May 25, 2010. Posted by Becca Pulliam.
The Fest climaxed on Saturday night with a full performance of Mary Lou's Mass featuring Carmen Lundy, the 20-piece Howard University vocal ensemble Afro Blue directed by Connaitre Miller, and the Geri Allen Trio with Kenny Davis and Andrew Cyrille (who worked with MLW). Lundy and Allen quietly cast a breath-holding spell with Lazarus, the story of the rich man and the beggar that begins unforgettably with "There was a selfish rich man who clothed himself in purple and fine linens, there also was a beggar-man named Lazarus. . ." (at least I think those are the words). It is one of the 15 brief movements of the Mass, which also unfolds like a history of the music, and this performance was powerful and effective.
Earlier, Geri Allen received the Lifetime Achievement Award. And she's so young! Her daughter was there to enjoy this honor with Geri.
Virginia Mayhew led a piano-free quartet in MLW compositions including Medi I and Medi II. Virginia had taken the music off recordings at the Institute of Jazz Studies. Her saxophone has a wonderful dry tone. To open the concert, Ann Patterson's Maiden Voyage came from Los Angeles with MLW charts from the 1940s and 60s (written for Ellington). This big band played well. Carol Chaikin on tenor took some strong solos. Saxophonist Patterson is the musical heart, and has worked intensely since 1980 to organize and lead Maiden Voyage. There's no institution behind it. There's Ann. Claire Daly, bari from New York, soloed on Chief Natoma. Other tunes were Lonely Moments (which the late Hank Jones used to play), Scratchin in the Gravel, O.W., Scorpio from the Zodiac Suite, New Musical Express. The full swing to modern MLW arc was traversed.
In the 2010-11 season, JazzSet will feature this music from the 15th annual Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival at the Kennedy Center. Stay with us!
© 2010 WBGO
May 4, 2010. Posted by Becca Pulliam.
Allan Harris sang and hosts from the Umbria Festival -- July 9-18 in Perugia, Italy -- announced the schedule at a press party in NY on Monday evening. Harris, Sonny Rollins, Pat Metheny, Chick Corea, Manhattan Transfer, Melody Gardot, Enrico Rava, Stefano Bollani and many other artists are on the Umbria line-up. To savor dates and details, click here and check out the the JazzSet Festival Calendar.
© 2010 WBGO
April 9, 2010. Posted by Becca Pulliam.
It's Randy Weston's 84th birthday, and the celebration is at the Jazz Standard. Last night, I enjoyed the first set. For the opening minutes (at least five minutes), Weston's hands didn't venture above the middle of the keyboard. That powerful low piano goes straight to your center. The vibration is strong enough to make you a resonator! As Randy Weston says, "In the African tradition, we are all musicians. Your heart is your drum and your voice is your sound."
As the set unfolded from the processional "Blues to Africa" through "Saucer Eyes," "African Sunrise" for Dizzy Gillespie and Machito, "Hi Fly" and "Berkshire Blues," I felt as if I'd died and gone to heaven (or Sunside, a Paris club which for some reason came to mind). Love yourself. Go see Randy Weston.
Here's a clip of "African Sunrise" from the same quintet, as heard on JazzSet in 2004.
© 2010 WBGO
February 17, 2010. Posted by Becca Pulliam.
DETROIT – Bassist Christian McBride and his quintet, narrators representing four icons of the Civil Rights Movement, J.D. Steele and the Second Ebenezer Majestic Voices, the Detroit Jazz Festival Orchestra, and more than 2,000 people gathered in one mega-sanctuary Sunday night for The Movement Revisited, McBride's jazz opus, presented for free by the Detroit International Jazz Festival for Black History Month.
The first reading was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s opening address "On the Importance of Jazz." for the 1964 Berlin Jazz Festival with the theme that “This is triumphant music." Anthony L. Brock Jr., a student at the Detroit School of the Arts, delivered it -- short and meaningful. (Link to text below)
Following the “Freedom / Struggle” overture, poet Sonia Sanchez spoke words of Rosa Parks, whose refusal in the mid 1950s to move back in a city bus launched the 381-day boycott in Montgomery, AL. Parks later lived in Detroit. Willis Patterson, Emeritus Professor of Voice from the University of Michigan, spoke Malcolm X's words; Malcolm Little grew up in Lansing, became known as Detroit Red. Dion Graham from The Wire spoke Muhammad Ali's words; Ali now lives near here. Bishop Edgar L. Vann II of Second Ebenezer re-created the "I Have A Dream" speech. King delivered the first known version at Cobo Hall on June 23, 1963. According to the Civil Rights Timeline in the printed program, 125,000 people marched on Woodward Avenue that day. The organizer was Rev. C. L. Franklin, Aretha's father.
© 2010 WBGO
February 15, 2010. Posted by Becca Pulliam.
The low ceilings of several New York basements have put a lid on Mingus's music for a long time now. But this past Saturday night it was quite the opposite as the 11-piece Mingus Orchestra played music that stretched over a big footprint and soared into the domed cathedral of St. Bart's Church. As the concert progressed, it sounded better and better.
© 2010 WBGO