Archive for jazz videos

A Video Tribute to Oscar Brown, Jr.

Posted in The Jazz Continues..., Video Vault with tags , , on November 11, 2011 by curtjazz

Oscar Brown, Jr. (1926 – 2005)

This piece was originally intended as a birthday tribute to Oscar Brown, Jr. I couldn’t move fast enough to get it out last month, but the tracks were too good to languish in the draft file, so here it is a month later.

Many know Mr. Brown for “But I Was Cool”, one of his lighter pieces, which achieved some fame when a deodorant company used it (with Brown’s vocals) to advertise their product.

Oscar Brown was the natural predecessor to Gil Scott-Heron and other spoken word music poets. He composed over 1,000 songs, at least a dozen plays and recorded 12 albums, including the classic “Sin and Soul”; during his lifetime. He was also a political activist, who ran for the Illinois State Legislature and Congress.

I usually keep the text to a minimum during these video tribute posts and this one will be no exception, so here now are some great performances by a legendary griot.

Let’s start with this terrific overview:

Here he adds a heartfelt touch to Bobby Timmons’ “Dat Dere”

“The Snake” – with that irresistible refrain

And one of his best, IMHO, “Mr. Kicks”

Birthday Video Tribute – Anita O’Day

Posted in The Jazz Continues..., Video Vault with tags , , , on October 18, 2011 by curtjazz

Anita O’Day was so cool, that she was hot.

In my book, she’s up there with Sarah, Ella, Billie, Nina and Carmen. Like those ladies, she was an original. You can recognize her within three notes. And her way of bending a long note (purportedly necessitated by a botched tonsillectomy), was pure artistry; others imitated it but they could never duplicate it.

Her life story is the stuff of a Hollywood movie. A great documentary has already been made, but man, a writer could have a field day on her without even having to bend the facts!

I asked myself, what made Anita O’Day so amazing? Then it hit me – like Wynton and Esperanza, Anita was born on October 18, which is also my birthday.

Here are a few familiar and not so familiar tracks from the great lady. Including, the unforgettable part of her set from Newport ’58 that was included in Jazz On A Summer’s Day. 

After watching, you may understand how I feel.

Happy Birthday Anita, wherever you are…

Unsung Women of Jazz #7 – Vi Redd

Posted in Unsung Women of Jazz with tags , , , , , on October 1, 2011 by curtjazz

Vi Redd

This record is a sterling example of what the music [jazz] lost in the name of its phallocentricity. Vi Redd demonstrates a thoughtful tone and a careful respect for those around her. Her solos are pithy and directly to the point…Quite honestly, there’s really nothing quite like her records.”From Rob Ferrier’s All Music guide Review of Vi Redd’s Lady Soul LP

Claire Daly, Tineke Postma, Tia Fuller, Virginia Mayhew are just a few of the strong women jazz saxophone players on the scene today. Rewind 40 – 50 years and you’ll find very few names.  Elvira “Vi” Redd was one of those few.  Now I know that there were many women sax players during the ’40’s – 60’s who were part of the “all girl” big bands and novelty acts. What I’m talking about are women who stepped out there on the front line with the men and recorded as leaders.  Vi Redd was a pioneer.

Ms. Redd is the daughter of Alton Redd, who was a New Orleans drummer and the co-founder of the Big Easy’s legendary Clef Club. Vi was born in Los Angeles in 1928.  With her father being a major part of the Central Avenue jazz scene, Vi was exposed to many of the greats of jazz from an early age.  Young Vi was also blessed with an aunt, Elma Hightower, who was considered one of the foremost L.A. music teachers of her time.  Ms. Hightower was instrumental in Vi’s decision to play the saxophone.

Like many sax players of her generation, Ms. Redd’s sound is heavily influenced by Charlie Parker.  So, it was no accident that the first of her two albums as a leader was titled Bird CallRecorded in 1962, it’s a good album, that features Herb Ellis on guitar; Leroy Vinnegar on bass; Carmell Jones on trumpet; Russ Freeman on piano and a young, pre-fusion Roy Ayers on vibes.  In addition to her solid work on alto, Ms. Redd also sings on a few numbers, which is not a bad thing, as she is a fine vocalist with a compelling grit to her sound.  The tunes penned by producer Leonard Feather are the only selections that miss the mark.

The next year, she recorded her second and apparently, final album, Lady SoulIt’s the more polished of the two albums, with great playing and singing by Ms. Redd and first-rate support from Dave Bailey, Bucky Pizzarelli and Ben Tucker.  Unfortunately, Lady Soul has slipped into obscurity and is extremely hard to find.

When one does research on the career of Vi Redd, the term that recurs more than any other is “under-recorded”. How true that is. For though Ms. Redd has played and toured with artists such as Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon, Sarah Vaughan and Max Roach, she has only two albums to her name and a scant four more with other artists.  Notable among these is Now’s The Time; an all female session led by Marian McPartland, in 1977.  Throughout the years, she gigged around the Los Angeles area and supported herself as a schoolteacher between engagements.  She finally received a bit of long overdue recognition in 2000, when she was honored at “Instrumental Women: Celebrating Women-N-Jazz“, a concert at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

As of this writing, Vi Redd is retired and living in the L.A. area. And as we can see in this heartwarming interview conducted by a family member in 2009, she is still sharp, delightful and energetic.

Recommended Recordings:

A Birthday Video Tribute to Ray Charles

Posted in In Memoriam, The Jazz Continues..., Video Vault with tags , , , on September 23, 2011 by curtjazz

Though John Coltrane gets most of the birthday ink today, Ray Charles Robinson was also born on this day, in 1930; four years after Trane.

Both were born in the South, both spent seminal portions of their careers recording for Atlantic Records and both were major influences on countless numbers of artists.

Just think; wouldn’t a Coltrane – Ray Charles record date have been something?

Happy 81st birth anniversary to “The Genius”, Ray Charles.

Here are some great video clips of Brother Ray in his prime, “makin’ it do what it do, baby!”

“I Believe to My Soul” – performed live at the 1960 Newport Jazz Festival

“Let The Good Times Roll” – also from Newport 1960

“What’d I Say” – from the mid ’60’s 

Ray blows the alto sax on this clip from a 1963 Brazilian Concert!

“In the Evening, When the Sun Goes Down” –  Ray stretches out a bit on the 88’s…

A Birthday Video Tribute to John Coltrane

Posted in In Memoriam, The Jazz Continues..., Video Vault with tags , , , on September 23, 2011 by curtjazz

Today, John William Coltrane would have been 85 years old.

His face is on my personal “Mount Rushmore of Jazz”, so I admit to zero objectivity about him.

Like Miles, much has been written about him, but limited video footage exists. So here are a few fine examples of the art of “The Greatest of All Time”. I hope that you dig them as much as I do.

“Afro Blue” from Ralph J. Gleason’s legendary ‘Jazz Casual’ TV series

From the same program, the still haunting “Alabama”

“Impressions” 

“My Favorite Things” – 1965 on a cold August night in Belgium

Mother’s Day…Dinah’s Biggest Fan

Posted in In Memoriam, The Jazz Continues..., Video Vault with tags , , on May 7, 2011 by curtjazz

My mother loved life and lived it joyously.  She loved to be around people, she loved to laugh and though she didn’t do it very well, she loved to sing. I still remember the sound of Mom’s singing voice as she was in the kitchen or at her sewing machine.  However, even when I was a child, her singing sounded unusual to me. It was a bit affected and nasal.  It sounded nothing like her speaking voice.  I often wondered, but never asked, where in the world did it come from?

I also knew from an early age that my mom was a fan of Dinah Washington. Though Mom was not a big LP buyer, I noticed that there were three Dinah Washington albums in the storage side of the stereo console; more than any other artist.  Mom also spoke often of hearing Dinah live back when she lived in Chicago.  I never bothered to listen to those records – they belonged to my parents, so they had to be corny.  Besides, one of them was a “Memorial Album”, so this Dinah lady was dead. Why should I listen?

Mom died of breast cancer when I was 28.  I was a nascent jazz fan by then, but I was yet to develop the love for the classic female vocalists (Sarah, Ella, Billie, Anita, etc.), that I now possess.  Not too long after Mom’s death, I was on a therapeutic Tower Records run, with a good friend, Mike, who was/is a big fan of vocalists. One of the things he picked up was a 2-LP Dinah Verve Collection.

We got back to his place to have a few beers and listen to our spoils. The first thing he dropped on the turntable was the Dinah album. After the brief swinging horn line she began to sing:

If they asked me; I could write a book…”

I stopped talking and I listened intently. All at once it hit me.  That was the sound that Mom was looking for, but never quite achieved.  Consciously, or not, each time my mother sang, she was paying tribute to her favorite vocalist: “Miss D”.

From that night on, Dinah Washington became  my favorite jazz vocalist.  The others are all great in their own way, but Dinah – well, she’s special…

Happy Mother’s Day y’all.