Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Jimmy Knepper--Storyteller

In an interview, Charles McPherson talks about the influence Charlie Parker had on trombonist Jimmy Knepper. I nod internal agreement, but also think: Knepper found musical pathways that are not available to any other instrument. To me, he was among the most expressive trombonists; one who used tremendous technique in service of the music, not in service of the technique.

Knepper was quoted as saying ''in a lot of ways, [jazz is] just shallow, superficial and pyrotechnical.''  Maybe that's why it was so important to him to prove that jazz could be played that was not shallow, superficial and pyrotechnical for its own sake.

Piling on the ironies, although Knepper sounded great in any setting, I believe he was most expressive in the musical context provided by the man who assaulted him and almost ended his career: Charles Mingus. Mingus' music gave a kind of scope that freed Knepper. The stops, starts, changes of tempo and mood, freedom to explore less "refined" tonal directions, provided a dramatic stage on which Knepper thrived. 

Yet, in 1981, Knepper told Downbeat: ''It was very depressing to think that I'm linked with this guy for the rest of my life." 

I have no problem with the contradictory nature of all this. It gives the lie to the easy assumptions that people make about personality and art.

Before getting to Mingus music, let's start with Knepper in a more straight-ahead context, Here he is in a 1957 release, A Swinging Introduction from September 1957 with Knepper (tb), Gene Quill (as), Evans (p), Teddy Kotick (b) and Dannie Richmond (d). The tone is there-a good deal of vibrato; harmonically it's squarely in the bop idiom, but with some unusual interval leaps and a subtly dramatic quality.

Here he is in his first Mingus recording, Tijuana Moods, recorded the same year-1957. He responds well to this rhythmic environment, which is both more demanding and looser. He also begins to explore the trombone's tonal palette.

Here's Jimmy on Gentleman's Agreement (1983) with Danny RIchmond, drums, George Adams, tenor sax, High Lawson, piano. Mike RIchmond, bass. Knepper 's statement is solid and contains almost all the elements we find in the Mingus context. Still...

In this final tune, the title track from Tonight At Noon (1961), It sounds as if Knepper has completely internalized the resonance of this Mingus group. Everything he plays sounds like it comes from a complete emotional commitment.

Thanks, Jimmy.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

"Influence," Prince & Some Jazz Guys

There's been an enormous response to the death of Prince. An internet search leads me to think that he's been eulogized in every major media outlet in the U.S. and many abroad. Consistently, the emphasis is on his musical genius and his influence on popular culture. A common riff is that "pop music will never be the same," but details of what this means are sketchy.

The interplay between persona/projection/charisma and the music itself is always complicated. In the case of Prince, the music is both collaborator and counter-foil to the gender ambiguity of his look and style, the contrast between his stage presence and his reclusiveness and the tension between his Jehovah's Witness-straightness and his sexual explicitness.

These kinds of tensions were present in the work and very public lives of Ray Charles, James Brown and Michael Jackson. However, the cultural impact of these three resides more completely on the bedrock of their music. Prince is reckoned to have done everything supremely well; everything being the key word. Time will tell us if his eclecticism begat something musically new and reproduce-able, or if his influence will ultimately derive from his persona.

In the case of jazz, media saturation has always been quantum levels lower, especially for black musicians, and the paradigms I describe above were unlikely to play out as publicly. Still, there are parallels to be seen in jazz careers. Below are five important figures in jazz and brief descriptions of how I think the personal and the musical interacted to determine the scope and area of their influence.

W.C. Handy: His compositions, chiefly St. Louis Blues and Memphis Blues, were widely performed; he organized an orchestra that hovered between ragtime and jazz and he did have some influence within the world of popular music. However, his organizing and entrepreneurial skills brought him much wider cultural renown, to the point where he is widely known as "Father of the blues;" a phrase that both overstates and misplaces his musical importance.

Jelly Roll Morton: His work in the 1920's as pianist, composer, arranger and synthesizer of influences marks him as musically influential in jazz. However, his "re-discovery" and narration of jazz history through the Library of Congress recordings-inaccurate or not-broadened his influence into the larger cultural sphere. His gold teeth, braggadocio and pimp-style also played a part in keeping his name elevated above other contributors, like James P. Johnson.

King Oliver: A trumpet player who was influential musically in the late 19-teens to mid 1920's. You might liken him to Sidney Bechet in that respect, but unlike Bechet-a strong, sometimes volatile character who carried on for many years-Oliver's health issues, a lack of personal charisma and business naivete greatly shortened his career. Oliver's wider cultural impact has been largely relegated to "the man who brought Louis Armstrong to Chicago."

Duke Ellington: His work remains a perennial influence in jazz (not a word he cared for), but he has achieved wider cultural renown. Aside from songs and jazz compositions for his orchestra, he wrote film, television and sacred music and was compared with America's best "classical" composers. His persona is relevant. Ellington seemed perfectly comfortable performing for the rabble and for royalty and his elegant and somewhat enigmatic personal style had a lot to do with bringing him wider cultural acclaim.

Charlie Parker: The co-creator of Bop presents an interesting case. The jazz community acknowledges him as arguably its most influential musician. During his life, he was acknowledged by members of the wider cultural, non-jazz elite as an artist of the highest calibre. Yet, while his name took on a meme-like character ("Bird lives" graffiti) and many in the non-jazz community may say they have heard his name, the trappings of wide cultural renown aren't there. What do I mean? Streets, schools and scholarships very rarely if ever, carry his name. Chic chefs, fashion trend setters, politicians, advertisers and mainstream media seldom, if ever, refer to him as a cultural touchstone. Had his drug use not been so widely known, his place in the wider culture would probably be very different.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Review: Miles Ahead

Writer-director-producer Don Cheadle took this gig seriously. The cinematography, costuming and editing of the film are strong and Cheadle's performance throughout is impeccable. He completely inhabits the persona of the "late Miles." Also to his credit, Cheadle lets the relationship between Miles' musical genius and being an utter bastard play out, without resorting to childhood flashbacks or other filmic devices meant to lead us to psychological "insights." 

The first part of "Miles Ahead" gives hope that with the charismatic, controversial genius Miles Davis at the center of the movie, and so well portrayed, there will be enough inherent drama without the film resorting to cinematic cliches. But, while there are moving and satisfying scenes throughout, melodrama starts to creep in and the length of time devoted to car chases and trumped-up plot devices vitiates much of the original promise. The power of the performances of Cheadle and Emavatzy Corinealdi, who portrays Frances Davis, become subsumed in a dense layer of sub-plots that, in the end, don't add up to much. 

Here's the jazz snob portion of our review: I didn't like the fact that Miles-in-the-film says he rescued Trane from walking the bar. Trane was years away from that. I also don't like that they had Miles playing what looked to me like a sliver-plated Bach trumpet. Someone can tell me if I'm wrong and that it was a Besson Brevete. To his credit, Cheadle mostly did a good miming job and seemed to actually play "Fran-Dance" in one scene.

The scene with Miles and Gil Evans in the studio made Evans completely passive and Miles the creative presence. By all accounts, Miles was a good collaborator and they didn't need to overcompensate like that. In fact, the white characters were invariably shmucks and or thieves when, as noted above, Miles collaborated well with musicians of any race. After taking heat-in real life-for having the white Bill Evans in his band, Miles said:"I don't care if a dude is purple with green breath as long as he can swing." Having Miles say that in this film would have been inimical to its racial approach. You don't have to overdraw the difference between racist thug cops and Teo Macero and Gil Evans, but you can have more balance than this movie does.

Maybe filmmakers are right in thinking there's not enough drama in the jazz life to sustain an audience's attention for 90 minutes; maybe the exigencies of the form mean they do have to cook the books. If life was fair (hah!), critics would be forced to say what they would put in the film instead of car chases and one-dimensional foils. Ok. How about filling that time by having the audience sit in the theatre with nothing on the screen, just listening to the music of Miles Davis (and this from a guy who's a member of SAG). Ay, caramba; quelle idee.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Caution: Ear Expansion May Cause Aesthetic Discombobulation

I went to a show at the Outpost 186 on 3.24.16. The group was an adventurous cohort that included: 

Charlie Kohlhase/Alipio C. Neto – saxes / Daniel Rosenthal – trumpet, flugelhorn / Bill Lowe – tuba / Curt Newton - drums

They played almost all original material and some by John Tchicai. As a group and as soloists, the musicians demonstrated their command of jazz innovations of the last 60 years-angular heads, group improvisation, harmonics overblowing, dissonance, bi-tonality, world music influences and non-swing rhythm section approaches.

After this solid musical foray, I went to a friend's house to continue my aural immersion.
Rob put on Cannonball Adderly's 1961 Riverside album "Know What I Mean," And, although a great admirer of Cannonball, I found his playing conservative and unadventurous. 
Then, I asked for some Lee Morgan and he put on "Search for the New Land" from 1964. Lee and Wayne are brilliant, but the tunes less so. The title track, an extended composition, aims high, but is not substantial; much pentatonic noodling, tremolos, ostinati. The other tunes are more squarely in the Lee hard-bop mold, but they seem kind of tepid in the light of compositions that Ornette and others had been producing and compared to what I heard earlier that night at the Outpost. 

The moral of the story: when your ears have been recently opened up, be prepared for some disjunctions when you listen to your old musical pals. 

Friday, March 18, 2016

St. Paddy's Jazz Show

Many Irish-Americans have been great jazz players. A partial list would include: Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey, Bunny Berigan, Larry Binyon, Dick McDonough, Chauncy Morehouse. Spike Hughes. Bill Harty. Jimmy McPartland. Muggsy Spanier. Eddie Condon. Joe Sullivan. Lou McGarity. Corky Corcoran. Joe Mooney. Zoot Sims. Anita O'Day. Gerry Mulligan, Dave McKenna, Jim Lanigan, Sam Donahue, Harry James, Brian Lynch, Kenny Davern, Snoozer Quinn, Joe "Red" Kelly, "Peck" Morrison, Joe Sullivan, Turk Murphy. Buzzy Drootin , Ed Shaughnessy...

The DuPlex Mystery Jazz Hour of 3.17.16 featured some of these folks.


Red Nichols "Rose of Washington Square" from "Basin St Blues" 1929 on Fabulous

Husk O'Hare and His Footwarmers "My Daddy Rocks Me" from "The Austin High Gang" 1928 on MCA

Red Nichols 'n His Five Pennies "I'm Just WIld About Harry" from "Basin St Blues" 1930)

McKenzie and Condon's Boys "Jazz Me Blues" from "The Austin High Gang" 1928 on MCA

The Charleston Chasers "Beale St Blues" from "Basin St Blues" 1931

Eddie Condon's Friends "Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gave to Me" from "Condon's World of Jazz" 954 on CBS

The All Star Band "The Blues" from "Basin St Blues" 939 on Fabulous

Dorsey Brothers Orch. "Dr. Heckle and Mr. Jibe" from "Condon's World of Jazz" 1933) on Brunswick

Chris Connor "Everything I Love" from "Chris Connor" (Jazz, 1957) on Bethlehem

LP Billy Taylor "So In Love" from "Billy Taylor Introduces IRA Sullivan" 1956) on ABC-Paramount

Chris Connor "All About Ronnie" from "Chris Connor" 1957 on Bethlehem

Bobby Hackett "Swing That Music" from "Live at the Roosevelt Grill" 1969 Phontastic

Bob Haggart & Buzzy Drootin "Big Noise From Winnetka" from "Newport Jazz Fest" 1964

Gene Krupa w. Anita O'day "Let Me Off Uptown" from "Drummer Man"  1956 on Verve

Benny Goodman w. Harry James "Peckin'" from "Great Jazz Brass" 1937  on RCA Camden

Brian Lynch "Tribute To Blue (Mitchell)" from "Tribute to Trumpet Masters" (Jazz, 2005) on Sharp Nine Records

Monday, March 14, 2016

Alto Sax Roots Program

Tab Smith
The Duplex Mystery Hour of 3.10.17 on WZBC featured important alto players from the 20's and 30's: Trumbauer, Redman, Procope, Dorsey, Hodges, Carter, the Jones, Jefferson, Brown. The last part of the show includes early recordings of Charlie Parker with Jay McShann.



Frank Trumbauer (C Melody sax) & Bix Beiderbecke "Trumbology" from "Trumbology" 1927 Okeh 

"Variety Stomp" Fletcher Henderson Orchestra: Victor, 1927 Fletcher Henderson -Piano, Arranger, DirectorJoe Smith, Russell Smith - trumpet (?) Some sources cite Tommy Ladnier on Trumpet, Benny Morton, Jimmy Harrison - Trombone Buster Bailey, Don Redman - Clarinet, Alto Coleman Hawkins - Clarinet, Tenor Charlie Dixon - Banjo June Cole - Brass Bass Kaiser Marshall - Drums"Victor 20944-BNew York, April 27, 1927

"Beebe" Jimmy Dorsey Clarinet & Sax Solo, Mannie Klein Leo McConville (tp),Tommy Dorsey (tb), Paul Mason (ts),Alfie Evans (as) Arthur Schutt {p}, Eddie Lang (g) Hank Stern (b), Brunswick New York 13 June 1929 

"Sweet Chariot" The Harlem Footwarmers - New York, 30.10. 1930-Alto Saxophone - Johnny Hodges; Arranged By - Duke Ellington; Banjo - Fred Guy; Baritone Saxophone - Harry Carney; Clarinet - Barney Bigard; Drums - Sonny Greer; Leader -Duke Ellington; Piano - Duke Ellington; Soprano Saxophone - Harry Carney; Soprano Saxophone - Johnny Hodges; Tenor Saxophone - Barney Bigard; Trombone - Joe "Tricky Sam" Nanton; Trumpet - Arthur Whetsol; Trumpet - Cootie Williams; Trumpet - Freddy Jenkins;

"Radio Rhythm" The Savannah Syncopators-1931 Rex Stewart-c/Russell Smith-Bobby Stark-t/ Claude Jones-Benny Morton-tb/John Kirby-t ba/Russell Procope-cl-as/Edgar Sampson-as/Coleman Hawkins-ts-cl/Clarence Holiday-g/Walter Johnson-d/Nat Leslie-arr.

"Chant Of The Weed" Don Redman & Orchestra -1931-Brunswick-Don Redman - alto sax, vocals Leonard Davis, Bill Coleman, Henry 'Red' Allen - trumpet Claude Jones, Fred Robinson, Benny Morton - trombone Edward Engle,  Rupert Cole - alto sax, clarinet Robert Carroll - tenor sax Horace Henderson - piano, arranger (Fletcher Henderson's brother) Talcott Reeves - banjo, guitar Bob Ysaguirre - bass Manzie Johnson - violin

"Savoy Strut" Johnny Hodges - (1933)-Johnny Hodges (A.Sax) and his Orch. Cootie Williams(tp), Lawrence Brown(tb), Harry Carney(bs), Duke Ellington(p), Billy Taylor(b), Sonny Greer(dm) recorded 21 March, 1933 Columbia

"Royal Garden Blues," John Kirby Sextet 1937 The John Kirby Sextet -Charlie Shavers (trumpet); Buster Bailey (clarinet); Russell Procope (alto sax); Billy Kyle (piano); John Kirby (bass); O'Neil Spencer (drums).

"Squabblin" Walter Page's Blue Devils from "Sweet and Low Blues"  James Simpson, Hot Lips Page (tp) Dan Minor (tb) Buster Smith (cl,as) Ted Manning (as) Reuben Roddy (ts) Charlie Washington (p) Reuben Lynch or Thomas Owens (g) Walter Page (tu-1,b- 1930 Vocalion 

"Down South Camp Meeting" and "Limehouse Blues" Fletcher Henderson - -Brunswick N.Y.C. 12.09.34-Russell Smith Irving Randolph Henry Red Allen (tp) Claude Jones Keg Johnson (tb) Buster Bailey (cl) Russell Procope Hilton Jefferson (cl as) Ben Webster (ts) Fletcher Henderson (p) Horace Lucie (g) Elmer James (b) Walter Johnson (d)

"Sophisticated Lady" Duke Ellington & His Orchestra: 1933 on Brunswick. Freddy Jenkins, Arthur Whetsel, Cootie Williams, t; Lawrence Brown, Joe Nanton, tb; Juan Tizol, vtb; Barney Bigard, cl, ts; Johnny Hodges, as, ss; Otto Hardwick, as, cl, bsx; Harry Carney, bs, cl, as; Duke Ellington, p; Fred Guy, g; Wellman Braud, b; Sonny Greer, d.

"I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues" Billie Holiday, Frankie Newton tp; Tab Smith as & ss; Kenneth Hollon, Stanley Payne ts; Sonny White p; Jimmy McLin g; John Williams b; Eddie Dougherty ds; Billie Holiday vc; from The Commodore Master Takes  1939 

"‪In a Mellotone" Alto Saxophone,Johnny Hodges,Piano: Duke Ellington, Trumpet: Wallace Jones, Cootie Williams,Cornet: Rex Stewart, Trombone: Joe Nanton, Lawrence Brown, Juan Tizol Clarinet, Tenor Saxophone: Barney Bigard, Alto Saxophone: Otto Hardwick Tenor Sax: Ben Webster, Alto Sax, Baritone Sax, Clarinet: Harry Carney,Guitar: Fred Guy, Bass: Jimmie Blanton, Drums: Sonny Greer‬ on Victor 

"Blue Skies"  The John Kirby Sextet 1937) -Charlie Shavers (trumpet); Buster Bailey (clarinet); Russell Procope (alto sax); Billy Kyle (piano); John Kirby (bass); O'Neil Spencer (drums).

"I Wish I Were Twins" by Henry Allen and his Orchestra, 1934-Solos by Buster Bailey-clarinet, Hilton Jefferson-alto sax, and Henry "Red" Allen on trumpet and vocal. on Melotone 

"Rhythm Is Our Business" -Jimmie Lunceford (Willie Smith, vocal), Jimmie Lunceford - director, Eddie Tompkins, Tommy Stevenson, William "Sleepy" Sy Oliver - trumpets, Henry Wells, Russell Bowles-Trombones, Willie Smith, Earl Carruthers-clarinet, alto sax, baritone sax, Joe Thomas-clarinet, tenor sax, Edwin Wilcox-piano, Al Norris-guitar, Moses Allen-tuba, Jimmy Crawford-drums on Decca 

Jimmie Lunceford "Jazznocracy" same personnel

"Delhia" Pete Brown also Jimmie Gordon & his Vip Vop Band-Decca (1939)-Jimmie Gordon:Vocals Frankie Newton:Trumpet Pete Brown:Alto Sax Sam Price:Piano Poss. Zutty Singleton:Drums

"Sleep" Benny Carter and His Orchestra from "Melancholy Benny" (Jazz, 1939) Frankie Newton & Cafe Society Orchestra "Jitters"  (Jazz, 1939) on Vocalion 

"Keep A-Knockin'(But You Can't Come In" Louis Jordan And His Tympany Five--Decca 1939 Courtney Williams or Eddie Roane or Aaron Izenhall (trumpet), Lem Johnson or Josh Jackson or Eddie Johnson (tenor saxophone), Clarence Johnson or Arnold Thomas or "Wild Bill" Davis or Bill Doggett (piano), Charlie Drayton or Al Morgan or Jesse "Po" Simpkins or Dallas Bartley (bass), and Walter Martin or Eddie Byrd or Chris Columbus (drums).

 "Frankie's Jump"  Frankie Newton & Cafe Society Orchestra, Frank Newton, trumpet,.T. Smith, S. Payne & K. Hollen, reeds. K. Kirby, piano., U. Livingstone, guitar. J. Williams, string-bass. E. Dougherty, drums.1939 on Vocalion 

" I got it bad" Air Check from Savoy Ballroom -Jay McShann & Charlie Parker, Al Hibbler-vocal

"Cherokee" Jay McShann featuring Charlie Parker

" Hootie Blues" Jay Mc Shann - (1941) -Buddy Anderson, Harold Bruce, Orville Minor (trumpet) Joe Taswell Baird (trombone) John Jackson, Charlie Parker (alto saxophone) Harold Ferguson, Bob Mabane (tenor saxophone) Jay McShann (piano) Gene Ramey (bass) Gus Johnson (drums) Dallas, TX, April 30, 1941

"Jumpin The Blues" by Jay McShann same personnel 1941 Decca

Saturday, March 5, 2016

James Merenda on the Duplex

James w. TIcklejuice
Happy to host James Merenda on the Duplex Mystery Jazz Hour of 3.3.16. James is an accomplished pianist, alto sax player, composer, bandleader and educator. We played music from some of his projects and James also did some live playing in the studio.


James Merenda Trio “Falling In Love WIth Love”
from Live @ Acton Jazz Cafe (2015)
James Merenda Trio “I'll be Seeing you”
from Live @ Acton Jazz Cafe (2015)
James Merenda Trio “Time After Time”
from Live @ Acton Jazz Cafe (2015)

James Merenda solo saxophone in WZBC Studio "The Nearness of You"
Tickle Juice “Kovlom.Let Love Come”
from Roots to the Stars (Cats Have Knees Records 2013)
Ticklejuice “Don't Play WIth Dinosaurs” SINGLE (Cats Have Knees Records 2013)
James Merenda Trio “Time After Time”
from Live @ Acton Jazz Cafe (2015)

Friday, February 26, 2016

Jazz From Argo and ABC Paramount

A lot of jazz would not have been recorded if left to the "majors" (Blue Note, Verve, Columbia, Atlantic). That's where "off" jazz labels like Argo and ABC Paramount stepped in and took care of business. I featured their music on the Duplex Mystery Jazz Hour on WZBC, 2.25.16



"Excerpt From the Blues" from Happy Moods 1960  Ahmad Jamal (p), Israel Crosby (b), Vernell Fournier (dms).

Jackie/Roy "Walkin'" from Bits and Pieces  1957 ABC Paramount

"Five spot After Dark" from Meet the Jazztet-Art Farmer – trumpet Benny Golson – tenor saxophone, Curtis Fuller – tromboneMcCoy Tyner – piano Addison Farmer – bass, Lex Humphries – drums

Jimmy Raney "Last Night When We Were Young" from In 3 Attitudes 1957 on ABC Paramount

Lorenz Alexander "Trouble in Mind" from Sing no Sad Songs For Me 1961) ARGO

Don Elliott "I'm beginning to see the light" from "The Voices of Don Elliott" 1957)on ABC Paramount
Al Grey "Rompin" 45 rpm release 1961 on ARGO

Oscar Pettiford Orchestra "Speculation" from "Oscar Pettiford Orchestra in Hi-Fi" 1957 on ABC Paramount

"Time" from "Take a Number From 1 to 10. 1961, Benny Golson Octet/Nonet/Tentet Nick Travis (trumpet) Bill Elton (trombone) Willie Ruff (French horn) Hal McKusick (alto saxophone) Benny Golson (tenor saxophone) Sol Schlinger (baritone saxophone) Tommy Williams (bass) Albert Heath (drums)

Double Six oF Paris, "Stockholm Sweetnin'" 1961 on Phillips

Quincy Jones "Stockholm Sweetnin'" from This Is How I Feel About Jazz 1957 on ABC Paramount

The Call from Introducing Roland Kirk, 1961. Roland Kirk: tenor saxophone, manzello, whistle, stritch, Ira Sullivan: trumpet, tenor saxophone William Burton: organ, piano Donald Garrett: bass Sonny Brown: drums

Zoot Sims "Quicker Blues" from "Zoot Sims Plays 4 altos"1957 ABC Paramount

Vinnie Burke's String Jazz Quartet "A Night in Tunisia" from "Vinnie Burke's String Jazz Quartet" 1957 on ABC Paramount

Friday, February 19, 2016

Recorded in New Orleans in the 1920's

Celestin's Original Tuxedo Jazz Orchestra
New Orleans Owls

2/18/16 features music recorded in New Orleans in the 1920's. People might not recognize many of the names of the players, but they were grounded in the same musical atmosphere and in some cases, were the teachers of the people whose names we know so well-Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver, Louis Armstrong,  Kid Ory, Jimmy Noone and others who left New Orleans in the teens and early twenties.

No doubt, there were many reasons why musicians stayed in the Crescent City. Some were content to teach, not interested in travel and separation from family, lacked the confidence to think they could make it "out there," or were temperamentally better suited to being a bigger fish in a smaller pond.

In listening to the music of those who stayed behind, I hear the main stylistic traits that others carried to the West Coast, Chicago, NY and other cities. For the most part, the players aren't pushing through musical barriers, but the N.O. feeling is there.


Original Tuxedo Jazz Orchestra “Black Rag” (1925)

Celestin's Original Tuxedo Jazz Orchestra “It's Jam Up”  (1927)

Armand J. Piron's New Orleans Orch “Red Man's Blues” 1925)

John Hyman's Bayou Stompers “Alligator blues” (1927)

Armand J. Piron's New Orleans Orch “Bouncing Around” (1923)

Johnny Miller's New Orleans Frolickers “Panama”  (1928)

Armand J. Piron's New Orleans Orch “Kiss Me Sweet”  (1923)

Monk Hazel & His Bienville Roof Orchestra “Sizzlin' the Blues”

Johnny Bayersdorffer & Jazzola Novelty Orchestra “The Waffle Man's Call”  (1924)

Jones And Collins Astoria Hot Eight “Damp Weather” (1929)

Louis Dumaine's Jazzola Eight “Franklin Street Blues” (1927)

Jones And Collins Astoria Hot Eight “Duet Stomp”  (1929)

Louis Dumaine's Jazzola Eight “To-Wa-Bac-A-Wa”  (1927)

Johnny DeDroit And His New Orleans Orchestra “New Orleans blues” (1923)

Albert Brunies & The Halfway House Orchestra “Maple leaf rag” (1925)

Anthony Parenti & His Famous Melody Boys “Creole Blues” (1925)

Fate Marable's Society Syncopators “Frankie and Johnny” ( 1924)

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

You ARE What You PLAY?

Whew. A non-academic book about jazz that references Rimbaud, Schopenhauer, Brahms, Proust, Faure...Larry Kart, author of Jazz in Search of Itself is not interested in dumbing down. I like that. I also like the interviews, the history he lays down and the scope of the music he talks about. And yet...

philosophical foundation of the book is that jazz is a medium for storytelling and it must be the story of the player-nothing second hand (revivalist) allowed. Kart believes that the capacity of jazz to deliver music completely reflective of its practitioner is what marks it as unique and is the touchstone for assessing the player's contribution. Fair enough. But he takes it a step further.

"We love Ben Webster and Don Byas, Buck Clayton and Bobby Hackett, not just because their music was beautiful in the abstract sense, but also because it told their [his emphasis] stories, revealing something essential about the kind of men they were."

"From the time he made his first recordings...Stan Getz has been writing an autobiography in sound...And the path traced by this sonic quest may be the best evidence we have of who Stan Getz was and is."

"I have never met Lee Morgan, but I would be surprised if he were not a witty, sarcastic, playful man."

His idee fixe simmering in the background makes Kart overreach in his analyses. He wants to both quantify and personify the playing and the jackets he tries to put on musicians fit too tightly. 

Yes, Sonny Rollins often provides his own commentary in a meta way, but can you say "No statement is allowed to rest unqualified by [Rollins] for more than a few measures..."? 

Were Hank Mobley's decisions "always ad hoc.. "? Will Mobley truly "not sum up his harmonic, rhythmic and timbral virtues and allow any one element to dominate for long"? 

Perhaps Tina Brooks did have an "airy, keening, often speechlike approach to the horn," but is it true that it "instantly identified Brooks as one of those musicians for whom feeling and sound were one."[Are there musicians for whom it is separate?] And yes, perhaps his playing was sometimes "melancholic," but it's hard for me to buy that it "seems to have predicted that [his] time with us would be brief." 

Is there a linkage between the "emotional language" and the person using or creating it? Well, yes, but in the same general sense that you are what you eat. But, to the degree that an improvised performance reflects life, it must reflect changing moods and circumstances. There's something self-contradictory about thinking that the music is the man and then trying to capture it in freeze frame-like characterizations. I can find ample playing by Rollins that is simply straightforward, plenty of Mobley solos with something other than ad hoc decisions and moments in Tina Brooks' playing that demonstrate a carefree joie de vivre.

This may represent an inherent limitation of criticism. You can describe the playing, you can quote and give your impressions of the player, but to overdraw comparisons between the player and the playing is, in the end, reductionist.

All of this said, mark me down as an admirer of Larry Kart. Unlike many jazz writers, he listens hard, takes risks and when he hits the mark, it's great stuff. I just think he wants to be a little too much of a myth-maker.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Jazz Oddities: A Maven's Quiz

As Jazz piles up the years, musicians from widely disparate eras and wildly different contexts end up playing together. Here are some questions that will be tough, even with Google lurking in the background. You smart Johns and Janes can mull it over and reply with answers via the Comments. 

1) Who recorded with both Ma Rainey and Pearl Bailey?***Need to amend this to "performed with," not "recorded with."

2) Who recorded with both Johnny Dunn in 1922 and Coltrane in '61?

3) Who recorded with both the '27 Goldkette band and '47 Thornhill?

4) Who played with both James Reese Europe and Dizzy?

5) Who recorded with both Bix and Monk?

6) Who played with both Kid Rena and Sir Charles Thompson?

7) Who recorded with Henry Busse, Louis Jordan and Louis Armstrong?

8) What sax player played with both Miles Davis & Blood, Sweat and Tears?

9) Who played himself in the movies Screaming Mimi and Ocean's 11?

10) Who Played with both the Symphony Orchestra of Los Angeles and Joe Venuti?

Tip o' the hat to Prof. Chalfen for his contributions. Speaking of which, M. Chalfen has these, for extra credit:

11) Who recorded with WIlbur Sweatman and Charles Mingus?

12) Who played with Keppard in the Original Creole Orch and recorded with Bird & Martial Solal?

13) Who played with Lu Waters & Capt. Beefheart?

I had a thread on Facebook about this, so if you were in on that, I know who you are...

Carmell Jones Radio Show

Trumpeter Carmell Jones, featured on the Duplex Mystery Jazz Hour, WZBC, with Steve Provizer 02/04/2016 05:00PM to 06:00PM

Carmell Jones Quartet "If I Love Again" from "Carmell Jones Quartet" (1960), Fresh Sounds 

Carmell Jones Quartet "Willow Weep for Me" from "Carmell Jones Quartet" (1960), Fresh Sounds 

Bud Shank Quintet featuring Carmel Jones "New Groove" from "New Groove" (1961), Pacific Jazz 

Vi Redd "Now's The Time" from "Bird Call" (1962), United Artists 

Curtis Amy w. Carmell Jones "Groovin' Blue" from "Groovin' Blue" (1961), Pacific Jazz 

Harold Land Quintet "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine" from "Jazz Impressions Of Folk Music" (1963), Imperial 

Horace Silver Quintet "Song for My Father" from "Song for my Father" (1964), Blue Note 

Carmell Jones Quintet "Just In Time" from "Jayhawk Talk" (1965), Prestige 

Nathan Davis w. Carmell Jones " Carmell´s Black Forest Waltz" from "The Hip Walk" (1965), SABA 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Mark Harvey On The Duplex

I had an interesting session with trumpeter, pianist, composer, arranger, minister, writer, educator Mark Harvey on the 1/28/16 Duplex Mystery Radio Hour on WZBC. Check out Mark's book and CD here

Listen to the show HERE

Woody Herman "Mo-Lasses" from "The Swinginest" (1963) on Phillips 

Charlie Parker "Cool Blues" from "Charlie Parker at Storyville" (1988) on Blue Note 

George Russell "War Gewesen" from "George Russell/7 Classic Albums" on Real Gone Jazz 

George Russell "War Gewesen" from "George Russell/So What" (1987) on Blue Note 

The Mark Harvey Group "Tarot: The Moon" from "The Boston Creative Jazz Scene 1970-1983" (2016) on Cultures of Soul 

Thing "Road Through the Wall Pts 2,3" from "The Boston Creative Jazz Scene 1970-1983" (2016) on Cultures of Soul 

Stanton Davis/Ghetto Mysticism "Play Sleep" from "The Boston Creative Jazz Scene 1970-1983" (2016) on Cultures of Soul 

Baird Hersey and the Year of the Ear "Herds and Hoards" from "Herds and Hoards" (2016) on Cultures of Soul 

Friday, January 15, 2016

Herman's First Herd Radio Show

On the Duplex Mystery Jazz Hour, wzbc.org, 90.3 fm,  01/14/2016, we heard music from Woody Herman's First Herd. Great soloists include, Bill Harris, Flip Phillips, Pete Candoli, Margie Hyams, Dave Tough, Red Norvo, Shorty Rogers, with vocals by Woody and Francis Wayne.


Woody Herman and The First Herd "Apple Honey" (Jazz, 1945) on Columbia 

Woody Herman and The First Herd "Let it Snow" (Jazz, 1945) on Columbia 

Woody Herman and The First Herd "Laura" (Jazz, 1945) on Columbia 

Woody Herman and The First Herd "Back Talk" (Jazz, 1946) on Columbia 

Woody Herman and The First Herd "Caledonia"  (Jazz, 1945) on Columbia 

Woody Herman and The First Herd "Sidewalks of Cuba" Jazz, 1946) on Columbia 

Woody Herman and The First Herd "Happiness Is Just a Thing Called Joe" (1942) on Columbia 

Woody Herman and The First Herd "Fan It" (Jazz, 1946) on Columbia 

Woody Herman and The First Herd "Goosey Gander" (Jazz, 1945) on Columbia 

Woody Herman and The First Herd "Non Alcoholic" (Jazz, 1946) on Columbia 

Woody Herman and The First Herd "I Wonder" Jazz, 1945) on Columbia 

Woody Herman and The First Herd "Lady Mcgowan's Dream (Pt. I & II)" (Jazz, 1946) on Columbia 

Woody Herman and The First Herd "Northwest Passage" (Jazz, 1945) on Columbia 

Woody Herman and The First Herd "Summer Sequence, pts 1-2"  (Jazz, 1946) on Columbia 

Woody Herman and The First Herd "Woodchopper's Ball" (Jazz, 1946) on Columbia 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Jazz Re-Shaping Standards

Without jazz, would "standards" be standards? Fact is, jazz musicians took-and continue to take-a body of music rooted in late 19th and early 20th century musical conventions and re-conceive, rejuvenate and adapt them to changing aesthetics. 

I originally took this up in this post, showing how jazz made All The Things You Are a standard. I ran across an interesting website, www.jazzstandards.com, and I'm going to use the vast amount of data they've compiled about jazz standards to expand the concept.

According to that site, these are the top ten most recorded tunes in the jazz canon, along with the year of their composition. [Notice these are all 30's and 40's tunes. In fact, in the top 300, there are only a handful that were written after 1950-but that's another story]. To keep the length of the post down, I'll take the first five of these tunes and post the earliest recordings I can find in the original context and compare them with the earliest versions I can find in the jazz context. 

1. 1930 Body and Soul
2. 1939 All the Things You Are
3. 1935 Summertime
4. 1944 Round Midnight
5. 1935 I Can't Get Started

6. 1937 My FunnyValentine
7. 1942 Lover Man
8. 1930 What Is This Thing Called Love
9. 1933 Yesterdays
10.1946 Stella By Starlight

Body and Soul, written by Johnny Green for Gertrude Lawrence, was recorded by Helen Morgan in the same year it was written. The vocal has a rubato, recitatif quality to it, with plenty of vibrato. It fits comfortably in the stylistic parameters of the era; post-parlor music, with a bit of art song harmony and the heightened emotion of European cabaret. Morgan does the verse (the first section of the song before the chorus), which most jazz versions don't include; unfortunate, from my perspective. 

Louis Armstrong also recorded Body and Soul in 1930. Right away we have the parallel universe of jazz made manifest. The Armstrong version is clearly a dance record, with a steady swing rhythm section. He approaches the tune with some measure of emotional commitment, but he completely displaces the melody rhythmically and his rendition, both vocally and on his horn, opens onto a different world than that represented by Morgan's version.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Taking The Plunge

The Duplex Mystery Jazz Hour of 12/31/2015 featured some of the great plunger mute players in jazz.


Johnny Dunn's Original Jazz Hounds "Hawaiian Blues" 1922 on Vocalion 

Johnny Dunn and His Band "What's the Use of Being Alone" 1928 on Vocalion 

King Oliver & His Dixie Syncopators "Wa Wa Wa" 1926 on Brunswick 

King Oliver & His Dixie Syncopators "Sugar Foot Stomp" 1926 on Brunswick 

Charles Johnson's Paradise Ten "The Boy in the Boat" 1928 on Victor 

Duke Ellington & His Orchestra "The Mooche" 1928 

Duke Ellington & His Orchestra "Black and Tan Fantasy" on Brunswick 1927

Duke Ellington & His Orchestra "Concerto for Cootie" on Victor 1940 

Hank Jones - Tyree Glenn Sextet "Lonely Moments" 195) 

Clark Terry, Quentin Jackson "Ol'zulu" from  Paris 1960 on Swing 

Al Grey "Nothing but the Truth" from "Snap Your Fingers"  1962 on ARGO 

Clark Terry & His Jolly Giants "Never" from "Clark Terry & His Jolly Giants" 1975) on Vanguard Records 

Rex and Cootie "I'm Beginning to See the Light" from "The Big Challenge" 1957) on Jazztone 

Duke Ellington "It Don't Mean A Thing" 1943 Film 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Muslim Jazz Show

Abdal Karim-Billy Higgins

At this historical juncture in the U.S., it's not a bad thing to recognize the great music contributed by American members of the Muslim faith. Recorded from the Duplex Mystery Jazz Hour program of 12.17.15.


Kenny Dorham "The Prophet" from "Cafe Bohemia VOl 2" 1956 on Blue Note 

Thelonius Monk "In Walked Bud" from "In Walked Bud" 1947 on Jazz Forever 

Dakota Staton "The Late, Late Show" from "The Late, Late Show" 1957 on Capital 

Dexter Gordon "Broadway" from "Our Man in Paris" 1963 on Blue Note 

Ornette Coleman "Ramblin'" from "Change of the Century" 1960 on Atlantic 

Yusef Lateef "I'm just a lucky so and so" from "The Three Faces of Yusef Lateef" 1962 on Compulsion 

Abbey Lincoln "Throw it Away" from "A Turtle's Dream" 1995 on Verve 

Muhal Richard Abrams "Afrisong" from "Afrisong" 2009 on Candid 

Curtis Fuller & Hampton Hawes "A-Drift" from "With French Horns - EP" 957 on Prestige 

Charlie Parker "Little Willie Leaps" from "At Birdland Vol 1" 1950 on Ember

Please let me know if you have trouble accessing the file. The Cloud has its own logic and you may have to use an app to play it.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Remembering Chris Rich

Chris Rich was the guy who started this blog. His first post was on 7/18/09. His posts concentrated on musicians like Matthew Shipp, Bill Dixon and George Russell, whom he thought deserved wider recognition and on free jazz in general. His intelligence was palpable and his profane articulateness, his ability to find the right word and put it in arresting context, was startling. No surprise that his writing was insightful, powerful and pulled no punches. 

In 2010, he invited me to post and soon after asked me to take over the blog. I tried to get him to stay, but there was a lot of fucked up troll activity and I think he just got tired of it. When Chris left the blog, he took on this troll behind the scenes, in a long-term grudge match. He chased him around the globe, trying to flush him out and get him, if not arrested, then at least banned. I think he got partial satisfaction on that.

He was a squarish, solid guy, who apparently came from what has been referred to as "good stock;" at least, he referenced ancestors who settled in Yankee redoubts around Massachusetts. He walked ungodly distances and his robust physical presence made him seem like someone who'd be around for a hundred years, but his ingestion of various substances made you suspect that his time here might be shortened.

Chris was a kind of gatekeeper/factotum/contractor at Prof. Chalfen's 186. His digs there were spartan-a mattress, some shelves of cd's and books, ashtrays and tins with pot and tobacco and his computer. He relished the nocturnal accumulation and parsing of data, putting his face inches from the computer screen and extracting information that was invisible to me and probably to you.

He tried hard to help me get a gig when I sorely needed one and hooked me up with the people at AllAboutJazz.com

He was a complicated cat and I didn't quite "get" him. I had heard him turn on people and become an enemy you didn't want and I suspected that with a bit of miscommunication, this might happen with me, so I distanced myself. I missed hanging with him, but had enough drama in my life and wanted to avoid any more.

So, I only saw him occasionally in the last few years and what I know about him during that time is limited to what someone else told me. I retain a strong vision of this very vivid person, but mine is an impressionistic view of the man. I invite readers to contribute their own stories and help flesh out the story of the sui generis Christopher Rich, who died last week.