Monday, November 3, 2008


BARACK:Writing a tune for this historic event called "Enfin" which in French means FINALLY; vindication of the jazz fathers who put their lives on the line playing this music called jazz as way to express the outrage and humiliation felt by all African-Americans for the way they were treated by the white race in America. People do learn-things do change-"Alabama" was only forty five years ago!!

ITINERARY (please go to venue for exact dates and times)
NOVEMBER: Dave Liebman Group at the Falcon Arts Center-Marlboro, New York; 55 Bar-New York City; Deer Head Inn-Delaware Water Gap, PA; Blue Wisp-Cincinnati, OH;University of Indiana-Bloomington, IN; Washington University-St Louis, MO; Green Mill-Chicago, IL; Bloom School of Music-Chicago, IL; Firefly-Ann Arbor, MI; Manchester Crafts Guild-Pittsburgh, PA; East Erie Turners-Erie, PA; Albright-Knox Art Gallery-Buffalo, NY

DECEMBER: Performance of Sketches of Spain-Cite De Musique-Paris, France; Duo tour with pianist Marc Copland-Trier (GERMANY);Oslo (NORWAY);Firenze (ITALY);Bruneck (ITALY);Paris (FRANCE);Caen (FRANCE) ;Dudelange (LUXEMBURG); Frankfurt (GERMANY); Lausanne (SWITZERLAND);clinic in Uster (SWITZERLAND); NEAR Z√úRICH)

It has been awhile since I took my group to Europe and it was a record breaker in some ways. Fourteen straight one nighters which includes a solo concert on my night of arrival in Germany (most consecutive gigs ever for me without a break); most trains in one day (four); earliest clinic (Trondheim, Norway at 8AM) followed by another clinic a few thousand miles away in the afternoon and gig at night (Tromso); finally, the latest concert I have ever played beginning at nearly 1AM in Cork, Ireland followed by a departure at 4AM for New York. As it is said in a song: “(S)he works hard for a living!!” But of course playing every night is such a rarity and so good for you that it is worth it in the end. We are working on an Ornette Coleman recording and the music had a chance to come together over these two weeks.

Talking about Ornette, I chose nine tunes out of nearly one hundred I had to pick from. I have no idea how many tunes Ornette has written but it must be in the several hundreds. His tunes have a kind of uniformity that you see in Monk for example-every tune is a version of the same thing but with countless variations. And of course, lyricism is the most outstanding element. My choices seem to come down to a lot of the earlier works, even a few with chord changes like “The Blessing.” As usual I have added harmony in some cases and abstracted some of the heads. The other guys in the band each contributed an arrangement as well (Juris, Marino and Marcinko). We will record in January for a label as yet unknown, but most improtant the effect on my playing is already evident. Ornette is Mr. Triad and thinking in thirds, both major and minor is a very particular way to play. I am enjoying the project very much. Besides the European tour, as you see in the itinerary below we have ample opportunity to work the music out even further.

Photo by Umberto Germinale

By coincidence in the past few weeks I visited the homes of both John Coltrane (Long Island, New York) and Mozart (Salzburg, Austria). The Coltrane grave with both John and Alice is situated in a beautiful cemetery right in the middle of Long Island, a peaceful and serene site with at this point just a grave stone. The house where Trane lived his past few years is in pretty bad physical shape and needs a lot of work but here is a committee of well meaning folks trying to get it together. It was dramatic I must say to see the room where he wrote the music for “Love Supreme.” As well it was gratifying to know that his last years were spent in a beautiful setting with his kids able to run around and enjoy life. That day, Ravi Coltrane and I did a lecture at the local library for the public to raise their awareness of who lived in their midst.

Mozart’s home is a bit of a tourist trap but one thing that stuck me was the map of all his travels and the fact that one third of his short life was spent on the road. Think about travelling in the 18th century-horse drawn carriages trespassing around in the mud; no heat or light or toilets; freezing weather, incredible conditions to live under and yet write the most incredible music up to that time. Like Bach, he didn’t get along to well with the folks from his city of residence. Can you imagine what it was like to be a musical genius in a society like 18th century Austria?

I like to describe to students about the unspoken hierarchy at work in the jazz world. When someone is “senior,” meaning he is ahead in years and experience you give it up to him. Recently surfaced is a letter that Sonny Rollins wrote to his idol, Coleman Hawkins. It is the epitome of what the word respect means-it is humble-it is poetic-above all it is heartfelt. This is what I wrote to Sonny:

Newk-Your letter to Hawk not only reflects upon your humility and respect for your "father" but as you make clear, it places the qualities of what it is to be human front and center, even above the music. I have always felt that we are chosen (and privileged beyond our wildest dreams) to be messengers of humanity, mostly through the art, but more important as "human" examples of the search for truth, beauty, spiritual meaning, etc. Being clear about these matters is something I have always noticed in your demeanor through interviews and even today, reading your heartfelt responses to the guestbook entries on your site. We all love you Newk and wish you continued health. I hope to see you soon again in person (Carnegie Hall was too crowded) and maybe get a chance to play with you.
Here is the link to Sonny’s letter to Hawk:

You have to have grown up in New York to relate to the recent demise of Yankee Stadium. Sports unites people, especially in a city environment. The Yankees, Brooklyn Dodgers and NY Giants were three teams in my childhood who all played baseball in New York. When the Giants and Dodgers left for the West Coast it was a gigantic blow to the city with the Yanks staying on. “The House That Ruth Built” is now a thing of the past like the roller coaster, Nathan’s hot dog and more. Time marches on and we get older, but what a great memory. Mickey Mantle was my first idol at eight years old, right before Elvis!

At the Manhattan School of Music where I teach they have a long distance learning center linked up with a facility in Ottawa, Canada. This is the second time I did a session where I listen to a combo play and make comments. It’s really a special situation that of course is not the same as being there in person, but suffices as a way to have contact with folks you might not otherwise meet. Wave of the future? The link is: (put into your browser)

Well, I guess I have arrived. My “Developing A Personal Saxophone Sound” is now translated into Chinese. It is already in German, Japanese, Czech and unauthorized in Italian and French. I am officially an American export!!

Bassist Tony Marino has been with me since 1991 in my group and accompanying me on more records than anyone else (save Richie Beirach). Tony is a phenomenon to all that know him. Self taught, coming from an area of Pennsylvania where jazz is non existent, a family man with three kids, Tony fits the description they used to describe James Brown: “The hardest working man in show business.” Anyone who hears Tony shakes their head and says to me: “ Where has he been-where does he come from, etc?” Given another set of circumstances Tony would’ve been a jazz superstar. Meanwhile those of us in the Pocono Mountains have the privilege of playing and knowing this selfless, gracious man and killing musician. I have never heard Tony raise his voice or get angry.

We have a festival founded by Phil Woods that has been going on for over thirty years in my area, the COTA Festival in Delaware Water Gap on the weekend after Labor Day. I usually play there with the group; my daughter takes part in a Jazz Mass; Bob Dorough, Urbie Green, Phil Woods and others are regular participants-it’s a real local hang. Tony’s two days this last September may be a bit less than typical, but not by much. It isn’t just the logistics of what he does, it is the stylistic changes that he endures in the course of a day. At COTA he played with the JARO Big band (repertoire), the Dave Liebman Group, the Jazz Mass ( been doing that since the beginning of the festival), a group lead by drummer Tom Whaley and as well played with me at the Jazz Gallery in New York with Ellery Eskelin and Jim Black (“Different But The Same”) on both nights. To top it off he had a club date on the Sunday at the new casino in our area, Mt. Airy Lodge. This guy goes beyond the call of duty and always does the job-a phenomenon.

While I am pointing out special individuals I hope that you are familiar with drummer Jim Black who is an absolute one of a kind artist and musician. I have never seen such intense creativity on a night to night basis. He is always a pleasure to play with and represents to me the prototype “new” drummer coming out of rock, world and jazz, all integrated with a unique sound and touch on his instrument.

Miles in India: Producer emeritus Bob Belden put together a record last year with a long list of ex Miles alumni combining with a slew of Indian musicians transforming tunes like “Silent Way” and “All Blues” into Indian flavored pieces. We did a big concert at Davies Hall in San Francisco with Ndugu Leon Chancellor, Robert Irving, Vince Wilburn, Badal Roy, Pete Cosey, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Steve Thornton and a bunch of Indian musicians with of course Wallace Roney doing the Miles thing. I must say it was pretty nice-loose and colorful and very audience friendly. There wasn’t much for me to do but I enjoyed hearing the Indian cats go at it.

Badal Roy and Michael Henderson-It must be Miles Davis season because the next week I did a gig with my old friend tablaist Badal Roy from John McLaughlin days("My Goals Beyond"), Miles' group ("On The Corner") and my first group "Lookout Farm," along with the bassist who was in the band with me when I was with Miles, Michael Henderson. With Kenny Wessel on guitar and Steve Gorn on bansuri flute we had a nice gig at the Hartford Jazz Festival. As I write there are at least three movies in the works about Miles. They can’t let him go-nor should they!

Canadian Group-One of my oldest and best students is saxophonist Mike Murley who lives in Toronto.We have kept our relationship going over twenty five years since teaching at the Banff Institute in western Canada in the ‘80s. Along with drummer Ian Froman who is a great Elvin-inspired player and bassist Pat Collins (subbing for Jim Vivian) we have done some gigs over the years and released a live record (“Day and Nite”). We had a nice weekend in Toronto doing some concerts and workshops playing some burning straight ahead jazz.

Duo with Mateusz Kolakowski-A few years ago a young Polish pianist began communicating with me and sending recordings. I finally got a chance to play in duo with him at the Jazz Standard. He is definitely one of those phenoms you hear about from Eastern Europe-full of technique and ideas, but what was most gratifying to me was that he was quite aware of my harmonic language as if we had been playing together for awhile. I look forward to making more music with Matueusz, who is now about 21 years old.