Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Celebrating the Duke!

The Cotton Club

Look at Duke!
He stays up and up.

Stays up in the music.
Up where the music reaches.

Up through the waves of music.
His waves slicked back.

Duke's staying up all night
so long that time stays up with him.

But you can see the afternoon
in his eyes. Yellow sunlight going down.

And he sleeps late. Slow at Home.
Remembering Jungle Nights.

Sailing on the wide wings
of a Blue Bird, sailing light.

And somebody's always saying
Hold it, Duke,

I wanna take your picture,
and they can't even see him.

by Clarence Major

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus

The most powerful number in voodoo? 22. Mingus? Born on the 22nd of April! In 1922! Coincidence? Of course not. Like jazz music, it's attendant culture and vicissitudes, voodoo is a hybrid of West African and Western European aesthetics, religion and philosophy. Mingus' music, perhaps more so than any other composer in jazz, is an expression of this fertile cross-pollination of spiritual practice with the rituals of daily life. Mingus' music came from life and, many would say, was life itself. One of the most naked and emotional figures in jazz, Mingus was a man of tremendous passions, loves, hates, loves, sorrows and triumphs. His music delved into and radically explored almost every aspect of human existence. Candid, outspoken and blunt beyond comparison, Mingus' musical personality was much like his own. He could also, and often did, create musical expressions of such awesome gentleness and subtle feeling that one could be easily lead to tears of tragic ecstasy. As a composer he drew from the full panorama of the Western European canon as well as the blues, spirituals and folk music of all stripes to create his jazz. An innovator of the highest order Mingus furthered Ellington's experiments with the tone poem to create some of the most vital and influential works in jazz, such as Pithecanthropus Erectus & the devastating Meditations for a Pair of Wirecutters (Praying with Eric.) Mingus also pioneered in the use of "atomspherics" and the use of "little instruments" for extra-musical effect, such as in Scenes in the City and A Foggy Day(In San Francisco.) Long before the evolution of the term, Mingus was often writing passages into his compositions for his musicians to play "free." While many have long considered Tijuana Moods as the definitive Mingus album, he was quoted as saying it was his best to date (1957), I would say The Black Saint & The Sinner Lady is closer. Though, if we are honest, there is, and could never be, a definitive Mingus album. He was far too prolific and far, far too complex. Here are my top five;

1. The Black Saint & The Sinner Lady
2. Tijuana Moods
3. Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus
4. Town Hall Concert (1964)
5. East Coasting

Monday, April 21, 2008

For Miles by Gregory Corso

For Miles

Your sound is faultless
pure & round
almost profound

Your sound is your sound
true & from within
a confession
soulful & lovely

Poet whose sound is played
lost or recorded
but heard
can you recall that 54 night at the Open Door
when you & bird
wailed five in the morning some wondrous
yet unimaginable score?

by Gregory Corso

Friday, April 18, 2008

Bomkauf Lives!




by Bob Kaufman

Born this day, April 18, 1925, New Orleans Louisiana

Monday, April 7, 2008

Our Lady

Today we honor the birth of one of the greatest storytellers the world has ever known, the great Lady Day, Miss Billie Holiday. Why one of the world's greatest storytellers? It would be enough that she is universally recognized as the most influential singer in jazz. But in recognizing Billie Holiday, we also recognize the depth, and power, of her emotional authority, and undeniable sense of reality. Those qualities, along with her intense swing, and lyrical embrace of even the most "common" material, rank her among the greatest in the arts of telling a story. And, damn sure telling it like it is. Here is a poem about Billie written by Jayne Cortez;


Everyone snatched
a piece of her gardenia
to wear in cut flesh
of their gloomy Sunday
Everyone looked
for detours
had premonitions
& forgot
what a little moonlight could do
to a woman standing on
the outside of her body
singing to
the body inside of a song about lynching
Everyone knew about transported spirits
random rooster combs
& the lover man sanctifying in her solitude
But no one wanted to touch
that low fired instantaneous friction sitting
on the inside of outside when she sang
"strange fruit hanging on a poplar tree"

from, The Beautiful Book by Jayne Cortez, Bola Press, New York, 2007

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Climbing Andrew's Hill

Often considered the last of Blue Note co-founder Alfred Lion's "great enthusiasms," pianist composer Andrew Hill remains one of the most important figures in the history of jazz. His first major breakthrough occurred as sideman for a session led by Joe Henderson, Our Thing. It was here that he caught the attention of Lion and was immediately signed to a record contract with his company. From here Hill went on to record an extraordinary series of album with an incredible volume of original compositions in a remarkably short period of time. These include Black Fire (April 1963), Smokestack (December 1963), Judgment! (January 1964) and Point of Departure (March 1964.) The bassist Richard Davis accompanies Hill throughout but other musicians at these sessions include the above mentioned Henderson, Kenny Dorham, Bobby Hutcherson, Eric Dolphy, Eddie Khan, Roy Haynes, Elvin Jones and the young Tony Williams. The arrangements throughout are as starkly original as the high advanced compositions themselves. Like all the great masters of jazz Hill's work offers both profound insights into the musics historical traditions and origin as well as vision and insight into it's future horizons. Hill's most immediate antecedent is likely the innovative pianist Herbie Nichols, who also found patronage at Blue Note by way of Lion. To be sure, there is a clear lineage from Powell and Monk to Nichols, Hill and the awesome Cecil Taylor. As a composer Hill ranks among these as one of the greatest and, with the obvious exception of Monk, his contributions may possibly prove to be the most lasting. If you have never heard Andrew Hill's music you are in for some big beautiful surprises. I would recommend, Smokestack, as the best place to start. Listen for the quote of Monk's, Little Rootie Tootie, on the alternate take of, Not So!