SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA MUSIC EDUCATOR MOURNED BY MANY


San Francisco Bay area jazz pianist, arranger, composer and educator from East Moline(Iowa) widely known as “The Jazz Professor” died Saturday evening at the age of 80 at his home in Oakland, Calif.    July 1936 – March 2017

“Professor” Bell mentored and inspired many professional musicians as a college music professor and jazz band director.

He also recorded several jazz albums and worked with the likes of Benny Carter, Roy Eldridge, Clark Terry, Lou Rawls, Louie Bellson, The Supremes, and Carmen McRae.

He never forgot the Watertown section of East Moline where he grew up being called “Little Bill.” Those who knew him are mourning his loss and treasuring their memories. Those in the East bay and through-out the San Francisco bay area are mourning too, along with family and loved ones.

Mr. Bell did make recordings and composed a “work” for the San Francisco Symphony. He also began a long career as an esteemed educator that included being chairman at the College of Alameda, Music Department, jazz improvisation teacher at the University of California, Berkeley, and Director of the Stanford University Jazz Band.

Prominent students Bell mentored included Sheila Escovedo, better known as Prince’s collaborator Sheila E.; jazz pianists Benny Green and Michael Wolfe also, trumpeter Jon Faddis.

The following text is a reprint of a Hipster Jazz blog review written by Robert J. Carmack ,November 7 2007, Oakland,California.

It was announced by Robert J. Carmack, executive producer and vice-president operations for SFBAAAM, that their first concert was a complete success. the first in a continuing series entitled “Back Street Jazz Series”, was held Sunday, November 4th at the Oakland Public Conservatory of Music in downtown Oakland California. The show which featured the musical leadership of Jazz educator/pianist, Dr. Bill Bell. The SRO crowd applauded, yelled and whistled at the tight band assembled by Bell and a trio of sultry vocalists featured on the first set. jumping blues to ballads with a “big band feel” using arrangements by Bell himself, an accomplished arranger/composer. Sunday’s show opened with local favorite Ms. Robin Gregory as she torched the audience with her rendition of Blue Gardenia, followed by a lovely arrangement of Cole Porter’s Night & Day.

Valerie Cooper, a talented up and coming singer in the bay area followed Robin. “It was truly magical” stated Joye Slayton, a visiting jazz fan from Atlanta, Georgia.

Dr. Bell just simply pointed at certain musicians and they responded with blistering solos and sublime “comping” and coloring. Finishing up the first set was veteran vocalist, Darlene Coleman, a very talented songstress, who just nailed both her songs with polished tenacity and sheer vocal power.

The evening’s host and producer, Robert Carmack introduced a panel of jazz educators and musicians to discuss, “how jazz could further develop their audiences” by including more youth and starting early in the exposure of jazz to young people.

Local jazz radio host, Sonny Buxton, Ms. Anna De Leon, Anna’s of “Jazz Island” night club, Karlton Hester, department head of music at UC Santa Cruz, Multi-instrumentalist Roger Glenn and “Professor” Bell, conductor of first set’s band, also participated.

An assorted menu of food items were served to the hungry crowd, as they purchased dinners and beverages to help raise money for continued jazz programming and to expand the series for the Black Musicians Forum.

The evening was not done, as Carmack gathered the crowd for the start of the second set. It featured an entirely different band and musical director. Mr. Glenn Pearson. Pearson, head of music department at The College of Alameda presented a more “edgy” sounding ensemble with sax, trumpet, bass, drums and piano, the saxophonist Roger Glenn doubling on vibes and flute. OPCM founder, Ms. Angela Wellman(trombonist/educator) was totally elated at the success of the evenings’ joint venture between BMF/SFBAAAM and OPCM. a relationship that is developing into a great marriage quickly .
Many of the patrons spoke volumes of praises as they exited the building for the night. a slogan has been adopted by the two organizations and will be publicize wherever it can.

We Own This! Use It, Feel It, Live It! Next event is slated for Sunday, December 2nd at the Oakland Public Conservatory of Music, Oakland California.

GROOVIN’ ON ELM STREET…AGAIN ~ THE HAROLD JOHNSON SEXTET


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_WGIq9EuK4I

posted by Robert J. Carmack    #blues2jazzguy

When this writer was a very young kid he use to watch these old black and white movies with Mickey Rooney where the friends all wanted to get the band together and do shows. Years later, Now in high school he performs in talent shows and weekend  parties. He meets others like him who are talented and want to pursue their dreams of reaching their music and entertainment goals.

Harold Johnson is one of those people who dreamed about one day making it in the entertainment. While most of us teenagers was chasing girls around the campus or showing off on the athletic field, Harold Johnson and a close-knit group of guys were huddled up “talking sharps and flats” in the music room. Then on weekends they would jam at each other’s parent’s den or garages , trying to get tight so they could get a gig. the “Ultimate”  for any budding young musician.

harold Johnson album pix 2015

Harold Johnson

Along the way there were great music teachers and people of influence, one such person that taught young Harold was the late Jazz Crusaders piano, Joe Sample…apparently Joe taught him well… about theory, performance and production, including the “Business” part of the music world.

harold Johnson quintet

 

In the middle of the “Motown Era” circa 1966 a group of high students got together with a mature 16-year-old Harold. They secured the funds to go into the studio, and come out with a Hot product(“Sorry ‘Bout That“) which began to pick up traction on the local radio scene. Along with live concerts at the high schools,community centers and anywhere they could get a crowd and play, soon a large record label(REVUE) came along and  pushed out an album that commanded  major air-time. Even the major jazz and soul stations played the 45.

It was heard at college stations, high schools, on Juke boxes in cafes, barber shops, there were few places you didn’t hear House on Elm Street. Even Cats from the Nam‘ had heard about it and shared the music overseas . I was lucky enough to see them live at the beginning of their musical journey…I was in the Centennial High School Band with one of the members, David Crawford, Flute , who at that time already had “Hubert Laws/Herbie Mann skills” reputation around campus ala the very talent rich school shows in the mid-1960s. members of recording band were Jimmy Nash on Bass,Alfred Patterson Alto sax,Eddie Synigal Alto sax, Mike Shaw Tenor sax,Ronald Rutledge Drums,Billy Jackson Congos/percussion, David Crawford Flute, and Harold Johnson leader/Piano.

The hot album , House On Elm Street released in 1967, made Harold very popular on his high school campus at Washington High School in Los Angeles. while being another school chock full of talented student musicians  (Darryl”Munyungo” Jackson, Nate Morgan). By the second album, Everyone Loves a Winner, some new players joined the group or recorded with Harold , a very young Leon “NDUGU” Chanceler, drums, Vibes with Larry Nash,(brother of Jimmy Nash).

Harold sextet love a winner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Currently,Harold T. Johnson Sr. is an accomplished Producer, Writer and Arranger. He’s a California State University Dominguez Hills Graduate, with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Music Education. Also a Gold Album recipient for Thelma Houston’s “Anyway You Like It” Album and the 5th Dimension “Star Dancing” Album and Platinum Album recipient for the Temptations Christmas Classic “Give Love At Christmas.” Major hits writer for LTD  Concentrate on You & Atlantic Starr  “Get Closer (than Close) just to name a couple.

While a Producer, Writer and Arranger: Over forty of Harold’s songs were recorded by Artists such as Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Stanley Turrentine, Devastating Affair, Smokey Robinson, Sylvester, Nate Dogg, Harold Johnson II, Natalia Johnson, Stephanie Mills, Olivia Reese, Liz Mc Comb, Jerry Butler, 21st Creation, Three Ounces Of Love, Dennis Edwards, Z.Z. Hill, Thelma Houston, Tata Vega, Michael Wycoff, Atlantic Starr, Rockie Robbins, Gloria Gaynor, LTD and Jeffrey Osbourne, The OJAYS, The Temptations and more.

Harold Johnson NOW  at the Board

 

 

 

Through-out his illustrious career as “industry-behind-the-scenes” legend, He also worked as an educator inside the LA Unified School district. Capturing a NAACP image award nomination for a Musical-2005 ~ “At the Lincoln”

After 50 years as a professional entertainer,producer,arranger & musician.. He’s still hungry for new music and creating new songs, but his real passion is now “pastoring” his own flock at his church,just as his father did before him..Bravo Harold T. .Bravo!!

Catch Harold Johnson & Friends at Catalina’s Bar & Grill.
Harold JOHNSON Sextet & Company “Back On Elm Street Reunion” w/ Harold Johnson(keys, vocalist & writer)
Feat: David Crawford(flute), Ndugu Chanceler(drums), Welton Gite(bass),, Munyungo Jackson(percussions), Gemi Taylor(guitar), Rickey Woodard(saxophone),  vocals by Deborah White, Joyce Wilson, Pamela Vincent & Olivia Reese

Thursday, Jan 14, 2016 8:30 PM

Catalina Bar & Grill, Hollywood, CA.

6725 West Sunset Blvd.
Hollywood California 90028
Phone: (323) 466-2210
(one block EAST of Highland Ave.)
ENTRANCE on McCadden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RIFFIN’ WITH CLASSIC AVANT GARDE JAZZ MAN BOBBY BRADFORD


posted by Robert J. Carmack / Chuck Koton-Photos

Jazz Trumpeter Bobby Bradford

Jazz Trumpeter Bobby Bradford

One of the best part of living in Los Angeles besides the weather, is the plethora of great art museums. The County of Los Angeles on Wilshire for Modern Art has been pumping out great live jazz concerts for years. many I have been witness to, and some I missed. Unfortunately, I missed the recent Friday evening’s lineup (August 14) when the Bobby Bradford Ensemble came on like “a Tsunami” to the capacity audience in the outside venue.  what a band he brought on this warm,sunny day. (Band ) Bobby Bradford on cornet, Vinny Golia on bari sax and bass clarinet, William Roper/tuba, vocalist Dwight Trible, trumpeter Josh Aguiar, Cathlene Pineda/piano, bass clarinet, tenor sax Brian Walsh, Tina Raymond/drums and Zephyr Avalon on bass.

Bobby Bradford B

Vinny Golia bari-Sax & Trumpeter Bobby Bradford

Fortunately for me, my good friend and well respected jazz photographer Chuck Koton attended the outstanding concert  where he was able to  capture some of the electricity coming out of the musicians, including special guest vocalist Dwight Trible. Trible “delivered the word” on the now classic ode to Lester Young, by legendary bassist Charlie Mingus, Good Bye Pork Pie Hat.  

Dwight Trible singing Good Bye Pork Pie Hat

Dwight Trible singing Good Bye Pork Pie Hat

It was less than two weeks ago, a maximum crowd watched Dwight Trible perform with his own group at LACMA ,taking the audience on a pleasant mystic journey. Bobby has always had the midas touch in knowing which ingredients to toss into the Jazz gumbo he’s been known for. Putting the right personnel for the sound chemistry that exist in the players.

Vinny Golia Bari sax Now

Vinny Golia bari sax

My first experience with Bobby Bradford was in college, as he was my professor of Afro-American music, circa 1972. At that time Bradford was co-leading a local band of journeymen musicians including fellow music educator and co-founder, John Carter, an able-bodied woodwinds player,primarily clarinet.  You can dismiss without investigation, but listening to Bradford in 2015 is like being a time machine,catapulting you into an Astral -traveling scene that constantly changes, which is what improvisations is all about.. go to the internet for further study on Bobby Bradford..

LOCAL JAZZ MUSICIANS & SINGERS SUPPORT BILLY HIGGINS WORLD STAGE


posted by Robert J. Carmack   #@blues2jazzguy

Local Jazz artists are throwing their hat in the ring, or in this case their voices and instruments. I have assembled a plethora of very talented musicians and singers to produce the “POCKET JAZZ SERIES”, a group of concerts. I’ve coined that phrase to emphasize the “small in stature, big in content” being presented at the World Stage Performance gallery, a limited seating space for the performing arts. However, “My thinking was to have two very different shows back to back weekends, so those that cannot make one, they maybe able to make the other.”

Starting with Saturday August 22 at 7:30 ,@ World Stage 4344 Degnan Blvd. Los Angeles,CA 90008, tickets/Info 951-840-7120  we’re kicking off the Series with a moving tribute. The GENIUS of DUKE PEARSON:Thanks Uncle Duke. the evening will be filled with sparkling Duke Pearson compositions, along with other composers who was either produced by Duke or, worked with him, such Donald Byrd, Cedar Walton, Bobby Hutcherson ,etc.  The music is being performed by The UNCLE DUKE LEGACY BAND featuring veteran jazz pianist/music director, Bobby West. voices featured are Aldene “Pat” Sligh, Jana Wilson and Mechelle La’Chaux .  Come out and celebrate a fresh new approach to exposing an audience to unsung greatness and such historic significance. writer of such popular jazz classics as Jeannine, Fancy Free, Sudel, Wahoo, Sweet Honeybee, Big Bertha’, Gaslight,ESP,and most famous , Christo Redentor, just to name a few.. make an evening of it. Tickets are $15-$20 limited Seating- first come first served, those with tickets will have seat priority.

Int'l Jazz Pianist Bobby West

Int’l Jazz Pianist Bobby West

Ishmael Hunter

Drummer Ishmael Hunter

Reggie Carson Bass

Reggie Carson Bassist

Derf Reklaw on Flute

Derf Reklaw Flute /Saxes/percussions

jana Wilson pat sligh daughter

Jana Wilson Jazz/Blues Singer

Mechelle La’ Chaux Actress/ Singer blues/Jazz/ R&B

Pat Sligh Jazz vocalist/ Actress

Pat Sligh Jazz vocalist/ Actress

Robert J. Carmack producer/actor/journalist - poet

Robert J. Carmack producer/actor/journalist – poet

BILLY HIGGINS WORLD STAGE PRESENTS: POCKET JAZZ SERIES AUGUST 22 & 29


posted by #@blues2jazzguy

Coming August 22/29 The World Stage Performance Gallery

Tender Feelins Duke P.

Pocket Jazz Series  Saturday August 22, 7:30pm

The Genius of DUKE PEARSON:Thanks Uncle Duke

Uncle Duke Legacy BandBobby WEST pianist/music director, Reggie Carson bassist,Ishmael Hunter drums,Derf Reklaw Flute/sax/percussion, Pat Sligh , Mechelle LaChaux and Jana Wilson Vocals;  M.C./Poet:Robert J. Carmack

**********************************************************************************

Saturday August 29  7:30pm

NOW’S THE TIME: Spirits of Our Ancestors

art jazz a;;stars

Our great Legendary jazz icons

Featured Artists performing

An evening of music & poetry from our great icons and legends

Ms. Mechelle LaChaux-songs by Nellie Lutcher 1940s Jazz,Jive & Boogie , accompanied by Ms. Anqui Renise piano

Ms. Anqui Renise-Tin Pan Alley Jazz standards

Mr. James Love performing songs by Joe Williams,Lou Rawls    & others- backed by the Hipster Jazz Ensemble

very special invited guest Jazz bassist/guitarist and vocalist

AMIN EL (solo guitar/vocals) tribute to Gil Scott Heron

WORLD STAGE PERFORMANCE GALLERY  

4344 S. Degnan Blvd.  L.A. California 90008

Donations: $15-$20  (sliding scale)

Some tickets are still available for both shows

Ticket/RSVP info 951- 840-7120

RETRO HIPSTER -SONNY FORTUNE: THANK GOD FOR THAT DAY JOB


posted by CHUCK KOTON,  Photo Journalist Contributor

“ I was in the learning stage and I was going to jam sessions with guys who became the cats. ”

Sonny_Fortune_photo

With an auspicious name like Sonny Fortune, could there be any doubt that this man would find success and fulfillment down whatever path he chose to follow in life. Fortune-ately for jazz lovers, he focused his talent and energy on the saxophone. Fortune’s destiny began at the beguine-ing; he was born at the right time, May 19,1939, and at the right place, Philadelphia. While the City of Brotherly Love has been considered a second-tier jazz city by some, Philly indisputably gave birth to and nurtured a long list of great musicians,many of whom went on to gain wider recognition after moving to New York.

Sonny Fortune at                                                                                            Sonny Fortune at Kitano color  KITANO-02

Sonny Fortune @ Kitano’s New York

The city’s fertile jazz ground may have first been seeded when bebop genius Dizzy Gillespie moved there from North Carolina in 1935. And those early seeds were surely fruitful and did multiply. John Coltrane’s family moved there(also from North Carolina), putting down roots on the city’s North Side in 1943. A short list of the many great players born there includes the Heath Brothers (Percy,Jimmy and Albert), Benny Golson, McCoy Tyner, Lee Morgan,Pat Martino and, more recently, Christian McBride and Joey De Francesco.

In a city with such a hip and historic jazz scene, Sonny Fortune did not have to go far to explore the music that would become his passion. In fact, he didn’t have to leave North Philly. “The scene was great,” Fortune says.”It [jazz] wasn’t something I had to go seek. The music was prevalent right there in the neighborhood.[Drummer] Sherman Ferguson lived about two blocks from me,and we ended up putting together the first band I played in.[Saxophonist] Odean Pope lived two blocks from me. Hasaan,the pianist, lived there. It was a very vibrant time.”

However, even though Fortune was born into this jazz incubator, he didn’t thrive immediately. He had picked up an alto saxophone but packed it away without making the necessary commitment to master the instrument. So what motivated Fortune to seriously pursue the music? “I had a horn and had become a little discouraged,” Fortune explains,”but at some point…Well, I guess it was my day job.  I was working at a corrugated box factory, and it was clear that job was going nowhere. I was always having issues with my boss, trying to get better wages and better working conditions. I decided I had this horn in my closet. I didn’t know about any programs [job training], but I had this horn. It was at this point that I started practicing four hours a day after I got back from work.”

Once Fortune became more proficient, there was no shortage of jam sessions where he could really get a jazz education. “Oh man, there were a lot of cats there,” says Fortune. “Cats from North Philly, South Philly..Germantown guys…I was in the learning stage and I was going to jam sessions with guys who became the “cats”. [Bassist]Reggie Workman, [pianist] Kenny Barron…I had to sit there for the longest time waiting to play a tune I knew. These cats weren’t gonna accommodate me.”

Sonny’s neighbor, Odean Pope, suggested a way he could get more playing time. “I was frustrated,” Fortune continues, “but Pope said I should try and find some guys who were my peers and start a band. So I started a band with Sherman Ferguson and a couple of other guys from the neighborhood.” It was around this point in his development as a musician that Fortune began seriously listening to the music of another Philly saxophonist, John Coltrane, who would become his life-long inspiration. Fortune has admitted that when he first listened to Coltrane’s playing with Miles Davis, he didn’t think Coltrane knew what he was doing. However, after hearing My Favorite Things (Atlantic, 1960) at a friend’s house, he was blown away. He bought the album the next day and Coltrane’s spirit has imbued Fortune’s life and music ever since. Sonny even studied at the legendary Granoff School because “Trane went there.”

After paying his dues and achieving a professional level of proficiency, Fortune packed his bags and his horns and moved to New York City. He had learned all he could in Philadelphia, now he had to put himself to the test and go where all the great musicians lived and worked. In the late 1960s he began playing with the great Cuban conguero, Mongo Santamaria, and, as the band spent a great deal of time in Los Angeles, Sonny briefly relocated to the West Coast. However, the laid back vibe of L.A. was not inspirational enough and he returned to New York, where, after playing with Elvin Jones, Fortune joined the band of one of those great musicians from the old neighborhood in Philly, McCoy Tyner. Although they were somewhat familiar with each other from Philadelphia, years would pass before they became friends. “My ex-wife and I would be sitting on the steps and I’d see him walking in the neighborhood and at dances,” says Fortune, “but I really didn’t get to know him until I played with him at this gig in Chester,Pennsylvania .

During his years with Tyner (1972-74), Fortune established himself as one of the most dynamic sax players on the scene. His playing on several of Tyner’s recordings, including Sahara and Song For My Lady, both released in 1972 on Milestone, already displayed his signature intense, urgent modal sound. After this productive association it was time to move on and up. In two years, Fortune would be touring and recording with the legendary Miles Davis during the trumpeter’s electric fusion years. From his experience with Davis, Fortune “learned the importance of the rhythm section,” a lesson that would serve him well throughout his career.

Many years have passed since Fortune took control of his own destiny and embarked on a journey of musical discovery. Just think, if labor relations had been cool in that Philly box factory,

Sonny Fortune might never have pulled his alto out of the closet. Thank God for that day job!

follow Chuck Koton on Facebook or hipster sanctuary.com

Chuck Koton

GIVE THE DRUMMER SUM’ JAZZ APPRECIATION MONTH SERIES: ELVIN JONES


posted by Robert J. Carmack  #@blues2jazzguy

elvin-jones-thumb

Mr. Jones, a fixture of the Coltrane group from late 1960 to early 1966 and for more than three decades the leader of several noteworthy groups of his own, was the first great post-bebop percussionist. Building on the innovations of the jazz modernists Kenny Clarke and Max Roach, who liberated the drum kit from a purely time-keeping function in the 1940’s, he paved the way for a later generation of drummers who dispensed with a steady rhythmic pulse altogether in the interest of greater improvisational freedom. ja-ijd-jamLGBut he never lost that pulse: the beat was always palpable when he played, even as he embellished it with layer upon layer of interlocking polyrhythms.

The critic and historian Leonard Feather explained Mr. Jones’s significance this way: “His main achievement was the creation of what might be called a circle of sound, a continuum in which no beat of the bar was necessarily indicated by any specific accent, yet the overall feeling became a tremendously dynamic and rhythmically important part of the whole group.”

But if the self-taught Mr. Jones had a profound influence on other drummers, not many of them directly emulated his style, at least in part because few had the stamina for it. None of the images that the critics invoked to describe his playing — volcano, thunderstorm, perpetual-motion machine — quite did justice to the strength of his attack, the complexity of his ideas or the originality of his approach.

Elvin Ray Jones was born in Pontiac, Mich., on Sept. 9, 1927. The youngest of 10 children, he was the third Jones brother to become a professional musician, following Hank, a respected jazz pianist who is still active, and Thad, a cornetist, composer, arranger and bandleader, who died in 1986.

sweating elvin-jones-4

MR DAY & KNIGHT

He began teaching himself to play drums at 13, but he had lost his heart to the instrument long before then. “I never wanted to play anything else since I was 2,” he told one interviewer. “I would get these wooden spoons from my mother and beat on the pots and pans in the kitchen.”

After spending three years in the Army he joined his brothers as a fixture on the busy Detroit jazz scene of the early 1950’s. As the house drummer at a local nightclub, the Bluebird Inn, he worked with local musicians like Tommy Flanagan and Kenny Burrell as well as visiting jazz stars like Charlie Parker and Miles Davis.

In 1956 after briefly touring with the bassist Charles Mingus and the pianist Bud Powell, Mr. Jones moved to New York, where he was soon in great demand as an accompanist. He occasionally sat in with Miles Davis, and he later recalled that Coltrane, who was then Davis’s saxophonist, promised to hire Mr. Jones whenever he formed his own group. In the fall of 1960 Coltrane made good on that promise.   jazzapprmonthlogo_vertical

Working with Coltrane, a relentless musical explorer, emboldened Mr. Jones to expand the expressive range of his instrument. “My experience with Coltrane,” he told the writer James Isaacs in 1973, “was that John was a catalyst in my finding the way that drums could be played most musically.” He in turn influenced Coltrane, Mr. Jones’s ferocious rhythms goading Coltrane to ecstatic heights in performance and on recordings like “A Love Supreme” and “Ascension.”

Coltrane’s quartet helped redefine the concept of the jazz combo. Mr. Jones and the other members of the rhythm section, the pianist McCoy Tyner and the bassist Jimmy Garrison, did not accompany Coltrane so much as engage him in an open-ended four-way conversation. Audiences found the group’s intensity galvanizing, and many critics shared their enthusiasm.

But despite its popularity, the group divided the jazz world. John Tynan of Down Beat magazine dismissed its music as “anti-jazz,” and others agreed. Mr. Jones’s drumming, a revelation to some listeners, was dismissed by others as overly busy and distractingly loud.

elvin jones  midnight walk

Mr. Jones left the group in March 1966, shortly after Coltrane, as part of his constant quest for new sounds, began adding musicians. Although he never publicly explained why he left, he was widely believed to have been insulted by Coltrane’s decision to hire a second drummer.

Mr. Jones spent two weeks with Duke Ellington’s big band and briefly worked in Paris before returning to the United States, where he formed a trio with Garrison, who had also recently left Coltrane, and the saxophonist Joe Farrell. That group was short-lived, but Mr. Jones continued to lead small groups for the rest of his life. Over the years many exceptional musicians passed in and out of the Elvin Jones Jazz Machine, as the ensemble came to be known in all its various incarnations, and the group performed regularly all over the world and recorded prolifically.

HIPSTER RETRO – JAZZ SERIES:AZAR LAWRENCE CONQUER DIZZY’S NEW YORK


review posted by Chuck Koton  via #@blues2jazzguy

azar lawrence in DIZZY's Coca Cola

“ The music this band plays recalls the ‘fire music’ Lawrence inhaled during his many years in McCoy Tyner’s band.”  Chuck Koton

There ain’t no denyin’ that jazz is best heard “live.” Ideally, the band is playing in a club equipped with quality sound and lighting systems, staffed by experienced people who are respectful of the music (especially bartenders who try to avoid running the drink mixers during bass and piano solos) and managed by someone who not only sees to it that the players are properly introduced but also always reminds the audience to keep the chatter subdued, so as not to disrespect the performers. In such an ideal environment, a hip and enthusiastic audience can interact with inspired jazz musicians to create a truly sublime musical experience. All of these conditions were met at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola when tenor and soprano saxophonist, Azar Lawrence, played four sold out nights at Dizzy’s, occasioned by a CD release party for The Seeker (Sunnyside, 2014), recorded live at the Jazz Standard.

The gig offered visceral and indisputable evidence of the emotional and spiritual power of live jazz. Lawrence, who has been traveling on a personal journey in search of truth and beauty through music since he was a young man, opened his performance (he was joined by the same group who played on the recording, save for veteran trumpet master, Eddie Henderson, who replaced Nicholas Payton for this gig), with an original composition, “Gandhi,” inspired by the legendary Indian seeker of peace and freedom. This modal burner instantly signaled the band’s serious intentions to the audience; this was going to be a “hold on to your hats” wild ride. Lawrence blew a forceful snake charmer riff on tenor before stepping aside to give the rhythm section some space. Azar at Dizzy's The heavy, percussive quality of pianist Benito Gonzalez’ playing immediately recalled the sledgehammer left hand of McCoy Tyner, a fundamental influence not only on Gonzalez, but also Lawrence, whose big break in jazz came when he joined Tyner’s band in 1973, and with whom he toured and recorded for six years. Then, Henderson strode to the microphone and blew a minimalist and gentle solo that provided appropriate contrast to the band’s surging power. Then Lawrence returned, blew chorus after breathless chorus, and left everyone in need of a drink. On “One More Time,” a Benito Gonzalez composition, the highlight was, unquestionably, the rhythm section’s 10 minute improvisatory excursion. With a diamond cutter’s finesse, exuberant spirit and a dominatrix’s talent for restraint and unbridled power, these three cats rocked the room. Taking the first solo, Gonzalez, head, torso and hands a blur of motion, nearly ascended off the piano bench as his supple fingers pounded rumbling chords out of the eighty eight keys. Next, long time fixture on the NY scene, bassist Essiet Essiet, not content to merely pluck the strings, put on his own jaw-dropping display of rhythmic prowess by punctuating his beats with dramatic bass slaps. Finally, drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts took over. His “Tainness” built up the tempo and intensity slowly, but soon he was “droppin’ bombs” and beatin’ the drums and cymbals as if they were covered with the face of a grade school teacher who’d punished him for tapping on his desk.

All the while, a beatific smile beamed from his sweat-drenched face. Yeah, while these cats were “workin,’ steamin,’ and cookin,’ the audience was finger snappin’ and head boppin’ in spirited unity. The band slowed down the pace with “Rain Ballad,” a stirring plea to the heavens that opened with Watts’ dramatic bass drum mimicking distant thunder, followed by shimmering cymbals that simulated life-giving, falling rain. Then Lawrence, like a rain god, answered the prayer with his lush tenor tone and Dr. Henderson reached into his “medical” bag for a mute, then blew with barely enough air to coax the sweetest sounds from his horn. The cats left no doubt they could jam in a “sweet and lovely” style, too. Next came the title tune, “The Seeker,” a medium tempo compositon by Lawrence that conjured up images of child-like innocence and joy, like the feeling of awe experienced on a first walk through a garden abuzz with the spectacle of life in spring time. Lawrence, on soprano, sounded like the pied piper leading the children on a journey of discovery. Eddie Henderson called on his six decades of experience to blow a solo that employed the trumpet’s entire range of tones from sweet and “midnight blue,” to hot and bright. Behind the horn soloists, Gonzalez, Essiet and the irrepressible Watts drove the rhythm relentlessly.

About Writer  – Chuck_by_Julia_Dean_2

Chuck Koton has been a jazz lover for 40 years and is currently covering the Los Angeles jazz scene for All About Jazz (AAJ). “I grew up in New York and since high school, I have spent much quality time hangin’ at the Village Vanguard and many other jazz clubs. I’m an educator and jazz photographer, now living in Los Angeles.”

A Brush With Immortality: Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon, and Jackie McLean


BENEATH THE SPIN  Posted by Eric L. Wattree                                via #blues2jazzguy

I went to Shelly’s Manhole with some older brothers to see Thelonious Monk one night, and I noticed that Monk kept looking over at me as he was playing. It made me nervous because I was under age and I thought he was gonna give me up and tell ’em to kick me out. They already knew me at the clubs around town. I knew damn near every waitress in this city. Sometimes they’d let me stay, and other times they’d kick me out – I never did figure out what made the difference. And they’d never serve me drinks, so I’d have to order something non-alcoholic and bring my own. But I wanted to be accepted as a sophisticated adult more than anything in life, so sometime I’d put the bass in my voice and try to casually order Scotch on the rocks. But the waitress would just look at me sideways like, “You’re lucky I’m letting you stay here, so don’t push it, buddy.” T Monk  at Piano plaid jacket .             One or two of the waitresses who’d been around for a while knew my mother when she was working as a greeter at Dynamite Jackson’s, and I think they put the word out on me. So they’d tolerate me, but they just wouldn’t let me be the man who I wanted to be so desperately, because I wasn’t. It’s sort of funny when I look back on it. Had I been sophisticated enough to know what adulthood actually entailed, I would have been more desperate to hold on to those precious years than was I to become an adult. . So I just kept coming back and braving the humiliation, because from the time I was 12 years old I loved everything, and everybody, associated with jazz. I got that gene from my father. As I’ve said many times before, my father thought the only reason the Sun came up was to keep Bird’s reeds warm. I had to fight the preacher at his funeral to have Jackie McLean playing “Love and Hate” in the background. I told the preacher if they don’t have jazz in Heaven, the Pearly Gates would constitute the entrance to Hell for my father. The irony was, when I was done reading the eulogy that I’d written for my father (Blues For Mr. C), with Jackie Playing softly in the background, that very same preacher came up to me and asked me for a copy.    Monk meditating in Cosick Hat . On that particular night, however, after his first set, Monk walked up to me and TOLD me, “Come with me.” He took me back to the musician’s lounge where Nelly was, and asked, “Who does he remind you of?” And she said, “TOOTIE!” – Monk’s son. . He saw me as a young wide-eyed joke, and I was. I was 16 and on a roll (I had just seen John Coltrane a couple of weeks earlier). Monk asked me, “What you know about jazz, boy?” And I started telling him about all the urban legends that I’d heard about him. As he was listening intently to one of my stories he asked me, “Damn! What did I do then!!!?” You have to know how Monk was to know why I look back on that as being so funny, because he was dead serious. He got into the story like I was telling him a story about someone else. I never did find out whether the story was true or not. But When I was done, he told his wife, Nelly, “Shit, he knows more about me than I do,” and they started laughing’ their asses off. . I spent that entire night with them, because I was so young that Nelly was worried that I was gonna be picked up by one of those,”Hollywood perverts.” Monk told Nelly, “Shit,who you should be worried about is (Blank)? ” – his drummer (I’m not gonna give his name because he’s famous and he’s never been outed as gay). But for the rest of the night I sat in the front row next to Nelly, and after the gig I went to their hotel room with them and we grubbed and talked. I told him how I planned on becoming a great saxophone player someday, and I asked him everything I could think of about Bird. I remember him telling me, “Naw, you don’t want to be Bird, unless you like bein’ broke. How much money you got?” I had about five dollars in my pocket. And he said, “Shit, you already richer than Bird was half the time,” and then started laughing’. Nelly said, “Don’t say that, T!” They dropped me off at my mother’s door just as the Sun was coming up. It was a night I will never forget. monk's dream album cover . After that episode, the OGs made me a celebrity in the hood. I’ve never had that much attention before, or since. I had attracted the interest of THELONIOUS MONK. EVERYBODY wanted to know EVERY detail of what went down, and every detail about Monk that they could get – everybody, including Jimmy, the brilliant dope fiend that my father had hired to teach me to play the saxophone. There are a lot of details that I’ve left out of this story, and I remember every detail like it happened last night, but I do intend to write about it, and every nuance of that great man in the most minute detail in the near future, because it’s of historic significance. People STILL don’t realize how great that man was. You can listen to “Ruby My Dear,” or “Round Midnight,” and they constitute a MASTER’S CLASS on what contemporary music is all about. I could appreciate that even back then. So I thank God that I had the sense to know that I was in the presence of immortality. . I also intend to write about an entire New Years weekend that I spent with Dexter Gordon during the 70s. He grew up two blocks from my mother and they both went to Jefferson High School here in Los Angeles. She graduated; he went on the road with Lionel Hampton at 17 years old. During that weekend Dex made a passing comment regarding how I idolized him that ended up becoming the guiding philosophy of my life – “Learn to become your own hero, because you’re the only one who won’t let you down.” He also told me, “Whenever you hear me play a lick, your very first thought should be about how you could go about playing it better.” He was right, and that was the key to his greatness. Lester Young was his main man, and you could hear Lester in him, but he wasn’t Lester – he was Dexter, and nobody did it better. But he was wrong about one thing. He never did let me down. He blew the lights out until his very last breath. But I’ve taken him at his word, nevertheless, and he became my last hero. That’s turned me into a severe cynic over the years, and that very cynicism has been of tremendous value to me as a writer. I don’t trust the word of nobody, so I start off every piece I write by probing for lies.

Eric Wattree

Award-winning writer, Eric L. Wattree

ECHOES OF AN ERA: THE FABULOUS QUINCY JONES


posted by  Eric L. Wattree via R.J. Carmack #blues2jazzguy

Quincy at PianoQuincy Jones is one of the last truly GREAT composers and arrangers to come out of jazz, or any other form of music, in quite some time. NOBODY is greater, and no one ever has been. He stands among Ellington, Basie, Mancini, and Gershwin in complete comfort, so we shouldn’t take him for granted, because Quincy is easily among the greatest men who have ever lived, and that’s not meant as hyperbole.

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Yes, we already recognize him as a celebrity, but he’s much more than just that. Due to our contemporary philosophy of “de-education” – or the dumbing-down of society – we fail to recognize Quincy’s true statue as an artist, or what he represents to the history of music as a whole. Quincy Jones is not just famous, he’s an icon of the arts of a historic stature, and we should all recognize and honor such greatness within our midst, because there is nothing of more value to humanity than those who have achieved Quincy’s level of excellence, greatness, and accomplishment.
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People such as Quincy enhance all of humanity. They serve as living testaments to what man is capable of at his best. Their contributions represent the ultimate political, spiritual, and moral statement of mankind as a whole. They also stand as a constant reminder of what man can, and should be, and of the kind of excellence that we should all strive for.

quincy in session

Q in session with the great William “Count ” Basie 1959

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Thus, this is my tribute to a GREAT man, and a great artist, who has managed to achieve the ultimate in our human endeavor – immortality.  (The lyrics were written to be sang by a woman).

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QUINTESSENCE     lyrics by  ERIC WATTREE        

I____ love the sound____ of maestro\Quincy Jones____.
His music____ is so____ divine______.
When I sing____his songs____ I know I can’t____go wrong,
because I’m filled____with the soul____of Quincy Jones______.
*
Q’s____serenades_____ are always so refined________
The mel-o-dies linger____ on_____.
They sing of love for you____from a guy_______ known
as “Q”_____,
A name____that will always_______ sing for
you______

And then when Phil____ begins to play,
Quin-tes-sence\in his\own____and special way____
he seems to know\ . . . . exactly what the Q had to say.
They sung about jazz and love\ and of \ling___er___ing
Sunsets__________,
and______ blessed the dawn________with this song__

They sung of love\ and when your heart is full,
trem-bl-ing lips\ beneath a mistletoe____
they made my heart____ stand still_______.
So as I sing____ this song____ I know I\Just\ can’t____ go wrong______,
because it flowed____ from the pen ____ of

Maestro, Quincy Jones______.

I____ love the sound____ of maestro\Quincy Jones____.
His music____ is so____ divine______.
When I sing____his songs____ I know I can’t____go wrong,
because I’m filled____with the soul____of Quincy Jones______.

And then when Phil began to play\ Q just let him have____ his own way_____,
and Phil said, \”Maestro\ . . . I just love the sound of this
mel-o-dy.”
Then picked up his horn\ and started to
soar________like an angel__________,

and joined____ the immortals____ in fame_____.

Genius like this\ you never see no more____, \kissed
by the Gods\ as they walk through the door;
\A genius where time____stands still___________.
So as I sing___ his song______I know I____

can’t________ go wrong_________,

because I am wrapped\ in the soul_____ of Maestro____ Quincy Jones______.

*
Beauty is Q’s genre, and
he uses our heartstrings as his ax.

The fabulous Quincy Jones and the great Clark Terry!

clark Terry  Quincy

INVITATION by Q and Orchestra with sax solo by Phil Woods

About the writer

Eric L. Wattree is a writer, poet, and musician, born in Los Angeles. He’s a columnist for The Los Angeles Sentinel, Black Star News, The Atlanta Post, and a member of the Sigma Delta Chi Society of Professional Journalists (http://www.spj.org/). He’s also the author of “A Message From the Hood.”

“Some of the greatest minds I’ve ever known held court while sitting on empty milk crates in the parking lots of ghetto liquor stores, while some of the weakest minds I’ve ever known roamed the halls of academia in pursuit of credentials over knowledge.”

Eric L. Wattree Eric Wattree
http://www.whohub.com/wattree