Sunday, August 30, 2015

Doodlin' all day

This past week I had the great fortune of seeing Manhattan Transfer at Scullers Jazz Club. A vocal jazz group, Manhattan Transfer utilizes vocalese, which is a style of jazz singing that places words to melodies that were originally part of an all-instrumental composition or improvisation.

To understand vocalese, listen to both versions of "Moody's Mood For Love" below. The first one is James Moody on saxophone. He plays "I'm In The Mood For Love" then improvises. Notice in the second version vocalist Eddie Jefferson takes Moody's improvised solo and adds his own lyrics.

Listen to James Moody play, "Moody's Mood For Love":

Listen to Eddie Jefferson's vocalese to "Moody's Mood For Love":

Inspired from the concert, I wanted to showcase vocalese by sharing some of the songs Manhattan Transfer performed along with the original instrumental versions for a 'before and after.'

Doodlin' all day
Jazz Vocalese

1. Moten Swing

Pianist-bandleader Bennie Moten wrote "Moten Swing" for his Kansas City Orchestra. This band was a regional, blues-based orchestra that included Count Basie on piano. "Moten's Swing" helped to develop the riffing style that would come to define many big bands of its day, and became a classic in Basie's own band later on.

Listen to Count Basie perform, "Moten Swing":

With the vocalese added, Manhattan Transfer was able to sing "Moten Swing" with lyrics. I enjoyed how they imitated each instrument with the tonal quality of the vocal. The group even pretended to hold a trumpet mute while singing the original trumpet part. 

Listen to Manhattan Transfer sing, "Moten Swing":

2. Doodlin'

Pianist-bandleader Horace Silver was known for his bluesy, gospel-based songs and his distinct hard bop sound. "Doodlin" was originally released on the 1956 album Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers, which included Art Blakey on drums.

Listen to Horace Silve play, "Doodlin":

Some of the pioneers of vocalese were jazz vocalists Dave Lambert, Jon Hendricks and Annie Ross. They are well known for their 1957 album Sing a Song of Basie, where they set lyrics to Basie repertoire.

Watch Lambert, Hendricks and Ross sing, "Doodlin":

3. Corner Pocket

"Corner Pocket" was written by Count Basie's guitarist, Freddie Green, for the album April In Paris. Freddie Green is known for his rhythmic guitar playing, defining the beat with each chord.

Watch Count Basie perform, "Corner Pocket":

In the vocalese version of "Corner Pocket," Manhattan Transfer rearranged the original to fit a vocal ensemble. In their Scullers performance, the group captured the buoyant energy of the Basie band with heavy swing and bends in the lyrics to mimic a horn. 

Watch Manhattan Transfer sing, "Corner Pocket":

4. Joy Spring

"Joy Spring" was written by trumpeter Clifford Brown for the definitive Clifford Brown & Max Roach, also featuring drummer Max Roach. Clifford Brown is widely considered one of the great all-time trumpeters, leaving a legendary body of work even though he passed away from a car accident at the age of 25.

Listen to Clifford Brown and Max Roach play, "Joy Spring":

Vocalese can mimic classic bebop and hard bop songs by allowing the vocalist to speed through lines with lightening fast diction. It was interesting to hear the added level of a lyric to Brown's solo.

Watch Manhattan Transfer sing, "Joy Spring":

5. Birdland

"Birdland" was written by keyboardist Joe Zawinul for the jazz fusion band Weather Report for their album Heavy Weather. "Birdland" serves as a tribute to the New York City jazz club Birdland, which was named after Charlie Parker's nickname, Bird.

Listen to the Weather Report play, "Birdland":

Manhattan Transfer's version of "Birdland" was high spirited, danceable and electric. Each member of the group has amazing solo abilities, projecting their voice as a horn while still blending as an ensemble with balance and control. 

Watch Manhattan Transfer sing, "Birdland":

Final Thoughts: 
Hearing the original song and the vocalese helps show the transformation. And what a transformation a well-formed lyric can do! 

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, "Joy Spring."

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I am excited to be a journalist for this year's Detroit Jazz Festival. The world's largest free jazz festival, this year has an amazing lineup including Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band, Eddie Daniels, Carla Bley, Danilo Perez and Artist In Residence Pat Metheny. I highly encourage everyone to make the trip to Detroit to celebrate what's sure to be a marvelous Labor Day weekend! Read my preview of the festival here

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The sweetest sounds

I am excited to be a journalist for the 2015 Detroit Jazz Festival. Detroit is the world's largest free jazz festival presenting one hundred acts over the course of four days. 

Recently I watched a documentary on the great songwriter Richard Rodgers. Rodgers, along with lyricists Lorenz Hart  and Oscar Hammerstein II, composed many popular American songs for musicals, television and movies. Standards he composed include, "My Funny Valentine", "Blue Moon," "Where or When", "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning," "My Favorite Things", "It Might As Well Be Spring", among others.

What struck me from his large catalogue was the song "The Sweetest Sounds" from the the only musical he composed both the lyrics and music for, "No Strings". This notion that, "the sweetest sounds I'll ever hear are still inside my head" really resonated with me.

Listen to " The Sweetest Sounds ":

Dreaming of "the sweetest sounds I'll ever hear,"  I wanted to share some of the acts I am most excited to see at the Detroit Jazz Festival. 

Also read my post on Why I Love Jazz Festivals.

The sweetest sounds
2015 Detroit Jazz Festival Preview

1. Danilo Perez - His commissioned world premiere of Detroit World Suite

Pianist Danilo Perez  made ​​a name for himself while touring with  Dizzy Gillespie and the United Nations Orchestra. An accomplished solo musician, Perez is currently part of the Wayne Shorter Quartet and the collaborative trio "Children of the Light" with bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade. The multi-movement Detroit Jazz Festival commissioned project, "Detroit World Suite," will creatively fuse urban and folk music with big band. I am personally excited to see Perez's commissioned work, and how he melds these different sounds together. 

Watch Danilo Perez play, "Overjoyed":

2.  Eddie Daniels jazz version of Vivaldi's Four Seasons With The Detroit for Detroit Jazz Festival String Orchestra and the Original narration from Douglas Preston.

Eddie Daniels is a jazz clarinetist and saxophonist. Early on, Daniels gained exposure as a session musician as well as part of The Thad Jones/ Mel Lewis Orchestra. Daniels has always walked the line between jazz and classical music, playing both virtuosically, and will present a jazz version of Vivaldi's Four Seasons at the festival. I am personally looking forward to hearing this 'jazz with strings' concept, because one of my favorite albums is "Charlie Parker with Strings."

Watch Eddie Daniels play, "Stompin' At The Savoy":

3. Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra: Conductor Carla Bley, bassist Steve Swallow

Bassist Charlie Haden recently passed away in 2014, but he left the legacy of the Liberation Music Orchestra. Pianist-arranger Carla Bley, who recently received  an NEA Jazz Master Award, and bassist Steve Swallow will lead the avant-garde orchestra at the Detroit Jazz Festival. I am personally excited for this because in 9th grade I remember seeing Bley and Swallow at the New England Conservatory before I even knew who they were and was blown away!

Watch Carla Bley and Steve Swallow play, "Lawns":

4.  Benny's Threads - Inspired by the artistry of Benny Goodman, featuring New Compositions by Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band, spoken word from author Douglas Preston, and superstar clarinetists featuring Eddie Daniels, Paquito D'Rivera, Ken Peplowski and Anat Cohen

Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band is a masterful big band, with original compositions by leader Gordon Goodwin. Benny Goodman, jazz clarinetist and big band leader, is being honored this year not only with new songs by Goodwin, but also with performances from some of the top modern clarinetists - Eddie Daniels, Paquito D'Rivera, Ken Peplowski and Anat Cohen. I am personally excited to hear how each musician interprets Goodman's music, as well as my own instrument, the clarinet.

Watch Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band play, "Hit The Ground Running":

5.  Pat Metheny Trio with Antonio Sanchez, Scott Colley & special guest Kenny Garrett

Guitarist Pat Metheny, is arguably the leading voice on modern jazz guitar. Metheny is coming to Detroit this year as the Artist in Residence, playing in a multitude of groups from duo to big band. I am personally excited to see the breadth and scope of Metheny's work through a variety of concerts including numerous special guests ranging from bassist Ron Carter, to vibraphonist Gary Burton, to saxophonist Kenny Garrett. 

Watch Pat Metheny play, "The Gathering Sky":

Final Thoughts: 
I can't wait for what's sure to be "the sweetest sounds I'll ever hear" at the Detroit Jazz Festival. I encourage anyone in the area, or wanting to travel, to make the trip!

Paquito D'Rivera will be part of "Benny's Threads"

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

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Sunday, August 16, 2015

Being more me

Recently I had the good fortune of attending part of the Rockport Jazz Festival, including the 'JazzChat' and performance of trumpeter Sean Jones at the Shalin Liu Performance Center.

JazzChat with Sean Jones and Rich Tennant (L to R)

At the JazzChat, an audience member asked Jones how and when he found his 'voice' in jazz. Jones speculated that everyone has their voice their entire life, that you are born being an individual, but through culture and expectations you don't always give yourself full expression. As you go through your life you allow yourself the freedom to be who you are. Quoting pianist Thelonious Monk, Jones added, "a genius is one who is most like himself." In this way, Jones expressed that finding your voice in jazz is really not even about music, it is about the journey to "being more me."

Watch Sean Jones go behind the scenes of his new album im•pro•vise:

Sean Jones' quartet

I wanted to share a personal account of how jazz has helped me accept myself, through my own stories and through sharing jazz musicians that exemplify individuality.

Being more me
How jazz helped me be myself

1. Enthusiasm 

When I was in public school I remember people making fun of me because of my personality. I even remember being hurt when a group of girls called me "too smart" and laughed at me for being that kid that was excited to raise their hand in class. Bullying among other bad memories made me want to disappear. 

However, from being part of this jazz community, I have come to terms with the fact that being smart and having enthusiasm for what you do is invaluable and isn't something anyone should hide. You can find people that like you for who you are.

A jazz musician that exemplifies enthusiasm is Dizzy Gillespie, known for his humor:

2. Self worth

I think every teenager goes through a time in their life where they feel as if they aren't good enough or they don't fit in with a certain group, as if it's the end of the world. Maybe you're the one kid at the party that doesn't know the lyrics to the song, or you don't wear the clothes that everyone is wearing, you're not involved in sports or many clubs or maybe you just don't keep up with pop culture. Frankly, you feel out of place and lonely. 

I believe that surrounding myself with positivity from music has helped my to realize that self worth is not dependent on people liking you. Self worth is dependent on you looking at yourself each day and loving who you are without apologizing. And when I play jazz I like myself, which is hard for many to say.

Thelonious Monk's personal and individual musical style exemplifies what I mean:

3. Confidence

Everyone has confidence problems, even the people that may seem at ease. As a musician, I have had stage anxiety to the point where I shake while I play or I can't breath or I even cry I feel so uncontrollably scared. Scared of people judging me or labeling me or laughing at me. And some of this has gone away with age and maturity, and some stays with me. But if I trace back I know that improvising in jazz has been a major factor in increasing my confidence. 

Anxiety is when you live in the future and depression is when you live in the past. In this way, improvising has taught me that living in the present moment, right now, is where you are happy. At one point, a music teacher told me to practice the blues and incorporate every note, no matter if it fit in the chord or clashed. This allowed me to hear that what we mentally perceive as a mistake can be beautiful. And yes, we can live through a mistake, recover from it and move on. 

Miles Davis' 'Second Great Quintet' with Ron Carter, Tony Williams, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter exemplifies confidence and exploration:

4. Authenticity 

As I said, we all have this need to want to fit in, be noticed, be part of a group. You may make friends with people you may not even like that much, but you just want to be part of a group. I think we've all bought clothes that don't suit us, tried hair cuts that don't flatter us, bought toys that are popular, gone to events we didn't want to go to, etc. so that we can be part of this 'image.' 

But I think what jazz does, in its community spirit, is say yes you are in our group, but you have to be yourself and bring what you know to the table. You can't be fake in hopes of people liking you. So whenever I am down, I go back to my time at Herbie Hancock's lectures where he noted that if you play for applause, you're fired. 

Herbie Hancock exemplifies authenticity through his inspiring lectures and performances:

5. Simplicity 

We all have a need to impress people. Sometimes it seems like our whole day is about pleasing others or impressing others. People post selfies on Instagram, pictures of their party on Snapchat and exciting tales from their life on Facebook. We have all done this, and sometimes it comes across as putting up a facade to impress people or to make it seem like we have a perfect life. 

However, from listening to jazz masters, I have noticed that complexity is best showcased in simplicity. Simplicity to the point where people might not applaud you for high notes, fast notes, complex lines - but they appreciate something clear, concise and meaningful. We don't need to impress people all the time; we need to simplify, make real connections and stop to look at the roses. 

Ahmad Jamal's use of space exemplifies simplicity:

Final Thoughts:
What makes me love jazz and its community is that it's a vehicle for self expression, whether you play it, listen to it or dance to it you are free to be who you're meant to be.

Rockport, MA

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, "Improvise".

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

I am excited to be a journalist for this year's Detroit Jazz Festival. The world's largest free jazz festival, this year has an amazing lineup including Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band, Eddie Daniels, Carla Bley, Danilo Perez and Artist In Residence Pat Metheny. I highly encourage everyone to make the trip to Detroit to celebrate what's sure to be a marvelous Labor Day weekend!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Get on up - Springfield Jazz Festival

This weekend I had the great opportunity to go to the Springfield Jazz Festival. Blues to Green Inc. made this free festival possible so that people of many different communities could unite in the urban center of Western Massachusetts to share their love for music and art, thus spreading a more positive image of the greater Springfield area. 

Dr. Lonnie Smith

I had the good fortune to see the Jeff Holmes Quartet with Dawning Holmes, Elan Trotman, Avery Sharpe and the New England Gospel Choir with Angel Rose & Charles Neville and Big Chief Donald Harrison with special guest Dr. Lonnie Smith.

Get on up - Springfield Jazz Festival

The Springfield Jazz Festival, much like the Cambridge Jazz Festival I recently attended, was truly family friendly. With an art tent, plenty of food vendors, festival merchandise and other community businesses, you could listen to the music while walking around the beautiful downtown area. There was a main stage, as well as a community stage in a neighboring church, highlighting local talent as well as national acts.

Jeff Holmes Quartet

The first act I caught was the Jeff Holmes Quartet with Dawning Holmes. Jeff Holmes is a professor of music and the director of jazz and African-American music studies at UMass Amherst. Blending original music with a classic setup, Holmes' band reminded me a bit of saxophonist Michael Brecker's groups.

Watch Michael Brecker play, "Softly As In A Morning Sunrise":

Wofa African Drum

In-between the musical acts there were performances by the Movement Project and Wofa African Drum and Dance ensemble in Springfield's Court Square. The Movement Project is a nonprofit that helps local kids dance, play instruments, take fitness classes and perform to led happier, healthier lives. It is always nice to see the intersection between music and dance, and how they truly go together.

Elan Trotman

Afterwards, saxophonist Elan Trotman melded music from his native Barbados with jazz. Trotman exhibited a variety of influences, playing everything from original music to Ed Sheeran's "We Found Love" and Sonny Rollins' "Don't Stop the Carnival".

Watch Sonny Rollins play, "Don't Stop the Carnival":

Elan Trotman

Trotman's blend of Barbados music with jazz and pop created an array of catchy, danceable songs. Trotman's full, warm tone blended with the steel drums in his band to take the audience to the islands. Showcasing the Barbados sound, Trotman's original, "Funkalypso" blended funk and calypso music.

Watch Elan Trotman play, "Funkalypso":

Avery Sharpe and Charles Neville

Bassist Avery Sharpe has played with countless jazz legends, from Wynton Marsalis to Pat Metheny and McCoy Tyner. What's even more exciting is that Sharpe grew up in Springfield, MA. Before his group played, the mayor honored him by declaring August 8th Avery Sharpe day in the city of Springfield. This honor was touching to witness, and surely inspired countless people in the audience to see a homegrown legend.

Watch Sharpe play with McCoy Tyner:

Angel Rose and the New England Gospel Choir

For his set, Sharpe was joined by the New England Gospel Choir, vocalist Angel Rose and saxophonist Charles Neville to share his most recent project, "Sharpe meets Tharpe", a salute to gospel singer, Rosetta Tharpe. A standout of his set, Sharpe rearranged "Down By The Riverside" from a major key to a minor key, lending a solemn nature to the spiritual. Rose stunned the audience with a passionate rendition of Tharpe's "Up Above My Head" with call and response between the choir.

Listen to Sister Rosetta Tharpe sing, "Down By The Riverside":

Donald Harrison

Big Chief Donald Harrison is a jazz saxophonist, singer, actor, teacher and mentor that developed "nouveau swing", a combination of "Afro-New Orleans" style, R&B, hip hop, soul, rock and jazz. This 'catch all' term, however, didn't describe the sheer energy, power and fun Harrison brought to the stage, spontaneously bursting into a rendition of James Brown's "Get On Up". 

Listen to James Brown sing "Get On Up":

Donald Harrison

Watch Donald Harrison play, "Watermelon Man":

Dr. Lonnie Smith

Organist, Dr. Lonnie Smith, joined Harrison after a couple songs, kicking it off with the standard "I've Never Been In Love Before". Smith is a Hammond-B3 legend, having played 'soul jazz' with George Benson and Lou Donaldson among others. An accordionist even joined the group for a couple of songs, bringing an entirely new sound to the music, surprisingly blending well with the timbre of the organ.

Watch Dr. Lonnie Smith play, "In The Beginning":

Harrison and Smith interacted with the audience by getting everyone to dance regardless of who they were or where they were from. Springfield was on its feet dancing the evening away!

Final Thoughts:
What was so beautiful about the Springfield Jazz Festival was that the people were so friendly and welcoming. Springfield, and Massachusetts as a state, has a lot of music, jazz and beyond, with some very strong communities. Whether the crowd was dancing during Donald Harrison's rendition of "Get on up" or embracing old and new friends, the sense of unity was golden. 

Avery Sharpe

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 haiku, "Spinning Wheel".

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

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Keeping On - Newport Jazz Day 3

With so much talent at the 61st Newport Jazz Festival, it is often difficult to choose who to see during the course of the day. In this way, the audience must 'improvise' their schedules as they go by the scenery, stages and vendors. Yet, no matter your choice, each act is an educational experience that allows this great tradition to, as the late Clark Terry said, "keep on keeping on."


Today was a thrilling third and final day of the Newport Jazz Festival. I had the good fortune to see the MMEA All State Band, Arturo O'Farrill's Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra with special guest Rudresh Mahanthappa, Michel Camilo/Hiromi Piano Duets, Ashley Kahn's talks about Miles Davis and the electic guitar & Miles Davis and the St. Louis trumpet tradition, Frank Kimbrough solo piano, the Fred Hersch Trio with John Hebert & Eric McPherson, the Lou Donaldson Quartet and the Mike Stern/Bill Evans Band.

Read about Newport Jazz Day 1, Newport Jazz Day 2.

Keeping On - Newport Jazz Day 3

MMEA All State

I started off the day by catching some of my friends at the MMEA All State Jazz Band. The big band played a mixture of styles, from classic Ellington tunes, "Rumpus in Richmond", to even a funk-style Tower of Power song, "Soul Vaccination". The Newport Jazz Festival and Newport Festival Foundation has several educational outreach programs, such as this, to help support young musicians. 

Listen to Duke Ellington's orchestra play, "Rumpus in Richmond":

Arturo O'Farrill's Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra

Pianist-composer-bandleader, Arturo O'Farrill's Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra with special guest Rudresh Mahanthappa played a collection of rhythmically intricate, highly orchestrated songs, exploring the Afro-Cuban traditions set forth by trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and percussionist Chano Pozo. The jazz orchestra played several songs, including "Vaca Frita" and "Triumphant Journey", which highlighted the all-star soloists in the group, including O'Farrill's son, trumpeter Adam O'Farrill.

Listen to Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo play, "Manteca":

Saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa joined the orchestra for the ambitous "Afro Latin Jazz Suite", which was written for his bright, singing alto saxophone sound. Highly danceable and vibrant, O'Farrill also used his set to highlight socio-political issues with a spoken word addition to "They Came", which highlighted the struggles of Puerto-Rican Americans.

Rudresh Mahanthappa

Watch the music video for "They Came":

Michel Camilo/Hiromi Piano Duets

The founder of the festival, George Wein, brought together two of his favorite pianists, Hiromi and Michel Camilo, for a special duo concert. Much like the piano duo concert I saw with Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea at Boston's Symphony Hall, the sound of the two grand pianos spun through the air, creating the harmonic depth and color scheme of a full orchestra. 

Watch Hiromi and Michael Camilo perform a duet on, "Caravan":

Michel Camilo

A huge fan of piano duets after listening to NPR's Piano Jazz with host Marian McPartland, Hiromi and Camilo did not disappoint with their complementary, harmonically dense styles. Interpreting such standards as "Caravan" and "Billie's Bounce", the two pianists played to the same heartbeat, finishing each other's musical phrases with immense vitality and wit.

Watch Hiromi and Michael Camilo perform a duet on, "Billie's Bounce":

Ashley Kahn hosts Miles Davis Talk: Miles & the electric guitar

At the new Storyville stage, I enjoyed part of Ashley Kahn's talk about Miles Davis and the electric guitar. A member of Miles Davis' band in the 1980s, Stern talked about Davis' fusion period, where he melded rock and funk with jazz.

Watch Miles Davis and Mike Stern play, "5 Rubberband":

Frank Kimbrough Solo Piano

Pianist Frank Kimbrough played a solo piano set at the Storyville stage. This new, more intimate stage was the perfect venue to house Kimbrough's light touch and far-reaching melodies. Kimbrough maintained a meditative focus throughout the set, melding several songs into a nearly continuous performance. Flowing from Ellington's "Come Sunday" to Monk's "Crepuscule With Nellie", Kimbrough allowed the music to float and lift through the calm, introspective audience.

Watch Frank Kimbrough perform, "Quickening":

Fred Hersch

The Fred Hersch Trio with John Hebert and Eric McPherson has the unique ability to express clarity in an enigmatic way. With a light touch and a telepathic connection with his bandmates, Hersch phrases his melodic lines in a manner that is simultaneously spacious and full. His set included his original composition "Whirl" as well as a composition by the late Ornette Coleman, "Lonely Woman".

Watch Fred Hersch play, "In Walked Bud":

Ashley Kahn hosts Miles Davis Talk: Miles, Clark Terry & St. Louis trumpeters

At Storyville, Ashley Kahn talked about Miles Davis, Clark Terry and the St. Louis trumpet tradition with trumpeters Jon Faddis and Randy Sandke. Exploring Miles Davis' roots in St. Louis, and his mentorship with the great Clark Terry, the panel speculated on how Miles' personal sound came to be through his local influences. Focusing much on the late Clark Terry and his influence on the trumpet lineage, the panel urged the audience to watch the documentary, "Keep On Keeping On", which is not only about Clark Terry, but about positivity.

Watch Clark Terry perform, "Stardust":

Lou Donaldson Quartet

A true veteran of the music, saxophonist Loy Donaldson is often associated with soul jazz and bop. Donaldson played his seminal song, "Blues March", showcasing his own blues roots and vocal style of articulation. His bright sound was agile and seemed to flow like water out of his instrument with his connected lines. The crowd boded well with Donaldson's sly joking, saying that he's playing at the festival at age eighty-eight, "because the devil won't take me."

Listen to Lou Donaldson play, "Blues March":

Mike Stern/Bill Evans Band

The Mike Stern/ Bill Evans band combined the raw, combustible energy of rock music with the progressive harmonies and extended improvisations of jazz. Both veterans of Miles Davis' jazz fusion bands, guitarist Stern and saxophonist Evans have continued in this pathway by presenting new compositions with a focus on group sound and dynamic. From "Out of the Blue" to "Wishing Well", the Mike Stern/ Bill Evans band connected with a wide age-range of audience members due to their variety of cross generational musical influences.

Mike Stern/Bill Evans Band

Final Thoughts: 
The 2015 Newport Jazz Festival is officially over. With so many fond memories, I have to say, Newport is truly the place to be. And with a foundation as solid as the Newport Festivals Foundation, Newport Jazz will surely be keeping on for many years to come.

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 Hiromi inspired my haiku: "When I see those cats".

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

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Life creates more life - Newport Jazz Day 2

The Newport Jazz Festival has been a destination for live jazz for 61 years. 2015 is the 60th Anniversary of Miles Davis at the Newport Jazz Festival. In 1955 Miles Davis played a solo on "Round Midnight" at the Newport Jazz Festival, which catapulted his career and signed him to a major label, Columbia Records.

Listen to Miles Davis play "Round Midnight":

Maria Schneider

Today was a spectacular second day at the Newport Jazz Festival. I had the good fortune to see the Maria Schneider Orchestra, Jose James, Ashley Kahn's Miles Davis talk "Miles & Newport" with special guest Jack DeJohnette as well as the Helen Sung Quartet.

Life creates more life - Newport Jazz Day 2

Maria Scheider Orchestra

The day of music started off with one of my personal favorites, the Maria Schneider Orchestra. Playing pieces from her new album "The Thompson Fields", composer Schneider showcased influences from her childhood home in Minnesota as well as her love of nature and birdwatching. The stunning piece "Home" was dedicated to Newport Festival founder George Wein, who makes the festival 'home' to so many musicians and concert-goers. Throughout her set, Schneider conducted the orchestra through the dance, push and pull of the music lending to her characteristic lush orchestration and long, flowing, melodic phrases. 

Jose James

2015 is the centennial year of Billie Holiday, or Lady Day. Vocalist Jose James celebrated this landmark year by paying tribute to a vocalist that influenced so many with songs such as "Fine And Mellow". James' arrangements of these songs were modern, and brought R&B and hip hop elements to standard tunes. James used the lyrics rhythmically by repeating the words in different orders, shapes and phrases. This element of rhythmic integral to his melodic line, in addition to his stellar rhythm section, allowed his set to really connect with the audience.

Watch Jose James perform, "Trouble":

Jose James

Watch Jose James perform, "Come To My Door":

To help celebrate the 60th Anniversary of Miles at Newport, as well as a new CD box set "Miles At Newport", the festival implemented a new stage, "Storyville". Newport Jazz Festival founder and producer, George Wein, opened Storyville Jazz Club in 1950 in Boston's Copley Square Hotel. A nearly 200-seat room frequently filled with dynamic artists and dedicated jazz fans, it went on to present some of the world's most renowned jazz artists, including Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Lester Young, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday and Miles Davis. 

Jack DeJohnette and Ashley Kahn (L to R)
Taking inspiration from his past, Wein's new Storyville stage is an intimate setting to hear jazz within the crowds of the festival. Seating around one hundred to one hundred and fifty people, the Storyville stage hosted two amazing events that I went to: Ashley Kahn's Miles Davis talk "Miles & Newport" with special guest Jack DeJohnette as well the Helen Sung Quartet.

The new box set "Miles At Newport"

Ashley Kahn moderated the talk on "Miles & Newport", with several guests from the new box set including co-producer Steve Berkowitz, packager Nell Mulderry and even drummer Jack DeJohnette, who is featured on some of the tracks from the late 60s and 70s. Several excerpts from the collection were played during the hour long talk as examples, such as "Miles Runs The Voodoo Down". 

Watch Miles Davis play, "Miles Runs The Voodoo Down":

Berkowitz explained how the tapes for the box set were found everywhere from private collections to the Library of Congress. Uncovering all of these new tapes and sifting through them for material was a challenge, as the quality of the old tapes may not hold over time. However, a few miraculous finds in pristine condition allowed music from 1955 to sound like it was recorded yesterday. 

Mulderry shed light on how the photographs were found, and how she had to research who was at the festival during the years Miles played in order to find photographs. Mulderry also shed light on how exactly the company chose to market this new box set. Instead of providing nostalgia, the "Miles At Newport" is more of a series of historical vignettes to capture where Miles was musically each time he came to Newport. 

Nell Mulderry, Steve Berkowitz, Jack DeJohnette & Ashley Kahn (L to R)

DeJohnette shared some of his experiences with the Miles Davis band at Newport, providing insight and anecdotes on how Miles started his sets and prepared for the festival. Miles would not call songs, instead he would play the first few notes of the melody, and the rhythm section would create a cushion underneath him from that. 

At the end of the discussion, the floor was open for questions. I was able to ask Jack DeJohnette a question: 
When you listen to these recordings from 1969, are you listening as a distant observer, an audience member, or as a critical artist thinking about how you were playing in that moment of time compared to now?

DeJohnette graciously explained that he listens as an audience member and distances himself from being self-centered or critical. He wants to hear the unity of the band and enjoy the energy, rather than be bogged down by 'did I play this correctly?'. 

When confronted about his thoughts on Miles Davis as a leader, DeJohnette went into the abstract and explained Miles' immense creativity: 
This creativity could come from any profession. A chemist, a musician, a writer, a painter - we are all celebrating life in our own way...Just as the sun helps flowers creates more life.

Watch Jack DeJohnette play, "Wise One":

Helen Sung Quartet

Pianist Helen Sung paid tribute to her hero, Thelonious Monk, in her Storyville set with songs such as "Bye-Ya" and her original composition, "Brother Thelonious". With a classical piano background, Sung encompassed a massive amount of technique, allowing her to add flourishes and ornaments to the lively melodies. Rather than copy many of the composers she is influenced by, Sung brought forth her own personality, tone and touch to the lines letting the music speak for itself. 

Listen to Thelonious Monk play, "Bye-Ya":

Helen Sung Quartet

Watch Helen Sung perform, "Armando's Rhumba":

Final Thoughts: 
The mix of the massive main stage energy with the intimate Storyville stage provided a duel festival experience that not only showcased a variety of settings, but a variety of musical events.

Maria Schneider Orchestra
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! Hearing Jack DeJohnette's words inspired my haiku, "Life creates more life."

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More experiences at the 2015 Newport Jazz Festival are forthcoming.