Archive for the Under The Radar Category

Keep Calm and Clave On – An Afro-Cuban Jazz Primer – Part 3

Posted in afro-cuban jazz, Jazz Arts Charlotte, Jazz in Charlotte, Under The Radar with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 24, 2019 by curtjazz

The clave (/ˈklɑːveɪ, kleɪv/; Spanish: [ˈklaβe]) – a rhythmic pattern used as a tool for temporal organization in Afro-Cuban music. It is present in a variety of genres such as Abakuá music, rumba, conga, son, mambo, salsa, songo, timba and Afro-Cuban jazz. The five-stroke clave pattern represents the structural core of many Afro-Cuban rhythms
(From Wikipedia)

Got it now? The clave, is the heartbeat of great Afro-Cuban music. You can fill your stage with world class musicians but without the clave, you’ve got nothing. You can bring in all the explanations you want but you’ve got to have the heartbeat.

I’m going to stop trying to describe it now because I am woefully unqualified to do so. Percussionist Dafnis Prieto, is very qualified and I’ll let him do so, briefly, in the clip below:

Also more than qualified; clave wise; are Orquesta K’Che; one of the best Latin Jazz bands in the Carolinas. They will be with us in JazzArts Charlotte’s THE JAZZ ROOM on April 24 & 25, as we pay tribute to The Music of Cuba. A sample of their remarkable artistry is below:

So come out and join us THE JAZZ ROOM this weekend. And before or after the show, check out the history of the music by checking out the last five of our Afro-Cuban Jazz pioneers:

  • Chano Pozo (1915 – 1948) Luciano Pozo González contributions to the development of Afro-Cuban Jazz during his short life are incalculable. A dark-skinned Cuban, who was a devotee of the Santería religion, he scuffled his entire life to survive. His talents as a drummer were discovered at a very early age. However, the bandleaders, who admired his work, would not hire him, because of his skin color. He immigrated to the U.S., in 1947, in search of a better life. Dizzy Gillespie wanted to add Cuban percussion to his big band. His friend, Mario Bauzá suggested his newly arrived friend, Pozo. The rest is history. Diz and Chano’s collaboration lasted only 14 months but during that time Chano’s innovative style on the congas, melded with the sound of Dizzy’s brash bop based big band, to create a sound like nothing jazz had ever heard before. This was the beginning “Cubop”. It was a thrill for audiences to see the muscular, shirtless, Chano; strutting around the stage, chanting in Yoruba as his rhythm drove the band. He and Gillespie collaborated on writing the standards, “Tin Tin Deo” and “Manteca”. They also created an unforgettable version of “Cubana Be; Cubana Bop”. Sadly, their amazing collaboration was cut short, as Chano Pozo was shot dead, in a Harlem bar argument at age 33.
  • Arsenio Rodríguez (1911 – 1970) – A musician, composer and bandleader, Rodríguez played the tres (Cuban guitar), as well as the conga. Born in Cuba and blinded at the age of seven, when kicked in the head by a mule, Rodríguez was considered a master of the son Cubano, son montuno and rumba. He also established the modern Cuban conjunto, adding piano, horns and congas to the traditional Cuban sextet or septet. This format became the standard for most Afro-Cuban music that was not being performed by a big band. Several of his former musicians, including pianist Rubén Gonzalez, saw a late career revival, due to the Buena Vista Social Club album and film, which drew heavily on Rodríguez’s style. Rodríguez was a prolific composer, who wrote over 200 songs. He was unable to musically transition, when interest in the mambo waned, by the mid-60’s. He died of pneumonia in Los Angeles, in 1970.
  • Mongo Santamaría (1917 – 2003) Influential Cuban conga player, bandleader and composer who pioneered the marriage between Afro-Cuban rhythms and R&B. He heard Herbie Hancock play “Watermelon Man”, while Herbie was working as a fill-in pianist in Mongo’s band. He got Herbie’s permission to record it, it became a smash pop hit and thereby helped spawn the boogaloo (bugalú) craze.  His most famous composition, “Afro Blue,” became a jazz standard in and was recorded by John Coltrane and Cal Tjader, among many others. Mongo is a legend in jazz, Afro-Cuban, R&B and pop music. Arguably, he is the musician with the widest influence in this grouping.
  • Carlos “Patato” Valdés (1926 – 2007) Once called “The greatest conguero alive”, by Tito Puente, Patato invented (and patented) the tuneable conga drum. Traditional nail-head conga drums used nails to secure the skin to the wooden drum, which could be ‘tuned’ somewhat by using a candle or Sterno under the head of the drum. A visonary, Patato had long been experimenting with securing the skin to the drum-head with a metal ring which could be adjusted with a square box wrench, allowing a conga player to tune his instrument as would a violinist or pianist. After emigrating to the U.S. from Cuba in 1954, Patato’s first album in the US was Kenny Dorham’s classic Afro-Cuban. During his illustrious career, he worked with virtually every legend of Afro-Cuban and jazz music, including Art Blakey, Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaría; Willie Bobo; Grant Green and many more.
  • Chucho Valdés (1941 –    ) Arguably the greatest Cuban pianist ever,  Jesús Valdés Rodríguez, is a true living legend. The son of Bebo Valdés, who was also a pianist (1918 – 2013) as well as the leader of the orchestra at Havana’s famed Tropicana club; Chucho has been instrumental in the spread of the influence of Afro-Cuban Jazz, into the 21st Century. Chucho first garnered attention outside of Cuba, when he formed Irakere, in 1973, with some of his bandmates from Orquesta Cubana de Música Moderna, a Cuban big band. Irakere blended Afro-Cuban, jazz and influences from modern rock, funk and pop, into their sound. Though some of the early members of Irakere, such as Paquito D’Rivera and Arturo Sandoval, defected to the U.S., Valdés remained in his homeland. However, as tensions between the U.S. and Cuba began to thaw in the 90’s, Chucho became a frequent presence in the U.S., for recordings and concerts. He has won six Grammy Awards and although he yielded the piano/director chair of Irakere to his son, Chuchito, he continues to work and garner acclaim, with his current band, the Afro-Cuban Messengers.

Hope to see you in THE JAZZ ROOM this weekend. For additional info, visit the JazzArts Charlotte website TheJazzArts.org

Hasta la próxima, el jazz continúa …

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Two New Releases from Posi-Tone Records

Posted in CD Reviews, New on the Playlist, Under The Radar, Who's New in Jazz with tags , , , , on November 11, 2017 by curtjazz

West Coast based producer Marc Free, heads up one of the best little labels in jazz today, Posi-Tone Records. They consistently release high quality jazz, featuring respected vets, such as guitarist Ed Cherry and trumpeter Joe Magnarelli and also some of the finest up and coming names on the scene today. Here’s our review of the latest from a couple of those new(er) faces.

Bruce Harris – Beginnings

bruce harrisNew York native Bruce Harris makes an impressive debut as a leader, with this album. The trumpeter is a graduate of SUNY Purchase and a protégé of the great Jon Faddis. He has paid his dues over the last few years, playing with Barry Harris, T.S. Monk and Jimmy Cobb, among many others. On this joyous album, he has gone with a nice mix of jazz standards and a few originals that demonstrate his solid compositional skills.

Harris utilizes an accomplished rhythm section of Michael Weiss on piano, Clovis Nicolas on bass and drummer Pete Van Nostrand; along with a talented group of rotating saxophonists, including three of my personal favorites, Dmitry Baevsky, Jerry Weldon and Grant Stewart. Mr. Harris’ tone is what immediately draws you in; it is positively ebullient and clear as a bell, reminiscent of a young Clark Terry.  “Ask Questions” a jubilant Harris original kicks off the proceedings, with strong solos from the leader, Baevsky and baritone saxophonist Frank Basile. Prince’s “Do U Lie” is reborn as a fabulous, up-tempo, 4/4 feature for Harris, who drops one his best solos on the record. I’d never heard such a lively take on “Ill Wind” before now. I liked it, a lot, with Harris and Weldon playing musical tag over the rhythm section’s insistent beat. Harris’ “The Step” is a finger-snapping joyride, which lets Weiss and Nicholas in on the solo fun, in addition to the horns.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars – Beginnings is a fine start for Bruce Harris. I enjoyed every minute and I look forward to what’s next.

 

Behn Gillece – Walk of Fire

behn gilleceVibraphonist Behn Gillece has been a Posi-Tone mainstay for the past couple of years, co-leading a group with saxophonist Ken Fowser, guesting on the albums of label mates, such as Walt Weiskopf and Michael Dease and leading his own group, which released impressive projects in 2015 (Mindset) and 2016 (Dare to Be). Keeping up that album per year pace, Mr. Gillece has released Walk of Fire, which is his most mature and fully realized project to date.

For this album, Mr. Gillece was inspired by the instrumentation on Joe Henderson’s Blue Note classic, Mode for Joe, on which Henderson used a septet of three horns, plus vibes and a traditional piano, bass, drums rhythm section. Walk of Fire replicates that sound on most of its tracks, with Dease on trombone, Weiskopf on tenor and another label mate, the brilliant Bruce Harris on trumpet. The rhythm section is Adam Birnbaum on piano, bassist Clovis Nicolas and drummer Jason Tiemann.

The ten compositions are all by Gillece and there’s not a bad one in the bunch. Things get started with the title cut, which sounds like a Mode for Joe, lost track with Gillece contributing a driving solo over the hard-swinging theme. This cat has grown exponentially over the last few years, to the point where I would now place him in the upper echelon of vibraphonists working today.  Gillece then gives way to strong, brief statements by Weiskopf and Dease. “Fantasia Brasileira” is a beautiful bossa, with an infectious head and tasty ‘bone from Dease. “Bag’s Mood”, is, as you would suspect, a tribute to that soulful master of the vibes, Milt Jackson. Gillece swings hard in the pocket and this time Harris joins in on the fun with some high-flying trumpet work. It’s a feel good track that I had on repeat for about 30 minutes. On “Celestial Tidings”, the horns lay out and you get to hear Gillece very much in a Bobby Hutcherson bag, with shifting rhythms and terrific solos that will keep you engaged.

When I first heard Behn Gillece a few years back, I was immediately impressed by his potential. Now, on Walk of Fire, he has arrived.

Rating: 4 ½ out of 5 Stars: Highly recommended straight ahead jazz. One of the best albums that I’ve heard this year.

Album Review: Lighthouse Reverie – Jen Siukola

Posted in CD Reviews, Under The Radar, Unsung Women of Jazz with tags , , , , on October 17, 2017 by curtjazz

JEN SIUKOLALighthouse Reverie (Self Release)

JenSiukola-coverJen Siukola is an Indianapolis based trumpeter, educator and composer, currently on the faculty of the University of Indianapolis and Ball State University. On Lighthouse Reverie, her debut recording as a leader, she presents a program consisting of her original tunes, with a solid group of Indianapolis based musicians, as her sidemen. The date is produced by the veteran Indiana jazzman, Mark Buselli, who is also one of Ms. Siukola’s mentors.

Ms. Siukola is a very good composer and arranger. For a relatively young artist, she displays an impressive ear for bop and post-bop conventions. She lists Tom Harrell and Kenny Dorham as influences and some of these tunes sound like they came from the pens of those two legendary cats.

Lighthouse Reverie includes several winning performances, that show off the considerable chops of Ms. Siukola’s quintet. She is a technically solid trumpet player, especially in her middle register. When she picks up the flugelhorn, as she does on the title track, Siukola seems to be in her comfort zone; displaying a warm, buttery tone, that I could listen to all day. “The Homp Romp” is another standout, swinging in a hard bop bag, with strong solos by the leader, Steve Allee on piano and Rob Dixon on tenor. Mr. Allee is a new name to me and I was impressed with his work, throughout the album. “Bog Walking”, is a bright, melodic tune with a hummable melody, reminiscent of “Yardbird Suite”. Dixon and Allee again, are the standouts. Ms. Siukola’s best work is on “The Dawn Approaches Like Tears”, a melancholy, waltz-timed tune, straight out of Harrell, on which Jen again turns to the larger horn, for an achingly gorgeous solo, on the heels of another striking statement by Mr. Dixon; I need to explore his work, as well.

Jen Siukola is off to a very fine start with Lighthouse Reverie. I’m looking forward to seeing what her future holds.

Rating: 3 ½ out of 5 Stars – A well written and well executed debut album

JAZZ LIVES!!! with CurtJazz: Interactive Playlist 4/27/17

Posted in Charlotte Community Rado, CLTC Playlists, Jazz in Charlotte, JazzLives!, Under The Radar with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 28, 2017 by curtjazz

CurtJazz Studio 225Our show on Thursday, April 27 was our first since learning of the station’s impending demise. No guests that evening; I just spent a lot of the show playing Carolinas based artists and those who had been guests on the show over the last year. A bit sentimental but still some great jazz.

A link to a recording of the entire program is below, as are a couple of terrific video clips from a couple of the tracks on the playlist. Enjoy!

 

TRACK TITLE ARTIST(S) ALBUM LABEL
I’m Old Fashioned Elli Fordyce Songs Spun of Gold Self-Release
Moanin’ Tony Allen A Tribute to Art Blakey Blue Note
It’s Only A Paper Moon Denise Jannah A Heart Full of Music Timeless
Here to Help Chris Greene Quartet Boundary Issues Single Malt
Lucid Lullaby Linda May Han Oh Walk Against Wind Biophilia
Little Pigs Amos Hoffman Back to The City Self-Release
Phryzzinian Man Wynton Marsalis Black Codes from the Underground Columbia
The Coaster Kevin Mahogany Songs and Moments Enja
Epitaph III – J. Mac Chad Eby Broken Shadows Cellar Live
Absolute-Lee Brandon Lee Absolute Lee CD Baby
Johnny Come Lately Don Braden / Mark Rapp The Strayhorn Project Premium Music
Crazy Baby Nicci Canada Twenty Twelve Self-Release
Screwball Mike Hackett New Point of View Summit
Think Tank Will Campbell Think Tank Origin
Chicken Day Harvey Cummings Chicken Day Self-Release
West End Blues John Michael Bradford Something Old Something New CD Baby
Thelonious Ali Jackson Amalgamations Sunnyside
Black Coffee Tenya Coleman Tenya Self-Release
Clapper Dapper Geoff Clapp Bend in the River CD Baby
Unit 7 Ellis Marsalis Sextet Live at Jazz Fest 2014 Self-Release
Afro Samurai Mark Whitfield Grace Self-Release
It Could Happen to You Eric Nemeyer Blessing in Disguise Self-Release
Speak No Evil Wayne Shorter Speak No Evil Blue Note
On the Red Clay Royal Bopsters Project Royal Bopsters Project Motema
Butterfly Gretchen Parlato In a Dream ObliqSound
Red, Black and Green Roy Ayers Red, Black and Green Polydor
Sweet Georgia Brown Anat Cohen Clarinetwork – Live Anzic
Benny’s Bounce Michael Dease All These Hands Posi-tone
Lady Bird Adia Ledbetter Take 2: Rendezvous with Yesterdays CD Baby
Boio Moio Brent Rusinow Old Guy Time CD Baby
Gypsy Ahmad Jamal Blue Moon Jazz Village

 

JAZZ LIVES!!! May 18th: My Final LIVE CLTC Radio Broadcast

Posted in Charlotte Community Rado, Jazz in Charlotte, JazzLives!, The Jazz Continues..., Under The Radar, Unsung Women of Jazz with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 15, 2017 by curtjazz

Well, it’s been fun…

CurtJazz Studio 225With Charlotte Community Radio going off air this month, the last LIVE edition of JAZZ LIVES!!! with CurtJazz, will air Thursday, May 18th from 6:00pm to 9:00pmEst.

When Bridget asked me last spring if I would be interested in having a program on Charlotte Community Radio (CLTCRadio), it was exciting, a bit scary albeit perfectly timed. I worked in AM-FM radio in New York City through most of the 90’s, ran a web-based jazz radio station from 2004 to 2016, but I had been away from live radio since 2000. So I was somewhat out of practice on May 12, 2016 when I first opened the mic, but my trepidation quickly dissipated and the joy returned.

Mike hackett

With trumpet master Mike Hackett

So I want to say “Thank You”; first, to Bridget B. Sullivan and Melvin Nix, co-founders of CLTCRadio, for the chance to knock some rust off these old pipes and remind me that this is “what I do”.

Nicci Canada 1

With vocalist Nicci Canada

And a huge thanks to my guests. The incredible, world-class musicians who call the Carolinas home and who took time out of their incredibly busy schedules to spend some time with us: Dawn Anthony; Lovell Bradford; Will Campbell; Nicci Canada; Tenya Coleman; Harvey Cummings; Lonnie Davis; Ocie Davis; Buff Dillard; Mike Hackett; Amos Hoffman, and Tim Scott, Jr.; I am forever in your debt.

amos hoffman collage

Guitarist Amos Hoffman – Live in the CLTC Studios

My biggest appreciation goes out to all of you who listened and hopefully, enjoyed the music, as I shared my passion for jazz and for the artistry of living musicians. Some of you were friends from long ago that I reunited with. Some are a more recent part of my life. You were all a huge part of rekindling an old dream and I will always be grateful to you for that.

I’m on Twitter and Instagram as @curtjazz, and on Facebook as CurtJazzRadio. My website is curtjazz.com. Let’s keep in touch.

God Bless You and Goodnight.

JAZZ LIVES!!! with CurtJazz – Thursday, 11/10: Trumpeter Michael Hackett

Posted in Charlotte Community Rado, Jazz in Charlotte, Under The Radar with tags , , , on November 7, 2016 by curtjazz

mike-hackett-3

Mike Hackett

After a two week hiatus, JAZZ LIVES!!! with CurtJazz, is pleased to return to live broadcasts on CharlotteCommunityRadio, this Thursday, November 10, with a very special guest: Michael Hackett – educator, composer, arranger and trumpet master.

An Oregon native, who now calls Charlotte home, Michael Hackett is a graduate of the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, where he earned the BM and MM in Jazz studies as well as a DM in Brass Pedagogy. He has toured, performed or recorded with a wide variety of jazz and pop artists including Natalie Cole, Frank Sinatra Jr., Ben Vereen, Aretha Franklin, Larry Willis, Sir Roland Hanna and Vincent Herring. Mike currently serves as an Assistant Professor of trumpet and Jazz Studies at The University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He is also a member of the Piedmont Triad Jazz Orchestra in Greensboro, NC and the North Carolina Brass Band.

 

As a recording artist, Mike can be found on numerous albums, including Circles, his first recording as leader (Summit Records, 2005), which was described by All About Jazz as “…an exciting performance that sizzles with intensity”. About his second disc, 2013’s New Point of View (Summit Records), The Jazz Society of Oregon raved, “…There are similarities here to the exceptional Blue Note sound and concept: clear statements of melody, creative improvisation, and consistent swing. Hackett’s sound is pure hard bop pleasure and ballad finery…”

Mr. Hackett’s playing has also been featured in numerous television and radio commercials as well as in the Hollywood blockbuster The Aviator, as a member of Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks.

During JAZZ LIVES!!! on November 10, Mike Hackett will join me during the 7 pm hour of the show, to talk about his music, influences, current projects and to play a few favorite tracks from his albums and other great jazz records.

Be sure to join Michael Hackett and me as we celebrate living jazz artists, on JAZZ LIVES!!! with CurtJazz, Thursday, November 10; from 6 pm – 9 pm (EDT); on CLTCRadio.

JAZZ LIVES!!! with CurtJazz, airing LIVE every Thursday from 6:00pm to 9:00pm via CharlotteCommunityRadio.orgCLTCRadio.org OR use the Mixlr app where you can listen and chat with our hosts and guests alike.

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/curtjazz/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/curtjazz

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CurtJazz/

Maureen Budway – I Wish I Had Known…

Posted in In Memoriam, Under The Radar, Unsung Women of Jazz, Who's New in Jazz with tags , , , , , , on April 3, 2015 by curtjazz

maureen budwayAs I opened the most recent issue of Downbeat magazine, looking, as is my wont when a fresh copy arrives, for new and interesting projects from artists who are unfamiliar to me, I came across an ad for Sweet Candor, the debut album from a vocalist named Maureen Budway. I grabbed a few tracks from an online resource and began to listen. I was immediately impressed by her easy swing, her tone and the pure soulfulness of her voice. And she totally won me over with a vocal version of “Del Sasser”, the Sam Jones tune made famous by Cannonball Adderley. I thought “I like this lady” and put her in my mental category of hidden gem vocalists who deserve wider recognition. My next thought was “I can’t wait to hear more from Maureen Budway”.

Sadly, there will be no further recordings by Ms. Budway, who as I found out when I read the glowing review of Sweet Candor later in the issue, passed away on January 12, 2015, at age 51, after a 20 year battle with breast cancer. She recorded the album last fall and had gotten to hear the finished product around Christmastime, a scant few weeks before her death.

I knew nothing of Maureen Budway until a few days ago, so any attempt by me to eulogize her would be fairly absurd. I will state a few of the facts that I’ve learned from my reading: She was a longtime part of the Pittsburgh area jazz scene and a respected and beloved vocal teacher at her alma mater, Duquesne University. Her brother David, is a fairly well-known jazz pianist (who performs on her album). She began singing professionally at age 18 and continued to do so, despite her illness, until just a few months before her death. And she has left us with one impressive album in Sweet Candor, which features guest appearances by trumpeter Sean Jones and flute legend Hubert Laws, among others.

In my younger days, I spent quite a bit of time in Pittsburgh, having a jazz musician close friend who lived there for a number of years. During those trips to the Steel City I dropped in to a number of its jazz spots so it’s possible that I crossed paths with Maureen Budway. If so, I wish I had known then what I know now; that Maureen Budway was a rare and beautiful jazz vocalist. She deserved to have a recorded catalog that was deep and wide. Nevertheless, we are grateful to MCG Records for ensuring that she can never be forgotten.