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Don Phipps

Jazz advocate, lover - heck my Kansas liscense plate is JAZZMAN!

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About Me

I am a jazz advocate and lover but still feel, after decades of listening to the music, there is so much more to uncover and explore.

My interest in jazz started in high school (late 60s-early 70s) where I began listening to Coltrane and formed a jazz rock band that performed songs by Chicago, Blood Sweat and Tears, and Buddy Miles. I also played jazz at the college level but realized I did not have the dedication required to put in the hours necessary to make myself a reasonably accomplished musician.

It was at that time I became interested in literature and journalism. I decided to major in journalism at Boston University (late 70s) and to write about my interests in jazz. I became a staff writer for the school paper, The Daily Free Press. I covered jazz concerts in the area. In 1979-80 I became the paper's Arts Editor. Several notable concerts I covered during this period include the return of the Art Ensemble of Chicago from Paris (they played their first concert upon returning to the States from a long stay in France at Jonathan Swift's Pub, Cambridge). I believe this was the first time the AEC had played music from their ECM album Nice Guys live in the States. The performance was fronted by a 35 minute scorching solo concert by Anthony Braxton. During my period in Boston, I covered back to back nights of Dave Holland and Sam Rivers in duet at Lulu White's; a concert by Codona (Don Cherry, Nana Vasconcelos, and Collin Walcott), a concert by the World Saxophone Quartet (original members including Julius Hemphill); a concert by Oregon (sat backstage with Ralph Towner and discussed his music); and concerts by Old and New Dreams and the Cecil Taylor Unit, to name a few. Boston was alive with music!

Upon returning to my home base of Jacksonville, FL, I wrote for a newspaper that allowed me to cover the Jacksonville Jazz Festival. That first year of the festival was headlined by Art Blakey. I interviewed Art in his motor home and asked him some basic questions only to be challenged by the two young players who were observing the interview - Wynton and Branford Marsalis - both of who wanted me to understand just how important Art Blakey was in the history of the music. And I totally agree with that perspective!

Unfortunately, career moves prevented me from writing about music for much of my life. But now that All About Jazz is interested in new writers, I've decided to give it a shot again.

I did want to say that I've seen some amazing concerts along the way - I've attended three unbelievable Vision Festivals in NYC (celebrating Sam Rivers, Henry Grimes and Fred Anderson), saw some of the NYC AACM performances (including the Anthony Braxton solo concert in 2002 that was turned into a CD); saw the Anthony Braxton with the 12+1tet at the Iridium in 2006 (attended 4 sets - this concert was also turned into a box set - and a highlight was taking Anthony to lunch with the Yahoo Braxton Group); saw the Cecil Taylor Trio (with Thurman Barker on marimba and Rashied Ali on drums) play back to back nights at the NYC Knitting Factory; saw Chick Corea and Gary Burton in Lawrence, KS at Liberty Hall; took my 3 year old son to the Joshua Redman quartet (with Billy Higgins, Christian McBride, and Pat Metheny) at Liberty Hall, Lawrence, KS; saw Keith Jarrett play two solo concerts (Washington D.C. and Boston, MA), play with his European quartet of the 70s in Philadelphia, and saw him debut his work Arbour Zena at Carnegie Hall in 1976 (with Jan Garbarek and Charlie Haden and a symphony orchestra); saw Ornette play with Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins at Battery Park in NYC; saw Ornette with the double bass quartet and son Denardo on drums play in Carnegie Hall... etc. etc. etc....

Probably the most special evening in my jazz life occurred in Los Angeles, where a friend of mine and I traveled from Orange County where I lived up to Santa Monica to see Charlie Haden's Quartet West. We arrived early so we could locate the nightclub and then have dinner before the concert. We were unable to see the nightclub from the street so I parked in a grocery store parking lot and we proceeded on foot to the corner where there was a man standing and waiting to cross the street. I tapped him on the shoulder and asked about where the nightclub was and he turned around. My jaw hit my chestbone as I saw it was Charlie Haden. He was happy that we both came to see him play and invited us to stay after the concert to help him celebrate his 50th birthday (cake and champagne). Talk about being in the right place at the right time! LOL. Very gracious indeed....

I have over 4,500 jazz albums in my collection, and while I wish I could say i know all of them intimately, I must confess I do not. And the collection keeps growing. I hope to share some of that growth with you!

I look forward to writing for All About Jazz and am honored to do so. I would also like to dedicate all of my articles for this site to my dear friend and mentor, the late Walter K. Cunningham, a man who contributed mightily to my knowledge of the music. Thank you Walter! Also I'd like to shout out to two friends of mine in Jacksonville, Fl - Clay Davis and Bob Azroff. Clay introduced me to the ECM world of the 70s, and the music of Cecil Taylor and Anthony Braxton, and Bob is an expert in all things jazz. And I would like to acknowledge the contribution of my friend Deborah Cannarella, who helps edit my work for the website. Her advice and expertise has been invaluable. Thanks Debbie!

My Jazz Story

I love jazz because it combines elements of improvisation, innovation, and structure and incorporates blues, classical music, and world music idioms. I was first exposed to jazz in high school where I "tried" to play the clarinet and saxophone. My love of music grew into dabbling with the piano and guitar as well. Played in school jazz bands in college. I have met and/or interviewed Art Blakey, Ralph Towner, Oliver Lake, Anthony Braxton, Elvin Jones, Sam Rivers, Henry Threadgill, Roscoe Mitchell, Don Moye, Joseph Jarmin, Dizzy Gillespie, Dave Holland, Charlie Haden, Evan Parker, William Parker, Cooper Moore, Matt Otto, Jane Ira Bloom, Donald Harrison, Terrence Blanchard, Don Pullen, Billy Higgins, and Cecil Taylor to name a few. My advice to new listeners - remember that jazz has a vast catalog. No one can listen to everyone no matter how much time you have. My strategy is to spin new music often, explore areas of the back catalog as time permits, respect and learn about past masters to inform my appreciation of new and current masters, and keep an open mind. Jazz is very much a "flow" music- -cerebral, emotional—but clearly a music of the moment. And the best jazz is in the moments where creative, improvisation, innovative and classical influences all come together to produce art at the highest level.

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