December 29, 2007. Posted by Joshua Jackson.
Joe Lovano, that is.
It's Lovano's 55th birthday today, and he's celebrating it with a three-day run with his quintet at the Palazzo del Popolo in Orvieto, Italy. What a way to end a monumental year. Wish I could be there, since Italy's Umbria region is one of my favorite places to be, but I'll be spending my New Year's Eve at Jazz Standard, with Trio da Paz, Kenny Barron, and a great New York crew for NPR's Toast of the Nation (hope you'll be listening!).
Incidentally, Toast of the Nation is where Lovano's 2007 began, as a member of the McCoy Tyner Quartet (bassist Christian McBride and drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts make four) at Yoshi's. You can hear the fruits of that week at Yoshi's on record.
It's been such a banner year for Joe. Check out the video below. And when you see him again, raise a glass of my favorite Umbrian wine, Paolo Bea's Sagrantino de Montefalco, in honor of him.
Happy birthday, Joe Lovano. You're a class act.
© 2007 WBGO
December 28, 2007. Posted by David Rosenak.
I remember it like yesterday, the song still playing in my twelve-year-old mind. (Pardon me, boy, is that the Chattanooga Choo Choo?) That Christmas, which as Jews we celebrated secretly, at least in terms of the gifts -- that Christmas, Santa left me a sparkling new green bike with a cool chrome spring over the front wheel, and tassels streaming from the handlebar grips. But right behind the bike, tied up in a big blue bow, was a gray Zenith 45-rpm record player, with automatic changer. And, with it came a steel-blue box set of Glenn Miller records, along with two early Elvis 45s. (Love Me Tender and Heartbreak Hotel.) Somehow my heart opened to that music, somewhere between late swing and early rock and roll, in 1958, in Joplin, Missouri. I listened to those songs over and over again, and anytime I hear them today I'm taken back to that moment, sitting on the floor amid wrapping paper, playing disc jockey for my audience of little sisters.
Even the mention of a white sport coat and a pink carnation still brings back the sweet fragrance of Sally Burgess' hair as we danced the slow dance cheek to cheek at the junior prom. - Hearing Dave Brubeck's Take Five always returns me to the first moment I heard this great jazz tune as a young disc jockey at KTXR-FM in Springfield, Missouri. - I'm leavin', on a jet plane, don't know if I'll be back again, all I know is I am on my way, takes me back to Vietnam's red mud, and that yearning feeling to rise above the jungle of war and somehow return, intact, to the "world."
What is it about our music that it grips us so? Perhaps just that it remembers for us all of those things we've lived through, the dreams we've forgotten, the tears we've tried to forget, the loves we still carry in our heart. These are all very personal memories, known only to me, but remembered for me by the music of my time, the music of my life - the score I've lived to, if you will - collected in celebration and sorrow, imbedded into my DNA, an inescapable escape to the past.
Even the old groups still fulfill our need to relive our own history. The Rolling Stones, who's edges should be somewhat rounded after having rocked and rolled around the earth for so long, are looking more rugged, or is it ragged, forever sticking out their musical tongues for audiences so eager to be taken back to some memorable moment of their youth.
Not too long ago I read of scientists discovering an event that happened before the Big Bang. They detected - a vibration - the most basic unit of music. (It only takes vibration and rhythm to make music.) I immediately thought of God, all alone in the unformed void, suddenly beginning to hum, some low murmur, the beginning of some cry, some rapture exploding God's heart, and then a universe bursting open into life! A song is born!
Imagine - the first music each of us ever hears is the song of our own mother's heart! - the vibration of her dreams and the rhythm of her determination - singing to us, so reassuringly, over and over, again and again - "remember," "remember," "remember," "remember." And, then, our own heart, suddenly finding its rhythm, joining in on the refrain - "remember," "remember," "remember."
May the music we share with you now and into the coming year, serenade your heart through your distant memories, of a life well sung.
I'm David Rosenak.
© 2007 WBGO
December 28, 2007. Posted by Andrew Meyer.
Oscar Peterson's passing this week got me to thinking about one of my first exposures to jazz...
I wasn't always a news guy.
As some of you might know, in a previous life, I did tech work in theater, both Off-Broadway and summer stock in Vermont. One summer in the early 90's, I was involved with a production of a new Doug Carter Beene play (which eventually moved to New York) called The Country Club. I wouldn't necessarily call it the most memorable of Beene's plays (who has had great success on the New York stage), but one of the things I remember the best from that production is the music selected for scene changes: Oscar Peterson Plays The Cole Porter Songbook.
I didn't know nearly as much then about jazz as I do now (you can't work at a place like 'BGO and not at least soak it in through osmosis), but I did recognize that this was a special album and a tremendous talent. I ended picking up a copy of this for my own cd collection. It was one of my first brushes with jazz, a good place to start. Thank you, Oscar.
© 2007 WBGO
December 28, 2007. Posted by Joshua Jackson.
Drummer Ed Thigpen has lived in Denmark since the early 70s, but we haven't forgotten him stateside. Especially given the recent death of Oscar Peterson. Thigpen recorded more than 50 records as a member of the Oscar Peterson Trio, but not very many as a leader.
In 1966, though, he made a record for Verve called OUT OF THE STORM. Not a lot of music here, and Thigpen doesn't solo much, but it's still worth checking out. At the time, Thigpen had recently left the Oscar Peterson trio. Trumpeter Clark Terry adds some mouthpiece-only solos for an nice effect. Thigpen plays tuned drums that sound like tympani at times. Kenny Burrell, Herbie Hancock, and Ron Carter round out the date. Give it a listen.
The last time I saw Ed Thigpen, he was teaching kids at a percussion clinic in New Orleans. As you can imagine, there were a symphony of drummers in attendance (which, in retrospect, is pretty easy for a rhythm town like NOLA). It was just around the time that he won a Humanitarian Award at the International Association for Jazz Education conference.
That seems fitting. He's a beautiful cat, and a tremendous educator. And for the record, he's a hell of a wire brush player.
Happy Birthday, Ed Thigpen.
© 2007 WBGO
December 27, 2007. Posted by Joshua Jackson.
Oscar Peterson 1925-2007
Sometimes you're just not ready for a particular artist or a piece of music.
That was my first experience with Oscar Peterson. I wasn't ready for it. The sound was simply overwhelming. Too many notes. Pianistic pyrotechnics, at least to my inexperienced ears. My comfort zone at that time was the lilting sway of Red Garland, the impeccable touch of Wynton Kelly, the lonely lyricism of Bill Evans. Basically, any piano player that Miles Davis endorsed.
And Miles was less than kind when it came to descriptions of Oscar Peterson. "Nearly everything he plays," said Davis, "he plays with the same degree of force. He leaves no holes for the rhythm section."
So I ignored Oscar Peterson for too long. But neglecting Oscar wasn't easy, and it didn't last. He was a prolific performer, and he began to creep into my peripheral vision more and more. He was everywhere. Ella and Louis - check. Diz and Getz - check. Prez and Lady Day - yup.
I kept getting closer to the source. In 2000, I worked on Jazz From Lincoln Center with Ed Bradley. We recorded a "Duet on the Hudson" from the Kaplan Penthouse in New York. Ray Brown and Monty Alexander. I interviewed them both for the eventual radio show. Ray Brown talked about the great duet record with Jimmy Blanton and Duke Ellington. Then the conversation turned into an Oscar ceremony - his admiration for bassist Oscar Pettiford, and his longtime association with pianist Oscar Peterson. Monty Alexander started in about Nat Cole, and eventually landed on Oscar Peterson.
I remember a moment during Martin Scorsese's THE BLUES series a few years later. During the episode that Clint Easwood directed, "Piano Blues," Ray Charles gave a ringing endorsement to Oscar Peterson's skill, one that I'll allow you to discover for yourself. Let's just say it contained a fairly colorful phrase that the FCC would not consider "family-friendly."
Anyway, I owe thanks to Brother Ray for redirecting me to the Oscar Peterson Trio. I dug into those classic recordings of Peterson, Ray Brown, and drummer Ed Thigpen. Boy, do they swing (I know that word is highly charged, so I don't use it lightly). I still haven't heard all of those trio records. But the trio recording NIGHT TRAIN, THE SOUND OF THE TRIO, LIVE FROM CHICAGO, WE GET REQUESTS, VERY TALL, TRIO +1, and the bushel of songbook records are a still a joy to visit.
One session that comes to mind is the date that the trio recorded with the master arranger Nelson Riddle. They sounded so restrained, or better, so composed. All that finger-breaking technique at Oscar Peterson's disposal, yet he plays some of the most unadorned piano I ever heard him play. The B side of the record ends with Benny Goodman's classic signoff - Gordon Jenkins' "Goodbye." Great stuff.
Oscar Peterson signed off recently. He played music for a living. He played himself, for us. I'm glad I discovered that.
Goodbye, Oscar Peterson.
© 2007 WBGO