From the monthly archives: "December 2013"

TheWarmSoundCover

A warm sound is right, not a low trumpet sound but with commanding control. With the help of a great cast of jazz musicians around him and his perfect pitch, this 1961 album, “The Warm Sound” was recorded. It was the first album of only 4 albums (others made in 1963, 1971 and 1982) he recorded as a leader. Because of his versatility, Coles managed to work with very well known innovators (Charles Mingus, Gil Evans and Herbie Hancock) and was part of great breakthrough jazz albums like “The Waiting Game,” “The Prisoner,” The Great Concert of Charles Mingus,” “New Bottle Old Wine” and many more. A very enjoyable album, you know, that laid back type of jazz that one could multitask with and without ever losing your train of thought. A great classic to own, enjoy!

About the album:

Trumpeter Johnny Coles, best-known for his association with Charles Mingus in 1964, made his recording debut as a leader on this Epic session which was reissued on CD in 1995 by Koch. A bop-based trumpeter with a lyrical sound of his own, Coles is showcased here with an excellent quartet (Kenny Drew or Randy Weston on piano, bassist Peck Morrison and drummer Charlie Persip). He is in top…..Read More

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Johnny Coles biography:

Johnny Coles never became a star name, but his associations with a half-dozen of the leading jazz figures of the post-war era are significant enough testament to his musical ability.

Whether through circumstances or lack of inclination, Coles seemed content to work with others at the helm throughout his career, but he earned a significant reputation within those parameters. He was never a band-leader of any note, and recorded very few records under his own name. His debut album The Warm Sound, appeared in 1961, while his most significant record as a leader, Little Johnny C, was issued on Blue Note label in 1963.

He taught himself to play trumpet from the age of 10, later adding the customary flugelhorn as well. He studied music at the Mastbaum Vocational School in Philadelphia, and played in army bands during the war years. His initial post-war experience came in commercial bands, notably a rhythm and blues outfit led by saxophonist Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, which also included John Coltrane and Red Garland in its ranks.

He continued that rhythm and blues association with bands led by the likes of Earl Bostic and Bull Moose Jackson in the early 1950s, but was also playing in more mainstream jazz settings by that time. They included wroking with drummer Philly Joe Jones in 1951, and a more extended association with saxophonist James Moody in 1956-8. On leaving Moody’s band, Coles began working with Gil Evans, whose own standing in the public eye had been greatly elevated by the success of his collaborations with Miles Davis.

Coles was a very different trumpeter in stylistic terms, but Evans admired his dry, economical sound and his ability to exploit musical space with just the right placement of notes, a virtue he did share with Davis.
Those qualites are evident in Coles’s contributions to several of Evans’s important recordings, including the imaginative re-workings of classic jazz material in the New Bottle Old Wine (1958) and Great Jazz Standards (1959) albums, and the seminal Out of the Cool, recorded in 1960 and regarded as Evans’s masterpiece.

Coles’s rounded tone and controlled, almost austere lyricism, combined with his ability to find his own means of individual expression within the context his leader was trying to create, make that record a highlight of his six year tenure with the Gil Evans Orchestra, which ended when he was recruited by Charles Mingus for a tour of Europe in 1964, in a sextet which also featured saxophonists Eric Dolphy and Clifford Jordan, and pianist Jaki Byard…….Read More

RokuJazzConClassRadio

The Roku3 is considered to be the best digital media player around, according to the very reliable critique of Engadget and the competition is stiff. Not only is the Roku3 the best when streaming video from popular internet channels but is also considered to be the best for streaming audio. You get the best of both worlds and with the enormous improvement/affordability in today’s home theaters, the demand/necessity of having an internet radio listed there is crucial.

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For this reason, I am so elated, for the sake of all jazz connoisseurs and for all my efforts. Jazz Con Class Radio is listed there for all to listen. The addition on the Tunein Channel to the personal channel list gives the listeners the opportunity to enjoy Jazz Con Class Radio (Do a SEARCH= Type in Jazz Con Class) on their home theater system and in pure high quality surround sound. The Roku3 and Roku2 XS are the vehicles to use for optimal streaming! Home theater systems certainly have the capability of producing a great sound throughout your pad, ENJOY!

TheJazzMessengersCover

Art Blakey and Horace Silver were the co-creators of the “Jazz Messengers” and constructed a firm foundation where all the young talented jazz musicians could work. Both of them worked together on three albums before officially changing to the Jazz Messengers (Check Art Blakey’s discography here). This album unfortunately was the last with both of them together. They were just too talented to stick together and went their separate ways to create more magic on their own as leaders. Blakey continued the Jazz Messenger legacy on and off until the mid 90’s. This 1956 album is my personal favorite and featured a third generation trumpeter named Donald Byrd (1st: Clifford Brown and 2nd: Kenny Dorham) and a second generation tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley (1st: Lou Donaldson.) The other three albums were outstanding, that’s for sure but this one was special to me. The many albums after which Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard, Wayne Shorter, Bobby Timmons, Curtis Fuller and many other, were also out of this world but somehow, I favor this one. The Jazz Con Class Radio listeners all have their opinion of which album and combination of musicians were best, that’s for sure but they should take this into consideration and dissect it, just a little further, to understand where I’m coming from. I’m definitely not expecting that we will all agree and pick this Jazz Messenger album to be the best one. Jazz fans are very unique and so much independent from other music lovers, they have their own special nuances. Jazz fans are special because they know what great music is but they are lucky also because these great musicians gave them the opportunity. LONG LIVE JAZZ!!!

About the album (very little):

Pianist Horace Silver was the Jazz Messengers’ original leader and, along with Blakey, the group’s co-founding father. His punchy, percussive, hard-swinging, funk- and Latin-fueled compositions and rhythms played a key role in establishing the band’s musical identity……Read More

SayinSomethin!Cover

This 1960 album by the great jazz alto saxophonist Gigi Gryce can be hard to find because its rare. It is very bluesy and innovating with a hard bop format and a strong gospel sound to it. Very entertaining and easy for the ears to digest. “Saying Somethin’! was recorded for the New Jazz label. This record label was renamed shortly after to Prestige and was known to attract all the jazz greats at the time. Famous producer Bob Weinstock and legendary recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder worked together on most these legendary recordings. Find out more about Prestige and their interesting policy to record all their albums on only one take, very interesting. Here’s a link to the discography of Prestige which was sold to Fantasy Records in 1971 and later sold to Concorde. Enjoy!

About the album:

Digitally remastered by Phil De Lancie (1994, Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, California). Altoist Gigi Gryce’s last regular group before moving to Africa and largely retiring from music was the quintet featured on this CD, two other Prestige/New Jazz sessions and an album for Trip. Gryce’s alto matched well with Richard Williams’s impressive trumpet and, with fine support from pianist Richard Wyands, bassist Reggie Workman and drummer Mickey Roker, the two horns explore mostly blues-based originals by Gryce, Curtis Fuller and Hank Jones. There is more variety than expected and the contrast between Gryce’s lyricism and the extroverted nature of Williams’s solos make this set fairly memorable……Read More

OlioCover

If you like straight forward hard bop this 1957 album featuring a sextet of all star jazz musicians is for you. For a matter of fact, it is a perfect example of hard bop jazz with its special intricate arrangements. The term “Olio” stands, in this case, for “a miscellaneous collection or mixture of songs.” The tone is low but fast-paced with plenty of high-quality innovative improvising but not so off beat. “Olio” is simply a masterful piece of work recorded by a group of young pioneers that would make their own mark individually and who would in the future, become band leaders on themselves. You’ll love it, enjoy!

About the album:

Trumpeter Thad Jones receives first billing on this all-star outing, but vibraphonist Teddy Charles, who contributed three of the six selections (two of the other songs are by pianist Mal Waldron, while the lone standard is “Embraceable You”) was really the musical director. Jones, Charles, and Waldron are joined by Frank Wess (doubling on tenor and flute), bassist Doug Watkins, and drummer Elvin Jones for a set of modern hard bop. Although this was not a regular group and there is not an obvious leader, the music is on a higher level than that of a routine jam session. The challenging material and the high quality playing of the young greats makes…….Read More

TijuanaMoodsCover

This album was recorded in 1957 but was released in 1962. Although it mentions on the cover that Mingus supposedly feels it was his best work, I’m not sure it’s true. Maybe so but after listening to all his other works, I’m sure he would take that back. It is also notable that the name “Charlie Mingus” appears on the cover of the original album. Mingus hated all nicknames derived from Charles and was quoted to say “Don’t call me Charlie; that’s not a man’s name, that’s a name for a horse.” That’s hilarious and is a testament to Mingus’s character. “Tijuana Moods” is a must-have album to add to your Mingus collection and with a group of musicians that were basically unknowns: Clarence Shaw (trumpet), Jimmy Knepper (trombone), Shafi Hadi (alto saxophone, tenor saxophone), Bill Triglia (piano), Dannie Richmond (drums), Ysabel Morel (castanets, vocals), Frankie Dunlop (percussion), Lonnie Elder (vocals). Just another example of how Mingus was able to get the best out of any musician, either if they liked it or not. Excellent album, enjoy!

About the album:

Charles Mingus has been quoted as saying that this is the best album he ever made, and that’s recommendation enough. The second song alone, “Ysabel’s Table Dance,” is a brilliant blending of Latin rhythms and Mingus jazz that even the most casual listener will find entrancing–10-plus minutes of castanet-frenzied joy make one yearn to see what Mingus and his running buddies encountered in Mexico. (The bassist wrote that he took the trip to Tijuana “minus a wife” specifically to lose himself, and instead found music and sights to inspire a masterpiece.) “Los Mariachis (The Street Musicians)” manages to evoke both intimate moments with its unaccompanied solos and the enforced fun and bounce that street musicians must employ to earn their bread. “Dizzy Moods” doffs a cap to Dizzy Gillespie’s own forays into Latin music……Read More

 

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As mentioned below Sonny Rollins music became more Avant-Garde accordingly to the deteriorating change going on around him in New York City and as racial inequality was effecting everyone in the United States. The 60’s equal rights issues was just another round to be fought and went hand in hand with jazz musicians’ everlasting plight for freedom of expression. The constant struggle for true recognition of jazz music and a place for its followers has been going on since this art form was established in New Orleans. This album, “East Broadway Run Down” consists of only 3 songs with the first one (title song) being  just over 20 minutes long. It was released in 1966 and ranges from a hard bop beat to free jazz especially when it gets intense. A masterful job by Sonny Rollins and great back up by 3 superstars in their own rights, Freddie Hubbard, Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones. Outstanding, enjoy!

About the album:

For Sonny Rollins, the 1960s were a period of consolidation and revolution as he refined his own concepts and reacted to the flurry of events around him. In taking stock of John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Albert Ayler and Archie Shepp, Sonny formulated a series of fascinating responses, from the elegant, mainstream approach of THE BRIDGE to his free-form safaris into the underbrush of open-ended group improvisation with Don Cherry (ON THE OUTSIDE). EAST BROADWAY RUNDOWN is the apotheosis of this period, one of Sonny Rollins most powerful recordings. Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones (late of Coltrane’s band) fire each of these performances with an elemental energy. Meanwhile, the relaxed and extremely confident Sonny responds with some of his most charged improvisations, abstract and exploratory, yet lyrical and supremely bluesy. The title tune begins with an angular, fragmented blues vamp. As Garrison and Jones lock into a multi-layered 4/4 groove, Rollins sculpts in space, lagging way behind the beat with heraldic recitatives and coy snippets of the theme, teasing Jones into one rhythmic climax after another in the manner of Monk and Lester Young. Freddie Hubbard responds to Rollins’ thematic parries with fierce, bluesy counterpunches, and….Read More

DrumfusionCover

Its a crying shame how albums like this do not receive the notoriety as others have. This 1962 album sure added a new dynamic when Chico Hamilton decided to innovate his sound with the addition of Charles Lloyd and Garnett Brown, wow! Talk about sleepers, this album is great and way ahead of its times, unbelievable! Let’s not forget the clever jazz guitar of Gábor Szabó who continued on in Chico’s band for another 7 albums afterwards. From the very beginning to the very end, this album stifles the mind with outstanding improvisation, never losing its blues roots and crossing into avant garde territory with no problem at all. Nobody in their right minds could possibly pass this album by, “Drumfusion” will knock you out, get it immediately!

About the album (Album still not available on CD by itself):

This is an LP long overdue to be reissued on CD. In 1960, Charles Lloyd succeeded Eric Dolphy in the Chico Hamilton Quintet, a cool jazz group famous for its use of a cello. However, since Nate Gershman (unlike his predecessor Fred Katz) did not improvise, the group was much more limited than its predecessors. By 1962, with the urging of Lloyd, Hamilton had completely revamped the personnel, having a quintet that replaced the cello with trombonist Garnett Brown and also included guitarist Gabor Szabo and bassist Albert Stinson. Drumfusion was the new band’s debut and it is a strong effort, featuring group originals and exciting solos from….Read More

PaulChambersQuintetCover

Another classic hard bop album that can be easily placed on the top 50 jazz albums of all time but all that depends on the listeners here on Jazz Con Class Radio. Its so hard to choose when there are so many great albums in the hard bop era and why I always elect to stay away from making any sort of “The Best of” lists, everyone single jazz album has its own uniqueness. This particular one is simply named after the quintet, “Paul Chambers Quintet” that’s it! Basically, its a jam session of jazz legends and lead by the bass player, Paul Chambers. The album cover again, makes it simple by adding the name of the rest of the participants and that’s all one really needs to know when listening to it. This particular combination of musicians, for me, works beautifully, it seems that it was recorded quickly and with practically no second takes. All the songs are played in a kind of hurried but easy going fashion and in a tone that rarely changes. Here is where I find its uniqueness, a simple, straight-forward professionally recorded masterpiece with no hitches and most importantly, with a lot of soul. Great stuff, enjoy!

About the album:

Though he was primarily known as the young bass star with Miles Davis’s famed ’50s quintet, Paul Chambers was a well-rounded leader in his own right, as demonstrated on PAUL CHAMBERS QUINTET, his second release for Blue Note. Coming at the height of the bassist’s tenure with Davis, this 1957 date is a solid statement of Chambers’s magnificently sturdy approach to the bass and the unwavering, pristine tone that was the backbone of so many all-star sessions. One listen provides ample proof why he was one of the most sought-after bassists in jazz. Accompanying Chambers are Blue Note regulars Donald Byrd, Clifford Jordan, Tommy Flanagan and Elvin Jones, all of who helped to define the post/hard bop aesthetic. Shining performances abound from all. Chambers lays down his determined lines with a few tasty solo spots, as on the swinging “Softly As In A Morning Sunrise.” His famed arco sound is also present…..Read More

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Biography of Paul Chambers:

Paul Laurence Dunbar Chambers, Jr. was born on April 11, 1935 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Paul Lawrence Chambers and Ann Dunbar. Chambers began studying music as a child when a teacher asked him to play the baritone horn in school. In 1948, Chambers’ mother passed away, and he went to live his father in Detroit.

Upon his arrival in Detroit, Chambers switched to the tuba, ultimately settling on studying the upright bass. By 1952, Chambers began taking lessons from a bassist that performed with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Chambers gained his first performing experience while attending Cass Technical High School where he played with the symphony orchestra. Chambers also participated in student ensembles where he would sometimes perform on the baritone saxophone.

Throughout this time, Chambers’ interest in jazz began to grow. At the age of fifteen, Chambers became interested in bebop through listening to recordings of saxophonist Charlie Parker and pianist Bud Powel.l Chambers later spoke of bassists Oscar Pettiford and Ray Brown as his first influences as a player. Chambers later discovered Charles Mingus and was impressed by his rhythmic prowess and harmonic complexity. Duke Ellington bassist Jimmy Blanton was the bassist he considered his favorite…..Learn More

ImaginationCover

Curtis Fuller had a great imagination with the choice name for this 1959 album and for the Dalish style he used for the cover art. Also true was his selection of fellow musicians to help make his imagination become a reality. You have Thad Jones on Trumpet, Benny Golson on tenor, McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Dave Baily on drums. The only complaint I have with this album has nothing to do with the music itself but with the length, a couple more songs would have helped. Nevertheless, “Imagination” is a real classic!

About this album:

Recorded on December 17, 1959. Includes liner notes by Jack McKinney. Prior to the official formation of the Jazztet with trumpeter Art Farmer, trombonist Curtis Fuller and tenorman Benny Golson made several albums together, usually with other trumpeters. This somewhat rare date has trumpeter Thad Jones, bassist Jimmy Garrison, drummer Dave Bailey, and, most significantly, pianist McCoy Tyner in his recording debut completing the sextet……Read More

ImageForInterviewJohnGoodman

I actually found out about author John F Goodman, when he sent me a direct email congratulating me on a Mingus post I had published here. He explained and pointed me to a book he had written about Charles Mingus: Mingus Speaks and it deals with actual in-person interviews with Charles Mingus from 1972-74. He documents the meeting, the proposal to do the interview and the acceptance from the jazz master. The rest is history, as the book covers the careful questioning from John and answers provided from the boss man himself, Charles Mingus. It must have been so special for John to have this opportunity and something he will forever treasure. Conducting a live interview is quite different from an online interview because it is spontaneous and can only sprout more questions that were not planned. I’m sure John would agree with me that the additional questions he had to ask at the spur of the moment, were probably the most effective ones and the most revealing.

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I do have a good idea of some questions he asked Mingus from the excerpts of his book and from an online interview that took place September 6th of this year and conducted on a very popular jazz blog, Jerry Jazz Musician here. There’s plenty of interesting, exciting information in both the excerpts and from John’s interview, so buy the book. Whether you are very familiar with Mingus’ masterful work or are very recently learning about him, this book is a no-brainer. There’s nothing more authentic and more original than hearing it from Mingus himself. This brings me to my interview here with John and how I will approach it. There’s enough information just with John’s book link, its excerpts and the thorough online interview, that I may sound sort of redundant asking him questions that point directly at the theme of the book and what type of character Mingus had.

Interview with John F. Goodman (Author of book “Mingus Speaks):

Hello John, how are you doing? My first question will be based on my brief opinion of Charles Mingus.

For me Charles Mingus was, first of all, a professional musician who rigorously studied and practiced his craft to an extreme level. Secondly, he was one of the best composers ever and I mean in any type of music genre. Mingus was very fortunate to have the right tutoring and from two major influences, Hermann Rheinshagen, principal bassist of the New York Philharmonic, and in compositional techniques with Lloyd Reese. This sure helps but every great musical institution has their own influential teachers. It’s what Mingus took from his knowledge and used as a tool to help other musicians that is critical to note about him and something that is rarely mentioned about him. He was a leader and a teacher, he respected and admired the ones before him and took it upon himself to pass his knowledge to others after him. He felt that everyone should be their own composer and they should spontaneously do so while playing together with other musicians. All together, all the musicians composing while playing a single tune. That’s the exact definition of jazz, that’s what makes jazz unique from any other type of music and that’s what makes jazz COOL! Mingus just took it to another level and by having the right ambitious musicians around him, he managed to make/help them improve and become better musicians. He would lead the rest of the musicians by setting the tempo of the song and changing it throughout, slowing it down and picking it up whenever he liked or whenever it was appropriate. He did work with a format, the songs had their beginning and their end, but the solos could be done in any fashion and were as long as the musician wanted them to be.

Here’s a great example:

That’s the way I look at Charles Mingus, he is a hero to humanity and is a perfect example of real freedom. Of course, when a person becomes famous in a musical sense, they become subject to curiosity and it could either hurt or help them in public opinion. Why? I don’t know because I’m only interested in the music they play and the human inspiration behind it. The improvisational nature of jazz makes it the most inspirational of all music genres and Charles Mingus supplied it to us all.

1st Question:

Okay John, please give the readers here of Jazz Con Class Radio a general bio/background of yourself for starters, so they could familiarize themselves with you. And please give them your personal opinion of Charles Mingus before and after interviewing him. Tell us also how much of a challenge was it for you John, knowing your great understanding and knowledge of the roots of Jazz and its true meaning so well but conveying it to Mingus and somehow being allowed to enter his world.

Answer From John:

After graduate school and a Ph.D. at the Universities of Chicago and Wisconsin, I taught English in New York at NYU and City College during the Vietnam years. I wrote a music column for the New Leader, a notable small leftish monthly, and then covered jazz, classical and rock for Playboy for nine years.

One way or another I have been involved with jazz since I was a young child. I’ve also been a professor, writer-editor, media and political consultant, critic and blogger, writing about everything from cell biology to the story of a great labor union. Wearing many hats is fine, but jazz has been the enduring passion.

Charles Mingus was a source of fascination for me, both because of his music and his outspoken opinions on everything. Playboy commissioned my review of his “comeback” concert in February 1972, and from there we got to know and trust each other so as to begin the interviews that would finally lead to Mingus Speaks.

Mingus had a reputation as the angry man of jazz, and part of the reason I wanted to interview him was to see whether and in what sense that was true. It was also a challenge because he was supposed to eat white critics for breakfast and I wanted to see if I could survive until lunch.

We built trust between us because, as you point out, I had a good background in jazz and also because I always tried to be straight with Mingus. Interviewers often work from a prearranged set of questions (I had some in the back of my mind), but my goal was to throw a few provocative comments out and see where he would take them. The idea was not to draw answers out of him but finally to engage in real conversations. I think my book shows that we often accomplished this.

Mingus was reputed to be one of the most difficult people in jazz to deal with. I found him (usually) open, happy to talk on most any subject, warm, funny, responsive—and sometimes just brilliant. I usually agreed with his opinions on music and musicians, but he taught me a very great deal about how jazz is played, performed, recorded, received. And much about the business side of the music.

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#2 Question:

This question will deal with Mingus’s temperament and his inner goal/legacy. We all know that Mingus was very tough and opinionated with the press and very strict to work with. Could this be because he was actually a “Perfectionist” and/or because he was a “Traditionalist” and wanted to leave this mark on the music world? It seems that to ask this question would go totally against the improvisational manner that jazz is played and the freedom of the jazz musician it expresses,  maybe he needed to discipline the public and the musician in order for them to excel in their improvisations, it puzzles me, what’s your take on this John and after spending hours interviewing him?

Answer From John:

Both your terms define Mingus. He was indeed a perfectionist in regard to how his music was played, and he was a traditionalist in how he viewed jazz and music in general. The irony is that his music was often labled avant-garde, and much of it was very advanced in terms of what other jazz players were doing. Mingus and I had a long discussion (in the book) about the term “avant-garde,” which he had no use for, and which critics used to label anything that was to their ears “advanced.”

But Mingus was in every sense a traditionalist. He built his music on the older styles—worksongs, blues, street bands, New Orleans jazz, swing, Dixieland, bebop—and church music, Latin and Caribbean music, classical, circus and minstrel music, a whole stew of music from which he created new forms and an array of new sounds. And it was always a music of the earth.

He taught his musicians to learn this sometimes very difficult stuff by forcing them to play by ear, though lead sheets and scores were written out for the larger ensembles. Once they got it down, he encouraged them to play it their own way, in other words, to develop their individual voices. Mingus said that he never told anyone how to solo. But he was a real task-master, a perfectionist if you will, and would stop the band during a live performance if something sounded wrong to him. There are a number of instances on YouTube where you can see this happening.

 Now, you make a good point about his disciplining the public. Mingus was famous for his lectures, sometimes tirades, to nightclub audiences who were noisy or inattentive. He once put a microphone on the table of a couple chattering in front of him. He performed such stunts for the fun of it and because he liked lots of drama in his life. But more importantly, Mingus wanted respect for his art and took any and all means to get it.

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#3 Question:

John, you mention in the email with your answer to the 2nd question and said that my question was a great one, well, your answer was even better! The final paragraph, in particular, especially aroused my attention and will be the main source of juice needed to complete my 3rd question to him:

Now, you make a good point about his disciplining the public. Mingus was famous for his lectures, sometimes tirades, to nightclub audiences who were noisy or inattentive. He once put a microphone on the table of a couple chattering in front of him. He performed such stunts for the fun of it and because he liked lots of drama in his life. But more importantly, Mingus wanted respect for his art and took any and all means to get it.”

I think the importance of “Musicianship” has been lost. What happened to the demand of excellence by a musician, to play his or her instrument to the highest standard? The ability of the musician is not necessary to the music industry and is on an all-time low in respect to so-called “popular music.” Substituting electronically created sounds in the place of human living beings is a growing trend and the interest of the new generation towards this style of music has skyrocketed also. What do you think Mingus would say about today’s music if he were alive now and what are your personal thoughts concerning my critical statement?

Answer from John:

I can say with some confidence that Mingus simply would not listen to the pop music of today. He hardly listened to pop and rock music in the ‘70s, when the quality was a lot better. His comments in my book about Dylan and the Beatles make very clear where he stood on this.

He thought the use of electronics in producing music was an abomination—and said so on many occasions. “You can’t control the dynamics,” he said, meaning that a whole range of expressivity is lost. He also said, “We all want it to be easy,” when in fact playing jazz or any kind of music well is anything but.

Mingus taught his musicians by laying out the parts of his pieces on the piano and allowing each to develop his own individual freedom within the scales, chords and rows required. The pieces were usually complex and difficult, so the task of learning how to improvise on them was immense. The people in his bands went to one tough school.

I think there are plenty of good jazz musicians today, and many of them have great chops. But there are few old masters like Mingus left to teach them how to play with feeling and extract the essence of a tune.

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4th and Final Question:

John, I’m in my mid-50’s now and I’ve been blessed to hear a great variety of quality music in my lifetime, I’m talking about Afro-Cuban, Motown, 50’s early Rock, Blues, 60’s and 70’s Classic Rock, Classic Disco, Salsa, Jazz Fusion, Alternative Rock and of course Classic Jazz. I don’t want to leave out Classical music either because it is really the root of all “Music” performed in an organized manner.

This gives me some type of authority in the field of music, I would think and after all is said and done, I feel that Classic Jazz dominates them all because of its purity and its power to improvise. The Blues roots it contains, of course, is what makes it happen and is what powers it.

So with this in mind, I ask you John, are the blues being challenged nowadays and to the point where it can be replaced?  Or do you think that this is just a cycle and the new generation of music listeners 20 years from now will eventually be interested in classic jazz anymore?

Answer from John:

The blues will never go away—until, as Mingus said, the conditions that cause the blues go away. He was talking about racism and the “I’m so sad, lost my job, he stole my woman” kind of blues, but Mingus knew well that the blues in jazz can be a lot more than that. See his Blues & Roots for examples. I like the distinction Albert Murray makes between folk blues and urban (or jazz) blues, and his book Stomping the Blues, with its wonderful photos, is the best introduction to the subject you can read.

There are good-time blues, swinging blues, Monk-Basie-Charlie-Parker blues and, as you note, the classic jazz versions of blues in every flavor. The blues is much more than a musical form (12-bar, 8-bar, ABAA, etc.). It’s a way of thinking and feeling, singing, playing and dancing, and you can’t fake it. The reason the blues have always been popular, no matter what style or tone or emotion they cover, is their sincerity.

The blues and the American songbook have always been central to what jazz is, though there is of course more to the story than that. But present-day jazz sometimes imports musical sources and styles to the point where the product is only a kind of pseudo-jazz. I wrote about so-called globalized music in my blog and had this to say, in part: “It has taken away the identity of the music, made it into a tuneless, fractured, babel of rhythmic and harmonic languages, jazz without a soul.”

Some people seem to enjoy this kind of music superimposed on jazz styles and procedures, but to me it is the antithesis of the blues. There are many challenges to jazz today, both commercial and musical, but you can’t take the blues away from jazz (though not all jazz is formed on blues) and expect it to survive. It’s part of the flesh and blood and bones of the music.

This concludes the interview with John F Goodman and only begs the readers/listeners here to purchase his book “Mingus Speaks.” Our interview, believe or not, took us a little more than a month to complete. I asked him one question at a time and calmly waited for his answer before asking him the next. In this manner, I was able to be more effective in producing an interview that would uncover the “mystique” behind this masterpiece of a man, named Mingus. I tried asking John questions that I would have address to Mingus himself in an interview but came very short, only to touch the tip of the iceberg. Again, I urge all the readers/listeners here to get John’s book, so they could find all the answers to questions they would have possibly asked Mingus. The odds are that this book contains them all. Learning all about Charles Mingus was John’s goal and he nailed it! Thanks again, John

Links:

1. John F Goodman’s “Mingus Speaks” website

2. Amazon Book Page

3. John’s Blog

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Lennie Tristano was a little known talented jazz pianist who was around during the Bebop, Hard Bop and Avant-Garde eras. As to the jazz community and especially jazz musicians, he was a legend! Two songs “Intuition” and “Digression” from his 1949 album “Intuition” are considered to be the first recordings of the “Free Jazz” style. Take some time to read the album description and his biography below to its entirety and devote an other hour or so to learn how much influence he had to the development of jazz. Listen and enjoy this album, “Continuity,” while doing so.

About the album:

These valuable recordings document the great pianist Lennie Tristano during his later years, when public appearances were rare and recordings only an infrequent event. Tristano is heard playing at the Half Note on two separate occasions. Warne Marsh is on tenor, altoist Lee Konitz is a major asset to the selections from 1964, and the rhythm sections include either Henry Grimes or Sonny Dallas on bass and Paul Motian or Nick Stabulas on drums……..Read More

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Biography of Lennie Tristano:

The history of jazz is written as a recounting of the lives of its most famous (and presumably, most influential) artists. Reality is not so simple, however. Certainly the very most important of the music’s innovators are those whose names are known by all — Armstrong, Parker, Young, Coltrane. Unfortunately, the jazz critic’s tendency to inflate the major figures’ status often comes at the expense of other musicians’ reputations — men and women who have made significant, even essential, contributions of their own, are, for whatever reason, overlooked in the mad rush to canonize a select few. Lennie Tristano is one of those who have not yet received their critical due. In the mid-’40s, the Chicago-born pianist arrived on the scene with a concept that genuinely expanded the prevailing bop aesthetic. Tristano brought to the music of Charlie Parker and Bud Powell a harmonic language that adapted the practices of contemporary classical music; his use of polytonal effects in tunes like….Read More

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