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Pianist Jason Moran and bassist Meshell Ndegeocello have for the last few years been working on one of Moran’s big ideas– the changing of the performance aspect of jazz. In that endeavor, the two have been reworking the music of Fats Waller, itself already inherently lending itself to dance, and performing it as a dance party. The various shows Moran has put on have been uproariously fun affairs, and now he’s bringing the whole shindig to your earlobes in his upcoming Blue Note release, All Rise: A Joyful Elegy for Fats Waller, out September 16th.
He just released the video and stream (with download available for purchase at iTunes. Check it out after the jump.
Your favorite Tulsa-based trio is back at it. Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey (Brian Haas on keys, Chris Combs on guitar, lap steel, and synths, and Josh Raymer on drums) just announced that their new album Worker will be released on October 14, 2014. Based on the sound of “Betamax” (check it out below, after the jump), Worker will contain more electronic textures than this version of JFJO have explored in the past, with Haas’ Moog keyboard and Combs’ synths being pretty prominent here.
Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, “Betamax”from Worker
Check out some behind-the-scenes footage from the making of Worker:
And be sure to check the trio out live as they pass through your town on a fairly extensive tour:
Oct. 8 – Norman, OK – The Deli
Oct. 9 – Austin, TX – The Parish
Oct. 11 – New Orleans, LA – Snug Harbor
Oct. 16 & 17 – Denver, CO – DazzleJazz
Oct. 18 – Santa Fe, NM – Santa Fe University of Art and Design
Oct. 21 – San Diego, CA – Winston’s
Oct. 22 – Los Angeles, CA – The Mint
Oct. 23 & 24 – Oakland, CA – Duende
Oct. 25 – Nevada City, CA – Crazy Horse
Oct. 26 – Petaluma, CA – Zodiacs
Oct. 28 – Cottage Grove, OR – Axe and Fiddle
Oct. 29 – Zig Zag, OR – Skyway Bar and Grill
Oct. 30 – Portland, OR – The Goodfoot
Oct. 31 – Olympia, WA – Rhythm and Rye
Nov. 1 – Seattle, WA – Earshot Jazz Festival
Nov. 10 – Columbus, OH – Dick’s Den
Nov. 11 – Cleveland, OH – The Grog Shop
Nov. 13 – Cambridge, MA – The Lily Pad
Nov. 14 – New York, NY – Zinc Bar
Nov. 15 – Burlington, VT – Radio Bean
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This week’s show looks at some of the new releases on deck, reminds you how great Maxwell’s band is, and reminds you to not sleep on the beats in the mic breaks.
The Line-Up for 15 August 2014
Rotem Sivan Trio – Spirals
Sivan’s new album, For Emotional Use Only, is a recent something sent my way that I’ll likely spend some time chewing over. He was right, the title is just something too cutesy for me to ignore. It’s out September 2. Space Ghost – One Nite (2011) Eric Harland’s Voyager – Anjou Vipassana is finally out, just so you know. Quentin Coaxum – Brown Bear
Just a friendly reminder that you should definitely hear Quentin Coaxum’s Current if you haven’t yet. Otis Brown III – The Thought of You – Part I (feat. Bilal)
Brown is set to release his debut album, The Thought of You next month on Blue Note/Revive Music. I’ve been playing it quite a bit lately and it’s quite good, essentially what a Blue Note album should sound like in 2014. DJ Harrison – Echo Parking Yosvany Terry – New Throned King
I’ve still got New Throned King in my rotation, as should you. It’s such spirited brilliance. Steve Lehman Octet – Beyond All Limits DJ Harrison – Giza George Colligan – Waiting for Solitude
I’m not fully sure what my thought process was when picking this song, but I have always stopped to listen to it whenever it’s in earshot. I’m putting it more directly in earshot. Derrick Hodge – Anthem in 7
Last Wednesday, I had the pleasure of seeing Hodge play along with organist Shedrick Mitchell (who appears on the aforementioned Otis Brown III’s upcoming album) and saxophonist/arranger Kenneth Whalum III for R&B singer Maxwell. The latter end of Maxwell’s SOULstice Tour came through San Antonio and the show was quite good. I entertained the idea of reviewing it but decided not to. Just know if Maxwell is performing, see him. It’ll be fantastic, women will go hysterical and rush the stage, and it’s still a pretty great jazz show… Kenneth Whalum III – Away feat. Big K.R.I.T.
However, it was Whalum who got me in the door the door that evening (in very good seats), but my sole intention was just to catch up with him. How’s he doing? (Good, busy, blessed.) How’s the family? (Great, centering.) When’s Through Hell & High Water coming? (Soon, new developments.) It was a good talk, all of five minutes (but a filling five minutes, like talking in shorthand and no need for exposition). We said we’d make sure to catch up soon with a call. I’m terrible at making phone calls so I’m considering this making a note. Space Ghost – Mono Mark Guiliana – That DeeJay Chick Works at the Bank Now
Guiliana sent me his two upcoming albums, My Life Starts Now and Beat Music: The Los Angeles Improvisations last week and it’s been most of what I’ve been listening to lately (and my last.fm can testify to that). This is one of three tracks available for download with pre-order (starting tomorrow) from the latter of the two. My Life Starts Now and Beat Music: The Los Angeles Improvisations drop September 2.
Among pop music writers, Stevie Wonder’s tunes are definitely some of the most often-covered by jazz musicians, and it’s not for nothing – they’re great tunes. I’ve looked at a number of versions of “Isn’t She Lovely” in a previous column, The SFJAZZ Collective has made an album of Stevie Wonder tunes, as did Madlib under his Yesterday’s New Quintet guise and The Deep Blue Organ Trio. In this column, I’ll look at a few different versions of Stevie Wonder’s “Golden Lady”, off of his 1973 album Innervisions.
The original version of “Golden Lady” starts with a solo piano introduction before an easy, bouncy drum and bass groove comes in at about 0:25. A little bit of strummed guitar and synthesizer join this groove and then Stevie’s vocals come in shortly afterward. The verse moves through some interesting chord changes and then at about 1:20, the very catchy chorus comes in for the first time. After this first chorus, the synthesizer becomes a little more prominent underneath the vocal line. This second verse keeps the easy groove going, but adds a little bit more instrumentation underneath the vocal – a really great, slow build. After the second chorus, starting around 2:45 or so, there’s an instrumental break for a keyboard solo before the vocal returns. Then at 3:30, we’re back to the chorus. Stevie moves through the chorus at the end of this tune, changing the key as he moves from one chorus to the next (you thought Beyonce came up with this idea?). This groove rides out to the end of the tune, Stevie moving through the keys during the repeated choruses and keeping the vibe going. This is an incredible song as it is here, but the interesting chord changes and the key changes at the end of the tune would seem to make it irresistible to jazz musicians.
One year after Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions, Ronnie Foster released his version of “Golden Lady”, on his On the Avenue album. Foster’s version jumps right in with a bouncy, bass-heavy groove over some straightforward funky drums. Foster’s organ handles the vocal line over rhythm guitar from Phil Upchurch, and at about 0:45, the chorus comes in for the first time over a great horn arrangement from Pee Wee Ellis. Foster plays through another verse, then moves to the chorus again. After the second time through the chorus, Foster takes a fine organ solo. At about 3:30, the horns come back in with a nice swell at the end of the organ solo and then Foster moves back into the verse section, then to the chorus just after 4:00. As on the Stevie Wonder version above, Foster takes the chorus through several key changes here at the end of the tune, with his organ soloing over these changes as the tune fades. This is a fun version of “Golden Lady” that shares some of the same sounds that were popular during the era and something of the overall feel of the tune, but without the subtle buildup from Wonder’s original version above.
Moving forward a few decades, in 2001, Soulive recorded their organ trio version of “Golden Lady” for their Doin’ Something album, though this was only included on the Japanese version of the album and wasn’t available stateside until the 2005 compilation Steady Groovin’ was released. Soulive is Alan Evans on drums, Neal Evans on organ, and Eric Krasno on guitar, and they’d covered Stevie Wonder before this – “Jesus Children of America” was on their 2000 album Turn it Out. Their version of “Golden Lady” starts with Krasno’s funky guitar chords before the Evans brothers join in with some big organ chords and deep bass over a nice drumbreak. Alan Evans’ drums stay in drumbreak mode throughout, with just enough variation to make you notice the differences when he strays from the basic pattern. Here, Neal Evans’ organ takes the verse and then Krasno’s guitar takes the vocal line during the chorus. They play through a couple of verses and the second chorus and then at about 2:30, Evans takes an organ solo over the rhythm guitar and drumbreak, keeping things in this head-nodding space. At about 3:30, they return to the chorus and once again, Krasno’s guitar takes the vocal line over Evans’ organ chords. As on Wonder’s version, they move through several key changes and then starting around 4:45, Krasno starts to take some more liberties with the melody and takes a guitar solo as the song fades. (If you stick with this through the silence after “Golden Lady”, there’s also a solo piano piece tacked onto the end of this – presumably Neal Evans here, but it’s not credited as far as I can find.) This is a fine version of the tune, squarely in the pocket of what Soulive does (or at least did at the time) best, with some nicely funky organ and guitar over a drumbreak.
Sticking with the drumbreaks, the next version I’ll look at is from Madlib, er, Yesterday’s New Quintet, off the 2004 album Stevie. After a brief, spacy intro, Madlib moves into the verse on the Rhodes over a raw drumbreak on this bass-heavy version of the tune. At about 1:00, the chorus appears for the first time. There’s not much improvisation from the Rhodes over the main melody line, with the variation instead coming from some tremolo chords behind the main melodic line. At about 2:30, after the second time through the chorus, these tremolo chords get a little space to themselves and a few drumrolls are added. After this little break, the chorus returns at about 3:10. After moving through the chorus a few times, this version fades without the key changes at the end of the song. A pleasant enough version of “Golden Lady”, but definitely one for the beat-heads.
Kurt Elling’s 2011 album The Gate included his version of “Golden Lady”, arranged by Laurence Hobgood. Elling’s vocals are backed here by Laurence Hobgood on piano, Terreon Gully on drums, John Patitucci on bass, John McLean on guitar, Bob Mintzer on sax, and Lennie Castro on percussion. They open right up with Elling’s vocals, then bring in some muted piano and the bass underneath, bringing the tune in with some great atmospherics until the first verse comes in at about 0:50. They move through this at a simmer, taking the tune in a bit of a different direction from the funkier stuff above. Nice little riff at about 2:00 after the first chorus, and then into the second verse. Second chorus at about 2:40, with Elling improvising a bit on the melody during the chorus. After the chorus, a sax solo starts around 3:15 or so, with a sort of floating, smooth feel in here. Then around 4:00, Elling’s vocals return as they move through the key changes over the repeated choruses at the end of the tune, with Elling’s multi-tracked vocals adding some harmony behind the main vocal line. At about 5:00, Elling breaks into scat for a little while, and then they bring things down shortly afterward, ending with some muted piano notes fading – really great ending to this version. Elling’s vocals are really great here, and it’s good that the group took the song in a different direction, thanks to Hobgood’s great arrangement – no way anybody could follow Stevie Wonder’s vocals on the original, so Elling’s group made this their own song. I’ll also mention here that Elling kept this tune in his rotation at his live shows, with some pretty stellar results.
Deep Blue Organ Trio’s 2012 album Wonderful! included their version of “Golden Lady”. The trio is Bobby Broom on guitar, Chris Foreman on organ, and Greg Rockingham on drums. This version opens with a solo organ introduction, followed by the guitar and drums at about 0:30. After a few guitar chords, the first verse starts around 0:40, with Broom’s guitar taking the melody over the organ bass and chords and the rolling drums. At about 1:20, they move to the first chorus. The trio keeps Rockingham’s drums rolling along underneath the melody, without much embellishment to the melodic line. At about 2:40, Foreman opens it up, taking a nice organ solo after the second chorus. Very good stuff around 3:30 or so as he plays off the melody of the chorus, then continues along with his improvisation. Again at 4:20 or so, he moves back to the chorus, and then at 4:30 hands the melody back to Broom’s guitar for another verse. Into the chorus again just before 5:00, and the trio moves through the various key changes at the end of the tune, repeating the chorus. As on Soulive’s version above, Broom’s guitar takes increasing liberties with the melody, moving into a fine solo as the organ continues to cycle through the repeated choruses and key changes. At about 6:30, Broom is moving back toward the “Golden Lady” melody a bit; a fade starts not long after as the guitar solo continues. This is a fine organ trio version of the tune. A really nice organ solo in the middle of this. It seems clear that the trio has an idea of where they wanted this to go, and they took it there. The drums on this really set the Deep Blue Organ Trio’s version apart from Soulive’s version – where Soulive used a backbeat, these drums gave the tune a whole different feel from either the original Stevie Wonder version of the tune or from Soulive’s organ trio version.
Moving in a bit of a different direction, Robert Glasper and Derrick Hodge did a duet version of “Golden Lady” for the 1 Mic, 1 Take series on YouTube in 2013. Hodge starts this off with a big, grooving bassline before Glasper’s floating chords come in. They play through the first verse and then move to the first chorus at about 1:15. They add some nice chord substitutions at a few points in this. After the first chorus, Hodge’s bass takes the melody for the second verse as Glasper comps behind him. After the second chorus (also led by Hodge’s bass on the melody), Glasper takes a fine piano solo based closely on the “Golden Lady” melody and then moves through the chorus again. This continues, with Glasper adding more and more ornamentation to the melody… very nice chords around 4:05 or so, followed by some right hand runs. At about 5:00, Glasper returns to the verse, with some thicker chords underneath, and then moves back into the chorus at 5:30 or so. At 6:00, Hodge is playing percussion on the body of his bass as Glasper continues this improvisation. It seems like they didn’t have an ending set for this performance, and instead improvise a beautiful end to the tune, with Glasper playing some ascending runs and Hodge returning to his bass. Great duet version of the tune.
Also in 2013, Brad Mehldau did a solo piano version of “Golden Lady” in San Francisco. He opens this version of the tune with some nice chords as his left hand plays a few runs underneath at first, and then he gradually moves toward the “Golden Lady” chords, putting together a great improvised introduction that is casually amazing – is there another pianist besides Mehldau who plays like this? At about 1:00, he moves into the verse with his right hand taking the melody and his left hand playing a busy bassline underneath. He plays through the verse and moves into the chorus at about 1:35 or so, playing big, full chords with a churning rhythm to them. For the second verse, his left hand again plays a fast bassline underneath the vocal line for the first half of the verse and then the second half of the verse gets a more floating feel that carries into the chorus. Starting at about 3:45, there are just no words for this… Mehldau does Mehldau and you’ve just got to listen. At about 4:30, he returns to the “Golden Lady” melody, but in a little bit of a darker place than the tune started. He continues the improvisation, hinting at the “Golden Lady” theme in a low register again starting around 5:30 and then passing the melody from a low register to an upper register over these choppy chords – beautiful stuff. When he returns to the “Take me right away” vocal line around 7:05, remind yourself to take a deep breath because you likely haven’t for the last few minutes. This version won’t be a definitive version of the Stevie Wonder tune, but it’s an incredible example of what can be done using “Golden Lady” as a springboard.
“Golden Lady” has served as a soul-jazz jam, an organ trio spotlight, and a vehicle for some fantastic acoustic piano improvisations. This tune has a great groove, plus an interesting melody and harmony. As the versions here attest, there is plenty of space to explore within this tune. Where will it go next? Keep listening.
Ben Gray is a listener with a lot of ideas about this music around in his head.
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Looking on the other side of the coin, as we announed earlier this week, drummer Mark Guiliana is releasing a pair of albums on September 2– the personal My Life Starts Now and the improvised Beat Music: The Los Angeles Improvisations, the latter of which features Tim Lefebvre on bass, Jeff Babko on keyboards, and Troy Zeigler on electronics all improvising together throughout a one-day session with no overdubs. Check out three songs from the album after the jump. They’ll all be available for download with a pre-order on iTunes (starting next Tuesday, August 19th along with My Life Starts Now) His other album, Beat Music: The Los Angeles Improvisations will also release the same day. Check out the title track to My Life Starts Now after the jump.
As freewheeling and funkily spare as the songs on My Life Starts Now, the same could be said and more with the songs on Beat Music: The Los Angeles Improvisations. It’s all the boom-bap without the thematic influences. It’s a fun listen that you should definitely think about copping when it drops in a few weeks.
Beat Music: The Los Angeles Improvisations is out September 2nd on Mark Guiliana’s newly-started Beat Music Productions.
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Solo piano is tough. It’s the purest expression of melodic voice one could probably make, stripped bare and made to support itself. The ones who master solo piano best can hold a crowd’s attention and pull sundry emotions from them over the course of a performance, and most importantly not make the whole ordeal feel like some staid concert recital. Jean-Michel Pilc has always been up to this task in every style of his play and is doing so all his own this coming November on an upcoming album on Sunnyside. To announce the album’s release, he just posted video performing Cole Porter’s classic “What Is This Thing Called Love?” (which is really a whole lot more than just that over the course of 16 minutes) at the Zante Jazz Festival in Greece this past May. Watch the dazzling video after the jump.
What is This Thing Called?, Pilc’s third solo piano release and first for Sunnyside Records, is out this November.
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Drummer Mark Guiliana just posted the title track to one of his two upcoming albums, My Life Starts Now. The song will be free with pre-order on iTunes which go down next Tuesday, August 19th. My Life Starts Now is out September 2nd on Guiliana’s newly-started Beat Music Productions. His other album, Beat Music: The Los Angeles Improvisations will also release the same day. Check out the title track to My Life Starts Now after the jump.
The 14-song album will thematically tackle Guiliana as he leaps into the next stage of his life– starting a family. It will feature Stu Brooks on electric bass, Yuki Hirano on keyboards, Michael Severson on guitar, and vocals from Jeff Taylor and Gretchen Parlato, along with spoken word from Me’Shell NdegéOcello. The track captures the herky-jerky tone one has come to love and expect from the talented percussionist and will likely point to the same kind of vibe throughout the album.
Beat Music: The Los Angeles Improvisations will feature Tim Lefebvre on electric bass, Jeff Babko on keyboards, and Troy Zeigler on electronics improvising together (naturally) from a studio session back in July 2013. It’s a lot to look forward to, thankfully, we have this song to give us a taste in the meantime.
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I stay bringing the new and indulging in some of my recent obsessions. I am all in on Steve Lehman’s Mise En Abîme now, by the way.
The Line-Up for 8 August 2014
Orrin Evans – A Lil Dab A Do Ya
Evans’ new album, Liberation Blues, is out tomorrow. Ben Gray had some kind words about it. Teebs – View Point Eric Harland’s Voyager – Raghavan
Came back around to playing this track from Vipassana, which is out tomorrow. Jerome Sabbagh – Banshee
I’ve had Jerome Sabbagh’s upcoming album, The Turn, for a few weeks now and I’m just now getting around to chewing it over. It doesn’t release for a few more months, but I wanted folks to hear this track that hit me suddenly. The Turn drops this September on Sunnyside. Dj Harrison – Giza Jochen Rueckert – We Make the Rules This release on Whirlwind also doesn’t release until October either but I wanted to put it out there. Marc Cary Focus Trio & Friends – Sound Portals
Friendly reminder that Cary put this one out there for free a few weeks ago and it should be in your rotation. DJ Harrison – Carnival 74 Steve Lehman Octet – Chimera/Luchini
I. Can’t. Let. This. Song. Go. It got mad scrobbles on my last.fm page last week. Mise En Abîme is my jam. Nir Felder – Sketch 2
And then whaaaaat, this track comes up again?! Felder’s (and featured here, Nate Smith) “Sketch 2″ is still my jam and I wanted a set of these songs together. I rather like Camp Lo’s “Luchini” both deconstructing and dropping on the 1 immediately running into Walter Mondale. Talyor McFerrin – Stepps J.J. Wright – JTC II
Closing on something just as high energy from J.J. Wright’s upcoming album, Inward Looking Outward, out August 19th.
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Saxophonist Johnny Butler has just released an interesting video for his new song, “Macaroni Dip”. The video from French filmmaker Heloïse Haddad has a lot of different layers and is leaps and bounds more than a video of some performance. The snappy tune also features Jackson Kincheloe (of Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds) on harmonica. Give this trippy video some play after the jump.
And if that piqued your interest, you should certainly check out Butler’s latest EP, Raise It Up at his Bandcamp page.
It’s another week and another excellent new album streaming at WBGO’s Radar. This time, they’ve got pianist Orrin Evans’ Liberation Blues, out on Smoke Sessions records (and recorded live at the Smoke Jazz Club). Evans has with him on the record Sean Jones on trumpet, JD Allen on sax, Luques Curtis on bass, and Bill Stewart on drums. Orrin Evans is a busy musician lately: he appeared on Sean Jones’ recently released im.pro.vise – never before seen album along with Luques Curtis, and just a few months ago released Mother’s Touch with the Captain Black Big Band that Evans leads from the piano (and that also features Luques Curtis’ bass).
The band here moves through an exciting set of straight ahead jazz, digging into a number of originals and several interesting covers. There are several tributes to bassist Dwayne Burno, including Burno’s “Devil Eyes” and “A Free Man”, composed by Donald Brown and featuring Evans on both piano and performing a spoken word piece. The trio version of “How High The Moon” on this album makes for an interesting comparison piece with the version that was included on Sean Jones’ im.pro.vise album.
Liberation Blues is out August 12 on Smoke Sessions Records. There will be a number of shows supporting the album as well:
8/8-8/9 Smoke Jazz Club
8/15-8/16 Bohemian Caverns
8/22-8/23 Chris’s Jazz Cafe
8/31 Detroit Jazz Festival
9/19-9/20 Smalls Jazz Club
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