Most important jazz concert in history?

History’s most important jazz concert? It was Benny Goodman’s appearance Carnegie Hall on Jan. 16, 1938, according to Phil Schaap, curator of Jazz at Lincoln Center.

“The Goodman concert at Carnegie Hall is the cornerstone to jazz having performance space in the concert hall,” Schaap recently told NPR. “But most importantly, aesthetically, it establishes that jazz has value for listening purposes only.”

The concert also made history for breaking cultural barriers: Goodman’s band, with drummer Gene Krupa, included six black musicians — pianists Count Basie and Teddy Wilson, saxophonist Lester Young and vibraphonist Lionel Hampton — during a time when music venues didn’t allow that kind of racial mixing.

The recording of the show, finally released in 1950, was one of the first million-selling LPs.

Check out the full story (and audio) here.

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Chick Corea’s Akoustic Band is Back! Trio Dazzles in St. Petersburg Concert

chick trio new

“This is a rehearsal,” Chick Corea said Saturday night, before launching into the second of two performances in what he called a “homespun” affair.

Meaning: His relaunch of the Akoustic Band, 20 years or so after he, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Dave Weckl last played together unplugged, was unusually low key. No NYC Blue Note run this time. Minimal publicity.

Instead, the trio simply offered a pair of dazzling sets at the unassuming St. Petersburg College Music Center, something of a left-field choice for a major Tampa Bay area concert.

The intimate, 310-seat theater was near enough to the home of the celebrated 76-year-old pianist, composer and bandleader that he could sleep in his own bed that night. And there was solid family-and-friends support, as Corea’s wife, singer Gayle Moran, daughter Liana (also a pianist), and longtime recording-engineer associate Bernie Kirsh, were in the house.

chick trio

It was all preceded by just one day — 7 or 8 hours, Patitucci told me Saturday morning — of rehearsals, on Friday at Chick’s studio.

“If we screw up, we’re gonna stop and play it again,” Corea added. Why? Because the shows were recorded for potential release on a live album, meant to be available in time for the band’s summer tours of Europe and Australia.

Indeed, they did stop and re-do a few endings. But that didn’t disappoint the overtly supportive audience packed with musicians; the trio got a standing ovation before playing even a single note.

The three, maintaining constant eye contact with one another and seemingly having a blast despite dealing with multiple quite tricky passages, offered a mix of old and new Corea compositions along with fresh arrangements of standards.

Opener “On Green Dolphin Street” began with an unaccompanied piano solo, while the band effectively amped up the quirky accents and stops on a gently swinging “Monk’s Mood.” An inventive take on “You and the Night and the Music” that had Patitucci bowing some lines on the sort-of coda.

“It’s basically a piano piece (rearranged for trio),” Corea said about his seldom-played “Continuance,” featuring long classical lines sometimes completed or doubled by Patitucci and, later, some herky-jerky swing.

Also from the leader’s bottomless well of original compositions: “Eternal Child,” recorded by Corea’s Elektric Band, which also includes Patitucci and Weckl, and the bouncy, leapfrogging “Humpty Dumpty,” first released 40 years ago — believe it or not — on Corea’s “The Mad Hatter.” For the latter, called “kind of a jam tune” by Corea, he at one point created a sound effect by reaching into the piano case and scraping the strings, and the wizardly Weckle provided another explosive, creative solo.

Throughout, Patitucci again demonstrated the beauty and genius of his whole-bass approach to playing, delighting listeners with solos built on virtuoso runs as well as melodic bits, including, on “Eternal Child,” a quick quote of “Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise.”

Chick and Gayle

For the encore, Moran joined the group on the samba-driven “You’re Everything,” from Return to Forever’s revered 1973 “Light as a Feather” album. At one point, the unusually challenging melody line — originally sung by Flora Purim — had Moran briefly stopping and shouting, “These are impossible lines to sing!” She nevertheless hit most of the marks, and impressed with clear, powerful vocals. Call it a near-perfect finale.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vijay Iyer tops JazzTimes Critics Poll

Just as in the recent NPR Jazz Critics Poll, Vijay Iyer tops the recently published JazzTimes poll, with “Far From Over” (ECM), from the pianist-composer’s sextet, topping the magazine’s list of the year’s 40 best new releases.

Vijay Iyer

(I voted in both polls).

“Corrosive in its defiance and lyrical in its call for unity, (Iyer’s album) is a grueling, uplifting listening experience,” Thomas Conrad writes about Iyer’s album.

The rest of the Top 10 includes releases by:

  • Three saxophonists — 2)Charles Lloyd New Quartet, “Passin’ Thru” (Blue Note); 3) Steve Coleman‘s Natal Eclipse, “Morphogenesis” (Pi); and (4) Rudresh Mahanthappa‘s Indo-Pak Coalition, “Agrima” (Rudeshm.com)
  • (5) Singer Cecile McLorin Salvant‘s “Dreams and Daggers” (Mack Avenue)
  • (6) Drummer Matt Wilson‘s “Honey and Salt: Music Inspired by the Poetry of Carl Sandburg” (Palmetto)
  • (7) Hudson (Jack DeJohnette/Larry Grenadier/John Medeski/John Scofield), with a self-titled debut album (Motema)
  • (8) Bassist Linda May Han Oh‘s “Walk Against Wind” (Biophilia)
  • (9) Pianist/keyboardist Craig Taborn‘s “Daylight Ghosts” (ECM)
  • 10) Trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire‘s “A Rift in Decorum — Live at the Village Vanguard” (Blue Note)

The JazzTimes critics also honored historical jazz releases. The top 3: Thelonious Monk’s “Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960” (SAM/SAGA); Bill Evans’ “Another Time: The Hilversum Concert” (Resonance”); and Jaco Pastorius’s “Truth, Liberty & Soul” (Resonance).

“Jaco’s brilliant work as a composer and large-ensemble arranger is impressively showcased on this archival radio recording by his Word of Mouth big band,” I wrote about the double-disc release.

For the complete poll results, pick up the February issue of JazzTimes.

 

Mark Whitfield, “Live and Uncut” (CD review)

Guitarist Mark Whitfield remains a gifted improviser and bandleader, as demonstrated by “Live and Uncut” (Chesky), a set with bassist Ben Allison and drummer Billy Drummond, recorded live last year at Rockwood Music Hall  in Manhattan.

“Trio magic, more or less, ensues as the three, captured on a single binaural mic enabling heightened intimacy, turn in four tried-and-true standards and two Drummond originals,” I wrote, in my review for JazzTimes.

Check out the full review here.

Branford Does the Mahaffey

Quick take:

Branford Marsalis, alternating between tenor and soprano sax, and leading his long-running quartet (with pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis, and drummer Justin Faulkner), turned in a brilliant set tonight at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg.

The quartet mixed heady post-bop originals with the likes of a rambunctious version of Monk’s “Teo” and a ramped-up retro take on “On the Sunny Side of the Street.”

Brainy, brawny, (too) brief. Have more to say, but I’m saving it for a forthcoming magazine review.

Tampa Jazz Calendar: Branford Marsalis, Chick Corea and other heavy hitters ahead

Tampa Bay area performing arts centers and other venues are putting the spotlight on a surprisingly high volume of top-shelf jazz artists this month. When it rains, it pours. On the way:

Thursday, Jan. 11 — Branford Marsalis Quartet, with the acclaimed New Orleans-born saxophonist leading a group including pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis and drummer Justin Faulkner (unless there are subs). Mahaffey Theater, St. Petersburg, 7:30. Link

Saturday, Jan. 13 — Chick Corea Akoustic Band, with the brilliant, versatile pianist, who makes his home in Pinellas County, joined by bass great John Patitucci on bass and monster drummer Dave Weckl. Two shows — doors at (approximately) 5 & 8:30 pm. Link 

Saturday, Jan. 13 — Sunshine Music Festival, with another great lineup of blues, rock, funk and more, again headlined by the superb Tedeschi Trucks Band, and including longrunning jazz-jam-avant trio Medeski Martin and Wood (MMW), Phish bassist Mike Gordon’s band, and NOLA funksters Galactic. Also: Hot Tuna, Foundations of Funk (with keyboardist/organist John Medeski from MMW, guitarist Eric Krasno from Soulive, and bassist George Porter, Jr. and drummer Zigaboo Modeliste from the Meters), and the Suffers. Vinoy Park, St. Petersburg, 1 pm. (Dang, WHY does this fest have to be the same day as Chick Corea?) Link 

Saturday, Jan. 13 (Do all of these shows HAVE to be on the same day?) — Fast-rising Canadian-born trumpeter Bria Skonberg. Central Park Performing Arts Center, Largo, 8 pm. Link

Also ahead in January and February:

  • Wednesday, Jan. 10 — The Ron Reinhardt Group with guitarist Adam Hawley and saxophonist Kyle Schroeder. Charlie’s Sushi & Japanese Restaurant, Clearwater, 8 pm. Info/Reservations: 727 515-4454.
  • Friday, Jan. 12 — Serotonic album release party, with (opener) Jon Ditty. Dunedin Brewery, 9 pm. Link
  • Friday, Jan. 19 — James Suggs Plays the Music of Lee Morgan, with the popular Tampa Bay area trumpeter joined by pianist Stretch Bruyn, bassist Brandon Robertson and drummer Paul Gavin for a program of soul jazz and more. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 8 pm. Link
  • Sunday, Jan. 21 — Arbor Records artists Nicki Parrott (bass/vocals), Rossano Sportiello (piano) and Ed Metz (drums). Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 7 pm. Link
  • Sunday, Jan. 28 — Tampa Jazz Guitar Summit: Dave Stryker Quintet. HCC Ybor Mainstage Theatre, Ybor City, 3 pm. Link
  • Monday, Jan. 29 — Tampa Jazz Guitar Summit: Peter Bernstein, with the USF Faculty Jazz Ensemble. USF Concert Hall, Tampa, 7:30 pm. Link 
  • Wednesday, Feb. 14 — Whitney James‘ Jazz Valentine. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 8 pm. Link
  • Wednesday, Feb. 21 — St. Petersburg Jazz Festival: Tal Cohen (piano) Trio, with bassist Dion Kerr and drummer David Chiverton. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 7:30 pm. Link
  • Thursday, Feb. 22 — St. Petersburg Jazz Festival: (Saxophonist) Jeff Rupert Quintet with Veronica Swift (vocals), pianist Richard Drexler, bassist Ben Kramer, and drummer Marty Morell. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 7:30 pm. Link
  • Friday, Feb. 23 — St. Petersburg Jazz Festival: B3 Fury with the Shawn Brown Quintet, with guitarist Nate Najar, saxophonist Jeremy Carter, and drummer Anthony Breach. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 7:30 pm. Link
  • Saturday, Feb. 24 — St. Petersburg Jazz Festival: Helios Jazz Orchestra with (vocalists) Whitney James & Chuck Wansley. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 7:30 pm. Link
  • Sunday, Feb. 25 — St. Petersburg Jazz Festival: (Pianist) Gabriel Hernandez Trio, with bassist Mauricio Rodriguez and drummer Dimas Sanchez. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 7:30 pm. Link

 

 

Charnett Moffett: Music From Our Soul (CD review)

“Music From Our Soul” (Motema) was one of last year’s more intriguing discs, from a bassist I’ve been following since he was a teenage prodigy.

Music From Our Soul is essentially a collection of studio tracks and live dates in New York, Seattle and Bern, Switzerland, documenting some of what Moffett’s been up to since the release of his 2013 album, Spirit of Sound,” I wrote, in my review for JazzTimes.

Check out the full review here.