From the monthly archives: "July 2012"

Anyone with a good knowledge of jazz music would mistakenly think this album was from the Avant Garde era but in fact, it was recorded in 1956. Just proving again how advanced Charles Mingus was and how much influence he actually had on the future of jazz. His attitude towards his fellow band members was to allow them to constantly experiment as they played. Of course, this is referred to as improvising but Mingus left much bigger gaps for the others to fill and on the fly. This album is a excellent example and could be considered as one of his best and ever recorded. The name of this album is Pithecanthropus Erectus and will honorably be featured for all the Jazz Con Class listeners. It will be on the rotation for a couple of weeks, check the schedule link for play times, ENJOY!

Review of Album (All Music):

Pithecanthropus Erectus was Charles Mingus’ breakthrough as a leader, the album where he established himself as a composer of boundless imagination and a fresh new voice that, despite his ambitiously modern concepts, was firmly grounded in jazz tradition. Mingus truly discovered himself after mastering the vocabularies of bop and swing, and with Pithecanthropus Erectus he began seeking new ways to increase the evocative power of the art form and challenge his musicians (who here include altoist Jackie McLean and pianist Mal Waldron) to work outside of convention. The title cut is one of his greatest masterpieces: a four-movement tone poem depicting man’s evolution from pride and accomplishment to hubris and slavery and finally to ultimate destruction. The piece is held together by a haunting, repeated theme and broken up by frenetic, sound-effect-filled interludes that grow darker as man’s spirit sinks lower. It can be a little hard to follow the story line, but the whole thing seethes with a brooding intensity that comes from the soloist’s extraordinary focus on the mood, rather than simply flashing their chops. Mingus’ playful side surfaces on “A Foggy Day (In San Francisco),” which crams numerous sound effects (all from actual instruments) into a highly visual portrait, complete with honking cars, ringing trolleys, sirens, police whistles, change clinking on the sidewalk, and more……Read More

Album Liner Notes:

I remember the stisfaction in Mingus’s voice when he read me, on the phone back then, that section of his notes below dealing with this album’s title composition. He had taken a rather huge theme, on which he had been brooding extramusically for a long time, and had not only transformed it into music but had also brought his colleagues into a sharing of his bold, grim vision. As Mingus explains in his notes, he could not have done that by simply setting score paper in front of his musicians. They had to “learn” it by hearing it from Mingus and then finding their own routes, within his design, to understanding the rise and fall of Pitheconthropus Erectus.

On the other tracks here, and in all of Mingus’s collective discoveries that were to come, his musicians were similarly compelled to dig into themselves. As one Mingus alumnus told me recently, “He would yell at you in the middle of a solo: ‘Stop playing licks and get into yourself!’ Christ, he had more confidence in what we were capable of than we did.”

Here, for instance, you can hear the stretching of Jackie McLean, J. R. Monterose, Mal Waldron, and Willie Jones. And of Mingus himself, of course. In its joy and rage and remembrance of loves post, in its celebration of the life force – Mingus’s was serious music. To paraphrase the English writer on jazz, Valerie Wilmer, it was as serious as his life. As Mingus himself said: “In my music, I’m trying to play the truth of what I am. The reason it’s difficult is because I’m changing all the time.”

Yet, certain themes, certain preoccupations, concerned – and sometimes consumed – Mingus all his life. He often spoke, for instance, of Pithecanthropus Erectus because he often thought of the future of the species. At times he felt, and his music reflected this, that we might yet learn – before it’s too late to learn any thing how shatteringly destructive the false security of the enslaver can be…..Read More

I decided to add a special Charles Mingus playlist and will be playing it every Wednesday. Twice every Wednesday, starting at all different hours so ALL the Jazz Con Class listeners can catch it. Check the Schedule link to find out the times it will be airing. Altogether, six hours of the day, every Wednesday. Of course you will hear Mingus from the playlist his music is located. Every 3 hour special will have a different selection of music and unique from each other.

Here’s an interesting movie to learn more about Charles Mingus, named “Triumph of the Underdog”:

There must be a playlist for the great Thelonious Monk and it’s here! Every Monday there will be 6 hours dedicated to Monk and this playlist will be known as “Monk on Monday.” Listeners of Jazz Con Class are from around the world and will benefit all of them. This specialty Monk playlist will be featured three times on every Monday. Of course, there will be Monk tunes played on the other days and from the other playlists. To learn more of the times when Monk will be featured check Mondays on the Schedule link here.

Biography of Monk:

Born on October 10, 1917, in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, Thelonious was only four when his mother and his two siblings, Marion and Thomas, moved to New York City. Unlike other Southern migrants who headed straight to Harlem, the Monks settled on West 63rd Street in the “San Juan Hill” neighborhood of Manhattan, near the Hudson River. His father, Thelonious, Sr., joined the family three years later, but health considerations forced him to return to North Carolina. During his stay, however, he often played the harmonica, ‘Jew’s harp,” and piano—all of which probably influenced his son’s unyielding musical interests. Young Monk turned out to be a musical prodigy in addition to a good student and a fine athlete. He studied the trumpet briefly but began exploring the piano at age nine. He was about nine when Marion’s piano teacher took Thelonious on as a student. By his early teens, he was playing rent parties, sitting in on organ and piano at a local Baptist church, and was reputed to have won several “amateur hour” competitions at the Apollo Theater.

Admitted to Peter Stuyvesant, one of the city’s best high schools, Monk dropped out at the end of his sophomore year to pursue music and around 1935 took a job as a pianist for a traveling evangelist and faith healer. Returning after two years, he formed his own quartet and played local bars and small clubs until the spring of 1941, when drummer Kenny Clarke hired him as the house pianist at Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem….Read More

Here’s a great video of a Monk solo:

 

Here’s another great and underrated album from Jazz pianist Andrew Hill and with an excellent collection of talent around him. The name of the album is “Dance with Death” and will be featured here on Jazz Con Class for a week or so, then placed on the “Avant-Garde” playlist permanently. Check the schedule link for play times.

More on the album:

Andrew Hill’s Dance of Death, recorded in 1968 with a stellar band, was not issued until 1980. In the late 1960s, Blue Note was no longer the most adventurous of jazz labels. While certain titles managed to scrape through — Eddie Gale’s Ghetto Music did but only because Francis Wollf personally financed it — many didn’t. The label was firmly in the soul-jazz groove by then, and Hill’s music, always on the edge, was deemed too outside for the label’s roster. Musically, this is Hill at his most visionary. From hard- and post bop frames come modal and tonal inquiries of staggering complexity. Accompanied by trumpeter Charles Tolliver, saxophonist Joe Farrell, drummer Billy Higgins and bassist Victor Sproles, Hill engages, seemingly, all of his muses at once. Check out the sinister modal blues that is “Fish ‘N’ Rice” with its loping Eastern-tinged blues and loping horn lines around Hill’s knotty fills in the head and choruses…….Learn More

I found this review of the Album:

In a little over seven years beginning in ’63, pianist Andrew Hill recorded over a dozen albums as a leader for Blue Note, yet it is only in recent years that the importance of these recordings is being recognized. Although he was overshadowed at the time by more eminently approachable pianists including Herbie Hancock and McCoy Tyner, the truth is that while Hill’s somewhat more oblique style kept him from reaching a broader audience, time and Blue Note’s reissue of several key Hill recordings are painting a picture of an artist who created a complex world of rhythms and harmonies, examining music on the left without losing sight of memorable thematic constructs and clever, shifting grooves…….Read More

About Andrew Hill (from his official website):

Andrew Hill (b. Chicago, Illinois, June 30, 1931 – d. Jersey City, NJ, April 20, 2007) was a prolific and enigmatic pianist and composer whose music has proved to be unfailingly unique, sensual, magical, and ever changing. His influence on succeeding generations of jazz musicians and composers is strongly felt – even at his most elliptical and puzzling, he was a communicator of the highest order. Andrew’s methods of playing and composing were concentrated on being in the present; he didn’t care for living in the past, or “retrospectively”, as he would say.

At one of our first meetings, I told Andrew that I’d love to get my hands on some of his compositions. “So would I,” was his reply. I didn’t yet know him well, and figured he was just giving me the brush-off, but a few months later he was back in New York and called to ask if I had any transcriptions of his tunes, saying he’d lost them in various moves. Ron Horton and I had each transcribed a number of his compositions, so I met him a few hours later at a coffee shop in Greenwich Village and he got his hands on some of his tunes after all. He didn’t hang on to things, even his own charts; written music, LPs and CDs were simply fodder for a creative musical life. For Andrew, music was a living, breathing thing, always in flux, and always resistant to codification, stagnation, or anything of the kind……Learn More

There will be a three-hour introduction John Coltrane special on Thursday July 19 from 11AM to 2PM (USA-Eastern Time) and repeated on Saturday July 21 from 8PM to 11PM (USA-Eastern Time). This will be the first of many specials that I will be featuring in the future. This jazz special, “Take the Coltrane” special will consist of both, Coltrane lead bands and songs taken from special collaboration albums with other jazz giants. I will leave “Take the Coltrane” playlist as a regular fixture (same times) and will edit it with different Coltrane tunes every week. Checkout and familiarize yourself with the programing through the Schedule link, learn more about the other playlists here and their play times. Tune in and enjoy!

This album is a real beauty with hard hitting improvising from a quartet of legends, showcasing Sonny Rollins and Kenny Dorham. A perfect example of raw hard bop jazz from when it started and with a little leftover bebop to boot! The name of the album is “Moving Out” and will be featured here on Jazz Con Class for about two weeks and then respectively placed in the Hard Bop Playlist. Check the Schedule link for play time and ENJOY!

Following on the heels of his magisterial work with Miles Davis on BAGS’ GROOVE, Sonny Rollins entered Van Gelder Studios with a fire-breathing quintet on August 18, 1954, resulting in four of the five selections which make up MOVING OUT. This session might just as well have been titled “Busting Out,” because MOVING OUT represents a breakthrough for Rollins as a bandleader and an improviser.

Rollins really stretches out on the title tune and “Swingin’ For Bumsy,” playing with a new-found rhythmic command and melodic authority–spreading his wings and flying with Bird-like harmonic declamations, and a dramatic flair all his own. The oft-neglected Kenny Dorham proves a brash soaring foil, but it is the legendary pianist Elmo Hope who really arouses the Heath Blakey axis. Hope’s dense, dancing accompaniements prod the soloists into uncharted waters, while his limber, sprawling improvisations represent a singular school of modern piano, occupying a space somewhere between Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk. On the ballad “Silk N’ Satin,” Hope’s brief interlude provides a dark spiritual contrast to Rollins’ romantic yearning, while his blues shouts and broad harmonic brushstrokes on “Solid” inspire Rollins to really dig in and shout……Learn More

So much is said about the great saxophone players of jazz but without the invention of this magnificent instrument they play, their uplifting spiritual music would have never existed. This here is a tribute to the inventor of the saxophone itself and whose name fittingly is Antoine-Joseph (Adolphe) Sax. I found this history of the saxophone to be the most complete and most educational:

Let’s take a look at the history of the saxophone. The saxophone was invented by a Belgian, Antoine-Joseph (Adolphe) Sax, born on November 6, 1814 in Dinant. His father, Charles was an expert maker of musical instruments. As a child he learned to make instruments in his father’s shop. His father’s passion for creating instruments had such a strong influence on him that by the age of six, Sax had already become an expert as well. He produced some of the finest specimens of flutes, clarinets, and other instruments. He also learned to play the instruments because he had to test them when he made them. During his youth, Adolphe Sax studied the clarinet and the flute at the Brussels Conservatory.

Sax, already a knowledgeable and skilled musician, became aware that there was a tonal disparity between strings and winds, as well as brasses and woodwinds. Sax noticed that the brasses were overpowering the woodwinds, and the winds were overpowering the strings. He saw the need to come up with a new instrument that would create some form of balance between the three sections (brass, woodwinds and strings). The sound that he was seeking would lie between the clarinet’s woodwind sound, and the trumpet’s brass tone. Sax combined the bowoodwind instrumentdy of a brass instrument and the mouthpiece of a , and the saxophone was born…..Learn More

It requires endless hours of practice and improvising (trial and error) in order to become a true master of a musical instrument like the saxophone but nothing would have ever been possible without Mr. Sax and his lifelong dedication to improve it. I wonder if while testing out the saxophones, Mr Sax realized the true potential it possessed. I’m sure he did!

This album not only exemplified the power the blues has on Jazz but also opened the doors nice and wide to an endless flourishing future of improvisation for Hard Bop. This Horace Silver album, “Blowin’ the Blues Away” was very advanced considering its date of released, 1959. It’s a fast moving and energetic album. Find out when it will be airing on the Schedule link.

More on Album:

Besides the wildly popular SONG FOR MY FATHER, the second most acclaimed Horace Silver disc is the endlessly enjoyable BLOWIN’ THE BLUES AWAY. This 1959 Blue Note date features the pianist in full stride with a quintet that includes trumpeter Blue Mitchell and saxophonist Junior Cook, two fellow proponents of funky hard bop. The gospel and R&B influence in Silver’s approach is evident as finger-snapping grooves support bouncing melodies that bubble and pop with every chorus. As the title suggests, this music is a celebratory fanfare that washes away the hardships of everyday life.

The explosive title track opens the session with a bang as the group burns through the changes with tight precision and plenty of spirit. The jazzier “The St. Vitus Dance” is a swinging trio cut with hints of an Ellington influence among the bopping lines of Silver’s solo. The most well known tunes here are the lush ballad “Peace,” featuring outstanding work by Mitchell, and the classic “Sister Sadie,” one of the most recorded Silver compositions in the jazz repertoire. Other highlights of this exemplary session are the bebop-flavored “Break City” and the aptly titled ballad “Melancholy Mood.”…..Learn More

Most people have not really heard of Charles Tolliver and his trumpet. It’s not really easy to find his work because he was part of well known band leaders like Jackie McLean, Booker Ervin, Horace Silver and many more. His trumpet playing was and still is very smooth and very pleasant to hear. You will understand more when you listen to the album featured here on Jazz Con Class,  named “The Ringer.” I will place it on the rotation and then move it into the Avant-Garde playlist. here’s more on the album:

This is the Charles Tolliver record to get, although it may be hard to find. The masterful trumpeter, in a quartet with pianist Stanley Cowell, bassist Steve Novosel, and drummer Jimmy Hopps, plays five of his strongest compositions. Highlights include the powerful “On the Nile,” “The Ringer,” and “Spur,” but each of the numbers has its memorable moments. Tolliver is heard at the peak….Read More

Check the Schedule link for play times.

More about Charles Tolliver:

On his Blue Note Records debut, With Love, Charles Tolliver presents his extraordinary big band charts and sui generis trumpet playing for the first time on a major U.S. label.

For the occasion, Tolliver recruited a pan-generational lineup of home-run hitter soloists including pianists Stanley Cowell and Robert Glasper, saxophonists Billy Harper, Craig Handy, and Howard Johnson, trumpeter Keyon Harrold, and a cohort of A-list section men, Cecil McBee and Victor Lewis, all of whom draw on all their resources to articulate Tolliver’s vision with a bravura performance.

After hearing a reunion of the Tolliver-Cowell quartet in 2002, the trumpeter David Weiss decided to approach Tolliver about resurrecting his acclaimed big band. A fan of Tolliver’s ’70s big band records Music, Inc. And Big Band and Impact, both on Strata-East (an independent label founded by Tolliver and Cowell in 1970), Weiss provided the spark that brought the band back to life.

“I told David the charts were collecting dust,” Tolliver recalled. “David said that perhaps he could interest some of the venues in New York. After several months, the Jazz Standard agreed to have me for a couple of nights, and it was successful”.

Reviewing that September 2003 engagement, Gary Giddins wrote: “[Tolliver's] trumpet retains much of its vigorous tone, diligent logic, and controlled fury. But his most powerful achievement is as a composer-conductor. At Jazz Standard, his dramatic semaphore directed intricate section work in long numbers with balanced pace, color tones, and excitement”. This band deserves a permanent home”.

“Charles is the culmination of his period,” Weiss says. “He encompassed everything that happened in the ’60s and early ’70s, all the innovation and intensity, the highest level of harmony and rhythm and technique, and pumped it up even more”.

Self-taught as an instrumentalist, composer and

arranger, Tolliver seems constitutionally averse to doing things the easy way. “I like to rumble,” he told DownBeat. “I take the most difficult routes for improvisation. It’s easy to play a number of choruses effortlessly and never make a mistake, never break down. That’s no fun. You need to get in hot water by trying something out right from the jump, get yourself out of that, and move on to the next chorus”.

The 64-year-old trumpeter-composer was no stranger to Blue Note Records. Alto saxophonist Jackie McLean launched Tolliver’s career in 1964 by hiring him as a sideman on his Blue Note album It’s Time, used him on the subsequent albums Action and Jacknife, and made his composition “Right Now” the title track of a 1965 quartet date. As the ’60s progressed Tolliver also appeared with Blue Note heavyweights Horace Silver (Serenade to A Soul Sister) and Andrew Hill (One For One, Dance With Death), as well as sessions for other labels with Max Roach, Booker Ervin, Gerald Wilson, and Gary Bartz. In 1969 he formed the innovative quartet Music Inc., which he documented on four albums for Strata-East……Learn More

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