3/18/07

Early Jazz Weekend - Playlist - Sunday

Song, Artist, Album

Jack Baker, Branford Marsalis, Braggtown
Everything Happens To Me, Sonny Rollins, Sonny Rollins - On Impulse!
Limehouse Blues, The Very Tall Band, What's Up?
The Frim Fram Sauce, Nat King Cole Trio, Jumpin at Capitol
Hard Day's Night, Rene Marie, Serene Renegade
Whirling, Antione Roney, Whirling
Isn't This a Lovely Day, Diana Krall, From This Moment On
Maria, Eric Reed, Pure Imagination
Birk's Works, Nnenna Frelon, Shaking Free
Come Together, Lynn Arrialle Trio, Come Together
Red Mask, Tony Williams, The Best of (Blue Note)
Hackensack, Jimmy Smith, Jazz Profile
Layin' a Strip for the Higher-Self State Line, The Bad Plus, Give
Tricky Rides Again, Ben Allison, Cowboy Justice
I Wanna Ride You, MMW, Uninvisible
Ripple Sole, Will Bernard, Party Hats
Screamin' the Blues, Oliver Nelson, Screamin' the Blues
Twisted, Lambert Hendricks and Ross, The Best of (Rhino)
Sassy's Blues, Sarah Vaughan, In the City of Lights
Fine and Brown, Roosevelt Sykes, The United Records Story
Lonesome Hour Blues, Sippie Wallace, Women Be Wise
Pride and Joy, Lil' Ed and the Blues Imperials, Alligator Records 35 x 35
Flip Flop and Fly, Big Joe Turner, Best of Gene Norman's Blues Jubilees
I Want a Tall Skinny Papa, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, The Gospel of the Blues
Mannish Boy, Muddy Waters, The Story of the Blues (Legacy)
Walkin Blues, RL Burnside, Acoustic Stories
The Thrill Is Gone, BB King, The Thrill Is Gone (St. Clair)

3/8/07

This Week

I have mixed emotions announcing this, but I've made the decision to cease with my radio work in the next few weeks. My wife and I are expecting a baby this summer -- so there's a great deal of planning and moving and adjusting to be done in the next six months. Happy things! All of my work for 88.9 requires about 10-12 hours a week, and as a volunteer, as much as I enjoy it all, I simply need the time to devote to "baby prep," freelance writing, and simply resting. I am not quitting my civilian job as a teacher, of course!

Passing Notes -- Fridays at 7:06 pm on 88.9 FM or seriousjazz.org -- will run for three more weeks. I'll be picking my personal favorites from the past three years. March 23 will mark the last broadcast. If and when Passing Notes returns, it will be as a podcast feed, in a form more suitable for syndication. We'll see how I feel in the fall once things settle down.

Early Jazz Weekend and Straight, No Chaser will roll ahead as usual onthe weekends until March 24, when Ed Blanco and I will do our last show together. Ed is talking to WDNA right now about continuing Straight, No Chaser on his own. It was great to start the new music program with Ed -- however brief it may have been.

As for the blog, it will still be operational, if a little less active in the months to come. I'm working on other freelance projects, as always. For instance, you might want to read my latest spring training book roundup from the Miami Herald -- here. I'll also be gearing up for more work in High Country News, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, AllAboutJazz.com, and other places. And, as usual, who knows what might be posted on the blog from time to time.

Stay tuned for news as well about South Florida's Promethean Theatre's summer show, Cyrano, with which I've been happy to help out.

Peace,

Mark

3/4/07

Early Jazz Weekend - Playlist - Sunday

Song, Artist, Album

Say The Brother's Name, Metheny Mehldau, Metheny Mehldau
West Hartford, Brad Mehldau, Places
Broad Way Blues, Lovano & Osby, Friendly Fire
Party Hats, Will Bernard, Party Hats
Fly Mr. Freakjar, Fly, Fly
White Fang, Bill Frisell, Unspeakable
New Amsterdam, Kenny Werner, Lawn Chair Society
Swiss Cheese D, Ben Allison & Medicine Wheel, Riding the Nuclear Tiger
Blue Monk, Dexter Gordon, Blue Dex
Body and Soul, Dexter Gordon, Dexter Gordon featuring Joe Newman
Sticky Wicket, Dexter Gordon, Blue Dex
Scrapple from the Apple, Dexter Gordon, Complete Blue Note Sixties Sessions
Love for Sale, Dexter Gordon, Complete Blue Note Sixties Sessions
Clear the Dex, Dexter Gordon, Complete Blue Note Sixties Sessions
Confirmation, Dexter Gordon, Daddy Plays the Horn
Work Song, Cannonball Adderly, The Best of. . .
Everybody Lives the Blues, Calvin Owens, Stop Lying in My Face
Gee Baby, Ain't I Good To You?, Jimmy Witherspoon, Blues for Easy Livers
Black Water, Charlie Musselwhite, Delta Hardware
Future News Blues, Nnenna Freelon, Maiden Voyage
Three Sides to Every Story, Coco Montoya, Dirty Deal
The Same Old Story, Big Maybelle, The Same Old Story
Tin Pan Alley, Big Pete Pearson, I'm Here Baby
When I Am Drinking, J. B. Lenoir, Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues
Smiling Face Hiding A Weeping Heart, The Holmes Brothers, State of Grace

3/3/07

Early Jazz Weekend - Playlist - Saturday

Song, Artist, Album

The Pharoah, Wallace Roney, Village
Piggies, Melvin/Kikoski/Grenadier/Scofield, BeatleJazz: A Little Help. . .
Black Diamond, Wayne Shorter, Introducing Wayne Shorter
Road Trip, Anthony Wilson, Our Gang
Blue Daniel, Russell Malone, Live at Jazz Standard, Volume 1
Temporary Enrollment, Rodolfo Zuniga Quintet, Premonition
Dirty Bird, Mark Shim, Turbulent Flow
Ripple Soul, Will Bernard, Party Hats
Body and Soul, Eddie ''Lockjaw'' Davis, The Best of. . . (Prestige)
Just One of Those Things, Eddie ''Lockjaw'' Davis, The Heavy Hitter
Tin Tin Deo, Eddie ''Lockjaw'' Davis, Afro-Jaws
Straight, No Chaser, Eddie ''Lockjaw'' Davis & Johnny Griffin, Tenor Scene
Untitled Blues, Eddie ''Lockjaw'' Davis, Straight Blues
Last Train from Overbrook, Eddie ''Lockjaw'' Davis & Shirley Scott, Bacalao
The Chef, Eddie ''Lockjaw'' Davis, The Cookbook, Vol. 1
Naima, David ''Fathead'' Newman, Life
Blue Fable, Larry Willis, Blue Fable
Bags' Groove, Miles Davis/Milt Jackson, Bluing: Miles Davis Plays the Blues
Just A-Sittin' and A-Rockin', Joe Williams, Jump for Joy
Stack and the Devil, Cephas and Wiggins, Somebody Told the Truth
Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burned, Corey Harris, 35 x 35 - Alligator Records
Dying Drapshooter's Blues, Blind Willie McTell, Original Blues Classics - Bluesland
Mr Lucky, Calvin Owens, Stop Lying in My Face
Paying the Cost to Be the Boss, B. B. King`, Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues
I Got What It Takes, Koko Taylor, 35 x 35 - Alligator Records
One More Break, Louis Meyers, Tell My Story Movin'
Damn Right I've Got the Blues, Buddy Guy, Can't Quit the Blues

3/2/07

This Week. . .

Passing Notes and Early Jazz resurface this weekend. I’ve been locked down in the bunker putting the finishing touches on the first draft of a theatre piece that, hopefully, will be produced this summer by my friends at one of the better theatre companies in South Florida. More on that in due time.

If you’re looking for the playlist from “Straight, No Chaser: The New Music Hour,” check here tomorrow.

The PN Friday broadcast was a “Best Of. . .” but in future installments I’m lining up reviews of Tim Dorsey’s latest novel, another Future of Music piece, some conversation with Stanley Crouch, and the baseball season preview.

On the air for Early Jazz this weekend, Saturday’s show is the usual mix of blues, jazz, with some funk on the side, and featuring the work of Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis. On Sunday, more of the same, plus an extended set of Dexter Gordon.

www.seriousjazz.org

2/26/07

Early Jazz Weekend - Playlist - Saturday

Song, Artist, Album

Una Mas, 3osity, 3osity
Maynard & Waynard, Wayne Bergeron, Plays Well With Others
Collard Green and Black-Eyed Peas, Shelly Manne, The Best of. . . (Contemporary)
Footprints, Jon Faddis, Remembrances
The Singing Song, George Shearing, The Best of. . . (Vol. 2) (Capitol)
Lady Iris B, Dexter Gordon, Clubhouse
Sand Jewels, Charles Fambrough, The Proper Angle
Dear John, Ingrid Jensen, Higher Grounds
Mil Dew, Johnny Griffin, Introducing Johnny Griffin
Sofa #1, The Ed Palermo Big Band, Plays the Music of Frank Zappa
Free Willy, Brad Mehldau, Largo
Your Name is Snake Anthony, Medeski Martin & Wood, Uninvisible
Priority, Orbert Davis, Priority
Hit the Bricks, John Fedchock, Hit the Bricks
New Shoes, Eric Bibb, Home To Me
Can't Stand a Broke Man, Ruth Brown, A Good Day for the Blues
Driftin' Blues, Chrales Brown, Trouble Blues
Down the Big Road Blues, Sue Foley, Where The Action Is
Big Leg Woman, Big Pete Pearson, I'm Here Baby

2/20/07

Let's Get To The Nitty Gritty - Horace Silver


Broadcast June 2006

Horace Silver was born in Norwalk, Connecticut in 1928. His mother died when he was nine, so for the most part Silver was raised by his hardworking, principled father – an immigrant from the Cape Verde Islands. Growing up in a small town and attending Catholic school until the eighth grade, Silver kept his nose clean and dreamed his dreams. By the time he entered high school, he had his own saxophone and was trying to learn to play like Lester Young. At the same time, he was taking piano lessons, so the young Silver was a valuable musician. He was willing to go anywhere his father would let him to play.


As Silver was coming out of his teen years in the early 1950s, New York City was home to dozens of jazz giants, the 52nd Street clubs, and the birth of bebop. Just 50 miles down the highway from small town Norwalk, the big city music scene was a magnet and a finishing school for the young Silver. Silver worked first with Stan Getz, then freelanced around the city with names like Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, and Oscar Pettiford. In 1953, Silver joined with Art Blakey to form the Jazz Messengers, and their first album created the mold for the rootsy style of modern jazz known as hard bop. But the use of drugs among members of the Messengers, including Blakey at the time, convinced Silver he should take another path.

It didn’t take long for Silver to find trumpeter Blue Mitchell and tenor Junior Cook to form the most famous version of the Horace Silver Quintet, which, on the Blue Note label, recorded now classic albums like Blowin the Blues Away and Song for My Father. From that point forward, Silver’s tight, imaginative, funky playing and his distinctive, harmonically sophisticated compositions would mark him as an influence on generations of players. In the 70s and 80s, however, although Silver continued to write and record, without the support of a major label, he fell out of the public’s awareness. In the 1990s, Silver returned to Columbia Records and has put out a string of first rate recordings – including Hard Bop Grandpop and Music Has A Sense of Humor. Sad to say, for a time, Silver was forgotten but not gone.

All the more reason for Silver himself – in his modest, graceful, and kind way – to take up his own cause in Let’s Get To The Nitty Gritty, written by Silver with help from Phil Pastras. In telling his own story, Silver never strays too far from music – Lady Music, as he calls her. The details of his childhood and his friendships and romances, his marriage and son – all of these are presented in a matter-of-fact way but without a great many, shall we say, sordid details. Not that there necessarily are sordid details. Silver says he has lived a clean and even spiritual life, to the benefit of both his music and his longevity. Nitty Gritty is shot through with appearances by and stories about jazz greats from the past 50 years, but the closest it comes to digging up any dirt is Silver’s parting of ways with Art Blakey. And even then, Silver always takes the high ground – in the end burying the hatchet.

Straightforward, with a light sense of humor and a genuine sense of the joy to be found in life, this autobiography should remind everyone just how important a pianist and composer Horace Silver is – and that his life is all the more remarkable for the well-lit path he walked each day.

2/18/07

Early Jazz Weekend - Playlist - Saturday

Song, Artist, Album

Catch, Pat Martino, Interchange
Cheers, Jackie Maclean, Vertigo
You and Me, Wynton Marsalis Quartet, The Magic Hour
Macdaddy, Cyrus Chstnut, Revelation
I'm Yours, You're Mine, Betty Carter, I'm Yours, You're Mine
Newest Blues, McBride/Jackson/Cobb/Walton, New York Time
Soft Shoe, John Scofield, Groove Elation
Atlantis, Wallace Roney, Mystikal
Lotus Blossum, Lovano/Jones/Mraz/Motian, Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life
Monk's Dream, Thelonius Monk Quartet, Monk's Dream
Self-Portrait in Three Colors, Charles Mingus, Mingus Ah Um
Like Someone in Love, John Coltrane, Lush Life
Y2 Chaos, Trio 3, Open Ideas
Les, Eric Dolphy Quintet, Outward Bound
I Didn't Know What Time It Was, Curtis Fuller, Keep It Simple
What a Little Moonlight Can Do, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Live at Yoshi's
Parade du Funk, The Brubeck Brothers Quartet, Intuition
Tiny's Boogie, Tiny Grimes, The United Records Story
Maple Plank, Stanton Moore, III
In the Wee Wee Hours, Professor Longhair, Alligator Records: 35 x 35
Sailing On, Derek Trucks Band, Song Lines
Good Understanding, Willie Dixon, Bluesland - Original Classics Sampler
Down Home Blues, Jimmy Witherspoon, We [Heart] The Blues
Driftin' Blues, Johnny Moore's Three Blazes, Martin Scorsese Presents Piano Blues
On the Back Seat of a Greyhound Bus, Luther ''Guitar Jr.'' Johnson, Slammin' on the West Side
Boogie Overture, Matt Guitar Murphy, Lucky Charm
In the Dark, Magic Slim & The Teardrops, The Ain't Right
Send Me To The 'Lectric Chair, Bessie Smith, Martin Scorsese Presents Bessie Smith

2/17/07

Lessons Unlearned: Homophobia in Sports

Broadcast 1/16/2007

No doubt by now you’ve heard – or at least heard of – comments from a certain retired professional basketball player, a five time NBA All-Star who played the better parts of six seasons with the hometown Heat.

Now, make no mistake – there’s not much room for misinterpretation of this ex-Heat player’s comments. He said he didn’t care for gay people, that he didn’t want to be around them. In responding to a follow-up question, he very clearly said, ''I hate gay people. I let it be known. I don't like gay people. I don't like to be around gay people. I'm homophobic. I don't like it. There shouldn't be a world for that or [a place] in the United States for it. I don't like it.''

These statements might be expected from some professional basketball players, in light of the news revealed last week that a former NBA role player, John Amaechi, is gay. Amaechi said so himself. This information flies in the face of the image of professional athletes as touch guys, macho men, hypermasculine superheroes who perform great deeds on the field or the court and get all the ladies after the game.

As with gay men in pro sports, or gay men in the military, or the attempts to ban gay marriage in different parts of the country – what’s really at issue here is plain old bigotry attacking people who are trying to find a place for themselves in the world. That is, to my ear, people who complain so vociferously about how gays and lesbians shouldn’t have a place in the public sphere – that kind of talk sounds like antisemites who used to complain about Jews, or WASPs who hated Catholics, or those racists who are worried about “the Latins” or “colored people” getting ahead in the world.

The fact is – Ted Haggard’s cure aside – that a certain percentage of people on the planet are gay. It’s biology. In fact, most people’s straightness or gayness finds a place on a scale – you might be over here, you might be over there, you might be somewhere in between. That’s just how it works. I understand, buddy -- not you: You’re 100 percent man.

But what is a man, really – other that what he declares himself to be? What is a person in the land of the free and the home of the brave, if he or she can’t declare an identity that is authentic and honest and true. It’s not for anyone but a bigot to attempt to decide that this person “belongs” and that person does not. As long as who you say you are means that you can behave with respect towards others and respect for the laws – when the laws are just and fair – then who you are is okay with me. You can be straight or gay, female or male, white or black. No harm, no foul. But, sorry, if your actions include saying bigoted things in the national media, you have it coming.

As Martin Luther King Jr suggested, “Let us be judged by the content of our character and not by the color of our skin.” Or, to put it another way, “Let us be judged by the public actions we take, and not the private love we make.”

Playlist - Early Jazz Weekend - Saturday

Song, Artist, Album

Where or When, Sonny Rollins, Old Flames
The Best Things in Life Are Free, The Three Sounds, Standards
Life, David ''Fathead'' Newman, Life
Watermelon Man, Herbie Hancock, Head Hunters
Dozen Down, Pat Martino, Think Tank
Salt Peanuts, The Very Tall Band, What's Up?
11 Over 4, Muhal Richard Abrams, One Line, Two Views
Left Sided, Theo Croker, The Fundamentals
Official Silence, Henry Threadgill, Makin' A Move
Vivjanrondirkski, Henry Threadgill, Carry the Day
Land of Nod, Andrew Hill, Black Fire
Lydiot, George Russell Sextet, Ezz-thetics
If I Were A Bell, Steve Kuhn Trio, Live at Birdland
Communication, Ahmed Abdul-Malik, Jazz Sounds of Africa
Cryin' Blues, Charles Mingus, Blues and Roots
Yer Bounda Fara, Ali Farka Toure, Savane
These Hands (Small But Mighty), Bobby ''Blue'' Bland, Greatest Hits, Volume 1 (Duke)
Blues with a Feeling, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Paul Butterfield Blues Band
All Your Love, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues
Built for Comfort, Howlin' Wolf, His Best (Chess)
Eisenhower Blues, J.B. Lenoir, Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues
Church is Out, Charlie Musselwhite, Delta Hardware
Bill, Peggy Scott-Adams, Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues
Coin Operated Love, Coco Montoya, Dirty Deal

2/16/07

Django: The Life and Times of a Jazz Legend

Broadcast December 2004

Django Reinhardt was born into a Gypsy family in 1910. In the language of his family, Romany, the word django is a verb that means “to awake.” And the world that Django woke to would, in the end, be awakened by the new forms of music that would come from Django’s mastery of his instrument, the guitar, and his music, jazz. The writer Michael Dregni, who works primarily for Vintage Guitar magazine, has produced a truly informative and readable biography of this great musician. Django: The Life and Music of a Gypsy Legend, is entertaining, thoroughly researched, and filled with an expertise of both Django’s music and his instrument that leads to an examination of his work that can only be described as precise. Author Dregni has written an invaluable book.


This biography begins with a fascinating explanation of the Gypsy culture that Django was born into, a world of caravans and horses, of impromptu markets and entertainment, of stolen chickens and roasted hedgehogs. Django’s family was musical, often performing for crowds on a custom-build stage on the back of the family caravan. Django took up a traditional Gypsy instrument, the banjo, and by his early teens, he was a regular working musician, one of the best in and around Paris, where his family had settled. Django wasn’t playing jazz in those early days, but he was already one of the best at what he did – playing traditional and popular songs of all kinds in and around the dance halls of the City of Lights.


Around the age of 16, in 1926, Django began hearing—either occasionally in the Paris clubs or, eventually, on record—a new form of music from America called jazz. At first, much of what he could heard was not very good, but the freedom of improvisation appealed greatly to Django, who assimilated musical influences easily and who played largely impromptu styles of music in the first place. Sooner or later, though, Django heard a few Louis Armstrong records, and he was a convert for life.


He was about to make a big breakthrough in his career when two pivotal events occurred. First, he was caught in a fire that resulted in his left hand, the hand that frets the notes on the neck of a banjo, being badly scarred. After the fire Django had only the use of two fingers on that hand. Second, while he was recuperating in the hospital from his burns, he was brought a guitar on which to practice. Django altered his technique to suit his new left hand, and emerged from the hospital as a guitarist. It took a few more years, but by 1935, Django was a true jazz star all over Europe.


The book details Django’s musical and career path—his longtime partnership with the great jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli in the legendary Quintette du Hot Club de France, his continuing to play jazz through World War Two in Paris, his evolution with the arrival of bebop, and his tour of the United States with Duke Ellington. Most amusing—and frustrating, I suppose—are the subplots of Django and Grappelli fighting and making up over the years, and of the French jazz critics Hugh PanassiĆ© and Charles Delaunay going to war over bebop. All in all, though, a balanced and clear path of Django’s life is presented in this book, right up to his death, of what probably was a stroke, in the early 1950s at the age of 43. He may have been, arguably, the most influential European jazz artist ever.

2/15/07

This Week


The national sports spotlight falls on Miami again (but briefly) as former Miami Heat player Tim Hardaway lets the world know he’s homophobic. I can’t resist. This week’s Passing Notes has the title, “Hardaway Fears Teh Ghey,” and can be heard at 7:06 pm Friday night on 88.9 FM in Miami and in streaming audio magic on SeriousJazz.org.

Early Jazz Weekend looks to be pretty much open, aside from a little Henry Threadgill on Saturday’s show – in tribute to the avant-everything composer’s birthday this past week. We’ve got the Big Six Blues set both Saturday and Sunday, and the usual mix of jazz and funk.

Next week, we’ll roll out a fresh review of the latest novel from Tim Dorsey, a twisted tale called Hurricane Punch. I have posted a review of an earlier novel of Tim's here for your consideration.

2/14/07

Torpedo Juice by Tim Dorsey

Broadcast December 2005

Tim Dorsey was a reporter for the Tampa Tribune for a dozen years before he started finding success as a novelist, writing a series of strange and wonderfully funny novels based on the adventures of an amped-up crusading-for-justice serial killer named Serge Storms.

I can already tell I’ve lost some of you out there. You might remember seeing in your local bookstore one or two of Dorsey’s novels, with their bright covers, eye-catching graphics, and oddly compelling titles: Cadillac Beach, Stingray Shuffle, Triggerfish Twist, Orange Crush, Hammerhead Ranch Motel, and Florida Roadkill. Throughout them all, the stories were sordid, the plots twisted, the characters delightfully eccentric, and Serge Storms tore through them all, talking a mile-a-minute and killing the bad guys with his own colorful, amusing angel-of-death panache.

Dorsey’s seventh novel, Torpedo Juice, taken from the name of a drink: one part grain alcohol, three parts Red Bull. This time around, Serge and his drugged out friend Coleman find themselves in the Florida Keys. Serge is trying to reinvent himself, find a new walk of life, maybe a wife, maybe even settle down. But drug dealers, greedy developers, a couple of sex-starved librarians, and a religious cult that takes Serge as its savior all make his of the simple life rather hard to achieve. Without giving away much of the plot, please believe that Torpedo Juice is hilarious and bizarre from cover to cover, with a nifty ending that resolves the convoluted plot like a magic trick.

In each of his books, writer Dorsey, who is extremely fond of his home state, picks some part of Florida he would like to write about, starts doing his research, and soon enough a story beings to form around Serge in his new setting. Maybe it’s the old reporter in Dorsey that makes his novels, as outrageous as they are, deeply rooted in the weirdness that is life in Florida. In this sense, although I hate to make the comparison, he has a kindred spirit in Carl Hiaasen. Dorsey also shares Hiaasen’s outrage at the greed and corruption of those who would exploit Florida for their own power and profit.

Listen to the following passage describing the environment in southern Dade County:

“Below Miami, you’re on your own. Dixie Highway slants across a hot, dusty wasteland of Max Mad predators, where the famous roadside Coral Castle is now ringed with razor wire, and copulating dogs tumble past the doors of Cash Advance Nation. Above all this, another world away, are the elevated lanes of the Florida Turnpike. [A car] raced south just before dawn until the lanes ended and twisted their way down to merge with US 1. Welcome to Florida City, a franchised boomtown decided by automatic counters and satellite imagery. Mobile, Exxon, Wendy’s, Denny’s, Baskin-Robbins and a continuous row of chain motel signs indicating the cornerstones of the white race are free breakfast and AARP rates.”

Dorsey’s work has an anger and a recklessness that goes beyond Hiaasen’s, and at times readers may find themselves in the midst of passages that seem just this side of being completely out of control. At those times, Dorsey takes the reader places that only the likes of Hunter S. Thompson can go. Dorsey may be, in fact, too strong stuff for some people. Just like the drink – one part grain alcohol, three parts Red Bull. But once you try a sip, you might find you want the whole drink. And then another round, and then another.

2/12/07

Straight, No Chaser - February 10 Picks


Every other Saturday - 8:00 to 9:00 am

Song, Artist, Album

“Is What It Is,” Paul Brusger, Go To Plan B
A session of sizzling mainstream hard bop with charts by New York bassist Paul Brusger featuring the heavy baritone sax of fellow New Yorker, Ronnie Cuber in combination with the softer tenor of George Allgaier forming a rich ensemble recording bolstered by the piano play of the late John Hicks in a 2002 recording that was released late last year. (Ed's pick)


“Pistol Pete,” Dave Noland, Nomad
This diverse tenor from Texas brings a rich background of playing experience to his first release as a leader, featuring Dave Demotta on piano, Frank Hauch on bass, and Colby Inzer on drums, with Noland originals alongside standards. (Mark's pick)

“Like It Never Happened,” Jerry Kalaf, Just Like Old Times
One of those not new but overlooked albums, thus qualifying as new to our audience, by Los Angeles-based drummer Kalaf who puts together a piano trio with strings playing an excellent classical jazz sound very similar to the latest recording from Grammy Award winner Alan Broadbent’s “Every Time I Think of You” recorded with the Tokyo strings. (Ed's pick)


“RSVP,” Shirantha Beddage, Roots and Branches
The baritone, tenor, and soprano saxes provide a rich palate of sound for this young player – a Canada native-- with the monster chops. A composer and bandleader who plays many instruments, Beddage and is currently the Director of Jazz Studies at Columbus State University in Georgia. Playing also on this album are Michael Stryker (piano), Ryan Kotler (bass), and Jared Schonig (drums). (Mark's pick)

“Son of Feelings,” The Brian Pastor Big Band, Common Men
A riveting big band album by trombonist Brian Pastor and his Philadelphia-based nineteen-piece big band recording their debut CD blending a combination of jazz standards and original compositions producing a powerful big band sound that swings as evident by this particular tune. (Ed's pick)

“Blue Trane,” Ron Kearns, Looking Back - Stepping Forward

A release from a few years back by one of the DC-areas best tenors and a great teacher as well. Excellent small-group playing with guest Buck Hill on a number of tracks. (Mark's pick)

“Blue Summer,” Landon Knoblock, Listening Between
The debut album from Miami’s own pianist Landon Knoblock a graduate from the University of Miami’s School of Music and experienced sideman of the local jazz scene. The album contains introspective sophisticated music half improvised with light tempos and challenging moods. (Ed's pick)


“Don't Answer That,” The Jeff Gauthier Goatette, One and the Same
A pleasing mix of progressive jazz sounds – some acoustic, some electronic – from a great violin player and his accomplished group. Shades of Pat Metheny, but more textural than melodic when compared with the great guiatarist. Interesting writing and performances from Gauthier and the Goatette – keyboardist David Witham, bassist Joel Hamilton, and brothers Nels Cline on guitar and Alex Cline on percussion. It is jazz-rock? Not many listeners will care. Good stuff. (Mark's pick)

“After The Dance,” Wendy Luck, See You In Rio
Vocalist Wendy Luck offers the sounds of Brazil on a fourteen track new album of beautiful light jazz with a bossa nova and samba flavor recorded in Rio with several Brazilian masters. Luck not only provides the lush vocals but also plays the flute on a session of percussive Brazilian jazz. (Ed's pick)

2/11/07

Early Jazz Weekend - Playlist - Sunday


Song, Artist, Album

I Got Rhythm, Charlie Parker, The Essential. . . (Verve)
Bloomdido, Charlie Parker, The Essential. . . (Verve)
Love for Sale, Charlie Parker, The Cole Porter Songbook
They Can't Take That Away From Me, Charlie Parker, With Strings: The Master Takes (Verve)
Mama Inez, Charlie Parker, South of the Border
A Night in Tunisia, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, Diz & Bird at Carnegie Hall
Soft Lights and Sweet Music, John Coltrane with the Red Garland Trio, Traneing In
Interplay, Coltrane/Jaspar/Sulieman/Young, Interplay for 2 Trumpets and 2 Tenors
Song of the Underground Railroad, John Coltrane, Complete Africa/Brass Sessions
Bessie's Blues, John Coltrane, The Classic Quintet: The Complete Impluse! Recordings
Resolution - Part 2, John Coltrane, A Love Supreme
I Wish I Knew, John Coltrane, The Classic Quintet: The Complete Impluse! Recordings
Godchild, Miles Davis Nonet, Birth of the Cool
Solar, Miles Davis All Stars, Walkin'
Springsville, Miles Davis/Gil Evans, Miles Ahead
E.S.P., Miles Davis Quintet, Best of the Quintet - 65-68
Spanish Key (First Set), Miles Davis, Live at the Fillmore East
Tutu, Russell Gunn, Plays Miles
Shhh/Peaceful, Miles Davis, In A Silent Way
Leaving Trunk, Taj Mahal, The Best of. . . (Columbia/Legacy)
Double Trouble, Otis Rush, The Essential. . . (Cobra)
Roll of the Tumbling Dice, Lonnie Brooks, Roadhouse Rules
TV Mama, Big Joe Turner, The Sky Is Crying: Elmore James
Pick Up The Pieces, Eddie Kirkland, Lonely Street
Wham!, Lonnie Mack, Memphis Wham!
Same Old Blues, Clarence ''Gatemouth'' Brown, Back to Boogaloosa
Canned Heat Blues, Tommy Johnson, Masters of the Delta Blues

2/10/07

Early Jazz Weekend - Playlist - Saturday

Song, Artist, Album

Red Mask, Tony Williams, The Best of. . . (Blue Note)
Peace Pipe, Ben Allison, Pipe Pipe
Make Hot and Give, Henry Threadgill, Makin' A Move
Paths Unknown, Vector Trio, Paths Unknown
Boozer, John Scofield, A Go Go
Sphericity, Steve Herberman Trio, Action : Reaction
Eighty-One, Russell Gunn, Plays Miles
Flirt, Russell Malone, Live At Jazz Standard
Insidious Behavior, Larry Willis, Blue Fable
Krush Groove, Paul Carr, Just Noodlin'
Nookie's Blues, Ron Kearns Quintet, Looking Back, Stepping Forward
The Fundamentals, Theo Croker, The Fundamentals
Hound Dog, Big Mama Thornton, Martin Scorsese Presents. . .
I Feel So Good (I Wanna Boogie), Magic Sam, West Side Soul
Tell Mama, Etta James, Martin Scorsese Presents. . .
Strollin' with Bones, T-Bone Walker, The Very Best of. .. (Rhino)
Three O'Clock Blues, B.B. King, Martin Scorsese Presents - B.B. King
Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens, B.B. King, Let the Good Times Roll
You've Done Lost Your Good Thing Now, B.B. King, The Thrill Is Gone (St. Clair)

2/9/07

Between No Faith and Extreme Faith

Broadcast on 2/9/2007

One of the books recently bobbing around at the tops of the bestseller lists is scientist Richard Dawkins’s atheist critique of religion, The God Delusion.

In clear and accessible language and arguments, Dawkins lays out his position that there is no proof of the existence of God, so he does not belief. Furthermore, Dawkins argues that there is no special need to believe in anything more grand that the explanations of science about the natural world works and no reason to have faith in a moral system beyond what most secular societies have already worked out for themselves.

That’s the reasonable and friendly part of his argument. Dawkins begins to step on some toes when he offers a scathing analysis of the extreme violence of Mel Gibson’s Christian blockbuster, The Passion, or of the indoctrination of children into one faith group of another (which he likens, at times, to child abuse), and to the general dangers inherent in most forms of religious fundamentalism. As interesting as The God Delusion is -- and I think anyone interesting in critical thinking or the place of religion in society should read it-- the book at times does seem like an example what is coming to be called “Militant Atheism.” As to whether Dawkins is truly militant or not, I’ll be happy to let you decide. The God Delusion is, if nothing else, a provocative read.

Speaking of militants and provocation, I recently watched the DVD of Jesus Camp, a documentary film by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, a staggering look at the role of children in the present day Evangelical movement in the United States. Home-schooled far from the clutches of the nation’s (mostly) secular schools, banned from reading Harry Potter and The Lord of The Rings, these children are told time and again by the well-meaning adults in their lives that “the world is a sick old place.” More to the point, in their weekends and on their vacations, we get to see how some of these children are being trained as soldiers for Christ. I don’t think this is an exaggeration, although it would seem so just to read it here.


Over and over we see the children in Jesus Camp as your as 8 or 9 emotionally overwhelmed by adult descriptions of hell or abortion or the Rapture and the horrors of the “sick” secular world. These vulnerable young people are gradually brought around to militant views of their own, or so it would seem, and say they are prepared to lay down their lives for Jesus. As the head children’s preacher tells the camera, in effect, “They’re doing this in Islam, so we better start doing it here.”


I was so affected by Jesus Camp that I had to stop watching it several times. For me, as a teacher, to see adults imposing such extreme views of children and doing it with so much emotional manipulation – on children who really have poorly developed critical thinking skills – well, let’s just say that any educator would find such militant indoctrination highly unethical. But, you know, you can watch Jesus Camp for yourself. I’ll let you decide for yourself. We don't really go in for indoctrination here at Passing Notes.


It would be my hope in the end that the Militant Atheists and the Militant Evangelicals – though they would seem to never be capable of agreeing with each other – can teach the rest of us a lesson about the need for shared values, for a common set of facts upon which we can all agree, and for building consensus with each other about what’s important to most of us and what we should do about it. But often -- perhaps moreso these days -- the screaming from the fringes makes so much noise that the rest of us can hardly hear ourselves think.

2/7/07

This Week. . .

Where did all the rich people go? Yes, the Superbowl has left Miami and, really, nothing needed to go back to normal because very little was different for most of us South Floridians during the week of the big game. It rained some; I don't think football had anything to do with that, however.

This week's Passing Notes (Friday 7:06 pm on 88.9 FM Serious Jazz) is a dual review of Richard Dawkin's bestselling critique of religion, The God Delusion and the documentary film Jesus Camp, recently released on DVD. We're looking for some constructive common ground, here.

Saturday will feature another edition of Straight, No Chaser: The New Music Hour (8:00 to 9:00 am on on 88.9 FM Serious Jazz) with Ed Blanco and myself. Right now I'm still working out my picks, but Ed as usual is all over the latest releases and has got a great list drawn up. Finally, we've got a wide array of stuff to choose from now that the holiday grot has been cleared from the pipeline. SNC follows, as always, a pretty regular show of blues and jazz for Early Jazz Weekend, which starts at 6:00 am.

Sunday's EJW will be laid back. Memphis sounds and country blues in the Big Six Blues Set, with a healthy dose of Bird, Trane, and Miles. I'm kicking back this weekend.

2/5/07

4th Chair Trombone - What Black History Month Means To Me

An audio version of this post is available at Flak Magazine.

I started playing trombone in the fifth grade – at the very beginning of the 1980s. I was a tall kid, and the adults around me figured that my arms were long enough to play the trombone with its long slide – way out to 7th position – and shoulder-mount, like a bazooka. By the seventh grade, I was playing 4th chair in the junior high jazz band. Our music teacher, Mr. Richards, taught to play simplified versions of charts made famous 40 years earlier by bandleaders like Count Basie and Duke Ellington. “Alright, OK, You Win,” was a particular favorite of mine.

When we started, a bunch of pimply white kids in a gymnasium in rural Maine, we couldn’t swing a note to save our lives. Swing? Swinging? Swinging was what you did on the playground. What is this syncopated dynamic of which of you speak, Mr. Richards? One evening before rehearsal, Mr. Richards made us listen to Count Basie.

The kids in the band were used to reading music, to metronomes, to counting up and down, up and down. But to swing, you had to know the beat, and then forget it just enough to feel the possibilities of rhythm within the beat. It was this feeling, this intuition, necessary to swing, that fascinated me so much. That’s what we heard – or at least some of us heard – when we listened to Count Basie.

About the same time, I heard the playing of Stevie Ray Vaughan, that overpowering blues guitarist from Texas. When I heard the first track from that first album, those bending licks that open the driving song “Love Struck Baby,” something went through me. From that moment forward, I wanted a guitar, wanted to learn how to play it like Stevie Ray, and, for better or for worse, I shifted my focus from the trombone to guitar and never looked back.

And also, it seems about the same time, an unusual song began appearing on the radio, a mix of synthesizers, samples, drum machines, and something called scratching. The song, “Rockit,” by Herbie Hancock, with its outerspace sound and superstrange video, was unlike anything I’d encountered before. I couldn’t get my hands on a copy of the album Future Shock. The guy at the music store offered to order it for me, but I didn’t bother.

About a year later, flipping though some the record collection at the university library, I found an album by Herbie Hancock, in particular by the Herbie Hancock Quartet. This was Hancock in performance with Ron Carter and Tony Williams and the new phenomenon in jazz -- trumpter Wynton Marsalis, who was all of 19 years old. Now, I thought I might be getting the same futuristic mix that I heard on “Rockit."

I listened to the whole album, and in those songs, I heard the swing of Count Basie and the blues of Stevie Ray and the imagination of “Rockit.” Ah, this felt like home. It felt I suppose I never really looked back from that point. Following the musical links from that single Herbie Hanock album I went all the way back to Miles Davis and Charlie Parker and forward to the very best of the acoustic jazz revival of the 80s. Stevie Ray Vaughan led me back to Albert King, Albert Collins, Freddy King, Elmore James, and Buddy Guy. From those few songs I heard years ago, a whole lifetime of listening has grown. Here was a music – blues and jazz -- it seemed to me, for which I’d been looking my whole life – it had honesty and raw energy, creativity and imagination, and offered me a view of the world that, as different was it was from my white, rural existence, still rang true. The struggle, the striving, the playfulness in the music were all things I felt I needed in my life.

Over the years, the musical traditions that began with African-Americans, in college and in my work, have led me deeper into the literature and history of the United States, into, as it were black history and culture. Now, an awareness and importance of race and class is essential to what I do in my work as a teacher and writer.

It is often said that jazz is really America’s classical music – and that is a properly broad idea, it seems to me. It should also be pointed out that black history is really American history, and our lives are all the richer for acknowledging that truth. Hopefully, one day, we won’t even need a black history month. But for now, I for one am grateful for the bits and pieces of African American culture that found me when I was a kid, and which have lead me to a far richer understanding of who I am, who other people are, and our place together in the world.

2/4/07

Early Jazz Weekend - Playlist - Sunday

Song, Artist, Album

Reminiscent, Landon Knoblock, Listening Between
Blackjack, Donald Byrd, Blackjack
My Little Humidor, Galactic, Organ-ized
Soul Special, Andrew Hill, Rare Grooves (Blue Notes)
Feed the Fire, Geri Allen, Twenty One
St. Thomas, Sonny Rollins, Saxophone Colossus
Wakida Hena, Ahmed Abdul-Malik, Jazz Sounds of Africa
The Goon Drag, Don Byron, Ivey-Divey
Oud Blues, Ahmed Abdul-Malik, Jazz Sounds of Africa
Tribute to Julius Hemphill & Don Pullen, Muhal Richard Abrams, One Line, Two Views
Spring Can Really Hang You Up, Stan Getz, Reflections
Desfinado, Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto, Getz/Gilberto
Stan's Blues, Stan Getz, Soul Eyes
Sometimes I'm Happy, Roy Eldridge & Dizzy Gillespie, Roy and Diz
The Song Is Ended, But The Melody Lingers On, Roy Eldridge, Little Jazz
On the Sunny Side of the Street, Sonny Stitt, Jazz Masters 50 (Verve)
Stardust, Sonny Stitt & Paul Gonsalves, Salt and Pepper
I Got Rhythm, Rosemary Clooney, At Long Last
Tin Tin Deo, Oscar Peterson, Perfect Peterson
Moontrane, Nancie Banks Orchestra, Bert's Blues
C-Jam Blues, Ella Fitzgerald, Bluella
Walking Home, J. T. Brown, The United Records Story
Soft Pedal Blues, Cleo Laine, Blue and Sentimental
You Don't Love Me Like You Used To, Dan Electro and the Silvertones, Mr. Smooth
Stormy Monday Blues, Diane Schurr, Blues for Schurr
Worried Life Blues, Otis Spann, Otis Spann is the Blues
In the Wee Hours, Hoodoo Man Blues, Junior Wells
Let's Have A Little Talk, Luther Allison, Luther's Blues
Open Gate, Landon Knoblock, Listening Between
Jack Baker, Branford Marsalis Quartet, Braggtown

2/3/07

Early Jazz Weekend - Playlist - Saturday

Song, Artist, Album
Iko Iko, Donald Harrison, Heroes
Switchback, Scott Burns, Passages
Mambo Influenciado, John Hicks, Sweet Love of Mine
Peaceful Flame, Don Aliquo, Jazz Folk
Caravan, Oscar Peterson with Dizzy Gillespie, Perfect Peterson
Rain Check, Billy Strayhorn, Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life
Naima, McBride/Jackson/Cobb/Walton, New York Time
Anthropology, Ari Hoenig, Inversations
Rejoicing, Matt Wilson's Arts & Crafts, The Scenic Route
Just A Riff, Randy Weston (with Ahmed Abdul-Malik), Jazz A La Bohemia
Rhythm-a-Ning, Thelonius Monk (with Ahmed Abdul-Malik), Thelonius in Action
Star Eyes, Cannonball Adderly, The Quintet Plus
Bass Blues, John Coltrane with the Red Garland Trio, Traneing In
Valse Hot, Sonny Rollins, Plus Four
Sweet Pea, Miles Davis, Miles Smiles
Blues by Five, Miles Davis, Cookin' with the Miles Davis Quintet
All Blues, Miles Davis, Kind of Blue
The Things That I Used To Do, Guitar Slim, Martin Scorsese Presents. . .
How Do You Sleep at Night?, Coco Montoya, Dirty Deal
Ain't Nobody's Business, Part 1, Jimmy Witherspoon, Martin Scorsese Presents. . .
Gone Too Long, Charlie Musselwhite, Delta Hardware
Roll 'Em Pete, Joe Turner & Pete Johnson, Martin Scorsese Presents. . .
Too Many Drivers, Big Pete Pearson, I'm Here, Baby

2/2/07

The Anti-Finger

Broadcast 2/2/2007

Perhaps you will remember last year when Miami was named the rudest city in which to drive. Yes, Miami drivers speed, cut each other off, fail to signal, run red lights and roll through stop signs. Having done these things, drivers are prone to make the usual rude gestures. The most common gesture made while driving, of course, can be described simply: a single finger – the third finger, digitus tertius -- extended into the air, defiant and hostile. This is sometimes called “the bird,” “flipping the bird,” or “flipping someone off.”

President Bush is known for having popularized the term “one-fingered victory salute” in a now infamous video of him that began appearing on the Internet in 2004. In Canada, this gesture is known as the “Trudeau salute,” after the former Prime Minister was known to wield it occasionally in his public life – including before the Canadian House of Commons. The list of famous fingers flippers is long: Nelson Rockerfeller, Eminem, Keanu Reeves in a couple of movies, Johnny Cash, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Michael Vick, and even the Miami Dolphin’s own Larry Csonka.

Now, I’m not a bad driver. By that, I mean I can handle a car and I usually follow the rules of the road. I don’t often talk on my phone while driving, I signal when turning, obey signs and lights – all that stuff. I do know for some of you out there, driving is a competitive sport like ice hockey or jiu-jitsu or cockfighting – but I just feel safer in the car if I’m taking it easy. Even so, sometimes another driver will be in my blind spot, or I might be in an unfamiliar part of town – and OOP, there it is. I have drawn the Wrath of the Finger.

So, here’s the problem. I made a mistake; the other driver is upset because of something I did on the road. If some sort of close encounter were to happen on the sidewalk or in a store, most people would apologize and smile and get on with their business. But when cars are involved, territorial instincts are activated, and any further wrong move on my part can trigger road rage. Thing is, I want to be able to apologize. Having been given the finger – that rudest of gestures – I need a countervailing gesture. I need The Anti-Finger.

Sadly, there is no Anti-Finger I can think of that really works. The thumbs-up, the friendly wave, the shrug and sheepish grin, the peace “V,” blowing kisses – those are too likely to be seen as sarcasm. More elaborate combinations – some illustrative sign language of the road – take too long to perform and, more dangerously, involve removing both hands from the wheel. Smacking your own forehead or shooting yourself with a finger gun could be taken as a threat. How can you say: “I’m a loser!” from behind the wheel? I look pretty dumb with my finger and my thumb in the shape of an L on my forehead.

I think the best Anti-Finger is simply to point at yourself and nod: “You’re right, my bad.” A one-handed gesture, the index finger delineates the source of the problem. Better yet, don’t use the index finger at all. Take that digitus tertius, and carefully, carefully extend it and point the finger of blame at yourself. “Yep, that was me, and I am sorry. Allow me to help you out: I give myself the bird.”

2/1/07

This Week


As you can see below, I've posted a few (not necessarily golden) nuggets – including the usual Groundhog Day piece. Remember: Baby needs a new pair of shoes: You know what to do!

On Friday, I'll be dropping in on Jim Norton and Taylor Carik, the hosts of
Flak Radio, to discuss the imminent event of Superbowl XLI in South Florida. Streaming audio or download of the podcast is available at http://www.flakmag.com/podcast/radio.html. To tell you the ingenious technical rigging Jim and I had to do to pull this off -- well, you'd simply never believe it. You'll just have to listen. Add Flak Radio to your RSS feed or iTunes download and you'll never be lonely again.

Passing Notes this Friday evening at 7:06 pm on 88.9 FM Serious Jazz (www.seriousjazz.org) is a look at the significance and use of the middle finger (AKA "The Bird"), as well as an honest attempt to find a countervailing gesture – The Anti-Finger, so to speak. For Gregg: AKA "The Sign of the Bird" a la Miami Lucha.

Saturday's
Early Jazz Weekend from 6 to 9 am will roll out with the customary Big Six Blues set, as well as a tribute to bassist Ahmed Abdul-Malik and a healthy (or perhaps unhealthy) dose of fusion.

Sunday's
EJW means blues, funk, and a final hour of birthday boys Roy Eldridge, Stan Getz, and Sonny Stitt. Playlists for both music shows will be posted on the blog, as usual.

My Superbowl Pick – no great risks taken here: Colts by seven.

Peace,

Mark

1/31/07

Groundhog Day

Broadcast in previous years on the very day in question.

February 2 is known in the United States as Groundhog Day. According to tradition, in the small town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, the groundhog – a midsized burrowing rodent named Phil – comes out of his burrow, looks around, and if he happens to see his shadow, it means there will be six more weeks of winter. He doesn’t see a shadow, it means an early spring. If you’d like to learn more about Groundhog Day and the official festival in Punxsutawney, you can check out the website www.groundhog.org.

The joke, of course, as far as meteorological prognostication is concerned, is that--shadow or not, in wintry parts of the world-- there are likely to be six more weeks of cold weather no matter what Phil the Groundhog sees. Six weeks from February 2 takes you to mid-March, about the time the first day of spring arrives anyway.

I grew up in the Northeast, and as a little kid I put great faith in Punxsutawney Phil – I didn’t get the joke. It doesn’t matter if spring is early or not – it’s still going to be absurdly cold; we might as well have a big party and laugh in winter’s face. Now I think it the holiday is just a bunch of Yankees finding a way to have their own ironic, one-day, understated version of Mardi Gras.

The absurdist joke of Groundhog Day was not lost on a guy named Danny Rubin, who wrote a screenplay, a script that, in 1993, was made into a movie directed by Harold Ramis and starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. You likely know the plot: A cynical weatherman is forced to live exact the same day of his life, February 2 in Punxsutawney, over and over again. He’s the only one aware of what’s going on, and although he can change his actions day-to-day, everything and everyone else is exactly the same. Each morning, February the Second unfolds just as it did before.

Bill Murray’s character, stuck in this time loop for decades, maybe centuries – we don’t really know how long – works through his arrogance, his insensitivity, his appetites, his hopelessness, and eventually figures out that the key to his happiness is simply accepting what he’s been given. Having done that, Murray’s character is able to transform himself from being a jerk to a genuinely good person. Bill Murray is likely the only actor with the ability to pull off the strange combination of detachment, sarcasm, and vulnerability needed for the movie to work. Groundhog Day has always seemed to me to be one of the overlooked great films of the 1990s, and is a very rare creature indeed – an existential comedy with a theological heart.

After all, despite our worries and hopes about the future and our guilt and pride in the past, all we really have is the present moment. This is the day that we are given – and for me, even though there are some variations in my routines, most of the time most things manage to stay the same. Really, I’m the one who makes the biggest difference in what sort of day I have – for better and for worse. I think that’s true for most people. And, day upon day, week upon week, month upon month, that’s how you build a life. You get to spring whether Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow or not. The joke is on you, every day – so you might as well lighten up and enjoy the moment. Right now. We have a long way to go.

1/30/07

Why Kenny G Sucks


I recently came across this piece on why Kenny G stinks -- comments apparently from Pat Metheny. I have always felt that the G-Man was an absolute hack, but I had never read Metheny's remarks until today. I post the link so that others may see the light as I have had it revealed to me.

NOTE from September 2010
With Passing Notes up and running full time this past summer, I've been surprised to see that the most visited post in four years of on-and-off work has been this one, "Why Kenny G Sucks."  And the new blogging statistics that are available shows how most people come to this page by running the search string "kenny + g + sucks."  Clearly, we've hit upon something here.  I have, however, changed some of my thinking about popular music lately -- I'm trying to be less of a snob about matters.  If you'd care to know where I was coming from at the time, you might check out this podcast from a while ago, which was my attempt to address the tension between commercialism and authenticity in music.

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When in Rome

Adapted from a broadcast of February 2006

Sometime real soon, so I hear, the Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears will be playing each other in the big game in South Florida – One Game, One Dream – the Superbowl. The question on everyone’s mind: Will Chicago’s number one defense be able to restrain Peyton Manning’s Colts and – restrain the Colts -- and the Colts. . .

Er.

You know, I have no idea what I’m talking about. I don’t really follow professional football, and I know nothing about college football whatsoever.

What I really want to talk about is this continued obsession that the NFL has with using Roman numerals to indicate the sequence of Superbowls. The argument could made that Roman numerals lend an air of class and dignity to numbered things, like ships (The Queen Elizabeth II), or movies (The Godfather II) or offspring (Thurston Howell III). And if any spectacle badly needed an air of class and dignity, the Superbowl is it. But no mere antique numbering system can cover the smell of money that oozes from every nook and cranny of the Big Game.

What is now known as Superbowl 1 – or I – was played on January 15 of 1967. I’m not much for football, but I do have an obsession with baseball history, and, of course, when you’re talking years in baseball championships, you always refer to the year of the World Series – for instance, the 2004 champion Boston Red Sox. Most sports follow this convention, but not the NFL. There’s something arcane and esoteric about the NFL championship dating with its Roman numerals – who but the biggest football geek can remember the difference between Superbowl XIV and Superbowl XVI? Anyone?

It says a great deal about the hype and hyperbole in the NFL that it persists with this confusing system. It’s sort of like this insular culture with its own special calendar. For most of us using the mainstream Gregorian calendar, of course, it’s 2007 – and soon, I’ll start writing that on my checks. But, by contrast, according to the Jewish calendar, it’s 5759. For Muslims, it’s 1427. For the Chinese, it’s 4704. I mean, I might be off by a year on those other calendars, but it's close enough when you're working with these kinds of numbers. It's all very subjective.

If you’re a SuperFan of the National Football League, I suppose it’s Year 40, A.L. – after Lombardi, that is. And, according to the Lombardian calendar, the new year is celebrated on Superbowl Sunday – which of course moves from year to year according to the whims of the league, the television networks, and the shenanigans of the various metro areas around the nation in their attempts to draw the Big Game to their communities.

But to get back to the Roman numerals. Might I point out that there is no Roman empire any more? Yes, there are Romans, but they all speak Italian, not Latin, and they use good old 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 rather than I V X L C and M. I attribute the fall of the Roman empire not to barbarian hordes but because the Romans had no zero, and hence had a great deal of trouble with math. I imagine some Roman general struck trying to figure out how many horses and men he needed in battle and getting whacked on the head by a visigoth, who had no need for calculation at all but had a very large club. Replace the Romans with the NFL and the barbarians with NASCAR and you can see where I’m going with this. The Daytona 500, the Coca-Cola 600 – nope, NASCAR has no fear of zeroes whatsoever. The future belongs to the sport that knows how to do math.

Not that I’ll be watching automobile racing any time soon -- or any football aside from the NFL playoffs. Me, I’m fine with baseball. It was around long before both the NFL and NASCAR, and I have a feeling it’ll still be here when the X’s and O’s are all added up.

1/29/07

Straight, No Chaser - January 27 Picks

Straight, No Chaser - The New Music Hour
with Ed Blanco and Mark Hayes
every other Saturday from 8:00-9:00 am
on 88.9 FM in Miami
and www.seriousjazz.org

Song, Album, Artist

Marmelada,” The Bias Project, Rodrigo Ferrari-Nunes
The debut album of Brazilian-born bassist Rodrigo Ferrari-Nunes is dedicated to the music of Mingus, Coltrane, Parker, Evans, Hubbard and Brazilian composer Hermeto Pascoal. A burner of a CD with no samba here. (Ed's pick)

“Al Dar Gazelli,” Finn Peters, Su-Ling
Saxophonist and flutist Finn Peters brings a diverse mix of musicians and styles to this release. Steeped in both Brazilian sounds and DJ culture, Peters has appeared on scores of records for other musicians before releasing this, his second album. In 1999, Peters won London Young Jazz musician award, and his eclectic approach and experience comes through. (Mark's pick)

“Lisa,” Second Helping, Luther Hughes & the Cannonball-Coltrane Project
A scorcher of an album from West coast bassist Luther Hughes and his Cannonball-Coltrane Project which includes tenor man Glenn Cashman, Bruce Babad on the alto, pianist Ed Czach and Paul Kreibich on the drums, paying homage to the music of John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderly. (Ed's pick)

“Paths Unknown,” Vector Trio, Paths Unknown
Drums, trumpet, and fretless bass – along with electronic loops and a thoughtful, restrained use of digital effects – combine for uniquely spacey and funky sound that is full of surprises and fascinating textures and tones. An innovative group of experienced musicians who know what they're doing. (Mark's pick)

“Fools Rush In,” My Take, Chuck Bergeron
the latest release from Miami’s own bassist extraordinaire Chuck Bergeron featuring the great baritone vocals of Kevin Mahogany with pianist Phil Strange and New York sideman and member of the Maria Schnieder Big Band, saxophonist Charlie Pillow. (Ed's pick)

“The Fundamentals,” Theo Croker, The Fundamentals
While still in his early 20s, Croker has demonstrated his ability as a trumpeter, composer, and bandleader on this recording debut. Though he might still have some development to make as a player, all the elements of a fine musical intelligence are evident from the first note. (Mark's pick)

“Shangri-La.” Once In A Lifetime, The German HR Big Band
This release captures a lively recording session of the German hr Big Band featuring drummer Jeff Hamilton (Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra) and the Hammond B3 wizardry of Joey DeFrancesco who takes center stage on this disc. (Ed's pick)

“Hydroplaining,” Rodolfo Zuniga Quintet, Premonitions
Drummer and bandleader Zuniga has assembled a group of young players with a confident, distinctive sound. Based in Miami but quickly building a reputation in the US and in Central America, tenor, trombone, guitar and bass join the drummer in creating a blend of stylish, intelligent jazz. (Mark's pick)

Next show on February 10


Visit Ed Blanco's page on All About Jazz

1/28/07

Early Jazz Weekend - Playlist - Sunday

Song, Artist, Album

Offspring, John Scofield, Uberjam
Chubb Sub, Medeski Martin and Wood, Friday Afternoon in the Universe
Dusty McNugget, Brad Mehldau, Largo
Swiss Cheese D, Ben Allison & Medicine Wheel, Riding the Nuclear Tiger
Where's the Moment?, Action Figure Party, Action Figure Party
Big Eater, The Bad Plus, These Are the Vistas
Summer Pudding, Skerik's Syncopated Taint Septet, Husky
Big'Uns Get the Ball Rolling, Stanton Moore, III
Temporary Enrollment, Rodolfo Zuniga Quintet, Premonitions
Annie Laurie, Jimmy Forrest with Shirley Scott, Heart of the Forrest
Bolo Blues, Jimmy Forrest, Out of the Forrest
Dance of the Octopus, Gary Burton, For Hamp, Red, Bags, and Cal
Portsmouth Figurations, Gary Burton Quartet, Duster
A Few Good Notes, Bob Mintzer Quartet, Quality Time
Runferyerlife, Bob Mintzer Big Band, Old School: New Lessons
Felonius Thunk, Bob Moses, Time Stood Still
Bright Size Life, Pat Metheny, Bright Size Life
He Said What?, Russell Malone, Live at the Jazz Standard, Volume 1
Blue in Green, Bill Evans, Portrait in Jazz
Blues for the Orient, Yusef Lateef, Eastern Sounds
Bessie's Blues, John Coltrane Quartet, Crescent
House Arrest Blues, Willie Pooch, Funk-n-Blues
Dying Crapshooter Blues, Blind Willie McTell, Original Blues Classics (Bluesville)
One Steady Roll, Bob Brozman, Blues Reflex
Fara, Ali Farka Toure, Savane
Mercy On My Soul, Earl Gaines, Don't Take My Kindness for a Weakness
Get It Right, Joe Louis Walker, Blues of the Month Club
The Torch of the Blues, Ronnie Baker Brooks, The Torch

1/27/07

Early Jazz Weekend - Playlist - Saturday


Song, Artist, Album

Stablemates, Jeff Antoniuk and the Jazz Update, Here Today
Series of One, Dominique Eade & Jed Wilson, Open
'Round Midnight, Charles Tolliver Big Band, With Love
Manoir Des Mes Reves, Django Reinhardt, The Best of. . . (Blue Note)
Corcovado, Sarah Vaughan, The Antonio Carlos Jobim Songbook
Night and Day, Stephane Grappelli, Live at the Blue Note
Django's Tiger, Django Reinhardt, The Best of. . . (Blue Note)
How Insensitive, Wes Montgomery, The Antonio Carlos Jobim Songbook
Air Mail Special, Jay Hoggard, Swing 'Em Gates
I'm Tore Down, Freddie King, The Very Best of. . . (Collectibles)
Woke Up This Morning, Big Time Sarah & The BTS Express, Blues in the Year One-D-One
Red House, Jimi Hendrix, Kiss the Sky
It's The Truth, Oscar Jordan, Mr. Bad Luck
Catfish Blues, Robert Petway, Martin Scorsese Presents. . .
Five Long Years, Carey & Lurie Bell, Second Nature
Gonna Ball Tonight, Mighty Lester, We Are Mighty Lester
Gristle, Carol Fran & Clarence Hollimon, Soul Sensation
Farther Up The Road, Bobby Blue Bland, Greatest Hits V1 - The Duke Recordings
Henry's Shuffle, Canned Heat, The Very Best of. . . (Capitol)
Stand Alone, Kelly Richey Band, Speechless
A Little Meat on the Side, Katie Webster, No Foolin!
Where Is She?, The Beat Daddys, Five Moons

1/25/07

This Week. . .


The blog here has been rolling along nicely -- I try to post reviews or commentary or playlists there at least five times a week. Be sure to check for fresh content or set up your feed. There's a link for Feedburner here.

This week's feature (Friday at 7:06 pm on 88.9 FM or
www.seriousjazz.org) is a rebroadcast of "Recovery from Oil Addiction - The 12-Step Program." Some of you might have read this commentary already, but that last time it was broadcast, we had a lot of response. In light of the State of the Union address this week, we're going to run it again. Fresh PN next week!

On Saturday's Early Jazz Weekend (6 to 9 am) we'll be starting off with the Big Six Blues, followed by a little love to this week's birthday boys Django Reinhardt, Stephane Grapelli, and Antonio Carlos Jobim. At 8:00, Ed Blanco will join me for the latest installment of Straight, No Chaser. We'll be listening to new jazz from around the country and around the world.

On Sunday, EJW will have the usual blues set (but in a more mellow mode), followed by tunes from Gary Burton, Jimmy Forrest, Bob Mintzer, and Bob Moses. This should be an eclectic show, and we'll finish up the last half hour with some funk.

Next week, I'll be appearing on Flak Radio (
http://www.flakmag.com/podcast/radio.html) to talk about the Superbowl's coming to South Florida. Flak Radio is a regular podcast you can get from iTunes. I have no idea what I'm going to say -- it should be fun to have the guys at Flak tear me apart!

Peace,

Mark H

1/24/07

Understanding Jazz: Ways To Listen

Broadcast November 2005

Although relatively young as national cultural institutions are concerned, Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York, under the direction of Wynton Marsalis, has become the major force in the promotion of and education about the art of jazz. Whether it’s the Center’s the weekly radio program, or its PBS specials, or the regular recordings by its groups, or the innovative compositions it underwrites, or the many concerts and events it hosts up there in its home at Columbus Circle in Manhattan, JALC commands a vast array of cultural and financial resources for a non-profit arts organization.


It is not surprising, then, that the Center has produced a new book about the music, entitled Understanding Jazz: Ways To Listen, is a fine introduction for non-musicians as to how to understand some of what jazz musicians are doing in the midst of a live performance. Beginning with the sometimes paradoxical relationship of the individual soloist to the group – which Piazza explains as the relationship between foreground and background – the reader is taken through the basics, so to speak, of how to listen. Piazza clearly explains, for the lay listener, how the blues and other song forms are structured, as well as how musicians improvise in relationship to those forms and tell a story.

Piazza is most effective in his discussion of rhythm, of time, and of that elusive element known as swing:

“Picture the arc of a common playground swing,” he writes. “Once you get into a regular rhythm on the swing, the amount of time it takes to get from one end of the arc and then back will be the same each time. But your actual speed as you traverse the arc is not constant; in fact, there is a curve of acceleration and deceleration – a speeding-up on the downward motion and a slowing on the upward part.... In a jazz performance,” Piazza continues, "while every bar of music should take the same amount of ‘clock time’ – fill the same period – within those bars and groups of bars there is a constant sense of respiration, of infinitesimal accelerations and decelerations in the actual playing, even though the background pulse, the tempo, remains constant. A large part of the music’s meaning comes from playing with time, this sense of being able to operate flexibly, accurately, and freely within the implied lockstep of chronology—an affirmation, in fact, of the living body against the dead abstraction of time.”


This is all interesting and useful explanation, made all the more interesting and useful because the musical explanations in the book refer often to a companion CD that features seven distinctive jazz tracks. Artists on the CD include King Oliver, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Lester Young, Sonny Rollins, Sonny Stitt, and Stan Getz – among others. As the discussions in each chapter develop, Piazza very easily slips in specific musical references to Rollins’s “Mack the Knife” or Davis’s “Footprints” to help you hear what he’s writing about. Understanding Jazz is a book you read with the CD player remote never far from your hand. The book would be even better to read with the tracks burned onto a portable MP3 player.

At the end of each chapter on each particular music topic, Piazza also includes a rather haphazard discography, a feature which novices might find useful but will likely distract and annoy more expert listeners. These sections can hardly be called discographies at all -- they're really just rambling lists of stuff to listen to.

Still, all in all, Understanding Jazz is an excellent way for the beginning fan of jazz to make significant steps forward in learning how to listen more carefully to this often complex music and with a more intelligent ear.

1/23/07

Recovery from Oil Addiction - The 12-Step Program

Adapted from a broadcast from June 2006

Around the country this summer, everyone had pretty much gotten used to playing about three dollars a gallon for gasoline. When or if the price would up or down, nobody could say, apparently. But while the price of gas was high, it wasn't high enough to get people to seriously change their habits of energy consumption. We are still in denial about the problems of the coming energy crises.

And so we look for leadership and vision to help us out of our overindulgences. President Bush, of course, who admits, in a previous life, to indulging in the unhealthy consumption of liquid refreshment, called it like he saw it in his 2006 State of the Union address:

“Keeping America competitive requires affordable energy. And here we have a serious problem: America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world. The best way to break this addiction is through technology.”

Hmm: The best way to break addiction is through technology. It seems to me that, when the president uses the addiction metaphor, he’s actually steering the argument away from technology. People, like the president – credit to him – who decide to quit drinking often do so without any outside help, professional counseling, or support group meetings. That’s 70 percent of those who quit. No technology involved. So the problem of addiction is as much a psychological, or emotional, or spiritual problem as a material one.

Following the President’s cue, but forgetting his idea of technology, let’s borrow from the literature of addiction to craft a national policy of recovery – recovery from our oil addiction. This recovery program involves, as you might have guessed, 12 steps:

1. We, the people of the United States of America, admitted we were powerless over cheap and plentiful fossil fuels - that our lives had become unsustainable. Price spikes after hurricanes, wars in the Middle East, traffic, pollution, rolling brownouts -- need I say more?

2. Came to believe that an energy policy greater than ourselves could restore us to balance. Bigger than our individual wants, bigger than our consumer society, bigger than our might making it right, we need an approach to energy that shows humility and concern for other nations.

3. Made a decision to turn our future and our economy over to the care of the Earth as science understands things like global warming, population growth, and planetary resources. So let’s get the politics out of science and admit that global warming is happening, and other things that 95 percent of real scientists agree upon.

4. Made a searching and fearless economic and ethical inventory of our energy use. Which means: Do you really need that Hummer for the weekend? Is “one person, one car” a viable transportation model for everybody?

5. Admitted to the Earth, to ourselves, and to every human being on the planet the exact nature of our wrongs. Time to fess up, America. Twenty percent of the resources consumed, five percent of the population. I think that qualifies as gluttony, right?

6. Were entirely ready to elect a government and change our habits to remove these defects of character. This is the tricky part – finding the right person or group of people who can tell the truth in the right way, an offer a vision of a solution that everyone can get behind.

7. Humbly asked each other for the patience to remove our shortcomings. It will take most Americans a long time to get used to riding on buses and trains with each other.

8. Made a list of all the people, nations, and systems on the planet we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. Where to begin?

9. Made direct amends to such people and places wherever possible, except when to do so would cause more damage. So, Iraq – sorry about that whole invasion thing. We’re just going to get out of here and turn things over to the UN.

10. Continued to take an energy inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it. Hey, maybe ethanol wasn’t such a good idea. Nuclear energy, other the other hand, isn’t quite as bad an idea as we thought.

11. Sought though scientific inquiry and social reform to improve our relationship with the planet and with each other, looking for accurate knowledge of how things really work and how we might sustain a balanced relationship with the planet and with each other. Which is to say – let’s not allow this to happen again.

12. Having had an economic and social awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other oil-addicted nations and to practice these principles in all our affairs. China, you’re next.

So I offer this program as a means to get us closer to the root of the problem: that we as a nation are a bunch of lousy oil addicts and we’ll do almost anything to get another week, another month, another year of those sweet sweet cheap fossil fuels. Burn baby burn.

If you ask me, it’s time for an intervention.

Postscript – 1/23/2007

As to President Bush’s 2007 State of the Union goal of having Americans reduce their gasoline use by increasing their consumption of ethanol by billions of barrels per year – well, that seems beside the point. Overall, shouldn’t we be reducing our consumption, not shifting it to another fuel? Is the nation really capable of "capping" its overall fuel usage as it shifts to an alternative fuel?

We can look at the history of other sectors of the economy for example of this supply substitution. I just finished reading Greg Critser’s
Fatland: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World. He makes the argument that, faced with rising food prices in the 1970s, the Department of Agriculture – of which the Food and Drug Administration is a part – paved the way for “cheaper” substitutions such as this ethanol-for-gasoline switch. Corn syrup took the place of cane sugar. Corn starch took the place of wheat flour. Fatty palm oil took the place of cooking oils far lower in saturated fats. Who knows what the conversion to an “ethanol economy” will create? And, more importantly, will everything eventually be made of corn?

Here’s one thing for sure: The
price of tortillas in Mexico is on the rise, and it appears that our own developing energy needs are part of the problem.