Sunday, December 23, 2012

Klook Meets the Detroit Jazzmen


Kenny "Klook" Clarke's job as a drummer was, more or less, "establishing a pulse that both band and listener could feel as well as hear," (Joop Visser) and in the first half of the 1950s that pulse became the driving force of many Savoy recordings. Like that legendary rhythm section of Red Garland/Paul Chambers/Philly Joe Jones, the master drummer of bebop, Kenny Clarke, formed a super unit of the first rate musicians for the Savoy label, mostly consisted of Hank Jones on piano and Wendell Marshall on bass. Aside from their accompanying job, the classic Hank Jones Trio LP was an output of the auspicious collaboration. Other groups benefited from the Savoy rhythmic section were Eddie Bert Quartet, Nat Adderley Quintet, Joe Wilder Quartet and Milt Jackson Quintet; all classics of the post-bop era. Also It happened many times that Jones or Marshall were not available, so Klook teamed up with other rhythm suppliers, some of them as good as the absent gentlemen.

Occasionally, between endless sessions which sometimes lasted for 20 hours per day, Klook found time to record albums under his own name. His leadership materialized the famous LP, Bohemia After Dark and some other Savoy outputs. His last date for Savoy, as leader, was composed of, if in not Detroit-born, but the Detroit-raised musicians of extremely high caliber which was named KC Meets the Detroit Jazzmen.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Not So Dukish!

"What a mess!" Ellington baffled by his so-called scholars


Ellington Plagiarized

One wintry evening, not long ago, I went down to 82 Marchmont Street where my favorite London bookshop Judd Books is located. I was accompanied by a jazz friend and when we stood in front of the music section of the store, the first Duke Ellington book I ever read in my life caught my eyes on the shelve: Duke Ellington and His World by A. H. Lawrence. Then, reminiscing the profound impact of reading it for the first time in Iran and the pleasure and knowledge it gave me, I started raving about the virtues of the beautifully produced publication, especially after remembering a moving anecdote about Harry Carney, after Duke's passing, when he keeps saying "with Duke gone I have nothing to live for."

My spontaneous speech was convincing enough that my friend picked the book and add it to his already extended collection of Duke materials. After having our pints of bitter Samuel Smith we departed and headed back home. Two or three hours later, an email from that friend set my flat and my naive enthusiasm for that book on fire.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Bill Evans Videography (1970-1980)



BILL EVANS VIDEOGRAPHY: Part Two (1970-1980)
For the first part (1957-1969) go here.


Bill Evans Videography (1957-1969)


BILL EVANS VIDEOGRAPHY: A CHRONOLOGICAL LIST OF THE ARTIST ON VIDEO

This is the second videography of this blog, a listing of the available Bill Evans video materials on the web, after one I did earlier for the Hawk, Coleman Hawkins.

To compile this videography, I have heavily relied on the works of David Meeker (Jazz on Screen), and also the Bill Evans book by Peter Pettinger, beautifully titled How My Heart Sings. Without Jazz Discography Project life would have been more difficult for most of us, though the Bill Evans entry on JDP suffers from mistakes and lack of proper and up-to-date revision. It was then that I learned about so far the most complete discography of Bill Evans by Peter H. Larsen, posted by Italian folks, here.

Speaking of Italians, I must confess that what really inspired me to start this online listing of Bill Evans's performances was reading Enrico Pieranunzi's hugely illuminating 2001 book Bill Evans: Ritratto D'Artista Con Pianoforte which hit me hard. The Pianist as an Artist (which is its English title) is a small and humble book, but never shallow in reaching the spirit of Bill Evans's art. Also from technical standpoint, it is the most analytical since it has been written, or more likely lived, by a pianist, as superb and as Evansian as Pieranunzi.

Back to this videography, each performance is sorted chronologically and by sequence of the songs performed (which doesn't mean is always right). Then details about the session comes, and finally videos of the concert, if they have been available online in December 2012.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

London Jazz Festival: Celebrating Friedrich Gulda


What is the definition of good music? There are thousands of answers to that. Mine, at this moment, is a simple or even primitive one: when you leave the venue, whether a tiny, basement club or a 2000-seat concert hall, you still have the beat, the vibe and the mood. So the actual concert is only the beginning of a longer personal association with that piece of music.

Last night, after the first set with the BBC Concert Orchestra playing Fredrich Gulda was finished, and when an interval of 20 minutes began in anticipation for the next set with Shabaka Hutchings, me, standing on the terrace of Queen Elizabeth Hall and its magisterial view to the Thames, and smoking the life away in hand-rolled cigarettes, felt that music of the first set was still physically present inside my - growing in me. What moved me so profoundly and brought the joy so easily was Fredrich Gulda's cello concerto, conducted by Mark Lockhart and soloed by Benjamin Hughes whose sensitivity as a great player was mixed with authority and preciseness. What could easily get into your system was a joyous "mish mash" (Lockhart's words) of the Viennese swing and marches, flickering sounds of woodwinds on the background which elaborate the tense presence of cello. It was good enough to literally overshadow what was followed in the concert.


Monday, November 12, 2012

London Jazz Festival: Celebrating Gil Evans


Gil Evans' arrangements in jazz are like Michelangelo Antonioni's landscapes and cityscapes in cinema: they are suspending spaces, inhabited and lost, in time. Cold, estranged and wintery, even if it is set in Africa (The Passenger), or in Evans' case, it is an arrangement for a classic like Summertime. Arrangements aside, his writings are even more fascinated with abstractness and low-register sounds of odd instruments (tuba, French horn, many trombones) which depicts the lower, or hidden corner's of its composer's sad soul, a Californian from Irish-Scottish origins whose apartment's door on West 52nd Street was open to revolutionaries of jazz and new sounds of surprise in the 40s and 50s.

Last night's concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, a tribute to Evans the writer and Evans the arranger, was a proof of still how vivid and valid is his music, more than half a century after its creation, unlike many of the modern big band and classical-oriented compositions of that period which seems heavy and stuffy today, in another word, dead and gone. Ironically, Gil's orchestration of bleakness has stayed more vivacious than his contemporaries.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

10 Songs For Duke

drawing by Naiel Ibarolla

"The worst thing about Duke Ellington's death," lamented Whitney Balliett "was that he, of all people, turned out to be mortal." Now it may sounds a cliche of I state that his music, forty years after his death, continues to live. No, that's somehow too obvious and not so dukish.

Another way of proving that the "profound, ageless, ongoing joyousness and originality of his music" doesn't seem to be retired is listening to the countless number of tribute albums and songs, recreations of his work, and tracing the influence he left on people who came after him and also his contemporaries. (He even awed musicians before him too - listen to what Willie The Lion Smith says, as my fifth choice.)

For that purpose, let's start with a list of ten tribute songs to this "brilliant eccentric," Duke Ellington. The list can expand in every imaginable direction and I hope some of you dear readers name your favorite "for Duke" songs at the end of this post.

Duke loved telling stories, so let's have one for the end. When Ben Webster (one of the guests of this tribute playlist) - who was playing with Teddy Wilson and dreaming to be a part of Duke Ellington Orchestra - received a message from Duke to go and see him, he felt twenty years younger: "I was drunk at the time, but the news sobered me up in a second. I went to see Ellington in the dressing room of the theatre he was playing at the time. He said, ‘Why don’t you come to the rehearsal tomorrow morning?’ Then I realised I had to tell Teddy Wilson that I was leaving him. To be able to do that, I had to get drunk all over again."

This anecdote tells something about Duke's music that can make you emotionally drunk, and then few minutes later, leave you totally sober. This is the feeling evident in the homages I've gathered here: they all alter between ecstasy and calculated movements. Or both are the same? 


Friday, October 12, 2012

Why Concerto for Cootie is a Masterpiece


André Hodeir here:

The Duke Ellington Orchestra recorded Concerto for Cootie, on March 15, 1940. It was especially written for his trumpet player, Cootie Williams. Later, Bob Russell wrote lyrics for the instrumental piece, and in 14 August 1943 Ellington did record the vocal version, featuring Al Hibbler as the singer, and apparently "it was a number one hit R&B chart for eight non-consecutive weeks and number six on the pop chart." This time the title of the song changed to Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me this and was recorded many times after that. Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong and Dinah Washington were among the people who sang in what was originally a concerto for trumpet wizard and master of mute plunger, Cootie Williams.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Ad-Lib#2: Beware of Baker and Heywood

1
Beware of Mr. Baker is the title of a new documentary, and exceptionally a good one, about legendary drummer Ginger Baker which is going to be screened at this year's London Film Festival.

The programme booklet of the 56th London Film Festival insists in calling Baker "the world’s greatest drummer" which he obviously is not, as you will see in this accurate portrait of his musical (and geographical) journeys, ambitions and passions, how he is cut by Art Blakey in one of so many drum battles Baker set with the giants he praised. Even in the only scenes in the film that he is not bragging, or insulting people (including himself) he drops a few tears about his only "true friends" and "idols", Phil Seamen, Max Roach, Art Blakey and Elvin Jones. That's exactly the moment one begin to understand the reason for Mr. Baker's contempt for many of his ex-colleagues, among them, unjustly, Jack Bruce of the Cream. Baker talks about Time all the time. That's what he feels as what many rock musicians lack and why they cannot keep up with him and his complex rhythmic fireworks. He wants to be acknowledged in the idiom of jazz, and not became the context of his stardom, rock music.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Big Band Business Down in Florida


Left to right: Buddy DeFranco, Sammy Kaye, Duke Ellington, Larry Elgart, Jackie Gleason, Les Elgart, Count Basie, Freddy Martin, Guy Lombardo, Phil Napoleon. Florida (probably Miami)

Saturday, September 29, 2012

RIP Eddie Bert

RIP Eddie Bert (1922-2012)

From big bands of the forties (Red Norvo, Benny Goodman, Stan Kenton, Woody Herman, Charlie Barnett) to the first jazz workshop of Charlie Mingus, trombonist Eddie Bert was an inexhaustible musician in demand with a sonorous sound and an immediate charm. Through his highly illustrious career he can be heard playing in Thelonious Monk's big band, as well as the soundtrack for the ultimate cop movie, The French Connection (a work of Don Ellis the composer). His few, but generally interesting, recordings as a leader are made for Savoy and Jazztone. (now reissued by Fresh Sound)

I have compiled a playlist on Spotify including many of his 1950s sessions and his works in big bands and small groups of the 1940s and 1950s that can be accessed here: the PLAYLIST

Friday, August 17, 2012

Friedrich Gulda Big Band Music


"The jazz greats, along with Bach and Mozart, shall be my role models" -- Friedrich Gulda

One of the problems of contemporary jazz scene, and even jazz fandom, is a certain negligence toward modern big bands of the 1960s and 1970s, especially those assembled in Europe. While the swing big bands of the 1930s and 1940s, and the small-combo jazz of the post-war era enjoy a wide public recognition by being constantly reissued, great European big bands stay alone on the dusty shelves of the old vinyl shops - sacred items for a small bunch of people who want to explore the beauty of modern classical-oriented jazz charts by those European artists who were sharing a same language as the American jazz expatriates.

The 2010 release of Friedrich Gulda Big Band Music brings one of the golden eras of the European big band to the digital age. This double-CD presents Viennese pianist, composer, conductor and arranger Friedrich Gulda (1930-2000) and his big bands from 1962 to 1972.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Harry Edison's Girl from Ipanema


The Girl from Ipanema
Wembley Town Hall, Middlesex, United Kingdom
October, 2, 1964
Harry "Sweets" Edison (t), Sir Charles Thompson (p), Jimmy Woode (b), Jo Jones (d).

Friday, July 27, 2012

Ad-Lib#1: Bird, McGhee & Fats




I came by but you weren't in...later...Bird. [1]


2

A visit to the National Jazz Archive, housed in the Loughton library, and going through some Ellington pages (from so many books available at the library) reminded me of the only collaboration between one of the greatest trumpet players of jazz, Howard McGhee, with the Ellington's orchestra.

As you see in the image below, McGhee is filling the trumpet chair of the orchestra for three tracks, recorded on 31 January 1962 for CBS. These tracks, among other materials appeared on Midnight in Paris LP. The complete album is available on Villes Ville blog, a significant member of Ellingtonia in digital. This is the link to the page, but as Villes is undergoing almost everyday changes of the posts and links, just in case have a direct link to the player of the album here.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Quincy Jones Big Band 1960



Quincy Jones Big Band
Lausanne, 7/7/1960
Broadcast: Swiss TV
Directeor Pierre Matteuzzi
Duration: 19'15
Set List: Stockholm Sweetnin', My reverie, Ghana, Big Red.
Musicians: 
Trumpets: Roger Guerin (takes first solo), Benny Bailey, Floyd Standifer, ?
Trombones: Ake Persson, Melba Liston, Quentin Jackson, Jimmy Cleveland
French Horn: Julius Watkins
Reeds: Porter Kilbert or Harold McNair, Phill Woods, Sahib Shihab, Jerome Richardson,
Piano: Patricia Anntown
Guitar: Les Spann
Bass: Buddy Catlett
Drums: Joe Harris


Monday, July 9, 2012

Harry Carney, Trains & Strings


Many people think adding string section to jazz was something producers forced on jazz musicians  to make their music more approachable for the average listener; making it more commercial as they used to say. Norman Granz, the legendary jazz impresario, offers an antithesis to this concept by stating that it was jazz musicians who were constantly asking for such accompaniment, believing that they can show their mastery in playing ballads - especially if they were equipped with reed instruments - by having a fluent, romantic background that string section usually endows to music.

Personally, I have nothing against romanticizing jazz, as I believe jazz is one of the last embodiments of the romantic approach to art, especially if it is executed by a giant such as Harry Carney, my favorite Baritone sax player of the first half of the 20th century.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Berlin Album by Ekkehard Wölk Trio


"Berlin, Berlin, the city is a sin – you never go out the way you walked in!"

After some good years of productive collaboration between Ekkehard Wölk, Johannes Fink, and Andrea Marcelli, Ekkehard has driven them into a new concept which primarily consists of excitingly fresh interpretations of well-known musical standards related to the city of Berlin. The Ekkehard Wölk's new album is simply called The Berlin Album.

In terms of structure, the work is based on the legendary 1929 silent film Menschen Am Sonntag made collectively by Robert and Curt Siodmak, Billy Wilder, Edgar Ulmer, and Fred Zinnemann which describes the course of a single Sunday in the lives of four young people in Berlin.

"It seems to me that we have created not only a multifaceted musical kaleidoscope of jazz," says Ekkehard, "but we have also managed to forge an individual and playful reverence for our adopted hometown Berlin."

Ekkehard has incorporated some of Berlin’s most prominent composers from the past whose pieces have made a permanent contribution to the musical iconography of the city.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Buck Clayton Quartet 1965


The environment in which I was introduced to jazz demanded a certain attention, almost idolizing one can say, to the university of Count Basie. One of the first thing I learned from my "jazz uncle" was the importance of each alumni of this Oxford institution of jazz; and there came up the name of Buck Clayton, a trumpet player from Basie's orchestra. Later I rediscovered him by listening to his legendary jam sessions for CBS, and I was completely hooked by his lyricism and imperturbable phrasing in mid-tempo pieces.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Art Ford's Jazz Party


Episode 19
18th September 1958 [DOWNLOAD]

Johnny Windhurst, trumpet; Tyree Glenn, trombone; Hank D'Amico, clarinet; Coleman Hawkins, tenor sax; Teddy Charles, vibraphone; Roland Hanna, Alec Templeton, piano; Mary Osborne, guitar; Doc Goldberg, acoustic double bass; Morey Feld, Jackie Cooper, drums; Maxine Sullivan, vocal.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Clark Terry '69


Backstage of Montreux Jazz Festival 1969 with Clark Terry and Norman Granz.

Friday, May 25, 2012

John Coltrane Interviews, Part II: 1962-65

Michiel de Ruyter Interviews John Coltrane on October 26, 1963 and July 27, 1965. Some segments, mostly Ruyter's comments, are in Dutch. For the first part of the interview go here.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Dizzy Gillespie in Berlin


Dizzy Gillespie Quintet live at the Berlin Philharmonie
November 1980

Dizzy Gillespie (trumpet), James Moody (tenor sax, flute), Ed Cherry (guitar), Michael Howell (electric bass), Tommy Campbell (drums).

Never been released before.

Tracks:
  1. St. Louis Blues
  2. Con Alma
  3. A Night in Tunisia
  4. Unidentified tune
  5. Tanga
  6. Tin Tin Deo
  7. Unidentified tune
Total Time: 1:17:20


Another unreleased gem from Berlin: MILES DAVIS 1983

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Ellington's Symphony in Black


SYMPHONY IN BLACK: A RHAPSODY OF NEGRO LIFE (1935)
Directed by Fred Waller
Music by Duke Ellington
Songs: The laborers, A triangle (Dance - Jealousy - Big city blues), A hymn of sorrow, Harlem rhythm Featuring: Duke Ellington (p-leader), Arthur Whetsol (t), Freddy Jenkins (t), Cootie Williams (t), Joe Nanton (tr), Lawrence Brown (tr), Juan Tizol (tr), Barney Bigard (cl), Johnny Hodges (as), Otto Hardwick (as), Harry Carney (bs), Fred Guy (g), Wellman Braud (b), Sonny Greer (d), Billie Holiday (vocal).

Bessie Dudley, The Three Rhythm Kings: augmented in some shots with musicians from the Mills Blue Rhythm Band.

Recorded in late 1934 at Paramount's Eastern Service Studios, Long Island, New York.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Liner Notes for Dexterritory Album



Sweet tenor lifting/All American sorrows/Raises mouthpiece to mouth/And blows to finger” – Jack Kerouac


My first encounter with "Dexterritory" was in the cellar of Oliver’s, a tiny and atmospheric music club in Greenwich, London. There, I was introduced to a quartet which was entirely dedicated to performing the music of Dexter Gordon (1923-1990).

The leader and tenor player, a stubborn Irish musician, is Kevin McMahon who plays his hot and cool music on this record. This set is the first documented stop on their long journey to rediscover Dexter Gordon, not only as a giant tenorman, and surely a gentle one, but as a composer. Dexter’s pen, as well as his playing, reflects a powerful swinging and highly rhythmic mind that in spite of its speed and robust attack, remains tender and even divine.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Unheard Masterpieces of The Band [for Levon Helm]

[update April 19, 2010, 20:27 GMT] Levon left us.

"Levon Helm passed peacefully this afternoon. He was surrounded by family, friends and band mates and will be remembered by all he touched as a brilliant musician and a beautiful soul."

Bad news travels fast. Yesterday Levon Helm's family broke the news I was afraid to hear in a while:

Dear Friends, Levon is in the final stages of his battle with cancer. Please send your prayers and love to him as he makes his way through this part of his journey.

Thank you fans and music lovers who have made his life so filled with joy and celebration... he has loved nothing more than to play, to fill the room up with music, lay down the back beat, and make the people dance! He did it every time he took the stage...

We appreciate all the love and support and concern.
From his daughter Amy, and wife Sandy

Friday, April 13, 2012

John Coltrane Interviews, Part I: 1961-62

Michiel de Ruyter Interviews John Coltrane on November 19, 1961, and later, December 1, 1962. Parts of his comments and his introduction is in Dutch.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Swan Song of Pops


I've confessed this for many times. Most recently, I told it to an interviewer from Q show of the CBC radio: how like so many other jazz lovers around the world, I owe my interest in jazz and my life in jazz to the charisma and mastery of  Louis 'Satchmo' Armstrong.

Nothing has changed about Satchmo. Having heard anything from King Oliver to Anthony Braxton, still Pops is Socrates of jazz for me. Every time you hear him, you're unreservedly moved. It was in here that I wrote how even playing his more "popular" tunes can be a revelation.

I mentioned these insignificant incidents in my life, just to remind myself how Satchmo, beyond the musical heritage, had been also a guiding light in my life. Therefore, anything related to him, naturally comes to there center of my attention, no matter what is the output; a new recording, a note, or just a smile. So release of a new album by Louis Armstrong, definitely can not be missed:

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Charlie Parker's Dorsian Touch?


Recently attended a screening of Vincente Minnelli's I Dood It (1942) at National Film Theatre, I was amazed by its dedication to jazz music of the early 1940s. One of the subtexts of the film is the transition from popular big band music to a more personal, wilder and challenging jazz which is soon  about to happen in Minton's club. Though there is no reference to revolutionary bop music in I Dood It, the sharp contrast between early scenes in Jimmy Dorsey's MGM style club with its white sets, and overdecorated space with the last numbers played by Hazel Scott and Lena Horne alludes a change in life-style and art in which main characters with their social differences can reunite.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Jazz for Dickens

"Dickens is one of those writers who are well worth stealing. Even the burial of his body in Westminster Abbey was a species of theft, if you come to think of it." [all quotations from George Orwell]

200 years after the birth of Dickens, and more than 100 years after the first recorded jazz, let's celebrate the crossing point which took place 50 years ago in London, when John Dankworth and his orchestra including some of the top-notch jazz musicians in the island recorded a LP of Dickens inspired songs and named it What The Dickens! As its title suggests, it is a suite based on characters and themes associated with Dickens's world, and what a world!

In a sense, jazz musicians of the early days were Dickensian characters: ambitious young men, living in poverty and grimness of the big cities. Most of them were redeemed by characters as colorful and tough as Magwitch. Louis Armstrong was the young Pip and Joe Oliver was Magwitch. The class struggles, chance and accident, mistakes and victories, and the highly moral frame of mind remained the same, though the setting was changed from London to New Orleans.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Chess Artists in Pictures

Chuck Berry
From left: Phil Chess, Muddy Waters, Little Walter
Muddy Waters

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Jazz Mirrors Iran


Happy Nowruz to Iranian Readers! Peace to you!

Iran-- sometimes known as Persia, with an echo of 1001 Nights and dreamy cities of wine and poetry. As a name, a real place or an imaginary land from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, to the media propaganda of the recent months about nuclear developments, sanctions and military action, it remains a country held victim to misrepresentation and lazy awareness.

It is very much the same ignorance that for centuries silenced African-American artists and communities, who developed jazz as the art form to revise the human condition and to remove the barriers between “us” and “them” in a democratic language that knew no boundaries. Jazz, as the art that fights against various types of segregation, could be a myth itself. But the myth of jazz as something for all human beings, regardless of race, nationality, gender and age is so strong that it can still feed our desire to explore and to change.

In the coming weeks, I'll write about ten pieces of jazz music (specially designed to welcome the arrival of spring and Nowruz, Iranian New Year), presented on Aslan Media, about or influenced by Iran.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Miles Davis Septet at Berliner Jazztage


As far as I know, this Miles Davis' Berlin concert from 1983 has never been released in any format and prior to this post, it didn't exist in the online world. I just remember sharing it with a Miles Davis collector at some point, but now the whole recording is here on this blog. 90 minutes of some exciting music.

I don't know exactly where this set is coming from, maybe recorded off a radio or TV broadcast but if you wonder how I got hold of it, I owe owning and listening this rare gem to one of my Berliner friends and this is not the only great stuff he generously shared with me.

The source was on a 90-minute audio cassette, and the music was recorded on both sides. I present it here exactly the same. The audio file remains untouched.

BERLIN JAZZTAGE
10/29/1983
Miles Davis (tp, syn) Bill Evans (ss, ts, fl) Robert Irving (syn) John Scofield (g) Darryl Jones (el-b) Al Foster (d) Mino Cinelu (per).


Friday, February 24, 2012

Sonny Rollins: Discovery!

Last week BBC for the very first time, presented an astonishing Sonny Rollins filmed gig, from 7th July 1974 at Ronnie Scott's. Recently discovered and restored, this show is a great example of the artistry of Rollins in the middle of the 1970s, when his studio output - with many unnecessary overdubs -  didn't show the exuberance of his live gigs, as documented here.

Here Sonny can be seen and heard, accompanied by Rufus Harley on soprano sax, wearing and playing bagpipes (I don't remember any other jazz session with this Scottish instrument), Yoshiaki Masuo on guitar, always loyal Bob Cranshow on bass, and David Lee on drums (though we never see him in the footage).

They play Alfie, Swing Low Sweet Chariot, East Broadway Rundown, Don't Stop the Carnival, A House Is Not a Home (most impressive, in my view) and some other tunes during a gig which lasts more than 50 minutes.


I found the use of bagpipe very likable, though not always in total command of the player. The only recorded album with bagpipe in Rollins's catalog that I remember is The Cutting Edge (Original Jazz Classics, 468) that was recorded in the same month as this London appearance.



It was filmed by 16 mm cameras, and a quarter inch sound tape of the gig exists to help the restoration process.

Depending on the camera, some of the footage is in black and white (mostly close ups of Sonny from the camera positioned near the stage) and some in color (back camera for the long shots of the club). The sound is reasonably good, and there is enough exhilaration in listening to it to ignore some temporary drops of sound, especially on guitar.

Sonny Rollins with Rufus Harley on bagpipes
I couldn't stop thinking that Ronnie's at that time, when it was personally managed by late Ronnie Scott, was less than a tourist attraction and luxury restaurant than what it is now. In the footage Ronnie looks like what should it be: a jazz club.

I wonder how many of these historical treasures, and stunning archival footage are hidden in the basements and attics of people who have forgotten them. Thanks to BBC Arena for this great surprise.

Meanwhile, check out this post of jazz photos by Teenie Harris that along with Sonny Rollins was the best thing to keep my spirit up during the week.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Radio Hawkins#25: Lloyd Miller



Last night, my final broadcast of the Jazz for Iran radio programme was dedicated to the music and life of Dr. Lloyd Miller whom I introduced in a couple of posts back. If you've missed his amazing life story and his incredible achievements in exploring new sounds in jazz, by creating a mesmerizing fusion of this music with Persian and Middle Eastern instruments, you can still read it here. The audio file presented here is my selection of the songs, recorded from 1961 in Paris to late 1960s in Utah, and finally Lloyd's latest musical output in London, 2010.

My commentary and intros are obviously in Farsi, but I promise to keep it minimum and let the music speaks for itself. 



جاز براي ايران
اپيزود بيست و پنجم
اين اپيزود پايان سري اول راديو هاوكينز خواهد بود و تا چند هفته بعد از اين، برنامۀ تازه اي پخش نخواهد شد. برنامه هاي قديمي هم چنان در اين سايت و در سايت جزنات قابل دسترسي هستند

موضوع اين برنامه: موسيقي دكتر لويد ميلر
بيوگرافي او را در اين جا بخوانيد


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Remembering Jef Gilson (1926-2012)

February 11, update: Dr Lloyd Miller generously has just furnished me with a few better quality photos of himself with the late Jef Gilson. Lloyd wrote today: "Had to choak back the tears when I read about his passing. But after realizing that he was in a better place with cooler jams, I felt peaceful." Jef was a huge fan of jams! Rest in piece brother!

Jef Gilson, the French jazz musician died four days ago. He was "a visionary pioneer who still has not achieved the status he deserves," (Francis Gooding), and listening to his recordings from 1960s and 1970s reveal what a great innovator he was.

Gilson started playing clarinet in 1941, and later switched to the piano. Under the influence of Dizzy Gillespie he envisioned himself as a composer, arranger and band leader, and soon he became one. Writer Francis Gooding examines Gilson's Monk-Coltrane oriented recordings as pieces of work "with tempo changes, bitonal layers and chromatic threads."  

Last week I wrote about Lloyd Miller and briefly mentioned his association with Parisian avant-garde jazz scene of the 1960s. Lloyd was Jef Gilson's right hand in his early recordings. They both were "hip" innovators and fearless musicians with sky as their musical limit. 

In the following text you'll get a picture of these two men's musical journey form their accidental encounter to conquering the Parisian jazz scene for a short period, and finally the eventual break up of their band. The information, presented in the from oLloyd Miller's biography book, Sufi, Saint and Swinger.


Lloyd felt it was time to make an LP of his piano solos; but he was not sure how to do such a thing. One day he was wandering up Rue Dauphene past Saint André where Dauphene becomes Rue Grégoire-de-Tours. He walked a ways then noticed on the right a shop at no. 7 called Kiosque d’Orphée, a recording studio. A feeling of excitement came over him as he timidly entered the shop to be greeted by a man named Jef Gilson who seemed to be predestined as a colleague and friend. Lloyd felt he knew this person and was predetermined to work with him musically. As they chatted about music and Lloyd’s plan for cutting an LP of his piano solos, they both felt that their lives and careers would merge. They both liked some of the same jazzmen and both had a desire to bring something new to jazz. Lloyd’s dedication to Eastern music was understood by Jef who was interested in learning more about Persian, Indian and Far Eastern concepts. They set up a time for the recordings; but Lloyd was hesitant about it because of the potential costs. Jef assured him that this was a project he was invested in and promised Lloyd that it would go forth at whatever fee Lloyd could afford. Jef also offered assistance in Lloyd’s wild project of recording some pieces in which he would play piano, bass and drums by re-recording. Jef noted that as, well as a nice grand piano, he had a bass and drum set in the studio and it would be easy to do.


Lloyd accepted Jef as a type of advisor while he also became a guru for Jef when it came to Eastern music. During the following days, Lloyd visited Jef’s studio to practice bass and drums for the upcoming recording session while he continued working at the Rue Monge piano store to keep up his piano virtuosity.

Little did Lloyd know that his ticket to fame (but not fortune) in the jazz world would be in the hands of his new found friend. Lloyd would keep dropping by the Kiosque d’Orphée to chat with Jef who was planning the debut of a new jazz combo. He explained to Lloyd that he decided to have both upright and electric basses that could play lines in harmony sometimes or trade off playing bass lines and melodic passages or just play in unison or octave when appropriate. He also envisioned both tenor and soprano sax; this was before anyone used soprano in jazz except New Orleans master Sidney Bechet. Of course there would be a drummer and Jef would be on piano with his Thelonious Monk style. Finally, he was looking for someone who was a genius on any instrument and a solid soloist. When Lloyd asked who that was, Jef blandly looked him in the eye and stated “c’est vous.” Lloyd thought “me?” then stuttered “mais, moi...c’est à dire...suis rien...bah, alors... comment . . . (me, I’m nothing, how?)” Jef interrupted Lloyd’s hesitance with “non, mais, vous êtes parfait. Vous jouez n’importe quoi avec confiance; alors à mon avis vous êtes notre soloiste. (no, but you are perfect. You play no matter what with confidence, it’s my opinion that you are our soloist)” As Lloyd sat stunned, Jef invited him to a gathering at his place a few days later where they were having fondue and where the other musicians would be present. Jef told Lloyd to think about it and they would talk more at dinner.


Jef picked Lloyd up at the hotel in his rattley funny looking little Deux Chevaux and they cheerfully chatted all the way up to Jef’s place. There Lloyd met his new band buddies: quiet shy tenorman Pierre Caron, tall thin and playful electric bassist Alain Melet and a drummer.

A time was set for the first rehearsal and Jef once again asked Lloyd if he was ready for the commitment. About the potential band he stated “le bateau part si vous voulez être là d’dans.” Lloyd, sipping on a fancy liqueur and picking at a creamy cake, hesitantly agreed “d’accord, on va voir; mais savez, de temps en temps j’ai du boulot ‘ci’ là.” Jef promised that Lloyd would be free to play around town on his own at the Mars Club or the Caméléon or wherever, adding that there wouldn’t be any money playing in his band “il aura pas du fric, savez.” Lloyd muttered “fais rien, suis pas là pour le fric.”

Lloyd with Jef in the background


So during the next weeks, there were rehearsals sometimes twice a week or more where Jef would tediously teach everyone in the band what he was looking for, note by note. Jef found a funny little electric piano that was more like an accordion in tone and gave it to Lloyd to play it in the band. Then he sent Lloyd to check out and approve an African balaphone at an antique store in the Quarter near the hotel. Lloyd was to play solos on those odd instruments on certain pieces which he could easily do but was going crazy sitting through the long and lugubrious rehearsals.

Finally, Jef found a baritone horn to add to Lloyd’s solo instruments.On the balaphone, Lloyd found a way to get more than just the notes provided by the dozen long thin wooden bars with long thin resonance gourds under them. He would hold one mallet on the bar at a certain point where it would raise the pitch a half step providing notes that weren’t on the instrument.

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Jef Gilson, Lloyd Miller, Hal singer playing Mother Africa

On the micro organ, he would try to find ways to fit in to the unusual arrangements about half of which were weird and crazy Monk type creations. Lloyd began to understand what Jef meant by French jazz. Some of his compositions had the flavor of old chansons that one would affiliate with accordion music
in small colorful bistros in Montmartre including charming French type waltzes.

The Gilson band began to play concerts around Paris and was attracting the attention of jazz writers and the R.T.F. (Radio Télévision Français). One of the favorite tunes in the Gilson repertoire was called Le Grand Bidou. It was a one-chord piece with a bluesy bass line and a great opportunity for modal improvisation. Lloyd immediately saw an opportunity to insert the East Indian tonic drone using a low note on the micro-organ, which he kept humming, by using a folded up piece of manuscript paper wedged in front of the key to keep it down. Then, since the instrument sounded like the ancestral Lao khen or bundle of bamboo pipes with free reeds in them, for his solo he couldn’t resist rendering the khene music he had been listening to from the UNESCO series of LP records of world music.


Jef had been working on public relations in the jazz scene and had added three instrumentalists who were more technically skilled. One was dark curly-headed North African soprano saxist Alain Tabar-nouval, short upright bassist Henri Texier and serious drummer Pierre-Alain Dahan.

The band played at youth clubs and in concerts almost nightly until they were ready for the big time. Jef continued with his exacting intensive rehearsals which included a retreat at a country cottage that he had access to in Vallais, a one store town about 220 kilometers outside of Paris on a country road.

Suite Pour San Remo Ouverture

One day when Lloyd walked into the door of the Saint André, Claude informed him that Jef had called and said that he was to join Jef and the band at the cottage and left directions. Claude handed Lloyd the car keys and wished him luck finding the place. Lloyd took off and got lost a couple of times before finding the ‘town’ and the cottage. When he arrived, all Jef’s friends and musicians were there, including the three new members. It was a wild weekend rehearsing, jamming and partying with a liberal supply of all types of alcoholic beverages and wonderful tasty food not to mention a few joints of pot.

Le Grand Bidou

One of the evenings, Jef decided to invite the whole village, maybe a dozen or so people, to join in a huge Swiss fondue party. Jef’s wife melted up a monstrous batch of cheese and everyone stuck pieces of bread on forks into the hot cheese until the bread was sort of toasted and saturated with cheese. Then Jef and the band played their full repertoire that they had been rehearsing for the locals who strangely liked it all. They all joined in for the goofy “un bidou et un bidou égalent . . .” bit working up to 6 replaced by ‘shoobidoo’ as Lloyd and all the villagers chanted along.

Back in Paris, Jef decided that Lloyd was ready to graduate from the baritone horn that he occasionally played to a tuba to join the two basses on a couple of numbers. So off they went to the marché a puces or flea market. After wandering through the maze of makeshift stalls, Jef came to an instrument dealer acquaintance where they found a big old tuba that Lloyd was able to get a few notes on; so Jef bargained it down and bought it. He had a plan for his big concerts, like the impending one at École Normale de Musique, to use the tuba as well as a real organ rather than the silly little micro organ Lloyd had been playing.

For the February 22 landmark concert at École Normale de Musique, Jef added the soloists from the Chamber Orchestra of Monaco including flute, oboe, 2 clarinets, etc. and members of the Robert Seto Orchestra including trumpet and bary sax. The large ensemble performed Jef’s same tunes which had become popular around Paris but with a much bigger sound.

After the huge success at Jef’s high-profile debut at the École Normale, his next prominent concert was at the famed Téâtre de l’Étoile, reported Combat on Monday March 5 by one of Jef’s strong supporters in the media, Jean Tronchot.

Jef (right) and Lloyd. © Lloyd Miller


It was about the time of the big debut at the École Normale that the famous Gilson 10 LP took Paris by storm. The recordings had been done at Jef’s Kiosque d-Orphée studio on Rue Grégoire-de Tours and featured some of the top hits of the Gilson band: Le Grand Bidou, Fable de Gutenburg and Bizz-are. Unfortunately, the LP didn’t have room for a few of the interesting later recordings of pieces like Chant Inca where Lloyd did a nice balaphone solo borrowing the initial notes of La Marseillaise, or Anamorphose where he wailed out a crazy micro-organ solo or St. Louis Blues with Lloyd’s amazing and honkin’ piano playing which included an esoteric intro then ending with a whole tone run on major seventh chord before rabidly ripping into a rolicky barreling blues. The other side of the 10-inch featured some of Jef’s earlier compositions performed by jazz names like Bobby Jaspar, Walter Davis Junior, Doug Watkins and Art Taylor. All the jazz media went wild over the LP which was soon selling like mad.

Fable of Gutenberg

But the fame gained by the Gilson band was not to last forever. Somehow a disagreement broke out between Jef and the three musicians who had most recently joined the band. They quit or were let go by Jef. After the breakup of the band, gigs became sparser and Lloyd was back to mostly working clubs.

Gilson went to Madagascar in 1968 and stayed away from French jazz scene for three years. Lloyd left Paris, too, and almost at the same time that Gilson headed for Africa, Lloyd returned to Iran for his longest stay in a foreign land - 7 years!

That part of the text which illustrates Lloyd Miller and Jef Gilson's collaboration is copyrighted © Lloyd Clifton Miller.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Big Band In The Backyard: John Altman in Leytonstone

© John Altman

It was like Lionel Hampton playing in your backyard, when I heard John Altman Big Band is going to play in my neighborhood in Northeast London. I had no idea that how "big" this band is going to be, so when in an icy night of 7th of February I headed for East Side Jazz Club, positioned in the back room of the Lord Roockwood pub, and faced the 18-piece band of Mr Altman in a modest and soulful place, I understood the business is more than serious.

The club was tight and intimate, and packed with people. Remembering what Frank Foster said about Birdland that "If the fellow next to you laugh at you, the people at ringside would know what he's laughing at," and that "every mistake can be heard" sounded true about this joint. John was there before anybody else, checking the charts and chatting to the old friends. Every tune in his book had a number, so now Dr Altman, like a severe math teacher, for instance would read out load "number 37!" and the band would take care of his original from Shall We Dance film or a standard of American songbook.

Standing up at the rear of the room for nearly three hours, I never stopped tapping my foot, swinging my head, and nodding to sidemen who were bursting into beautiful solos. John Altman formed this big band in 1985 and some of the musicians in the bandstand of East Side Jazz Club were the original members of the first line up, and some of them, probably were not born by then. 

John presented a vivid history of big bands from Machito and Basie up to more modern sounds of later big bands, and always charged with the elements of swing. Composers from Cole Porter and Harry Warren to Dizzy Gillespie and Wayne Shorter where in his repertoire, and arrangements for these pieces had something new, some joyous excitement that was trademark of Altman's pen. During two one-hour long sets Altman and his Big Band played more than 12 tunes.

It all started with Basie-esque Count me Out, written by John himself in which Ralph Salmins did some fireworks in the tradition of Sonny Payne.

We had an homage to West Coast jazz, especially Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker in West Coast Chatter with a nice solo by the young lady in charge of baritone sax, Claire McInerney. The performance was splendidly sublime since eighteen instruments were creating some rich textures, and at the same time they sounded as they are a pianoless quartet!

Though John is always busy with managing and conducting the band - and exemplary successful in such task - but we don't have to forget what a great solos he can execute as I heard in his treatment of Our Love Is Here to Stay.

Mambo Inn, composed by Bobby Woodlen that later became popular by George Shearing in his 1950s quintet recordings was a good excuse for some Latin flavors in the club, and adding a new color to John Altman's pallet of orchestral colors.

From Gigi Gryce catalog, John played Minority, a tune written in 1961 for quintet which ended the first set. How striking the accompanists are - most memorable Tony Fisher on trumpet (who filled the trumpet chair in Frank Sinatra band during the early 1990s) and Bob Sydor on tenor sax.

Nice parts written for John Etheridge's guitar, including one in Dizzy Gillespie's Manteca when his swinging guitar solo was backed by a powerful rhythmic support from miss McInerney.

Lester Left Town, often played by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, turned out to be not only a raising the hat for the one and only, Lester Young, but also for one of the mentors of John, master Benny Carter whose middle name is Lester too! Bob Sydor on tenor saxophone soloed skillfully on this one.

Joan Viskant, entered the scene to sing a couple of standards and complete the party. She reminded me of a British singer, Annie Ross, though Joan is a Chicagoan.

The gig was finished ten minuted past eleven, in a nastily cold winter night of Leytonstone area, and I had never heard a band in London, whoop in the last ride-out as this one. John Altman supplied a kind of  precise excitement that is very rare in today's live jazz scene. Every solo was written with immediate vitality and  his all-star band were articulate in giving the utmost pleasure to ears.

It was an auspicious evening, since it was coincided with the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens who was doing almost the same thing: make your mind move and swing with the power of the pen!

Walking back home on the frozen and icy sidewalks is another story, but if John Altman's playing, it worth every slip and stumble!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Master Pianists Sing!


Fresh from the third, and the last radio broadcast under the title, Americans in Paris (an internet-based  programme for Iran which I foolishly do from my own pocket) that was a survey of lives and recordings of American jazz musicians in the city of equality and liberty, I'm going to share with you two remarkable recordings that I played in the show.

Firstly, the tunes are recorded by two of my favorites jazz pianist, Joe Albany and Jimmy Rowles, and secondly, they both sing in these recordings, though they are not singers in the common sense of the word (and from this "amateur" group comes my preferred jazz singers - pianists, trumpetists and reed men who sings!)

Joe Albany, having a particular empathy for ballads and Billy Strayhorn, in 1977 Paris recorded a moving interpretation of Lush Life, in which he manages to balance the sense of sadness in the song with rich, colorful textures added by his romantic and vulnerable mind. Albany says: "With a great melody you're going to get a great composition, with great chords. Then, logically, the tune will be a pleasure for jazz musicians to improvise on and interpret in their own way. And of course most of these songs also happen to have great lyrics, which can be kept in mind to lend emphasis even to an instrumental version."

Here is Joe playing and singing Lush Life with his polite earthiness:



"Musicians have a way of using words in a sense totally different from their everyday usage," says drummer Shelly Manne, "one of these words is Beautiful." And Shelly explains it further by stating that where most people use the word to describe an outward appearance that is pleasing to the eye, the musician uses it to describe the inner person. "I know of no person who deserves this description more than JIMMY ROWLES," says Shelly.

This beautiful musician was passing through the city of Paris, around the same time Mr Albany was living his "lush life." During his Parisian affair, Rowles became so popular in French recording studios that in a single day in 1978, he recorded four complete albums for three different labels.

Here, on May 30th or 31th , 1980,  Rowles played and sang a Ben Webster tune called S. H. Blackula:


Radio Hawkins#24: Americans in Paris III

راديو هاوكينز: جاز براي ايران
اپيزود 24
آمريكايي ها در پاريس
بخش سوم

اين جا بشنويد



فهرست قطعات

All recorded in Paris, France.

Zoot Sims-Henri Renaud Quintet
Evening in Paris
Jon Eardley (tp) Zoot Sims (ts) Henri Renaud (p) Benoit Quersin (b) Charles Saudrais (d)
16 March 1956

John Lewis & Sacha Distel
Afternoon in Paris
John Lewis (p), Sacha Distel (g), Pierre Michelot (b), Connie Kay (d)
4 December 1956

Art Blakey And The Jazz Messengers
The Midget
Lee Morgan (tp) Barney Wilen (as) Wayne Shorter (ts) Bud Powell (p) Jymie Merritt (b) Art Blakey (d)
18 December 1959

Willie "The Lion" Smith
Music on My Mind
Willie "The Lion" Smith (solo p, voc)
November 1965

Don Byas & His Orchestra
Where or When
Don Byas (ts), Maurice Vander (p), Jean-Pierre Sasson (g), Popof Medvedko (b), Benny Bennett (d)
19 April 1951

Thelonious Monk Quartet
Well, You Needn't
Charlie Rouse (ts) Thelonious Monk (p) Larry Gales (b) Ben Riley (d)
23 May 1965

Ronnell Bright Trio
Johnnie Pate's Blues
Ronnell Bright (p), Richard Davis (b), Art Morgan (d)
1958

Gerry Mulligan Quartet
Love Me or Leave Me
Bob Brookmeyer (vtb), Gerry Mulligan (bars), Red Mitchell (b), Frank Isola (d)
1 June 1954

Earl Hines Trio
There Is No Greater Love
Earl Hines (p), Larry Richardson (b), Richie Goldberg (d)
December 1970

Slide Hampton
Chop Suey
Slide Hampton (tb), Martial Solal (p), Henri Texier (b), Daniel Humair (d)
6 January 1969

Jimmy Rowles
S.H. Blackula
Jimmy Rowles (solo p, voc)
30 or 31 May 1980

Duke Ellington & His Orchestra
Cop Out
Ray Nance (c), Cat Anderson, Roy Burrowes, Cootie Williams (t), Lawrence Brown, Buster Cooper, Chuck Connors (tb), Jimmy Hamilton (cl, ts), Johnny Hodges (as), Russell Procope (as, cl), Paul Gonsalves (ts), Harry Carney (bars), Duke Ellington (p), Ernie Shepard (b), Sam Woodyard (d).
1 February 1963