Jazz thoughts, over easy. I was talking with my friend Nell last week when she said something fascinating. Nell is a big shot in the music business, and we were chatting about how vital history is to jazz appreciation. Which led to a general chat about our mutual love of music. "Even in the digital age," Nell said, "music isn't a luxury. It's a necessity."
Wow, a necessity. Great point. And how true. Like gasoline, hot water or groceries, music fuels, revitalizes and nourishes. Whenever I'm on the New York subway, I see white iPod headphones wherever I turn. President Obama and the First Lady made a gift of an iPod to the Queen of England a couple of weeks ago during their visit. And Americans are glued to their TV sets each week watching American Idol and Dancing with the Stars.
Personally, I can't function as a writer without jazz playing all day long. And it's not just jazz. From time to time I slip on Curtis Mayfield, David Bowie, Blue Magic and even Little Jackie.
Is digital music benefiting from the same recession bump as movie theaters? When the economy sours, people are more inclined to reach for music as a tonic. With discretionary income in short supply and saving money now chic, people are looking for relatively inexpensive ways to raise their spirits. Music certainly is the simplest and most cost-efficient way to get happy and think positive.
While we know that CD sales are down, downloads are up and computer hard drives are bulging with music files. Last week alone I received several e-mails from readers who had heard about my recent posts on transferring your iTunes library to an external hard drive and wanted the link or had questions on how to do it. Our music libraries will only grow over the coming years, and I don't know anyone who has said they're giving up music instead of coffee or shoes as a way to save.
Nell is right. Music is indeed a necessity. It makes us feel good. It motivates us. It reflects the way we feel. It takes us back. Like an old friend, music is always there for us, reviving our youth or just making everyday life feel better. But beyond nostalgia, music (especially jazz) reminds us there's hope and possibility, and that good times will return. In today's world, that's fundamental, whether you're sitting on the IRT or chilling at Buckingham Palace.
Victor Feldman. Tonight, jazz musician, historian, professor and friend Bill Kirchner will feature a one-hour Jazz From the Archives radio show on pianist and vibraphonist Victor Feldman (1934-1987). Bill will be spinning sides featuring Feldman as a leader and sideman with Cannonball Adderley, Miles Davis, and saxophonist Bill Perkins. Time and place: Tune in at 88.3 FM in New York—or on your computer at WBGO.org from 11 pm to midnight (EDT).
Carol Sloane, live! Legendary singer Carol Sloane e-mailed me last week to say she'll be appearing at The Iridium in New York on May 8-10. Shows are at 8:30 and 10:30 pm. Carol's tribute to Benny Goodman will feature quite a quintet: Ken Peplowski (reeds), Warren Vache (trumpet), Ted Rosenthal (piano), Pat O'Leary (bass) and Chuck Redd (drums).
CD discovery of the week. Hard-bop sextets are all the rage these days. But many fall short, either because they don't sound sufficiently rehearsed or because individual solos are dull. Not so with One for All, a hard bop pickup band of headliners that first played together in 1996 at New York's Augie's (now Smoke). The group's name comes from the title of Art Blakey's last album in 1990, for which trombonist Steve Davis wrote the title tune.
One for All's new album, Return of the Lineup, is its 12th CD since 1997. The band features Eric Alexander (tenor sax), Jim Rotondi (trumpet and flugelhorn), Steve Davis (trombone), David Hazeltine (piano), John Webber (bass) and Joe Farnsworth (drums).
What I love most about this CD is the group's tender, stroking sound. Davis reaches deep on trombone, and Alexander [pictured] and Rotondi are thankfully bigger fans of space and tone than scales and peeling rubber. Six of the eight tracks are originals by One for All bandmembers, with one standard and a Cedar Walton composition thrown in.
The album opens with Rotondi's minor-key cooker, Jackpipe. I love Farnsworth's aggression level, and here he works the cymbals inventively. Alexander's arrangement of But Not for Me borrows just enough of John Coltrane flavor for the Gershwin classic. Davis' [pictured] funk-samba Silver and Cedar unites the breezy influences of Horace Silver and introspection of Cedar Walton. Hazeltine's up-tempo Treatise for Reedus is a minor-major tribute to the late drummer Tony Reedus.
My favorite track is Dear Ruth, a Rotondi arrangement of Cedar Walton's walking ballad written for his mother and recorded first on the pianist's 1992 release, Simple Pleasure. Alexander offers tender Pharoah Sanders touches while Farnsworth, who has played with Walton, shows off his brushwork. Rotondi's flugelhorn here is as warm as it gets.
Davis' Forty-Four amps up the group on a bright major-minor tune with Lee Morgan influences (I'm reminded of Morgan's Is That So, from The Rajah). Alexander's Road to Marostica I assume is a hard bop tribute to the walled Italian town north of Venice. The album ends with Blues for JW, a Hazeltine salute to bassist Webber. Another nice production job by Sharp Nine's Marc Edelman.
You'll find Return of the Lineup as a download at iTunes or on CD here.
Oddball album cover of the week. Shorty Rogers' Chances Are It Swings features the music of Robert Allen. It also happens to be one of the flugelhornist's best LPs from his finger-snapping RCA period. In fact, the 1958 release was nominated for a Grammy (Best Jazz Performance, Group) in 1959 but lost out to Jonah Jones' I Dig Chicks (another album-cover beaut). Which brings me to my point. The fact that the model on the Chances Are It Swings cover is shown seemingly digging Shorty's flatted-fifth wolf call is quite a throwback to a politically incorrect era. And the model? My research shows she's 1950s West Coast pinup sensation Sharon Lawrence [pictured]. The photographer and designer of the Shorty Rogers cover are unknown. Maybe it's better that way.