Miles Dewey Davis jazz musician,composer, and fashion setting artist turned 90 years old today. if he was still alive today ,what Miles would we see or hear from ?What would he think of the music scene, not necessarily jazz, but the whole Pop culture. Certainly, in my opinion, he would be shocked and appalled at the really low-quality of so-called talent being “worshipped and awarded all the benefits.
Miles was one of my favorite jazz artists and more importantly, He was an inspiration to me as a young budding saxophonist in the early and mid -1960s. Fortunate for me, I got an opportunity to check out Miles for myself “Live” at the Pacific Jazz Festival held at the Orange County Fairgrounds in fall of 1966. I was much too young to have witnessed his first great quintet consisting of Red Garland,Paul Chambers,Philly Joe Jones, John Coltrane almost a decade before. I was quite impressed as a 11th grade student to actually attend a festival with such a stellar lineup for that particular night the Davis Quintet were headlining. In addition to Davis performing was The Duke Ellington Orchestra, The Dave Brubeck Quartet and Brazilian guitarist, Bola Sete. The Davis group had the highly sought-after Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter,Ron Carter and the very young Tony Williams with him. After that experience, I bought every album I could on the sidemen and Davis, as I was surely “hooked”. By the end of the decade,circa 1968 and 1969, Miles was changing up his whole approach from full acoustical jazz with further explorations of modes. But, he seemed more interested in exploring the hip, “Electric sounds” of Pop/Rock groups of the day .
I never saw Miles again Live until one night at Shelly’s Manne Hole in 1971, with a completely revamped band consisting of Keith Jarrett electric keyboards and Jack De’Johnette on drums ,both recent alums from the Charles Lloyd group.also Michael Henderson electric bass and Gary Bartz on saxes. At this time Miles was promoting his new all-electric band and album “Jack Johnson” which was a cornucopia of electric keyboards, organs ,electric bass with sound enhancing devices, including Miles Davis himself trying to get through the evening without shocking himself to death with this new “Electric Trumpet equipped with wah-wah pedal and an installed mic pickup near the neck and mouthpiece. Whenever Miles would get into a groove, the trumpet would shock him because of the buildup of “Spittle” and the metallic aspects of the trumpet. He practically spent the entire evening coating his lips with a special oil, and jumping in pain whenever it would shock him. I was seated right in front of Miles less than five feet away. I enjoyed the new band overall, but it was annoying watching Miles uncomfortably play his trumpet. I felt like it was a lot to sacrifice just to produce a sound, but this was the determination and resolve of a great musician and pioneer to carry on until the ability to play the trumpet was not impeded by the amount of electricity flowing through the horn. Better technology came into play by the 80s, including the horn being fitted with a special mic attached with a long cord . I miss having Miles around just as a sort of Jazz Guru or true grit genre advocate. Happy Birthday Dewey!! You were the Best!
Its 2016, that means Messers ,Miles Dewey Davis and John William Coltrane,both born in 1926 is turning 90 years old . I’m excited and curious about what’s going to happen event-wise. What is radio,print and internet going to do? Miles has a tremendous jump on things ,since a movie about part of his life is due out. Probably around his birthday weekend which is in May.
John Coltrane’s peeps have been rather silent and crickets-like when it comes to making a splash..Not a peep. Don’t get me wrong I’m not admonishing them for not being all social media “blitzy” like the Miles Davis camp. But its par for the course when you’re dealing with the rather flamboyant persona and spirit of Miles Davis. Films, postage stamps,Tee shirts,posters and tribute CDs and “live”concerts with artists all paying homage.
It’s really amazing that these two, of all the musicians that matter are still attached, even after their leaving this earth. With Coltrane being gone the longest (July 17 1967) this year marking 49 years in July. Miles transitioned in September of 1991, which is at 25 years. I suspect there will be a lot more events and activity for Miles before his birthday gets here, all aiding in promoting the new film by Don Cheadle as Director and Actor.
From this day forth, I will be monitoring the scene nationally to see “who does what and when.” The beauty of such a monumental occasion is a great opportunity for the jazz community to come together and promote the legacy that these two left behind for us to study, enjoy, and pass along to the next generation. in my lifetime, I have been able to absorb a great deal of their art on vinyl,CDs,tapes,canvass,film and video.
My hope is that, someone or organization will put together an assortment of events that will garner international attention as these two giants of Jazz approach a “MILESTONE.” No pun intended! Lol!!
San Francisco bay area saxophonist, Mel Martin will be a part of the S.F. Hot Plate jazz series at the SF Jazz Center. Every third Thursday of the month in the Joe Henderson Lab, the Bay Area’s most gifted musicians pay homage to the top100 jazz albums of all-time. Martin performs music from the late Joe Henderson’s 1966 Blue Note classic, MODE for JOE.
Thursday Evening, April 21, 2016 – Mel Martin plays Joe Henderson’s Mode for Joe @ The SFJazz Center. Shows at 8 & 9:30PM. General $20 Members $15. 201 Franklin Street, San Francisco,CA.94102 Featuring Mel Martin – tenor saxophone,Alber Bent -Trombone, Mark Levine – piano, Robb Fisher – bass and Jeff Marrs – drum If one wanted to pick a really hip album by a jazz musician to pay homage to, Joe Henderson fill the bill on all fronts. I was a young budding saxophone student in 1964. I would spend days trying my best to emulate what was coming out of my parent’s stereo HiFi. practicing and trying to play along with my Dad’s album,The Sidewinder” by Lee Morgan, featuring Joe Henderson on Tenor saxophone. I discovered the most electrifying solo of my young life. It possessed everything one could ever want in a solo.. First its funky as hell. Also, its very muscular and logical.. it provides a young student a roadmap on how to build a solo while moving and grooving. Joe Henderson’s Solo on the Lee Morgan album’s title track, which led me to other artist’s work with Joe Henderson playing on them.That included Horace Silver, Kenny Dorham,Grant Green,Bobby Hutcherson and later on many others and different genres They all have enjoyed this man’s performances and spirit. I interviewed Joe in the late 90s about what he thought of the newer young jazz musicians who were not focused on composing lasting compositions, but more on “watered-down tunes” that became popular for a year or two but not long lasting as many of the jazz musicians of Joe’s ilk and pedigree created just 20 years before. “Many of these cats are just putting on an Armani suit and coming on stage commiting Sacriledge. Not really working on their craft before they get to the stage” stated Joe as he shook his head.
Mode for Joe album was released in 1966, Over 50 years ago, I turned 16 that year. My passion for this music is still as strong for these compositions as they were in 1966.Here we are in 2016, Mel Martin is paying tribute to this great Tenor saxophonist and his music. Music that has stood the TEST OF TIME.. Thank you Mr. Martin. I only wish Joe was still here to come out and hear you. The greatest form of flattery to a musician is to have someone play your compositions years after you’ve created them.
Check out Mel Martin at his website for his Cds,gigs or just what’s going on with his various groups and bands. http://www.melmartin.com/
Atlanta resident, Thomas Simmons invites you and yours for a seat right down front at your favorite listening space. Holding it down each and every Friday night 10pm to midnightt eastern standard time at WRFG FM 89.3 ,Jazz to Soothe Your Soul.
Thomas explores be-Bop, Hard Bop, mainstream-straight ahead music , with no chaser or mute. His show is all the rave of Hipsters, Aficionados and record collectors world-wide. Starting out as a passionate record collector of rare and unusual vinyl, soon grew into the tens of thousands records and CDs. now an on-air jazz host almost 15 years in Atlanta primarily at WCLK, now at WRFG 89.3 FM almost 2 years. Thomas plays the stuff other stations are either scared to play or, don’t know about the music period. I suggest you catch the show from the very beginning, since it’s only a two-hour show, quality is packed into every minute of his unique and very grassroots style of broadcasting REAL Jazz, Never fluff. Tune every Friday at 10PM EST or stream on the worldwide web:
Once in a lunar eclipse weekend you might get some pretty good entertainment in selected spots around Los Angeles, but to get great jazz, that requires planning ahead and research. for the last 39 years , in an unlikely area of south central Los Angeles wedged between a Junior high school , railroad tracks, some proud residents, and a Los Angeles landmark , built by an immigrant, Simon Rhodia of concrete, steel and broken glass.
The Watts Towers Jazz Festival took its familiar bow September 26 & 27th . The festival features a “Day of the Drum“, with supporting activities of all cultures and ethnicities celebration of drums, throw in Jazz from around the world by local, regional and international musicians performing on a live stage that looked like a revival tent. This writer had planned in advance to get there in time to catch Carmen Lundy & Patrice Rushen performing as single acts , but also together as well.
Carmen took the stage with her own group featuring her iconic bassist and brother, Curtis Lundy. After a couple of hot jazz numbers , Carmen called up Patrice to sit in with her group on selections from her 14th new CD as a leader. Rushen was simply stellar in her improvisations on cuts like “Life is a Song in Me” and title track, “Soul to Soul”. In my humble opinion , this is Grammy material. grab a copy at your usual source for purchasing music online.
Patrice Rushen and Ndugu are both products of the Watts community ,while being alumni of Locke High school under the mentorship of musician /Educator Reggie Andrews. Patrice and Ndugu fronted an all-star band of Nedra Wheeler on Bass and Justo Almario on saxophone, Munyungo Jackson on percussion. In their set they chose to celebrate the genius of several iconic jazz masters, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk and Horace Silver, and a couple of others to the audience’s delight.
Weekend’s events were beautifully MC’d by Jazz program host James Janisse, and Poet Laureate and Griot ,Kamau Daood.
Sonny Rollins turned 85 years old today . its hard to believe ,not because of his age, but, in spite of his age. He still holds court somewhere in the world on major stages blowing long, multi-note phrases, swinging violently on the most miniscule of sub-themes set up by his own improvisations. Very few things are more exciting than watching and listening to Sonny Rollins in Beast mode. My first experience seeing and hearing him was as a curious child watching 1950s television, that just happened to have a jazz band playing that night. I saw this really cool looking black man with a shiny horn , sun glasses and a Mohawk. I think it was Steve Allen or Jack Parr’s version of the The Tonight Show. Sonny Rollins was more than a jazz musician, he was a mentor to other jazz musicians, cultural and fashion icon whose influences went beyond the bandstand as well. He was the first black man I ever saw with a Mohawk (1959)..Quite the dresser on stage when he wanted to, He was the first I ever saw with clean-shaved head(1960s) and diamond-studded Ascot.
My first live Sonny Rollins concert, I was now 21 and living in Los Angeles 1971, he was performing at the museum of modern Art outside.. I watched with such wide-eyed delight as he swung so hard on unbelievable tempos, countered that with such tender,velvety arpeggios like he did on such classics as, I Can’t Get Started or Don’t Blame Me. Fast-forward to late 1990s and I’m now living in Atlanta Georgia watching a much older man with full head of snow-white hair and full beard, with a very nice suit with red “Chuck Taylor” Converse basketball shoes. This time his band personnel was young guys except for his long-time bassist Bob Cranshaw. The results were still the same…long-winded solos on jazz standards and some west indian folk songs paying homage to Rollins’ West Indian roots.
This man has appeared in countless numbers of countries on even more super numbers of stages,over (7) seven decades of playing professionally and like a great Rolls Royce classic, even though high milage, He still purrs and runs like new.
Well done sir! Happy Birthday Sonny, keep coming back!