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Butch Morris dies at 65

January 30, 2013 2 comments

butchMorris was born in Long Beach, California. Before beginning his musical career, he served in the US forces in the Vietnam War.
Morris came to attention with saxophonist David Murray’s groups in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Morris’s brother, double bassist Wilber Morris, sometimes performed and recorded with Murray during this period.
He also played with well-known artist and would be drummer A.R. Penck in 1990.
Morris led a group called Orchestra SLANG. The group features Drummer Kenny Wollesen, alto saxophonist Jonathon Haffner, trumpeter Kirk Knuffke and others. He performed and presented regularly as part of the Festival of New Trumpet Music, held annually in New York City.
Morris died of lung cancer.
Morris is the originator of Conduction (a term knowingly borrowed from physics): a type of structured free improvisation where Morris directs and conducts an improvising ensemble with a series of hand and baton gestures.
These conductions have received generally positive reviews, and are often considered quite unique, not quite fitting into any one musical genre: critic Thom Jurek has written, “There are no records like Butch Morris’ conduction sides, nor could there be, though he wishes there were.” and Ed Hazell writes, “At his best, Morris can shake players out of their old habits, or place a microscope on one aspect of a musician’s artistry and build an orchestral fantasia around it.” (wikipedia.org)

Interview with Phil Woods

January 27, 2013 Leave a comment

phil woods

Jazz is a life force that continues to influence musicians all over the world.

Last week I interviewed Mr. Woods.

Phil Woods was born in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1931. Springfield, Massachusetts in 1931. After studying at music school, touring jobs with big bands and then small-group with Jimmy Raney (1955) and George Wallington(1956, 1957).

He studied music with Lennie Tristano, who influenced him greatly, at the Manhattan School of Music and at The Juilliard School. His friend, Joe Lopes, coached him on clarinet as there was no saxophone major at Juilliard at the time. Although he did not copy Charlie “Bird” Parker, bop’s greatest saxophonist, he was known as the New Bird, a label which was also attached to other alto players such as Sonny Stitt and Cannonball Adderley at one time or another in their careers. (wikipedipedia.org)

He played with Dizzy Gillespie big band, including overseas tours (1956), and formed two alto-quintet with Gene Quill (1957). With Buddy Rich quintet (1958-9) and was founder member of Quincy Jones big band (1959-61). Also worked with Benny Goodman (1962) and did considerable amount of studio sessions in the 1960s. Moved to Paris with his then wife Chan Richardson (former consort of Charlie Parker) and formed his European Rhytm Machine quartet. (Brian Priestly, Jazz, the essential companion)

He returned to the United States in 1972. In 1979, Woods made the recording, More Live, at the Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin, Texas. Perhaps his best known recorded work as a sideman is a pop piece, his alto sax solo on Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are.” He also played the alto sax solo on Steely Dan’s “Doctor Wu,” from their critically acclaimed 1975 album Katy Lied, as well as Paul Simon’s 1975 hit, Have a Good Time.

Although Woods is primarily a saxophonist he is also a fine clarinet player and solos can be found scattered through his recordings. One good example is his clarinet solo onMisirlou on the album Into The Woods (see discography below).

Phil Woods A Life in E Flat-Portrait of a Jazz Legend is a documentary film released in 2005 by Jazzed Media. Directed by Rich Lerner, and produced by Graham Carter, the film offers an intimate portrait of Woods during a recording session of the Jazzed Media albumThis is How I Feel About Quincy. (wikipedia)

Mr. Woods, you’re active in Jazzmusic for more than 60 years, that’s a lifetime. Has Jazzmusic evoluated since you started? We know there are labels for different kinds of music, but (in the core) in what whay is Jazz nowadays different from Modern Jazz?

There has been a big infusion of Latin rhythms first introduced by Dizzy Gillespie and now further developed by musicians such as Paquito D’Rivera and Ignacio Berora and many more.

Which album you produced do you like best? Why?
‘Phil Woods/ Lew Tabackin”, is your best appreciated albums in The Penguin Guide to Jazz. Is this your favourite record too?
This is like asking a father which child is your favorite. My favorite record is my next one.

Do you still visit concerts? (and if so) Do you still learn from your youthful colleagues? Are you inspired by them?
Not as much as I did when I was younger but I still travel – off to Tel Aviv next week and then on to a Jazz Cruise in the Carribean. And yes I am still learning from young players and discovering new things from the Jazz Masters that preceded me.

Charlie Parker. You’ve been a long-time fan. He’s been an example for generations of (jazz)musicians. This year it’s 58 years ago he died (as many great musicians you played with passed last six decades). What does this mean to you?
Bird, Dizzy and Monk revolutionized the world and continue to do so. They mean everything to me – my life time heroes!

Mundell Lowe said to me three months ago: “Jazz is a growing musical force. It will keep expanding and growing for many years to come. And it is after al, one of the only art forms that we, the USA has produced. ” Do you agree with him?
Yes I do. Mundell was a dear friend and knows what he is talking about.

Is there Jazz in the future? Jazz is the most recorded musicstyle by now, but do you think Jazz will reach our youth?
Jazz will never die. Too many good men gave their lives to this music. Jazz is a life force that continues to influence musicians all over the world.

The Midnight Sun Will Never Set:

Interview with Ron Carter

January 23, 2013 1 comment

ron carter

A week ago I interviewed bassist Ron Carter.

Ron Carter was born in Ferndale, Michigan. He started to play cello at the age of 10, and was soon playing chamber concerts; (…) later he changed to double-bass. Played and recorded with Eastman Philharmonia Orchestra before first professional engagement with Chico Hamilton, 1959. 1960-2 freelanced with many people including Eric Dolphy, with whom he recorded several times on cello, Cannonball Adderley, Jaki Byard, Randy Weston, Bobby Timmons, Mal Waldron. (Ian Carr, Jazz, The Essential Companion).

His first records were made with Eric Dolphy (another former member of Hamilton’s group) and Don Ellis, in 1960. His own first date as leader, Where?, with Dolphy and Mal Waldron and a date also with Dolphy called Out There with George Duvivier and Roy Haynes and Carter on cello; its advanced harmonies and concepts were in step with the third streammovement.

Carter came to fame via the second great Miles Davis quintet in the early 1960s, which also included Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Tony Williams. Carter joined Davis’s group in 1963, appearing on the album Seven Steps to Heaven and the follow-up E.S.P., the latter being the first album to feature only the full quintet. It also featured three of Carter’s compositions (the only time he contributed compositions to Davis’s group). He stayed with Davis until 1968 (when he was replaced by Dave Holland), and participated in a couple of studio sessions with Davis in 1969 and 1970. Although he played electric bass occasionally during this period, he has subsequently eschewed that instrument entirely, and now plays only acoustic bass.

After leaving Davis, Carter was for several years a mainstay of CTI Records, making albums under his own name and also appearing on many of the label’s records with a diverse range of other musicians. Notable musical partnerships in the ’70s and ’80s included Joe Henderson, Houston Person, Hank Jones, and Cedar Walton. During the 1970s he was a member of the New York Jazz Quartet. (wikipedia)

1981, he was again reunited with Hancock and Williams, when the Hancock quartet, featuring Wynton Marsalis (tpt) toured the USA, Europe and Japan, where they recorded a double album. (Carr)

In 2001, Carter collaborated with Black Star and John Patton to record “Money Jungle” for the Red Hot Organization’s compilation album, Red Hot + Indigo, a tribute to Duke Ellington.

Carter was Distinguished Professor Emeritus of the Music Department of The City College of New York, having taught there for twenty years, and received an honorary Doctorate from the Berklee College of Music, in Spring 2005. He joined the faculty of the Juilliard School in New York City in 2008, teaching bass in the school’s Jazz Studies program.

Carter’s authorized biography, “Ron Carter: Finding the Right Notes,” by Dan Ouellette was published by ArtistShare in 2008. (Wikipedia)

Mr. Carter, you’re active in music for more than  5 decades. In which way music evolved since you started? We know there are labels for different kinds of music, can we label your  music?
I have never been bothered by the names people have given this music…when asked what I call this music, I always say…come hear the band, then you tlle me your title for this music.
Yusef Lateef said to me in an interview the word Jazz is a misnomer, what is your opinion?

What does he call it?

According to the Penguin Guide of Jazz “Third Plane” is your best album. Is this album your favourite too? (if not) Which album you produced do you like best? Why?
Since each album was different and offered different challanges, they are all my favorite. 
Miles Davis. You have been touring with him an playing with him on 15 (or more) albums. He’s been an example for a generation of  (jazz)musicians. This year it’s twenty-two years ago he has perished (as many great musicians you played with passed last three decades). What does this mean to you?
That he was a very important figure in the development…that he was my friend, and I miss him.
And Eric Dolphy. He once said: ‘I play notes that would not ordinarily be said to be in a given key, but I hear them as proper. I don’t think I “leave the changes”as the expression goes; every note I play has some reference to the chords of the piece.” You played with Dolphy the early sixties. Was it difficult to accompany him?
Eric and I made some records together and played with Chico Hamilton…and to me, his note choices were fine.
Do you still learn from your youthful colleagues and what should they learn form you? Are you inspired by them as you were by your colleagues you played with in the sixties and seventies?
Any player that listens to the bassist in their group is my friend…and I enjoy playing with them.
In what way bassplaying has been changed since you are active in music?, you can answer?
With the advent of bass pick-ups, better bass mikes in clubs and concerthalls has made the bass sound much more present and has made the bassist much more aware of his/her effect on the music. It also points up his/ her short comings  ont the instrument, as well as playing better changes, better pitch, better sound. 

Next week I will interview pianist Mrs. Carla Bley. Do you have a question for her?

 Yes…how is Steve Swallow?
Your musical activities span a wide range of styles and combinations. Which projects do you  keep in store for us?
I just recorded my trio (Russell Malone, huitar, Donald Vega, piano) live in Japan….a lovely CD!

Claude Black

January 19, 2013 1 comment

claude blackLast thursday the great pianist Claude Black died at the age of 80 years: Toledo jazz legend Claude Black dies at 80 (Toledoblade)”.

When he was thirteen, his mother and sister were shot by his stepfather. He was then raised by his grandmother, who gave him the first piano lessons, and an uncle, who was friends with all kinds of jazz musicians such as Fats Waller. Black Horn played in a school band, including Donald Byrd, but exchanged Horn in the part for trombone, with the Horn because you couldn’t singen. When he was sixteen he had his first professional gig in a club in Detroit. He then played in different groups and later on, he met bassist Clifford Murphy, with whom he would collaborate for forty years, including many years in his club. In the 1950s he played with Charlie Parker, Stan Getz and Wes Montgomery, in the 1960s he toured with Dakota Staton and Aretha Franklin. He also played with Earl Bostic. In 1973 he settled in Toledo, where he later taught at the University of Toledo. Black has also played with Jon Hendricks and Wynton Marsalis, among others, and recorded with David Fathead Newman and Oliver Jackson.

Claude Black Jazz Benefit Concert, University Toledo, 31 january 2012:

Interview with Dave Liebman

January 4, 2013 1 comment

If you compare music to the Amazon River, jazz is one of the major tributaries
dave liebmanA few days ago I interviewed saxophonist and flautist David Liebman. I saw him in 1997 at the North Sea Jazz Festival and heard him play the piano and the saxophone. Truly, one of the most powerful musicians I’ve ever heard. Since then I have been interested in this man and his music.

Bio:David Liebman-tenor and soprano sax, flute, composer; also piano and drums. Born: Brooklyn, New York, 4 September 1946. Piano lessons as a child, then clarinet and later sax; began gigging at 14 years; inspired by drummer Bob Moses with whom he was associated from age 16. Liebman also studied privately with Joe Allard, Charles Lloyd and Lennie Tristano. He graduated from New York University in the late 1960s with a degree in American history and a teaching diploma. Dave Liebman is steeped in the work of John Coltrane; other influences are Sonny Rollins. McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones, Miles Davis and Wayne Shorter. He is one of the most gifted of the post-Coltrane saxophonists and his work is always infused with a very human feeling; his groups have created some of the most vital music heard (Carr, Fairweather, Priestley, Jazz, the Essential Companion). Notably, Liebman is the Founder and Artistic Direcor of the International Association of Schools of Jazz (IASJ) a network of worldwide schools from over 40 countries where jazz is taught since1989.
Currently, Liebman is Artist In Residence at the Manhattan School of Music. He has received several distinguished awards including two National Endowment for the Arts grants for composition and performance; Honorary Doctorate from the Sibelius Academy of Helsinki, Finland; Grammy nomination for Best Solo Performance in 1998; the Order of Arts and Letters from France; Jazz Educator Legend award from the Jazz Educators Network (JEN); Best Record of the year (2010) from the German Jazz Journalists Association and most notably the highest award given in the jazz field from the U.S., the Jazz Masters lifetime achievement award from the NEA. ( On Wikipedia, look for more information at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dave_Liebman).

Mr. Liebman, you have been active in jazz music for more than 40 years. How is jazz now different from before?

There are two things that have transformed jazz in our time. First of all is the growth of jazz education worldwide. Students are now trained in an organized way, rather than trial and error which was by and large the process for myself and my predecessors. The other factor is the growth of the internet meaning so much jazz history is available for learning by a click. You can see Coltrane play sitting in your bedroom anywhere in the world now. That means instant access to the history of jazz if one is motivated. On the negative side, there is less opportunity to see and hear jazz in our contemporary world. The reasons are both economic and social which is another discussion, but the result is less venues and more distractions for potential listeners. In the 1960’s you could visit a jazzclub in large cities throughout western Europe and America, which is less and less the case now. And clubs are where the music is best heard.

Yusef Lateef said to me in an interview the word “Jazz” is a misnomer. Do you agree with him?

Jazz means a certain historical style with its own set of customs, just like other improvised musical traditions in the world. These days, you have to be more specific about what style of jazz you are referring to in a conversation.

Which album of yours do you like best? Why? “Drum Ode”,”Double Edge”, “Voyage”,  “Setting the standard” and “Colors” are mentioned in The Penguin Guide to Jazz. Are these your favourite records too?

My most representative recording is “The Loneliness of a Long Distance Runner (1986),” dedicated to the well-known soprano stylist Steve Lacy. It is a solo soprano sax album with a lot of composition and saxophone overdubs. The thing about a solo recording is that you are bare and naked without the assistance of other musicians, so you are 100% responsible for the contents. This very personal recording traces the path of a long distance runner as a metaphor for the life of an artist.

Do you visit concerts yourself? Do you still learn from your youthful colleagues? Are you inspired by them?

I don’t have much time to go to concerts. It is on tour that I have a chance to hear other groups. Concerning youthful players, if an artist wants to continue to evolve they should listen and be in some way influenced by the next generation(s) of players. The talent pool is tremendous now, so there is a lot to hear.

John Coltrane….you are long time fan. He’s been an example for a generation of jazz musicians. It’s forty five years ago since he passed on. What does this mean to you?

John Coltrane was and still is the major influence on my life. I saw him live many times and am still learning from his saxophone playing, use of harmony and music structures. For me, his work is still the highest of the high…… technically, spiritually and emotionally.

Is there jazz in the future? Jazz has been for the most part well documented by now, but do you think jazz will reach the youth?

It will continue on of course. Jazz is still alive and can be heard more and more worldwide. It is a classic form of music like any historical style…. Baroque, Romantic, Indian classical, etc. If you compare music to the Amazon River, jazz is one of the major tributaries. Its future lies with how the music will be absorbed and transformed by people from other parts of the world other than the U.S. and Europe. For these people, jazz is new and exciting. This is the hope for jazz, that by spreading its wings, it will stay relevant.

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