Rolando Morales has performed throughout Spain, England, Italy, Ireland, Mexico, and Hawaii. In Los Angeles, he largely played electric guitars. Just out of college, he played with a 9 piece casual band comprised of members who backed such stars as Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, and Poncho Sanchez. He regularly plays with world-class musicians who work with luminaries as Airto, Flora Purim, Steve Winwood, Tower of Power, Spearhead, Ruben Blades, Carlos Santana, Pete Escovedo, and performed with Dizzy Gillespie and many others. Rolando Morales studied law and graduated. He decided for Music his first love and we all thank him.
Carlos Reyes learned to play many different instruments including Guitar, Bass, Mandolin, Keyboards, as well as mastering the use of a variety of electronic devices and special effects. He made his debut on harp with the Oakland Symphony and his debut on the violin with the Oakland Youth Symphony at just fourteen years of age. He has worked in the professional recording industry for commercials, solo artist and instrumental background music for the acclaimed children’s shows “Sesame Street” and “Villa Alegre” when he was still in his teens. He has backed such artist as Chuck Mangione, Bill Evans, Clark Terry, Pat Travers, MC Hammer, Craig Chaquico, The Crusaders, The Rippingtons, Roy Rogers to Charlie Daniels, Wynona Judd, Clint Black, Willie Nelson, John Handy, The Doobie Brothers, Rocker Steve Miller and many more.
From Caracas, Venezuela, GRAMMY Award Winner Omar Ledezma Jr. has been playing professionally since the age of 13. At the age of 17, he found him performing in every corner of his native country. National musical acclaim rested light on the shoulders of Ledezma as 1995 found him a graduate of one of the most prestigious Law Schools in Caracas, Venezuela. In 1998 Omar packed one bag and one drum to begin his move to Boston, Massachusetts after making a passionate commitment to study at Berklee College of Music, Boston and then New York City held many challenges and provided many opportunities. Moving to the Bay Area in 2005, Omar has committed himself not to “bring the music back” or “take the music forward” but thrive upon embracing “the existing”.
Three men, three world class talents we are so spoiled in the Bay Area
Born in the southern state of North Carolina, Mazella started playing piano as a natural gift for her youth choir at the local Baptist church she attended, until leaving North Carolina for a tour with the U.S. Army, Germany in 1977.
Returning to the U. S. in 1980, Mazella appeared in the Fort Hood production of “Purlie Victorious”.. At the close of the show, Mazella took on a dare to run for the title of “Ms. Fort Hood”, the largest military installation in the free world, where she won the talent competition and was crowned both “Ms. Fort Hood” and “Ms. Congeniality”. Mazella soon after moved to Houston, TX where she rediscovered her love and voice for singing.
During her tenure in Houston, Mazella sang on the worship team for churches such as; Lakewood, The Light Christian Center and New Covenant Praise. Also during this time, Mazella developed, initiated and launched a music movement called “music therapy” in the Christ-Centered nationally known in-hospital therapy program called, RAPHA. Mazella managed 32 teams of musicians who held weekly music therapy sessions in several different hospitals throughout the Houston area Moving to Southern California in the early nineties, Mazella was given the opportunity to further develop her program in various treatment centers in the Los Angles and Burbank areas.
Mazella wrote and produced her first EP album called “Windows of the Soul” released in the summer of 1999, with the popular tune “Let’s Talk About Life” and the powerful tune, “Potter and the Clay“. The project has six tunes all written by Mazella, and one co-written with, Jimmy Zeigler (Bill and Ted‘s Excellent Adventures).
Later that same year, Mazella returned to the studio co-producing with Larry Allen, (Stevie Wonder, Ricky Grundy, Ming Freeman, Doug Grisby, Tina Marie), to write and produce 6 more tunes for her next project, “The Fire of Life Itself”, released in the fall of 2000. Mazella toured Europe that same year, performing concerts in France and Belgium.
In the spring of the following year, Mazella recorded a live version of “The Fire of Life Itself with musicians, Dale Ockerman-on keys, (Doobie Brother’s), Tyran Porter, on bass (Doobie Brother’s), Donnie Balwdin on drums (Jefferson Starship), Johnny Gunn on guitar (Eddie Money), Rock Hendricks on horns, and various other talented music friends.
In 2007, Mazella launched “The Black Pearl Project”, along with Larrie Ray Noble, Sr., and for the next 7 years booked and performed an average of 150 gigs per year in the San Francisco Bay and surrounding areas. Performing at such venue as, “Biscuit and Blues, Carnelian Room, Presidio Golf Club, Piedmont Community Church, Lake Merritt Hotel, Scottish Rite Center, Oakland City of San Ramon, City of San Francisco as well as numerous fine dining restaurants.
Mazella has performed with Lou Rawls, Danced with “Prince”, Contra Costa Jazz Band, the Contra Costa Chamber Orchestra, with “Soundwave”, the Bob Enos (Julliard, Stan Kenton).
Mazella and her “World Class Pearl Big Band is currently performing at The California Theater in Pittsburg, California and other Bay Area theaters and venues. Keep up to date on her amazing musical career on Facebook.
Ehud Asherie, “a master of swing and stride” (The New Yorker), is a jazz pianist who integrates the venerable New York piano tradition into his inventive style. Born in Israel in 1979, Asherie lived in Italy for six years before his family moved to New York.
Though he began playing piano as a child, his passion for jazz came later—with a Thelonious Monk cassette tape—and his first visit to Smalls Jazz club in Greenwich Village. Largely self-taught, or rather, “old-schooled,” Asherie learned the ropes at Smalls, spending the wee small hours of his early teens becoming a fixture of the late-night jam sessions.
Mentored by the late Frank Hewitt, Asherie began to develop “his virtuosity and his ear for clean, crisp lines“ (The Star-Ledger). From Smalls to the Rainbow Room, from Lincoln Center to The Village Vanguard, Asherie has since worked with a broad range of musicians including:
Eric Alexander, Roy Ayers, Peter Bernstein, Jesse Davis, Bobby Durham, Vince Giordano, Wycliffe Gordon, Scott Hamilton, Ryan Kisor, Jane Monheit, Catherine Russell, Ken Peplowski and Clark Terry.
Beyond his dedication to jazz music, Ehud Asherie has also developed a passion for traditional Brazilian music. His appreciation and profound knowledge of the music, language and culture are the foundation of Asherie’s project entitled Bina & Ehud, a duo formed in 2003, with Brazilian guitarist, Bina Coquet.
Asherie has toured clubs and festivals around the world, including South America, Europe and Asia. Asherie’s playing can be heard on countless recordings, including the 2010 Grammy Award winning soundtrack of HBO’s ‘Boardwalk Empire’. He recently released his twelfth album as leader entitled Shuffle Along (Blue Heron Records), a solo
Published on Feb 21, 2015
Provided to YouTube by The Orchard Enterprises
Perry Tannenbaum in Jazz Times praises Ehud Asherie
“After three releases on Posi-Tone leading small combos from the piano, 31-year-old Israeli native Ehud Asherie switches over to Hammond organ for his latest quartet outing, Organic. Fats Waller and Count Basie come readily to mind as jazz immortals who doubled on the two instruments. While their piano styles were more individualized than Asherie’s at this stage of his career, their doubling is reduced to dabbling when compared to Asherie’s imposing proficiency at the organ, which instantly catapults him to the front ranks of current B3 practitioners and invites comparisons with the greats of the past.” See full article
Thank you Tom O’Neil for introducing this to www.riovida.net. We hope to learn about the rest of your favorites.
"They see the possibility of a black president as natural as Tiger Woods winning the Masters"
Noah Griffin (talking about his children)
Noah Griffin regularly performs in San Francisco, New York, Boston, London, Rome and Paris. Noah Griffin’s Tribute to Cole Porter took the world by storm and he regularly sells out at such classical venues as Birdland in NY. He sang with Duke Ellington, Nat Cole and has appeared in New York, Boston, London, Rome and Paris.
Noah, since the age of 7, has delighted audiences with his marvelous voice. From 1953 to 1958 he sang as a soloist with the San Francisco Boys Chorus under the direction of the late Madi Bacon, performing in Carmen, Boris Gudenov, Turandot, and soloing in La Boheme with the San Francisco Cosmopolitan Opera Company. The Boys Choir performed at the 1956 Republican convention in San Francisco, sharing the stage with Nat King Cole, Johnny Ray, Leontyne Price and Paul Robeson all legends with whom the Boys Choir collaborated.
In the late 50?s Noah helped formed a Rock group called the Kings covering Ricky Nelson’s “Lonesome Town” on a USO recording which played overseas to our troops stationed in Europe. By 1960 he was off on his own singing at various local venues, teen dances and school rallies. He began study with the respected Judy Davis. The highlight of his high school career was winning a coveted opportunity to audition at the world renowned “hungri i” nightclub. It was also during those years he was signed to a minor record label and performed on the bill with the “Shirelles.” College years at Fisk University began more intense voice study under James Van Lowe and an association with the Fisk University Choir and the famed Jubilee Singers.
While attending Harvard Law, Noah nurtured his singing career performing regularly in and around the Boston area at the “Point After,” the “Ramada Inn on the Charles” and various other venues. It was during that period he was selected to solo with Duke Ellington in his Boston for debut of his “Sacred Concert.” Returning to San Francisco Noah was a regular at the “Sea Witch”, “Cobb’s Pub”, the “Plantation Inn”, “Roland’s” the “Forbidden City” and other night spots. For ten years Noah was the soloist for the Walt Tolleson Big Band. In addition to singing, Noah hosted a talk show for many years on KGO radio as well as a television appearances and wrote a syndicated column for the Hearst Examiner and newspaper chain. A fan favorite at Giants games, Noah along with collaborator Bob Voss, wrote the opening day song for the Giants at the former PacBell Park. The two collaborated for the dreamy anthem and official Ballad of the Golden Gate Bridge re-released for the Bridge’s 70th anniversary in May 2007. This version is produced by former Motown producer and writer Michael B. Sutton. Noah and Bob collaborated on a highly popular Christmas CD with two original songs Noah wrote for the production which merit annual local airplay.
Eddie Fisher has called him a “great singer” and George Shearing “loves his work.”
After graduating from Harvard Law School in Boston, Noah Griffin returned to the San Francisco Bay Area where he has lived ever since. While raising his children, Noah Griffin had an illustrious career as a syndicated newspaper columnist, radio talk show host, singer and songwriter.
Noah Griffin has been hosted by the Nations of Great Britain, Nassau, Japan, Brazil, and Taiwan. He has met six United States Presidents and several World Leaders — all from whom he has been fortunate to learn.
Noah Griffin’s vast range of experience uniquely qualifies him to speak on a wide range of topics. Educated at Harvard Law, Yale and Fisk University in history, he’s been the recipient of two Fellowships: CORO Foundation Public Affairs and Phelps-Stokes History Fellowship. He has spent 35 years in government, politics, media and journalism. In those capacities he served on statewide staff in two Presidential Campaigns, as an administrative aide to Dianne Feinstein and Press Secretary to San Francisco Mayor Frank Jordan. He served as Director of Public Affairs at Charles Schwab Company and was Public Information Officer at San Francisco City College under Chancellor Evan Dobelle.
He was an on air Disc Jockey at the old KFOG in San Francisco and WJIB in Boston. He produced and hosted weekly interview shows on K-101 and KFRC radio. Griffin hosted Public Affairs Interview Program on San Francisco TV Stations KMPT Channel 32 and KTSF Channel 26.
Noah Griffin writes for the Marin IJ. He wrote for 5 years for the Hearst Examiner and was nationally syndicated with Scripps Howard. In that capacity he appeared twice on the PBS News hour with Jim Lehrer. He has been featured in the Boston Globe, the NAACP Crisis Magazine, the San Francisco Chronicle, The San Jose Mercury News, The Saint Petersburg Times, and Jet Magazine. He’s appeared on CNN, CBS Sunday Morning and Talk of the Nation. He has been written about and or covered in the New York Times Magazine, the Wall Street Journal and San Francisco Magazine.
Noah Griffin has worked with George Lucas. Griffin also worked alongside the late Bernie Averbuch to establish the Court of Historical Review and Appeals in which capacity he brought Anna Hauptman to San Francisco to retry the Lindbergh Kidnapping Case in a moot court setting. He’s dined with Lauren Bacall, shared the stage with Nat Cole, Leontyne Price, and Johnny Ray. He has interviewed notables from Gore Vidal, Louis L’Amour, Milton Berle, Peggy Lee, John Huston, Paul Henried, Howard Koch, the Smothers Brothers, Cesar Chavez Peter, Paul and Mary. He’s opened in song parody for the Capitol Steps. He’s been blessed to have counted William Warfield, George Shearing and Eddie Fisher among his musical admirers. California Historian Kevin Starr has praised the work he has done on the documentary on the Golden Gate Bridge. He wrote the preface for the book on “Who Killed Martin Luther King”, is cited in 10 books and is a student of the Kennedy Assassination. He is a published poet and has committed more than 50 poems to memory. He has written and recorded the official ballad of the Golden Gate Bridge and the College of Marin Anthem.
John Handy is a performer and composer who continues to sweep audiences into ecstasy with his vast range of creative, emotional, and technical inventiveness. With a superb knowledge and practical experience with music of several cultures, he fuses, with each selection, a musical genre that is coherent, provocative, logical, and enjoyable. As a singer, he brings a kind of storytelling narrative to the blues that is entertaining, educational, and moving; while his up tempo scat vocals could be compared to the best scat singers anywhere. He sings ballads with inventiveness that is rare among singers.
John Handy has written a number of highly acclaimed, original compositions. “Spanish Lady” and “If Only We Knew” both earned Grammy nominations for performance and composition. The popular jazz/blues/funk vocal crossover hit, “Hard Work“, brought him fame in another realm; while “Blues for Louis Jordan” displayed his talents in rhythm and blues. He has written many compositions of various sizes for both instrumental and vocal groups. His more extensive works include Concerto for Jazz Soloist and Orchestra which was premiered by the Parnassus Symphony Orchestra; and Scheme Number One which was lauded as a fine example of fixed and improvised music by the great composer, Igor Stravinsky.
John Handy at Lincoln Center in 2016
John Handy has performed in the world great concert halls including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Berlin Philharmonic Auditorium, San Francisco Opera House, Davies Hall; the major performance venues including Tanglewood, Saratoga (NY), and Wolf Trap; and the pre-eminent jazz festivals including the Monterey Jazz Festival, Newport Jazz Festival, Playboy Jazz Festival, Chicago Jazz Festival, Pacific Coast Jazz Festival; and international jazz festivals at Montreaux (Switzerland), Antibe (France), Berlin (Germany), Cannes (France), Yubari (Japan), Miyasaki (Japan), among others. His album and CD covers read like a who’s who of record labels – Columbia, ABC Impulse, Warner Brothers, Milestone, Roulette, Boulevard, Quartet (Harbor), MPS Records and many others.
His most recent recordings are “John Handy Live at Yoshi’s” and “John Handy’s Musical Dreamland” (available only on Boulevard Records, Stuttgart, Germany), “Centerpiece“, and “Excursion in Blue“. Some of his earlier works have been reissued on CD – “John Handy: Live at the Monterey Jazz Festival“, “The Second John Handy Album“, “New View“, and “Projections“. He recorded with Sonny Stitt, and recorded nine albums with Charles Mingus Jazz Workshop.
His album and CD covers read like a who’s who of record labels – Columbia, ABC Impulse, Warner Brothers, Milestone, Roulette, Boulevard, Quartet (Harbor), MPS Records and many others.
For the best and most updated information visit John Handy’s website: www.johnhandy.com
“Music comes out of her. When she walks down the street, she leaves notes.” — Jimmy Rowles
Ella Fitzgerald is considered one of the very best singer in the world. She is admired by her fans, young and old alike and she inspires her fellow artists and musicians. She performed at top venues all over the world. Her audiences were as diverse as her vocal range. They were rich and poor, made up of all races, all religions and all nationalities. In fact, many of them had just one binding factor in common – they all loved her.
Dubbed The First Lady of Song, Ella Fitzgerald was the most popular female jazz singer in the United States for more than half a century. In her lifetime, she won 13 Grammy awards and sold over 40 million albums.
Her voice was flexible, wide-ranging, accurate and ageless. She could sing sultry ballads, sweet jazz and imitate every instrument in an orchestra. She worked with all the jazz greats, from Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Nat King Cole, to Frank Sinatra, Dizzy Gillespie and Benny Goodman.
Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald sing Cole Porter
She toured all over the world, sometimes performing two shows a day in cities hundreds of miles apart. In 1974, Ella spent a legendary two weeks performing in New York with Frank Sinatra and Count Basie. She was inducted into the Down Beat magazine Hall of Fame, and received Kennedy Center Honors for her continuing contributions to the arts. 1958 the first Grammy awards were held and Ella Fitzgerald won Best Female Vocal Performance for The Irving Berlin Songbook (album) and Best Individual Jazz Performance for The Duke Ellington Songbook (album) 1959 Grammy awards, Best Female Vocal Performance for But Not For Me and Best Individual Jazz Performance for Ella Swings Lightly.
Ella Jane Fitzgerald was born in Newport News, Va. on April 25, 1917. Her father, William, and mother, Temperance (Tempie), parted ways shortly after her birth. Together, Tempie and Ella went to Yonkers, N.Y, where they eventually moved in with Tempie’s longtime boyfriend Joseph Da Silva. Ella’s half-sister, Frances, was born in 1923 and soon she began referring to Joe as her stepfather. Their apartment was in a mixed neighborhood, where Ella made friends easily. She considered herself more of a tomboy, and often joined in the neighborhood games of baseball. Sports aside, she enjoyed dancing and singing with her friends, and some evenings they would take the train into Harlem and watch various acts at the Apollo Theater.
In 1934 Ella’s name was pulled in a weekly drawing at the Apollo and she won the opportunity to compete in Amateur Night. Ella went to the theater that night planning to dance, but when the frenzied Edwards Sisters closed the main show, Ella changed her mind. “They were the dancingest sisters around,” Ella said, and she felt her act would not compare. Once on stage, faced with boos and murmurs of “What’s she going to do?” from the rowdy crowd, a scared and disheveled Ella made the last minute decision to sing. She asked the band to play Hoagy Carmichael’s Judy, a song she knew well because Connee Boswell’s rendition of it was among Tempie’s favorites. Ella quickly quieted the audience, and by the song’s end they were demanding an encore. She obliged and sang the flip side of the Boswell Sister’s record, The Object of My Affections. Off stage, and away from people she knew well, Ella was shy and reserved. She was self-conscious about her appearance, and for a while even doubted the extent of her abilities. On stage, however, Ella was surprised to find she had no fear. She felt at home in the spotlight. “Once up there, I felt the acceptance and love from my audience,” Ella said. “I knew I wanted to sing before people the rest of my life.” In the band that night was saxophonist and arranger Benny Carter. Impressed with her natural talent, he began introducing Ella to people who could help launch her career. In the process he and Ella became lifelong friends, often working together.
In January 1935 she won the chance to perform for a week with the Tiny Bradshaw band at the Harlem Opera House. It was there that Ella first met drummer and bandleader Chick Webb. Although her voice impressed him, Chick had already hired male singer Charlie Linton for the band. He offered Ella the opportunity to test with his band when they played a dance at Yale University. If the kids like her she can stay, Chick announced.
Shortly afterward, Ella began singing a rendition of the song, (If You Can’t Sing It) You Have to Swing It. During this time, the era of big swing bands was shifting, and the focus was turning more toward bebop. Ella played with the new style, often using her voice to take on the role of another horn in the band. You Have to Swing It was one of the first times she began experimenting with scat singing, and her improvisation and vocalization thrilled fans. Throughout her career, Ella would master scat singing, turning it into a form of art. In 1938, at the age of 21, Ella recorded a playful version of the nursery rhyme, A-Tisket, A-Tasket. The album sold 1 million copies, hit number one, and stayed on the pop charts for 17 weeks. On June 16, 1939, Ella mourned the loss of her mentor Chick Webb. In his absence the band was renamed Ella Fitzgerald and Her Famous Band, and she took on the overwhelming task of bandleader.
Ella Fitzgerald sings April in Paris with her husband Ray Brown on bass
While on tour with Dizzy Gillespie’s band in 1946, Ella fell in love with bassist Ray Brown. The two were married and eventually adopted a son, whom they named Ray, Jr. At the time, Ray was working for producer and manager Norman Granz on the “Jazz at the Philharmonic” tour. Norman saw that Ella had what it took to be an international star, and he convinced Ella to sign with him. It was the beginning of a lifelong business relationship and friendship.
Under Norman’s management, Ella joined the Philharmonic tour, worked with Louis Armstrong on several albums and began producing her infamous songbook series. From 1956-1964, she recorded covers of other musicians’ albums, including those by Cole Porter, Duke Ellington, the Gershwins, Johnny Mercer, Irving Berlin, and Rodgers and Hart. The series was wildly popular, both with Ella’s fans and the artists she covered.
“I never knew how good our songs were until I heard Ella Fitzgerald sing them,” Ira Gershwin
Ella Fitzgerald on the Dean Martin Show
Ella also began appearing on television variety shows. She quickly became a favorite and frequent guest on numerous programs, including “The Bing Crosby Show,” “The Dinah Shore Show,” “The Frank Sinatra Show,” “The Ed Sullivan Show,” “The Tonight Show,” “The Nat King Cole Show,” “The Andy Willams Show” and “The Dean Martin Show.”
Ella Fitzgerald received so many awards that they are too numerous to mention in this article, some of the highlights which included:
• 13 Grammy awards • A-Tisket, A-Tasket entered into the Grammy Hall of Fame • Kennedy Center for Performing Arts’ Medal of Honor Award • The Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award • Pied Piper Award • American Society of Composers • Women at Work organization’s Bicentennial Woman • Authors and Publishers’ highest honor • George And Ira Gershwin Award for Outstanding Achievement • National Medal of Art • Honorary chairmanship of the Martin Luther King Foundation • Received first ASCAP award in recognition of an artist • Honorary doctorate degrees from Dartmouth, Talladega, Howard and Yale Universities • Peabody Award for Outstanding Contributions in Music • The first Society of Singers Lifetime Achievement Award, named “Ella” in her honor • NAACP Award for lifetime achievement
Ella continued to work as hard as she had early on in her career, despite the ill effects on her health. She toured all over the world, sometimes performing two shows a day in cities hundreds of miles apart. In 1974, Ella spent a legendary two weeks performing in New York with Frank Sinatra and Count Basie. Still going strong five years later, she was inducted into the Down Beat magazine Hall of Fame, and received Kennedy Center Honors for her continuing contributions to the arts.
Outside of the arts, Ella had a deep concern for child welfare. Though this aspect of her life was rarely publicized, she frequently made generous donations to organizations for disadvantaged youths, and the continuation of these contributions was part of the driving force that prevented her from slowing down.
Monk had a unique improvisational style and made numerous contributions to the standard jazz repertoire (including his classic works Round Midnight and Blue Monk). He is often regarded as a founder of bebop, although his playing style evolved away from the form.
“Everyone is influenced by everybody but you bring it down home the way you feel it.”
His compositions and improvisations are full of dissonant harmonies and angular melodic twists, and are impossible to separate from Monk’s unorthodox approach to the piano, which combined a highly percussive attack with abrupt, dramatic use of silences and hesitations. Round Midnight is a 1944 jazz standard by jazz musician Thelonious Monk. It is thought that Monk originally composed it sometime between 1940 and 1941, however Harry Colomby claims that Monk may have written an early version around 1936 (at the age of 19) with the title Grand Finale. This song has also been performed by many artists such as Bobby McFerrin, Chick Corea and Hermeto Pascoal.
Bebop or bop is a form of jazz characterized by fast tempos and improvisation based on harmonic structure rather than melody. It was developed in the early and mid-1940s. It first surfaced in musicians’ argot some time during the first two years of the Second World War. Hard bop later developed from bebop combined with blues and gospel music. Melodically the predominating contour of improvised bebop is that it tends to ascend in arpeggios and descend in scale steps. While a stereotype, an examination of Charlie Parker solos will show that this in fact is a key quality of the music. Ascending arpeggios are frequently of diminished seventh chords, which function as 7b9 chords of various types. Typical scales used in bebop include the bebop major, minor and dominant (see below), the harmonic minor and the chromatic. The half-whole diminished scale is also occasionally used, and in the music of Thelonious Monk especially, the whole tone scale.
Charlie Parker, Well You Needn’t
He was born on October 10, 1917 in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, the son of Thelonious and Barbara Monk, two years after a sister named Marian. A younger brother, Thomas, was born a couple of years later. His parents moved to New York when young Thelonious was five years of age. A year or so later he was picking out tunes on the family piano. Monk started playing the piano at the age of nine; although he had some formal training and eavesdropped on his sister’s piano lessons, he was essentially self-taught. By the time he was 12 he was accompanying his mother at the local Baptist church as well as playing at “rent parties”, those informal gatherings where tenants who were behind with their payments to the landlord would hold a party in the hope that visitors would contribute to the debt clearance!
Thelonious Monk started his first job touring as an accompanist to an evangelist. He was inspired by the Harlem stride pianists (James P. Johnson was a neighbor) and vestiges of that idiom can be heard in his later unaccompanied solos. However, when he was playing in the house band of Minton’s Playhouse during 1940-1943, Monk was searching for his own individual style. Private recordings from the period find him sometimes resembling Teddy Wilson but starting to use more advanced rhythms and harmonies.
He worked with Lucky Millinder a bit in 1942 and was with the Cootie Williams Orchestra briefly in 1944 (Williams recorded Monk’s “Epistrophy” in 1942 and in 1944 was the first to record “‘Round Midnight”), but it was when he became Coleman Hawkins’ regular pianist that Monk was initially noticed. He cut a few titles with Hawkins (his recording debut) and, although some of Hawkins’ fans complained about the eccentric pianist, the veteran tenor could sense the pianist’s greatness.
Fortunately, Alfred Lion of Blue Note believed in him and recorded Monk extensively during 1947-1948 and 1951-1952. He also recorded for Prestige during 1952-1954, had a solo set for Vogue in 1954 during a visit to Paris, and appeared on a Verve date with Bird and Diz.
In 1955, he signed with Riverside and producer Orrin Keepnews persuaded him to record an album of Duke Ellington tunes and one of standards so his music would appear to be more accessible to the average jazz fan. In 1956 came the classic Brilliant Corners album, but it was the following year when the situation permanently changed. Monk was booked into the Five Spot for a long engagement and he used a quartet that featured tenor saxophonist John Coltrane. Finally, the critics and then the jazz public recognized Thelonious Monk’s greatness during this important gig. He came to Europe to play at the Paris Jazz Fair and played in the audiences at the Salle Pleyel and the Club St. Germain, joining in the loud applause for this true jazz original. Towards the end of the Fifties, with riverside records setting up all manner of interesting studio sessions, he formed his own quartet, first with tenor saxist John Coltrane, then Johnny Griffin and, in 1959, Charlie Rouse. It was Rouse who probably had more experience of Monk’s music than any other horn player, for Charlie remained with Thelonious from 1959 until 1970. In the autumn of 1967 Monk’s quartet was booked to take part in a touring extravaganza under the title “Jazz Expo ’67”; along with men such as Dave Brubeck, Herbie Mann etc. It was decided to enlarge Thelonious’s working group of Charlie Rouse, Larry Gales and Ben Riley with the addition of some additional frontline players and the so-called Nonet made its appearance in the Odeon Hammersmith, in London, just a week before the Salle Pleyel date presented here.
Thelonious Monk, who was criticized by observers who failed to listen to his music on its own terms, suffered through a decade of neglect before he was suddenly acclaimed as a genius; his music had not changed one bit in the interim. In fact, one of the more remarkable aspects of Monk’s music was that it was fully formed by 1947 and he saw no need to alter his playing or compositional style in the slightest during the next 25 years. After his death it seemed as if everyone was doing Thelonious Monk tributes. There were so many versions of Round Midnight that it was practically a pop hit! He played with the Giants of Jazz during 1971-1972, but then retired in 1973. He passed away on February 17, 1982.
“What is harder than rock, or softer than water? Yet soft water hollows out hard rock. Persevere.”
Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong
Louis Armstrong contracted several books about his life. He enjoyed collaborating with the lawyer, hobby journalist, and jazz historian Robert Gaffin from Belgium.
“Dear Pal Goffin,” Louis Armstrong wrote to his Belgian acquaintance, the lawyer, hobby journalist, and jazz historian Robert Goffin, on July 19, 1944. “‘Man—I’ve been trying to get in touch with you […]. Here’s another hundred dollars toward the five hundred. […] So accept this hundred and I’ll send the other before a ‘Black Cat can ‘Lick his ‘Bu‘hind’ ….. haw haw haw…” (80).
Historical records show that actually Louis Armstrong wrote large parts of his own biographies. He then hired Robert Goffin, a white man, to claim them to make sure they could be published. Louis Armstrong realized that his biographies helped his popularity around the world after the heavily ghosted Swing That Music (1936).
Today we are still able to view many of the quotes in the original French version Louis Armstrong: Le Roi du Jazz (1947) and the English version Horn of Plenty. We are fortunate that large parts of Armstrong’s hand-written manuscript survived. They cover the jazz musician’s life between 1918 and 1931 and were initially published by Thomas Brothers as “The ‘Goffin Notebooks’” in Louis Armstrong, in his Own Words (1999). Horn of Plenty includes most of the events covered in Armstrong’s “Notebooks,” it unfortunately was edited in a way that portrayed Louis Armstrong in a much more primitive way than his actual notes would indicated. Perhaps Griffin thought it was necessary to abide by the culture prejudices of the times.
Louis Armstrong 4 August, 1901 – July 6, 1971, nicknamed Satchmo and Pops, was an American jazz musician. Armstrong was a charismatic, innovative performer whose inspired improvised soloing was the main influence for a fundamental change in jazz, shifting its focus from collective melodic playing, often arranged in one way or another, to the solo player and improvised soloing. One of the most famous jazz musicians of the 20th century, he first achieved fame as a cornet player, later on switching to trumpet, but toward the end of his career he was best known as a vocalist and became one of the most influential jazz singers.
Armstrong was born into a very poor family in New Orleans, Louisiana. He spent his youth in poverty in a rough neighborhood of uptown New Orleans, as his father, William Armstrong (1881-1922), abandoned the family when Louis was an infant. His mother, Mary Albert Armstrong (1886–1942), then left him and his younger sister Beatrice Armstrong Collins (1903–1987) under the upbringing of his grandmother Josephine Armstrong.
He first learned to play the cornet (his first of which was bought with money loaned to him by the Karnofskys, a family of Russian Jewish immigrants, that hired Louis to work on their junk wagon.) in the band of the New Orleans Home for Colored Waifs, where he had been sent after (as police records show) firing his stepfather’s pistol into the air at a New Year’s Eve celebration. To express gratitude towards the Karnofskys, Armstrong wore a Star of David pendant for the rest of his life. He followed the city’s frequent brass band parades and listened to older musicians every chance he got, learning from Bunk Johnson, Buddy Petit, Black Benny and above all Joe “King” Oliver, who acted as a mentor and almost a father figure to the young Armstrong. Armstrong later played in the brass bands and riverboats of New Orleans, and first started traveling with the well-regarded band of Fate Marable which toured on a steamboat up and down the Mississippi River; he described his time with Marable as “going to the University”, since it gave him a much wider experience working with written arrangements. When Joe Oliver left town in 1919, Armstrong took Oliver’s place in Kid Ory’s band, regarded as the top hot jazz band in the city.
In 1922, Armstrong joined the exodus to Chicago, where he had been invited by Joe “King” Oliver to join his Creole Jazz Band. Oliver’s band was the best and most influential hot jazz band in Chicago in the early 1920s, at a time when Chicago was the center of jazz. Armstrong made his first recordings, including taking some solos and breaks, while playing second cornet in Oliver’s band in 1923.
He and Oliver parted in 1924 and Armstrong moved to New York City to play with the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra, the top African American band of the day. Armstrong switched to the trumpet to blend in better with the other musicians in his section
He returned to Chicago, in 1925, and began recording under his own name with his famous Hot Five and Hot Seven with such hits as Potato Head Blues, Muggles (a reference to Cannabis or marijuana, for which Armstrong had a lifelong fondness), and West End Blues, the music of which set the standard and the agenda for jazz for many years to come.
Armstrong had considerable success with vocal recordings, including versions of famous songs composed by his old friend Hoagy Carmichael, Armstrong’s famous interpretation of Stardust became one of the most successful versions of this song ever recorded, showcasing Armstrong’s unique vocal sound and style and his innovative approach to singing songs that had already become standards.
As with his trumpet playing, Armstrong’s vocal innovations served as a foundation stone for the art of jazz vocal interpretation. The uniquely gritty colouration of his voice became a musical archetype that was much imitated and endlessly impersonated. His scat singing style was enriched by his matchless experience as a trumpet soloist, and his resonant, velvety lower-register tone and bubbling cadences on sides such as “Lazy River” exerted a huge influence on younger white singers such as Bing Crosby.
After spending many years on the road, he settled permanently in Queens New York in 1943 in contentment with his fourth wife, Lucille Armstrong played more than three hundred gigs a year Armstrong kept up his busy tour schedule until a few years before his death. While in his later years, he would sometimes play some of his numerous gigs by rote, but other times would enliven the most mundane gig with his vigorous playing, often to the astonishment of his band. He also toured Africa, Europe, and Asia under sponsorship of the US State Department with great success and become known as “Ambassador Satch”. While failing health restricted his schedule in his last years, within those limitations he continued playing until the day he died.
Louis had many nicknames as a child, all of which referred to the size of his mouth: “Gatemouth,” “Dippermouth,” and “Satchelmouth.” During a visit to Great Britain, Louis was met by Percy Brooks, the editor of Melody Maker magazine, who greeted him by saying, “Hello, Satchmo!” (He inadvertently contracted “Satchelmouth” into “Satchmo.”) Louis loved the new name and adopted it for his own. It provides the title to Louis’s second autobiography, is inscribed on at least two of Louis’s trumpets, and is on Louis’s stationery Friends and fellow musicians usually called him Pops, which is also how Armstrong usually addressed his friends and fellow musicians (except for Pops Foster, whom Armstrong always called “George”.
Some musicians criticized Armstrong for playing in front of segregated audiences, and for not taking a strong enough stand in the American Civil Rights Movement (1955-1968) civil rights movement.
Armstrong, in fact, was a major financial supporter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights activists, but mostly preferred to work quietly behind the scenes, not mixing his politics with his work as an entertainer. The few exceptions made it more effective when he did speak out; Armstrong’s criticism of President Eisenhower, calling him “two-faced” and “gutless” because of his inaction during the conflict over school desegregation in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957 made national news. As a protest, Armstrong canceled a planned tour of the Soviet Union on behalf of the State Department saying “The way they’re treating my people in the South, the government can go to hell” and that he could not represent his government abroad when it was in conflict with its own people.
He was an extremely generous man, who was said to have given away almost as much money as he kept for himself. Armstrong was also greatly concerned with his health and bodily functions. He made frequent use of laxatives as a means of controlling his weight, a practice he advocated both to personal acquaintances and in the diet plans he published under the title Lose Weight the Satchmo Way. Armstrong’s laxative of preference in his younger days was Pluto Water, but he then became an enthusiastic convert when he discovered the herbal remedy Swiss Kriss; he would extol its virtues to anyone who would listen and pass out packets to everyone he encountered, including members of the British Royal Family. (Armstrong also appeared in humorous, albeit risqué, advertisements for Swiss Kriss; the ads bore a picture of him sitting on a toilet — as viewed through a keyhole — with the slogan “Satch says, ‘Leave it all behind ya!’“)
In his early years, Armstrong was best known for his virtuosity with the cornet and trumpet. The greatest trumpet playing of his early years can be heard on his Hot Five and Hot Seven records. The improvisations which he made on these records of New Orleans jazz standards and popular songs of the day, to the present time stack up brilliantly alongside those of any other later jazz performer. The older generation of New Orleans jazz musicians often referred to their improvisations as “variating the melody”; Armstrong’s improvisations were daring and sophisticated for the time while often subtle and melodic. He often essentially re-composed pop-tunes he played, making them more interesting. Armstrong’s playing is filled with joyous, inspired original melodies, creative leaps, and subtle relaxed or driving rhythms. The genius of these creative passages is matched by Armstrong’s playing technique, honed by constant practice, which extended the range, tone and capabilities of the trumpet. In these records, Armstrong almost single-handedly created the role of the jazz soloist, taking what was essentially a collective folk music and turning it into an art form with tremendous possibilities for individual expression.
In 1964, Armstrong knocked the Beatles off the top of the Billboard Top 100 chart with Hello, Dolly (song)”, which gave the 63-year-old performer a U.S. record as the oldest artist to have a #1 song.
Hello Dolly performed in Germany
In 1968, Armstrong scored one last popular hit in the United Kingdom with the highly sentimental pop song What a Wonderful World, which topped the British charts for a month; however, the single did not chart at all in America. The song gained greater currency in the popular consciousness when it was used in the 1987 movie Good Morning Vietnam, its subsequent re-release topping many charts around the world.
It’s a Wonderful World
Louis Armstrong died of a heart attack on July 6 1971, at age 69, the night after playing a famous show at the Waldorf Astoria’s Empire Room. He was residing in Corona, Queens, New York City, at the time of his passing. He was interred in Flushing Cemetery, Flushing, in Queens, New York City.
Today, the house where Louis Armstrong lived at the time of his death (and which was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1977) is a museum. The Louis Armstrong House & Archives, at 34-56 107th Street (between 34th and 35th Avenues) in Corona, Queens, presents concerts and educational programs, operates as an historic house museum and makes materials in its archives of writings, books, recordings and memorabilia available to the public for research. The museum is operated by the City University of New York’s Queens College, following the dictates of Armstrong’s will.
The influence of Armstrong on the development of jazz is virtually immeasurable. Yet, his irrepressible personality both as a performer, and as a public figure later in his career, was so strong that to some it sometimes overshadowed his contributions as a musician and singer.
As a virtuoso trumpet player, Armstrong had a unique tone and an extraordinary talent for melodic improvisation. Through his playing, the trumpet emerged as a solo instrument in jazz and is used widely today. He was a masterful accompanist and ensemble player in addition to his extraordinary skills as a soloist. With his innovations, he raised the bar musically for all who came after him.
Armstrong is considered by some to have essentially invented jazz singing. He had an extremely distinctive gravelly voice, which he deployed with great dexterity as an improviser, bending the lyrics and melody of a song for expressive purposes. He was also greatly skilled at scat singing, or wordless vocalizing. Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra are just two singers who were greatly indebted to him. Holiday said that she always wanted Bessie Smith’s ‘big’ sound and Armstrong’s feeling in her singing.
On August 4, 2001, the centennial of Armstrong’s birth, New Orleans’ airport was renamed Louis Armstrong International Airport in his honor.
“The wise musicians are those who play what they can master.” Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington is considered one of the world’s greatest composers and musicians and one of the most notable influences on jazz history. He was also a prolific composer. It is estimated that his orchestra recorded around two thousand compositions. These included instrumental pieces, popular songs, suites, musical comedies, various film scores, and “Boola,” an unfinished opera.
The United States bestowed upon him the highest civil honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The French government honored him with their highest award, the Legion of Honor, He played for presidents, royalty and for regular people and by the end of his 50-year career, he had played over 20,000 performances worldwide. He was “The Duke,” Duke Ellington.
Ellington got his nickname of “Duke” from a childhood friend who commented on his elegant manners, bearing, and dress. Edward Kennedy Ellington was born April 29, 1899 in Washington, D.C. to Duke’s parents, Daisy Kennedy Ellington and James Edward Ellington. They served as ideal role models for young Duke, and taught him everything from proper table manners to an understanding of the emotional power of music. Ellington began playing piano at age seven. During the summers in Philadelphia or Atlantic City, where he and his mother vacationed, he began to seek out and listen to ragtime pianists. Duke sought out Harvey Brooks, a hot pianist in Philadelphia where Harvey showed Duke some pianistic tricks and shortcuts. Duke later recounted that, after he returned home he had a strong yearning to play. Previously he had not been able to get started, but after hearing Harvey he said to himself, “Man you’re going to have to do it.” Thus the music career of Duke Ellington was born.
Ten years later in 1923, Duke made his first recording. Ellington and his band, The Washingtonians, played at places like the Exclusive Club, Connie’s Inn, the Hollywood Club (Club Kentucky), Ciro’s, the Plantation Club, and most importantly the Cotton Club. Thanks to the rise in radio receivers and the industry itself, Duke’s band was broadcast across the nation live on “From the Cotton Club.” The band’s music, along with their popularity, spread rapidly. Duke Ellington and his band went on to play everywhere from New York to New Delhi, Chicago to Cairo, and Los Angeles to London. Ellington and his band played with such greats as Miles Davis, Cab Calloway, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett and Louis Armstrong. They entertained everyone from Queen Elizabeth II to the US President. Some of Ellington’s greatest works include “Rockin’ in Rhythm,” “Satin Doll,” “New Orleans,” “A Drum is a Women,” “Take the ‘A’ Train,” “Happy-Go-Lucky Local,” “The Mooche,” and “Crescendo in Blue.”
Duke did a series of spiritual concerts, one of which was performed at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. Duke had many friends here in San Francisco, many musicians that are still playing in local clubs to this day and have wonderful stories to tell of “The Duke.”
What made “The Duke” so great was that he knew each of his musicians’ abilities well (many had been with him for decades and were legends in their own rights) and wrote his music to accommodate their skills and strong points. The music was written specifically for his band.
The road was hard for Ellington and he made great sacrifices to keep his band together, but the sacrifices paid off in the undying loyalty of his musicians and a legacy of music to be cherished for all times.
UC Jazz Club Favorite Artist, Stanley Jordan sits down for an exclusive personal Interview with Edie Okamoto to talk about his latest CD, aptly entitled “Friends.”
For many years Jazz Superstar, Stanley Jordan, has been known to stretch, push, and actually break musical boundaries. His fans and jazz critics alike have come to expect him to be different and controversial. While his skills allow him to write and perform at levels that astound and thrill – his new CD provides a glimpse into the depth of his understanding of traditional jazz.
On his newest album, Friends, Stanley Jordan takes the time-honored path of inviting a hand picked cadre of special guests: guitarists Bucky Pizzarelli, Mike Stern, Russell Malone and Charlie Hunter, violinist Regina Carter, saxophonists Kenny Garrett and Ronnie Laws, trumpeter Nicholas Payton, bassists Christian McBride and Charnett Moffett, and drummer Kenwood Dennard. The results proved truly outstanding on numbers ranging from a Bela Bartok piece to a Katy Perry pop smash, a heady original blues and three jazz classics spanning swing, cool and modern. There’s a listener friendly samba, an airy spirit song and Stanley Jordan plays some serious piano on a couple of songs, revisiting his very first love, the piano, with newfound confidence and wonder. Listen to samples on Amazon.
Stanley Jordan who tours all around the world about 80% of his time, spent some special times with his friends to produce this instant classic Jazz album: “Friends.” He invited a host of collaborators for this rare gathering of contemporary jazz greats.
During a rare in-depth interview Stanley Jordan who will be in the Bay Area performing at Yoshi’s on October 11th and 12th, tells our UC Jazz Club readers about the cast.
“Friends” Special Guests
“Through my classical background, I developed an early appreciation for violin, and that interest continued even after I got involved in jazz. So it’s no surprise that I’ve been a fan of Regina Carter, because she is an amazing violinist who combines my favorite elements from the jazz side and the classical side. I once read an article about her project in Italy where she played an original Guaneri violin, and in that moment I knew that I would thoroughly enjoy playing with her someday. So I was honored when she accepted my invitation to join this project. Her sensitivity on the Bartok piece is just so exquisite–it makes me cry! And her perfect blend with Ronnie Laws on “Samba Delight” is a fresh, new sound that’s full of lightness and joy.”
Reflecting on working with the violin virtuoso, Stanley Jordan continues, “Regina Carter is an amazing violinist who combines my favorite elements from the jazz side and the classical side. Doing improvisations of ‘classical’ compositions often means spelling out more than just chord symbols. In this case, I wrote out many of the voicings I was using so we could improvise in a cohesive way. The result was a dense page of notes, which was probably a lot to drop on Regina at the last minute, but she rose to the occasion admirably. The sensitivity of her playing is so exquisite–it makes me cry. The first is “Romantic Intermezzo,” based on the theme of the 4th movement of Bela Bartok’s “Concerto for Orchestra.” This deeply stirring piece features Regina Carter on violin and I am featured exclusively on piano.
No question about it–Kenwood Dennard is a drummer’s drummer. I hope his performances here make many more people aware of his incredible gifts. As a progressive rock fan, I loved his work with the band Brand X back in the 70s and I used to watch him perform with Jaco Pastorius in the early 80s. His creativity is unsurpassed. In fact, every time we play together he does something new that I’ve never heard before. We’ve played together for over 20 years now and he just keeps getting better! He knows his music inside and out, having a deep background in harmony and music theory in general, so he understands what I’m doing and he knows just how to play with me in all situations. Listen to how he adjusts his playing perfectly for each song. That’s why he is the only drummer on this album. I knew I would be in good hands. “Bathed in Light” is an original that feels like a “spirit song.” I had Kenny Garrett and Nicholas Payton on horns and Christian McBride on bass in a softer turn than the swinging opener “Capital J.” On the inspiration behind the music and title, Stanley Jordan muses, “The splashy guitar chords bring out the meaning of the title. Sometimes when we’re bogged down in the details of things, we get depressed. But when we put things into proper perspective, the clouds part and we see a rainbow. I was having one of those moments when I wrote this song.” On “Bathed in Light”, when we got into the studio I realized the song needed a keyboardist, but I had not hired one for the date. Mirroring the Zen of all this, Kenwood Dennard played live drums and keyboards simultaneously! He played the drums and the keyboard at the same time live in the studio with no overdubs!
“I opened Friends with the straight ahead original “Capital J” (as in “jazz with a capital J”) featuring Kenny Garrett on tenor saxophone and Nicholas Payton on trumpet. So much of the great jazz I grew up with was built on a strong horn line.” Jordan remembers. “In the spirit of those great classics I wrote this tune. I first heard Kenny Garrett when my band was on the same bill with Miles and Kenny played in his band. Kenny combines a deep musical knowledge with a natural and effortless facility. My favorite part of “Capital J” was just comping behind the horns. My first experiences hearing Kenny Garrett were in live concerts when my band was on the same bill with Miles Davis and Kenny played in Miles’ band. He was always one of the highlights of Miles’ show. Since then I’ve always wanted to play with him. He is one of the more creative sax players around today. The level of his musicianship is astonishing! He combines a deep musical knowledge with a natural and effortless facility. In this way he is always a joy to listen to, yet his concept is so deep that you can listen repeatedly and find new things. His solo on “Capital J” is a thing of beauty. When we were in the studio preparing to record “Capital J” and he started warming up on the chord changes I remember thinking how grateful I was that he was there because he was absolutely perfect for that song.
Charlie Hunter Charlie Hunter is a kindred spirit because he is someone who, like me, has found his own path for approaching the guitar. Our approaches are similar because we both wanted to expand the instrument into a more polyphonic, “orchestral” direction. But although we’re similar conceptually, we are complementary in another sense, because he is more like a bassist who also plays lead and I’m more like a lead player who also plays bass. This makes it easy for us to play together. On Friends we collaborated on “Walkin’ the Dog,” a hip trip to Bluesville which recalls the great B.B. King and also offers some edgier things going on around the fringe. I am so thrilled that got to collaborate with the groove master Charlie Hunter again. Our paths have crossed in many jam band situations and venues. We both play multiple parts at once, but he plays more in the lower range while I play more in the higher range, so we complement each other very well. On “Walkin’ the Dog” Charlie and I play the melody in unison first then the second time he plays the melody while I play a counter melody of parallel dyads harmonized mostly in fifths, giving it a modern sound that provides a cool counterpart to the gritty main melody. A while ago I went to see him in Flagstaff, AZ and he invited me up to sit in. We just fell naturally into a compatible musical space playing his tunes. Since then we’ve talked about doing something together, and here it is –hopefully just the first of many.
Ronnie Laws Ronnie Laws is a remarkable and versatile musician who is at the crossroads of many musical worlds. He pulls it all together from be-bop, deep-pocket funk, Coltrane-inspired pentatonics and sweet ballads. His sound and style give him an original and very recognizable musical voice. When I showed him “Samba Delight” he remarked on how much he liked the tune. It felt really good to hear that, because I composed it with him in mind! We have been on the same bill in various live settings and we have always played together whenever possible. It was a true honor to have his contribution on this project.
Russell Malone Russell Malone is unquestionably one of the top jazz guitarists of our time. He can play straight-ahead as well as anyone out there, which really comes through on “Seven Come Eleven”. And with his breezy melodic sense he is a very soulful and listenable player. He combines a playful imagination with a mathematical sense of structure and line, making him ideal for the atonal improvisation “One for Milton”. He had recently been doing a lot of playing with Ornette Coleman, so he was already primed for the kind of free improv that we created together on that day. His “out of the box“ free style has always been one of my favorite aspects of his playing. This jazz super standard “Seven Come Eleven,” is a song made famous in Benny Goodman’s band as a feature for electric jazz guitar pioneer Charlie Christian. Bucky Pizzarelli played a rousing solo on it, and Russell Malone was great as he provided a cool yet uplifting spirit.”
This was our first chance to play together, making it a dream come true for me because I have admired his playing for many years. He was very sensitive as he adjusted his approach to each song, playing just the right part at all times. “Christian McBride‘s amazing tone, his flawless, crisp execution, his strong melodic concept and his deep sense of swing make him one of the greatest jazz bassists alive today. His sharp mind and generous spirit and attention to every detail really come through on both of the songs he did with us.
A take on Claude Debussy’s “Reverie” in a jazz context features my road trio of Charnett Moffett on bass and Kenwood Dennard on drums and me. The group has been performing this for many years, which explains the fluid ease with which we weave through it. We pretty much stuck to the form on this one except for a brief modal improv, which was obviously not written into the original composition, but I feel that it gets across the meaning and spirit of the song. Charnett Moffett and I go all the way back to the Bay Area free jazz scene of the late 60s and early 70s. I used to see him perform as the youngest member of the Charles Moffett Family when he was 8 and I was 15. These were formative years, and the Moffett Family were my “Jacksons of Jazz”. CharnettMoffett and I have been working together since 1985 and there is no bassist on the planet who knows me better than he does. I knew I could depend on him to be the primary bassist on this project, and he came through with flying colors. He displays astonishing versatility as he approaches each tune in just the right way and he nails it all, from straight-ahead to samba to blues and everything else. His technical skills are unsurpassed and his creative imagination and sheer musical brilliance are an inspiration. There is no one else like him!
On Capital J, Nick’s tone is fresh and full of life, and he creates interesting, complex improvisations while still leaving plenty of space.I had wanted to play with Nicholas Payton for a long time, and here I finally got my chance. The experience lived up to all my expectations and more because both his musicianship and his spirit were such a joy to connect with. His playing is so melodic, so facile, and just so musical! His tone is fresh and full of life and he creates interesting, complex improvisations while still leaving plenty of space. In this way he combines many of my favorite aspects of both Miles and Freddie, yet he has his own sound and style. I used to play trumpet a bit and it’s still one of my favorite instruments. Sometimes I feel like taking it up again, but then again, I’d much rather just listen to Nick Payton, because he is saying it all!
To me Bucky Pizzarelli is a jazz icon. I play jazz guitar, but Bucky Pizzarelli is one of the creators of the genre. I can hear so much history in his notes, and yet his sound is always fresh. He is a seasoned veteran whose chops are still very much intact today. I also joined up with Bucky Pizzarelli and Russell Malone to swing the classic “Seven Come Eleven.“ When I first told Bucky Pizzrelli that I was thinking about doing “Seven Come Eleven,” he just lit up! I love the old time 3-way-improv we played toward the end. There’s a point in “Seven Come Eleven” when he pours on the fire and starts playing this furious chord-melody passage that just keeps going and going, and it would have surely brought an audience to its feet in a live setting. In contrast, listen to his tender acoustic guitar rendition of “Lil’ Darlin'”. So beautiful! It was a great honor to play with such a legend. I had wanted to record with him for many years and I’m blessed to have finally gotten the chance to do so. He’s also a great guy. He brought a positive, cheerful energy to the sessions and he was an absolute joy to work with.
Mike Stern Mike Stern and I cut our teeth in the same scene in New York in the early 80s. Even back then I felt he was one of the strongest players of our generation. He’s brilliant, creative, sophisticated and so well-schooled, that to play with him is an inspirational experience! Once we jammed together on “Giant Steps” in a hotel at a jazz festival in Canada. He knew the changes inside and out, and he glided through this complex tune with the greatest of ease. His playing was so impressive that ever since then I have wanted to record this song with him. On this project I finally got the chance! And not just his great playing but his eager, youthful spirit comes through. His style is interesting and complex–not to show off but just because he loves to explore the infinite possibilities of music.
Friends closes on an ear-turning note with “One for Milton,” a heartfelt yet adventurous tribute to one of Stanley Jordan‘s most beloved music teachers, composer Milton Babbit (1916-2011), who passed away as Stanley Jordan was preparing to record Friends. He tell us: “I studied theory and composition with Milton at Princeton in the late `70s and early `80s. He was a giant in his field and he left a big impression on me – musically and personally. In Eastern spiritual traditions a guru is someone whose very presence confers enlightenment. Milton truly fit this description. Russell, Kenwood and I created this from scratch as an improvisation. I’ve always been a fan of Russell’s more experimental side, and I’m glad that it got a good showing on this recording. We didn’t try to imitate Milton’s style, but in the spirit of his music we did take an atonal approach. There are parts that sound to me a bit like Milton’s teacher, Arnold Schoenberg.”
Reflecting on the wealth of music inspired by collaborating with the amazing talent on Friends,Stanley Jordan concludes, “This collection truly speaks to my belief in the integrationist spirit in music. When you integrate styles, you combine them into something new while staying true to the original sources. True friendship is also integral, because it involves mutual respect.
Our true friends are like mirrors revealing the diversity within each of us, and at the same time their acceptance gives us the courage to share our true selves with the World. I am so humbled and grateful to all of these wonderful musicians who graced this project.”
We thank Stanley Jordan to make room in his busy schedule for this sit down interview to share his latest stop in his world-wide journey. He also told us that he feels more at ease with himself and the world than ever before – in part – perhaps due to the arrival of his very first grand-child by his now also famous musician/performer daughter, Julia Jordan, early this year. With a loving family and great friends life is good.
We encourage all UC Jazz Club member to come out for his shows on October 11 and 12th, 20011 at Yoshi’s in San Francisco. Stanley Jordan looks forward to spending time with you again and thanks you for your on-going support!
Angela Bofill known as a R&B, Soul, and Jazz vocalist. Whenever she ventured into Jazz she enchanted audiences with her distinctive and clear voice. Angela no longer performs since she is now partially paralyzed. She was released from intensive care on January 15, 2009. She now is working hard on her speech and physical therapy. Ms. Bofill did not have health insurance and therefore thanks her fans, friends, and family who have helped her through this trying time. Learn how you can help on her website: www.angelabofill.com
Angela Bofill was born to a Cuban father and Puerto Rican mother. She performed with Ricardo Morrero & the Group and Dance Theater of Harlem. After completing her studies in California, Bofill was introduced by her friend, jazz flutist Dave Valentin, to Dave Grusin and Larry Rosen of GRP records, and they signed her for her 1978 debut, Angie. The album was a breakout smash on contemporary jazz radio and the tastefully arranged jazz vocal disc showed a gifted young artist with a rich voice beyond her years.
Featuring a number of great cuts, including most notably a cover of This Time I’ll Be Sweeter, Angie became one of the year’s biggest jazz albums.
She drew the attention of star producer Clive Davis. He convinced Arista Records to purchase her GRP contract. She was teamed with fabuluous writer/producer Narada Michael Walden for Something About You, which was a great success.
Angela Bofill stretched the boundaries for her jazz fans with this new album which provided her with some of the best material of her career, including the stepper “Holding Out For Love” and the wonderful ballads “Break It To Me Gently” and Earl Klugh’s “You Should Know By Now.”
Angela Bofill is a warm-hearted and lovely woman that inspires great passion from her listeners. One reviewer, Jazysol79, stated: “Angela Bofill’s voice is a true wonder. Exotic and exhilirating, sweet and soothing, picturesque and inviting. She conjures vivid imagery with her interpretations. I discovered “Angie” about five years ago not too long after I started college. I picked up a vinyl copy, and I have been in love with Angela ever since. This beautifully packaged reissue truly does the album justice. “Under the Moon and Over the Sky” is a jazz/fusion delight; it’s Afro-Cuban rhythms are intoxicating. The highs and lows Bofill hits will give you chills. It is that kind of drama that makes this record a compelling listen. Her definitive take on “This Time I’ll Be Sweeter” is a joyous, moving masterpiece. Her pleas of “have faith in me” are almost palpable. But in my opinion, the best track is “The Only Thing I Would Wish For.” The jazzy vocal arrangement and flute work by Dave Valentin paint a real picture of what GRP was all about in its infancy. The liner notes and packaging are also great. So this CD is well worth the price… it is a moving experience.”
Ranie Smith, Executive Director of the UC Jazz Club, honored Stanley Jordan at one of the first Ranie’s Jazz Salon functions. He held the function at Jim Dennis Photography Studio. Everyone had a wonderful time and I encourage you to get in touch with us to be put on this special invitation list. The gatherings are for UC Jazz Club members and the press only. Lloyd Gregory and Rolando Morales were present at the function to honor Stanley Jordan.
Stanley Jordan, world renowned musician and now holistic philosopher, has released a new CD “State of Nature”. It is a true gift.
“State of Nature” promises to become a hit. It combines Jordan’s magical ability to compose music that inspires and refreshes with his amazing musical skill. When listening to the album you are taken on a magical journey that is both uplifting and enlightening. Stanley brings nature to life and urges us to embrace it while at the same time enjoying our humanity as part of nature. The CD starts with “A Place in Space” which is fun to listen to. It evokes a feeling of bouncing harmoniously in space among many other stars and planets. This composition is melodic and modern. It immediately demonstrates Jordan’s ability to play guitar in a way that hardly anyone else can match. The notes are bouncing, echoing, flowing, and they create a feeling of richness and fullness that reminds us that we are part of a very big mysterious world. Jordan asks us with his commentary in the liner notes to become conscious and aware of this vast and mysterious Universe. He suggests that as we become aware of the infinite vastness of space we will naturally grow to love and care for our precious planet, our home called Earth.
He continues on with “All Blues”. This composition brings us right back down to earth with its bluesy and smoky sound. It reminds us that we are part of everyone and everything. We are part of the All. Stanley Jordan invites us along this musical journey and into his musical mind with the accompanying poem in the liner notes: “Universal and cool, blowing indigo riffs to syncopate the primordial swing. Hip changes reverberate for Miles and stretch modal and blue across the landscape of now.” Like his music, Stanley Jordan is so very, very cool!
With “Forest Garden” Jordan increases the sophistication in this haunting and beautiful sonata by bringing in natural sounds of birds, the sound of a breeze in the leaves and wolves howling in the background. His guitar sounds classic and pure. Meta Weiss on cello perfectly compliments Stanley’s harmonies, and percussionist Hartt Steams is breezy, transporting you to this peaceful outdoor garden setting. Here Stanley succeeds in creating a feeling of refreshing peace. In his poem he describes the feeling: “In a perfect state of original oneness all things and beings in the garden simply are. The arrival of humankind brings a new awareness and a new capacity for compassion.”
Jordan then brings us the moving and mournful popular love song “Insensatez” by Jobim, who not only mourns his lost love but also his own behavior that brought about the loss. Stanley Jordan’s rendition of the song is beautiful. In his liner notes he reminds us that often our callous behavior is unintended. He muses that perhaps we shut down our empathy precisely because we are so sensitive, too sensitive to allow ourselves to feel the pain we cause others because it might become too overwhelming.
We are healed by the next piece which is the wonderful “Mozart’s Piano Concierto #21- Andante in F” played flawlessly by Jordan as a celebration of our own potential for greatness. We can bask in the perfection of Mozart’s composition while realizing how complex and wonderful we are. Within each of us slumbers this great potential.
“Song for my Father” is included as a tribute to David Jordan, Stanley’s own father. This Horace Silver classic is a perfect fit on this wonderful journey. Peaceful, energetic and playful, it lets us all wander down memory lane. Stanley Jordan, Song for my Father – live in Paris “Mindgames 1, 2, & 3” are Stanley Jordan’s own brief compositions which bring nice transitions between songs. Stanley urges us to take mental breaks and to exercise our minds regularly. Read the full poem in the liner notes. Stanley is not just an amazing musician but also a wonderful poet and philosopher.
“Ocean Breeze,” composed by Jordan and sitarist Jay Kishor, is a perfect meeting of East and West. It is harmonious and serene. Stanley brings cool Western poise to this song and Jay’s sitar brings Eastern serenity. Together they refresh our spirit.
Jordan’s composition “Healing Waves” is beautiful, and promises to be an instant classic. In true Stanley Jordan style it combines abstract music with rich melodies and harmonies. It is at once demanding and soothing. It evokes many feelings, assisting with the release of emotions and eventually bringing one back to a harmonious, peaceful and centered place. If you like classical music you will definitely love this piece.
“Shadow Dance” displays the richness of the full Stanley Jordan sound. It may be a little reminiscent of Kitaro or of Santana. This piece is melodic, beautiful and rich, yet easy to listen to. I needed to sit back and listen to it over and over again. Jordan bares his soul with this song and allows us to delve deeply into our own. In his liner notes poem he ends: “Time Passes. Somewhere in the distance I hear bells. A ray of golden light has pierced the gray clouds and awakened me.” This song is like a cosmic and mystical journey home.
After another “Mind Games” break we come to “Prayer for the Sea,” another original on this CD. It is modern, and Stanley succeeds in bringing out his abstract musical style in a deeply harmonious way. This song is relaxing like a day at the beach on a sunny Spring afternoon. It is also reminiscent of the first song “A Place in Space” on the album, yet this time is feels close and cozy. Prayer for the Sea reminds us that we need to care for ourselves, our home “Earth” and especially our oceans which cover 70% of the earth. Let’s become aware and conscious of the need to preserve water before it becomes another “oil crisis. “
“State of Nature” ends with the old-school hit “Steppin’ Out” and brings the CD to a joyous ending. After this musical journey I am ready to embrace my humanity and Stanley Jordan’s CD and I are ready for “Steppin’ Out”. I am energized yet relaxed. What a great musical experience!
Stanley Jordan came to prominence with the release of his 1985 debut album Magic Touch, which sold over 500,000 copies. Magic Touch placed him at the forefront of re-launching the legendary Blue Note Records into a contemporary entity of jazz and beyond, as well as establishing Stanley Jordan as among the most distinctive and refreshing new voices of the electric guitar. He has enchanted millions of listeners around the world ever since.
I recommend that you go out and buy Jordan’s new CD. It is totally worth it and available at all major music retail outlets. If you can catch his show try to see him. Stanley is once again proofs to be amazing!
Over the course of five major recordings and several smaller independent releases, Stanley has explored earthly and astral musical trailways. Because of the extraordinary originality of his approach to guitar, Stanley has been looked upon first and foremost as a musical original, orbiting in an artistic universe without predecessor or immediate successor.
With his groundbreaking 2007 album, “State Of Nature” his debut for the Mack Avenue label, Stanley Jordan makes another bold step by using his music to musically illustrate profound and unifying truths about man’s relationship to nature and humankind.
“The music field was the first to break down racial barriers, because in order to play together, you have to love the people you are playing with, and if you have any racial inhibitions, you wouldn’t be able to do that.” ~ Oscar Peterson
Internationally renowned jazz pianist Oscar Peterson was called the “Maharaja of the keyboard” by Duke Ellington, “O.P.” by his friends, and was a member of jazz royalty. He released over 200 recordings, won seven Grammy Awards, and received other numerous awards and honors over the course of his career. He is considered to have been one of the greatest pianists of all time, who played thousands of live concerts to audiences worldwide in a career lasting more than 65 years.
Oscar Peterson was born on August 15, 1925 in Montreal, Canada. His father, Daniel Peterson, a porter with Canadian Pacific Railways, lived in Canada since 1917. He met Oscars’ mother, Kathleen Olivia John, in Montreal, where she was domestic worker. They had five children.
Daniel Peterson was an avid musician and insisted that all five of his children studied music. Oscar began playing the trumpet at the age of five. He got tuberculosis and spent 14 months in the hospital. His lungs became quite damaged so he could no longer play the trumpet. So he chose to play the piano. Their father, who learned to play piano on his own while in the Merchant Marine Academy, taught his children all he could until they achieved a certain proficiency. During his high school years, Oscar studied with an accomplished classical pianist, Hungarian Paul de Marky, a student of Istvan Thomán who was himself a pupil of Franz Liszt. Oscar Peterson’s training was predominantly based on classical piano, with inspirations from the Well Tempered Clavier, the Goldberg Variations, and the The Art of Fugue, as these piano pieces are essential for every serious pianist. Meanwhile Oscar Peterson was captivated by traditional jazz and learned several ragtime songs, especially the boogie-woogie. At that time Peterson was called “the Brown Bomber of the Boogie-Woogie.” Paul de Marky encouraged Oscar to believe that he had something special to give to the music world. At age nine Peterson played piano with control that impressed professional musicians. For many years his piano studies included four to six hours of practice daily.
Art Tatum a very famous pianist during that era was introduced to Oscar by his father who played Art Tatum’s Tiger Rag record for him. Oscar was so intimidated by what he heard that he didn’t touch the piano for a month. At 14 years of age, Oscar’s older sister Daisy Sweeney a notable classical piano teacher scheduled an audition for a CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) national amateur contest. Oscar won the competition. This opened the doors to performances on a weekly broadcast show, on a Montreal radio station, called Fifteen Minutes’ Piano Rambling and later performances on a national CBC broadcast called The Happy Gang. He regularly played with the Montreal High School Victory Serenaders which included trumpeter Maynard Ferguson. Oscar Peterson had permission to play the baby grand piano during the lunch hours and in his words this was “the best way to have a bunch of girls come down. I became the guy.”
Peterson expanded his classical piano training and broadened his range while mastering the core classical pianism from rigorous scales to such staples of every pianist’s repertoire as preludes and fugues by Johann Sebastian Bach. He also worked on emulating Art Tatum’s pianism and aesthetics. Peterson also absorbed Tatum’s musical influences, notably from piano concertos by Sergei Rachmaninoff. Rachmaninoff’s harmonizations, as well as direct quotations from his second piano concerto, are thrown here and there in many recordings by Peterson, including his work with the Ray Brown and Herb Ellis Trio, such as “When Your Lover Has Gone”. Other artists who influenced Oscar during the early years were Teddy Williams, Nat (King) Cole, and James P. Johnson.
In 1944 Oscar married his year long girlfriend by the name of Lillie Fraser. In late 1947 Oscar led a trio at the Alberta Lounge in Montreal. Once a week a local radio station broadcast his show live from The Alberta. Norman Granz, the producer of Jazz at the Philharmonic, heard the broadcast on the Radio and was so impressed that he told the cab driver to take him to the studio. Oscar’s life would change dramatically. Norman Granz took Oscar to New York to play as a surprise guest at the Carnegie Hall performance of his Jazz at the Philharmonic. Oscar came up from the audience that night and played a duet with bassist Ray Brown which thrilled the audience and critics alike. Thus began Oscar’s lifelong relationship with Mr. Granz.
Soon after his appearance at Carnegie Hall Oscar was invited to join the Jazz at the Philharmonic. They toured North America. After a few years Oscar Peterson set up his own trio. Granz and Peterson developed a deep and lasting friendship. Is was much more than a managerial relationship; Peterson praised Granz for standing up for him and other black jazz musicians in the segregationist south of the 1950s and 1960s. For example, in the Canadian Broadcasting Company’s two-part documentary video Music in the Key of Oscar, Peterson tells how Granz stood up to a gun-toting southern policeman who wanted to stop the trio from using “white-only” taxis. Oscar Peterson and his trio worked incredibly hard and were considered one of the best jazz trios in the world. While playing at a club in Washington DC, Oscar Peterson met his idol Art Tatum. They became close friends and played for each other on many occasions. Oscar was joined by several people in his trio, each group having a distinct feel and flavor. Oscar especially enjoyed playing with Ed Thigpen on drums. He describes this time as “…six years of unbelievable music.” Eventually Oscar would regularly play with the greatest jazz artist of his era of Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Roy Eldridge, Charlie Parker, Barney Kessel, Herb Ellis, Joe Pass, Ray Brown, Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, Clark Terry, Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Milt Jackson, Stéphane Grappelli, Anita O’Day, Fred Astaire, Irving Ashby, Herbie Hancock, Bennie Green, Keith Emerson, Stan Getz, Louis Hyes, Bobby Durham, Ray Price, Sam Jones, George Mraz, Martin Drew, David Young, Alvin Queen and Ulf Wakenius.
He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1972, and promoted to Companion, its highest rank, in 1984. He is also a member of the Order of Ontario, a Chevalier of the Ordre du Québec, and an officer of the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.
His work has earned Oscar Peterson seven Grammy awards over the years and he was elected to the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1978. He also belongs to the Juno Awards Hall of Fame and the Canadian Jazz and Blues Hall of Fame. He has received the Roy Thomson Award (1987), a Toronto Arts Award for lifetime achievement (1991), the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award (1992), the Glenn Gould Prize (1993), the award of the International Society for Performing Artists (1995), the Loyola Medal of Concordia University (1997), the Praemium Imperiale World Art Award (1999), the UNESCO Music Prize (2000), and the Toronto Musicians’ Association Musician of the Year award (2001).
In 1993, Oscar suffered a serious stroke that weakened his left side and sidelined him for two years. However he has overcome this setback and started touring, recording and composing again. In 1997 he received a Grammy for Lifetime Achievement and an International Jazz Hall of Fame Award, proof that Oscar Peterson is still regarded as one of the greatest jazz musicians ever to play.
Oscar Peterson passed away on December 23, 2007 with his dog “Smedley” named after his dear friend Norman Granz by his side. He had seven children by four wives. Soon after Peterson’s death, the University of Toronto Mississauga opened a major student residence in March 2008 as “Oscar Peterson Hall.”
“If you play a tune and a person don’t tap their feet, don’t play the tune. “ Count Basie
by Ranie Smith
Count Basie was regarded as one of the most important bandleaders of the swing era. He lived from August 21, 1904 to April 26, 1984. Basie led his popular Count Basie Orchestra for almost fifty years. Both of Basie’s parents were musicians; his father, Harvie Basie, played the mellophone, and his mother, Lillian (Childs) Basie, was a pianist. She gave her son his earliest lessons. Basie also learned from Harlem stride pianists, particularly Fats Waller who taught him how to play organ.
In early 1929, Basie played with different bands, eventually settling into one led by Bennie Moten. Basie worked as a soloist before leading a band initially called the Barons of Rhythm. A few of Moten’s former band members joined this nine-piece swing band, among them Walter Page (bass), Freddie Green (guitar), Jo Jones (drums), and Lester Young (tenor saxophone). Jimmy Rushing became the singer. The band gained a residency at the Reno Club in Kansas City and began broadcasting on the radio. An announcer dubbed the pianist “Count” Basie. Basie got his big break when one of his broadcasts was heard by journalist and record producer John Hammond. Hammond touted him to agents and record companies. As a result, the band left Kansas City in the fall of 1936 and took an engagement at the Grand Terrace in Chicago. The next date was in Buffalo, NY, then on to Roseland in New York City.
January 1937, Count Basie’s Band made its recording debut on Decca Records. Meanwhile, the band’s recording of “One O’Clock Jump” got its first chart entry in September 1937. The tune became the band’s theme song and it was later inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Basie’s music was characterized by his trademark “jumping” beat and the contrapuntal accents of his own piano. “Stop Beatin’ Round the Mulberry Bush,” with Rushing on vocals, became a Top Ten hit in the fall of 1938. Basie spent the first half of 1939 in Chicago, meanwhile switching from Decca to Columbia Records, then went to the West Coast in the fall. He spent the early ’40s touring extensively, but after the U.S. entry into World War II in December 1941 and the onset of the recording ban in August 1942, his travel was restricted. In 1942 Basie moved to Queens, New York, to be with Catherine Morgan, a famous dancer from Cleveland. They got married in 1943. In his autobiography, “Good Morning Blues,” Basie said he married the girl from Cleveland in 1943 in Seattle. Their honeymoon was a string of one-night band appearances. The Basie band was working in New York when Katy was about to have a baby. She returned to Cleveland and stayed with her parents. Katy and Bill “Count” Basie’s only child, Diane Basie, was born in Cleveland. He rushed to Cleveland to be with his wife and daughter. Later, when they rejoined Basie in New York, he said he had vivid memories of seeing Katy getting off the plane from Cleveland carrying their baby. He said, “It was a special thrill bringing my family home from the airport that day, Old Base, his wife and daughter.”
In 1943 while on the West Coast, he started to appear in five films, all released within a matter of months in 1943: Hit Parade of 1943, Reveille with Beverly, Stage Door Canteen, Top Man, and Crazy House. He also scored a series of Top Ten hits on the pop and R&B charts, including “I Didn’t Know About You” (pop, winter 1945); “Red Bank Blues” (R&B, winter 1945); “Rusty Dusty Blues” (R&B, spring 1945); “Jimmy’s Blues” (pop and R&B, summer/fall 1945); and “Blue Skies” (pop, summer 1946). Switching to RCA Victor Records, he topped the charts in February 1947 with “Open the Door, Richard!,” followed by three more Top Ten pop hits in 1947: “Free Eats,” “One O’Clock Boogie,” and “I Ain’t Mad at You (You Ain’t Mad at Me).”
Joining ASCAP in 1943, his chief musical collaborators included Mack David, Jerry Livingston, James Rushing, Andy Gibson, Eddie Durham, and Lester Young. His songs and instrumentals also include “Good Morning Blues”; “Every Tub”; “John’s Idea”; “Basie Boogie”; “Blue and Sentimental”; “Gone With the Wind”; “I Ain’t Mad at You”; “Futile Frustration”; “Good Bait”; “Don’t You Miss Your Baby?”; “Miss Thing” “Riff Interlude”; “Panassie Stomp: “Shorty George”; “Out the Window”; “Hollywood Jump: “Nobody Knows”; “Swinging at the Daisy Chain”; and “I Left My Baby”. The big bands’ decline in popularity in the late ’40s hit Basie as it did his peers, and he broke up his orchestra at the end of the decade, opting to lead smaller units for the next couple of years.
In the 1950’s, the big band era seemed to be near its end. Basie remained faithful to his beloved Kansas City Jazz style and helped keep the big band sound alive with his distinctive style of piano playing. In 1952, Count Basie increased his band back to the full Big Band sound with his 16-piece orchestra responding to the increased opportunities for touring. For example, he went overseas for the first time to play in Scandinavia in 1954, and thereafter international touring played a large part in his schedule. An important addition to the band in late 1954 was vocalist Joe Williams. The orchestra was re-established commercially by the 1955 album Count Basie Swings – Joe Williams Sings (released on Clef Records), particularly by the single “Every Day (I Have the Blues),” which reached the Top Five of the R&B charts and was later inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Another key recording of this period was an instrumental reading of “April in Paris” that made the pop Top 40 and the R&B Top Ten in early 1956; it also was enshrined in the Grammy Hall of Fame. These hits made what Albert Murray (co-author of Basie’s autobiography, Good Morning Blues) called the “new testament” edition of the Basie band a major success .By the mid-1950s, Basie’s band had become one of the pre-eminent backing big bands for some of the finest jazz vocalists of the time. Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Frank Sinatra also recorded with Basie. In 1957 Basie released the live album At Newport. At the first Grammy Awards ceremony, Basie won the 1958 awards for Best Performance by a Dance Band and Best Jazz Performance, Group, for his Roulette Records LP Basie. Breakfast Dance and Barbecue was nominated in the dance band category for 1959.
Basie was nominated for best jazz performance for “Basie at Birdland” in 1961 and “The Legend” in 1962. Iin 1962, Basie switched to Frank Sinatra’s Reprise Records. Sinatra-Basie reached the Top Five in early 1963. It was followed by “This Time by Basie!” Hits of the 50’s and 60’s, which reached the Top 20 and won the 1963 Grammy Award for Best Performance by an Orchestra for Dancing. Basie teamed with various vocalists for a series of chart albums including Ella Fitzgerald (Ella and Basie!, 1963); Sinatra again (the Top 20 album It Might as Well Be Swing, 1964); Sammy Davis, Jr. (Our Shining Hour, 1965); the Mills Brothers (The Board of Directors, 1968); and Jackie Wilson (Manufacturers of Soul, 1968), Broadway Basie’s … Way (1966). Later Basie returned a pure jazz format. His album Standing Ovation earned a 1969 Grammy nomination for Best Instrumental Jazz Performance by a Large Group or Soloist with Large Group (Eight or More). The band had first recorded for Norman Granz on Clef, then moved to Roulette, where it spent its peak years of the late ’50s and early ’60s. When Granz returned to recording activity in 1972 with Pablo Records, it would also mean a final renaissance for Basie, whom Granz recorded magnificently in trio, small band formats as well as with the band. A series of pairings with Oscar Peterson produced some unusually invigorating Basie piano. Basie died April 24, 1984, of cancer, but the band continues playing on today. Count Basie is quote to have said: “All I wanted was to be big, to be in show business and to travel… and that’s what I’ve been doing all my life.”
“The joy and passion I get when I touch a piano from the instrument has never changed” Frank Martin
Frank Martin, a producer/arranger is a sought after piano and keyboards player who regularly performs with artists such as Sting, Stevie Wonder, Patti Austin, Narada Michael Walden, etc. Frank Martin made himself available for an interview for our UC Jazz Club Newsletter.
We asked him, what is the most wonderful thing about jazz for you? Frank Martin told us that it is a vehicle for communication with other people. It’s a way to connect, it is a higher-level-than words, powerful connection. I love the listening and the playing off of each other. Music is a great vehicle to communicate.
What originally inspired you to become a jazz musician? Frank told us that the evolution started out of the joy of making music. “I can remember when my piano first arrived in my home as gift to my sisters by my grandmother. I remember putting my hands on it and feeling a strong connection. It was so profound! I still feel this way today when I touch a piano. The joy and passion I get from the instrument has never changed.
I started out as an improvising piano player. The joy I felt was in exploring the world of improvisation and that easily leads one to jazz. Jazz is all about improvisation. It was a natural progression into the jazz world.
I also had the good luck of finding pianist/organist Don Burke.
I grew up in Oakland and initially he was in Oakland and eventually he moved to San Leandro. He and Dave Brubeck studied with the same teacher. I often started my lessons with the music of Dave Brubeck. Don also had me play Miles Davis and Bill Evans. He would play this music and I started to learn and develop a love for that music. I have to give him the credit for planting the seeds.
My first public performance was at Disneyland when I was five years old. I was in Disneyland and by chance ran into another five year old friend of mine who was there as well. When they got the kids on stage, I jumped up with my friend Mike McGuire and felt very comfortable and admittedly enjoyed the attention.
We sang Davey Crocket. This led to another singing talent show, the King Norman Show, when I was in third grade. The King Norman Show put on talent shows at various schools and the regional winners would be invited to Los Angeles to go up against other kids. It was somewhat similar to American Idol, although very loosly. The kids that won the King Norman Show contest locally got to go to Los Angeles and compete against the other local winners. At my school I was lucky enough to win with my singing 3rd grade partner Mark Rice. Just before going on the air the show pianist worked with all the kids, and that as well got the bug going for playing the piano.
Performing with a band, that didn’t start until high school. The first time we performed publicly was in San Leandro and the band played for a total of $15.00. The name of that first band was “The Trend”. I played the electric organ.
My first organ was a VOX Continental Organ. It was a very cool thing to have. My second was a Farfisa and my third was a Fender Roads Electric Piano. We even wrote some of our own music. We mostly played the contemporary pop/rock songs of that time, which is what the kids in high school really wanted to hear.
I remember enjoying composing, it was a fun thing to do. I was not that good of a music reader and felt more comfortable making up what I wanted to play. I found myself as the years went on organizing jam sessions and get togethers with other players. My parents opened our home for these events and I organized the music. I still organize the music today.
I suppose I got my start when we had those sessions at my parents home.
What’s next on the horizon? Well, on Thursday, May 8 at 7pm, I will perform with Sting at Carnegie Hall as part of the annual Save the Rainforest concert which Sting has produced for the last almost 15 years. Also performing will be my long time musical friend drummer/producer Narada Michael Walden.
For this upcoming performance at Carnegie Hall, my job is to transcribe what we will perform and have it ready for the rhythm section >> 3 keyboard players, two guitarists, a bassist, percussionist and drummer.
Legendary reedman Jim Horn is the one who does the horn parts and if there is a string section, either I do it, or I get help from the Trombone player, Tom Malone of the Letterman band. I have another friend that helps if need be, local conductor/arranger Barbara Christmann. Just prior to these shows some of the stars still are trying to decide what to do, so much of what I do is at the very last minute. For me, working with Sting’s Rainforest band has been 10 years of total joy!!
Recently I just finished producing a record for a local Bay Area singer, Karen Blixt. “Mad Hope” is her second record that I’ve produced for her, the first being “Spin This.”. We are going to play at Yoshi’s on the 15th of April in Oakland. The show will be open to the public. On trumpet will be Randy Brecker from the Brecker Brothers. We also will have the great pianist Patrice Rushen, which for me is a great honor to be able to perform with her. On rhythm guitar we have Jose Neto of the Steve Winwood band. Also the great percussionist/drummer Alex Acuna from the Weather Report band will be with us. He is a simply a wonderful percussionist. Also will be bassist Abraham Laboriel, who is the most recorded bass player in history and former “Yellowjackets” member William Kennedy as the drummer. Vocalist Kenny Washington will make a guest appearance as well. He did one song as a duet, “Five and Five”(aka “Take Ten”) For that record I co-composed 8 songs, and arranged and produced it. We recorded it at the Skywalker Studio in Marin County with the great engineer Leslie Ann Jones.
And I’m half way finished with my second production for Dutch singer Ellen Honert. The first one was “Breath of the Soul” and featured Tuck & Patti, the Turtle Island String Quartet, Brazilian vocalist/guitarist Dori Caymmi and many others.
My process of working with the musicians begins with making demos of the songs and sending it to them. That way they get a feel for what I’m looking for. We never rehearse so the more clarity I provide, the better. The process of recording the demos in my San Rafael studio is something I really love to do. It’s an expansion of what I did at my parents home. I organize the people and bring them together to play.
What does an arranger do exactly? An arranger organizes what the musicians will play. Decides how best to utilize the available instruments and capitalize on the strengths of the players who will be recording. The producer gets the musicians to perform at their highest level and makes sure everything runs smoothly. In my opinion the key is to get the best musicians for the recording. Kind of like cooking … great ingredients allow for the best meal. One has to wear a lot of hats during productions. Needing to stay true to the artist and help realize their vision, as well as help guide them along their path. And to provide a comfortable arena for all of the performers to shine at their best.
I enjoy keeping busy. I teach at UC Jazz Ensembles, I have private students, I teach classes at the Jazzschool, and I participate in Summer Camps, i.e. Jazz Camp West and the Lafayette Summer Music Workshops. I find myself performing all the time as well …
Who are some of the favorite musicians that you have worked to work with and why? When asked who Frank Martin enjoys working with he mused. I enjoy working with Abraham Laboriel, Alex Acuna, William Kennedy he tells us. We have a strong connection with the four of us and the reason is that we all come from a place of joy. They all have perpetual smiles on their faces. Same for guitarist Jose Neto. They love so much what they do and they are masters. They are so joyful to be around. It makes for a wonderful experience.
Generally, those are my favorite people to perform with. Now there is Stevie Wonder, he is a true genius musically. Herbie Hancock – he is a joy and a great inspiration. And my ideal singer is Patti Austin. She is a consummate professional who expects you to be that as well. She is full of joy and life and I love how she communicates with people. I used to work a lot with vocalist Angela Bofill before she had her second stroke. She can get around a little bit now. She needs all our prayers. I go to visit her sometimes. She has a great attitude. After her first stroke she couldn’t speak and with time she went back to speaking at about 85%. She is paralyzed on her left side and is fighting hard. She remains truly inspiring she was a great joy to work with.
What in your opinion makes a great performer? I think one that communicates sincerely. Not only verbally but in what they are playing and singing. Those that park their egos at the door … Many of my favorite musicians have a Jazz background, and many are based in Rhythm and Blues. I love performers that make rhythm of the utmost importance. There are many who just play the song. The great performers always share of themselves and bring something personal to the song.
Are there any suggestions you have for the young musicians in the UC Jazz Ensembles and other inspiring musicians? Yes, be true to yourself and follow your passion. Try to keep that in mind! You are going to hear from a lot of people that you should do something else. That it’s too hard to make it in the arts.That is typically well-intentioned advice, but you can’t take somebodies dream away. You have to have the belief. Follow your passion – attitude is everything!
I tell my students this example. There are a couple of bass players. One says that “there is no work, what am I gonna do?” The other one says “I am so busy!! I got my fifth gig today and I have five more tomorrow.” I tell my students that they are both right. There is no work and in the same town they is too much work. It is not easy, but it is all about the work you put into it. Have a healthy attitude and follow the passion and don’t give up.
How can a novice listener become more knowledgeable about jazz? It is about exposure. Exposure is always the thing. It is like a fine wine if you don’t have the opportunity and if you don’t try it you can’t find out what resonates with you. Exposure to it makes you appreciate it more. Like a good painting, only if you see the painting can you appreciate it. You have to watch and listen. It is a process. My recommendation is that you go to jazz concerts and find out what resonates with you. One artist may resonate with you and may not resonate with another. Maybe just allowing yourself the time to go to Yoshi’s or Anna’s Island and experiencing live music will bring you closer to the music. If you can’t do that use the Internet. The Internet is filled with music of one artist after another. Every style of performer is there! Go to Youtube.com and type in a jazz artists name and you will find him or her performing someplace. It is the same for internet sites like Rhapsody.com and DailyMotion.com. Listen to the music of a jazz artist. Exposure! There is no magical way to appreciate something one doesn’t know.
What is coming up next for you? I am going to be in Bend, Oregon. A local promoter and jazz fan decided to bring together Brazilian guitarist Jose Neto and the great New York based jazz sax player Eric Anderson for a night of Brazilian jazz, along with Brazilian drummer Celso Alberti and myself. Then I am doing some concert work with an Irish Jazz singer Melanie O’Rielly at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley. Then we are off to LA to perform at the Raven, a club for actors. She has an acting background and we will do a duo. Her style is Irish Jazz ~ traditional music that meets kind of McCoy Tyner!. Then I am starting a recording project with her, writing music inspired by the writings of James Joyce. That should be interesting. And the night after the Raven will perform in a jazz quartet with New York drummer Paul Peress and players I’ve yet to meet, at Spaghetini’s, a Jazz Club in LA. Then comes performance at Carnegie Hall with Sting. I am blessed to be busy doing what I love ~ music music music!! Who knew that those jam sessions at my parents home would spark a career in music …