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Cedar Walton

August 24, 2013 Leave a comment

cedar walton This week two great jazzpianists died; Cedar Walton and Marian McPartland. Let’s continue with Cedar.

Cedar Walton, a pianist who distinguished himself as both an accompanist and a soloist, and who wrote some of the most enduring compositions in modern jazz while a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in the early 1960s, died on Monday at his home in Brooklyn. He was 79. His death followed a brief illness, his manager, Jean-Pierre Leduc, said. (NYTimes, 8-20-13)
“Walton grew up in Dallas, Texas. His mother was an aspiring concert pianist, and was Walton’s initial teacher. She also took him to jazz performances around Dallas. Walton cited Nat King Cole, Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk and Art Tatum as his major influences on piano.

Walton was tempted by the promise of New York City through his associations with the likes of John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, and Richie Powell, whom he met at various after-hours sessions around the city of Denver, Colorado. In 1955, he decided to leave school and drove with a friend to New York City. He quickly got recognition from Johnny Garry, who ran Birdland at that time.

Walton was drafted into the U.S. Army, and stationed in Germany, cutting short his rising status in the after-hours scene. While in the Army, he played with musicians Leo Wright, Don Ellis, and Eddie Harris. Upon his discharge after two years, Walton picked up where he left off, playing as a sideman with Kenny Dorham and J. J. Johnson, and with Gigi Gryce.[2] Joining the Jazztet, led by Benny Golson and Art Farmer, Walton played with this group from 1958 to 1961. In April 1959, he recorded an alternate take of “Giant Steps” with John Coltrane, though he did not solo.

In the early 1960s, Walton joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers as a pianist-arranger for three years (on the same day as Freddie Hubbard), where he played with Wayne Shorter and Hubbard. In this group, he demonstrated a keen sense of arranging in originals such as “Ugetsu” and “Mosaic”. He left the Messengers in 1964 and by the late 1960s was part of the house rhythm section at Prestige Records, where in addition to releasing his own recordings, he recorded with Sonny Criss, Pat Martino, Eric Kloss, and Charles McPherson. For a year, he served as Abbey Lincoln’s accompanist, and recorded with Lee Morgan from 1966 to 1968. During the mid-1970s, he led the funk group Mobius.

Many of his compositions have been adopted as jazz standards, including “Firm Roots”, “Bolivia” and “Cedar’s Blues”. “Bolivia” is perhaps Walton’s best known composition, while one of his oldest is “Fantasy in D”, recorded under the title “Ugetsu” by Art Blakey in 1963.Cedar Walton 7 28 13

In January 2010, he was inducted as a member of the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters.” (wikipedia)

In february this year he played in jazzclub Bimhuis in Amsterdam, in the same week Curtis Fuller gave a concert at the same place. I only visited the Fuller concert. It’s a pity. Happily there was a visitor who recorded (a part of) the concert.

Read further at:

http://www.jazzwax.com/2013/08/cedar-walton-on-giant-steps.html (Jazzwax)

and

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/21/arts/music/cedar-walton-pianist-and-composer-dies-at-79.html?_r=0 (NYTimes, 8-20-13)

and

http://www.npr.org/blogs/ablogsupreme/2013/08/19/213571089/jazz-piano-giant-cedar-walton-dies-at-79 (NPR Blog)

 

Cedar Walton at the Bimhuis, 2-14-2013:

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Interview with Marilyn Crispell

 Why is everyone so intent on fitting things into previously determined categories, rather than just being open to what’s happening?

marilyn-crispell2-resized Last month I had a short interview with pianist Marilyn Crispell. Lately, Marilyn has brought out her album Azure. A cooperation with bassist Gary Peacock “You have to have an open mind – even no mind, a clear mind” to play this way” (Gary Peacock).

Who is Marilyn? A short bio.

Marilyn Crispell is a graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music where she studied classical piano and composition, and has been a resident of Woodstock, New York since 1977 when she came to study and teach at the Creative Music Studio. She discovered jazz through the music of John Coltrane, Cecil Taylor and other contemporary jazz players and composers. For ten years she was a member of the Anthony Braxton Quartet and the Reggie Workman Ensemble and has been a member of the Barry Guy New Orchestra and guest with his London Jazz Composers Orchestra, as well as a member of the Henry Grimes Trio, Quartet Noir (with Urs Leimgruber, Fritz Hauser and Joelle Leandre), and Anders Jormin’s Bortom Quintet. In 2005 she performed and recorded with the NOW Orchestra in Vancouver, Canada and in 2006 she was co-director of the Vancouver Creative Music Institute and a faculty member at the Banff Centre International Workshop in Jazz.

Besides working as a soloist and leader of her own groups, Crispell has performed and recorded extensively with well-known players on the American and international jazz scene. She’s also performed and recorded music by contemporary composers Robert Cogan, Pozzi Escot, John Cage, Pauline Oliveros, Manfred Niehaus and Anthony Davis (including four performances of his opera “X” with the New York City Opera).

In addition to playing, she has taught improvisation workshops and given lecture/demonstrations at universities and art centers in the U.S., Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and has collaborated with videographers, filmmakers, dancers and poets.

Crispell has been the recipient of three New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship grants (1988-1989, 1994-1995 and 2006-2007), a Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust composition commission (1988-1989), and a Guggenheim Fellowship (2005-2006). In 1996 she was given an Outstanding Alumni Award by the New England Conservatory, and in 2004, was cited as being one of their 100 most outstanding alumni of the past 100 years (http://marilyncrispell.com/bio.htm).

Mrs Crispell, you’re professional active in music for  almost 4 decades. How has music evolved since you started performing? 

marilyncrispell1

The main change in my music is a greater use of space, silence and lyricism.

.In an interview with Lloyd Peterson in 2009 you say: “As far as I’m concerned, I’m ready to say that I don’t play jazz and to hell with it. I just play my music, although I consider jazz to be a primary influence on my playing. How would you like to list your Music?

I call my music improvised music or jazz (yes, jazz)

You started to play the piano at age seven. Why did you choose this instrument?

My parents decided to give me piano lessons when I was 7, so it was really their choice.

You’ve been working with so many beautiful musicians,Anthony Braxton, Paul Motian, Gary Peacock, Henry Grimes and Reggie Workman among many others. How do you look back at working with them?

It has been an honor, privilege, and great adventure to work with so many incredible musicians  they have been a great inspiration to me-  I think I have been very lucky in this respect.

You were inspired by Cecil Taylor, Thelonious Monk, Paul Bley, Leo Smith, Ornette Coleman and of course John Coltrane, all great improvisers, how have they influenced your work? Are you still inspired by them nowadays?
Yes, I’m still inspired by all the musicians you mention- emotionally, spiritually, compositionally, intellectually, etc., etc.

You like to play piano solo, as you said once in an interview:”The more people you have the more you have people playing all the time and the less transparency there will be.” . A few months ago I spoke to pianist Ran Blake. He also likes to play solo. Do you know his work?

Yes, I know Ran and his work. (By the way, I also like to play with groups-  I was just describing one of the different aspects of playing solo- it shouldn’t be taken out of context).

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In his book Primacy of the Ear he states “one’s single most crucial ally in the exploration of music is the ear. When you listen, the ear reacts before the brain has time to process; it is an honest broker.” This means jazz or improvisational music cannot be related to the intellect. Do you agree with him? Why (not)?

 Of course the ear is of primary importance in playing music, but that doesn’t mean it’s not related to the intellect!  When you play, everything is involved- the ear, the intellect, the emotions-  you can’t separate them like they’re in little boxes-  they’re all part of a greater whole.

In march I interviewed pianist Misha Alperin, who also recorded for the Manfred Eicher-label ECM, he said.  “As well I have no  exclusive deal with ECM, as most of the artists. Depending on whether Manfred likes the idea or not….” You also recorded for this label. Does this dependency disturb you? Why (not)?

I don’t have a dependency with ECM- I have a relationship with them.

Last week I interviewed bassist Peter Ind, He stated: “in striving to become cleverer than the next player, many jazzy musicians have lost their following – simply by becoming too clever.” Do you think nowadays jazz- or creative music is too complex?

I can’t judge if music is too complex or not-  it’s whatever it is for each person-  music can be complex and sincere at the same time.

Carla Bley said in ‘72: “I think rock and roll is jazz. And jazz is classical music. And classical music has become rock and roll. They’ve all gone round one turn on the clock” Has the clock turned again since then? How do you look at the future of creative music? 
The clock is always turning.  As I said, it’s anybody’s guess where things are going.  In this day and age, things are very interconnected- everything is influencing everything else-  there’s a lot of information out there.  Why is everyone so intent on fitting things into previously determined categories, rather than just being open to what’s happening?

Your musical activities span a wide range of styles and combinations,. Which projects do you have in store for us?

About future projects:  I’m especially into duos at this point-  they have many of the advantages of playing solo, are still very transparent, while being able to have a conversation with someone else.  I hope to continue playing duo with Gerry Hemingway, Gary Peacock, and others.  I have some months off now, and am looking forward to being able to compose some new music.  Also, I hope to do more work with dancers.

Marilyn plays Dear Lord:

Trumpeter Donald Byrd dies at the age of 80

February 8, 2013 1 comment

byrd

The influential jazz trumpeter Donald Byrd died on Monday at the age of 80, his nephew has said.

Alex Bugnon, a jazz pianist, reported his uncle’s death on Thursday, though it has yet to be confirmed.

Bugnon wrote on his own Facebook page: “Donald passed away Monday in Delaware, where he lived. His funeral will be held in Detroit sometime next week. I have no more patience for this unnecessary shroud of secrecy placed over his death by certain members of his immediate family. ” (The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk)

Byrd attended Cass Technical High School. He performed with Lionel Hampton before finishing high school. After playing in a military band during a term in the United States Air Force, he obtained a bachelor’s degree in music from Wayne State Uni

versity and a master’s degree from Manhattan School of Music. While still at the Manhattan School, he joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, as replacement for Clifford Brown. In 1955, he recorded with Jackie McLean and Mal Waldron. After leaving the Jazz Messengers in 1956, he performed with many leading jazz musicians of the day, including John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Thelonious Monk, and later Herbie Hancock. Byrd’s first regular group was a quintet that he co-led from 1958-61 with baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams, an ensemble whose hard-driving performances are captured “live” on At the Half Note Cafe. In June 1964, Byrd jammed with jazz legend Eric Dolphy in Paris just two weeks before Dolphy’s death from insulin shock.

Byrd lived in Teaneck, New Jersey until his death on February 4, 2013 at the age of 80. (wikipedia.org)

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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