Friday, July 31, 2015

The Newport Suite - Newport Jazz Day 1

This is my fifth year of going to the Newport Jazz Festival. The first show I saw at the Newport Jazz Festival was the Wynton Marsalis Qunitet at the Newport International Tennis Hall of Fame. I don't think I had ever been so entranced by a concert up to that point. Being able to witness music at such a high level really influenced me then and continues to influence me. In fact I still remember most of Wynton's set list - "All of Me", "What A Little Moonlight Can Do," and I can still almost hear that set in my head, and how they played those standards.

Jon Batiste

Today was an amazing first day at the 2015 Newport Jazz Festival. I had the good fortune to see the Ambrose Akinmusire Quartet, Matana Roberts' Coin Coin, Steve Lehman Octet, the Gerald Clayton Quintet with Ambrose Akinmusire, Ben Wendel, Joe Sanders & Justin Brown, Kneebody, the Christian McBride Trio with Christian Sands & Ulysses Owens Jr. at Fort Adams State Park as well as Jon Batiste & Stay Human and Chris Botti at the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

I wanted to share some photographs and music as well as my thoughts on today's 'Newport Suite.'

The Newport Suite - Newport Jazz Day 1

Ambrose Akinmusire Quartet

I have seen Ambrose on several occasions, including at the 2014 Beantown Jazz Festival. Ambrose is a completely original musician - his approach to improvisation, ensemble work and tone are quite different from trumpeters such as Dizzy Gillespie. However, while versed in tradition, Ambrose has created his own lush sound and an ensemble with thought provoking original compositions, such as "Roll Call For Those Absent."

Listen to Ambrose Akinmusire play, "Our Basement":

Matana Roberts' Coin Coin

Matana Roberts' set mixed repetitive, catchy figures with bold spoken word. In fact, Roberts' set featured one continuous song, "Mississippi Moonchile". As a fan of poetry and a poet myself, I especially appreciated the use of spoken word, as it becomes its own instrument and really shapes the line of where the music is heading directionally.

Watch Matana Roberts perform "Mississipi Moonchile":

The Steve Lehman Octet had a modern, edgy sound and unusual instrumentation, including a tuba. Lehman utilized electronics, and drones on his laptop in real time. This added electronic element brought his music to the present day while still being experimental and raw. During his set, Lehman honored his friend, alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, with "Rudresh-m", while highlighting his personal sound. 

Gerald Clayton Quintet

Gerald Clayton's set featured many of the musicians headlining that day, with Ambrose Akinmusire on trumpet (Ambrose Akinmusire Quartet) and Ben Wendel on tenor sax (Kneebody). This combination of up and coming talent created an exciting, vibrant atmosphere on the main Fort stage. Featuring tuneful original compositions, such as "A Light" and "Patience Patients", Clayton illustrated his skills as a bandleader while still leaving space for his sidemen to be themselves and stretch out. 

Watch Gerald Clayton perform, "Love":


Kneebody had a unique blend of sounds - from funk to rock to hip hop to jazz. Kneebody can be described as a groove-based music, something you can dance to or just bob your head to. Yet, while being groove-based, Kneebody's set list included many haunting melodies in songs such as "Cha Cha" and "The Blind". It is interesting to see how in a jazz festival how many different variations there are on what jazz sounds like so that everything sounds fresh and new.

Watch Kneebody:

Christian McBride Trio

The Christian McBride Trio blew me away in May, 2014 when they came to Scullers and again when I saw them in February. Seeing the progression of this band is truly awe inspiring. Their set at Newport highlighted not only their increased musicality, but their deep camaraderie from touring. This camaraderie came into play especially while improvising - their solos came across as jokes to each other, little musical phrases that would get the other musicians to respond back to them as if they were speaking. From their opening number "Fried Pies", I could tell this band had a new sound, even in the past six months.

Watch the Christian McBride Trio play, "Fried Pies":

Jon Batiste and Stay Human

Jon Batiste is an extraordinary musician and entertainer. His set list was broad, covering classic New Orleans music with "New Orleans Blues", his gorgeous touch on a solo piano "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" and the coherence of Stay Human with the sparkling new "Newport Suite" debuted at the festival. Batiste commands the audience's attention, even during a solo ballad, "Somewhere Over The Rainbow", I could have heard a pin drop. And I think this sort of laser focus of the audience stems from the fact that Batiste brings forth so much charisma that you can't help but return the enthusiasm.

Watch Jon Batiste and Stay Human play, "Believe in Love":

Chris Botti

Since 2015 is the 60th Anniversary of Miles Davis at the Newport Jazz Festival, Chris Botti honored him by playing many of Miles' classic songs such as "Flamenco Sketches" and "My Funny Valentine." Botti's trumpet tone was enthralling, capturing the classic Miles Davis sound with a harmon mute, or while showcasing pyrotechnics with incredibly high notes. Botti's true power was in his musical sensitivity and ability to blend in different musical scenarios. Gracious and giving, Botti showcases various special guests, such as violinist Lucia Micarelli, as well as each member of his band.

Watch Chris Botti play "Emmanuel":

Final Thoughts: 
The Newport Jazz Festival's diversity of music truly could have been a musical suite of its own. 
Chris Botti

Read about my adventures at the 2014 Newport Jazz FestivalDay 1Day 2Interview with Shelly Berg

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! Seeing the Jon Batiste and Stay Human inspired my poem, "Express yourself."

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

More experiences at the 2015 Newport Jazz Festival are forthcoming. 

Sunday, July 26, 2015


The Laszlo Gardony Sextet

This past weekend proved to be a true gemstone. I had the opportunity to go to two free local jazz festivals: the Hyde Park Jazz Festival and the Cambridge Jazz Festival. With the amazing talent I witnessed, I wanted to share some music to highlight the wide variety of jazz in the Boston area.

A weekend of live jazz music

The acts that I saw at the Hyde Park Jazz Festival included the John Funkhouser Quartet and the Fernando Brandao Quintet. 

The John Funkhouser Quartet

John Funkhouser is a jazz bassist and pianist that plays a variety of styles from jazz to Brazilian to funk to rock and blues. His set at the Hyde Park Jazz Festival included Thelonious Monk's "Little Rootie Tootie" as well as his own original compositions.

Listen to Thelonious Monk play, "Little Rootie Tootie":

A standout of the set was his closer, the groove-based "Rhinoceros," which seemed to imitate the sound of a rhino stomping on the ground with rhythmic hits and a classic Rhodes keyboard sound. 

Listen to John Funkhouser play, "Leda":

The Fernando Brandao Quintet

Fernando Brandao is a jazz and classical flutist from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. His music consisted of a wide variety of music from South America, including sambas, bossa novas and churros. Brandao's set included many originals that he wrote for members of his family, which created a nice narrative to the concert.

Listen to Stan Getz play "Desafinado", a bossa nova composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim:

It was exciting to see and hear Brandao play a wide variety of different flutes, from the standard flute to the alto flute and even the bass flute. The use of these different flutes created a lush, singing quality to complement each specific song. 

Listen to Fernando Brandao play, "Awake":

The acts that I saw at the Cambridge Jazz Festival included Eguie Castrillo, Joanne Brackeen, Laszlo Gardony Sextet and the Ron Savage Trio Featuring Nnenna Freelon. 

Eguie Castrillo

Eguie Castrillo is a Latin jazz percussionist from Puerto Rico. A great timbales player, Eguie melds high energy mambos and salsas together to create a powerful and fresh take on the Latin American songbook.

Watch Eguie Castrillo play, "Descarga":

Joanne Brackeen

Joanne Brackeen is a jazz pianist and composer. Well known as the first woman to play with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, Brackeen showcased her personal style and vibrant compositions in a solo concert. Listen to Joanne Brackeen on NPR's Piano Jazz.

Listen to Joanne Brackeen play,  "Zapatos EspaƱoles":

The Laszlo Gardony Sextet

Laszlo Gardony is jazz pianist originally from Hungary. Gardony's performance at the Cambridge Jazz Festival included music from his latest album "Life In Real Time," which features his sextet. Gardony's original compositions and arrangements from this album are not only energetic, tuneful and toe-tapping; they are full of rhythmic vitality and soul. 

Listen to "Bourbon Street Boogie" from Laszlo's latest album "Life In Real Time":

The Ron Savage Trio Featuring Nnenna Freelon

Ron Savage is a jazz drummer and percussionist as well as the co-founder of the Cambridge Jazz Festival. Nnenna Freelon is a jazz vocalist, composer, and producer hailing from Cambridge. Together, Savage and Freelon created a bluesy, tuneful set with standards to celebrate the centennial of Billie Holiday. 

Listen to Ron Savage play, "It's Easy To Remember":

From "All Of Me" to "What A Little Moonlight Can Do," Savage and Freelon paid tribute to Lady Day in an original way. The musicians captured the essence of the Billie Holiday even while playing her songbook in a completely different style, such as arranging her songs in a reggae feel. 

Listen to Nneenna Freelon play, "Round Midnight":

Final Thoughts: 
Eguie Castrillo
I wanted to share music from these musicians because I think there is this misconception that going to see live music is expensive. Live music can be seen on a budget or even free: if you live in Massachusetts  MassJazz and JazzBoston both have listings of great local and free events. Also, Bostix lists discounts for Boston area concerts. Hearing jazz live is what makes the music shine, like a true gemstone.

As a Newport Jazz Festival Student Ambassador, I am very excited for this year's festival (which is next weekend). Make sure you take advantage of the $20 student tickets. WGBO is also offering busses to and from Berklee to the festival for anyone to make travel simple. The schedule for all three days is available online as well as on the Newport Jazz app. No matter what level of jazz fan you are, old or new, this is a beautiful way to spend the summer. Read about my adventures at the 2014 Newport Jazz FestivalDay 1Day 2Interview with Shelly Berg

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! Seeing the Laszlo Gardony Sextet inspired my poem, "Summertime."

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

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Judging music by its style: my 100th post

Recently I came across this quote from Kenny Werner: "Judging a music by its style is like judging a person by their clothes."

I couldn't think of a quote to more aptly describe what I want my writing to do: demystify the exterior of jazz by opening up the inner workings.

Marian McPartland

Judging music by its style: my 100th post

For my 100th post I wanted to share some inspiration from a variety of jazz musicians.

1. Marian McPartland

Recently I have been listening to the jazz podcast Piano Jazz from NPR with host Marian McPartland. This podcast brings together acclaimed artists to share music and memories.

Watch pianist Marian McPartland play, "Things Ain't What They Used To Be":

An acclaimed pianist in her own right, McPartland initially struggled to make a name for herself in New York. One critic suggested that she had three things going against her: she was British, she was white and she was a woman. What I love about Marian is her touch on the piano, how every note sounds crystal clear. 

Watch Marian McPartland, "A Life Of Jazz":

2. Michael Petrucciani

One day, I happened upon a Piano Jazz about Michel Petrucciani. He was born with the genetic disease osteogenesis imperfecta, making him three feet tall, yet his hands were unaffected by his disease. With his extraordinary talent he is one of the greatest French jazz pianists of all time. When I heard Petrucciani's playing it felt like this sound hit me across the face: his individuality and energy captured me. His playing is fearless.

Watch Petrucciani play, "Caravan":

Jazz legend, saxophonist Wayne Shorter summed up Michel Petrucciani's character and style in this quote:
There’s a lot of people walking around, full-grown and so-called normal—they have everything that they were born with at the right leg length, arm length, and stuff like that. They’re symmetrical in every way, but they live their lives like they are armless, legless, brainless, and they live their life with blame. I never heard Michel complain about anything. Michel didn’t look in the mirror and complain about what he saw. Michel was a great musician—a great musician—and great, ultimately, because he was a great human being because he had the ability to feel and give to others of that feeling, and he gave to others through his music.
Watch Michael Petrucciani play, "Take The A Train":

3. Hazel Scott

Another Piano Jazz I was blown away from was with Hazel Scott. A child prodigy that was given scholarships at age eight to study at Juilliard, Hazel was a jazz and classical pianist that broke barriers to became the first colored woman to have her own TV show, The Hazel Scott Show.

Watch Hazel Scott play, "Foggy Day":

Hazel was also one of the first black entertainers to refuse to play before segregated audiences. Written in all her contracts was a standing clause that required forfeiture if there was a dividing line between the races: “Why would anyone come to hear me...and refuse to sit beside someone just like me?”. Read more about Hazel here

Watch Hazel Scott perform Liszt:

4. Billy Strayhorn

Billy Strayhorn worked with Duke Ellington and together they wrote some of the most famous jazz standards such as "Take The A Train", "Lush Life", "Chelsea Bridge". He was openly gay in a highly homophobic time, and was a civil rights activist. He stayed out of much of the spotlight due to his shy demeanor, but also because of fear of being persecuted. Nonetheless, his role as a composer has left an unforgettable impact and a brilliant songbook.

Listen to Billy Strayhorn playing, "Lush Life":

Duke Ellington described Strayhorn as, "My right arm, my left arm, all the eyes in the back of my head, my brain waves in his head, and his in mine."

Listen to Billy Strayhorn play, "Chelsea Bridge":

5. Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong came from humble beginnings in New Orleans. Working from a young age to support his family, he first taught himself how to play cornet. Mentored by Joe "King" Oliver, Louis began touring the world and made the famous recordings, his "Hot Five" and "Hot Seven."

Watch Wynton Marsalis talk about the impact of Louis Armstrong:

What makes Louis so astounding is that he not only changed and developed music, but in a segregated time he got the whole world to love him. Appearing in movies, and selling out concerts - he was simply an international star. Through music and the sheer joy of his personality he conquered barriers. Learn more about Armstrong here.

Listen to Louis Armstrong play, "West End Blues":

Listen to Louis Armstrong play, "Stardust":

Final Thoughts: 
I wanted to share all of these musicians because between any boundary, real or imagined, social, political or personal, there is the inner freedom to overcome anything put in front of us.

Louis Armstrong

I started Kind of Pink and Purple in high school. Now I am going to be a sophomore at Berklee College of Music. This signifies my 100th post on this platform, and I wanted to thank anyone and everyone that has ever read my writing. Though I do write reviews, I write not as a critic, but as someone that shares jazz to let others make their own opinion. Because, after all, judging music by its style is just like judging people by their clothes.

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! 

As a Newport Jazz Festival Student Ambassador, I am very excited for this year's festival. Make sure you take advantage of the $20 student tickets. WGBO is also offering busses to and from Berklee to the festival for anyone to make travel simple. The schedule for all three days is available online as well as on the Newport Jazz app. No matter what level of jazz fan you are, old or new, this is a beautiful way to spend the summer. 

Please subscribe to Kind of Pink and Purple and follow on other social media: TwitterTumblrInstagramGoogle PlusPinterest

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Humorous jazz

A year ago I had the immense pleasure of seeing Paquito D'Rivera at the Regattabar in Cambridge. This year, once again, I was amazed by this clarinetist/ saxophonist/ bandleader when he came back to Regattabar. Paquito played songs off of his album "Jazz Meets The Classics" and brought everyone to tears with his humor.

Mark Walker and Paquito D'Rivera (L to R)

Humorous jazz

Much like last year, Paquito reinterpreted classic songs, such as "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" from Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker Suite" and the "Mozart Clarinet Concerto". These classical songs and familiar melodies serve as not only a great jazz arrangement, but as a base for vibrant improvisation. Listen to this episode of "Piano Jazz" to learn more about Paquito.

Listen to an orchestra playing, "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy":

Paquito's superior musicianship complements his masterful humor. Paquito coyly claimed that Mozart was from New Orleans and Yo Yo Ma was actually Yo Yo Martinez to prove his point that classical music can flow with Latin jazz. He got the audience erupting in laughter with these jokes, creating a light and cheery atmosphere.

Listen to Duke Ellington's arrangement of "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy":

Musically, Paquito's solos were virtuosic, logical and easy for the ear to follow from the melody. Joyful and ecstatic, his clean, tuneful lines not only complemented the full band, but served as the lead in a constant interplay between the musicians. Spontaneous throughout the entire song, Paquito would stop and make clever comments to the audience such as "I'm reading from the original score" when he played a bluesy line over the "Mozart Clarinet Concerto". 
Paquito D'Rivera entertaining the audience

Watch Paquito perform from, "Jazz Meets the Classics":

Paquito no doubt learned much of his humor from his mentor, Dizzy Gillespie. Dizzy not only brought in the age of bebop and popularized Afro-Cuban jazz, but he was known as a expert entertainer. His humor is carried on by the musicians he taught, as well as the Dizzy Gillespie All-Stars, which my dad wrote a guest-blog about last November.

Watch Dizzy Gillespie 'introduce the musicians' in his band with the song "Mmm Hmm":

Concerts are not only a musical experience, they are entertainment and an escape from the daily grind. Joking with people, making them laugh, while also capturing joy and freedom in the music makes for an unforgettable experience. 

Watch Paquito perform with Dizzy in "Seresta-Samba for Carmen":

Final Thoughts:
My sketch of Paquito D'Rivera
Classics or modern, old or new, I think humor is what makes jazz connect with you. 

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! This week inspired my poem, "When I hear a song".

With the summer here make sure you take advantage of great jazz festivals including the Newport Jazz Festival with $20 student tickets. WGBO is also offering busses to and from Berklee to the festival for anyone to make travel simple. 

Please follow Kind of Pink and Purple on other social media: TwitterTumblrInstagramGoogle PlusPinterest

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Record collection

I am lucky to say my family has a record collection of 78s. I wanted to share some of my favorite songs from my record collection, as well as my thoughts on analog sound. 

My record collection consists of many different jazz artists including Woody Hermann, Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Art Tatum, Harry James, Louis Armstrong, Johnny Hodges, Stan Getz, Charlie Parker, Count Basie and more.

Record collection

Listening to analog versus digital music has its definite differences. These records were recorded using different technologies: the music often was recorded using one take, recorded directly onto a master recording, and oftentimes was recorded using one 'mono' microphone. 78s also have one song per side, and each side is about 3 to 5 minutes due to recording technology.

'Mixing' was normally done by physically moving musicians to different parts of the room, and mistakes couldn't be edited out. In fact, that sort of audio editing couldn't occur until the invention of 'tape', where the studio monitors had to actually slice and piece the tape together. Now everything is done digitally where musicians can make very nuanced changes to the music without destroying the original recording.

Listen to Charlie Parker playing, "Thriving From a Riff":

Last semester at college I took an acoustics class. The teacher of the class encouraged us more than anything to seek out our own acoustical experiences such as observing the sound in halls and churches, mixing and panning music to hear space, and hearing digital versus analog recordings. At school I listened to different bit levels to discern which recording was of the best quality. As a result, listening to these records has made me really reflect on audio quality.

Listen to Louis Armstrong playing, "Maybe It's Because":

Many people believe that analog sound is better than digital. I am still unsure whether or not this is true. I think the sound of these records is 'better' in many ways: the sound is warm, full, rich, exciting. I can hear a lot of depth in the recording. However, some of my old records have a 'hiss' in the sound from being played too many times. Digital audio is definitely 'cleaner' in many senses, since it cannot be worn down or broken. Digital audio can be easily stored, shared, produced, mixed, etc. Yet, there is a charm of analog music being raw and historic.

Listen to Art Tatum playing, "I Got A Right To Sing The Blues":

I think the main difference between the listening experience of analog versus digital music is that I pay much more attention to the sound of my records. You are almost forced to really focus due to the fact that you have to physically change sides of the record when the song is done. I also find myself more interested in the dates, history, and sidemen on each record since it is physically displayed on the record. '1938' becomes much more than a year - it becomes a setting for the music as I start to think about the technologies, politics, and social norms of the time.

Listen to Benny Goodman playing, "I Got Rhythm":

My records were mostly obtained on eBay. People sell huge boxes of records for basically a quarter each. My dad would order these giant boxes, oftentimes not even knowing which jazz artists we would be getting. It was a huge surprise to find a Norman Granz, "Jazz at the Philharmonic" record with Lester Young, Hank Jones, and Charlie Parker among others! 

Final Thoughts: 
It's an indescribable feeling to be able to spend time looking through 'history' and listening to songs with a sort of relaxed focus. I feel that spending time with my family's record collection has given me a greater appreciation of not only my favorite jazz musicians, but also recording technology. It is amazing how far music has come!

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!

With the summer here make sure you take advantage of great jazz festivals including the Newport Jazz Festival with $20 student tickets and the Detroit Jazz Festival! Also, if you are in Massachusetts, take advantage of the local jazz festivals.

Do you have a favorite record?