Monday, June 29, 2009

MICHAEL BUBLE'S SENTIMENTAL RETURN TO THE BLUE NOTE

On June 16, Michael Buble released a brand new CD/DVD titled Michael Buble Meets Madison Square Garden. The bonus footage includes a trip down memory lane to a jazz club in New York that once gave the man his start - you guessed it - at The Blue Note. Buble even says himself that playing the Blue Note was harder than playing Madison Square Garden (which he would do just days after shooting the footage). Here's hoping that he'll decide to return to the Blue Note some time soon to play a week (or more)...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Blue Note Monday Conversations: OMER KLEIN CD RELEASE FOR HEART BEATS, MARCH 2009

Jazz pianist Omer Klein was interviewed by the Blue Note Blogger for his Monday Night CD Release show for Heart Beats, a solo piano effort that shows the young pianist wise beyond his years. JazzTimes recently wrote that "Klein has the potential to achieve something much rarer for a jazz musician: popularity. What he plays is exotic yet accessible and makes you feel fully alive." Here, he talks about growing up listening to jazz, how he developed his unique melodic sense, and recording Heart Beats in the studio. To close the interview, Klein played a brand new, never before heard piece that he is currently working on. His band that night comprised of the bassist Omer Avital and percussionist Ziv Ravitz. For more information on the Monday Coversations at the Blue Note, visit our blog at www.bluenotejazz.com/blog. Visit www.omerklein.com for more details about Omer and his music.

Blue Note Monday Conversatons: LONNIE PLAXICO Talks About The Jazz Life

Lonnie Plaxico is best known for his work as a sideman with the likes of Cassandra Wilson, Art Blakey, Jack DeJohnette and so many more, but he' a fantastic bandleader and a prolific composer in his own right. Here he talks about his upbringing in the jazz world and his new CD, Ancestral Devotion. For more information on the Blue Note Jazz Club and our projects, go to www.bluenotejazz.com/blog.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

New Sounds: Brian Blade "Mama Rosa"

Probably the greatest influence on this generation of jazz drummers, Brian Blade's newest album features none of his drumming...and no jazz. Blade's most recent excursion is a testament to his folk and blues influences. Featuring his compositions, his singing, and his guitar playing, "Mama Rosa" is a phenomenal album of a very unique music.

This video is a very special sneak peak into this great album. For more info, visit www.brianblade.com, and if you're in the New York are, be sure not to miss Blade's show at the Highline Ballroom tomorrow, June 24.

Blast From The Past: Bill Evans & Lee Konitz

Searching through the vast collection of jazz videos on YouTube, I stumbled upon this gem. While certainly an enjoyable video and recording, this rare video is invaluable for quite a few reasons as well.

For one, this video provides a rare glimpse into one of the most interesting partnerships in jazz; one that is documented (not nearly enough) on recordings, but one that is very rarely - if at all - documented on video; this partnership is the one of Bill Evans and Lee Konitz.

It is interesting to watch and hear Bill Evans in a non trio setting, especially in this non trio setting. Those familiar with Evans' music know that the bassist in his trio plays a very interactive role; he rarely walks a bass line. Instead of keeping a pulse for Evans to play on top of, he and Evans play off one another, responding to each other in a very communicative fashion. Rarely do we get to hear Bill Evans playing with a bassist playing in a hard swinging style a la Ray Brown; we do here. It is interesting to hear Evans in this fashion; playing on top of such a bass player, we really get to hear the strong influence Bud Powell had on his playing. We hear the flowing eight note lines of a phenomenal bebop pianist as well as the natural rhythmic syncopation of an extremely hard swinger. It is interesting to hear these sides of Evans' playing.

Another interesting aspect of this video is the song choice. While both Evans and Konitz make use of many of the tunes from the Great American Songbook, "My Melancholy Baby," is a tune that, in many ways, never left the swing era. While very popular during the 1930's, it never became a tune that the beboppers of the 1940's took with them into the modern era. It is interesting to hear these post-bop modernists take on a swing era standard. One of the reasons it is so interesting is because the players here - while obviously inflecting their own personalities into the music - more or less adapt their styles to that of the song - instead of adapting the song to their more known styles. These players have enormous flexibility and this video is a testament to that; that these masterful musicians do not need to play in a certain style to make the music all their own.

Enjoy!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Blue Note June Vocal Festival Begins Tonight!



Some of music's greatest and most unique vocalists will be gracing our stage in the coming weeks. Beginning tonight (6/15) with Sophie Milman, and continuing on with Jane Monheit (6/16-21), Spencer Day (6/22), Bilal (6/23-24), and Rachelle Ferrell (June 25-28), this year's vocal festival should be quite a thrill.

For more information on the artists please visit their websites:
Sophie Milman - http://www.linusentertainment.com/sophiemilman2006/
Jane Monheit - http://janemonheitonline.com/
Spencer Day - http://www.spencerday.com/
Bilal - http://www.bilal-the-man.com/
Rachelle Ferrell - http://www.rachelleferrell.com/

To purchase tickets please follow this link: http://www.bluenote.net/newyork/schedule/index.shtml

Jazz Survival 101

Eugene Marlow posted a very interesting and thought-provoking article on jazz.com yesterday. We have posted it below and are very interested to see what your thoughts are. Please feel free to comment and discuss!


Jazz Survival 101
by Eugene Marlow

As of early June 2009 there are plenty of indications that the American economy, let alone the global economy, is still mired in what many are calling the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s. We see rising unemployment—predicted to top 10% before it’s over—an increasing number of failing banks, bankrupted car manufacturers (once the jewels in the crown of America’s economic prowess), still rising residential foreclosures, lower tax revenues on the federal, state, and local levels, and expanding deficits.

Reports of the commercial and residential real estate market indicate contradicting trends; clearly, though, the commercial market is overbuilt while the residential market might be coming to a plateau and some price stability. Consumers are saving more (a good thing in the long run), but spending less (not good for retailers in the short run). Foreign companies are buying parts of American companies (not necessarily a new trend), and China, in particular, owns a significant portion of this country’s debt. This also is not a new trend. In 1980 right before the start of the first Reagan administration, the United States was the world’s creditor nation. Today, we are the world’s debtor nation. What a difference almost 30 years makes!

All in all, it’s not a pretty economic picture.

On a more local level with respect to the music world, the picture is also spotty. On a recent visit to Swing 46 on New York City’s restaurant row, owner/manager “John” indicated to me they were holding their own. That night George Gee and his nonet were performing. The dance floor was virtually packed. It was noisy and festive. But John also indicated that, appearances to the contrary, financially it was not great, but he was still in business. Birdland, Blue Note, and The Jazz Standard all seem to be on a solvent economic keel, but there are rumors and anecdotal reports that Jazz At Lincoln Center is, to put it diplomatically, “having money problems.” So, too, the Metropolitan Opera. Not surprising really. The fallout from the Bernie Madoff debacle notwithstanding, many corporations and foundations have dramatically reduced their contributions to deserving organizations. Some have ceased funding altogether.

Further, in New York several “venues” have closed, for example, the ill-fated Brazilian-oriented club Cacha├ža that I wrote about several months ago, and Lola’s, the soul-food club, that hopes to reopen in another location. Sweet Rhythm has reported low audience attendance. And “non-club” venues have closed or are about to: Manny’s on New York City’s 48th Street “music row” shuttered on May 31 because Sam Ash Music stated “it wasn’t carrying its [economic] weight.” And then there’s Patelson’s right across the street from Carnegie Hall’s stage door. While Patelson’s is not a jazz-oriented music shop, it nonetheless represents an important aspect of the music world: printed classical music. It was one of “the” key places to go in New York City to find almost anything printed when it came to classical music. Its fate is representative. All over New York you see “Available For Rent” signs where once were thriving retail outlets of all kinds. Even when retail outlets associated with music and entertainment, such as restaurants, are doing business, they are rarely reaching capacity.

Let’s bring this down to the jazz world, and more specifically, the jazz musician. I recall listening to a talk a few years ago by an executive of Local 802 who was in involved in negotiating film-recording contracts. He reported that at one time New York’s musician local had over 40,000 members. As of a few years ago it had fallen to around 10,000. It’s well documented that CD sales of all genres are down, way down. Today, a CD is more often than not, a musical resume, rather than a product for profit. At the same time, the cost of attending a live jazz concert, regardless of venue, is out of reach for many, especially young people and those of limited economic means—the very same folks who need to hear the music to understand and appreciate its cultural relevance. Meanwhile, academic jazz programs all over the country are turning out highly skilled young musicians with little or no business training and fewer places to play, giving rise to an apparent growing number of non-traditional venues for performance purposes. At the same time the economic value of a musician’s skills seem, for most, to be in decline.

Jazz radio is shrinking. The Boston jazz station just shut down. And all over the country, arts editors, let alone jazz or classical music reviewers, are losing their jobs. Local newspapers, often a source of promotion and support for local arts, are ceasing to exist. There are exceptions, of course, but everyone, everywhere seems to be feeling the economic pinch.

This current, deep recession is exacerbating a much longer trend: the diminution of the social and economic value of the arts, let alone jazz, in the United States. Yes, there is recognition of the arts as a contributor to the economy. In a recent issue of Chamber Music, the official publication of arts organization Chamber Music America, Margaret M. Lioi, reports in her editorial that $50 million for the arts was included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill. These funds went directly to the National Endowment for the Arts.

When the House voted on the final bill, Democratic Congressman David Obey, who sponsored the bill, explained why he thought it was important to retain NEA funding in the stimulus package: “There are five million people who work in the arts industry. And right now they have 12.5% unemployment—or are you suggesting that somehow if you work in that field, it isn’t real when you lose your job, your mortgage or your health insurance? We’re trying to treat people who work in the arts the same way as anybody else.”

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Blue Note Interviews: Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band CD RELEASE WEEK @ THE BLUE NOTE

The Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band will release a brand new CD on Half Note Records titled "I'm BeBoppin' Too" on June 30, 2009. The Blue Note Bloggers posed a question to members of the big band: "Was there a single moment when you knew you wanted to be a jazz musician?" After watching Roy Hargrove conduct the band at sound-check, you'll hear answers from James Moody, Jimmy Heath, Gary Smulyan, Greg Gisbert, Roberta Gambarini, Claudio Roditi, Willie Jones III, Mike Dease, and bassist and executive director John Lee.
The Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band will be at the Blue Note through Sunday (sets @ 8PM & 10PM).

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band Set List

The explosive Dizzy Big Band is releasing a brand new CD this week at the Blue Note on Half Note Records titled "I'm BeBoppin' Too." On Tuesday, Roy Hargrove conducted the band during Tuesday's first set that featured the following numbers:

1. Hot House
2. Manteca
3. I'm BeBoppin' Too
4. Birk's Works
5. Una Moss
6. Lover Come Back
7. 'Round Midnight
8. Blue 'n Boogie
9. Cool Breeze
10. I Can't Get Started
11. In A Mellow Tone
12. A Night In Tunisia

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Blast From The Past: Sonny Rollins

Another viewing of last week's Ben Webster/Teddy Wilson video has put me in that ballad mood. These past few days I've been listening to some of the greatest of jazz balladeers: Lester Young, Keith Jarrett, and Sonny Rollins. Although Sonny Rollins is always mentioned in a listing of the greatest saxophonists of all time, the artistry of his ballads is not often -or not often enough- discussed. Sonny is one of the most powerful of all ballad players. The pairing of his unique, large tone with his heartfelt way of interpretation and improvisation combine to make a truly potent and beautiful ballad. Here Sonny is featured playing "My One And Only Love" in 1982. Enjoy!

Monday, June 8, 2009

WBGO Photoblog

Just wanted to tell everyone to check out the very cool WBGO photoblog. This current batch features some very hip pics of Ahmad Jamal here at the Blue Note taken by Fran Kaufman.
http://www.wbgo.org/photoblog
Enjoy!

David Grisman Quintet

Trumpet master Brian Lynch is quoted on his website (brianlynchjazz.com) saying, "I think that to be a straight-ahead jazz musician now means drawing on a wider variety of things than 30 or 40 years ago. Not to play a little bit of this or a little bit of that, but to blend everything together into something that sounds good."
Being that this is so - that modern jazz now encompasses and fuses so many different styles and genres and influences -, it has become increasingly hard to define the word "jazz." With jazz becoming a melting pot of so many sorts of musical fusions, many are becoming more and more obsessed with defining the word and the music, becoming increasingly protective of what they consider to be jazz. However, in the midst of this identity crisis, I believe Lynch says it best by saying that the goal of this fusion is to "blend everything together into something that sounds good." This quote, reminiscent of the famous Duke Ellington quote ("There are only two kinds of music. Good music, and the other kind."), stands testament to the idea that definitions are irrelevant; that the only thing that matters is the quality of the music.
Even so, it seems to be a natural human compulsion to attempt to define sound; it is hard for most people to simply hear something and say "this is good music," and leave it at that, without attempting to place it in a genre.
For those who simply can't resist this temptation, the following group should yield quite a fun time. Technically filed in the bluegrass section, the music of the David Grisman Quintet is extremely genre-defying. Is it Bluegrass? Is it folk? Is it jazz? It is swing? Is it country? These are all questions you will find yourself asking, while at the same time, mind-boggled that yes, it is all of the above. For those who need proof that genre defining, while hard to try and not do, only confuses -doesn't legitimize- the music, look no further than the David Grisman Quintet. As the Duke said, "If it sounds good and feels good, then it is good."


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Don Friedman

"Why is one player enormously famous and another obscure, when to the naked ear they sound equally as compelling?" So begins the ITunes review of pianist Don Friedman's 1996 album, "The Days of Wine and Roses."
Friedman, despite being an in-demand and well-respected fixture on the New York jazz scene since the early 1960s, has somehow remained relatively obscure. While he is known as a "musician's musician" and a "pianist's pianist," it is surprising that more are not in the know, especially since he has done so much this last half-century.
Born in San Francisco in 1935, Friedman had already established himself as part of the West Coast jazz scene by the mid-1950's gigging around town (Los Angeles) with musicians such as Dexter Gordon, Ornette Coleman, Chet Baker, Shorty Rogers, and Scott LaFaro. A turning point in his career was 1956, when a tour with Buddy DeFranco inspired him to move to New York. The diverse group of artists with whom he played reflects his serious chops as both a hard-bopper, be-bopper, and avant-garde. His ability to thrive as himself in all sorts of musical environments is only one of the things that helped Friedman make a name for himself in New York.
Once in New York, Friedman thrived. He played with nearly every important artist of the era including Elvin Jones, Clark Terry, Booker Little, Eric Dolphy, Pepper Adams, Ron Carter, Paul Chambers, Jimmy Giuffre, Stan Getz, Lee Konitz, Charles Lloyd, Herbie Mann, Oliver Nelson, Zoot Sims, and Phil Woods, among many others. Friedman was also an important solo piano act. His solo piano was often featured at clubs such as Birdland, The Five Spot, and the Half-Note. In fact, during Ornette Coleman's first gig in New York - his famed gig at the Five Spot - Friedman was actually the other act, performing as the second featured performer in between Ornette's sets.
While Friedman is often categorized into the Bill Evans school of piano playing, he certainly has a fresh voice of his own. One amazon.com review of Friedman's "Circle Waltz" album says, "If Evans is Matisse, Don Friedman is Kandinsky."
Over the years, Friedman has gone from being one of the most in-demand avant-garde pianists to one of the most lyrical of pianists. His playing today is often cited as very emotional, displaying the full range of the emotional spectrum; it seems to be an honest and perfect blend of feeling and intellect.
While Friedman has had a successful career and has even enjoyed considerable stardom - especially in Japan - he is certainly a pianist deserving of wider recognition. He truly is one of the greats, and an "Overdue Ovation" is long overdue.
Jazz critic Gene Lees says of Friedman, "if you're not familiar with the artistry of Don Friedman, you have some catching up to do."
Don is featured here on a composition of his own, "Memory for Scotty," a tribute to his friend, Scott Lafaro. Enjoy!


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

FOURPLAY reviewed by Nate Chinen in the New York Times

Music Review Fourplay
Precision High Jinks From a Veteran Jazz Quartet
Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times
Fourplay: From left, Nathan East, bass; Larry Carlton, guitar; and Bob James, piano; at the Blue Note.
By NATE CHINEN
Published: June 2, 2009

During the final moments of their early set at the Blue Note on Monday night, the members of Fourplay engaged in a bit of musical horseplay. First Bob James, the keyboardist, tossed off a pithy phrase. Nathan East, the bassist, picked it up, followed in turn by the guitarist Larry Carlton and the drummer Harvey Mason. The cycle repeated and quickened until the band was frantically circulating just one note, like a hot potato.


It was cute. But then cuteness has always been a reliable strategy for Fourplay, one of the leading brands in adult-contemporary music. Since 1990 the group has kept refining a bright and palatable sound, mixing chirpy melody with crisp rhythm, and R&B (by loose definition) with modern jazz (by an even looser one). Its consistency applies equally to the commercial side of the equation: almost all the band’s 10 albums have landed on the Billboard 200, including “Energy” (Heads Up), the most recent, released last year.

Monday’s set, which kicked off a four-night run, featured songs from that album alongside more established staples of the Fourplay catalog, and the only truly noticeable difference among them involved the relative enthusiasm of the crowd. “Chant,” a trademark single from the 1990s, was a suave opener, with Mr. East’s wordless singing (and, more cutely, whistling) set against a slow funk shuffle. “Ultralight,” a more buoyant tune from the new album, came next, and it was embraced by the audience a bit more tentatively at first.

But that was before the appealingly boppish melody had settled in, and before Mr. Carlton, who wrote the tune, had fashioned his blues-informed solo excursion. Precise and levelheaded musicianship is the stealth principle behind Fourplay’s success, as well as a good reason for its bond with a dedicated fan base. And that principle, often dampened by the airtight dimensions of the band’s recordings, assumes sharper focus in performance. This performance in particular featured a few more thoughtfully controlled statements from Mr. Carlton, who joined the group about a decade ago, replacing Lee Ritenour. On several tunes, including an old favorite, “101 Eastbound,” Mr. James accomplished just as much, imbuing his solos with a clear dramatic shape. As a rhythmic engine, Mr. Mason and Mr. East locked in tight and close, giving each groove a gravitational pull.

The problem, for much of the set, had to do with aesthetics. Mr. James could have toned down the gloss of his synthesizers; Mr. East’s vocals could have been less saccharine. The gauziness and breathiness made an especially lethal pairing on “Sebastian,” a new piece by Mr. James after a prelude by Johann Sebastian Bach. At best, Fourplay isn’t half that precious, though it should be noted that “Sebastian” met with ample applause.

Fourplay appears through Thursday at the Blue Note, 131 West Third Street, West Village, (212) 475-8592; bluenote.net.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Blast From The Past: Ben Webster & Teddy Wilson

This video features two of the most lyrical jazz musicians of all time: Ben Webster and Teddy Wilson. Both musicians had beautiful and unique tones on their instruments as well as emotionally oriented styles; everything they did was very musical, and this is displayed greatly in this video.
Ben Webster's ballad playing is seen by many as the epitome of ballad playing. His lush and robust tenor saxophone sound is very romantic and emotional without being overly sentimental. These musicians create a beautiful aura around the music that they play; notice the vibe that they create in this video - and also notice how quickly they create it.
This video would make a great audio track, but it is very interesting to watch as well. Notice, at the beginning, that Teddy Wilson begins the tune a tad faster than Webster wanted it. Notice how he snaps the tempo down to his liking. Also, notice around 4:45 that Webster begins to cry. In my research, I read that before this performance Webster was informed of Johnny Hodges' death. While this may or may not be true and may or may not be the cause of the tears, it is not hard to imagine tearing up simply because of the beauty of the music at hand.
Enjoy!

Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band

Certainly one of the most revered jazz musicians of all time is Dizzy Gillespie. His virtuosity, compositions, and personality have all contributed to the legacy and institution that is (and has been since the mid 1940's) Dizzy Gillespie. Everything about Dizzy's music was truly Dizzy; everything he did musically was a direct testament to who he was personally. Gillespie's long-time collaborator and sometime instigator - they were known to have gone to jam sessions with their horns hidden under their coats; acting like they were just observing, they would wait for the perfect moment to "devour" the other musicians on stage. "This was known as an ambush," Dizzy said. - Charlie Parker once said, "If you haven't lived it, it won't come out of your horn." Dizzy Gillespie remains proof of this statement. Everything he played or composed represents everything that he was and loved. Among those loves were latin music, bebop, and humor - all of which are reflected in his music.
His music has created quite a following, and, being a man who was loved by all, Gillespie remains an often cause for celebration. One of these celebrations will be taking place next week here at the Blue Note. One of the most powerful big bands on the scene, the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band is also one of the most star-studded. Featuring the likes of James Moody, Jimmy Heath, Roy Hargrove, Slide Hampton, Cyrus Chesnut, and many more, the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band is a show not to be missed. All of the artists are coming together to play tribute to a man that they love, and the music that they play is sure to reflect that. Come out June 9-14 to see what will surely be one of the most exciting shows of the year.