Tag Archives: Jazz

Armstrong, Hargrove, The Beatles and Film: New Posts on JazzArchive.org.UK

Hey all!

I’ve been busy writing pieces on various jazz topics over on JazzArchive.org.UK. The basic idea I’ve had with the Altman-Koss collection is that with a database catalogued in its particular style, it’s really easy to ask broad thematic questions and quickly retrieve relevant videos to investigate. Its simplicity is its flexibility; with just an Excel-style sheet to represent the information on these videos, all you need to do are ask the right things and translate them into search queries using CTRl-F (CMD-F for Mac). The kinds of questions I’ve been asking have led to finding groups of videos that, taken together, tell a story about a particular artist, place, or song. For example, “What relationship did The Beatles have with jazz,” “What is the connection between the underground jazz scene and glamorous Hollywood films,” “What kind of person was Louis Armstrong and how did he change throughout his career,” and “What words of advice do successful jazz musicians today have for the musicians of tomorrow?” Each of those questions have propelled me on short excursions into the archive and ended up in posted shorts over on the Altman-Koss website.

Go check it out!

 

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Tonight: Jam at The Brunswick

Brighton and Hove’s jazz scene has been wonderful, but tonight I’m playing my last jam here for the summer! Come drop by The Brunswick around 8:30 pm to catch me and other local musicians join Paul Richard and his quartet for the best jazz session in town!

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And a quick thank you to Adam Stokes for inviting me out to his gig at Martha’s Gunn last Wednesday. It was a pleasure to play with his group and Charlotte Glasson, who played circles around me on tenor sax, soprano sax, and fiddle 😀

Ronnie Scott and Old Jazz Film: Video Features from the Jazz Archive

Hey all! Just wanted to post a pointer over to the Altman-Koss Jazz Archive website – I’ve been busy publishing blurbs on the videos as I come across ones I find particularly valuable or interesting, or on strings of videos that seem to tell an emergent story. For example, pulling out all the videos tagged with “Ronnie Scott” starts to give you a picture of the man as a working musician in a section, as a leader (and bit of a comedian) as he takes his own combo to music festivals, and as an impresario as other groups are hosted at his jazz club. Or you can search the archive looking for all entries tagged with “film;” a few of the tapes contain full-length films tangentially related to jazz that are generally of excellent quality and would otherwise require a subscription to Amazon, Netflix, or even access to a physical copy. So head over if you’re interested in reading various pieces on jazz! I promise it’s worth checking out!

John Coltrane’s 50th Anniversary, John Altman, and Jazz Jams at the Brunswick

June 18th, 2017 marks 50 years since the death of John Coltrane, who passed away at the age of 40. This is yet another milestone reached this year, which sees the centennial anniversary of the first jazz recording (Original Dixieland ‘Jass’ Band’s “Dixie Jass Band One Step” and “Livery Stable Blues”).  I was lucky enough to celebrate by meeting and jamming with someone who was worked with just about all the greats in jazz. John Altman, who donated the archive I’m currently doing research on, met up with my professor and I to discuss the collection: how it came about, who it was intended for, what interesting material it contains, and so on (full post of this will be available on the archive’s website, jazzarchive.org.uk). What I hadn’t realized is that several of the biggest names in jazz had actually sat down and watched videos of themselves from the archive, at the suggestion of John Altman. Gil Evans, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, have all had a look at the videos, a few of which they had been searching for elsewhere to no avail. Hearing this blew my mind – and absolutely made me more keen to finish the project so that musicians, students, and researchers can access these videos.

 

After speaking with John, he kindly let me know about a jazz jam down at the Brunswick in Hove. Of course I was there later that evening, and surprised to see a full house: unusual for a typical jazz jam, but apparently not so in Brighton/Hove. Led by guitarist Paul Richards and his trio, we had saxophonists, piano players, singers, even a harmonica up on the stage. I had the pleasure of playing “Ornithology,” “Sweet Lorraine,” and “All Blues” with the trio plus Altman, and while I had a blast soloing, these guys could play circles around me. They’re incredible, and so hooked into their local jazz scene. Definitely going back next Wednesday.

Keep checking jazzarchive.org.uk for more jazz info, video clips, and updates on the project!

Roy Hargrove @ The New Morning in Paris

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Was lucky enough to catch Roy Hargrove at the famous New Morning jazz club in Paris last Saturday. One of my heroes when it comes to trumpet playing and music in general: not only has he worked across genres from jazz masters like Herbie Hancock and Wynton Marsalis to hip hop legend D’Angelo, but he talks, thinks, and teaches about music in a way that’s almost philosophical. And he’s fun; at the New Morning show he actually stopped part way through a song, put his trumpet down, and started dancing, motioning for the saxophone player (Justin Robinson – a beast) to do the same. For a couple of nearly fifty-year old musicians, they had some moves.

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One of the coolest things about Roy is his stage presence. I mean, outside of the raw sophistication and thrill of his soloing, there is such a grippingly visual aspect to his performance. Since starting work on this jazz video archive, I’ve been paying a lot more attention to what can be gained from watching jazz as opposed to just listening to it, and Roy is a shining example of why jazz is so important to see. First off, his style – he tends to wear well-cut, light-colored suits, paired with big, athletic sneakers. He literally embodies the jazz-hip hop aesthetic in his outfit. And if he doesn’t have sunglasses on when he walks out on set (indoors, in a basement-like jazz club), he’ll probably pull them out at some point, maybe while he’s dancing. Then, he’s never just standing around, looking like he’s bored or even waiting. Roy always appears to be listening. If he’s finished soloing, he turns his body and fixes his gaze on the next player, intently watching them take a chorus. Or he might walk off stage and give the spotlight entirely to someone else. Or (and he did this several times), he’ll go sit by the drummer and tap on the drums with him. And whisper to audience members, less than two feet away. And just… be interesting. Everything he did had some kind of intention behind it. A relaxed intention, to be sure; he always looks laid back and content. But definitely like he had a handle on the performance the entire time. He engaged audience attention and controlled it very well, never looking like he was really trying that hard to do so.

And then the music was amazing. I’m biased towards his composition “Strasbourg/St. Denis,” because I’ve watched his 2007 New Morning performance of it on YouTube hundreds of times (not an exaggeration). And of course, he performed it now, 10 years later in 2017, because he wrote it across the street from the club (the nearest Paris metro station is literally called “Strasbourg – St. Denis”). And it was fresh, even though I’ve heard it so much, because, of course, this is jazz: every performance is going to be different. This time around, Roy played the head and then grabbed a cowbell, and had a contest with the drummer (Quincy Phillips). Roy would play a rhythm, and the drummer would spit it right back, not after him, but with him. It was amazing. Eventually, they both stopped, leaving the piano player to do a solo that was truly solo. Nobody else in the band played, but the audience was clapping on beat the whole way through (the nice thing about a jazz audience is that they stay on beat, too). Suddenly, the whole group was back in an explosion of sound, and Roy and Justin took the head to finish out the piece.

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Going to see this trumpeter at this jazz club felt like a sort of pilgrimage to me as a musician, so I had to post about it. Some video clips of the performance are already up, check them out on YouTube.

Yazz Ahmed: UK Trumpet Feature

Even though I’m currently immersed in the English jazz scene, it was my home jazz authority, SFJazz, that pointed me in the direction of UK-based trumpeter Yazz Ahmed. She’s British-Bahraini  and recently released an LP critics have described as “Psychedelic Arabic Jazz.” As an Arab-American jazz trumpet player and composer myself, I couldn’t resist reading it, and it’s a truly enlightening perspective piece on the state of modern jazz and jazz musicians. Check it out here.

… And while you’re at it, be sure to give the album a listen toLa Saboteuse is joining my inspiration playlist right alongside Ibrahim Maalouf, Roy Hargrove, Hiromi, Christian Scott… etc.

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Hidden Treasure: Undiscovered Footage of Gerry Mulligan on SS Norway

There’s a lot to sift through in the Altman-Koss archives: the videos are long, they span a 75-year period, and the performers are sometimes barely known and other times household names, like Louis Armstrong or Ella Fitzgerald. While much of what I’m finding is up on YouTube or at least traceable via Google search, every once in a while I come across something totally unique and quite valuable.

My favourite instance of this so far is a video of Gerry Mulligan’s quartet performing on the SS Norway Jazz Cruise in 1995. This cruise journeys the Caribbean, launching from Miami and on to the Bahamas, St. Marteen, and St. Thomas, with epic line-ups of jazz shows on-board. A lot of the cruise is documented for advertising purposes, but little of the content is actually recorded.

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Now, Gerry Mulligan is big in the jazz world for bringing in Chet Baker, the trumpet player, but also for his innovations – for example, removing the piano from the quintet, which apparently shocked jazzers and revolutionized the way quintets do things. So Altman-Koss #44, a private recording of his performance on this cruise, was already interesting to me, despite the low video quality. But what made it appear invaluable was finding this quote from Phil Woods, another saxophone player on the cruise, speaking about it on Fifties Jazz Talk: An Oral Retrospective:

“I saw Gerry just before he died, when he was playing on a jazz cruise on the SS Norway in November 1995. Gene Lees and Johnny Mandel were there, and we all hung out with Gerry and had a great time, even though we realized it might be the last time we saw him. He was playing beautifully, more poignantly than ever. He was a lovely writer, and he played some of his new tunes, and the group with Ted Rosenthal, Dean Johnson, and Ron Vincent sounded great. He performed from a chair, and I’m sure he knew it might be his final performance, but he was playing so well and finding new ways. I’d love a tape of that concert, because there wasn’t a dry eye in my part of the house.”

-Phil Woods, Ch. 27 of Fifties Jazz Talk: An Oral Retrospective by Gordon Jack

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Gerry Mulligan died two months after the performance, in January 2006. According to Phil, not only was this performance one of his last, but it was also one of his best. And it’s possible we may have found the only recording of it, hidden in this archive. I wish Phil himself were still alive; I’d try and send him the video.