Friday, February 25, 2011

Vito Price + Chicago = Beautiful Love

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“Vito Price isn't famous. He isn't the world's finest saxophonist. He isn't suffering from the pangs of public disapproval. He isn't a newly-discovered figure out of the past.

To state it simply, he is a musician satisfied to play the way he wants to play. He's not attempting to set precedents or unify forms or set inspirational harmonic patterns. When I asked him about this LP, his first as a leader, he said, "I'm thrilled that I finally got the chance to record. I felt ready. This is my idea of happy, swinging music."

- Don Gold, Managing Editor, Down Beat Magazine



Youth provides a different view of the world.

On the one hand, this view is broad and all-encompassing brought on by a wide-eyed fascination with the world and everything in it. It all seems so fresh and exciting.

On the other hand, it’s limited because there is little judgment based on experience or the ability to discern based on acquired knowledge.

As a case in point, the first time I heard the music on tenor saxophonist Vito Price’s 1958 Swinging the Loop [Argo LP 631] album, it really thrilled me. I thought it swung like mad and I just couldn’t get enough of it. I played it all the time.

Although I came to own the LP as a gift from a family friend, a DJ who was always passing on “Demo” copies that he couldn’t play on his AM radio show which featured more popular music, I had no idea who Vito Price was.

Frankly, neither did any of the other musicians in my circle of friends at the time.  Mention the name “Vito Price” and it was sure to be greeted with a number of blank stares.

And yet, for a while, I knew more about the tenor sax playing of Vito than I did that of Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young; chronologically, knowledge of the music of these “Giants” of the tenor was to come later after my view of the Jazz world had become a bit more sophisticated and informed.

Swinging the Loop is made up of 5 tracks that were recorded with a 9-piece group with Vito out front on tenor and 5 cuts using a combo: each set of 5 tunes comprised Side One and Side Two of the LP, respectively.

For some reason, I only played the side featuring the quintet made up of Vito along with Freddie Green on guitar, Lou Levy on piano, Max Bennett on bass and Gus Johnson on drums. Too lazy to get up from my practice pads [used in lieu of actual drums to keep the neighbors from rushing the front door] and turn the record over on the changer?

As its title would imply, the album was recorded in Chicago, which was to later become an oft-visited city for me due to business and professional activities.  One of the great things about most Jazz LPs from the 1950s was that they included informative liner notes. The honors for Vito’s album go to Don Gold who, at the time, was the Managing Editor of Down Beat Magazine.

So that you, too, might become more familiar with Vito Price and the music on this album in the same manner as I did, the editorial staff at JazzProfiles has reprinted Don’s insert notes below.

It also asked the crackerjack graphics team at CerraJazz LTD to develop the video at the conclusion of this feature using the Beautiful Love quintet track from the LP.

Ironically, after playing the album on an almost daily basis after it was first issued, I had all but forgotten about it until one day, when a Jazz buddy picked me up for a luncheon get-together with mutual friends and the music from it was playing on his car CD changer!

Much to my delight and surprise, Jordi Pujol had reissued Swinging the Loop on his Fresh Sound label [FSR CD #110].

I couldn’t believe my ears: after 50 years, it seemed that there were now three people familiar with the music of Vito Price!


© -Don Gold, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“Liner note writers are a most peculiar sort.

They behave erratically much of the time, searching for the attractive approach to the specific subject involved. This endless search, proceeding from one LP to the next, is characterized by constant anguish and inevitable frustration.

This situation is not at all unusual. After all, LPs are cranked out today with the machine-like rapidity so characteristic of our production line age.

What, then, does the liner note author do? Obviously, he searches for new adjectives, new ways of interpreting music and its performers, new gags to enchant the record buyers. There are a variety of ways to accomplish these ends.

The writer with a substantial background in jazz can, for example, say that he has "discovered" the talent presented on the LP. He can, in essence, tell his own life story.

Another approach calls for writing an extensive treatise on a subject not necessarily related to the LP. This takes the form of discussing elementary geometry or the sartorial brilliance of Adolph Menjou.

Another writer might compare the featured performer on the LP with another performer who plays the same instrument. This allows the liner note creator to state his own preferences rather discreetly. If he is not fond of the performer on the LP for which he is writing the notes, he can simply discuss another performer. This is a mild form of escapism, a kind of facing the monetary benefit without facing any of its accompanying annoyances.

The liner note writer, then, is a kind of displaced person, unable to write at great length and equally unable to freely state his views with regularity.

In this case, I'm not faced with any of these problems.

Vito Price isn't famous. He isn't the world's finest saxophonist. He isn't suffering from the pangs of public disapproval. He isn't a newly-discovered figure out of the past.

To state it simply, he is a musician satisfied to play the way he wants to play. He's not attempting to set precedents or unify forms or set inspirational harmonic patterns. When I asked him about this LP, his first as a leader, he said, "I'm thrilled that I finally got the chance to record. I felt ready. This is my idea of happy, swinging music."

In other words, Price is hoping that the taste of some record buyers will coincide with his own. This kind of uncluttered approach is rather rare these days.

For the amateur musicologists, here are some basic facts on Price.

He's 28, New York-born, and has been playing the tenor and alto saxes since he was 14. During his high school days he worked with jazz groups in the New York area. After high school, he served an apprenticeship on the road, with the bands of Bob Chester, Art Mooney, Tony Pastor, and with Chubby Jackson's small group.

In 1951 he entered the marines and spent two years serving in a marine band. He enrolled at the Manhattan school of music in 1953 and stayed on for two years, supplementing his studies with work as leader of his own group and as a member of Jerry Wald's band.

In the summer of 1955 he came to Chicago. In February, 1956 he joined the staff orchestra at station WGN and has been a member of the orchestra there ever since.

He participated in both Chubby Jackson sessions for Argo in recent months.

When I solicited his thoughts on this LP, he stated them readily.

"I had wanted to record so badly," he said. "I guess I never had been at the right place at the right time. This is my first opportunity. And I was given a clear road to do just what I wanted to do.

"I'm not a far out musician. I'm not trying to blaze new paths. These sides are pure, clean, and honest. I just tried to swing. I play because I like to play. I dig it," he concluded.

It is natural that a WGN staff man would look to his compatriots at the station for assistance on his first LP as a leader. Price did just that. Except for the rhythm sections utilized, all the members of the band on this LP work with Price at WGN.

They're used to playing together, as Price noted to me. All the big band charts for this date were prepared by Bill McRea, another WGN staff man, making the existing compatibility that much greater.

Joining the WGN corps are Remo Biondi, a fine Chicago gui­tarist; Marty Clausen, the excellent drummer with the Dan Belloc band, both present on the big band tracks. When Price was ready to cut this LP, he discovered that Ella Fitzgerald was working in Chicago. Astute enough to know a good rhythm section when he heard one, he persuaded Lou Levy, piano; Max Bennett, bass, and Gus Johnson, drums, to make the session. Johnson, due to illness, was able to participate in just the small group (Price-with-rhythm section) tracks, but the Levy-Bennett combination appears on all the tracks in this LP. Finally, the incomparable Freddie Green, guitarist and pivot man of the Count Basic band, joined in to make the small group tracks that much more of a delight.

Essentially, this is Price's LP. On the five big band tracks he is the major soloist, with Levy the only other soloist. The same holds true for the five small group tracks. In addition to being featured on tenor (and alto on In A Mellow Tone), Price contributed three originals — Swinging the Loop, Duddy, Eye Strain (dedicated to Price's wife, who, in knitting a sweater for him, discovered that she needed glasses).

This, then, is a set highlighted by the warm-toned horn of Vito Price. It features Price in big band and small group settings, on ballads and blues, up-tempo and medium tempo approaches.

If you've purchased this LP, the Argo Records management will be pleased. If you've read this far, I'll be pleased. But if you enjoy this LP, Vito Price would like to know. Drop him a card it his home—561 Arlington Place, Chicago 14, ILL. After all, a little encouragement can't do any harm.” 





Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Insistent Eric Ineke



© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

Jazz drummers play time differently.

Some imply time by playing it more lightly while others really emphasize it or “step on it.”

Some drummers play time in a driving, very aggressive manner while others choose a more laid-back approach.

Time can be punctuated with "bombs" and “poly-rhythms” or not interrupted at all by such accents.

The most obvious stylistic examples would be to compare the Swing Era time-keeping of Gene Krupa to that of Max Roach during the Bebop Era to the current styles of Jazz drumming which have been largely influenced by Elvin Jones and Tony Williams.

If the music is very arranged with the instrumentalists playing lots of notes, then a busy drummer would probably not be welcomed in it.

On the other hand, if the music has a great deal of open space, playing more figures or accents behind the time to fill-in might be appropriate.

Other than the cardinal principles of not rushing or dragging, there is no set way for a drummer to go about playing time.

It’s all in how your hear time or, if you will, how you “feel” it.

As drummers develop their own approach to playing time, they tend to build affinities with other drummers who share their view of how time should feel and sound.

The sound part of the equation has to do with choice of cymbals, how the drums are tuned, and how and where accents, fills and solos are played.

While we certainly have undying admiration for the more technical style of time-keeping evidenced by Buddy Rich, Louie Bellson and Joe Morello, and although we had close proximity over the years for observing the approaches of Shelly Manne, Mel Lewis and Stan Levey, we have always had a preference for the time-keeping of Philly Joe Jones and its current exponent, Kenny Washington.

Here’s Philly JJ at work: 



Kenny Washington is the drummer on numerous CerraJazz LTD videos:



Another of our favorite drummers playing in the style of Philly Joe Jones is Eric Ineke.

Eric is based in Holland and we first heard his work on a 1981 Criss Cross recording by the late Jazz guitarist, Jimmy Raney, and subsequently on recordings by Dutch Jazz pianist Rein de Graaff, alto saxophonist Herb Geller, who has been based in Germany for many years, and soprano saxophonist David Liebman.

Eric keeps time in a manner that is best described as Philly Joe Jones-lite.

Like Philly, his time-keeping is very insistent, but his accents, background figures and fills are more spaced-out.

He’s not as busy as Philly which serves to make his time-keeping sound even more firm and resolute.

Since 2006, Eric has been leading his own quintet, The JazzXpress, in which his driving time-keeping can be heard in support of some of Holland’s finest, young Jazz musicians: Rik Mol on trumpet and flugelhorn, Sjoerd Dijkhuizen on tenor saxophone, Rob van Bavel on piano and bassist and bass guitarist, Marius Betts.

The JazzXpress’ latest CD is entitled Xpressions in Time [Daybreak DBCHR 75358] and the crackerjack graphics production team at CerraJazz LTD has developed two videos around audio tracks from the album.

The first of these, Marius Beets’ Boppa [named after the bassist’s son’s baby rhinoceros plush toy], is used in conjunction with a tribute to Jaap van de Kamp’s photographic essay – One Night Stand: Jazzconcerten in Nederland, 1947-1967. See if your ears can pick up Eric switching ride cymbals behind Rob van Bavel’s piano solo beginning at minutes.


And the same group, this time with Marius on bass guitar, is featured in the following video on Beets’ original composition Aotearoa which has Eric tastefully playing tympani mallets on his drum kit.


At the conclusion of this feature, you will find a video tribute to Eric which includes as its audio track Body Movement, an original composition by Sjoerd Dijkhuizen and Marius Beets which is set to the changes of Body and Soul.

© -Jeroen de Valk, March 2009 - copyright protected; all rights reserved. www.jeroendevalk.nl/

“On November 11968, a 21-years old Dutch carpet salesman and part-time drummer decided to become a full-time musician. His life had become busier and busier, with gigs backing various soloists - among them Hank Mobley - at night and working in his brother's Persian carpet store during the day.

When he was offered a job with the Storktown Dixie Kids, an Eddie Condon-like swing band with an interesting touring schedule, he knew he could quit his day job and concentrate on the music. In 1971, he joined pianist Rein de Graaff's trio, with whom he still accompanies visiting Americans.

His name was Eric Ineke. He entered the music business when jazz was suffering from the British invasion - The Beatles and the Stones were big then, anc jazz's popularity had diminished dramatically - but he managed to survive, playing concerts. "I never did a lot of studio work. I want to be on stage and play; that's what I live for," Ineke states in his fortieth year as a musician.

Ineke soon earned a reputation as a multi-faceted musician - "I play bebop, hard bop and beyond" - with a boundless enthusiasm. On top of that he's a solid professional who's always on time wherever the gig may be and who never complains about life 'on the road.' "Recently, I drove 600 miles from my home in The Hague for one gig with my own band in Jazzclub Unterfahrt in Munich. No big deal. As long as I car play, I’m just fine."


In those forty years, his groove became deeper and deeper. "I also learned to leave open space, I learned when not to play. And Elvin Jones taught me you don't have to pound away at the beat all the time; when I take an eight-bar solo, you may not notice the amount of bars while I'm at it, but I'll play the exact length of those eight bars."

He took some lessons with John Engels, the country's premier drummer. "He gave me Philly Joe Jones' LP Big Band Sounds, which was a real eye-opener. I was crazy about Philly's phrasing."

In his first years on the road, Dexter Gordon and Johnny Griffin were very helpful. "Dexter wanted me to play like Kenny Clarke, in an earlier style than of Elvin's. While backing him, my time became stronger. I had to be on top of the bear constantly because his time was extremely laid-back. Johnny Griffin asked me to play strong accents with the bass drum. 'Like AT' he said, referring to Art Taylor. I really paid my dues working with Griffin... He would count off an incredible up-­tempo, then let the pianist play chorus after chorus, and when you thought: 'I'm exhausted,' he would finally start his own solo and make the whole band burn even more."

Eric Ineke is mostly self-taught, but is a teacher now himself. For over twenty years he has been teaching young jazz drummers at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague and the Koorenhu’s, a music school in his home town.

After accompanying an encyclopedia's worth of jazz giants -  just go to www.ericineke.com/, click on 'biography' and then on 'people'  - he started leading bands himself. In 1999, Eric became the co-leader of a band with young pianist Wolfert Brederode. "Wolfert said that I should be billed as a co-leader, after having contributed so much to the band."


In 2006, Eric Ineke's JazzXpress came about. "While driving to a gig with David Liebman in Antwerp, Belgium, Dave said it was about time I started my own hard bop group. 'You should do this, and ask some good youngsters.' That night, Marius Beets was on bass and tenor saxophonist Sjoerd Dijkhuizen came by. Marius said: This is what we've been waiting for!' Sjoerd immediately asked if he could be part of it. Of course he could!"

For the piano chair Eric asked Rob van Bavel, with whom he had developed 'a great rhythmic rapport' after they both had been part of the Piet Noordijk Quartet and the high-energy Jarmo Hoogendijk/Ben van den Dungen Quintet. Young trumpet sensation Rik Mol - just 22 while I'm writing this - was recommended by his former teacher Jarmo Hoogendijk, who had to retire from stage because of a lip injury.

The band's name was made up by Eric's fellow musicians. "They decided that my name should be part of it, and they invented the word Xpress, with the capital X. It looks good on jazz club and festival posters."

Later that same year, the band's first CD was issued: Flames 'n' Fire, on Fred Dubiez's Daybreak Records. "We did compositions I grew up with, by Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and Wayne Shorter, and some tunes by band members in the same idiom: hard bop and beyond."
David Liebman wrote in his extensive liner notes: ‘Eric is one of my all time favorite drummers and the times we have played together are memorable to me. He is a first class MUSICIAN who knows what is called for at the time as well as being completely dedicated to the art form.’"

Jeroen de Valk,

March 2009


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Quincy’s Day



© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

The editorial staff at JazzProfiles wanted to get an early start on wishing Quincy Jones a Happy Birthday – he turns 78 on March 14th – with the following video tribute to him.

That was the easy part.

The more difficult part was what to say about this highly-esteemed musician, composer, arranger, impresario and entrepreneur that hasn’t been said already.

Few Jazz musicians have ever been as universally acclaimed and admired as has been Quincy, and deservedly so.

As Brian Priestley commented:

“As he approaches the … [78th] anniversary of his birth (March 14, 1933, in Chicago), Quincy Jones can look back on a full life. Unusually for someone who is not a singer or an actor, he is a superstar. If his autobiographical book and the 1990 documentary film about him are perhaps ambigu­ous as to whether he sees himself as a superstar, there is no question that is how he is regarded by others.

Musicians are quick to recognize pretensions or falsehoods, but such attributes are never mentioned in Quincy's connection. Only admiration, and a certain amazement as to what he achieved, are the standard reactions.”

Given the many legal restrictions on the use of music from any of Quincy’s recordings, we turned to pianist Mike LeDonne and his sextet for the version of Quincy’s original composition Jessica’s Day on the video’s sound track.

The tune was first performed by Dizzy Gillespie’s Big Band during its 1956 tour of “the Near and Middle East and South America” for the US State Department.

Dizzy in South America was the topic of an earlier feature on JazzProfiles which you can locate by going here and here.

Quincy wrote Jessica’s Day for Jazz writer Nat Hentoff’s daughter and it was later recorded by Count Basie’s Band in 1959 and by Cannonball Adderley’s group in 1962.

Joining pianist Mike LeDonne are Ryan Kisor on trumpet, Jon Gordon on alto saxophone, tenor saxophonist Joshua Redman, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Lewis Nash.

Happy Birthday, Qunicy, and thanks for all you’ve done for Jazz, both at home and abroad.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Meet Ilja Reijngoud – Jazz in Holland



© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

I have a special fondness for trombone choirs.

So when trombonist Ilja Reijngoud’s Untamed World Maxanter CD [MAX 75378] arrived, the editorial staff at JazzProfiles seized upon it as an opportunity to ask the crackerjack graphics team at CerraJazz LTD to develop the following video tribute to Ilja and his music as part of its ongoing Jazz in Holland series.

In addition to his own group, Ilja can be heard on many of the recordings of the Metropole Orchestra and the Metropole Orchestra Big Band where he is a resident member of this famous Netherlands-based musical aggregation.

Ilja also has his own website where you can locate more detailed biographical and discographical information.

Joining Ilya on his original composition entitled Running on Eggshells are fellow trombonists Bart van Lier, Jörgen van Rijen, Jan Oosting, Evert Josemanders Lode Mertens and Martin van den Berg [bass trombone]. They are supported by a rhythm section featuring Martijn van Iterson [guitar] Rob van Bavel [keyboards], Marius Beets [bass] and Marcel Serierse [drums].


And here’s another version of the tune, this time with Ilja fronting a quartet with van Iterson, Beets [pronounced “Bates”] and Serierse.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Remembering Eddie Costa [1930-1962]



© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

Phil Woods, the great alto saxophonist once said of Jazz: “A lot of people have died for this music.”

This was a somewhat less than oblique reference to the scourge of drugs that took the lives of too many young Jazz musicians all too soon.

While drugs were an indisputable source of the premature deaths of a number of Jazz musicians, another was automobile accidents.

The brilliant trumpeter Clifford Brown was lost in a fatal car crash in 1956.

In 1961, Scott LaFaro, a bassist whose intonation, ideas, and dazzling ability to get around the instrument continues to influence Jazz bassists to this day was killed in upstate New York when his car skidded off the road and hit a pole.

And then in 1962, the promising career of pianist and vibraphonist Eddie Costa was cut short due to an auto accident on the West Side Highway in New York City.

You can hear what Chris Sheridan described as a “bustling, rumbling” piano style on the audio track to the following video tribute to Eddie on which he performs Harold Arlen’s Get Happy along with bassist Vinnie Burke and drummer Nick Stabulas.

Leonard Feather described Eddie as “a hard-driving, percussive player who … employed an unusual [for the time] octave-unison style.”

As Chris Sheridan further elaborates in his insert notes to the Fresh Sounds reissue of Eddie first album on Jubilee [LP-1025, Fresh Sound FS-129]: “Get Happy is a sharply-etched example of Costa’s predilection for driving inventions played almost totally below middle C; elsewhere, the phrasing is stubbier, like necklaces of recast thematic fragments.”

If, as has been claimed, most drummers are frustrated piano players; could this "percussive" style be why I have always had an affinity for Eddie’s playing?

Whatever the reason, the editorial staff at JazzProfiles wanted to remember Eddie by featuring some of his music on these pages.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Chick Corea & Clint Eastwood – Soul men



"People have their own taste and the basic freedom to change it at any given moment," … [Chick] said. "I do not consider someone who likes one color one day and another the next fickle. That's the challenge when you are presenting people with your ideas. It takes guts and intelligence to change your mind in public.

"Here's what I have to offer today and here's how I put it across. I don't like to be forced into one bag or another. Music is a process rather than one song or an album. One offering is only a part of a stream of offerings."

… [Chick]  mentioned that he was painting now. It was only a hobby but obviously important to him. Although he didn't seem to realize it, his explanation of what painting meant to him explained his relationship to music as well:

"I find myself always looking at light and color and shading,. I am always looking for a way to frame the environment, to put it into perspective."

- Chick Corea from an interview with Mike Zwerin - www.culturekiosque.com

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

The editorial staff at JazzProfiles has long had in mind to do a feature on Chick Corea, but we truly had no idea where to begin it, let alone, how to develop it.

I mean, how do you go about doing a profile on a - “Chick Corea [who] is one of the most prodigious performers and prolific composers of our time. The recipient of 15 Grammy Awards and nominated a total of 51 times, Chick Corea is best known for his work with Return to Forever, Origin, the Elektric Band, his duo with Gary Burton and his numerous super trios and quartets. Corea has been a transformative force in music for over 40 years and has worked in many styles and genres, with musicians from the jazz, classical and pop music worlds.”

How does one wrap ones arms around such a Giant?

Put another way, Chick’s music has kept coming into my life, but I have always hesitated to write about it because I am not an expert on its comprehensiveness.  If anything, there’s more about it that I’m not familiar with.

Then, two things happened that led to this feature on Chick and the related videos.

The first was that I went back to why I started this blog in the this first place and that was to write about my impressions of Jazz musicians and to make every effort to be interesting, honest, and accurate [including crediting the work of others where appropriate]while doing so.

So what follows is not in anyway an inclusive retrospective of Chick’s music, but rather, some comments [by me and others] regarding aspects of it that I have found enjoyable while listening to it over the past forty plus years.

The second “inspiration” for this piece was Geoff Boucher’s article on film director Clint Eastwood that appeared in the Thursday, September 9, 2010 Calendar section of the Los Angeles Times.

The lead-in photograph for Mr. Boucher’s piece entitled Soul man has been modified to serve a similar purpose for our feature on Chick.

Mr. Boucher’s article concerns Mr. Eastwood’s new film, Hereafter, which is his 32nd film as a director. Its premier was at the Toronto Film Festival on Sunday, September 12, 2010.

In the article, Mr. Eastwood is quoted as saying: “At the age I am now [80], I just don’t have any interest in going back and doing the same sort of thing over and over, that’s one of the reasons I moved away from Westerns.

Although Chick will “only” be turning 70 in 2011, Mr. Eastwood’s comment about not wanting to do the same things “over and over” was the responsive chord [pun intended] that led to my writing this piece about him.


Given the breadth and depth of Chick Corea’s music over the past 40+ years or so, the last thing that anyone could say about it was that he was doing the same thing “over and over” again.

This is also what makes it so difficult to write a retrospective about a career that encompasses so many distinct and diverse style of music.

If there is any truth in the axiom that we are either constantly, busy being born or busy dying, then Chick Corea has been in a constant state of Creation over the past four decades+.

If you try to take a quick look at Chick’s music by going to The Penguin Guide to Jazz of CD, 6th edition you soon realize that there is no way to quickly comprehend the magnitude of his output as it encompasses pages 332 – 337 of Richard Cook and Brian Morton’s tome. And it is printed in the most miniscule of font sizes!

You could try www.allmusic.com, but here, too, the list of Chick’s recordings seems to go on forever [“forever” being an interesting choice of words to associate with him].

The other immediate, observable fact about Chick’s music is that it is always changing which puts it in what Duke Ellington referred to as “beyond category.”

Much like Mr. Eastwood, Chick is simply not interested in “going back and doing the same thing over and over.”

The fact that Chick’s music is continually evolving is difficult for some Jazz purists to accept and many of them have also had a hard time with the fact that Chick has been a commercial success over the years.

If you have ever tried to feed a family while working as a professional musician, then all you can say about Chick’s financial viability is – de salute! – more power to you. I never found anything particularly glamorous about the hunger part of being a “starving musician.”

Chick first came to my attention in the 1960s as one of a troika of young pianists that captured every Jazz fan’s attention in that decade: McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock and Chick.

McCoy’s fame began with his stint with tenor saxophonist John Coltrane’s quartet, while Herbie and Chick made it to the big time courtesy of their involvement with Miles Davis’ various acoustic and electronic bands of that decade [and beyond].

From 1968 – 1970, Chick appeared with Miles on four of his most iconic albums: Filles de Kilimanjaro, In a Silent Way, Bitches Brew and Miles Davis at the Fillmore.

“My time” with Chick in the 1960s began when he was with trumpeter Blue Mitchell’s quintet and you can sample some of the music that they made together in the following video which uses as its audio track Chick’s Tune [a Corea original based on the changes to You Stepped Out of a Dream]. Junior Cook is on tenor saxophone and Gene Taylor [b] and Al Foster [d] make up the rhythm section [Al Foster trades some monster 8 bar breaks with Junior and Blue beginning at 7:49 minutes].


Thereafter, I followed Chick’s music through a variety of his recordings including Tones for Jones Bones – 1968, Captain Marvel – 1972, on which he appears as a member of tenor saxophonist Stan Getz’s quartet, his excursions into Jazz-Rock fusion with Return to Forever – 1970s, the duo albums with Gary Burton in the 1980’s, his Three Quartets album with tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker [1981] and the various iterations of his “Akoustic” trio and band in the 1980s and 1990s.

When I listen to Chick’s music, whatever the context, I always experience a very high level of musical satisfaction be it as a result of his pianism, his interesting compositions or the ever-changing musical contexts in which he places them.

Put another way, the guy can really play the piano and his writing is always engrossing: it doesn’t take much of an effort before I’m caught up in both.

Chick’s music takes me on an adventure. I may not always know where the quest is taking me, but I always enjoy the trip.

It’s also fun to play,  I was the drummer in a rehearsal band that featured arrangements of two of his compositions – Spain and La Fiesta – and everybody in the band had a blast playing on these tunes. Their song structures are so rich and vibrant and, as you would imagine from their titles, rhythmically engaging, as well. As Doug Ramsey put it: “La Fiesta” is becoming a minor anthem among high school and college bands.” [Jazz Matters, p. 124, paraphrase]


“Corea is a pianist and composer of remarkable range and energy, combing free-ish Jazz idiom with a heavy Latin component and an interest in more formal structure.”

This capsulation of Chick’s style by Richard Cook & Brian Morton in their Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, 6th Ed. is spot-on as to what is on offer with the music of Armando “Chick” Corea.

Yet, in some ways, it barely scratches the surface of what his music encompasses.

As usual, words are a poor substitute for the music itself, so I would urge you to return to the book by Messer’s Cook and Morton and help yourself to a healthy sampling of the titles of Chick’s recordings and take your own adventure through the music world of Chick Corea.

If you have an interest in new and different musical adventures, then CoreaMusic is the place to be. 

Once there, you’ll find a healthy mixture of melody, harmony and rhythm, as well as, “texture” that ingredient that gives great music a certain, something extra.

As defined by the author Robert Harris of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation:

“The texture of any given music is often the embodiment of the culture and society in which it was written. Music does not exist in a vacuum. It is part and parcel of a social, political and cultural world, a world that can brought to life by music.”

I can think of no composer-performer whose music is more evocative of the flavor of the times in terms of American music over the past forty years than that of Chick Corea’s.

It’s all there: straight-ahead, hard-bop, modal, scalar, fusion, trio Jazz, Latin Jazz, chamber group Jazz - which is why you can be assured that, in visiting the Musical World of Chick Corea, you won’t hear the same thing over and over again!

The sound track on the following video tribute to Chick is Duke Pearson’s arrangement of Corea’s Tones for Joan's Bones which Bob Blumenthal described as “a masterpiece.  The performance is set-up by [Jerry] Dodgion’s dramatic flute introduction, which yields to the exceptional melody. While the structure is an asymmetrical 44 bars [I would diagram it ABCADE, with the D section only four bars long], it is totally logical.”

The cut is from trumpeter Blue Mitchell’s Boss Horn CD and, in addition to Dodgion on flute and Chick on piano, it features Julian Priester [tb], Junior Cook [ts], Pepper Adams [bs], Gene Taylor [b] and Mickey Roker [d].



Perhaps a good way to conclude this brief look at the Musical World of Chick Corea is with the following quotation from Miles Davis:

“Chick Corea can play anything he wants to play, just like me. He’s a music-lover, you know.” [Miles to Sy Johnson, quoted in Jack Chambers, Milestones: The Music and Times of Miles Davis, V. II, p. 141]

Now if I could just figure out a way to have Chick write the music to Clint Eastwood’s next movie, I would have developed a perfect ending for this piece.

On the other hand, our thanks to Clint [and to Geoff Boucher] for providing a source of inspiration to share some thoughts about Chick and his music.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Mundell Lowe - “Our Waltz”

 “Improvisers intimidated by the unhurried ballad’s unavoidable requirement to think often address the problem by doubling the established tempo and falling back on a familiar pattern of notes. Mundell Lowe, a deep thinker and consummate guitarist, uses no such trick because he doesn’t need to. He observes the melodies of these cherished songs, sometimes embellishing them a bit, sometimes using their harmonies as touchstones for lovely melodies of his own. It is an album of mood music for the mind as well as the spirit.”
- Orrin Keepnews

  

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

Growing up in Providence, RI, I was a always fascinated with radio dramatizations such as The Green Hornet, The Lone Ranger, and the more suspenseful dramas as portrayed in The Lux Radio Theatre, among many, many others.

After the family purchased a console that housed both an FM/AM radio and a turntable that could play 33 1/3 rpm LP’s, I laid claim to the Philco Catheral AM radio and “installed” it on the nightstand in my bedroom.

The Philco Cathedral, which was so old it was one-step remove from a crystal radio set – well, it wasn’t quite that old – offered decent reception for WJAR and WPRO, the local NBC and CBS affiliates, respectively.  Occasionally it caught a glimmer from the WBZ signal out of Boston, MA.

As the years went along, I would contently listen to radio drama after radio drama [sometimes surreptitiously after the “lights out” call], until one night, I reached the sign-off time for WJAR.

While the announcer said all of the necessary government verbiage for signing-off-the-air, I was suddenly struck by the beautiful music playing in the background.

It was a gorgeous melody whose refrain has continued with me to this day, but I never knew the name of it [I was still young enough at the time to think that “Reality” was something that I created, so the idea of calling the radio station and asking the name of the song never occurred to me].

A few years later, an uncle who played guitar [rather well, actually], brought home a copy of Guitar Moods [Riverside RLP-208; OJCCD-1957-2] by Mundell Lowe. 

Although I didn’t stay with them very long, I took a few lessons on guitar with my uncle and happened to notice Mundell’s album. In hopes of inspiring me to practice, he offered to let me borrow it.

For whatever reason [mostly to do with the short attention span of an adolescent], it was ages before I ever got around to listening to Mundell’s LP.

Finally, long after I had stopped taking lessons, my uncle remember that he had loaned the LP to me and asked that I return it.

Before doing so, I decided to play it and all of a sudden, there IT was – the beautiful music that I had heard on so many occasions as WJAR’s closing theme.

I flipped the album over and located the name of the tune.  It was Our Waltz by David Rose, a composer better known for other songs he has composed including Holiday for Strings, The Stripper, and So In Love.

Many years later, I finally acquired my own copy of Guitar Moods when it was issued on CD. These days, I remember to play the music on it often, and Our Waltz still weaves its magic spell over me.

Mundell occasionally performs at a nearby Jazz club and one night I asked him to play Our Waltz which he kindly, consented to do.

Listening to it always brings back memories of the glowing dial on that old Philco Cathedral radio and the song’s lovely melody rekindles thoughts of halcyon days gone by.

We have included it as the audio track on this video tribute to Mundell.


Here’s a retrospective of the highlights of Mundell’s career by Gene Lees.

© -Gene Lees, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“Guitarist Mundell Lowe has performed in a notable variety of styles and idioms. From 1936, when he was fourteen, until 1940, he played traditional New Orleans jazz in that city, at a time when many of its founding figures were still around. Then he went to Nashville and played what was then known as hillbilly music, later refined to country and western, per­forming on Grand Ol' Opry radio broad­casts. He went with the Jan Savitt band in 1942, then into the U.S. Army. On being discharged in 1945, he joined the Ray McKinley band and stayed for two years. Somewhere along the way, he—like Herb Ellis and just about every other guitarist in jazz — came under the influence of Charlie Christian, and then in the period of bop evolution, of Jimmy Raney.

Mundy, as he is known to friends, then played in small groups led by Mary Lou Williams, Red Norvo, and Ellis Larkins while studying composition with Hall Overton, working on staff at NBC, and even doing some off-Broadway acting. He formed a quartet that included Red Mitch­ell on bass, and while working with Mitch­ell in New Orleans discovered and hired a pianist from New Jersey who was then a student at Southeastern Louisiana Uni­versity— Bill Evans. Mundy Lowe was Bill's first champion in the business.

Mundy was a member of the Sauter-Finegan Orchestra in 1952 and '53, and in 1952 began working with Benny Good­man. He played with Goodman intermit­tently until 1984.

In 1965 Mundy moved to Los Angeles, where he worked mostly as a film and tel­evision composer. In 1983 he became music director of the Monterey Jazz Fes­tival. All the while he continued to per­form in his polished, thoughtful, unassuming style, touring from time to time with Benny Carter. He also toured with his gifted wife, singer Betty Bennett. He speaks pretty much as he plays, softly and with a sound of the South.”

And, if you’ve a mind to, you can enjoy another version of Our Waltz arranged and conducted by Robert Farnon as played by pianist George Shearing and set to the intriguing artwork of Avigdor Arikha [1929-2010].







Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Riverside Records – Orrin Keepnews



“When Orrin Keepnews, the Grammy Award-winning jazz-record producer, writer and reissue master, was growing up in New York in the "30s and "40s, a teenager -- for the cost of a beer or two, when the legal drinking age was 18 (and, says Mr. Keepnews, carding was lax) -- could listen for hours to world-class jazz musicians at one of the clubs along 52nd Street or in Greenwich Village. According to Mr. Keepnews, now 85 and speaking from his home in Northern California, ‘It was advertised as: "Hey, this is a good way to have a cheap date," and I ended up getting interested in the music. That's being a little too cute about it -- but that's really, basically, where it started from.’”
- Tom Nolan, Wall Street Journal, September 9, 2008

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

In 1953, Orrin Keepnews and Bill Grauer founded Riverside Records. Despite, the latter’s best efforts to the contrary, Orrin managed to keep Riverside going for ten [10] years as an independently owned and operated record label devoted exclusively to Jazz artists, many of whom were virtual unknowns when he recorded them.

“One of the key elements in the development of Riverside and other independent labels, Mr. Keepnews says, was the "postwar deflationary period": ‘At that point, union-scale pay for a sideman for a three-hour session was $41.25; double that for the leader. Among other things, you could do a trio album for a total musician cost of, in round numbers, $250. That is probably the most important factor in the growth of independent jazz labels -- and why, as it turned out, the "50s was such a golden age for recorded jazz, I think.’”
- Tom Nolan, Wall Street Journal, September 9, 2008

Yet, this illustrious background notwithstanding, just like that, after I had put out a call for help via an internet chat group to which we both belonged, Orrin waked into a restaurant in San Francisco in 1999 and granted me an interview for an article I was working on about the late pianist and vibraphonist, Victor Feldman.

What a pleasure it was to listen to him respond to questions and to recount his stories about the music. For example, on the signing of Thelonious Monk for the Riverside label, Orrin shared:

"When we were told about his possible availability as a recording artist, we set up a meeting with Thelonious, and to my total surprise, he knew exactly what our past relationship had been.  Seven years before, I had interviewed him for what he informed me was the first article about him ever to appear in a national magazine. So that really made it very feasible for us. Prestige wasn't interested in retaining him; he wasn't selling records, and he was difficult to deal with... . So we signed him. And that really was the beginning of me as a jazz producer."

Orrin subsequently went on to establish Milestone Records with pianist Dick Katz in 1966 where he recorded pianist McCoy Tyner and tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson.

He moved to San Francisco in 1972 to take on the Jazz Arts & Repertoire responsibility at Fantasy Records after it purchased Milestone where he was reunited with pianist Bill Evans and signed and recorded tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins.

Back on his own again in 1985, Orrin brought Landmark Records into existence and where he featured recordings by vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, among others.

After selling Landmark in 1993, Orrin remained active in producing CD reissues such as the Duke Ellington 24 CD centennial set for RCA in 1999.

Ultimately, The Concord Record Group bought the catalogue of a number of independent Jazz record labels, including Riverside, and Orrin played a variety of roles in helping with Concord’s CD reissues under the rubric of “Original Jazz Classics.”

Or as Orrin explains:

“You stick in this business long enough," he says, "and the damnedest things happen." The archival materials he's now repackaging are the once-contemporary albums he himself produced half a century ago.
"I'm not complaining," Mr. Keepnews says with a chuckle. "I'm not bragging. But it's there -- and I must say that I find these things hold up rather well."
- Tom Nolan, Wall Street Journal, September 9, 2008

There’s no one individual to whom the Jazz World is more indebted than Orrin Keepnews who turns 88-years-of-age on March 2, 2011.

Our video tribute to him features a track from one of Orrin’s Riverside albums under the leadership of drummer Philly Joe Jones [Drums Around the World – Riverside LP 1147; Original Jazz Classic OJCCD-1792-2]. During our visit, Orrin happened to mention the fact that Philly played on more Riverside LP’s than any, other drummer.

The tune is Benny Golson’s Jazz classic Stablemates, which he also arranged for the date. On it, Philly and Benny [tenor saxophone] are joined by Lee Morgan and Blue Mitchell on trumpet, Curtis Fuller on trombone, Cannon ball Adderley on alto sax and Sahib Shihab on baritone sax, Herbie Mann on flute and piccolo, Wynton Kelly on piano and Sam Jones on bass.