Sunday, February 22, 2015

A jazz book club - Miles

Recently I finished reading Miles Davis's autobiography, "Miles". Building off of my previous 'jazz book club' posts on Chet Baker, Herbie Hancock, and Sidney Bechet, I wanted to share some thoughts about the book as well as some music by Miles Davis.

To learn more about Miles Davis read this short PBS biography. Also listen to these NPR Jazz Profiles, "Miles Davis 'Kind of Blue'" and "Miles' Styles".

A jazz book club - Miles

Miles Davis's book lives in Miles Davis's attitude - blunt, musical, but humorous. I recommend this book to not only jazz fans, but to anyone that is creative. Miles Davis created and revolutionized music many times, and hearing some of his thoughts could be of some inspiration to anyone. (The language in the book is definitely for older readers though.)

Listen to Miles Davis play with Charlie Parker in "Bird of Paradise": 

I think Miles Davis is one of those jazz musicians, just like Charlie Parker, that tends to make people want to play jazz. His solos are melodic, and he leaves a lot of space in his music. He's one of the first names you learn, and his discography is immense. 

Listen to Miles Davis with Sonny Rollins in "Oleo":

Miles Davis is known for being a great bandleader. Many of his sidemen went on to being their own influential bandleaders. His 'first great quintet' included Philly Joe Jones on drums, Red Garland on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, and John Coltrane on tenor saxophone. The quintet has some of my favorite albums, "Cookin'", "Steamin'", "Workin'", and "Relaxin'". 

Listen to the 'first great quintet' play "Airegin" from "Cookin'":

Listen to "I Could Write a Book" from "Relaxin'":

One of the most sold jazz albums of all time is "Kind of Blue" by Miles Davis. This album features Jimmy Cobb on drums, Bill Evans and Wynton Kelley on piano, Cannonball Adderley on alto saxophone, John Coltrane on tenor saxophone, and Paul Chambers on bass. "So What" is a song taught to many beginning improvisers because of its 'modal' chord structure. In "Miles", Miles talked about how this group was extremely special to him, and how he loved its sound. 

Listen to Miles Davis's "So What" from "Kind of Blue":

"Blue in Green" inspired me to start this blog:

I enjoy how Miles picked many different songs throughout his career that have now become standards. Standards are songs a sort of "songbook" for jazz musicians, with hundreds of songs part of the 'repertoire' to know.

Miles Davis collaborated with composer and arranger Gil Evans, and considered him one of his closest friends throughout his life. His work with Gil Evans is often considered "Third Stream", because it blended classical music and jazz.

Listen to "Boplicity" from "Birth of the Cool":

Listen to "Concierto De Aranjuez " from "Sketches of Spain": 

Miles Davis went on to form his 'second great quintet' which included Tony Williams on drums, Herbie Hancock on piano and keyboard, Ron Carter on bass, and Wayne Shorter on saxophone. I have always loved this group because of the intense sound. In addition to reading "Miles", I recommend reading "Possibilities" by Herbie Hancock. Herbie's excited words describe the camaraderie of the group well.

Listen to the 'second great quintet' play "Nefertiti":

Miles Davis was an innovator to electric music, and experimented with keyboards, electric guitars, and different effects. "Bitches Brew" was Miles Davis's first 'gold album', and blended jazz and rock music. "Jazz fusion" is when a musician combines jazz with other genres such as rock.

Listen to Miles Davis's "Bitches Brew":

Miles Davis went into reclusion during a few years of his life, and was not seen by the public for years. In "Miles" he admits he didn't even pick up the trumpet during this period of his life. "The Man with the Horn" was his first album out of reclusion and fused rock, pop, funk, and jazz.

Listen to "The Man with the Horn":

"Doo-Bop" was Miles's last studio album. This album was released after Davis died, but featured Miles Davis's interest in hip-hop music. It's interesting to hear how music history has taken so many of the sounds and ideas from Miles Davis. Right now, in 2015, hip-hop jazz is being played by people like Robert Glasper.

Listen to "The Doo-Bop Song":

Miles Davis had many live albums in addition to these studio albums. These live albums really pay testament to the fact that Miles's bands were always spontaneous and truly improvising. Miles made many live recordings, which resulted in a massive amount of live albums. 

Listen to "The Mask" from "Live at the Fillmore East":

Listen to "If I Were A Bell" from "Live at the Plugged Nickel":

Miles Davis was also an artist, and later in life painted quite a few paintings. Last year I read "Miles Davis the Collected Artwork" and admired his modernistic paintings. I actually saw some of his artwork displayed at the Montreal Jazz Festival last year. 

Miles Davis cites Clark Terry as a musical mentor to him. Clark Terry recently passed away, and was himself a prolific trumpeter. To learn more about Clark Terry, read this New York Times article. To hear his music, listen to this NPR podcast

Final Thoughts:
My sketch of Miles Davis

Leave aside his lifestyle, his life choices, his personality, his mistakes - whatever you may hold against him - Miles was truly an innovator. His work continues to inspire all of us, and we are lucky he left so much with us. Miles's music truly makes us all smile.

Listen to "Circle" from "Miles Smiles":

The blog cannot fit everything Miles ever created, but I urge you to check out his discography and discover some new music.  

As always, please read my jazz poetry blog, "Without a Poem", where I improvise a new poem everyday. I also have a drawing and song of the day, so stay updated! Miles inspired my poem, "Circle" and Clark Terry inspired my poem, "Mumbles" this week. 

What are some of your favorite Miles Davis albums? 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Jazz is a party

My sketch of Fats Waller
This past week I was reminded that jazz music is party music. I went to a New England Conservatory concert featuring student performances of Fats Waller music. The groups were directed by Jason Moran, and even played some of Moran's arrangements from his own project, "Fats Waller Dance Party".

I have written about Fats Waller a few times on my previous posts, "Rediscovering Jazz Artists" and "A Concert Experience- Jason Moran 'Fats Waller Dance Party'". At the NEC concert, everything started out as a normal jazz concert. Yet, as the last song "Ain't Misbehavin" was played, everyone got up and started dancing!

Listen to Fats Waller play, "Ain't Misbehavin'":

To learn more about Jason Moran's 'Fats Waller Dance Party' project, read this NPR article, "Jason Moran Takes Fats Waller Back To The Club".

To learn more about stride piano, read this NPR article, "Stride Piano: Bottom-End Jazz" and this PBS biography. Also listen to this NPR podcast, "The Genius of Fats Waller".

Jazz is a party

Jazz used to  be played at "rent parties". Tenants would hire musicians to play at a social occasion and would collect money to go towards paying their rent. This type of informal, social music is where a lot of stride piano or boogie woogie music was played. Stride piano is a type of piano playing characterized by a constantly moving and leaping left hand - the left hand would 'stride' between different octaves of the piano. 

Listen to Fats Waller play stride piano with James P. Johnson here

Some notable stride pianists were James P. Johnson, Willie 'The Lion' Smith, and Fats Waller. These pianists brought a lot of technical skill to their playing, but also kept a lot of humor within their music. One listen to the crazy Fats Waller reminds us all to laugh at life. Because stride musicians played at parties, people would dance to this music making the music bouncy and lively. 

Listen to Willie 'The Lion' Smith play "Echoes of Sping/ Tea for Two": 

My sketch of Erroll Garner
Listen to Eroll Garner play, "Honeysuckle Rose": 

My sketch of James P. Johnson

Listen to James P. Johnson play, "Carolina Shout":

Listen to Fats Waller playing "'Taint Nobody's Business If I Do":

Final Thoughts: 
Jason Moran playing piano
I don't really know if it's a bad thing per se if jazz audiences sit down. Yet, I do know some of my favorite memories with my friends have been going out and dancing. So a mix of these two worlds - my passion for jazz and my joy from dancing - really made my week brighter.

Please visit my jazz poetry blog, "Without a Poem" where I improvise a new poem everyday. I also have a drawing and song of the day, so stay updated! This week of stride piano inspired my haiku, "Honey".

Sunday, February 8, 2015

A picture is a poem...

This past week I went to see Katie Thiroux on at Berklee's Cafe 939 on Wednesday; as well as a double bill at Sanders Theater on Friday - Cécile McLorin Salvant and the Christian McBride Trio.

A quote that I recently came across struck me: "A picture is a poem without words".  Building off of my previous post, "A picture is worth..." I wanted to share pictures, music, and ideas from this week of music. I hope these pictures can bring poetry out in a silent way.

A picture is a poem...

Katie Thiroux performed at Berklee's Cafe 939 as part of a WBGO Concert Broadcast of The Checkout. The event was also a CD release concert for her new album, "Introducing Katie Thiroux". Her group includes Roger Neumann on tenor saxophone, Graham Dechter on guitar, Matt Witek on drums, and Thiroux on bass and vocals.

Katie Thiroux
You can watch the entire show here:

Thiroux talked about her love of the bassist Ray Brown and Anita O'Day during the concert. Thiroux even said that Lionel Hampton's silly song, "Rag Mop" inspired her to play jazz. 

Roger Neumann and Matt Witek (L to R)
Thiroux's mixture of standards and original compositions brought life to the set list. In addition, Thiroux changed instrumentation between songs; she played solos, duos, trios, and quartets. Her personal mixture of singing while playing bass created a call and response between each phrase of the melody. A standout of the concert was an original composition, "Ray's Kicks", which was inspired by a pair of Ray Brown's shoes that she owns.

Listen to Ray Brown play, "Things Ain't What They Used To Be":

Katie Thiroux and Graham Dechter

The collaboration between Thiroux and Neumann created a fresh balance of sound. Neumann's tone was light and airy, which blended well with Thiroux's more subdued vocals. 

Roger Neumann

Cécile McLorin Salvant is a very exciting young vocalist. She performed with her group including Aaron Diehl on piano, Rodney Whitaker on bass, Herlin Riley on drums, and Cécile on vocals. I enjoyed her unique, hilarious interpretations of songs. My favorite interpretation she did was the Cinderella song, "What's the Matter with the Man?", which is from the perspective of the ugly stepsisters. Cécile brings a lot of character to the lyrics, and she made me burst out laughing many times from this!

My sketch of Cécile McLorin Salvant

Listen to Cécile McLorin Salvant perform, "I Didn't Know What Time it Was":

I saw the Christian McBride Trio last May at Scullers, and was absolutely floored by the energy, camaraderie, and enthusiasm of the group. This time even exceeded my high expectations from last year! McBride's group included Christian Sands on piano, Ulysses Owens Jr. on drums, and McBride on bass. MrBride picked diverse songs, mixing soul from Michael Jackson's "The Lady in My Life",  to "Down By the Riverside", to the theme song from "Carwash". I will always think of McBride as one of the best bandleaders - his mixture of wit, humor, and passion for music draws the audience in.

My sketch of the Christian McBride Trio

I have seen McBride play with his band "The Inside Straight", with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, and with his trio - no matter what group McBride plays with he brings enough energy to power an entire city!

Listen to the Christian McBride Trio perform, "East of the Sun":

Final Thoughts: 
A picture can truly create a poem! All photographs were taken by Paul Burega and all drawings were done by me. 

Please visit my jazz poetry blog, "Without a Poem" where I improvise a new poem everyday. I also have a song and drawing of the day, so stay up to date! This week inspired me to write my poem, "Beat". 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Jazz at home

Justin Robinson and Roy Hargrove (L to R)
This past weekend I was fortunate enough to go to Scullers Jazz Club to see the Roy Hargrove Quintet. With the blizzard and awful weather this week going out was difficult for everyone. Even without a blizzard, I know it is not always easy to go out and hear live music because of timing, transportation, cost, etc. This weather made me inspired to share some resources to listen and learn about jazz even on a snow day.

Watch Roy Hargrove play, "Strasbourg Saint Denis":

Jazz at home

Jazz at Lincoln Center is a New York City jazz venue dedicated to spreading the history and joy of jazz. The venue has different concerts from the large Rose Hall to the intimate Dizzy's Club Coca Cola. If you sign up to Jazz at Lincoln Center on livestream you can see the upcoming events, which include live full length concerts. Recently I have watched Pharoah Sanders; Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra's tribute to Duke, Dizzy, Trane, and Mingus; Our Point of View; Walter Blanding: Tick Tock; Christian Sands Trio; and more all in the comfort of my own home! 

Seeing Pharoah Sanders live at Blue Note Jazz Club

On the livecast Pharoah Sanders performed, "The Creator has a Master Plan": 

My sketch of Pharoah Sanders

2. NPR

I have mentioned NPR on my Jazz Apps and Jazz Podcasts posts. "Jazz Profiles" showcases the legends and legacy of jazz. "Live in Concert" videos present an entire concert and "Piano Jazz" is a radio show that showcases artist's upcoming performances, as well as thoughts and memories about their lives. Some concerts on NPR are radio broadcasts, and some are videos. Watch Wayne Shorter perform live at Blue Note at 75. Listen to Jon Baptiste and Stay Human perform live at the Newport Jazz Festival and Brian Blade and the Fellowship perform live at the Village Vanguard

Watching Brain Blade and the Fellowship at the 2014 Newport Jazz Festival

3. Jazz on Youtube

This may seem obvious, but there are a lot of great channels on Youtube that have jazz content. Jazz at Lincoln Center  has a great Youtube channel that features an assortment of concert clips, recordings, and behind the scenes material. Jazz at Lincoln Center's Jazz Academy is another great resource that focuses on educational content.  

Listen to Cécile McLorin Salvant singing "Poor Butterfly":

Watch the Jazz Academy video on "How to Learn a Song":

You can also watch interviews of jazz musicians on "Voice of America". There are many great interviews with Terence Blanchard, Fred Hersch, and Joshua Redman. Watch this interview with Joshua Redman

4. Live Albums

If you don't have to time to sit down and watch a livecast, concert, or an educational video, listening to a live jazz album may be right for you! Many jazz musicians have recorded live albums, and I really enjoy listening to live albums because you can hear everything happening in real time. Plus, you can listen to live albums while doing schoolwork, chores, or just hanging around and still feel like you are 'there' with the artist. 

Listen to Miles Davis's "Live at the Plugged Nickel":

Listen to Keith Jarrett's live recording, "The Koln Concert":

5. Online Jazz Education 

My sketch of Chick Corea 
In addition to listening to jazz in a variety of ways, you can learn about jazz through online classes. Edx has a great class called "Jazz Appreciation" that is currently running and can be audited for free. This course would be great for anybody that wants to learn about jazz figures, history, and key recordings to make listening more enjoyable. I have went on to this class, and it looks great for beginners in jazz. 

Another class that I look forward to is Berklee College of Music's "Jazz Improvisation" class taught by Gary Burton which can be audited for free. This course is great for anyone that wants to learn how to improvise, through technical aspects such as scales to more abstract concepts such as thinking of improvisation as a conversation. No doubt Gary Burton will be a great teacher! 

Also, Chick Corea has recently started a series of musical workshops for musicians. I have seen a few Google Hangout Q&A's, and they all have superb advice. Once he even brought in Stanley Clarke for an online masterclass. He is now selling an educational DVD with over nine hours of material to watch on varying topics including harmony, improvisation, piano technique, and more. 

Listen to Gary Burton and Chick Corea play "Chega de Saudade":

Meeting Gary Burton at the 2014 Newport Jazz Festival

Final thoughts: 
My sketch of Roy Hargrove
Even with all the bad weather this time of year, we can all still take advantage of many opportunities. I think live jazz is extremely exciting, because it is all happening now. Even on a snow day we can all feel like we are transported somewhere else with jazz! 

Please visit my jazz poetry blog, "Without a Poem" where I improvise a new poem everyday. I also have a song and drawing of the day, so stay tuned!