Friends and Neighbors

Brooklyn Rider, that wonderful string quartet that includes a couple of old pals, has a Kickstarter for The Brooklyn Rider AlmanacMy composition for the Almanac is "Morris Dance," written for Mark Morris, of course. It's a a thrill to hear BR play it, and I look forward to checking out the rest of the commisions from a truly impressive list of contributors....


Chris Speed, Chris Tordini, and Dave King are going on tour to support the Skirl album Really OK. Great group

Chris speed''


Hank Shteamer is supporting the post-hardcore band Craw with a Kickstarter to get some classic 90's vinyl back up. I suspect the late '80s and early 90's contain some of the rarest music these days...

Ben Ratliff has some really amusing stuff to say about Coachella

Congrats to John Luther Adams for winning a Pulitzer for Become Ocean. Alex Ross review here. I haven't heard Become Ocean yet, but did love seeing For Lou Harrison live twice last year at Ojai. I wrote: 

John Luther Adams is very much in the grain of American mavericks. Mark exposed me to his hour-long meditation for string orchestra, string quartet, and two pianos For Lou Harrison a few years ago. Live the greatness of piece became even clearer to me, even thoush I could tell what a struggle it was to navigate the canvas of 4:5:6:7 polyrhythm.  (I heard talk about how some of the orchestra complained.)  In addition to whatever travails the orchestra went through, much of the audience didn't like it and grew noticeably restive. Someone even jeered "play it again" at the end at both performances. It didn't matter. For Lou Harrison was invulnerable and intoxicating even in adverse conditions.

It is not hard to listen to if you know what to listen for. There are only two sections, and while it may seem like there is nothing but repetition, in fact there is no harmonic repetition.

The problem I occasionally have with minimalism, post-minimalism, and even with forebears like Cowell and Harrison  is a certain inelegance in the harmony.

Not here. Luther Adams exhibits marvelous harmonic control in For Lou Harrison. Each change in the slow-moving chord progression is unexpected yet absolutely correct. At last we have Bruckner-level chorales for the new style! Therecording by Stephen Drury and The Callithumpian Consort is wonderful and includes extensive and helpful notes by Peter Garland.

Another recent deserving award winner is Steve Coleman, who just got a Guggenheim. Coleman is one of our most influential musicians, and he just keeps resolutely doing his own thing and spreading his word. A new interactive website, M-Base Ways, is live.


On the stereo yesterday: Play Blue by Paul Bley, a 2008 concert performance from Oslo. It's a very strong album from one of my biggest influences. I'm thrilled to learn he's still such an unrepentant explorer. 



Adult Education

New DTM page: "That's Where It's At," concerning Ralph Shapey, Stanley Turrentine, and many others.



In Search of Good Times and Good News

I've been writing liner notes for two upcoming releases: Charlie Haden and Jim Hall live in 1990 at Montreal and previously unissued Jaki Byard solo from 1979. Both albums are terrific; I gained a new appreciation for Jim Hall (Charlie forces him into some more open spaces) and had fun comparing several versions of Jaki's complex compositions.


Steve Smith moves on from Time Out. Thanks for everything at that important supporter of New York music, Steve, and good to know Hank Shteamer will be moving up. Hank's recent Heavy Metal Be-Bop interview with Andrew Hock is compelling.

I enjoyed a fairly long talk about the late Gerald Mortier with Mark Morris recently. Alex Ross hosted Peter Sellars's memorial, which touches on many of the same points.

Kyle Gann is blogging about the Concord Sonata by Charles Ives; great stuff. The revisionist post about Ives's supposed revising is particularly important.  

Philip Sandifer completes his run of Doctor Who analysis, and makes me see good in an episode I would otherwise simply dismiss. 

Speaking of Steven Moffatt, SD and I were baffled at how overblown season three of Sherlock was. We quit halfway into the first episode. Too bad; that series had marvelous potential. Now waiting for True Detective to become digital as our next planned watch together.

Levi Stahl's anthology of non-fiction Donald Westlake The Getaway Car is getting ready to leave the garage. I've been a small part of that process; more here when Levi's book comes out.

While thinking about Westlake I looked at The Outfit again. Westlake himself liked it, and it seems to have a cult following these days, but as an obstinate Richard Stark fanboy, I don't see Parker in there. Robert Duvall is just too emotional. Those early '70s American automobiles are great, though. Is Mopar porn really a thing?

The two best new(ish) books I've read recently are modern thrillers that offer important political lessons. The Revisionists by Thomas Mullen is time travel science fiction by way of espionage, a mix I've seen several times but never done as well as Mullen. Brilliant book. I eagerly await more from Mullen. 

Even better is Charlie Huston's Skinner. My sense is that many of Huston's fans didn't like it as much as I did, so I wrote a review on Amazon: "Like Charles Willeford, Charlie Huston uses genre as means to an end. For SKINNER, Huston appropriates the conventions of the post-Bourne techno thriller. Those that only see those conventions miss the point. Past the glitz and guns, SKINNER skillfully uses a funhouse maze of metaphor to deliver a profound warning about the current condition."

I also commented on a New York Times article last week. In "Which Jazz Greats Were Left off the Blue Note 100?" Larry Rohter talks to Don Was about what is being reissued on vinyl.  Rohter invalidates himself as the right guy for this job by an offhanded dismissal of Stanley Turrentine. I'm afraid Rohter is going to be dragged over the coals for this a bit more in the next DTM post. Anyway, my comment is, "Stanley Turrentine is not 'a humdrum player.' For that matter, Turrentine's classic disc of moody blues ballads BLUE HOUR with the Three Sounds might be the first LP I'd add to the list. Great cover art, too: a rare example of Reid Miles using (with blue tint!) a Francis Wolff photo of the full band in session." 

Another relevant recent NY Times article is by Saul Austerlitz, "The Pernicious Rise of Poptimism." This is not really my world, so I'm still thinking about some of these points. It's certainly a valuable read. However, I wish that Austerlitz had pointed to many talented critics (who actually are still getting paid to write) who balance covering Miley etc. with missives about less popular music...

...although perhaps there aren't as many as I think? At any rate, that's the way it is supposed to work! If you are music critic that only covers Miley, you aren't doing your job. It's also part of your job to convince your editor to let you write about somebody besides Miley. (It's a tough job, of course.)

What else has happened? The set and recording with Han Bennink and Bill McHenry was a blast; something will definitely come out.

I also played an informal session with Michael Moore that was really fun. Michael also hipped me an extraordinary record that somehow I'd never heard: A Meeting Of The Times by Rahsaan Roland Kirk & Al Hibbler with Hank Jones, Ron Carter, and Oliver Jackson. 

Sarah and I saw Haydn and Bruckner conducted by Mariss Jansons at the Concertebouw in Amsterdam; what a marvelous venue. Classical music in Europe is really a must. I have no stronger recommendation to American visitors when coming over here than: "See some classical music in some good halls."

Yesterday TBP visited Manfred Eicher and his team at the ECM offices outside of Munich. Manfred played us some upcoming releases; the Keller Quartet's collection of adagios was particularly compelling. He's got a nice stereo system in his office. The speakers  (one-offs for German radio) are the same ones he's been using since 1969. "They were always good speakers," Manfred said, "but they have been trained to be even better by so much good music."



Spring is Here and
RIP Joseph Kerman

New album, new website

Also a farewell to the great Joseph Kerman, whose Concerto Conversations is one of my favorite books on music. Kerman's redemptive reading of Stravinsky's Piano Concerto was a major engine for my own Stravinsky studies, the culmination of which was (beside the TBP Rite of course) the essay "Mixed Meter Mysterium." 

I also admire Kerman's final book (strangely not mentioned  in several obits), The Art of Fugue, a loving look at the astonishing contrapuntal procedures in Bach's late keyboard music.


I must have listened to two dozen orchestral performances of the Rite when learning it. Versions that offered the most food for thought included Stravinsky's 1960, Bernstein, Boulez, and Rattle. But the sleeper - and the one I ended up enjoying and studying the most - was Neeme Järvi conducting Orchestre de la Suisse Romande. (The couplings are also fabulous: Requiem Canticles and Canticum Sacrum.)

Of the two-pianist versions, the Ashkenazy-Gavrilov rendition has rather obvious pride of place. The solo transmutation by Serhiy Salov is also exceptional; I wrote a review for Will Robin's blog Reflections on the Rite



Twelve More Bars to Go

More on Ellington? But of course. Darcy James Argue steps up with a look at Gunther Schuller's poor analysis of "Diminuendo in Blue."

New DTM guest page: "Misunderstanding in Blue" (by Darcy James Argue)




First Listen

TBP The Rite of Spring got a nice review by John Pareles (a writer I've long admired) in the NY Times. The record is up at NPR First Listen with smart commentary by Patrick Jarenwattananon.

Also in the Times, I really like this piece about spontaneity in classical music by Anthony Tommasini. One of these days I've just got to learn my Mozart operas better.



RIP Ralph Penland

I saw Ralph Penland twice in high school, with the Freddie Hubbard quintet (Don Braden, Benny Green, Jeff Chambers) in Minneapolis and the Don Menza quartet (Cedar Walton, Tony Dumas) in New Orleans. I already had a big record collection, and was impressed that there were such great players out there that were veterans but not yet a familiar name. 

Penland was a West Coast musician, and therefore was automatically comfortable with all kinds of genres. Unlike many musicians with similar careers and interests, though, Penland was truly convincing when dealing out serious swing with the masters. Previously on DTM, I commented on Penland's playing on videos with Eric Lewis and Kenny Kirkland:

My favorite of the links is Eric’s stellar rendition of “Pinocchio," which has some great Ralph Penland; the snare commentary in particular is outrageous. In the ‘90s I saw Penland play with Freddie Hubbard and Cedar Walton and also have him in my library with George Cables and other groups recorded on the West Coast. Penland is undoubtedly underrated, especially out East. It’s a good move to have an older cat playing with some post-Marcus and Tain types: Penland warms the beat right up, making it instantly more like old-school jazz.

“Pinocchio” reminded me to look again at this tiny Kenny Kirkland clip with Penland, which is about as good as this style ever got. 

There are 100 Penland sessions in the Lord discography, including dates with Hubbard, Hubert Laws, Joe Henderson, Eddie Harris, Nancy Wilson, Chet Baker, Dianne Reeves, Kirk Whalum, Stanley Clarke, Etta James, and many others. I'd like to hear some of the West Coast jazz dates led by players like Bob Cooper, Conte Candoli, Andy Simpkins, and James Leary, I'm sure they all benefit from having Penland behind the kit.

Penland was on Charlie Rouse's last live album, Epistrophy, and on Bunky Green's gentle Feelin' the Pain. But the Penland I know best are several piano trio albums: The discs with George Cables are solid top to bottom. (DTM: Interview with George Cables.) Two records with Marc Copland and Dieter Ilg have a playful and experimental sound, with Penland playing out more than usual. And a couple of tracks on Buddy Montgomery's So Why Not? with Ron Carter are among Buddy's very best recordings on piano. 



RIP Al Harewood

Back in the heyday of hard bop, when everyone played a similar folkloric ride cymbal beat, it was up to the drummer to make sure his pattern was distinctive.

A quarter note is a quarter note is a quarter-note: Al Harewood’s version was effortless and Caribbean-inflected. His left hand coughed and bumped. Of course the bass drum was feathered just right. There was probably no moment of his professional career as a musician where Al Harewood wasn’t swinging.

Harewood can be heard on the following albums, all of which are lifted up by his beautiful beat. The 60's music is the most famous: the many albums with Horace Parlan and George Tucker show that unit was a canonical rhythm section. Later, through Betty Carter, Harewood linked up with Norman Simmons, another musician with whom he shared similar ideals and taste. Completed by Lisle Atkinson, that unit was canonical too.

Jay Jay Johnson & Kai Winding Jay & Kai Quintet (1954)

Ahmed Abdul-Malik Jazz Sahara (1958)

Ahmed Abdul-Malik East Meets West (1959)

Curtis Fuller Blues-ette (1959)

Benny Golson Gone With Golson (1959)

Lou Donaldson Sunny Side Up (1959)

Horace Parlan Movin' And Groovin' (1960)

Horace Parlan Us Three (1960)

Stanley Turrentine Look Out! (1960)

Horace Parlan Speakin' My Piece (1960)

Lou Donaldson Midnight Sun (1960)

Horace Parlan Headin' South (1960)

Booker Ervin That's It! (1961)

Stanley Turrentine Jubilee Shouts (1961)

Stanley Turrentine Up At Minton's (1961)

Horace Parlan On The Spur Of The Moment (1961)

Dexter Gordon Doin' Allright (1961)

Horace Parlan Up And Down (1961)

Grant Green Remembering (1961)

Ike Quebec Heavy Soul (1961)

Stanley Turrentine A Chip Off The Old Block (1963)

Grant Green Idle Moments (1963)

Bobby Hutcherson The Kicker (1963)

Betty Carter Finally - Betty Carter (1969)

David Amram No More Walls (1971)

George Benson Quartet (1973)

Norman Simmons Ramira The Dancer (1976)

Horace Parlan Frank-ly Speaking (1977)

Lisle Atkinson Bass Contra Bass (1978)

Norman Simmons Midnight Creeper (1979)

Norman Simmons I'm ... The Blues (1980)

Buddy Tate/Al Grey Just Jazz (1984)

Dick Katz In High Profile (1984)

Norman Simmons 13Th Moon (1985)

Lee Konitz Ideal Scene (1986)

Benny Carter Cookin' At Carlos I (1988)

Curtis Fuller Blues-ette Part II (1993)

Joshua Breakstone Remembering Grant Green (1993)

Howard Alden Your Story - The Music Of Bill Evans (1994)

Louis Smith There Goes My Heart (1997)



Floyd Camembert Reports

TBP gets busy starting tomorrow. The Rite w. Mark Morris Dance Group ("Spring, Spring, Spring,"), the Jim McNeely arrangements of TBP tunes and Jim's own wild chart "Hope Chest" for the HR Big Band, and club shows including our first times at The Jazz Standard and SFJazz. 

March 2014

14 Champaign-Urbana, IL -- University of Illinois Krannert Center for the Perorming Arts *
15 Champaign-Urbana, IL -- University of Illinois Krannert Center for the Perorming Arts *
16 Detroit, MI -- Cliff Bell's
19 Bern, CHE -- Bee Flat
20 Bergamo, ITA -- International Bergamo Jazz Festival
21 Madrid, ESP -- Auditorio National
22 Barcelona, ESP -- Nova Jazz Cava
23 Maastricht, NLD -- La Bonbonniere

April 2014

02 Brussels, BEL -- Palais des Beaux-Arts
03 Amsterdam, NLD -- Bimhuis
05 Rotterdam, NLD -- Lantaren Vester
06 Muri, CHE -- Musig-im-Ochsen
08 Munich, DEU -- Jazzclub Unterfahrt
09 Munich, DEU -- Jazzclub Unterfahrt
11 Russelsheim, DEU -- Russelsheim Theatre**
12 Aschaffenburg, DEU -- Stadttheater Aschaffenburg**
22 New York, NY -- Jazz Standard
23 New York, NY -- Jazz Standard
24 New York, NY -- Jazz Standard
25 New York, NY -- Jazz Standard
26 New York, NY -- Jazz Standard
27 New York, NY -- Jazz Standard
29 Denver, CO -- Dazzle
30 Denver, CO -- Dazzle

May 2014

01 Albuquerque, NM -- Outpost Performance Space
02 Albuquerque, NM -- Outpost Performance Space
03 Phoenix, AZ -- Musical Instrument Museum
04 San Diego, CA -- The Loft at UC San Diego
05 Los Angeles, CA -- The Mint
06 Los Angeles, CA -- The Mint
08 San Francisco, CA -- SFJazz Center
09 San Francisco, CA -- SFJazz Center
10 San Francisco, CA -- SFJazz Center
11 San Francisco, CA -- SFJazz Center

* - The Bad Plus performs with the Mark Morris Dance Group
** - The HR Big Band featuring The Bad Plus


On March 28, the impromptu trio of Bill McHenry, Han Bennink and me will play a set at the Bimhuis  following Han's gig with ICP. We are going to track a bit in the studio the next morning, too. Han is a genius and it's been too long since I've played with Bill so we will see what happens.



Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis

Terry Teachout's play Satchmo at the Waldorf recently opened in New York. While obviously well-acted by John Douglas Thompson and successful with the audience, for me there wasn't enough unconditional love and respect for Mr. Louis Armstrong. This is also the theme of my essay about Terry's book on Duke, "Reverential Gesture."

I did appreciate Terry's biography of Armstrong, Pops. He's a true polymath (see our interview), and always considers jazz as part of American popular music. Those dedicated to jazz are often over-informed by insider knowledge, and it is refreshing to remember there's a whole wide world out there.

Even when I disagree with Terry it is grist for the mill. I was pulled up short by one aspect of Satchmo at the Waldorf: the portrayal of Miles Davis. After spending an afternoon with Google and my library, what I found was interesting enough to write up briefly for DTM.


I can't cite exact quotes from Satchmo at the Waldorf, but essentially Miles Davis appears as the "young angry black man" who thought Louis Armstrong was an Uncle Tom. 

The fullest explication of the discordance between the civil rights era and Armstrong that I've seen is in Gerald Early's Tuxedo Junction:

The pain that one feels when Armstrong's television performances of the middle and late sixties are recalled is so overwhelming as to constitute an enormously bitter grief, a grief made all the keener because it balances so perfectly one's sense of shame, rage, and despair. The little, gnomish, balding, grinning black man who looked so touchingly like everyone's black grandfather who had put in thirty years as the janitor of the local schoolhouse or like the old black poolshark who sits in the barbershop talking about how those old boys like Bill Robinson and Jelly Roll Morton could really play the game; this old man whose trumpet playing was just, no, not even a shadowy, ghostly remnant of his days of glory and whose singing had become just a kind of raspy-throated guile, gave the appearance, at last, of being nothing more than terribly old and terribly sick. One shudders to think that perhaps two generations of black Americans remember Louis Armstrong, perhaps one of the most remarkable musical geniuses America ever produced, not only as a silly Uncle Tom but as a pathetically vulnerable, weak old man. During the sixties, a time when black people most vehemently did not wish to appear weak, Armstrong seemed positively dwarfed by the patronizing white talk-show hosts on whose programs he performed, and he seemed to revel in that chilling, embarrassing spotlight.

Early is writing in the late '80s, just before Wynton Marsalis and Stanley Crouch would gain traction with an alternative narrative. Wynton has said, "[Louis Armstrong] left an undying testimony to the human condition in the America of his time." For Stanley, Armstrong is, "One of the few who can be easily be mentioned with Stravinsky, Picasso and Joyce." 

This narrative isn't always popular with contemporary jazzmen, who want more unreserved praise given to Miles Davis and John Coltrane when Wynton or Stanley appear on TV for a sound bite about jazz. For myself, I fervently hope that their narrative is closer to what young black kids learn today than the "silly Uncle Tom" narrative that worries Early.


People like beefs. Satchmo at the Waldorf includes Armstrong jousting with both Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis. Terry is very canny, and I'm certain that all the quotes are true, although it isn't explained that some of them are from years after Louis was dead.

Miles's appearances in Waldorf culminate in that remarkable bit of gallows humor from 1985 in Jet

If somebody told me that I had an hour to live, I'd spend it choking a white man. I'd do it nice and slow.

Who am I to analyse Miles Davis? But I think he playing to the audience here. He wouldn't say that to DownBeat, he's saying it to Jet. (It reminds me of Armstrong being photographed with Amiri Baraka's Blues People in the pages of Ebony twenty years earlier.) If Miles makes you upset, you've fallen into his trap. Later on in the Jet piece, Davis says, "Those the shoe don't fit, well, those don't wear it."

Miles had a lot of facets. His support of Gil Evans and Bill Evans did the most of anybody to validate a kind of romantic or white sound in modern jazz. By 1985 all the editions of his band had had white players for years.

Anyway, back to beefs. According to Waldorf, Miles really gave Louis Armstrong a hard time. A casual search of the internet indicates this is common wisdom. (Rifftides; CBC; Daily Kos; Newsday; many more.)

Beefs are fun, but it is more helpful to see Afro-American jazz as a continuum. I was just listening to Miles Davis's E.S.P. and think that part of the trumpeter's solution to this hard new Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock music was to play Louis Armstrong quotes. 

As far as I can discover from my library and the internet at this moment, the following is what Miles said about Louis Armstrong when he was alive:

1949: In DownBeat to Pat Harris, Miles says that Louis is one of his favorite musicians. 

1955: In a DownBeat blindfold test with Leonard Feather, he listened to "Ain't Misbehavin'" with Bobby Hackett and Jack Teagarden. I believe the "statements" Miles refers to are Louis's putdowns of modern jazz.

I like Louis! Anything he does is all right. I don't know about his statements, though, I could do without them...I'd give it five stars.

1958: In the Jazz Review with Nat Hentoff, he listened to "Potato Head Blues": 

Louis has been through all kinds of styles. That's good tuba, by the way. You know you can't play anything on a horn that Louis hasn't played - I mean even modern. I love his approach to the trumpet; he never sounds bad. He plays on the beat - with feeling. That's another phrase for swing. I also love the way he sings.

1962: In Playboy to Alex Haley:

I love Pops, I love the way he sings, the way he plays - everything he does, except when he says something against modern-jazz music. He ought to realize that he was a pioneer, too. No, he wasn't an influence of mine, and I've had very little direct contact with Pops. A long time ago, I was at Bop City, and he came in and told me he liked my playing. I don't know if he would even remember it, but I remember how good I felt to have him say it. People really dig Pops like I do myself. He does a good job overseas with his personality. But they ought to send him down South for goodwill. They need goodwill worse in Georgia and Alabama and Mississippi than they do in Europe.

Hyland Harris also sent me two candids, and you can see the respect Miles has on his face when greeting Pops.



The most condemning things Miles said about Armstrong seem to be from his 1989 autobiography co-written with Quincy Troupe. Armstrong is repeatedly name-checked as one of the greats, but in the photo album he gives us Pops, Beulah, Buckwheat, and Rochester: "Some of the images of black people I would fight against throughout my career. I loved Satchmo but couldn't stand all the grinning he did."  

Also from the book:

As much as I love Dizzy and loved Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong, I always hated the way they used to laugh and grin for the audiences. I know why they did it - to make money and because they were entertainers as well as trumpet players. They had families to feed. Plus they both liked acting the clown; it's just the way Dizzy and Satch were. I don't have nothing against them doing it if they want to. But I didn't like it and didn't have to like it...Also I was younger than them and didn't have to go through the same shit to get accepted by the music industry. They had already opened up a lot of doors for people like me to go through...


I loved the way Louis played trumpet, man, but I hated the way he had to grin in order to get over with some tired white folks. Man, I just hated when I saw him doing that, because Louis was hip, had a consciousness about black people, and was a real nice man. But the only image people have of him is that grinning image off TV.

This last quote is close to what Early worries about in Tuxedo Junction.

After leaving Satchmo at the Waldorf I asked myself: is this progress? I decided that it was. At the least, having a black man best known as a cheerful entertainer repeatedly curse at a mostly white audience is still mildly subversive. (Many reviewers of Waldorf are somehow surprised that Mr. Armstrong swore and smoked weed.)

In drama, clear antagonists are required. Terry has to make a story go. That should be fine, except that in Waldorf, fast-talking manager Joe Glaser is almost more interesting than doddering old Armstrong, and Miles Davis becomes a cartoon version of black nationalism.

To his credit, the portrayal of the Armstrong/Davis divide is much more nuanced in Terry's book Pops than in the play.  

It's just good to remember how much Miles Davis must have loved Louis Armstrong. When Miles told Haley that Louis wasn't an influence, that just wasn't true. Trumpet playing aside, the whole concept of playing white show tunes in an improvisatory and black music context - i.e., the bulk of Miles Davis's recordings from the studio in the 50's and live in the 60's - comes straight from Louis Armstrong. 



On Eric Ambler

New DTM page: "Come Out Of the Darkness Into the Light of Day."

Towards the end there are guest contributions from Vince Keenan, Mike Ripley, and Len Deighton. I'm a big Deighton fan and the fact that he signed off on this overview means a lot.





Friends and Neighbors

This week, Dave King rolls into town with a whole lot of music! Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at Shapeshifter Lab, presented by Search and Restore. Full details here

Karl Berger and Ingrid Sertso have been leading the Creative Music Foundation since 1971, and the next workshop is in June. More details about this famous project here. Deadline March 19.



One Is the Other


The Billy Hart quartet with Mark Turner, Ben Street, and me has our second album out ECM, One Is the Other

We are at Birdland this week Tuesday through Saturday. Please brave the endless winter and come out! Billy loves signing CDs if you can chase him down.

If the BHQ doesn't appeal, then there so much other great jazz in the clubs this week: Barry Harris, Ray Drummond and Leroy Williams at the Vanguard; Donald Harrison, Ron Carter, and Billy Cobham at the Blue Note; something new every night as Smalls, Shapeshifter, and many other venues. I've heard the weather has really hurt business everywhere, so if you are on the fence jump off of it and support live music, everyone needs your support.


The BHQ is doing a European tour in May and virtually our first domestic Midwest and West Coast plays in June. More on that later.


Several months ago I quickly jotted the below as potential liner notes or press release for One Is the Other. 

Lennie Groove (Turner) Mark Turner’s melding of Tristano and clave was recorded years ago on the early Turner album In This World. Since then, it has become a classic, with many musicians trying their hand at its stunning complexities: odd meter, unusual bass line, fast doubled melody. My intro suggests Tristano sped up and spun out.

Maraschino (Iverson) The blues may come in any and all colors. Perhaps a wisp of Paul Bley is here, along with collective free improvisation that strives for structural integrity. Billy Hart’s brushwork is masterful, so swinging yet without any clear pulse.

Teule’s Redemption (Hart) This was written for one of Billy Hart’s sons, a two-part work that eventually allows Ben Street and Hart to work closely on a powerful groove. Turner’s solo takes flight.

Amethyst (Hart) This unusual through-composed piece is another gateway to free improvisation. At one moment Hart and I are left to ourselves, allowing cubist patterns to repeat and develop. 

Yard (Hart) He was there, right on the scene, when jazz began embracing the even-eighth note as a legitimate resource. This blues connects Charlie Parker with all those grooves Hart played with Jimmy Smith, Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis, and so many others. The fierce abstraction achieved by every member of the group attests to a long working relationship.

Sonnet for Stevie (Turner) A swing piece for Stevie Wonder shows moody restraint, although the form is deceptively complex. Hart joked after listening to playback, "It's like Kind of Blue."

Some Enchanted Evening (Rodgers/Hammerstein) This group doesn’t play many standards, but in this case Hart (who loves musicals) wanted something for almost for encore purposes, a gentle reframing of the familiar.

Big Trees (Iverson) Specifically written as a drum feature. The idea of “rhythm changes” lurks in the background but is quickly discarded by the ensemble.  The drumming may momentarily suggest other masters like Ed Blackwell or Max Roach but in the end Billy Hart sounds like nobody but himself.



Deming Derring-do

My better half has a new and hilarious memoir online at The Threepenny Review: "Colorless, Odorless, Tasteless."

I was there, and it is all true.

Previously: "Against Mixology."



Straight From the Source

The Solo Concert: Sam Newsome plays Monk and Ellington is a single track, available for less than two dollars from CD Baby and iTunes. More about it on Sam's blog.

Sam explores "Sophisticated Lady," "Misterioso," "Ask Me Now," and "In a Sentimental Mood" in a long medley. It's very abstract but intensely compelling. There's no one else that does what Sam does, period.

I've gotten to hear all these arrangements before live, and some of them are already recorded, but I can understand why Sam wanted to release this version. It's got a wonderful acoustic, the performances are inspired, and you can hear the audience listening hard.


Philip Sandifer has several books out. I supported his Kickstarter and received the first four volumes of Tardis Eruditorium recently. Those are all about Doctor Who, my ancient and still moderately ardent love. I naturally read the last one first, as this is about the era I know best, Tom Baker and Philip Hinchcliffe. I enjoyed his blog entries, but reading them in a brilliantly packaged paperbound book was even better. (There's also new content.)

I don't know anything about Wonder Woman, but since I admire Sandifer, I got A Golden Thread: An Unofficial Critical History of Wonder Woman too. Wow. Lots of interesting stuff here! I admit I just skipped around, looking at how the comic began, a long chapter about famous television show, and Sandifer's thoughtful coda. Still worth every penny. 

Support your self-produced artists! This is clearly the way now: Many of our best just do it on their own.


(Another Philip Sandifer fan is Matthew Guerrieri, who does something for Beethoven's Fifth Symphony like Sandifer does for pop culture. The First Four Notes is just about to come out in paperback, so there's no excuse not to take a look.)