I'm a pool swimmer. Always have been, dating back to my lifeguard years. Each morning at 6:30, I head off to a nearby half-Olympic pool and swim 1-1.5 miles daily—often pushed competitively by the person behind me or in the next lane. Swimming doesn't take a toll on your knees, there's zero risk of over-doing it and the aerobic workout and toning benefits are extraordinary. And as swimmers know, you emerge not fatigued but highly energized. I find I'm full of electricity until I turn in at about 11 each night.
Swimming is addictive. There's something about the water that puts you in a hypnotic state and lets you think as you work out. So it was fabulous to have an opportunity to interview Diana Nyad [pictured above] for yesterday's Wall Street Journal (go here). Diana, at age 64, swam from Cuba to Florida in September, becoming the first person to make that 90-hour trip without the protection of a shark cage. For the WSJ, Diana talked about the house she bought several years ago and why it doesn't have a pool.
While we were chatting, I asked her if she hallucinated at any point during her endurance swim. She said she did, at one point convinced that she could see the Taj Mahal just ahead of her. Fortunately she regained her sanity and plowed on. [Photo of Diana Nyad above by Michal Czerwonka for The Wall Street Journal]
Dinah Washington radio. "Symphony" Sid Gribetz—the kid with the fancy pants and fancy lid—will feature singer Dinah Washington on Sunday (November 24) from 2 to 7 p.m. WKCR-New York. Sid will be focusing on Washington's mid-1950's period. You can tune in from anywhere in the world by going here.
Barcelona bound. I'll be in Barcelona, Spain, next week delivering a series of jazz talks based on my book (Why Jazz Happened) at the local university and high schools. I also plan on posting from the Barcelona International Jazz Festival. If for some reason I'm unable to do so due to time constraints, I will have an exciting post for you anyway.
"Your Woody Herman post reminded me of my own experience 50 years ago. November 22, 1963 happened to be my 31st birthday and my first wife and I had planned to go to The First Floor Club [in Toronto] that evening to hear the Horace Silver Quintet. After the shocking news from Dallas we wondered if there was any point in going. After all, would Horace and his band be in any condition to perform after the day’s earlier tragedy?
"Well, we did go and it was sad watching these five unhappy-looking American musicians climb onto the stage. But damn, they were professionals and they played their hearts out. I really felt sorry for them being away from their country on such a sad day." [Pictured above: Horace Silver]
Jazz meets electronic funk. For those who rail that pianist Robert Glasper isn't jazz because he favors R&B, I invite you to dig this video of Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters in 1974, courtesy of Tom Fine...
More Miles in Mono. As I disclosed about a week ago in a post on new box sets, I wrote the liners to the new Miles Davis: The Original Mono Recordings. Tom Fine sent along this clip...
CD discoveries of the week. A couple of weeks ago I posted about vibist Charlie Shoemake. His most recent album is Inside (Chase). It's spectacular. Song choices include Wow, The Scene Is Clean and Nica's Tempo—particularly gorgeous melodies for the vibraphone. Charlie moves archly throughout the album and swings from start to finish. I also love how he lets the instrument ring just so and leaves breaks between mallet flurries. A perfect album.
Seems like an odd combination—bluegrass and Moody Blues songs—but it works. Moody Bluegrass: A Nashville Tribute to the Moody Blues (Red River) features a wide range of artists, including Alison Brown, Emma Harvey, Ricky Skaggs and Tim O'Brien. Twenty-eight tracks by the '60s Australian rock band as interpreted by roots musicians. Between you and me, I rather like these better than the originals. Probably because the songs, though cloaked in mystical rock, were really folk songs in disguise.
On Archer (Red Parlor), singer Suzanna Choffel leverages her country-reggae guitar on chest-poking originals and winds up as a downtown chanteuse. Choffel has a childlike huskiness to her voice, akin to the late Amy Winehouse, and her songs are solid and feel current and fresh. Sample Inch and So the Story Goes. All of the tracks are imaginative, youthful and anxiety-driven—which makes for fabulous, eclectic music.
TV's singing-drama Nashville has rekindled interest in country music—or at least the plot lines that make up most country songs. Julie Roberts may look and sound the part, but she's a heck of a storyteller and songwriter. On Good Wine & Bad Decisions (Red River), Roberts aches through nine originals and catchy country tunes by other writers, like Steve Earle (I'm Not Getting Any Better at Goodbyes) and Fred Burch and Don Hill (He Made a Woman Out of Me). This is pure music—the fine singing of walnut songs with vibrant stories. Vince Gill and Buddy Miller both make cameos. Sample Roberts Keep Me Up All Night. 'Nuff said.
The name Dill Jones may be new to you. He was a Welsh stride pianist who died in 1984 who took a job on the Queen Mary just to go back and forth across the Atlantic to spend time in New York. In 1961, he had it with the oceanic shuttle and settled in New York and was a go-to pianist for Harlem stride. Back in London in 1972, Jones showed off his stuff at the Jazz Centre Society, which was recorded. Earlier this year, the performance was released as Dill Jones: Up Jumped You With Love (Hep). Jones' hands run the keys like mad spiders, slowing up enough to instill the music with passion and soul. A super-fine Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans and A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square. You ain't heard speed until you dig Jones' own Something for Luckey.
Oddball album cover of the week.
Here's another from the Netherlands' Fontana series that enlarged black-and-white photos of jazz musicians so they'd seem to be leering at willing female models. One of these days, I'll string them all together. For now, here's Gerry.