Benny Goodman, Vanessa Rubin, Ron Carter, Joe Lovano

Fradley Garner By

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As the vocalist, you are the only one responsible for the lyric
—Vanessa Rubin
Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie and other jazz celebrities who took part in U.S. State Department tours in the Cold War era, are celebrated in a photo exhibition opening April 4 at the Meridian International Center’s photo gallery in Washington, DC. The non-profit institution that promotes international understanding through the exchange of people and the arts, also plans to present Dave Brubeck in a mid-April concert to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the pianist’s 1958 State Department tour. Details: meridian.org.

“As the vocalist, you are the only one responsible for the lyric, so embrace the composer’s words and try to tell the story believably.” That’s one of seven pieces of advice to vocalists from the New York-based singer Vanessa Rubin. In Down Beat’s February “Master Class,” Rubin urges young vocalists to be actors and project a song’s message. Rubin recalled her own “brazen attempts” at age 21 to interpret Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life.” “The melody and sophisticated lyrics were haunting and challenging then, and still are now.” Few songs touch that one, but all deserve careful study, says the singer. Years on the bandstand, including global tours with Herbie Hancock and Woody Herman and stints with Kenny Burrell and Houston Person, have convinced Rubin that too many instrumentalists look down on the vocalist as “less of a musician.” That attitude can be countered by respecting instrumentalists and “showing reverence to the art.” But when you’re on mic, “Remember, you are the captain of the ship.” Visit: vanessarubin.com.

As they do every year, record company executives and other shakers of the international music market met in Cannes, France, at the end of January for the 42nd edition of MIDEM, their global organization. Thinking that some news might emerge from the string of forums and presentations, I asked a local attendee, Jim Eigo, head of Jazz Promo Services in Warwick, NY, who has many Metro area clients, to let me know if he heard anything newsworthy over there. “Here it is,” the answer came a week before he left for the conference. “The record business is in the toilet.”

Ron Carter, the world’s most respected living jazz bassist, is the subject of the first biography of its kind: a share-published book (to be issued this year) backed by a Web site with video footage, audio interviews, photo galleries and “journal entries … in writing the biography,” according to author Dan Ouellette. Carter’s story pivots on a formative experience in the 1950s when conductor Leopold Stokowski told the classical cellist and bassist that symphony audiences “are not ready for black players.” Carter turned to jazz. Miles Davis called him the “anchor” of his classic 1960s quintet; he became the most recorded bassist (over 1,040 sessions) in popular music history. Participants in the ArtistShare project each donate $15,000 to become “executive publishers” with a full-page dedication in the book. They are invited with a friend to dine with Carter and Ouellette, get VIP tickets to Carter performances, with backstage access. Each receives the bassist’s new CD, For Miles, and—aural icing on the cake—a “Ron Carter iPod” player loaded with the bassist’s favorite tunes. More on this: danouellette.artshare.com.

Joe Lovano invited a number of musician friends to play at a fundraiser for the ailing bassist Dennis Irwin on March 10 in the Lincoln Center, Manhattan. Irwin’s late-stage cancer was first treated at the Dizzy Gillespie Cancer Institute at Englewood Hospital, NJ, “famous for caring for musicians and artists with no health insurance,” Nicole Pasternack, a singer friend told me. He had surgery in Newark “to relieve some of the spinal fracture issues.” Irwin hopes to travel west for alternative treatment with the Gerson diet. Meanwhile, he was looking into radiation therapy in New York. The 56-year-old bassist is a longstanding member of the Village Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. He has worked and recorded with, among others, Lovano, Betty Carter, Art Blakey, Horace Silver and Toshiko Akiyoshi-Lew Tabackin. “We aim to raise enough to cover his travel and get him started on his treatment program,” Pasternack said. She urged well-wishers to write Dennis Irwin, c/o Sixteeen As One Music, 888-C Eighth Avenue, #160, New York, NY 10019. More from Bret Primack: [email protected]

jazz.com is the newcomer to a growing roster of some 40 online “webzines” wholly or mainly devoted to the music. The new jazz portal boasts of “3,000 pages of unique content,” including reviews, interviews, features, discographies and photos. Those cyber pages also embrace an intriguing innovation: Lewis Porter’s Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians. Porter, a working jazz pianist, is professor of music at Rutgers University - Newark. His online sourcebook now numbers over 1,400 biographies of “currently active” jazz performers. That compares with nearly 3,000 entries (not all jazz and active artists) in Donald Clarke’s online Encyclopedia of Popular Music, and 3,300 in the progenitor Leonard Feather and Ira Gitler’s The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz. Porter’s work is “ongoing and aims to include all jazz musicians, past and present, in newly researched, accurate biographies,” he told me, adding that he has left the project due to the press of other activities.

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