Fats is a Broadway musical about a charismatic and cherubic piano player from New Orleans and how he and Dave Bartholomew invented a new beat called rock 'n' roll, drove teens wild and paved the way for today's youth culture. Songs include Blueberry Hill, Blue Monday, I'm Walkin', Ain't That a Shame and many others.
Of course, there's no such show on Broadway—not now, anyway. But there certainly could be. If Jersey Boys, Memphis and Million Dollar Quartet can fill seats as long-running hits, I suspect that Fats would have a good shot at being a jukebox musical smash. There's drama, history, foot-tapping tunes, artistic struggles, personal demons and the American Dream all wrapped up in one tale. The Fats Domino story has it all.
Jazz, to some extent, could benefit from such a show, since rock in the early days featured a front line of saxes and a trumpet or two. At least audiences would become curious. There also was a lot of jazz and blues in Fats' playing. Jazz, r&b and rock were tight in the late 1940s and 1950s, and many jazz artists moonlighted in r&b bands and r&b recording sessions. The list of jazz-r&b musicians is long and included John Coltrane, Benny Golson, Charlie Rouse, Teddy Charles, Red Callender and Frank Wess.
Perhaps the greatest jazz-r&b-rock crossover artist of them all was Lionel Hampton. Here's a clip of Hampton, with rock 'n' roll disc jockey Alan Freed announcing the band. The movie? Mister Rock 'n' Roll (1957)...
Ray Charles and Johnny Cash. Filmmaker Bret Primack in this week's clip focuses on the one duet recorded by Ray Charles and Johnny Cash—Why Me Lord—which appears on Concord's new Rare Genius: Undiscovered Masters...
Dylan Elise. Dig drum solos? Catch this one, courtesy of reader Jon Foley...
Jazz radio in Kentucky. Danny O'Bryan, who has interviewed Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Buddy Rich and other legends in the 1980s, hosts “Jazz Insights” on WFPK in Louisville, Ky, today. You can hear him on Sundays from 8 to 10 a.m. (EST). Listen from anywhere in the world by going here.
CD discoveries of the week. Sameer Gupta's Namaskar (Motema) is a perfect fusion of traditional Indian music and jazz. Indian music is remarkable, but sadly most people experience it only as exotic background in Indian restaurants. Here, Gupta adds a jazz anchor with keyboards and saxophones, giving this music Western context. This is fascinating music that sounds different and more engaging each time you listen to it. Warm examples include Aaye Na Balam and Salaam. Or dig Bill Evans' Blue in Green, which in Gupta's hands has a Last Tango in Paris meets Bollywood mood. It's intoxicating stuff and tremendously successful. You'll find this CD at iTunes and here. For a free downloadable track, go here.
One of the sharpest big band albums I've heard in some time is Andy Farber and His Orchestra's This Could Be the Start of Something Big (BWR). There's a lot of Frank Foster and Sammy Nestico in the charts. Sample Bombers or High Anxiety (yes, the song Mel Brooks sings in the film). Or the title track, with Jon Hendricks singing the vocal backed by a vocalese group. Farber plays alto, tenor and baritone saxophones as well as flute. Oh, and he arranged all of the songs and conducted the band, too. You'll find this CD at iTunes or here.
Guitarist Dan Adler's albums keep getting stronger and more exciting. His latest is Back to the Bridge (Emdan Music) and features Joey DeFrancesco on organ and Byron Landham on drums. Adler has enormous taste and has done extensive listening. He's also quite a composer. Sample Silver and Gold and Back to the Bridge. Or dig the jazz standards Joy Spring and I've Never Been in Love Before. What's more, DeFrancesco throughout provides a Larry Young feel that is perfect. Want to stump your friends? Put on this CD and ask them to guess the year in which it was recorded. Most will say it's a mid-'60s Prestige date. It's that good. You'll find this CD at iTunes or here.
Put a trombone together with a Fender Rhodes and Latin rhythms and you wind up with a very hip sound. Trombonist Luis Bonilla joins these instruments and others on Twilight (NJC), which is in the Jazz Crusaders vernacular. This album is absolutely gorgeous, giving the listener plenty of room to engage and fall in love with the music. You'll find this CD here.
Jose Negroni is a powerful pianist. On Just Three (Mojito), Negroni works with bassist Marco Panascia and drummer Nomar Negroni, attacking each original with enormous gusto. Many of Negroni's compositions are built on Latin riffs that quickly open into extended solos. Sample Milani and Golden Man. This group has enormous technique and energy. You'll find this CD at iTunes and here.
Oddball album cover of the week. Before Walter Wanderley there was Leonard George DeStoppelaire—more casually known as Lenny Dee. A virtuoso organist, Dee recorded easy listening and lounge pop. He also had a charted hit in 1955 with Plantation Boogie. If you must have a second clip, go here. As for our album cover of the week, it appears Lenny has rolled his organ right up to the sole couple in a club or, based on the woman's expression, he's imposing on them.