To say that Chris Walden's instrumental compositions and arrangements are the best part of his new big-band album, Full-On!, is not to dismiss the rest as less than adequate. Walden's charts for the ensemble, on the other hand, do provide much of the excitement in a session that is otherwise dominated by vocals (seven in all), several of which are more overwrought than enlightening. Take, for example, I Can Cook Too" and Sir Duke," both sung by Melanie Taylor (who must have drawn the short straw). As written by Betty Comden and Adolph Green for the musical ...read more
I am a jazz aficionado as well as a philosophy professor. Being in front of a classroom teaching is my favorite place on earth, second to a good jazz club with hip friends. In the midst of a philosophy class, I may wax enthusiastic about the transcendent qualities of a John Coltrane saxophone solo or the preternatural swing of Buddy Rich's timekeeping or the song-writing and band-leading genius of Duke Ellington. These comments are not merely idiosyncratic. They reflect something of a philosophical theory of pedagogy that is steeped in jazz sensibilities. After over thirty years of teaching philosophy in ...read more
Outbeat Jazz Festival Philadelphia, PA September 18-21, 2014 The Outbeat Jazz Festival, touted as America's First Queer Jazz Festival," where the Q-word" has become an in" word, proved to be an innovative event that brought the public's attention to the important role of gay (LGBT) jazz musicians and composers. A series of concerts and discussions drove the point home. It was no accident that the festival was held at venues in and around Center City, jny: Philadelphia, the locus of one of the most thriving and activist gay communities in the world. Sponsored by the ...read more
It's been a while since the jazz world has seen a release from this group. The first three albums credited to the Chris Walden Big Band--the Grammy-nominated Home Of My Heart (Origin Records, 2005), No Bounds (Origin Records, 2006), and Kurt Marti Suite (Origin Records, 2007)--came in quick succession. And then there was silence from Walden. Well, that's not exactly true. Walden's actually been quite busy in the interim, even if his work didn't center on his own big band. He's been cranking out orchestrations and arrangements for mega-stars like Rod Stewart, Michael Bolton, Michael Bublé, and numerous others, so ...read more
This article appears courtesy of David Meeker and the Library of Congress. Learn more about Jazz on Screen. Overview of Jazz on the Screen By David Meeker The cultural, sociological and technical histories of jazz and motion pictures have run in parallel, sometimes intersecting, lines ever since both forms emerged at the end of the nineteenth century. Neither found it easy to be accepted as a legitimate form of personal or artistic expression. The early days, spent at the very fringes of respectable society, were difficult in each case. Film grew up in vaudeville ...read more
One of the things that is worth noticing about the new generation of jazz musicians in Norway is how they seamlessly combine genres and create their own expression. Of course, blending genres has been a part of jazz music almost since the beginning, but jazz has also become an idiom of its own with certain conventions: solos, swing, standards and not least improvisation. Like much post-modern jazz, Mirage Ensemble challenges these conventions, but the musicians keep in touch with the essential credo of jazz as the sound of surprise. The compositions on their album Memory Happens Now ...read more
Before he became famous as the leader of a big band, Thad Jones was a trumpet player, and a damn good one. In 1956, Jones led his first jazz group. It was a small sextet--unlike his later, more celebrated ensemble, co-led by Mel Lewis. This short album, which chronicles that session, has only five songs and runs just 34 minutes. There are no alternate takes. It's a pleasant album, but not a great one. There is nothing innovative here, or particularly memorable. Jones has a nice tone and decent chops, but he won't make you forget ...read more
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