Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Bird With Strings: Live

Reprinted from
This Friday marks the 94th anniversary of alto saxophonist Charlie Parker's birth. Parker, who was nicknamed Yardbird or Bird for short, invented a new jazz style in 1945 with Dizzy Gillespie and a handful of other artists in New York. The form—which would become known as "bebop"—was the first post-war jazz style to rely on personal instrumental expression rather than traditional entertainment values. Improvisation and the invention of new melody lines using the chords of existing songs were key, and bebop practitioners often played at breakneck speeds and with exemplary dexterity and grace, wowing seated club audiences who had paid to listen and marvel rather than dance. [Above, Charlie Parker in 1954, by Eliot Elisofon for Life]
By 1949, Parker's agility, influence and popularity had grown so sizable that producer and record company owner Norman Granz decided to pair him with a string section. The jazz-pop fusion was an attempt to sweeten Parker's attack and leverage his yearning sound to appeal to a larger slice of the market that could afford multiple 78s known then as "albums." [Above, Charlie Parker with Flip Phillips, by Dennis Stock]
In all, Parker recorded on four different dates with strings in a studio setting—the accidental Repetition session in December 1947 with Neal Hefti, the Charlie Parker with Strings session in November 1949, the follow-up session with strings in July 1950 and the Autumn in New Yorksession of January 1952. Parker was so enthralled with strings that he frequently performed in concert with them after 1949, viewing them as both an appropriate frame for his bluesy sound and a high-culture bridge to classical music, which he loved.
One of the most extensive of these live dates was recorded at the Rockland Palace Dance Hall on 155th St. and Frederick Douglass Blvd. in Harlem on September 26, 1952. The concert was held to help raise funds to seek amnesty for Benjamin J. Davis, an American Communist party official and former city council member who was serving five years after being convicted in 1949 for advocating the forcible overthrow of the government. A two-year appeal had kept him out of prison, but when the appeal failed and he was incarcerated in Indiana, an amnesty drive was launched. Davis would be released in 1954 after serving three years and four months and was highly regarded in Harlem for his campaign against segregation and discrimination.
What makes this recording special is the length of the concert (31 tracks), with a majority recorded with strings. Some songs appear here with strings for the first time, including Stardust and Gold Rush (also known as Gerry Mulligan's Turnstile).
For years, collectors knew only of the poor-quality "audience" wire recording made by someone in one of the seats, possibly Parker's wife, Chan. But in the 1990s, a new tape of the concert was discovered that had more remarkable sound, though solos by other musicians had either not been taped or were spliced out. Jazz Classics, the label, brought the two together. [Above, Charlie Parker at Birdland in 1951, by Marcel Fleiss/]
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If you dig Bird with strings and have long wished there was more to enjoy, you'll find plenty in the Rockland concert recording—further evidence of Parker's powerful love affair with the Great American Songbook and examples of him elevating his own songs and Gerry Mulligan's Turnstile to the same lofty level. You'll also hear Bird doing what he did best—playing the songs you know from the string sessions but with different intros and approaches. A fascinating study of innovation.
JazzWax tracks: There are two CDs that feature thisRocklandconcert material. Unfortunately, they all cost a fortune (see here andhere). However, I did find a download of many of the tracks from the concert in two parts here and here.
JazzWax clips: To give you a taste of the album, here's Stardust, featuring Parker with strings...
Here's Gerry Mulligan's Gold Rush...
And here's Lester Leaps In, without strings but with Walter Bishop, Jr. (p), Mundell Lowe (g), Teddy Kotick (b) and Max Roach (d)...
Used with permission by Marc Myers 

NPR Music - You Must Hear This


First Listen: Blonde Redhead, 'Barragán'

The last decade has seen a marked softening in Blonde Redhead's sound, to the point where the quietest moments on Barragán don't sound like songs so much as vapors infused with tunes.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Jazz On The Screen: A Jazz And Blues Filmography

'A Streetcar Named Desire' (1951), It has become a well-deserved landmark in the history of film music and paved the way for numerous movie jazz scores'. —David Meeker

By David Meeker
By AAJ STAFF, Published: August 25, 2014
The cultural, sociological and technical histories of jazz and motion pictures have run in parallel, sometimes intersecting, lines ever since both forms emerged at the end of the nineteenth century. Neither found it easy to be accepted as a legitimate form of personal or artistic expression. The early days, spent at the very fringes of respectable society, were difficult in each case.

Film grew up in vaudeville houses, traveling fairgrounds, and penny arcades, jazz in the lower depths of New Orleans and the Mississippi Delta. Few supposedly respectable people dared to be seen at screenings and performances in those first years. In the 1920s jazz and film both faced the tremendous challenge of the electric recording revolution. They slowly and painfully adapted themselves, eventually growing to freedom, maturity and respectability until finally they were acknowledged to be two of the most important and influential cultural forces in our civilization. 

It could be thought ill advised for any one person to state quite categorically exactly where and when the history of "Jazz on the Screen" should begin for the sands shift as our knowledge of history unfolds. There were certainly plenty of appearances by jazz groups and individuals in silent pictures.

The golden days of silent films were the 1920s; not for nothing were those days also known as The Jazz Age for, although the word Jazz in that context covered a much wider area than that of the music that we know today, it was a period when the music started to achieve the popularity that was to become so huge later on, when pre-electric jazz recordings became standard display items on record shop counters, when jazz bands became the centre of the evening's entertainment at dances and social occasions. 

The cinema was, as always, quick to catch on to this new phenomenon, portraying an endless stream of flappers and their beaus gyrating madly to a succession of jazz or dance bands in literally dozens of movies. Few of these bands and the individual musicians in them have ever been identified or ever will be.

In the silent days the bands would actually have been playing for the dancers on set, so they were comprised of genuine performing musicians, whereas in all but very early sound films the musicians, more often than not actor-musicians or sideliners, as they were later to become known, would be miming to pre-recorded tracks. A few name personnel working at this time can, however, be identified. Mutt Carey's Liberty Syncopators, for instance, are clearly playing for the dancers in LEGION OF THE CONDEMNED (1928). Speed Webb and his Orchestra were active at the Fox Studios and can be seen in several features including RILEY THE COP (1928).
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The Jazz Connect Conference ....

The Jazz Connect Conference, organized by JazzTimes and the Jazz Forward Coalition, will be held January 8-9, 2015 in New York City and will lead into the annual APAP (Association of Performing Arts Presenters) Conference as well as Winter Jazzfest.  Continuing the momentum from the January 2014 event which hosted over 800 registrants, the Jazz Connect Conference  in 2015—based on feedback from attendees—will feature a series of essential workshops, panels and events held over the course of two days.  Pre-registration is only $75 until September 30, with additional discounts offered to members of various organizations. 

With a theme of “Strength Through Community” the conference will again bring together a wide cross-section of the jazz community for 12 workshops and 5 plenary sessions, on a variety of ttimely and engaging subjects. Moderators and panelists include an impressive cross-section of artists and professionals. Returning this year will be an "Ask the Experts" networking session enabling emerging artists and professionals to connect and get informed input on their own careers and operations. 
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Shailah Edmonds is clearly a jazz singer,....

SHAILAH EDMONDS, A native of Portland, Oregon began her music career by co-writing a song for Betty Wright (of Clean-Up Woman), and have since sung with the late Lionel Hampton, background for Fred Schneider (of B-52s) solo CD, and Lead singer of The Cover Girls doing 60s cover songs. She also opened in Paris at the Olympia Stadium for Sydney Youngblood and toured with the Marvelettes, doing both lead and background vocals before going solo.

She is currently kept busy, singing at various upscale venues in the New York City area, as well as private events. For this show, She will be singing jazz standards from Ellington to Porter, from her new CD entitled, "Moonlight Magic", which will also be videotaped. Inspired by Ella, Billie, Dinah, Natalie and other legendary jazz vocalists, Shailah has developed her own style, with an incredibly smooth phrasing technique. She will be accompanied by some of New York's best musicians, on piano, bass, drums and sax.

"Shailah Edmonds is clearly a jazz singer, but to describe her that way is to ignore her broader appeal. Her show kept this dyed-in-the-wool cabaret critic happy, as it obviously did for a mixed audience of jazz, cabaret, and even Motown fans. Edmonds came across as unfailingly warm, personable, upbeat and joyous.
Peter Leavy, Cabaret Scenes.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Jane Monheit & John Pizzarelli - They Can't Take That Away From Me

Doug Largent Trio stays close to home with concert

With jazz, it’s all about the atmosphere.

And tonight, the scene will be set at Carrboro’s Looking Glass Cafe. The Doug Largent Trio will give guests a combination of music and casual sophistication at the coffee shop.

Largent, the organist for the group, and guitarist Brad Maiani formed the trio, a small ensemble specializing in reinventing jazz standards from the 1950s and ’60s into a unique and personal sound. They play with a rotating drummer — tonight’s will be Tyler Leak.

The Trio has also taken inspiration from organist Big John Patton, whose song “Soul Woman” is both a group and crowd favorite.

Largent said his personal career has introduced him to myriad jazz musicians and taken him from North Carolina to New York City and back again.

He said that today he tries constantly to develop his craft and further his love of the genre.

“I really like the sound of (jazz),” he said.

“You can listen to anything deeply and hear the texture of the instruments. Especially with the organ, there’s just so much going on with the sound of it, you never get bored.”

Carolyn Griggs, owner and performance organizer at Looking Glass Cafe, said she booked the trio after being approached by Maiani about the cafe’s weekly jazz and game night.

“We love to have different events in the evenings. We have such a nice outdoor space that is well-suited for jazz in the garden,” she said.
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