Sunday, October 25, 2015

Jazz for Midterms

Since this week is midterms at my school, I thought I could share jazz music that helps me study and find relaxation during this stressful time of the semester.

Read Jazz for Studying for my previous suggestions.

Jazz for Midterms

1. Waltz for Debby

This classic piano trio album features pianist Bill Evans, drummer Paul Motion and bassist Scott LaFaro. The relaxed, subdued sound of the trio and dreamlike waltz of "Waltz for Debby" makes this album perfect for concentrating while reading a textbook. 

Listen to "Waltz for Debby" from the album:

2. What Is There To Say?

A magical album, What Is There To Say? features the piano-less quartet of baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan, trumpeter Art Farmer, bassist Bill Crow and drummer Dave Bailey. The connection between the trumpet and the baritone saxophone sets the perfect background for quiet thinking. 

Listen to "My Funny Valentine" from the album:

3. And His Mother Called Him Bill

A truly intimate and inspired album, And His Mother Called Him Bill is a Duke Ellington album recorded after the death of his musical collaborator, Billy Strayhorn. You can hear the revery in every note Duke plays on the solo piano recording of Strayhorn's "Lotus Blossom," making this album perfect for a 'writer's block' moment during a project.

Listen to "Lotus Blossom" from the album:

4. The Complete 1962 Studio Recordings - Coleman Hawkins Quartet

Lately I have been going back and listening to tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins. His gorgeous, raspy tone is incomparable, and the sort of sentimental mood he captures on this album is perfect for writing a paper and gaining inspiration. 

Listen to "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" from the album:

5. 'Round About Midnight

This classic Miles Davis album signaled Davis's debut on Columbia Records. In addition to this historic milestone, the album features saxophonist John Coltrane, pianist Red Garland, bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Philly Joe Jones. The combination of energetic hard bop and quiet lyricism makes this album perfect music to listen to while taking a walk to destress.

Listen to "Bye Bye Blackbird" from the album:

Final Thoughts:
Even during this stressful midterm season, we can all find focus and motivation through music. 

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! 

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What albums help you study?

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Back to Basics: Connecting the Dots

This week I wanted to share some videos, music and tips to help anyone starting to learn about jazz.

Louis Armstrong

Watch Billy Taylor present, "What Is Jazz?":

Back to Basics
Connecting the Dots

There are a lot of words to describe jazz. Bebop. Swing. Hard bop. Big band. Cool jazz. Avant-garde. Free jazz. Dixieland. The list goes on. But what unites all these forms of music, is the emphasis on improvisation - or spontaneously composing. 

Watch Billy Taylor present "How Jazz Musicians Improvise":

Much of jazz has a swing pattern - swing is a type of offbeat rhythm. You can feel swing when you listen to the music of Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald and Benny Goodman. 

Jazz was popularized as a dance music, much like hip hop is today. The rhythms allowed people to dance to the Lindy Hop, Charleston and tap. 

Watch this video of swing dancing:

After watching the dancers, notice how Count Basie's band melds swing, dance and improvisation. 

Watch Count Basie perform, "Corner Pocket":

To understand where jazz came from, start by listening to the blues. The blues can be many things: a form, a sound, a style. Regardless, the blues utilizes call and response, a cornerstone of jazz. 

Now listen to the jazz blues, "Tenor Madness." Notice how the musicians take the same blues you heard above, yet they add new material to it. Notice the call and response, and the trading between each instrument. 

Listen to John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins play, "Tenor Madness":

One of my tips for learning about jazz is to start with just one jazz musician that you know. Maybe you love Louis Armstrong. See who he played with. Maybe you will notice Louis Armstrong had an album with Ella Fitzgerald. Then look up Ella Fitzgerald. Then you might see Ella Fitzgerald had an album with Duke Ellington. Who was in the Duke Ellington Orchestra? Clark Terry was in the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Well, Clark Terry mentored Miles Davis who led many of his own successful groups. This way of connecting the dots between musicians and eras helps create a bridge between past and present.

Listen to Louis Armstrong play, "Stardust":

Final Thoughts:
Regardless of when you started to listen to jazz, getting back to basics helps bring clarity to our current knowledge.

If you want to learn more about jazz, here are five jazz musicians to "connect the dots" with: Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington and Sonny Rollins. Comment down below what you learned from seeing the connections between artists. 

Duke Ellington

Watch Duke Ellington perform, "Take The A Train":

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! 

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Sunday, October 11, 2015

Deep River - A Big Band Lineage

This past week I had the good fortune of seeing the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra at Scullers Jazz Club. One of the longest running large jazz ensembles in North America, the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra is a jazz big band lead by trumpeter-bandleader Mark Harvey. This concert featured works of guitarist Richard Nelson's latest CD featuring the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra, Deep River.

Aardvark Jazz Orchestra

Watch Mark Harvey talk about the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra:

In addition to premiering new works, this orchestra has been a major force in preserving the great compositions of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, among other composers. Inspired by the concert, I wanted to shed light on the big band legacy by sharing five famous jazz orchestras.  

Watch the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra perform, "The Mooch":

Deep River
A Big Band Lineage

1. Duke Ellington

Pianist-composer Duke Ellington led one of the most preeminent jazz orchestras for over fifty years, featuring the talent of Clark Terry, Johnny Hodges, Harry Carney, Cootie Williams and Paul Gonsalves, among others. Pianist-composer-arranger Billy Strayhorn collaborated with Duke Ellington to write such standards as "Chelsea Bridge," "Lush Life," and "Take The A Train."

Throughout the span of the concert, the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra played numerous compositions by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, including "Chelsea Bridge," "Tell Me It's The Truth" and "Portrait of Mahalia Jackson." The two latter compositions come from Ellington's Sacred Concerts and his New Orleans Suite respectively. 

By presenting Ellington/ Strayhorn compositions, the orchestra was able to mold the colors and textures of their music into the unique solo voices found in the band. The Aardvark Jazz Orchestra played Ellington's compositions as the Boston Symphony would play the works of Beethoven - with meticulous attention to detail as well as a joyful creative interpretation.  

2. Count Basie

Like Ellington, pianist-bandleader Count Basie led his own jazz orchestra for almost fifty years, featuring the talent of Lester Young, Harry 'Sweets' Eddison, Freddie Green, Buck Clayton and Herschel Evans, among others. Basie emphasized the role of the rhythm section keeping a consistent laid-back time while the horns utilized 'riffs', or short repeated lines, such as in Basie's theme song, "One O' Clock Jump."

Listen to "One O' Clock Jump":

The influence of Count Basie could be seen throughout the concert in the numerous solos on such songs as Harvey's own "N.O.L.A," where the trombone mutes imitated the sounds of New Orleans streets with a buzzy, mellow tone. A trademark of Basie, the brass sections seemed to interweave with the winds, forming a sort of call and response. 

3. Thad Jones/ Mel Lewis

The Thad Jones/ Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra was a big band led by trumpeter Thad Jones and drummer Mel Lewis. The band went through several reincarnations, shifting to the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, and now the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. This orchestra is known for having a unique style, blending big band with hard bop to make a small group sound within a large ensemble. 

Listen to the Thad Jones/ Mel Lewis Orchestra play, "The Groove Merchant":

The influence of Thad Jones/ Mel Lewis could be seen in the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra by their approach to solo sections. Each solo section sounded as if it was a jazz combo, with the level of communication between each instrument. These intensity levels between solos, solis and full ensemble sections helped build songs like "Second Line" and "St. James Infirmary."

4. Benny Goodman

Clarinetist-bandleader Benny Goodman, "The King of Swing," led one of the most popular American groups of its time. Goodman broke barriers, and had one of the first integrated bands, featuring pianist Teddy Wilson. Also, Goodman's stature led him to a series of concerts at Carnegie Hall - cementing swing and big bands as both dance and concert music. 

Listen to Benny Goodman play, "Sing, Sing, Sing":

The Scullers concert featured works from the release of Deep River, by guitarist Richard Nelson and the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra. Included in the concert were two songs off of the six-movement suite: "Deep River Blues" and "Make Me A Pallet on Your Floor." The Deep River Suite melded traditional American folk and blues songs with a big band. Featuring two sublime vocalists, this level of color and clarity reminded me of Goodman's blend in his orchestra between the vocalist and horns. 

Listen to Benny Goodman and Helen Forrest play, "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes":

5. Woody Herman

Clarinetist-bandleader Woody Herman led the popular "Herd" or "Thundering Herd," as he called his band. Herman played music that was considered experimental for its time; Herman even hired bebop trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie to write several arrangements for his band. Herman's band is often known for the classic Jimmy Giuffre song, "Four Brothers," which employed the solo and combined voices of Stan Getz, Zoot Sims,  Herbie Steward and Serg Chaloff. 

Listen to Woody Herman play, "Four Brothers":

This element of being experimental resonated with the compositions and arrangements of the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra. Utilizing unique textures, with flute, piccolo and clarinet, brass mutes and combinations of brass and woodwinds in counterpoint allowed the new pieces on Deep River to breathe and evoke the natural sense of Americana. 

Final Thoughts: 
Varied and rich in tradition, the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra cemented their own personal sound while still paying homage to the lineage of history's great big bands. 

Aardvark Jazz Orchestra

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! 

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Sunday, October 4, 2015

The gift of Phil Woods

Recently jazz alto saxophonist Phil Woods passed away at the age of 83. For over fifty years Phil Woods was one of the leading voices on the saxophone. I was lucky enough to see Phil Woods this past year in January in concert at Scullers Jazz Club and at a masterclass at David French music. I wanted to share his words and music this week to commemorate the impact he left on the world.

To learn more about Woods' life, read this Billboard article

Phil Woods at Scullers Jazz Club
(January 16, 2015)

Listen to Phil Woods play in Billy Joel's classic, "Just The Way You Are":

Read my previous post about Phil Woods: "It's a Gift."

The gift of Phil Woods

1. I have no illusions about being a genius musician. I pride myself in being a soldier, a warrior for jazz. I trained a lot of young people, and I've learned my lessons as well. 

2. I always think of the lyrical intent and the intent of the composer: 'What was this song written to express?'

Listen to Phil Woods play "In Your Own Sweet Way":

3. I am searching for one whole note that means something, rather than a typewriter of notes that go nowhere. 

Listen to Phil Woods and Herbie Mann play, "We Will Meet Again":

4. Read a book. Go to a museum. Learn about other cultures. Listen to everything. Listen to music you don't even like and find out why you don't like it.

Listen to the Quincy Jones Orchestra with Phil Woods play, "Quintessence":

5. There's no secret to success - hard work!

Listen to Phil Woods play, "The Midnight Sun Will Never Set":

Final Thoughts: 
I was able to talk to Phil Woods at the end of his masterclass, and we got on the topic of how to be yourself. How to be yourself not only in music, but more importantly in day to day life; because your music is a reflection of you. Phil looked at me and with a shimmer in his eye proclaimed, "If you can hear it, take it. It's a gift." And what a gift he left us all with. 

Phil Woods with the Greg Abate Quartet at Scullers Jazz Club
(January 16, 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