Phil Urso. Yesterday afternoon I found myself listening to an iTunes compilation of tenor saxophonists that I put together randomly some time ago. The lineup included Lucky Thompson, Illinois Jacquet, Johnny Griffin, Dexter Gordon, Sonny Rollins, Yusef Lateef and others. About halfway through, a ballad came on and I couldn't quite place the player. The tune was beautiful, but I couldn't remember who it was. So I clicked on my iTunes folder. It was the late Phil Urso. The track was Halema, off of Salute to Chet, featuring Phil and trumpeter Carl Saunders. Stunning song and beautiful lines. You can download the track at iTunes. Listen, to Phil Urso's sound and harmonies. So underrated. And pretty tune.
Rahsaan Roland Kirk. I received quite a few emails in response to my post last week on Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Reader Jon Foley writes:
"I was lucky enough to see Kirk at the old Half Note in New York in the 1960s. He had Jaki Byard on piano, Alex Riel on drums, and I thought Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen on bass, although Alex Riel says it was someone else. What a night—it made me think of the old 1920s-1930s phrase "hot jazz." It couldn't have been hotter. Then to top it off, when the first set ended, and I sat at the bar just shaking my head in wonder at what I had just heard, I found I was sitting next to arranger Gil Evans [pictured]. We had a nice, although short conversation about various things. I do recall Gil remarking that it was some exceptional music we were hearing."
Will Friedwald and The Sun. The phrase "print is dying" sends shivers up most media folks' spines—as well as the spines of morning newspaper readers. You start to wonder how the whole "freedom of press" thing is going to hold up if printing presses continue to go silent. One more daily newspaper went belly up here last week: The New York Sun. The paper was way more than just another city rag. It had some of the best arts coverage in New York. It also featured the reviews of jazz critic Will Friedwald. Will tells me he's busy rustling up another gig and exploring new areas, and will be back on the print scene shortly. I, for one, can't wait. Until then, you'll find Will's archive of Sun columns here.
Raymond De Felitta. Last week I caught a private screening of City Island, an upcoming 2009 film written and directed by Raymond De Felitta ('Tis Autumn: The Search for Jackie Paris, The Thing About My Folks, Two Family House and Cafe Society). City Island is an urban comedy about a self-absorbed "deese, dem, dose" Bronx family and the lessons fate teaches them about life and each other. It's a fast-paced urban tale that's deftly told by Raymond, whose ear for dialogue is uncanny. The film features pizza-parlor perfect "New Yawk" performances by Andy Garcia, Emily Mortimer, Julianna Margulies, Steven Strait, Alan Arkin, Dominik Garcia-Lorido and others. More at Raymond's blog here. P.S. 'Tis Autumn is due out on DVD in April 2009 and remains one of the very finest jazz documentaries.
Salsa Meets Jazz. Legendary jazz club owner Art D'Lugoff [pictured] is reviving Salsa Meets Jazz, a series of performances he started when he owned New York's Village Gate. The first performance will feature the Bobby Sanabria Big Band with guests Jon Faddis on trumpet and Candido on congas. When: Monday, October 13th at 7 and 9:30 pm. Where: Le Poisson Rouge, 158 Bleecker St. at Thompson St. Tickets and info: Click here or call 212-505-3474.
Two more Salsa Meets Jazz performances will follow (same location and show times): Larry Harlow's Entourage Band with Ronnie Cuber on baritone saxophone (Dec. 1) and Bobby Sanabria's Big Band with Frank London on trumpet and Candido on congas (Dec. 29).
Peter Bogdanovich. This item has nothing to do with jazz but has everything to do with the risk-taking and out-there-ness so essential to any honest work of art—jazz, film, painting, you name it. Last weekend I rented Targets (1968), one of director Peter Bogdanovich's first films (before his better-known Last Picture Show, Paper Moon, Mask, etc.). I was blown away. It's almost impossible to tell you what Targets is about without spoiling the film. So I'll just say that the movie stars Boris Karloff, Peter and the city of Los Angeles in all its mid-1960s octane-drenched, deep-fried and orange-and-white glory. A modern horror film with truly shocking twists. Marrying Karloff's passion for craft and L.A.'s junk-heap culture was brilliant; think leather meets plastic. Why this masterpiece isn't better known is beyond me. See it and spread the word.
George Handy. Last week I shared with you a TV ad for Ralph Lauren's Notorious fragrance that uses Miles Davis' Maids of Cadiz as background music. Jazz critic and author Ira Gitler sent along a link (by way of trumpeter-composer Ben Bierman) to an ad for Cesar dog food that features arranger-composer George Handy's Blinuet, as played by Zoot Sims, from the album Plays Alto, Tenor and Baritone. Go here to view the ad.
Site for cheap downloads. Reader Gary L. Gray writes:
"Since learning of your web site, I have been exploring some of your old postings. I came upon one a few days ago that recommended the Stan Getz and Laurindo Almeida album. I purchased it from YourMusic.com (which is, by the way, a great source of inexpensive CDs), and I love it!! Thank you for pointing out this album."
Kind of Blue. For those of you who wrote in following my post of Kind of Blue: Hip or Hype? to cite other worthy albums of 1959, WFIU's Night Lights host David Brent Johnson reminded me last week of his fabulous radio show on this very topic. To listen for free to the half-hour show, go here.
From reader Felix Oliver-Tasker:
"You have opened a real can of worms with this one. Having achieved almost godlike status amongst many of the followers of modern jazz, Miles Davis' work is almost impossible to criticize without having opprobrium heaped on one's head. Having said that, I am inclined to agree with you. His work on Prestige Records in the mid-1950s is to me far more satisfying: Workin', Steaming', Cookin' and Relaxin' spring to mind. Perhaps Kind of Blue appeals more to the head rather than the heart. I have the feeling it's jazz for people who don't really like jazz very much and has become background music for a thousand or so dinner parties whose hosts wish to appear hip.
I consider, too, that Miles was fortunate in that Fats Navarro and Clifford Brown, both of whom in my opinion were as gifted and more exciting, were no longer on the scene to challenge his dominance."
"After reading your James Moody in Sweden post, I started playing some LP's and CD's covering Moody's recording sessions in Sweden. Great music. For your visual pleasure, here are images [pictured] of two Swedish LP releases: James Moody & His Swedish Crowns (Dragon DRLP 95, 1986) and The Moody Story that includes sessions from New York in 1951, 1952 and 1953 (Nippon Phonogram facsimile reissue in 1988 of an EmArcy release).
The reason why so many American jazz musicians toured in Sweden directly after World War II was simply because of the fact that Sweden had not been involved in the war. The country had exported a lot of steel and was flush with foreign currency."