Friday, July 15, 2016

King of Jazz - Paul Whiteman's Picture at Last

For years, I was curious about King of Jazz, a two-strip technicolor film made in 1930, centered around the Paul Whiteman Orchestra with the leader serving as the master of ceremony in a revue musical.

Even though I had a VHS copy of the film in my possession, the awfully dim and faded colors, reduced to dirty browns and cheap watercolor reds, prevented me from watching it from beginning to end.

Now, thanks to a stunning and expensive restoration carried out by Universal, the film, which was a commercial flop at the time of its initial release, is back in circulation.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Bobby Hutcherson: Never Let Me Go

"Eschewing both the prettiness of the vibes and the conventionally bluesy delivery of Milt Jackson, [Bobby] Hutcherson's music had an abstract side which only Walt Dickerson approached," Richard Cook sums up the master vibraphonist's style in his Encyclopedia of Jazz, "yet he kept hold of the slow vibrato that Jackson espoused."

Case in study: Never Let Me Go, performed with the Timeless All Stars at the Subway jazz club in Cologne (Köln), Germany, 1986, accompanied by Cedar Walton (piano), Buster Williams (bass), and Billy Higgins (drums).

Is hypnotic the right word for it?

Monday, May 23, 2016

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Albert Mangelsdorff Plays Cappriccio Funky

Rockish and funky, this is a good example of the virtusity and multifaceted technique of German trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff.

Filmed live during a festival engagement in Germany, 1992, the Albert Mangelsdorff-Wolfgang Dauner Quartet plays an extended version of Cappriccio Funky. (Dauner, born in 1935, was the pianist of United Jazz and Rock Ensemble.)

Monday, May 16, 2016

Philip Larkin Picks His Favorite Jazz Albums of the Year (1960s)

Philip Larkin
During the 1960s, the English poet Philip Larkin, who also wrote jazz criticism of high caliber for Daily Telegraph, particpitaed in the game of picking the best records of the year.

For someone who thought Charlie Parker was the beginning of the end for jazz, and everything worth saying (and playing) was already exhausted by Louis Armstrong, the 60s must have been a difficult time to go to a record shop and come out satisfied.

Yet, Larkin, never hiding his conservative taste in jazz, comes out with a few delightful surprises (Miles, Mingus, and God forbid, Ornette!)

His annual entry for Telegraph mainly features a longer list of reissues than brief mentioning of what's new. I've only mentioned the "new" albums. But even the "new" ones indicate how sluggishly jazz records were distributed in the UK. There is usually a year or two time gap between the initial US release and the arrival of the record in British market.

There are two remarkable anthologies edited from his jazz criticism both of which highly recommended: All What Jazz and Reference Back. (The full list of his favorite records of the year can be found as the penultimate chapter of the latter book.) These two books feature some of the most memorable, beautiful use of metaphor and poetic language in jazz after Whitney Balliett.

Without further due, these are the albums that excited Philip Larkin:

Sunday, May 15, 2016

RIP Joe Temperley (1929-2016)

Repost of Junior Mance and Joe Temperley Play Duke Ellington, in momery of Joe Temperley who passed away on May 11th 2016.

Some days ago, on October 10, Junior Mance entered his 85th, more than 7 decades of which lived as a jazz pianist of high caliber. Mance's notion and execution of blues, a happy and swinging one, has always been a source of endless fascination and joy for me. It is easy to be hooked to the sound of his trios, though in larger formats, like the video presented here, most of the relaxed playing and wonderful interaction remain intact.

In April 1994 Mance formed a long-lasting trio with bassist Keter Betts and drummer Jackie Williams, the former being his collaborator since the 1950s, when they both played for Dinah Washington.

This group enjoyed various gigs and hosted several guests at various occasions who were  mostly tenor-saxophonists with whom the band toured and recorded materials by Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk. One of these guests was the Scottish multi-instrumentalist Joe Temperley who was only one year younger than Mance and a resident of the US since 1965. Aside from a live recording on-board a cruise ship, issued by Chiaroscuro, this video, recently digitized by me, is a vivid example of the quartet in action, filmed during the Bern jazz festival in 1997.

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).