Monday, September 1, 2008


I will be hosting "Trane Tracks" which is dedicated to John Coltrane's music. It will be on Sirius Radio, the Pure Jazz Channel #72 ( airing every Saturday in October at 8PM Eastern time with a replay on Wednesdays at 12 noon ET. Great music and my commentary.


In September, 1968 my group which included Mike Garson on piano,Lonnie Ruthstein on drums, Kameron Brown on bass and Randy Brecker on trumpet was selected by Jazz Interactions to play opposite the groups of Elvin Jones and Roland Kirk at New York;s Town Hall-talk about being nervous!!

THE ELDERS:I don’t often take part in the large European summer tour schedule, which is usually reserved for banner name groups and as a sign of the times, more and more pop music under the guise of jazz. There is a real kind of “battalion” mentality when you do these festivals, meeting your compatriots in a city, playing before or after them, to be followed by a meeting again across the continent a few days later; maybe breakfast and then adios. I remember doing my first tours with Elvin Jones as part of the then George Wein produced Newport Festival on the road, where six or seven groups would barnstorm across Europe and meet on occasion at a big, day long festival. On this recent jaunt with Saxophone Summit, we were able to hear Wayne Shorter two times, once with the group he has had for years along with the Imani Woodwind Quintet which was absolutely special. Then there was Ornette Coleman with two basses and drums. I am so glad to see Wayne and Ornette hold the same group together over years, which to my mind is essential to musical growth. Others change by the season, to their detriment in my opinion. One night in Copenhagen stands out, having seen Wayne and Ornette play, talking at night with Lee Konitz and meeting Phil Woods (my Pennsylvania neighbor) in the lobby that day-all into their late 70 ‘s and more, still hitting, still involved. It never ceases to amaze me.

Meanwhile our Saxophone Summit tour was fantastic with everyone playing better than ever. It is true that even at our stage of playing for decades, improvement is still apparent. One gig on our tour stands out because it was in Pamplona, Spain where they have the running of the bulls, which has been going on for centuries. Though we didn’t see the actual running (takes a few minutes at 8AM for a week or so), the crowds of people were amazing, all dressed in white with red scarfs. We played at 12:30 AM and had to leave the open air venue we played navigating the most people I have ever seen congregated, peacefully and happily. What a vibe!!

Pablo Picassos amazing Guernica painting in 3D; really makes you think about what he saw in his mind’s eye.

JOHNNY GRIFFIN:Definitely one of the fathers, the Little Giant played with such conviction, grace and strength, not to mention speed. He was one of the great contributors to the legacy.

JOE BECK AND HIRAM BULLOCK:Two very different guitarists, each forging his own individual voice.

MUSICANS TAKE NOTE: I have just found out about an organization which appears to function like the old Record Manufacturers Fund to which record companies contributed a certain amount of money that was allotted to artists in relation to the recordings they did in any one year. This organization seems to do the same for all the most recent forms of recordings released-internet, etc; the Alliance of Artists and Recording Companies. Just go on line to join and get the info.

TO WATCH:Nice clips from Sax Summit’s concert at Symphony Space last year commemorating Coltrane’s birthday, one playing “Expression” with Randy Brecker sitting in; the other doing my arrangement of “Cosmos.” (Paste into your browser)

GEORGE GRUNTZ AND ORCHESTRA:The legendary Swiss pianist and arranger George Gruntz invited me to play with a full orchestra in Germany for a few days joined by James Morrison, the serious Australian multi instrumentalist (saxes, trumpet, trombone, etc). It is indeed something special when you get in front of a large group like that which is really enjoying being part of a musical experience so different from what they normally do.

SAX MASTER CLASS::For my 21st year of the master class, I had the most participants ever ranging from ages16 to 60, coming from Argentina, Chile, Europe, Canada and all over the states. My guest was Steve Wilson who is a real gentleman and fine musician. He told a great story about his “initiation” into the NY jazz scene. He was asked by alotoist Dick Oatts to sub with the Mel Lewis Orchestra at the Vanguard on a Monday night in the mid 1980s for the second set. When he looked over the music during the break, he was thrown by all the mess, the double codas and penciled in stuff, the shaky music stands and the like. He described the second thoughts in his mind as to whether he would survive the night which he obviously did in great fashion. One observation stands out-how everyone who soloed played their butts off and he had never heard their names before-just the high standard of NY cats. The point is well made that NY is known for the high density per square bandstand inch of great players. Next year, my class will be on the “Chromatic Approach to Jazz Melody and Harmony.”

BARGA,ITALY:An unusual idea for a festival occurs in this beautiful old town near Florence, Italy which has been going on for over 20 years. They feature original compositions of an artist for arrangers to write big band charts. There is a competitive element with a jury to decide on the “best” chart (something I don’t agree with in principle), but some of the arrangements of a few of my older tunes from the 70’s were really great. The band, made up of musicians from the Toscana area was conducted by one of Italy’s most well known musicians Bruno Tommaso. This area of Italy is amazing with a feeling of community and a positive balance of living and working which appears very comfortable. The food-well, forget it!!

IN DELAWARE WATER GAP,PA-With Phil Woods, Bobby Avey (piano), Evan Gregor (bass), Bill Goodwin (drums) at the Deer Head Inn for a clinic.

SEPTEMBER:Jazz Gallery in New York with “Different But The Same” Group (Ellery Eskelin, Jim Black and Tony Marino); Dave Liebman Group at the COTA Festival, Delaware Water Gap, PA; duo performance with Polish pianist Mateusz Kolakowski at the Jazz Standard, New York; Deer Head Inn with pianist Dave Lantz, Delaware Water Gap, PA; solo performance at art show opening of Kathy Kyvinskas at the Dutot Museum, Delaware Water Gap, PA; performance with drummer Phil Haynes and organist Steve Adams at the Elk Creek Café, Milhiem, PA; Saxophone Summit at the Regatta Bar, Boston, MA; lecture with Joe Lovano and Ravi Coltrane for the Coltrane House Fund at the Huntington Library, Huntington, NY

OCTOBER:Miles in India Project at Davies Hall, San Francisco, CA; with Badal Roy and Michael Henderson at the Hartford Jazz Festival, Connecticut; solo performance at the Jazz Kongress, Freiburg, Germany; European tour with the Dave Liebman Group: Trondheim/Tromsø/ Molde/ Lillehammer-Norway; Nancy/Quimper, France: Köln, Germany; Vienna/Salzburg/Völkermarkt-Austria; Genoa, Italy; Cork, Ireland; performances and workshops with Mike Murley and Ian Froman in Toronto, Canada

Coltrane’s funeral in 1967-Albert Ayler on tenor; Richard Davis on bass