Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Dizzy Gillespie Playing Mouth Harp to It Don't Mean a Thing

So much pleasure in such simple moments: The place is Nice in southeast France, the occasion, a jazz festival. The tap dancer Bunny Briggs appears on a stage where tenormen Eddie Lockjaw Davis and Guy Lafitte (accompanied by Jimmy Rowles, George Duvivier, and Oliver Jackson) are performing, dragging with him on stage Dizzy Gillespie who sits down and plays mouth harp to It Don't Mean a Thing. Briggs responds with his impeccable sense of rhythm. However, it is Dizz who draws his last and gives it a big surprise by doing his tap dance before leaving the stage.

This beautiful, five-minute long video, courtesy of French television, comes from the admirable YouTube channel of Hoffmannjazz whose collection of jazz videos is a must for anyone interested in this music.

In the meantime, don't miss this one:

Monday, April 11, 2016

Lionel Hampton Big Band in Nice, 1978

Lionel Hampton [photo source: MTV]
For years I've regretted losing my VHS tape of the complete Lionel Hampton birthday party concert at North Sea Jazz Festival in Hague, a big band event of highest caliber which introduced me to some the best instrumentalists in jazz, people such as Pepper Adams, Arnett Cobb (playing with crutches under his arms), and Harry Sweets Edison.

Now, thanks to Hoffmannjazz YouTube channel, I am able to see a filmed footage of the orchestra in Nice, France, playing M Squad Theme a week before they took the North Sea stage.

This is an absolutely stellar line-up with solos given to Ray Bryant, Joe Newman (A few choruses are off-mike), Kai Winding, Charles MacPherson, Pepper Adams, Cobb, Cat Anderson, and Billy Mackel.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Shape Of Plastics in Jazz

The cover of one Hawksworth's albums
The Shape Of Plastics (1962), directed by industrail documentary specialist Alan Pendry, features a good jazz score by Johnny Hawksworth (1924-2009). Originally shown at Berlin Film Festival, Moscow Film Festival and a festival in Bilbao, the film offers an enjoyable (and sometimes rhythmic) account of how a material as crude as oil is turned into fantastic plastic shapes.

The director Alan Pendry, if now largely forgotten, had worked with Iranian Ebrahim Golestan on a classic documentary Wave, Coral, and Rock (1958-61), about oil industry in southwest Iran. The Shape Of Plastics is one of the few Pendry's documentaries which still can be accessed and seen these days.

As for soundtrack, the Johnny Hawksworth score features Ronnie Verrell and Jock Cummings (percussion), Roy Willox (flute alto), David Snell (harp), Derek Warne (vibes), Brian Dee (piano), and Johnny Hawksworth (bass).

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Benny Carter-Earl Hines Quartet

The Spanish National TV, RTVE.es has generously made online a considerable number of its invaluable jazz programmes, including this treasure from 1976, set in Barcelona, with two giants, Benny Carter and Earl Hines, swinging at ease and delightfully performing classics and standards of the old days.

The majestic Palau de la Música Catalana, designed by architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner, perfectly suits the elegance of two maestros on stage and their charming combination of the old and the new.

The rhythm section is composed of Hines' team of 76 with Harley White Jr. on bass and Eddie Graham on drums.

It was in the same year that Carter played along with Ray Bryant, Milt Hinton and Grady Tate at Michael's Pub in New York, where the imminent Whitney Balliett caught him live and mused: "His saxophone solos gave the effect of skywriting: each hung complete in the air before being blown away by the succeeding soloist...he was a handsome man, with intelligent, questing eyes and hundred-watt teeth."

Jacques Derrida Interviews Ornette Coleman

"Repetition [in music] is as natural as the fact that the earth rotates." -- Ornette Coleman

In 1997, Ornette Coleman was in Paris for a concert when French deconstructionist philosopher Jacques Derrida invited him to an interview. They met and tackled on subjects as diverse as language, improvisation, repetition, and Afro-American life. There were even some biographical anecdotes, shared by Coleman, for instance, the one about his ill-fated Town Hall concert whose spate of mishaps seems as extraordinary as the music:

"When I arrived in New York, I was more or less treated like someone from the South who didn't know music, who couldn't read or write, but I never tried to protest that. Then I decided that I was going to try to develop my own conception, without anybody's help. I rented the Town Hall on 21 December 1962, that cost me $600,I hired a rhythm and blues group, a classical group and a trio. The evening of the concert there was a snowstorm, a newspaper strike, a doctors' strike and a subway strike, and the only people who came were those who had to leave their hotel and come to the city hall. I had asked someone to record my concert and he committed suicide, but someone else recorded it, founded his record company with it, and I never saw him again."
Speaking to someone who's intensely into sign processes and making-meaning, Coleman has his semi-semiotic stories to tell:

Friday, March 4, 2016

London Flat, London Sharp: Best of American Jazz Recorded in London

(A detail of ) London Jazz Festival poster, designed by Damien Frost

There are hundreds of live and studio recordings made by visiting or resident American jazz musicians in London. This list, a new installment in the series I started with Paris and jazz, picks those London albums that I've liked most. 

Since 1939, when Fats Waller paid a visit and composed a suite celebrating London's neighborhoods and monuments, most of the jazz greats have appeared in and around the city. The crippling union regulations stopped many musicians from performing in the clubs until the 1960s, and the life expenses and poor weather drove many of them towards the Continent for permanent or semi-permanent stays. Yet, thought the past century, London with its passionate jazz buffs and a good deal of jazz literature remained an unmissable temporary stop for the musicians, as well as musical ideas, travelling from the United States to Europe.

The 15 albums below, obviously emphasising a certain attitude or taste which might not be everybody's, are some personal favourites from the most vital decades of jazz in Britain. Be sure, there are still hundred or more to name. (While picking your favourite albums be aware that there are famous records - Basie in London, for one - which were never recorded in London!)

Here is the list of 15 favourite jazz albums recorded by visiting Americans in London:

details as above

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

In Memoriam: Michael Clifton (1956-2015)

Text, music, and photographs © Ekkehard Wölk. Can not be reproduced without the permission of the author.

By Ekkehard Wölk

The Berlin music scene mourns over the recent death of one of its best-known, musically distinguished jazz drummers of the past three decades: Mr. Michael Clifton who passed away on the 11th of December, 2015.

Born in Denver, Colorado in 1956, Michael left his home country in the late 1970s and settled in Berlin at the time when the city was still divided. He loved Berlin and to him Berlin was "home".

From the time of his arrival in Berlin for so many years to follow, Michael, always incredibly energetic, was an undeniable presence in Berlin's music scene who enriched countless recording sessions, concerts and entertainment shows with his inimitable powerful style of drumming that was firmly rooted in the great tradition of jazz playing by such giants like Art Blakey, Kenny Clarke and Max Roach.

Monday, December 21, 2015

I Don't Dig Garbarek's Music, But If You Do...

I'm interested in anything categorized under the uncategorizable family of jazz, while being aware of the problem that most of it turns out to be anything but jazz. The video I'm posting here, at least to my ears, falls into non-jazz category. Yet, it is an example of a product sold as jazz and bought in huge quantity by European jazz festivals.

Since I've promised to digitize and publicize all my jazz VHS tapes, I do post this as an act of completion: The Jan Garbarek Group playing Jim Pepper's Witchi-Tai-To in Stuttgart, Germany, 1992.

This ECM artist sounds so thin and mechanical that I wonder why the labeled never released, for instance, Kenny G.?

To me, jazz remains to be an urban, modern sound, always transcending the most materialistic objects and situations into sublime beauty. And it doesn't sound like music played by Scandinavian shepherds in 17th century.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Monterey Jazz Festival (1967)

Directed by Lane Slate
The event hosted by Jimmy Lyons.

Set list:

Illinois Jacquet
Flyin' Home
Illinois Jacquet (ts), John Lewis (p), Ray Brown (b), Louie Bellson (d)

Ray Nance
Some of These Days
Ray Nance (violin), John Lewis (p), Ray Brown (b), Louie Bellson (d)

Ray Nance, Jean-Luc Ponty, Svend Asmussen
C Jam Blues
Jean-Luc Ponty, Ray Nance, Svend Asmussen (violin), John Lewis (p), Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, Ray Brown (b), Daniel Humair (d)?

The Dizzy Gillespie Quintet
The Gentle Rain
Something In Your Smile
Dizzy Gillespie (t, v), James Moody (f, ts), Mike Longo (p), Russell George (electric b), Candy Finch (d)

The Modern Jazz Quartet & Dizzy Gillespie
Round Midnight
Dizzy Gillespie (t), John Lewis (p), Milt Jackson (vib), Percy Heath (b), Connie Kay (d)

The Don Ellis Big Band
New Horizons
Don Ellis, Glenn Stuart, Alan Weight, Ed Warren, Bob Harmon (t), Ron Myers, Dave Sanchez, Terry Woodson (tb), Ruben Leon, Joe Roccisano, Ira Schulman, Ron Starr, John Magruder (reeds), Mike Lang (p), Ray Neapolitan, Dave Parlato (b), Steve Bohannon (d), Chino Valdes (congas, bongos),
Alan Estes, Mark Stevens (percussion)