Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Jazz’ Category

Bandcamp

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Bandcamp is new to me, but looks good and interesting. It’s a site where you can specify the various musical genres that interest you, browse offerings, and buy CDs (physical or digital) or individual tracks or stream music. Some seem to be free samples.

For example, take a look at the album More Touch, by Patricia Brennan:

Marimbist, improviser and composer Patricia Brennan “has been widely feted as one of the instrument’s newerleaders.” observed The New York City Jazz Record. She has performed in venues such as Newport Jazz Festival, SF JAZZ, and Carnegie Hall, as well as international venues such as Wiener Konzerthaus in Vienna, Austria, and Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City.

Listen to “Unquiet Respect,” the first tune on the album.

released November 18, 2022
Marcus Gilmore drums
Mauricio Herrera percussion
Kim Cass bass
Patricia Brennan vibraphone with electronics, marimba

It’s sort of like Spotify, but with Bandcamp, the musicians get the money.

And if jazz isn’t your thing, they offer many genres and sub-genres.

Also:

On the first Friday of the month since March of 2020, we’ve waived our revenue share to help support the many artists who have seen their livelihoods disrupted by the pandemic. Over the course of 23 days, fans have paid artists and labels more than $84 million dollars, helping cover rents, mortgages, groceries, medications, and much more. If you’re among the nearly 800,000 fans who have participated, thank you.

The next Bandcamp Friday is January 6th. As always, isitbandcampfriday.com has the details.

If you’ve started to feel guilty about buying music on any other day of the month, here’s something to keep in mind: on Bandcamp Fridays, an average of 93% of your money reaches the artist/label (after payment processor fees). When you make a purchase on any other day (as millions of you have, with close to $1 billion now paid directly to artists), an average of 82% reaches the artist/label. Every day is a good day to support artists on Bandcamp!

Written by Leisureguy

2 December 2022 at 7:55 pm

Posted in Jazz, Music

Interesting treatment of The Entertainer

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Written by Leisureguy

27 November 2022 at 11:58 am

Posted in Jazz, Video

The Death of the Key Change

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An interesting article on pop music sheds some light on one of the reasons popular music hasn’t appealed to me for quite a while. A combination of style and the technology used in songwriting has flattened the musical aspect. For example, think of a recent pop song you’ve heard — and it’s likely to be hip-hop — and hum the melody. You probably cannot, because hip-hop’s focus is on lyrics and rhythm, and melody is just an unimportant add-on.

In the music I like, melody (and lyrics) are the focus. For example,

There’s no love song finer,
But how strange the change from major to minor
Every time we say goodbye.

The line, from Cole Porter’s “Every Time We Say Goodbye,” includes a key change, as discussed in this article.

Written by Leisureguy

24 November 2022 at 5:27 pm

Posted in Daily life, Jazz, Music

Boston Public Library Vinyl LP Collection

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Some great titles. I’m listening to one now.

Some are complete, some have only 30-second samples from each tune. 😦

Written by Leisureguy

23 November 2022 at 4:12 pm

Posted in Jazz, Music

Juilliard Jazz Ensemble: Tiny Desk Concert

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The video description on YouTube is worth reading.

Written by Leisureguy

5 October 2022 at 12:50 pm

Posted in Jazz, Video

When Duke Ellington Made a Record for Just One Person—Queen Elizabeth

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Queen meets Duke

Ted Gioia has a good column (which includes Marcus Roberts playing ‘One Petal of a Rose”):

Many musicians have long envied visual artists—who can sell unique objects at very high prices. Because of the inherent scarcity of one-of-a-kind originals, art works turn into status symbols, with wealthy elites paying exorbitant amounts for the privilege of owning something irreplaceable.

The recent mania for turning music into non-fungible tokens (NFTs) is just the latest iteration of this quest. Back in 2015, the Wu-Tang Clan made just a single copy of its seventh album, and packaged it in a jewel-studded silver box. We never learned how much financier Martin Shkreli paid for it back then, but the Department of Justice later seized it, and sold it for $4 million—making this the most expensive musical work in history.

But Duke Ellington did the exact same thing in 1959, and without any desire to make money. Or even generating publicity from the incident—which took place in secret, without fanfare or press releases.

In this instance, he created a unique album solely for the pleasure of giving it to Queen Elizabeth. With the help of Billy Strayhorn, he composed The Queen’s Suite, had one record manufactured—and sent it directly to Buckingham Palace, solely intended for Her Majesty’s ears.

In a historic Duke-meets-Queen encounter the previous year, Ellington served up his famous charm for the monarch. When she asked him whether this was his first visit to Britain, Duke replied that his initial trip to London was in 1933, “way before you were born.” This was out-and-out flattery, because Queen Elizabeth had been born in 1926—but she played along with the game. “She gave me a real American look,” he later recalled, “very cool man, which I thought was too much.”

Give Duke credit for savviness. He understood that even a queen wants to hear how young she looks. Ellington followed up saying that Her Majesty “was so inspiring that something musical would come out of it.” She told him that she would be listening.

According to Ellington’s son Mercer, his father began working on the music to The Queen’s Suite as soon as he got back to his hotel room. He enlisted colleague and collaborator Billy Strayhorn. In addition to royal inspiration, the work also borrowed from the natural world: the opening movement draws on birdsong heard during a Florida visit, another section was a response to an unexpected encounter with “a million lightning bugs” serenaded by a frog. The best known part of the Suite, “The Single Petal of a Rose,” was spurred by a floral display on a piano at a friend’s home.

This latter movement has even entered the jazz standard repertoire as a standalone piece. It is most often performed by pianists, and has been recorded by Marcus Roberts, Marian McPartland, Sir Roland Hanna, John Hicks, Bill Mays, James Williams, and Andy LaVerne, as well as Ellington himself.

By early 1959, the finished work was ready for performance. The Queen’s Suite was now a 20-minute work in six movements. The band recorded it over the course of three sessions in February and April 1959. A single golden disc was made, and sent to Buckingham Palace. In order to ensure that no other copies were released, Ellington reimbursed Columbia, his label, some $2,500 in production costs, and thus retained personal ownership of the master tapes.

The original score to The Queen’s Suite is now in the collection of . . .

Continue reading. And at the link, you can hear the entire suite. Below is just one section.

Written by Leisureguy

9 September 2022 at 4:19 pm

Posted in Daily life, History, Jazz, Video

Give Duke Ellington the 1965 Pulitzer Prize

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John McWhorer writes in his newsletter:

Want racial reckoning? Then it’s time to give Duke Ellington the Pulitzer Prize he was unjustifiably denied in 1965. The jazz scholar Ted Gioia has circulated a Change.org petition with this call, and as of this writing, it has surpassed 6,000 signatures.

I’m hoping it stimulates a big, beautiful noise that undoes this wrong.

As Howard Klein reported for The Times in 1965, “the advisory board for the Pulitzer Prizes rejected a unanimous recommendation from the music jury to award Duke Ellington, the jazz musician, composer and bandleader, a special citation for long-term achievement.” It was the second consecutive year that no Pulitzer for music was awarded. A few years before, the jolly yet evanescent musical “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” had been awarded a Pulitzer for drama despite that few would speak of it and anything by Ibsen in the same breath. One may love it and yet be surprised it earned so prestigious an award. But for Ellington in 1965? Bubkes.

We assume that Pulitzers are awarded to work that qualifies as for the ages, that pushes the envelope, that suggests not just cleverness but genius. There can be no doubt that Ellington’s corpus fits that definition.

I’ll never forget deciding, in my early 20s, that I wanted to know what the big deal was about Ellington and popping in a CD with a recording of 1927’s “Black and Tan Fantasy.” Just the opening, in all of its blue, narrative and outright odd soaring, made the proverbial hairs on the back of my neck stand up. It was one of those “What is this?” moments. I remember marveling about it with my father, a lifelong jazz fan, with him smiling and saying, “John, you got it!”

Indeed, Ellington was something one “got.” Like James Joyce, the Coen brothers or Charles Mingus, you might not quite get what the hubbub is about at first, but when you do, watch out. “Mood Indigo” opens with muted trombone on melody playing up high, then clarinet playing down low, then muted trumpet playing somewhere in the middle — deliciously weird! The result is a gentle astringence that results in an uncommon kind of tenderness.

As I sought to know more of, and about, Ellington, I was struck by the opinions of James Lincoln Collier, whose 1987 biography of Ellington was devoted to dissing much of Ellington’s work. Collier opined that when Ellington started writing long-form pieces instead of three-minute ones that fit on one side of a 78 r.p.m. record, he was being pretentious and strayed from what he was best at. But I’m sorry, no. The late, great critic Stanley Crouch was correct when he wrote in 1989 for The Times that Collier’s book was, on this issue, at least, “consistently stupid.” The movements of “Far East Suite” contain some of the neatest music I’ve ever heard, whether anyone considers it “classical” in the sense of a Sibelius symphony.

I once attended a lecture by the late composer and conductor Gunther Schuller, where he explained that a lot of Ellington’s chords are so dense they challenge even the trained ear to parse just what they consist of. “Far East Suite”’s opening, “Tourist Point of View,” is surely the kind of piece he had in mind, based on chords that sound like long, sassy scratches that somehow come off as infectious, with good rhythm only part of why.

Goodness, Ellington gave us so much. Even the little things. Listen to 1929’s “Flaming Youth,” which just sits there and grinds and growls slow and glorious for three-ish minutes, summoning the smells of gin, feet and barbecue in roughly that order. Or 1932’s “Delta Bound,” where before the somewhat mundane lyrics to Ivie Anderson’s vocals kick in, the orchestra engages in the most coolly creative, sassy and perfect minute and 14 seconds I know.

And there is much more to be discovered. As The Times reported in 1988, the Smithsonian Institution announced its acquisition of a “huge trove” of Ellington’s “papers, memorabilia and orchestral manuscripts.” Among them are the materials for the Broadway show Ellington did the music for — yes, he did that too — “Beggar’s Holiday,” a jazz-infused, contemporary Black take on the 18th-century hit “The Beggar’s Opera.” I’ve heard that there are plans to get this material, which ran on Broadway from 1946 to 1947, recorded and perhaps performed, upon which we would be treated to yet more Ellingtonian genius.

The list of the composers awarded Pulitzers for music in the 1960s is interesting: Elliott Carter, Walter Piston, Robert Ward, Samuel Barber, Leslie Bassett, Leon Kirchner, George Crumb and Karel Husa. I would venture that Carter and Barber would be familiar to many. Maybe Piston and Crumb, too, for classical music buffs. But here in 2022, how reasonable does it sound that Ellington was denied membership in that pantheon at that time? One need not be especially committed to our time’s quest for “reckoning” to conclude that something wasn’t right.

Those awardees are all white, and it strikes me as unlikely that racism wasn’t part of why the Pulitzer board disregarded the jury’s decision in Ellington’s case. Something was blowing in the wind — as Theodore Strongin reported for The Times in 1965, two members of the three-person jury resigned “in protest against the Pulitzer advisory board’s ignoring of the jury’s unanimous recommendation.” Ellington was diplomatic, saying that “fate’s being kind to me” because it “doesn’t want me to be too famous too young.”

It seems to me that part of the problem, at least back then, is that in evaluations of musical merit, we’re often dealing in different languages. Take Stevie Wonder’s “Innervisions.” Is it lesser art than, say, Tchaikovsky’s “Pathétique”?

When Tchaikovsky’s second movement switches into its cold, creepingly gorgeous middle section — I recall working it out laboriously on the piano after I first heard it as a teen because I just wanted to touch it — we remember why we are alive. When Wonder’s “Living for the City” opens with its deep, slow, funky groove and progresses into, well, everything that happens in that song, we think: “What is this?” “Who did this?” Both works are brilliant. Attention must be paid to both, the same way that it should have been paid in the ’60s to Carter, Barber — and Ellington.

The rapper . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

20 July 2022 at 11:38 am

Posted in Daily life, History, Jazz

Let’s Give Duke Ellington the Pulitzer Prize He Was Denied in 1965

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I am totally on board with Ted Gioia’s proposal:

Last week the International Olympic Committee reinstated Jim Thorpe’s gold medals, taken from him in 1912. Emboldened by this rectification of a longstanding wrong after more than a century, I am launching an online petition for Duke Ellington to be granted the Pulitzer Prize he was denied in 1965—despite the recommendation of the music jury.

Here’s the link to the petition. The back story is below.

Let’s Give Duke Ellington the Pulitzer Prize He Was Denied in 1965

Something amazing happened in sports last week. And it didn’t take place in a competition or on an athletic field.

Jim Thorpe, a legendary athlete in almost every sport he played, was retroactively awarded sole possession of the Olympic gold medals for the 1912 pentathlon and decathlon.

It had taken 110 years to redress a wrong.

Thorpe destroyed the competition at the 1912 Olympics and set records that lasted for decades. At the medal ceremony King Gustav V of Sweden declared that he was “the greatest athlete in the world”—and nobody disagreed. But a few months later, Jim Thorpe was stripped of the awards because he had played a few games of semi-pro baseball, and thus violated the Olympic rule that only amateurs could compete in events.

In my childhood, my parents and others of their generation still complained bitterly of this. Thorpe had lived for a time in my home town of Hawthorne, California, and though he died four years before I was born, many still remembered him, and his name was always spoken with awe and reverence.

But the lost medals were especially lamented by the Native American community—Thorpe was a member of the Sac and Fox nation, and he was not only a great athlete, but at the very highest rung. When the Associated Press conducted a survey in 1950 to pick the best athlete of the first half of the 20th century, Thorpe took the top spot. When they did another vote decades later to cover the entire century, Thorpe placed third, behind only Babe Ruth and Michael Jordan—an extraordinary achievement, especially given the fact that Thorpe’s glory days were only a dim memory by that time.

I never expected Thorpe to regain sole possession of those 1912 gold medals. But it happened. And it was the right thing.

And that leads me to the subject of Duke Ellington and the Pulitzer Prize he never got in 1965.

If you look at the list of winners of the Pulitzer Prize in Music from the 1960s, you see a strange gap. Here’s what it looks like on Wikipedia. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

17 July 2022 at 10:40 am

“I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” – Ella Fitzgerald and a stellar group

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I recall a guy saying that Ella Fitzgerald was one of the greatest Irish singers of all times. 🙂 I came across this track in a wonderful column by Ted Gioia, who commented regarding this track:

Who would dare get into a scat-singing battle with Ella Fitzgerald? I give credit to trumpeter Clark Terry, who matches her phrase-for-phrase at the 2:15 mark with his inimitable ‘mumbles’ style of vocalizing.

I love this band. I love this track.

The column is a miscellany, and I highly recommend the whole thing.

Written by Leisureguy

18 June 2022 at 2:49 pm

Posted in Jazz, Video

Haruki Murakami Jazz Mixes: Hear Playlists of Jazz Pieces Namechecked in Norwegian Wood and 1Q84

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Colin Marshall has an interesting piece in Open Culture. It begins:

Haruki Murakami has long since broken with the traditional model of the novelist, not least in that his books have their own soundtracks. You can’t go out and buy the accompanying album for a Murakami novel as you would for a movie, granted, but today you can even more easily find online playlists of the music mentioned in them. A die-hard music lover, Murakami, has been name-checking not just musicians but specific songs in his work ever since his first novel, 1979’s Hear the Wind Sing. Eighteen years later, he titled a whole book after a Beatles number; the tale of yearning and disaffection in 1960s Tokyo that is Norwegian Wood would become his breakout bestseller around the world.

When Norwegian Wood first came out in Korea, where I live, it did so as The Age of Loss (상실의 시대). That title is still referenced in the video above, an hourlong mix of songs from the novel posted by the Korean Youtube channel Jazz Is Everywhere. (This doesn’t surprise me: here–where Murakami’s many avid fans in Korea refer to him simply as “Haruki”–more of his work has been translated into Korean than ever will be into English.) Selections include the Bill Evans Trio’s “Waltz for Debby,” Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Desafinado,” Thelonious Monk’s “Honeysuckle Rose,” and Miles Davis’ “So What.” More recently, Jazz Is Everywhere put up a mix of songs from Murakami’s 2011 novel 1Q84, featuring the likes of Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, and Duke Ellington.

These mixes focus on jazz, one of Murakami’s most beloved genres; as is well known, he even ran his own jazz bar in Tokyo before turning novelist. (Its name, Peter Cat, now adorns a book café here in Seoul.) But . . .

Continue reading. The Open Culture piece has the two playlists. Here’s the one for Norwegian Wood:

Written by Leisureguy

30 May 2022 at 9:55 am

Posted in Books, Jazz

“Idle Moments”

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Guitar: Grant Green
Tenor Saxophone: Joe Henderson
Vibraphone: Bobby Hutcherson
Piano: Duke Pearson
Bass (vocal): Bob Cranshaw

Producer: Alfred Lion
Recording Engineer, Mastering Engineer: Rudy Van Gelder [a genius sound engineer – LG]
Composer Lyricist: Duke Pearson

Paul Jobin commented on YouTube:

On the back cover of the original Blue Note LP, there was a long comment by Duke Pearson, the pianist who composed the tune. He explained the exceptional conditions that made these 15 minutes of their recording session an “ideal moment” for ever, as much as an “idle moment”. Here is an extract of that text:

“Idle Moments. What does a person usually think of during his idle moments? Does he sit in recollection of past pleasures or disappointment? Or does he seat and daydream of an accomplishment, desire, or goal he wishes someday to finally achieve?  

I wonder while listening to this recording, just what the people involved were thinking of while idling away (so to speak). The dreamlike mood that prevails gave me the idea of naming this tune Idle Moments.  

It was well past midnight when we came to this tune. Since this was the last number of the session, it was to run for no longer than seven minutes. It was my duty to assign the solo order, and designate the number of ad-lib choruses each of the musicians were to play. I figured that the melody should be played at once, then Green for two choruses, and each of the others for one apiece. This I calculated, should run from six-and-a-half, to seven minutes.  

The ‘take’ number was announced, and we started recording. The sixteen bar melody that was to be played once, was repeated for thirty-two bars. As Green was finishing his second sixteen-bar chorus, I was getting ready to make my entrance, but he kept playing. I waited for him again at the end of his third sixteen, and took up his pattern, but he repeated once again. Then it dawned on me that since the melody was played twice, thirty-two bars were being considered one full chorus. So when it came my turn to improvise, I too placed thirty-two bars, and gave the “high sign” to Joe Henderson.  

Henderson took two steps closer in the microphone, closed his eyes, and warm, beautifully passionate sounds began pouring from his horn.  

I was watching Alfred Lion thru the glass that separates the recording room from the control room, and he seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the proceedings. Then he looked at his stopwatch, frowned, looked at me, shrugged his shoulders, smiled, and continued listening to Joe. But Booby Hutcherson was yet to follow, and I knew that he was going to play at least thirty-two bars…”

It’s an amazing piece. Full album here, but the remastered track below sounds better than the audio at that link.

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2022 at 10:20 pm

Posted in Jazz

There’s life in big bands yet: Skylar Tang

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Elizabeth Blair reports on NPR:

Some 300 young musicians from around the country are in New York for Jazz at Lincoln Center’s annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition and Festival. They’re attending workshops and jam sessions, meeting professional musicians and competing.

Skylar Tang, 16, has already won her award. The San Francisco Bay Area trumpet player is the winner of the Dr. J. Douglas White Composition and Arranging Contest, an honor bestowed on an original composition written and arranged for big bands by a high school student.

Tang said the vibe of her winning piece, Kaleidoscope, is kind of “frantic,” a bit like her life right now. “There’s a lot of stress in the tune. I go to school. I have assessments and tests. Maybe that has something to do with it,” she said.

It took her about seven months to create her work.  . . 

Continue reading.

You can find Skylar Tang’s work on YouTube. I liked this one, for example:

Written by Leisureguy

6 May 2022 at 10:13 pm

Posted in Education, Jazz, Video

It’s Dave Brubeck Day!

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Written by Leisureguy

4 May 2022 at 8:48 am

Posted in Daily life, Jazz, Video

It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)

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Written by Leisureguy

13 April 2022 at 6:49 pm

Posted in Jazz, Music, Video

“Alone Together” — Bill Evans, Chet Baker

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Chet Baker & Bill Evans – Alone Together
Photos by © Rodney Smith

First track from “Alone Together” recorded on December 30, 1958 and on January 19, 1959 in New York City. Label – Original Jazz Classics

Chet Baker – trumpet
Pepper Adams – baritone sax
Herbie Mann – flute
Kenny Burrell – guitar
Bill Evans – piano
Paul Chambers – bass
Connie Kay, Philly Joe Jones – drums

Written by Leisureguy

11 April 2022 at 6:39 am

Posted in Jazz

Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers / Moanin’ (1988)

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Written by Leisureguy

5 April 2022 at 7:15 pm

Posted in Jazz, Video

Doris Day – “The Very Thought Of You” from Young Man With A Horn (1950)

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A great scene. That’s Hoagy Carmichael on piano. And that is Harry James you hear on trumpet. Harry James was a great trumpeter IMO. And it’s a great movie except for tacked on happy ending, which I imagine the studio insisted on. (The studio seems very like the bandleader in this scene.)

Written by Leisureguy

4 April 2022 at 5:57 pm

Posted in Jazz, Movies & TV

A palate cleanser for the previous post: “Misty,” with Stan Getz

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Written by Leisureguy

28 March 2022 at 7:09 pm

Posted in Jazz, Video

Jazz improvisation on Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No.8 in C minor, Op.13 (“Pathétique”)

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Hiromi with The Trio Project at Estival Jazz Lugano, Switzerland, 2011.

Hiromi Uehara – piano
Anthony Jackson – bass
Steve Smith – drums

Written by Leisureguy

27 March 2022 at 7:36 am

Posted in Jazz, Video

Miles Davis and John Coltrane – “So What” – The Robert Herridge Theater, New York – April 2, 1959

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Written by Leisureguy

21 March 2022 at 6:38 pm

Posted in Daily life, Jazz, Video

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