As I write this, I am sitting in the Gran Hotel Havana in beautiful Barcelona, Spain. My friend Joan Cararach, Artistic Director of the Barcelona International Jazz Festival, and the festival promoter Tito Ramoneda asked me to join them in a collaboration to cross-promote our festivals. CareFusion Newport Jazz Festival (Aug. 6th-8th) and Voll-Damm Barcelona International Jazz Festival (Nov. 3rd-Dec. 4th) are now sister festivals. By the time you read this, I will have had the opportunity to perform with two of Barcelona's fine musicians, Horacio Fumero on bass and Jordi Rossy on drums, in a celebration of this international ...read more
When Clean Feed first started I never imagined that we would have almost 200 releases after nine years. I guessed that we would put out about two or three records every year and have a hundred CDs released after a lifetime. I think one of the reasons for this thinking was the fact that we were based in Lisbon, a city that doesn't have a scene like New York, Chicago, Paris, Berlin, Stockholm or Oslo. But soon after I realized that this handicap was actually the label's biggest advantage since not having such a strong scene of ...read more
Growing up in an Iraqi-American household in Chicago, I was exposed to many musical influences from an early age: first Louis Armstrong, then Lutheran Hymns, then the Beatles, then Hendrix, then Miles. Arabic music, though constantly playing in the background during family gatherings, did not capture my attention until I was in my mid-teens and my sister Dena started a Middle Eastern music ensemble, called Salaam. I was intrigued by their music, but knowing that it used 'quarter tones,' it seemed impossible for me to approach Arabic music on the trumpet, until I discovered recordings of Egyptian trumpeter Samy El-Bably ...read more
You know that party game where you present people with a forced choice that's actually a litmus test for distinguishing between two kinds of people? Here, let's play--pick one (and only one): Matisse or Picasso? Federer or Nadal? The Daily Show or The Colbert Report? Since I am a jazz composer" by training and self-identification, it seems like I'm always being asked to play this game: improvisation or composition? I am not alone in this--every composer who allows the element of indeterminacy to inflect their music has to grapple with the tension between these two forces. But ...read more
Toward the end of last year, the National Endowment for the Arts published results of its study on Public Participation in the Arts. One finding is that over a six-year period, less than 8% of Americans attended jazz events. So annually, out of some 300 million Americans, less than 2,500,000 attend jazz clubs, concerts and festivals and even those numbers may be dwindling. American popular culture has become primarily commercial, often putting the mind in a passive rather than active mode and while some advances in technology that might serve greater ends are taken up by games ...read more
By Bobby Matos Well-informed historians and critics have stated that they believe jazz is America's only art form or its most important art form. Obviously, to music scholars and experts, most pop music derives from jazz, including R&B, rock, hiphop and other subgenres. One of jazz music's most important styles, however, is often ignored or not acknowledged to be a part of jazz. Latin jazz, originally called AfroCuban jazz, is often perceived as being a foreign entity and is often denigrated. In Ken Burns' documentary Jazz, it is only briefly mentioned. The truth demands a ...read more
Like many other jazz musicians, I am fortunate enough to travel all over the globe and present this wonderful music. While I haven't been playing professionally for an extremely long time--only about 15 years--during those years I have seen quite a bit of change in the world and on the jazz scene. Not that it compares with New York of the '30s, '40s or '50s, but, compared to 2009, think of how much more work there was in the late '80s and early to mid '90s. What about the wonderful jam sessions all over New York run by people that ...read more
By Randy Sandke We've all heard the saying that Jazz is America's classical music." Implicit in this notion is the belief that jazz is equally worthy of respect, admiration and support as any 'serious' music. Over the past few decades, jazz has indeed found a greater degree of prestige, academic interest and corporate sponsorship than at any time before. But there's a downside to this parallel between jazz and classical music. Jazz seems headed towards the same path classical music followed by becoming an interpreter's, rather than a creator's, art. The stars in the jazz world ...read more
As a guitarist whose love for jazz music began in the '70s, I was understandably excited to hear a few months ago, from a most reliable source, that Thelonious Monk really dug guitarist George Benson! Benson was probably the most popular jazz guitarist of the '70s and those who know about the place of the guitar in jazz history understand that he stands among the elite few of all time. Apparently, Monk was attracted to the same thing that a lot of other jazz fans were hearing: a great musician and guitarist. This exciting ...read more
Often times just being in the right place at the right time will provide us with moments that inspire us for a lifetime. We should all be grateful for the moments where someone has done or said something that leaves a mark on our lives. Here are five leave a mark" moments in my musical life I would like to share. As a kid, I remember seeing a profile of Count Basie on 60 Minutes. I believe Morley Safer was the correspondent for the segment. At one point he asked Mr. Basie the common question, What ...read more
By Gerry Hemingway I am writing to offer my insights about the experience of listening from the perspective of being a musician. The art of listening is, of course, a somewhat open-ended topic that, for the sake of this article, will concentrate primarily on a few points of what I have observed and can articulate verbally about on the experience of music and sound for me as a player and creator of composed and improvised music. I am hoping that sharing my experience may enrich your next encounter with a music performance or recording. ...read more
When I think about the radical move I made 14 years ago, switching from the tenor to the soprano saxophone, I sometimes ask myself: What in the hell were you thinking?" Even though in hindsight I look back on my decision with amazement and disbelief, I'm happy to say that it's one I've never regretted. Becoming a soprano saxophonist for me has been a life-changing journey that has restored my curiosity and excitement about music. It has strengthened me as a saxophonist, artist and person. I have often equated the process of switching from the tenor to ...read more
As a child I imagined myself playing guitar. I didn't actually have a guitar, but a tennis racket sort of looked like one and that was enough.When I did finally get my hands on a guitar for the first time, I figured out that, using only the open strings (luckily it was tuned), I could play most of Taps." So, with a slight tuning adjustment from someone older and wiser, I gave my first concert to a group of my six- to eight-year-old peers. It wasn't until I was fifteen years old that I actually bought my first ...read more
By Marshall Allen It feels good to be receiving this Lifetime Achievement Award at the Vision Festival this month. Whenever somebody achieves something worthy, it's great to be recognized for it. The musicians who have received this award in the past include people that I have performed with, know and respect. I have received things like this before, like the Bluebird Award in Germany and some honorary mentions, but this award means a lot. The years have gone by so fast. It seems like yesterday when I first joined the Sun Ra Arkestra in 1958. It ...read more
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