Waxing & musings. Thirteen years have passed since the Kennedy Center named a working jazz musician (Benny Carter) as one of its esteemed annual honorees. This past week the Kennedy Center turned again to the jazz world by announcing that Dave Brubeck would be saluted at its 2009 gala on December 6th (which coincidentally is Dave's 89th birthday!).
According to the Kennedy Center press release, "Dave Brubeck helped ease jazz into the mainstream, married spontaneity with classical rigor, made unlikely time signatures irresistible, and he made very serious music swing."
Hats off to the Kennedy Center for recognizing a master who has devoted his life to jazz and for deciding to make jazz and jazz history significant again. What's more, jazz will wind up in American living rooms when the gala is aired on CBS during the holidays. We only hope that the Kennedy Center's newfound recognition of jazz at the honoree level is the start of an enduring trend by the institution and Washington, D.C., in general. Many of today's living jazz legends are simply too humble and proud to make a fuss about being ignored or excluded.
Eddie Locke (1930-2009), an educator and session drummer favored by Coleman Hawkins, Duke Ellington, Roy Eldridge and other jazz legends during their revival years in the 1960s and 1970s, died last week in Ramsey, N.J. He was 79.
Locke was a superb old-school timekeeper who understood exactly what jazz headliners needed—a rock steady beat and a sharp cymbal. As a result, Locke was repeatedly selected by Hawkins for recordings in the 1960s.
Two of my favorite Hawkins-Locke dates can be found on one CD download, Coleman Hawkins: On Broadway. The download includes Good Old Broadway and Coleman Hawkins Plays Make Someone Happy, both recorded in 1962. Or dig Hawk and Locke together on Make Someone Happy, which sounds spectacular as an iTunes download.
Four Brothers. While researching my Four Brothers: Together Again! post last week, I came across this doozy...
Sonny Rollins. Last week Bret Primack celebrated Sonny Rollins' 79th birthday by posting video he taped while interviewing Sonny recently on a wide range of topics. Revealing stuff...
Woody Herman. Here's further evidence that all Woody Herman orchestras were good. This clip is from 1964. Dig Woody step in and out of the section to maximize the reed effect.
CD Discovery of the Week: Jazz has deep holy-roller roots. Musicians who have channeled the church include pianists Horace Silver, Bobby Timmons and Billy Taylor. Each adapted gospel slightly differently but all did so for rousing effect. But there's also a tender side to gospel, which pianist Mary Lou Williams embraced on Black Christ of the Andes. Now Cyrus Chestnut on Spirit, his new solo piano CD, expounds on the beatific shadings of gospel music.
Chestnut, 46, knows from what he plays. His father was a church organist and his mother led the church choir. At age six, Chestnut began playing piano at Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Baltimore, his family's place of worship. What's different about Chestnut's approach to gospel music is that he hears the pastoral gentleness of gospel music and the nurturing quality of the music.
Spirit is one pretty album, and you get to hear a raw openness and feeling in Chestnut's playing. As you listen, you can't help but feel as though you've been invited over to dinner at the Chestnut home. It's that intimate. There are a handful of traditional songs on the album as well as an original and a few standards, like Horace Silver's Peace, Duke Ellington's Come Sunday and Paul Simon's Bridge Over Troubled Water.
No matter your faith, this album will melt whatever turmoil you faced during the week and make you realize how graceful gospel music can be in Chestnut's hands.
Cyrus Chestnut's Spirit is available as a download at iTunes and Amazon and is available on CD here and at other online retailers.
Oddball Album Cover of the Week: Once again, never underestimate the value of those three-martini lunches creative directors favored in the 1950s. This puppy was designed for EmArcy Records in 1956. The band playing on Out on a Limb included some of the best West Coast players of the period—once they managed to pluck their axes from the branches.
Followup: Two Sundays ago, I featured Jimmy Scott's Falling in Love Is Wonderful. In my post, I noted "Jimmy looked as though he just finished strangling the model." Reader Andrew Cartmel e-mailed me the following: