Archive for the In Memoriam Category

Horace Silver – A Video Memorial

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

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.

Video Memorial: Ronny Jordan (1962 – 2014)

Posted in In Memoriam with tags , , , , on January 14, 2014 by Curtis Davenport

ronny jordanI just heard that Ronny Jordan has passed away. The British guitarist was one of the leading lights of the Acid Jazz movement that caught fire in England in the early nineties and because of his work with Guru and other American hip-hop artists his cool, Wes Montgomery influenced lines were soon heard on many tracks in U.S. clubs as well.

I really dug his first two U.S. releases, The Antidote (his best album) and The Quiet Revolution, which were released at the height of Acid Jazz’s popularity in the U.S. Ironically most people in this country probably know him for a track on The Quiet Revolution that was popularized by a scene on a television show in which Jordan was never mentioned by name. The show is The West Wing and the song is “The Jackal” to which the character “C.J.”(Allison Janney) performs a quirky, yet compelling lip-sync of Dana Bryant’s spoken-word vocal.

Jordan continued to perform and record into the 21st Century but he never again reached the popularity stateside that the last decade of the 20th Century brought him. 

For those unfamiliar with his work, I’ve included a few clips, including The Antidote in its entirety and a couple of cuts of Jordan playing live, showing off his chops.

Rest in Peace, Ronny Jordan

Jazz Artists We Lost in 2013 – Part II

Posted in In Memoriam, Video Vault with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 2, 2014 by Curtis Davenport

Though I never intended my previous post to be a comprehensive record of fine jazz artists who passed away in 2013, I realize after reviewing JazzTimes‘ list that there were so, so many that I left out.

So although this is still far from all-inclusive, here’s another video clip memorial to some of the fine jazz musicians who left us in 2013.

Many of these names are not as familiar as the ones from Part I, but if you’re not familiar with them, it will be worth your while to do some research.

The masters are leaving us very quickly friends, please support and appreciate them while they are here.

Sathima Bea Benjamin (voice)

Oscar Castro-Neves (guitar, voice)

Boyd Lee Dunlop (piano)

Ricky Lawson (drums)

Gloria Lynne (voice)

Sam Most (flute)

Jimmy Ponder (guitar)

Melvin Rhyne (organ)

Ben Tucker (bass)

Johnny Smith (guitar)

Ed Shaughnessy (drums)

Gone Too Soon – Jazz Artists We Lost in 2013

Posted in In Memoriam, Video Vault with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 30, 2013 by Curtis Davenport

As 2013 draws to a close, I want to look back and remember some of the wonderful jazz artists we lost this year. Some had long, illustrious careers, others were cut down in their musical primes. In either case we are so grateful that they were here long enough to share some of their art with us. We are grateful to live in an age where video makes it possible to always have great memories of how their music touched us.

May they rest in peace.

Dwayne Burno (bass)

Donald Byrd (trumpet)

George Duke (keyboards)

Jim Hall (guitar)

Chico Hamilton (drums)

Yusef Lateef (reeds)

Marian McPartland (piano)

Mulgrew Miller (piano)

Cedar Walton (piano)

Butch Warren (bass)

Frank Wess (reeds)

Happy Birthday – Bird, Dinah and Michael

Posted in In Memoriam, Video Vault with tags , , , on August 29, 2013 by Curtis Davenport

Charlie “Bird” Parker, Dinah Washington and Michael Jackson were all born on August 29th. That they were all extremely influential musical talents who died way too young, is obvious. All I want to do today is post a clip from each of them in performance which will attest to their greatness.

Charlie Parker (1920 – 1955) / With Coleman Hawkins “Improvisation”

There aren’t too many film clips of Bird playing live. This one with Coleman Hawkins is pretty good. Even on an off day, Charlie Parker was better than most cats on their best day.

Dinah Washington (1924 – 1963) –  “Send Me to the Electric Chair”

Like Bird, there aren’t a lot of Dinah Washington clips out there. Also like Bird, she never made it to 40. She should have been a bigger star. Born Ruth Jones, she has always held a special place in my heart because my mom was one of her biggest fans.

Michael Jackson (1958 – 2009) – “Who’s Loving You” / “Remember The Time”

And of course, there’s Michael Joseph Jackson.  He called himself “The King of Pop”. I was never fond of that moniker but I always admired his brilliance. He gets two clips; one from the beginning and the other from later in his career, of a song (and video) that I always liked.

I mean how can you not love Eddie , Iman, Magic and Michael in the same video!

I Have A Dream – The Entire Speech

Posted in In Memoriam, The Jazz Continues... with tags , , , , on August 28, 2013 by Curtis Davenport

Martin Luther King - LPI’ve written posts here before about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and how he and his life and work meant so much directly to my parents and indirectly to me as I was not quite eight years old when he was assassinated. I’ve studied him at length over the years and I’ve grown to admire him greatly.

I recall that a few weeks after Dr. King’s murder, my parents bought the album that you see pictured here, which included Dr. King and many other speakers from the day, including Roy Wilkins, A. Phillip Randolph and John Lewis. The liner notes by the way, were written by the great jazz writer and 1st amendment advocate Nat Hentoff.

That album was on heavy rotation in my home for at least a year, maybe more. In that time I became extremely familiar with Dr. King’s words from that day and the majesty of his oratory. In addition, I was exposed to the stentorian tones  of Mr. Randolph and the youthful passion of Mr. Lewis both of which have stuck with me to this day.

As I got older and did a little acting, I was asked on many occasions to recreate Dr. King’s word from that day in 1963. As I took on the daunting task of memorizing the entire 16 minute plus speech, the words grew in meaning for me exponentially. I always felt that the public was cheated each year during January and February when television would truncate everything down to the words “I have a dream” and “Free at last, Free at last…”. To me it was if you had reduced the entire Holy Bible to “Jesus Wept” (John 11:35).

In most cases, I was asked in performance to “skip to the good part”, beginning with “I say to you today my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream…”. (This is the first mention of the immortal words, which occurs about 11 minutes in, when King decided to abandon his prepared text and decided to “preach”, using words he first had used in a speech in Detroit two months earlier.)   As a performer,  I understood why folks asked me to do this. There’s still a little over five minutes left in the speech and all of it is highly memorable.

But it was still frustrating as even five minutes was too much for some. I remember the youth pastor of a church that I was attending, begging me to come out to Jones Beach one Sunday evening to deliver “the good part” at a summertime concert. He asked me to come in full suit and tie, which made me feel ridiculous while everyone else, this pastor included, was in t-shirt and shorts. He then took a few minutes to apologize to the audience before I came on, because I was going to deliver “the whole speech” as he called this 5 minute segment and he then begged them not to leave while I performed.

Having been set up for failure, I nevertheless went on, in spite of being now mocked by some drunks who felt empowered by this man’s apology. The final insult came when this youth pastor returned as I finish to literally hold me in place on the stage while he told people “you see, that wasn’t so bad, was it?” While a loud, bad Christian rock band played behind us and he screamed about “Freedom” and “Brotherhood”, while hoisting my hand in the air with his. I’d never been a theatrical hostage before. It was a new experience. And I left feeling totally used and extremely angry.

Anyway I told that story because I had to finally get it off my chest after twenty years. I can now put it to rest. The main reason I write today is to post this video of the entire 16 minutes of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, which was once titled “A Cancelled Check” during earlier drafts. If you watch this you may figure out why. I’ve also included a clip of Dr. Billy Taylor’s beautiful King tribute “His Name Was Martin” featuring  Dr. Taylor on the piano and the wonderful Ingrid Jensen on trumpet. And a fascinating piece by the great Max Roach, featuring his drum solo against some of the famous quotations from the speech.  I hope that you’ll enjoy that as well.

Until the next time, the struggle (and the jazz) continues…

Album Review: George Duke – DreamWeaver

Posted in CD Reviews, In Memoriam with tags , , on August 6, 2013 by Curtis Davenport

This review appears in the August 2013 issue of Eric Nemeyer’s JazzInside Magazine.

Though I knew of his wife’s passing, I had no idea that Mr. Duke was also very ill. Therefore his passing came as a great shock. I’m posting this review exactly as I originally wrote it, as a tribute to an incredibly creative and influential musician.  Rest In Peace, George Duke.

George Duke

george duke

DREAMWEAVER – Heads Up Records HUI-34170-02  Dreamweaver; Stones of Orion; Trippin’; Ashtray; Missing You; Transition 1; Change The World; Jazzmatazz; Round The Way Girl; Transition 2; Brown Sneakers; You Never Know; Ball and Chain; Burnt Sausage Jam; Happy Trails

PERSONNEL: George Duke, piano, Rhodes, synths, drum programming, arp odyssey, mini moog, Wurlitzer electric piano, castlebar clavinet, vocals; Stanley Clarke, upright bass; Gorden Campbell, drums; Daniel Higgins, tenor sax, flute; Everette Harp, alto sax; Kamasi Washington, tenor sax; Gary Grant, trumpet; Michael Patches Stewart, trumpet; Terry Dexter, background vocals; Shannon Pearson, background vocals; Lamont VanHook, background vocals; Rashid Duke, Ahoom; Erik Zobler, Ahoom; Paul Jackson, Jr., guitar; Chris Clarke, words and thangs; Rose Geddes, lady with a question; Rachelle Ferrell, vocals; Jef Lee Johnson, guitar; Larry Kimpel, bass; Jim Gilstrap, background vocals; Lalah Hathaway, vocals; Jeffrey Osborne, vocals; Lori Perry, vocals; BeBeWinans, vocals; Freddie Jackson, vocals; Dira Sugandi, vocals; Terry Dexter, vocals; Howard Hewett, vocals; Kennedy Fuselier, kid vocals; Josie James, background vocals; Michael Landau, guitar; Chill, rap; Ramon Flores, trumpet solo; Allen Kaplan, trombone; Lisa Chamblee-Hampton, round the way girl; Lenny Castro, percussion; Michael Manson, bass; Teena Marie, vocals; John Roberts, drums; Christian McBride, bass

By Curtis Davenport

The human spirit is a funny thing; when we are feeling our greatest pain, is often when we rise to the occasion and deliver greatness. We often feel that kind of pain when we lose a loved one. Legendary keyboardist George Duke’s wife of 40 years, Corine, passed away in 2012 after a long battle with cancer. For quite a while Mr. Duke, a renowned workaholic, was understandably devastated. He did not write or perform any music, something he had often sought solace in, in times of trouble. Then, while attending a music cruise and listening some of his colleagues play for the first few days, the inspiration returned. Duke began to write while still at sea and began to record when he returned to his studio. The result is DreamWeaver, an R & B and Funk driven Contemporary Jazz album, which is the best thing that I’ve heard from Duke at least a decade.

Duke cut his musical teeth in the bands of Frank Zappa and Cannonball Adderley and Jean-Luc Ponty, in addition to his chart topping work with bassist Stanley Clarke in the eighties. I say that to remind everyone that eclecticism has been Mr. Duke’s calling card throughout his five decade career. And DreamWeaver touches on most of Duke’s musical stops. The best news is that each one of these is invariably satisfying.  The album was recorded over multiple sessions, which allowed Duke to bring on board an all-star lineup of guests; Mr. Clarke, Christian McBride, Everette Harp, Rachelle Ferrell, Paul Jackson, Jr., Jeffrey Osborne and Lalah Hathaway are among the “big names” that appear on various tracks. There are also two other guests who make contributions that turn out now to be extremely poignant; more on them in a moment.

Though there are a couple of obvious and very moving tributes to his late wife here (“Missing You” which features Ms. Ferrell as a wordless vocal counterpart to Mr. Duke’s lead and “Happy Trails”, the old Roy Rogers sign-off, turned into a laid back piece of jazz-funk), don’t think that DreamWeaver is some kind of sad jazz requiem. There are many tracks that will get your head nodding, your toes tapping and put a smile on your face as you reach for the “repeat” button.  There’s “Stones of Orion”, a nice piece of straight ahead jazz, with a touch of R & B; Duke’s piano and Clarke’s bass shine.  “Trippin’” is a nice autobiographical slice of modern soul. “Ashtray” is hard driving funk out of the Bootsy Collins school. “Change The World” is a “We are The World” style call for social change, complete with an all-star choir of vocalists. “You Never Know” is a nice laid back Latin groove with Duke’s falsetto singing about the impermanence of life. And “Burnt Sausage Jam” is a loose 15 minute improvisation, with Duke, McBride and many others clearly having a ball as they groove through multiple musical styles.

Then there’s the appearance on many of the tracks of Jef Lee Johnson, the Philly based guitar wizard who was a longtime musical partner of Duke’s. Johnson died suddenly last January, not too long after the sessions for this album were completed. He is a strong presence throughout.  And there’s the unforgettable appearance on “Ball and Chain” of Teena Marie.  At the time of her death in December 2010, Ms. Marie and Mr. Duke had just begun work on Ms. Marie’s long-discussed jazz album. The vocals for “Ball and Chain” were some of the only things completed. After her death, Mr. Duke offered the track to Marie’s estate for release on her posthumous album Beautiful. They declined but gave Duke permission to complete the track, which appears on DreamWeaver. Ms. Marie sounds wonderful and the entire track is first-rate, rivaling “Tune in Tomorrow” and “Casanova Brown”, two of the jazzier tracks on Ms. Marie’s classic R & B albums.  Thinking of what this album might have been caused a lump in my throat.

Though the circumstances surrounding its creation were less than ideal, George Duke has created a musical gem in DreamWeaver. We hope that his creativity continues for many more years.

Mulgrew Miller – A Video Memorial

Posted in In Memoriam, Video Vault with tags , , , on June 1, 2013 by Curtis Davenport

mulgrew millerAs most jazz fans know by now, Mulgrew Miller passed away on May 29 at 57, due to complications from a massive stroke he had suffered a few days before.

Though casual jazz fans may not have known his name, he was considered by many (myself included) to be one of the outstanding pianists of his generation.

Much has been written in the last few days about the man and his art by those far more knowledgeable than I, so I will let their words suffice as many of those who have written knew “Grew” personally.

Instead I would like to pay tribute by posting three of the many fine performances that he delivered over the years and a few sage words of wisdom from the man himself, that he shared with some young musicians. I’ve also listed a few of his best recordings as a leader, for those with some catching up to do.

Rest in Peace, Brother Mulgrew. The musical world that was so enhanced by your presence is diminished incalculably by your departure.

Recommended Recordings

Work (Landmark) – One of his earliest dates as a leader with Charnett Moffett on bass and Terri Lyne Carrington on drums. Out of Print and expensive. Grab it if you see a reasonably priced copy.

Hand in Hand (Novus) – My personal favorite. Eddie and Joe Henderson, Steve Nelson on vibes, Lewis Nash on drums, a young Christian McBride and Mulgrew’s compositions and amazing solos. One of the best jazz albums of the ’90’s. Also Out of Print.

The Sequel (MaxJazz) – This was a 2002 revival of Wingspan, a formidable quintet that Miller had originally formed in 1987. This time around they were a sextet with the addition of Duane Eubanks on trumpet. Though the membership is mostly different, they hadn’t skipped a beat in 15 years, due mostly to Mr. Miller’s strong guiding hand. CD is OOP but it’s currently available on mp3 at a very reasonable price.

Live at Yoshi’s – Volume Two (MaxJazz) – This was the second of two excellent volumes that Miller and his trio recorded at the famed Bay Area jazz club in a 2003 session. The reason that I give this set the nod over number one is simple; Volume Two is still available on mp3 for those who want it.

Dave Brubeck – A Video Memorial

Posted in In Memoriam, Video Vault with tags , , on December 5, 2012 by Curtis Davenport

Dave Brubeck (1920 – 2012)

brubeckDave Brubeck passed away today, one day before his 92nd Birthday. 

For a time, Mr Brubeck was one of the most popular jazz musicians in the world. At the same time, he was one of the most critically reviled jazz musicians around. Time heals all wounds and by the time of his death today, love and admiration was pouring in from serious and casual jazz fans alike.

A great deal of his fame stems from “Take Five”, a song first performed in 1959 by his legendary quartet (Paul Desmond, Eugene Wright, Joe Morello and Brubeck). The 45 was the first jazz single to sell a million copies. Though Brubeck was a prolific composer, he did not in fact, write “Take Five”. It was written by Mr. Desmond.

Many critics sniffed back then, at Mr. Brubeck’s music, saying that it was stiff, bombastic and worst of all, unswinging. Though the criticisms rankled at Brubeck, he kept on going, achieving great public popularity, especially  on college campuses, in the late ’50’s and early ’60’s.

I admit that when I was new to jazz, I let the opinions of others keep me from digging Brubeck’s music for a while. However, as I became a big fan of Paul Desmond’s solo work, I made my way back to the source.

I grew to like Brubeck the musician and love Brubeck the composer. His compositions, such as “The Duke”, In Your Own Sweet Way” and “Blue Rondo a la Turk” are stunning in not only for their beauty, but for the complexities that they reveal upon repeated listenings.

Those unfamiliar with Mr. Brubeck’s work should start with the most famous album, Time Out. It’s a virtual greatest hits package and it captures the essence of the famous Brubeck sound.  At Carnegie Hall includes some of the same selections as Time Out, but they are so much better in the live setting.  A personal favorite is The Real Ambassadors, Brubeck’s “protest opera”, which was only performed once, at the 1962 Monterrey Jazz Festival. The music was by Mr. Brubeck and the lyrics by Brubeck and his wife, Iola. The studio album was recorded in 1961 with a “cast” of Louis Armstrong, Lambert, Hendricks & Ross and Carmen McRae and Brubeck. There are several moments of sheer brilliance including Satchmo’s still haunting vocal on “They Say I Look Like God” and his duet with McRae on “You Swing Baby”, which is “The Duke” with added lyrics. And finally an album that I just remembered since I started writing this post; Brubeck and Rushing a meeting of the Brubeck Quartet and the legendary Basie vocalist. It sounds like a train wreck on paper, but I’ll be damned if they don’t all find common ground and pull it off beautifully!

I wrote more than I intended to here. I wanted to let the videos speak for themselves, as I’m sure they will when you watch them. In any case, Rest In Peace to a true jazz giant – Dave Brubeck.

Father’s Day – My Dad’s Wisdom, Louis Jordan and Integration

Posted in In Memoriam, Uncategorized, Video Vault with tags , , , , on June 17, 2012 by Curtis Davenport

My Dad was the wisest man that I’ve ever known and that I probably will ever know.

He lived 96 years and though his formal education only lasted until the sixth grade, his perpetual thirst for knowledge and insatiable curiosity earned him the life equivalent of a PhD. And as I came into adulthood, I tried to sop up that wisdom like molasses on my Mom’s homemade biscuits.

Dad always kept pen and paper handy, so that if something caught his curiosity that he didn’t know about, he would write it down, so that he could then research it. And this was before the internet age, folks. This continued right up until the end of his life – when I was gathering his effects from his hospice room hours after his death, I found another of those scraps of paper with the name “Jennifer Lopez” scrawled on it in his handwriting (Dad also had good taste in women).

Anyway, though my father was not a big jazz fan, he had an interest in a wide variety of music. It wouldn’t be odd to hear him break out in a bit of a Beatles tune, Stevie Wonder or even Fleetwood Mac (“Don’t Stop”).  When I started to love music in my preteen years, I would constantly play the album from “The Archies” TV show. The song “Truck Driver” became his favorite. 

But as far as John Davenport was concerned, the great Louis Jordan was THE MAN.  My dad was a generally reserved man, so I would always get a kick out of seeing him, out of nowhere, burst into “Caldonia” or “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby”.  He always marveled at the big sound of Jordan’s Tympany Five, which he said could sound bigger than an entire big band.

My dad was born in Mississippi in 1911. It goes without saying that he grew up in a time that legal segregation had a tight grip on his home state.  He then moved to St. Louis (where segregation was more institutional than legal) in his twenties and then to New York just after World War II.  Not too long after arriving in NYC, he heard that Louis Jordan was going to be appearing at the old Paramount Theater on 43rd & Broadway. Of course he bought a ticket and went to the show.

Keep in mind that my Dad had never experienced integrated seating before, so he was going through a bit of a culture shock. The shock turned to overload when a few minutes after he took his seat, a trio of young white girls in bobby socks and poodle skirts bounded into his row and took their seats right next to him. They said “Hi!” and then went about their business, gabbing amongst themselves with excitement about seeing Mr. Jordan.

Dad was a bit nervous at first. Where he came from, something a simple as this was unheard of…White folks, let alone young white women, would never have taken an open seat next to a black man. And if they did, trouble was sure to come for that black man.  He remained in seat, albeit apprehensively, almost waiting for some sort of trouble to come. But it never did.  The girls never said another word to him after “hello”. They were utterly unfazed by his presence.  Which, to Dad, was the most amazing thing of all.

A few minutes later the lights went down and Jordan hit the stage “Caldonia…Caldonia…What makes yo’ big head so hard!!!” As my Dad, the bobby soxers and the rest of the throng responded to Mr. Jordan, in unison, he finally began to relax and feel at home.  Within an hour, people of all races had become one, through their love of “Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens”.

Hey, maybe New York was going to be okay…

Thanks for staying in New York Dad; and thanks for sharing all of that wisdom with me.

Happy Father’s Day to my fellow Dads.


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