Archive for ocie davis

“Juan’s an ‘Old Problem'” (Duke fires Mingus)

Posted in Jazz in Charlotte, JazzLives!, The Jazz Continues... with tags , , , , , , , , on March 2, 2019 by curtjazz

For those of you who weren’t with us in Charlotte on February 22-23, 2019; well, you missed some amazing jazz, as Neil Caine honored Charles Mingus. I was fortunate enough to be the MC for the weekend and in that capacity, tell a few stories related to one of the greatest bass players in the history of jazz. Due to time constraints, I only made passing mention to one of my favorites – one from Mingus’ fascinating autobiography, Beneath the Underdog. I did promise to post the story in full, because it is a classic.

Charles Mingus idolized Duke Ellington from his youth. He always considered the Duke to be one of his greatest musical influences. So it had to be a thrill for Mingus, when, in 1953, he was hired to fill the bass chair in the Ellington Orchestra. It was a short-lived honor, however, as Mingus, who was known for his irascibility, almost as much as his prowess on the bass, almost immediately butted heads with Ellington’s famed valve trombonist, Juan Tizol (the composer of “Caravan”).

The “disagreement” was so heated, that Ellington, who almost never terminated anyone from his band, felt that someone had to go and that someone, was Charles Mingus.

Mingus gives an account of his firing, in his autobiography. Over the ensuing years, some have questioned the veracity of parts, or all, of Mingus’ version of the facts but it is so entertaining and, for those who knew Ellington, so plausible, that it has become the accepted account. Below is that story. Please note that Mingus wrote much of the book in the second person, and we will not make any revisions to his preference:

Tizol wants you to play a solo he’s written where bowing is required. You raise the solo an octave, where the bass isn’t too muddy. He doesn’t like that and he comes to the room under the stage where you’re practicing at intermission and comments that you’re like the rest of the niggers in the band, you can’t read. You ask Juan how he’s different from the other niggers and he states that one of the ways he’s different is that he is white. So you run his ass upstairs. You leave the rehearsal room, proceed toward the stage with your bass and take your place and at the moment Duke brings down the baton for “A-Train” and the curtain of the Apollo Theatre goes up, a yelling, whooping Tizol rushes out and lunges at you with a bolo knife. The rest you remember mostly from Duke’s own words in his dressing room as he changes after the show.

“Now, Charles,” he says, looking amused, putting Cartier links into the cuffs of his beautiful handmade shirt, “you could have forewarned me—you left me out of the act entirely! At least you could have let me cue in a few chords as you ran through that Nijinsky routine. I congratulate you on your performance, but why didn’t you and Juan inform me about the adagio you planned so that we could score it? I must say I never saw a large man so agile—I never saw anybody make such tremendous leaps! The gambado over the piano carrying your bass was colossal. When you exited after that I thought, ‘That man’s really afraid of Juan’s knife and at the speed he’s going he’s probably home in bed by now.’ But no, back you came through the same door with your bass still intact. For a moment I was hopeful you’d decided to sit down and play but instead you slashed Juan’s chair in two with a fire axe! Really, Charles, that’s destructive. Everybody knows Juan has a knife but nobody ever took it seriously—he likes to pull it out and show it to people, you understand. So I’m afraid, Charles—I’ve never fired anybody—you’ll have to quit my band. I don’t need any new problems. Juan’s an old problem, I can cope with that, but you seem to have a whole bag of new tricks. I must ask you to be kind enough to give me your notice, Mingus.”

The charming way he says it, it’s like he’s paying you a compliment. Feeling honored, you shake hands and resign.

[Bottom photo; L to R] Your humble blogger; Neal Caine; Will Campbell; Annalise Stalls; Ocie Davis; (not pictured – Orlando Fiol)

And that’s the way it happened, according to Charles Mingus. And who are we, to doubt him. Thanks again to the fantastic musicians, who made Mingus proud, through their efforts in The Jazz Room last weekend: Annalise Stalls; Will Campbell; Orlando Fiol; Ocie Davis and of course, Neal Caine.

Until the next time, the jazz continues.

On JAZZ LIVES!!! Thursday, May 19: Lonnie Davis of the JAI

Posted in Charlotte Community Rado, Jazz in Charlotte with tags , , , on May 18, 2016 by curtjazz

 Lonnie DavisA New Orleans native, who has called Charlotte home for the past decade, Lonnie Davis and her husband, Ocie, have been credited by many with turning Charlotte into one of the fastest growing local jazz scenes in the U.S.

As president of the Jazz Arts Initiative (JAI), Lonnie has been instrumental in the creation of programs that educate local students; such as the Youth Jazz Workshops, the Jazz Arts Music Camp and the Jazz in Schools program. And, with the JAI’s highly acclaimed, regularly sold-out monthly series; The Jazz Room @ The Stage Door Theater; Lonnie and Ocie have created an oasis for parched jazz fans from around the country, who now call the Queen City home.

Already, in this season, The Jazz Room’s seventh, there have been acclaimed tributes to Louis Armstrong and Sarah Vaughan as well as Jazz Room at the Symphony, a thrilling jazz meets classical performance with the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, that brought the Knight Theatre audience to its feet.

Lonnie Davis will join me during the second hour of JAZZ LIVES on Thursday, May 19, to talk about upcoming performances in The Jazz Room, such as bassist Tim Singh and the QC Latin Jazz Orchestra, paying tribute to Tito Puente (Friday, May 20). She will also share information about exciting upcoming JAI educational events, like the Jazz Arts Music Camp, in June, with guest artist in residence vibraphonist/drummer Jason Marsalis. And since we do celebrate the music of living jazz artists on JAZZ LIVES!!!, Lonnie and CurtJazz will discuss and play, music by some of the great musicians who call the Carolinas home.

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.

 

(Photo of Lonnie Davis, courtesy of Southern Living.com)

Right Back Where We Started

Posted in Jazz in Charlotte, JazzLives!, The Jazz Continues... with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 30, 2016 by curtjazz

Before writing reviews, before the “Browsing the Bins” column, before Live365 and Curt’s Cafe Noir and before this blog, there was live jazz radio… The mid-90’s as a jazz DJ on what was tCurtis with Birdhen WPBX, on the East End of Long Island, was the best gig of my life, of any kind, one I reluctantly gave up, when I moved south almost sixteen years ago. As I signed off in October 2000, I always knew that I would be back one day. I just didn’t think that my son, who was less than a month old when I left, would be ready to start driving when that day came!

THE DATE IS SET!!!

Thursday, May 12; 6 pm – 9 pm (EDT). The premiere of my new radio show “JAZZ LIVES!!! with CurtJazz” on Charlotte Community Radio. The show will be a continuation of the passion that developed in me during the twelve years of Curt’s Cafe Noir – jazz by active musicians.

We will play jazz from across the spectrum, from modern to bop to swing to avant-garde. So, what will all of the artists have in common? They are all still living and playing great jazz.

I’ve said it before and I will keep saying it – For jazz to survive in the 21st century, we have got to open our ears to some of the great young musicians who are bringing some fresh ideas from their own 21st century experiences. This means that on JAZZ LIVES!!!, we will play Sonny Rollins AND Kamasi Washington. We will play Kenny Barron AND Robert Glasper. We will play Dave Holland AND Esperanza Spalding. And you will definitely hear from Mimi Jones and the marvelous ladies of Hot Tone Music.

Hot-Tone-Music-to-Release-CDs-By-Bassist-Mimi-Jones-Saxophonist-Camille-Thurman-Drummer-Shirazette-Tinnin

(l to r) Camille Thurman; Mimi Jones and Shirazette Tinnin

And, thanks to the tireless efforts of people like my friends Ocie and Lonnie Davis and the Jazz Arts Initiative, Charlotte is gaining a national reputation for producing some terrific young jazz players. So expect to also learn more about some of the QC’s contributions to  jazz’s future, like Eleazar Shafer, Phillip Whack, Harvey Cummings II, Tim Singh; Troy Conn and Tim Scott, Jr. And a few amazing talents even younger than those I just mentioned, such as Sean Mason and Veronica Leahy.

tim scott, jr

Tim Scott, Jr.

We are also blessed to have a studio that will be big enough for interviews and live performances and we plan to take advantage of that space for chats and mini concert sets with some of the greats and soon to be greats who live in or visit the Charlotte area.

All we ask from you is to give us a listen. And let us know what you think – on Facebook (CurtJazz Radio); on Twitter (@curtjazz); or on Instagram (curtjazz).

To hear JAZZ LIVES!!! with CurtJazz and all of the great programming that Charlotte Community Radio has to offer, just click this link http://charlottecommunityradio.org/
We will also be available via Mixlr (http://mixlr.com/)

More to come over the days leading up to our premiere. Watch this space!!!

CurtJazz’s Best Jazz Albums of 2015

Posted in Best Jazz Albums of 2015, Jazz in Charlotte with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 21, 2015 by curtjazz

Well, well ,well…What a difference a year makes…

Eugenie Jones | Come Out Swingin'Last year this time we jazz lovers were once again fending off the usual spate of “Jazz is Dead” announcements from various “serious” publications and also from a satirical “writer” named Django Gold, who thought it would be funny to pen an article, purporting to be Sonny Rollins, claiming to hate jazz.

Now, perhaps because jazz has proven to have more lives than Freddy Krueger, there have been in the past couple of months, an article in The Washington Post and an article/pictorial in Vanity Fair, celebrating jazz and [gasp], the young musicians that represent its future.

This kind of national-level publicity, along with what is happening on  local scenes (such as right here in Charlotte, NC, with the Jazz Arts Initiative, led by my friends, drummer Ocie Davis and flutist Lonnie Davis) has given my cynical middle-aged heart, a smidgen of hope for what is ahead for the music that I love.

I was also greatly encouraged by the tremendous crop of first-rate jazz recordings this year. A major contributor to this is that the jazz world has all but broken free of looking for the approval of the major record label conglomerates. For new jazz recordings, indie labels and self releases have become the rule, not the exception. In fact on my list, only six of the 25 albums have some sort of tie to what would be considered a major label.

And the music itself, cuts across a spectrum of styles, influences and even chronological ages – from vocalists Cecile McLorin Salvant who is 26, to the legendary Tony Bennett, still relevant and vital at 89; from instrumentalists such as Albert “Tootie” Heath, the youngest of The Heath Brothers, at 80; to the exciting twenty-somethings who lead some of the tracks on the wildly creative compilation, Supreme Sonacy, Volume 1.

Yes friends, jazz is still very much alive and kicking some butt. And without further ado, here is a list of 26 recordings that kicked my butt in 2015, in alphabetical order by album title. As usual, we will follow this list with discussions and clips from each of the albums over the next few days. In each title is embedded a link to a place to purchase the CD or download of each recording.

As always, your comments are welcome.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Glorious Kwanzaa and Happy New Year, everyone!

A “Royal Jam” in The Queen City

Posted in Jazz in Charlotte, JazzLives! with tags , , , , , , on September 24, 2012 by curtjazz

In New York, Chicago, Philly or San Francisco, this night would have probably passed without notice. But in Charlotte, NC, where jazz jams occur on a basis closer to quarterly than nightly, this was an event of note…Ocie Davis, the veteran drummer, who makes his home base in Charlotte, was in town for a few days in early June, so he put out the word that there would be a  jam session, featuring his group, “The Queen’s Collective”  at 10 pm on Wednesday, June 6, at The Evening Muse, a funky little bar in the NoDa section of town, with a decidedly bohemian atmosphere.

These NoDa jams used to be regular weekly occurrences, but with Mr. Davis on the road quite a bit lately, they had pretty much died out…So when the word of this mid-week gathering went out via Facebook, Charlotte’s small but faithful jazz community was abuzz. I knew that my butt would be draggin’ when I got to work on Thursday morning, but hell, it was going to be worth it!

Eleazar Shafer (trumpet) and Zach Wheeler (sax) at the Queen’s Collective Jam on 6/6/12

I arrived a little before 10 and found a spot at the back of the club. The weekly Open Mic night was still going on and it would continue well past its scheduled conclusion time. By 10:30 those of us who had come to hear jazz were quietly getting a bit restless waiting for the game gaggle of college aged kids to relinquish the stage.  When they finally did, at around 10:40, Ocie and crew went quickly to work getting things set up for the session. He was joined by Queen’s Collective veterans, guitarist Troy Conn, Tim Singh on bass and percussionist Robert Beasley.  Conn is a UNC-Charlotte grad with fleet fingers, a gorgeous full tone and a touch of a CTI era GB influence. Mr. Singh is a young bassist who shows a world of promise.  Mr. Beasley is a veteran percussionist, versed in many styles. He is also without a doubt the coolest cat in the band, who with his shaved head and dark shades, resembles Roy Haynes’ younger Doppelganger.

Percussionist Robert Beasley at the Evening Muse on 6/6/12.

The collective kicked things off with a gritty untitled blues that featured Mr. Conn’s dirty guitar work. This was followed by a cool take on Joe Henderson’s “Recordame”. Conn and Singh set the table with their strong solos, followed by Davis and Beasley feeding off of each other in lockstep and showing the kids how it’s done.

Next was Trane’s “Impressions”; a ballsy move for any group that features a guitarist as we all have the sound of Wes Montgomery’s classic version from Smokin’ at the Half Note etched in our memories.  But as you’ll see in this clip, young Troy Conn is up to the task.

With the crowd now warmed up Ocie called for “Cissy Strut” – a staple for any percussionist with Bayou roots. Things then got even better when Mr. Davis summoned to the stand Eleazar Shafer, a 26 year-old Charlotte native who is now based in NYC, with a lot of Hubbard in his horn and in his attitude.  You’ve got to like a cat who takes the stage wearing a t-shirt that reads “I Am Awesome”; you’ve got to love him when he can back it up. Suffices to say, we love “Shafe”.

Davis then decided to take a break and relinquished the drum chair to Jacob Cavell. Another promising youngster, Zach Wheeler grabbed his alto sax and they then dove into one of my favorite Coltrane tunes, “Equinox”, with fine results.

There was much still to come as more musicians arrived, fully ready to go on all night long. Unfortunately however, I wasn’t, as I knew that I had to get out of there if I was to stand any chance of  being even semi-coherent at work later that day. So regretfully,  I had to cut out a little before 1 – missing in the process some great music and some fine new talent but feeling hopeful for the future of jazz in The Queen City.

It was fun y’all. Let’s do it again real soon!

Concert Review – Delfeayo Marsalis in Charlotte, NC

Posted in JazzLives!, The Jazz Continues... with tags , , , , , , , on June 26, 2011 by curtjazz

I’ve been a resident of Charlotte, NC for almost 11 years.  I must admit that during most of that time, the choices for mainstream jazz have been at best, limited.  Yes, there have been a few establishments that have called themselves “jazz” clubs, but they have mostly offered what we sometimes call “grown folks music”, that is, a mix of radio hit-based R & B instrumentals;  vocalists whose time atop the pop charts has passed and competently performed, but unimaginative “smooth” jazz.  Economic times being what they are, even those clubs have fallen by the wayside.  Though there would be the occasional appearance of a jazz star, they were few and far between.

I tell you that to tell you this.  To quote Martin Luther King, we straight ahead jazz fans are now “able to hew out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope”.  Within the past 15 months, Charlotte has played host to well-attended concerts by notables such as Regina Carter, Kurt Elling, Kenny Barron, Russell Malone, Esperanza Spalding, Robert Glasper, Branford Marsalis and now another Marsalis brother, Delfeayo; who brought a vibrant quintet to the McGlohon Theater at Spirit Square last week.  I’m going to cut to the chase: it was the finest jazz concert I’ve seen since I’ve lived in this city.

The concert was presented by the Jazz Arts Initiative, a new non-profit organization composed of educators, cultural arts patrons, musicians and individuals, all dedicated to the continued development of Charlotte’s arts heritage.  Headed by Lonnie Davis, the JAI has shown great potential to succeed where other similar organizations have failed –  first because they have already produced tangible results, such as last night’s concert and the ongoing educational programs for elementary and secondary school students; second, because they have shown a willingness to use social media, to an extent that prior organizations have not and finally, because they are funded in part by The Charlotte Arts and Science Council, giving them needed legitimacy with local arts fundraisers.

The evening was kicked off in fine fashion by the JAI All-Star Youth Jazz Ensemble, a promising group of youngsters, all in their teens: Quinn Bannon on drums; Phillip Howe on trumpet; Claire Lucas, bass; Steven Ray (remember that name) on guitar and Alex Sherman, piano. These well-trained, enthusiastic kids delivered solid, swinging takes on Miles’ “Four” and Sam Jones’ “Unit 7”. Their performances bode well for the future of JAI and Charlotte area jazz.

Delfeayo took the stage immediately after the JAI Youth; relaxed, in good humor and ready to swing. Surprisingly, he played no music from his latest, album Sweet Thunder, an Ellington tribute. Instead, he delighted the audience with tunes from the jazz canon and his own compositional catalog.  He broke with tradition by kicking the set off, not with a flag-waver but with Strayhorn’s “Intimacy of the Blues”.  Marsalis and the quartet, consisting of his longtime pianist Victor “Red” Atkins, John Brown on bass and Charlotte’s own Ocie Davis on drums, had the crowd feeling “intimate” as we hummed, swayed and responded with sundry expressions of approval. 

Another regular Marsalis ally, saxophonist Derek Douget and trumpeter Ashlin Parker, a Charlotte native who shows remarkable promise; joined the group for a bouncy romp through the old warhorse “Drum Boogie”.  This delight was followed by one of the high points of the evening, Elvin Jones’ “The Lone Warrior”, a tune inspired, as we found out in Delfeayo’s expository comments, by Jones’ father’s refusal to answer his draft notice.  Marsalis and Douget and Atkins painted a story of haunting determination in their solos and the ensemble passages. You could envision the proud, resolute Jones père as he marched through his 25 mile journey. 

From a previous performance, here’s Delfeayo’s group on an excerpt from “The Lone Warrior”, featuring Mark Gross…

The second half of the show was devoted to numbers penned by Marsalis:  the dark, haunting “Lost in the Crescent”, the appropriately whimsical “Br’er Rabbit” (both from Marsalis’ underrated Minions Dominions album).  And the compelling set closer, “The Weary Ways of Mary Magdalene” from his debut album Pontius Pilate’s Decision.   That tune’s percussive piano vamp grabbed my attention when I first heard it nearly 20 years ago and it still moves me in the same way now.

After the concert was over, Mr. Marsalis returned to the stage for a Q & A session with the audience.  In keeping with the relaxed atmosphere that had been established, Marsalis was gracious with his time and expansive with his answers, peppering his responses with interesting anecdotes and raucous humor. 

To close the evening, there was one more selection.  Victor Atkins returned to join Delfeayo for reminiscence about the beginning of their musical partnership, followed by a duet on “What a Wonderful World”. It was truly a wonderful evening of jazz in Charlotte, one of many we hope to see in the near future here. Kudos to Delfeayo Marsalis and his fine sextet, to the JAI All-Star Youth Ensemble and to Lonnie Davis and The Jazz Arts Initiative; thanks to them, the future of jazz in this city looks very bright, indeed.

Delfeayo Marsalis website: http://delfeayomarsalis.com Follow him on Twitter: http://twitter.com/delfeayo

The Jazz Arts Initiative website: http://www.thejazzarts.org Follow them on Twitter: http://twitter.com/theJazzArts