• Ronnie Mathews 1935 - 2008

    June 30, 2008. Posted by Angelika Beener.

    Add new comment | Filed under: Jazz Alive


    Last month, we learned that pianist and composer Ronnie Mathews was terminally ill. Though you always know and understand that the inevitable is upon us, it never makes it any easier to swallow, once it comes to pass. Ronnie Mathews passed away this past Saturday, succumbing to pancreatic cancer. He was 72 years old. An outstanding and solid pianist, Mathews played with jazz legends like Lee Morgan, Wayne Shorter, Max Roach and Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers to name a few. He also had long associations with saxophonist Johnny Griffin, drummer T. S. Monk and trumpeter Roy Hargrove, whom Mathews recorded with on several occasions, including Hargrove's latest CD, Nothing Serious.

    As a leader, Mathews recorded several albums over the course of five decades. These albums include his Doin' the Thang, his first outing for Prestige Records, and his Shades of Monk, which pays homage to one of his greatest inflluences, Thelonious Monk. Mathews also wrote "Easy Piano of Thelonious Monk", through Hal Leonard Books. It is a compilation of Mathews' arrangements of Thelonious Monk tunes, made easy for piano students.

    Last week, jazz musicians from all over produced the Ronnie Mathews Benefit at Sweet Rhythm Jazz Club in NYC. Jimmy Heath, Cedar Walton, fellow Brooklynite Randy Weston, George Coleman and many more performed to raise money for his family and medical expenses, while celebrating the life of Mathews, who is arguably among the many unsung jazz heros of our time.

    I knew Mr. Mathews, and will miss him very much. Let's make sure we honor and support our jazz heros while they are here, and let them know just how much they mean to us.

  • Cuban pianists bookend Sunday night at Montreal

    June 30, 2008. Posted by Becca Pulliam.

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    Roberto Fonseca
    At 6pm, Roberto Fonseca (b 1975 in Havana) and his band played at Theatre Jean Duceppe (full at about 1000 people, going crazy for him). Fonseca was born in 1975 in Cuba, and used to open for Buena Vista Social Club on their world tours. He is dynamite, passionate, sometimes leans into his vocal mic and sings with the soprano sax, and conducts entrances and cut-offs in such a cool way that you can't take your eyes off him. He even leaned back and seemed to dance with the piano. On a new bolero that he is soon to record, JUST before the final resolving note, the audience burst in with cheering applause. So Fonseca it ended there, and indicated that he might keep the ending that way from now on. We're not just fans, we're arrangers now!

    At 10:30, Hilario Duran and his trio were at the Salle de Gesu. Duran (born in Cuba, now living in Canada, with Arturo Sandoval throughout the 1980s) has technique and power, and it's not only his melodies that sing but the harmonies underneath them are melodies in themselves. Every finger is saying something. Hilario told us that, for him, this night at this Festival was "a dream come true," and poured music into his 90 minutes. I didn't scribble notes, choosing to feel the emotions instead. Cuban piano seems so rare in the US today. Tomorrow is Canada Day.


  • Great Live Moments - Branford Marsalis

    June 30, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    Branford Marsalis

    In 1998, Branford Marsalis was the host of JazzSet. He was also the leader of an amazing jazz quartet. In August of that year, they played a concert at Washington Square Park in New York. WBGO was there to capture the performance.
    I remember seeing this band at the Chicago Jazz Festival, just a few weeks after this recording. Branford, along with bassist Eric Revis, drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts, and the late pianist Kenny Kirkland had the unique ability to pin you to your seat for more than an hour. The music was relentless, whether it was some burnout tune or a ballad. Kenny Kirkland's "Mr. J.C." is a great example of the former. Enjoy the blistering solos from Kenny and Branford. Click here to listen.