NEA MASTERS OF JAZZ AWARD 2011
Well, I got the big one, the highest award in jazz that America offers. I am of course quite honored to be from what I can gather the youngest single recipient yet and as it appears as well the first from my generation. Realizing that I have not been too visible on the American scene in the past decades my gut feeling is the education aspect….the books, articles, etc., had a lot to do with receiving the award. I have always contended that the “pen is mightier than the sword.” In any case, I want to first of all thank all the listeners, students and general public who have supported my music over the years. Without the audience, there is no reason to make music. Last year in France when I received the Order of Arts and Letters, I publicly thanked some of the French people who were instrumental in supporting my career there and I would like to do the same for this award.
-To my wife Caris, daughter Lydia and in-laws Harold and Natalie Visentin for all their patience and forbearance with my schedule and obsessive work habits.
-To my mentors and teachers past and present: Luba Galprin, Nat Shapiro, Joe Allard, Charles Lloyd, Lennie Tristano, Dave Baker, Jerry Coker, Dan Haerle, Art Murphy, Chick Corea, Pete LaRoca, Elvin Jones, Miles Davis, painter Eugene Gregan and Beverly
-To Mike Cherigo who has stood by me all these years booking gigs wherever he could find them through thick and thin.
-To Gunnar Mossblad who currently leads my big band and has collaborated with me on books, DVDs, recordings and the like for several decades.
-To Jamey Aebersold who has published my books and been so supportive in that respect.
-To Pat and Mary Dorian who live in my area and have been instrumental in helping me operate my annual Saxophone/Chromatic Master Class for the past 23 years held each summer at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania.
-To Veronika and the late Hans Gruber for their support as publishers of my books and music with Advance Music in Germany.
-To Justin DiCioccio, my boss at the Manhattan School of Music with whom I have collaborated on so many big projects along with his support for me as Artist in Residence at MSM.
-To Walter Turkenburg who has helped me realize a dream in founding and leading the International Association of Schools of Jazz (IASJ) for the past 20 years.
-To personal friends and musical associates Ernst and Trudie Bucher, Jean Jacques Quesada, Jean Jacques Pussiau, Kurt Renker, Bret Primack, Richard Stein, Jed Luchow, Steve Lipman, Leon Segal, Arthur Barron, Jonathan Rome, Les Silver, Tom Alexander, Saudades, Ralph Gluch, Marine Palme, Whit Sidener, Walter Quintus, Kent and Lois Heckman, Manfred Eicher, Harry and Kathy Zerler for their continual support of my life’s work.
-To those former students who have helped me directly with projects (Matt Vashlishan, Evan Gregor, Bobby Avey) and to all my students worldwide whom over the decades have inspired me to continue the research.
Finally, to Mom and Dad, Frances and Leo Liebman, gone, but who always encouraged me to get past the polio and forge ahead.
-Most important are all the musicians worldwide with whom I have traveled, hung with and of course played great music in all kinds of situations; specifically to those whom I have worked with and learned so much on and off the bandstand over the decades: Vic Juris, Tony Marino, Phil Markowitz, Ron McClure, Billy Hart, Richie Beirach, Marc Copland, Dave Holland, Lenny White, Steve Grossman, Jamey Haddad, Marko Marcinko, Adam Nussbaum, Jeff Williams, Frank Tusa, Al Foster, John Abercrombie, George Mraz, Bob Moses, Eddie Gomez, Jim McNeely, Mike Stephans, Joe Lovano, Michael and Randy Brecker, Ravi Coltrane, Wolfgang Reisinger, Jean Paul Celea, Daniel Humair, Ed Sarath, Cecil McBee, Ravi Coltrane, Badal Roy, Ronan and Conor Guilfoyle, Michel Portal, Joachim Kuhn, Mike Nielsen, Bobo Stenson, Phil Woods, Mike Zilber, Rufus Reid, Jean Charles Richard,Jean Francois Jenny-Clarke,Maurizio Giammarco, Paolino Dallaporta, Micu Narunsky, Jack DeJonette, Tony Arco, Roberto Tarenzi, Eric Ineke, Paolo Benedittini, Marius Beets, Marc Van Roon, Tony Bianco, Ellery Eskelin, George Cables, Mike Garson, Jim Black, Lars Danielsson, Bill Dobbins.
This is the official statement upon receiving the award which I assume will be in the announcements, etc:
“It is an honor to be recognized by the country where jazz was born and raised. Most of all, it is gratifying to join such a select and prestigious group of past Jazz Masters recipients. Among this group are many artists who have in one way or the other provided the knowledge and wisdom that inspired me and those of my generation to become the best we could. I thank my family, the musicians with whom I have played and others who have supported me through the years. Like the music, getting this award is truly a group effort.”
THANK YOU ALL--IT IS A GREAT HONOR!
FEATURE ARTICLE: THE END OF FAST TEMPOS?
From Ronan Guilfoyle’s blog, he laments that the younger generation has seemed to give up on playing fast tempos.Very interesting as Ronan’s insights always are:
“I think it’s a shame to see this tradition die out in jazz for several reasons, the main one being that a whole part of the tempo range is being ignored and forgotten. For my money I get very tired of the narrow tempo range within which musicians often operate these days - tune after tune at nearly the same tempo or pretty close. And I think it’s a mistake to think that just changing the atmosphere or feel of pieces are by themselves a guarantor of variety in the listener’s ear. Of course musicians are often guilty of thinking that regular audience members hear the kind of detail they, (the musicians) do - believing that the audience will be wowed by a 7/4 meter, or a reharmonisation of a standard chord progression. Audiences rarely recognise these kinds of subtleties, but one thing they do notice are tempos – slow-fast-medium – these are things that are real to non-musicians, in the same way that loud and quiet are, and musicians need to be aware of what creates the most impact on an audience when setting out to create the architecture of a piece of music or of a set.
Another reason to play fast tempos is because it feels different! There’s a feeling you get when playing a really fast piece – a sense of onrushing excitement, like driving a fast car – that you can’t get from any other tempo. It’s very demanding, (perhaps another reason many people shy away from it), and to negotiate a piece at a very fast tempo you need to be almost thinking in slow motion while physically playing very fast – you need to perceive the space between the beats despite the fact that they are flying past. You need to be very physically and mentally relaxed to play fast and you need to combine that with stamina. (Lack of stamina may be another reason for the lack of prevalence of fast tempos too – in earlier times with the plethora of gigs that musicians played it was easier to build up your physical stamina than it is in the current scene with its shorter tours and more sporadic gigs). Playing fast is often derided as being shallow and mere display – and of course it can be. But it can also be very creative and at its best can create a sense of exhilaration that you can’t get playing at any other tempo.
As an experiment, take any 10 albums you’ve bought that have been recorded in the past 10 years, and see how many genuinely fast tunes there are on it – allowing 280 BPM as being the very lower limit of what can be considered ‘fast’. If you manage to find more than 5 pieces on those ten albums then you’re definitely listening to different music than I am – and if you do find those pieces, please let me know.
Yeah-fast--sure it takes virtuosity and all that but I must say most cats (including myself) do not play their highest quality ideas at a fast tempo-only a few in history have been great at it-Clifford, Sonny, Wayne, Herbie, Chick (in the old days) and others mostly from the real jazz generations of the ’40 through ‘60s. My concern is SLOW--where every note counts and for once you finally hear the passion (or lack of it) from the individual, every nuance, every gesture-no volume and no virtuosity to cover your ass. Naked lunch brothers!! Oh....and maybe a melody that is unquestionably lyrical...just once or twice would be nice. (Now I sound like Lee Konitz!!)
ANOTHER AWARD (when it rains, it pours)-GERMAN JAZZ CRITICS
Talk about a hard audience to please, my group’s recording Turnaround: The Music of Ornette Coleman won the prize for Best Recording of the Year from the German critics and journalists. That’s nice for this band which has been with me for nearly twenty years and not received much recognition, though the critics do like us. It is a moot point now in our period of disappearing record companies but of course it still comes down to promotion and a small organization run by one or two folks just cannot get the music out there enough to be notably recognized by the general listening public. I have recorded for more small companies than most musicians, which is in one way an advantage for getting so much music that I am interested in documented, but on the other hand until you get a big gun behind you, there’s not much chance the public will know the recordings. Somehow this CD leaked through.
YOU TUBE VIEWS:Bret Primack aka teh "Jazz Video Guy" who started me on this newsletter idea in 1993 runs a great site Planet Bret. He has the largest Jazz channel on YouTube, where my videos appear along with many other artists: http://www.youtube.com/jazzvideoguy
One called “Trane Lives” (playing “My Favorite Things”) with Joey Calderazzo, Dave Holland and Jack DeJonette has been viewed nearly 200, 000 times; another titled ”Saxophone Warrior” has around 430,000 views. That is unbelievable…the power of the internet is awesome. Think about it….if I got one cent and Trane got one cent per view---well, you get the point.
NEW RELEASE: FIVE ON ONE (Pirouet Records) featuring CONTACT with Marc Copland (piano). John Abercrombie (guitar), Billy Hart (drums), Drew Gress (bass)
I guess this is a kind of “all star” recording because of the personalities involved with their long history both in tandem and individually. It is a pleasure to play with such great musicians and this record, though pretty low keyed in general as far as energy is concerned (and not recorded as good as I would’ve liked) does offer beautiful original compositions from everyone and of course stellar improvising. This is a good one for the general jazz listener.
PASSINGS:MASTER HANK JONES: There’s not much to add to the well known story of the oldest of the Jones Brothers (nine total including Elvin and Thad). Hank was a master beyond time or category…an heir to the Teddy Wilson tradition with a touch and harmonic conception as sophisticated as it gets. He was also the kind of guy who on his day off would be dressed in suit and tie in his hotel room(according to Joe Lovano). My experience with Hank was when he joined Elvin’s group for a week-long gig at the Village Vanguard in the early ‘70s. I was of course intimidated when he queried me on the voicings that I wrote for at one of my tunes, “Brite Piece” which happened to be my big “discovery” of parallel fourth voicings. I can just imagine how naïve I must’ve seemed to such a master. But he was very interested and wanted to get it right. I enjoyed Maestro Jones very much and as all of us feel, I have the greatest respect for his contribution to the jazz legacy.
MASTER EDGAR BATEMAN: Not very well known except for some recordings with Walt Dickerson, Herbie Hancock and Eric Dolphy, this underground Philadelphia legend was admired by those who knew him for his ambidextrous, four-limbed independence and serious attitude towards the music. Later in life, he even earned a degree in composition and music education. Edgar was a fixture on the Philadelphia scene. The funeral held at a Pentacostal church in the Germantown area of Philly was attended by local folks and some great players (Julian Pressman, Bobby Zankel) who of course played one of Edgar’s compositions. Philly isn’t called the city of Brotherly Love for nothing. I have always felt a warm and spiritual feeling from the jazz community there and it was a pleasure to be with them at this passing on service. The minister was incredible starting slow and building to a fever pitch celebrating Edgar’s rebirth. I knew Edgar because he was a major inspiration and influence for one of my first jazz guides, drummer Bob Moses who adored him and will soon release some recent video of them playing together in the past few years. I was working at the Village Vanguard with my first group, Lookout Farm in 1975 when Edgar sat in on “All Blues” and blew us away with four different things happening at the same time, complete independence. Edgar was an unsung hero, dedicated to the art form and the power of the music. Check this recent drum solo out:
THE FADING WORLD OF JAZZ CRITICISM
Like so many things in our world good jazz criticism is disappearing with the passings of some of the most astute writers about the music. In the last newsletter I spoke about Gene Lees whose Jazzletter was a phenomenal source of insights and knowledge, not only about music. Most recently Mike Zwerin passed on. He was originally a trombonist involved with the “Birth of the Cool” recording in 1949, but for the past decades he served as the jazz writer for the International Herald Tribune in Paris. Mike knew his stuff and was very supportive of the musicians, always giving us a plug in spite of the obvious commercial pressures that are part and parcel of any commercial organization like the Tribune. These guys will be missed and unfortunately I don’t see anybody standing on line to replace them.
RECOMMENDED: LOUIS ARMSTRONG BIO "POPS" by TERRY TEACHOUT
What a story. It goes beyond his incredible gifts and innovative powers, which are of course well documented beginning with the Hot Five, Hot Seven and his re-births through “Hello Dolly” and “What A Wonderful World.” As a black man who was a public personality in America for a good part of the 20th century, Louis Armstrong broke down a lot of racial doors in Hollywood, on TV, on tour and in the record business. Teachout did his homework and presents the picture of a man who was among the most important figures of the 20th century.
TRAVEL ADVICE:CHECK YOUR HOTEL ROOM: This article is depressing but for those of us who travel, it is a fact of life, just like the airlines are. This is from some newspaper or travel site. One good thing about the Internet…you do get some tips about things to avoid or to enjoy. Of course you can’t believe everything, but in the following case, erring on the side of caution is advised:
What are the dirtiest things most people encounter in their hotels, and how do we sort of "sterilize" the rooms to protect ourselves?
This is what you do, in order, from the moment you enter your hotel room:
CLEAN THE TV REMOTE AND PHONE: You may not realize what the SINGLE DIRTIEST item in your hotel room is but -- go directly to the one item in the bedroom that has the highest levels of bacteria, the TV remote control unit. Wipe it off thoroughly. Next up, the telephone handset, especially the mouthpiece.
CHUCK THE BEDSPREAD: Walk over to the bedspread, lift it off the bed, throw it in the corner, never touch it again. Many hotels still only clean those bedspreads intermittently.
RINSE OUT THE GLASSES: Go into the bathroom -- and the culprit here is not what you think. It's not the sink, or the toilet or the bathtub. It's the -- water glasses! Here's how this is a problem: Most hotel maids are tasked with cleaning up to 15 or 16 rooms in any given eight-hour shift. That's a lot of rooms. And usually, by the time they get to the 12th room, they're short on time and some of them start cutting corners. And what happens? They get to those glasses and don't replace them. Instead, they quickly run them under cold water and replace them. Can you say eeeeeeeeeesh? My solution? Simple: Without hesitation, whenever you walk into a hotel bathroom, the first thing you do is take the water glasses and run them under hot water for two minutes, and you'll be OK
CHECK THE MATTRESS: Lift up the mattress and search between the mattress and the box spring. If you see little brown streaks, that means there are - bed bugs. Move.
If you walk into a hotel room, and it is gross, what do you do? Is there a group to report it to? To ensure you get refunded or that no one else books that room?
Easy answer: Always pay with a credit card. Remember: If you don't receive the goods or services you contracted for, you can always dispute the charges. Trip Advisor is also a great forum, and you could write to me at email@example.com and we'll investigate, as well.
HAYES GREENFIELD:A wonderful saxophonist, Hayes does incredible work with kids. Check out this You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PcTJQOrsiHU
If you know anyone, any school, etc., that wants to get a guy who knows how to reach kids about improvisation, go to Hayes’ site (www.jazzamatazz.com) Oh…he plays his ass off too!!
UNBELIEVABLE INFORMATION SITE: Watch the Introduction first:
Then save the Site in your favorites: http://www.wolframalpha.com/
THE MOST IMPORTANT RECENT EVENT WAS MY DAUGHTER LYDIA’S GRADUATION FROM HIGH SCHOOL. SHE WILL BE GOING TO EMERSON COLLEGE IN BOSTON IN SEPTEMBER.
PERFORMANCES:I did a gig with a community big band that has been together for 35 years in Heidelberg, Germany. This group was really nice to perform with comprised of non-professional musicians who play for the love of the music and do it well. Then I had a nice few gigs with a Swiss rhythm section lead by pianist Michael Arbenz, a very highly educated musician, his brother Florian on drums and bassist Thomas Laehns. I enjoy playing with new young cats and as those of us who play with European musicians know, they are very on top of their instruments, often with complete competence in both classical music and jazz and at complete ease playing totally free music.
I played two concerts with We3 (Steve Swallow and Adam Nussbaum) in the same week as a one nighter with Quest. What a pleasure to play with two of the best rhythm sections one could ask for. For a completely different mood, I took part in the celebration of Miles’ May birthday at the Iridium in New York with one of my oldest friends George Cables on piano, Lonnie Plaxico on bass (born the same day as me--Sept 4), Billy Drummond on drums and the front line of trumpeters Tom Harrell and Jeremy Pelt. We’re talking swinging and serious straight ahead jazz. Jeremy has done his homework combining Hubbard, Miles and Lee Morgan with great taste and of course when Tom gets going on eighth notes, watch out! There’s a nice Miles story involving George and me going back to 1969 when “In A Silent Way” was released. That was a period when we were taking part in jam sessions at George’s family home in Queens, New York with Steve Grossman, Lenny White and other young guys around at the time. George somehow got us a gig at a car dealership on a Saturday afternoon…talk about different environment than usual! This is just when the Fender Rhodes piano was coming into style which he brought that day. While we were setting up he started playing the main vamp from “Silent Way” saying he had just heard the newest Miles Davis recording. This was a time when record releases were a big thing. For the next 45 minutes we played on this vamp (didn’t sell too many cars) and hence my first introduction to “jazz-rock” which of course I would get closer to in the near future with Ten Wheel Drive and Miles’ “On The Corner” group a few years later.
Gigantic Miles poster on street where Iridium is located, NYC
Tom Harrell, Lieb, Jeremy Pelt at Iridium
KNOWINGLEE(Konitz): I took part in an historic session with Lee Konitz and Richie Beirach. Playing some standards, free improves, and a few originals, the entire recording was a great experience and very instructive. When you get to a certain point it’s not that easy to share the stage with someone who is shall I say “ahead” of you on line, meaning more experience and knowledge, two aspects that Lee has in abundance. With Richie and me playing for so many years together we were able to get into the flow of Lee’s music and personality in tandem. As you would expect, Lee has some definite ways of doing things. For example he doesn’t want to know what tune you are playing, nor the key, and at least for now favors an ongoing group dialogue without definite solos. But most striking and something that serious students know from Lee’s history and teachings is his heavy emphasis on melody rather than harmony (check my comments in last Intervals on this subject). And all of it always played with that amazing behind the beat feel and dark, low sound on the alto….so lyrical, so diatonic and always well developed. He rarely lets an idea go without following its implications through to the natural end. When he played soprano sax, to me it sounded like an alto. I have never heard a soprano sound so close to a guy’s other saxophone. There’s one improvised modal track with Richie and Lee that is among the most beautiful pieces I have ever heard; it will be called “Universal Lament.” I told my wife to put that on when I pass on!! We have to sell the record (titled “KnowingLee”) but I am optimistic someone will be interested. Lee is 82 years young and absolutely taking no prisoners. Just to think he played with Claude Thornhill and on “The Birth of the Cool.” Damn!!!
IASJ 20th ANNIVERSARY MEETING:I am writing this newsletter before our big meeting in the Hague where we first started the IASJ twenty years ago. I am very excited about the event in which we will have 24 countries and 45 schools represented. Reggie Workman representing the New School will be there and I will engage him in a public conversation about his Coltrane experiences and career. Also author Ashley Kahn who wrote the books on the makings of “A Love Supreme” and “Kind Of Blue” will give a presentation celebrating the 40th anniversary of Miles’ very influential recoding, “Bitches Brew.” We have a lot of activities and memorabilia to commemorate the anniversary. Most of all I am truly gratified that the IASJ has continued to exist. Approximately 2000 students, teachers and administrators from several dozen countries have taken part in our international meetings held throughout the world since the inception….a truly international network.
The Royal Conservatory in Den Haag, Netherlands
ELEMENTARY SCHOOL REUNION:From what I could gather it is extremely rare to have a reunion from elementary school. The school I went to in Brooklyn was one of the few left to have a kid from kindergarten through the 8th grade, just when the concept of a separate junior high school began in the ‘60s. Our class graduated 50 years ago and due to the incredible energy of my oldest friend, Jed Luchow, we had a 25th reunion in ’85 and now this one in 2010. The school is one of the oldest in New York, by coincidence age 99 this year. What an amazing thing to see some of these people. My first drummer practicing in my family’s living room; my first kiss; the guys who played ball with me….talk about an innocent time. What was nice about the day was that I was able to take my family to see where I grew up, took piano lessons, got bar mitzvahed, played stick ball, my Nana’s apartment house and other memories. Life was so simple then.
With Lydia in front of my family home:1328 East 5th Street; Brooklyn, NY
ITINERARY(please check local listings for exact dates and venue)
JULY: Iridium, NYC with Bill Warfield Big Band playing Le Jazz Hot; CONTACT tour in France, Italy, Spain and Portugal; workshop and concert at Tuscia Jazz Festival, Italy; Jazz and Wine Festival in Bordeaux, France.
AUGUST: 23rd Saxophone Master Class held at East Stroudsburg University, PA; concerts at Jazz and Wine, Bordeaux, France; performance with saxophonist Jean Charles Richard in Poitiers, France; Dave Liebman Big Band, Scranton Jazz Festival, PA.