March 14, 2008. Posted by Simon Rentner.
Othella Dallas - what a name! You can visualize it now, brilliantly flashing on a marquee. It may already ring familiar to your ear. She was once a rising vocal talent in America, singing at the Apollo in the mid 1950's with Sammy Davis Jr., Sonny Stitt, and King Curtis. After she landed the lead role in New York's production of "Jump for Joy," Duke Ellington composed two songs for her. But you probably don't know this - I didn't. She curbed her singing career in America to launch a ballet school in Switzerland, one that would become very successful. Now she returns to New York and joins Michael Bourne to tell her incredible story. - Simon
© 2008 WBGO
March 13, 2008. Posted by Angelika Beener.
Today is the birthday of trumpeter, composer, film scorer Terence Blanchard. Mr. Blanchard was one of our guests on our newest podcast series We Insist! Jazz Speaks Out, which delves into the contributions Jazz has made in the social and political movements throughout African-American history.
It's always a treat to talk to Terence Blanchard, but this was particularly gratifying. To hear a legend in his own right, who is one of the heros of my generation speak about Miles, who is everyone's hero, and then to discuss Miles' tribute to heavyweight legend and phenom Jack Johnson was one of the most interesting conversations I've had. It's a domino of some of the most creative beings in Black culture - American culture.
In many respects, Jack Johnson and Miles Davis have a lot in common. They both faced the trials of racism, both were unapologetic about who they were as men and both relished the lavish lifestyle afforded them by their professions. The album, A Tribute to Jack Johnson was the soundtrack for a documentary on the fighter. It was released on Columbia Records and didn't get a very strong marketing push. For the most part, this classic album fell into relative obscurity.
But with the reissue and the release of the "complete sessions", this gem was brought back into the light, and this time not to be ingnored. So much more was learned about Jack Johnson by the time this was reissued, with the Ken Burns special and other documentaries and musical homages. Check out the podcast, and listen to Terence Blanchard speak about how this groundbreaking album affected him, and how the times affected Miles' new sound and approach.
© 2008 WBGO
March 13, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.
I talked to guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel yesterday, and he played some songs. Here's one of them:
Kurt recently released The Remedy, a two-disc collection of music recorded live at the Village Vanguard in 2006. Highly recommended listening.
Kurt is one of the most gifted voices in jazz. But don't believe me.
View the Kurt Rosenwinkel project at ArtistShare.
© 2008 WBGO
March 13, 2008
Netflix is now as much a part of my life as espresso or Google or my bike. Sadly, I rarely go to the movies anymore (or to the cinema for that matter). There are a million reasons for that, and that's not the point of this post, anyway. Netflix has a lot of the movies my video store doesn't. This week, that included "Our Latin Thing," the documentary of the Fania All Stars.At the center of the film is the insanely raucous music from a group that has no real parallel in music. Imagine a jazz group consisting of Monk, Mingus, Miles, Coltrane, Diz, Louis Armstrong, Johnny Hartman, with arrangements by Quincy Jones, under the direction of Duke Ellington. The Fania All Stars is kinda like that, only for salsa music. This film, shot in 1972, captures Salsa in its earliest manifestations and confirms that, while it is Latino at its core, it is, in the end, American music.
You can judge the music for yourself in the clip below, but what is as striking as the music in this film is how it captures Latino New York, circa 1972, warts and all. Marvel at how routinely filthy the streets of New York were then. Cringe at the obvious cheesecake shots from the randy cameraman. Let your jaw drop at the totally gross basement cock fight (captured from opening bell to ignoble end). This is a raw, unfiltered look at the Nueva Yawk of my youth, from junkies, to drunks, to bad-ass dancers in skin-tight hot pants!
Ray Barretto's here, as are Hector Lavoe, Willy Colon, Johnny Pacheco, El Condo, Santo Colon, Larry Harlowe and "the Spanish-speaking people of New York City." As a piece of history, this is an invaluable find for a cultural anthropologist, and as a concert film, it will shake your maraca. David Cruz
© 2008 WBGO