Wednesday, August 3, 2011

LATIN JAZZ ARTISTS SUE GRAMMYS FOR DROPPING CATEGORY




(From Reuters)

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Four Latin jazz artists are suing the organizers of the Grammy Awards, alleging the elimination of their category from next year's competition has caused them irreparable harm. Musicians Robert Sanabria, Benjamin Lapidus, Mark Levine and Eugene Marlow accused the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Inc. of violating its fiduciary and contractual obligations in April when it cut 31 categories from the annual awards ceremony, including Latin jazz.

The musicians' complaint was filed earlier this week in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan.The lawsuit also accused the Academy of failing to consider the adverse impact the decision would have on the musicians' careers. "There's nothing like having the ability to say 'Grammy-nominated,' 'Grammy-award-winning,'" their lawyer Roger Maldonado said on Tuesday.

Here's video of Eddie Palmieri's June press conference lamenting the decision...




The plaintiffs, who are seeking class-action status, accused the Academy specifically of failing to solicit input from the voting members of its 12 nationwide chapters before announcing the eliminations.
The Academy said in a statement: "The Recording Academy believes this frivolous lawsuit is without merit, and we fully expect to prevail."

In its news release announcing the eliminations, Academy officials said all general musical genres, such as rock, country, and jazz, would remain intact. The number of categories, however, would be condensed from 109 to 78.

"A transformation of the entire awards structure would ensure that all Fields would be treated with parity," the release said. In the field of jazz, musicians who previously competed for "Best Latin Jazz Album" will now compete for "Best Jazz Instrumental Album" or "Best Jazz Vocal Album."


Here's a killer performance by what maybe the last Latin Jazz Album Grammy winners - Chucho Valdes and the Afro-Cuban Messengers.



Robert Maldonado said this puts his clients at a disadvantage. "You would have to submit under the broad jazz category, now. You're competing against any other number of genres that are not going to be viewed the same," he said. "You're also trying to compare apples and oranges in a way that just doesn't work."
(Reporting by Jennifer Golson; editing by Barbara Goldberg and Jerry Norton)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

RIFF NOTES...

What do Jazz and Video games have in common? - The answer could be something else you may not know about - The National Jazz Museum...in Harlem! We make that inference because a relatively small amount of cyberspace has been occupied by NJMH since it's 2003 opening and the most recent news about the museum (which is operated by  The Smithsonian Institution) comes in the form of an announcement of a partnership with the World Wide Workshop to teach youth jazz and digital literacy through Globaloria, a youth network for learning how to make videogames. Check out the rest of the info on the NJMH website.

Actor Don Cheadle is making noise again about producing and starring in a Miles Davis film that "isn't a bio-pic."  Now, you may ask, as I did when I read the news, "how can you make a film about a real life, historical figure such as Miles without addressing important biographical aspects of his life and art..." maybe that's Hollywood-speak for "we don't quite know what it is yet...."  In any case I like Don and I applaud his efforts to bring the story of Miles to the screen. Read more about what Cheadle says about the project here and here.

By the way, if you're a jazz devotee living in the Nation's Capital and you haven't checked out the DC jazz site CapitalBop, shame on you. If you plan to visit DC anytime soon and jazz is your thing, the site is a must.

I live in both DC and NYC and one of my favorite Greenwich Village haunts is the turn of the century, used-to-be-speakeasy AKA the 55 Bar. Always a terrific hang -  your bound to see and hear amazing, marquee value musicians playing or checking out their favorite players in a casual, inspired and close-knit setting. The amazing husband and wife guitar icons, Mike and Leni Stern are regulars as is uber-drummer Antonio Sanchez. I've seen his frequent collaborator, Pat Metheny hangin' at the 55 during several of Antonio's gigs. I've also had the pleasure of occupying the corner end of the bar with piano legend Cecil Taylor on a few occasions; it's a real pleasure (and an honor) to see him holding court, sharing insights about life, love and the universe. He's so comfortable there you would think it was his living room. Now I hear we might see Cecil at the 55 a little less - since he's raising money to turn his home of 40 years, living room included, into a museum!

  Cecil Taylor at home

Wow! Read more about Cecil's plan here. I know would pay to pay Mr. Taylor a visit, so to speak, how about you?

Finally...I find the NPR Jazz Blog, A Blog Supreme to be a smart, entertaining and insightful addition to the jazz "blogosphere", but it must have been a slow day for news when they decided to post this story....Eighteen Jazz Musicians Nicknamed 'Sonny' (Or The Like).  Check it out, and let me know what you think....

FRANK FOSTER - R.I.P.


The litany of accolades and the outpouring of love and respect for the man could never equal the towering legacy he left to us. To get a sense of his historical and artistic import or to simply toast his incomparable presence, check out...

These amazing interviews from 1992 and 2008...
http://www.melmartin.com/html_pages/Interviews/foster.html
http://www.wbgo.org/blog/interview-frank-foster-gary-walker

This heartfelt obit....
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/27/arts/music/frank-foster-jazz-saxophonist-and-composer-dies-at-82.html

His legendary 1960 performance with the band that owes much of it's world renown to his creative genius...



And my favorite Frank Foster moment of all time...Jerry Lewis' priceless interpretation of Foster's swingin' composition "Blues in Hoss' Flat" with The Count Basie Orchestra providing accompaniment. It was featured in the 1961 film "The Errand Boy."


We will never forget you Frank....godspeed.

Monday, March 14, 2011

JASCHA AND JOSEPH





Believe or not, as jazz fans we have Jascha Heifitz to thank for Joe Morello.

Cut to Boston, MA, 1943. A promising 15 year old violinist is in a small room, waiting for the chance of a lifetime - a meeting with his idol, who many consider to be the greatest violinist of all time. 9 years before, because of a birth defect that left him with poor vision and a life spent mostly indoors, the youngster discovered music, which he absorbed with a prodigious appetite. At age 9 he was featured violin soloist with The Boston Symphony Orchestra, (performing Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto) after playing the instrument for only 3 years. He would play with The BSO again 3 years later. Now the young man is attracting international attention among the classical music elite.

After waiting for what must have seemed like an eternity for the young prodigy, Joseph Morello meets his 42 year old violin hero Jascha Heifitz. Profoundly moved by the experience, Morello decides on a course that would change the world - he'd give up violin and switch to percussion, feeling he would never be able to "equal" Heifitz's precision and distinctive sound. Although Morello had hoped to continue as a classical musician, his instructor, legendary percussionist and percussion theorist George Lawrence Stone, became the prophetic conduit of miraculous intervention, convincing Morello the younger that his future lay in jazz.

Of course, Stone's prescient suggestion planted a seed that would grow into a life full of extraordinary accomplishment and innovation that ended with Joe Morello's death at home in Irvington, NJ on March 12. He was 82. The miracle that was Morello can be verified time and time again with his presence in The Dave Brubeck Quartet and it's groundbreaking recordings and performances. Morello's tenure with Brubeck began in 1955 when he was asked to be a last-minute replacement for a two-month temp gig; it ended in 1968, when DBQ finally disbanded. So, every time you hear one of the Brubeck Quartet classics like Take Five or Pick Up Sticks, remember Joe Morello and Jascha Heifitz.









 


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

COLLINS CALLS IT "A DAY" - AT LEAST FOR TODAY...



Drummer, pianist, singer, songwriter, band leader and jazz lover Phil Collins has announced on the Atlantic Records website the decision to stop playing and performing indefinitely,  possibly ending a remarkable career that has lasted a half century. 


It seems Collins, who turned 60 this year, decided to emerge from behind his taciturn and intensely private persona as a response to a number of reports that he was "retiring" for a variety of reasons, including professional disappointment and health problems.  Read Mr. Collins' intentions and explanation here. 


There are some indications that Collins may return someday, after all he's not the first high-profile entertainer to throw in the towel, only to pick it up again after a brief respite.   I guess we'll have to wait see if Mr. Collins has, as the title of one of his most popular songs says, "One More Night" left in the tank.  In any case, his work as an exciting and indefatigable live performer will be missed for as long as he is away...

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

"AROUND THE HORN": COVERING ALL THE BASES IN THE WIDE WORLD OF JAZZ...


With the arrival of baseball season comes a (home) plate-full of appropriate terminology - hence the phrase "Around the Horn" (not to be confused with the ESPN show of the same name) which relates to the practice of tossing the ball around the infield, from one position player to another - see diagram above.  For the purposes of this piece, the words connote a trip around the various departments of the jazz category or as our masthead indicates, what the jazz world is hearing reading seeing etc...



*I was intrigued by Nate Chinen's New York Times article about what Brad Mehldau listens to during his down time, you might be too...
*Also in the NYT, the ongoing mystery surrounding the theft of a beloved statue from the Brooklyn jazz club Barbes; 




*What's the most unusual paring of musicians in a jazz club so far this year? If you chose Wynton Marsalis and Eric Clapton, some would say you're "certifiable", as in crazy and some would say you're "absolutely brilliant!" For now, you'll have to settle for   "absolutely correct." Scheduled to take place in April, as part of the new season at Jazz At Lincoln Center, this imaginative set was no doubt inspired by Wynton's well-received JALC gig with Willie Nelson a couple years ago.  Check out the video...



*BBC Radio is spearheading a new campaign to expose new jazz talent in Great Britain via a nationwide new and unsigned artist competition; one of the judges will be pianist/singer Jamie Cullum...


* The Dave Arivett article on the All About Jazz website titled "Why Is Jazz A Dirty Word" raised an eyebrow; sure, jazz is no longer considered popular music as it was in the 30's & 40's but a dirty word? I beg to differ. Just ask the voting members at NARAS - National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences
( the Grammy folks); where for the past several years jazz as a category has been celebrated in very significant ways, with major Grammy Awards going to Herbie Hancock and Esperanza Spaulding most recently. Unfortunately, I think Mr. Arivett's thinking echoes a sort of "congenital" inferiority complex in the minds of many jazz practitioners and observers who are taught from birth that jazz is not for everybody; this assessment also reflects the lack of inter-generational fellowship and communication between the various sub-genres within the idiom. Also in the article, a list of the "top five reasons people think and feel this way..."


1) It's old and outdated music;
2) It's way too dissonant and too far outside the normal harmonic box;
3) It's insider musical language that only other jazz musicians can understand;
4) It's boring, with 10 minute solos featuring musicians playing strange sounding scales;
5) It's music played by a bunch of artsy weirdos and drug addicts; you have to be using drugs/alcohol to really appreciate it.



Where the hell does Mr. Arivett get his information?! Whatever the source, it all seems a bit outdated to me and it does nothing more than perpetuate this long held belief by some and I stress some that jazz music is relegated to second-class citizen status.      


*Kudos to Sonny Rollins, recipient of the 2010 National Medal of Arts for outstanding achievement and support of the arts; President Obama delivered the nation's highest honor for artistic excellence to Mr. Rollins, Quincy Jones and 7 others, Wed March 2nd in the East Room of The White House. Here's a video of the ceremony...





*Artistshare has just launched the THE GIL EVANS CENTENNIAL PROJECT - a year-long celebration leading up to Evans' 100th birthday in May 2012, including concerts, releases and performances of newly discovered music and online composers lessons. Here's a video detailing the effort...





*New Music
 Steve Gadd and Friends Live at Voce
 Moonlight - Steve Cole
 Bill Frisell & Vinicius Cantu├íria - Lagrimas Mexicanas
 World Saxophone Quartet - Yes We Can


*Hot off the presses: New books worthy of a jazz eye...
"Jazz", A Collection of  Photographs by the late Herman Leonard;
"Sun Ra - Interviews and Essays", edited by John Sinclair;
"Hi-De-Ho: The Life of Cab Calloway" by Alyn Shipton;
"Coltrane: The Story of a Sound" by Ben Ratliff;
"Glorious Days and Nights: A Jazz Memoir" by Herb Snitzer
"Thinking in Jazz" by Paul F. Berliner
"The Blue Moment: Miles Davis' Kind of Blue and the Remaking of Modern Music" by Richard Williams
"The Return of Jazz: Joachim-Ernst Berendt and West German Cultural Change" by Andrew Wright Hurley
"Traditional New Orleans Jazz: Conversation With The Men Who Make the Music" by Thomas W. Jacobson
"The Evolution of Jazz Drumming" by Danny Gottlieb

*My favorite musician of the week - drummer Antonio Sanchez.  Check out this Jazz Times Magazine article article on the poly-rhythmic avatar and check out the video sample of his breath-stealing work with Chick Corea...




Sunday, February 27, 2011

AND THE OSCAR GOES TO... THE ULTIMATE PLAYLIST OF FILMS FEATURING JAZZ MUSIC

No Oscar night party can be complete without the perfect soundtrack, right?  Here's a keepsake compilation of scene-stealing jazz music contributions to film history.


"St. Louis Blues" - Bessie Smith (from "St. Louis Blues" - 1929)
Bessie Smith's only feature length appearance of any kind; she is, as you might expect, unforgettable. 


"I'll Be Glad When You're Dead You Rascal You" - Louis Armstrong (from Betty Boop Cartoon - 1932): Armstrong and his Orchestra provided the soundtrack for the 7 min short; Armstrong actually has a brief appearance as a "menacing" figure chasing down 2 of the cartoon characters.  Betty Boop cartoons frequently used jazz music and musicians for accompanyment and appearances; Cab Calloway and his Orchestra contributed to several Boop features as well, including 1933's "The Old Man And The Mountain" , Minnie The Moocher, St. James Infirmary and Snow White. And while we're on the subject of Calloway, check out the film International House - it features the "Hidee-Ho man" performing "Reefer Man", a classic to say the least.


"Drum Boogie" - Gene Krupa Orchestra (from "Ball of Fire" -1941)
Of course everybody knows drummer Krupa could guarantee an energetic performance, but on a box of matches? Check it out. And while you're at it, look for the sparkling trumpet break from the great Roy Eldridge, in his first and only appearance in a feature film.  Barbara Stanwick lip-syncs to the voice of swing-era singing star Martha Tilton. By the way, the screenplay was co-written by the incomparable Billy Wilder, who would later direct several classics including 1959's jazz-flavored "Some Like It Hot" .


"Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans" - Billie Holiday (from "New Orleans" - 1947): Lady Day's first and only feature film appearance - and the only time you'll ever see her in a subservient role on or off the screen - she played a maid. It's also the only time you'll see Holiday play the piano, which she does while singing this creole-flavored love song.  Louis Armstrong and The Woody Herman Orchestra also appear.


Various Performances from "A Song is Born" - 1948
This film is an updated version of Howard Hawks' aforementioned 1941 film "Ball Of Fire"; Hollywood icons Danny Kaye and Virginia Mayo are joined by the likes of Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman,Tommy Dorsey, Charlie Barnet and Lionel Hampton.


"Jam Session" - Lionel Hampton, Steve Allen, Teddy Wilson, Gene Krupa (from "The Benny Goodman Story" - 1955) : Lionel Hampton steals the show...


"Jazz Club Scene" - Chico Hamilton Quintet (from "Sweet Smell of Success" - 1957)Drummer Chico Hamilton (still performing today at age 90) leads a group that plays it cool in a very intense and heartbreaking film noir starring Burt Lancaster,Tony Curtis, Susan Harrison and Martin Milner (of "Adam 12" TV fame). Milner plays a guitar that is dubbed by Jim Hall


"St. Louis Blues" -Eartha Kitt (from "St. Louis Blues" - 1958)
A stunning climax to this film about W.C. Handy which also starred Nat King Cole as Handy; in addition Eartha sings "Chantez les bas" , "Love Can Be Careless" (w/Cole) and Yellow Dog Blues. The film featured rare screen appearances by a cadre of west coast jazz icons including Barney Bigard, Red Callendar, Lee Young, Teddy Buckner, George Washington and a 12 year old Billy Preston.


"Black Nightgown" - Johnny Mandel Orchestra (from "I Want To Live" - 1958): Two versions - one, as a music cue in the film and the other from the original soundtrack recording. Both are remarkable. Among the outstanding musicians featured - Gerry Mulligan, Shelly Manne, Art Farmer, Red Mitchell. This is one of two films on our list that was directed by the legendary Robert Wise; the other is 1959's "Odds Against Tomorrow" (see below).
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"Florence Sur Le Champs Elysees" - Miles Davis (from "Ascenseur pour l' echafaud" - 1958)This was Miles' first film score, written for Louis Malle's 1958 film about criminal lovers whose perfect crime begins to unravel when one is trapped in an elevator. Miles only saw the film once, then went to his hotel and wrote basic harmonic sequences. The band recorded music without any pre-composed theme, while edited loops of the musically relevant film sequences were projected in the background. 


"Beat Out Dat Rhythm on a Drum ("Gypsy Song")Peal Bailey, Max Roach  (from "Carmen Jones" - 1958) One of the many priceless moments from the Otto Premminger/Oscar Hammerstein adaptation of Bizet's opera. Bailey and Roach are joined by an outstanding cast including Dorthy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte.  

"Club Scene" - Harry Belafonte (from "Odds Against Tomorrow" - 1959The film's score was composed by John Lewis of The Modern Jazz Quartet and features MJQ along with Jim Hall and Bill Evans. Belafonte sings and plays vibes ( actually it's Milt Jackson dubbing vibes for Belafonte) in this scene; Look for James Earl Jones' father Robert Earl Jones and Richard Bright ( "Al Neri" in "The Godfather" films).


"Wild Man Blues/Battle Royal" - Louis Armsrong & Duke Ellington Orchestra (from "Paris Blues" - 1960)An all-star cast (Paul Newman, Sidney Poitier, Joanne Woodward, Diahann Carroll) but the critical reception was less than stellar; the music more than makes up for any cinematic shortcomings.  Ellington's Mood Indigo was also featured in the film. Canadian born trombonist Murray McEachern dubbed Paul Newman and sax player Paul Gonsalves dubbed Sidney Poitier. Adding to the on-screen drama was a torrid off-screen affair between Poitier and Carroll, who had fallen in love while filming "Porgy and Bess" a couple years before. The two came close to ending their marriages in order to be together but ceased their relationship by the time the film was released. 


"It's A Raggy Waltz" - Dave Brubeck  (from "All Night Long" - 1962)Set in London's jazz scene of the early 1960's, the film is an updated version of Shakespeare's Othello; the performances are similarly epic, featuring Brubeck, Charles Mingus and John Dankworth among others.


"The Girl From Ipanema" - Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto (from "Get Yourself A College Girl" - 1964): Although the lip sync is a bit askew, it's a rare opportunity to see the Getz/Gilberto team it's peak. Jimmy Smith and his trio also make an appearance in this film, playing a funky version of "When Johnny Comes Marching Home."


"Alfie's Theme" - Sonny Rollins (from Alfie/Album- 1966): Rollins' work is equal to and at times exceeds the brilliance of this film; Oliver Nelson arranged and conducted the performances, which included contributions by JJ Johnson, Kenny Burrell , Jimmy Cleveland and Roger Kellaway


"The Man I Love" - Diana Ross (from "Lady Sings The Blues" -1972)Ross' star turn as an actress is magnetic; her world-renown attributes as a singer are almost a bonus here. Richard Pryor is mesmerizing in the role of "Piano Man"; in fact, he pretty much steals the show whenever he appears.


"Three Days of the Condor" - Dave Grusin - (from "Three Days of the Condor" - 1975)"Fiesta" - Dave Grusin (from The Milagro Beanfield War- 1988): Grusin has the midas touch; he is without doubt one of America's most successful and prolific composers of movie music; he won an Oscar for the "Milagro" score - the film was directed by "Three Days of the Condor" star Robert Redford, who also directed Havana; Grusin's score for that film was Oscar nominated. The same honor went to his scores for The Firm, On Golden Pond, Tootsie, Heaven Can Wait, The Fabulous Baker Boys and The Champ.  Grusin has written music for at least 50 films, among them - The Graduate, Tequila Sunrise, Bonfire of The Vanities and Selena.


"As Time Goes By" - Dexter Gordon (from Round Midnight" - 1986) :Wow....A performance that will bring tears to the eyes of even the most jaded observer. Gordon, who was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance is joined by Herbie Hancock, (whose score for the film won the Oscar), John McLaughlin, Billy Higgins and Pierre Michelot.   


"We Three Kings of Orient Are" - Miles Davis, David Sanborn, Marcus Miller, Larry Carlton, Paul Schafer (from "Scrooged" - 1988)  Although this clip is from The David Letterman Show, all five musicians appeared in the film, which starred Bill Murray.


"Lover Man" - Charlie Parker (from "Bird" - 1988): Painful but riveting, this clip features the actual sound of Parker's playing, which was electronically isolated from an original recording given to director Clint Eastwood by Parker's widow Chan. Forrest Whitaker's performance makes you feel the pathos and the tortured beauty of Charlie Parker the man and the artist.


"Mo Better Blues" - Terrence Blanchard/Branford Marsalis (from "Mo Better Blues - 1990): Denzel Washington stars as an arrogant jazz trumpeter who gets his comeuppance in this Spike Lee "joint"; Blanchard plays the trumpet parts and would go on to write the score for every Spike Lee film afterward. Marsalis ghosts for Wesley Snipes' saxophone playing character.


"Chill" - Joshua Redman - (from "Vanya On 42nd Street" - 1994)
The centerpiece of a brilliant score written for the Louis Malle film by Redman and performed by his quartet; the soundtrack is hard to come by but you can find an outstanding version of "Chill" on his 2008 release "Moodswing."


"Tickle Toe"  - Geri Allen, Joshua Redman, Christian McBride, Victor Lewis, James Carter, Mark Whitfield, Don Byron (from "Kansas City" - 1995): The film wasn't a rousing critical or financial success but director Robert Altman's artistic chops are of the highest order. This is one of the swingin'-ist jazz performances ever filmed; Lester Young (the song's composer) would've been proud to see this group of "young lions" - well, at the time they were considered "up and coming" - interpret his music with such aplomb. The same holds true for "Yeah Man", which is the film's big finale.


Beautiful E - Bill Frisell ( from Finding Forrester -2000)


"Limehouse Blues/Mystery Pacific" - Bucky Pizzarelli (from "Sweet And Lowdown" -2000) Director Woody Allen, who is a fine jazz clarinetist, is known for taking great care with the soundtrack to his films. This time the music gets the star treatment in a story about a wayward jazz guitarist portrayed beautifully by Sean Penn. There are marvelous performances by Pizzarelli, who ghosts for Sean Penn's character Emmett Ray. By the way, Woody's musicianship goes front and center in the fine documentary "Wild Man Blues" ,which chronicles Allen's 1996 European tour with his New Orleans Jazz Band.