There was a time when MTV was the place to discover new music, especially in the world of pop, but since the heyday of MTV a lot of things have happened. Nowadays, web channels like YouTube and Vimeo are the places to discover new music and both listeners and artists upload their own videos. In many ways this is the ideal situation, but there is a problem. The quality of the videos is often poor and they are presented out of context. Some artists decide to use time, effort and money to create beautiful videos, sometimes little documentaries, ...read more
The Harlem Renaissance and the New Negro"One of the most significant intellectual and artistic trends of twentieth century American history, the Harlem Renaissance impacted art, literature, and music in a manner that forever altered the American cultural landscape. The Harlem Renaissance was a movement in the 1920s through which African-American writers, artists, musicians, and thinkers sought to embrace black heritage and culture in American life. This shift towards a more politically assertive and self-confident conception of identity and racial pride led to the establishment of the concept of the New Negro," coined by Alain Locke.While describing ...read more
In the hallway around the corner from the bandstand at Cecil's Jazz Club, hangs a poster for Slugs' Saloon. Through most of the 1960s, until its end in 1972, Slugs' was one of the most important jazz clubs in New York City. Unlike many of the upscale establishments that appeared in its wake, it was a small dive bar (complete with sawdust on the floor), which didn't deign to serve food. Management routinely admitted minors who weren't accompanied by adults. A trip to the men's room meant the possibility of a contact high from second hand smoke.Off the ...read more
For artists who express themselves in a non-verbal medium, jazz instrumentalists have come up with a bundle of choice aphorisms. Here are four attributed to, or about, tenor saxophonists, which were coined too late for inclusion in Nat Shapiro and Nat Hentoff's Hear Me Talkin' to Ya (Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1955). If you feel like sharing some favorites of your own, you can post in the comment box below. Frank Foster One afternoon in the early 1970s, Frank Foster was directing an outreach performance in a Harlem ...read more
A musical merger of higher education has been established at the last university to include jazz into their curriculum--UCLA. Jazz Studies, under Director/guitarist Dr. Kenny Burrell, The Herb Alpert School of Music , and the Thelonious Monk Institute, guided by Herbie Hancock, have all joined jazztistical bonds in providing not only jazz but all-around musical learning for all students seeking the realms of higher educational degrees in music. Jazz education was brought to UCLA when Burrell started teaching Ellingtonia," a class on Duke Ellington in 1978--"It was Thad Jones who turned my ear to the inner sound ...read more
CrossCurrent Festival 3: Press Conference Piazza Loggia, Café Aquarium Brescia, Italy June 21, 2011This space may not be the most fitting for an extended cultural/sociological analysis of how artistic expression and economical acknowledgment feeds each other, but there are events that can be taken as a good starting point for reflection. The New York edition of the forthcoming Crosscurrent Festival can be, with reasonable evidence, considered to be one of them. On a bright and quiet afternoon in June, 2011, Luigi Settala explained the reasons for moving outside Italy to the ...read more
New York City has a brilliant new arts foundation, and a related music series. Nikka Arts is a music and arts foundation, founded by New York singer and composer Lola Danza and her business partner JB, of aboptv.com. The organization aims to provide a space where musicians and artists can present their creative work, and also attract money to record inventive musicians who, like most artists now, are not offered contracts by major labels. Nikka Arts is also inaugurating a music series called M.A.K. (Music and Kreation), the opening night of which is on Sunday April 3rd, ...read more
For my dear friend Charles, my second Brother: Bassist Charles Fambrough, born in Philadelphia on August 25th, 1950 and known as Broski," died on January 1st, 2011 at 5:00 p.m. with his daughter and wife at his side. Reportedly, he ever-so-gently squeezed their hands as he held them, and smiled. Then he was gone. When All About Jazz Publisher Michael Ricci asked me whether anybody was writing a tribute piece for Charles, a robust, world-acclaimed bassist, family man and my closest friend, it became clear that I should do so, even if it were redundant. ...read more
The jazz scene in 2010 was marked by a bit of cultural thaw between the U.S. and Cuba, royal honors for Marian McPartland that led honors galore for living jazz musicians, and significant acknowledgments for late jazz greats across North America. Efforts continued to expand jazz into new realms--or to hold on during the aftershocks of the Great Recession that began two years ago. On the performance front, nothing could top Sonny Rollins's 80th birthday event at New York's Beacon Theater on September 10. Rollins' regular band was augmented that evening by trumpeter Roy Hargrove, drummer Roy Haynes, ...read more
Standing onstage in the auditorium of the Philadelphia School for Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA), a lanky, grey-haired gentleman stands by the piano, directing a small group of student musicians playing Herbie Hancock's Cantaloupe Island."He stops the song during the trumpet solo and says to the student in a British accent, Did you listen to the recording?"The student looks at his feet and replies, No." You always have to listen to the recording first when you're playing a song," the gentleman says, in a decidedly non-condescending manner. It gives you so much direction." He ...read more
One of the perks of being a jazz writer is that I can often get free tickets to concerts. This great benefit has offered me the opportunity to take my wife to some nice jazz events and meet some interesting people. Aside from taking notes in the dark, our jazz dates are just like any other night out. OK, I must admit that shaking hands with Wynton Marsalis and Esperanza Spalding make these dates a little different, but the tickets are one of the few things that make being married to me still worth it after twenty-seven years together. Last ...read more
After a few minutes talking with pianist Spike Wilner, Charlie Parker's quote about authenticity in music comes to mind: If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn..." Actually, the entirety of Bird's thoughts best captures the art of Spike Wilner. Bird goes on to state: They teach you there's a boundary line to music. But, man, there's no boundary line to art."Wilner doesn't seem to have any boundary lines these days. The pianist-turned-club owner, jazz scholar, record label entrepreneur, and internet presenter has embarked on an ambitious concept to present jazz to a worldwide ...read more
An online listing for a no name," threadbare guitar; musicians with a distinct sense of humor; an idea, and one credit card... And a few emails later we've got something that combines the honest-but-struggling underdog, the ugly duckling, Pygmalion, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Kaspar Hauser, a Cinderella rags to riches, Herbie the Love Bug... and over forty first-rate guitarists to boot. This story has it all. It's the story of one homely" guitar and its journey.This guitar's true beginnings are obscure and, for the moment, perhaps best left to the imagination; myths are ...read more
Initially, I was disappointed to find out that pianist Steve Amirault was taking this new direction. Jazz singers have never really been my thing. Anyone that knows me knows I have a penchant for the lyric-less stuff--music that breaks all bounds, and language tends to impose extreme restrictions. Nonetheless, despite my own usual preferences, I'm always drawn towards good, honest, original music; good will always be good. And then there's great: music that, no matter the style or genre, draws me completely outside of my own personal tastes and/or comfort zone. In comes Steve Amirault, doing his new thing.read more
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