Ralph Ellison’s most celebrated work, the novel Invisible Man widely regarded as one of the most important of the 20th century, is infused with jazz. In this New Yorker blog post, Richard Brody explores the central place jazz occupied in Ellison’s life and Ellison’s record collection, now on exhibit in the National Jazz Museum in Harlem. to put you in the mood, check out the collection of Ellison’s writings on jazz, Living with Music.
The 1979 Sam Rivers recording Contrasts has just been reissued on vinyl by ECM. On this clip, recorded that year in Germany, the telepathy and subtle virtuosity of that group — here, Sam’s tenor saxophone, with Dave Holland’s bass and Thurman Barker on drums — is in compelling evidence.
The Basie band on Milan television sometime in March of 1960. Thad Jones, Frank Wess, Billy Mitchell and a powerful Sonny Payne make this one of the special Basie bands. But then again, they practically ALL were special.
Jazz Greats, DC, Honor Herbie Hancock in Kennedy Center Medley
Herbie Hancock deservedly was one of the recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors this past year. And for the concert/telecast, Terence Blanchard put together a medley to commemorate Herbie’s music with three widely different groups that include Chick Corea, Wayne Shorter, Joshua Redman, Aaron Parks, Marcus Miller and Snoop Dogg (yes, Snoop Dogg).
The Yacht Club held forth as one of the great clubs on 52nd St in NY (it moved three times on the Street) from 1934 to 1944 before becoming the Downbeat. Fats Waller held court at the Yacht Club on many occasions, and the NBC microphones were not too far behind.
In 1989, Stephen Reed and I produced a series of videos for Pioneer and Blue Note, that were issued in Japan on Pioneer laser disc and in the US on Blue Note VHS videos. We rented a video studio in the Chelsea area and rehearsed, plotted and recorded about six shows. One was the Tony Williams Quintet with Bill Pierce, Wallace Roney, Mulgrew Miller and Ira Coleman at its peak. I don’t know why this was never reissued on DVD, but I’m glad it is available in two parts on YouTube. Tony was already a 15-year veteran and innovator who had nothing to prove. Look at how much he gives to each tune. The band responds in kind.
The Inventive Blues Artist Mississippi Fred McDowell
When I went to college in Philadelphia, I lived a block away from Dick Waterman who managed everyone from Buddy Guy and Junior Wells to Son House and Mississippi Fred McDowell. When more than one of his artists was in town, my couch would be the overflow accommodations for the likes of Fred McDowell and Arthur Crudup. Fred was a great character and brilliant guitarist. He was polite and reserved but had a bit of the devil in him. He loved inventing new biographies with each interviewer.
In 1959, Capitol Records signed a young Cleveland singer named Nancy Wilson. In 1961, her manager John Levy wanted to raise her jazz profile, so he brokered a deal where Riverside Records would let Capitol use Cannonball Adderley on an album collaboration with her, and in return Capitol would let his other client, George Shearing, record on Riverside with the Montgomery Brothers. That nice trade-off created two unique classics.
As he readies his latest four-act opera in his Trillium Cycle, Trillium J (the Nonunconfessionables) for performances starting April 17 at the Tri-Centric Festival at Roulette in Brooklyn, it’s hard to resist thinking of possible parallels between Anthony Braxton and another prodigious operatic composer, Richard Wagner. Perhaps not so far from the truth, as Braxton confides in this interview with Nate Wooley. Other influences on Braxton surface in this exchange: some, like Elliot Carter and Stockhausen, more obvious than others. Enough: our spoiler alert light is blinking.
The Voice of Dizzy Gillespie Speaks Out on Nuclear War
Earth Day is coming up, so we found a perfect item for you.
Since this is the Mosaic Daily *Jazz* Gazette, it’s Dizzy Gillespie’s improvised dialog that’s most compelling in this 1962 animation, The Hole.
I’m a jazz fan (and former record producer) and a movie lover, but I also make cartoons for a living, so I can add in my deep admiration for filmmaker John Hubley, who pushed the boundaries of their medium for over 50 years. (Baby boomers will fondly recall his creation of Mr. Magoo and “I want my Maypo!”).
Diz and John had a lot in common aside from this short. They were both born in the second decade of the 20th century, fueled by many similar aesthetic, artistic, and political influences. It led them to independently bring their 1940’s radical experimentation into the cultural mainstream by sheer force of talent, determination, and humor. And, not for nothing, they both kept improvisation at the center of their arts, John Birks with his trumpet and voice, John Hubley often using non-actors like his children in his pictures. It shouldn’t be surprising they got together on this commentary on the increasing worries of a nuclear accident.
The style of “The Hole” will seem somewhat muddy at the beginning; it certainly isn’t a bright, commercial cartoon. Hang in there, not just for the shocking ending, but to hear the only time I can recall Dizzy singing Howlin’ Wolf (via the Mississippi Sheiks).
Christian McBride may be the greatest living jazz bassist to emerge in the last 25 years, but he is also a delightful human being with a variety of passions, one of which is boxing. Boxing has been a fascination for jazz musicians through the ages, especially people like Miles Davis and Dexter Gordon. In the early days of cable TV when so many bouts were broadcast only on HBO, my bedroom became a regular theater for Gary Bartz and Monty Alexander among others. I’m surprised Christian didn’t mention Terence Blanchard, who is a boxer as well as a devout fan of the sport, and who wrote an opera about legendary boxer Emile Griffith.
Collectors and lovers of jazz have long sought after certain pearls that seem lost to the ages. I think it would be cause for celebration to find just one of those “Old Gold” radio broadcasts with Bix and the Whiteman band. Another would be to locate lost film footage (with audio) of some of those Eddie Condon WPIX broadcasts at the very dawn of television. However, there is a quick moment, without audio, where we see Charlie Parker and Sidney Bechet…in COLOR… on one of those Eddie Condon Floor Show programs.
This is a 50-minute set by one of the greatest editions of the Jazz Messengers with Wayne Shorter, Freddie Hubbard, Cedar Walton and Reggie Workman. The San Remo 1963 concert kicks off with “Children Of The Night.” Check out composer Shorter’s opening solo. I never knew Reggie and Freddie to sport mustaches.
Kevin Whitehead gets some great memories, background and statements of purpose from Anthony Braxton, one of the most unique and unwavering contemporary composers in music today. I had the fortune to call Anthony a friend and produce many of his albums in the ‘70s and ’80s. His Arista material has been collected in Mosaic (MD8-242).