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Guitarist Tomas Janzon Basks in Bassists


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Guitarist Tomas Janzon Basks in Bassists

Players who lead trios and duos featuring a bassist tend to stick with one. Tomas Janzon is happy with Essiet Essiet, 56, drummer Art Blakey's last bassist.

Yet, "There are so many extraordinary bassists in New York," the Big Apple-based Swedish guitarist tells me, "that I am happy to work with lots of them. They're all so different, and I always make it a conversation. Sometimes you interrupt, sometimes you just listen and nod."

Only the guitar is slightly amplified. When bass and guitar quietly start to explore new ground in a duet, "the audience tunes in and the whole thing elevates."

At the conservatory in Malmö, Sweden, in December, 2012, Janzon held a two-part clinic: "Being Your Own Booking Agent" and "Altered Modes — Concepts for Improvisation." The approximately 30 participants included other instrumentalists as well as vocalists, guitarists and bassists. He taught and performed at clinics at several other schools, "which together covered my travel expenses" from New York.

Janzon has a steady gig at the Garden Café in Harlem. Essiet is most often his partner, but check out the other bassists Janzon has hired over the last year-and-a-half. In descending order of frequency: Curtis Lundy, Harvie S, Don Moore, Juini Booth, Gene Perla (who teaches at the New School), Cameron Brown, Ken Filiano, Bob Cunningham, Alex Gressel , Joseph Lepore, Jennifer Vincent, Ratzo B. Harris, and Howard Britz.

"All these musicians are great," the guitarist emailed, "and I always feature them."

Music Helps Keep a Pilot Sane

Music was a mind-saver for guitarist and composer Kent Johns.

In 1986, while motorbiking near Athens International Airport, Greece, the professional aviator was clipped by a hit-and-run driver.

"Over the next four years of hospitals and surgery," he recalls on the Jazz Friends blog, "the only thing that kept me sane was my music. I wrote dozens of songs, and one private hospital I was in for five months allowed me to keep my Yamaha keyboard in my room. The nurses would ask me to leave my door open so they could hear the music."

Out of commercial piloting, Johns ended up doing computer work back in his native America. "This caused the kind of stress that gives people ulcers and cancer, and my main defense was coming home every evening, turning out most of the lights and playing," he wrote. "My other great release was traveling from my apartment in Illinois back to my home in Michigan on weekends in my little Cessna four-seater."

Observed the pilot: "Getting up above it all gives you a more proper perspective of what's important and what's not. So, if you guys trust me to take you on an airplane ride (with Kenny Burrell and Gino Vanelli in the back seat), please feel free to hop aboard and enjoy [my video] flight.

Live Recorded Jazz 24/7 from Montego

Avalon Radio is a non-profit jazz station opening in January, 2013 on the sunny shores of Montego Bay, Jamaica. Broadcasting on FM and 24/7 over the Internet, this may be the first station to offer only live-recorded concert jazz and contemporary music.

Founder Las Latty, up in his 70s, has been both a professional musician and veteran broadcaster for decades in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. As a pianist, Latty occasionally substituted for guitarist Russ Freeman in drummer Shelly Manne's band at Sorrentino's club in North Hollywood, before the drummer opened his own Shelly's Manne-Hole in 1960.

Latty said he was taking to Jamaica his collection of some 200 live CDs, including "the entire series of issued albums and all the other stuff recorded at Shelly's Manne-Hole." He has put out the call for other albums and music files. The bands and artists can be old or new. "As long as they were recorded in a live environment and have something to say, I will give them lots of airplay."

Avalon Radio will be manned by volunteers, who are offered instruction in broadcast technology. Latty said this could be the final chapter in his radio career. He started about 50 years ago at WGBH in Boston, went on to KRFM in Carson, California, then across the border to station CJRT in Toronto. He worked most recently at Glastonbury FM, in Somerset, England.

Latty believes that with listener and other support, "the format I am rolling out can survive." To donate recordings, Latty or call his cell: 07976-153626.

Mystery: Why No Face on Sheet Music?

It's a mystery. A musician, whose name will surely come to mind well before you finish reading this, was first to record "When It's Sleepy Time Down South," nearly six months before Paul Whiteman. The man played and sang the tune onstage for 40 years. Why is there no sheet music with his picture on the cover?

In the period before his enormous popularity in the 1950s, his face was seen on one record jacket—Lights Out, circa 1936. He was highly visible in the media and in theaters, at concerts and dances in America and abroad. He was on the radio—even had his own program—and stole the show in films.

But there's no picture on sheet music. A commenter on the Jazz Friends blog, who raised the question, does not see this as a racial issue. "Other African-Americans got their bands or their pictures on sheet music," he pointed out, adding: "The only hypothesis I can invent is that his managers, [Johnny] Collins and then [Joe] Glaser, wanted too much money for Our Hero's visage to be Visible."

Giveaway hint: In an audience at the Vatican, he called the Pope "Pops."

Asked to comment, Dan Morgenstern, retired director of the Institute of Jazz Studies, said "These things were controlled by music publishers, not artist's agents, and nobody would have asked for a fee—it was, after all, free publicity—nor did Glaser handle Louis until mid-1935." Louis Armstrong was abroad from mid- 1933 until early 1935, Morgenstern said in an email, adding: "'Sleepy Time' was not exactly a great hit, aside from Louis' keeping it alive; if rights had been owned by Mills Music, for example, it would have been seen more."

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