• FIJM: Long Live the Queen

    July 4, 2008. Posted by Thurston Briscoe.

    Add new comment | Filed under: FIJM, Notes

    Aretha at FIJM

    My birthday gifts started last night when I went to a concert by Aretha Franklin here at the Montreal Jazz Festival. Backed by a big band, four singers, and two tambourine players (that's right), the Queen of Soul opened dramatically with a salute to Sly Stone. First it was the classic "I Want to Take you Higher" then "Dance to the Music". We were all on our feet.

    Next came a string of Aretha hits: "Natural Woman," "Think," "Chain of Fools." She introduced her son Teddy, featured on guitar at the beginning of "Chain of Fools." She finished the first half of her show with "Ain't No Way" and the soul and feminist anthem, "Respect".

    The second half of the show opened with Montreal Jazz Festival co-founder Andre Menard, who presented Aretha with the festival's prestigious Ella Fitzgerald Award, "in recognition of the range, versatility, originality of improvisation and quality of repertoire of an internationally recognized jazz singer."

    Aretha accepted the award with a version of an Ella favorite, "Somewhere Beyond the Sea".

    When she sat at the piano, Aretha moved the Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel hit "Bridge Over Troubled Water" to the church with a spirited call and response that moved us into another of her hits, "Spirit in the Dark".

    Aretha talked to the audience during her show and said she hoped she had given us everything we wanted to hear. Then she treated us to a new gospel tinged ballad. I was not able to hear the name of the song, but the way she "SANG" made me think it might be her next hit. As the applause died down, someone in the crowd shouted "Long Live the Queen!" Aretha returned the gesture with her finale ... "Believe (in yourself)" ... from the musical "The Wiz".
    -Thurston Briscoe

  • Charles Lloyd @ JVC Jazz

    June 29, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    Charles Lloyd and Reuben Rogers

    On the final evening of the JVC-New York Festival, I sauntered down to the
    Charles Lloyd Quartet performance at The Society for Ethical Culture. This
    seems like the perfect place to see Lloyd perform, on principle alone. His
    unabashed jazz ethos and spiritual bent create an immediate and humane
    environment. The hall acoustics, however, are a total non-starter for the
    sound of live jazz.  A massive wash of drums and indistinct piano notes.
    The opening act was our nation's poet laureate, Charles Simic.
    Charles Simic

    "Club Midnight" is some pretty powerful verse:
    Are you the sole owner of a seedy night club?
    Are you its sole customer, sole bartender,
    Sole waiter prowling around the empty tables?
    Do you put on wee-hour girlie shows
    With dead stars of black and white films?
    Is your office upstairs over the neon lights,
    Or down deep in the dank rat cellar?
    Are bearded Russian thinkers your silent partners?
    Do you have a doorman by the name of Dostoyevsky?
    Is Fu Manchu coming tonight? Is Miss Emily Dickinson?
    Do you happen to have an immortal soul?
    Do you have a sneaky suspicion that you have none?...
    Eric Harland

    The quartet started behind Simic, and proceeded to play with the musicality
    that jazz fans have come to expect from Lloyd's ensembles. Jason Moran is
    the pianist, Reuben Rogers the bassist, and Eric Harland the drummer. Their
    trip through Lloyd classics like "Requiem" and "Monk's Dance" were well
    received, as was the newer material from the quartet's recent release, Rabo
    de Nube
    .  I had to really work hard to hear the music, but the payoff was
    rewarding nonetheless.

  • Pianist Esbjorn Svensson Dies

    June 15, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    Add new comment | Filed under: News, Notes, reuters

    Esbjorn Svensson

    Reuters has reported that pianist Esbjorn Svensson died yesterday, during a
    scuba diving excursion. He was 44 years old.

    In 2001, I had the opportunity to interview the members of EST in New York,
    just as the Swedish trio was gaining some recognition in the US. I say that
    because they were already huge stars in their native Sweden. The show,
    Introducing EST, coincided with the release of Somewhere Else Before.

    Listen to it here. It includes some sections of that interview with Esbjorn,
    Dan Berglund, and Magnus Ostrom, as well as a live in-studio performance.
    You can also listen to EST from North Sea Jazz, courtesy JazzSet and Radio

  • Tuesday Night - Sweet Rhythm

    June 4, 2008. Posted by Becca Pulliam.

    Map to Sweet Rhythm

    On the way home from the Jazz Gallery, walking up Seventh Avenue,
    used-to-be WBGO night man James Browne pulled me into his club Sweet
    Rhythm to see Lezlie Harrison sing. A long time ago, Lezlie hosted the
    jazz party on Saturday evenings on WBGO. She's never stopped using that
    fine voice, and moved me with her singing and the solos by Luca Tozzi on
    guitar and Greg Lewis on organ on "A Lover is Forever," once recorded by
    Etta James. I'm going to download Etta right now. Lezlie's drummer is
    Luca Santaniello. As I was leaving, Greg was rolling his Hammond out the
    door. Musicians work hard and give much! Wish I had photos.

  • Tuesday Night - Jazz Gallery

    June 4, 2008. Posted by Becca Pulliam.

    Map to Jazz Gallery, NYC

    When you get to your folding chair at the Jazz Gallery on Hudson St.,
    there's a personal cardboard fan on your seat, and you think what a nice
    souvenir. But by the end of the Roy Hargrove Big Band set, you are using
    that fan! You ARE a fan! With 18 guys and a woman -- hallelujah Tanya
    Darby on trumpet -- crammed into one end of the oblong loft, and the
    audience filling the rest, from the back wall to sax players' feet, you
    FEEL this band and it feels GOOD! I love that there's only one mic, for
    Roy to speak and, briefly, sing. I love that he has about a square yard
    in which to conduct, then turn 180 and play. I love it all. He's
    expanding his small group music, and his writing is fresh and old school
    at the same time, all accents and syncopation, and the band is playing
    almost flawlessly. Gerald Clayton's on piano! The set's not too long.
    The Roy Hargrove Big Band plays the Jazz Gallery once more this summer
    on June 10. Then after that, your next opp to see them is June 15 at the
    Hollywood Bowl, so opt for the great vibes at the Gallery where the
    band, the sound and the audience are one and the same. And thanks to Zan
    Stewart for his motivating review in the Star Ledger.
    -Becca Pulliam