Reviews that mention Art Blakey

April 7, 2018

Notes in the Night:

The History of Toronto Jazz Clubs
Since 1946

By Ken Waxman

They were as opulent and upfront as the Imperial Room at the Royal York hotel, which frequently hosted internationally-famous stars such as Ella Fitzgerald; or they were as grotty and out-of-the way as the Subway Room of the Spadina Hotel on King Street, where CODA magazine’s Bill Smith presented avant-garde improvisers in the early 1980s. Some like George’s Spaghetti House on Dundas Street East operated for 38 years until 1994; others like Queen Street’s Matt Muldoon’s lasted barely a year in 1970, But what these clubs and about 75 other music spots did over the years was provide a place for Toronto’s jazz musicians to play and where fans knew they could go to see their favorite music. MORE

February 11, 2016

Paul Bley

A Modern Jazz Piano Master
By Ken Waxman

Paul Bley who died at 83 in early January was probably never bothered that he was usually described as Canada’s second best-known jazz pianist; Oscar Peterson was the first. But Bley, who shared a Montreal birth with Peterson, and who similarly was honored with induction into the Order of Canada in 2008 – albeit 30 plus years after Peterson – was for all intents and purposes a much more radical pianist than O.P. Peterson, seven years Bley’s senior, was a flamboyant stylist who adapted Art Tatum’s all-encompassing swing era techniques to the structure of modern jazz during an almost incalculable number of performances from the late 1940s until his death in 2007. However Bley, represented on more than 100 discs during his career, cycled through a variety of keyboard strategies from the outgoing to the cerebral, eventually matching the atonality of off-centre techniques with straightforward, melodically measured motion. He was also one of the first serious improvisers to deal with the sonic possibilities that could be extracted from the then brand-new portable Moog synthesizer. Later, such better-known pianists as Keith Jarrett, The Bad Plus’ Ethan Iverson and Satoko Fujii developed their playing following the examples of Bley’s breakthroughs. MORE

November 6, 2012

Lest We Forget:

Gigi Gryce (1927-1983)
By Ken Waxman

Arguably the most accomplished jazz musician to abandon his career at the height of his fame then make his mark elsewhere, was alto saxophonist Gigi Gryce. Gryce was one of jazz’s most creative composer-arrangers, whose precisely organized small groups and now classic tunes such as “Minority”, “Nica’s Tempo” and “Social Call” established new orchestral possibilities in the ‘50s and ‘60s. However he abruptly abandoned music in 1963 and spent the remainder of his life teaching music and other subjects full time. After his death, his educational achievements were honored when the Bronx public school at which he taught was renamed for him. MORE

August 6, 2011

Lest We Forget:

Ray Bryant (1931-2011)
By Ken Waxman

Everything played by pianist Ray Bryant, who died at 79 in early June, was suffused with the blues. In fact his best-known composition, “Little Susie” is a blues, while the LP which first brought him to national attention was 1958’s Alone With The Blues (New Jazz). Nonetheless Bryant was a lot more than a contemporary Jimmy Yancy. He was as comfortable playing with modernists as swing masters and even had a charted R&B hit with “Madison Time” in 1960.

Born Raphael Homer Bryant in Philadelphia in 1931, he was initially taught piano by his mother, an ordained minister, which explains his affinity for gospel styling as well as blues. Following classical piano studies, he was playing jazz in his teens. He jammed with locals such as drummer Philly Joe Jones and tenor saxophonist Benny Golson, and was later part of the house band at Philly clubs, backing visiting stars, including such older musicians as trumpeter Charlie Shavers and saxophonist Coleman Hawkins (both of whom he would record with in early 1960s) plus younger ones like trumpeter Miles Davis and saxophonist Sonny Rollins. Davis and Rollins each brought Bryant to New York to record, and he’s featured on the tenor saxophonist’s Worktime (Prestige) and the trumpeter’s Miles Davis and Milt Jackson Quintet/Sextet (Prestige) LPs. During that time he played on other all-star sessions, such as Dizzy Gillespie’s Sonny Side Up (Verve) and Max Roach’s Jazz In 3/4 Time (EmArcy) MORE

March 24, 2003

ART BLAKEY: JAZZ MESSENGER

By Leslie Gourse
Schirmer Trade Books

Art Blakey was the hard bop drummer par excellence. The versatile percussionist could accompany anyone from Thelonious Monk and Horace Silver to Dr. John and Billy Eckstine, amplify their ideas and make them sound better. Furthermore legions of promising soloists passed through the ranks of his Jazz Messengers during its more than 30-year existence, honing their skills and being trained as potential leaders. You could almost say that the mainstream, neo-con version of jazz was created and nurtured by Blakey with many of its most prominent figures -- definitely including Wynton Marsalis -- former Jazz Messengers. MORE