Although it’s conceded that The Original Dixieland Jass Band (ODJB) cut the first so-called Jazz record early in 1917, 100 years haven’t diminished the band, and its cornetist Nick LaRocca’s, spurious claim to have invented Jazz. In a reasoned report on the subject, The New Orleans Advocate’s Katy Reckdahl speaks to noted historians at Tulane University as well as descendents of ODJB’s musicians, who repeat LaRocca’s shibboleths about how whites invented Jazz rather than African-Americans with more than skepticism. Eventually the mixing of so-called Black and White musics is agreed upon as the reason for Jazz’s birth, and this was reflected in subsequent post-ODJB recordings.
Performance portraits by Susan O’Connor
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Jazz-R&B pianist Robert Glasper’s assertion to pianist Ethan Iverson on his Do The Math blog that one of the reasons for his music's popularity is that it vibrates women’s “musical clitoris” garnered legitimate criticism for confirming Jazz’s latent sexist, reports the NPR’s Michelle Mercer. But while additionally pointing out that Iverson’s pro-liberal/feminist stance – a claim invalidated by pianist Vijay Iyer noting that none of Iverson’s previous Do The Math interviews were with female musicians, but with 42 men – is no excuse, it seems that others were skirting the problem. Not one other woman is quoted by name with an opinion as Mercer outlines the controversy.
Actually celebrating an anniversary that isn’t some Rock milestone, Rolling Stone’s Hank Shteamer contributes an extended story on the creation of the classic Interstellar Space duo LP, record by tenor saxophonist John Coltrane and drummer Rashied Ali in 1967, but was unreleased until 1974. Shteamer talks to Impulse Record’s Ed Michel for background on the delay, and John’s son, saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, for an analysis of the music, while tapping saxophonists as far apart in age as Ingrid Laubrock and Peter Brötzmann to pinpoint the session’s extended influence. Shteamer even has enough space to discuss some recorded salutes to Interstellar Space, including a recasting of the music by guitarist Nels Cline and drummer Greg Bendian; and another which extended the original concept still further, featuring tenor saxophonist Louie Belogenis and Ali himself.
Not exactly an in-depth study, but this article by WYSO’s Dave Barber casts some light on pianist Cecil Taylor’s stint teaching at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio from 1969 to 1973. Able to lecture and also rehearse with the so-called Black Music Ensemble of students and others who had followed him from other educational institutions, it was a rare opportunity for the pianist and his associates, alto saxophonist Jimmy Lyons and drummer Andrew Cyrille, to have their music regularly performed by a 20 to 30 piece orchestra. In fact Taylor brought in new scores to be performed by the group every day. Funding cuts finally ended the experiment. This story is linked to an archived radio broadcast of the same piece that includes some tantalizing glimpses of Taylor improvising in a college classroom.
Besides being one of the most prominent Free Jazz saxophonists, Swede Mats Gustafsson is a fanatic LP collector, or as he calls it, a discaholic. This interview with Anton Spice for The Vinyl Factory’s Web page took place in the basement of the tenor and baritone saxophonist’s home which is filled with 2½ tonnes [!] of LPs. When not playing in his own groups or in bands led by the likes of British bassist Barry Guy, Gustafsson and fellow discaholics like American guitarists Thurston Moore and Stephen O’Malley haunt every record store they can find in any country in which they play. Although he’s been a vinyl collector since he was 12, the saxophonist reveals that his want list still includes some LPs by the likes of Swedish saxophonist Bengt Nordström, Dutch drummer Han Bennink and even a limited pressing of a disc featuring Guy and British pianist Howard Riley.
Stopping Recording? That’s what the New York-based pianist Matthew Ship, who has put out 24 albums so far this decade alone, tells the Village Voice’s Michael J. Agovino. Shipp also insists that that his most recent CD, featuring his long-time bassist Michael Bisio and drummer Newman Taylor Baker will be his final disc ... well, aside from “a few things” he has to do for other labels. At least Agovino speaks to other musicians and producers who cast some doubt on the pianist's statement and who note that Shipp made a similar pronouncement in 2003. After that though, discs kept being recorded and released. While its peg may be bogus or wanting, this article in the general media is comprehensive enough to situate Shipp within Jazz history, push aside the tired Ship and Cecil Taylor comparisons, and relate his playing to other advanced keyboard stylists such as Lennie Tristano, Paul Bley, Andrew Hill and even the almost forgotten Lowell Davidson.
Veteran bassist John Lindberg has devoted his musical life to discovering new and different situations. From his time as a teenage student of bassist David Izenzon and member of saxophonist Anthony Braxton's ensembles, to his founding of the seminal String Trio of New (STNY) York and membership in bands led by pianist Eric Watson, among others to times teaching at CalArts where he isn’t afraid to tell his students he doesn’t know something and works through the problems with them, “I inherently love a good challenge, of any kind,” he asserts. In this detailed interview with Point of Departure’s Troy Collins, Lindberg discusses his collaborative nature when composing notated music; his on-going playing relationship with avatars such as trumpeter Wadda Leo Smith (38 years and counting); how the STNY, initially constituted with guitarist James Emery and violinist Billy Bang introduced a new concept to improvised music; and how he’s been energized by such unexpected influences as bird songs, immersion in natural surroundings, and even a stint volunteering as an EMT driver in a rural area.
After spending more than 70 years photographing many Jazz greats, Chuck Stewart died at 89 in late January 2017. This appreciation, by WBFO-FM’s Nate Chinen and film maker Carol Friedman, fills in the details of his schooling and wide-ranging career as well as pinpointing his generosity of spirit. Stewart's avuncular nature served him well when he was creating the publicity shots and album covers that for years defined the way musicians looked to the public. Friendly with many Jazz greats, Stewart’s outstanding portraits and working shots of artists ranging from Duke Ellington to Miles Davis and from John Coltrane to Louis Armstrong, Eric Dolphy and even Billie Holiday, are cherished by many fans and record collectors. It turn out that beside his more familiar images, Stewart also left behind reams of additional photos. (A link to an audio interview with Stewart is included).
Taking a break from its new orientation towards discovering the most fashionable eating spots, bars or boutiques, the Village Voice allowed Michael J. Agovino to report on the health of New York City’s small Jazz imprints. Less upbeat than the premise would indicate, Agovino’s report confirms that most profitable small labels are ones which also have a foot in Latin, Indie-Rock or so-called World Music as well as Jazz. Still he does point out that saxophonist Henry Threadgill's In for a Penny, In for a Pound, released on the smaller Pi label, which was unhyphenated Jazz, did win the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for music. Ironically the fact unexpectedly revealed as well is that almost all the label owners would rather produce CDs than currently fashionable vinyl. LPs are costly to produce and bad for the environment they say.
Going into the details of the selected improviser’s compositional process and cooperative playing situations Jazz Right Now’s Cisco Bradley presents a profile of New York cellist Daniel Levin. Someone who was immersed in playing so-called classical string quartets from an early age, Levin found that in order to express his own musical ideas he had to develop a personal language, something he began while studying with legendary Boston-based pedagogue and saxophonist Joe Maneri. Delving into the evolution of his own writing, Levin also notes how its interpretation depends in some part from the freedom offered by his long-time sympathetic relationship in bands with such players as bassists Joe Morris and Torbjörn Zetterberg, trumpeters Dave Ballou and Nate Wooley and especially vibraphonist Matt Moran.
Fêted even by prestigious Paris newspaper Le Monde for her longevity, French double bassist Jöelle Léandre’s recounts the highlights and struggles of her 40-year career in improvised music to The Free Jazz Collective’s Stef. Linking her theatrical stage presence to an interest in Dadaism, Léandre also explains that other motivating factors in her life are trying to are reorder music’s hierarchy as well putting in hard work to express her ideas. Attributing her beginnings to exposure to the music of such American Jazz musicians as pianist Cecil Taylor and saxophonist Anthony Braxton – with whom she would eventually record – she expresses a preference for small group interaction. She also insists that more women should become involved in creative music, singling out Canadian trumpeter Lina Allemano for particular praise.
One of Jazz’s most inventive drummers, over his long career Andrew Cyrille, 76, has dipped in-and-out of mainstream Jazz while helping to forge what is now known as Free Jazz. In this interview with Jazz Times’ Aidan Levy, the drummer reminisces about 10 records on which he was featured from 1961 to 2016, and the percussion strategies he used to make each memorable. Besides well-known dates he did with expected partners such pianist Cecil Taylor, conductor Butch Morris, saxophonist Oliver Lake and synthesize player Richard Teitelbaum among others, he cites an early LP by his own Maono quartet with then young saxophonist David S. Ware, a drum duet with as inventive, but less recognized percussionist Milford Graves and other little remembered sessions including one with saxophonist Coleman Hawkins and another vibraphonist featuring Walt Dickerson.
Despite common belief, dissemination of Jazz has never been a cut-and-dried affair propelled through the decades by unapproachable giants. Instead musical currents are swept along by any number of almost unknown figures. One such avant-garde foot soldier was alto saxophonist Marco Eneidi (1956-2016) whose triumphs and struggle are chronicled by Point of Departure’s Pierre Crépon. Someone who moved back-and-forth from California to New York to Vienna and finally Mexico, Eneidi was an associate of players ranging from saxophonist Glenn Spearman, bassist William Parker and pianist Cecil Taylor to musicians of every style he allowed play during the sessions he ran for several hundred consecutive weeks in Vienna. He played in and led large and small bands, released material on his own Botticelli Records and kept the music going with little monetary reward and almost no extensive recognition, except perhaps for this article.
While Israeli jazzers of every category may be common sights internationally today, that certainly wasn’t the case when clarinetist Harold Rubin arrived in the Jewish State in 1963. An architect, who had made the switch to experimental music while playing with mixed bands in his native South Africa, Rubin, now 84, tells the Jerusalem Post that there was literally no one to play with for the first decade after he made aliya. Luckily that changed for the better in the years that followed, as the clarinetist hooked up with other musicians, even backing American saxophonist Dave Liebman, and by the 1990s was working in Tel Aviv with like-minded experimenters such as bassist J.C. Jones and bass clarinetist Yoni Silver. One night of 2016’s Jerusalem Jazz Festival was dedicated to Rubin, where he got to play with some of his musical offspring including saxophonists Assif Tsahar and Albert Beger, as well as with pianists Daniel Sarid and Maya Dunietz.
Dating from the time of Duke Ellington’s magnificent tuxedos, Miles Davis’ Italian-made suits and even Gerry Mulligan’s collegiate look, Jazz musicians have always been fashion forward. A recent feature by Gentleman’s Quarterly writer Nick Marino and photographer Christian Weber on 10 universally acknowledged Jazz Giants points out that these players may be 75 years old or older, but their fashion choices are up-to-the-minute. Saxophonists Pharoah Sanders and Wayne Shorter, pianists McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock and Cecil Taylor and drummer Roy Haynes are among those photographed. A linked sidebar lists some of these giants’ most representative albums.
Jazz’s most inspired American-Saturian bandleader Su Ra, may have absented this earthly space almost 15 years ago, but his timeless compositions are still being played around the world by the Arkestra big band, led by alto saxophonist Marshall Allen. At 92, Allen, who has been associated with the Arkestra since the mid-1950s, tells Jazz Times’ Tad Hendrickson that he has no time for retirement. A self-described pack rat, who inherited the band leadership when tenor saxophonist John Gilmore, Ra’s designated right-hand man, left the planet a couple of years after the band leader, Allen appears to have an endless collection of Ra scores available, old, new and modified. Considering the group is now as likely to play a rock festival or a private party as a Jazz club or festival, Allen, like his mentor, insists on the group rehearsing three hours a day three days a week in its Philadelphia headquarters in order to perform a book that includes everything from Swing classics to the most atonal, outer space-oriented charts.
For years, percussionist Adam Rudolph has skirted labels for his bands' sounds which include aspects of improvised Jazz, Indo-African and other so-called World Music. As he tells New Music Box’s Frank J. Oteri, all music is characterized by three elements: the codification of elements resulting in formal Art music, people-oriented Folk music and Devotional music. Chicago-born Rudolph, who studied with master musicians in Africa as well as in the Western traditions, has taken elements from all three streams. His original compositions at various times were advanced by cooperation with musical figures as diverse as Moroccan Gnawa master Hassan Hakmoun, avant-garde Jazz trumpeter Don Cherry, Cuban pianist Omar Sosa, master Jazz-World music reedist Yusef Lateef, and peripatetic drummer Hamid Drake. Rudolph, who has led variants of his Go: Organic Orchestra since the turn of the century, has now expended his non-hierarchal concepts even further by adapting graphic notation and electronics to a larger ensemble, which allow musicians from any culture to play with him and the Organic orchestra
Having taken place before the recent American election, but generically related to it, composer Darcy James Argue discusses with Heavy Blog’s Nick Cusworth, the Big Brother-style concepts that informed the creation of his new Real Enemies CD. While the Pop-music oriented writer is obviously more comfortable discussing cross-over appeal and chart positions with Argue than how Jazz composers like Dave Douglas and Charles Mingus have influenced the Canadian-born composer’s work, he does give Argue space to ruminate. In his responses Argue articulates his view about the worsening political climate in the U.S. ... and the world at large.
After telling Bandcamp’s Brad Cohen that there’s no reason to have a record label with platforms like Bandcamp available, protean Punk-Jazz drummer Weasel Walter showcases representative performances from his now defunct ugEXPLODE imprint. Walter who made his name as an avant-garde gadfly in Chicago, the Bay area and now New York, cites a variety of tracks showing off his experience in Rock, Jazz and notated music. Among the associates with which he's recorded are Deerhoof’s Ed Rodriguez, trumpeter Peter Evans, singer Lydia Lunch and guitarist Mary Halvorson.
He may not have been named a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master, but at least the august New York Times recognizes the contributions drummer Andrew Cyrille, 76, has made to the music. Nat Chinen’s article may be a little too concerned with the fact that Cyrille is working with currently more fashionable players like guitarist Bill Frisell and pianist Vijay Iyer, but he does mention the percussionist’s rhythmic inventiveness during his long tenure with pianist Cecil Taylor, and his long-standing trio with fellow Jazz elder statesman alto saxophonist Oliver Lake and bassist Reggie Workman. Complete with a selection of recommended Cyrille records, the story even describes how the dance rhythms of Cyrille’s Haitian heritage had an effect on his emerging style.