Dee Dee Bridgewater, Dave Holland, Dr. Lonnie Smith Named NEA Jazz Masters

dee dee

Big congrats to the newly anointed 2017 NEA Jazz Masters: Singer Dee Bridgewater; Bassist Dave Holland, who cut his teeth with Miles Davis; jazz-funk B3 organist Dr. Lonnie Smith; pianist Dick Hyman, probably best known for his work scoring Woody Allen films, and jazz journalist, historian and advocate Ira Gitler.

These jazz luminaries will be honored by the National Endowment of the Arts in ceremonies during a concert April 3, 2017 at the Kennedy Center. The proceedings will be streamed live.

I’ve had the privilege of getting performances by Bridgewater, Holland, and Smith several times over the decades — most recently, I heard the singer at last year’s Chicago Jazz Festival, which I reviewed for JazzTimes (here). Not long before that, I caught her at the Straz Center in Tampa. Smith’s latest, “Evolution,” marked his return to the Blue Note label after 45 years (my review here).

Bridgewater boasts the distinction of being one of only 19 women named a Jazz Master, among a field of 145, according to the Associated Press. “I’ve fought long and hard to preserve my musical integrity, to garner respect in this male-dominated jazz world,” she said in a statement distributed by the NEA.

A $25,000 award will go to each Jazz Master.

For more information on this year’s winners, and the NEA Jazz Masters program, click here.




NPR Music’s Best Jazz of 2014: Steve Lehman, Wadada Leo Smith, Ambrose Akinmusire, more

New releases by saxophonist Steve Lehman, trumpeters Wadada Leo Smith and Ambrose Akinmusire, and saxophonist Sonny Rollins topped the 2014 NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll (I voted), organized by longtime jazz writer Francis Davis.

Also in the top 10: Releases by Mark Turner, Marc Ribot, Jason Moran, Brian Blade, Kenny Barron & Dave Holland, and Jane Ira Bloom. A wide swath of critics — 140 — were polled for their choices, and they nominated more than 700 albums for honors.

John Coltrane’s “Offering” was named best reissue, with best vocal album award going to Andy Bey, best debut to drummer Jeff Ballard, and best Latin to pianist and bandleader Arturo O’ Farrill.

For Davis’s thoughts on the Top 10 recordings, along with audio clips, and links to all of the voting data (including my ballot) assembled by Tom Hull, click here.

Dave Holland, in Bass Player

I recently spoke with master jazz bassist Dave Holland, for a piece published in Bass Player magazine. We talked about his playing history, Pathways, the new CD from his Octet, and his newly renovated and relaunched web site, among other topics.

The full “director’s cut” of the text is below, or click here to go directly to the Q&A feature online.


Born in England but beckoned to the U.S. by Miles Davis in the late ’60s, Dave Holland has long been a prime mover in high-end jazz, beginning with his fusion explorations on the trumpeter’s classic In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew albums and continuing through work with a long list of jazz greats, including Thelonious Monk, Stan Getz, Kenny Wheeler and Herbie Hancock.

With his own groups, he’s performed his rangy and complex but accessible compositions all over the world. The Dave Holland Octet, the latest canvas for Holland’s tunes, is heard to great effect on the recently released Pathways, and the redesigned is one of the most comprehensive and user-friendly musician’s sites on the web, a treasure trove of audio, video and downloadable charts.

In the offing are more work with Jason Moran, Chris Potter and Eric Harland in the group Overtone, a recording with flamenco guitarist Pepe Habichuela, and birthday-celebration concerts honoring Hancock and drummer Roy Haynes.

What appeals to you about the Octet’s instrumentation?

The five horn front line — three saxes and two brass — gives you a huge variety of sounds to work with. You can do anything from small group to simulating big band with it. It gives you a tremendous mount of flexibility in the kind of orchestration you can do. The model for that was Ellington’s small group. I always liked their tonal range.

Have you been surprised by any of the colors or textures that you’ve achieved with the octet?

What you don’t know is how it’s going to be interpreted. The inflection that the musicians bring to it, the way it’s interpreted, and the personal nuances that each player brings are very important to me. It’s what personalizes the music and makes it unique for that group of people.

What kind of rhythmic connection have you developed with your drummer, Nate Smith?

I like to think of the bass-and-drums relationship as another conversation that goes on in the music along with all the other relationships that are happening. We maintain that conversation and mold it around what we’re hearing.

Who turned you on to the double bass?

I saw Ray Brown’s name on the top of the polls when I was about 15 and still a bass guitarist. I bought a couple of records that Ray had done with Oscar Peterson. I also saw a couple of records with a bass player on the front, Leroy Vinnegar – Leroy Walks and Leroy Walks agaian. I loved the sound, the feel, the beautiful tone, the interaction and the expressiveness. Within  a week or two I got myself  a nice shiny plywood bass nd that’s how I began the journey. Next thing I got was a Charles Mingus record — Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus — which is a whole other thing. At the beginning I really was learning traditional music changes and Tin Pan Alley songbooks. I just went step by step.

Along the way, have you made any dramatic revisions to your technique?

There was a certain point where I was working on developing a different type of pizzicato technique, going from using one or two fingers in a sideway approach to bringing my hand around where it was more perpendicular to the board. Eddie’s (Gomez) technique helped me think about other ways of using my right hand. There was a period where I devoted  a lot of time to that.

Do you have a regular practice routine?

Scales always figure into my practice — all the major and minor scales and other kinds of scales. Arpeggios. And then pizzicato techniques, some permutations of string crossing. My practice is usually divided into things dealing with much more technical things and the rest of it is to do with conceptual things.

Hear Him On

Dave Holland Octet, Pathways [Dare2 Records, 2010]; The Monterey Quartet, Live at the 2007 Monterey Festival [Concord, 2009]; Dave Holland Sextet, Pass It On [Dare2 Records,  2008]; Herbie Hancock, River: The Joni Letters [Verve, 2007); Dave Holland Quintet, Critical Mass [Dare2 Records, 2006]


French flatback bass, 3/4, circa 1860, purchased from an antique shop in Toulouse, France in the mid-1990s, with AKG 406c condenser mic mounted on the inside of the tailpiece, and Underwood pickup, sent through a Retrospect tube DI; Czech-Ease Acoustic Road Bass, with Underwood pickup and David Gage Realist pickup, both sent through Clark DI’s. Thomastik-Infeld Spirocore Strings, orchestra gauge.

Gallien Krueger MB2 500 head with GK 410RBH & 112 MBX cabs

French- and German-style bows, variously made by Freschner and Dorfler.

Listening Post, Week of 3/2/10: Drive-by Truckers, Dave Holland, Rickie Lee Jones, Rufus Reid, Ike Sturm

Five releases in rotation at home and in the car – a list without comment (in alphabetical order):

Drive-By Truckers, Brighter Than Creation’s Dark (New West, 2008)

Dave Holland Octet, Pathways (Dare2 Records, forthcoming)

Rickie Lee Jones, Balm in Gilead (Fantasy, 2009)

Rufus Reid, Out Front (Motema, forthcoming)

Ike Sturm, Jazz Mass (Ike Sturm, 2009)

Jazz Bassists on Parade: David Finck, Ben Wolfe, Anne Mette Iversen, Bill Moring

Jazz sessions led by bassists long ago stopped being the exception to the rule.

Notable bass-playing sidemen — from Ron Carter and Dave Holland (Miles Davis) to Charlie Haden (Ornette Coleman), from Christian McBride to practically every four-string anchor who’s backed Chick Corea, including Stanley Clarke, John Patitucci and Avishai Cohen — successfully graduated from character actor to lead roles, applying distinctive, readily recognized tonal conceptions and compositional approaches to their own projects and tours.

Last year was no exception, with a flood of fine bass-led CDs, including the eclectic Esperanza (Heads Up), a mix of jazz, Latin, Brazilian, pop and funk from rising star Esperanza Spalding, also an affecting singer; Richard Bona‘s rambunctious, live Bona Makes You Sweat (Decca); Charlie Haden‘s Americana-rooted  Rambling Boy (Decca); and  Todd Coolman‘s Perfect Strangers (ArtistShare), an unusual project incorporating tunes penned by little-known composers (see my earlier post).

Also notable were a pair of ambitious sets of compositions and arrangements — Windy City musician Larry Gray’s 1,2,3 (Chicago Sessions), a trio recording with guitarist John Moulder and drummer Charles Heath, and Roberto Occhipinti‘s jazz/Latin/Brazilian/classical project Yemaya (ALMA).

I reviewed several of the above for major music publications.

Herewith, a quartet of other bass-led CDs deserving of greater attention:

david-finck1The David Finck Quartet, Future Day (Soundbrush) — Finck, a reliably supportive presence on sessions by Latin and Brazilian jazz artists, offers a singing tone and typically sturdy rhythm work on this top-shelf collaboration with vibraphonist Joe Locke, pianist Tom Ranier and drummer Joe La Barbera.

The swing, on tunes like “Four Flags,” with aggressive solo turns by guests Jeremy Pelt, on trumpet, and Bob Sheppard, on tenor sax, is clean and hard driving. Locke, throughout, is a wonder – casually virtuosic and, on the gorgeous “For All We Know” and elsewhere, he turns in improvisations marked by clever twists and unexpected phrasings.

The arrangements, too, offer pleasant surprises, including a 5/4 version of “Nature Boy” (a redesign suggested by La Barbera);  a haunting take on Wayne Shorter’s “Black Eyes”; and the closing “Firm Roots,” by Cedar Walton, with more bracing improvisations  by Finck and La Barbera.

(Finck’s next appearances: April 25, San Raphael , California with the Manhattan Transfer; April 26, Denver, with the Manhattan Transfer; May 16, Washington DC with Sheila Jordan; May 22, Cambridge, Mass with Steve Kuhn Trio; May 29-June 1, Blue Note New York with John Faddis)

ben-wolfeBen Wolfe, No Strangers Here (MaxJazz) — Wolfe, best known as an eminently reliable, steady-beat wood chopper for the likes of Harry Connick Jr., Diana Krall and Wynton Marsalis, mixes and matches his quartet (tenor and saxophonist Marcus Strickland, pianist Luis Perdomo, drummer Greg Hutchinson) with a string quartet and several guests on a set of dynamic originals.

The strings blend gorgeously with the band on the vintage-sounding, slow-swimming title track (and elsewhere), and Branford Marsalis raises the artistry of the proceedings even higher, playing soprano on the strolling “Milo” and tenor on “The Filth,” a dirty, twisting blues. Trumpeter Terrell Stafford also makes impressive guest shots, on the start-stop contours of opener “The Minnick Rule” and the aptly titled closer “Groovy Medium.”

anne-metteAnne Mette Iversen: AMI Quartet with 4Corners, Best of the West/AMI Quartet, Many Places (BJU Records) — Band meets string quartet, too, on Best of the West, a heady jazz-meets-classical outing led by Danish-born NYC bassist Anne Mette Iversen. New York/New Orleans tenor saxophonist John Ellis turns in a wonderfully buoyant conversation with the rhythm section and strings on the opening “North” and the searching “North West”; and Iversen’s sensitive work as an improviser is showcased on “North East.”Synchronicity is the byword for this set of intense, often intensely beautiful music.

Also included in this two-disc release is Many Places, which has the same quartet, absent of the strings, sounding considerably more loose and relaxed, and turning even more creative. The bright, swinging “Out the Atlantic” and the delicate “The Square in Ravello” are just two of many gems composed by the leader.

billmoringBill Moring & Way Out East, Spaces in Time (Owl) — The two-horn line of trumpeter Jack Walrath and saxophonist Tim Armacost frontloads Moring’s second CD with plenty of grit and heft, starting with funky opener “Sweat,” penned by Walrath.

Moring shows off his talents as a composer on the ballad-to-Latin piece, “Mary Lynn,” which opens with bowed bass and has Walrath turning in a muted solo; the pensive ballad “A Space in Time,” glued together, like other tunes, by Steve Allee’s electric keys work; and the chunky “iHop,” cued open with a grinding bass line and drummer Steve Johns’ chunky backbeat. The quintet drives furiously on Ornette Coleman’s “The Disguise.”

Jazz Times: Best of 2008 – Charles Lloyd, Bennie Maupin, More

Rabo de Nube, a 2007 live recording by Charles Lloyd’s quartet, tops the list of 2008 critics’ picks in Jazz Times. lloydFor the CD, documenting the veteran saxophonist’s 7oth-birthday concert in Basel, Switzerland, he was joined by pianist Jason Moran, bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland.

The Top 10 highest vote-getters in the poll include three – by Pat Metheny, Cassandra Wilson and Anat Cohen – that made it onto my own list, published online at Jazzhouse (Jazz Journalists Association) and in print at Las Vegas City Life.

The remainder of the Jazz Times top 10:

  • Bennie Maupin, Quartet, Early Reflections
  • Joe Lovano, Symphonica
  • Pat Metheny, Day Trip
  • Dave Holland Sextet, Pass It On
  • Bill Frisell, History, Mystery
  • Carla Bley Big Band, Appearing Nightly
  • Cassandra Wilson, Loverly
  • Various Artists, Miles From India
  • Anat Cohen, Notes From the Village

For the complete list of the top 50, click here


The year-end round-up: “The year started off with a big surprise in the music industry: Herbie Hancock’s River: The Joni Letters (Verve) broke out of the jazz category and won Album of the Year at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards.” The rest

Complete critics’ picks

Jazz Times Readers’ Poll results