Playlist - Early Jazz Weekend - Saturday

Song, Artist, Album

Dear Old Stockholm, Lin Halliday with Ira Sullivan, Where or When
Happy Times, Tim Hagans & Marcus Printup, Hubsongs
The Prophet Speaks, Milt Jackson, The Prophet Speaks
Delaunay's Dilemma, Modern Jazz Quartet, Django
Bags' Groove, Milt Jackson, Wizard of the Vibes
Grant's Tune, Grant Green, Solid
Jackie-ing, Larry Goldings, Quartet
Black Fire, Andrew Hill, Black Fire
Sunset and the Mocking Bird, Stefon Harris, African Tarantella
Blue Train, John Coltrane, Blue Train
Sophisticated Lady, James Carter, JC on the Set
Nuages (Clouds), James Carter, Chasin' the Gypsy
Oleo, James Carter Quartet, Jurassic Classics
Park Palace Parade, Sonny Rollins, Sonny, Please
I Remember Clifford, Roy Hargrove & Antonio Hart, The Tokyo Sessions
The Vail Jumpers, Don Braden, Workin'
Lady Charlotte, Zane Massey, 50 Years of Jazz and Blues (Delmark)
Indian Red, Donald Harrison, Indian Blues
Royal Garden Blues, Windy City Six, 50 Years of Jazz and Blues (Delmark)
Rock Me Baby, Etta James & the Roots Band, Burnin' Down the House
We're on the Road, Luther Allison, Serious
Boot-Leg, Booker T & the MG's, The Very Best of. . .(Rhino)
I'm Sorry, Lynn Noble / Rob Friedman Band, Good Girl Blues
Walk the Walk, Eric Bibb, Home to Me
Samson and Delilah, Charlie Parr`, Rooster
Dying Crapshooter's Blues, Blind Willie McTell, Original Classics Samples - Bluesville
Gone Too Long, Charlie Musselwhite, Delta Hardware


Interview with Karen Russell

Karen Russell, author of the story collection, St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, sat down for an interview at the 2006 Miami Book Fair International.

Mark Hayes: Were you a writer when you first started coming to the Miami Book Fair and what sort of impact did this event have on you?

Karen Russell: I was always writing, but I don’t think I was a writer just then. I was writing these pretty terrible stories – I still write pretty terrible stories sometimes – but when I was a kid I started writing at about the time I started reading. I remember seeing Dave Barry, who was actually a really huge influence. People have asked me which South Florida writers influenced me and he’s the one, which is sort of funny. He’s not really a fiction writer – he’s written some fiction – but what I remember is really identifying with Dave Barry Turns 40 for some reason. I was this 12-year-old kid and I was like, “It’s so true!” I really thought he was hilarious, and for a long time I just wanted to make people laugh the way that he did.

MH: How would you describe your background?

KR: I always feel like there should be more of a story to this, like my family were hot air balloonists or we have some wacky background. My dad is from Ohio, and his dad was a schoolteacher in Sarasota, so he just sort of drifted down here. And my mom grew up in Miami Springs, so they’ve both been around here for a while. I grew up in the Coconut Grove area until I was 18, and then I wanted to see the seasons so I went to Chicago. I was here and it was a pretty great childhood. I think the stories might mislead people into thinking I was a real outdoorsy kid. I suppose we sort of tromped around a lot, but I was not particularly good at the outdoors. My dad would take me fishing, but I would scream like any girl confronted with a squiggly thing.

MH: Do you think Miami provided some sort of exotic background material for your stories?

KR: When you grow up here, in the midst of all this mix of natural and artificial and different cultural groups, it wasn’t until I left that I realized how marvelous and truly strange it is. But it all seems to matter of fact. “I’m going to go help my friend’s father send fire trucks to Ecuador today!”

MH: Did you spend a lot of time in the swamp?

KR: I think I ended up getting drawn to the more natural settings. In my work there’s less urban Miami. There are no recognizable parts like South Beach. These stories ended up being set a couple of degrees South of what people might recognize as a South Florida reality. I think growing up near the water had a tremendous pull. There’s a lot of aqueous stuff going on in the collection. Maybe growing up with all the fiberglass dolphins around does something as well.

MH: What sort of writers do you admire? Are you drawn to magic realism? Who did you read that influenced your work?

KR: That was one of the best things about my undergraduate education. I remember reading “The Dinosaur Story,” this Calvino story narrated by a dinosaur who survives extinction. To that point I had been reading wonderful stories, but just straight realist stories, but the idea that this thing could be a story too was incredible to me. And George Saunders is a contemporary writer who I just adore. Kelly Link is doing some really neat things. So people who are stretching the boundaries, where the fantastical stuff rubs shoulders. Joy Williams is another writer who I think is at the top of her game doing that kind of thing. And some of those Southern Gothic ladies I would like to invite. They would make things interesting, I’m sure.

MH: One of the themes that runs through the stories, especially the title story in St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, is that of being an outsider. Is that connected to your own Miami experience?

KR: Most of my best friends are Hispanic or from different backgrounds. I think it was pretty much me and Robert McDonald in terms of representing [our backgrounds]. I think for some of my youth I did feel, like many people probably, like an outsider. I remember going to quinces and dancing with a robotic stiffness. And also I think I was a strange, romantically inclined bookish kid from the age of 11 on, and that can be hard.

MH: What has it been like coming back to Miami as a writer and doing a reading like this?

KR: This was the first one I’ve done in Miami, and it was terrific to see everybody, but at the same time it was also overwhelming, like a wedding or a funeral when you don’t get too much time to spend with people you’d really like to thank. And it’s sort of a “This is Your Life” feeling. I saw one girl I haven’t seen since the first grade. It’s a funny feeling to have the book out in the world, because even my parents had never read anything that I’d written. It’s its own entity now. It’s sort of like a literary striptease. There’s this totally imaginary world that I’m showing. It happens to me on the other end, when I read things that my friends have written. It’s dizzying to know that this world’s been going on inside this person the whole time without your knowledge. It’s a little scary and embarrassing too.

MH: What are you working on now?

I’m working on this novel called Swamplandia! It grew out of the first story in the collection. It’s a multigenerational story, a weird story about this family of alligator wrestlers in this mythical Everglades kind of theme park.

MH: Have you read Katherine Dunn?

KR: Geek Love was one of those books I read in one sort of fevered sitting.

MH: What’s the most common question you get asked? Is it about being so young?

KR: It’s sort of funny. Because I’m not really that young – maybe if I were ten years younger. I feel that there’s a novelty to it, sort of like a seal wrote a book. “Hey, this seal honked out a book on its horn!” I worked very hard and sometimes I worry it won’t be taken as seriously as I’d like it to be taken because of the age thing.

Can I tell you the worst question I ever got? I was doing this reading at a bar, and I don’t think the people at the bar knew there was going to be a reading. I think these were people who were on their commute home to New Jersey who just wanted to stop and drink gin and then they were going to catch the train. You should have seen the look of true horror on these people’s faces when I ascended the stage and sat on a stool and started reading to them. And the lighting was such that you couldn’t see people’s faces, so it was this jury of shadows listening. I found this one bald man, and his head was like a beacon. I just had to keep focusing on it so I wouldn’t fall backwards off the stool. So I read this story. I could tell these people are antsy, and they just want to continue boozing or to actively flee. At the end there’s a Q & A, and it’s dead silence for a whole minute. And this drunken man in the back finally raises his hand and asks, “Izz – Izzit a pome?” “I’m sorry sir, is your question ‘Is it a poem?’” “Yeah, izzit a pome?” “No, I’m sorry sir. It was a 20 minute story.” So that was the worst question I’ve ever got.


Later This Week

My wife and I just completed a Miami to Mississippi to Maine to Mississippi to Miami trip over the past 15 days, so I'm going to take a day or two to get back to the usual routine. I'll post if I can. . .

On Friday's Passing Notes broadcast (88.9 FM in Miami or online at seriousjazz.org) I'll be talking to Miami-born writer Karen Russell, whose story collection St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves was published earlier this year. That feature will air at 10:06 am and 7:06 pm. I'm working on acquiring server space to host all of the PN broadcasts in MP3 format, as well as delivering them as podcasts after the morning airing.

Saturday's Early Jazz Weekend Session will take its cue from a pair of notable jazz birthdays of the week -- Milt Jackson and James Carter.

Sunday's EJW will feature two more birthday boys, John McLaughlin and Chano Pozo. Both of these shows run from 6:00 to 9:00 am, so tune in.

Next Saturday at 8:00 am, South Florida jazz critic Ed Blanco and I will host the first ever broadcast of Straight, No Chaser: The New Music Hour, during which we'll be playing and talking about the best of the latest jazz from around the world.


Chasin' the Bird

Charlie Parker, arguably the greatest saxophonist of all time, was born in Kansas City, Kansas, in 1920. After that, it seems, the details begin to get fuzzy.

In his biographical study of Parker, Chasin’ the Bird, the Life and Legacy of Charlie Parker, author Brian Priestly tries to clarify some of the facts about the often confusing, contradictory, and catastrophic life of one of jazz’s most notorious figures. As with any cultural figure who achieves iconic status – history has become legend, legend has become myth. Sooner or later, the fragile truth’s of a person’s life become lost amid the babble of historians, critics, and fans.

Priestly is the co-author of The Rough Guide to Jazz and has written biographies of Charles Mingus and John Coltrane. He is a prolific critic and a respectable jazz pianist as well. His knowledge of jazz is both broad and deep, and his Chasin’ the Bird examines the life and work of Charlie Parker with intelligence and restraint. It is not an encyclopedia of all things Charlie Parker. Rather, the bulk of the book traces what can be known for sure about his life, his music, and his personality.

There’s a fine bibliographical chapter for folks who would care to do their own research. Given Parker’s relatively spotty, impulsive, and often-bootlegged recording career, the book’s sixty page discography will no doubt be useful to serious collectors. Overall, Priestly seems comfortable with presenting you with what he admits is an incomplete and imperfect portrait of the man. In the end, though, readers will likely appreciate the limits on authorial self-indulgence.

Most people making an effort to get to know the life of Charlie Parker –more than most usefully listening to his music – will have seen the Clint Eastwood film Bird, starring Forrest Whittaker as the legend himself. But because Bird’s own life was such a mess, the movie creates more problems in point of view and chronology than it solves.

A few things are clear about Parker’s life. He had a challenging childhood; he was a musical genius, a virtuoso reedman and, essentially, the inventor of bebop; ; he yearned for larger material success and cultural recognition; he was an addict and an alcoholic; he was a victim of racism; some of his peers facing similar problems overcame them and prevailed; other peers could not overcome and succumbed to mental illness and drug abuse.

This is why, as Priestly suggests, the music is the most important thing to pay attention to. Those fast, brilliant, perfect lines tell you almost everything you need to know. Charlie Parker could fly in ways that folks never imagined before.


Monk with Coltrane - The Complete Riverside Recordings

On more than one occasion in the mid 50s, John Coltrane was kicked out of Miles Davis’s band. The final time, in 1957, drinking heavily and using heroin on a regular basis, Coltrane also got himself slapped by Miles in front of a packed house one October night – apparently Miles had had enough of Trane’s unprofessional nonsense. One of the people in the crowd who witnessed the incident was pianist and composer Thelonius Monk, who thought it was a shame to knock down Trane’s talent for the sake of personal problems.

Monk, who had, a few years earlier, signed a record deal with Riverside, was recording regularly and offered Trane a chance to play with him. A genius composer with an eccentric but unshakeable command of the piano, Monk himself had spent almost a decade trying to find enough gigs to support himself when finally the Riverside deal made him a star. To that point, many bebop players assumed he was crazy.

As 1957 went along, and Trane played with Monk, he eventually experienced, as he put it in the liner notes to his masterpiece A Love Supreme, “a spiritual awakening which was to lead me to a richer, fuller, more productive life. At that time, in gratitude, I humbly asked to be given the means and privilege to make others happy through music.” In and around recording for Riverside with the clean and sober Trane over the spring and summer, Monk’s band then got a long-playing gig at the Five Spot club in New York. Trane, who was mentored by Monk and inspired by the advanced harmonic ideas in the composers, music and, seems to have almost perfected his improvisational approach in a few months.

The big news jazz release of 2005 was the rediscovered concert recording of Monk and Trane at Carnegie Hall, featuring a band in fine form and Coltrane sounding every bit his mature self on tracks like “Monk’s Mood,” “Blue Monk,” and “Epistrophy.” The Carnegie Hall concert happened in late November of 1957. The next month, Trane rejoined Miles Davis in the bandleader’s first great quintet. So the total amount of time Trane spent with Monk is seven months – a little over half a year in which the tenor saxophonist kicked his drug habit and found his voice as a musician.

Now, there’s nothing truly new on the new two CD release – Thelonius Monk with John Coltrane: The Complete Riverside Recordings. If you have the 15-CD master set Riverside released a few years ago, you already have what’s in this new package. But if you are a fan of Coltrane and want to hear the studio side of the musical story of Trane’s rebirth, then The Complete Riverside is a fine investment. On these tracks, Monk and Trane are joined by Wilber Ware on bass, Shadow Wilson and Art Blakey on drums, and Coleman Hawkins on sax. On two takes of “Ruby, My Dear,” listeners can find a very clear contrast between the sound and style of Coleman Hawkins and Trane. So, for you Trane fanatics, you have a fine complement to last year’s Carnegie Hall concert recording.