Round Four: Jazz Film Review: Mo’ Better Blues :
Mo’ Better Blues is director Spike Lee’s attempt to bring jazz into a main stream of understanding. Although Canadians may not directly relate to issues of race and New York City culture, this film hilariously and effectively characterizes the elements that make musicians play, and keep playing.
The film’s most poignant point comes in the form of a metaphorical question: what’s left when the music is over?
Similarities between the Bleek Gilliam Quintet and the legendary Spinal Tap (Mach II):
1.) Members of both bands have punctuality problems.
2.) ”Significant others” are not allowed in the dressing room but somehow end up there anyway.
3.) Management challenges (a.k.a. the artists get screwed).
4.) Ambition is counterproductive.
5.) “I’m quitting the band.”
6.) “You’re fired.”
7.) Violence clarifies issues.
8.) Clarity leads to the band’s demise.
9.) The band’s demise leads to a reunion.
10.) In the end, family is the most important thing.
DVD Extras:Production Notes Biographies: cast and filmmaker Theatrical Trailers
Round Five: The Ear Sandwich:
”Former heavyweight champion George Foreman said that boxing is like jazz in that only a miniscule portion of the audience knows what is going on. For every move in the ring, there is a countermove. Outside that circle, there are literally no rules at all.”
from Flesh and Blood: A Journey into the Heart of Boxing by Jim Christy
Evander Holyfield first introduced Mike Tyson to the flaws in his own character. In the first of two famous fights, Holyfield held on while Tyson tried to knock him out. Other fighters had not survived that strategy. Evander did, and he made Tyson fight longer than he ever had before. In the 11th round, “Iron” Mike boiled over and began to foul Holyfield into disqualification. It didn’t work. Holyfield scored a technical knockout.
Saturday, June 28, 1997 : The sequel permanently established Mike Tyson as a living example of how to lose. After throwing forearms and head butts through two rounds, “Iron” Mike could not contain his rage. Tyson bit Holyfield’s ears – not once, but twice. Referee Mills Lane disqualified Tyson in the third round. The Nevada State Athletic Commission stripped Mike Tyson's license to fight in Las Vegas. Years later, Judge Lane would disclose: “I told Mike, ‘Get out of the ring.’”
Tyson should have listened.
Kenny Colman can still fill a dance floor with his reprisals of jazz standards. He did just that on Valentine’s Day at The Gallery Lounge on Burrard. This gig was a slice of tradition, supported and enjoyed by an audience befitting of jazz from the swing and big band eras.
Colman is a throwback to performance values that are lost on some players of the newest jazz generation. Prior to the first set, Kenny arranged chairs and otherwise made sure to acknowledge our presence – a show of the ultimate respect for the audience that was paying the freight. Kenny motioned for patrons to take a specific seat upon entering the lounge, all the while versifying and improvising.
Colman’s return marks the first time in five years that he has spent the winter on Canada’s West Coast. At this time of year, he usually sings in Cancun, Puerto Rico, Florida and Antigua. No matter where he sings, Kenny Colman clearly loves what he does.
Lorraine Foster debuted her new release, Compositions by Musicians (Jazzlink 1239-1), on February 15. The record contains 12 compositions and a veteran cast of local players: Foster on vocals, Miles Black on piano, Rene Worst on bass and Oliver Gannon on guitar.
Compositions by Musicians comprises an optimistic ensemble sound of jazz tradition that survives over time. The album was recorded live at Blue Wave Studios and the club feel comes through in the performance. This record comes as close as possible to experiencing club jazz without the club. Foster, Black, Gannon and Worst cohere beautifully in arrangement of moments that act as the inspiring aural background to joy. Fans of swing and bop will like this record.
Lorraine Foster has practiced her craft exclusively in Canada. She was born in Toronto (a.k.a. “The Big Smoke”), but Lorraine moved to Montreal to start a family. Like most smart Canadians, however, Foster moved to Vancouver. She began playing with the Dal Richards Orchestra in 1991.
Vancouver’s Kate Hammett-Vaughan is preparing her next quintet record, Eclipse , for release on the Maximum Jazz label. Kate sings to the sounds produced by Chris Gestrin on piano, Jim Pinchin on tenor saxophone, Andre Lachance on bass and Tom Foster on drums.
Eclipse seeks to redefine musical ideas in multiple contexts. The quintet beautifully enhances the sensitive vocalizations long associated with Hammett-Vaughan’s work. Kate wisely encourages the band to sizzle in morphology on “All or Nothing At All.” The remaining 70 minutes extends that framework and Kate Hammett-Vaughan must be commended for selflessly rejuvenating previously-written material. In the shadows produced by Eclipse , listeners will find musical truth.
Highlights include two Joni Mitchell songs, “For the Roses” and “Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire.” The title track, “Eclipse” by Charles Mingus, possesses pastoral beauty in this form. “Tatamagouche Tango” features some lovely vocal and sax improvisation. Holistically, this record is a lovely aesthetic trip.
Eclipse will be released in early April.
Other recent releases on Maximum:Ian McDougall Sextet: Nights in Vancouver Brian Lynch Quartet: fuschia/red
Round Six: ”Sure, Let’s Have A Go”:
Born: Friday, June 17, 1881. Chelsey, Ontario.
Died: Tuesday, May 10, 1955. Vancouver, BC.
Friday, February 23, 1906. Tommy Burns went 20 rounds with Marvin Hart to win the heavyweight championship of the world. Burns lost the title nine months later to “Philly” Jack O’Brien. Burns benefited, however, from the second chances that were often granted in that era. Tommy went 20 more rounds with O’Brien to win back the title in 1907. Tommy Burns defended his title 11 times in less than two years.
Burns was a character. Tommy once travelled to the Yukon Territories to visit a mine that he had won in a poker bet. While he was there, Burns fought “Klondike” Mike Mahoney to a draw. Tommy’s flare for the spontaneous caused officials to shorten his rounds against Joe Grim to one minute because Burns fought naked (and won in three). Tommy took his belt around the world before returning to fight in Canada in 1911. Burns’ most famous opponent was the great Jack Johnson, who handed Tommy a 14-round loss on Christmas Day (1908) in Rushcutter’s Bay, Australia.
From 1900 to 1920, Tommy Burns threw 528 rounds worth of fist. Tommy’s body now lays to rest in a cemetery in the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby. There is no headstone.
Photo Credit: Tommy Burns courtesy National Archives of Canada
Tom Harrell is an inspiring example of human endurance. Harrell brought his distinct trumpet work to The Cellar at the end of January. The 57-year-old hard bopper is respected for his great musical ability; he must be admired for so successfully managing mental illness.
Schizophrenia is a treatable biochemical brain disorder. The disease hits only one in 100 people but ten percent of those afflicted commit suicide. Schizophrenia usually emerges between the ages of 15 and 25 – an extremely difficult ailment to handle at that point in a young life. Auditory hallucinations can occur with schizophrenia; imagine what it must be like to hear more than you are playing.
Research is helping. Doctors are experimenting with a process called repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS). Yale University researchers report that 52 per cent of patients who undergo rTMS, for nine days, report improved health for at least 15 weeks.
Tom Harrell has released 18 records in the last 19 years. Last September, Original Jazz Classics re-released Sail Away. The album was recorded in 1989 with guest appearances by Cheryl Pyle, John Abercrombie, Joe Lovano and Dave Liebman.
Dr. Lonnie Smith is teaming with Vancouver’s Crash for the release of a new record, The Doctor Is In , this May. The album was recorded at The Cellar when Dr. Smith appeared at the inaugural Central City Jazz and Blues Festival.
On this album, Crash features Smith on the B3 Hammond, Cory Weeds on alto saxophone, Jerry Cook on tenor saxophone, Dave Sikula on guitar, Mark Humeniuk on bass and Bernie Arai on drums. The Doctor Is In will be the ninth release by the locally-owned Cellar Live label.
Sekoya’s debut goes national later this year with the electro group’s first CD (released on Maximum/Universal) and a summer tour. The band has been making a positive impression for at least a year with appearances at local festivals.
Sekoya has been featured on arts television shows recently. Channel M’s “Worldbeats” featured an interview with vocalist Amalia Townsend in early February. Townsend left her post in the Maximum Jazz promotion department late in 2003 to dedicate her time and energy exclusively to the band. Sekoya also features: Jack Duncan on percussion, Nino di Pisquale on drums, Chris Gestrin on keys and Kent Wallace on trumpet.
Round Seven: Training Camp:
”And the truth is, fear is an aspect to a fighter. It makes him move faster, be quicker and more alert. Heroes and cowards feel exactly the same fear. Heroes just react to it differently.”
Cus D’Amato: trainer/manager, 1939-1985
Cus is remembered as the man who out-thought those whom he could not out-box. D’Amato guided the career of Joe Louis for 30 years before becoming a father figure to a young, tough kid named Mike Tyson. Cus D’Amato mentored young Mike and eventually adopted Tyson. Under D’Amato’s guidance, Mike Tyson annihilated every opponent he faced. Tragically, Cus died just before “Iron” Mike became the youngest man ever to win the heavyweight championship of the world. Most boxing observers believe D’Amato’s death sent Mike Tyson on the downward spiral that has since consumed him. Mike Tyson may be remembered as the man whose mind destroyed his career more than any opponent’s punch – something that D’Amato likely would have remedied had he lived long enough.
Mentors: the lifeblood of boxing and jazz. May their legacies live on.
I want to learn The Rope-A-Dope
Spring Equinox: March 20:
Warner Jazz has reissued a classic, Bill Evans: You Must Believe in Spring , with three bonus tracks. Evans delivers a beautifully sensitive trio performance with Eddie Gomez on bass and Eliot Zigmund on drums. The new issue includes “Without A Song,” “Freddie Freeloader” and “All of You.”
Elegy (For Bill Evans, 1929-1980):
Music your hands are no longer here to make
Still breaks against my ear, still shakes my heart.
Then I feel that I am still before you.
You bend above your shadow on the keys
That tremble at your touch or crystallize,
Water forced to concentrate. In meditation
You close your eyes to see yourself more clearly.
Now you know the source of sound,
The element bone and muscle penetrate
Hoping to bring back beauty.
Hoping to catch what lies beyond our reach,
You hunted with your fingertips.
My life you found, and many other lives
Which traveled through your hands upon their journey.
Note by note we followed in your tracks, like
Hearing the rain, eyes closed to feel more deeply.
We stood before the mountains of your touch.
The sunlight and the shade you carried us
We drank, tasting our bitter lives more sweetly
From the spring of song that never stops its kiss.
”The man of virtue makes the difficulty to be overcome his first business, and success only a subsequent consideration.”
Confucius (551 BC - 479 BC)
Warner's New Normal:
Unconfirmed reports suggest that Warner Jazz may be on the chopping block. The rumour is part of a larger restructuring of the Warner Music Group. On March 1, Edgar Bronfman Jr. bought the company for $2.6 billion. One day later, Warner announced that it would lay off 20 percent (five thousand people) of its workforce within the month.
Three top executives have been given leave of their duties: Sylvia Rhone, CEO of Elektra; Val Azzoli, CEO of the Atlantic Group, and Ron Shapiro, president of Atlantic Records. No details of Canadian job losses are available at this time.
The Warner Music Group consists of numerous record labels: Atlantic, Elektra, Lava, Maverick, Nonesuch, Reprise, Rhino, Sire, Warner Bros. and Word.
Peter Cardinali, president of Alma Records, is celebrating expansion of the label he started in November 1992. This February 16, Cardinali shook hands to confirm that the Universal Music Group (UMG) will now distribute records by Alma artists. Although these occasions are replete with back-slapping, this is a good deal.
It’s not the only one. This year, Sony Music is expanding to send Alma albums to Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, France, Spain and Benelux. JVC Victor will distribute the label’s records in Japan, while Burnside Distribution will handle Alma in the United States.
Alma Records is set to release the newest record from Michael Kaeshammer on March 16. Strut has already been nominated for Best Contemporary Jazz Album of the Year in Canada.
Telus has announced a partnership with Puretracks to provide high-speed online music commerce. Songs can be purchased for as low as 99 cents per track. Complete albums can be bought for as low as $9.99 per record.
British Columbians have a special place in their hearts for Telus. When the Alberta company bought the old BC Telephone Company, Telus promised a marked improvement in all things related to phones. Unfortunately, cutbacks of monumental proportion plunged Telus into disrepute – not only with its customers, but with Canada’s federal regulator, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). In response to a mass of complaints, the CRTC recently ordered Telus to clean up its act.
On February 14, Telus reported a fourth quarter profit of $49.6 million, compared to a loss of $139.2 million for the same period a year ago. The company says its mobile phone subsidiary, Telus Mobility, was largely responsible for the capital turnaround.
At this writing, Puretracks features over 175,000 songs. Music is transferred in a Windows Media format. The Telus-Puretracks partnership is the first of its kind in Canada.
Round Eight: The Rope-A-Dope:
”It's a lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believe in myself.”
Wednesday, October 30, 1974 : Muhammad Ali stood in his corner and looked across the ring at his worst nightmare, the unbeatable: George Foreman (pictured here). To everyone's shock, Ali insulted Foreman with a punch that has no business in such a moment (the right hand lead), and George laid a furious beating on Muhammad for the whole first round. To everyone's surprise, Ali survived. Renowned writers Norman Mailer and George Plimpton would later recount when Muhammad truly won the fight: in the last 20 seconds of the break between rounds one and two. Ali rested his hands on the ropes, and nodded – almost to himself. Muhammad identified a dangerous tactic; Ali recognized that he could douse Foreman’s stamina with rage. Muhammad determined that George would work himself into the position of prey.
Muhammad Ali’s “rope-a-dope” devastated his opponent. Ali duped Foreman into falsely believing that he had hurt Muhammad enough to score a quick knockout. George pummelled Muhammad for three more rounds. When Foreman was exhausted, Ali struck. Muhammad Ali found a way that could not have been imagined (even by his trainers) until he stared at his own demise.
In the face of defeat, the great ones find victory. Success lies within. You have to be there and you have to go through it. Ask any fighter. Ask any survivor.
Up and Coming:
Lori Paul’s next record, tentatively titled Vanity Press , is planned for release this summer. The record will include Paul’s version of The Guess Who’s “Undun,” complete with a new solo laid down by Canada’s Randy Bachman (formerly of Bachman-Turner Overdrive).
Lori Paul’s first record, Now Or Never (Passionfruit Records), is a nice collection of smooth jazz. Lori Paul’s voice casts its spell with the combination of muscle and aesthetic savvy. The commerce behind the sound of Now Or Never takes nothing away from the integrity of the music within. This record grooves in a mainstream that makes one nod happily.
Lori Paul has played at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival since 1998 and her name has been placed on marquees beside headliners such as B.B. King, Tower of Power and the Powder Blues.
Cory Weeds, owner of The Cellar has returned from a trip to New York City. No doubt, he has paved the way for more cats to come west this year.
The Cellar has logged in with some anticipated events in the next couple of months. Benny Golson headlines the club April 23-25. Ed Thigpen comes to town on Saturday, March 27 with local players Oliver Gannon on guitar, Jodi Proznick on bass and Tilden Webb on piano. The big band from the University of British Columbia will cram the Cellar stage on Thursday March 11. The club is trying an open-vocal format for Monday evenings in March.
Russell Malone and Benny Green brought their duo sets to the club on March 3 and 4.
Jimmy Durante Smiles:
Sweet Papa Lowdown releases its third record, One of Your Smiles , at O'Doul's on the March 13 weekend. The record features Jeff Shucard on guitar and vocals, Lloyd Arntzen on clarinet and Dan Smith on slide guitar and mandolin. The band continues to pay homage to Jimmy Durante's hard driving jazz piano of the 1920s.
Sweet Papa Lowdown's previous releases: Lost and Found 'Til Times Get Better
Round Nine: Slugging:
“We told you it might be a candidate for fight of the year. We didn’t know it would be a candidate for fight of the century!”
Jim Lampley: ringside blow-by-blow
Saturday, May 18, 2002 : “Irish” Mickey Ward badly hurt Arturo “Thunder” Gatti with a vicious blow to the ribs, and Gatti had insufficient time to recover before the ninth round bell. Ward went to work on the body, hammering Gatti to a knee. The referee counted his fingers to Arturo and a knockout seemed imminent.
:28 : “He’s not going to be able to recover.”
Larry Merchant, ringside
:30 : Gatti gets to his feet. Both fighters dispense with strategy and try to be the first to fall the other. It is a race of brutal attrition determined by the fury of two wills in one ring.
1:00 : Mickey Ward retreats from throwing a hailstorm of punishment. Gatti hasn’t gone down. Mickey learns the hard way: Arturo Gatti becomes more dangerous when he’s hurt.
1:25 : Gatti battles back, landing thunderous punches to Mickey Ward’s body and head. For the first time in the round, Ward backs up.
2:00 : both men trade haymakers. Gatti can’t see out of his right eye. Ward bleeds profusely from the other. The two lean on each other to remain upright.
2:20 : “Irish” Mickey surges with another flurry – most of the blows landing on Gatti’s chin. Arturo throws all he can. Sweat sprays from the ring.
2:35 : Mickey Ward damages Arturo Gatti with blows that have been known to kill mere mortals. The magic moment happens: referee Frank Cappuccino (a boxing legend in his own right) determines that the greater purpose will crown the winner. Cappuccino will not end this brawl on a technicality.
2:58 : “GATTI’S GONNA SURVIVE THE ROUND!!!”
In the ninth round, Arturo Gatti and Mickey Ward combined to land 110 punches. On average, one or the other landed a power shot every 1.6 seconds – for three minutes. In these minutes, the will of a determined few redeems the sport. Although Mickey and Arturo fought two more times, neither fight quite lived up to the stunning savagery of this night.
Canada’s National Jazz Award Winners: Part Two:
Vocalist of the Year: Heather Bambrick
Jazz Journalist of the Year: Geoff Chapman
Broadcaster of the Year: Ross Porter
Festival of the Year: Festival du jazz Montreal
Violinist of the Year: Hugh Marsh
Arranger of the Year: Rob McConnell
Big Band of the Year: Rob McConnell Tentet
Acoustic Group of the Year: Kollage
Instrumentalist of the Year: Don Thompson
Guitarist of the Year: Jake Langley
Drummer of the Year: Terry Clarke
Round Ten: Going the Distance:
Generations of fighters have battled beyond their capabilities. The sport of boxing has ravaged many pugilists who simply could not, or would not, understand when to leave the ring and live on. It is one of the saddest elements of the sweet science. Multitudes of jazz players have suffered similarly. It seems to be endemic to the human condition.
Lennox Lewis learned to box in Kitchener, Ontario. Under the guidance of coach Arnie Boehm, Lewis punched his way to an amateur record of 85 wins and 9 losses. Referees prematurely stopped the fight 59 times. Most Canadian fans remember how Lennox Lewis won gold for our country by knocking out American Riddick Bowe at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea. Lewis turned pro the following year. Lennox last fought on Canadian soil in 1990.
What a professional career . Lennox Claudius Lewis won 93 percent of his fights and knocked out 73 percent of his opponents. Lewis lost only two of 18 title fights in his career. Lennox carves his name beside Gene Tunney and Rocky Marciano as only the third fighter in history to retire as a heavyweight champion. He leaves the sport with a professional record of 42 wins, two losses and one draw.
Saturday, June 8, 2002 : Lennox Lewis surgically destroyed boxing’s modern bully. In the disgrace of a previous victory, Mike Tyson chided Lennox to fight by declaring: "I want to eat your children!" In accepting the challenge, Lewis replied: "Mike Tyson will eat my right hand." Lennox delivered. By the eighth round, “Iron” Mike lay on the canvas, eyes rolling back in his head. He did not rise to referee Eddie Cotton’s count. Lennox so embarrassed the toughest fighter of his generation that, in the post-fight interview, a humbled Tyson wiped blood out of his eyes and told Lewis, “you are the champion.”
Friday, February 6, 2004 : Lennox Lewis retired from professional boxing with five words: “Let the next era begin.”
In effect, broadcaster Frank Fong did the same. I once met Frank in order to prepare a story about his work with Vancouver radio station CKNW (980 AM). News quickly took a back seat to health as Frank discussed the success of his first heart transplant. At the age of 32, he knew life was a limited time offer, and it seemed to awaken Frank to the smallness of things that seem so big to many of us.
Frank’s warped sense of humour defined him on-air. Fong ended his hourly newscasts with stories of levity that have been crushed under the weight of modern journalistic negativity. Here is a gem that Frank delivered with straight intonation:
“Are you sick and tired of continually having stuff break down? Well a Florida guy has solved that problem when it comes to self-pleasure. Steve Ritchie has unveiled his latest invention. It’s the world’s first dishwasher-safe sex toy. Now the device is made out of hand-blown Pyrex glass and comes in a variety of sizes that can cost you as much as $379 (USD). Sure it may sound pricey. But Ritchie claims the glass is so hard, it can be used as a hammer.
“If spanking and such appeals to you, you may want to enjoy one of his earlier inventions. The whip light has all the pleasures of being spanked, but (with) no pain.”
Thursday, May 4, 2000 : I wrote: “One day, many moons from now, Frank won’t have to extro such gems with a weather forecast.”
1,380 days later : Frank declined further anti-rejection treatment for his failing, transplanted heart.
Thursday, February 19, 2004 : at 36 years of age, Frank succumbed to a more peaceful, less painful way. I am told he had no reservations about the decision; he died as he wished. Frank Fong: R.I.P.