Best Compliment EVER!!!

Posted in The Jazz Continues... with tags , , , on August 18, 2014 by curtjazz

Lou Rawls - All Things in TimeYesterday my teenage son John (usually known in these posts as “Jazzy John”) and I were hanging out at home. My radio station, Curt’s Cafe Noir was playing softly in the background and John was playing a video game. A recording of the great Lou Rawls singing “You’re The One” came on. John stopped and casually asked me, “Hey Dad, is that you?”

He looked at me with a straight face, which let me know that this was not an attempt at getting a raise in his allowance but an honest inquiry.

Now I haven’t raised my solo voice in any kind of serious attempt at vocalizing since before John was born. All he has ever heard is me around the house and the occasional church solo.

But for John to even for a brief moment to entertain the thought that one of the most singular voices in soul/pop/jazz (and one of my vocal idols) could actually be ME, was one of the best compliments that I have ever received!

Even though I told him the truth, I had an ear to ear grin for the next hour and my son thought that I was nuts even more than he usually does.

Hmmm…maybe Jazzy John’s allowance is a little paltry…

Horace Silver – A Video Memorial

Posted in In Memoriam, Video Vault with tags , , , on June 20, 2014 by curtjazz

Horace Silver (1928 – 2014)

horace silverThough Horace Ward Martin Tavares Silva (which he later changed to “Silver”) penned and performed some of the most enduring compositions in jazz history, I don’t think that during his lifetime, he received the respect that he deserved.  Perhaps it was because many of his compositions, while they used interesting time signatures and complex rhythms, were also often infused with a good dose of soul and R & B influence; something which immediately makes many so-called “serious jazz scholars” turn up their collective noses. But Horace Silver did something that many of the more lionized critical darlings could never do; he made uncompromising jazz that also was able to speak to the masses.

From his days alongside Art Blakey in the original Jazz Messengers right into the early part of this century, Mr. Silver continued to create music that could reach the head, the heart and in many instances, even the feet. He recorded for Blue Note Records from 1952 until the label went into a temporary hiatus in 1979, longer than any other artist in the label’s history.

And what a rich partnership it was; with classic albums such as A Night at Birdland; Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers; Finger Poppin’; Tokyo Blues; Serenade to a Soul Sister and Song for my FatherHis compositions during that time included, “Sister Sadie”; “Peace”; “The Preacher”; “Senor Blues”; “Strollin'”; “Nica’s Dream” and so many more. Like Blakey, Silver also nurtured the careers of many young players in his bands, who then went on to make their own mark on jazz. Over the years, Hank Mobley, Donald Byrd, Blue Mitchell Bennie Maupin and Louis Hayes all spent part of their formative years working in one of Mr. Silver’s groups.

Though slowed by ill-health and dementia over the last five years, Mr. Silver’s art still made him a formidable presence in the jazz world. I will refer you to the excellent New York Times obituary by Peter Keepnews for an in-depth retrospective of the man and his career and to Mr. Silver’s informative, if occasionally inscrutable 2006 autobiography Let’s Get to the Nitty Gritty for additional details. I will leave you with a few performance clips from his prime in the ’60’s and my undying gratitude to a man whose music will always be a part of my life.

Song for My Father – Double Dose

Posted in Video Vault with tags , , , , , on June 15, 2014 by curtjazz

song for my fatherWithout a doubt “Song for My Father” is the most well-known composition and performance of Horace Silver’s illustrious career.

For Father’s Day, I’m not going to say much. I’ll just let Mr. Silver have the floor. First, in the famous studio version and then in an excellent live take from 1968, when Silver’s working group included Billy Cobham, Bill Hardman and Bennie Maupin.

Nothing else to say here but Happy Father’s Day to my fellow Dads! Hope that your day was a great one.

Atlanta Jazz Festival 2014: Preview – Sunday on the Main Stage

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2014 with tags , , , , , , on May 25, 2014 by curtjazz
Ahmad Jamal

Ahmad Jamal

While Saturday’s Main Stage lineup at the Atlanta Jazz Festival is designed as a celebration of the artists of the 21st Century, the lineup that Freddy-Cole--This-And-Thatwill closeout the AJF on Sunday is anchored by some of jazz’s living legends. We will hear a big band with roots that stretch back to Glenn Miller;, a vocalist from a legendary jazz family who has become a legend in his own right; a guitarist who is widely considered to be one of the vital and productive artists in America and finally one of the greatest living pianists in jazz, a man who has influenced artists from Miles Davis to Robert Glasper and beyond. The Atlanta Jazz Festival will surely end on a high note.

The full Atlanta Jazz Festival Main Stage Schedule for Sunday, May 25:

1:00 pmMilton High School Jazz Ensemble – The Youth Jazz Band Competition allows young jazz musicians from all over the metropolitan area the opportunity to showcase their talent. Three winners are selected to receive a financial contribution to their music program and a guaranteed spot to perform on the Atlanta Jazz Festival Main Stage.  The Milton High School Jazz Ensemble finished third in the competition and will open the Main Stage performances on Sunday.

3:00 pmAirmen of Note – The Airmen of Note is the premier jazz ensemble of the United States Air Force. Created in 1950 to carry on the tradition of Major Glenn Miller’s Army Air Corps dance band, today the “Note” features 18 of the most talented jazz musicians in the country and is one of the last touring big bands. As a result, it has earned an international reputation as one of the finest and most versatile big bands of its kind in the world.

5:00 pmFreddy Cole Quartet – It is almost impossible to hear Freddy Cole and not think of his older brother, the immortal Nat “King” Cole but as Freddy reminded us in the title of his 2004 album I’m Not My Brother, I’m Me, he has steadily and determinedly carved out his own impressive musical niche. While Nat started in the jazz world and moved on to pop super stardom, Freddy Cole has never abandoned his roots, something for which we are all grateful.

Now at the age of 82, Freddy Cole’s always raspy voice has developed an even deeper level of expression as he uses time and space impeccably to tell his story. His recent album releases have included some surprisingly good interpretations of relatively recent pop hits, in addition to the Great American Songbook selections; including a terrific version of Bill Wither’s “Lovely Day” on Talk to Me and “Everybody’s Talkin’” on This and That. We hope to hear these and much more from this current Atlanta resident during his set.

7:00 pm - Bill Frisell’s Guitar in the Space Age – Bill Frisell’s project, Guitar in the Space Age is an homage to the inspirational popular music of his formative years made in the wake of “the birth of the Fender Telecaster guitar” – (1951) that, he recalls, “got me super fired-up” about his instrument of choice.  Frisell and his band mates explore material, recently recorded for release on Okeh/Sony Masterworks, associated with The Beach Boys, Junior Wells, Pete Seeger,  The Kinks, Chet Atkins, Jimi Hendrix, Merle Travis, Johnny Smith and many others, as well as original material by Mr. Frisell himself. Frisell has always injected generous doses of humor in his music and we expect the same from this all-star group which will include guitarist Greg Leisz, Tony Scherr on bass and one of my favorite drummers working today, Rudy Royston.

Recognized as one of America’s 21 most vital and productive performing artists, Frisell was named an inaugural Doris Duke Artist in 2012.  He is also a recipient of grants from United States Artists, and Meet the Composer, among others. Currently he is the Guest Curator for the Roots of Americana series at Jazz at Lincoln Center and Resident Artistic Director at San Francisco Jazz.

9:00 pm – Ahmad Jamal – One of jazz’s greatest living pianists, a Downbeat Jazz Hall of Fame member, a man whose style has influenced so many of the greatest jazz musicians of the last seven decades (including, most famously, Miles) ; will close out the Atlanta Jazz Festival on Sunday night.

As he approaches his 84th birthday, a time at which even most jazz musicians are considering slowing down a bit, Mr. Jamal is, on the contrary, undergoing a career renaissance. His last two albums, Blue Moon and Saturday Morning, have earned Grammy nominations and critical bouquets, the likes of which the Pittsburgh native had not heard in years. Jamal’s sound on these albums, while true to his tradition has; thanks in large part to his new rhythm section of Herlin Riley on drums, bassist Reginald Veal and percussionist Manolo Badrena; become fresh, hip and born again funky. Ahmad Jamal did not “sell out”; the jazz world came up to meet him. Younger pianists such as Robert Glasper have taken notice and have given Jamal the respect that many critics denied him in his early years.

Mr. Jamal is also known for having a top 40 pop hit in the early sixties, with his recording of “Poinciana” and for now being the last living major participant in the famed 1957 CBS television broadcast The Sound of Jazz (I love how the great Hank Jones is standing right by the piano as Jamal plays, intently studying Ahmad’s work). Opportunities to see someone like Ahmad Jamal are growing rare and a chance to see him for free is virtually unheard of. So if I were you and anywhere near Piedmont Park in Atlanta on Sunday night around 9. I would be there to hear this man play. And if by chance you run into Ahmad Jamal, remember not to call his art “jazz” but his preferred term, “American Classical Music”.

For more information about the Atlanta Jazz Festival, please visit their website at http://atlantafestivals.com/

Atlanta Jazz Festival 2014: Preview – Saturday on the Main Stage

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2014 with tags , , , , , , , on May 22, 2014 by curtjazz
Christian Scott

Christian Scott

The 2014 Atlanta Jazz Festival kicks off its first full day on the Main Stage with performances by artists from the less
traditional side of the fence. They include a Ethiopian-Israeli jazz funk vocalist; a veteran trumpeter leading a group that will mix jazz and Krunk and finally a young trumpet star who has for the past decade been a leader in the fusion of jazz with 21st Century musical styles. Purists may turn-up their noses but I think that Saturday has the potential to be one of the most musically compelling days on the AJF Main Stage in a long while.

The full Atlanta Jazz Festival Main Stage Schedule for Saturday, May 24:

1:00 pm The Tri-Cities High School Jazz Band - The Youth Jazz Band Competition allows young jazz musicians from all over the metropolitan area the opportunity to showcase their talent. Three winners are selected to receive a financial contribution to their music program and a guaranteed spot to perform on the Atlanta Jazz Festival Main Stage.  The Tri-Cities High School Jazz Band finished second in the competition and will open the Main Stage performances on Saturday.

3:00 pm Rialto Youth Jazz Orchestra – The Rialto Youth Jazz Orchestra was founded in the June 2011 by its Director, Dr. Gordon Vernick.  The RYJO program consists of 1 large jazz ensemble and 5 jazz combos.  Last year participating high school students came from the following counties: Fulton, Cobb, Dekalb, Gwinnett, Clayton, and Fayette. The students are selected through auditions.

5:00 pm Ester Rada - Ester Rada is an Israeli born Ethiopian vocalist whose sound  gracefully combin[es] Ethio-Jazz, Urban-funk, Neo-Soul and R&B, with mixed undertones of black grooves”.  Growing up in a highly religious Jewish family in modest conditions in Israel, gave Rada the drive to change her way of life and fulfill her dream of creating music.

And yes, her sound is as unusually cool and hip as you would expect from someone with her pedigree. The buzz around Ms. Rada began with
the release of her self composed/produced EP, Life Happens, last year. The tracks that make up Life Happens also appear on her recently released eponymous full length project.

Ms. Rada names Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill as her major influences and I hear traces of all of those divas in her performances. People may argue about her “jazz cred” but frankly, I don’t give a damn, she is exciting to listen to and watch. Be there!

7:00 pm Russell Gunn’s Krunk Jazz Orchestra – Mr.  Gunn is a veteran of many appearances at the AJF and he consistently surprises us every year with a new and interesting twist to his sound. This year Russell Gunn brings us the Krunk Jazz Orchestra, an aggregation that is likely intended as an amalgam of various jazz styles with that beat driven synthesizer heavy style of hip hop, known as “Crunk” (or “Krunk”) that is popular in the South.  Gunn’s 2006 album Krunk Jazz should give you an idea of what to expect when he hits the stage.

I know that I (and many others of a certain age) will need Icy Hot or a similar type of product on Sunday as a precursor to the visits to the chiropractor that we will all need next week from all of the spontaneous and violent head nodding that we will engage in while Gunn drops his groove. It will be well worth it.

9:00 pm Christian Scott – Though Christian Scott is not a known purveyor of “Krunk Jazz”, per se; he definitely works the same side of the street as Mr. Gunn, favoring musical styles that owe as much to jazz traditions as they do the sounds of hip hop and other currently popular musical styles. Mr. Scott, who now also goes by the name Christian aTunde Adjuah (in tribute to his ancestors), set the jazz world on fire in 2006 with the release of Rewind That, his major label debut. Rewind That was exciting because so many things were happening on each track. You heard Scott’s deep New Orleans Jazz roots, his Milesian influence, a bit of Coldplay style rock and an insistent hip hop based underpinning. Each was fighting to be heard and when all elements hit at the same time, something totally fresh and new happened.

Mr. Scott has continued down that stylistic path on most of his subsequent recordings. He has never let go of what he learned from his mentors such as his uncle saxophonist Donald Harrison, but he has also definitively refused to let himself get stuck in a retro-jazz rut. His most recent recorded project, Christian aTunde Adjuah,  is a 2 disc set that has given Scott the space to bring many of his new “stretch music” ideas to the forefront. I’m sure we will hear some of those on Saturday night. And I will make every effort to avoid spontaneous eye infections and catch this set, unlike 2011.

For further information about the 2014 Atlanta Jazz Festival, visit their website at  http://atlantafestivals.com/

 

 

 

 

Atlanta Jazz Festival 2014: Preview – Roberta Gambarini / Roy Hargrove

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2014 with tags , , , , , , on May 20, 2014 by curtjazz

roberta gambariniNow this is what I call an impressive start!roy hargrove

In a change from the recent past, the Atlanta Jazz Festival will kickoff Memorial Day Weekend on Friday evening,
instead of Saturday afternoon. And just to make sure that they have your attention, the headliners will be two of jazz’s biggest stars, vocalist Roberta Gambarini and trumpeter Roy Hargrove. With these two luminaries taking the stage, I expect temperatures on Piedmont Park’s Mainstage to be a few degrees hotter that what the thermometer reading will tell you.

In addition to their impressive individual work in recent years, Ms. Gambarini and Mr. Hargrove have worked together quite a bit, each guesting on  the other’s recent albums and live performances. We can only hope that this trend will continue in Atlanta this weekend as, from what I’ve heard, they seem to bring out the best in each other.

The full AJF Schedule for Friday, May 22

All Friday performances will take place on The Main Stage. The International and Local Stages will start on Saturday.

5:00 pmNorth Atlanta Center for the Arts Jazz Band – The Youth Jazz Band Competition allows young jazz musicians from all over the Atlanta metropolitan area the opportunity to showcase their talent. Three winners are selected to receive a financial contribution to their music program and a guaranteed spot to perform on the Atlanta Jazz Festival Main Stage. The North Atlanta Center for the Arts Jazz Band took first place this year and they are sure to start the 2014 AJF in fine fashion.

7:00 pm – Roberta Gambarini Quartet – Ask the world’s greatest jazz musicians who their favorite living vocalist is and many of them will say without hesitation, that it is Roberta Gambarini.  This Italian born beauty first set foot on American soil in 1998 and two weeks later took third place in the prestigious Thelonious Monk vocal competition. The late great pianist Hank Jones, a man who knew a thing or two about singers, declared Ms. Gambarini to be “The best singer to emerge in the last 60 years”. Legendary saxophonist Benny Carter essentially shared the same opinion.  Mr. Jones showed his appreciation by recording a marvelous album of duets with Gambarini, 2008’s You Are There. Ms. Gambarini’s debut album, Easy to Love (my personal favorite) and her most recent U.S. release, 2009’s So In Love, were both Grammy nominated. My only complaint is that as of now, her latest release The Shadow of Your Smile, is only available as an expensive Japanese import. Come on U.S. distributors, do something about this!

What is it about Roberta Gambarini that everyone loves? Well, we can start with her voice, a clear soprano with a multiple octave range which  can bring you to shouts of joy on minute and to compassionate tears the next. Musicians love her because she also is possessed with an innate sense of musical timing and she can swing her head off. In other words,  Gambarini is not just a singer vocalizing out in front of the band, she is a musician who happens to sing extremely well. She has taken the lessons of the masters of  her craft; Sarah, Ella, Billie, Betty and Anita and melded them into a style that is singularly hers. I have no doubt that we will be in for a major treat come Friday night.

9:00 pm – Roy Hargrove Quintet – It was 1990 when Novus Records dropped on us Diamond in the Rough; a new album from a fresh-faced 19-year-old trumpeter, who possessed incredible technique and a developing style that set him apart from the glut of others like him that the major labels were pushing on us at that time. Others could play the instrument but this young cat had The X-Factor, that Milesian duende that only the greats possessed.

That fresh-faced kid is now 44 and a well-respected veteran who has amassed an impressive list of recorded credits including a foray into “hip hop meets jazz” (Rh Factor), which was considered by many to be groundbreaking.  But through it all, be it bop, Latin, modal, soul jazz, big band, strings and all the stops in between, each time he puts that trumpet to his lips, Roy Hargrove still has that sound that makes you stop dead in your tracks and listen to what he has to say.

The fact that he is bringing a Quintet to Atlanta leads me to believe he will be playing a set of the type of straight-ahead jazz that has been his forte going back to those albums of the early ’90’s. For those of you unfamiliar with Hargrove’s work, check out With the Tenors of Our Time, the pinnacle of his early work; Crisol Habana a hard charging Afro-Cuban album with the great Chucho Valdes and others; Emergence a strong  modern big band CD with guest spots by Ms. Gambarini; or Earfood, a  recent quintet date on which Hargrove proves that he still has the goods. Whatever album you choose you won’t be disappointed, as I expect that collectively, we will not be disappointed on Friday.

For more information about the 2014 Atlanta Jazz Festival, visit their website at http://atlantafestivals.com/

 

Atlanta Jazz Festival 2014: Preview – The International Stage

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2014 with tags , , , , , , on May 16, 2014 by curtjazz

Somi - The Lagos Music SalonIt’s confession time…When I last attended the Atlanta Jazz Festival in 2012, most of the truly memorable musical moments I experienced were not at the Main Stage but at the smaller and more intimate International Stage.  Like the Main Stage, the International Stage features world-class musicians but the setting makes all the difference. You are much closer to the musicians, those in the audience are there for the music, not a party and the artists are happy to reward the patrons for their respect and attention.

In years past, the International Stage had featured a mix of artists from outside the U.S. and groups that hailed from the Atlanta area. However with the advent of the Locals Stage this year, the lineup at the International Stage has taken on a true World Music feel, featuring the most culturally diverse group that I’ve ever seen at the AJF.

I admit that I will be torn at times between a “name” artist on the Main Stage and an up and comer that I am fond of on the International Stage. Unless cloning is perfected within the next week, I’m likely to make the decision spontaneously. Scott Fugate, I hope that you’re up for a few of those “harrowing golf cart rides”!

 

The International Stage Schedule

Saturday, May 24

1:30 pm: Edmar Castañeda Trio – This quote from the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, about Mr. Castañeda sums it up: “The Colombian plays the harp like hardly anyone else on earth. His hands, seemingly powered by two different people, produce a totally unique, symphonic fullness of sound… served with euphoric Latin American rhythms, and the improvisatory freedom of a trained jazz musician…”

3:30 pm: Somi – Born in Illinois to parents from Rwanda and Uganda, this vocalist brings a mix of African rhythms, jazz and soul that is as gorgeous and unique as anything I’ve heard on today’s musical scene. She has been called “a modern-day Miriam Makeba” by some with a sound that Vogue Magazine called “gorgeous”.  He recorded work has been first-rate (my favorite is 2011’s Live at Jazz Standard) and we are looking forward to her upcoming major label debut The Lagos Music Salon, which will feature Common and Angelique Kidjo, with great anticipation.

5:30 pm: Eldar Trio – This young pianists stunning dexterity has drawn breathless comparisons to Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum and many other keyboard giants. Eldar Djangirov has been praised by legends such as Dr. Billy Taylor and Dave Brubeck, who called Eldar “a genius…”. Born in Russia and raised in Kansas City, the 27-year-old last year simultaneously released jazz (Breakthrough) and classical (Bach/Brahms/Prokofiev) albums to critical acclaim across the musical spectrum. If you plan on attending his performance, make sure that you bring a chair with a seat belt.

 

Sunday, May 25

1:30 pm: Ali Amr – Ali Amr is a Moroccan singer and Qanun performer. The Qanun is a zither-like stringed instrument that is played throughout much of Asia, the Middle East and Southern Europe. Mr. Amr has always been musically curious and that curiosity has brought him and his Qanun into a variety of musical settings and genres, among them being jazz. He performed at the Newport Jazz Festival last year and we look forward to what he has brought south for us to hear in Atlanta.

 

3:30 pm: Diego Figueiredo - Diego Figueiredo is considered one of the most talented guitar players in the world today. He is the winner of several important competitions including the Montreux Jazz Competition and the VISA Prize. He has released twenty albums, three DVD’s, and several instructional books. His music is a fusion between Jazz, Bossa Nova and Classical. Diego has performed in over forty countries around the world.

5:30 pm: Cyrille Aimee – Winner of the Montreux Jazz Festival’s International Vocal Competition, the Sarah Vaughn International Jazz Vocal Competition and finalist in the Thelonious Monk Vocal Competition, French/Dominican vocalist Cyrille Aimée is, in the words of Will Friedwald of The Wall Street Journal, “one of the most promising jazz singers of her generation. ( A side note, I happen to agree with Mr. Friedwald, 100 percent.) Cyrille’s major label debut, It’s a Good Day, will be released this year but while your waiting, check out her Live at Smalls CD, featuring Roy Hargrove.

For more information about the 2014 Atlanta Jazz Festival, visit their website at http://atlantafestivals.com/ 

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