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WHAT IS JAZZ?

How Teachers can Swing in the Classroom

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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 ...

LIVE REVIEWS

Outbeat Jazz Festival 2014

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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 ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Chris Walden Big Band: Full-On!

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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 ...

IN THE STUDIO

Jazz on the Screen: A Jazz and Blues Filmography

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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 ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mirage Ensemble: Memory Happens Now

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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 ...

MY BLUE NOTE OBSESSION

Thad Jones: Detroit-New York Junction – Blue Note 1513

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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 ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Alan Chan Jazz Orchestra: Shrimp Tale

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Light flourishes, grand pronouncements, fleeting and flitting figures, sudden shifts in mood, and wide emotional arcs are part and parcel of the music created by the Alan Chan Jazz Orchestra. Chan, a classically trained pianist who came up in Hong Kong, hopped all over the United States while honing his writing skills. He studied jazz arranging as an undergraduate at the University of Miami, acquired a master's degree in composition at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, did his doctoral work at the University of Southern California, and sharpened his pen as a member of the BMI Jazz ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Alan Chan: Shrimp Tale

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Big bands these days are being taken in many directions, one of which is eastward. Alan Chan, born and raised in Hong Kong and educated in part in the U.S. (at the universities of Miami and Southern California), has deftly blended Asian tradition with American jazz on Shrimp Tale, the splendid debut recording by his three-year-old Los Angeles-based orchestra. Growing up in Hong Kong, Chan says, he was exposed mainly to classical and Chinese folk music, from which he drew his early inspiration. It was while studying classical composition at USC that he met and was encouraged by faculty members ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Billy Strayhorn: Out Of The Shadows

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An elaborate box set from the Danish Storyville label: seven CDs and one DVD, paying tribute to Duke Ellington's arranger and composer Billy Strayhorn that--alas--doesn't quite live up to the ambitions of it's makers. Ask yourself, was Strayhorn truly the shadowy figure implied by the title? While the bulk of his work was achieved out of the public eye, Billy Strayhorn was no shrinking violet. He “subbed" for Ellington on piano with the band and played on record dates with various constellations of Ellington sidemen throughout the 1950s, most prominently as leader of the ...

BIG BAND REPORT

Buddy Rich: The Beat Goes On

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Was Buddy Rich really “the world's greatest drummer"? The answer to that speculative question is debatable, of course, and opinions may vary, as they no doubt do on what kind of a person (or persons) he was when not weaving his particular brand of magic behind a drum kit. Buddy's remarkable talents as a drummer and his ambivalent and often volatile nature were the twin focus June 1 of a spectacular Buddy Rich alumni reunion and concert at the KiMo Theatre in Albuquerque. The idea for the reunion was first broached to trumpeter Bobby Shew, an Albuquerque ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Duke Ellington: Duke Ellington In Grona Lund

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Midsummer is a quite magical time to be in Sweden. The long, dark winter is over and now, as the sun stays resolutely above the horizon, the Lutheran natives shed their somber demeanor, dress in traditional costumes, dance around maypoles decorated with garlands of flowers, drink far too much aquavit and have such a good time they forget all about it the morning after. In 1963 Swedish jazz fans had added reason for celebration: for four weeks, the Duke Ellington band toured the nation's folkparkerna, or “people's parks," to rapturous acclaim. Ellington's men were a world away ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Ed Partyka Jazz Orchestra: Hits!*, Vol. 1

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There's actually an asterisk after the title of the Ed Partyka Jazz Orchestra's latest album, Hits! Vol. 1 In small print, at the bottom left-hand side of the jacket, are the words “except track 8." As Partyka explains in the liner notes, much of the album is comprised of “a cross section of the music that has generated the most enthusiastic response" from audiences, and thus the orchestra's “hits." The exception is track 8, “Hair of the Dog," a staple in the EPJO's repertoire since 2009, which Paryka says is the only “serious" jazz piece in an otherwise foursquare and ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Buddy Tate: The Texas Tenor

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When Herschel Evans died in 1939, Buddy Tate took his place in the Count Basie band. Basie used Tate's muscular, blues- based tenor as a foil to the lighter toned playing of Lester Young. Tate played with Basie for the next nine years fulfilling the same role with Young's successors, Don Byas, Illinois Jacquet, Lucky Thompson and Paul Gonsalves. He went on to play with Hot Lips Page, was in singer Jimmy Rushing's backing band, and from 1953-1974 led the house band at New York's Celebrity Club. Occasionally he would break off to tour ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

The Pete McGuinness Jazz Orchestra: Strength in Numbers

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For the second album as leader of his jazz orchestra, New York-based Pete McGuinness says he has “returned to [his] roots," fashioning a series of dapper themes that embody his forward-looking point of view while swinging in the grand tradition of such legendary ensembles as Basie, Herman, Thad Jones and others. When someone like Bill Holman says (as he does) “wonderful writing," the tendency is to sit up and take notice. One keynote that's immediately clear is that Holman is, as usual, spot on, and that McGuinness ranks high among the jazz world's most skillful contemporary composer / arrangers, one ...



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