posted by #@blues2jazzguy
posted by Robert J. Carmack #blues2jazzguy
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!
posted by Robert J.Carmack
Kenny Dorham’s soft, energetic, be-bop style and confident, smooth lyrical playing has influenced countless musicians. One of the great trumpet pioneers of the bebop era, Kenny had the misfortune to play beneath the shadows cast by Gillespie, Fats Navarro, Clifford Brown and Miles Davis. He worked with most of the giants of the music in the ’40s and ’50s, and continued to lead his own groups through the 60s. Many of his compositions have become jazz standards (Blue Bossa, Prince Albert, Lotus Blossom, Una Mas, Whistle Stop). Its believed, but not substantiated he used to “ghost” many of his charts, which were published under the name of Walter “Gil” Fuller. There was another Gil Fuller who wrote and arrange for big band leaders including Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Charles,Billy Eckstine and many others. ( please check out Fuller Bop Man by Fuller)
Kenny was born into a musical family on August 30th, 1924 in Fairfield, Texas. At age 7, he began piano lessons, switching to trumpet while attending high school in Austin. His debut on the trumpet was with a dance band at Wiley College, where he studied pharmacy.
In 1942, he joined the army, becoming a member of their boxing team and in 1943, began working with trumpeter, Russell Jacquet, “Illinois” Jacquet’s older brother. He later moved to New York City, playing and singing with Dizzy Gillespie’s band, as well as other groups, including Billy Eckstine, Lionel Hampton, and Mercer Ellington. He earned the nickname “Quiet Kenny” due to his quiet, subdued sound, replacing Miles Davis in Charlie Parker’s group from 1948 to 1950.
In the early 50s, Kenny began playing in New York City, recording with Thelonious Monk in ’52, and became a founding member of the Jazz Messengers with Art Blakey and Horace Silver. He later replaced Clifford Brown in the Max Roach/Clifford Brown Quintet when Clifford was killed in an automobile accident. Dorham would occasionally lead his own groups, giving early exposure to such younger men as Bobby Timmons, Herbie Hancock, Joe Henderson, Charles Davis, Kenny Burrell, Butch Warren and Tony Williams.
He was very active in the late 50s and 60s, teaching at Lennox School of Jazz, leading and touring with his own groups, co-leading groups with Joe Henderson and Hank Mobley, and recording with Barry Harris, Cedar Walton, Jackie McLean, Eric Dolphy, Charles Mingus, and Sonny Rollins. During that time, Kenny recorded an impressive series of LP’s under his own name for Blue Note. His best recordings include Whistle Stop and Una Mas for Blue Note and Jazz Contemporary for Time. He was also a thoughtful reviewer for Downbeat Magazine, and attended college at NYU School of Music, teaching at the school before he died of kidney failure on December 5th, 1972.
posted by Robert J. Carmack #blues2jazzguy
The American Jazz community is jarred once again by the passing of trumpet master,Clark Terry (94). He was considered a major influence on trumpet coming out of the swing and Bebop eras, while bringing style and hip humor to generations of musicians, including Miles Davis and Quincy Jones. The seventh of 11 children, Clark Terry was born into a poor St. Louis family on Dec. 14, 1920. Louis Armstrong was his mentor. Dizzy Gillespie once described him as “the greatest trumpet player on earth.” My first experience with Terry was where he’s playing solo with Doc Severson and the Tonight Show Orchestra with Johnny Carson. Often, his stage signature tune was a humorous vocalese- based riff tune called mumbles. 1960s, Terry went on to record an entire monologue based around the mumbles character having an argument with his girlfriend , thus, it was his calling card over the decades of his career. I kind of saw him as another Hipster like Dizzy,with the Tam and big glasses, who played trumpet on the top shelf. when injecting humor and style into his personality, that made watching him so cool .He was also one of the first black musicians to hold a staff position at a television network ,and was for many years a mainstay of the “Tonight Show” band. One of the most high-profile proponents of teaching jazz at the college level. Clark was a well respected , serious Jazz musician with a great sense of humor. Also, a perennial favorite at all the traditional Jazz festivals. He will be sorely missed by all of the jazz audiences around the world and right here in the USA.
Oran Thaddeus “Hot Lips” Page, jazz trumpeter, singer, and bandleader, was born in Dallas, Texas, on January 27, 1908. He was the son of Greene and Maggie (Beal) Page. Page’s mother, a schoolteacher and musician, taught him the basics of music when he was a child. By the age of twelve he could play the clarinet, saxophone, and trumpet. He joined a local youth band, led by drummer Lux Alexander, that played at local venues around Dallas. Page attended Corsicana High School and Texas College (in Tyler), and worked for a time in the oilfields.
He began his professional touring career when he joined Ma Rainey’s band in the 1920s. After leaving that group he toured with Walter Page’s Blue Devils from 1928 to 1931. During the early 1930s he toured with Bennie Moten’s band. In 1936 he joined Count Basie’s band for a short stint and subsequently played with Artie Shaw. Page formed his own big bands in the late 1930s and early 1940s, often playing in New York, Chicago, Boston, and other cities. Between 1938 and 1954 he cut several tracks, including the 1938 record “Skull Duggery” on the Bluebird label. He recorded “Pagin’ Mr. Page” in 1944 and “St. James Infirmary” in 1947. He recorded with numerous bands during his career, including those of Artie Shaw, Bennie Moten, and Eddie Condon.
repost from the JAZZ DADDY Blog by Justin Scoville
November 11, 2014 | The Jazz Daddy | Leave a comment
To loosely paraphrase Jazz critic Gary Giddins, Kenny Dorham (1924-1972) has become synonymous with anything starting with “under”–underrated, understated, under-appreciated, etc. Dorham was a phenomenal bop trumpet player who was game enough to record with some of the most adventurous artists of his time, from early Thelonious Monk, to Cecil Taylor, to Andrew Hill.
Leading up to 1959, and in the decade or so to follow, Jazz history is often viewed through the lens of two giants: Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Because their influence was so enormous, it is easy to forget that many Jazz musicians were quietly advancing the music in significant, albeit more subtle, ways. Dorham was one of those overlooked artists.
As a composer, Dorham was an early pioneer of fusing Afro-Cuban elements into Jazz. He penned numerous standards (Blue Bossa, Una Mas, Lotus Blossom) that were Latin-tinged, but laced with forward-thinking harmonies and the blues. (Side note: I view Tom Harrell as a direct successor of KD, both as a trumpeter and composer).
While Miles Davis exposed the fragility of the trumpet with his “walking on eggshells” approach, Dorham explored an entirely different conception of the instrument that hearkened more to the reed family than to brass (although Dorham could blow brashly when he wanted to). Beyond his unique sound, Dorham’s polished yet organic style of articulation gave his improvisations a fascinating combination of edginess, humor, and laid-backedness.
One year removed from his own definitive recording released in 1959 (Quiet Kenny), Dorham’s Jazz Contemporary album puts all of his strengths on display with a sympathetic supporting cast. In particular, the rhythm section of Buddy Enlow (drums), Butch Warren (bass), and Steve Kuhn (piano) lay a fascinating groundwork for Dorham and baritone saxophonist Charles Davis (who later played extensively with Sun Ra). Warren’s aggressive bass lines, combined with Kuhn’s very modernistic comping and Enlow’s fiery snare, make for interesting listening. Jimmy Garrison holds down the bass chair in place of Warren on a few tracks as well.
I spoke earlier in this article about the influence of Miles Davis and John Coltrane. It would be easy to frame this album as having been recorded in their respective shadows. Enlow was a disciple of Davis’ drummer Philly Joe Jones. Kuhn would go on to briefly join Coltrane’s quartet, and was probably seen at this time as a successor to Davis’ preferred pianist Bill Evans. “In Your Own Sweet Way,” which is track #3 on this album, was also coincidentally track #3 on Davis’ iconic Workin’. And Jimmy Garrison, of course, went on to be Coltrane’s bassist through the 60’s. Charles Davis, Dorham’s saxophonist here, shows a strong Sonny Rollins influence, and Rollins was one of Miles’ early partners in crime. Despite all of those facts, I prefer to view Kenny as his own man.
“A Waltz” kicks off the album with KD swinging in 3/4, something Miles attempted sparingly in his career. “Monk’s Mood” is a challenging ballad that gets a lot of burn time with the group’s expert interpretation. “In Your Own Sweet Way” is an interesting contrast to Miles’ group rendition, with Charles Davis and Kuhn blowing furiously over the labyrinthine chord changes.
To me, “Horn Salute” is the highlight of the album. It’s a Dorham original that ingeniously blends stop-time melodies with challenging background harmonies. I believe this tune is a definite foreshadowing of Dorham’s later works with Joe Henderson. “Tonica” and “This Love of Mine” close out the album in a hard-swinging fashion.
While Jazz Contemporary may not be the most definitive Jazz album of the period, or even of KD’s discography for that matter, it still represents an interesting transitional phase for the underrated trumpeter. Each member of the band would go their separate ways to successful stints outside of Dorham’s employ, but it is reasonable to believe they all were indebted to KD for the opportunity to play in a swinging, original group.
KD Gem: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUDt9-TMsXQ
posted by Justin Scoville-musician,composer, educator,blogger
Imagine the mid-1960’s in Brooklyn. You are strolling down New York Avenue to St. Gregory’s Church, where a benefit concert is being held to raise funds for a neighborhood playground. You are surprised to see John Coltrane’s Quartet playing A Love Supreme, with the great Rashaan Roland Kirk on the bandstand as guest artist. Not only that, but Thelonious Monk is hanging out in the wings, ready to play a few tunes as well. This is no ordinary charity event. Who could have organized such a performance? Who would have the clout to pull such heavyweight players in for a community benefit? Duke Ellington? Tadd Dameron, perhaps?
Wrong on both counts. You are surprised to see Trane greet a short, somewhat overweight gentleman holding a trumpet who seems to be in charge of the event. Tapping the shoulder of the person next to you, you inquire who Trane is talking to. The incredulous response: “Why, that’s Cal Massey. He’s a living legend.”
Fast forward to the present day. Few casual fans of Jazz recognize the name. Sadly ignored by countless Jazz critics,Massey (1928-1972) was revered by the foremost musicians of his day as a genius of composition and a solid trumpeter. John Coltrane, Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan, Archie Shepp, and many others actively performed Massey‘s works. He was a forceful activist for the Black Liberation Movement and was seen as a pillar of his community.
Who was Cal Massey? What is his legacy? How can a man simultaneously be ignored by many but held in high regard by such luminaries as John Coltrane and Archie Shepp?
Massey‘s family moved to Philadelphia in his teenage years, where by a chance encounter he earned a spot in Jimmy Heath’s big band trumpet section. This particular group featured an alto saxophone player that immediately captivated Massey: John Coltrane. The two became lifetime friends. Family and friends recall the two talking about music for hours on end.
During the 40’s and 50’s, Massey began to hone his craft as a composer. Under the tutelage of Freddie Webster and constant interaction with the giants of his time (like Miles Davis, Coltrane, and others), Massey distinguished himself as a musical force to be reckoned with.
It was during this period that Massey met Romulus Franceshini, an Italian-American musician and socialist. The two formed an important musical and ideological partnership until Massey‘s passing, with Franceshini often conducting Massey‘s groups.
An Underground Hero
Fred Ho, the late baritone saxophonist and Massey expert, relates that in the early 1960’s, Massey stepped into an elevator with Francis Wolff, co-owner of the iconic Blue Note records. According to Massey‘s wife Charlotte, Massey attempted to speak to Wolff, but Wolff ignored him. Out of frustration, Massey kicked Wolff as he left the elevator. From then on, Massey was effectively blacklisted by Blue Note and other prominent record labels. If true, this would perhaps explain Massey‘s relative obscurity in the Jazz legacy.
Despite his troubles with the music industry, Massey was entering his most creative period. He contributed to Coltrane’s Africa/Brass sessions, notably “The Damned Don’t Cry,” which would become part of his seminal work The Black Liberation Movement Suite. Massey collaborated extensively with the young lion of the time Archie Shepp, whose discography is populated by many Massey originals. Like Massey, Shepp was a musical activist, as illustrated by the acclaimed Attica Blues album and other self-produced recordings.
The Black Liberation Movement Suite is Massey‘s masterpiece, thrusting him onto the same level as fellow composers and contemporaries Sun Ra and Charles Mingus. It was premiered at the first of a series of benefit concerts for the Black Panthers, but has rarely been performed since the 1970’s. More recently, Fred Ho rerecorded the suite with a large group ensemble, Each movement has a close connection to the B.L.M., with some numbers dedicated to heroes of the Civil Rights movement like Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.
Massey constantly was battling poor health and succumbed to illness in 1972, beloved by his community and peers, but unknown to many.
If the opinion of a musician’s peers count for anything, then Cal Massey certainly deserves to be held in the highest regard, carrying on the tradition of Ellington, Mingus, Hubbard and other geniuses of composition in the Jazz tradition. Critical acclaim does not necessarily equate to artistic greatness, and sometimes an artist’s integrity to his or her beliefs may alienate the recording industry.
Massey took matters into his own hands, either self-producing his albums or performing music directly to his family and community, eschewing profit for artistic greatness. As time goes on, hopefully the Jazz community at large will perform and appreciate Massey‘s works for many years to come.
Note from the author: this portrait of Cal Massey draws heavily from the research of the late Fred Ho, cited at the end of the article.: Justin Scoville
Ho, Fred. Wicked Theory, Naked Practice: A Fred Ho Reader. “The Damned Don’t Cry: The Life and Music of CalMassey.” Ed. Diane C. Fujino. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009. 129-151.
Thomas, J.C. Chasin’ the Trane. New York: Random House LLC, 2012.
posted by music journalist Robert J. Carmack photos credits: Robert Carmack and Sol Washington
You know, one of the benefits of living in Los Angeles or Southern California period, is the weather. This particular Sunday was no different than the 54 Summers past I have lived in California.But this one was very special though. The World Stage was celebrating 25 years of existence in Leimert Park (Los Angeles).and honoring one of the people wholly responsible for its foundation and support over the many years he was alive. That person was none other than, master musician Billy Higgins.One of the most storied and active drummers for a very long time at the highest level of performance.
Everybody knew he was one of the most recorded drummers in the history of jazz, But not enough knew of his tireless devotion to the community he grew up in and served one hundred fold. That is the real reason he’s being honored. If you are looking for a review of the concert, well.. this is not it! Because I was around the World Stage during its early days of Los Angeles , Post 1992 Uprising in the streets of L.A. I watched Billy in action a lot as he brought his musicians around to the stage, then around to the coffee House known as 5th Street Dick’s (my hang) There he would hold Court on why it was important that whenever they came into town to gig, they had to come to the World stage on an off day to play or teach a youngster about music. I witnessed this on many ocassions and Billy knew a lot of musicians cats.
Once I was in 5th street Dick’s Coffee house working on some poetry and listening to JMD & the Jam Master Band,(a local bad-ass group) when Billy brought in Chick Corea, Bennie Maupin and Larry Coryell to check out the music .. So I started reciting poetry with the JMD Band, all of a sudden Chick Corea got up and took over the Keyboard player’s axe, Larry Carlton cracked out his guitar and before you knew it, we had a “thang” going on.. prov-like all spontaneous… Jazz is suppose to do that to the human spirit. I looked at Billy, and He was just smiling ear to ear.. It wasn’t until much later, at another time, I realized why he was smiling so much that day. He knew then, he knew he had hooked those guys too. And soon, they were coming around a lot ,even if Billy was not there . Whenever Billy was on the road, someone at the World Stage had the responsibility to make sure the musician guests of Billy had no problems getting comfortable helping Kids or playing an afternoon concert on a Saturday before their night gig. That was how it worked for years. Jackie Mclean and Billy had long history as fellow musicians.. but Jackie always checked to make sure someone was holding down a class or something before he settled into his hotel to wait on his gig. No Billy Higgins in the community standing in the Gap, This place or listening space don’t happen! SO, if you want to know why Him??, Ask that long line of young drummers that have learned so much from being around and asking questions to a working drummer/legend. Seek out that long list of drummers and musicians in general who are very prominent Jazz musicians and Band leaders also today. Some of those same drummers could not afford a full set of drums to practice or work.. They got what they needed,, encouragement, inspiration and sometimes money. “Smiling Billy the person, the MAN” was the one being honored and respected by a legion or army of admirers and peers Sunday August 24th. Yes Sir! A Spiritual Experience for sure!!
what better way to honor the man than to allow the fruits of labor performed 25 years ago spawned great talents that was displayed on stage on that beautiful Sunday afternoon beginning with the world stage’s own African Drum Workshop . S.H.I.N.E. MAWUSI Troupe, they were the very first act we experienced. it was electrifying, as it was vivid and sublime.
It was at this point where award-winning Patrice Rushen accompanied veteran jazz singer Carmen Lundy in two riveting duets that in my opinion, should be recorded together and toured. One of the originals was played on acoustic guitar by Carmen Lundy..OMG!!
shown on the left is Kamau Daaood Poet Laureate and John Beasley Music Director/Pianist
Near the end of the evening’s show Hubert Laws came out before his accompaniment. and played a rendition of LUSH LIFE with the most clear & pure tone on Flute with the best and most sublime solo I’ve ever heard on any instrument.
On Billy Higgins: By Lew Tabackin
“Playing with Billy was like heaven. He was the greatest collaborator in the history of jazz. He played exactly right for you at exactly the right time. His dynamics were perfect, he balanced his energy off of your energy. It was the perfect ratio between his intensity and your intensity. I remember one time a friend of mine played with Billy. I said “hey how was it playing with Higgins.” He said, “you know I was expecting more energy.” I said, “no man that’s not the way it works. He plays off your energy. He your energy is low, he’s not going to kick your ass.
I did a month tour with Billy and Charlie Hayden and every night was perfect. There wasn’t one time where you thought; “we’ll he’s not having a good night.” I’ve never experienced anything like that since. That consistently musical swinging creative reality. I could hear the harmony when he would play the drums.”