WBGO Blog
  • Grab A Seat In The Studio With The Miles Davis Quintet

    November 23, 2016. Posted by David Tallacksen.

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    Freedom Jazz Dance: The Bootleg Series Vol. 5 provides listeners rare access to the Miles Davis Quintet's creative process. (Image Credit: Veryl Oakland/Courtesy of the artist)

    Music historians, biographers and diehard fans have always had a keen interest in session reels, the unedited studio banter and outtakes from recording sessions. With the release of Freedom Jazz Dance, the fifth volume of Miles Davis' The Bootleg Series, avid listeners will have access to over two hours of previously unreleased recordings — including dialogue from studio sessions.

    When I first got my hands on the Miles Davis Quintet's session reels, I felt like I'd walked right into their studio and taken a seat in the sound booth. These reels are access to the insular world of Davis and his sidemen: how they joked, collaborated and worked.

    There are even scenes of discovery. One track gives a glimpse of the quintet rehearsing Wayne Shorter's "Nefertiti" in 1967. Davis, laughing, offers an idea: "Hey man, why don't we make a tune just playin' the melody, not play the solos." He's met by laughter from the whole room. At the time, this band always improvised solos; solos developed a melody and gave it drama. But instead, there's a collective realization here that the horns should simply repeat the melody. That repetition created dramatic tension, and meanwhile the spectacular drumming developed the tune. Freedom Jazz Dance gives us this decisive moment of creation — and so much else.

    In another recording, Davis and pianist Herbie Hancock are working on the tune "Circle." Miles grumbles a little at the recording engineer, but mostly what I hear is camaraderie and diligence. This is Davis as a productive professional rather than the tortured genius we've seen on film lately. Whatever demons may have haunted him, this album reminds us that he was also an engaging bandleader who worked hard at his music.

    Freedom Jazz Dance isn't for everyone. With its false starts, sometimes barely intelligible dialogue, and sheer length — three full CDs of material! — some might see the album as merely of academic or historical interest.

    What this album does offer is the unfiltered creative process of one of jazz's greatest bands, a sense of how the musicians understood and evolved their art. Freedom Jazz Dance's session reels are nonfiction scenes from an important era in Miles Davis's musical life — and if we listen closely, the album gives us just enough information to compose the rest of the story ourselves.

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  • Mayra Casales's Salon Session with Sheila Anderson

    November 22, 2016. Posted by Corey Goldberg.

    Percussionist Mayra Casales stops by to talk with Sheila Anderson about her album, Woman on Fire.

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  • Little Johnny Rivero with Awilda Rivera

    November 22, 2016. Posted by Corey Goldberg.

    Percussionist Little Johnny Rivero joins Awilda Rivera for a conversation that traces his path from a childhood on the dance floor to fronting his own band.

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  • Mike LeDonne Spins with Sheila Anderson on Salon Sessions

    November 21, 2016. Posted by Corey Goldberg.

    What makes a master? What do you need for a great trio? Pianist and organist Mike LeDonne joins Sheila Anderson for a Salon Session with a few classic records in tow to answer these questions and talk about his compositional tribute to Lou Donaldson, the disability pride parade he founded, and more.

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  • 'We're Contemporary People': BADBADNOTGOOD's Mixed Bag Of Inspiration

    November 21, 2016. Posted by David Tallacksen.

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    "I think we came about precisely from just goofing around and having fun," bassist Chester Hansen (second from right) says. "And we're still just goofin'." (Image Credit: Courtesy of the artist)

    BADBADNOTGOOD knows its name is a little strange. The jazz group's bassist, Chester Hansen, says it invites jokes from nearly everyone the band meets. "It's probably the most punned name I have ever heard," he says.

    BADBADNOTGOOD also knows its songs sometimes sound more like hip-hop than jazz. But Matt Tavares, the group's keyboardist, says it makes sense for a band of young jazz players to interpret contemporary styles of music. "It's just fun," Tavares says. "We all listen to contemporary music – you know, 'cause we're contemporary people."

    Formed in Toronto in 2010, BADBADNOTGOOD attracted an early following by taking a loose, free-jazz approach to covers of songs by hip-hop artists like Gucci Mane and Kanye West. "When you're improvising on something or trying to express yourself emotionally, to have any kind of connection with the music is nice," Tavares says.

    Tavares says this approach stands in contrast to the time he spent with often-taught jazz standards in the jazz program at Toronto's Humber College. To him, at 19 years old, learning show tunes and American standards from the 1920s and '30s felt strange. "Some of the songs would be about like, not having a telephone or something, you know what I mean?" he says. "So it becomes hard to relate."

    What Tavares and his bandmates could relate to was their mutual love of hip-hop, funk and Brazilian music. Tavares says BADBADNOTGOOD's first three albums reflect that mixed bag of inspiration, and it all comes together on the band's latest and most cohesive album, IV.

    Hansen notes that even though BADBADNOTGOOD has finally found its sound, the band is still down to experiment. "I think we came about precisely from just goofing around and having fun," Hansen says. "And we're still just goofin'."

    Hear more from Tavares and Hansen at the audio link.

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