Sonny's Blues

I see from Twitter that today is Sonny Clark's birthday...

Sam Stephenson's pieces in the Paris Review have the most information on Clark extant (one, two). "One day a book," Sam says: Let's hope so.

By happy accident I transcribed some Sonny Clark yesterday on the plane. Dexter Gordon's Go is justly famous. Throughout the whole date, Clark, Butch Warren, and Billy Higgins set up a groove that just won't quit.

On "Second Balcony Jump," Clark plays some immortal rhythm changes.

Sonny C.

Sonny Clark on Second Balcony Jump

I took down only the first two choruses, a really marvelous mixture of blues and search. (The third chorus always seems like a mistake, like he has to keep going in order to perserve the exquisite take. I might be wrong, though.) 

It was probably only happenstance that James Baldwin called his famous short story "Sonny's Blues." The biographical details of the "Sonny" in Baldwin's tale don't match Clark's. Still, the short story and the real life story go together extremely well.   

(Update: Ahem. There is no fourth bar of rest! Also there's a wrong note in bar 59. Please blame my copyist.)



For Charlie Haden

1) Liberation Chorus (brand new memorial thoughts from Charlie Haden's extended family of musicians)

The above is the important thing. But DTM pages can talk to each other, so:

2) Interview with Charlie Haden (2007)

3) This is Our Mystic (Haden with Ornette) (2010) (slightly re-edited last week, still one of the best things on DTM)

4) Hampton Hawes and the Low Blues (2013)

5) Silence (A little new personal history, and an anthology of other bits about Charlie on DTM)




New DTM page: "The Triumph of Time," for Harrison Birtwistle's 80th birthday.



Big Band Detective

New DTM guest page: Adventures in Big Band Musicology, by Jeff Sultanof. 

Jeff's essay is another response to various DTM commentaries on Duke Ellington, this time by a professional editor and publisher who has spent decades unearthing and preparing scores. Jeff works with Rob Duboff for Jazz Lines Publications.



This Here

One final DTM reminder: Tootie Heath, Ben Street, and me start a short tour tomorrow:

July 9 Dazzle Jazz (Denver)

10 Dazzle Jazz (Denver)

11 Blue Whale (LA)

12 Blue Whale (LA)

13 Outpost Performance Space (Albuquerque)


There are hundreds of albums featuring Tootie Heath. For a quick overview last year to accompany the JazzTimes cover story, Ben and I choose 10 of the best. It was a hard exercise: for example, we didn't even list Coltrane, John's first album as a leader. (The Nina Simone that did make the cut is her very first album, too.) And since compiling this list we keep hearing new stuff with T that is just amazing: Ben found J.J. Johnson's J. J. Inc.; I found the Riverside Reunion Band Plays (Mostly) Monk

Still, these ten really are awfully good:

Nina Simone Little Girl Blue Like Connie Kay, Tootie Heath took the influence of Kenny Clarke and spread it to other kinds of black music besides straight-ahead jazz. His brushwork here shows remarkable depth for a 23-yr old, and his naturally undulating pulse helped some of these tracks become Simone’s biggest hits.

The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery This wasn’t a working band, just a thrown together assemblage for a record date, but many consider this to be the greatest jazz guitar LP ever made. Brothers Percy and Tootie Heath provide an immaculate carpet. Ben Street comes directly out of Percy on “D-Natural Blues.”

Bobby Timmons In Person This marvelous trio with Ron Carter has tight arrangements and smooth rhythm. They are kind of like a funkier version of the classic Ahmad Jamal trio with Israel Crosby and Vernell Fournier: Indeed, Tootie knew Fournier personally and credits him as an important influence.

Clifford Jordan Plays Leadbelly: These Are My Roots Tootie is heard giving his unique weight to a variety of folkloric beats, including an early appearance of his virtuosic tambourine. Jordan and Tootie both loved the old music and loved to experiment. They can change from being tricksters to intoning the deepest blues in a single phrase. 

Charles McPherson Bebop Revisited A great record that should be much better known, with Detroit turks McPherson and Barry Harris partnering with Tootie, newcomer Carmell Jones, and Bird bassist Nelson Boyd for playful yet deadly serious bop.

Kenny Dorham Trumpeta Toccata Dorham’s last album as a leader would be one of his best. Four long tracks with diverse feels give Tootie plenty to do. Tootie was almost the house drummer for Riverside, which may be why he isn’t on as many Blue Notes. At any rate, it’s nice to hear Rudy Van Gelder’s touch on the drums here.

Sonny Rollins In Denmark Vol. 1 A bootleg, yes, but what a bootleg: the longest, most ferocious “Four” ever recorded with Kenny Drew and Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen. Tootie kicks the Colossus along for over 40 minutes, neither giving the other any quarter.  

Herbie Hancock The Prisoner Tootie preceded Billy Hart in the Herbie’s first working band, a sextet. All three Hancock/Heath discs are great, but The Prisoner may be the best for some of Hancock’s most intricate writing, marvelous Tootie/Buster Williams interaction, and Joe Henderson solos that are simply outrageous.

Clifford Jordan Half Note A rough and tumble live date from 1974, when down-the-middle music like this was going out of fashion. With Cedar Walton and Sam Jones, Tootie shows he is in the elite of New York drummers like Billy Higgins and Louis Hayes. 

Albert Heath, The Offering. Tootie’s own albums include a few group efforts with peers, several with the Heath Brothers, and now Tootie’s Tempo. The neglected gem of the bunch is this ultra-rare solo album, a dedication to his late son Mtume Patrick Heath (named after the well-known percussionist, R & B producer, and family member James Mtume). In the liner notes, Scot Ngozi-Brown explains: “For Heath, Mtume's death is a source of meditative reflection on life's complexity and brevity. In concert with many African spiritual and philosophical systems, the physical shrine on the cover is filled with some of Mtume's cherished possessions and commemorative objects which invoke a memory of different aspects of his life. The music itself flows from Tootie Heath's deeply personal and integrated perspectives about life as a beautiful, brief and contradictory odyssey.”


More about the current trio under Tootie's Tempo. We are working on new repertoire in anticipation for the next record; those that come out for the tour this week may hear John Lewis "Concorde," Bobby Timmons "This Here," and Denzil Best "Move."


(photo by John Rogers)



Forumesque 15

This Sunday, June 29, Sam Newsome and I play duo at the Greenwich House Music School as part of the Sound it Out series.

Sincere thanks to everybody who came out for the Billy Hart Quartet this past month. Great gigs!

Now the Tootie Heath-Ethan Iverson-Ben Street (Tootie's Tempo) trio does a little tour in July:

9 Dazzle Jazz (Denver)

10 Dazzle Jazz (Denver)

11 Blue Whale (LA)

12 Blue Whale (LA)

13 Outpost Performance Space (Albuquerque)


Tomorrow, an all-star tribute to Stephanie Stone (DTM guest post: "Stones" by Kevin Whitehead) is at Roulette.

Speaking of guest posts: if you enjoyed Dan Schmidt's ranking of Bond songs, his wife ranked the movies themselves.

And speaking of blogs: Thanks to the Jazz Journalists Association for choosing DTM as blog of the year recently. Naturally, I immediately informed Sarah that she must address me as "lord blogger" (accompanied by a special curtsy) at least once each morning, noon, and night. 

In all seriousness, it's a nice honor, although it also seems like jazz blogs (and maybe personal blogs in general?) are in a bit of a slump these days. I've just ruthlessly updated the links page and trimmed away a good deal of dead wood. Many of those left post only infrequently... 

Probably bloggers lose heart if they feel like they work in a vacuum. One thing that could help is what A Blog Supreme used to do, a weekly round-up of interesting links. 


While working on the update I was pleased to see some recent interesting activity by some who have been on the blogroll for a long time.

Ronan Guilfoyle interviews Keith Copeland (part two, part one)

Matt Smiley transcribes a whole album of Charlie Haden 

Nicholas Payton returns with more about BAM and jazz

Excellent Ted Panken article on Geri Allen

Peter Magarsak has links and commentary about the late Lee Hyla (a very important composer for many members of the Brooklyn jazz scene including Tim Berne, Josh Sinton, and Darcy James Argue)

Sam Newsome remembers Gilles Laheurte 

Peter Hum listens to me at the Ottawa jam session (honestly, I started "Move" a bit fast that night)

And, new to the blogroll:

Dfan Says (the Bond song enthusiast, but also look at the Threadgill)

John Schott (old buddy and influence, this post made me laugh)

Steve Wallace (digs James P.)

Übergreifen (I know Dan Voss from Twitter; his blog uses Schenkerian analysis for jazz. Kind of unbelievable, try the voiceleading on Trane's "Transition"

Atlas Cops and Kids is Sarah's blog about her gym. Amazing writing by her kids (one, two)

(Another side of my wife's diverse activities is told in her memoir about writing erotica, "Game Face.")


Presumably everyone has already read "The Case for Reparations" by Ta-Nehisi Coates. The Narrative Bibliography is also fascinating. Coates sparred wonderfully with Stephen Colbert and his constant Twitter feed is amusing as well as enlightening. Mr. Coates is clearly the man of the hour.


Forumesque 15 is an opportunity to weigh in on recent posts and anything else in the contents. Factual corrections are welcomed; general questions are fine too. I will close the comments in about a week.

A guest post by Jeff Sultanof is up next on DTM, after which I will take a summer break.

32 Comments | 06/26/2014


Friends and Neighbors

New(ish) recordings of note:

Eric Revis In Memory of Things Yet Seen Wow, a really fun listen! Great tunes and a beautifully mysterious line-up: Darius Jones, Bill McHenry, and Chad Taylor, with Branford Marsalis on two tracks. Frequently the reference is the kind of blistering avant-garde music from the 60's Leroi Jones dubbed "New Black Music." But I haven't enjoyed a record made in that style so much as this one in years. Truthfully the compositional element trumps freedom, and on some tracks the horns don't even improvise. Revis's provocative and groovy bass is recorded well; the production overall is excellent. Branford sounds great in this context. It's more standard turf for Darius and Bill, and when they intertwine both pay attention to building a statement, not just blowing their brains out. Chad Taylor is a relatively new name for me; I'm paying attention as of now.

Bill's group with Eric, Orrin Evans, and Andrew Cyrille is at the Village Vanguard starting tonight. Cut and pasted from the website:

June 24 - June 29
Bill McHenry-sax, Andrew Cyrille-d,
Orrin Evans-p, Eric Revis-b (Tuesday, Wednesday)
Duo: Bill McHenry & Andrew Cyrille (Thursday)
Ben Monder-gtr, Reid Anderson-b (Friday & Saturday)
David Bryant-p, Jonathan Michel-b (Sunday)

Johnathan Blake Gone, But Not Forgotten Another seriously entertaining date. Who doesn't want to hear Mark Turner and Chris Potter try to cut each other in a bare bones situation? Actually the superb repertoire choices ensure that the testosterone stays at a managable level: Johnathan has selected pieces by recently departed masters Charles Fambrough, Trudy Pitts, Sid Simmons, Cedar Walton, Jim Hall, Mulgrew Miller, Paul Motian, Frank Foster, Frank Wess and Eddie Harris. Nifty arrangements with a very full sound despite the absence of piano. In this case I have to fault the production a bit, for Ben Street's bass really should be louder. Very swinging drumming and nice notes by David Adler, though. The standout track for me so far is "Firm Roots," I'm tempted to transcribe both Mark and Chris burning through this famous steeplechase.

Hiroko Sasaki Debussy Preludes The most unusual thing about Hiroko's recording - which is technically and musically excellent by any standard - is the instrument, a 1873 Pleyel. The sonority is grainier and more intimate than usual, and makes these familiar works sound new. "Historically informed performance practice" is one of the most exciting areas of classical music, and naturally sonority is one of the most important elements in that voyage of discovery.

That said, if you don't know the Debussy Preludes, than this wonderful recording is still a good place to start. (That's not true of all historical instrument recordings I've heard.)

When Sarah Deming interviewed Hiroko a few years ago for Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, I especially enjoyed this exchange: 

Sarah: What does classical music have to teach us in the 21st century?

Hiroko: You tell me!  Actually, I think about this quite a bit.  Sometimes it feels so silly to me, everyone playing the same old repertoire that has already been played by millions of people.  It’s not like the old days, when recordings were not readily available, and people had to go to a concert to hear music, and the performers were closer, culturally, to the composers.  Or the really old days, when the performers were the composers.  Having said that, these are great works of art that have survived the test of time. We can always go back to them and be nourished.  I often notice that my impressions of a certain historical time and place are quite vivid, though they are informed almost entirely by music. Classical music takes people to different places in space and in time.



Talking Harrison B

In the Talkhouse, I review Chamber Music by Harrison Birtwistle

Bonus tracks: Tom Service discusses Birtwistle in the Guardian. Two additional works I especially admire are The Triumph of Time for full orchestra and Carmen Arcadiae Mechanicae Perpetuum for chamber orchestra. (A live performance of Carmen Arcadiae Mechanicae Perpetuum by Alarm Will Sound in New York was one of my memorable concert experiences. )

For those sad that Ligeti only wrote a finite number of piano études, I highly recommend Harrison's Clocks. Both the Joanna MacGregor and Nicolas Hodges recordings are excellent.


There’s a nice little Sinfini Music film about Sir Harry at home where you can see him find pitches on a keyboard and beat out polyrhythms.



It Harrows Me With Fear and Wonder

What is American music? What is Black Music?

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

Opus 1

Opus 2

Opus De Funk excerpt

This obviously isn't a proper obit: I'm still working on a more detailed Silver appreciation, perhaps for a future book.

From any angle you look at it, though, Horatio was one of the baddest. RIP



"Blog" is Short for "Web log"

DTM blogroll is about to be updated. Mostly I'll be cutting away dead wood, but perhaps I'll be adding links as well. What are the good jazz blogs that DTM doesn't know about?

Comments are open but will not be published, only I will see them. Thanks in advance.

0 Comments | 06/12/2014


Press Blast

Once again, the e-card for the June tour:

BHQ e-card June tour

The Village Vanguard run is going really well. Cats are coming out to see the maestro. The first night Steve Jordan and Nasheet Waits posed with Billy in the kitchen:


Last night, it was Johnathan Blake, Alvester Garnett, Bill Stewart, and Jun Saito.


Thanks to the supportive New York critics, who have been very nice all around.

Blurbs from The New Yorker:

The veteran drummer Hart, the pianist ETHAN IVERSON, the bassist BEN STREET, and the accomplished saxophonist MARK TURNER have collaborated on one of the most persuasive recordings of the year so far, “One Is the Other,” which shows that the foursome, which has played together for the better part of a decade, is achieving its potential. The group’s original compositions are intriguing, and the musicians’ take on Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Some Enchanted Evening” is a thing of true beauty.

New York Times (Nate Chinen):

★ Billy Hart Quartet (Tuesday through June 8) Billy Hart is a drummer of earthy enlightenment, conversant in every branch of modern jazz but forever connected to its root. His quartet — with the tenor saxophonist Mark Turner, the pianist Ethan Iverson and the bassist Ben Street — has a typically fine new album, “One Is the Other,” which will provide much of the repertory for this run. At 8:30 and 10:30 p.m., Village Vanguard, 178 Seventh Avenue South, at 11th Street, West Village, 212-255-4037.

Village Voice (Jim Macnie):

As the veteran drummer’s foursome develops, the grace they broker becomes more essential to its personality. Can’t say if it’s the lithe horn lines of Mark Turner or the well-chosen asides of pianist Ethan Iverson, but the music on the newish One Is The Other  (ECM) has the kind of sweep that connects each passage to the next – it almost seems like one long piece. Of course Hart’s mastery at keeping everything fluid has a lot to do with it. On stage they’re a bit more tactile – and that physicality can be revelatory. Don’t miss.


WBGO had Billy on the show Monday to talk with Shelia Anderson, archived here.

Martin Johnson reviewed Billy and Jeff Ballard albums in the Wall Street Journal. Hey, Jeff's in town at the Jazz Standard this week, too. Of course, there's also much more

DTM: Interview(s) with Billy Hart.



Serenading 007

New DTM guest page: For Your Ears Only: Ranking the James Bond Songs (by Dan Schmidt).



I Could Hear, So I Could Play It

New DTM page: Interview with Bob Cranshaw.

Bob may be best known for his work with Sonny Rollins. Recently Bill Beuttler spoke to Sonny for a fascinating post at Esquire




...Something similar happened with the cylinder phonographs that the merry matrons from France brought with them as a substitute for the antiquated hand organs and that for a time had serious effects on the livelihood of the band of musicians. At first curiosity increased the clientele on the forbidden street and there was even word of respectable ladies who disguised themselves as workers in order to observe the novelty of the phonograph from first hand, but from so much and such close observation they soon reached the conclusion that it was not an enchanted mill as everyone had thought and as the matrons had said, but a mechanical trick that could not be compared with something so moving, so human, and so full of everyday truth as a band of musicians. It was such a serious disappointment that when phonographs became so popular that there was one in every house they were not considered objects for amusement for adults but as something good for children to take apart.

- One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez (1967)

...The Library, formerly the Library of Congress, but no one calls it that anymore. Most people are not entirely clear on what the word “congress” means. And even the word “library” is getting hazy. It used to be a place full of books, mostly old ones. Then they began to include videotapes, records, and magazines. Then all of the information got converted into machine-readable form, which is to say, ones and zeros. And as the number of media grew, the material became more up to date, and the methods for searching the library became more and more sophisticated, it approached the point where there was no substantive difference between the Library of Congress and the Central Intelligence Agency. Fortuitously, this happened just as the government was falling apart anyway. So they merged and kicked out a big fat stock offering.

- Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson (1992)



Angels and Demons at Play

Sun Ra will be 100 years old as of tomorrow. The event I'm most curious is the 100 sax players in Chicago. Tootie Heath told us a story about Ra recently: Right before being pushed in the back of a police cruiser following a bust for possession of marijuana, Herman Blount turned, looked the arresting officer right in the eye, and said, "This is the unfriendliest planet I've ever been on."


My teacher Sophia Rosoff (DTM: "The Emotional Rhythm of Sophia Rosoff," by Sarah Deming) runs a concert series at Weill Recital Hall. Next Wednesday May 28, Jacob Sacks, Yoon Sun Choi, Thomas Morgan & Dan Weiss perform. Jacob and Yoon will offer decontructed standards and the trio of Sacks, Morgan, and Weiss will play originals. These are all great musicians, and it will terrific to hear them in a proper concert venue in NYC. 


Hank Shteamer reviews the wonderful Billy Mintz.

George Colligan asks the good question, "Why not teach music kids a skill that will pay? Like playing Country music?"


DTM was down for a day again recently. Typepad explains.


The "Stones" collection by Kevin Whitehead has been updated with the following by Lesli Dalaba:

“Dave Sewelson was a super important music pal to Stephanie in her last couple years. He visited and jammed with her regularly, up to four days before she died. The two of them had a Burns and Allen type of camaraderie when they played the occasional gig at Cornelia Street Cafe.

“It was astonishing to watch her transform in front of a piano and audience. She could barely get dressed, in grave doubt whether she could make it there, exhausted, frail. Once she sat down and started playing, the banter would start up, her energy returned and would buoy her up for another 24 hours.

 “Oh, and the claim she and Stone were often 20 years older than anyone else in the audience? More like 30.”