The Jazz Digest, May 2012

Choice snips from Jazz Journal, May 2012

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From the editor
OFC JJ May 2012If you don't follow @JazzJournal on yet, you might want to for more jazz news and comment. Among recent JJ postings: "ECM seems to be the sole European name in 200 nominations in the US-based Jazz Journalists Association Awards. Who said the US now looks to Europe for jazz innovation? . . . Viking has acquired the rights to release Herbie Hancock's memoirs in a book deal timed for release in the fall . . . #jazzpersecutionparadigm Seen in last day: boundary-breaking, genre-mashing, barrier-busting. Not seen in 30 years: musician, don't do that"

And from the jostle of Twitter to plain, old-time email, whence this recent feature pitch to JJ: "Query: feature article about an adventurous jazz drummer/ Abstract Expressionist painter that has a European cowboy twist. The hero's journey begins in a poor family's north Minneapolis basement with Harv Hurley learning tempo by drumming on his mother's ringer washing machine . . ." Some Minneapolis papers have dug it enough to print it, apparently, but is the jazz world ready for the tale?

Jasper Høiby to Fred Grand on playing in the dark
"I know it’s a bit of a cliché, but when you take away your sense of vision it seems to increase your sense of hearing. It also broke down barriers and brought the audience and musicians much closer together."

Réne Marie to Bruce Crowther on drawing censure for failing to sing the traditional US anthem
"The more jaded opinion was that it was done for publicity purposes, the more violent threatening my physical safety for not having sung the traditional version of the national anthem. My love for this country and its citizens was called into question, if not outrightly assailed. I was reviled and accused of being racist and divisive. I do not want to minimize what a challenge it was to go on (but) I do not regret even one note that I sang."

Louise Gibbs on unsung York-based arranger John Warren
In the half century since his arrival in the UK from Canada, Warren has served in the near-anonymous boiler room of composing and arranging for, amongst others, Tim Garland, Karin Krog, Norma Winstone and Georgie Fame, and has fulfilled commissions with major European jazz ensembles and big bands. But it is only since the release of the aptly titled Finally Beginning (2008) and Following On (2009) that we can now sample his work – squarely under his own name on Issie Barratt's Fuzzy Moon label – on disc.

Dave Gelly on the recorded performances copyright extension
It was announced on 12 September 2011 that the "50-year rule", under which copyright in recorded performances was limited to 50 years after their first release, is about to become a 70-year rule. Various interested parties – the Performing Rights Society (PRS), Public Performance Ltd (PPL), assorted trade bodies, unions and "the wider music industry" – have been agitating for this over the past 10 years. Until now the EU's Committee of Permanent Representatives has always turned it down, the last occasion being in March 2009, but the lobbyists triumphed in the end. They have hailed the decision as a long overdue and self-evidently Good Thing – which it may be for Cliff Richard, but for the jazz world it isn't.

Kenny Garrett to Mark Gilbert on why he started playing saxophone
"I started playing alto at, like, nine years old. My father played and I didn't really like the saxophone as such. I just liked the smell of my father's saxophone case. He had an old case with velvet in it. He would practise and I would just sit by the case. I loved that smell. I wish I could a find way to put that smell in a bottle. He taught me the G scale and I went on from there."

Joel Forrester to Derek Ansell on acting as therapist to Monk
"I got to play for him because this Steinway was located right outside the day room where he lay, all day, in a full set of clothes, thinking about all sorts of things. He didn't sleep, he just lay in bed. So I would play the piano outside his room and if he liked what I played the door stayed open and if he didn't, it slammed shut."

Simon Spillett on the new Raw Brass range of instruments, launched at a Camden gig
Raw Brass UK's promotional event at The Forge in Camden on 30 March was as much a showcase for British jazz as for the manufacturer's instruments. With their novel design features (lacquerless and minus the usual stays and bell reinforcement rings), the new horns are certainly impressive and clearly prove an attractive alternative for players seeking something other than the established brands.

Simon Adams on the latest Pannonica de Koenigswarter biography
Once an interesting footnote in jazz history, Baroness Pannonica "Nica" Rothschild de Koenigswarter has recently emerged out of the shadows to take her rightful place in the development of modern jazz. A patron of modern jazz, and devoted supporter of Thelonious Monk, Nica was the subject of almost 20 songs. Last year saw the publication of David Kastin's fine biography (reviewed in JJ October 2011). Now comes another fine biography, this one by Nica's great niece, Hannah Rothschild.

Steve Voce on the DVD Marian McPartland, In Good Time
There is no doubt in my mind that Miss McPartland is the cleverest, most intelligent and talented woman to have graced our music. It seems ungallant to say that she is now a very old lady (go on then, 93) and I find it incredible that she can still play such beautiful piano . . . the glowing personality and packed information make this DVD more appealing than most and it comes near to ranking with the best biographical DVD that I ever saw.

Alun Luff on how jazz lovers may relate to Schubert
In April on Radio 3 we had the most comprehensive scheduling of the music of Schubert there has ever been. Every day, every programme for a whole week was devoted to Schubert. He was always on the outside, not paid his dues and grossly underrated. He died at 31. No, I haven't jumped ship. There is some correlation with jazz here. Our wonderful music is so underrated. Banned from the accepted domains and not much discussed. Musos vastly underpaid and under-appreciated. Many struggle to make a decent living. Recession? Join the club.

Richard Palmer on the flipside of Duke Ellington the big-band driver
There is a downside to this otherwise sumptuous phenomenon: Ellington the chamber-pianist. When it comes to trio or quartet work, there are at least two dozen pianists I'd much rather listen to. There are exceptions: the 1940s duets with Strayhorn and then Blanton are undisputed classics, as is the 1972 "re-creation" of the latter with Ray Brown; the 1962 Impulse date with John Coltrane is also an unexpected masterpiece. But a great deal of Piano Reflections, Piano In The Foreground, Duke's Big Four and Live At The Whitney fails to grip. Why might that be?

Geoffrey Smith to Mark Gilbert on the BBC's "collaborative decision" to refresh Jazz Record Requests
"As far as I was concerned it occurred because I wrote the book 100 Jazz Legends. Andrew Kurowski [Editor of New Music and Jazz, BBC Radio 3] said 'These are radio programmes, so why don't you take a sabbatical from JRR and present a programme which has your name on it?' The idea was I would go off for a couple of years and present what became Geoffrey Smith's Jazz and Alyn would come into JRR. By the time I leave it'll be 20 years, 9 months at JRR. That's a long time saying 'He...llo.'"


Just a taste from over 100 CD reviews in this issue:

"Cannon walks away with all the honours here: Bill Evans is a decent comper and takes some attractive solos, but it really is no contest. Check out Goodbye and Who Cares? as exemplars. That judgment is doubly confirmed by the bonus tracks: dull solo Evans; a satisfying Motian-LaFaro trio outing; then two cuts where Cannon and Nat are fuelled by the mighty Zawinul and Jones & Hayes. Pure jazz – joyous and irresistible." (Richard Palmer) ****

"Berne recalls how the players he listened to when he started out in the 70s – Henry Threadgill, Roscoe Mitchell, Anthony Braxton – had their own musical world and their own sound. It's that distinctiveness that he aims at in this very successful release, which marks an interesting point of development in his musical thinking. As he comments, 'I've been trying to wean myself off dictatorial tendencies . . . my earlier music . . . was sometimes fanatically arranged . . . The point of writing music, for me [now], is to make something happen, to promote improvisation.'" (Andy Hamilton) ****

GARY BURTON: NEW VIBE MAN IN TOWN (American Jazz Classics)
". . . he sounds absolutely astounding for someone still in his teens, with a strong artistic voice emerging in his pianistic four-mallet technique. A fun, boppish couple of sets that document two early milestones in the career of an exceedingly important musician. Recommended." (Sam Braysher) ****

". . . if there's one track that makes this an essential purchase – and I hope I've made it clear that everything here is top class – it must be Laverne's Walk. Pettiford's composition is wonderful anyway, but the way the band shape and develop it is truly a wonder." (Richard Palmer) *****

"This is an outstanding album from one of the finest jazz singers in the world today . . . Throughout, Barron is extraordinary, playing a subtly supporting role that cushions Martin and ably enhances the omnipresent musical joys on display . . . Martin finds the essence and delivers what must be among the music's definitive and most compelling performances." (Bruce Crowther) *****

"There seems to be some dispute over whether the three albums here are standard hard bop or something more ambitious, and the answer partly depends on your appreciation of the genre – it's more than 'standard', high quality but not groundbreaking music, intelligently conceived and immensely enjoyable." (Andy Hamilton) ****

". . . easily the trio's most varied statement to date. Long past the stage where they can be viewed with the suspicion rightly reserved for assorted flavours of the month, Phronesis have that rare combination of solid jazz credentials and zeitgeist. Highly recommended." (Fred Grand) ****

"Newly discovered and unusually well recorded tapes give us this attractive album by the masters with the magnificent Peterson and Lewis at the heart of everything . . . If you like the look of this, buy it. You won't be disappointed. It's one of the best JATP albums I've heard. Norman Granz, whose every announcement is included, would be furious." (Steve Voce) ****

"There can't possibly be anything wrong with a box that contains so much Mel Tormé, Ella, Chris Connor and that finds room for Miriam Makeba (even at her most "exotic") and even gorgeous George Melly, who sounds like a cheerfully drunk gatecrasher on All Nite Long. Nostalgia not what it used to be? Nonsense. This was like time travel. I snapped my fingers perfectly on cue for 77 Sunset Strip, just like I did in 1964." (Brian Morton) ****

"A wonderful set covering four vinyl albums which have never even come distantly near me. So lots of pleasure from, for starters, Humphrey, Nelson, Burbank and the piano-less rhythm team . . . this album will assuredly do well on the year-end poll." (Bert Whyatt) ****

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