Especially in this world of fragmented formats such as the abominable "smooth jazz," Berklee-trained performer and instructor Willie Myette has chosen an ambitious and even hubric title for his debut album. Though he may not cover all the Basies, and though he may occassionally seem as if his sense of "Jazz" as an entire genre disappeared with Gershwin, Myette mixes standard compositions with more contemproary insights for a collection which, if not encyclopedic, is at least a good primer for his students and listeners.
From old school standards such as a heart-tugging take on Rogers and Hart’s "Little Girl Blue," a softly swinging solo-led setup of Levant and Heyman’s ‘Blame It On My Youth" and a peppy pop through Johnny Mercer’s "Autumn Leaves" to newer pieces like Oscar Peterson’s "Hymn To Freedom" (made all the younger with the help of a Guiraldi-esque children’s choir), Myette mixes flavors of old and new in a bold attempt at introducing and encapsulating as much of jazz as possible into one nine-track album. Throwing in one original for good measure ("Ella’s Song," a tribute to his daughter, if not also the first lady of jazz), Myette deals with many of the great composers and constructs of jazz. However, in limiting himself to nine songs and a trio, Myette also misses many of the lements which have made jazz the broad, nearly undefinable and certainly uncapturable musical mystery it has become. Even so, as an instructor of the American idiom, Myette appears well poised to build on his own work through his students and to sustain and feed the heart and soul which make jazz one of a kind.
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid. For some reason I remember an arrangement of Hey Jude they did. My first real exposure was Stan Kenton in the Smithville, MO high school gym. Kenton and the band director there were old friends, so he would play there from time to time. My dad took me without telling me where we were going and it was the only show he ever took me to. I remember that Bobby Shew played Send In Clowns and I damn near levitated I was so excited. The huge sound and amazing chords floored me. I believe I was 13 at the time. I immediately started practicing and taking lessons. Music became a passion and nearly a career. I also listened to Dick Wright's Jazz Show on KANU every night. I can't even start to explain what I learned lying in bed listening to Dick talk about jazz. I met him once when I was struggling to put together a solo for Joy Spring playing in a combo at KU. Stopped by his office and asked for recommendations. He showed up at my jazz ensemble rehearsal the next day with a tape with example solos. What a kind man Dick Wright was.
My advice to new listeners is to stop worrying about what music is important and focus on music you like. I spent quite a bit of my music life listening to important music I didn't necessarily like. Must say I have quite a bit more fun now listening to music that I deeply enjoy. Some of it is even important.
Login to your All About Jazz member account to submit articles and press releases, upload images, edit musician profiles, add events and business listings, communicate with other members via personal messages, submit inqueries or contribute any content.