Sunday, December 27, 2015

2 year anniversary

I have been writing Kind of Pink and Purple every week for 2 years. I am grateful for the many amazing opportunities that have come because of my writing: I have been a journalist for the Montreal Jazz Festival, the Newport Jazz Festival and the Detroit Jazz Festival. I have been able to interview musicians, as well as review concerts and CDs. I have worked at a jazz PR firm and at JazzBoston, and I have joined organizations such as the Jazz Journalists Association. Most importantly, I have been able to reflect on what I know as a young adult and share this with others. In this way, the great joy of learning is sharing. 

My first post was Reasons Why I Love Jazz. For this 2 year anniversary I wanted to share a few videos, and quotes from those videos, to illustrate how jazz can be a force of guidance. Building off of the reason I started this platform, I want jazz to be an open community for everyone regardless of background knowledge or musical skill. By comparing jazz to life skills, stories, emotions, etc. anyone can use music as a source of inspiration. Michael Jordan inspires more people than just basketball players just as Albert Einstein inspires more than just scientists. In this light, I know John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins can inspire anyone as well. 

Sonny Rollins


Reasons why I love jazz
As explained through the musicians that inspire me

1. Sonny Rollins

Saxophonist Sonny Rollins is a living legend of jazz. Never satisfied with his personal or musical limitations, Rollins, who was already a successful jazz artist, famously took a sabbatical from 1959-1961, and practiced under the Williamsburg bridge. Rollins' comeback album from this era was entitled The Bridge. Later on, Rollins took a second sabbatical from public performance to study Eastern philosophies and meditation. 
With all these obstacles and all the difficult things we go through in life, music is there to help. 
Jazz transcends life and death as we know it on this planet. You see, jazz is something which is more universal, eternal, so it has - you say optimistic about jazz - well, I'm optimistic that, I'm optimistic about, the soul, okay, I'm optimistic about that, so therefore I'm optimistic about jazz. 
It's a sense of hope, that life can be better, that things can be better, it's a sense of happiness, where things, wow this is great, that's some of what jazz is.

Sonny Rollins: What Jazz Is, and What Being a Jazz Musician Means To Me:

2. Mulgrew Miller

Pianist Mulgrew Miller recently passed away in 2013 at the young age of 57 from a stroke. Miller left a profound legacy, and played with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Betty Carter, Woody Shaw, Art Blakey and Tony Williams while also leading his own groups. In addition to performing, Miller left an impact on education as the director of Jazz Studies at William Paterson University. 
Playing this music allows us an experience that I think many other people don't get in other areas of functioning in life, and that is playing this music sort of compels us to be in the moment, and we're not always there for most of us. But when we do...it's where we realize we weren't even there - it wasn't really about us.

Mulgrew Miller - Why I Play Jazz:

3. Charlie Parker

Alto saxophonist Charlie Parker revolutionized jazz with the help of trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, creating a style called bebop. Charlie Parker is known for his bright, crisp tone and lightning fast technique. In the following interview, Parker claimed he attained this technique from practicing 11-15 hours a day for an extended period - showcasing the power of hard work, study and determination. 
Study is absolutely necessary, in all forms. It's just like any talent that's born with somebody, it's like a good pair of shoes when you put a shine on it, you know?

Charlie Parker Interviewed by Paul Desmond (1954):

4. Wallace Roney

In the following compilation video, trumpeter Wallace Roney talks about playing music in the face of all the obstacles that came in his way. Despite his great talent, Roney was left homeless for part of the 80s . While playing in a tribute to Miles Davis, Roney was able to meet Miles. Miles gave Roney his trumpet after realizing Roney didn't own a trumpet, and later mentored him. This mentorship gave Roney the support he needed to become a successful musician, and he later joined the bands of Art Blakey and Tony Williams.
I had to play this music when people didn't want me to play this music. I played this music and tried to contribute to this music playing clubs where the clubs almost made me pay them to play, you know, and I, but I felt this strong for this music and I fought for this music and I'm fighting - it's not because I need to make money, because I haven't made a dime - but it's because of the love of this art form and this gift, that god-given gift of playing music, I feel I need to honor that, you know. 

Great Advice from Musicians for Musicians:

5. John Coltrane

Saxophonist John Coltrane was at the forefront of the free jazz movement along with his wife, pianist Alice Coltrane, and saxophonist Pharaoh Sanders. Coltrane was a deeply spiritual man that believed in music for a higher power. This mentality was showcased in albums such as A Love Supreme and Ascension.
I want to be a force for good. I want to be a force for real good. Otherwise I know that there are bad forces, I know that there are forces that bring suffer to others and misery, but I want to be the opposite of this, I want to be the force that is truly for good. 

John Coltrane on Giant Steps, PBS Digital Studios:

Final Thoughts: 
Thank you to anyone and everyone that reads my writing! With all the ups and downs in life, I am happy to help someone find a light in their day. 

After two years of simultaneously writing and learning about jazz, I can truly say the reason why I love jazz is because jazz is life: all-encompassing, raw and beautiful.

John Coltrane

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. 

Why do you love jazz?

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Holiday Jazz Songs

With the holidays right around the corner, I wanted to share some jazz Christmas songs.



Holiday Jazz Songs

1. Jingle Bells

This fun animated video illustrates the joy of the holidays, with the full big band sounds of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra leading the way. 

Watch this animated video of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra playing, "Jingle Bells":


2. Sugar Rum Cherry

Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn arranged the Nutcracker ballet suite for jazz big band, taking familiar themes and rearranging them in new ways. 

Listen to Duke Ellington's "Sugar Rum Cherry":

3. White Christmas

Charlie Parker transforms this standard holiday song into a bebop style with the help of trumpeter Kenny Dorham and drummer Max Roach. 

Listen to Charlie Parker play, "White Christmas":

4. Sleigh Ride

Ella Fitzgerald makes every word count in this version of Sleigh Ride, by focusing on rhythm and accenting each vowel. 

Listen to Ella Fitzgerald sing, "Sleigh Ride":

5. Twas the Night Before Christmas

Wynton Marsalis narrates the classic Christmas story with musical accompaniment to help paint the picture of Santa Claus coming down the chimney, as if in a picture book.  

Watch Wynton Marsalis read the story with music accompaniment:

6. Joy to the World

Brubeck's harmonic sense and chordal motion helps to carve out a stirring version of Joy to the World, with bell-like improvisations. 

Listen to Dave Brubeck play, "Joy to the World":

7. Christmas in New Orleans

Louis Armstrong nostalgically sings and plays trumpet in a traditional New Orleans style to reflect on his roots.

Listen to Louis Armstrong With The Benny Carter Orchestra play "Christmas In New Orleans":

8. Snowfall 

Pianist Ahmad Jamal creates the imagery of snowflakes scattering through the air with his light touch and spiraling lines.

Listen to Ahmad Jamal play, "Snowfall":

9. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant joined forces with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra to present this holiday classic in a sentimental way, bending and holding out syllables for emphasis. 

Listen to Cecile McLorin Salvant sing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas":

10. Christmas Song

Vocalist Mel Torme, whose nickname was the "Velvet Frog," composed "Christmas Song." In this version, Torme's pure vocal tone narrates the story with a laid-back feel. 

Listen to Mel Torme sing "Christmas Song":

Final Thoughts: 
Have a happy holiday and a Merry Christmas! 

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, December 13, 2015

Reflecting on the semester

In the midst of finals, I wanted to share some lessons I took away from this semester along with some of the songs that have impacted me.

Freddie Hubbard

Reflecting on the semester

1. Don't wait to be great.

It's easy to come up with excuses: "I can't do that because I'm not old enough."  "Coltrane did that, and I'm not him." "Once I move to New York I'll get my stuff together." From the influence of many great teachers, I have seen that greatness starts right now, today, and is built slowly and consistently over time. 

Listen to Freddie Hubbard play, "Birdlike":

2. Be great at everything you do. No excuses. 

I have really noticed this semester that the people I look up to aren't just great at one thing - they excel at everything they do. This trait of putting 100 percent into everything you do has helped me be accountable for my own actions. 

Listen to Duke Ellington's "Danse of the Floredores":

3. Fundamentals are key.

This semester I was overwhelmed with lesson assignments consisting of purely fundamentals - saxophone long tones, overtones, scales, scale patterns. The most important thing I was given to practice? Eighth notes with a metronome. These assignments helped me realize that you can't run until you can walk, and that true mastery comes from the mastery of fundamentals.  

Listen to Donald Byrd and Pepper Adams play, "Curros":

4. The music has the answers. 

This semester I have been learning more music by ear. At one of my lessons my teacher told me that if I want to learn to improvise I have to listen deeply and figure things out on my own, because the music has the answers: How do I construct a solo? What dynamic should I play? How do I build a solo? How do I blend with other musicians? What articulations should I play? At first perplexed, I have realized that the answers to my questions are right in front of me, and oftentimes right inside of me. 

Listen to Dexter Gordon play, "You Stepped Out of a Dream":

5. You are your own teacher.

My entire life I have looked up to teachers as the people that, simply put, hold the answers to the universe. So, this semester I was quite surprised when my saxophone teacher looked at me and told me he wasn't my teacher. He remarked that I'm my own teacher and he's just a guidance - and at the end of the day I'm the one that has to figure everything out. This reversal of roles has led me to trust my instincts more. 

Listen to Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers play, "Prince Albert":

6. Your self worth shouldn't be based on the validation of others.

We go through school taking tests and submitting assignments. It's easy to start believing that your intelligence is based on the validation of a good grade, or that your musical talent is based on making an audition. Yet, I have learned that self love should be unconditional. Period. In fact, one teacher even urged us students to celebrate whether we make or don't make an audition in order to dissociate happiness from external validation. 

Watch Miles Davis play, "So What":

7. Someone else's success doesn't undermine your own.

Music is not about jealousy or proving yourself - it's about uplift. And what I have seen from this semester is that just because someone else is great doesn't mean that makes me bad by de-facto. In fact, it's like lighting a candle - sharing a flame only lights the room brighter. 

Listen to Duke Ellington's "Sunset and the Mockingbird":

Final Thoughts: 
This semester has been a whirlwind of activity, and I'm glad that within the eye of the hurricane I can reflect on how I've grown personally and musically, and share that with others.  

Listen to John Coltrane play, "Lazy Bird":

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, December 6, 2015

Boston jazz legends

Lately I have become very interested in how someone's background affects their music. As listeners, we know Miles Davis for such albums as Kind of Blue and Birth of the Cool. However, to learn that he grew up in St. Louis can help us learn about how he came to be. Each city has their own sound and their own history from New Orleans to Chicago to New York.

Tony Williams

In this spirit, I wanted to share five jazz musicians that grew up in Boston.

Boston jazz legends

1. Roy Haynes

Drummer Roy Haynes is from Roxbury, MA. In addition to leading his own bands, including Fountain of Youth, Haynes has been a sideman for everyone from Charlie Parker to Stan Getz to Miles Davis and more.

I was able to see Roy Haynes perform at Scullers in May 2015. It was a particularly enlightening concert because Roy Haynes at ninety years old was joking around, dancing and playing the drums with the energy and intensity of someone a quarter of his age. Between songs Roy would tell stories about growing up in Roxbury and how when he was twenty years old in Boston he got a telegram to come to New York City. His love of life no doubt rubbed off on everyone in the audience.

Listen to Roy Haynes with Charlie Parker play, "Moose the Mooche":

2. Chick Corea

Pianist Chick Corea is from Chelsea, MA. One of the major voices on piano, Chick has gone on to lead many famous bands, including Return to Forever. Many of his compositions have become standards, including "Spain," "Crystal Silence," "Light as a Feather," "500 Miles High," and more.

I was able to see Chick perform at Boston's Wilbur Theater in April 2014. It was an unforgettable concert for many reasons. Firstly, Chick played over three hours - the longest concert I have been to. Secondly, Chick invited audience members up to the stage to play with him. Lastly, Chick's high school classmates from the 50s were in the audience and were cheering him on with such a pride for their roots.

Listen to Chick Corea's composition "Spain":

3. Tony Williams 

Drummer Tony Williams grew up in Boston, MA. One of the most influential drummers in jazz, Williams started playing professionally as a teenager, eventually joining Miles Davis' Second Great Quintet at the age of 17.

Tony Williams never stayed in one place for too long. He was at the forefront of the avant-garde, playing in Eric Dolphy's famous Out to Lunch. Tony Williams' Lifetime band was at the forefront of jazz fusion, with their album Emergency!. Also, Williams led quartets and quintets that played all of his own original music.

Watch Tony Williams perform, "Geo Rose":

4. Harry Carney 

Baritone saxophonist Harry Carney grew up in Boston, MA. Carney is largely known for 45 year tenure in Duke Ellington's orchestra, making him the longest serving member of Ellington's orchestra.

Carney's robust sound on the baritone saxophone has gone on to become the standard for the instrument. Duke Ellington wrote compositions to feature Carney's sound and musical personality, including "Sophisticated Lady," "In a Mellow Tone," and "Frustration." Duke and Carney were close friends, and Carney would often drive Ellington, while he composed in the passenger seat.

Watch Harry Carney perform Duke Ellington's "Sophisticated Lady":

5. Johnny Hodges 

Alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges grew up in Cambridge, MA. Known for being the lead alto saxophonist in Duke Ellington's Orchestra, Hodges became one of the identifying voices of the orchestra for his use of bends and vibrato.

Hodges and Harry Carney actually grew up together, and both became staples of the Ellington orchestra. Duke Ellington wrote several compositions to feature Hodges' musical personality, including "Prelude to a Kiss, "Isfahan," and "I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good)." Hodges was also a leading soloist of the ensemble, improvising masterfully melodic solos that acted as an extension of Ellington's compositions.

Watch Johnny Hodges perform Duke Ellington's "Isfahan":

Final Thoughts: 
It is amazing to realize the rich history of my city. Many great jazz musicians grew up in Boston, and many more have come to Boston to study at music schools such as Berklee. With pride, I am glad to experience Boston's jazz scene every day, and feel this connection to the past, present and future of Boston.


Roy Haynes at Scullers Jazz Club March 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

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.