Sunday, December 27, 2015

2 year anniversary

I have been writing Kind of Pink and Purple every week for 2 years. I am grateful for the many amazing opportunities that have come because of my writing: I have been a journalist for the Montreal Jazz Festival, the Newport Jazz Festival and the Detroit Jazz Festival. I have been able to interview musicians, as well as review concerts and CDs. I have worked at a jazz PR firm and at JazzBoston, and I have joined organizations such as the Jazz Journalists Association. Most importantly, I have been able to reflect on what I know as a young adult and share this with others. In this way, the great joy of learning is sharing. 

My first post was Reasons Why I Love Jazz. For this 2 year anniversary I wanted to share a few videos, and quotes from those videos, to illustrate how jazz can be a force of guidance. Building off of the reason I started this platform, I want jazz to be an open community for everyone regardless of background knowledge or musical skill. By comparing jazz to life skills, stories, emotions, etc. anyone can use music as a source of inspiration. Michael Jordan inspires more people than just basketball players just as Albert Einstein inspires more than just scientists. In this light, I know John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins can inspire anyone as well. 

Sonny Rollins


Reasons why I love jazz
As explained through the musicians that inspire me

1. Sonny Rollins

Saxophonist Sonny Rollins is a living legend of jazz. Never satisfied with his personal or musical limitations, Rollins, who was already a successful jazz artist, famously took a sabbatical from 1959-1961, and practiced under the Williamsburg bridge. Rollins' comeback album from this era was entitled The Bridge. Later on, Rollins took a second sabbatical from public performance to study Eastern philosophies and meditation. 
With all these obstacles and all the difficult things we go through in life, music is there to help. 
Jazz transcends life and death as we know it on this planet. You see, jazz is something which is more universal, eternal, so it has - you say optimistic about jazz - well, I'm optimistic that, I'm optimistic about, the soul, okay, I'm optimistic about that, so therefore I'm optimistic about jazz. 
It's a sense of hope, that life can be better, that things can be better, it's a sense of happiness, where things, wow this is great, that's some of what jazz is.

Sonny Rollins: What Jazz Is, and What Being a Jazz Musician Means To Me:

2. Mulgrew Miller

Pianist Mulgrew Miller recently passed away in 2013 at the young age of 57 from a stroke. Miller left a profound legacy, and played with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Betty Carter, Woody Shaw, Art Blakey and Tony Williams while also leading his own groups. In addition to performing, Miller left an impact on education as the director of Jazz Studies at William Paterson University. 
Playing this music allows us an experience that I think many other people don't get in other areas of functioning in life, and that is playing this music sort of compels us to be in the moment, and we're not always there for most of us. But when we do...it's where we realize we weren't even there - it wasn't really about us.

Mulgrew Miller - Why I Play Jazz:

3. Charlie Parker

Alto saxophonist Charlie Parker revolutionized jazz with the help of trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, creating a style called bebop. Charlie Parker is known for his bright, crisp tone and lightning fast technique. In the following interview, Parker claimed he attained this technique from practicing 11-15 hours a day for an extended period - showcasing the power of hard work, study and determination. 
Study is absolutely necessary, in all forms. It's just like any talent that's born with somebody, it's like a good pair of shoes when you put a shine on it, you know?

Charlie Parker Interviewed by Paul Desmond (1954):

4. Wallace Roney

In the following compilation video, trumpeter Wallace Roney talks about playing music in the face of all the obstacles that came in his way. Despite his great talent, Roney was left homeless for part of the 80s . While playing in a tribute to Miles Davis, Roney was able to meet Miles. Miles gave Roney his trumpet after realizing Roney didn't own a trumpet, and later mentored him. This mentorship gave Roney the support he needed to become a successful musician, and he later joined the bands of Art Blakey and Tony Williams.
I had to play this music when people didn't want me to play this music. I played this music and tried to contribute to this music playing clubs where the clubs almost made me pay them to play, you know, and I, but I felt this strong for this music and I fought for this music and I'm fighting - it's not because I need to make money, because I haven't made a dime - but it's because of the love of this art form and this gift, that god-given gift of playing music, I feel I need to honor that, you know. 

Great Advice from Musicians for Musicians:

5. John Coltrane

Saxophonist John Coltrane was at the forefront of the free jazz movement along with his wife, pianist Alice Coltrane, and saxophonist Pharaoh Sanders. Coltrane was a deeply spiritual man that believed in music for a higher power. This mentality was showcased in albums such as A Love Supreme and Ascension.
I want to be a force for good. I want to be a force for real good. Otherwise I know that there are bad forces, I know that there are forces that bring suffer to others and misery, but I want to be the opposite of this, I want to be the force that is truly for good. 

John Coltrane on Giant Steps, PBS Digital Studios:

Final Thoughts: 
Thank you to anyone and everyone that reads my writing! With all the ups and downs in life, I am happy to help someone find a light in their day. 

After two years of simultaneously writing and learning about jazz, I can truly say the reason why I love jazz is because jazz is life: all-encompassing, raw and beautiful.

John Coltrane

Please visit my jazz poetry blog, "Without a Poem", where I improvise a new poem everyday! I also share jazz music and art there, so stay tuned! 

Please subscribe to Kind of Pink and Purple by email (top right of the page) and follow on other social media: TwitterTumblrInstagramGoogle PlusPinterest

Since September 2015, I have been the JazzBoston newsletter writer-editor. Please sign up for the monthly newsletter to learn more about the Boston jazz scene. 

Why do you love jazz?

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Holiday Jazz Songs

With the holidays right around the corner, I wanted to share some jazz Christmas songs.



Holiday Jazz Songs

1. Jingle Bells

This fun animated video illustrates the joy of the holidays, with the full big band sounds of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra leading the way. 

Watch this animated video of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra playing, "Jingle Bells":


2. Sugar Rum Cherry

Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn arranged the Nutcracker ballet suite for jazz big band, taking familiar themes and rearranging them in new ways. 

Listen to Duke Ellington's "Sugar Rum Cherry":

3. White Christmas

Charlie Parker transforms this standard holiday song into a bebop style with the help of trumpeter Kenny Dorham and drummer Max Roach. 

Listen to Charlie Parker play, "White Christmas":

4. Sleigh Ride

Ella Fitzgerald makes every word count in this version of Sleigh Ride, by focusing on rhythm and accenting each vowel. 

Listen to Ella Fitzgerald sing, "Sleigh Ride":

5. Twas the Night Before Christmas

Wynton Marsalis narrates the classic Christmas story with musical accompaniment to help paint the picture of Santa Claus coming down the chimney, as if in a picture book.  

Watch Wynton Marsalis read the story with music accompaniment:

6. Joy to the World

Brubeck's harmonic sense and chordal motion helps to carve out a stirring version of Joy to the World, with bell-like improvisations. 

Listen to Dave Brubeck play, "Joy to the World":

7. Christmas in New Orleans

Louis Armstrong nostalgically sings and plays trumpet in a traditional New Orleans style to reflect on his roots.

Listen to Louis Armstrong With The Benny Carter Orchestra play "Christmas In New Orleans":

8. Snowfall 

Pianist Ahmad Jamal creates the imagery of snowflakes scattering through the air with his light touch and spiraling lines.

Listen to Ahmad Jamal play, "Snowfall":

9. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant joined forces with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra to present this holiday classic in a sentimental way, bending and holding out syllables for emphasis. 

Listen to Cecile McLorin Salvant sing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas":

10. Christmas Song

Vocalist Mel Torme, whose nickname was the "Velvet Frog," composed "Christmas Song." In this version, Torme's pure vocal tone narrates the story with a laid-back feel. 

Listen to Mel Torme sing "Christmas Song":

Final Thoughts: 
Have a happy holiday and a Merry Christmas! 

Please visit my jazz poetry blog, "Without a Poem", where I improvise a new poem everyday! I also share jazz music and art there, so stay tuned! 

Please subscribe to Kind of Pink and Purple by email (top right of the page) and follow on other social media: TwitterTumblrInstagramGoogle PlusPinterest

Since September 2015, I have been the JazzBoston newsletter writer/ editor. Please sign up for the monthly newsletter to learn more about the Boston jazz scene. 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Reflecting on the semester

In the midst of finals, I wanted to share some lessons I took away from this semester along with some of the songs that have impacted me.

Freddie Hubbard

Reflecting on the semester

1. Don't wait to be great.

It's easy to come up with excuses: "I can't do that because I'm not old enough."  "Coltrane did that, and I'm not him." "Once I move to New York I'll get my stuff together." From the influence of many great teachers, I have seen that greatness starts right now, today, and is built slowly and consistently over time. 

Listen to Freddie Hubbard play, "Birdlike":

2. Be great at everything you do. No excuses. 

I have really noticed this semester that the people I look up to aren't just great at one thing - they excel at everything they do. This trait of putting 100 percent into everything you do has helped me be accountable for my own actions. 

Listen to Duke Ellington's "Danse of the Floredores":

3. Fundamentals are key.

This semester I was overwhelmed with lesson assignments consisting of purely fundamentals - saxophone long tones, overtones, scales, scale patterns. The most important thing I was given to practice? Eighth notes with a metronome. These assignments helped me realize that you can't run until you can walk, and that true mastery comes from the mastery of fundamentals.  

Listen to Donald Byrd and Pepper Adams play, "Curros":

4. The music has the answers. 

This semester I have been learning more music by ear. At one of my lessons my teacher told me that if I want to learn to improvise I have to listen deeply and figure things out on my own, because the music has the answers: How do I construct a solo? What dynamic should I play? How do I build a solo? How do I blend with other musicians? What articulations should I play? At first perplexed, I have realized that the answers to my questions are right in front of me, and oftentimes right inside of me. 

Listen to Dexter Gordon play, "You Stepped Out of a Dream":

5. You are your own teacher.

My entire life I have looked up to teachers as the people that, simply put, hold the answers to the universe. So, this semester I was quite surprised when my saxophone teacher looked at me and told me he wasn't my teacher. He remarked that I'm my own teacher and he's just a guidance - and at the end of the day I'm the one that has to figure everything out. This reversal of roles has led me to trust my instincts more. 

Listen to Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers play, "Prince Albert":

6. Your self worth shouldn't be based on the validation of others.

We go through school taking tests and submitting assignments. It's easy to start believing that your intelligence is based on the validation of a good grade, or that your musical talent is based on making an audition. Yet, I have learned that self love should be unconditional. Period. In fact, one teacher even urged us students to celebrate whether we make or don't make an audition in order to dissociate happiness from external validation. 

Watch Miles Davis play, "So What":

7. Someone else's success doesn't undermine your own.

Music is not about jealousy or proving yourself - it's about uplift. And what I have seen from this semester is that just because someone else is great doesn't mean that makes me bad by de-facto. In fact, it's like lighting a candle - sharing a flame only lights the room brighter. 

Listen to Duke Ellington's "Sunset and the Mockingbird":

Final Thoughts: 
This semester has been a whirlwind of activity, and I'm glad that within the eye of the hurricane I can reflect on how I've grown personally and musically, and share that with others.  

Listen to John Coltrane play, "Lazy Bird":

Please visit my jazz poetry blog, "Without a Poem", where I improvise a new poem everyday! I also share jazz music and art there, so stay tuned! 

Please subscribe to Kind of Pink and Purple by email (top right of the page) and follow on other social media: TwitterTumblrInstagramGoogle PlusPinterest

Since September 2015, I have been the JazzBoston newsletter writer/ editor. Please sign up for the monthly newsletter to learn more about the Boston jazz scene. 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Boston jazz legends

Lately I have become very interested in how someone's background affects their music. As listeners, we know Miles Davis for such albums as Kind of Blue and Birth of the Cool. However, to learn that he grew up in St. Louis can help us learn about how he came to be. Each city has their own sound and their own history from New Orleans to Chicago to New York.

Tony Williams

In this spirit, I wanted to share five jazz musicians that grew up in Boston.

Boston jazz legends

1. Roy Haynes

Drummer Roy Haynes is from Roxbury, MA. In addition to leading his own bands, including Fountain of Youth, Haynes has been a sideman for everyone from Charlie Parker to Stan Getz to Miles Davis and more.

I was able to see Roy Haynes perform at Scullers in May 2015. It was a particularly enlightening concert because Roy Haynes at ninety years old was joking around, dancing and playing the drums with the energy and intensity of someone a quarter of his age. Between songs Roy would tell stories about growing up in Roxbury and how when he was twenty years old in Boston he got a telegram to come to New York City. His love of life no doubt rubbed off on everyone in the audience.

Listen to Roy Haynes with Charlie Parker play, "Moose the Mooche":

2. Chick Corea

Pianist Chick Corea is from Chelsea, MA. One of the major voices on piano, Chick has gone on to lead many famous bands, including Return to Forever. Many of his compositions have become standards, including "Spain," "Crystal Silence," "Light as a Feather," "500 Miles High," and more.

I was able to see Chick perform at Boston's Wilbur Theater in April 2014. It was an unforgettable concert for many reasons. Firstly, Chick played over three hours - the longest concert I have been to. Secondly, Chick invited audience members up to the stage to play with him. Lastly, Chick's high school classmates from the 50s were in the audience and were cheering him on with such a pride for their roots.

Listen to Chick Corea's composition "Spain":

3. Tony Williams 

Drummer Tony Williams grew up in Boston, MA. One of the most influential drummers in jazz, Williams started playing professionally as a teenager, eventually joining Miles Davis' Second Great Quintet at the age of 17.

Tony Williams never stayed in one place for too long. He was at the forefront of the avant-garde, playing in Eric Dolphy's famous Out to Lunch. Tony Williams' Lifetime band was at the forefront of jazz fusion, with their album Emergency!. Also, Williams led quartets and quintets that played all of his own original music.

Watch Tony Williams perform, "Geo Rose":

4. Harry Carney 

Baritone saxophonist Harry Carney grew up in Boston, MA. Carney is largely known for 45 year tenure in Duke Ellington's orchestra, making him the longest serving member of Ellington's orchestra.

Carney's robust sound on the baritone saxophone has gone on to become the standard for the instrument. Duke Ellington wrote compositions to feature Carney's sound and musical personality, including "Sophisticated Lady," "In a Mellow Tone," and "Frustration." Duke and Carney were close friends, and Carney would often drive Ellington, while he composed in the passenger seat.

Watch Harry Carney perform Duke Ellington's "Sophisticated Lady":

5. Johnny Hodges 

Alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges grew up in Cambridge, MA. Known for being the lead alto saxophonist in Duke Ellington's Orchestra, Hodges became one of the identifying voices of the orchestra for his use of bends and vibrato.

Hodges and Harry Carney actually grew up together, and both became staples of the Ellington orchestra. Duke Ellington wrote several compositions to feature Hodges' musical personality, including "Prelude to a Kiss, "Isfahan," and "I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good)." Hodges was also a leading soloist of the ensemble, improvising masterfully melodic solos that acted as an extension of Ellington's compositions.

Watch Johnny Hodges perform Duke Ellington's "Isfahan":

Final Thoughts: 
It is amazing to realize the rich history of my city. Many great jazz musicians grew up in Boston, and many more have come to Boston to study at music schools such as Berklee. With pride, I am glad to experience Boston's jazz scene every day, and feel this connection to the past, present and future of Boston.


Roy Haynes at Scullers Jazz Club March 2015

Please visit my jazz poetry blog, "Without a Poem", where I improvise a new poem everyday! I also share jazz music and art there, so stay tuned! 

Please subscribe to Kind of Pink and Purple by email (top right of the page) and follow on other social media: TwitterTumblrInstagramGoogle PlusPinterest

Since September 2015, I have been the JazzBoston newsletter writer/ editor. Please sign up for the monthly newsletter to learn more about the Boston jazz scene. 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Grateful Jazz Songs

With Thanksgiving behind us, I wanted to share some jazz songs that make me feel grateful.

Grateful Jazz Songs

Ella Fitzgerald


"S'Wonderful" is from Gershwin's "Funny Face." A popping, smiling song, Fitzgerald's emotive articulations bring each line to life. A silly sounding lyric, "S'Wonderful" jumps with excitement with an upbeat, call and response big band accompaniment. 




Duke Ellington's "Sunset And The Mockingbird" is from his "Queen's Suite." Ellington wrote the "Queen's Suite" for Queen Elizabeth II who was presented with a single pressing of the recording which was not commercially issued during Ellington's lifetime. This soaring melody emotes reverence in such a crystalized form - you can't help but feel inspired and grateful while listening! 



Frank Sinatra had several hits with the Dorsey band, his first being the ballad “Polka Dots and Moonbeams." A floating song, "Polka Dots And Moonbeams" seems to see the world with rose colored glasses. Sinatra phrases each lyric as if he's skipping, with the top of lines spiraling upward with momentum. 




Louis Armstrong brings a nostalgic sense of gratitude to "When You're Smiling," by leaning on each word: "When you're smiling/ The whole world smiles with you." This sense is heightened by the drawn out bends and vibrato in each trumpet phrase. 



Miles Davis recorded "It Could Happen To You" on his album Relaxin' With The Miles Davis Quintet. The album includes saxophonist John Coltrane, pianist Red Garland, bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Philly Joe Jones. The lighthearted sound of muted trumpet and Coltrane's bright, straightforward sound combine for a sunny, joyful take that leaves you dancing. 


Final Thoughts: 
Every week I am so grateful to share jazz music through writing and playing. I am also very grateful for anyone that reads and learns from my posts! 

Miles Davis

Please visit my jazz poetry blog, "Without a Poem", where I improvise a new poem everyday! I also share jazz music and art there, so stay tuned! 

Please subscribe to Kind of Pink and Purple by email (top right of the page) and follow on other social media: TwitterTumblrInstagramGoogle PlusPinterest

Since September 2015, I have been the JazzBoston newsletter writer/ editor. Please sign up for the monthly newsletter to learn more about the Boston jazz scene. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Jazz Quotes 4

This week I wanted to go back to my series of Jazz Quotes to find inspiration.

Stan Getz


Jazz Quotes 4

1. Count Basie 
The real innovators did their innovating by just being themselves.
Listen to Count Basie play, "Corner Pocket":

2. Ray Brown  
Jazz is a complete lifestyle, something that you feel, something that you live.
Listen to Ray Brown play, "Sweet Georgia Brown":

3. John Coltrane 
I start in the middle of a sentence & move both directions at once.
Listen to John Coltrane play, "Lazy Bird":

4. Chick Corea 
Only play what you hear. If you don't hear anything, don't play anything.
Listen to Chick Corea play, "Windows":

5. Stan Getz 
I cannot play a lie. I have to believe in what I play or it won't come out.
Listen to Stan Getz play, "But Beautiful":

Final Thoughts
Hopefully the quotes inform the music and vice versa. However, more-so than music, the quotes can inform our mentality on life.

Please visit my jazz poetry blog, "Without a Poem", where I improvise a new poem everyday! I also share jazz music and art there, so stay tuned! 

Please subscribe to Kind of Pink and Purple by email (top right of the page) and follow on other social media: TwitterTumblrInstagramGoogle PlusPinterest

Since September 2015, I have been the JazzBoston newsletter writer/ editor. Please sign up for the monthly newsletter to learn more about the Boston jazz scene. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Jazz and Poetry

Jazz and poetry seem to be two sides of the same coin. In fact, in many cases jazz and poetry come together - through content, allusion or musicality.

This week I had the good fortune of seeing poet Robert Pinsky, pianist Laurence Hobgood and reedman Stan Strickland perform 'PoemJazz' at the Regattabar. Pinsky, former U.S. Poet Laureate, combines jazz and poetry seamlessly in the PoemJazz project, which gives the poet's speaking voice the same role as a horn in a jazz band. My favorite moment of the concert was when Pinsky recited a poem three times, and each came across differently due to the music and tone encompassing the performance.

Watch PoemJazz: "Street Music," by Robert Pinsky:

Langston Hughes

Inspired by PoemJazz, I wanted to share some poems that encapsulate jazz - either through text or musicality.

To learn more, read NPR's 5 Points Where Poetry Meets Jazz.

Jazz and Poetry


Langston Hughes was known as one of the most prominent and influential figures of the Harlem Renaissance, a rebirth movement of African American art during the 1920s. A deceptively simple poem, Hughes manages to touch on an entire culture within this poem. In fact, "Motto" was published in Hughes' Montage of a Dream Deferred, a book-length poem suite focusing on descriptions of Harlem. Words such cool, dig, and jive develop the speaking voice of "Motto," which speaks to the times, much like Hughes' famous "Harlem." In fact, Hughes' motto is to treat people with kindness in order for it to be reciprocated: "dig and be dug in return."

Watch Dr. Billy Taylor perform, "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free":


Another simple poem, the power of "We Real Cool" lies in its tone. Read "We Real Cool" aloud. The repetition of "we" gives a sense that the character is speaking on behalf of an entire generation of kids that "left school" and "lurk late." The poem comes alive in the following video from the Favorite Poem Project.



Ted Joans was an American poet, musician and painter. Joans' work intersects many art forms, and his poetry was heavily influenced by jazz rhythms. In fact, Joans coined the phrase “Bird Lives!” after Charlie Parker’s death. This particular poem speaks of jazz as not only a sort of religion, but as a sense of pride. Joans is known for his motto: "Jazz is my religion, and Surrealism is my point of view."

Go to 4:32 to see Ted Joans perform his poem:

4. "The Weary Blues" by Langston Hughes

Hughes' "The Weary Blues" tells the story of a pianist playing the blues in a bar. The speaker vividly guides us through the music using words such as, "drowsy," "rocking," and "sway." By describing the music, the reader realizes that the pianist is not only playing the blues - he is living the blues. 

Watch Langston Hughes perform, "The Weary Blues":
 


Poet Frank O'Hara was influenced by abstract expressionism and surrealism. These schools of thought blend into O'Hara's poems, creating an immediacy of tone that reads as a diary entry. "The Day Lady Died" is in fact an elegy for the jazz vocalist Billie Holiday. Going through mundane details of his day, O'Hara ends the poem with a flashback to when he saw Billie Holiday at the Five Spot.

Listen to Billie Holiday sing, "The Very Thought Of You":

Final Thoughts: 
The influence of seeing PoemJazz in 2014, with Robert Pinsky and pianist Vijay Iyer, inspired me to write a poem everyday on Without a Poem. After over a year, I still am on a quest to 'improvise' my poems. 

Please visit my jazz poetry blog, "Without a Poem", where I improvise a new poem everyday! I also share jazz music and art there, so stay tuned! 

Please subscribe to Kind of Pink and Purple by email (top right of the page) and follow on other social media: TwitterTumblrInstagramGoogle PlusPinterest

Since September 2015, I have been the JazzBoston newsletter writer/ editor. Please sign up for the monthly newsletter to learn more about the Boston jazz scene. 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Differently each time

This week I ran across a few inspirational quotes I wanted to share:
"Jazz is the only music in which the same note can be played night after night but differently each time." - Ornette Coleman
"Few are those that see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts." - Albert Einstein  
"Normality is a paved road: it's comfortable to walk on, but no flowers grow on it." - Vincent Van Gogh
In this spirit, I wanted to go back to talking about individuality by sharing different versions of the song "Stardust" by Hoagy Carmichael. Even though each musician is playing the same song, they each approach the same notes from a different perspective.

To learn more about Hoagy Carmichael, listen to this NPR Jazz Profile.

Nat King Cole


Differently each time

1. Louis Armstrong

One of my favorite recordings, Louis Armstrong approaches "Stardust" with a sense of urgency. In addition to his masterful trumpet playing, his vocal placement of each syllable gives the song an assertive authenticity. 

Listen to Louis Armstrong play, "Stardust":

2. John Coltrane

Saxophonist John Coltrane approaches "Stardust" with a mix of a straight tone and a warm sub-tone. His mixture of tone depending on the imagined lyric or the register of the saxophone allows for him to match the intent of the song: "Sometimes I wonder why I spend/ The lonely night dreaming of a song."

Listen to John Coltrane play, "Stardust":

3. Nat King Cole

An absolutely breathtaking version, Nat King Cole's rendition of "Stardust," with the arrangement by Nelson Riddle,  includes orchestral instruments such as violins and harp. This backdrop paints a picture of stars across the nighttime sky, adding to a dreamy atmosphere. 

Listen to Nat King Cole play, "Stardust":

4. Lionel Hampton

Vibraphonist Lionel Hampton popularized his instrument while playing with such contemporaries as Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman and Buddy Rich, among others. This particular version of "Stardust" has a mysterious quality, added by the sound of the vibraphone. 

Listen to Lionel Hampton play, "Stardust":

5. Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Fitzgerald's pure, powerful voice enunciates each lyric of "Stardust" with revery. Along with this sense of revery is Fitzgerald's ability to tell the story of the lyrics, which is virtually a love song about hearing a love song: "The melody haunts my reverie/ And I am once again with you."

Listen to Ella Fitzgerald play, "Stardust":


6. Dave Brubeck 

Pianist Dave Brubeck and saxophonist Paul Desmond compliment each other through the narrative of "Stardust." In this particular recording, Desmond's crisp, light alto saxophone sound seems to hover like a bird as Desmond provides support. Understated, this version tells the same "Stardust" story from a more withdrawn angle. 

Listen to Dave Brubeck play, "Stardust":

Final thoughts:
It is comforting to know within any song, form or structure we not only can be ourselves - we have had the permission since our own inception. 

Please visit my jazz poetry blog, "Without a Poem", where I improvise a new poem everyday! I also share jazz music and art there, so stay tuned! 

Please subscribe to Kind of Pink and Purple by email (top right of the page) and follow on other social media: TwitterTumblrInstagramGoogle PlusPinterest

Since September 2015, I have been the JazzBoston newsletter writer/ editor. Please sign up for the monthly newsletter to learn more about the Boston jazz scene. 


Sunday, November 1, 2015

Jazz Documentaries

This week I wanted to share some of my favorite jazz documentaries, as well as the lessons I learned from each of them in order to illustrate the humanity behind each musician.



Jazz Documentaries

1. Keep On Keepin' On

I don't think I have been impacted by a documentary as much as Keep On Keepin' On. The story of this movie does not dwell on trumpeter Clark Terrry's accomplishments, but rather illustrates his mentorship with young pianist Justin Kauflin. What touched me was the fact that even though Clark Terry was one of the true greats - he played with Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Quincy Jones and the NBC Tonight Show band, among others - he still took the time out of his day to mentor youth - from elementary school students to young adults like Justin. The movie really shows you the strength of Clark Terry's heart, and inspired me to strive to be a kinder person.

Watch the trailer to the movie:

One small fact that I wanted to share from the extras of the movie was that when Clark was on tour he would carry his trumpet, his suitcase and a pack of stationary to mail postcards to all his students to encourage them to continue with their dreams, saying "Keep on keeping on."

Watch Clark Terry play, "Stardust":

2. Erroll Garner: No One Can Hear You Read

Pianist Erroll Garner was a true genius. Largely self-taught, Garner's individual piano style has influenced many generations of audiences and musicians alike. What really surprised me was to learn of Garner's international status, and how he played on the Johnny Carson show multiple times, a feat for any musician. The movie also goes into the history of Garner's famous album, Concert By The Sea, initially a concert Garner played for servicemen. Above of all this, I think what I took away most was the complete joy Erroll Garner had for music - from the second he touches the piano any worries you have disappear due to his sheer magnetic charisma. 

Watch the trailer to the movie:

Listen to "Autumn Leaves" from Concert By The Sea:

3. Sarah Vaughan: The Divine One

Vocalist Sarah Vaughan is considered one of the greatest jazz vocalists of all time. From winning talent contests to international fame, this documentary tracks Vaughan's rise with a great blend of performance clips and input of such contemporaries as Billy Eckstine and Roy Haynes. What surprised me to learn was that Vaughan was known to be quite shy in person, contrasting her exuberant stage presence. What I took away from this documentary was the strong-willed demeanor Vaughan encapsulated in the way she carried herself. 

"The Shadow Of Your Smile" was featured in the movie:

4. Benny Goodman - Adventures in the Kingdom of Swing

Clarinetist-bandleader Benny Goodman is highly regarded as the "King of Swing." Along with this title, is the fact that he broke barriers in jazz: he led the first integrated band when he hired pianist Teddy Wilson, he was one of the first jazz musicians to play at Carnegie Hall and he commissioned classical pieces from Bartok and Copland, among others. Perhaps the most awe-inspiring thing to see was Benny Goodman's work ethic: Goodman was known to spend every waking moment playing the clarinet and refining his musicianship - even to the point of alienating people. 

Watch some clips from the movie:

5. Masters of American Music: Count Basie - Swingin' the Blues

Pianist-composer Count Basie led one of the great big bands of jazz employing all-star musicians including Lester Young, Herschel Evans, Freddie Green, Harry "Sweets" Edison and Jimmy Rushing, among others. What I liked about this documentary was the insight provided by the likes of Harry "Sweets" Edison, Jay McShann and Illinois Jacquet - by sharing their personal experience with Count Basie I felt closer to him as a person. I also took away Basie's truly great sense of rhythm and swing - it's easy to listen to people talk about Count Basie being great, but it's completely different to listen deeply to the music and figure out for yourself why he was great. 

Watch a clip from the movie:

Final Thoughts:
Documentaries are a great way to simultaneously learn history, sit down and relax. Moreover, they help you feel closer to the musicians of the music by realizing the full scope of their lives - from the ups and downs of their careers to learning about their personal lives and hobbies. All in all, documentaries illustrate the humanity behind artists.



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What is your favorite jazz documentary?