Andre Hodeir (1921-2011), a French violinist, jazz composer, arranger and jazz essayist whose musical charm, wit and sophistication not to mention awe-inspiring taste helped integrate American linear cool jazz into Parisian culture in the early and mid-1950s, died last week. He was 90.
Virtually unknown in America today due largely to cultural ignorance and lack of champions here, Hodeir in the '50s instantly understood the sighing Impressionism of the cool-jazz movement and interpreted it splendidly for French audiences on records and in movie soundtracks. Not content to merely ape what Miles Davis, Gil Evans and Gerry Mulligan had developed in 1948 and recorded in 1949 and 1950 for Capitol, Hodeir's arrangements added a neo-classical layer that elevated the form to levels of breathtaking seduction.
Hodeir also was influential as a composer-arranger. In Paris, those were Hodeir's arrangements for James Moody's Vogue sessions with strings in 1951, and Hodeir's compositions appeared on Bobby Jaspar's New Jazz in 1954 for the French Swing label. Hodeir also came to New York to record American Jazzmen Play Andre Hodeir in 1957, a Savoy release that's hard to find today.
The New York band featured Donald Byrd, Idrees Sulieman (tp), Frank Rehak (tb), Hal McKusick (as,b-cl), Bobby Jaspar (ts,fl), Jay Cameron (bar,cl,b-cl), Eddie Costa (p,vib), George Duvivier (b), Bobby Donaldson (d), Annie Ross (vcl) and Andre Hodeir (comp,cond,arr).
Through Hodeir's music, you realize instantly how the modern classical period of the late '40s influenced jazz and spawned the jazz-classical movement, leading to extensions of cool in the '50s. In Hodeir's favor was his deep passion for counterpoint, small-group harmony and rich knowledge of jazz and jazz history, which served him well in his essay writing.
Here's Hodeir on the American cool movement from his Jazz: Its Evolution and Essence (1956):
"It is too early to draw up a balance sheet on what the cool musicians have done. All we can do is modestly give our impressions, which are contradictory. Cool jazz presents a mixture of reassuring and disquieting elements. The very artists who repudiate Parker and go back to Young are looking, sometimes timidly but with a certain persistence, for a way to renew jazz.
"They make music for music's sake, scorning even the most remunerative of spectacular effects. Many of them who are as good as any professional musicians, would rather hold another job on the side than have to make commercial concessions. This attitude speaks well for their consciousness and their sincerity, both of which are attractive qualities, but valuable works are not necessarily the result of either one or the other.
"To date, the cool musicians have brought us more promises than results. But isn't the existence of these promises the essential thing, however uncertain the path in which they seem to involve jazz may be? Quite apart from their value as pure jazz, side like Boplicity and Godchild direct jazz toward a language that seems to hold great potential riches; Israel shows a fertile determination to investigate polyphonic writing; Jeru boldly calls for a re-examination of form, construction and meter.
"Men like Evans and Mulligan seem to have understood that the principal objective of the arranger should be to respect the personality of each performer while at the same time giving the group a feeling of unity. There may well result from all this, sooner or later, a completely renewed jazz that, without renouncing its tradition, would find its justification in a new classicism, which bop no longer seems capable of bringing about.
"True, it is also possible to believe that music so essentially intimate and excessively polished may lose some of jazz's essential characteristics and cease to be anything but a devitalized successor. Only time will tell which of these two hypotheses corresponds to what the future actually holds."
And then there was the amazing music.
Kenny Clarke and other jazz musicians left New York for Paris and didn't come back for years for a range of reasons. Racism was high on the list. So was the lack of steady work in the U.S. But the third and often overlooked factor was the Paris music scene, which was vibrant, sophisticated and exciting.
Here's Swing Spring from Kenny Clarke Sextet Plays Andre Hodeir (1956), a positively amazing recording. The band: Roger Guerin (tp) Billy Byers (tb), Arman Migiani (bar), Martial Solal (p) Pierre Michelot (b), Kenny Clarke (d) Andre Hodeir (arr). This one is available at iTunes.
Two other great Hodeir jazz albums are Le Jazz Groupe de Paris Plays Andre Hodeir (1956) and Andre Hodeir's Jazz & Jazz (1960). Both are available as downloads at iTunes.
A superb collection of Hodeir's essays can be found in the Andre Hodeir Jazz Reader.
Adam Rudolph. In case you missed yesterday's Wall Street Journal, here's the online version of my profile of Adam Rudolph, who leads the 42-member Go: Organic Orchestra. Here's the first paragraph...
"At first glance, composer Adam Rudolph's music looks like a Keno card. His conductor's score is even odder, resembling the notebook doodlings of a computer programmer. But to the 42 musicians who play in his Go: Organic Orchestra, the music makes perfect sense, thanks to intensive training from their leader.
"On Monday, Mr. Rudolph and his orchestra will perform selections from their sixth album, "Can You Imagine…The Sound of a Dream," at the Roulette performance space in downtown Brooklyn."
Moonlight in Vermont. I realize now that I should have provided you with a link to my earlier series on this great song. So here is Moonlight in Vermont (Part 1) from 2008, with a link to Part 2 atop the post.
Russ Garcia tribute—streaming live! To celebrate Russ Garcia's 95th birthday, singers Shaynee Rainbolt and Terese Benecco will host a tribute to Russ at New York’s Iridium Jazz Club tonight, featuring Grammy-winning pianist Billy Stritch. The Iridium gig at 6:30 p.m. (EDT) can be viewed free by going to the club's live streaming site. More information about the gig here. And for my interview with Russ, go here.
Frank Sinatra. I don't think Frank Sinatra was ever as loose or enjoying himself more with an orchestra than in this 1965 clip sent along by JazzWax reader Dave James. It also dispels all notions that Sinatra and Basie might not have been such a relaxed fit, based on the two studio albums recorded. Here's I've Got You Under My Skin, which JazzWax reader Peter Sokolowski notes is from a St. Louis charity benefit
concert filmed by CBS in 1965 for a documentary on Sinatra by Walter Cronkite and written by the late Andy Roney. Under the direction of Quincy Jones, Basie's band was the perfect motivating force for Sinatra's swing.
Giacomo Gates. My boy "Symphony" Sid Gribetz will be interviewing singer Giacomo Gates on New York's WKCR Tuesday morning from 7 to 8:20 a.m. Giacomo recently recorded a fabulous album in tribute to Gil-Scott Heron, The Revolution Will Be Jazz. You can listen in on your computer from anywhere in the world by going to WKCR.org.
CD discoveries of the week. The last time Bobby Pierce recorded as a leader was back in 1973, on an album called New York for Muse. Now, on The Long Road Back (Doodlin'), Pierce picks up where he left off—laying down hot funky blues grease reminiscent of organists Don Patterson and Melvin Rhyne. What sets Pierce apart on the Hammond is his more than 30 years of gospel playing. This CD is first-rate Lord-infused playing that lifts his accompanying musicians, including saxophonist Ricky Woodard, guitarist Frank Potenza and drummer Clarence Johnston. Dig Frenchie, the title track and Invitation. This is hot stuff, and it's a joy to hear the '70s served up right. You'll find this one at iTunes and at Amazon. More on Bobby Pierce.
Gentle intensity is hard to come by today. But guitarist Martin Moretto on Quintet knows exactly how to get a driving shuffle going without wrecking the joint. Every track on this CD is beautiful, and for a debut album, that's a pretty tall order. Originally from Argentina, Moretto smolders softly on each track, building tension with surfy sambas. Tracks like Iguazu, Golden Eyes and El Rey Del Bosque put you in a fabulous mood. Hear for yourself. You'll find this one at iTunes and Amazon. More on Martin Moretto.
I know this is wax museum stuff, but if you adore Oscar Peterson, this one's for you. Unmistakable (Masterworks Jazz) comes from Zenph, the same folks who brought you the re-recorded performances of Art Tatum. Long story short, Zenph has figured out a way to take an artist's recordings and feed them back through a superb grand piano, recording the results impeccably. So the keys move, but no one's sitting there. All of the tracks were recorded by Peterson but previously unreleased. It's haunting stuff, but once you get over the fact that Peterson isn't actually in the studio, you forget about that detail and start to enjoy what's playing—especially given the clean sonic production. Woe unto Zenph, though, if and when they get to Bill Evans. You'll find this one at iTunes and Amazon. More on Zenph.
I guess you could call guitarist Bob Shimizu's First & Monroe (Signal Strength) easy listening—but it veers more toward Wes Montgomery's later years than neo-dentist's office. His music pushes in the right places and is lyrical throughout. Joining Shimizu here are organist Joey DeFrancesco, saxophonist Eric Marienthal and others. All 11 tracks are soothing, hip originals. Sample Trace of a Nordic Blond, Yavapai Lullaby and L-Ski. Good easy listening to me means smart seduction and relaxation. You'll find this one at iTunes and Amazon. More on Bob Shimizu.
Oddball album cover of the week. Singer June Valli was a pop belter in the '50s who shared some of the "crying" vocal stylings of Johnnie Ray and Frankie Laine. On the cover of this RCA album, she appears to be touched by the torch and pleading for release from the flames and her aluminum-foil top.