AARGH. Wednesday night is a challenge, my people are double-booked around the city.
I first heard Ted Brown's recordings when I was a teenager. I wore out my copy of Warne Marsh's "Jazz Of Two Cities" which prominently features Ted. I was mesmerized by the way he and Marsh played together. It wasn't until the summer of 2010 that I finally met Ted at a session in bassist Joe Solomon's studio. I was star-struck that first evening, but nonetheless we hit it off right away. Since that time, we have played many sessions and several gigs together. Playing with Ted has been one of the deepest musical experiences of my life. He has a truly unique voice on the tenor saxophone. His tone is very soft, but still warm and full. His time is ridiculously solid and swinging. With his soft tone, you might expect that he would lay back on the beat. But instead, his pulse is commanding. He centers the band whenever he's playing. The lines he plays are stunning. You can hear the echoes of Bird and Lester Young, and even some Tristano. But Ted never plays cliches, and never repeats himself. He just improvises melodies that are simple, swinging, inviting and inventive. Try doing that, sometime! When we play together, it is a daunting task to play after one of his amazing solos. But I always feel compelled to try to follow his lead: to play with simplicity and love, solid rhythm, and to eschew stress in any form. While so many jazz musicians are trying to reinvent the wheel (every generation's responsibility, I suppose), Ted reminds us how beautiful the wheel is, in the hands of those who created it..
For all of his musical dexterity, Ted is not a man who feels compelled to draw attention to himself, on or off the bandstand. He is soft-spoken and unassuming. I find this particularly moving in the age of media frenzy, where in order to survive, a musician has to make all kinds of noise about him/herself. Ted stays true to his heart and his muse, whether anyone is paying attention to him or not. And his attitude about jazz is down to earth. He once said, "To me it was always about playing a nice melody, and looking in the audience and seeing people pat their foot." So simple, so direct, and yet a sentiment that is hard to find anymore.
Ted is an artist of the highest order. I hope to have the privilege of playing with him for many years to come.
I'm avoiding having to chose between friends because I bought tix to see Robert Glasper at the Highline, who's new disc Black Radio is highly buzzed. I haven't seen Glasper play in many years; the first time I was deeply impressed by his pianism, but wanted more from the context, which at that time was fairly anonymous 2nd- or 3rd- generation Young Lion tough guy school.
That's changed a lot since. I can't entice my wife to many Young Lion gigs, but she's excited about Wednesday.
H'mm! Glasper is covering "Smells Like Teen Spirit" these days. Huh. Interesting idea to do that.
Last year, my most controversial post was a parsing of a Nicholas Payton tweet. I alluded to Glasper in an aside:
The minute some instrumentalists figure out how to really align the most mysterious qualities of jazz with this contemporary folklore there will be some hit jazz records again. (Right now, Houston seems to be where they are making those coming closest, but nothing has really broken through yet.)
I'd love it if Black Radio was a hit. I'm going to watch how my wife responds, that will be my best barometer.
I just said my post was controversial, but of course it was nothing compared to later that year, the BAM battle I mostly stayed out of. (This is as far as I went.)
One of the most fascinating chapters in this ongoing discussion just turned up at Nate Chinen's blog, "Race is the Place." It's a great essay. His Aunty May shows up in the comments, too!
Chinen also has much on Glasper.