Category: jazz

THROWBACK: John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” — Or Some Thoughts on Jazz, My Father and The Events of 9/11

John Coltrane‘s A Love Supreme has been an annual tradition since this site’s inception, and while it may arguably be among one of the most beautiful album s ever written and recorded, it’s also an album that has a deeply personal meaning to me; in fact, the tradition goes back to about roughly 2005. On that particular September 11th, I had come  home from a job at a small Midtown Manhattan-based publisher to my father cooking and playing A Love Supreme on the living room stereo loudly — so loudly that it almost felt and sounded as though the musicians were playing right in our living room. My father wasn’t exactly the most thoughtful or even mindful person but in light of such terrifying and awful events, it seemed to be one of the most thoughtful things he’s done in many years; after all, the album is not just a reminder of the profound beauty we are sometimes capable of, as well an album that humbly contemplates the nature of God and of God’s love. And it made quite a bit of sense. 

Now, as you know, this post is an annual tradition here and as you may recall, my father was a complicated and conflicting figure in my life. He was a terrible drunk and died at the age of 57. Throughout his life, he was in many was, he was three or four different people at various points in my life, and I’ll never be able to completely reconcile all of them. Years ago, I learned to just accept it as it is. And while he may have been a unknowable and sometimes terrible person, who I frequently hated and had no respect for, he was my father — and unlike some of the people I grew up, I knew him and he was around, even if he was sort of absent. But he taught me how to did teach me how to wear a suit and how to tie a tie; how to catch a baseball and how to throw it; how to read a point spread; raised me as a Yankee fan; and he was a huge jazz fan — particularly, the bop era. One of the rare positive things I can remember is my father playing old Horace Silver, Oliver  Nelson, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and a long list of others. Dad loved Coltrane the most, and in my house, he was something akin to a god. In some way small way, those old albums are one of the only ways I can truly connect to him in a way that makes sense. 

As a native New Yorker, September 11th has a much different meaning and feel than most other Americans. Back then, I was finishing my last semester at NYU, and I can still remember coming across the missing posters posted all across town. At the West 4th Street A,B,C,D,E,F, and M station — the M train didn’t stop there at the time; but it does now — the victim’s families posted missing posters from ceiling to floor, going end to end, east to west, across Sixth Avenue. With each of those posters, the family tried to capture their loved one  in the fullness of their lives, smiling in that awkward and self-conscious fashion that we all do in extremely posed pictures or doing something that they loved. “My friend such and such was last seen on the 103rd floor . . . ,” several would read, and they were pleading for any information they could get on their loved one.  But somehow you just knew that most of those people would never be found again; that they’d never be returning home ever again; and the family would be left with somehow trying to piece together their lives without someone they loved. Personally, I quickly recognized that in every one of those pictures, it was much like looking at someone you knew and/or saw regularly — your neighbor, your childhood friend, an ex-boyfrend or girlfriend, your coworker’s wife or kid, your cousin, a family friend you hadn’t seen in some time, a coworker. And although New York is a bustling city of 8.1 million people, there are countless moments in which it’s one of the smallest places in the wold, and as a result, you knew someone who survived the attacks or someone who lost someone. It’s a deeply visceral sensation of along the lines of “that could have been me, that could have been me, that could have been me/thank goodness, it wasn’t me, thank goodness, thank goodness.” 

Understandably, my mind turns to the families of the victims and survivors and the world at large today. In the past I’ve suggested wordy but thoughts on religion and our purpose here. I won’t do that today. I’ll just simply say this — cherish life. Cherish life always. This is all we know, and it may very well be all we have. 

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Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the course of the last year or so, you’ve likely come across a reference to Maurice “Mobetta” Brown, a highly acclaimed, Chicago, IL-born, Brooklyn-based classically trained trumpeter, who has been mentored by Wynton Marsalis and Ramsey Lewis, and has collaborated with an incredibly diverse array of renowned artists including Santigold, Ski Beatz, John Legend, Talib Kweli, Cee-Lo Green, Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs, Musiq Soulchild, Tedeschi Trucks Band (with whom he won a Grammy in 2012 for Best Blues Album), Wyclef Jean, Santana and a growing list of other equally impressive artists. And although he may be classically trained, as a solo artist and bandleader, Brown’s work draws from contemporary hip-hop, funk, neo-soul while nodding at jazz’s classical tradition — namely the work of Louis Armstong, as Brown will freely rhyme and sing during his compositions, essentially pushing the sound of contemporary jazz towards new directions without forgetting its origins.

The Mood is Brown’s latest album of original compositions and the album’s second and latest single, album title track “The Mood” is a swaggering composition that manages to draw from contemporary soul, smooth jazz, Miles Davis’ famous modal compositions — in particular, Kind of Blue, Davis’ jazz fusion period and hip-hop in a seamless and funky composition that allows enough room for each musician to strut, show their stuff and expand upon the composition’s smooth flowing melody. And if the one that that’s certain, Brown will cement himself as arguably one of contemporary jazz’s most exciting and ambitious composers and artists with an imitable sound and approach.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since appearing on DJ Shadow‘s 2006 album The Outsider, the critically applauded, mostly instrumental London, UK-based act The Heliocentrics, comprised of Malcolm Catto (drums, production), Jake Ferguson (bass), Adrian Owusu (guitar) and multi-instrumentalist Jack Yglesias, have cemented a reputation for a compositional approach based on the band’s four musicians’  live improvisation in the studio as a way to avoid typical songwriting and compositional processes and generic song structures, and for a boldly genre-defying aesthetic as their sound possesses elements of jazz, hip-hop, trip-hop, psych rock, acid jazz, krautrock and musique concrete. Unsurprisingly, as a result of being uncompromisingly difficult to pigeonhole, the members of The Heliocenters have collaborated with an impressive array of artists including Muluta Astake, The Gaslamp Killer, Lloyd Miller, Orlando Julius, the legendary and iconoclastic Melvin Van Peebles and others.

Spending well over a decade together, the members of the band refer to their songwriting and recording process as “almost a form of telepathy” with “musical changes that otherwise would be near impossible to write .. . ” Interestingly, the band’s fourth full-length effort, A World of Masks, which is slated for a June 9, 2017 release through  will further cement their reputation for being difficult to pigeonhole; but it also marks several new directions for a band that constantly pushes themselves in new directions sonically and thematically. First, the London-based band’s fourth album is the first official release through their new label home Soundway Records after several years on Los Angeles-based Now Again Records — and secondly, the album finds the band collaborating with Barbora Patkova, a young Slovakian vocalist, who the members of the band discovered through a mutual friend. According to the band, Patkova’s sound and vocal stylings “instantly worked with us,” and they quickly discovered an artist, who like them was intimately familiar with an improvisational approach and had lyrics at the ready to sing, frequently in her native Slovakian over any music thrown at her.  Lastly, A World of Masks is the first release of rather prolific year or so period for the band: they recently wrote the score to the critically acclaimed documentary about LCD, The Sunshine Makers and have plans to collaborate with the legendary Marshall Allen and the Sun Ra Arekstra, and to continue their collaboration with Gaslamp Killer with a new album as well, ensuring that The Heliocentrics will be a go-to band to collaborate with on genre-stretching and genre-defying works.

The London-based act’s latest single “Oh Brother” is the second official single off A World of Masks and the single is an awe-inspiring, heady and cinematic mix of psych rock, acid jazz, jazz fusion, 60s blue eyed soul and a subtle hint of psychedelic Bollywood in a song that possesses an explosive and feral immediacy paired with Patkova’s sultry and soulful Nancy Sinatra-like vocals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Live Footage: Preservation Hall Performs “Santiago” with Dave Grohl and the Late Show with Stephen Colbert Band with Jon Baptiste

Allan Jaffe founded Preservation Hall and Preservation Hall Jazz Band in the early 190s with two vital and critical missions: promoting and preservation New Orleans’ traditional jazz sound and culture with the authenticity and devotion it deserved and to ensure that some of New Orleans’ best musicians kept working at a time that jazz had steadily lost popularity. And although the band has gone through several lineup changes throughout its history, the act has proudly continued those missions, recording over 30 critically acclaimed albums, a live album and with a touring scheduling that has had the band collaborating with an incredibly diverse number of renowned and contemporary acts at concerts and festivals across the globe, helping to introduce and re-popularize the New Orleans jazz sound to concertgoers and music fans everywhere.

In the years after Hurricane Katrina devastated one of the world’s great musical cities, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, now lead by Allan Jaffe’s son Ben have continued their mission of promoting and preserving New Orleans’ jazz sound and culture — but with a decidedly modern take. Now, as you may know, Preservation Hall Jazz Band was recently in town to support the release of their second full-length album of original material So It Is with a packed house at Highline Ballroom and an appearance on Late Show with Stephen Colbert where they played the album’s fiery lead single “Santiago” with Jon Baptiste and his Late Show Band — and special guest, Dave Grohl, who was on the show to promote his new book with his mom, From Cradle to Stage.

New Video: Live Footage of Preservation Hall Jazz Captures the Explosive and Ebullient Energy of Their Latest Single “Santiago”

Allan Jaffe founded Preservation Hall Jazz Band in 1961 with a vital and critical mission: promoting and preserving New Orleans‘ jazz and its jazz culture with the authenticity that it deserved. And although most of the act’s first lineup is no longer with us, the act has continued on its mission with a variety of different lineups, recording over 30 studio albums, a live album, and a touring schedule that has included collaborating with a number of renowned popular acts at festivals and concerts, helping to introduce and re-popularize the New Orleans jazz sound to concertgoers and music fans across the world.

With the act celebrating its 50th anniversary earlier this decade, the milestone left its current creative director Ben Jaffe, the son of the act’s legendary and beloved founder, and its current members with a couple of deeply existential and important questions: First, how does an institution based on early 20th century musical culture survive and prosper in the early 21st century? And second, how do they do that while continuing to preserve and honor New Orleans’ musical culture and sound? Interestingly, the answer Jaffe and company came up with was that they needed to reinvent themselves and their sound by looking at the future, but with a loving and kind gaze at what inspired and influenced them, and at their previous history. Or in other words, with the band’s first 50 years being focused on the sounds and styles of the past, Jaffe and company felt it was necessary to make the institution’s next 50 years about how they can modernize without forgetting or losing the vital connection to the past.

Jaffe and the members of the band decided that the best way to look towards the future would be to write and record new, original material — including the band’s first album of originals, the boisterous and joyous That’s It!, which included album title track “That’s It,” “Dear Lord (Give Me The Strength)” and “Rattling Bones” among others. April 21, 2017 will mark the release of the Dave Sitek-produced So It Is, the septet’s second album of original material — and the album’s material finds the band mining fresh influences, including their 2015 life-changing trip to Cuba. As the band’s leader, arranger, composer and multi-instrumentalist Ben Jaffe explains in press notes, “In Cuba, all of a sudden we were face-to-face with our musical counterparts. There’s been a connection between Cuba and New Orleans since day one — we’re family. A gigantic light bulb went off and we realized that New Orleans music is not just a thing by itself; it’s part of something much bigger. It was almost like having a religious epiphany.”

Featuring compositions and songs largely penned by Jaffe and 84 year-old saxophonist and clarinetist Charlie Gabriel in collaboration with the members of the band, the material ties the New Orleans jazz sound to the larger African Diaspora, in particular with the Afro-Caribbean and Afro-Cuban sound through the common sonic and aesthetic linkages — in particular Fela Kuti, Pharaoh Sanders and John Coltrane. Of course, the material also draws from the continuing post-Katrina rebuilding of New Orleans that has forced all locally-based artists to consider what the city’s sound and culture means and should be in 2017 and onwards. And lastly, the material draws from their collaborations with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Elvis Costello, The Grateful Dead, My Morning Jacket, Arcade Fire and The Black Keys.

As I mentioned earlier, Dave Sitek was enlisted to produce So It is. Sitek, best known as a founding member of TV on the Radio and a go-to producer, who has worked with Kelis, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Santigold and others, also offered a modern perspective and a profound respect for the band’s history. In fact, as Sitek recalls upon his arrival in New Orleans to meet Jaffe and the members of the septet, he and Jaffe had randomly stumbled into one of the second-line parades, which New Orleans has long been known for. “I was struck by the visceral energy of the live music all around, this spontaneous joy, everything so immediately,” Sitek said in press notes. “I knew I had to make sure that feeling came out of the studio. It needed to be alive. It needed to sound dangerous.”

“Santiago,” So It Is’ first single bares a clear resemblance to the material on its predecessor as it possesses a boisterous, riotous joy; but unlike any of their previously released material, the composition is a difficult to pigeonhole melange of influences and sounds that features a propulsive rhythm section that seemingly draws from Cuban son, meringue and salsa, Afrobeat, and big band jazz paired with a bold, bright, swaggering horn lines familiar to New Orleans brass band and jazz. Interestingly, the composition possesses a loose and completely improvisational feel, as the musicians in the band catch a groove and ride it; but there’s also enough room for the members of the band to play strutting and swaggering solos. Simply put the band and this particular composition radiate an indefatigable joy — and if you don’t immediately start to dance as soon as you hear it, there’s something deeply wrong with you.

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site for a while. you’d know that I have a profound love of the New Orleans sound, have written about the legendary Preservation Jazz Hall Band and have even caught them live a couple of years back, when they stopped at Brooklyn Bowl for an incredibly fun Christmastime show. The recently released video for “Santiago” captures the band at their best — live. And it shouldn’t be surprising that the video captures the song’s explosive and swaggering energy; but it should remind you that jazz while jazz over the past 50 or 60 years has been reduced to “classy” establishments, jazz has long been the sound of rebellion, of ebullient and frenetic joy, of passionate, seductive danger.

New Video: A Tree Grows Capture Both the Mysteries and Wonders of NYC and Nature in Visuals for “Future Calculations”

Comprised of founding members, Washington, DC-born, New York-based sibling duo Rashaan Carter (bass) and Russell Carter (drums), German-born, New York-based electronic music artist Emmanuel Ruffler, Georgia-born, New York-based Tivon Pennicott (saxophone) and Duane Eubanks (trumpet), the New York-based jazz quintet A Tree Grows features some of the city’s most accomplished and renowned jazz musicians — and arguably some of the city’s most accomplished musicians across any genre.

The quintet’s founding members, the sibling duo Rashaan Carter and Russell Carter were born in a very musical home as their father was a saxophonist and their mother, a radio programmer. Growing up, the Carters cut their teeth in the Washington, DC scene where they played with a number of locally and nationally renowned artists including the likes of Gary Thomas. Rashaan relocated to New York to attend New School University, where he began collaborating with a number of the school’s faculty members, including percussionist and composer Joe Chambers — and where he met future bandmate Emanuel Ruffler. Ruffler, a German-born, New York-based electronic music artist once won the grand prize in the Thelonious Monk Competition, has a songwriting credit on Meshell Ndegeocello’s “Aquarium” and has collaborated with world-famous designer Emanuel Ungaro, which led to Ruffler crafting the soundtrack for an ad campaign for an Ungaro-produced perfume. Georgia-born, New York-based Tivon Pennicott is a two-time Grammy winner and Thelonious Monk Competition runner-up, who is perhaps best known as a member of renowned, jazz-soul vocalist Gregory Porter’s backing band. Additionally while in college, Pennicott began playing with renowned guitarist Kenny Burrell, and as a result the Georgia-born, New York-based saxophonist has played in backing bands for Stevie Wonder and Wynton Marsalis among others. The Georgia-born, New York-based saxophonist has also collaborated with Esperanza Spalding on Radio Music Society and has toured as part of Al Foster‘s band. Finalizing the band’s lineup, Duane Eubanks is best known as a member of Dave Holland‘s two-time Grammy Award winning big band and as a member Mulgrew Miller’s band Wingspan. And as a result he’s played in some of the world’s most renowned and well-regarded music venues including Hollywood Bowl, Carnegie Hall and The Kennedy Center, as well as countless tours across Europe and Japan. Eubanks has crossed over into other genres as he recorded and toured with an incredibly diverse array of artists including The Temptations, Alicia Keys, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Wu-Tang Clan, Freedom Williams, Kirk Franklin and DeFunkt.

The jazz quintet’s self-titled EP was released earlier this year and while serving as a teaser for their forthcoming full-length effort, and if you had been following this site earlier this year, you may recall that I wrote about the band’s coolly atmospheric and funky first single “Wau Wau Water,” a composition that managed to evoke seething, bubbling and frothing water. Interestingly, as the members of the band explained each composition that appears on both the EP and their forthcoming LP is based around a different concept, describing and evoking a distinct state in the evolution of life on Earth as we know it. “The images are snapshots, extending from the beginning of life, to the emergence of emotions, to aspects of modern human life. The cycle closes with possibilities for future development: self-perpetuating intelligence. The composition ‘Wau Wau Water’ is based on the following concept: ‘Enzymes are forming in a prehistoric ocean — evolving into bacteria. A stew of life is brewing, the cycle starts and intensifies in this patch of fertile Wau Wau Water.” As the band’s Emanuel Ruffler added “Defining and discussing these concepts during the rehearsal and recording process created a sense of purpose among the musicians and a deeper engagement with the compositions. This has transformed our creative process.”

“Future Calculations” the EP’s latest single is a coolly swaggering strut of a composition that much like its preceding single owes a debt to bop-era jazz and jazz fusion as a propulsive yet wobbling and retro-futuristic bass line, played through copious wah wah pedal is paired with shuffling and deceptively complex syncopation and a boldly expressive melody from the band’s brass players. Clocking in at a little over 2:30, the composition is roomy enough to allow room for the brass players — primarily saxophone — to solo in a composition that rapidly shifts gears in a prog rock-like fashion, and while evoking the wonders of minute mysteries of nature, even in a large city.

The recently released video for the song follows a young girl, with an expressive and highly intelligent face wandering around New York with a small container of dirt and seeds, who stops by Central Park’s Strawberry Fields to let a jazz musician she encounters to take a look at the suddenly growing seedling, before she plants it in the park nearby to replace a fallen tree.

New Audio: Preservation Hall Jazz Band Return with a Globe-Spanning Take on Their Renowned Sound

Allan Jaffe founded Preservation Hall Jazz Band in 1961 with a vital and critical mission: promoting and preserving New Orleans’ jazz and its jazz culture with the authenticity that it deserved. And although most of the act’s first lineup is no longer with us, the act has continued on its mission with a variety of different lineups, recording over 30 studio albums, a live album, and a touring schedule that has included collaborating with a number of renowned popular acts at festivals and concerts, helping to introduce and re-popularize the New Orleans jazz sound to concertgoers and music fans across the world.

With the act celebrating its 50th anniversary earlier this decade, the milestone left its current creative director Ben Jaffe, the son of the act’s legendary and beloved founder, and its current members with a couple of deeply existential and important questions: First, how does an institution based on early 20th century musical culture survive and prosper in the early 21st century? And second, how do they do that while continuing to preserve and honor New Orleans’ musical culture and sound? Interestingly, the answer Jaffe and company came up with was that they needed to reinvent themselves and their sound by looking at the future, but with a loving and kind gaze at what inspired and influenced them, and at their previous history. Or in other words, with the band’s first 50 years being focused on the sounds and styles of the past, Jaffe and company felt it was necessary to make the institution’s next 50 years about how they can modernize without forgetting or losing the vital connection to the past.

Jaffe and the members of the band decided that the best way to look towards the future would be to write and record new, original material — including the band’s first album of originals, the boisterous and joyous That’s It!, which included album title track “That’s It,” “Dear Lord (Give Me The Strength)” and “Rattling Bones” among others. April 21, 2017 will mark the release of the Dave Sitek-produced So It Is, the septet’s second album of original material — and the album’s material finds the band mining fresh influences, including their 2015 life-changing trip to Cuba. As the band’s leader, arranger, composer and multi-instrumentalist Ben Jaffe explains in press notes, “In Cuba, all of a sudden we were face-to-face with our musical counterparts. There’s been a connection between Cuba and New Orleans since day one — we’re family. A gigantic light bulb went off and we realized that New Orleans music is not just a thing by itself; it’s part of something much bigger. It was almost like having a religious epiphany.”

Featuring compositions and songs largely penned by Jaffe and 84 year-old saxophonist and clarinetist Charlie Gabriel in collaboration with the members of the band, the material ties the New Orleans jazz sound to the larger African Diaspora, in particular with the Afro-Caribbean and Afro-Cuban sound through the common sonic and aesthetic linkages — in particular Fela Kuti, Pharaoh Sanders and John Coltrane. Of course, the material also draws from the continuing post-Katrina rebuilding of New Orleans that has forced all locally-based artists to consider what the city’s sound and culture means and should be in 2017 and onwards. And lastly, the material draws from their collaborations with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Elvis Costello, The Grateful Dead, My Morning Jacket, Arcade Fire and The Black Keys.

As I mentioned earlier, Dave Sitek was enlisted to produce So It is. Sitek, best known as a founding member of TV on the Radio and a go-to producer, who has worked with Kelis, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Santigold and others, also offered a modern perspective and a profound respect for the band’s history. In fact, as Sitek recalls upon his arrival in New Orleans to meet Jaffe and the members of the septet, he and Jaffe had randomly stumbled into one of the second-line parades, which New Orleans has long been known for. “I was struck by the visceral energy of the live music all around, this spontaneous joy, everything so immediately,” Sitek said in press notes. “I knew I had to make sure that feeling came out of the studio. It needed to be alive. It needed to sound dangerous.”

“Santiago,” So It Is’ first single bares a clear resemblance to the material on its predecessor as it possesses a boisterous, riotous joy; but unlike any of their previously released material, the composition is a difficult to pigeonhole melange of influences and sounds that features a propulsive rhythm section that seemingly draws from Cuban son, meringue and salsa, Afrobeat, and big band jazz paired with a bold, bright, swaggering horn lines familiar to New Orleans brass band and jazz. Interestingly, the composition possesses a loose and completely improvisational feel, as the musicians in the band catch a groove and ride it; but there’s also enough room for the members of the band to play strutting and swaggering solos. Simply put the band and this particular composition radiate an indefatigable joy — and if you don’t immediately start to dance as soon as you hear it, there’s something deeply wrong with you.

New Video: Introducing the Classic Jazz and Pop Sounds of Up-and-Coming Atlanta-based Artist Betti

Betti is a mysterious, up-and-coming, Atlanta, GA-born and-based jazz/pop vocalist, who has started receiving attention for a sound and aesthetic that nods heavily at Billie Holiday, Amy Winehouse, Ella Fitzgerald, and burlesque; or in other words, for paring equal amounts of grit and grime with an old school elegance as you’ll hear on her debut single “Ordinary,” a single inspired by her own experience, with honest, messy and confusing, real-life love between equally messy, confusing real people. As the Atlanta-based artist explains in press notes “I think it’s important for people to know that the Hollywood impression of intimacy isn’t reality for every day life, especially when it comes to relationships. Every couple goes through ups and downs, and in that rollercoaster, we’re all the same, we’re ordinary.” And while clearly saying that within every relationship we bring our own dysfunctions, messy pasts, doubts, fears, heartaches and egos, and as a result, relationships can be simultaneously confusing, infuriating, joyous and hilarious, it also subtly suggests that in our relationships, we frequently find ourselves drawn to people and situations that we can’t explain.

The recently released music video is a slickly produced and edited –and dare I say, fitting? — take on burlesque and glamorous 40s Hollywood; but while emphasizing the dysfunction at the core of the song’s central relationship.