• Best Album Covers

    July 18, 2008. Posted by Angelika Beener.

    Add new comment | Filed under: Jazz Alive


    OK, I just had this crazy idea.  I'm sure it's not a first, but I never thought about doing this until today.  I was thinking to paint a mural on a wall in my apartment using my favorite album cover as inspiration.  But I have too many favorite covers, which then got me to thinking about all the dope album covers there are - not just in jazz, but in all of music.  So I thought I'd share just a slight few of my favorite album covers of all time - in no particular order.  If you have some favorites, share them with me.  I'd love to know what your mural would look like.

    Miles Davis - Bitches Brew

    Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon

    Thelonious Monk - Underground

    John Coltrane - Coltrane

    The Beatles - St. Pepper's Lonely...

    Miles Davis - A Tribute to Jack Johnson

    Radiohead - Amnesiac

    Duke Ellington & John Coltrane

    Stevie Wonder - Innervisions, Talking Book, Songs in the Key...

    Marvin Gaye - What's Goin' On

    Wayne Shorter - Night Dreamer

    Herbie Hancock - Inventions and Dimensions

    The Jacksons - Destiny

    Michael Jackson - Off the Wall

    John Coltrane - A Love Supreme

    The Doors - The Doors

    Aretha Franklin - Young, Gifted and Black




  • Nicholas Payton's Into the Blue

    July 18, 2008. Posted by Angelika Beener.

    Add new comment | Filed under: Jazz Alive


    Here's an album I'm recently checking out. Jazz trumpeter and Crescent City native Nicholas Payton has a new CD out called Into the Blue. It's been five years since the trailblazing trumpeter put out his Sonic Trance which left me, for one, looking for the next thing. That album was so different from everything he had done before, so I was really curious to see what was next (there was a tribute album in between, but I'm referring to Payton's original music). Needless to say, I'm happy he's back in the spotlight.

    I checked him out at the Jazz Standard last month, playing tracks from the new record, and it was really cool. Not what I would have expected...but then again, I didn't know what to expect. What I got was a road less traveled that was paved with certainty, purpose and spontaneity all at the same time. The band included rhodes and percussion. Nicholas was singing more than a handful of tunes (yes, entire tunes) and did really interesting covers - Joe Jackson's "Steppin' Out" for one (yeah 80s!).

    I recently read that this is the first album Payton has recorded in his home town of New Orleans. He had always recorded in New York - far away from the distractions of home. When I listen to this album, though I don't hear overt New Orleans influence, I can still feel the inspiration of home. It's a romantic and really feel good album. Nothing contrived, or regurgitated, like some groove-oriented jazz albums. It feels fresh, even in its familiarity. My favorite tune is the ballad "The Backward Step." It almost sounds like a meditation - but with a form, which I find really interesting. The melody is extremely poetic.

    I am happy to say that I am really enjoying this record. Well worth the wait.

  • John Coltrane and Duke Ellington

    July 17, 2008. Posted by Angelika Beener.

    Add new comment | Filed under: Jazz Alive


    I'm listening to Mid-Day Jazz with Rhonda Hamilton (as usual) and she decided to play Trane and Ellington's version of "In a Sentimental Mood."  I thought it was a really intriguing choice of tune.  Usually, this tune is associated with a sultry or romantic evening...or just relaxing at home alone, or something. Probably a bit cliché, but none the less kinda true.  But at 11 AM, I think it's such a thought-provoking choice of tune...and I must say I'm loving it.  It has a refreshing connotation...almost like my morning coffee, and I'm appreciating the tune all over again, as if for the first time...hearing it now, takes me to a certain time and place.

    I have to start off by saying that I know this album extremely well.  It's probably the 3rd earliest memory of music overall, that I have.  My parents would play this album when I was just a toddler.  I can still remember seeing the vinyl propped up against the baseboard.  The black and orange look of the album cover with the photo of John and Duke in a circle was always magical to me.  I suppose I had no choice but to fall in love with the record, as much as my mom played it, LOL!  Plus, I was named after one of the tunes on the record.  "Angelica" was their inspiration, though they switched up the spelling a bit.  Anyway, I'm saying all of this to say  that this is one of these records where I know every note...every inflection...but hearing it this morning gave me a totally new (yet subconsciously retro) perspective.  That's was great music does.  It allows you to rediscover it...redefine it for yourself, over and over again, decade after decade.  Thanks, Rhonda!

  • Great Live Moments - Philly Joe Jones

    July 17, 2008. Posted by Angelika Beener.


    By the 1980's, jazz drummer Philly Joe Jones had formed Dameronia, a group dedicated to playing the music of the great pianist, composer and arranger Tadd Dameron.  Dameron was a major influence of the drumming giant early in his career.  Dameronia was well-received and produced a few LP's with this musical concept.  Listen to the "Tadd's Delight" from 1983 featuring Charles Davis on saxophones, Walter Davis, Jr. on piano and Larry Ridley on bass.  It is imaginable that Jones had a dual love playing this tune.  In addition to honoring Dameron, Miles Davis, who was another major influence (and colleague), made the tune famous in the 1950s. We originally recorded this special date live in 1983 from the Jazz Forum in New York City. This recording is particularly a highlight, as it was not long after, that jazz would lose this innovative drummer to a fatal heart attack.

    Jones, who would have turned 85 this month, remains one of the quintessential drummers of this genre.

    Listen Here

  • Great Live Moments - Joe Henderson (1937-2001)

    July 15, 2008. Posted by Becca Pulliam.

    Born and raised in Lima (LYE-ma), Ohio, the saxophonist Joe Henderson was the thirteenth of 15 children. The oldest living sibling is Troye Henderson, born in 1924. We reached out to brother Troye to ask permission to share "Recordame" from the WBGO archive with you, and to ask about Joe.

    When Joe - very very young at the time - was learning the saxophone, Troye played his recording of "DB Blues" by Lester Young, and told Joe to learn the first three notes and when he knew them, learn the next three. Joe became so good that - when Stan Kenton's and Lionel Hampton's big bands came through Lima - family members took Joe (underage) to the shows, and the leaders invited him onstage. Joe called Troye his mentor, and Troye was a lifelong fan who would jump in his car and drive across state lines to hear him.

    After the Army, Joe Henderson lived in San Francisco, close to San Francisco State University. Saxophonist Andrew Speight (SPITE) - now on the faculty there - says that, though not formally affiliated with SFSU, Henderson taught lots of people in the Bay Area and had the respect of all musicians. When he passed, people "grabbed and secured his stuff," so that it would not be lost to jazz history.

    Andrew and others at SFSU are setting up a home for the collection, the Joe Henderson Institute. They hope to find a qualified grad student who will organize the music manuscripts, many many tapes of practice sessions and gigs ("live bootlegs") that Joe recorded, released records, awards, and other people's manuscripts of Joe's playing. It's a long process, slowly beginning.

    The Institute will be part of the Generations Project, under the umbrella of the International Center for the Arts at SFSU. The Project also holds hours of SFSU video of the late pianist Ronnie Mathews (1935-2008), who was involved - along with drummer Jimmy Cobb - in studying group creativity.

    Players like Henderson, Mathews and Cobb came up playing a lot of gigs in a lot of great bands with distinctive group sounds. In a split second, the musicians would negotiate questions - right there on the bandstand, creatively, through their music - not as stars but as .. brothers is the word that comes to mind. Brother Troye says when the Joe Henderson Institute is finally open for business that, just as he did when Joe was alive, he'll drive from Ohio to California to be there!

    Listen to Joe's "Recordame" with Curtis Fuller, Fred Hersch, Marc Johnson, Roy Haynes. 

    Becca Pulliam