A director fascinated by the outsized life of the African-American boxer Jack Johnson sets out to make a documentary to tell the man's story. Given the centrality of race to Johnson's story and Johnson's own musical interests, a jazz soundtrack seems most appropriate, so he enlists the foremost jazz trumpeter of the day to provide a score. This certainly will sound familiar to those who've caught Ken Burns' latest PBS documentary, Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson, with its soundtrack by Wynton Marsalis. But lost in most of the commentary on Burns' film is ...read more
As an art form jazz has thrived in a number of different environments, and the school of the music that came to fruition under the ostensible stewardship of Eddie Condon, a man whose abilities as a raconteur were at least on a par with his abilities as a guitarist, amounted to a freewheeling brand of the music which thrived best before a receptive live audience. There was however a whole lot more to it than anything that might suggest, and if the term 'the Condon school' can be realistically applied it might well disguise the breadth of stylists who found ...read more
The alto sax has always been a horn that can accomodate a variety of approaches. The two players discussed here, as featured on albums recorded at completely different stages in their respective careers, have sounds and styles deeply rooted in the history of the music
For years Bruce Turner was a stalwart of Humphrey Lyttleton's band, and for a period in the late 1950s and early 1960s he led his own Jump Band, a small group which took its cues from the John Kirby Sextet, a band that's hardly been over-used as a template. The Dirty Bopper was the only ...read more
Every significant development in jazz has been the work of trailblazers. In the case of bebop of course the two most readily associated with the development have always been Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, and whilst there is no little substance in this, the determinism of such a view obscures the contributions of other musicians who were active in the midst of this musical revolution. Whilst this situation has arguably never caused irreparable damage to any musician's career, it might be said to have caused some musicians to suffer neglect.
Charlie Rouse was the victim of some unstated critical consensus, ...read more
In the early 1960s things were happening. In that seminal decade, the allure of which remains so great that people not even born at the time can feel vicarious nostalgia for it, both British and European jazz produced instrumentalists with the ability and know-how to establish themselves as distinctive voices within an ever-widening continuum of jazz. Of the three musicians discussed here Don Rendell has the longest pedigree, having been a member of the band Stan Kenton employed on his European visits in the previous decade. Ian Carr had worked in the band led by organist Mike Carr prior to ...read more
Marty Paich (1925-1995) was the West Coast Tadd Dameron. He had a perfect swing and be bop arranging temperament. Paich was a superb pianist and a better arranger, being called upon to orchestrate for Chet Baker, Ray Brown, Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, and Art Pepper. It was with Art Pepper that Paich would forge a most creatively generous relationship, which would yield not one but two masterpieces in 1959.
Art Pepper (1925-1982) was the brilliant and beautiful alto saxophonist who recorded widely in the 1950s, '70s, and '80s while taking the better part of the 1960s off in ...read more
All jazz singers worthy of the name have been able to draw upon a depth of interpretive power sufficient to make something out of frequently trite lyrics. The most extreme example of this, that is to say the example who could draw from the deepest well of such power, was of course Billie Holiday, and there is countless recorded evidence of this. Of vocalists who have moved outside of both the territory of the lyric and the voice's very function in jazz, Jeanne Lee was the one who, until comparatively recently, most successfully bridged the divide between jazz and more ...read more