Sunday, June 29, 2008


Blast from the past with Chick Corea 1978

SAXOPHONE SUMMIT: With the release of our second Telarc recording “Seraphic Light” I feel a combination of both sadness and joy. The passing of Mike Brecker who with Joe and myself formed the group ten years ago is still something that I find hard to accept. As I wrote when he passed, more than his incredible musicianship and the thrill of hearing him on a nightly basis with Sax Summit, there are the great memories of our thirty five plus year friendship beginning in my New York loft on West 19th Street, which Mike subsequently lived in for years after I moved on. On the other hand, having Ravi Coltrane (whose mother Alice passed the same day as Michael) in the group lifts my spirit for several reasons. Ravi is a wonderful musician, advancing in leaps and bounds with a very different and contrasting style from Joe and myself. His legacy represents the underlying premise of Saxophone Summit, which is heavily influenced by the music of the late Coltrane period. Most important, Ravi’s very humble, easygoing and sincere personality fits the group like a glove.

Those of you who know me realize that keeping the same rhythm section together is an important part of my philosophy. The likes of Phil Markowitz, Cecil McBee and Billy Hart confirm a true sense of continuity and flow. With Ravi who is in his early forties, we now have a group that spans thirty years and a big part of jazz history. As I talk about in the liner notes, this new recording is really two in one. Each member of the group contributed an original composition, all of which are different, comparatively accessible and not too extended. This is balanced by my arrangements of the late Trane pieces: “Expression” “Cosmos” and “Seraphic Light.” We invited brother Randy Brecker to join us and contributed a lively tribute “Message to Mike” based on a line his brother often played. I am very proud of this recording and hope a lot of folks will listen to it. Video wizard Bret Primack was with us in the studio and did a short piece on each of the members of the group: (paste in browser as with all links provided here)

BRET: I have been working with Bret for fifteen years, first with my mailed “Intervals” newsletter, while in recent times he has been very active filming and interviewing Saxophone Summit. In his field, there is no one better for videography, interviews, etc; basically anything to do with new forms of media. Artists who would like to get something new and different happening should go to this site for Bret’s proposals for promotion:
Here’s Bret’s description: “A Jazz EPK is a 3-5 minute video used to promote a recording featuring audio excerpts, photos, and info about the artist, music and personnel, which is posted on the web to market the music and reach the largest possible audience. Jazz EPK was created by Bret Primack, aka, the Jazz Video Guy, to help artists utilize new media to promote their music. "YouTube is now 60% of all Internet traffic," Bret explains. "There are one hundred million people every day looking for compelling content on YouTube alone so online video has quickly become one of the best venues to engage an audience. This new medium allows an artist to communicate a message on multiple levels - via visual imagery, the spoken word, music and visual text. With online video artists and labels can reach a huge potential audience for a minimal investment."


THE RISE OF THE REST: I read a very interesting article in the May 12 issue of Newsweek by Fareed Zakaria. As someone interested in history and familiar with the ebb and flow of historic cycles, it is pretty clear that the 20th century was the American one, as the British had it before, and the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, etc., all had their day in the sun. The import of this article is that the 21st century is poised to be the Asian century with China and India leading the way. This article, besides pointing outlining how America is being bested in some areas, the truth is that it doesn’t have to be this way if only America would wake up and be truly a world power, meaning opening lines of communication and reaching out in this completely interconnected world we inhabit. Let’s hope that things will change here in the States from such a parochial vision to a larger, more open world view.

RHYTHM IS THE THING: I went to a recital of vocalists which my daughter Lydia took part in our area. The material was classical or semi classical, all with piano accompaniment. Listening to these sometimes lovely voices, the main observation was that on the whole, the weakest point is rhythm-the ability for these teenagers to keep the beat and especially not rush. Also there is the question of concentration; in this case meaning keeping the intensity up after the first minute or so. In general, it could be easily generalized that teenagers for the most part may indeed have concentration problems, but this is different because it is music and not academic material per se. It is really a matter of experience and training. I am convinced that early musical education should emphasize rhythm practice for all students. Keeping a steady beat is evidently not necessarily part of the genetic code.

THE GREYING AUDIENCE: There is a disturbing trend in jazz audiences that appears to me to be increasing, which is the average age of the audience. This is true both in Europe and the States and of course does not take into account playing at colleges, etc., where the younger demographic is a given. It is mainly at festivals that I increasing see an older audience. When you look at the films of concerts in the 60’s for example, at least European, you definitely see younger people. As in most things, education is the key.


LENNIE TRISTANO: I studied with Lennie in the 60’s for about a year, something I was definitely not ready for at the time. But there were no other “jazz” teachers and it was good luck that I got with him, because it made me see that this music was something which could be studied to some extent. Tristano’s place in jazz is very important and controversial. The recording “Intuition” from 1949 is truly revolutionary and his two main “students,” Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh says a lot about Tristano’s teaching and influence. For me the main point is that all three of these guys had something DIFFERENT to say in spite of the gigantic shadow cast by Bird, Dizzy and Bud at that point in history. “Bad Plus” pianist Ethan Iverson writes some interesting things about Lennie’s perceived attitude towards the rhythm section and its wider implications. Also there are some notable sound clips as part of this article:

YOU TUBE: Juggler-unbelievable:

MOVIE: “The Bucket List”-Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman play two guys with terminal illness who set out to do things they always wanted to do, hence the title (“when you kick the bucket, etc….”). They visit the Taj Mahal, Mt, Everest etc. Yes-a sentimental movie and maybe only for those 60 and up, but I found it very compelling and emotional. In one way, isn’t life just a big preparation for death?

MASTERS AT THE BEGINNING: Recently I have heard Bird in 1940 with Jay McShann, Trane on alto (sounding a lot like Bird) in 1946 (“First Giant Steps”) and Lester Young from the new Mosaic box set with Count Basie. It is so interesting to hear these guys at their formative stages, when whatever they heard just flowed without thought or design. Of course, the polish of the future is not present but the freshness and the timeliness (considering what else was happening musically at these periods) is astounding. Singularity and conviction are traits that are present from the beginning, whether or not the craft is polished.


IASJ MEETING IN RIGA, LATVIA: Because of my commitments to Saxophone Summit I could not attend the 18th Jazz Meeting of the organization I founded, the International Association of Schools of Jazz. This is the second of our meetings to take place in what may be considered the new West. The meeting was opened by the President of Latvia. In many of the Eastern European countries, jazz is truly considered something special. Next year we will be meeting in Lucerne, Switzerland. Here is the most recent list of countries represented in the IASJ, noting that in some cases there may be several schools represented: Austria, France, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Israel, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, USA, Portugal, Spain, Japan, Argentina, Brazil, Estonia, Great Britain, Greece, Latvia, Norway, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Australia, Canada.

GIGS: In May I had a great gig with John Abercrombie joining the World View Trio (Wolfgang Reisinger on drums and Jean Paul Celea on bass) at the Le Mans Festival in France. John is amazing-he can play anything and make it great. In Rome and Milan I played with one of the venerable masters of Italian jazz, pianist/arranger Enrico Intra. We immediately hit it off playing some very lyrical free music. Trumpeter Tim Hagans is not only a master improviser (sitting in with Quest and Sax Summit at Birdland this year) but a killing arranger and leader of a big band in the north of Sweden for the past 12 years, Norbotten Big Band. He and a few of the members took some of my originals and did a beautiful job on them along with several performances. At the Friends of Central Pennsylvania Jazz Festival, I did a set with singer Kevin Mahogany playing some of the Coltrane/ Hartmann material along with Phil Markowitz on piano, Charles Fambrough on bass and Yuron Israel on drums. Kevin is a real baritone, actually reminiscent of Hartmann and Billy Eckstine with impeccable pitch, swinging time and no theatrics. He is a joy to work with. The Dave Liebman Group (Marino, Juris and Marcinko) had some nice festival work in Telluride, Colorado (talk about lack of air at 8000 plus feet!-opposite Dr. John and the Neville Brothers-strange programming to say the least); the Rochester and Edmonton, Canada festivals.

With Enrico Intra


JULY: Sax Summit European tour; performance with George Gruntz in Villengen, Switzerland; workshop at the Litchfield Jazz Festival, Conneticut; Deer Head Inn in Delaware Water Gap, PA with Gene Perla, Vic Juris and Mike Stephans.

AUGUST: Twenty first Saxophone Master Class at East Stroudsburg University, Pennsylvania (22 participants from ten countries attending) with guest Steve Wilson; with Ric Margitza, Jean Jacques Quesada, Pierre Bethmann, Peter Giron in Bordeaux, France; concerts in Poland with Jacek Kochan; Barga Festival in Italy doing Liebman compositions in Big Band setting.

Sign of the times-demolishing Sony Studios-NYC

Discarding orignal trunks holding equipment for first "Lookout Farm" European tour-1974