Understanding Gregory Porter: Melody and Intention
Try it; just listen to singer Gregory Porter throughout this profile, and then look: Gregory Porter has this way of sounding like he’s smiling, as he tells you about the church, family and influences of youth that created his infectiously joyous musical composite.View Video
Saxophone Summit: Brecker, Lovano and Liebman Play Coltrane
Everyone is on fire in this 1999 webcast of three contemporary tenor saxophonists re-igniting John Coltrane’s Locomotion. The rhythm section, Phil Markowitz, Rufus Reid and in particular, Billy Hart, nearly set off Birdland’s sprinkler system, too. Many thanks to the Jazz Video Guy, Bret Primack.
-Nick MoyView Video
Anthony Davis to Premiere New Opera: Riffing on emKing Lear/em
Composer and pianist Anthony Davis, who brought the world “X: the Life and Times of Malcolm X, ” is about to premiere a new opera, Lear on the 2nd Floor, which he describes as not so much doing King Lear as riffing on it. In this feature in U-T San Diego, Davis acknowledges the influence of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn on this work. Yet, as Davis points out, no one has actually written an opera based on King Lear. In that respect, among others, he’s still very much in the vanguard.Read More
Wynton Marsalis and Ali Jackson: Advice for Young Musicians
Sage advice for budding musicians from Wynton Marsalis, and more compelling advice from his drummer, Ali Jackson, Jr. Some amusing banter ensues between Jackson and his boss. Thanks to Peter Blasevick for pointing to this.Read More
Bing Crosby & Louis Armstrong
Although one might be familiar with “Now You Has Jazz” from the movie “High Society”, Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong (along with the All-Stars) contributed a couple of recreations on television. One of the best is from “The Edsel Show”, a 1957 CBS television broadcast. Here are two true giants of music displaying a genuine mutual appreciation society.
- Scott WenzelView Video
Tito Puente and Machito: Latin and Jazz Happily Co-exist
In this 1977 Down Beat profile, Tito Puente and Machito chime in on the debates on where the line should be drawn between Latin music and jazz. For Puente and Machito, those geographic considerations seemed to matter little. They seemed comfortable with where they stood on the landscape. So, we understand, did the many jazz players, including Charlie Parker, who played for them; and happily, so were those of us lucky enough to hear them in person. (Above: Machito and the Afro-Cubans, 1946)
-Nick MoyRead More
PBS Preview: Finding Your Roots
New Orleans is like New York City. It’s geographically a part of the United States, but it’s actually it’s own culture and its own world. This British column on London Jazz News and preview of the PBS program “Finding Your Roots’ with Branford Marsalis glimpses that rich, unique place.
-Michael CuscunaRead More
Tadd Dameron: One Of Music’s Great Composers
Tom Reney’s essay on New England Public Radio’s site evokes the success and disappointments of the extraordinary Tadd Dameron, a composer and arranger who contributed mightily to big band at the end of the swing era and to be-bop at its inception. Although a forgotten master, there are those who won’t let his memory or his music be forgotten.
-Michael CuscunaRead More
In the room with the Mary Halvorson Quintet
I was glad to see this NPR Tiny Desk Concert featuring Mary Halvorson’s Quintet. Her strong group occupies an intriguing region, observing hard bop configuration and presentation, but her compositions transport the music to open and unfettered textural and harmonic spaces that are entirely her own. She’s an original, and a welcome voice.
-Nick MoyRead More
Jazz Literature: Riding On A Blue Note – Gary Giddins
”Jack Teagarden, the best trombone player in the world, just blew into town from Oklahoma City.”– Pee Wee Russell in a 3A.M. call to Bud Freeman
I never saw Jack Teagarden except in films. He’s always seemed unreal to me: a sheet-white face chiseled as abruptly as a cigar\u00ad store Indian’s-some thought he was Indian, though he was actually of German descent-and a towering but modestly carried frame. He had black slicked-back hair, and when he smiled his eyes and mouth formed two parallel slits. You can see him per\u00ad form “Basin Street Blues,” which he played and sang nightly for twenty-five years, in a Mickey Rooney film called The Strip He appears as a member of Louis Armstrong’s 1951 All-Stars, with Earl Hines and Barney Bigard. Something about his presence matches the restraint in his music. He seems shy and distant, professional but tired, pleasant but mechanical.
When Teagarden died in 1964 at the age of fifty-eight, his place in jazz seemed assured. Leonard Feather wrote in The Encyclopedia of jazz in the ’60s) “Always years ahead of his time, the possessor of a wholly individual sound both as instrumentalist and vocalist, he ranks with Armstrong, Beiderbecke, Coleman Hawkins, and a handful of others as one of the unquestioned titans in the history of jazz.” Martin Williams, in his Saturday Review obituary, placed him similarly in the “advanced guard” of the ’20s. Indeed, the prose temperature he inspired was consistently warm, patient, and frankly prejudiced. He was the subject of possibly the only noncritical cover ode ever published in Jazz Review as well as two fan bio\u00addiscographies; in a lyrical 1962 review, the New Yorker’s Whitney Balliett concluded, “Bless Teagarden, and may he prosper, too.” His admirers apparently identified pretty strongly with him.
I started listening to Teagarden shortly after his death and became an instant enthusiast, marveling at his technique and sound, his cool, finding in it a complete personality at the service of material, time, and place. He was nothing if not emotionally honest, and part of the reward of listening to him, especially his later work, was his detached yet vulnerable strength. The performance level was astonishing; no matter how wretched the material or arrangements, Teagarden’s trombone was implacable. But at the same time there was something private and wounded- that oblique sensibility, perhaps, that white jazz fans respond to in some white jazzmen, sensing a bond of recognition and safety in a black and exotic music.
A Condonesque ensemble might be brimming with Dixieland cheer, but when Teagarden’s trombone attains the spotlight it evokes another world. He was always himself regardless of the musical setting. Teagarden’s lazy time, the casual triplets percolating unexpectedly from his warming Texas blues riffs, the technical aplomb, the richly powerful but pliable timbre, and the forthrightness of his solos all served to illuminate his moods. He was the perfect foil for Louis Armstrong, an incisively muted counterpoint to Louis’s thousand wattage.