognition, through violinist Regina Carter, doing her usual impeccable work in a solo as a guest on the easily swinging title track. First with a joyous pizzicato, followed by bowing, and then trading fours with a scatting Ms. Allyson in the fade-out, Ms. Carter’s work is the cherry on top a beautiful musical sundae. Due to the lack of name recognition and the fact that this is an indie production, it is not likely to take home the trophy but I would not be at all disappointed if it did.
I love the concept of this album, on which trumpeter John Daversa’s Big Band is comprised mostly of “Dreamers” young people who came to the United States as children under DACA, and now face potential deportation as adults due the current political nonsense. That said, I don’t love this track, nor am I fond of Mr. Daversa’s performance on it. I get why this old Gene Autry tune was re-purposed for this particular album (the irony is quite rich) but the arrangement is messy and unfocused. I think this track arrived in this category on the coattails of the album, American Dreamers, which is also nominated for the Best Large Jazz Ensemble Grammy. While I wish them the best, I think that there are far more deserving nominees.
Fred Hersch, is one of our generation’s finest jazz pianists. Because of this, he has earned 14 Grammy nominations, over the course of his career. Fred Hersch also happens to during a time in which cats named Corea, Hancock and Shorter, among others, are still actively working and recording. As much as we hate to admit it, in the Grammy world, your chances of winning are directly proportional to your name recognition. “We See” is a terrific performance, of the Monk classic tune, off of a very fine Hersch album, Live in Europe, which is also nominated in the Best Jazz Instrumental Album category. Without any of those name recognition giants around to suck up the oxygen and with 14 nominations to get his name into the minds of the voters, I’d say that Mr. Hersch has a legitimate shot at winning in this category. The only one potentially in his way, is our next nominee.
Brad Mehldau has been on the jazz scene for over two decades, as a sideman, leader and soloist but like Fred Hersch, he has also been overshadowed by the cats with greater name recognition. Like Hersch, he also has a large number of Grammy nominations (nine), without any hardware to show for it. This nominated track was also written by a great jazz composer, albeit one who has never gotten the recognition he deserved (Elmo Hope), and the album from which the track is pulled, Seymour Reads the Constitution!, is also nominated for Best Jazz Instrumental Album. So in this tight race, I give the nod to Mehldau. It’s a longer track, which gives Mr. Mehldau more of a chance to stretch out and show his considerable skills. It also swings in an ingratiating manner, which will make it easier on the ears of a potential voter, who may be inexperienced in jazz idioms. I’m not surprised if it goes either way but I expect it to be Brad Mehldau, by a nose.
Another of our double nominees competing in this category Mr. Zenón has been making some incredible music over the last decade, much of it celebrating his Puerto Rican heritage and a rich musical tradition, beyond the popular rhythms of salsa. On the album Yo Soy La Tradición , as well as on this selection, “Cadenas”, Zenón weaves the sound of his alto sax, into, through and around the rich colorings of the Spektral [String] Quartet. This is the most different and musically compelling of the nominated pieces, by far. There is something new to discover on each of the dozen or so times, that I have heard it. The album itself, is nominated for Best Latin Jazz Album, bringing the career total of Mr. Zenón’s nominations to seven. It would be a deserving winner in either category but sadly, I don’t think it will happen.
Over a half century, Ellington crossed paths with many illustrious musicians…. Continue reading →
Duke Ellington and Frank Sinatra
Count Basie and Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie
Duke Ellington and Tommy Dorsey
Coleman Hawkins and Duke Ellington
John Coltrane and Duke Ellington
The recordings heard on this podcast episode:
St. Louis Blues (CD: “The Complete 1932-1940 Brunswick, Columbia and Master Recordings of Duke Ellington and his Famous Orchestra” Mosiac Records #248)
Recorded 11 February 1932, New York City
Arthur Whetsel, Cootie Williams, Freddie Jenkins – trumpet; Joe Nanton, Juan Tizol – trombone; Barney Bigard, Johnny Hodges, Harry Carney – reeds; Duke Ellington – piano; Fred Guy – banjo; Wellman Braud – bass; Sonny Greer – drums; Bing Crosby – vocal.
Tonight I Shall Sleep (With A Smile On My Face) (CD: “Black, Brown, and Beige” RCA Victor 6641-2-RB)
Recorded 14 May 1945, New York City
Shelton Hemphill, Rex Stewart, Taft Jordan, Cat Anderson, Ray Nance – trumpet; Tommy Dorsey, Lawrence Brown, Joe Nanton, Claude Jones – trombones; Jimmy Hamilton, Otto Hardwicke, Johnny Hodges, Al Sears, Harry Carney – reeds; Duke Ellington – piano; Fred Guy – guitar; Bob Haggart – bass; Sonny Greer – drums
The Minor Goes Muggin’ (CD: “Highlights from the Duke Ellington Centennial Edition (1927-1973)” RCA Victor 09026636722)
Recorded 14 May 1945, New York City
Duke Ellington – piano; Charlie Shavers, George Seaberg, Mickey Mangano, Gerald Goff – trumpet; Tommy Dorsey, Karl DeKarske, Dick Noel, Tex Satterwhite – trombone; Joseph Parkty, Gus Bivona, Sid Cooper, Vido Musso, Babe Fresk, Bruce Branson – reeds; Bob Bain – guitar; Bob Haggart – bass; Buddy Rich – drums; Sy Oliver – arranger.
Hello, Little Girl (CD: “Jazz Party” Columbia CK 40712)
Recorded 19 February 1959, New York City
Dizzy Gillespie, Cat Anderson, Harold Baker, Clark Terry, Ray Nance – trumpet; Britt Woodman, Quentin Jackson, John Sanders – trombone; Jimmy Hamilton, ussell Procope, Johnny Hodges, Paul Gonsalves, Harry Carney – reeds; Jimmy Jones – piano; Jimmy Woode – bass; Sam Woodyard – drums; Jimmy Rushing – vocal.
Angelica (CD: “Duke Ellington & John Coltrane” MCA MCAD-39103)
Recorded 26 September 1962, New York City
John Coltrane – tenor sax; Duke Ellington – piano; Jimmy Garrison – bass; Elvin Jones – drums.
Ray Charles’ Place (CD: “Duke Ellington meets Coleman Hawkins” Impulse! IMPD-162)
Recorded 18 August 1962, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey
Ray Nance – trumpet; Lawrence Brown – trombone; Johnny Hodges – alto sax; Coleman Hawkins – tenor sax; Harry Carney – baritone sax; Duke Ellington – piano; Aaron Bell – bass; Sam Woodyard – drums.
Duke Ellington – piano; Charles Mingus – bass; Max Roach – drums.
I Like The Sunrise (CD: “Francis A. & Edward K.” Reprise Records 1024-2)
Recorded 12 December 1967, Seattle
Cootie Williams, Cat Anderson, Herbie Jones, Mercer Ellington – trumpet; Lawrence Brown, Buster Cooper, Chuck Connors – trombone; Jimmy Hamilton, Russell Procope, Johnny Hodges, Paul Gonsalves, Harry Carney – reeds; Duke Ellington – piano; Jeff Castleman – bass; Sam Woodyard – drums; Frank Sinatra – vocal.
Battle Royal(CD: “First Time” Columbia CK 65571)
Willie Cook, Edward Mullens, Cat Anderson, Andres Merenguito, Thad Jones, Sonny Cohn, Snooky Young, Lennie Johnson, Ray Nance – trumpet; Louis Blackburn, Lawrence Brown, Juan Tizol, Henry Coker, Quentin Jackson, Benny Powell – trombone; Jimmy Hamilton, Russell Procope, Marshal Royal, Johnny Hodges, Frank Wess(, Paul Gonsalves, Frank Foster, Budd Johnson, Harry Carney, Charlie Fowlkes – reeds; Duke Ellington, Count Basie – piano; Freddy Green – guitar; Aaron Bell – bass; Sonny Payne, Sam Woodyard – drums.