Friday, January 23, 2015

Off-Axes Show

Damian Draghici

Jazz can be played on just about anything, as I think this show illustrates.

Duplex Mystery Jazz Hour (ZBC Rock) with Steve Provizer 01/22/2015 05:00PM to 07:00PM

Listen to the show HERE.


Pakistani Sachal Studios "Take Five"

Art van Damme "A La Mode" from "Accordion a La Mode" (Jazz, 1961) on Columbia 

The Rudy Smith Trio "There will never be another you" from "Jazz 'N Steel" (Jazz, 1969) on Delos 

Art van Damme "You Stepped Out of a Dream" from "Accordion a La Mode" (Jazz, 1961) on Columbia 

Bix Beiderbecke "At the jazz band ball" (Jazz, 1927) on Columbia 

Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet "Mandy"  (Jazz, 1924) on Columbia 

Kenneth Jethro Burns "Just Friends" from "Kenneth Jethro Burns" (Jazz, 1987) on Acoustic Disc 

Kenneth Jethro Burns "If I Had You" from "Kenneth Jethro Burns" (Jazz, 1987) on Acoustic Disc 

Roland Kirk "The Black and Crazy Blues" from "The Inflated Tear" (Jazz, 1968) on Atlantic 

Steve Turre "Playin on Shells" from "Live U.N. Orchestra" (Jazz, 1991) 

Red McKenzie & His Mound City Blue Blowers. "I Ain't Got Nobody" "On Film" (Jazz, 1929) 

Mound City Blue Blowers "Hello Lola" (Jazz, 1929) on Victor 

The Joe Locke Quartet "Time Like the Present" from "Sticks and Strings" (Jazz, 2007) on Jazz Eyes 

Damian Draghici "Spain" from "Live concert" (Jazz, 2010) 

Pepper Adams Quintet "Seein' Red" from "The Cool Sound of Pepper Adams" (Jazz, 1957) on Regent 

John Coltrane - Ray Draper Quintet "Oleo" from "John Coltrane - Ray Draper Quintet" (Jazz, 1957) on Prestige 

Yusef Lateef "The Dreamer" from "The Dreamer" (Jazz, 1959) on Savoy 

Rufus Harley "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" from "A Tribute to Courage" (Jazz, 1968) on Atlantic 

Don Elliot Octet "Soon" from "Don Elliot Octet" (1956) on Emarcy 

Richard Galliano "Spleen" from "Spleen" (Jazz, 1985) 

Toots Thielmans and Bill Evans "I do it for your Love" from "Affinity" (Jazz, 1978) on Warner Bros. 

Julius Watkins "Jordu" from "Julius Watkins Sextet" (Jazz, 1955) on Blue Note 

Dorothy Ashby "House of the Rising Son" from "The Fantastic Jazz Harp of Dorothy Ashby" (Jazz, 1966) on Atlantic 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Boxing and Jazz

Sugar Ray and ongoing antagonist, Carmen Basilio
I just read Sweet Thunder, The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson by Wil Haygood. Sugar Ray Robinson (nee Walker Smith Jr.), one of the most successful boxers in history also had some skills as a dancer, singer, pianist and drummer and when his boxing career was on the ropes, he tried to make it as a performer. His fame got him gigs, but his talent was not enough to keep folks coming.

Still, his boxing stature, love of music, and his presentation as a confident, sharply dressed, widely esteemed black man put him in solid with Harlem's cultural elite and musicians like Billy Eckstein, Lena Horne, Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie. Miles was drawn into boxing through Robinson and it became an important part of the Davis mystique.

Mythically, as many have noted, jazz and the sweet science are linked through:
  • Improvisation.
  • Some kind of plan for a fight or a solo.
  • A repertoire of punches or "licks"(remember-"My daddy can lick your daddy")
  • Training and discipline.
  • Reflexes and senses finely honed and heightened enough to respond quickly to all cues.
  • A way out of poverty for African-Americans, Italians, Irish and Jews.
While there's a vibe that links them together, in many ways the resemblance is only-pun intended-skin deep:
  • For kids in poverty in 2015, sports and music are still a way out, but jazz has been replaced by hip hop and rock and boxing by basketball, baseball and football. 
  • As far as improvisation: in boxing, improvisation is reactive; the result of adapting to changing circumstances either forced by your opponent or by you, when you see a weakness and try to exploit it; two antagonistic forces with different plans trying to force the other to capitulate to theirs. In jazz, improvisation is collaborative (closer to the way professional wrestlers operate).
Jimmy and Tommy at Play

  • Of course, inter-personal enmity sometimes builds up on the bandstand, but with the possible exception of Charles Mingus or the Dorsey brothersit seldom leads to bloodshed.

  • In jazz, natural ability can make training and discipline less important. There are musicians who can play almost from the first time they pick up an instrument; who don't have to warm up; who never had to learn the musical nomenclature for a vocabulary they negotiate so well. A boxer may be a natural, but that's only a small opening that has to be developed by long hours of big and small bag work, running, skipping rope and sparring. 
All that said, there are boxers and jazz musicians who I think bring the same kind of energy to their work. Here are some who seem to me to be electro-magnetically aligned.

Jack Johnson (Fight actually starts at 5'27"):

And Jelly Roll Morton:

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Horace Silver Show

On the Duplex Mystery Jazz Hour, January 15, 2015, two hours of pianist, composer, bandleader Horace Silver, with bio info and occasional musical analysis by the host, whoever that is.

Listen to the show.


Stan Getz Quartet "Tootsie Roll" (1950) on Roost 

Stan Getz Quartet "‪Strike Up the Band‬" (1950) on Roost 

Stan Getz Quartet "‪Split Kick‬" 1951) on Roost 

Horace Silver Trio And Art Blakey "Opus de Funk" from "Horace Silver Trio And Art Blakey" (1953) on Blue Note 

Art Blakey Quintet "Wee Dot" from "A Night At Birdland With Art Blakey Quintet, Vol. 2" (1954) on Blue Note 

Art Blakey Quintet "Blues" from "A Night At Birdland With Art Blakey Quintet, Vol. 2" (1954) on Blue Note 

Art Blakey Quintet "The Way You Look Tonight" from "A Night At Birdland With Art Blakey Quintet, Vol. 2" (1954) on Blue Note 

Horace Silver And The Jazz Messengers "The Preacher" from "Horace Silver And The Jazz Messengers" (1954) on Blue Note 

Horace Silver Quintet and Jon Hendricks "The Preacher" from "Horace Silver Quintet and Jon Hendricks" (1968) 

Horace Silver And The Jazz Messengers "Doodlin" from "Horace Silver And The Jazz Messengers" (1954) on Blue Note 

Lambert, Hendricks & Bavan "Doodlin" from "Lambert, Hendricks & Bavan" (1963) on RCA Victor 

Harold Land Sextet "west Coast Blues" from "West Coast Blues" (1960) on Jazzland 

Harold Land Sextet "Compulsion" from "West Coast Blues" (1960) on Jazzland 

Horace Silver Quintet "Strollin" from "Horace-Scope" (1960) on Blue Note 

Horace Silver Quintet "Sister Sadie" from "Doin the Thing" (1961) on Blue Note 

Horace Silver Quintet "Nica's Dream" from "Horace-Scope" (1960) on Blue Note 

Horace Silver Quintet "Filthy McNasty" from "Doin the Thing" (1961) on Blue Note 

Horace Silver Quintet "Cookin at the Continental" from "Finger Poppin" (1959) on Blue Note 

Horace Silver Quintet "Come on Home" from "Finger Poppin" (1959) on Blue Note 

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

Horace Silver and the Sllver Brass Ensemble "The Hillbilly Bebopper" from "It's Gotta Be Funky" (1993) on Sony

Horace Silver Quintet "Red Beans and Rice" from "Pencil Packin' Papa." (1994) on Sony 

Friday, January 9, 2015

And Then God Created Chet

One thing I can say about James Gavin's Deep In a Dream: Hagiography, it ain't. In fact, it can stand as testament to Chet as the poster child for "the music is not the musician;" the ultimate example of the wrong-headedness of imputing personality or character traits on the basis of someone's music. Gavin makes sure we understand that the only mistress Baker was ever faithful to, the only friend he ever made any sacrifices for, was dope; that the people who bought into Baker's good looks, sweet sound and romanticized presentation were all played-big time. 

And yet, while here's not much reason to respect or like Baker, it's odd that Gavin doesn't seem to particularly like or respect his music, which he often describes as cold and devoid of emotion. It's as if he's set out to save his readers from becoming zombie dupes of the Chet Baker mythology. 

But, the fact is, Baker's stature as a musician was not cut from whole cloth. Yes, the music mutated into "phenomenon," working its way outward, amplified until the layers of bullshit overwhelmed the musical core-and Baker was completely complicit in this process. Still, when self-abuse hadn't gotten the better of him, there was always something magnetic in Baker's music and to the degree Gavin doesn't recognize that, the book is out of balance.

I'm not saying cut back on the gruesome tales of collapsed veins, violence and pathologically selfish, destructive behavior. We're reading for that, too. But the author's ambivalence about Baker's music leads to contradictions and unanswered questions:
  • His description varies from one page to the next about the quality of the music, with no explanation of a change from one performance to the next-such explanation as we would naturally expect to be about whether or not he scored what he needed. Along with this, there are inconsistencies about whether, at a given time, he was strung out on heroin, coping with methadone, strung out on methadone, coping by substituting cocaine, etc.
  • The author can't give us a clear picture of the degree to which Baker had musical knowledge, apart from his uncanny natural talent. He describes Baker's picking out melodies on the piano when very young; not being able to sight read and picking up parts by hearing them just once or twice; pushing people off piano benches to show them the right chords, but then taking a long time to find the chords; finally, not being able to tell people what key he wanted to play a song in.
  • When he quotes reviews, they're almost always slams of Baker's playing or bad reviews of his records. When he does quote something favorable, it's likely to be by musicians with whom Chet was getting high which, Gavin implies, undermines their credibility as witnesses. Many musicians in the book describe their time playing with Chet as life-changing, but such declarations always seem buried by Gavin in a context detailing Baker's pathological behavior.

Ironically, Gavin's approach is comparable to the infatuation he imputes to Bruce Weber, who made the film "Let's Get Lost." Aren't infatuation and dismissal just opposite sides of the same coin? Both Gavin and Weber short-change the music. Weber gives us a lovely and compelling portrait, with dark undertones and very little air time devoted to the up-tempo, dextrous trumpet player Chet Baker. Gavin gives us a dark portrait, unrelenting diss, with little energy spent on the music. For Weber, the music meant that all sins could at least be understood, if not forgiven. For Gavin, the sins meant that the music could not be trusted. Either way, both the book and the film are obsessed with Chet The Image.  

I'm not asking for transcriptions of solos. That's a different book. I'm trying to deal with Gavin's book on its own terms. He's written a juicy tome, but in not believing in the music enough to dig more into it and ask more questions about it, Gavin has me backing away from the descriptors of Baker and his music that riddle the book and to the psychological insights he offers. This makes his book shade too much toward the Kitty Kelley school of biography. 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

My Top Ten New Year's Jazz Resolutions

  1. Re-create Blue.
  2. Study up on "satire," so I know it when I see it.
  3. Humbly accept my cultural irrelevancy.
  4. Kickstarter campaign for my chops transplant operation. 
  5. Ignore all incoming Armstrong biographies.
  6. Ditto Ellington.
  7. Four Words: Fud Livingston Tribute Band.
  8. Still have 8 Giant Steps keys left to learn. 
  9. Stockpile valve oil, before prices go back up.
  10. Continue to just call it "jazz."

Monday, December 29, 2014

Billie Holiday Holiday Show

On the Duplex Mystery Jazz Hour on 12/25/14 I played music by Billie Holiday, work by influences like Louis Armstrong and Lester Young and other music from the late 30's-early 40's. At the center of the broadcast was my radio production called "The Amazing Story of Strange Fruit," which recounts the creation of that singular song.

Listen to the program here.

Louis Armstrong "Weary Blues" (Jazz, 1927) on Okeh 

Louis Armstrong "Struttiin' With Some Barbecue" (Jazz, 1927) on Okeh 

Louis Armstrong "Once in a While" f(Jazz, 1927) on Okeh 

Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington "Lucky So and So" (Jazz, 1961) on Pickwick 

Billie Holiday "Yesterdays" from "The Commodore Master Takes" (Jazz, 1944) on Commodore 

Billie Holiday "I Gotta Right To Sing The Blues" from "The Commodore Master Takes" (Jazz, 1944) on Commodore 

Billie Holiday "Fine and Mellow" from "The Commodore Master Takes" (Jazz, 1944) on Commodore 

Count Basie and His Orchestra "Lady Be Good"  (1936) on Decca 

Billie Holliday and Lester Young "Fine and Mellow" (Jazz, 1957) 

Bunnie Berigan "I Can't Get Started" (1936) on Decca 

Slim and Slam "A Tip On The Numbers" (Jazz, 1941) on Stash 

Cootie WIlliams "Concerto For Cootie" (Jazz, 1941) on Victor 

Billie Holiday "How Am I To Know" from "The Commodore Master Takes" (Jazz, 1944) on Commodore 

The Commodore Master Takes "My Old Flame" from "The Commodore Master Takes" (Jazz, 1944) on Commodore 

Billie Holiday "I'll Get By" from "The Commodore Master Takes" (Jazz, 1944) on Commodore 

Stephen Provizer "The Amazing Story of Strange Fruit" from "The Amazing Story of Strange Fruit" (Other, 2014) 

Billie Holiday "Blue Moon" from "Solitude" (Jazz, 1952) on Verve 

Billie Holiday "My Man" from "Ella and Billie" (Jazz, 1957) on Verve 

Billie Holiday "You Go to My Head" from "Solitude" (Jazz, 1952) on Verve 

Billie Holiday "Lover Come Back to Me" from "Ella and Billie" (Jazz, 1957) on Verve 

Billie Holiday "You Turned the Table On Me" from "Solitude" (Jazz, 1952) on Verve 

Billie Holiday "Lady Sings The Blues" from "Ella and Billie" (Jazz, 1957) on Verve 

Billie Holiday "I Only Have Eyes For You" from "Solitude" (Jazz, 1952) on Verve 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

What Hath Dylan Wrought?

As we at The Institute told Bob, nothing resurrects a moribund career more than a good cover project.

Always ready to jump on the bandwagon, we hooked up with the good folks at K-Tel and produced these recordings, featuring some of your favorite golden oldie stars. Look for them soon on the shelves of your favorite record store!

Bono Loves Como!

Blondie, Edy and Steve: Together Again For the First Time.

A Talent To Abuse: Slash Digs Coward.

Sting Swings the Sammy Davis Jr Songbook!

Clapton Says: "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Der Bingle."

Madonna's Rockin Mall Classics.

Prince: Ooh, My Papa; The Eddie Fisher Omnibus.

Van Halen -What Kind of Goulet Am I?*

Springsteen-It's Amore! No, It's Deano!

Def Leppard-The Mellow Side of Manilow.

Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Twisted Sister Kate--Smith, of course!

*Also available in 8-Track

Friday, December 5, 2014

New Orleans Omnibus Show

Broadcast on the Duplex Mystery Jazz Hour of December 4, 2014.


Louisiana Five "I Ain't-en Got-en No Time" 1919, Columbia 
Armand J. Piron's New Orleans Orch. "Bouncing Around" 1923, Okeh 
Armand J. Piron's New Orleans Orch.  "West Indies Blues" 1923,  Okeh 
Clarence Williams' Blue Five "Texas Moaner Blues" 1924,  Okeh 
Clarence Williams' Blue Five "Livin' High" 1925, Okeh 
Johnny Dunn and His Band "You Need Some Lovin" 1928, Columbia 
Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra "Mahogany Hall Stomp" 1929,  Okeh 
Johnny DeDroit And His New Orleans Orchestra "Number Two Blues" 1924,  Okeh 
Fate Marable's Society Syncopators "Frankie and Johnny" 1924, Okeh 
Johnny Bayersdorffer And His Jazzola Novelty Orchestra "The Waffle Man's Call"1924, Okeh 
Halfway House (Dance) Orchestra "Barataria" 1925, Okeh 
Russ Papalia and His Orchestra "Cross Word Mama" 1925, Okeh 
Brownlee's Orchestra Of New Orleans "Peculiar" 1925, Okeh 
New Orleans Rhythm Kings "I Never Knew Just What a Gal Could Do" 1925, Okeh 
New Orleans Rhythm Kings "She's Crying for Me" 1925, Okeh 
New-Orleans Rhythm Kings "Milenberg Joys" 1925, Okeh  

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Songs That Deeply Move

After my recent interview with Sheila Jordan, Jeff Turton made this comment: "She sang at my wedding and I always loved "You Are My Sunshine..."[see below]. I asked if she would sing it but she told me that she wouldn't sing it because to her it was a sad song. Growing up it was always a song that they sang when there were problems in the mines and lives were lost, which happened on a regular basis back then... Since that time I have never heard the song in the same way and I now hear that sadness in her voice."

There are often universal, or at least consensual emotional responses to music. Minor and major are more than just the mechanical act of flatting the third. But, we always bring our own backstory too, sometimes conscious, sometimes not and once in a while we are blindsided by our own reaction and deeply moved by music that other people find merely "pleasant," or "well-crafted."  
Abbey Lincoln
I'm not talking about the effect of music at the transcendental end of the spectrum-Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders and others. That music summons up large vistas and profound cosmic spaces. The songs I allude to here move us to a very personal inner space and often, a deep melancholy. Sometimes we understand why this happens, as in Jeff's story above; sometimes not. The fact that we may not know why we are emotionally stirred seems to deepen the experience.

In "Dinji," from Wayne Shorter's "Super Nova" album, a very personal vocal by Maria Booker is bookended by music evoking a wider, more cosmic palette. This deepens the effect of the vocal, which enters at about 4:00.

In the LP "Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie," comes Ella with "Good Morning Heartache," a beautiful marriage of music, lyric and musician. No surprise at its effect.

Here's "You Are My Sunshine," off the album "The Outer View." The arrangement George Russell wrote showed that he grasped the many layers of subtext in the song and Sheila Jordan's relationship to it.

Rahsaan and "A Laugh for Rory." Why this song? I'm not sure, but the combination of the real child's voice, the bubbling lightness of the head contrasted with the dramatics of the solos tripped a wire in me.

Finally, the song with a mojo that struck me like thunder is "Throw It Away," by Abbey Lincoln from "A Turtle's Dream." Why? I'll let the mystery continue to breathe.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Talking With, Listening to Sheila Jordan

It was my pleasure to play music by Sheila Jordan and interview her on the Duplex Mystery Jazz Hour of 11.13.14.

You can get her biography "Jazz Child," written by Ellen Johnson here.

The first 15 minutes are music, the next 35 or so are the interview and the last 10 are more music. Enjoy.

Here's the Program.

"Hum Drum Blues" from "Portrait of Sheila"  1962 on Blue Note
"The Bird / Tribute (Quasimodo) / Embraceable You" from "I've Grown Accustomed to the Bass" 1997 on Highnote
"Fred Astaire Medley" from "The Very Thought Of Two" 1988  on MA
"Dat Dere" from "Portrait of Sheila" 1962  on Blue Note
"What Are You Doing For The Rest Of Your Life" from "Body and Soul" 1986 CBS Sony Records
"Anthropology" from "Lost And Found" 1989 on Muse

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Trumpeters: Breathe Deeply and Prosper

Throughout my long playing career (if you can call it that), I have been fed any number of what now seem like crackpot breathing directives, including "Ya gotta push hard out your butt, like you're tryin to fart." "Draw in that sphincter muscle and make it real tight." "Support has to come from the diaphragm, don't worry about your chest."

I've finally begun to understand a couple of fundamental things: 1) Both your chest (lungs) and diaphragm have to be fully engaged and (2) It's not the volume of air that opens up the upper register, it's the velocity. Plenty of air has to be available and you have to be able to generate great airflow speed. Your mouth cavity and tongue also effect the rate of speed. 

We get very obsessed about our chops, but in fact our chops don't kick in until all the above happens. It takes a lot of strength to resist a small, concentrated, fast-moving column of air. The job of your face muscles is to allow your lips to either tighten or relax, to produce faster or slower vibrations that are then amplified by the trumpet and emerge as notes of different pitch
Whatever system of playing works for you is probably the one that allows this system to operate with the greatest efficiency for your particular physiological and psychological makeup.

All this being said, I think it's useful to go back to a fundamental understanding of the act of breathing. I came across this groovy video that explains how things work. They should show this to anyone who picks up a wind instrument.

Here's another video, just to give our friend the diaphragm its due. Ten points to whoever tells me where that extra "g" came from:

So my friends, breathe deeply and prosper.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

More New Yorker Jazz Nonsense

A recent short piece in the New Yorker (they call it a "casual") brings us back to the shift in how this magazine and other "thoughtful" mainstream periodicals now think of jazz.

The piece, under the heading "The Musical Life" is titled "Protege." It opens this way: 

"Jazz, once the national vernacular, lingers as a fading dialect at a musicians’ union in Hell’s Kitchen. Old men in black fedoras and roomy suits, men who toured Europe with Lionel Hampton and Chet Baker, now brush the hi-hat at Monday-night jam sessions before forty people in folding chairs. A few Mondays back at Local 802, “A Foggy Day” sounded downright murky until Quincy Jones strode in and a chorus of old friends cried, “Q! Q!”"
The piece focuses some of its attention on pianist Justin Kauflin, a protege of trumpeter Clark Terry. Kauflin's recording career was given a boost by the involvement of Quincy Jones, who also helped finance the documentary about Terry and Kauflin, called "Keep on Keepin' On." 

Apart from this, there's a noticeably prurient emphasis on Jones' love life. He flirts with two women, and says: "four Sudoku every day, to keep me young. Puzzles, and young women!” The closing of the piece is:

"As Kauflin turned away, Oxenhorn patted his knee and said, “It doesn’t matter how good-looking or talented you are—when Q calls a woman over, she’s going to leave you."

The final bit I want to quote is this:

“Until I met Clark,” Kauflin said, “I’d never been around anyone who could say ‘I love you’ so easily, who could spread joy just with his beautiful soul. That’s the same vibe I get from Q. We need to bring back that love because”—he gestured to the room—“we don’t exactly have a big audience anymore.”

So, to sum up: jazz is a fading dialect, the province of old men with fedoras and "roomy suits" (where the hell does that come from?) playing, essentially, for each other. Two elders of jazz are mentioned: Clark Terry, who is unfortunately, near the end of his life (offstage) and Quincy Jones (center stage), a swashbuckling womanizer with the bucks to keep the dim jazz flame alive.

Make of it what you will.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Jazz for the All-Saints Jim-Jams

Art Tatum, Lonesome Graveyard

ODJB, Skeleton Jangle

Clifford Brown, I Don't Stand a Ghost of a Chance

L,H&R, Halloween

Mickey Mouse, The Haunted House

See next page for Albert Ayler, Hot 8 BRass Band, Wynton Marsalis, Bessie Smith and Lee Morgan.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Jazz Musician: Entertainer or Artist?

Ask improvising musicians whether they would rather have an audience sitting and listening intently or up on their feet dancing and I'd bet the majority would choose the latter. Does this make the musicians in the first case "artists" and "entertainers" in the second? No. In each scenario, they are both, but current jazz dogma might have us think otherwise: For about half a century, most conversations about jazz (including "the death of jazz") have been informed by a tacit yet overwhelming identification with the ethos of personal expression over communication; i.e, artist over entertainer.

Common wisdom is that the shift from entertainment to art in jazz took hold with the boppers. Well, Dizzy Gillespie managed to wear both hats beautifully. And, both Diz and Bird said they loved playing in Detroit, because the people danced more there than in any other city.

 In fact, Jazz oral history-not critical history-shows that musicians identified themselves as entertainers, not artists. As to what words they use to describe each other, the question is moot: "Cat can really wail," or "He don't play shit."

Music has always been a tough racket and part of the deal was understanding what the audience wanted and delivering it: costumes, dancing, jokes, knockabout, occasional schmaltz and the right tempos for dancing. And there was little stigma attached to developing a successful solo and pretty much sticking with it. Certainly, a gentleman named Armstrong thought it was ok. 

I'm not saying that all the fancy talk is mere critical cant. It goes without saying that great jazz musicians are worthy of the same respect accorded the best in any musical genre. 

But listen up, jazz people-in an an economic climate where support for both classical and jazz is drying up, jazz can be freer to muster more creative responses than anything that is branded as "high art," and may be burdened by all the psychic trappings and expectations and affectations that go along with that.

But to do that, we need to be aware of the biases we bring to the table. Let's embrace the glorious history of jazz as entertainment, confident in the knowledge that the musical core is so strong that the art will always take care of itself (but that the audience may need some attention). 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"The Amazing Story of Strange Fruit" is posted


I’m very pleased to tell you that my radio theatre piece “The Amazing Story of Strange Fruit” is being released. I won’t overly blurb it, but will say that I think the story is compelling and was well rendered by a cast of ten excellent actors.

The program is available for streaming on is the place that radio stations go to acquire the right to broadcast programs. So, I’m asking you to think about whether you can think of any stations or especially people with radio programs, who might be interested in airing it. Or, if you know teachers who can use it in their curriculum.

It’s about 14 minutes long and apart from being entertaining in itself, can act as an excellent launching pad for discussions about race and culture on America. If anything occurs to you, please either contact me or, if you have a personal connection, contact that person.

I truly believe this is a story worth being told and you can help to tell it.

All the best,

Steve Provizer

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Whither Jazz Mojo?

The online conversation around jazz, BAM, improvised music, whatever you want to call it, seems to have shifted. I see far fewer pieces that dig into the marrow of the music and many more conversations reacting to mainstream perceptions and/or acceptance of jazz. 

Declining CD sales and "I can't get a gig" anecdotes speak to an uncertain financial future, while the recent proliferation of mainstream "humor" pieces at the expense of jazz point to a deep attitude shift. The intense response to all this diss seems to reflect an erosion of the idea that our efforts will somehow-maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow but someday-impact the wider culture. 

I get the un-ease. There's a lot more than just money riding on the weight jazz carries in the zeitgeist. There's a mythology at stake and the shift in jazz mojo is the canary in the cage.
Sonny reacting to the New Yorker Piece
Jazz Infra dig, the cachet of hip-ness, meant that the squares would, of course, not "get it." That was the point. But how did it really work? It worked because the insider could always sense from body language and voice tone that there was a sort of grudging respect on the part of the squares; at least a small sense of regret or guilt that they were not hip enough to dig it.  

That tension was recognized and seized on by Madison Ave. as part of its strategy of leveraging rebelliousness to increase sales; i.e. Chet Baker-Miles Davis archetypes cradling horns with smoke curling up over their tailored chinos. I don't see that strategy in operation anymore. Yes, I see Wynton in the NY Times modeling an expensive watch, but somehow, that's not the same.
That cultural push-pull is pretty much gone, replaced by squelched yawns and the kind of confidence on the part of former-might-once-have-been-squares that comes from knowing that jazz is the music of people who themselves don't get it.

Doesn't matter very much to me. Even though my bumper sticker reads "Self-delusion is my Chosen Religion," I'd rather accept the limits of my cache(accent over the e) and just enjoy communicating with people who speak my language. If I bring any buoyancy that helps keep the good ship Jazz PR afloat, it will come through my natural excitement discussing the relative merits of Lee and Freddie on my little radio show, or having a friend turn me on to a musician saying something new on the alto.

But, lest you be cast into a fit of gloom, my dear jazz people, bear in mind the potential spiritual side benefits that will arise for us in the wake of this cultural shift: we will have the chance to burnish the gleaming halos associated with those who have taken to monasteries and cloisters, uninterested in worldly success and the cultivation of the ego, dedicating ourselves to preserving the ancient illuminated texts.

Veni Creator Spiritus
Mentes tuorum visita
Imple superna gratia,
Quae tu creasti, pectora.

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Young Sassy

My personal predilection is for early to middle-period Sarah Vaughan. Her voice was golden from beginning to end, but I believe the amount of ornamentation she used later in her career sometimes overwhelmed the material itself. 

On this edition of the Duplex Mystery Jazz Hour (08/21/2014), I played only early recordings, starting with her first session in 1944 with the Eckstine band and ending in 1948, with her a cappella version of Nature Boy, which, at that time, challenged Nat Cole's version in popularity. 

Ballads dominate here. My take is that record producers wanted Sarah to crossover and thought this was the way to sell female talent (unless it was targeted to the "race" audience).

Go HERE to hear the show.

Billie Eckstine "I'll Wait and Pray" (1944) on Deluxe 
Dizzy Gillespie And His All Stars Quintet "Signing Off" (1945) on Continental 
Dizzy Gillespie And His All Stars Quintet "Interlude" (1945) on Continental 
Billy Eckstein Orchestra "No Smoke Blues" (1945) on Continental 
BIlly Eckstine and His Orch. "Don't Blame Me" (1945) on Spotlight 
Sarah Vaughan "Lover Man" (1945) on Guild 
Sarah Vaughan "What More Can A Woman Do"  (1945) on Continental 
Sarah Vaughan "I'd Rather Have A Memory Than A Dream" (1945) on Continental 
Tony Scott & his Down Beat Septet "All Too Soon" (945) on Gotham 
John Kirby and His Orchestra "Time and Again"  (1946) on Musicraft 
John Kirby and His Orchestra "I'm Scared" (1946) on Crown 
John Kirby and His Orchestra "You Go to My Head" (1945) on Crown 
John Kirby and His Orchestra "I Could Make You Love Me" (1945) on Crown 
Sarah Vaughan w. Dicky Wells' Big Seven "We're Through" (1946) on H.R.S. 
Georgie Auld and His Orchestra "A Hundred Years From Today" (1946) on Musicraft 
Sarah Vaughan w. Tadd Dameron "If You Could See Me Now" (1946) on Musicraft 
Sarah Vaughan w. Tadd Dameron "I Could Make You Love Me" (1946) on Musicraft 
Sarah Vaughan w. Tadd Dameron"My Kinda Love" (1946) on Musicraft 
Georgie Auld and His Orchestra "You're Blase"  (1946) on Musicraft 
Sarah Vaughan w. George Treadwell Orch. "I've Got a Crush on You" (1946) on Musicraft 
Sarah Vaughan w. George Treadwell Orch. "Everything I Have Is Yours" (1946) on Musicraft 
Sarah Vaughan w. George Treadwell Orch. "Body and Soul" (1946) on Musicraft 
Teddy Wilson Quintet "September Song"  (1946) on Musicraft 
Sarah Vaughan w. George Treadwell Orch. "I Cover The Waterfront" (1947) on Musicraft 
Sarah Vaughan w. George Treadwell Orch. "A Ghost of a Chance (I Don't Stand - With You)"  (1947) on Musicraft 
Sarah Vaughan w. George Treadwell Orch. "Tenderly"  (1947) on Musicraft 
Sarah Vaughan w. Ted Dale Orch. "I Can 't Get Started" (947) on MGM 
Sarah Vaughan w. Ted Dale Orch. "Love Me or Leave Me" (1947) on Musicraft 
Sarah Vaughan w. Ted Dale Orch. "I Get a Kick Out of You" (1947) on Musicraft [I didn't have much info on the Ted Dale Orchestra, so if anyone has anything interesting to say about them, please chime in].
Sarah Vaughan "What A Difference A Day Makes" (1947) on Musicraft 

Sarah Vaughan w. Earl Rodgers Choir "Nature Boy" from "Nature Boy" (Jazz, 1948) on Musicraft 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Codified Jazz Solo

Several improvised solos in the Basie band's "April In Paris" became codified.

Codification: when a solo is played almost exactly the same way on different recordings (or live), or when a recorded solo becomes well enough known to be orchestrated for either a section of the band or for the entire ensemble. You might call riffs 'mini-codifications.' 

Tommy Dorsey band's 1947 version of "Marie" features a well-known solo by Bunny Berigan (died in 1942) arranged for the entire trumpet section. (Starts at 1'36")

Orchestrated homages like "Marie" are well accepted as part of the arrangers art. However, while not quite a dirty little secret, soloists repeating worked out/famous solos is at least a bete noir; seen as not being in the spirit of continuously spontaneous creation that jazz people want to associate with this music. 

Is this the lingering aftershock of the Bop revolution, which moved jazz away from dance music and 'entertainment' into 'art' music?  In fact, the anti-commercialism aspect of jazz mythology predates the boppers by many years. In its 20's form it was a mythology much more driven by white jazz culture than black. i.e. "I have to play with this damned society band to make the bread but as soon as the gig is over I'm gonna go jam all night-hopefully, with some black musicians." (This dovetailed interestingly with the pressure record labels put on white bands to record "sweet" music and black bands to record "hot" even though, in practice, both colors played both kinds). 

That old devil commerciality, it was said, not only forced jazzers to play despised music, the money lust was such that bandleaders forced codified solos on reluctant musicians in order to mine every last gold shard from the vein opened up by a popular recording. 

Many possible areas of exploration open up: the 'hipness' factor in jazz and its place in the larger cultural context; the shifting/evolving relationship between that factor and the desire to please an audience (is a back-turning Miles a possible symbolic center of that shift?); the question of how much variation from melody-or from a previous solo-qualifies a performance as improvisatory. 

I invite readers to submit concrete examples of the process of codification as I have described it-or to cite other ways it has happened. Let's see how far back the process can be traced, examine contexts, compare examples and see what arises for further exploration. Tell me if you agree or disagree with the disreputability I say its reputation has acquired.
One of the Great Codifiers in jazz

You know, you can't write about Louis Armstrong, the man at the very top of the heap, without addressing codification. Give Thomas Brothers' recent book credit for doing that.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Chill Vocals, Pt. 2

My personal response to global warming; as heard on my show, the Duplex Mystery Jazz Hour, Thursday, July 3, 2014 on WZBC, 90.3, WZBC.ORG.

Listen Here.


Mark Murphy "On the Red Clay" (Jazz, 1975) on muse 
Count Basie "Whirlybird" from "At Birdland" (Jazz, 1960) on Emus  
June Christy "Something Cool"(Jazz, 1953) on Blue Note 
Duke Ellington & His Orchestra "Take the A Train" (Jazz, 1952) on Columbia 
Ella Fitzgerald "My Reverie" (Jazz, 1960) on Verve 
Chet Baker "Line for Lyons" (Jazz, 1956) on World Pacific 
Jack Teagarden "Don't Tell a Man About His Woman" from "Essential Jazz Vocals" (Jazz) on Verve 
Lee Wiley & Bobby Hackett "STREET of DREAMS" (Jazz, 1950) on Columbia 
Billy Eckstein "Caravan" (Jazz, 1949) on Verve 
Bob Dorough "Something for Sydney" (Jazz, 1997) on Blue Note 
Peggy Lee "That's the Way it Goes" (Jazz, 1941) on Columbia 
Louis Armstrong "Mack the Knife" (Jazz, 1955) on Columbia 
Billie Holliday "Fine And Mellow" (Jazz, 1939) on Commodore
King Pleasure "Golden Days" (Jazz, 1960) on Prestige 
Blossom Dearie "Surrey With The Fringe On The Top" (Jazz, 1958) on Verve 
Mel Torme and the MelTones "Hit the Road to Dreamland" (Jazz, 1959) on Verve 
Joe Williams "Hey Bartender" (Jazz, 1951) on Columbia 
Ella Fitzgerald "Blues in the Night" (Jazz, 1961) on Verve 
Lambert, Hendricks and Ross "Charleston Alley" (Jazz, 1959) on Columbia 
Mose Allison "Ever Since the World Ended" Jazz, 1997) on Blue Note 
Betty Carter "Some Other Time" (Jazz, 1993) on Capital Jazz 
Kurt Elling "Those Clouds Are Heavy, You Dig?" (Jazz, 2009) on Concord 
Vanessa Rubin "Black Coffee" (Jazz, 1995) on novus 
Mark Murphy "Canteloupe Island" (Jazz, 1960) on muse 
Chris Connor "Blue Silhouette" (Jazz, 1954) on Bethlehem 
Joe Williams "Who She Do" (Jazz, 1983) on Delos 

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Phoenix Jazz Record Label Story

My guest on the 6/26/14 edition of The Duplex was Tom Curry, co-founder with Bob Porter of the Phoenix Jazz record label and host of his own program on Zumix Radio. Over the course of the show, Tom took us through the history of the label. Good stuff.

Listen here.

All selections from the Phoenix Jazz record label

Cootie Williams Sextet-Tessa's Torch Song-1944 (Pearl Bailey's and Bud Powell's 1st recording)
Dodo Marmarosa-Smooth Sailing-1946
Eddie Cleanhead Vincent-Somebody Sure Has Got to Go-1944
Jack McVae-Young Man's Blues-1945
Charlie Parker/Dizzy Gillespie-Shaw Nuff, Groovin' High-1945
Sonny Stitt/Eddie Lockjaw Davis-Whoops!-1954
Jimmy Cleveland/Benny Golson-Blues-1959
Bill Harris/Charlie Ventura-The Great Lie-1947
Arnett Cobb/Dinah Washington-I Got It Bad-1952
Sabby Lewis-Embraceable You(w. Freddy Webster)
Charlie Parker-Now's The Time-1953
Red Allen-The Theme-1944
Charlie Parker-My Little Suede Shows-1953
Red Allen-Red Jump-1944

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Scene in L.A./ Central Ave.

Jazz, R&B and blues from 1940's-50's L.A, played on the Duplex Mystery Jazz Hour with Steve Provizer on 06/19/2014. Audio archived at WZBC.ORG 

 Roy Porter´s 17 Beboppers "Sippin With Cisco" (earliest recording session of Eric Dolphy)
 Howard McGhee Sextet "Dial-Ated Pupils" 
 Roy Porter´s 17 Beboppers "Gassin the Wig" 
 Howard McGhee Sextet "Up In Dodo's Room" 
 Johnny Otis Quintet & The Robin & Esther "Double Crossing Blues" 
 Gerald Wilson "Cruisin' With Cab" 
 Gerald Wilson Orchestra "Dissonance In Blues (1947)
 Joe Liggin & Honey Drippers "Pink Champagne" 
 Dexter Gordon Quintet "Mischievous Lady"
 Wardell Grey "move" 
 Nellie Lutcher "I Thought About You" 
 Percy Mayfield "Please Send Me Someone to Love"
 Lionel Hampton "Red Top" 
 Big Jay McNeeley "Deacon's Hop"
 Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray "The Chase" 
 Charles Brown "Black Nite"
 Jimmy Witherspoon "Big Fine Girl"
 Camille Howard & Her Boyfriends "Money Blues"
 Nellie Lutcher "Fine Brown Frame"
 Roy Porter´s 17 Beboppers "Little Wig"
 Teddy Edwards Quartet "Blues in Teddy's Flat" 
 Wardell Grey "Farmer’s Market" 
 Annie Ross "Farmers Market" 
 Joe Swanson Orchestra "East of the Sun" 
 T-Bone Walker "Stormy Monday"
 Big Jay McNeeley "Nervous, Man, Nervous" 
 Jimmy Liggins and His Drops of Joy "Tear Drop Blues" 
 Frank Morgan "The Champ" 
 Roy Milton and His Solid Senders "Hop, Skip and Jump"
 Art Tatum "Too Marvelous for Words"
 Pee Wee Crayton "Blues After Hours"
 Charles Mingus "Mingus Fingers"
 Charles Mingus "These Foolish Things"

Friday, June 20, 2014

Where are the Vuvuzuelas?

Did FIFA ban vuvuzuelas because of noise pollution? I doubt that. The decibel-meter already pins out at international soccer matches; maybe because of their potential usefulness as bludgeons? Whatever the reason, I'm missing those gaudy plastic tubes and to honor them, I offer this revised piece

In my day, these horns (at that time, just red) stuck out the top of the carts dragged along by vendors working the crowds at parades and ballparks. They also had banners, mylar balloons and the industrious ones also sold popcorn. But the horns were the most expensive and highly-prized tchochkes. Browbeating a parent into buying one was an all-day effort. 

So, is it cheesy sentimentality that makes me care? Do I think that people who have explored the vuvuzuela and experienced its melodic limitations will flock to study the trumpet? Sure, just like I believe that sampling say, Miles, in hip hop tracks will bring the kids around to listening to jazz. NO. This infernal device is powerful for other reasons, like the power of limited means. Wha? 

Listen: I had a friend who played the piano. From a rich family, he refused to go to a gig where they wanted him to play any kind of piano but a grand. No electric, spinet or upright for him...I'll just sit here for a few minutes with steam coming out of my nose as I remember all the music I've heard made on crappy pianos by Tatum, Bud, Willie the Lion, any great jazz pianist. Of course you don't want to sit down to play a piano with no F# above middle C, with the top octave sounding like the broken works of a cheap music box, or with a sustain pedal that sounds like it's harboring a family of mice. But that's what you got. You take it as a challenge to figure out work-arounds. Maybe it forces you to use new patterns and you discover a riff you never knew existed. Maybe it pisses you off so much you start channeling Cecil Taylor.

People act amazed at the great music played by folks who made banjos out of cereal boxes, or drums out of spackle containers or oil drums. Not me. The investment almost pre-determines that if the music's in you, you'll work hard enough to get it out. Now, you ain't making great music with the infernal vuvuzela, but you are putting enough breath into a column to agitate the standing waves and engage the harmonic series. That puts you closer to the many musicians who made somethin' from nothin' than to the people who buy Martin Committee horns and hang them on their den walls. Breathing is always a good thing. And you gotta breathe to work the tube, so vive la viv!