If you're in New York on Monday evening, come over to Barnes & Noble on 86th St. and Lexington Ave. I'll be in conversation with Terry Teachout [above] about his new biography—Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington (Gotham). Our chat starts at 7 p.m. Hope to see you there!
John Coltrane. For my "Playlist" column in today's Wall Street Journal, I spoke with trumpeter Wynton Marsalis—Jazz at Lincoln Center's artistic director—on the influence of John Coltrane's Dear Lord, which can be found on Coltrane's album Transitions. Over the past month, Wynton [right] has been performing his Abyssinian Mass on tour. You can see him perform the suite live on your computer from anywhere in the world at 8 p.m. (EDT) on Oct. 24, 25 and 26 at jalc.org/live.
Clark Terry update. Clark and Gwen Terry thank all of you who have made contributions to help the Terrys ease the expense of Clark's care. If you'd like to make a donation, go here. Here are Clark's remarks last week sent along by Gwen:
"All this love keeps me going. Keeps me focused on positive things. Makes me feel happy and very, very blessed. So blessed. I appreciate my friends, with all my heart, for helping me! There aren't enough words to say how grateful I am. And I want them to know that I'm doing my best to stay involved on the scene. I love to teach talented young musicians who come here for lessons about the interpretation of jazz language, phrasing, articulation, and things like that. Brass players, drummers, pianists, bassists, vocalists, guitarists, reed players. They tell me they're learning some hip new things, and they have lots of questions about jazz history. They don't mind if I teach from my bed or my wheelchair, and I appreciate that. God bless my friends for making it all possible!"
JazzWax in Barcelona. Only a month to go until I'm in Barcelona, Spain. I'll be there the week of November 25 to give a series of local jazz based on my book, Why Jazz Happened, during the Barcelona International Jazz Festival. Music, food, friends and conversation—not to mention inspiring students and taking in the beautiful city. I will be posting from there as well, so you won't miss out. For more information about the festival, go here (click on the "programa" button).
Jazz in Hollywood concert. If you're in Los Angeles next week (and I wish I were), there's a seductive concert series taking place from Oct. 24-27 called Jazz Themes From Hollywood: West Coast Jazz at the Movies. The four-day celebration at the LAX Marriott—hosted by the Los Angeles Jazz Institute—includes concerts, films, panels and special presentations. Sorry for the delay in hipping you to this series. West and East coasts don't always communicate and I only just heard about it from a reader. I could spend the rest of this post telling you about the West Coast jazz greats who will be there. Instead, for more information and to download the festival brochure, go here.
Nick Hempton. And if you're in Seattle or Vancouver this week, catch the Nick Hempton Big Band. The peppery orchestra led by alto saxophonist Hempton is touring in support of his new album, Odd Man Out (Posi-Tone). For more information about the tour, go here.
CD discoveries of the week. Few jazz organists today have a groovier sound on the instrument than Dr. Lonnie Smith. His recording career dates back to the mid-1960s on sessions with guitarist George Benson and alto saxophonist Lou Donaldson. Smith's latest: In the Beginning, Vols. 1 and 2 (Pilgrimage)—is a two-CD set. Both CDs were recorded live at GB's Juke Joint in New York's Long Island City. There are funky blues, ballads and wailers that feature horns, rhythm guitars—the works for anyone who loves a solid organ octet album. Sample Psychedelic PI and Call of the Wild.
You can't own enough Willie Nelson recordings. Say what you will but I defy you to take off his new one—To All the Girls (Sony)—after putting on. It's a duets album with the likes of Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Loretta Lynn, Carrie Underwood and others. Nelson's old-sofa voice is brightly matched by his female partners. Song choices also are first-rate—From Here to the Moon and Back (with Parton), Somewhere Between (Lynn) and Grandma's Hands (Mavis Staples), to name just three. Bob Dylan's voice may definitively resonate with the top half of the country but down below, Nelson is the soundtrack for coping with rough breaks.
Another terrific duets album is Steve Nieve's ToGetHer (429). British keyboardist-singer Nieves has played with Elvis Costello for the past 36 years. On this album, he's smartly paired with superb artists on a breathtaking lineup of mostly originals. For example, on Conversation, a New Wave collage, Nieve is teamed with French vocalist Vanessa Paradis. There are jazz traces, mood-building samples and shrewd lyrics all pressed together. Some of the other duets are with Sting, Laurie Anderson, Cali and Ron Sexsmith. The music here is highly inventive and thick with smart production.
Ali Bello is a Venezuelan violinist with a sympathetic sound. Connenction: Caracas-New York (Zoho) sways from Latin to jazz and back with ease. Remarkably, his violin never sounds sad or like background for black-and-white documentaries about World War II. In Bello's hands, the violin is a happy, giddy voice playing off the polyrhythms and intricate bass lines. A very hip, sophisticated album that also deftly steers clear of the Latin-folk vernacular, a crowded space today. Sample Mofongo and Zapateao. Beautiful music that scurries along with purpose.
Bassist Tommy Cecil and pianist Bill Mays are back with another smashing set of Stephen Sondheim songs. On Our Time: Sondheim Duos, Vol. 2, the jazz artists color Sondheim's stage songs with a jazz intensity. Though the 11 tracks here are a tad less known than those on the first volume, the choices remain ideal. For example, the pair's take on The Miller's Son from A Little Night Music, Rich and Happy from Merrily We Roll Along and Moments in the Woods from Into the Woods. This album, like the last, is in the great tradition of jazz artists interpreting Broadway musicals and re-inventing the music. Especially lovely is how easily all of Sondheim's melodies went along for the ride.
New Orleans pianist James Booker died in 1983 (at age 43) of renal failure after years of heroin and alcohol abuse. He began recording in 1954 for Imperial and remained a bayou boogie player for the balance of his career. One of the finest examples of his playing was Classified in 1982—one of only two studio albums he recorded. The album has just been remastered and reissued by Rounder. Sample any track. Hear why the sound of funky sea-level piano has the ability to make hairs magically stand on end.
Ryuichi Sakamoto is a Japanese electronic-fusion musician and prolific composer who is probably best known as a founding member of the Yellow Magic Orchestra in the late 1970s (remember Computer Games?). Now Meg Okura & the Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble pays tribute to the artist on Music of Ryuichi Sakamoto. It's a blend of jazz, Japanese and experimental music, and the outcome is fresh and tender. Much has to do with violinist-leader Meg Okura and pianist Helen Sung. For more on Okura, go here.
Oddball album cover of the week.