Top 50 JAzz Blog

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.