As a jazz fan who’s listening preferences tend toward small group recordings, I find big band recordings, by definition tend to be, well...BIG. Most large ensembles, like ocean liners, have trouble maneuvering, their sounds tend to be crowded and loud. By the time Leonardo screams “iceberg” it’s too late, the record is sunk. Maybe that’s why I enjoyed Purple by captain and arranger Ken Schaphorst, his 19-piece band steers clear of the largeness. Schaphorst, the director of Jazz studies at Lawrence University in Wisconsin, enlist a modern who’s-who list of hot studio and club musicians to occupy his Big Band. Several, like John Medeski (Medeski, Martin & Wood), Doug Yates, Josh Roseman, Curtis Hasselbring, and John Carlson are members or alumni of Boston’s Either/Orchestra. Others are the names that obsessive jazz fans know to be the next big label signees, like guitarist Brad Shepik, bassist Drew Gress, pianist Uri Caine, and trumpeter Cuong Vu. Schaphorst’s writing and arranging, like that of Duke Ellington, is for individual musicians. On “Blues Almighty,” Soloists John Medeski’s Hammond B-3 organ and Brad Shepik’s guitar sound as gritty as a duo bar band and Uri Caine’s piano doesn’t so much solo on the title track as it hovers above the eighteen others. Schaphorst accomplishes a very Mingus-like smallness in this large ensemble. Like a Charles Mingus composition, Dave Taylor’s growling bass saxophone and Doug Yates’ bass clarinet provide the soul on “Subterranean.” While Ken Schaphorst’s Purple may not be the king of the world, it sure is a prince of a recording.
Track List:Uprising; With You, Then Without; Blues Almighty; Jobim; Subterranean; Purple; Bats; My island; Bounce
Doug Yates, alto sax, clarinet, bass clarinet; Jay Brandford, alto sax, clarinet; Donny McCaslin, Seamus Blake, tenor sax; Andy Laster, baritone sax, clarinet; Dave Ballou, John Carlson, Andy Gravish, Cuong Vu, trumpet, flugelhorn; Josh Roseman, Curtis Hasselbring, Dave Taylor, trombone; Chris Creswell, bass trombone (on
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone. Feet in the dirt, or barefoot on a stage with sequins--it's soul beats in my chest.
I was first exposed to jazz while others listened to surf music in the '50s and '60s, it was Monk, Miles, Satchmo and Ella, Rosemary Clooney and Julie London followed. Margaret Whiting, Les McCann, Willie Bobo, Andy Simpkins, Snooky Young, Bill Basie and Helen Humes. The first time I heard Topsy, Take 2, I about passed out at the age of ten.
I've hung with Les McCann who more than 30 years after our first meeting became my duet partner on my CD, Don't Go To Strangers. Karen Hernandez from the start, Jack Le Compte on drums, Lou Shoch on bass, Steve Rawlins as my arranger and pianist, Grant Geissman - guitar genius, Nolan Shaheed, Richard Simon, and more. The big boys. My Red Hot Papas. The best show I ever attended was...
I met Helen Humes first back in 1981 and helped turn one Playboy Jazz Festival night into her tribute, bring the Basie Band to stage, her joy boys. Before she took the stage for the last time to sing, If I could Be With You One Hour Tonight thousands of copies of the newspaper I wrote for carried her story. It was kismet, her being held by Joe Williams backstage. Soon in my life were the great Linda Hopkins who told me I sang the song she wrote better than her, which floored me of course, the energizing Barbara Morrison and the stellar Marilyn Maye who guided me professionally.
My advice to new listeners... let your backbone slip and feel your body stripping back the barriers that prevent us from being one with the music.
Remember none of us are strangers, we just haven't met yet.