“On the Turntable” — June, 2019 edition

May 31st, 2019

 

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New Jazz Music Recommendations

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While much of the listening for this month’s edition of “On the Turntable” took place, as always, while walking the sidewalks and paths of Northeast Portland neighborhoods and parks, much of it also took place during a mid-May car trip to visit dear friends in California, along the winding roads of southern Oregon and the rain-drenched redwood forests south of Eureka. The mostly poor weather prevented lengthy sojourns into the wild, but there were occasional opportunities to take the listening outdoors, along a bluff just north of Mendocino, for instance.

In addition to being in the company of my impressively loyal and patient dog, I had a variety of interesting sounds to accompany me along the way.  These are  six recently released jazz albums (and 18 songs) that caught my attention in May.

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(Songs from this playlist are available on Spotify and other music streaming services, and of course at your local music store)

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Joshua Redman, Come What May (Nonesuch)

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We have been treated to great performances and recordings by Joshua Redman since his debut for Warner Brothers in 1993, and his latest, Come What May, is another example of his genius.  Filled with wonderful rhythmic hooks and Redman’s boisterous, confident play, he reels us in throughout with intense creativity and frequent charm — supported by a rhythm section (pianist Aaron Goldberg, drummer Gregory Hutchinson, and bassist Reuben Rogers)  he first assembled twenty years ago, but this being only their third recording together.  There are seven tunes on the album, all with merit, but three of particular note to immediately recommend, two with inspired and catchy hooks – “I’ll Go Mine” and “Stagger Bear,” and one with a sensitive, wistful melody, “Come What May.”

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Joe Lovano, Trio Tapestry (ECM)

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Another brilliant saxophonist I was fortunate to spend time listening to this past month, Lovano has been on the scene for 40+ years, recording as a leader and sideman on a diverse array of recordings, often a leading exponent of expanding the music’s vernacular.  Together with pianist Marilyn Crispell and percussionist Carmen Castaldi, on Trio Tapestry (his first as a leader for ECM) Lovano blends elegance with atmosphere and creates a whispered language that often results in provocative imagery wherever you allow it to take you – for me it was fog rolling through the Golden Gate, a meaningful walk in the woods, a tender embrace at dawn.  On a record like this, the opportunities for exploration are not confined to the musicians.  Turn down the lights and see what happens.  “Mystic” is spacious and at times completely serene; “Seeds of Change” is delicate and gorgeous, one of the prettiest melodies you may hear for awhile;  Crispell’s  Satie-like piano on “Razzle Dazzle” leads into Lovano’s expressive, breathy meditation.  This is a highly recommended recording…

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Matt Brewer, Ganymede (Criss Cross)

 

In this recording – a sophisticated and often blistering session – the talented and revered bassist Brewer leads a sensational trio that includes the saxophonist Mark Shim and the drummer Damion Reed.   The album’s ten pieces are demanding and rewarding, and include four Brewer original compositions, as well as little known tunes by the likes of Ornette Coleman, Ron Carter, Joe Henderson and Dewey Redman.  It’s easy to work up a sweat listening to this record, as the trio’s essential core is its pace, energy and vitality.  Three pieces to recommend that I keep returning to:  Henderson’s dynamic “Afro-Centric”; the freedom found within “Psalm” (Shin particularly shines here); and the relative calm of the classic “When Sunny Gets Blue.”

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Tom Harrell, Infinity (High Note)

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Tom Harrell is a gifted, unassuming, first-rate trumpeter — always has been, likely always will be.  His new recordings are always welcome, and are consistently warm and inventive – his compositions are progressive but eminently listenable.  While his sound and style can often seem conventional, it is almost always a blissful, delightful, and compelling listening experience.  The entirety of Infinity is as comfortable as a favorite ball cap worn on a Sunday afternoon stroll.  Check out “Blue,” an infectious bebop tune with Harrell’s lovely tone mingling seamlessly with that of the brilliant saxophonist Mark Turner.  “Dublin” is an instant joy of a melody, again with Turner and Harrell feeding off of one another, and on “Hope,” Harrell treats us to a delicate Miles-like mute.

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Zela Margossian, Transition (Art as Catharsis)

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This is one helluva likeable record.  Ms. Margossian is a skilled composer/pianist whose music is entrenched in her Armenian heritage.  Her debut recording, Transition is dominated by the brightness of her sound and an effervescence of spirit, especially on display when in tandem with the colorfully rich reeds of Stuart Vandergraaff.  At its best, her work transports the listener to several corners of the world, and offers a taste of multiple musical disciplines.  Three pieces to recommend:  “Ceasefire” is vivacious and wonderfully infectious, and alone worth the price of admission.   “Shounch (Breath/Inhale)” is more tranquil and laid-back, but no less fascinating.  “The Child in Me” offers perhaps the best glimpse at her significant virtuosity.   This feels like a serious debut…Check it out.

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Aaron Burnett and The Big Time Machine, Anomaly (Fresh Sound New Talent)

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There is a relentless and frenetic Dolphy-esque tension running throughout the saxophonist Burnett’s album – and that’s a wonderful thing.   It is one of those records that challenges and excites, that tantalizes the listener with great musicianship (whether they are playing bop or free) and occasionally makes things a wee bit uncomfortable.  The eight compositions are intelligent and weighty (and lengthy), and the talented group (the vibraphonist Joel Ross and the drummer Tyshawn Sorey are terrific) share plenty of entertaining improvisational ideas.  My favorites — ”Picassonite”,”Light Beings” and “No More Bebop” – may not be tunes to spin during the summer neighborhood street party, but they are extraordinary discoveries for the man-cave/she-shed.

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“On the Turntable” — June, 2019

“On the Turntable” – May, 2019

“On the Turntable” – April, 2019

“On the Turntable” — March, 2019

“On the Turntable” — February, 2019

“On the Turntable” — January, 2019

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In this Issue

Interviews with three outstanding, acclaimed writers and scholars who discuss their books on Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, and Cole Porter, and their subjects’ lives in and out of music. These interviews – which each include photos and several full-length songs – provide readers easy access to an entertaining and enlightening learning experience about these three giants of American popular music.

Poetry

The winter collection of poetry offers readers a look at the culture of jazz music through the imaginative writings of its 32 contributors. Within these 41 poems, writers express their deep connection to the music – and those who play it – in their own inventive and often philosophical language that communicates much, but especially love, sentiment, struggle, loss, and joy.

Interview

NBC Radio-photo by Ray Lee Jackson / Public domain
In a Jerry Jazz Musician interview, acclaimed biographer James Kaplan (Frank: The Voice and Sinatra: The Chairman) talks about his book, Irving Berlin: New York Genius, and Berlin's unparalleled musical career and business success, his intense sense of family and patriotism during a complex and evolving time, and the artist's permanent cultural significance.

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Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Carl Van Vechten Collection
Richard Crawford’s Summertime: George Gershwin’s Life in Music is a rich, detailed and rewarding musical biography that describes Gershwin's work throughout every stage of his career. In a Jerry Jazz Musician interview, Crawford discusses his book and the man he has described as a “fresh voice of the Jazz Age” who “challenged Americans to rethink their assumptions about composition and performance, nationalism, cultural hierarchy, and the racial divide.”

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photo unattributed/ Public domain
In a Jerry Jazz Musician interview with The Letters of Cole Porter co-author Dominic McHugh, he explains that “several of the big biographical tropes that we associate with Porter are either modified or contested by the letters,” and that “when you put together these letters, and add our quite extensive commentary between the letters, it creates a different picture of him.” Mr. McHugh discusses his book, and what the letters reveal about the life – in-and-out of music – of Cole Porter.

Book Excerpt

The introduction to John Burnside's The Music of Time: Poetry in the Twentieth Century – excerpted here in its entirety with the gracious consent of Princeton University Press – is the author's fascinating observation concerning the idea of how poets respond to what the Russian poet Osip Mandelstam called “the noise of time,” weaving it into a kind of music.

Short Fiction

photo Creative Commons CC0
Short Fiction Contest-winning story #53 — “Market & Fifth, San Francisco, 1986,” by Paul Perilli

Interview

photo by Bouna Ndaiye
Interview with Gerald Horne, author of Jazz and Justice: Racism and the Political Economy of the Music

Poetry

photo by Brian McMillen
"Our Father, Who Art McCoy Tyner" -- a poem by John Stupp

Art

"Out West, Thinking About Miles Davis," by Charles Ingham
Ingham’s “Jazz Narratives” connect time, place, and subject in a way that ultimately allows the viewer a unique way of experiencing jazz history. This edition’s narratives are “"Exactly Where She Is Supposed to Be," "In Memory of Clora Bryant, Standing Outside the Downbeat,” and “Out West, Thinking About Miles Davis”

Book Excerpt

A ten page excerpt from The Letters of Cole Porter by Cliff Eisen and Dominic McHugh that features correspondence in the time frame of June to August, 1953, including those Porter had with George Byron (the man who married Jerome Kern’s widow), fellow writer Abe Burrows, Noel Coward, his secretary Madeline P. Smith, close friend Sam Stark, and his lawyer John Wharton.

Interview

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
Con Chapman, author of Rabbit's Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges discusses the great Ellington saxophonist

Jazz History Quiz #134

Photo by Brian McMillen/Brian McMillen Photography
Influenced by Charlie Parker and Phil Woods (pictured), before forming his own group this alto player got his start in Buddy Rich’s Big Band, and shortly thereafter played with Lionel Hampton. While leading his own band, he was famous for playing bebop covers of songs such as “The I Love Lucy Theme,” “Come Fly With Me,” and “Hooray for Hollywood,” and often performed with singer Eddie Jefferson. Who is he?

Book Excerpt

This story, excerpted from Irving Berlin: New York Genius by James Kaplan, describes how Berlin came to write his first major hit song, “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” and speaks to its historic musical and cultural significance.

Community

News about the poet Arlene Corwin

Photography

photo of Stephane Grappelli by Veryl Oakland
Veryl Oakland’s “Jazz in Available Light” — photos (and stories) of violinists Joe Venuti, Stephane Grappelli, Jean-Luc Ponty, Zbigniew Seifert, and Leroy Jenkins

Great Encounters

photo of Sidney Bechet by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
In this edition of "Great Encounters," Con Chapman, author of Rabbit’s Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges, writes about Hodges’ early musical training, and the first meeting he had with Sidney Bechet, the influential and legendary reed player who Hodges called “tops in my book.”

Book Excerpt

In the introduction to Jazz and Justice: Racism and the Political Economy of the Music, author Gerald Horne writes about the severe cultural and economic obstacles jazz musicians have encountered since the music's inception

“What are 4 or 5 of your all-time favorite Blue Note albums?”

"What are 4 or 5 of your all-time favorite Blue Note albums?"
Dianne Reeves, Nate Chinen, Gary Giddins, Michael Cuscuna, Eliane Elias and Ashley Kahn are among the 12 writers, musicians, and music executives who list and write about their favorite Blue Note albums

Pressed for All Time

In this edition, producer Helen Keane tells Michael Jarrett, author of Pressed For All Time: Producing the Great Jazz Albums about how the collaboration of Tony Bennett and Bill Evans began, culminating in the 1975 recording, The Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album.

Humor

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"Every Soul is a Circus," by Dig Wayne

In the Previous Issue

photo by Carol Friedman
“The Jazz Photography Issue” features an interview with today’s most eminent jazz portrait photographer Carol Friedman, news from Michael Cuscuna about newly released Francis Wolff photos, as well as archived interviews with William Gottlieb, Herman Leonard, Lee Tanner, a piece on Milt Hinton, a new edition of photos from Veryl Oakland, and much more…

Contributing writers

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