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! 

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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.



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. 

What is your favorite jazz documentary?