THE JAZZ WORD

All that's jazz... and more

Maiden Voyage_edited-1On 11 March 1965 Freddie Hubbard (trumpet), George Coleman (tenor saxophone), Ron Carter (bass) and Stu Martin (drums) along with Herbie Hancock were at Rudy Van Gelder’d Studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey with producer Alfred Lion to record the pianist’s new Blue Note album. The first song they put down was ‘Maiden Voyage, followed by ‘Little One’ and ‘Dolphin’s Dance’, but in the final analysis these tracks were rejected as unsuitable.

Six days later on 17 March Hancock was back in the same studio and this time he cut not just a defining album in his career, but a defining album for Blue Note Records and jazz. Whereas there was something missing at that first day’s recording nothing was missing, not a note, not a nuance, there was simply perfection. For their second attempt at recording Herbie’s five compositions it was Tony Williams rather than Stu Martin (Sonny Rollins’s drummer at the time) that was behind the drum kit.

Maiden Voyage is Hancock’s follow-up to Empyrean Isles, and is an album that is totally different in form and feel, aside from the obvious addition of tenor saxophonist George Coleman who, like most of the others, had been playing in Miles Davis’s band for the previous two years. Departing from the hard bop of Hancock’s 1964 album Maiden Voyage is more mellow, with gentle composition that have more of a chamber-jazz vibe – it has even has been called a sound sculpture. But do not for a minute think this makes it in any way less exciting; this is innovative musical exploration of the highest order. Hancock’s time with Miles Davis comes across in his playing, but in no way is this simply a pastiche of Miles’s music. Just listen to the closing crescendo on ‘Survival of the Fittest’: it owes more to Rachmaninoff than Miles Davis.

The album’s title track was originally titled ‘TV jingle’ until Jean Hancock, Herbie’s sister, renamed it, and it sets the tone and the theme for the album. Ironically, many years later, the track was used in a TV commercial by Fabergé sometime later. It is a composition that many artists have covered, including Dianne Reeves who recorded an interesting vocal version in 1996, and pianist Robert Gasper whose fabulous interpretation is on his 2007 Blue Note album, In My Element.

While side 2 opens with the album’s most experimental piece, ‘Survival of the Fittest’ that perfectly reflects the album’s concept – an evocation of ‘oceanic atmospheres’. ‘Dolphin Dance’ is the other classic, deservedly so given Hancock’s skilful writing and equally skilful playing throughout. It’s a tune that offers subtle shifts and changes in both key and the interplay between the soloists. Maiden Voyage is as perfect as an album gets.

Listen to Maiden Voyage on Spotify and buy it from iTunes

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Pres largeBy the early 1950’s Lester Young was finding the popularisation of his style something of a double-edged sword. He was so admired that many copied his style and with all these sound-alikes, he himself was beginning to feel obsolete. The impact of the abuse he had received while serving in the U.S. army, which he described as, “a nightmare, man, one mad nightmare”, meant that his playing was becoming far more melancholic than mellow. To add further to his woes his battle with alcohol was intensifying.

He was living in New York, in a state that would nowadays be diagnosed as clinically depressed, sitting by his window in the Alvin Hotel at 52nd Street and Broadway, watching the musicians arriving at Birdland on the opposite side of the street. He spent much of his time watching Western movies, and listening to Frank Sinatra records, sat in his chair, while drinking gin.

On one occasion Gil Evans visited him, “He had a great big room at the Alvin, and when I’d go to see him, I’d find full plates of food everywhere. They’d been brought by friends, but he wouldn’t eat. He just drank … One of the reasons his drinking got so out of hand was his teeth. They were in terrible shape, and he was in constant pain.”

In 1956 the man everyone knew as Pres was named the greatest tenor saxophonist ever in a Leonard Feather poll. Many phrases that are in daily use today have been attributed to him. He was most famous for dubbing Billy Holiday “Lady Day”, and she for calling him the “President”, but it is Young that also introduced, “you dig” (you understand) and “bread” (money).

In February 1959 Young went to Paris to work and while he was there he recorded at Barclay Studios in Paris on 4 March; it came out later in the year as the appropriately entitled Lester Young In Paris. Among the tracks on Young’s last album is ‘I Can’t Get Started’, a song that he and Billie Holiday had recorded twenty-one years earlier. Lester Young in Paris is not his best playing by a long way, but it is fascinating that a man in his physical condition could even perform.

The day after returning to New York from the one-month engagement in the French capital, Young died on 15 March 1959 from a heart attack brought on by severe internal bleeding arising from cirrhosis of the liver – he had essentially drunk himself to death.

Norman Granz took out a full-page ad in Down Beat: there was a photo of Lester Young under which was the simple dedication, “We’ll all miss you, Lester”. He was posthumously elected to the Down Beat Hall of Fame in 1959.

Today, Pres’s playing is not so in vogue, his style is looked upon as old fashioned. Yet no one could swing like Pres, swing is what Lester Young is all about. He recorded an album of wonderful swing standards with Teddy Wilson in 1956 for Verve. This record is a joy and has sometimes been overlooked because it was recorded at the twilight of Young’s career; it is one of the best albums that Granz ever produced. Aside from the emotional intensity of Young’s playing, the pairing with Wilson is inspired.

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If you do nothing else today the listen to it on Spotify

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Bas Gunn March 16th at 6:19pm

I am 82 and a Jazz fan for years. I had almost forgotten how good Pres was. than you for reminding me

Bird’s Last Session

12th March, 2015

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In 1950, Charlie Parker moved in with a dancer named Chan Richardson, despite only having married his long-term girlfriend Doris two years earlier. Charlie and Chan had a daughter in 1951 and a son in 1952. Charlie’s daughter died from pneumonia in 1954, an event that brought on the final decline for a man whose mind was already in a fragile state from self-abuse.

Things eventually got so bad that Bird was even banned from Birdland. By September 1954, Charlie Parker had a breakdown; he even attempted suicide. After a spell in hospital he did get back on his feet and was once again booked to appear at Birdland in March 1955.

On 10 December 1954 Bird was at Fine Sound Studios in New York to record with pianist Walter Bishop Jr.; Billy Bauer on guitar, bass player Teddy Kotick and drummer Art Taylor. They cut two songs that day, the first was ‘Love For Sale’ and they followed it with ‘I Love Paris’, both are Cole Porter songs.

This was Bird’s last visit to a recording studio and before he could fulfill his engagement at Birdland, he died on 12 March 1955 at the home of jazz patron Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter, where Thelonious Monk would also pass away, nearly twenty-seven years later. Bird was thirty four when he died, but according to the autopsy report he had the body of a man of over fifty.

Verve Records that Norman Granz launched at the end of 1955 began an ambitious reissue schedule of old Clef and Norgran titles in 1957.. One of the most ambitious and one of the most exciting series of records was The Genius Of Charlie Parker #1 through #8, which included Bird And Diz, April In Paris and Night And Day. This series – along with The Charlie Parker Story #1, 2 and 3, was an early sign of the record industry capitalizing on the death of a legendary artist.

‘I Love Paris’, Parker’s last recorded song at Bird’s last session appeared on Charlie Parker Plays Cole Porter, which was #5 in ‘The Genius Of’ series.

Listen to ‘I Love Paris’ on Spotify and you can buy The Complete Verve Master Takes on iTunes

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sherrie kober evans March 12th at 4:07pm

What a tragic life for such a great talent

Somethin' else

Of course he had a little help from Miles Davis.

“Here’s one of the outstanding jazz sets released in the past few months and perhaps one of the best of the year. It features some truly fine, sensitive trumpet work by Miles Davis, and at times, some of the best work yet waxed by Cannonball Adderley. Both ‘Autumn Leaves’ and ‘Love for Sale’ are handed superb treatments by Davis, and Adderley shines with his solo on ‘Dancing in the Dark.’ An album that will be important to all jazz fans.” Billboard 20 October 1958 

Almost four years to the day since he last recorded for Blue Note, Miles Davis was back in the studio to cut another album for the label, but not as a leader. The band was led by twenty-nine-year-old Julian ‘Cannonball’ Adderley – and what a band it is. Adderley was a member of Davis’s Sextet at the time of this recording, and the following year the saxophonist appeared on the seminal Kind of Blue. The feel of this album is something akin to a dry-run for what followed, and everyone with a love of jazz should own it.

The principal difference between this album and Kind of Blue is that Somethin’ Else has three tracks that are re-workings of standards – apparently chosen by Davis – which enhances the feeling of extreme comfort that each and every track exudes. Of the two original numbers, Miles composed the title track while ‘One For Daddy-O’ was a joint creation by pianist Jones and Adderley’s cornet-playing brother, Nat.

Throughout much of the album, Adderley and Davis seem to be engaged in their own private conversation, a conversation we are privileged to eavesdrop on. The stand-out track for most listeners is ‘Autumn Leaves’ and what’s so gratifying about this number and ‘Love For Sale’, is that neither song sounds like a straight rehash. It has been said that there is not ‘a rote moment’ on the album and both tracks prove the point. If you want to know what makes Adderley such a master, just listen to ‘Dancing In The Dark’; all it needs are strings and you’d swear it was Charlie Parker.

“For those not familiar with the latest in terminology, that the title number of the Miles Davis original, which also provided the name for this album, is a phrase of praise. And if I may add my personal evaluation, I should like to emphasize that Cannonball and Miles and the whole rhythm section and, indeed, the entire album certainly can be described emphatically as ‘somethin’ else’.” – Leonard Feather, original album liner notes

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Ruud March 9th at 3:04pm

One of the best!

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Don Was, the President of Blue Note is clear and unequivocal in his feelings on how music should be heard, ““Music is meant to convey an emotional message to the listener. You don’t want anything interfering with that message. Fidelity is true. Give me the truth.”

There is no better way to celebrate the fidelity of the iconic label’s great catalogue than by playing them through the new and exclusive Sonos Blue Note speakers. Launched today, Sonos are introducing their first ever limited edition speaker that celebrates more than 75 years of the finest in jazz with a custom design and access to exclusive playlists. The Sonos PLAY:1 Blue Note Limited Edition is available for purchase at Sonos.com and will enable the great sound of Blue Note to fill your home.

Crafted with a custom color developed through hand-painting techniques and strategic use of robots, the speaker’s finish features a vertical fade from dark navy to cerulean blue, reflecting the deep bass to the richly detailed highs and lows that people know and love about the PLAY:1. With two custom-designed drivers and dedicated amps, the Blue Note PLAY:1 delivers sound with such precision, you will feel the nuances that define jazz. And with such simple set-up you’ll be streaming your music in no time.

Available exclusively on the Blue Note PLAY:1, listen vinyl-style to handpicked selections from the greats like Robert Glasper, Jose James, Terence Blanchard, Ambrose Akinmusire, Lionel Loueke, and Don Was himself, who has curated 125 of his personal favourites.
Born in Blue: We bring together legendary Blue Note artists and those who have sampled them for mixes that celebrate the intersection of modern music and legendary jazz.
Blue Note 101: Starting with the inception of Blue Note and following its progression to becoming an iconic label, listen and learn about jazz and its evolution over more than 75 years.

The Blue Note PLAY:1 will be sold exclusively on Sonos.com for $250, $280 CAD, €250, and £220, while quantities last. Sonos have only made about 4,100 and expect them to sell quickly. You can order them at Sonos.com

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Fresh from his second Grammy win, Robert Glasper has announced the release of his new album in June. It’s ten years since his Blue Note debut, and Robert is making a return to his acclaimed acoustic jazz trio for Covered (The Robert Glasper Trio recorded live at Capitol Studios), which will be released June 16 on Blue Note Records. It features Vicente Archer on bass and Damion Reid on drums, and tonight, 26 February the trio begins a week-long run at the famed Village Vanguard in New York City to preview the album.

Glasper, Archer and Reid—who form the original trio featured on Glasper’s first two Blue Note albums: Canvas (2005) and In My Element (2007) reconvened at the legendary Capitol Studios in Hollywood, California in December to record Covered in front of an intimate live audience. The material mainly consisted of covers, drawing from some of Glasper’s favorite songs by Radiohead, Joni Mitchell, Jhené Aiko, John Legend, Kendrick Lamar, and more, as well as several Glasper originals.

Glasper has also been named an official Steinway Artist, joining a select group of world-class pianists who have chosen to perform exclusively on The Family of Steinway-Designed pianos. As a Steinway Artist, Glasper joins a roster of some of the most dynamic names in piano, including Billy Joel, Lang Lang, Diana Krall, Jason Moran, and Harry Connick, Jr. Additionally, Glasper has been hard at work composing the original music for the Miles Davis film Miles Ahead, which is currently in production. The film is directed by and stars Don Cheadle.

The track listing for Covered (The Robert Glasper Trio recorded live at Capitol Studios)

1. Introduction

2. I Don’t Even Care (Robert Glasper/Macy Gray/Jean Grae)

3. Reckoner (Radiohead)

4. Barangrill (Joni Mitchell)

5. In Case You Forgot (Robert Glasper)

6. So Beautiful (Musiq Soulchild)

7. The Worst (Jhené Aiko)

8. Good Morning (John Legend)

9. Stella By Starlight (Victor Young)

10. Levels (Bilal)

11. Got Over feat. Harry Belafonte (Robert Glasper/Harry Belafonte)

12. I’m Dying of Thirst (Kendrick Lamar)

Robert Glasper’s My Element on Spotify
Robert Glasper on iTunes

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635585624873941548-BlueNoteBlue Note has announced a partnership with Cunard for October, when the label’s artists and its Grammy-winning president Don Was will undertake a ‘Transatlantic Crossing’ on board Cunard’s flagship Queen Mary 2.

The voyage, from New York to Southampton, will feature a supergroup formed from some of the label’s finest young talent, the Blue Note Records 75th Anniversary All Star Band. Created for the anniversary last year, the band features keyboard player Robert Glasper, trumpeter Keyon Harrold, tenor saxophonist Marcus Strickland, guitarist Lionel Loueke, bassist Derrick Hodge, and drummer Kendrick Scott. Glasper is himself a Grammy winner, for Best R&B Album for 2012’s ‘Black Radio,’ and is nominated in the same category at tomorrow’s (Sunday) 2015 ceremony.

The artists will play material from their own Blue Note catalogues in intimate performances during the voyage, as well as interpretations of landmarks in the label’s venerable history. Was will travel with his artists and take place in Q&A sessions with fellow travellers. “Cunard and Blue Note Records have accumulated 200 years of excellence and integrity in their respective fields,” says Was. “We’re going to have a ball.” There’s more information about transatlantic cruises on the Queen Mary 2 at the Cunard website.

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2584992_20150202075952_199055089Brazilian keyboard player, composer and singer Eliane Elias has made a string of fabulous albums since 1985, but for her new album it is something of a first. Called Made in Brazil, it is scheduled for release on 31 March, 2015 on Concord Jazz and it marks something of a musical homecoming for the multi-GRAMMY®-nominated artist. In her three-decade long career as a solo artist, Made in Brazil will be the first time she’s recorded a disc in her native Brazil since moving to the United States in 1981.

“I am completely immersed and involved in every single detail of the music and the recording process, from the birth of an idea until its completion through every aspect of the production until it reaches the public,” she explains. Elias recruited a first-class cast of Brazilian musicians that include electric bassist Marcelo Mariano; guitarists Marcus Teixeira and Roberto Menescal; drummers Edu Ribeiro and Rafael Barata; and percussionists Mauro Refosco and Marivaldo dos Santos.

The sessions include special guest performances from Mark Kibble of Take 6; her singer/songwriter-daughter Amanda Brecker; one of Brazil’s most celebrated R&B stars, Ed Motta; and the distinguished bossa nova composer Roberto Menescal.

Seven of the 12 tracks have strings, which were recorded in London at Abbey Road Studios. “It’s so touching to hear the music unfold,” she says of the orchestral arrangements after they were overdubbed onto the São Paulo sessions. “You can see the musical notes on paper, but it’s something else to hear them realized and performed by members of the London Symphonic Orchestra.”

Made in Brazil contains six Elias originals plus two Ary Barroso standards, two Roberto Menescal chestnuts, and two Antônio Carlos Jobim gems. Elias, who did all the arrangements for the basic tracks, said that she purposely wanted Made in Brazil to incorporate three generations of Brazilian composers. “But it’s not a retro record,” she clarifies. “It’s very contemporary yet with the tradition and authenticity of Brazil; it’s music of the world with Brazilian DNA.”

‘Brasil,’ composed in 1939, “is a Brazilian anthem,” enthuses Elias. “It’s reported to be the most preferred Brazilian song of the last 100 years. It’s about the beautiful things of our country, the Brazilian Brazil; its natural beauty, mixed ethnic cultures and the samba.” Elias performs Jobim’s epochal “Águas de Março (Waters of March),” which she notes is the most covered Brazilian tune in the world.” Elias’s other piece of Jobim’s music on Made in Brazil is a sublime mashup of Jobim’s ‘Este Seu Olhar’ and ‘Promessas.’

Made in Brazil and diving into Elias’ originals is a delight. It’s high time more people appreciated her exceptional talent and this album may just help do that.

Eliane Elias’s previous album on Spotify

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Charles-Lloyd
Storied saxophone player and composer Charles Lloyd has signed a new deal with Blue Note Records, and will have his first album for the label in more than 30 years released in April.

The tenor sax man, flute player and arranger, now 76, worked in his early days in Los Angeles with the likes of Don Cherry, Ornette Coleman, Bobby Hutcherson and ‘Cannonball’ Adderley. He’s been releasing albums as a bandleader since 1964, when ‘Discovery!’ came out on Columbia. Lloyd’s live record with his quartet ‘A Night In Copenhagen’ (featuring noted pianist Michel Petrucciani) appeared on Blue Note in 1983, with guest vocalist Bobby McFerrin.

The new Blue Note album, ‘Wild Man Dance,’ will be out on April 14. It’s a live recording of a longform suite that was commissioned by the Jazztopad Festival in Wroclaw in Poland. In the week of release, on April 18, Lloyd will present the North American premiere of the ‘Wild Man Dance Suite’ at the Metropolitan Museum Temple of Dendur in New York. That will be followed by two performances of it during a four-night run at SF Jazz in San Francisco.

It’ll be a busy spring for Lloyd, who is also due to have his career celebrated as NEA Jazz Masters status is bestowed on him, along with fellow notables Carla Bley, George Coleman and Joe Segal. This will take place during a ceremony and concert at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City on April 20.

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“Calling the music made by drummer Blade’s assemblage ‘jazz’ is like calling Lady Liberty a statue – it is, and so much more. Drawing from jazz, rock, country, folk, and pretty much every musical idiom either indigenous to or nurtured in America, ‘Perceptual’ is a melting pot of sound that wordlessly speaks of the conflicts and triumphs of the human experience.” Billboard July 2000

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When the opening track of any album is the title track there’s a sense of anticipation, a sense of what to expect from the rest of the package – and Perceptual does not disappoint. The song-writing credits are split between Blade and keyboard player (and Fellowship co-founder) Jon Cowherd, giving a feeling of cohesion to the record that is totally satisfying.

Blade made his Blue Note debut age twenty-four on Kevin Hayes’s, Seventh Sense in 1994. Five years later when he made this, his second Blue Note album as a leader, he had already done a string of sessions for the label and played on other artists’ recordings for other companies.

Some of the textures are Methenyesque and every track is more a soundscape than simply a song. Kurt Rosenwinkel’s guitar shines throughout, lending an ethereal feel to most every track, and when added to the dynamic piano playing of Cowherd, the musicians create fabulous melodies, rich textures, and deep-felt drama.

Highlights, aside from the title track, are the anthemic ‘Crooked Creek’ and the monumental, ‘Steadfast’, featuring a haunting vocal from Joni Mitchell that harks back to her Hejira album of nearly three decades earlier. Captured in Oxnard, California a month after the principal recording, Mitchell’s performance is outstanding.

Billboard got it absolutely right, but what they didn’t say is that this is one of THE jazz albums of the modern era – it really is that good. How Brian Blade is not even better known remains a mystery; but maybe not for too much longer.

“Blade remains one of his generation’s most creative and dynamic percussionists, cradling his band’s music with empathetic waves of rhythmic sound while propelling it ever forward toward unchartered waters.” Billboard July 2000

Buy the vinyl edition from the Jazz Label’s Store

Listen on Spotify

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