Disc of the Day: Joris Teepe & Don Braden, “Conversations”

Joris Teepe & Don Braden, “Conversations” (Creative Perspective Music)

braden teepe

Bassist Joris Teepe and tenor saxophonist Don Braden, musical collaborators for nearly a quarter century, demonstrate their synchronicity on this collection of mostly trio pieces, with drummers Gene Jackson and Matt Wilson joining on various tracks.

It takes sustained creativity and ingenuity to keep things interesting and musically provocative in a group absent of a chordal instrument, but these guys handily achieve those goals by way of high-octane playing and deft arrangements. Particularly appealing are a duo reading of Mingus’s “Goodbye Porkpie Hat,” with Teepe’s rich, woody double bass coming to the forefront on an unaccompanied intro and then the two harmonizing on the melody.

Also notable are the opener, Chick Corea’s “Humpty Dumpty,” a tricked-out version of Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints,” the standards “It’s You or No One” and “Our Love Is Here to Stay,” and Teepe’s climbing-and-falling duo piece, the aptly titled “We Take No Prisoners.”

But all of these conversations are dynamic, and worth hearing, and made even more so thanks to the remarkable sonic clarity of these tracks, recorded at Creative Perspective Music and edited, mixed and mastered by Braden.

Don Braden

Joris Teepe

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Disc of the Day: Walt Weiskopf, “Fountain of Youth”

Walt Weiskopf, “Fountain of Youth” (Posi-Tone)

Weiskopf

The tones and textures on this disc are sometimes beefy, sometimes airy, thanks to a mix of instruments and players that jell well: Tenor saxophonist Walt Weiskopf,  a longtime Steely Dan sideman, is joined by vibraphonist Behn Gillece, pianist Peter Zak, bassist Mike Karn and drummer Steve Fidkyk.

The quintet offers inspired bop-driven originals, frequently showcasing Weiskopf’s muscular but agile playing, starting with his “Backstage Blues” and continuing with his multicolor, meter-shifting “Petal,” floaty ballad “Loose Lips,” the uptempo “Echoes of the Quiet Past” and another bluesy tune, “Hot Dog Days.”

Weiskopf also turns in fresh arrangements of tunes by others, including a lovely “How Are Things in Glocca Morra?,” a nifty “Laura,” and a sprawling, after-midnight take on the standard, “Young and Foolish.”

Walt Weiskopf

Posi-Tone Records 

Shorter Gets a Guggenheim

wayne shorterThe disappointing news: Only one jazz artist received a Guggenheim Fellowship this year.

The good news: Wayne Shorter has won a Guggenheim for his work as a composer of brilliant, challenging but melodic and inviting jazz tunes, including the likes of “Footprints” and “Fee-Fi-F0-Fum.”

The tenor and soprano saxophonist, leader of his own remarkable quartet, a co-founder of fusion heavyweights Weather Report and an integral player and writer in the second great Miles Davis Quintet, “has left an indelible mark on the development of music for the last half-century,” according to the official announcement of the award.

Shorter, 83, also recognized as an NEA Jazz Master, is one of 178 US and Canadian honorees in the arts, sciences and humanities.

For some quick recommendations of Shorter’s best material, check out Howard Mandel’s column on Shorter.

 

 

Best Jazz of 2014: Tom Harrell, Chick Corea, Frank Kimbrough, Snarky Puppy & more

In 2014, Jazz meant a profusion of intriguing and sometimes provocative releases by veterans (Tom Harrell) and young stars (Ambrose Akinmusire) alike, the music as the nominal subject and/or driving force of the score in several films (“Whiplash,” “Low Down,” “Birdman”), and several unfunny satires of jazzers, followed by dust-ups in the jazz community (the Sonny Rollins “interview” in the The New Yorker, etc.).

Full-time institutions of jazz — namely Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York, and SFJAZZ in San Francisco — continued to flourish, with many, varied events, as did several competitions (Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, the Jacksonville Jazz Festival Piano Competition), and a profusion of festivals in the United States and abroad, although some of the festivals continued to lean heavy in the pop/rock direction while de-emphasizing their middle name.

Jazz clubs in NYC are still going strong, and still at the heart of the jazz world, as I was reminded during visits to the venerable Village Vanguard (for Christian McBride’s Inside Straight quintet; see my review) and Birdland (for Arturo O’Farrill’s Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, with my friend and former bandmate Jonathan Powell on trumpet; see my review). There are dozens more great venues, of course, in NYC.

More great jazz was released than one person could hear, of course. Here are 10 stand-outs, in a list I was asked to contribute to JazzTimes, NPR Music, the Jazz Journalists Association. and elsewhere.

TOP 10

tom harrell trip

1. Tom Harrell, “Trip” (HighNote)

2. Chick Corea, “Trilogy” (Concord)

3. Frank Kimbrough, “Quartet” (Palmetto)

4. Snarky Puppy, “We Like It Here” (Ropeadope)

5. Henry Butler-Steven Bernstein and the Hot 9, “Viper’s Drag” (Impulse)

6. Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band, “Landmarks” (Blue Note)

7. Ambrose Akinmusire, “The Imagined Savior is Far Easier to Paint” (Blue Note)

8. Stanton Moore, “Conversations” (The Royal Potato Family)

9. Medeski Scofield Martin and Wood, “Juice” (Indirecto)

10. Keith Jarrett-Charlie Haden, “Last Dance” (ECM)

HISTORICAL/REISSUES

1. Charlie Haden and Jim Hall, “Charlie Haden-Jim Hall” (Impulse)

2. John Coltrane, “Offering: Live at Temple University” (Impulse)

3. Miles Davis, “Miles at the Fillmore — Miles Davis 1970: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 3” (Columbia/Legacy)

4. Jaco Pastorius, “Modern American Music … Period! The Criteria Sessions” (Omnivore)

5. Thelonious Monk, “Paris 1969” (Blue Note)

VOCAL

  • Tierney Sutton,  “Paris Sessions” (BFM Jazz)

DEBUT

  • Ben Flocks, “Battle Mountain” (West Cliff)

LATIN

  • Arturo O’Farrill, “The Offense of the Drum” (Motema)

 

Newk in Real Time: Sonny Talks!

It was nothing short of fascinating: Saxophonist Sonny Rollins, the legendary jazz giant, streaming live, in an interview/conversation prompted by a weak and rather mean-spirited “satire” piece in The New Yorker.

“That hurt me,” Rollins, 83, said about the article. “Never mind me. It’s saying some very, very insulting things about jazz, very derogatory things about jazz. VERY derogatory things about jazz — the way it sounds, the way it’s played, the musicians, everything. I can’t even read the article now … can’t take it.

“They got to some people that really thought it was me. And what they were saying was scurrilous. It was nothing funny about that.”

Sonny, a brilliant, and highly spiritual creative artist, spoke with “Jazz Video Guy” Bret Primack, and touched on a variety of topics, including his disappointment when concluding that some readers believed the mag’s piece to be a real interview; his fondness for Mad magazine; the pitfalls of technology; the recurrence of the “jazz is dead” myth; his early years in Harlem; and his interest in truth seeking.

Along the way, he quoted Aldous Huxley, Plato, and Charles Mingus, and made passing references to Fats Waller, Louis Jordan, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane.

Most encouraging, for jazz fans, was his vow to return to the stage in a big way sometimes in 2015.

“I’m writing a lot of music, i’m thinking about a lot of music, I’m planning for a lot of music, and I’m anxious to get back,” he said “Because my legacy is not complete yet. I’m getting to a point. I feel like I’m close enough that I can make a better representation of my life — Sonny Rollins, a musician. Have a little more to say. So that’s what I’m doing now.”

Some of his most quotable quotes from the interview:

— “A lie goes around the world before the truth can put on its shoes. That’s too bad. That’s what technology has gotten us into now.”

— “Music is the 18th dimension. It’s something we are lucky to have.”

— “People love jazz all over the world. There’s something about jazz — the feeling, syncopation, the spirit of it. It makes people feel good. It’s a great spirit.”

— “They’re trying to kill jazz. But you can’t kill a spirit”

— “Jazz is one of the most humorous musics around. In my own playing, people say, ‘Oh, did you hear what Sonny played? That was really funny. Jazz has a since of humor.

— “Jazz has been mocked, minimalized, marginalized throughout its whole history. Jazz is on the bottom of the floor here. … Why not satirize the rich and the powerful. Satirize that. Try to change something in the world.”

“It’s (jazz) something real. It’s something important in this world. It doesn’t hurt anybody. It helps people. It makes people feel better. It gives people something to strive for.”

— “When I was a boy, they used to call me ‘Jester.” I used to make jokes … and all that. So I love humor.”

— “Jazz is free music. Jazz used to typify America. America used to be the land of the free, home of the brave, remember? That’s what jazz is. It typifies that — Its syncopations, its melodies, the way you improvise, you pull things out of the air. That’s genius. And that’s jazz.”

— “Jazz isn’t going to die. And why should it die? Do you want freedom to die?”

— “Music is beyond politics. It’s beyond economics.

— “There’s something beautiful about life as expressed through music.”

— “One day, as a boy, it came to me that I was going to be successful in my career, in my life as a musician. And I have. So I don’t know if everybody is going to be as successful as I am, or not. But that’s not the point. Everybody can’t be John Coltrane. Everybody can’t be Miles Davis. But we need music, still. So we have to have people playing music. People want to hear music.”

— “When I play my saxophone, I get into a zone. That’s where truth exists. All these kids that are trying to learn their instruments — that’s where they should be. That’s the most beautiful place in the world. You’re not hurting anybody. You’re learning. You’re trying to communicate with whatever higher power you believe in. That’s where we should be going. That’s why this piece was so damaging. Because it mocked that.”

— “Music is celestial. Let’s not forget that.”

 

3 Cohens, “Tightrope” (CD review)

(originally published in JazzTimes)

3 Cohens, “Tightrope” (Anzic)

With earlier 3 Cohens albums titled Family, Braid and One, the Israeli-born siblings have always conveyed an appealing unity vibe: They’re tightly bound together by artistic creativity, spirit, blood and, at this stage of their careers, a desire to collaborate on ambitious recordings.

Their appealing musical interconnectivity shines brightly on Tightrope, an album that indeed finds Anat Cohen (tenor saxophone, clarinet and bass clarinet), Yuval Cohen (soprano saxophone) and Avishai Cohen (trumpet) participating in a balancing act. They’re torn between vintage sounds and bracingly modern pieces, between unaccompanied tracks and those also featuring notable guests, and between conceptual grandeur and a penchant for all-out improvisation.

That togetherness is most clearly demonstrated on several of those aforementioned siblings-only tracks, including the opener, a bouncy take on Art Farmer’s “Blueport,” and Gerry Mulligan’s “Festive Minor,” with its call-and-response sections and various unison and harmony passages coming off as a lively discussion among equals. (Both pieces are from the repertoire of Mulligan’s pianoless quartet.) The Cohens are also heard sans others on five improvised “Conversation” pieces; a moody-to-sunny take on Tadd Dameron’s “Hot House”; a tricked-out “Indiana”; Yuval’s somber “It Might as Well”; the haunting traditional Yiddish tune “Ai Li Lu Li Lu”; and Avishai’s closing “Mantra.”

Still, it’s nice to have guests to spin things in a slightly different direction. Christian McBride does that chunky and woody thing he does so well on Ellington’s “Just Squeeze Me.” 3 Cohens Sextet drummer Johnathan Blake creates a form-fitting rhythm pocket on Avishai’s bluesy swinger “Black.” And pianist Fred Hersch provides lush underpinnings on his “Song Without Words #4: Duet,” a sublime version of the ballad “Estate” and a playful take on Monk’s “I Mean You.”

Jesting About Sonny in The New Yorker: Funny, or a Wasted Opportunity?

“The saxophone sounds horrible. Like a scared pig,” Sonny Rollins says, in a short feature in The New Yorker, headlined “Sonny Rollins: In His Own Words.” He continues: “I never learned the names of most of the other instruments, but they all sound awful, too.”

Except that, of course, Sonny didn’t say that, or anything else he’s quoted as saying in the story.

Because, you see, it’s a humor piece, filed under the mag’s “Daily Shouts” section, and penned by Django Gold, best known as a writer for satirical publication The Onion.

sonny rollins

Problem is, it’s just not that funny. Yeah, I get the references, but it’s mainly weird, and a little bit mean.

And some who casually stumble across the piece online might mistake it for the real thing, and wonder why Rollins is being so wacky.

The bigger issue, for me, is this: As little jazz coverage as appears in The New Yorker and other mainstream (non-music) publications, why would the mag devote space to a satire piece on a major artist? Why not, you know, use that space for a legitimate story on Rollins or another major jazz artist?

Just seems like a wasted opportunity.

(Also, was Rollins told about the coming publication of the piece? Not that permission is required for satire. Just wondering).

Here’s the piece.