From time to time, I receive emails from readers hectoring me when my daily topics stray from jazz. As long-time JazzWax readers know, I have musical interests that go beyond jazz, and occasionally I like to share them with you. [Pictured: Rhythm by Sonia Delaunay, 1938]
While about 80% of the time I post about jazz in the form of interviews with jazz legends or reviews of new and old jazz albums,I also enjoy r&b, blues, rock, salsa and even disco. I write about them here at JazzWax and for the Wall Street Journal.
My feeling is that great music is great music, no matter what part of the record store we're talking about. I've always said that this blog (online magazine at this point) isn't about me. It's about the music and the fun. I'm simply one person who loves art, is relentlessly curious, and hopefully puts you in my shoes so you can experience and share what I enjoy. [Pictured: At the Pasha Nightclub, Cooma by Jeff Carter, c. 1957-59]
You should know that I don't make money off of the sales of any of the albums I write about—jazz or otherwise. JazzWax does accept advertising, but that's simply to help offset the time and costs of producing JazzWax. And as I tell publicists all the time, I have only one rule: I have to love something to write about it. If I don't love something, I pass. Readers expect me to be honest. And my feeling is that art is hard enough, so musicians don't need me having fun with words at their expense. [Pictured: No. 3/No. 13 by Mark Rothko, 1949]
So there you have it—the JazzWax manifesto. I write about what pleases me. What I write about is always what I love. And if you dig what you read today, come back tomorrow.
Ella in Japan. Last week, I wrote about Ella in Japan, which was just issued by Universal and has never before been released. I also mentioned that I wrote the liner notes for the album and enlisted the help of Japanese journalist Makoto Gotoh in Tokyo to flesh out the details of Fitzgerald's tour there in early 1964 and to speak with surviving musicians who played with her and the Roy Eldridge Quartet. Here's an email from Makoto:
"I received a message from Zenshow Otsuka, the pianist on the album's jam session. He said he was surprised by the supreme sound quality of the recording and Ella's vocals.
He also said he was very honored and proud to be named in this project.
"I also spoke by phone with Mr. Takeo Nishida, who took photos of Ella when she was here in 1964. He said, 'Thank you. Now I am listening to the CDs featuring Mr. Kitano and Mr. Munekiyo. The fans of the Arrow Jazz Orchestra will love this CD.'
"By the way, Zenshow Otsuka told me an interesting story: The person who prepared the lyrics of 'S Wonderful in Japanese for Ella is Sumiko Sakamoto. She was a top singer/actor at the time and now teaches kindergarten."
Sonny Rollins. USA Today's Jerry Shriver wrote a terrific piece on Sonny Rollins in the newspaper on Friday. Jerry had spoken with me for comments several weeks ago, and it's an honor to be quoted in his piece. To read Jerry's article, go here.
Lennie Tristano. Pianist Lennie Tristano was always on the cutting edge, helping to develop bebop, cool and avant-garde jazz from the 1940s through the 1960s. He's probably best known for creating a complex jazz style that often sounded like songs you knew played backward. As an educator, lessons were customized for each individual student and designed to extract students' feelings and expression. With this skeletal background, you now are ready to view this clip of animation that jazz musician Bill Kirchner sent along featuring the "Tristano Robots" poking fun at the Tristano "school":
George Wein. Newport Jazz Festival founder George Wein was interviewed by Charles Giuliano of Berkshire Fine Arts in Massachusetts. To read the interview, go here.
Impulse Records. While doing some research for my post last week on First Impulse: The Creed Taylor Collection 50th Anniversary, I came across two touching clips of musicians playing songs that are included in the four-CD set.
The first is This Could Be the Start of Something Big from The Great Kai and J.J....
The second is One Mint Julep, from Ray Charles' Genius + Soul = Jazz...
David Newton. JazzWax reader Des Stanley in Scotland recommended Scottish pianist David Newton. Here, Newton takes on Moonlight in Vermont...
CD discovery of the week: As part of its remastered classics series, Concord recently released Ugetsu: Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers at Birdland, a live Riverside recording from 1963. The album reminds you how jazz used to sound live—the ambition, energy, fury and excitement. Though jazz by 1963 was already becoming fringe with the rise of pop-rock and soul, you can hear Blakey, Curtis Fuller, Freddie Hubbard, Wayne Shorter, Cedar Walton and Reggie Workman develop new approaches to the music. One of the standouts here is Cedar Walton, whose piano style was less gospel than that of Bobby Timmons, his predecessor, but intensely rich and percussive just the same. Dig Ping-Pong and I Didn't Know What Time It Was (featuring Shorter). Four bonus tracks include the sextet's interpretation of George Shearing's Conception. You'll find this one at iTunes or here.
Oddball album cover of the week: Back in the 70s, Fontana in the Netherlands released quite a few jazz albums with covers that were made to look as though featured jazz artists were eyeballing attractive Dutch models. In each case, the musician's image is 10 times as large as that of the model. What can you say. There are marketing strategies and then there are marketing strategies. Here's one featuring the music and trumped up "desire" of Wes Montgomery, who by the way loved his wife and family greatly.