The natural and nuclear disasters that have unfolded in Japan over the past 10 days are positively heartbreaking. As a resident of New York City during 9/11, I know firsthand what it's like for millions of people to become stunned into disbelief by an epic-size calamity. In one day, Japan was hit with a six-minute earthquake followed by one of the largest and most disastrous tsunamis in modern history. And now the threat of meltdowns at four ocean-side nuclear power plants. Three blows that would shock any nation.
No country has been a greater ally of American jazz than Japan. Since the end of World War II, Japan has embraced jazz and jazz artists, encouraging tours by American artists. Japan also took the lead in sparing no cost to remaster and reissue American jazz albums long dismissed by American record companies.
I think I speak for all readers when I say that I hope Japan, with the help of the international community, locates its missing, repairs its infrastructure and mends its national psyche. The world sorely needs Japan's love and respect for art. We all are counting on the courage of the Japanese people and hoping for a speedy recovery. It's worth taking a minute to wish the nation well.
Speaking of Japan's love for jazz, here's a remarkable clip a friend sent along featuring an all Japanese school-girl big band swinging Sing, Sing, Sing.
Ferlin Husky. Back when different parts of the country developed their own indigenous forms of music that were rarely heard outside of those individual regions, recording artists hoped for what was known as a "crossover" hit. Such a song often began as an r&b, country or blues single that pop audiences took a shining to, thanks largely to jukeboxes and radio. Ferlin Husky, who died last week, had one of those crossovers in 1956 with Gone. The song gave Nashville an identity at a time when Memphis ruled the South. Here's Ferlin Husky's Gone—and here's his I Feel Better All Over...
Harry Carney radio. Jazz musician Bill Kirchner is hosting Jazz From the Archives tonight at 11 p.m. (EDT) on WBGO. His focus will be on baritone saxophone giant Harry Carney, the Ellingtonian, from 1927 through the late 1960s, as well as a rare 1954 date as a leader with strings. You can access the show from anywhere in the world on your computer by going here.
Melvin Sparks. Chris Cowles sent along links to two, hour-long shows he produced and hosted for WRTC-FM in Hartford, CT, on Melvin Sparks, the great jazz-soul guitarist who died last week. You'll find Chris' shows here and here (the podcasts start automatically).
Joe Morello. Dan Brubeck, the drummer and one of Dave's sons, posted a touching tribute to the late drummer Joe Morello, a member of the Dave Brubeck Quartet, at the Brubeck Brothers' site here.
Tito Puente. Percussionist and educator Bobby Sanabria will be joined by Joe Conzo, Sr. to discuss the legacy of Tito Puente. When: Wednesday, March 23 at 6:30 p.m. at New York's Manhattan School of Music. Admission is free. Conzo is the author of Mambo Diablo: My Journey with Tito Puente, which is available here.
Candido Camero turns 90. The father of modern conga drumming and NEA Jazz Master Candido Camero will perform in concert on April 1 at New York's Manhattan School of Music, in the Borden Auditorium. Tickets are $5, with proceeds going to the MSM Scholarship fund. More information: 917-493-4428.
CD discovery of the week. Too often, the genius and contribution of Tito Puente is overlooked by jazz fans. Perhaps that's because Tito was a jovial entertainer in his later years. But behind that smile and clowning was a monster percussionist and arranger. Now percussionist and educator Bobby Sanabria and the Manhattan School of Music's Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra have paid tribute to El Rey with Tito Puente: Materworks Live!!! Thirteen of Puente's powerful arrangements have been updated, including Cuban Nightmare and Ran Kan Kan. It's hard to believe this is a college band. Then again, Bobby's leading it. You'll find this one at iTunes or here.
Oddball album cover of the week. I'm not sure what's stranger about this one, sent along by reader Michael Bloom: Mae West's senior preening or the young rockers checking out her hourglass figure. Stranger still, perhaps, are the song choices, which include Day Tripper and You Turn Me On. Too much information.