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
March 12, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.
I am a city dweller, plagued by the New Yorker bias. That is, I very rarely go to New Jersey for anything other than to work at WBGO. However, I am not so entrenched that I won't shake my preconceptions for the right set of circumstances. So last night, I ventured to SOPAC for a performance from the SF Jazz Collective, a pride of eight musicians of the highest caliber.
Each year, the collective features original commissions, as well as arrangements of a noted modern jazz composer. This season, the band turns their all-seeing eye on composer and saxophonist (and Newark native) Wayne Shorter.
The end of time was the beginning of the set. Saxophonist Miguel Zenon's arrangement of Shorter's "Armegeddon" set us on the trailhead.
Here's what followed:
This That and the Other - a Joe Lovano original
The Angel's Share - penned by Matt Penman, a New Zealand import
Diana - from Shorter's Native Dancer, arranged by Renee Rosnes
Go - Stefon Harris arranged this Shorter composition with some backbeat boom bap. Great way to end the first half.
The second set pushed ahead into the abstract, modern aesthetic that makes the collective such a great band to hear. Drummer Eric Harland's "The Year 2008" set the tone, a composition built around a recorded vocal chant, Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, and a reading of the Declaration of Independence. Rosnes' "Aurora Borealis" followed. Trumpeter Dave Douglas contributed "Secrets of the Code," an original work that used snippets of Wayne Shorter's music as source code embedded as a thread throughout the composition. Great stuff. The newest member of the collective, trombonist Robin Eubanks, ended the evening with his arrangement of Shorter's "Black Nile."
Only two complaints. The piano monitor levels in the house made the trombone articulation inaudible. That's just the music nerd in me. The other issue is this: I could not hear all of the band's repertoire in a single night. The SF Jazz Collective had more music in the kitty, but I'll have to see them again to hear the rest. Will do.
© 2008 WBGO
March 11, 2008. Posted by Simon Rentner.
I drifted in to Dennis Irwin's benefit concert at the Allen Room late. Joe Lovano's octet just finished a joyous, foot-stomping song, and then came the shock: trumpeter Wynton Marsalis announced bassist Dennis Irwin was dead. He passed away four hours earlier, at 3:30 in New York City.
Suddenly, this joyous benefit turned into a memorial. To learn of Irwin's condition late last week was disturbing enough - he was diagnosed with spinal cancer in its fourth stage. To hear the news of his death while sitting in the audience was too much - it resonated through me like thunder. How could he be gone so quickly? The musicians learned of Dennis's death moments before Wynton announced it. That must have been a disconcerting moment. Does the repertory change when a concert turns from a charitable affair to a concert of remembrance?
I suppose there are no right or wrong ways to grieve or celebrate a life, and the musicians who performed for Dennis last night drove home that point.
After Wynton called for a moment of prayer and pause, pianist Bill Charlap offered a moment of consolation with Leonard Bernstein's "Some Other Time." Tony Bennett joined Charlap's trio for a somber reading of "But Beautiful." Then the mood shifted abruptly: Bennett concluded with Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm," Mose Allison romped through his tongue-and-cheek originals, and pianist Dom Salvador and saxophonist Dick Oatts offered two spirited Brazilian pieces.
Then, the music highlight of the evening: two unexpected trios took the stage, each guided by a forward-thinking guitarist. John Scofield joined John Patitucci and Jack DeJohnette for an upbeat groove; then Bill Frisell linked-up with Ron Carter and Paul Motian for a lament -- the audience, especially the folks from the jazz industry, were equally weeping and salivating.
Wynton Marsalis performed with David Berger's Sultans of Swing, but never stepped onstage. He performed his remarkable solo on "Stardust" while he walked down the aisle of the Allen Room, sharing his grief not only with all the musicians, but also with everyone in the audience. - Simon Rentner
© 2008 WBGO
March 11, 2008. Posted by Becca Pulliam.
Dennis Irwin died at 3:30 yesterday afternoon. Four hours later, in the Allen Room at Jazz at Lincoln Center, Joe Lovano's band led off what was to have been a benefit concert. Like Dennis, Lovano's bassist Cameron Brown is white-haired and medium height -- a detail you notice with bassists. I wanted to believe he was Dennis. Wynton Marsalis spoke of Dennis's "most magnificent attitude." The rest of the night spoke to his most magnificent music. Among the moments, Bill Frisell's phrases and spaces evoking "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," and Harry Allen and Joe Cohn's simple sax / guitar duo of "Body and Soul." David Berger told the story of Dennis coming to BAM to sub in the Harlem Nutcracker, a complicated, fast-paced score which Dennis virtually sightread. At the end of the first act, the band spontaneously gave the bassist a standing ovation. Dennis stayed in David's band for the next 11 years. Adorable in a tiny dress and high high heels, Aria Hendricks -- Dennis's love -- sang with her father Jon on "Doodlin'". Jon sang air bass on his solo.
© 2008 WBGO
March 10, 2008. Posted by Michael Bourne.
I spent the whole show backstage. I didn't even realize that Dennis passed. It was only at the last when Aria Hendricks talked about Dennis before she sang "The Nearness of You" that I knew. None of the cats backstage were being mournful. Whenever anyone said anything about Dennis, it was a joyful story. I introduced Mose Allison in the concert, and when Mose was singing, John Scofield and others backstage remembered that Dennis knew all the lyrics to Mose's songs. I was amazed by the who's who backstage. I remember looking over and all the drummers were hanging out. Jack DeJohnette. Kenny Washington. Lewis Nash. Paul Motian. And then Matt Wilson walked by. They and all of the others at the concert knew, learned from, laughed with, loved, and were swung by Dennis Irwin.
© 2008 WBGO