Singer-educator-historian Teri Roiger and the jazz faculty at the State University of New York at New Paltz have invited me up to campus this Tuesday, April 30, to speak about the history of jazz—from World War II to Watergate. I'll be illustrating my points with images of jazz artists projected onto a large screen along with music tracks. The presentation will be based on my book, Why Jazz Happened, and the talk will be part of the university's events in support of International Jazz Day. My talk starts at 5:30 p.m. Location: Shepard Recital Hall (115 College Hall) SUNY New Paltz Campus. Best of all, it's free and open to the public. Directions and information, go here.
Happy birthday, Duke! WKCR-FM in New York will present its annual "Duke Ellington Birthday Broadcast" this Monday, April 29. Duke discs start spinning on Sunday at midnight (EST) and continue twirling for 24 hours—all day Monday, up to midnight. You can tune in from anywhere in the world on your computer by going here.
West Coast jazz festival. Ken Poston, director of the L.A. Jazz Institute, is producing another one of his organization's four-day, 18-concert extravaganzas from May 23 to 26. Plenty of legends will be performing—including Bill Holman and Don Menza. There's also this intriguing concert "Birth of the Cool and the Origins of the West Coast Sound." You can download the colorful schedule and info pack PDF by going here.
Ever work in a record store? You're not alone. Reader John Herr sent along an article from the U.K.'s Guardian, featuring lots of people talking about their vinyl sales experience and how much fun it was.
Art Pepper, for free. Laurie Pepper, Art Pepper's widow, has made another rare track available as a free download. This time it's I'll Remember April with tenor saxophonist Warne Marsh. The recording was made on April 20, 1975, at an afternoon gig at The Foxy Lady club in Los Angeles. Go here. [Pictured above, from left, Art Pepper and Warne Marsh at Donte's in North Hollywood, Calif. in 1977]
Benny and Zoot in '58. Here's a clip of the Benny Goodman Orchestra at the Brussels World's Fair in 1958. The band featured Billy Hodges,Taft Jordan, John Frosk and E.V. Perry on trumpets; Vernon Brown, Willie Dennis, Rex Peer on trombones; Al Block, Ernie Mauro, Zoot Sims and Seldon Powell on saxophones; Roland Hanna on piano; Arvell Shaw on bass; Roy Burns on drums and Billy Bauer on guitar.
CD discoveries of the week. When smart musicians look way back in time for inspiration, they wind up with an album like Songs from the Psychedelic Time Clock (Almost Loaded). Recorded today, not yesterday, the band Drivin' N' Cryin' attempts to recreate the garage band sound of the '60s. Yes, there were dozens of such bands back then, including Pat Farrell & The Believers, Mo-Shuns, the Shags and the New Invaders. I know because I used to spend many an hour in an odd store called Midnight Records that sold such discs across from the Hotel Chelsea on 23d St. This EP (short album) delivers that sound with today's sonics. It's the third of four theme albums with original material from Drivin' N' Cryin'. Previous retro efforts have been Songs from the Laundromat and Songs About Cars, Space and the Ramones. Sample Upside Down Round And Round and tell me you're not in love.
Back in 1986, pianist Steve Kuhn played the Village Vanguard with bassist Ron Carter and drummer Al Foster. The Vanguard Date (Sunnyside) is Kuhn at his gentle best, with lilting songs like Clotilde, Little Waltz and Dance Only with Me. His The Zoo is on here, too. Kuhn approaches songs head-on and finds ways through their windows, cellar doors and rooftops. To hear him develop rhythmic patterns and lines on songs is to hear them evolve in motion, seemingly without pre-planning. Ron offers firm, engaging support as does Foster—without stepping on Kuhn's toes. Sample Music Prayer for Peace. A hushed album by an artist fully in control.
You either love the French horn and understand why it's such a fabulous instrument or you don't get it at all. The French horn is a hushed romantic, a swinging fop, if you will. Up front, it has an orchestral, cinematic cry but deep down it's a trombone without the attitude. French hornist Jeffrey Snedeker obviously feels the same way. On Minor Returns: Tributes to the Horn in Jazz, Snedeker takes on 14 songs. Oddly, many of these song choices have nothing to do with the French horn. In cases where songs work, however, they're out of the park. These include George Wallington's Godchild, George Butcher's Linda Delia and Gigi Gryce's Two French Fries. I only wish Snedeker had adhered closer to his album's title—sticking to jazz songs that are French horn classics, like Ronnie's Tune from Curtis Fuller's With French Horns (1957) and John Graas' Frappe (1953). But this is a quibble, given what a beautiful player he is.
Oddball album cover of the week.
Capitol Records in the '50s positioned trumpeter Jonah Jones as a pop-jazz instrumentalist. In the process, they created several albums with covers that used models stuffed into tight tops and pants. One assumes these LPs were aimed at young male record buyers in search of an at-home soundtrack for making moves.