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Root down: The Incredible Jimmy Smith LIVE in concert, 1965
11.21.2014
12:27 pm

Topics:
Music

Tags:
jazz
Lalo Schifrin
Jimmy Smith


 
I became a Jimmy Smith fan by way of my love of the soundtrack for Joy House, a 1964 French Alain Delon/Jane Fonda crime drama scored by Lalo Schifrin. Later that same year Smith and Schifrin, together, recorded an album titled The Cat featuring two of the film’s main themes with the Argentinian composer/conductor orchestrating a big band supporting Smith’s inventive organ playing. The results are classic. The next Smith album I picked up was his 1965 set Monster, which featured covers of “Goldfinger” (DO click on that link and listen) and the theme tunes from The Munsters and Bewitched filtered through his mighty Hammond B-3. Along with The Sermon! and his 1972 live in concert Root Down (famously sampled by the Beastie Boys) these albums are all great places to start with Smith.

I had the great pleasure of seeing the incredible Jimmy Smith in concert sometime in the early 90s in a small basement jazz club in Manhattan (I forget the name). He was great, but he did something incredibly awkward near the start of the show: There was a group of about ten older, obviously wealthy, Japanese men seated in a VIP area next to the stage. After this first number Smith—who seemed like he had a pretty good buzz on—addressed the men and thanked his “great friends” from Japan for coming to the show and then he pulled his eyes back, made like he had buck teeth and started repeating “Hong Kong Phooey! Hong Kong Phooey!” and bowing frantically towards them like it was the funniest thing in the world. No one laughed and these gentlemen just froze with that fake smile thing that the Japanese are famous for when they’re caught in uncomfortable moments just like this one.

It was a small room and I think that—drunk or not—Smith knew that he’d made a bit of an ass of himself and showman that he was, endeavored to make the crowd forget about his little “Hong Kong Phooey!” faux pas. The rest of the set astonished and getting to see HOW he played, up close, was a revelation: Smith’s feet walked back and forth across the pedals playing the bass line the entire time. By the end of his show he was drenched in sweat, having gotten quite a full aerobic workout, I can assure you. The guy played the shit out of his organ, even hitting the keys with his nose when just two hands and two feet weren’t enough.

In this half hour set taped in front of a subdued audience in 1965, Smith and his sidemen tear the place apart to but merely “polite” applause. He doesn’t try to hide his surprise at the quiet reaction to a particularly raved up version of “The Sermon.” Watch his face, it’s like he’s wondering “What more can I do for you people?”

Set list: “Theme from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” “The Sermon,” “Theme from Mondo Cane,” Wagon Wheels”
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
New boxed set reveals John Coltrane created ‘terror’ during final tour with Miles Davis, 1960
11.20.2014
08:05 am

Topics:
History
Music

Tags:
Miles Davis
jazz
John Coltrane

All of You: The Final Tour, 1960
 
In 1955, Miles Davis hired an up-and-coming musician named John Coltrane to play in his group. Over the next couple of years, the team-up produced some incredible music, but the personal relationship between the trumpeter/leader and the saxophonist was never steady. Backstage at a gig in the spring of 1957, Miles slapped Coltrane and then punched him in the stomach; Trane’s only response was to quit the band.

Coltrane returned to join Davis’ sextet later in the year, but during that short time away he had continued to make a name for himself as a group member, bandleader and recording artist in his own right. Trane played on Miles’ Kind of Blue (1959), now considered one of the cornerstones of the jazz genre, and accompanied Davis on a European tour in 1960, but mentally he was focused on his own music. Miles later admitted Coltrane “was ready to move out before we left.”
 
Kind of Blue
 
The spring 1960 European tour was spread out over twenty cities in nine countries. The new boxed set, All of You: The Last Tour, 1960 includes recordings from eight of those performances. Though the Quintet sounds fantastic as a unit, Coltrane’s solos are so unusual they caused quite a stir at the time. Kind of Blue is a lovely record that is also easy on the ears, but Trane was doing his best to make this music sound ugly.

Journalist Frank Tenot witnessed the first show of the tour in Paris: “People were very surprised why there was no John Coltrane like on Kind of Blue. So, part of the audience thinks that Coltrane doesn’t play too well, that he was playing the wrong notes, involuntarily.” Tenot went backstage after the show to tell the saxophonist, “You’re too new for the people… you go too far.” Coltrane just smiled and said, “I don’t go far enough.”

Other critics who witnessed the shows wished that Trane had held back. One reporter called his solos “scandalous,” and wrote that they “bore no relationship whatsoever with playing the saxophone.” Another writer was so horrified he equated Coltrane’s solos with the very concept of “terror.”
 
Trane in pain
 
As the leader, Davis takes the first solo during every song on these recordings, and as much as I dig Miles—his solo turns are as interesting and as exquisite as ever—after a couple of tracks, I found myself waiting for Coltrane to step up and blow me away. And he would do just that. Every time. It’s fascinating to hear him push the material—and thus, the band—especially as this was Miles’ group, not his. The fact that we now know he had mentally moved on from his role with Davis, as well as facing negative reactions to his output, only makes listening to these tracks all the more absorbing.
 
John Coltrane and Miles Davis
 
The Miles Davis Quintet returned to the states on April 11th, and it wouldn’t be long before Coltrane would make his exit. By then, Trane had made a name for himself and was well on his to becoming one of the titans of jazz.
 
John Coltrane
 
Some of the recordings on the boxed set are taken from radio broadcasts, while others were captured privately by audience members. Initially, my expectations were somewhat low as far as the fidelity of these live tapes—which date from over a half century ago—but aside from a couple of muddy sounding tracks and occasional issues with how the musicians were mic’d, the sound quality ranges from very good to surprisingly great. Hear for yourself, as we have an exclusive preview track, an up tempo version of “So What,” recorded in Stockholm, Sweden on March 22nd, 1960. The faster beat and Trane’s dissonant solo result in something excitingly different than the subdued mood created for the familiar Kind of Blue version. Enjoy.

All of You: The Last Tour, 1960 will be released on December 2nd.
 

 
Here’s a 1959 TV clip of “So What” played at a pace that more closely resembles the one found on Kind of Blue, but with Coltrane beginning to stretch, feeling his way towards the type of solos he would play on his final tour with Miles:
 

 

Posted by Bart Bealmear | Leave a comment
Mingus, Monk and more: Portraits of jazz greats painted on drum skins
10.24.2014
05:54 pm

Topics:
Art
Music

Tags:
jazz
Charles Mingus
drums
Thelonious Monk

Thelonious Monk drum skin art by Nicole Di Nardo
Thelonious Monk
 
Twenty-seven-year-old Toronto based artist Nicole Di Nardo says her desire to paint portraiture on drums skins was inspired by “tondos” or “circular” works of art whose origins have been traced as far back to 500 BC in ancient Greece, then were popularized again during the Renaissance in the 14th century and in the 15th century by Sandro Botticelli. Di Nardo gives used drum skins she obtains from the Humber College of Music in Ontario a new life by hand painting images of jazz greats, especially drummers, on skins that have been worn in a way that helps illustrate the musical passion that drove her subjects to create their music. Here’s a little bit more from Di Nardo’s bio on her creative process:
 

I source skins that are beaten to the point of near uselessness by eager young musicians. I then repurpose the skin by selecting it based on its unique design, which corresponds to the portrait I wish to render. I am interested in painting portraits of musicians who have fire in their bellies, those that reach a transcendental state while performing which is reflected in their expression. During these moments, I believe the tarnish of life fades away and the human spirit is evident most clearly.

 
Di Nardo’s subjects also include a few rockers like Janis Joplin and Tom Waits, but it’s her portraits of Charles Mingus, legendary percussionist Max Roach, and modern day timekeeper Questlove that really shine. Di Nardo’s works run around $180 dollars each over at her Etsy store.  Images of Di Nardo’s works follow. Dig it, Daddy-O.
 
Charles Mingus drum art by Nicole Di Nardo
Charles Mingus
 
Max Roach drum art by Nicole Di Nardo
Max Roach
 
Elvin Jones drum art by Nicole Di Nardo
Elvin Jones
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Ella Fitzgerald’s totally swingin’ cover of Cream’s ‘Sunshine of Your Love’
09.11.2014
06:10 pm

Topics:
Music

Tags:
jazz
Cream
Ella Fitzgerald


 
In one of those often unitentionally goofy attempts of an older, established artist trying to be hep with the young cats and kittens, the great Ella Fitzgerald recorded a live set in 1969 with Ernie Hecksher’s Big Band and the Tommy Flanagan Trio in San Francisco where she mixed some pop standards of the day with some perhaps more avant garde choices. Well, at least one…

It’s fairly innocuous stuff for the most part (Bacharch and David, Lennon McCartney) but who would have expected the First Lady of Song to cover Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love”? And yet cover it she did. It’s not too bad, either. In fact, Fitzgerald made it the album’s title and a part of her live act for a while, even performing this improbable number during her concert at the Montreux Jazz Festival that year:
 

 
Thank you kindly Michael Simmons!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Home movie footage of Duke Ellington and his band playing baseball
06.09.2014
07:51 am

Topics:
Music
Sports

Tags:
jazz
Duke Ellington
baseball

Duke Ellington
 
Two of the greatest home-grown American inventions—indeed, grassroots institutions—are jazz and baseball. The consensus greatest practitioners of both pastimes—Louis Armstrong and Babe Ruth, respectively—were in their prime at the exact same time, the 1920s, and both men were raised in orphanages. Shit, it’s jazz and baseball, I’ve just accidentally named two Ken Burns PBS series, that’s how freaking iconic those two things are. You can tell the story of America through baseball, or through jazz. They’re both rich mines of meaning.

And if you have something that combines the two, well, that’s something I want to know about. Smithsonian Magazine recently came up with some truly remarkable footage, dating from around 1941, of the legendary jazz bandleader and composer Duke Ellington playing a little bit of baseball during an off moment with a few of his bandmates, namely cornetist Rex Stewart and valve trombonist Juan Tizol. For the record, that’s the Duke pitching and then swinging the bat from about 0:15 to 0:30. (That’s tenor sax man Ben Webster in the bathrobe at the end, clearly communicating something along the lines of “You guys can play out there if you want, I’m hung over and I’m staying right here.”)
 
Duke Ellington
 
This fantastic image actually has nothing to do with the footage. That picture was taken sometime in the mid-1950s—the massive slogan on the bus, “Mr. Hi-Fi of 1955,” in addition to being my own future nickname if I have anything to say about it, surely puts us pretty close to that year. The appearance of the neon word “Colored” at left certainly suggests that this little game of pickup ball took place somewhere in the South.
 

 

 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Cool Jazz, Cold War: Counterculture subversives at Moscow’s Blue Bird Café


Vitaly Komar and Alex Melemid’s first collaborative art show at the Blue Bird Café, Moscow, USSR, 1967.

“Today he is playing jazz and tomorrow he’ll betray the Motherland.” - Soviet era saying

The Blue Bird Café (Sinyaya Ptitsa) on Chekhov Street in Moscow opened in 1963, one of two jazz enclaves in the city. Students, nonconformist artists, writers, and musicians gathered there to listen to jazz and hold small unofficial art shows. A well-known quartet that frequently played there featured sax player Igor Itkin, pianist Mikhail Kull, bassist Alexander Chernyshev and drummer Vladimir Lesnyakov.

Painters Vitaly Komar and Alex Melamid, who founded Retrospectivism, held their first collaborative show at the Blue Bird in 1967 upon graduating from the Stroganov School of Art and Design. Other artists who displayed their paintings and sculpture at the Café in the 1960’s were Erik Bulatov, Igor Shelkovsky, Oleg Vassiliev, and Ilia and Emilia Kabakov.

Komar and Melamid described their Retrospectivism movement as featuring “three-dimensional abstract paintings in the style of the old masters and reflects a typical search for spirituality on the part of nonconformist artists working in an oppressively atheistic state.” According to the description of Melamid’s exhibit of life-size hip-hop icons in Detroit, “Komar and Melamid often faced government opposition and harassment.” So much opposition that in 1969 government censors removed their work from the 8th Exhibition of Young Artists in Moscow.

Jazz was tolerated to some degree in the USSR (unlike rock music) and had even been the music of the stilyagi (stylish) youth subculture in the late 1940’s and 1950’s. But jazz came under a new round of unwanted scrutiny in 1968 as ideologically troublesome. In Red Hot and Blue: The Fate of Jazz in the Soviet Union 1917-1991 author S. Frederick Starr describes the Soviet establishment’s hostility toward jazz:

“There was no formal campaign against jazz. Indeed, Brezhnev applauded a modern jazz quartet that performed at his dacha outside Moscow in 1970. But many protectors of Soviet orthodoxy wanted to settle old scores. The jamming of foreign broadcasts, suspended in 1963, was reintroduced in 1968. Fearing unwholesome assemblies of young people, Komsomol [the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League, the officially sanctioned youth group for people 14 and older] abolished jazz evenings at the Dream in Kiev and at similar youth Cafés in other cities. The Blue Bird (Siniaia ptitsa), which had opened only two years before on Chekhov Street in Moscow, dropped jazz entirely, and the Molodezhnoe Café cut back jazz to two nights a week. The Pechora was opened on Moscow’s Kalinin Prospect to replace these dens of iniquity; brightly lit and colorless, the Pechora at least provided a setting for open jam sessions, although it closed early.”

Gorbachev’s perestroika and the fall of the Soviet Union resulted in a proliferation of nightclubs and the Blue Bird’s elevated status as a “jazz centre.” The Café continued to be a revered attraction for jazz fans until its closure in 2010.
 

 
Above, UB40 jamming with local musicians, including Roman Suslov from polite refusal, at the Blue Bird Café, Moscow, USSR, on October 16, 1986.

Posted by Kimberly J. Bright | Leave a comment
Brubeck in context: The BBC’s ‘1959: The Year That Changed Jazz’


 
Pianist Dave Brubeck’s shedding of his mortal coil yesterday reminds us how important it is to view a figure like him in relation to his time.

Luckily we have BBC4’s 2009 documentary, 1959: The Year That Changed Jazz to do just that. Produced by documentarian Paul Bernays and UK jazz DJ Jez Nelson, 1959 scrutinizes the impact of Brubeck’s classic Time Out album alongside three others from that year: Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue, Charles Mingus’s Ah Um and Ornette Coleman’s The Shape Of Jazz To Come.

The main Brubeck segment starts 12 minutes in, and the doc explores both the racial politics inherent in the Brubeck phenomenon, and the influence of his band’s groundbreaking 1959 tour of the Soviet Bloc, Mideast and South Asia on Time Out. But the whole hour is worth watching, if only for the compelling close-readings of masterpieces like Davis’s iconic “So What,” Coleman’s intense “Lonely Woman,” Mingus’s firey “Fables of Faubus.” The doc’s juxtaposition of Brubeck’s ascendance to Mr. Cool-ness against Coleman’s Cold War-tinged urgency is also a nice touch.

With an interview roster that includes Hal Wilner, Lou Reed, Stanley Crouch, Charlie Haden, Sue Mingus, Herbie Hancock and Nat Hentoff, 1959 offers up some crucial background as to what made Brubeck and his contemporaries what they were.
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Dave Brubeck Quartet: In Concert, Germany 1966

 

Posted by Ron Nachmann | Leave a comment
Happy birthday Nina Simone
02.21.2012
06:03 pm

Topics:
Heroes
Music

Tags:
jazz
Nina Simone
Happy Birthday
Montreux


 
Nina Simone was born 79 years ago today, on February 21st 1933. Next year will mark the tenth anniversary of her passing, but for now let’s remember one of the greatest artists of the last century with her jaw-dropping performance of Morris Albert’s “Feelings” from her controversial set at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1976. Nina looks stoned here, and apparently she didn’t feel the crowd at this show were reacting appropriatley, explaining some of the tense spoken word interuptions. Still, if any doubts exist about Nina Simone’s skill or talent, watch this clip then tell me she is not one of the great artists of modern times:

Nina Simone “Feelings” Live at Montreux Jazz Festival, 1976
 

 
Thanks to Norn Cutson

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Happy Birthday Beth Gibbons of Portishead


 
Beth Gibbons, vocalist of both Portishead and Rustin Man, turns 46 today. Here’s to one of the best, most soulful, female voices English music has ever produced. After the jump a selection of her best clips, but let’s start with this haunting cover of the Velvet Underground:

Beth Gibbons & Rustin Man “Candy Says”
 

 
Thanks to Grizz Gom Jabbar Robinson.
 
After the Jump, videos for “L’Annulaire”, “The Rip” and “Glory Box” (live)...

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Dance music classics turned into jazz songs by 3iO


3iO’s Robert Mitchell
 
Music that has a sense of humor tends to get a hard time among people who consider themselves “serious” music fans. Why is this? Is it because music itself has to be seen to be serious? That the music makers have to mean it (maaan) and it’s impossible to wear your heart on your sleeve if it’s matched by a raised eyebrow and a smirk?

3iO are an acoustic jazz band who last year released an album called Back To New Roots, which features jazz-style covers of a host of big dance tunes from the last 15 years. LOL!! Right? Or is this an acceptable style of guffaw on a par with coffee table favourites Nouvelle Vague? Here’s a bit of info on the band via the Soundcloud page of their excellently named record label Hell Yeah

Let’s keep it simple, this dance meets jazz concept started as a joke: take a bunch of friends, discover that they are highly talented jazz musicians and propose them to do something a bit different, play and perform your favourite E-dance / alternative hits / chill out timeless classics into their contemporary jazz style…. shake it as it was your cocktail of choice and you have Serotonin Fuelled Jazz Covers.

3iO are Richard Maggioni (piano), Juan Manuel Moretti (double bass) Matteo Giordani (drums), they are not newcomers in the italian jazz circuit, they have already two albums on their back and with BACK TO NEW ROOTS they challenge themself with a new repertoire: Fat Boy Slim, Groove Armada, Chemical Brothers, Royskopp, Underworld, Spiller, DJ Shadow… just as you never heard them before.

So is this “serious” music? Or is it just a big joke that can be easily dismissed as not being worthy of much attention? While there is definitely a smirking knowingness about this project, the lol-factor is not all that great and I think some of this album actually sounds really good. But I will leave it up to you to decide whether this is “real” music or not (bearing in mind that we’re big fans of both Zappa and Sparks here, two acts who feel no fear of adding humor to their work): 
 
3iO “Right Here Right Now” (original by Fat Boy Slim)
 

 
 
3iO “Born Slippy (nuxx)” (original by Underworld)
 

 
 
3iO “Organ Donor” (original by DJ Shadow)
 

 
 
You can hear (and purchase) 3iO’s album Back To New Roots in full here.

Thanks Tara!

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Death, jazz, art: Dr. Jack Kevorkian, artist, musician when not assisting suicides
06.03.2011
09:45 am

Topics:
Art
Music
R.I.P.

Tags:
jazz
art
death
Dr. Jack Kevorkian


 
By now you’ve probably heard that assisted suicide advocate, Dr. Jack Kevorkian, AKA “Dr. Death,” died this morning at the age of 83.

But what you might not know is that Kevorkian was an accomplished painter and jazz musician.

Yep, it’s true. One day I was crate-digging in some record store in New York City and I came across his jazz CD, Kevorkian Suite: Very Still Life for a buck, so I bought it. The CD booklet has several full-color reproductions of his paintings, and as you can see in the video below, the subject matter of his paintings often pertained to rather macabre things, as I am sure will come as no surprise.  And yes, that’s his music, he’s playing flute and organ. Not bad, but it wouldn’t be the last thing I’d want to hear…
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Nina Simone: in the name of freedom

image
 
Eunice Kathleen Waymon was born 77 years ago today in the tiny town of Tryon, North Carolina. As Nina Simone, she’d go on to become the most powerful singer/songwriter of the Civil Rights era, blending the rawest aspects of jazz, blues, soul, and gospel into a unique style that buoyed her message of liberation.

As a generation of despots falls in the Middle East and people confront the forces of greed in Wisconsin, it seems apropos to recall what Simone bestowed on the world…
 

 
After the jump: Simone repossesses the Beatles’ “Revolution” and Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” in the name of avant-garde freedom blues…

Posted by Ron Nachmann | Leave a comment
Jazz lives! Thank you, Billy Taylor

image
 
Pianist Billy Taylor died yesterday at age 89, leaving a lasting legacy as America’s consummate jazz advocate.

Soon after getting his degree in Music Education, the Washington D.C.-raised Taylor became the house pianist at New York’s legendary Birdland, where he stayed throughout the ‘40s and ‘50s, playing with Bird, Dizzy and Miles and solidifying his role as a fixture and statesman in the city’s jazz scene.

But Taylor is perhaps best known as this country’s premier jazz educator, among the first to declare jazz “America’s classical music.” His long-running Jazzmobile project has produced concerts and educational programs throughout the American Eastern seaboard for 45 years.

Taylor was also the first to bring jazz thought and theory to mainstream American radio and TV. He was the jazz correspondent on CBS News Sunday Morning and on NPR.

But before all that, as the McCarthy era faded and Jim Crow was on its last gasp, Taylor was music director on an NBC show called The Subject is Jazz, which ran in 1958.
 

 
After the jump: Watch Nina Simone sing the Taylor-penned Civil Rights movement anthem “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free”…

Posted by Ron Nachmann | Leave a comment
Herman Leonard photographer of Billie Holiday, Sinatra and Miles Davis has died
08.16.2010
12:13 pm

Topics:
Art
Music

Tags:
photography
jazz
Herman Leonard

image
Dexter Gordon
 
Jazz photographer Herman Leonard has died. Leonard’s black and white photographs of jazz greats such as Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, Charlie Parker and Duke Ellington were masterpieces of lighting and mood. He captured moments in time that became an indelible part of jazz culture. Like the musicians his camera chronicled, his photographs sang.
 
image
Billie Holiday

 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Abbey Lincoln Lives!

image
 
Abbey Lincoln died today at the age of 80. She mattered in the world because she was a female jazz singer who stood up and became active in the civil rights struggle in the ‘60s when she could have remained neutral and safe.

She made great art. Nat Chinen wrote an excellent obit for her in the New York Times.

Here she is with her then-new husband, the drummer Max Roach, performing “Driva’ Man” from their 1960 album We Insist! Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite.

This was a dangerous mind.
 


Abbey Lincoln and Max Roach

 
Get: We Insist! Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite [CD]

 

Posted by Ron Nachmann | Leave a comment
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