June 21, 2015. Posted by Tim Wilkins.
WBGO says farewell to NEA Jazz Master Gunther Schuller, who died today at age 89. The composer sought to combine jazz and classical music in his seventy-year career, and coined the phrase "Third Stream" to describe this style.
In 2008, he was named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts, the nation's highest honor for jazz musicians and advocates. WBGO's Rhonda Hamilton was on hand for the occasion, and we'd like to share their memorable conversation with you again now.
Thank you, Gunther, and rest in peace!
Schuller began his career as a French horn player in the early forties, and recorded with trumpeter Miles Davis and other jazz musicians while also principal hornist with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. Thelonious Monk and Ornette Coleman were among the jazz artists whose works he championed at this time.
In 1959, he left performance to concentrate on scholarship and composition. He served as president of the New England Conservatory for twenty years, and as artistic director for the Tanglewood Music Center for fourteen. His two volumes on "Early Jazz" and "The Swing Era" are foundational texts of jazz musicology.
© 2015 WBGO
January 15, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.
Each year, IAJE and the Herb Alpert Foundation award the esteemed Gil Evans Commission, honoring an emerging jazz composer. In addition to a modest fellowship, the honoree receives an all-expense paid trip to the IAJE conference to showcase the work. Past winners include Maria Schneider and John Hollenbeck.
This years winner is Wil Swindler, a Denver-based saxophonist and composer. Swinder brought presented his commissioned work, "Glass," featuring his Elevenet. They are - Wil Swindler (Alto Saxophone), Peter Sommer (Tenor Saxophone), Art Bouton (Alto Flute), April Johannesen (Bass Clarinet), Al Hood, Clay Jenkins (Trumpets), Jason Johnston (French Horn), Dave Stamps (Trombone), Gary Mayne (Tuba), Dana Landry (Piano), Erik Applegate (Bass), Jim White (Drums).
I asked Wil to describe the ideas behind his composition. Here's what he said:
This piece is composed on a four-note melodic cell transposed by major thirds to create a 12-note collection out of which the melodic and much of the harmonic material presents itself. It passes through a variety of time signatures and rhythmic feels, never straying from the four note cell and its derivative motives. Keep an ear out for the use of ensemble interjections during the alto solo - it is an acoustic representation of how a soloist might use a harmonization pedal to supplement some improvised lines.
Check out an audience recording of "Glass":
Wil Swindler Elevenet - Glass
© 2008 WBGO
January 14, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.
Sometimes, everything works in your favor. Earlier this evening, I was God - well, the The Voice of God, actually - during the NEA Jazz Master Awards Concert. I only get this opportunity once a year, so I do my best to take advantage of the moment. When you're posing as a deity in a crowd of real ones, you might as well take control of reality. Michael Bourne refers to this unique ability of customizing your universe as being a Master of Space and Time.
Backstage was a real hang. Old friends Quincy Jones and Jon Hendricks, who share a lot of history, swapped stories about an era of music that I know only about because I read books. They lived it.
But I'm not afraid to talk to anyone. So I struck a note with Hendricks shortly after I took this photo. At 86, he's 53 years my senior. And he has more energy then I do. No more than ten minutes later, I'm in a cab with him. We're meeting Quincy Jones and a couple of friends for dinner. This is really happening...
We gather at Greg Couillard's Spice Room and Chutney Bar, a private dining area in a Yorkville mall. The room seats about 40. It's 11:30pm. The place is ours alone.
Couillard, from one of Canada's oldest families, and David Nganga, a Kenyan, are two of Toronto's finest chefs. They combine dishes with an understanding of spices from every world trade route - Africa, Asia, Indonesia, the Middle East, the Caribbean, India. They brought five courses of their own creation, and each one worked. Giant prawns, short ribs, lamb chops on a bed of chutney, flying fish and callalou pepperpot, Alberta filet mignon with foie gras, a dessert sampler to die for, and biscuits so good that a Southerner like myself had to ask for seconds.
I did not bring a microphone, nor a recorder. This wasn't the right time for such things. Anyway, we were improvising. What I can tell you is that the conversation went many places - New Orleans, Brazil, Toledo [OH], Dubai, Vegas, Miami's South Beach, New York. The stories were many - Q on the road with Lionel Hampton, Sing a Song of Basie, teaching kids about jazz and democracy, you name it.
What fascinated me most about Quincy Jones was his understanding of international politics. He knows the internal dynamics of most nation states, including the United States. He's an international businessman and a humanitarian. He has to know it all.
What you need to know about Quincy is that he is jazz. He never sleeps. He uses his power and wealth to affect social change. He's sending an envoy of New Orleans musicians to the favelas of Rio this year to show the rest of the world that poverty exists, and that it's inhumane. He's followed everywhere he goes (except to tonight's dinner) by a camera crew. They're making video podcasts. You should watch them.
He loves great food. His favorite is gumbo from New Orleans' Dooky Chase Restaurant, run by the Queen of Creole cooking, Leah Chase. Q knows the Chase family. He has the gumbo recipe, and someone cooks it for him when he's nowhere near New Orleans.
Quincy is also opening five clubs this year, in the US and abroad. They're called Q's Jook Joints. Frankly, wherever Quincy Jones is, that's where you'll find the real Q's Jook Joint. I'm glad that for one night, I got to jam there with two masters - Quincy Jones and Jon Hendricks.
When you're a Master of the Universe, even for just one day, you'd better know how to improvise.
© 2008 WBGO
January 13, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.
David Baker presented the 2008 NEA Jazz Master Award to Quincy Jones. Jones gave a Delight-ful acceptance speech. His words came straight from the heart. Give it a listen:
That's how Quincy Jones feels about jazz.
Perhaps you heard his interview with Rhonda Hamilton?
The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra played another Jones original:
NEA Jazz Masters Joe Wilder, Paquito D'Rivera and Candido Camero joined the orchestra onstage for a jam session:
A perfect end to a perfect night, right? I thought so too. But as luck would have it, my perfect night was only beginning...
- Josh Jackson
© 2008 WBGO