November 23, 2010. Posted by Joshua Jackson.
Millions of listeners know James Moody, even if they don't know him by name. He composed one of the most enduring songs in American music, "Moody's Mood for Love," and he did it with on-the-spot improvisation. Even Aretha Franklin sang it. He's made an unforgettable film appearance, walking an invisible dog in Clint Eastwood's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. He splashes more cologne than any one person should use, yet his kiss-on-both-cheeks greeting is treasured for its sincerity, even if the scent marks the recipient for the rest of the day.
Moody is one of bebop's finest practitioners, and he's made tremendous music for more than 60 years. As a partially deaf child in Newark, N.J., he battled the perception that he was mentally retarded (to use the term of the day). As a member of a segregated Air Force band, he suffered the indignity of racism in 1940s America. He battled an addiction to alcohol.
Yet there's no one with a sunnier disposition than James Moody, an indomitable spirit in jazz music. He's one of this country's great treasures, and the spirit of jazz is better for having him as one of the music's leading lights. Hear a handful of great Moody recordings here, but be sure to explore further. There's plenty more.
Note: James Moody has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and he has decided against continued treatment. He is convalescing in his California home. If you'd like to send him a note, please contact him here.Read more
© 2010 WBGO
November 18, 2010. Posted by Joshua Jackson.
"Making a good wine," my oldest son says, "is about choosing the grapes that you'd like to eat." And you can't do that with huge containers. You have to be like a small child filling a bucket.
--René Barbier, Clos Mogador Winery
When Joan Cararach, the Artistic Director of the Barcelona Jazz Festival, told me about his gambit, it sounded a little impractical. The premise was thus:
Bring Spain's finest vignerons together at Monviníc, an oenological cultural institution in Barcelona's Eixample district. Taste their finest wares -- an Iberian sauvignon, an albariño, a blended red from Penedès, another red from the heart of Catalunya's Priorat hills, an ancient Moscatel from Málaga and a noble Jerez Amontillado. Invite Kurt Rosenwinkel to play improvisations based on his impressions of these wines. Is this even possible?
The short answer is yes. Rosenwinkel had plenty of study time. His trio (Eric Revis, Ted Poor) and guests enjoyed four bottles at a specially prepared menu in Paris. The remaining two bottles were consumed in Umeå, Sweden, for Kurt's 40th birthday. He made tasting notes on an index card and then worked from there. "I'm not an expert by any means," Rosenwinkel said. "But it was a great challenge to translate and interpret the qualities of the wine into musical qualities."
I still wasn't sure, but Kurt had a plan. "All the colors and textures, they all have harmonic colors. They all have speed. Some wines are fast some are slow. Some are rhythmic, some are plaintive. I immediately heard some chords, so for each bottle, I would feel a certain tonality."
Were there any favorites? It's an unfair question to ask, but I did anyway. "They're all great," Rosenwinkel said. "The Clos Mogador 2001 floored me. It's such a beautiful red wine -- very light but very intense flavor. It had a deep and profound tannic structure. It made for a very complex improvisation, and it was hard to reconcile both the wine and the music for that one."
My heart leaps up when I think about what happened in Barcelona on Monday night. I'll admit to some initial skepticism, but too much of it can rob a man of good intentions. You have to let wine and song prevail, else your bucket's got a hole in it.
© 2010 WBGO
July 8, 2010. Posted by Joshua Jackson.
Two very important musicians are central to the development of this group: saxophonist Jackie McLean and drummer Michael Carvin. In 1975, they released a duet recording called Antiquity for Inner City/SteepleChase Records. It is a very good record. Here's a taste of it:
"Antiquity: The Hunter And His Game," by Jackie McLean and Michael Carvin, Antiquity (SteepleChase/Inner City). Jackie McLean, alto saxophone; Michael Carvin, percussion. New York, N.Y.: Recorded Oct. 30, 1974.
Who are these musicians?
Michael Carvin is a master musician and educator who gets little recognition beyond those who know his formidable coaching method of drum rudiments. He has taught the A-list of modern jazz drummers over the last 30 years. His pupils have included Nasheet Waits and Eric McPherson, the rhythm behind Aethereal Bace and many a great recording, including the aforementioned Two Top (Piano) Trios released recently.
Jackie McLean influenced a lot of saxophonists, especially those who sought his tutelage at the Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford, where McLean founded the Department of African-American Music in 1980. (It was later renamed the Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz in his honor.) Wayne Escoffery, who played the Village Vanguard recently, went there. So did Steve Lehman. Abraham Burton, the saxophonist in Aethereal Bace, received his degree in music and performance there too. And Eric McPherson, McLean's last drummer, studied on scholarship. He is now a faculty member at Hartt.
This is just to say that a lot of today's music owes a great debt to McLean and Carvin. Their recording of Antiquity is a testament to how much music can come out of them, literally and figuratively.
© 2010 WBGO