night in tunisia
Today is the 87th birthday of a jazz legend - Dr. Billy Taylor. Last night, on the eve of this very special day, Dr. T was one of several featured pianists at the 92nd Street Y in the Jazz in July series. He likes the name of that series because he came up with it himself when he helped to found a summer program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Just this month, Taylor quietly stepped down from his Jazz in July, and U Mass expressed gratitude for many summers on its website. Click to read the story.
Also this summer, Taylor is involved in a development right here in our town. Now we have a Brick City branch of Jazzmobile, the teaching organization he helped found in Harlem. Newark Jazzmobile is named for the late bassist Earl May, who first proposed it but did not live to see it happen. Click here for the Jazzmobile schedule. Houston Person plays tonight at Mildred Helms Park in the South Ward! Click and hear Billy Taylor play "A Night in Tunisia" on WBGO's (then) new Steinway, live on the air in the 1980s. Another Great Live Moment from WBGO.
Day Three Saturday June 28th
Rainy but not raining, what Michele says folks in the Northwest call "spitting." Were it not wet I might've enjoyed the first group to be judged, a generic quartet fronted by saxist Jerrold Dubyk. All of these groups are good enough to be up for the prize, but only a few have that unique "thing" (tunes, grooves, presence, a character or sound) that elevates them into a winner. Dubyk's group was more or less the same as about half the groups in the competition -- except for the electric bass player's solo, which was only notes up and down the scale. "I don't want to be prejudicial," I said to some of the other judges, "but that was the worst bass solo I've ever heard." And they expressed consensus.
Group #5 is a contender: WAZA, a trio with electric keys, electric bass, and an electrifying drummer. They played solid and quite compositional grooves, especially from the drummer. They were fun to listen to, as if listening to really hip toys. After a thunderstorm of funk from the bassist, Nancy, one of the judges, said "Now that was a bass solo!"
Hank Jones was joined for duets by Brad Mehldau, and the interplay was wonderful. Hank played melodies or only changes elegantly while Brad danced around and through -- danced like Barishnykov.
"Night in Tunisia" they played at first fragmented, but then Dizzy's tune blossomed. Hank's solo of "The Very Thought of You" was so deeply beautiful that Brad mostly listened, enraptured. Hank was again whimsically witty about which song they'd play next, or which piano they'd play. "Just One of Those Things" was a joyful finale, and I could hear the lyric: "it was great fun!"
Happy birthday today to pianist Michel Camilo.
WBGO recorded Michel's trio at Iridium on April 24, 1997.
Michel Camilo, Bassist Lincoln Goines and drummer Cliff Almond had a killer piano trio sound. Listen to "A Night in Tunisia" from the WBGO Archives.
And do you know what inspired Michel Camilo to play jazz? Hearing Art Tatum play "Tea for Two." When Camilo was 14, he heard that jazz record in his native Dominican Republic. Since you cannot see Art Tatum magic on a record, and you can no longer see him play, you'll have to check out this re-performance of "Tea For Two."
Courtney Pine, the British jazz musicians turned Jazz Crusader for BBC2, presented an evening of British Jazz at IAJE. I missed the first set from Empirical, winner of the 2007 EBU European Jazz Competition. I got there for the band's final notes.
Pine quickly introduced Martin Taylor, who jumped onstage a little early. Since the stagecrew wasn't ready for the band, he entertained the audience with a solo version of "I'm Old Fashioned." Here it is:
I supposed you're predestined to play guitar when your named Martin Taylor, since that's the name of two highly regarded luthiers. Taylor made his first appearance in Toronto 25 years ago. This performance was his return engagement. It's been a while. Here's a cut from the full band:
I was totally blown away by the next act. Kids from Scotland who play like they've been playing together for years. Check this out, and tell me if you think they sound like novices...
The last act, I suppose, represented "the future." Trombonist Dennis Rollins has been raking in the awards in Britain. The music was certainly fun and dance-ready. Occasional references to "Summertime" and "Work Song" notwithstanding, I would call this a tightly arranged ensemble that combines a panoply of styles, including drum-n-bass, jazz, funk, and garage. Hear what I mean:
So there you have it. I guess you can't call this show The British Invasion, since we're technically in Canada, where Queen Elizabeth is the head of state. - Josh