THE ROAD CALLS: My schedule for May through the beginning of August has been so intense that with only a few days at home, this will be an abridged newsletter.
FRANKFURT BIG BAND WITH RICHIE BEIRACH AND JIM MCNEELY: The radio big band tradition is something that only exists in Europe and for the most part was begun after World War II when state run media was the norm. Though many of the bands usually situated in larger cities have disbanded, in Germany there are a few still active-Cologne, Hamburg and Frankfurt are the most known. (There is also a parallel symphony orchestra tradition in these places.) The German tradition of art for art’s sake is historical and no less true for jazz. They have a very high respect for the music which is shown in the way productions proceed. The equipment, personal treatment and general care musicians receive is legendary. Most of all, there is good pay and an inordinate amount of time spent rehearsing and recording. Basically, the goal is to have either a live radio performance or studio version for future presentations. Usually the music will be heard several times over the next years and on occasion finds its way to public release. The radio band tradition has enabled hundreds of musicians to make a living (band members are paid very well for a steady job with benefits and legal rights) and have a forum for their writing and performing careers. The archives of these long standing bands is full of music made by everyone of note who has played jazz and is always regarded as a great opportunity when one is hired.
Over the years I have done several projects with various arrangers, but most of all with Jim McNeely. He has written a lot of music for me, most notably his arrangement of “Sing, Sing,Sing” for which my big band’s performance gathered a Grammy nomination a few years ago. Coming out of the Thad Jones-Bob Brookmeyer Vanguard Orchestra tradition, Jim is one of the best in the business and has been able over the years to be regularly hired by the major radio bands in Europe. In this case with the Frankfurt HR Band the project was to include my oldest compatriot, Richie Beirach, on piano featuring original music by both of us and one by Jim. Just as legend goes in the case of Duke Ellington, writing with a particular musician mind is something highly valued by arrangers. In this case, Jim has recorded with me on several CDs and as a young musician coming to the “Apple” in the ‘70s from Chicago, got to hear the first group I had with Richie, “Lookout Farm” as well as with Bob Moses in the “Open Sky Trio.” With all of this history, Jim is the perfect writer to be able to take the rather singular approach to harmony that Richie and myself have explored. The arrangements he did were completely on the money and as a whole program truly portrayed a vision and unique sound, especially in the well worn and traditional big band format. I encourage the use of a lot of doubles for the saxophones (all kinds of flutes and clarinets) and Jim really challenged this amazing band in Frankfurt which they accomplished at the highest level. We are hoping for a release in the future. Overall this was one of the best musical experiences I have had. To hear one’s tunes orchestrated at such a high level is a real experience.
Richie and Jim
MILES OF MILES: During the latter part of May, around the time of Miles Davis’ birthday I did two separate gigs celebrating the Prince of Darkness. At Merkin Hall with several musicians I was not familiar with alongside Karl Berger on piano, Badal Roy on tablas and Kenny Wessel on guitar, we did several pieces from “On The Corner.” Incredibly we played the first tune on the record just called “On The Corner” which brings up a story I have told often concerning being called to the studio and walking in towards the end of the session, seeing all these musicians of note (McLaughlin, Corea, Hancock, DeJonette, etc.) standing around silently while Miles Davis was mumbling something. He pointed to the microphone for me to play and without headphones I could not make out the key of the vamp because everyone was plugged in. In any case the solo that opens the original recording is recorded forever, so this was a nice memory. Later in the week at the Iridium club along with bassist Victor Bailey, drummer Leon “Endugo” Chancellor, trumpeter Tim Hagans, altoist Rudresh Mahanthappa, keyboardist John Beasley, Miles’ nephew on drums, Vince Wilburn and several Indian musicians including Badal Roy, we performed music from the release “Miles In India” which a few years ago received a lot of attention. Putting some of Miles’ tunes in this “exotic” context is interesting and hearing Tim Hagans is always a pleasure. He goes right for the chromatic notes from the first beat. Whenever you play any of Miles’ music, it’s amazing because you see the absolute breadth of what he did across four decades.
MISCELLANEOUS GIGS: Playing with French (actually Portuguese-Algerian born) pianist Jean Marie Machado for several gigs is always nice because he is such a fine composer and serious artist. Quartet with guitarist Phil Robson and Jeff Williams on drums (original drummer with my first band with Richie Beirach ”Lookout Farm”) at the Cheltenham Festival in England was burning as was one trio performance with my Dutch mates Eric Ineke on drums and Marius Beets on bass for the Wings Festival in Groningen, Netherlands. We have a recording coming out playing the music of Kurt Weill, following up on our “Lieb Plays Alec Wilder” of a few years ago (Daybreak Records).
CLARK TERRY:One of the hippest musicians who ever played, Clark Terry, who will be 89 in December just beat a problem with one of his fingers and in this video is playing for the doctors and staff: http://tv.jazzcorner.com/view_video.php?viewkey=10e55a13bb9d78e7fddd
REMEMBERING ERIC DOLPHY: Often overlooked, probably the greatest “doublers” adn improvisers who ever played the reed instruments is remembered by his parents: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R5Tk5D6qWCY
THE FROG-Someone to Watch Over Me: The Life and Music of Ben Webster by Frank Buchmann-Moller: I must admit that I haven’t listened that much to Ben, but when I have of course I, like everybody falls in love with him. His graceful and elegant approach to ballads, the forceful blues playing and most of his complete control of tone and nuance. The book is way over the top with comments about every track he recorded and every gig, but it does give insight into what the early jazz guys lived like on a daily level, both musically and personally. One thing is for sure—they played all the time!
PHILLIP ROTH-PATRIMONY: Once again Roth gets it absolutely right. This chronicle of the slow death of his father is riveting and I would say a must for all of us losing our parents.
JARMO SAVOLINEN: A warm person and great pianist from Finland, Jarmo’s passing is particularly sad for the long term members of the International Association of Schools of Jazz where his presence graced many of our meeting throughout the years. Our condolences from the IASJ go out to his family. We will observe a moment of silence at the 19th Meeting in Lucerne at the end of June.
CHARLIE MARIANO: The real deal, a guy who could play anything and was a beautiful sprit as well. He lived long and well and will be remembered by fans and musicians alike.
JULY:19th Annual Jazz Meeting of the IASJ in Lucerne, Switzerland; tour with “We Three” (Adam Nussbaum and Steve Swallow) in Europe-Fribourg, Switzerland, Merano, Italy, Copenhagen, Porquerolles(Marseilles), France; performance with saxophonist Romano Pratesi in Rome (with Adam Nussbaum) and Florence (Daniel Humair).
AUGUST: Chromatic Harmony Master Class, East Stoudsburg, University, Pennsylvania; clinic and performance at workshop with pianist Armen Donelian and saxophonist Marc Mommaas in Hudson, NY.
On a sailboat in the Rhine River