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  • This Week in JazzSet History: David Murray Big Band and Josh Redman

    March 21, 2012. Posted by Alex Ariff.

    JazzSet20LogoIt’s now the eleventh week of the twentieth anniversary year of JazzSet, and the fifth installment of an archeological dig, as Alexander Gelles Ariff of the Jazz History Department at Rutgers University Newark trowels through the JazzSet archive, one week at a time.

    This week in JazzSet history, we take a closer examination at two moments in the career of saxophonist Joshua Redman. He is one of my personal favorite horn players of recent decades and will be appearing with pianist Brad Meladau as a duo on April 27 in Morristown, NJ. From his long-running work with Christian McBride to his new explorations with James Farm, Redman is always working hard at shaping his playing into different musical environments. This week, we follow Redman from acoustic to electric.

    But first, let’s check out this rare recording that I dug up featuring the David Murray Big Band performing “Warm Valley,” a lesser-known but captivating Ellington tune. The band features David Murray, tenor sax and bass clarinet; James Newton, flute; James Spaulding, alto sax; John Purcell, saxello and clarinet; Ricky Ford, tenor sax; Hamiet Bluiett, bari sax; Hugh Ragin, Ravi Best and Rasul Siddick on trumpets; Craig Harris, Gary Valente and Joe Bowie on trombones; Hilton Ruiz, piano; Jaribu Shahid, bass; Klod Kaivue, percussion; Andrew Cyrille, drums; and Carmen Bradford on vocals.

    This recording is from their performance at the 1999 Marciac Jazz Festival in Southwest France (courtesy of Radio France). A few weeks ago, we posted a clip of Bobby McFerrin at the the 2001 festival. The David Murray Big Band was performing obscure works by Strayhorn and Ellington in celebration for what would have been Ellington’s 100th birthday year! They performed “Praise God,” “Love You Madly,” but it was “Warm Valley” that blew me away. Listen to how Spaulding and Branford vibe off each other on the words “wonderfully” and “marvelously.”

    On November 19, 1994, JazzSet's Duke Markos recorded a double bill at the Troy Savings Bank Musical Hall in Troy, NY, presenting the Joshua Redman Quartet plus the Roy Hargrove Quintet. The quartet was Redman, tenor and soprano sax; Jonny King, piano; Christian McBride, bass; Brian Blade, drums. Redman’s band played first that evening but invited Hargrove on stage for Josh's final tune “SJK,” a blues in D-flat. Listen closely. After Redman introduces Hargrove, the rhythm section begins to play the Freddie Hubbard tune “Thermok,” as broadcast on JazzSet in early April 1995.

    Here is a clip of Joshua Redman on tenor playing the melody to his own tune entitled “Alone in the Morning.” He first begins by closing out the melody with long drawn out lyricism. His solo begins afterward and he plays with one motive, switching it up and crafting it against the harmony. This is a tactic of improvisation Sonny Rollins uses many times in his early years. It makes sense that the first record Redman ever bought, when he was nine years old, was the Rollins recording Saxophone Colossus. Listen closely for the “St. Thomas” quote at the end of the clip!

    James Farm is Matt Penman, Joshua Redman, Aaron Parks, Eric Harland .. coming to JazzSet the week of April 12, 2012
    James Farm is Matt Penman, Joshua Redman, Aaron Parks, Eric Harland .. coming to JazzSet the week of April 12, 2012 .. Photo by Jimmy Katz

    By 1994, three years after winning the Thelonious Monk competition, Redman had three albums as a leader to his name. Six releases later, he phased into a new period of musical exploration with his Elastic Band featuring Sam Yahel, keyboards and bass keyboards, and Brian Blade on drums. In this band, Redman was able to fuse electronic effects with his love of funk and swing. This groove, I like to call “swunk.” This is from "Greasy G," from the trio’s second release, Momentum. Listen to how Redman manipulates the sound of his horn, compiling octaves with pedals to make one horn sound like a baritone sax and tenor sax at once!

    I’ll close this week out with one of my favorite tunes by Ornette Coleman. I first heard  the tune “Lonely Woman” as played by the Elastic Band. That's how I was exposed to Ornette Coleman. Thanks, Josh. At the stroke of midnight, live on NPR from Yoshi's in Oakland, Redman’s group brought in 2005 by taking the audience on a journey leaning more towards drum-and-bass than free-jazz. It must have been a blast. And it was rebroadcast on JazzSet in February, 2007.

    IMG_5711-1Alexander Gelles Ariff has a B.A. in Jazz Studies from Florida State University and is now completing his Master's in Jazz History and Research at Rutgers-Newark. He is the recipient of the Morroe Berger - Benny Carter Jazz Research Fund Award from the Institute of Jazz Studies. Alex is writing his Master's thesis on the selected recorded collaboration between jazz figures and American poets -- Kenneth Patchen, Jack Kerouac, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Kenneth Rexroth, and Langston Hughes.

  • This Week in JazzSet History: (Four of Many) Women in JazzSet History

    March 12, 2012. Posted by Alex Ariff.

    JazzSet20LogoIt's the tenth week of the twentieth anniversary year of JazzSet, and the fourth installment of an archeological dig, as Alexander Gelles Ariff of the Jazz History Department at Rutgers University Newark trowels through a score of seasons of JazzSet.

    This week in JazzSet history, we honor Women’s History Month by tipping the cap to a few (of the many) women who have graced JazzSet’s airwaves. Toshiko Akiyoshi conducts while her husband and sideman Lew Tabackin wails. We'll also check out two traditionally classical instruments that are now regulars in the jazz world: flute and violin. Holly Hofmann is on flute, breathing new fire and soul into the groovy “Tom Thumb” by Wayne Shorter, and Regina Carter pays a special tribute to Stéphane Grappelli.

    Toshiko from WBGO's Jazzmatazz Magazine
    Toshiko from WBGO's Jazzmatazz Magazine for Children

    First, let’s honor one of the modern greats of vocal jazz, Dianne Reeves. This is an excerpt of her improvisation at the end of “A Child Is Born” by Thad Jones. Reeves has an ability to enunciate lyrics casually and convey her own story within timeless music. In this case, her story is freedom. Listen to how she riffs off the first melody and uses counterpoint within her massive range to build the excitement. The band is Peter Martin, piano; Reuben Rogers, bass; and Greg Hutchinson, drums, and they’re performing at the 49th Annual Monterey Jazz Festival in 2006.

    The Kennedy Center in Washington honors jazz women each year for the Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival. On May 23, 1998, they honored violinist Regina Carter and flautist Holly Hofmann. Regina Carter has been featured numerous times on JazzSet, but back in ’98 she was riding on the wake of her second release as a leader. Present day: Carter is sitting on a MacArthur Genius Fellowship and seven albums as a leader and this week, she will be on JazzSet from the 2011 Newport Jazz Festival with her group Reverse Thread. Hear how she plays “Lady Be Good” in honor of her mentor, the great Grappelli. Her quintet at this festival featured Rodney Jones, guitar; Werner Gierig,  piano; Darryl Hall, bass, and Alvester Garnett, drums.

    Photo courtesy of Zack Karabashliev
    Photo courtesy of Zack Karabashliev

    And now, a big tip of the hat to Ms. Holly Hofmann. Phil Woods called her, along with Hubert Laws, “the best jazz flute player today.” Here she is performing “Tom Thumb” by Wayne Shorter at the same Women in Jazz Festival with her Four Women Only group: Cecilia Coleman, piano; Nicki Parrott, bass; Sylvia Cuenca, drums; Hofmann, flute.

    Toshiko Akiyoshi has also been honored at past Women in Jazz Festivals. Akiyoshi was born 19 years after May Lou Williams, so it might be easy to say that they don’t have much in common. However, like Mary Lou, Akiyoshi is part of a small circle of successful female jazz musicians of her generation who led a band, composed, arranged and played piano.

    toshiko

    Pianist Oscar Peterson discovered her and later insisted that producer Norman Granz record her beautiful piano playing … jumpstarting her career. She married tenor saxophonist Lew Tabackin  in 1969. The couple formed a big band that would go on to perform from 1973-2004. The band often featured Tabackin’s  tenor sax and flute features. In his excerpt, we hear his husky tone reminiscent of swing-era tenors Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster. The relationship between soloist and arranger, both musical and romantic, bleeds onto the page. Listen as Akiyoshi paints delicate textures underneath the bold sound of Lew Tabackin’s  horn on the tune "Broken Dreams."

    IMG_5711-1Alexander Gelles Ariff has a B.A. in Jazz Studies from Florida State University. He is the recipient of the Morroe Berger - Benny Carter Jazz Research Fund Award from the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University in Newark. Alex is writing his Master's thesis on the connection between jazz and five American poets -- Kenneth Patchen, Jack Kerouac, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Kenneth Rexroth, and Langston Hughes.

  • This Week In JazzSet History: Kirkland, Keezer and Caine

    March 6, 2012. Posted by Alex Ariff.

    JazzSet20LogoThis is the third installment of an archeological dig, as Alexander Gelles Ariff of the Jazz History Department at Rutgers University Newark trowels through twenty seasons of JazzSet.

    This week in JazzSet history, we take a retrospective look at three remarkably individual modern pianists. Uri Caine has reworked and improvised material by Bach, Beethoven, Wagner, Schumann and Mozart. For this week, Gustav Mahler is Uri Caine’s chosen muse.  We’ll also revisit a certain 21-year-old Geoff Keezer in a 1992 solo piano performance. That same year, Keezer performed Gershwin's "Rhapsody In Blue" with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra!

    But first let's listen back to one of the final professional live recordings of the late Kenny Kirkland (1955-98). JazzSet broadcast the dangerously bold Branford Marsalis Quartet from the Greenwich Village Jazz Festival, in a performance from August 24, 1998 -- Branford on saxophones, Kenny on piano, Eric Revis on bass, and Jeff 'Tain' Watts on drums. It was a beautiful late afternoon in Washington Square Park. Duuke Markos was recording, and Branford's son Reese hosted the JazzSet that was made from this concert, the following February.

    The Program from the 1998 Greenwich Village Jazz Festival

    Ben Ratliff from The New York Times reveled the band's spontaneity. He reported that their performance of “Citizen Tain” got “as funky as jazz gets these days, without changing genres altogether…” There is no doubt that Kenny Kirkland (aka Doc Tone) was swingin' as hard as jazz gets, any day.

    Let’s check in with Geoff Keezer honoring Thelonious Monk with his improvisation on “Blue Monk” from the 1992 Newark Jazz Festival the Newark Museum, only a few blocks from WBGO studios, as heard in February 1993 on JazzSet.

    Last week, I shared Joe Henderson quoting “Scheherazade” over the chord changes to his own tune “Recordame.” Pianist Uri Caine takes quoting classical music to a whole new level with his Mahler project. He premiered it at at the 1998 Festival International de Jazz de Montréal and JazzSet was on the scene. Caine was joined by David Binney, alto sax; Ralph Alessi, trumpet; Mark David Feldman, violin; Michael Formanek, bass;  James Black, drums, and DJ Olive on turntables!

    The Program for the 1998 International Montreal Jazz Festival
    The Program for the 1998 Montreal International Jazz Festival

    First, here’s Mahler’s version. Listen to the theme from Symphony No. 1, Movement 3. Mahler takes an old children’s folk song and twists it into sinister harmonies. Different instruments in the orchestra trade the melody. This excerpt comes from the New York Philharmonic directed by Leonard Bernstein.

    Uri Caine twists the music into his own musical exchange. Caine preaches bluesy runs atop an abrasive gypsy groove. Binney and Feldman provide jagged counterpoint, giving an old melody a new eerie tinge.

    IMG_5711-1

    Alexander Gelles Ariff has a B.A. in Jazz Studies from Florida State University. He is the recipient of the Morroe Berger - Benny Carter Jazz Research Fund Award from the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University in Newark. Alex is writing his Master's thesis on the connection between jazz and five American poets -- Kenneth Patchen, Jack Kerouac, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Kenneth Rexroth, and Langston Hughes.

  • This Week in JazzSet History: Henderson, Byron and Blanchard

    February 28, 2012. Posted by Alex Ariff.

    jazzsetoriginallogThis is the second installment of an archeological dig, as Alexander Gelles Ariff of the Jazz History Department at Rutgers University Newark trowels through twenty seasons of JazzSet, with new posts weekly.

    Great improvisers often find ways to sneak “quotes” of popular songs into their solos. My ears always perk up, and I usually give an audible chuckle if I hear one. It can be as obvious as a player quoting “The Flintstones” melody or as subtle as quoting an excerpt of classical music. This week, we listen for the quote in Joe Henderson’s solo from a 1992 performance in Minnesota. I also found two “spotlight” musical moments in JazzSet history: a clarinet intro feature by Don Byron and an incredible cadenza by Terence Blanchard on the great American standard, “Skylark.”

    Joe Henderson (aka Joe Hen) appeared Dakota Bar & Grill in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1992 with Henderson on tenor, Larry Willis on piano, Larry Grenadier on bass and Al Foster on drums. This was a very special show for Branford Marsalis to host. Branford says that Henderson mentored him on the horn, passing a flame rooted in harmony, committed to creativity on the bandstand. 1992 was also a big year of Joe Henderson: he was a triple-crown winner in Down Beat’s critics poll, winning Tenor Sax player of the Year, Jazz Album of the Year, Jazz Musician of the Year. The band opened their set with "Serenity." Grenadier and Henderson have the melody in unison then Henderson takes off!

    1992 Down Beat Critics Poll
    1992 Down Beat Critics Poll

    Henderson’s quartet played mostly originals but it was “Recordame” that specifically caught my ear. I knew that I had heard a quote of some sort but could not put my finger on it! I consulted my colleagues at Rutgers who pointed me in the right direction. Towards the end of his solo, he quotes “Scheherazade” by the 19th century Russian composer Rimsky-Korsakov. Here is a sample of the melody Joe Henderson quotes, as played by The London Symphony conducted by Igor Markevitch.

    Here is the Joe Henderson’s solo. Listen carefully, its right at the top!

    Another way a musician can captivate an audience is by taking a spotlight. At the beginning of a piece, a horn player may take the framework of a tune and rework it freely before the rest of the band comes in. Don Byron takes the tune “I Cover the Waterfront” and reworks it on clarinet gorgeously before his band mates enter. The clip is from a live performance at The J & R Music Festival in 2005 with Byron’s trio featuring Jason Moran, piano, and Billy Hart, drums.

    We conclude this week’s look back in JazzSet history with a musical conclusion of sorts, the cadenza. Cadenzas were popularized as a way for musician to play unaccompanied, showing off a little bit before the conclusion of the piece. One astounding cadenza as played by John Coltrane occurs at the conclusion "I Want To Talk About You" (Live at Birdland, 1963.) But for now, let’s check out a 2001 performance from the SF Jazz Festival, from its Freddie Hubbard-Woody Shaw tribute program entitled “Double Take.” Terence Blanchard curls, smacks and swoons his phrases to close out a gorgeous rendition of “Skylark” by Hoagy Carmichael.

    IMG_5711-1

    Alexander Gelles Ariff has a B.A. in Jazz Studies from Florida State University. He is the recipient of the Morroe Berger - Benny Carter Jazz Research Fund Award from the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University in Newark. Alex is writing his Master's thesis on the connection between jazz and five American poets -- Kenneth Patchen, Jack Kerouac, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Kenneth Rexroth, and Langston Hughes. He will be performing this Saturday, March 3 (2pm) at The Metropolitan Pavilion in part of the 2nd annual NYC Vegetarian Food Festival.

  • This Week in JazzSet History: Bobby McFerrin in France

    February 20, 2012. Posted by Becca Pulliam.

    jazzset.org header with hatBeginning the first week of January, 1992, NPR and WBGO introduced JazzSet with Branford Marsalis with our first performance by Branford's former teacher, New Orleans clarinetist Alvin Batiste and the Jazztranauts, onstage in Ohio. After hosting for a decade, Branford handed the mic to  Dee Dee Bridgewater.

    This is the first installment of an archeological dig, as Alexander Gelles Ariff of the Jazz History Department at Rutgers University Newark trowels through twenty seasons of JazzSet .

    My name is Alex Ariff. I’ve been drilling down through the archives, to bring you This Week in JazzSet History. Each Monday, we’ll listen to JazzSet moments from my favorite handpicked performances over the past two decades.

    This week, we listen back to performances by the ultra-human Bobby McFerrin and humanist rap from Béla Fleck & The Flecktones at their Blue Note debut in 1991. First let’s visit the south of France where Bobby McFerrin took the stage in August 2001 with his quartet: Gil Goldstein (piano, accordion), Richard Bona (bass), Omar Hakim (drums) and McFerrin on vocals of course.

    If there is one word that can describe Bobby McFerrin’s vocal ability, I would say control. With every manipulation of the beat and timbre shift in his voice, he has complete command of the music. This musical moment from “Caribogo” includes McFerrin “trading” with his band.  They provide breaks (stops in the music) allowing McFerrin to fill in space freely with improvisations. Listen closely as the breaks intensify.

    McFerrin plays around with the groove, inserting various challenging cross rhythms (beats that fall against the steady groove) keeping everyone, band mates and audience, on their toes! He is completely in control. The next two  examples, “Sweetie Funk” and “I Want You,” also showcase his vocal authority.

    Bobby McFerrin
    Bobby McFerrin

    In “Sweetie Funk”, McFerrin’s shows off his wide range and undeniable groove within the rhythm section. With Bobby McFerrin, less is more, and soulful feeling comes first! Look no further than his incredible rendition of Lennon/McCartney classic “I Want You (She’s So Heavy”).

    Béla Fleck & The Flecktones debuted at The Blue Note in 1991 with their original line-up Victor Wooten (bass), Lamar Wooten (synth-axe drumitar), Howard Levy (harmonica, piano) and Fleck (banjo). In this selection, “Sex In A Pan”, Victor Wooten provides his commentary on society in a jazz-rap, perhaps the first rap ever to appear in The Blue Note in NYC. The tune’s title is unrelated. It’s the name of a dessert the band ate in North Carolina: chocolate pudding, cool whip on top and graham cracker crust.

    IMG_5711-1Alexander Gelles Ariff has a B.A. in Jazz Studies from Florida State University. He is the recipient of the Morroe Berger - Benny Carter Jazz Research Fund Award from the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University in Newark. Alex is writing his Master's thesis on the connection between jazz and five American poets -- Kenneth Patchen, Jack Kerouac, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Kenneth Rexroth, and Langston Hughes.